Editor, fanfiction writer, and dark fantasy novelist Mark Wooden would like you to know that he cut his teeth in media in a very different era. "I came right out of college into the world of video," Wooden's website says, "working at a small dub house for (gasp!) VHS." In the last 20-plus years, he's worked in video editing, he's had to pick up a bevy of digital skills — all that work allowed him enough free-time to achieve a dream most creatives never reach: writing an original novel series.
Wooden is the author of two self-published urban fantasy novels, By Virtue Fall: A Song of the Shadowdance and For Her Sins: A Song of the Shadowdance. He's still at work on a third Shadowdance novel called Illusion of Love, and he's written several shorter tales in the Shadowdance oeuvre, including Requiem for the Lonely, a comic book called Welcome to the Dance, and Wake the Darkness.
"I started developing Shadowdance before Buffy, before Blade," Wooden tells SYFY WIRE. "I nearly had a heart attack when Underworld came out!" He says the original fiction has consumed a great deal of his free time since then. "Over the years, I compiled an over 200-page story bible defining characters, mythology, a lexicon and a timeline melding centuries of historical fact with Shadowdance fiction."
But, like many geeks, Wooden didn't exactly start with original fiction. He figured out his voice, and his genre of choice, by writing ample amounts of fanfiction. He answered questions from SYFY WIRE about his fandom, his Shadowdance franchise, and the geeky ephemera all over his website.
I knew about Fanfiction.net and considered posting there, but, honestly, I merely dabbled in unfinished fanfiction. I didn't want to get an audience going and then ditch them with an unfinished work.
I gave myself a swift kick in late 2017. My favorite writers got their jobs by finishing what they started. If I wanted to be in that circle, time to put the butt in the chair and the fingers on the keys!
Instead of circling back to a more popular site, I published the stories on my website. It was more entertaining for me than blogging every week! Gotta stay current!
How did you reach out to a potential audience of readers?
Unfortunately, I've learned that the "if you build it they will come" fantasy of Field of Dreams does not translate to websites.
The people who do discover me enjoy what I've got to say and that keeps me going. That, and the idea of doing "What if Elektra Natchios became the bearer of the Witchblade" and "What if the Riddler unlocked Lemarchand's Box from Hellraiser?" stories.
What's the longest fanfiction you've written, and are you still adding chapters?
Armored Underworld, my Batman/ Iron Man/ Batgirl story is the longest completed fanfiction I've written. It ran from February to May of this year, with three postings a week! My other fanfics only ran twice a week for a month or two.
My Star Wars fanfiction will probably run longer. Taking cues from the recent Star Wars role-playing game, I've outlined a ten-episode story arc, with each episode getting six chapters.
I got back to outlining my third novel and my day job picked up, so the fanfiction has taken a backseat for a while. But I'm going to finish that one because I fell in love with the characters. And the whole, "The pros finish what they started" angle. I look at it as good practice for hitting those future deadlines!
I should note that I use original characters in the Star Wars universe as if I'm playing characters in the RPG. I use the game to help flesh things out and add an element of chance. But don't worry -- there will be cameos by canon favorites!
Tell me more about the Shadowdance saga. How did you develop your original idea?
The Shadowdance urban fantasy saga developed from a mutual love of Elektra from Daredevil, the early Anita Blake novels and a desire to use supernatural creatures as comic book-style superheroes.
Being the film buff, I tried for a Shadowdance movie, but not having millions, passed on that. Next was a comic book, which a friend of mine who had edited for Jim Lee said had potential if I could only find an artist (I can't draw stick figures). That slipped away and developed into my writing novels at the advice of a friend.
To date, I've self-published two Shadowdance novels and a few short stories. One short, Fall to Grace, was a quarter-finalist in ScreenCraft's "Cinematic Short Story" competition.
I'm outlining the third novel now. It's going to be a monster of a tale culminating in a vampire pop star using her concert's music as a demon-based ritual.
You include a joke about Star Wars: The Force Awakens being fanfiction on your website. What do you actually think of the new films so far?
The Force Awakens was fun cinema, and I expect no less from J.J. Abrams. But it was too much a rehash of earlier themes and sequences. The prequels may be poorly constructed films, but they at least tried something different. Kenobi's detective story in Attack of the Clones? The political intrigue which too closely resembles our present political climate (alt-right as clone troopers anyone?)?
Now The Last Jedi! Every time you thought you knew what would or should happen, Rian Johnson yanked the rug out from under you. And yet, within the context of the story of hope he was telling, it all worked (mostly). Hell, that was Mark Hamill's best acting since Batman: The Animated Series. And that twin suns sendoff for Luke? Chef's kiss.
As for the The Last Jedi haters, they should look at the plot elements Abrams left open due to his silly "mystery box" plotting. Johnson handled well what truck-sized plot pieces he had to pick up -- even if he didn't do what we thought we wanted.
How long have you run Wood Shed Creative? How would you sum up the business's offerings?
I created Wooden Shed Creative… wow! It'll be ten years ago next August. I knew if I were to self-publish my books or (blessedly) get money to finance a movie, I'd need an entity to handle the business. I use the company for my day job as a twenty-year veteran of the audio-visual business.
Commercially, Shadowdance books will get the most play, but I'm also working on a few other projects. Chief among these is what was originally a web series called Sorority Assassins. It's all there in the title. But instead of going the easy camp route, I'm looking at a hard-edged series dealing with social issues in a college setting featuring sorority sisters training unwitting pledges to be assassins.
The Shed will also bring more fanfiction. Gotta take a break creating stuff to play in other people's sandboxes!
And finally, what's the urban fantasy and geek media scene like in Orlando? Do you ever go to fan conventions?
Orlando has almost too much going on in its geek scene! On the convention scene, MegaCon is the crown jewel. It may not reach San Diego proportions, but we get great creators from comics, movies, TV, and literature. All are very personable, and I've had some great conversations with people I've come to respect and admire who are geeks just like me. Maybe even more so.
If you're looking for niche geekdom, there are plenty of anime, The Walking Dead, and cosplay conventions. There's even a Power Rangers convention. Yes, that happens. My fellow horror buffs have Spooky Empire, which gets more impressive every year.
We also have a variety of comic book and gaming shops (sometimes in the same space!) where folks gather to dish on the latest issues, buy collectibles, or find a team to play a game. There's even a bar for playing tabletop games with one of the best beer selections in town!
So, my fellow fans, if you're ever in the Orlando area, look me up, and I'll treat you to a mug of Dragon's Milk, the nectar of the gods! (Or beer-less Butterbeer. Go for the Dragon's Milk. Unless you're underage. Then it's Butterbeer for you.)