The Extrahuman Union

Archive for the ‘The Spark’ Category

Hi everyone! Quick update post here. I’m putting together lists of reviews of Fly Into Fire. There haven’t been a lot yet, but here’s what there is so far.

If you don’t see one that you know of, let me know! I add all the reviews I can gather, positive or negative.

Plus many more at Goodreads and Amazon!

So far people seem to like the book as much as they liked Broken, which is wonderful!

Other things going on… I had a guest post about writing a sequel over at fellow SF writer Liana Brooks’ blog which kind of got lost in the general chaos of release week, but go check it out anyway! It’s still good. I should be having a few more guest posts here and there over the next few weeks as well, which I’ll post here and especially in my Twitter account.

I’m also working on new things while polishing up older stuff. I’m making progress with Demon Girl’s Song, and it’s slowly but surely turning from a pile of hideous malformed mutant sludge into something resembling a decent story. I’m also outlining a few new projects, and trying to get myself to a place where I can really dive into them.

I did a little revision work on The Daughter Star, which I hope made that story better. And I am nervously awaiting the arrival of revisions for The Spark, which will arrive at some point. Plus political columns, day job, cat wrangling, the works. I’ve barely had time to read anything!

Thank you all for following along, and for reading!


As I was writing up a new epilogue for a book I’m working on, I was reminded of some of the criticism I’ve seen directed towards epilogues and prologues lately. Apparently they’ve become A Bad Thing, though I don’t know when this happened. I’ve seen a few agents, editors and other publishing types bemoaning manuscripts sent to them with a prologue; one suggested she trashed any book that happened to have one.

This seems like an overreaction to me. True, prologues and epilogues, which are little scenes set outside the main story that serve to get the book started and bring it to a close, can be either ghastly, dull or both. But done right, they can serve an important purpose. Personally, I love them. I use them for all kinds of things, and they play lots of different roles in the stories I write.


Setting the stage

A good prologue has a lot of purposes. One of them could be to set up potential conflicts, give a (reasonable) amount of background or establish a setting. The prologue in Romeo and Juliet does all of those things. In a very short space, the audience now knows what the setting and major conflict are. This prologue also basically tells the audience exactly what will happen: they know they’re watching a tragedy from the outset. This changes how people experience the play, though it doesn’t stop them from wishing it could all come out differently this time. The entire mood of the play would be vastly different without the prologue.

This is part of what the prologue in THE SPARK does. One of the characters commits a terrible act of betrayal, and the prologue sets this up. When we see this character later on, it’s with the knowledge that she’s about to betray her friends. We also have some context; her betrayal, when it comes, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We know why she does what she does.

The prologue in FLY INTO FIRE vividly describes the destruction of Union Tower, which creates a somber, tense mood that bleeds into subsequent chapters. It also affects our view of Sky Ranger, since this event is something he’s trying to find some way to either outrun or accept for the entire book (and, really, for the rest of his life).

Lastly, prologues can be used to set mood. I’m experimenting with adding a dreamy, rather abstract prologue to something I’m working on now, which contrasts with the initial feel of the first part of the book. But it does set up some of the more dreamlike and fantastic events that happen later on, which I like.


The capstone

Epilogues, on the other hand, are all about putting a cap on what’s just been read. The epilogue at the very end of Harry Potter’s seven book epic is a nice example (I’ll let you look it up. Don’t pretend you don’t have the book lying around somewhere). The epilogue here does a couple of things to put a period at the end of the series’ sentence. First, it establishes a return to normality and the continuation of the very things the heroes fought for. The scene is set at the train station, waiting for the train to Hogwarts, which both reinforces that normality while passing the torch to a new generation. It also extends the arc of the major characters, leaving them paired up and with a gaggle of children to put on the train. The final words of the book and the series establish that Voldemort has not returned, and so all will be well. The epilogue caused a lot of controversy among some fans, but it does what it sets out to do by wrapping up what needs wrapping up. The book and the series wouldn’t feel as complete without it.

