Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writing Sequels Are A Pain In My Butt

By Eilis Flynn
It’s one of those tried-and-truisms for writers that writing sequels is the way to go. It’s not until the author further delves into the world/universe that he or she has set up that the readers themselves become vested in the original story and the ongoing saga, the logic goes. I’m all for that. So why is it that it’s taken me way more than a decade to get back into the world of my super-heroine Sonika?

I wrote the original story in a short period of time (at least for me), from August to November 2001. I was at the gym musing about story ideas when I realized that what I really wanted to read was a story about a super-heroine, done the way that comic fans would do it, with an emphasis on characterization and proper choreography (often sadly lacking in other stories with similar themes). And it had to be a super-heroine, because guys are still most of the comics world and there aren’t enough logically created females of the super-powered variety. So I sat down and wrote it. And it was a joy for me, because unlike most stories I’ve written, Sonika’s story just came naturally.

I loved writing INTRODUCING SONIKA. I thought it out like a comic story, with a healthy dose of romance. Of course, that was very early in the super-hero genre finally getting the recognition it has now, so I had a hell of a time selling it, but my timing is usually crap for that kind of thing anyway. In any case, I got to build a world, super-powers, a super-villain, a super-heroine, AND a romance, and it can’t get any better than that!

And after that...I had some sequel ideas that I noodled around with, but I didn’t do much else with that. I usually say that I got busy at work, and I did, but that wasn’t the only reason. It’s the challenge of fantasy: once you create a universe, you have to populate it, you have to build the cultures, figure out how they’re different and how they’re the same. You have to figure out the method of money. What’s valuable, what’s not? Is the gold standard still in effect, or is the floating dollar? You have to figure out what social changes might have occurred in this new world. Now, Sonika’s universe is mostly like our own so I don’t have to worry about coming up with a new type of currency, but when you set up a situation in a parallel reality, you have to figure out what the status quo is in a world that has those differences.

Can you tell I was an anthropology major in college? I spent a long time thinking about these factors. Really, I spent way too much time thinking about it. (Now imagine those voiceover guys: “In a world where a super-heroine has chosen to make her appearance after the murder of her parents...”) But you want your world, no matter how close it is to our own, to work. You don’t want someone to think about the story, either during the initial reading or afterward, and realize: “Hey! That doesn’t make sense!” I don’t know about you, but when that happens to me, I am so disappointed. It ruins the suspension of disbelief. When I want to disbelieve, I want to disbelieve thoroughly, damn it.

So building a culture can be hard work. It can be tricky, it can be frustrating (the research involved can be both fun and arduous), it can be a pain in the ass. But when the culture is’s a sight to behold.

So the sequel to Sonika...I finally wrote it. It took being laid off to finally have the opportunity to jump back in. “Halloween for a Heroine” is a short story, about how the evening patrol on All Hallow’s Eve can be weird and freaky and even dangerous. It’s short, and the cover is going to be fun. And now that I’m unlocked the door to that universe, I can’t wait to explore it again!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at Since she was laid off, she’s also been looking for a job, but in the meantime, she’s thinking about more Sonika adventures. Currently, INTRODUCING SONIKA is available at most online retailers and certainly at the Ellora’s Cave website. The original Sonika short story, “Halloween for a Heroine,” will be available on September 30.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What grabs you?

When I'm looking for a book, either online or in the local bookstore, I usually look at four things - the cover, the back cover blurb, and the first page, in that order. If the first paragraph doesn't grab me after reading the blurb, then I'm liable to move onto the next book on the shelf or the next online recommendation.

Covers are a given. If the cover is, um, tacky? or doesn't seem to reflect the story, I rely on the blurb. The trouble with that is often the blurb promises a story that just doesn't show up between the covers. Has that ever happened to you? Shoot, I pitched a story like that once, ;)

What I'm a sucker for is a great first line. Especially if the book is humorous, the first line can pull you in and the next thing you know you're staying up to finish it!

Here are a couple of my favorites.

"The trouble with dead people today is they have no decorum." Vicky Lobel

"It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." George Orwell

"The night I died I was wrestling the garbage can to the curb." Michelle Bardsley

"He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town."

The children's publishing blog has a page on great openings as well and many other awesome writing resources. Here's two from their site:

"The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.
I'm sixteen now, so you can imagine that's left me with quite a few days of major suckage." Libby Bray

and "The woods were silent, other than the screaming. " M. T. Anderson

You must have your own collection of favorites. Share a couple.