The Flying Woman
Terrific Book 1
by Daniel Sherrier
Genre: Superhero Fantasy
The impossible has become reality! A masked man possesses extraordinary powers, and he’s using those fantastic abilities to fight crime and pursue justice. Meanwhile, Miranda Thomas expects to fail at the only thing she ever wanted to do: become a famous star of the stage and screen. One night, Miranda encounters a woman who’s more than human. But this powerful woman is dying, fatally wounded by an unknown assailant. Miranda’s next decision propels her life in a new direction—and nothing can prepare her for how she, and the world, will change.
The elevator carriage settled, and Miranda expected to find Officer Hoskins somewhere along the well-lit path, ever vigilant as he stood guard over the park. But once the door opened, she saw only a long, vacant stretch of brick surrounded by topiaries and impenetrable darkness. The park did span several acres around the tower. Perhaps something demanded Hoskins’s attention.
Miranda kept her phone in hand as she began her brisk walk, reminding herself that this was one of the safer parts of town. Still, her parents had issued many warnings about the dangers a city held after dark, and her mind replayed the greatest hits. Miranda felt her ears expanding to catch even the faintest rustling of leaves.
She heard something else. Not leaves or wind or any scurrying critter. Nothing from nature. Nothing natural.
A moan. It was coming from somewhere behind those bushes. Miranda’s senses all dialed up to maximum.
She decided to ignore it and stay on the path, stay under the lights. Keep her eyes on her phone and check the hell out of those text messages. Or pretend to while secretly poised to dial 9-1-1 if the need arose—a need like someone leaping out and strangling her.
Whatever it was, Officer Hoskins was probably already on it. That explained his absence. But what if he was the one moaning?
“I’m hurt,” the moaning person called out from the darkness, her voice hoarse.
It was definitely a woman’s voice, not the policeman’s. And he wasn’t around to respond to the cry for help.
This could have been a trap—some creepy man lurking, sheathed in the dark, ready to throw the first unsuspecting good citizen into a black van. And if not, well, really, what could Miranda do to help? Aside from the simple task of dialing 9-1-1.
It would be the right thing to do, in case someone was suffering. Miranda could make the call and run away.
Miranda wanted to keep walking until she exited the park, but her feet refused to budge and she cringed. She remained physically capable of forward momentum, just not mentally.
Her stomach folded in on itself, threatening to incite debilitating queasiness unless she did the right thing. If she walked away, she’d spend days or weeks dwelling on whatever she walked away from, constantly checking the news for any hints about what the hell this was. All food would lose its appeal, and she would look back on the concept of sleep with nostalgic fondness.
She considered running back up to Ken, but he was nearly half a mile above the ground. And someone right here might be hurt.
Miranda dialed the digits 9-1-1 and positioned her thumb over the “call” icon. Without hitting it just yet, she advanced toward the source of the moaning and commanded herself not to dissolve into a shivering mess of nerves. She did not heed herself. Her shaking thumb almost jabbed “call” by accident.
Didn’t happen, though. A flash of light cut through the park for just a second, and she stopped. Where did it come from? Not the park’s lighting system. Was it … Fantastic Man? Was she about to meet Fantastic Man? This seemed more like something he should handle, not her.
“That was me,” the woman said, each word scraping against Miranda’s ears. So scratchy and parched. She wasn’t far, maybe only a few feet into the darkness. “Want to make sure I … have your attention.”
Without stepping off the path, Miranda dared to look between the bushes. A new source of light flickered low to the ground, revealing a much older woman lying on the grass. The light came from the strange electricity that was cascading over her unusual outfit, which looked like a superhero costume—emerald tights with a scarlet cape. A deep red symbol occupied the center of the chest, the silhouette of a bird’s wing melding into a fierce, sharp beak. The costume lacked a mask, though. But this woman had to be at least fifty, maybe sixty, and Miranda had never seen her before. Surely if an older female superhero had emerged, she would have dominated the news as much as Fantastic Man did, probably more so on account of her unexpected demographic affiliation.
Or was she a supervillain? Was this a trap? Was Miranda stupidly falling into a trap?
