Why Into The Spiderverse works, even though it shouldn’t

If there’s one complaint I have about comic books, it’s the sheer lack of continuity. I’m hardly the only fan to have this problem, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

In a way, I do understand. Comic book characters like Batman, the X-Men and Avengers have been written and rewritten for decades to keep them up to date with modern times. But it can also be confusing as hell! One character has a dozen or so backstories. Nothing’s canon with each other.

But we put up with it as comic book fans, and I’ll tell you why. Because amid all the clutter and chaos we get stories that are true works of art. With so many authors and creators working with these iconic characters, we get some of the worst content (Batman and Robin). But we also get some of the best.

Into The Spiderverse is part of the latter camp. 

I know, I’m late to the game with this one, but I have a good reason. I really, really didn’t Spiderverse, groupthink I was going to like this movie. It looked like a mess, to be honest. All these different renditions of Spiderman, a character I’ve never been super fond of to start with, mashed together just seemed like a comedy of errors. Multiple art forms, varying storylines. I wasn’t down for that. Even the inclusion of my favorite actor, Liev Schriber, as the antagonist wasn’t enough to tempt me into it. I mean, he was in My Little Pony too, and I sure as hell am not sitting through that. 

It wasn’t going to work unless everyone involved gave a shit about what they were doing. And I mean, they needed to put their heart and soul into this. There could be no half-assed writing, no lazy graphics. It needed to flow because there were a lot of conflicting stories that could flow very, very wrong.

Fortunately, everyone used their whole ass. 

Let’s start with character creation. We quickly establish Miles, the main character, as a good kid. A smart kid who has a pretty good life. He’s going to a good school, has a loving family. And his hero, like everyone in his city, is SpiderMan. He’s not a perfect kid. He’s often found out with his uncle spray painting the subway walls. But it’s beautiful art, so it’s hard to be mad at him. You just really like him from the start.

And then he gets bit by a radioactive spider. 

One thing I love about Miles is that he has some common sense. He finds out he has superpowers that are just like his hero. And he goes right to said hero to teach him. None of this going it alone nonsense. He knows he needs a teacher, and he tries to find one.

It’s so refreshing to have a teenage main character that isn’t a total idiot.

Spiderverse MilesOne reason I think Into The Spiderverse works is that they were ready for people like me. People who are a little tired of all the different versions of characters. So, they decided to poke fun of it. They included characters like Peter Porker, played by the hilarious John Mulaney. They included a Noir Spiderman, who I’d never heard of before. I straight up thought they’d added Rorschach from Watchman when I was watching ads for this movie. They also included a messed up Peter who’s screwed his life to shit.

I think what worked here was that they let each of these characters be separate characters. The Spiderman-bot from Japan was a big scary robot powered by a teenage mechanic. Miles was a funny kid who just wants to do right by people. Peter Porker is, as always, hilarious. The story allowed each to be honest to their character while not overpowering the story. It was in their word usage, their actions. Their artwork and body language told a story. But they never took over from the main storyline. 

In addition to blending the different characters well, they also blended the story well. I always think the best stories are the ones that are serious, dark, gritty and funny. There’s a reason I’m such a big fan of Joss Whedon. 

This is largely done by allowing each of the varied characters to stay in their lane. They allowed the funny characters to be funny, the serious characters to be serious. They let the dark moments go dark, without pulling any punches. For instance, there’s a part where Doc Oct is revealed. And she’s like, very interested in watching Peter suffer horribly. They don’t shield us from that. They also don’t shield us from the antagonist’s sad, sadistic backstory. 

I think that’s the way to handle stories like this. As always, I like it because it’s honest. Life is dark, and sometimes there’s no softening that. But life is still funny, even in dark times. At least, I think it is. But I’m usually the one cracking jokes at the funeral. (At least I’m not the one with a couple of cases of beer in the back of the car at the funeral. At least that brave soul decided to share.)

If you want a masterclass in blending styles, watch Into The Spiderverse. Watch how they focus on one main story that ties all the characters together while balancing them so that each one shines.

Preorder Falling From Grace and be entered to win a free autographed copy of Broken Patterns. And, get an instant download of the first four chapters. Just send me a screenshot Falling From Grace eBookof your preorder recipt to nicolecluttrell86@gmail.com.

