Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Whatever DID Happen to That Series??

So, this is what happened to me over the weekend and why KAK stepped in to take over my post on Sunday. It's pretty rare to find places without internet or cell service these days, but this place we stayed on the Mogollon Ridge near the Gila Wilderness is one. Thanks for the emergency help, KAK!

As KAK introduced Sunday, this week's topic is about how to handle the cancellation of a series.

This has happened to several friends of mine. One is a sister Word Whore, so I'll let her tell her own story, if she chooses to. But here are three case studies of how this happened to friends of mine.

- One gal received a two-book deal from a major NYC publisher, via her very high-profile agent, with an option for the third book. The books were planned as a trilogy. Before the first book even hit the shelves, the acquiring editor left and the series was orphaned. The editor who grudgingly took up the slack barely looked at book 2. Though the first two books did very well and gained a substantial following - AND though book 2 ended on a cliffhanger, as planned all along - the series had no champion at the publisher and the option book, book 3, was declined. The author took book 3 to a primarily digital publisher, who did a lovely job of matching the covers. But there was a delay in producing the third book and readers, especially those who had to wait more than a year for the print version, were not pleased.

- Another gal sold two, two-book deals to a mid-sized but reputable press. Both were planned as longer series, at least for three. After the contract, the press was acquired by a major NYC publisher and the option books for both series were declined. Though readers have asked for more in those series, the author hasn't wanted to face the gauntlet of dealing with character/world reversion of rights and has pursued other projects instead.

- Another friend sold a three-book deal to a major NYC publisher, so she was able to complete the trilogy with them as she envisioned it. However, the original acquiring editor passed the first book on to a junior editor, who then left the publishing house. As with the first story here, another editor grudgingly took on book 2 and then a third took book 3. The option book was declined, thus ending more books in that series, unless the author revisits her rights and so forth.

I've been fortunate that this hasn't happened to me. Part of this is because, as I seem to do with most things, I kind of took the crooked path. My website makes it look like I have eight series at this point. That's kind of misleading because the OTHER WORKS and FAIRYTALE EROTICA "series" are really just genre categories that my website designer made up, just to have a place to put things.

See how I am? Defying easy shelving even on my own website!

That leaves six "series," none of which ran the risk of that ugly cancellation problem. Here's why:

Blood Currency

Book one in this series is Feeding the Vampire. Very short. It started as kind of a wayward idea and, when an Ellora's Cave editor asked me for something, I polished it up and sent her that. She wanted another, preferably linked, so I wrote Hunting the Siren, which takes place in the same world, but with different characters. My editor wanted to give it a series title, so she asked me to propose a third book, because those are the EC rules - no series title until you have three books. I did and we picked "Blood Currency." I've never written that third book, mainly because I had other contracted deadlines and then my editor left, so now I don't have much incentive. If anything, readers seem to want more of the characters in Feeding the Vampire, so maybe I'll do that some day.

Covenant of Thorns

First I wrote Rogue's Pawn and eventually sold it to Carina Press. When I originally conceived of the series, I was a newbie and foolish with it, thinking it could be as many as seven books. It took so long to sell that book that I wrote a couple of others in the mean time - novels in totally new series - one of which became The Mark of the Tala (see under The Twelve Kingdoms below). Then two surprising things happened: Rogue's Pawn finally sold and readers seemed to feel it ended on a cliffhanger. NOT what I had intended. But I wanted to continue the story, so that part was easy. Knowing better by then, and certain my Carina Press editor would not like the idea of six more books to finish - plus knowing of my case studies above - I sketched out two more books in that series, to make a complete trilogy, and sold them to Carina on proposal. The second, Rogue's Possession, came out last year and the third, Rogue's Paradise, comes out September 8. I'd like to write more in this world, but have no particular plans right now.

Master of the Opera

This is a serial novel I did with Kensington and not really a series at all. I wrote it all at once and it was entirely in the can before the first installment was published. No concerns about cancellation there.

Falling Under

This is a new series of novel-length erotic romances and the first, Going Under, just came out last week! I sold these to Carina on proposal and contracted for three thematically connected books. No concerns about overall plot arc, no worries about cancellation there.

Facets of Passion

These are four erotic romance novellas I did with Carina, also thematically connected with no overall plot arc. I had planned to keep going with them, but they morphed into the novel-length erotic romances of the Falling Under series (above) instead.

