(Be forewarned, this is long.)

“The Mastodon Diaries” contains 81 illustrations and more than 255,000 words. It’s 1500K and took more than 2560 hours over 16 months to write. It has drawn both praise and criticism in public forums and in my mailbox. It has won awards. It has spawned flames. To say it has affected me as a writer and a person is an understatement of gargantuan proportions.

Was it worth the time and personal energy?

Ohhhh, you gotta know it. Let me tell you why, while I thank some of the people who have earned my everlasting gratitude for their generous support, encouragement and friendship.

The Beta Team (or MastoBetas, as they are lovingly called):

Dr. Guts took non-existent time out of her busy schedule as an ER surgeon to beta TMD. She kept an eye on Scully’s prognoses and medical treatments to make sure I didn’t sound like a total idiot when it came to things like smoke inhalation, Yellow Fever and all the other physical torments suffered by the characters...mostly Mulder, poor man. Dr. Guts also gently advised me that not all of my writing was as smooth as the passages about the Clan. It took me eight chapters to really understand what she meant, but when I did it was like a light bulb came on in my head. I went back and rewrote the earlier chapters, trying to apply what I’d learned. Thank you, sweetie, for your honesty and guidance!

Jean Helms was part of the MastoBeta Team for only a chapter or two before RL snatched her away. Although her stint was brief, it proved invaluable to me as a writer. Her professional eye caught many of my amateurish habits, and she called me on them, until now I think of her every time I’m inclined to use lazy sentence fragments, improper punctuation or various other writing faux pas. Thank you, Jean, for lending your expertise and helping me become a better writer. Thanks, too, for the Mastoholics’ Anthem. We miss you, hon, and wish you the best.

Jeri stepped in when Jean left. She proved to be not only an eagle-eyed beta, but a generous friend, as well. When it appeared the Mastoholics group might need to move off Haven, she thoughtfully provided a new forum, nicknamed the MastoBoard, where TMD readers could find updates and snippets, discuss the story, or just talk among friends. Twice she rebuilt the board after it crashed and its database was lost. Thank you, jeri, for your kindness.

Mimic117, what can I say, except to thank you a million times over and shower you with an unending supply of chocolate-covered Nekkid!Mulders. You have been with me throughout this long journey and I am deeply grateful for your beta help and your friendship. Not only have you spotted typos, repeated words, implied phrases, and plot inconsistencies, you have lovingly hit me upside of the head on several occasions to let me know in no uncertain terms that my writing “does *not* sound goofy.” You have bolstered my flagging self-confidence innumerable times with your delightful comments to my comments to your comments. I’m eager for the day when we might finally meet in person so I can wrap my grateful arms around you and hug the livin’ daylights outta you. You and I are friends for the long haul, Twinsy, and nothing could make me happier.

The Readers:

Virtual hugs to every reader who sent me feedback (especially those who were kind enough to point out my errors). Thanks, too, to those who posted encouraging words in the public forums.

There are several readers whose encouragement went above and beyond the usual. These tremendous gals thoughtfully sent detailed feedback after almost every chapter and I want to show my appreciation here for their steady encouragement and their delightful and often insightful comments. Thank you Char, Laura, emmy, sandee, Foxmom, Sandra and Sdani. (My sincerest apologies if I’ve left anyone out.) By the way, if the fandom were to hand out trophies for feedback, Sdani would have a houseful. She writes the best damn feedback ever, hands down, bar none. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her running commentaries and have adopted her unique method. She’s a real gem in the XF universe, and I’m sure I’m not the only author who thinks so. And CharSquirrel, you’ve been absolutely eloquent with your praise of TMD. I can’t tell you what a boost you’ve given me.

I also owe a special thanks to my long-time friend Jenka, who not only responded to every installment of TMD, but also bought me rum drinks in Barbados while I lounged on the beach and worked on Chapter 17. FYI, Jenka was the first person to ever send me a feedback letter for my fanfic. I credit her with getting me hooked on this fic writing obsession, which has led to my return to the classroom to pursue RL writing. Talk about having an impact! MWAH, Jenka! Hope to see you again real soon.

Okay, now for the part where I’m going to get *reeeeally* emotional...

The Mastoholics:

OMG, where do I start? This group of caring, funny, supportive, beautiful gals have made my TMD experience extraordinary. The Mastoholics represent nearly a dozen countries around the world, with members aged 15 to “fogey.” And yes, I plan to list them all, with their badge numbers, so bear with me, skip ahead, or hit that back button.