Falling From Grace is now available for Pre-order!

Pretty exciting news today. Falling From Grace, the fourth book in the Woven series, is now available for pre-order!

Meet Grace.

A woman of the rebellion, Grace’s life has been one of hardship. Her people live in poverty, under the uncaring eyes of their mad king. So when her brother in law, Calvin, leads an army to overthrow the king, she inspires the women to become healers, witches and warriors.

But once she gets Calvin on the throne, her world only becomes darker.

Given all of the power of the crown, Calvin gives into his darker instincts. While Grace learns to be a witch and queen, Calvin slowly loses his mind. He becomes a crueler king than any the country of Calistar has ever seen. Grace finds that her greatest challenge is overthrowing the king she put on the throne.

You can preorder it right now by clicking here!

When you do preorder it, I have a special gift for you. Send me a screenshot of your preorder recipt at nicolecluttrell86@gmail.com. I’ll send you the first for chapters of Grace right away.

And, you’ll be entered to win an autographed copy of Broken Patterns, sent right to your door, for free!

Don’t forget, you have to send me a screenshot of your preorder recipt to enter for the free book and get the first four chapters of Falling From Grace.


Fantasy fans in the 21st century

Today’s cover art is from Free-Photos

Speculative fiction has been seeing a lot of love over the last decade. I’ve lost count of the number of cult classic books and modern loves that I was sure I alone knew about, that are now considered mainstream works. Fantasy and science fiction, in particular, has been going strong. (Horror is always doing good, it seems. Especially in times of hardship. Stephen King has a great essay about that in his book Danse Macabre. If you haven’t read it, read it.)

As a lifelong speculative fiction fan myself, I couldn’t be happier that everyone is finally seeing what I see in my favorite stories and characters. It is amazing to see all these little teenagers going nuts over the latest Laini Taylor book. 

On the other hand, being a fantasy fan these days kind of blows. Like with everything, there are pros and cons to cult favorites hitting the mainstream. 

Why we have it so good

Let’s get this one out of the way right now, I love e-books. Yes, I still love me a good thick hardcover, but for ease of use, you just can’t beat an e-book. I can carry around my whole library with me wherever I go. How many times have you had to carry two books with you because you were just about to finish one? How many times have you had to carry a bigger bag because you’re reading the hardcover version of Dances With Dragons? No more of that!

I also love that I can get e-books on the launch day even if I’m too busy to make it to the store. Especially right now, when I can’t get to any store without fearing for my damn life. That would have saved my life if I’d had it when the last Harry Potter book came out. Instead, I was stationed in front of my local book store when they opened the door, waiting.

I also really love that so many of our favorite things are showing up on the screen, and most of them are good! I’ve talked a lot about quality adaptations on this site, so I won’t go into it again. But it’s been a while since anyone had to shush me in a movie theater because I launched into a geek tirade.

Speaking of the geek, we are for sure living in the age of the Geek. (At least in culture. I sort of wish our politics here in America still thought it was cool to be, you know, smart. But that’s another topic for another day.) We’re not seen as losers now for liking things like comic books and D&D. They’re all the rage. People know who Tolkin is now!

Of course, because there are so many people interested in fantasy and science fiction, the market is catering to us. There’s a ton of new stuff and most of it’s good! The best example I can think of right now is The Orville. It’s like Star Trek for a modern audience. And it’s not the only thing for fans to be cheering over. The new Twilight Zone, Star Trek Picard. All the good things are coming back.

Why we sort of don’t

There is nothing that is purely good or purely bad. I do love e-books but there are some books I want to have a physical copy of. There lies the problem, books are freaking expensive to buy! They’re expensive to produce, too. Listen, I write and sell this stuff as well as consume it. Trust me, no one but Amazon is getting rich off that $20 and up price tag for new releases. It’s real easy to spend over $100 on books in a month if you want to get the physical copies. And as much as I think it’s worth it, I also know I can’t afford it. 

