Tag Archives: superheroes

Thoughts on Writing – Originality in Writing

As writers, we constantly try to write something original, or something with a unique twist. But how often do we come up with a super cool idea, only to discover there are already dozens of similar ideas out there already? (Looking at you, Marvel. Every time Isaac and I think we have a unique story idea, your next movie covers something really similar. All I need to say is “dancing baby tree.” *Sigh.*)

It can be depressing.

But here’s the thing: having similar ideas is okay.

That’s why genres and sub-genres exist. That’s why certain tropes show over and over again. We enjoy them. We like being able to follow patterns, and we’re delighted when those patterns fulfill their promises in unexpected ways.

For example, readers of romance know that the stories they reading will have a happy-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, no matter how dire things may seem at the moment. They enjoy seeing how the two characters finally get together, despite the odds.

Readers of horror know to expect chills and moments of tenseness… and that the little kid down the road might very well not be a little kid. But the joy comes in seeing how the characters succeed or fail to tackle the issue, and what kind of monster is really lurking in the dark, not quite seen.

These tropes and ideas play into reader expectations, and if you know how to play your genre cards right, you can use those cards to add a new twist on an old idea.

Readers enjoy the familiar. Why else do we read hoards of dystopian books, or try to get our hands on every thriller we can find?

It’s after you consider genre conventions that you want to add a new twist, a new environment, or a new type of character to an old arc to see what might make it different.

This is the reason there are so many takes on different fairy tales. For example, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, puts the classic Cinderella tale in a space-age environment with robots.

You’ll find all the classic plot elements, but in a new setting, the old story takes on new life.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that nothing is ever completely original, and that really, the best we can do is know (to the best of our ability) what is already out there, so we can play on what exists and make something even better, or more unique, just a little bit different.

Have you ever watched a movie and wished it had turned out a bit differently?

What twist would you have added? What direction would it have gone?

(For Distant Horizon, one of the major changes of typical superhero stories was the idea that the supervillains won the day during the age of superheroes, and now the villains are secretly in charge of what otherwise seems like a perfectly functional society).

We enjoy the familiar, but we enjoy seeing how a different author spins the tale.

A while back I was reading a superhero book, Elevated by Daniel Solomon Kaplan (a fun book–I recommend it if you like YA superhero stories) in which the main character is in school (high school), preparing for a potentially life-changing event (getting her superpower–or choosing not to), and then she goes to a history lesson (which benefits us readers into knowing what’s going on in the world and how she feels about it), before moving on to the day of the big event.

At the time, it got me to thinking about the book I coauthored, Distant Horizon. The main character is in school (college), panicking about a potentially life-changing event (testing to see if she has a hallucinogenic disease… but the event secretly tests for super powers), and then she goes to a history class (which shows a little about the world so the reader knows what’s going on), before moving on to the day of the big event.

At first I was discouraged by the similarities, but when I started thinking about it, I realized that those similarities weren’t a bad thing. They help the reader get their bearings before going two completely different plot directions. Those starting events are tropes of the genre. Even the similarities were different (example: both characters have an interest in plants, but the difference is that the main character gets plant powers in Distant Horizon, whereas in Elevated, the main character gets a completely unrelated (but interesting) ability (I’m not going to spoil the book for you).

In Distant Horizon, the big day is secretly testing for superpowers in a world where people don’t know superpowers exist. In Elevated, the big day is a rite of passage where people are zapped for powers in a “Russian Roulette” of sorts (which is instantly different, and automatically leads to different plot twists). In Distant Horizon, powers are genetic. If a parent has a specific power, the odds significantly increase that the child will, too. In Elevated, the powers are random (though the book hints that there may be an unseen pattern). Both stories involve radiation in the explanation of powers, but hey… so do quite a few other superhero stories.

Where does this lead us?

Both stories have a similar start (albeit in different locations–Distant Horizon is dystopian, Elevated feels more near-modern day). It’s a result of both having superhero elements. But those similarities are what drew my interest into reading Elevated in the first place (which I again recommend reading if you like superheroes and young adult fiction. It’s a fast, entertaining read). These similarities are why I read other similar books in the genre, like Minder by Kate Kaynak, though it has a much heavier romance plot.

Do writers often have similar ideas at the same time? Certainly. Do writer’s absorb ideas from other books they’ve read and movies they’ve seen, then delve into them with their own twists? Yep.

Try not to be discouraged if you read something that reminds you of something you’ve written or plan to write. Look to see if the differences are great enough to constitute being their own story. If so, you’re good. (And beta-readers can help you here).