The woman was clutching her side, pressing her hand against a dark liquid …
Blood. The super electric woman was wounded to the point where she was bleeding all over the grass. Miranda did not care to stick around to learn who did the wounding, nor did she relish the idea of running away and unwittingly intercepting such a person.
The woman reached toward Miranda with her free hand, which glowed as bright as a standard light bulb, no more intense than that. The electricity never sparked beyond her elbow, so the hand appeared safe.
“Come here,” the woman said. “Help me up. The pain … is too great.”
If she was actually in pain. Miranda started to wonder. The injury seemed real, but the woman almost looked like she was smirking. Miranda’s eyes were still adjusting to the aura of electrical light, though, and she wanted any excuse to get the hell away with a clear conscience.
Paranoia was not an excuse to let someone suffer, so Miranda started to reach for that bright, quivering hand. And paranoia froze her anyway, after only an inch of movement.
“Should I call an ambulance or the police?” Miranda asked, continuing rapidly without pause, “And who are you and where is that electricity coming from? Am I in danger just by standing here? Are you going to kill me? Please don’t kill me.”
The woman chuckled through gritted teeth, as if Miranda had told a joke. “Just grab my hand, dear.”
Daniel Sherrier is a writer based in central Virginia. He is the author of the novel “The Flying Woman.” A College of William & Mary graduate, he has worked for community newspapers, written a few plays that have been performed, and earned his black belt in Thai kickboxing. And there was that one time he jumped out of an airplane, which was memorable.
Interview with Daniel Sherrier
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve read superhero comics since I was nine years old, and I’ve always wanted to make my own contribution to the genre.
My first serious attempt at a superhero story was actually a play I wrote in college, called Super!, which was eventually performed in a small Chicago theater in 2008. That story focused on the secret identities behind the cartoonish superhero facades, and it was partially inspired by watching old Superfriends cartoons full of stalwart superheroes tackling ridiculous threats, without any personal problems. What if this surface-level perfection was just their professional demeanor, but they were struggling with personal issues in the backs of their minds?
I’ve always felt I could do more with the characters from that play. I attempted a television pilot script at one point, but novels ultimately wound up being the way forward. The execution needed to be very different, though. The stark contrast between cartoonish superheroes and their more realistic, down-to-earth, flawed secret identities worked well on the stage—it was indeed very theatrical. But in prose, I needed to fill in the space between those extremes to make it work.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The Flying Woman. Admittedly, I’m a bit behind. I got pretty far along with what I thought was the second book, then realized I was actually writing the third (or maybe even the fourth). So I had to start over, but now I’m making good progress on something that should work very well as book two.
On the bright side, I’ll have a great head start when I do eventually get to that later book.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Flying Woman?
The main character, Miranda Thomas, is a 22-year-old aspiring actress. Acting is all she’s ever wanted to do. It’s the main thing she’s studied and trained for, and nothing less than phenomenal success will suffice, even as she realizes what a longshot that is.
But then, after an encounter with a dying super-woman, she develops super-powers, and she has to navigate new possibilities—and, more importantly, new responsibilities that she never expected.
With Miranda, I tried to make the most human superhero possible, someone who is generally a good person and has a solid moral compass, but someone who also has plenty of doubts about her ability to live up to these new expectations of her. How do you become a perfect superhero when you know you’re human?
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Is there anything about writing superheroes that’s not enjoyable?
Who designed your book covers?
Justin Burks of Birdhouse Branding, and he did a fantastic job. I’ve gotten quite a few compliments about the cover at book festivals, but I can take credit only for approving it.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
This is my first full novel I’ve published (I had previously focused on novellas), so this was quite an educational experience. I rewrote this book nearly from scratch three and a half times before landing on something that worked.
The first version was basically a comic book series in prose, so that wasn’t the right approach for a novel. The second was more like a movie in prose, which was closer to the mark but still not quite right. Finally, working with my editor, Matthew Limpede, I managed to develop a novel that was actually a novel. And then people read it and said, “I enjoyed it! It’s like a comic book in prose!”