There are other issues, of course, with things we love going public. People who don’t understand our world are invading it. I have just one too many times overheard conversations about comic book characters that are so off the mark that I’m loth to keep walking. I do because I don’t need to be that crazy person in town. Screaming at strangers for not understanding the complexity of Tony Stark and his struggle with alcoholism is not a good look. But it should be!

Hey, remember when we were talking about books and how expensive they are? That’s not the only way marketing teams are getting our cash. Our beloved worlds are being marketed to Hell. All of our beloved characters are being sold to us on water bottles, action figures, and posters.

This isn’t to say I’m not as big of a sucker as they come. I had a pair of Jack Skellington Vans that I wore until they had holes in the heel. I also had a Gryffindor hoodie that I lost somewhere. (I’m a Hufflepuff anyway.) I have a Harley Quinn poster and a Daddy’s Little Monster t-shirt. But at some point, it all becomes too much. At some point, we’re just being sold cheap crap for too much because it happens to have the Cheshire Cat on it.

Finally, with great stories come great rip-offs. Or not so great rip-offs, usually. Or just real shit trying to pass for quality storytelling. For every Orville, there’s a Star Trek Discovery. For every ‘Salem’s Lot, there’s a Twilight. There is so much science fiction and fantasy coming out because it’s popular. We can’t get enough of it when it’s good. But we can sure get a gullet full when it’s created without love or thought, only a desire for a quick sale.

I’ll never stop being a fan of science fiction and fantasy. I imagine you won’t either if you’re reading this. For good or bad, we’ll always be here to explore any new worlds available to us. 

Things to remember when writing different classes

Today’s cover art is from Anastacia Cooper.

As an author, no one is more critical of my work than me. No one is a bigger fan than me, either. But we all know how fantasy fans are. We only truly rip apart what we love most. And when it comes to Woven, I’m always thinking of things I wish I’d done better. I’ve written other books since then, and I’m sure I’ll find a thousand faults with them over time. 

One thing I’ve struggled with in Woven is that three of the four main characters were noble from birth. While not a single character was supposed to be running things, everyone but Victor was a princess or prince.

That was fun and all, but it was also really limiting. How someone sees the world differs dramatically in different social classes. So when I was writing Grace, her point of view was far different than Lenore’s. Honestly, it was a lot closer to my point of view. 

Today I wanted to share with you the four things I had to shift my writing perspective when writing for Grace.


The first change is almost cosmetic, but it’s important. It was how people talked. A princess is going to talk far differently than a common woman, and honestly, it’s a lot more fun writing for the latter. A lot more telling people off and swearing up a storm.


Another big change was the work each character did. Grace goes through many changes in this book, as her responsibilities change. She goes from keeping a house and feeding her family to running a castle. What she even considers work changes from the start of the book to the end. Things that once were chores seem like a vacation now.

What’s important to remember is that what a character does every day is always going to seem easier and more boring than something new. Someone who is used to washing, mending, cleaning and gardening is going to consider a day of meetings, decision making and paperwork freaking exhausting! This was a real shock to me when I transitioned from retail to a desk job years ago. I didn’t think using my brain would be so tiring but man! 


This is something I’ve experienced in my own life. What you appreciate and what you take for granted depends largely on what you’re used to. And as much as we all try not to take things for granted, we all do it. I took for granted that I was healthy until my cholesterol got all messed up. But I’ve never taken my next paycheck for granted. I’ve never taken my home or the health of my loved ones for granted.

Grace will never take a meal for granted. She’ll never take the safety of her home or family for granted.

She does take for granted that her oldest friend and protector, Calvin, will always be there to protect her. That she can depend on him so long as he can depend on her. 

Like most of us, the things she takes for granted are often the things she losses. 


In a related note, what scares us is often tied to what we take for granted. What we’re certain we won’t ever lose. 

In Woven, Lenore fears largely for her people. She’s not often scared for herself because she’s always been physically safe. She’s never skipped a meal, never had to scape and suffer. But she fears that she’s going to fail her people. And that she cannot abide. 

Grace is afraid that she won’t have food for her family. She’s afraid that soldiers are going to kill them. She’s afraid that they will simply not survive. And it’s likely that no matter how many years of comfort she may or may not have, those fears will probably never go away. 

