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Meet 2011 Golden Heart Finalist Aislinn Macnamara

Over the course of the summer, the Ruby-Slippered Sisters are giving the 2011 Golden Heart finalists an opportunity to introduce themselves and share a bit about their writing life. Today’s guest is Aislinn Macnamara, a finalist in the Regency category for A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. Please join us in congratulating her and welcoming her to the blog!

TWO Confessions of a Former Fanfic Author

On my website bio, I have referred to writing as my mid-life crisis, and in a sense, it’s true. I haven’t been writing down stories since I was old enough to hold a pen in my hands. Back in high school, I used to run screaming whenever the teacher mentioned creative writing. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but I did slink down in my seat.

I only started writing about ten years ago, and then it was fanfiction. Yes, fanfiction.

When I first joined the RWA, I kept quiet about my possibly dodgy origins. I was afraid people would look at me funny and back away slowly. Turns out I was wrong. I’m not the only author to come to writing my own characters and settings through fanfiction. In fact, I think fanfic makes for excellent practice.

Fanfiction first taught me I could write. It gave me confidence that I could post my writing in a public venue and not have everyone immediately scream at me to take it down. Not that the comments I got were purely complimentary. Some were harsh, but, like everything else writing-related, that kind of thing is subjective. What one reader hated, another loved. It was a good start to developing the thickened skin I need now to endure less-than-glowing judges’ comments and critiques. I’ll need it again once I’m published, because I know every reviewer isn’t going to love me, either.

Speaking of reviews, comments or reviews are the currency of fanfiction. Fanfic authors can’t, obviously, be paid real money for our writing, since that would infringe on all kinds of copyright laws, so our payment comes in the form of comments readers leave at the end of our chapters. It’s easy to become addicted to these comments, and I fast figured out that the best way to garner myself a few more reviews was to leave every chapter on a cliff-hanger. I didn’t know it at the time, but fanfiction taught me how to write an effective hook.

Fanfiction also showed me I could take on a novel-length project and complete it. The first story I ever set out to write came in at just over 80,000 words according to the word count on fanfiction.net (no, I’m not going to tell you my screen name—good luck finding me). Two others were even more ambitious at 144,000 words and 198,000 words respectively.

I managed to get a little epic there, but at the time, I had no clue what the typical word count of your average paperback was. It’s probably also an indication that fanfic most definitely ingrained me with some bad habits. It clearly didn’t teach me to write tight or how to avoid passive language. If there’s a reason I’m not giving you my screen name, that would be it—I look back on those early efforts and cringe a little.

We all have to start somewhere, though. My efforts just happened to be somewhat public. But on the upside, when it comes to pitching to an agent on a blog or some other public forum, the idea doesn’t intimidate me at all. It’s not that much scarier to me than updating my fic.

And if, some day, I’m well enough known that I come across some fanfic author slashing my heroes, I already know how I’ll handle it. I can hardly protest, since my own writing roots are similar. The most I can say is, “Rock on with your bad self.”

Aislinn Macnamara is a first-time Golden Heart® finalist for her Regency A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, which has recently sold to Ballantine Bantam Dell. Somehow in the course of writing, the story turned into a retelling of Sense and Sensibility, only with love scenes. She loves historical romance in all its forms, but never set out to become a Regency author. Many of her other manuscripts are set during the American Revolution, a period she loves for its adventure, inherent conflict and idealism. In her Regencies, she prefers to explore society and its foibles. After all, what do we live for but to make sport of our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn? You can find Aislinn on her website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

67 responses to “Meet 2011 Golden Heart Finalist Aislinn Macnamara”

  1. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    Welcome, Aislinn.

    I cringe to admit, I have no clue what fan fiction is. I’m one of those nimrods who wrote not only my creative writing assignments, but often wrote a couple more for friends. (As a parent, I wince thinking about it, and can only say, at the time, I had no the disservice I did my friends.)

    Whatever road you took to get here, it seems to have been the right one for you!

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    • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

      I have no clue what happened to the word “idea” that is missing from “I had no idea.” Another instance of brain faster than fingers, I guess. Sorry.