The terse epilogues in Dragnet are another great example of wrapping up a story. Each episode concludes with a few lines about what happened to the criminal, leaving the audience feeling satisfied.

I like using epilogues to wrap things up, and also to give some context to what’s been read. The epilogue in BROKEN is St. Val’s letter, which explains a few things and also in essence grants Penny her heart’s desire. The epilogue in FLY INTO FIRE has the characters gathering a year after the events of the main story, which draws a line under those events. There’s also a bit of symmetry there, one of the first scenes in the book takes place in the same location as the epilogue, and the coming together of the epilogue balances the destruction of the tower in the prologue. The epilogue of THE SPARK is all about glimpsing both the future and the past, and could also work as an endpoint for all three books. All of these epilogues, which are set outside the story, wrap up character storylines and establish that the world and the characters have moved on, though perhaps not unscathed.


I can understand why folks might not be fans of prologues and epilogues. They can feel trite and unnecessary, especially if they’re long and drawn out. I think the best prologues and epilogues are short snippets. If they’re chapter-length, then I start to wonder why they aren’t just chapters! I do feel, though, that when they’re done right, prologues and epilogues add immeasurable value to a story.

What do you think? For them? Against? Any favorite examples, either good or bad?

Some people, when they post to their dormant-ish blog after a lengthy time of not posting, get apologetic and make all kinds of excuses. Not here. I’m just going to pretend it never happened and continue on as normal!


What’s been happening? Well, next week (Nov. 22) BROKEN officially launches in print. Ha ha, I know! You bought your copy from Amazon like six weeks ago! This hasn’t been a release date that’s been paid a lot of heed. Oh well. Anyway, we had a launch party for the book at Modern Myths in Northampton on November 5th, and it was a blast! Candlemark & Gleam have the roundup, which includes a few pics. I did a reading from the book, which was amazing. I’ve never done anything quite like this before.

Lucky for me, in about two months we get to do it all again. 2011 has been the Year of Constantly Rolling Out BROKEN, because we did the initial launch in e-book format only back in January, then launched the print version this fall. For the next book in the Extrahumans series, FLY INTO FIRE, we’re launching everything at once–and it’s all happening in late January! I think we may even be having another party.

In other news, I’m hard at work on new projects! Here’s where things stand:

FLY INTO FIRE (EXTRAHUMANS #2): Done, ARCs are shipping out from publisher, launch set for January! I’m sure we’ll be doing pre-orders soon! Want to win a copy? There’s a contest up at Goodreads!

THE SPARK (EXTRAHUMANS #3): I’ve sent this into my editor, and am waiting to hear about it. If all goes well, we may end up releasing this one sometime in late 2012. Stay tuned!

THE DAUGHTER STAR (MARTA GRAYLINE #1): Also sent in to editor. But that’s all I know about it! I’m hoping this one sees the light of day, I think it’s a cool book with lots that readers will like.

THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG: Somehow this title has stuck. I’m at 40,000 words on my first draft of the adventures of Andín dal Rovi and Lynde Shevariat, and I’m shooting to finish the draft by the end of the year. We’ll see.

[NO TITLE YET] EXTRAHUMANS #4: I’ve made a start on this and have some very fun ideas. Haven’t cracked 10,000 words, so I’m still considering it to be in the very early stages.

RED DAUGHTER (MARTA GRAYLINE #2): Planning is sort of done, and about 5,000 words and some opening scenes written.

POLITICAL WRITING: Lots and lots and lots. Here’s the latest run of columns at CT News Junkie.

Also, a short story! Really! Frog F**kery, a Stacy and Jazz Story, is up at 30pov. Sad to say, 30pov has gone on hiatus for a while, and I don’t know if they’re coming back. I’m working on other Stacy and Jazz stories, though, so never you fear! One of them involves some really rotten, mean and insulting eggs.

That’s it for now. Check back in December, I’ll be doing guest posts in at least two places, so I’ll be sure to link to those!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks! I’ve been working on projects both old and new, and I thought I’d give you all an update.