After writing for nobility and writing for average people, I do have a preference. And if you liked me writing about princesses, I might have some bad news for you. I think I like writing about regular people more. The reason is pretty simple and I hope you’ll agree. 

I love writing people who don’t have the overt power to make changes, but they do it anyway. I mean, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, change our communities and worlds for the better? My real-life heroes are not usually destined for greatness. They’re everyday people who decided to make a difference.

Comparing Victor and Calvin, or a discussion of the fine line between man and monsters

Today’s lovely cover image is by Esteban Arboleda Bermudez.

Last week I compared and contrasted Lenore and Grace. That was a lot of fun, so I thought I’d do it again. This week, I want to compare Victor and Calvin.

Unlike with Grace and Lenore, when the point was that I wanted them to not mirror each other, Victor and Calvin have more similarities than not. Of course, one’s an out and out monster, while the other is a hero. But that’s sort of the point of these two.

There’s a thin line between a man and monster. Or a woman and monster for that matter. That’s why I wanted to write this book, though. Calvin is a monster, but that’s not all that he is. Victor is a hero, but there are shadows in his past as well.

So let’s compare these two brothers and see what made one a king and one a killer.

Victor, as you may know if you’ve read the first trilogy, sees shades of gray. He walks between the legal and illegal side of Septa, visiting prostitutes and being on good terms with the kings of the underworld. But he’s a good man, good father, a good husband. And as he embraces the dark and light in himself, he accepts the good and bad in the people he interacts with.

Calvin doesn’t see shades of grey. He sees black and white, good and bad. Septa stole land from Calistar decades ago, they will always be bad. The aristocracy of Calistar is evil, all of them. The Brotherhood are good men, everyone. Their women and children are good and worth doing anything to save.

It’s a simple and clear world view and one that’s totally wrong. I suppose the duality of these two characters shows my own bias. The mentality that they are good and we are bad is the root of all evil in the world, in my opinion.

Another difference between Victor and Calvin is loyalty and their opinion of it. For Calvin, loyalty is essential, no matter the situation. Once you are loyal to someone, you had better stay loyal to them. Once you hate someone, you’d better keep right on hating them.

No matter the future actions of that person.

For Victor, loyalty is earned and can be lost. And while it might take some time to earn it, it takes only a moment to lose it. 

That aside, the two have more in common than they don’t. Neither of them has much patience for laziness. Both have a view of how women and men are supposed to be, though Victor’s opinion about that changes. And both would do anything, even horrible things, for their children.

I hope you enjoy seeing a different side of Calvin from the one we saw in the Woven trilogy. He’s a lot more than just a monster, though he is certainly that. 

A Falling From Grace playlist

This fantastic cover art is courtesy of Efes Kitap from Pixabay.

One of my favorite writing practices is creating a playlist for my books. Music is magic, words and tones blending to create an emotional reaction to the listener in a way that I can’t describe but we all understand.

Today I want to share with you my playlist for Falling from Grace. If you want to listen to the songs, here’s a link to my playlist. 

I hope that this list gives you a feeling of the story and the journey that Grace goes on through the book.

Renegades by X Ambassadors

When I see you again by Wiz Kalifa

Headstrong by Linkin Park

Monster you made by PopEvil

Animal I have Become by Three Days Grace

How to save a life by The Fray

Landslide by Stevie Nicks

Gold dust woman by Stevie Nicks (I’m a fan)

You don’t own me by Lesley Gore

I will survive by Gloria Gaynor

Darkness Rising

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Comparing and contrasting Grace and Lenore

Cover image from Crepesuzette on Pixabay

I’ve written many main characters in my time. Woven alone had four pov characters before I introduced Grace. 

Now, I’ve introduced her. And she’s a different pov character than any I’ve ever written about before.

One thing I was very worried about when writing Grace was repeating myself. I didn’t want Grace to be just a replica of Lenore in a red dress. I wanted her to be her own person. But not just the opposite for opposite’s sake.

I also wanted, needed, her to be more than just a spiteful ex, caught up in wanting a man that didn’t want her anymore. 

She’s always been more than that to me. After all, that’s why I gave her her own book.