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    • Aislinn says:

      Fanfiction is when you take someone else’s characters and write your own story around them. Those characters could be from movies or books. Some people even write stories about their favorite actors or singers. So say you really love Pirates of the Caribbean and you thought Jack and Elizabeth (or even Jack and Will) should have gotten together. You can write your own story in which that happens and then post it on the internet and let everyone else read it. If you read or watch movies for the escapist factor, it’s a means of staying in a world you love.

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  2. I didn’t know what fan fiction was until recently myself, but what a great way to get started, Aislinn! That thick skin is invaluable, as are the cliff-hangers. 😉

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    • Aislinn says:

      It has now occurred to me that if not everyone is familar with fanfiction, I’m going to have to explain the term “slash” in this context. Slash is a fanfic term for same-sex pairings, no matter what preferences those characters exhibit in canon. So when I talk about other writers slashing my heroes in the last sentence, I mean writing m/m romance about them, even though I don’t write m/m romance myself.

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      • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

        And here I thought you mean cutting them to ribbons. Silly me. *G* Learn something new every day!

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  3. Congrats on your GH final, Aislinn!

    There’s no shame in fanfic! As you say, it can teach you so much about putting a story together. I’m looking forward to reading your books!

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    • Aislinn says:

      Thanks, Vanessa. I came across so many amazing writers back when I was still reading and writing fanfic. I know of several who have gone on to be published in various genres. I probably should have mentioned in my blog post that I learned from them, as well.

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  4. Like others, I am unfamiliar with Fan Fiction, but now wondering if I need to take a look! I would remove Gale from Hunger Games and make it Peeta, Peeta, Peeta all the way. And then I would rewrite Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle and make the heroine and the spy actually have an HEA, instead of the spy turning out to be the bad guy.

    Can’t wait to meet you in New York, Aislinn!

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    • Aislinn says:

      Oh yes. You’re a fanficcer at heart! See? It’s tempting you to the dark side even now. Come on over. We have cookies.

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    • I hope this isn’t a spoiler.

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      • Sorry if that was a spoiler! It was written in the 1980’s. Ken Follet was the first author I was originally a ga-ga fan over… his old, non-epic stuff (Lie Down With Lions, *sigh*) is worth taking a look at, and has strong romantic elements and kick-ass heroines. If I was going to be a fan fiction sort, I would definitely fall in his camp!

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    • Rita Henuber says:

      No! Gale was such a soutce of conflict. And wow I thought the same thing about Eye of the Needle but then reconsidered because I loved all the astion at the end.

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  5. Lynn Cahoon says:

    Hi Aislinn!
    Guilty little secrets we all hold as writers. I’m familiar with the term fan fiction, but I may have to go searching for the website and see what’s going on in that world.

    My start before RWA and my mentor had me writing the first four chapters before the next bright and shiny took me away to a new book (or a new start.) Now I can say I’ve finished several books.

    Thanks for sharing your past and good luck with your writing future.
    Lynn

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    • Aislinn says:

      Some of them get truly epic in scope, a little like Robert Jordan. I think some fanfic authors get themselves into things they can’t get themselves out of and then it just keeps on and on and on. And if readers keep clamoring for more, well, that’s just incentive to keep going.

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  6. liz talley says:

    I’m with many of the other commentors. What’s fanfiction? I’ve heard of it, but haven’t a clue.

    Anyhow, it sounds very interesting – we all come from different places, don’t we? Makes us interesting and diverse.

    Congrats on your sale and your final – exciting year for you!

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    • Aislinn says:

      Thanks, Liz. As I explained to Gwynlyn, it’s a borrowing of someone else’s characters and setting and writing your own story around them. Some fans of an on-going series will even write their version of the next installment if there’s a long lag between books.

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    • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

      Thank you, Sisters! I feel less stupid now! (I wish I could say I felt smarter, but head colds don’t allow for that! *G*)

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  7. Jess says:

    Hi Aislinn,

    I’m embarrassed to admit but even after three plus years, I’m still learning the lingo. I’d heard of fanfiction but not enough to know what it is.

    Guess I’ll be looking that up!

    Congrats on your GH final!

    LaLaLa!

