The Extrahuman Union

Posts Tagged ‘writing

(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.


Dear first draft,

Okay. Where the heck did you even come from? You were supposed to be the fun book, the “I need a break from writing the big important OMG has-meanings-and-themes-and-everything book,” my pacer car, my racetrack pony who walks with the cool book during the post parade. I never thought I’d even finish you, much less finish you first.

And now look. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, I hit the completely arbitrary line of 50K words on you, figured out your plot, and then you ate my life. I spent the last week in a fog with your characters, thinking up ways to make them do cool stuff and get to the end of the story. Which I did. Oh yes.

You have terrible writing, especially at the end. Some of the characters are cardboard cutouts with signs hanging around their necks reading “IOU 1(one) personality/soul.” There are a few points where I actually wrote [ADD PLOT HERE]. I think I got all of those but I’m not sure. I’d have to go back and check, and I don’t want to. It’s scary in there.

Read the rest of this entry »

So much new stuff to check out:

Tastes Like Chicken. Sort Of

Do you like Chicken McNuggets? No? Well, check out my 30pov piece Chicken McLife anyway, as I examine my life through McNuggets:

I had a routine. I’d walk into town, a couple of miles from the college, and swing by the comic book store. I’d buy whatever was new. It might have been Battle Angel Alita, The Maxx, Strangers in Paradise or just the latest Batman, but I always picked up two or three issues. Then I’d hike over to the McDonald’s on Colman St., on the edge of the city, and sit for a while reading comic books and eating McNuggets.

For a while, all the chaos in my head stilled, and the world was nothing but a plastic seat, Batman, and some greasy food.


I went to a Tea Party rally for no good reason, except to take pictures and write a report. Yes, the signs were amusing. Yes, they had foam pitchforks. The report is here: Tax Day Rally Fizzles.

It has to be a frustrating time for the Tea Party. In Washington, House Republicans are compromising with the hated Obama on the budget and may yet allow the debt limit to be raised. Here in Connecticut, Democrats likely have the votes to pass big tax increases as part of an effort to close the budget gap. The big wins of last year are already fading from memory, and no one seems all that excited about 2012. Unlike 2009 and 2010, there is no one single bill to rally against, no one unifying task.

Two other articles: The Myth of the Easy Answer, which has a lot of my political philosophy in it, and Budget Deal Winners and Losers, which has, um, those.


I did a guest post at Reading With Tequila, about superheroes! It wasn’t part of the recent blog tour, so I’m linking to it from here.

In a lot of ways, superhero stories are about those who are different or special in one way or another. Here are people who either have inborn or contracted special abilities or powers, or who are in some other way extraordinary.

And that’s it for now! There’s some big big news to talk about soon, too!

An awful lot of blogs have reviewed BROKEN, so I thought I’d try to gather them all together in one place, and at least send them some linkage in thanks for reading and reviewing! So please do go check out these sites, and support all these wonderful bloggers–without these folks, publishing with a small, new house would be much more difficult (and less fun).

Nancy Brauer
Glinda Harrison
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tiger Gray
Bibliognome (Bibliognome also did an interview with me)
Judy Black Cloud
Reading With Tequila
Superhero Novels
Between the Covers
Obligated to Exaggerate
Blather. Rants. Repeat. [Captainsblog]
SF Book Reviews
SciFi Mafia
The Book Smugglers new! 3/17
The Discriminating Fangirl New! 3/23

There’s also some nice reviews at Goodreads and Amazon.

Did I miss any? Please let me know if I did!

Also see this great short interview I just did for Saundra Mitchell, whose book VESPERTINE is coming out very soon (and looks seriously cool).

One of the things that caught both my publisher and I off-guard was that BROKEN started getting reviewed as a YA novel. I hadn’t written the book specifically for young adults, and I know we wondered (and are still wondering) just what it is about the book that makes some people class it as YA fiction. Part of the the reason might be the age of one of the protagonists: Michael Forward is 14. There is also a definite theme of growing up; Michael has to find a way to do the right thing despite facing his worst fears, and he doesn’t always succeed. Plus, BROKEN is relatively short, it clocks in at about 60,000 words (most non-YA SF/Fantasy seems to be longer, averaging around 100K, at least from what I’ve heard).

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s exactly the kind of story I would have loved when I was 14.

But does that make it YA? What does make something YA? I’m still not sure. I’ve found a couple of definitions here and there, but I haven’t found any of them satisfying. I think there are plenty of books which are easily identifiable as YA fiction, but there are plenty more that fall into this sort of gray area BROKEN is in. Is YA in some cases more about marketing than content (see: Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal Romance for another very, very fine distinction that may just come down to which cover goes on the book)? Does the author’s intended audience matter? I have no objection to BROKEN being classed this way, for the record, but I do have to admit it wasn’t my thought when I was writing it.

I’m still mulling all this over. What do you think, folks who have read the book? Could it/should it be classed as YA? Does the label we give a book matter, except as a tool to reach new audiences?

It might not surprise you that there’s a lot of background stuff for the BROKEN universe that never made it into the book. I don’t subscribe to the idea that just because I’ve created a huge world with tons of background information you’ll be interested in hearing about every inch of it. But there are lots of extras, and from time to time I’ll probably post a few of them here.

One of the things I created is a handy reference chart for Extrahumans and their powers. Here it is, in memo form–the most evil, sinister form of all (click “fullscreen” to see everything more easily).

