Sequels Revisited: A Sequel

There approximately a flobbity-gillion sequels being released in 2016. Have you noticed this? It seems like half the movies I’ve seen advertised are sequels, follow-ups, or continuations of years-old franchises — and, prepping for this post, I found about a dozen I haven’t seen advertised.

Fellow Scribe Nicole Evelina wrote about this phenomenon, too, arguing that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, and I had so many thoughts about it that, naturally, I thought we could use a sequel to her post. I don’t disagree with her: some of these movies are beating horses so dead, they’re basically just pounding on a burial site. But I do think there’s a phenomenon here that deserves some attention.

So what gives? Has Hollywood run out of ideas, or are we collectively so frightened of the future that we’re clinging to familiar characters and stories we already know and love?

Well, the latter may be a bit of a logical leap, but I know from my own experience that when times get tough, the familiar becomes comforting. It’s no coincidence that some of my annual rereads occur during times that are inevitably stressful: my favorite books travel to cons with me, and anniversaries of sad dates find me rereading books that make me smile.

I’m not the only one who does this, either. There wouldn’t be $200 limited collector edition DVD sets if people didn’t enjoy consuming and re-consuming the same media they already love. Comic book continuations of canceled TV series satisfy slavering fans of Joss Whedon shows, and anime series regularly horrify their fans by creating devastatingly cruel sequels to beloved shows.

Obviously, these movies were all in development for ages before their release this year, but it’s hard not to look at our national climate and see a little bit of myself in the collective return to familiar franchises. When we’re immersed daily in hatred and bigotry, it seems right to return to an Earth where we can pull together to fight off aliens (though I hear the new Independence Day is a bust!) or an ocean where the broken-hearted or disabled can be the heroes of their own adventures (Dory, I heart you!). We all need some encouragement and a reminder that some things don’t change, even if those fixed points are fictional characters we continue to love.

I realize this is a romantic view to take of what is clearly a money-making ploy (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny? Really?), but I do think that the successful franchises continue to exist because they offer us something we need. Whether it’s our love for the characters, the power of the stories being told, or the wonders of the world that’s the setting, something keeps these particular stories alive for us. And while I’m now a confirmed Ilvermorny skeptic, I do know that it can be hard to let go of the Harry Potter world.

What do you think? Is there any merit to my faith in the power of repetition?

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And the winner is….

…not me.

Kirk dissapointed

 

But I did get to be a finalist!

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A few months ago, I entered my novella The Secret of Obedience in the Virginia Romance Writers Hold Medallion Award contest. I’m not much for contests, and I didn’t know how my novella would be received. While the Holt is open to all romance writers, Secret is a story about a gay college boy and his Vietnamese boyfriend.

Well, the don’t start out as boyfriends, but it *is* a romance…

Even though I didn’t win, acknowledging this award has me thinking lots of thinking thoughts.

And chief among those thoughts?

stevie nicks twirling

YEAH!!!

Somebody out there liked my story, liked it enough to put it in the top five entries in the contest. For me, there’s an extra layer of goodness knowing that the Virginia Romance Writers treated an m/m romance the same as any other.

I can’t speak for every writer out there, but I think most m/m or queer or lgbt writers want their stories on the same bookshelves as any other stories. They don’t want to be set off to the side in their own little section, where readers have to take that extra step to find them. That’s why when Publishers Weekly says Alexis Hall’s For Real is one of the best romances of 2015, or when Heidi Cullinan and Amy Lane (and Alexis, too!) are nominated for RITA awards, it’s a big deal.

And that’s not to put my story on the same level as theirs. Secret is a good story, and I love the characters, but I worry that my take on a queer Vietnamese young man doesn’t do justice to the lived experience of someone who is in the same position. It works, as far as it goes, but I wonder if I’d done a bit more research, could I have made it better. I’d hate thinking one of my characters brings someone else down, you know?

But for today, I’m going to twirl like Stevie, happy to know there’s one more organization out there willing to judge a story by the romance, not the characters’ gender. I hope if the judges hadn’t read m/m before, that they seek out more, because there are some fantastic writers exploring all different aspects of what it means to be gay and lesbian and queer and bisexual and trans and ACE and all the variations in between.

I’m going to leave you with an teaser from Secret

Obedience teaser from banner

Ronnie Durand is a country boy who transfers to the University of Washington after two years at Central. He’ll have to give up playing football, though finishing his education at a major university in Seattle – and being out and proud without having to look over his shoulder – makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

But finding friends at a huge school is tough, especially when the hottest guy Ronnie meets makes him doubt his own sanity.

Sang’s been on his own a long time. He’s only a couple steps away from living on the street, and he’s got dreams so big they don’t leave space for a steady boyfriend. Then he meets Ronnie, who just might be strong enough to break through his barriers….as long as Sang lets him in on one big secret.

Buy Links

Amazon   –   ARe   –    Evernight  –  Barnes & Noble

 

Too Much of a Good Thing

Have you noticed how lately it seems like you can’t spit without hitting yet another Hollywood sequel or re-boot? There are 27 million Rambo, Superman, Spiderman and X-Men movies. I read last night that they are considering making a sequel to The Goonies and I was all like

nuh_uh_conan_obrien

I mean, re-doing The Craft is bad enough. Are they going to ruin my whole childhood too?