To make sure I was writing the character Grace deserved to be, I started with a ven diagram. I like ven diagrams, they help my hand think for me.

Now, I’m not going to share that original diagram with you, because it’s a messy piece of chicken scratch that no one but me could read anyway. But I will share with you some details about Grace and Lenore, to compare and contrast them.

Lenore is a princess. She was born into nobility and it shows. She can be a bit of a pain in the ass about it. She’s prone to losing her temper, but usually only around her fellow nobility. It’s not beyond her to throw teacups at people.

She’s a mage, of course, spinning light and darkness into her thread. She’s a devoutly faithful woman. She’s always wanted to be a leader, of her country and her church. She is her father’s favorite child, and she knows it. She also has no patience for gender rules, for herself or the men in her life. 

Grace, well, she’s none of those things. She’s never had a child. She was a common-born, in a poor little village in Montelair. She has no hold on her temper and has no problem beating someone half to death with a stool.

Religion isn’t something Grace spends a lot of time thinking about. She might call on Hati, the wolf goddess. But it’s not a consuming thing for her.

Grace never wanted to be seen as a leader, either in her village or anywhere else. She has quite enough trouble looking after herself and her family.

Here’s the thing, though. Grace and Lenore are almost nothing alike. But they do have a few things in common. Things that, if I’m being fair, most of my main characters do have in common. Because they’re traits that I respect. Both women are vicious when it comes to protecting their families. Both step up for their community and country when needed. And both are who they are, regardless of who likes it or not.

I loved writing Lenore, and I loved writing Grace. I hope you all love getting to know her. 

Returning to a world

As you might be aware, I wrote a book that is a companion to my trilogy, Woven.

Falling From Grace eBook

I might have mentioned it, not sure.

I loved writing Grace, it was a ton of fun. But it was also really difficult! I’m writing another book about a world I’ve already got three years of history with. Three books of already set in stone world-building and an established canon.

There are pros and cons of writing a companion novel for a trilogy already in the world. This is something that I’m sure Suzanne Collins could tell you as well. Let’s take a look at some of them.


I already had a lot of information in place, and some of it I didn’t like anymore. Broken Patterns was my first published novel. I think it’s pretty good, but I’ve grown as a writer since I wrote it. I’ve learned a lot about world-building and character building. Looking back, if I was to rewrite Broken Patterns I would make some serious changes. But that’s not a choice I have anymore. It’s out there, for better or worse. I think it’s for the better because I would forever rewrite the same story given half a chance. When I now have to write again in that world designed by a younger writer, I found myself wanting to fix things. Things that were already set in stone, that I couldn’t ret-con. More’s the pity.

I had to take time researching my work while I was writing Grace. This meant writing with the first three books on my desk, checking facts and timelines. Yes, I do have a bible of important facts, but not everything I needed to know was in there. Some parts were just nuances. How was Victor mentally at this time? How was he reacting to Grace, to Lenore? I had to re-read the whole trilogy.

And while I was reading the trilogy, I realized some glaring mistakes in the timeline. Things that did not make sense at all. No, I’m not going to point them out, but they’re there. There were some parts that I realized I messed up and had to figure a way out of it. That put a ton of pressure on me while I was writing Grace.


There is no great loss without some small gain. Yes, the Woven trilogy had some problems. But while I was writing Grace, I got to fix some of those problems. And that was such a blessing! As much of a challenge as this was, it gave me a chance to change things that I wasn’t proud of. 

I’m not the only creator ever to do this. If you’re as big of a Star Trek fan as me, you might remember the tribble episode. There’s a scene where a whole mess of these little cuties are just falling out of a panel in the ceiling. If you look, you’ll see a stage hand’s hand tossing little tribbles out of the hole. 

Way off in the future, in Deep Space Nine, there’s an episode where Sisko and Dax end up on the original Enterprise on the day of the tribble infestation. At one point they have to toss tribbles out of the ceiling panel by hand. Thus explaining the mystery hand in the original series.

Problem solved. That wasn’t a stagehand, it was Dax.

While I did have to do a lot of research on my books, writing Grace took less time than other books. That’s because I didn’t have to do a lot of the world-building over again. I already knew what Montelair was like! I already knew most of these characters, their ins, and outs. That was a metric ton of work that I already had established.