Don’t forget: you can buy BROKEN in electronic format for a mere $10 at the following locations:

One thing I’ve been wondering about lately is why we’re not seeing the huge level of online social media interaction that we have now crop up much in science fiction (unless it’s the STERN WARNING OF THINGS TO COME brand of science fiction). I think part of it is that the tech is so (relatively) new that authors aren’t sure how to incorporate it into existing worlds, and no one’s sure how pervasive this stuff will be in a few years.

I’m struggling with it, too. There isn’t any in BROKEN, except for passing references to people not using the internet because it’s basically bugged and unsafe for our characters.

And yet, I have to think that in a century, people will likely still be using social media of one sort or another. But what will it look like? A single service? Will there be FutureTwitter where people can send all kinds of quick easy messages all over the place? Will it be text-based? Video? Emotional? Smell-o-vision? Will people have devices that resemble all-in-one gadgets like the iPhone? If they don’t have this stuff, why?

I don’t have answers just yet, but I’m thinking about it.

A couple of years ago I collected all of the short stories that I’d written over the course of my adult life, from college graduation on, into a slim self-published volume called Shelley and Mira in the Land of the Shining Sun. I named the collection after the only one of the stories to have actually been “published” somewhere (a British webzine that has since ceased to exist). You can find that volume as a $3 electronic download or a more expensive paperback over at Lulu.

Each story is full of memories for me, of where, when and who I was when I wrote it. One of the stories, “Commando”, is about a lonely high school girl who is more or less stalked by another girl who wants to be her friend. I wrote that story when I was a high school English teacher, and in it I put a lot of what I thought about high school kids at the time.

I liked to have my top-level freshmen analyze short stories when I gave them exams, and one year I was feeling lazy and adventurous (this may have been the year I was fired) so I put “Commando” on their exam next to dull questions about Romeo and Juliet and Great Expectations. Of course, I needed to come up with some way of convincing them that I hadn’t just written a story for them to go over, that it was in fact a real story, so I cooked up a fishy background story for why this wasn’t in grainy photocopied-from-a-book type. A friend of mine was a writer, I said, and this was a story she made. I came up with a pen name for “her,” too: Susan Marigold. Marigolds are my favorite flowers (especially the orange ones), and my first name wasn’t Susan then so obviously, no one would ever suspect it was me.

(It’s funny, sometimes. That old AOL CD from a few posts back was sent to another “fake” name at my current address: Susan Aventara. My future haunts my past.)

The students took the exam and hated every minute of it. My exams were designed to be punishing, with lots of writing and very little multiple choice. They were a bitch to correct. When the students got to the story they had their questions, like What the f*** is this? I trotted out the backstory. One student saw through me immediately. Is this, he wondered slyly, something you wrote?

Ha ha, I said, thinking quickly. If I were to write a short story, would I show it to you? They accepted this readily. It was clear that we weren’t fond of one another.

They read the story and analyzed it, grudgingly. Pathetically, I’d asked them to tell me whether they thought it was a good story, and why. They were brutal. They thought it was dumb, they didn’t like the character, why were the other kids so mean, etc.? I couldn’t tell them that I’d based every mean kid on an amalgamation of all the horrible things I’d seen them all do. I went home, feeling bad.

But I edited that story, and included it in the book years later.

I’m not surprised my students saw through me. I was transparent in so many ways, even as I tried to hold myself tightly in. I was controlled and curt, mainly as a survival mechanism. I don’t think it’s exactly a coincidence that the protagonist was a quiet, damaged girl named Jane. When I taught, I did everything I could to put up a strong, confident face to my students, but every once in a while they could peer right through the walls to see her sitting there, staring back out at them.

I tried something different with my political writing this week: I used humor.

This is a terrible idea, as anyone who has ever tried to be funny knows.

During the 2008 campaign, there was a moment when John McCain tried to write an editorial for the New York Times and had it sent back for editing. As someone who has dealt with editors and I thought this was hilarious, so I whipped up a piece about John McCain having an angry email exchange with the editor at the Times in which he ranted, typed in all caps, and put random words in quotes. Because he is old, you see! In light of that, I thought the email address I gave him,, was particularly brilliant. I sent it in to the Hartford Courant and they ran it.

It was a total bomb, and looking back on it, I can see why. The humor wasn’t all that subtle, and the ageist jokes were less amusing than they were kind of mean. I don’t think my mother liked it very much, either. The experience did give me a lot of respect for people who can write consistently funny stuff, day in and day out. It’s not easy. I can’t imagine trying to write funny columns or routines all the time, much less try to be funny in a format as long as, say, a book.

Every once in a while, though, I want to try something that isn’t either serious, horribly depressing or dry and analytical. I think we’ll call that “expanding my horizons,” since that sounds a lot better than “plea for attention.”

Let me know what you think!

I decided to ditch my old LiveJournal account because, man, I love WordPress way too much not to want to come over here instead.

There’s a lot more that I can do with a blog than with an LJ. I want to create kind of an all-purpose place for me to exist on the web where I can keep folks informed about everything I’m doing, from political writing at CT News Junkie to more memoir-ish nonfiction at, and, of course, longer fiction works like BROKEN.

So welcome! Take a moment to say hi.

–Susan Jane Bigelow

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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YA LGBT epic fantasy!

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