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    • Aislinn says:

      Careful. Once you start exploring, it might suck you in. Don’t like that character that an author introduced in her last book? You now have a means of killing the character off in any creative way you can come up with. Think Lauri should have gotten with Jo in Little Women? You can make it happen.

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  8. Congratulations on your GH final, Aislinn!

    I’m familiar with the concept of fanfic, but I’ve never read nor written any. But it seems that we all start somewhere, and I certainly have used my favorite heroes and heroines as jumping off points for my own characters.

    Do you see A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, which is retelling of Sense and Sensibility, as a sort of fanfic?

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    • Aislinn says:

      No, I don’t, really, because I didn’t start out with the intention of retelling S&S. I only realized what was happening several chapters in. And the similarities to S&S are more character traits of the titular sisters. The plot is completely different.

      The great thing about Jane Austen fic, though, is you can publish it if it’s good enough because it’s out of copyright. I don’t consider myself to have ever written JA fic (my book notwithstanding), but there are sequels out there, which are, basically, published fanfiction.

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  9. Aislinn,
    Congrats on your GH final and your SALE! I thought the same thing as Jamie, interesting that your TALE OF TWO SISTERS sounds a bit like fanfic too. Am in awe that you wrote a 198,000 word ms. Amazing!

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    • Aislinn says:

      That almost 200k-MS would. Not. End. It just wouldn’t. And there were outtakes and missing scenes I’m not even counting. I took a long break from writing after I finished that one. I felt as if I’d used up all my words.

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  10. Hi Aislinn,

    How did you first become interested in fanfic? I believe you’d told me a while back that you wrote Harry Potter fanfic, but it’s been a while…what inspired you to try it?

    Two hundred thousand words? Amazing! Your poor fingers must have been thrilled when you took a break 😉

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    • Aislinn says:

      I started writing Harry Potter fanfic over the time lag between books four and five. I’d devoured the first four books in a matter of weeks and I wanted more. So I went online and discovered fanfiction. At first I only read it. It was a means of remaining with the story and the characters while waiting for the next real installment. A lot of people were writing their own versions of the fifth book, actually (and they were all wrong, LOL, about the direction the series would take). At one point, I was reading an epic fanfic of what would have happened after the end of the series, and I didn’t like the direction the authors were taking it. So it started an idea in my mind for my own story. I wrote the first chapter, posted it, and no one yelled at me to take it down, so I kept going.

      After that, I just kept on getting more ideas.

      As for the nearly 200k story, there were much longer fics than mine.

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  11. Hey Aislinn!

    First, CONGRATULATIONS on your sale. That is SO AWESOME. Next, thanks for sharing your writing life history. I too, have written since I was a sapling and know all about the world of fanfic. I’m chomping at the bit for A TALE OF TWO SISTERS to be published so I can read it. I have a great love for all things Austen and some of my dear friends are Austen-inspired authors.

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  12. My first story was fan fiction but I didn’t realize it… and also with a Jane Austen theme. I wrote Mary’s story starting after the marriages of Elizabeth to Darcy and Jane to Bingley. Hee. (I’m not going to mention the hours I spent writing stories in the early 80s about me meeting the members of Duran Duran.)

    Congratulations on such a successful year, Aislinn. I look forward to reading your books.

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    • Aislinn says:

      You realize a lot of young fanficcers write stuff like that. Maybe not so much about Duran Duran anymore, though. Thanks for the congratulations!

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  13. Ohhh, I have a soft spot for FanFic! Back when I was in grad school, some friends and I wrote an on-going FanFic thread based on the characters in The X Files, and it was a blast. Some great writers there, not to mention a lot of fun.

    I think an important element to FanFic is that it gets the creative juices flowing and can lead all sorts of places. Sure, you may borrow a character or two, but once you start putting your own spin on things, it becomes yours as well. Your interpretation can be a springboard for stories that do become all your own. So it’s a bit magical in that regard.

    Oh, and Abigail, I swear we’ve all dreamed about that Duran Duran story! Me and Simon le Bon, we were like THIS in my head 😉 hehehe!