#91 gos, #90 annaK, #89 LoveGilly2, #88 impervious, #87 Anubis, #86 Velveteen, #85 Jackie Leaf, #84 usf5678, #83 DialMforMulder (also “emfer” or “tulip”), #82 Semantics (or just “Sem”), #81 devout2David (and “L’il D,” too! Congratulations Mr. And Mrs. d2D!), #80 piper, #79 dcsmick, #78 Cristina (the youngest Masto, “crisy,” who puts up with the unsolicited advice of several dozen caring Masto “mamas”), #77 Mel, #76 magic-x-1013, #75 Laura, #74 Donna, #73 Keva (who managed to get our mascot Giganto on the evening news! LOL!), #72 angelhorn, #71 jeri (MastoBeta Extraordinaire), #70 monica1013, #69 rogue925 (a prolific poster and maker of MastoCookies, she’s teaching us Finnish), #68 Ritaann, #67 WilDaFox0619 (a.k.a., Sandra or the Wild French Woman. She’s a Masto, hear her roar!), #66 enigmatic76 (“enig,” always in the lab. Good luck with that thesis, sweetie!), #65 Fifee, #64 bfat (busy ropin’ cowboys on a dude ranch right now, lucky gal), #63 DSUOphelia (or simply “DSU”), #62 Vel, #61 Jade_blue_afterglow, #60 Denise217, #59 Daggoo1, #58 touchstone1121, #57 FatCat (“FC”), #56 laura_petrie, #55 amyt, #54 Thomas, #53 Libgrl (self-proclaimed Masto-nun), #52 Kim23, #51 jensmuse, #50 Kits1013, #49 NormaDesm1, #48 Mulderlover1, #47 Leogirl, #46 Nusacme (“Nus”), #45 Lilybartsrevenge, #44 foxcat (who probably has more nicknames than any other Masto: Foxxy, focci, Granville, Sundance, etc. She is our beloved bard, writer of the legends of MastoLand.), #43 MSRShipper, #42 Nancy, #41 Kim 1013 (or “Kimmie,” probably the sweetest person I’ve met in cyberspace), #40 PitiX2002, #39 Audu2 (a.k.a., “trixie,” “lulu” or the “stealth poster.” Often the “last Masto standing.”), #38 Je t’aime, #37 AliceG, #36 HydroJo, #35 kerieo, #34 Radar33X, #33 Jean Helms (Cin bows to Jean), #32 abeer, #31 Gillians#1fan, #30 Eisoj5, #29 Lisa, #28 push, #27 Liz, #26 nezmai 4, #25 banlu (“be-zonz snapper,” the Masto-fogey who keeps her pals supplied with KiltFic and photos of well-endowed nekkid men. She has taught us the importance of “relaxing.”), #24 ManaPanda13 (“Li’l Miss PomPom”), #23 pghfoxfan (“pgh”), #22 XsunflowerX (a.k.a., “yello,” our ray of sunshine from Down Under), #21 and #21a Tali_Abdn and Maia (more about them later), #14 shawntaw (Masto-mutt), #13 InfraL, #12 Ana Sedai, #10 VaneXa, #9 mimic117 (my adorable Twinsy), #7 Sdani, #6 tarras (oh, man, I can’t wait to meet her and hear her famous laugh next October), #4 danax6, and #3 xandria. More about XFMA #1 and #2 in just a minute.

It should be noted that a few of the people on this list dropped TMD after the infamous Chapter 11, but I wanted to acknowledge them anyway, because everything in life is a learning experience and it’s all valuable.

A few words about Tali and her beautiful daughter Maia: I was only a few chapters into TMD when Tali announced she was pregnant. At the time I was toying with the idea of a tragic end for the character of Klizzie, intending to kill her off while she gave birth to Dzeh’s son. It soon became clear I couldn’t bring myself to do such a heinous thing, not after hearing the joy in Tali’s posts about her own pregnancy. For the first time ever I decided to change my plot, based upon an anticipated reaction from readers, primarily Tali. To be honest, I don’t believe for a minute that Tali would have objected to whatever storyline I presented, but *I* no longer wanted to end my story so dismally. And I can’t tell you how glad I am for the timing of Tali’s good news. In part because I grew to love the character of Klizzie and I believe the story was made better by not killing her off. But mostly because Tali gave all the Mastos an opportunity to welcome the first “MastoBaby,” nicknamed “Minnie,” into the world. Maia is now “niece” to nearly 90 proud Masto Aunties. Thank you, Tali, for sharing this very personal part of your life, for bringing the Mastos even closer together, and for making me work a bit harder to end TMD without the unnecessary melodrama of a character death.

Okay (drum roll, please), now I’d like to acknowledge two very special gals (oh, man, I’ve got such a *huge* lump in my throat as I type this), Mastoholics’ co-founders, #2 xdksfan and #1 Inya. Just when I thought no one would notice if I quietly started a new WIP, stalkers Inya and xdks surprised me by announcing my latest endeavor at Haven. They quickly formed a reader support group called Mastoholics Anonymous. Then they aimed their combined poking efforts (legendary in the fandom) my way, working tirelessly to prod me along, despite the warning in my headers, which said in no uncertain terms “these things take time.” The Masto group ballooned under the auspices of these two delightful ladies. They fostered a welcoming environment, where like-minded people could meet and chat and be goofy, supportive, and joyous. I respect and admire Inya and xdks’ boundless enthusiasm, sympathy and tolerance. They truly represent the best in the fandom. I look forward to meeting them both in RL, so that they can see from the shine in my eyes how very much I love them for what they have done for me personally, and for what they bring to Haven and the world of fanfic. Thank you, gals, from the bottom of my heart. I can’t adequately convey my appreciation for the wonderful gift you’ve given me. We may live an ocean apart but I will always carry your kindness inside of me. My humble story is insignificant when compared to your dear friendship. Thank you both for the best ride of my life.

Last, but certainly not least:

I want to recognize my husband for the patient tolerance he shows my ongoing crazy obsession with the X-Files. He serves as my editorial sounding board and technical advisor. He listens while I ramble endlessly about plot twists and writing techniques. He indulges me with XF DVDs, action figures and magazines. He’s probably heard the names Mulder and Scully more times than anyone should ever have to endure, and yet, miraculously, he is still with me. I’m extraordinarily fortunate to share my life with a man who seems to love me unconditionally. He has been my RL hero more times than I can count and he is the inspiration for the love and respect I write into the characters of Mulder and Scully. He is my true soul mate and this story is dedicated to him.

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