How about you? Have you read something that reminded you of something you’re working on? 🙂

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Happy Book Birthday, Distant Horizon!

Today’s the day! Distant Horizon is now available! 😀

Isaac and I started writing Distant Horizon in 2010 after playing a tabletop rpg that Isaac was the gamemaster for. He created the world, most of the characters (except Jenna–she was my character), and the plot. Eventually, I decided I wanted to write everything down. Thus, the concept for Distant Horizon was born. A lot has changed since the role-play, but a lot has remained surprisingly the same. Now, six years later, we’re ready to share Jenna’s story with the world. 🙂

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Distant Horizon

A Young Adult Dystopia with Superhero Elements

Distant Horizon - Book Cover

The Community is safe.
Unless you have superpowers.

Sixty years ago, a hallucinogenic plague annihilated half the world’s population, leading to the formation of the Community—an international government that promises its citizens safety, security, and efficiency. Every day, Community citizens swallow a mandatory pill to ensure their immunity to the plague. A year after graduating high school, they take the Health Scan.

Most pass, and continue with their lives. Others disappear.

Eighteen-year-old Jenna Nickleson hasn’t taken the pill since her senior year in high school. She feels more alive without it, and she hasn’t shown any signs of infection—at least, not until two days after a surprise Health Scan is announced and Special Forces arrive at her university campus.

Spurred by the recent string of hallucinations, Jenna searches for any inkling of what happens to those who fail the scan. Rumor has it that they’re sent away for treatment and, once cured, receive a menial job. But when she uncovers the cruel truth behind the plague, her ideal world is shattered.

Underneath the illusion of safety, Special Forces agents harbor a dark secret.

The plague is a lie.

Now available!

Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ BN.com ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Print Version Available on Amazon

Add "Stone and String" to Goodreads

Read the first seven chapters, free! Click here to download the PDF.

Distant Horizon - Teaser Picture "The Community is safe... Unless you have superpowers."

Distant Horizon - "Beast Excerpt"

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Please consider sharing this post to spread the word about the new release. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the book! 😀

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Sneak Peek of Distant Horizon – Chapter Two (Sections Two and Three)!

As we get closer to the release day of Distant Horizon (October 27th!), I’ve been working on the final touches! I’ve been reading the printed proof copy for errors…

dh-proof-copy-1 dh-proof-copy-2

See? There’s the book!

And I’ve been setting up promotional items for the upcoming book blitz that will take place once Distant Horizon is published.

(Want to participate in the book blitz? Click here!)

And, of course, I like to provide teasers of the upcoming book. So here’s the second part of Distant Horizon, Chapter Two, for your enjoyment. 🙂

(You can read the first chapter by clicking here.)

(Or you can read the first section of chapter two by clicking here.)

Chapter Two

(Section Two and Three)

“Come on, Jenna—this is perfect. You need the points; I get a good name in, and if the commander remembers me when I graduate, he might recommend me to international Special Forces!” With a smooth swipe of his hand, Lance pushed the straggling strands of his brown hair from his eyes and then brushed his shirt free of wrinkles. I took a step back, eyeing him cautiously. Lance stood straighter, more proper than before.

“Well, what do you think?” he asked. “Think I’ll make a good impression?”

“You look… nice,” I said halfheartedly. “I’m sure he’ll consider you.”

Lance beamed. “Awesome!”

“Yeah, awesome,” I mumbled. I shouldered my backpack uneasily as Lance headed for his security class. He could probably get into a regional team and be charged with the wonderful task of protecting gossipy leaders, but regional agents were stationed all over the world. If he got recruited, I might never see him again.

I hunched my shoulders and hurried to calculus. I could almost swear the agents wandering around campus were watching me. Throughout class, when I should have been focusing on logarithms, all I could think about was the agents’ dark visors, their stern postures, and how they were tasked with protecting the Community against all kinds of threats, including theophrenia.

I pictured the agents escorting Galina into the back of the van. What if I never saw her again? What if she couldn’t be cured?

Needless to say, I bombed the calc test.

I returned to my dorm room, dejected, and switched my materials to the Basics of Agronomy and Horticulture. At least this was a class I enjoyed. When I lived at my parents’ house, I spent what free time I had in the backyard or the community garden cultivating herbs and vegetables. Whenever I was worried about how I’d do on my core graduation tests, gardening was the most efficient way for me to relax.

I trailed my fingers through the leaves of the potted spider plant on my desk. If only plants could understand people. Plants wouldn’t tell anyone about not taking the pills, or failing a computer class, or—

The stem of a spiderette wrapped around my finger and wriggled beneath my palm. I yelped and yanked my hand away.

The plant just moved.