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    • Aislinn says:

      I knew I was ready to make the jump to all original characters when I found myself less and less interested in the main characters and focused more and more on the minor ones. Like you said, it got the creative juices and ideas going.

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    • It was Simon for me, too! *laugh* He’s MINE! You can’t have him!

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  14. Tamara Hogan says:

    I’m a fan of Kirk/Spock slash myself…and Duran Duran, having just released a very strong album, is touring right now. I saw them a couple of years ago, and can I say that John and Roger are still…slash-worthy.

    Congrats on your GH final and sale!

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  15. Congratulations on your GH final, Aislinn. And thanks for updating me on fanfic. I’d seen the term but never knew much about it. What a great way to jump into a story, and make it how I want it.:)

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    • Aislinn says:

      It’s a great starting off point. You don’t have to worry about characters and world building any more than you want to. You can take what’s there and expand, and concentrate on plotting.

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  16. Jaye Garland says:

    LOL! I’m putting “Rock On With Your Bad Self” in a fabulously exoctic font and taping that to the top of my monitor. Love it! Okay, so I’ve never gotten into FanFic so can’t comment on that specifically, but the correlation to the learning process sounds like you’ve taken a fast track to getting where you are now. I love your determination. Like you, I came late to the writer’s life. I’m a bit older, too. My path was a good bit longer than yours. We didn’t have the Internet back then. They’d only invented fire about a decade prior to my discovery of Romance. Woot! Good luck in the GH. Wish I could be there to give you a winner’s hug. Lalala!

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    • Aislinn says:

      I think part of me was waiting for them to invent the internet so I could start writing. I can’t imaging what people did before that. I can’t see myself holing up somewhere and typing away with no outside feedback or support. I can’t write without the idea somewhere in the back of my mind that others are going through the same process. In fact, I nearly made my blog about that with a tie-in to the Lalalas, but I thought it more appropriate to leave that to Valerie, as our founder.

      Wish you were coming to Nationals, too, but I can always put Houston down as a stop on my book tour. 😉

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  17. C.J. Chase says:

    Aislinn, congratulations on the GH final and sale.

    I have a 16-year-old who hated writing as a boy. Whenever assigned to write a paragraph in elementary school, his first question was always, “How many sentences do I have to write for it to count as a paragraph?” Now he writes fanfiction and posts it on the web. Who would have thought? When I commented about his changed attitude toward writing, he told me he just hadn’t wanted to write about the subjects in school.

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    • Aislinn says:

      Sometimes you just need the right outlet. I always hated the kinds of things they forced me to write in school, especially the poetry. Imagine my shock when a workshop instructor once told me I have a poetic voice. I wasn’t doing it on purpose!

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  18. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Aislinn, and HUGE congrats on both your GH final and your SALE (and, oh, my, Sense and Sensibility with LOVE SCENES??? I am SO there.) (Wow, look at all the all-caps you’re inspiring me to.)

    I’m completely cracking up about how many folks here aren’t familiar with fanfic. I loves me some fanfic….originally it was Star Trek fanfic way back in the 70s and 80s, then Harry Potter. Between publication of the various “canon” Harry Potter books, I’d go read stories on mugglenet.com, and sometimes would end up feeling like J.K. Rowling got it “wrong” when “her version” came out. (For those of you who love the character Snape, go check out the stories by Vindictus Viridian on MuggleNet’s fanfiction site. *Sigh.* Amazing writer, great great “alternative” version of the story).

    I’d love to know your fanfic penname, Aislinn!!! Maybe I’ll weasel it out of you one day….

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    • Aislinn says:

      Nope, not outing myself here. Come find me at Nationals and maybe you can worm it out of me in the bar. My fic is on Mugglenet, though, among others, but I’m not Vindictus Viridian.

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  19. Hi, Aislinn!

    I guess you could say I got my start writing fan fic … The first story I remember writing was a takeoff on “Jacob Two-Two.” He grew up, got married to a girl name Laura (patterned after Laura Ingalls) and inexplicably said everything FOUR times.

    What can I say? I was in second grade or something like that! 😉

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  20. Wendy L says:

    Aislinn,

    Fanfic sounds like a wonderful way to learn hooks and mechanics & plot without worrying too much about characterization. What a great idea!