But the thing is, it’s not just Hollywood. The publishing industry is just as guilty. I started thinking about this because I’m four books into a five-book series. I loved the first book but my enthusiasm dimmed with each passing book. However, I still was interested enough to buy the book of companion novellas. But now that I’m nearly finished with book four, it feels very obvious it was originally meant to be a trilogy and then the author’s contract was extended for a two or three more books (not sure if the companion book counts) so she had to do something. Unfortunately, for me, what she did didn’t live up to what she started in the first books.

And this happens all the time. The most widely known example is the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. It started as a trilogy and it would have been great if it was left there. But then three more books were added on. And then she went back in time with The Infernal Devices, and forward with this new Dark Artifices series, not to mention the Magnus Bane Chronicles and a companion novel. As a reader I’m going

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I want to see new worlds, new characters, new plot lines from Ms. Clare.  But apparently that’s not going to happen for a long while.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not picking solely on her.  I’m going to commit heresy here by saying the same thing about J.K. Rowling. (I can see Shauna and Kristin cringing right now and getting ready to kick me out of the Spellbound Scribes.) I LOVED Harry Potter – every book, every movie – I even went to see the traveling exhibit in Chicago. I’m not opposed to the play or the amusement park. But, Pottermore put me over the edge and I have no desire to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I know she’s doing other things as Robert Galbraith, but at some point, she has to let Harry’s stories be finished. I guess for me it’s one thing when you expand the reach of a series by using its intellectual property (movies, plays, etc) and another when you keep pushing at a series that needs to end. As they say in Frozen,

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I understand that there are fans of both series (and many others that I didn’t name) who can’t ever get enough. But is that a reason to keep going back to the well until it’s beyond dry? I feel like our society no longer respects endings. We have to keep pushing, pushing, pushing until what once was beautiful is now a shadow of its former self. I think that’s what really scares me about adding to the Harry Potter world; it was complete and magnificent as it ended. Why gild the lily?

Non-book example: I LOVED the show Entourage. Ditto to Sex and the City. Did their sequel movies need to be made? Did they enrich the series in any way? Nope. They both (I only saw the first S&TC movie) kind of sucked. They dulled what were fantastic series.

And that is my biggest fear of all – that wanting too much will ruin the art. Gluttony is a deadly sin for a reason.

I’m frustrated at the publishing houses (and Hollywood studios) for encouraging stuff like this. They want the big money, guaranteed best-sellers, while I know authors who could be the next big thing if the houses would look beyond their wallets and see the talent in front of them (several of them happen to be my fellow Scribes).  Same goes for Hollywood. You can’t tell me there aren’t talented screenwriters out there writing fresh movies and TV shows. (Hell, I met one while I was at Spring Fling in Chicago. And look at Netflix and Amazon.)

I’m writing this knowing I may be viewed as hypocritical. I’ve already expanded my Arthurian books beyond what I originally intended (four books: three Guinevere, one Isolde) by toying with the idea of telling Morgan’s story as well. But I’m also producing other non-related works, so those who want to move on to other things, can, and I as an author can explore my range and try new things.

Maybe I’m just justifying myself and I’m guilty, too. It’s entirely possible. But I don’t want to be an author who was known only for one thing; I also don’t want to be remembered as one who ran a good series into the ground. And I don’t want that for any of my fellow authors, either, famous or not. So I guess what I’m asking is that we all think long and hard before writing yet another book/movie/etc. in an already complete world.

I know I’m probably going to regret asking this, but what do you think? Am I right or am I crazy? Are there books/movies/TV series that you feel like went on past their time? Why do you think this happens?

 

Late, but not too late

So, here it is, nearly 11:30 at night and I’ve just remembered it’s my turn to post. I’ve been in bed, unabashedly for a couple of hours already, reading.

Just one of those days where your partner asks, “Is 9 o’clock too early for bed?” and you think of the engrossing new book that’s already taken up much of your free time and reply, “No, not at all!”

But just as I was finally putting my book down for the night, telling myself I’d be disappointed if I finished it too fast, I realized I’d forgotten you, dear reader!

For shame!

But to be fair, I think I have a good excuse. A few even. All of which add up to my memory being much like a sieve these past few days.

One: I finally finished the first draft of a book I’ve been working on for five months. It was a brutal book to write and I know it needs a lot of work, but getting the bones done is what matters for now.

Two: I had a new release drop yesterday under my pen name. My pen name doesn’t get near as much attention as my real name releases, but I’m still proud of the work and I still stress over it just as much.

Three: I was/am taking much needed down time. Thanks to the first two things listed above, I’ve been stressed and tired and things have been neglected. You manage to keep things going, mostly clean and orderly, but nothing is quite how it should be. So I’ve cleaned and done a metric ton of laundry. I’ve given myself mani-pedi, watched TV and, most importantly: read for pleasure. I’m reading out of my preferred writing genres and it’s glorious. There’s a frustrating love triangle and twists and surprises. Just the tonic I need.

So, dear ones, remember, we all need the carrot as much as the stick. Take breaks when you need them, but when you hit goals, make accomplishments, reward yourself. Even if it’s just a book, or maybe a particular Funko Pop you’ve been wanting for a while.

You deserve it. I deserve it.

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My tiny Sirius for a big accomplishment!