I’m a fanfic reader and have been for years. There’s a freshness to fandom stories – a willingness to explore new ideas and examine old rules – that I just don’t find anywhere else. The writing quality varies. My responses run the gamut from ‘hell, no’ to ‘who the hell are you outside fandom, because, daym, you can write’.
As a category romance author (mostly), I usually play around in either the hero or heroine’s third person point of view. In the same breath and with hand over heart I will tell you that I love (with the ferocity of a thousand suns) stories that use an outsider’s point of view to watch the main love story unfold (The Great Gatsby for example). The fandoms I roam around in use this technique a lot.
I’m also totally enamoured of timestamps. A timestamp fic is a drabble, ficlet or other short story written about some specific time before, during, or after an episode or other story. And if I lost you at ‘drabble’, check out this lovely list of Common Fanfic Terms, because that’s where I got the definition from.
You’d think a 12,000 word Christmas short story for Harlequin’s KISS imprint might not be the best venue for four different story povs and a timestamp for two of the characters (whose main love story was written in What The Bride Didn’t Know, coming Nov ’13). I also had to fit all the Christmas schmoop in. I think the story works. Could be my fanfic preferences are showing.
Below is an excerpt from the KISS Christmas short story called The Night Before Christmas (because it was). It’s told from Adrian (Trig) Sinclair’s pov. Trig’s the hero from What The Bride Didn’t Know and he also makes an appearance in my other West series stories, Flirting With Intent and Cracking The Dating Code.
If you haven’t read any of those stories, here’s a cheat sheet for the excerpt: Trig, Lena and Jared are childhood friends and in this scene they’re all in their early twenties. Jared and Lena are siblings. Trig’s had a crush on Lena since forever but she’s his best friend’s sister and a friend in her own right, so… no. Trig’s just been dumped by his latest girlfriend, Cassie. Jess and Boyd are Trig’s friends who came to the party solo but left together. Trig’s ever so slightly inebriated.
Let me know what you think. About the excerpt. About fanfic. About Christmas. Yes, it’s weird writing a Christmas story in July.
‘Have you seen Jess?’ It was five minutes to twelve on Christmas Eve and Adrian Sinclair was feeling his failings as a host. He should never have let Boyd go after Jess Turner without supervision. He should have shaken Cassie’s words off and been a better host, drunk less, eaten more, the whole responsible deal. But Cassie’s parting words had found their way beneath his skin, he’d drunk more rather than less and he was fast losing track of any responsibilities he might have. Jared though… Jared never lost track of his responsibilities. Jared was at this very moment shoving food in the fridge and scraping down plates. Trig should probably be doing that too.
‘I think I should check on her, Trig told Jared. ‘I mean, I invited her here and if she’s not okay…’
‘Go for it.’
‘You’re not going to help me look for her, are you?’
‘Some help you are.’
‘By my reckoning, Jess is with Boyd. If she is she’ll be fine.’
‘Since when are you Boyd’s champion?’
‘Since about seven thirty this evening when I watched them have words. Boyd Webber would rather cut out his heart than hurt that woman. I don’t think you need to go find her. Just send her a text.’
Jared’s idea was a really good idea, but…‘I don’t have my phone.’
Silently, Jared handed his over. Trig stared at it. Texting Jess was still a really good idea, but…‘I don’t have her number. Her number’s on my phone,’ Trig explained earnestly.
Sighing, Jared took his phone back. ‘I did try to help you. Remember that.’
‘You’re a prince among men. Not that I recognize your princeliness, because I don’t. I never have and I never will. You’re my very good platonic friend. My brother in arms – minus the arms.’
‘Glad we cleared that up,’ Jared said.
‘Me too. I have to find Lena.’
‘Don’t you mean Jess?’
‘No, pretty sure I mean Lena.’
‘Is she getting the brothers in arms speech too?’
‘You think I should?’
‘I wouldn’t recommend it. Lena’s not as peaceable as I am.’ Jared swept a plate of scraps in the bin and stacked the plate in the dishwasher. ‘How much have you had to drink?’
‘Per pound of flesh? Because I worked it out.’
‘Don’t quote Shakespeare at me, man. I’ll get ideas.’
‘If I was a tree and trees could drink themselves to the ground I’d have been felled by now. Except that I’m big.’ Trig spread his arms wide and narrowly missed knocking over a plate of gingerbread men. ‘I’m a big tree.’
‘Well it’s definitely not Shakespeare.’ Jared nodded sagely.
‘Do you think Lena would like Shakespeare?’
‘No. Stick with the trees. Save her getting ideas.’
‘I have ideas.’ Trig eyed the gingerbread men speculatively and his stomach rumbled in encouragement. ‘I have many ideas for Lena.’
‘Buddy, I know you do. And I don’t want to know. Where’s your phone?’
‘In your father’s desk drawer.’
‘Go get it. I’ll text Jess for you.’
‘You’re a true friend.’
‘You’d better believe it.’
‘Will you find Lena for me too?’