    Congrats on the GH & Sale!

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    • Aislinn says:

      It is and it isn’t. I mean, I never went into fanfic, thinking I’d become a published author. I never really took any specific craft advice away from the reviews I got. Most fanfic writers are like most readers. They know if something works or not, but they don’t necessarily know why.

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  21. Dee Gibbens says:

    Aislinn: I actually started “dabbling” in writing when returning to college in 1985. I took a Creative Writing course just for fun. Up until that time I had written poetry, but I found out here I could venture out into something new. In 2002 I joing a Backstreet Boys fanclub because my daughter was a member…the first story I wrote turned into a full-blown novel length (600pgs), and I was hooked. I wrote two novel length stories, several shorts, and over 32 “vissies”; and let’s not omit the 6 Drabbles. I’m now re-writing a novel I started in 1985…hoping it will be published before I die…and I have 6 WIP’s! My poetry has been published, but my dream it to have my novel published. Thank you for sharing your experience with fanfics. I know I had a ball writing mine!

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    • Aislinn says:

      It is great fun, and I made so many friends through it. Best of luck with your rewrites and having your novel published.

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  22. Rita Henuber says:

    Congrats on your final and welcome to the GH family and the blog. Was really excited to hear about your sale. I would LOVE to read an American revolution histroical. I think that period is so overlooked in romance. This week I asked a small group of ladies what they would like to read about but can’t find. 2 out of the 8 said –American revolution.

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    • Aislinn says:

      I will see if I can convince my agent to look at something once I’m done rewriting it. I may end up self-publishing though, given the reluctance most American-set historicals face.

      I first started reading romance in the 80s and you could find romances set during that time period then. You might want to dig through the UBS.

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  23. Laurie Kellogg says:

    What an interesting beginning to your career. Obviously, writing fanfiction didn’t hurt. Congratulations again on your sale. Do you have an estimated release date yet? I, for one, don’t understand NY’s aversion to American set historical romances.

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    • Rita Henuber says:

      Laurie I recently saw an agent was asking for them. Dang I can’t remenber who. Seems to me they also said no TSTL heroines.
      Personally I think woman played a much bigger part in the early history of this country. But since men were doing all the keeping of the history those stories were never told.

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    • Aislinn says:

      Thanks, Laurie. The release would be late 2012 or early 2013, partly dependent on when I get the second book done. They wanted to release the two fairly close together.

      I’d love it if NY changed their tune on American-set historicals, too. Not just for me as a writer. I love to read them, as well. While I read my share of English-set historicals, I wouldn’t mind a change of pace once in a while, you know?

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  24. Julie Brannagh says:

    Hi Aislinn,

    Great post! I enjoyed it!

    I’ve never written fanfic, but I have to confess seriously considering rewriting Breaking Dawn. I read the first three books as research; BD made me want to throw things.

    I wasn’t involved or anything. 😉

    I’m so excited about all your great news, and I’m really looking forward to meeting you in New York!

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  25. Barb H says:

    Hi Aislinn,

    Loved hearing of your beginnings in writing. Fanfic or no, you wrote your ‘learning’ books, all right! How many words??? Yikes!

    Congratulations on the GH final and your recent BIG news 🙂 Best of luck.

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    • Aislinn says:

      Thanks, Barb. I look at those word counts, and my mind boggles. And mine weren’t even the longest fics out there. Some people wrote even more.

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  26. Fun article, Ainslinn.

    I’ve never written fanfic myself, but I see how it would be a great tool to develop writing skills. It must also be a real challenge to pen a believable Bones McCoy or Aragorn for what could be a fanatical readership!

    I hadn’t heard the term “slashing” before. A new one for my vocabulary. heh.

    Congrats also on all the recent developments. 🙂

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    • Aislinn says:

      Fanfic, like anything else, comes with its own vocabulary. The “slash” comes from the / that you write between characters’ names in a pairing. How this came to be applied only to same sex relationships, I don’t know, because if you’re writing het pairings, you still use the slash between the characters’ names.

      And yes, fans are quick to point out if they think you’ve gone OOC (out of character).

      Thanks for the contratulations.

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