The best thing about returning to the world of Woven, though, was this. I got to see my characters and their world from a different perspective. Grace is a far different character than Lenore. We’ll be exploring that more later. The Brotherhood are the good guys in this one. Grace is a common woman, not a well-born princess. She’s not a mage. She is an entirely different person, living an entirely different life.

And showing the world of Woven from an entirely different set of eyes.

Things we don’t talk about in Fantasy books, and how to do it right.

Cover art thanks to Pixabay. Thank you, Pixabay.

When I was a kid, I read just about every book that Beverly Cleary ever wrote. Especially the Ramona books. Ramona was my girl. I would love a story about Ramona as an adult. 

One story that stuck with me was Ramona and her little kindergarten class hearing a story about a man working a steam shovel for a whole day to beat a machine. And Ramona, being her own little no filter self, asks the question everyone wants to know.

How does he go to the bathroom if he’s in the steam shovel all day?

Hey, yeah, how did he go to the bathroom? How did Cleopatra go to the bathroom when she was rolled up in a rug and sent to Marc Anthony?

I cannot be the only weirdo who thinks of these things. But while we’re on the subject, how do women in some of these fantasy stories handle their periods? Gross? Maybe. But I’m kind of curious. I looked up how ancient women handled such delicate matters because I was super curious. And I’ll tell you I’ve never been happier to be a woman in the 21st century.

Now, I don’t think we need to know this in every book. I can kind of guess how most characters handle that sort of thing because there are only three or four options available for the modern woman. But we’re talking about fantasy books. I kind of want to know what Madam Pomfrey had for Hermione and Ginny when their monthlies started. I’m betting, enchanted diva cup that cleans itself. (And if your sensibilities are offended by me talking about this, I will remind you that Rowling wrote a scene where a pervy ghost was watching Harry take a bath. Sit with that for a while.)

What about the people in Mystborn? It’s an ancient society, are women using twisted up rags like olden times? Do women with magic have some cool metal bending way to deal with that? 

Okay, I don’t want to put every author on the spot. Not everyone has to talk about a girl’s period, or how the contents of a privy are handled. But maybe we should?

Hear me out.

First off, the period issue. Most people are just straight-up grossed out by periods. But it’s something that the vast majority of women deal with every month for most of our lives. But it’s like this huge secret? Because someone might know that I’m an average cis woman? Maybe this is me speaking from a place of privilege, or maybe we should be able to have a common bodily function without being afraid someone’s going to find out about it. Maybe we should make this a comfortable discussion so that girls can talk about it with trusted adults without losing their minds? Or hey, wild thought, maybe we shouldn’t make girls ashamed of something their bodies naturally do and have to do for our species to continue.

And as for other private matters, like going to the bathroom, our societies are greatly impacted by that. Indoor plumbing was a huge game-changer for cities. People weren’t getting sick and dying so much since we no longer let our waste run into the street and our drinking water. It’s gross, but it’s kind of a big deal. And knowing sort of where a society is in their plumbing evolution is an indication of where they are medically. Which can matter in a fantasy novel.

Now, this is something I thought of not at all while I was writing Woven. I have had several pregnancies and never thought to drop any truth bombs about how Lenore, Grace or Sultana handle their bleeding time. I probably will passingly mention it in future books, now that I’ve thought of it. 

When I do, it will be tasteful. Like in Tamora Pierce’s Becca Cooper series. She handled that well, with just a quick note about emptying chamber pots in gutters and having her character pick up something for her monthlies.

What she didn’t do, and what I (God willing) will not do is handle a delicate matter in a less than delicate way. 

I’m talking of course about the master of brute force writing, George R. Martin. While I have questions sometimes about bodily functions, I don’t need to know too many details. I didn’t need to know that a certain character pissed, shat and threw up on himself while trapped in an empty barrel. And I won’t share with you some other vulgar details that I never needed to know about other characters in that series.

Listen, we’re mostly adults here. At least, we’re capable of handling things like grown-ups, and not eleven-year old’s giggling about fart jokes. We don’t need to get red in the face because someone’s ‘aunt Flo’ is visiting.


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