Broken – The print book is still set to come out in late November, and you can still get in on pre-orders over at Kickstarter. The stuff we’ve got as extras is really fun. I actually have some of the action figures, and they are great. When we were down at ComiCONN the action figures at our table were a big draw! Well, that and the Play-Doh. Note to all convention dealers: always have Play-Doh handy.

We’re going to be doing a launch party in early November for the print run, and it’ll be in Western Massachusetts! More details on that will be available soon, but I hope to see lots of you there.

Fly Into Fire (Extrahumans #2) – I’m working through the first round of revisions handed to me by my wonderful editor now, and once again it’s great to see the book improving a little at a time. I’m looking forward to all of you reading this story and meeting these characters. I may do some biographical sketches and other fun stuff of them as we get closer to the release date in January.

The thing about edits and revision requests is that they’re simultaneously painful and amazing. On the one hand, it feels like someone just tossed your manuscript into the woodchipper, but on the other hand it’s nice to actually make the revision and know for a fact that the story is better.

The Spark (Extrahumans #3) – I finished my third edit pass and thought, hey. This is about as good as I can make it. So I sent it off to Candlemark & Gleam on Saturday.

This was a very hard book to write, but I think it was worth the effort. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into a character’s head the way I got into Dee’s (she’s the main character, you’ll meet her in Fly Into Fire), and I hope that shows through.

The Daughter Star – Ah, my little dark horse book. It’s still undergoing some copyediting, and will be ready for submission soon. I have no idea what will happen to it once I do submit it. For the record, this was my favorite book to write of the four I’ve done so far.

The Demon Girl’s Song (this title will probably change) – I’ve started work on a book about a teenage girl with a thousand-year-old demon stuck in her head, a fisherman’s daughter with a strange and hopeless quest to complete, and a world that keeps developing maddening holes. I’m about 20,000 words in, right now, and so far so good. I may need to take a break to work on edits, but hopefully this one will get done at some point next year.

Extrahumans #4 – Plotting, plotting. Nothing written yet, but the shape of things is starting to form in my tiny mind. I may even have figured out who the main characters are!

Other Stuff – You like Connecticut politics, right? You can find my take on it every week at CT News Junkie. Oh, and check out my essay at 30POV about rejection.

I did submit a short story to a random small press, but now I’m wondering if they’re still in business. Hmm. I better check on that.

And that’s all for now!

Update: Now includes ACTUAL POLL

The writing and revising frenzy of the past seven months or so has subsided, leaving me with two more-or-less complete drafts. I’ve hit the point with THE SPARK (Extrahumans: Book 3) where I’m sick to death of even looking at it, so it’s probably time to set it aside to marinate. In a few weeks I’ll pick it up again, do another editing pass, and then perhaps send it off if it feels ready.

I’m still working through editing THE DAUGHTER STAR, which is a book that I’m not exactly sure what to do with yet. I suppose I could simply glut my publisher to the point where she’s built up a massive backlog of SJB books. Why not? There’s also a few things about it that don’t sit entirely well with me, and I intend to revisit them soon.

My first two books continue to percolate. You can pre-order the print version of BROKEN, which hits shelves in November, through Kickstarter. FLY INTO FIRE, due out in January, now has a Goodreads page–please add it for all kinds of updates! You can also friend me there or become a fan if you want.

This leaves me at an impasse. For the first time in a while, I don’t have a priority fiction project! So, help me out here. What do I write next? Below, find a lovely list of ideas I’ve been kicking around. Help me find some direction already!

Sometimes it’s good to have awesome superpowers in mundane situations. Here’s an excerpt from the draft of The Spark I’m working on, featuring Dee. She’s a character you’ll meet in Fly Into Fire, and her abilities are luck and firestarting. She basically has a lot of heat energy, and can do some very useful things with it:

Dee ordered something relatively cheap (Will couldn’t be counted on to pay for both meals) and forced a respectable portion of it down. The potatoes, she discovered to her irritation, had arrived cold. She unobtrusively stuck a finger in them; they started steaming instantly.