The Twelve Kingdomsa

When I sold book one, The Mark of the Tala, to Kensington, I had the next two books sketched out. With those and the completed book one, my agent got a three-book deal for me. I've just turned in the third book. We'll have to talk about what the option book will be, but readers are already asking for a fourth book (Dafne's story, for those wondering). Maybe? We shall see!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ending A Series: How To Handle Cancellation

Since our darling Jeffe is tearing up the West in her convertible and traveling to remote exotic places where Web connectivity is sporadic at best, I'm taking a turn opening the bordello this week. This week's topic:

Ending A Series: How To Handle Cancellation

Once upon a time, having a publisher decline to pick up more books in a series you'd written was enough to cause keening and tearing of attire over the death of your series.  Now, however, when the popular guy takes you to homecoming but dumps you before prom, you can take yourself to the damn dance. Sure, the quart of Haagen Dazs still gets devoured and there are still sniffles, but the pajamas escape any serious mauling and you don't have to worry about complementing his cummerbund.

Okay, okay, I'm done with quirky analogies and bad metaphors.

In all seriousness, it's never fun being told your work isn't wanted anymore. Twice more when that means you're not getting paid for future work. Thrice more because you have to re-enter the submissions arena.


If your heart is still deeply in that world and you have more stories you want to tell in that world, then keep writing the books and self-publish them. Remember, readers who found your earlier works will look to retailers for more of your books...not publishers (much to publishers' consternation).  Keep your website current, keep your readers informed of release dates.

Readers care more about the author than the publisher.

As long as there are no legal limitations to you pushing forward, no one can stop you from publishing your work.  Double check your publisher contracts.  If you have an agent, this is the time to give them a call. You may have retained rights to the world, but the publisher may have placed restriction on the use of your author-name. Commonly, publishers will specify an amount of time that must pass before the name you used with them can release a book with another publisher/independently. The timing might work out well or it might mean you have a bit of a delay before pushing the next release live. However, if there are no contractual limitations, go forth and write more books.

The publisher gave you an advance (maybe) and helped readers find you.
Maintaining and growing your audience is always your responsibility, not the publisher's.

While you're faceplanted in the Midnight Cookies & Cream bemoaning your changing fate, take a few snarfs to consider your newly found freedom from contracts. Maybe it's time to write that vampire amoeba superhero book about which you've been daydreaming.  Or kick-out a few novellas told from a tertiary characters POV from the cancelled series...just to keep the readers interested while you sort yourself and the future of the series.

A publisher dropping your contract or declining to pick up more books in the series doesn't have to be the end of the series. This isn't TV. Cancellation doesn't mean the End.

A book series ends when you, the author, decide to end it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

So do I Write Series or Not?

(I have this deja vu feeling I've discussed the topic in this space but it's this week's subject so here goes!)

First let me share my pretty new science fiction romance cover with you, just revealed! (Cover by Fiona Jayde.)The book is going to be out August 18th. It's the third in my loosely connected "Sectors" series, which is a series by virtue of occurring in the same Universe. Along with Wreck of the Nebula Dream and Escape From Zulaire, this new book is set in the galactic space known as the Sectors and features a hero who is a member of the Special Forces. The three heroes don't know each other (or if they do, it's never mentioned, even to me, the Author LOL). Two of the heroines happen to work for the same company, Loxton Galactic Trading, so they may know each other but I've never addressed that question.

I definitely plan to write more stories set in this Universe and have several sketched out. I might write a sequel to one or more of the existing books. We'll have to see. As with everything else, I'm a seat of the pants planner.

My ancient Egyptian paranormal novels are even more connected, being set in the same time frame, 1550BCE, with the Pharaoh Nat-re-Ahkte as the central point. A number of the characters know each other, having served with this fictional ruler as he fought to take the throne and then to defeat the Hyksos invaders. (The Hyksos were real, by the way.) I've written one sequel (Magic of the Nile is a direct sequel to Priestess of the Nile) and have another in mind. I also have some ideas for an actual series, following one set of characters through three books' worth of adventure and plots.

So, you may be saying by now, if I write a series, it's kind of going to be happenstance? Well, yes and no. I tend to think in terms of one book at a time and I realize to have a successful series I really need to sit down and figure out an arc, and the events for each book and the character growth. On the other hand, if I do too much advance thinking, I never write the book because my Muse grows bored with it.

Sort of funny, the first book I ever wrote, at age 7, was a fairy tale starring a princess and herds of flying horses and handsome princes (the hero owned a riverboat for some reason) and many MANY sisters. So I was clearly creating hooks for the inevitable sequels...which I never wrote. I think doing the illustrations wore me out!

In junior high, when I got more serious about writing, I did a science fiction series with about eleven volumes but I vaguely remember not planning ahead. I did use the same characters and they evolved (well, as much as my teen age Muse could envision) but each new adventure came to me separately. No big arc.

In senior high school I wrote another SF series and I did plan the three volume arc...