Still, though, those earlier versions would have been entertaining but forgettable. There are reasons why superhero stories work great in comics, movies, and television, but I needed to figure out how they could work in prose. I had to reintroduce the genre, to some degree, sort of like how the first Iron Man movie reintroduced the genre to set the stage for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In a sense, I had to explore the spaces between the comic book panels, in addition to the panels themselves. It was a lot of extra work, but the final product is vastly improved because of it, if I do say so myself.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I would want to follow the tradition of Superman: The Movie and cast a relatively unknown actress. No doubt there’s some talented actress no one has ever heard of who would be the perfect Miranda.
How did you come up with name of this book?
I was originally calling it Terrific, which wound up being the series name. I love that one definition of the word is “wonderful,” and another is “terrifying,” which captures the extraordinary responsibility of a superhero quite well—any extraordinary responsibility, for that matter. But it does work better for the series as a whole rather than just the first book.
The term “the flying woman” arose organically in the manuscript as a general reference to Miranda as she’s just starting out as a superhero. I knew I didn’t want to use her actual superhero name, Ultra Woman, as the title, but my editor suggested The Flying Woman, and I agreed that it sounded like the right approach.
What did you edit out of this book?
I had a really boring, drawn-out scene of Miranda planning and assembling her original superhero costume, but it brought the momentum to a halt. So, I compressed that part to the minimum and wove it in with other plot elements.
How long have you been writing?
When I was nine, I started writing and drawing my own comic books with my own superheroes. I eventually gave up on drawing—didn’t have the patience for it—but I never figured out how to stop writing, which I somehow do have the patience for. I guess I just have selective patience.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Music is essential to writing. I usually listen to instrumental movie and TV soundtracks as a sort of creative lubricant. I’ve put all my soundtracks into a single playlist in my iTunes player, and I just let it play at random while I work. This way, I’m not immersed in the atmosphere of any single movie or television series, but I’m listening to a mix of styles, tones, and genres from different composers, which I personally find more effective.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Computer primarily, but I will sometimes brainstorm with pen and paper. I am just barely old enough to have learned to type on a typewriter, but I don’t see any benefit to using one at this point. I’d be too self-conscious about wasting ink and paper, and whiteout is not the most efficient means of correcting typos.
Advice they would give new authors?
Exercise is essential. It’s essential for everyone, of course, but writing is one of those occupations where it can be a little too easy to neglect physical activity. Remember, exercise boosts not only the body but also the mind. Exercising has a very high chance of improving your writing.
Everyone’s at a different level of physical fitness, but virtually everyone can do something that will benefit them—and they can do it today. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, go for a walk. If you routinely run five miles a day, try running 5.1 miles. If you’ve been at your desk for a couple of hours, get up and do some jumping jacks, or drop to the floor and do crunches and push-ups.
It’s easy to find excuses not to exercise, but it’s also not that hard to find ways to sneak some physical activity into your day. Writing is not an excuse to avoid exercise. Rather, exercise is essential to writing at your best level.
What are they currently reading?
I’m a bit behind, but I’m currently reading the first Games of Thrones book. I started it several years ago and read a little over a hundred pages, but it wasn’t grabbing me. So, I left the bookmark in, put it back on my shelf, and moved on to other books.
On a whim, I decided to give it another chance. I just picked up where I left off, and now I find myself appreciating how well done it is. I doubt I’ll wind up being a hardcore GoT fan, but I’m beginning to see what so many others have seen in it all this time.
This is why I don’t like to bash books that aren’t working for me. In some cases, it might actually be just a bad book, but it could also be that it simply didn’t work for me at that point in time. I could have been in the wrong mood or the wrong frame of mind, or perhaps its flaws just bugged me more than others. No book is perfect. No book is beyond criticism. At the same time, a book that’s deeply flawed may still resonate with some people.
We’re not smarter just because we hate what everyone else loves or love what everyone else hates. There are certainly well-established principles of storytelling that are worth paying attention to. Ultimately, though, reading is a subjective experience.
I started reading Games of Thrones and didn’t like it. I resumed reading Game of Thrones and am enjoying it. Which me is correct?
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