This is something I wish I could do.

I’ve been busy editing the stuff I’ve spent the first half of the year writing, and while it’s satisfying to see things come together, it’s not nearly the rush that the first draft is.

Still, it’s a good opportunity to make the kinds of changes that will start turning these two very rough drafts into something I hope is worth reading. I also learn more about structure, pacing and just storytelling in general with every pass I make. I think I have the nucleus of something good with these stories, I really do.

And, of course, all this editing is giving me ideas for what I could do next. I’d wanted to stop The Extrahumans at three books, but I think there may be a fourth one in there. There’s at least enough for a short story!

Then, maybe, something completely different. I wrote an urban fantasy short story lately, I’d love to see where that might go in a longer form. We’ll see.

In the meantime, back to editing.

Ever since BROKEN was published, I’ve noticed that I’ve become… productive.

Really. My previous output was two drafts of books written in about four years. Counting the draft if THE SPARK I finished last night, I’ve started and finished two drafts in about six months (though, to be fair, the first few pages of THE SPARK were written two years ago, I just had no idea what to do with them).

Something about being published has made me want to write more things. People are reading what I’m writing, so I’ll write them more things to read!

I’m sure part of this is that I’m not spending hours each day writing for and managing a political website; that ate a tremendous amount of my time and energy. But really, I got such a boost of energy when BROKEN came out that I haven’t stopped writing since. The result is two drafts that I think I can shape and edit into halfway decent books.

When my old writing teacher said to keep writing, she really wasn’t kidding.

In any event, it looks like it’ll be a long time before you’re all rid of me. I don’t have a first draft to work on for the first time in a while, so now I can do nothing but edit and plot out what I want to write next.

How do YOU get inspired to write?

(concept shamelessly stolen from the amazing Seanan McGuire, whose list puts me to shame)

I know. I never update. There’s a space in Blog Hell reserved for people like me; I only hope I earned enough credit with the Elder WordPress Gods from blogging daily for five years to get me into one of the nicer circles. Y’know, less the “pain and jabbing sticks” punishment section, more the “irony” punishment. Irony I can take; pain’s another story.

For the past six months I’ve done next to nothing but write, write, write. What does that actually mean in terms of what I’m getting accomplished or working on? Here’s the list:

Fly Into Fire – You know about this one if you’ve been following along, it’s the second book in the series I guess I’ll just call “The Extrahumans,” and it’s due out in January. It’s the story of Sky Ranger trying to redeem his lousy self after the events of Broken, among many other things. Mostly what I’ve been doing is nervously awaiting revisions, and changing all the characters in my mind. This is going to be a killer rewrite.

The Daughter Star – Marta Grayline was a happy camper hauling freight back and forth between Nea and Adastre, but when an interstellar war breaks out her life is thrown into absolute chaos. This book is set in a completely! new! world! and is the first in a planned series of books about the adventures of Marta Grayline. Marta kicks my butt, by the way. I love her to death. Right now my awesome wife is helping me out with copy-edits, after I rewrote the ending three entire times. I’m getting to a point where I’m happy enough with it to send it off.

The Spark – This is the working title of “The Extrahumans,” Book Three. This is the story of firestarter/lucky girl Deirdre Burns White’s struggle to reconcile her Extrahuman nature with her desire to live a normal life, all while her city is falling into violence, protest and revolution around her. Dee is a supporting player in Fly Into Fire who pretty much demanded her own book. This is the most difficult and challenging book I’ve ever written, and I have to admit, it’s kicking me around a little. Right now I’m still fighting my way through the rough draft.

Other Stuff – You should see a new piece up at 30pov tomorrow, and I am still writing about Connecticut politics every week at CT News Junkie.

Future Projects – I’m in the planning stages for the second Marta Grayline book, though when I’ll get around to starting it, I have no clue. I’ve also been trying to get started on an urban-fantasy send-up, and I’ve got the initial fight scene in a supermarket all done.

Plus, you know, my day job.

That’s it for now! At least, I think that’s it.

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union

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