Not only that, but spiderette stems were stiff, not malleable like a vine. They shouldn’t be able to wrap around my finger even if plants could move of their own accord.

I stared at the plant, but it seemed the same as before. Just a normal stem in a normal pot.

I swallowed hard. I could not be hallucinating. Not this close to the Health Scan. I grabbed my bag and stuffed the books inside, then rushed out the door. I was stressed and needed lunch; that was all.

Downstairs, the spicy aroma of sloppy joes mingled with the antiseptic stench of cleaning supplies used in the cafeteria. My stomach churned. Bad idea coming to the cafeteria. Really bad idea. I should’ve just taken the pill and been done with it. Maybe I would’ve gotten accustomed to the lack of focus. I could still go back and take the pill. Maybe—

I stopped short at the lunch table.

“You okay?” Lance stabbed his fork into a half-eaten sandwich. “You’re pale. Maybe you should see the nurse.”

“No!” I gripped the loose ends of my backpack tight. Lance gave me a puzzled look. I shut my mouth, then set my backpack in its proper place under the chair. “It’s just… I failed the calc test.”

He cocked his head with a knowing grin. “Sure you did—you won’t have the results until after the Health Scan. You know, you’re starting to sound like Tim.” His smirk turned into an amused smile. “Want me to get you a plate?”

“Go ahead,” I said, and he left me alone at the table. I traced the spot where the stem had wrapped around my finger. My blood pounded in my ears, mingling with the messy roar of the cafeteria. The stress of the upcoming scan was getting to me—bad. Hallucinations were the first sign of theophrenia. If someone had theophrenia, they’d have hallucinations and delusions of grandeur, and eventually, they’d die. But theophrenia was supposed to be a thing of the past. Contained.

“Jenna?” An elbow brushed my shoulder and I jumped. Tim stood beside me, holding a plate of steamed broccoli. “Are you okay?”

Not really, no. But I couldn’t tell him the real reason I was worried. “I bombed the calc test,” I said.

Tim cringed and took his seat. “Ouch.” He stirred his fork through the broccoli, wrinkling his nose and making a face. But I’d never seen him put something back if it was good for him, and he took a bite. “Lance said you can make up yesterday’s points.”

“Maybe, if I get an audience.”

Tim pulled his tablet from his pocket and sat it beside the plate, then flipped through the screens with a swipe of his finger. He showed me a photograph of the commander next to his transport ship. “Do you think he’ll autograph this for me?”

I nodded weakly. I never did understand autographs, though most E-Leadership members were happy to give them. Lady Winters never signed them, though, and when Master Matoska made a rare appearance, he only did so if the signing was on his schedule.

A plate of food slid in front of me. “I got you extra broccoli,” Lance said.

Warmth flooded my chest. Unlike Tim, I actually liked broccoli—and Lance knew me well.

I smiled. “Thanks.”

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After lunch, I excused myself early to slip outside. I had a few minutes before the next meeting, plenty of time for a walk to clear my head. The sun stole through the clouds in the courtyard and lent warmth to the chilly afternoon. Students swarmed the flagpole at the center of campus, waving tablets and books in the fresh air.

A tell-tale safari hat rode across the crowd and my breath caught in my throat. Unlike Lady Black, who often used her revealing outfits to stand out from the rest of us, Commander Rick did not flaunt his “attractiveness.” He always went for regal attire—except for that safari hat he always wore—and his word was absolutely, positively good. If he said he would do something, we could bet our efficiency points he’d do it—not that betting was in any way efficient.

I took a step back, my chest tight. I wasn’t ready to ask the commander questions. What if I got the interview, but they had to do the scan first?

I turned to take the long way around campus, but nearly collided with a confident woman as she passed me on the sidewalk. She nimbly stepped aside, then glanced at me, surprised. Wisps of dark hair tickled her face, and her green eyes were complimented by the antique, diamond and brass pendant she wore on her chest, the same kind of pendant members of international E-Leadership wore.

“Lady Black?” I stared at her, dumbfounded. She had to have been cold. Her dress was impractical—it twisted and shimmered in a harsh gust of wind, and her skin was pale where the silky black dress revealed far more of her chest than normal citizens would ever show. She opened her mouth to speak, but I skittered away before any words could be exchanged.

I didn’t check to see if anyone had seen us before I ducked into the closest building. Once inside, I pressed my hands against the stone wall and caught my breath. Too close. What if I’d said something about the pills in a moment of panic? I half expected an agent to come waltzing through the glass doors and ask why I hadn’t reported my earlier hallucination.

