The Extrahuman Union

Archive for the ‘Bells of Valen’ Category

Recently I wrote about finishing the first draft of the final book of the Grayline Sisters trilogy, and how that felt. I had no idea I’d be making another post like it so soon after.

I finished the second draft of WAKING GIFTS (Extrahumans #4) last week. It was an excruciating effort–I basically rebuilt the story from the ground up because what I’d originally put down simply wasn’t working. I changed just about everything about the book, including the title (it was originally THE GIFT OF GREAT YIA, then THE BELLS OF VALEN, and now WAKING GIFTS). I think it’s pretty decent. I know I can turn it into something good. So at some point, this book will exist, and you’ll get to read all about what happens when Jill gets everything she thinks she wants (hint: nothing good).

And then that will be the end of the Extrahumans series.

There are several reasons for this, some about business, some personal. Mainly, though, this is a decision that grew out of the story.

I’d originally planned on five books, but at some point I realized that the plans I’d had for the fifth book were not particularly workable, and not actually about the characters we’ve been following.

Worse, it had nothing to do with Penny. Basically, even though she is the main character in only one of the books, Extrahumans is at it’s very heart the story of Penny Silverwing, her friends, her family, her lovers, and her transformation from who she is at the beginning of BROKEN to who she becomes by the end of WAKING GIFTS. Penny drives the stories and ties them all together, and she’s at the center of the extended “family” of characters. Her arc, after this story, is done.


This story also completes the arcs of many of the other characters, such as Jill (obviously), Emily, Sky Ranger, and Felipe. It also does provide some answers to some of the big questions that the series has been asking, and wraps up some of the larger, overarching storylines.

So this is a good place to end it. I thought about ending it with THE SPARK, but there were simply too many unanswered questions. I don’t feel that way about this book. This is a good end point.

Now, that doesn’t mean that this will be the last story in this universe, and that this is the last we’ll ever hear of these particular characters. There is so much left to tell! But this particular series will end with book 4, and I’m happy with that.

I am so grateful to all of you who’ve been sticking with this series. I know WAKING GIFTS has been a long time in coming compared to the first three. I hope I can make it worth your while!

So, on to the updates!

THE SEEKER STAR (Grayline Sisters #2) – Hoping to have a cover reveal for you real soon. Plans are that it’ll be out late this year, but I don’t have a date yet.

WAKING GIFTS (Extrahumans #4) – Second draft finished. I’d like to send this to the publisher by the end of the year.

THE FALLEN STAR (Grayline Sisters #3) – First draft done, doing a few edits here and there.

Short stories: WAR STORIES has been sent out to Kickstarter backers! My story “The Radio” is in the first section. It is a very, very cool anthology from Apex which you should check out when it goes on general sale in the fall. I should also have another short story out either late this year or early next year, we’ll see.

Lastly, I’m going to be at Readercon this Friday–if you’re there, say hi!

That’s all for now!


It’s Halloween! And here is a black cat for you:

molly revenge

That’s Molly, by the way, and she is the nicest, shyest cat of all. But this is her special day!

On to the updates:

Things in production

There’s a short story upcoming in THIS MUTANT LIFE: BAD COMPANY which should be out in a few weeks. But that’s it for right now.

Things I’m working on

Here’s a list of books, etc., I’m writing/working on at the moment:

THE SEEKER STAR (Grayline Sisters #2): Violet’s story. Submitted to publisher.

THE FALLEN STAR (Grayline Sisters #3): Beth’s story. First draft in process. Slow but steady work being done.

THE BELLS OF VALEN (Extrahumans #4): In which Jill gets everything she ever wanted, and it almost kills her and everyone else. Stalled in revisions as I think of how to make it not suck.

THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG: Revising, again. And again. I’m going to make this book good if it kills me.

RAMONA’S MIRROR: Ramona comes face-to-face with herself and blinks. Stalled in the first draft, because of everything else going on.

Plus various short stories, etc. I’m writing a lot of short stories and essays.

In the meantime, NATIONAL NOVEL AVOIDANCE MONTH is upon us again. Get ready to avoid those novels, everyone!

Yesterday I got into a conversation on Twitter about whether killing off characters is always cheap or an easy way out in some way, and I’ve been turning that question over in my mind ever since.

I actually agreed when the topic came up, mainly because of where my own head’s been at lately when it comes to character death. For three of the last books I’ve written (none of which are published yet), there has been a moment where I killed off a fairly major character, and for a while I thought this was a great idea.

But then, after I’d written the really satisfying scenes where the character is there and then just… gone, and everybody deals with the fallout, I thought better of it. I started to wonder why these characters needed to die. What purpose in the larger story did that fulfill?

I had to admit that I didn’t know.

Eventually I came to realize that I’d done it for a couple of different reasons. In Book A, I did it to remove one leg of a love tripod. In Book B, I did it to make another character suffer, and out of some sense of justice for what the dead character had done. In Book C, I think it was purely for shock value, because the character had been a major part of three previous books.

And in each case, I think killing off these characters was taking the easy way out.

In Book A I thought, wouldn’t it be more interesting if the person survived, and they had to find another “solution” to the protagonist’s feelings for two other people? In Book B I thought, wouldn’t it be better if this character lived and the other characters had to figure out what to do with her? And in Book C I thought, wouldn’t it be better if the character wasn’t killed and remained in the story to be a pain in everyone’s butt?

