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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

GUEST POST: "Sequels - Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" by C.T. Phipps


A lot of authors have the ambition of being the next Jim Butcher or Don Pendleton and writing as many books about their characters as humanly possible. Certainly, quite a few of us start with the idea they're going to write an 'ongoing' series only to find out that turns out to be a lot harder than it appears. In my case, I have two on-going series planned in my Supervillainy Saga books as well as my upcoming Agent G series. But for the purposes of this article, I'd like to share the difficulties and rewards of writing the sequel to my Cthulhu Armageddon book: The Tower of Zhaal.

For those unfamiliar with it, Cthulhu Armageddon was my attempt to combine Mad Max with H.P. Lovecraft's Arkham Cycle. It was a dark and action-filled story about a man travelling across the Wasteland to get revenge on the wizard who killed his squadron. It was received very well and got a lot of excellent reviews from both Lovecraft fans as well as newcomers to the genre. However, when I finished the story, something bugged at me. I wasn't done with the characters.

Despite having originally intended the story to just be one shot, I couldn't help but think there was another story or even multiple stories to tell. The problem was I needed to be able to make a follow-up which not only would remain true to the surviving characters but also tell a story which would not only be as good as the original but also exceed it. In short, I was stuck with the classic problem of making a sequel.

For me, handling the characters proved to the easiest part. I just needed to sit down and think about how the events of the first book would affect them and what plots I wanted to pick up on. Much like Mad Max transitions from being a vengeful cop to a near-feral outlaw between Max Rockatansky and The Road Warrior, my main character John had gone from being a dedicated family man to someone devastated by revenge's cost.


John's story also had the benefit of being cursed by Nyarlathotep with a time limit to how long he'll remain a human being. Those were interesting stories to follow up on but I needed to examine where everyone was going to go and make sure it was all interesting. For some characters, that led in odd directions and helped me develop the plot further. A time skip of a year allowed me to place the characters all in new positions and allowed me to re-introduce them to the readers.

H.P. Lovecraft helped as well since the obvious place to take my story was to explore the areas of his universe which I hadn't touched upon in the first book. I had deliberately avoided using the classic setting of Miskatonic University in the first book as so many other pastiches set in the world use it. Instead, I got a chance to see what the descendants of that spooky faculty were up to a century later as well as how they would react to a human becoming a monster like John. I also got to explore the Great Race of Yith, the culture of ghouls, and what shoggoths think of their enslavement by wizards. I also got to use Cthulhu itself.

One worry I had was trying to raise the stakes in a post-apocalypse story was an exercise in futility but I just couldn't resist involving Howard Phillip's greatest creation. There's a danger with going too big as you can potentially leave nowhere to go from there but it felt right in my story. After all, what is the best question you can ask in a meaningless Lovecraftian world than whether the world is worth saving? Assuming you even could.

So far, the response to The Tower of Zhaal has been great. Now I just must ask myself if I have a third volume in me.

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Official Author Website
Order The Tower Of Zhaal HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cthulhu Armageddon
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps
Read "Giving Back Vampires Their Bite" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: C.T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger, reviewer for The Bookie Monster, and signed a deal with Ragnarok Publications to produce the urban fantasy series, The Red Room. C.T. Phipps is also the author of The Supervillainy Saga, the first book of which, The Rules of Supervillainy, was released in 2015.

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