I took a deep breath, ignoring the puzzled stares of passing students. Though I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching, no agent came to question me. I waited for my nerves to calm, and then headed back to the dorms for the afternoon meeting.

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Like what you read? Want to find out what happens next?

Pre-Order Distant Horizon today!
Amazon – Amazon UK – B&N – Kobo – iTunes – Smashwords

You can also find Distant Horizon on Goodreads.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Distant Horizon Cover Reveal!

The day has finally arrived–the day of the Distant Horizon cover reveal! That’s right. This cover, which has been waiting two years to be revealed (Seriously, I created the near-final version in early 2014) now gets to be seen by the light of day–or the computer screen.

*Ahem.*

Now, for the reveal, which has been organized by the wonderful Lola’s Blog Tours! 😀

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Distant HorizonDistant Horizon (Distant Horizon #1)
By Stephanie and Isaac Flint
Genre: Dystopia with superhero elements
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: October 27, 2016

Blurb:
The Community is safe.
Unless you have superpowers.

Sixty years ago, a hallucinogenic plague annihilated half the world’s population, leading to the formation of the Community—an international government that promises its citizens safety, security, and efficiency. Every day, Community citizens swallow a mandatory pill to ensure their immunity to the plague. A year after graduating high school, they take the Health Scan.

Most pass, and continue with their lives. Others disappear.

Eighteen-year-old Jenna Nickleson hasn’t taken the pill since her senior year in high school. She feels more alive without it, and she hasn’t shown any signs of infection—at least, not until two days after a surprise Health Scan is announced and Special Forces arrive at her university campus.

Spurred by the recent string of hallucinations, Jenna searches for any inkling of what happens to those who fail the scan. Rumor has it that they’re sent away for treatment and, once cured, receive a menial job. But when she uncovers the cruel truth behind the plague, her ideal world is shattered.

Underneath the illusion of safety, Special Forces agents harbor a dark secret.

The plague is a lie.

You can find Distant Horizon on Goodreads

You can pre-order Distant Horizon here:
Amazon
Amazon UK
B&N
Kobo
iTunes
Smashwords

Excerpt:
There was a fifteen minute break between classes. Since the two buildings were right next to each other, that was plenty of time for me to browse EYEnet. My primary question regarded the old man’s warning that I’d fail the scan. I focused on the blog from my friend in high school—the one whose sister failed.
According to Galina’s posts, she’d been afraid of failure early on, and on the day of the Health Scan, she’d made another post reiterating the same fear. She’d been having hallucinations that liquids would shape themselves from images in her thoughts, and she was sure she had theophrenia.
It’d been almost a year since Galina left, but I wasn’t sure how long the recovery effort lasted. I checked the last active day she was on her account. There was nothing since the day of her scan.
I checked other blogs, searching for any references to fear of failure. One girl thought she could fly. Another guy swore he could read his professor’s mind. All signs of advanced delusions, and in each case, they didn’t return.
Three years passed. Five. Nothing.
A chill ran through me. The old man said to try controlling vines and grass. That was crazy. Impossible. And yet… I’d felt that stem move. I’d seen it move.
My phone chimed a one-minute warning before class. Students stirred and finished their conversations, and I stared at the small screen of my phone. Only one person, out of the entirety of blogs I’d found, had ever come back.

Stephanie and Isaac FlintAbout the Author:
Stephanie and Isaac Flint met at the University of Central Missouri, where they discovered a common interest in world-building and tabletop role-play games. Distant Horizon is their first joint world, the result of a role-play game Isaac ran in the summer of 2010. After graduating with Bachelors of Science (Photography for Stephanie, Psychology for Isaac), they were married in 2012. Together, they plot stories, torment each other’s characters, and enjoy the occasional cosplay.

You can find and contact Stephanie and Isaac here:
Author Blog
Publisher Website
Facebook
Twitter Stephanie
Twitter Publisher
Author Goodreads
Stephanie Goodreads
Newsletter

 

banner Lola's Blog Tours

 

Want to check out the other blogs who are participating in this tour?

SCHS Best Books Blog
Bookworm for Kids
Redd’s Reads
Lilly’s Book World
Outlandish Reads
The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
shannonbookishlife
We All Make Mistakes in Books
Pippa Jay
Katie’s Clean Book Collection
Their Vodka
The Phantom Paragrapher
Books and Kats
Scott Umphrey
A Leisure Moment
Kindle and Me
Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!
TMBA Corbett Tries to Write
Amanda’s Book Nook
The Writer’s Inkwell
Mel’s Shelves
Diana’s Book Reviews
Leila Tualla: Bookshelf
Cheyanne Young
YA Book Divas

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