The third book of my two-parter. Or second half of my trilogy. Or something.
RJ Sullivan is back today with more about his new book, Virtual Blue, including a comprehensive guide as to how to approach his series and where the new book fits in!
Did you ever wish you could escape to a virtual world? What if you could…but then couldn’t get out?
Two years after her deadly clash with a vengeful ghost, Fiona “Blue” Shaefer still can’t shake off the trauma of that night. Moving to New York with her father didn’t help. Neither did absorbing herself in her college classes. Not even her poetry provided the solace it once did. She convinces herself that ending her relationship with Eugene “Chip” Farren, her long-distance boyfriend and final tie to the horrors of that night, might bring the closure she needs. Blue travels to Bloomington to break the news to Chip in person, but her timing couldn’t be any worse.
The Sisters of Baalina, vengeful cultists who practice a new form of “techno-magic,” have targeted Chip’s multi-player videogame as the perfect environment to cast a dangerous spell to free a demoness from the very pits of hell. In the process, their plan may trap Blue in a prison of the mind with no locks, no bars, and no escape.
Thanks to Selah Janel for hosting the opening guest post of my blog tour. We had a great time this past summer at a convention where we ran away from Death. We also engaged in many absurd discussions (trolls may have been involved). I thought I’d continue the absurdity by discussing how Virtual Blue fits into the RJ-Verse. (Hey, it was RJ-Verse or Blue-Ni-Verse, so be grateful).
At its heart, Haunting Blue, my first novel, is a “big-kid homage” to the Hardy Boys, the quaint mystery series where two teenagers nose around and stir up all sorts of trouble. The idea was to take that sort of tale and “go dark”, where the trouble turns deadly.
In the end, (minus a few spoilers) my hero, flamboyant punk girl Blue Shaefer (named for her outlandish hairstyle) and her boyfriend, computer nerd Chip Farren, barely survive the encounter. At the time, to me, the story was over, the experiment, as far as I was concerned, a success, and it was time to move on.
From about 2008 to 2010, Haunting Blue was rejected by the best houses in publishing. (Take a note; I need to make that a blurb.) An acquaintance suggested that having a sequel in progress would be a great incentive for a publisher to snag up the first one. I resisted this idea, but we brainstormed.
I realized I had an opportunity to transport the duo from an urban environment and enter cyber thriller territory, taking Blue out of her comfort zone and allow Chip to show a more heroic side. By the time a small press horror publisher offered a deal on Haunting Blue in 2010, I had five chapters drafted on what would become Virtual Blue.
In 2011, I started touring, attending conventions, networking, promoting Haunting Blue, finding readers. Somewhere in there I met Stephen Zimmer of Seventh Star Press. As I’ve told it before, I watched Seventh Star’s interaction with Michael West and decided “I’ll have what he’s having.”
I also had another one of those absurd discussions, this time with Rodney Carlstrom, about fandom and particularly Marilyn Monroe fans (of which I am one) and an odd “souvenir” that I found on sale that I found in bad taste. Rodney said eight fatal words that set the tone for the next several months. “Sounds like a great idea for a story.” So I started a flash fiction.
Uh-huh, flash fiction.
Six months and 30K words later, I finished a novella, featuring obsessed fan Daryl Beasley, his put-upon girlfriend Loretta Stevens, and Hollywood icon turned ghost Maxine Marie. I also fleshed out mysterious paranormal investigator Rebecca Burton, a grown-up version of a tween-aged character I’d written about before in the short story Inner Strength (Published in the eZine Strange, Weird and Wonderful and collected in their best of anthology here). In the story, I hint that little Becky Burton is destined to do great things, and in Haunting Obsession, readers get hints about what that actually means.
As I’d hoped, Seventh Star Press took up Haunting Obsession. Seventh Star also published a followup ebook “Singles” tale with Rebecca Burton (Backstage Pass).
And so, two years later, I returned to my draft of Virtual Blue.
Virtual Blue is a direct sequel to Haunting Blue. It “stars” my favorite flamboyant punk girl, continues her story, and takes her through more adventures and changes. At the same time, she’s assisted by Rebecca Burton, which means that readers who enjoyed Haunting Obsession will find much to love here.
Is Virtual Blue the second half of a power duo, the third part of a trilogy, or a standalone novel? The answer to all three is “yes.”
Lets’ review the potential reading paths.
1) Jump in at the end. You can read Virtual Blue as a standalone–though it will spoil some plot twists from Haunting Blue. The spoiler comes from the trauma that Blue experiences as a result of the climax of Haunting Blue, trauma Blue is still wrestling with, and which is explicitly explained. Should you check out Haunting Blue later, there is still a lot to enjoy.
2) The Blue Shaefer fan path: Readers of Blue Shaefer who have only read Haunting Blue can jump straight to Virtual Blue. Although Rebecca Burton plays a big part in Virtual Blue, it’s not necessary to know the details of what happened in Haunting Obsession to follow, nor is anything from that tale spoiled by reading Virtual Blue first. Haunting Obsession can be read much later, or not at all.
3) The Rebecca Burton fan path: Those who read Haunting Obsession and want to find out more about Rebecca Burton can read Virtual Blue without needing to read Haunting Blue first. Everything you need to know about what happened to Blue from “before” is explained to you. Just know if you ever eventually read Haunting Blue, some plot points will be spoiled. Also, don’t forget, Rebecca Burton plays a role in Backstage Pass and Inner Strength.
Got that? Clear as mud?
Oh, who am I kidding? Just read all three. If you like one, you should find lots to love in the other two books–whichever order you read them. What order should that be?
You can start with either Haunting Blue or Haunting Obsession, and it won’t make much difference. Read one, then the other, then Virtual Blue. Just make sure you read Virtual Blue last.
Seventh Star released Haunting Obsession last year and Virtual Blue last month. A new “authorized version” of Haunting Blue, redesigned as part of the R.J. Sullivan series, comes out later this year, with a new cover and interior art by Bonnie Wasson.
Strange Weird and Wonderful Antho link:
Backstage Pass link:
R. J. Sullivan’s novel Haunting Blue is an edgy paranormal thriller and the first book of the adventures of punk girl Fiona “Blue” Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren. Seventh Star Press released Haunting Obsession, a Rebecca Burton Novella in 2012 and Virtual Blue, the second book in Fiona’s tale, in 2013. Seventh Star will release a new edition of Haunting Blue in early 2014. R. J.’s short stories have been featured in such acclaimed collections as Dark Faith Invocations by Apex Books and Vampires Don’t Sparkle. His newest project is the Red Lotus series of science fiction novelettes for readers of all ages.
R.J. resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. Check in regularly to learn the latest about the projects of R. J. Sullivan.
….and he totally wasn’t joking about running away from Death, either…ever proof that being an author is a dangerous gig 😉