‘No. You don’t need to talk to Lena right now.’
‘I really think I do.’
‘One crisis at a time. Right now you’re going to check up on Jess.’
‘I am.’ Trig patted his pockets. ‘Don’t go anywhere.’
‘What? And miss all this?’
‘I mean it,’ said Trig. ‘Don’t ever go darkside on us, Jare. You need to stay in range so we can haul you back.’
Jared wasn’t smiling any more. If anything, he looked kinda lost. ‘I’m right here.’
‘Good. That’s real good.’ There was something else he had to do besides reassure Jared that he would always be there for him – in a platonic, best-friends-since-kindergarten kind of way. ‘My phone.’
‘Is in my father’s desk drawer.’ Jared sighed and went to the fridge. He hauled out a plate of cooked steaks, shoved two of them between a bread roll, applied mustard and handed it to Trig. ‘Change of plans. You guard the fridge, eat your sandwich and stay away from the gingerbread men because they’re supposed to be for tomorrow. I’ll get your phone.’
‘Thanks, man.’ Trig bit into the sandwich and it was the best thing he’d ever tasted. ‘Good sandwich,’ he told Jared around a mouthful of it, but Jared was already halfway down the hall.
Trig ate steadily until the sandwich was gone and then washed it down with half a bottle of water. Damage control was better than no control when it came to giant Christmas Day hangovers. He sat on a kitchen stool and was contemplating the beheading of gingerbread men when Lena happened across him.
‘Hey!’ He immediately felt more cheerful. ‘I found you!’
Lena bent down to take a better look at him. She didn’t have to bend far.
‘I’m big,’ he told her, just in case she’d missed it.
‘No, I was wasted. Now I’m in recovery,’ he told her and drank some more water to prove it.
‘Where’s Jared? I thought he was on clean up duty?’
‘He went to get my phone.’
‘You’d better not be thinking about calling Cassie.’
‘Nope,’ he said proudly. ‘I’m calling Jess. We think she left with Boyd.’
‘She did leave with Boyd. Hours ago. And she didn’t look upset.’
‘Still need to check. You have really pretty hair.’
‘And eyes. Except when they’re all narrow like that. I’m trying to remember the Shakespeare bit about your hair so I can tell it to you.’
‘Oh, goody.’ Lena’s eyes had narrowed even more. Trig lifted his chin and attempted to narrow his in reply. Perhaps it had something to do with the kitchen lights.
‘You know, if Christmas wishes ever do come true you’ll remember this conversation in the morning and come find me and say it all over again,’ Lena said just a tiny bit wistfully. ‘But you won’t.’
‘Won’t what?’ Jared asked as he came back into the room.
‘Remember a thing he just said.’
‘He been quoting Shakespeare at you?’
‘He can’t remember any.’
‘Damn straight,’ Trig offered. ‘Because I am.’
‘And you want to give him a phone.’ Lena and Jared shared a darkly amused glance. Jared handed Trig’s phone to Lena instead.
‘Hey!’ he protested. ‘That’s my phone!’
‘Don’t worry, princess. I’m here to help.’ Lena’s fingers slid deftly over the phone. ‘Do. You. Need. The. Cavalry?’ she mouthed aloud.
‘Is that what you’re writing? Don’t let it autocorrect to do you need my body, because that would be all kinds of wrong.’
‘Don’t I know it,’ said Lena. ‘There. All done.’ She handed the phone back to Jared. Trig may as well not have been in the room. He was though, wasn’t he? He wasn’t face down in a sand dune and dreaming all of this up? ‘Hey!’ he said again.
‘He’s probably talking about food for the horses,’ said Jared and Lena nodded agreeably. You had to watch Lena and Jared when they were being all agreeable. That was when they were at their most dangerous.
Jared glanced at the phone and smiled. ‘Zero hundred hours. Merry Christmas, people.’
‘Another one down and none of us dead. Always a bonus,’ Lena said as she went to the fridge and drew out a bottle of half opened champagne. She found three glasses, poured champagne into two of them and filled the third with Trig’s water.
‘Am I cut off?’
‘You’re in recovery, remember?’ she said as she distributed the slender flutes.
The phone beeped. Jared fended off Trig’s outstretched hand as he glanced at it. ‘Jess says Merry Christmas too. She doesn’t need the cavalry.’
‘Happy?’ asked Lena and Trig grinned at her because he was. Here in this kitchen in his home town, with his family out there somewhere and his two favorite people right here beside him, he figured himself for the luckiest man in the world. ‘Here’s to us,’ Lena said and raised her glass to his. ‘May trouble neglect us, angels protect us and the neighbors respect us for shutting this shindig down before midnight.’
‘That was beautiful,’ Trig told Lena earnestly. ‘When I propose to you I’m going to mention about respecting troublesome angels too. Was it Shakespeare?’
‘Yeah, man.’ Jared said, thumping Lena helpfully on the back as she choked on her champagne and turned a brilliant shade of red. ‘It was Shakespeare.’