In all three cases, the answer was yes. Book A was the most satisfying, because the “solution” to the love tripod was pretty novel, and fit well with the ethos of the book. Book B? It turned out not to matter. And Book C… well, I’m still fixing that one up, but I think it’ll be an improvement.

But I will say that my position on this is a little more nuanced than I’d originally thought. Sometimes character deaths are very meaningful, and belong in the story. In Book B another fairly major character does die, because that’s what the story basically screams for. The moment of her death is extremely high-stakes and is a turning point for the protagonist in a lot of ways. The entire book seems to be building up to it, and it works.

There is also an incredibly important death at the end of my first book, BROKEN. I won’t spoil it. But it’s the sort of death that some people, including my wife, are annoyed at me about years later. Was that death worth it? Was it necessary?

I go back and forth. Yesterday, I said I might do it differently. Today, I don’t think I would. It’s good that I can’t edit it anymore! My own self-doubt as a writer sometimes leads me to make unfortunate decisions.

That death did serve the story in very important ways–in fact, that death was the story in a fairly obvious way–and the entire universe of that book and the following books would be vastly different if that character had lived.

So I think you can do character death well. I’m planning a major one for the end of the series I’m working on now, and I’m doing everything to make sure it counts, it’s meaningful, and it serves the story and the character well. I think you can have death that doesn’t feel cheap or wasteful, and you can have death that isn’t just there to tug at heartstrings.

But it’s also definitely possible to have character deaths that are the opposite. As writers, I think it’s smart to not just toss characters away, but to really think about why we’re doing it. When we do that, our stories get better, and when characters do die, their deaths have a bigger impact and are more meaningful to readers.

Ah, the writing life:

Hey everyone! I’m still coming down from finishing SEEKER STAR, but I have started working on other projects.

One quick announcement: I’ll have a story in the upcoming anthology THIS MUTANT LIFE: BAD COMPANY, due out in October. It’s all about superheroes, so Extrahumans fans take note! Really, go grab it when it comes out, you’ll like this story and this whole anthology.

I’m slowly easing my way into revisions on THE BELLS OF VALEN (Extrahumans #4), because what there is to do with that book is just overwhelming. I tell myself that the hill was just as high and steep with SEEKER STAR, but it’s always daunting to be standing at the bottom, looking up.

I’m also promising myself that I’ll write a few more short stories, because I like them.

And now here’s the serious part of this post: I’m also being careful because I can feel burnout creeping in around the edges. I’ve done a ton of work over the past three years, and I have a good buffer when it comes to books finished and on submission. But I also feel like I have a ton to do, yet, and I need to take some time to recharge.

I burned out once when I was a high school teacher, and it was awful. I don’t ever want to do that again, especially for something I love as much as writing. So I’m going to try and take a breather, balance my day job, columnist job and my home life out, and do what little I can manage for now.

After a couple of weeks of taking it easier, I’ll likely be back on the old schedule. At least, I hope so.

Until then!

Yes. I am awful. I do not blog much.

But in a previous life I blogged A LOT, so I think that counts for something?

Okay. Here’s what’s going on:


I did a reading of “Ramona’s Demons” with the awesome Topside Press crew at the Kelly Writer’s House at Penn in Philadelphia last week. It was incredible! I had a blast with everyone, and was so amazed by the outpouring of love for THE COLLECTION and for my story. Philly, you are the best.

I keep thinking we’ll do some sort of reading/appearance thing for my other books at some point. I’ll keep you posted.


Hey! Do you like “Doctor Who” more than pretty much anything? Me, too! Which is why I’m super excited to have an essay appearing in “Queers Dig Time Lords,” which will be coming out from Mad Norwegian Press this June. Did I mention John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) will be doing the intro? Yeah!

Books in Production

The cover for THE DAUGHTER STAR is done and ready for a reveal next month. It is AMAZING, and I’m thrilled about it. The book itself is due out in May, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Works in Progress

THE BELLS OF VALEN: I finished up the rough draft of the fourth Extrahumans book yesterday, and now I’m completely exhausted. Revisions loom, but I’m not touching the book until at least May. I need to let it settle, plus there’s way more to do.

THE SEEKER STAR: I’m about halfway through revisions for this book, which is the second in the Grayline Sisters trilogy. It is slow going. This book has been interrupted by so, so many other things.

SIPHANE AND THE WHALE: This rough draft of a grumpy robot and her weirdo human pal figuring out life, love and unusual food products during a terrifying interstellar war is collecting dust, waiting for me to have time to revise it. Maybe by April?

THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG: Look what’s back in rotation! I’m trying to fix this poor, unloved book about a young woman being possessed by a demon emperor up some. There were so many issues with it, and I’d love for it to see the light of day at some point… but I only have time to work on it when I’m not busy with other things. I also have no idea how to fix a lot of it. Argh!

THE FALLEN STAR: Grayline Sisters #3. I have a few pages written and have outlined some of the rest.

THE LAST EXTRAHUMAN: Outlined. Haven’t started. Really want to start. Wanted to start months ago. Holding self back.

FURY’S STAND: Byzantine gender fantasy, with goddesses. 18k or so written. It’s stalled out while I work on other things.


There’s a bunch of reviews of BROKEN out there which I need to post. I will get to it. Promise.

And that’s it!

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union

Hey! Welcome to the Extrahuman Union, home of Susan Jane Bigelow. Prepare to be stripped of all meaningful identity. While you're processing, check out more about me on the about page!

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Extrahuman Union #1


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Extrahumans #3


YA LGBT epic fantasy!

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