(Insert years of college, career, children, widowhood, single motherhood, grandchild HERE)

But when I jumped back into writing seriously in late 2010, it was one book at a time. I think I had to get rev myself up to speed, as it were, because my goal for 2015 is definitely to develop and write at least one series. I love series myself, with Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey being one of my favorites, anything by Nalini Singh as my current Must Buy and our own Jeffe coming close behind with her fabulous Twelve Kingdoms fantasy series. I devour such books and crave more!

So we'll see what 2015 brings for me and my Muse!

And here's the blurb for Mission to Mahjundar:
An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she's of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She's resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet's mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She's already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she'll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.
Mike, for his part, resists his growing attraction to the princess; he has a mission on this planet and rescuing the vulnerable but brave princess isn't it. No matter how much he wishes it could be.
But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar's peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira's marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?
Can there be a future for a simple soldier and an intergalactic princess?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Plotting Terra Incognita

Since I've never wanted to write a series, I may be the worst person on earth to speak to plotting one. Because I don't. Sure. Sure, I have a SFR series. And now, an Urban Fantasy series. Neither of them started out being more than a single book each. Maybe it's a mental flaw of some kind. I simply don't think in arcs longer than a single novel. Everything I have, everything I am at the time goes into that single story. I'm down with the advice to hold nothing back for a later book. So I don't.

And then my editor says, "Have you thought about making this a series?"

This is one of those times when the acting degree comes in handy. I can act like I'm not clutching the phone, listening to the whine of my pulse in my ears. "Let me work up a few ideas for you," I say before hanging up the phone and succumbing to the urge to pound my head against a nearby doorframe.

It helped to realize there are two kinds of series: ones that follow a single, recurring character, and series that follow different characters whose story arcs are thematically related. I'd seen a lot of series with a single recurring character and I'd seen them go (in my opinion) totally sideways. I had long ago sworn I wouldn't fall into that trap. I simply wouldn't write a recurring character series. If you've read Nightmare Ink, you know how swiftly my vow fell by the wayside. The first series, the SFR, follows the arc of a war. Each book has a new hero and heroine. So at least for two whole books, I kept my word. O_o

Here's what it comes down to for me.
1. Did I think ahead and acknowledge a WIP could be a series?
    If YES: recurring character, internal arc possible
    If NO: different characters, external arc only

You've heard me talk about internal versus external conflict before, though usually as it regards a single character in a single book. In this case, Internal versus external conflict dictates what kind of series I can plot. A series with a recurring character most likely has a through line (across the entire series) that is internal to that main character - some emotional question that is bigger than one book can encompass. From the single character series I've read that I thought succeeded, it's clear the author thought that question out ahead of time and even if he or she didn't plot the series, per se, the high points were identified ahead of time.

The single character series I think flew into the ground don't have an internal arc - the authors use external arcs and events to keep their star moving. (Throw more monsters at the hero!) The problem is that without an internal arc for the character to follow, as more and more books get added to a series like this, the author seems compelled to keep trying to top the last story. This inevitably leads to shark jumping. It's never a good thing.

That's why, to plot a series, I don't actually plot. I figure out what I've got first. Is there an internal conflict or question that can propel my heroine through more than one book? If not, are there potential heroes or heroines lurking in my cast of secondary characters? Is there an external conflict that could drag several different characters through their own personal versions of hell? Once those questions are answered, I decide how many books I want in the series - usually based on how many characters I have available. The SFR is slated to be five books long. The urban fantasy - well - no one knows. Yeah. It's okay. I'll stop hyperventilating in a minute. In every case, I have a general end point in mind - a vision of how I want things to turn out. That allows me to begin coloring in the story between what has to happen to get the story from point A to point Z.

Plotting the internally motivated series boils down to using story events to challenge the heroine's core emotional question or issue. Don't be nice. Come at it from every conceivable angle. Let her win some. Let her lose some. The great thing about a series is that not all of the books have to end well. It's okay for her to fail. There's always next book for her to regroup and come at her issues again in a new way.

Plotting the externally driven series is about staying true to the arc of the action and fitting heroes to the action who will be most challenged by what the segment of action they face. The cool character idea gets axed if he or she doesn't contribute something emotionally interesting to whatever is happening in your world. It isn't to say there's no emotional truth in a series of this kind. There had better be. You still have to provide a complete character arc for each of the novels within the series. You have to end each character's story at the end of their book, that ending just has to serve the overall external arc.

Either way, my unorganized, unscientific method for plotting anything is a series of messy journal entries and then plucking the most interesting tidbits into a series bible document. The whole process is amorphous and subject to change since I am a pantser, myself, and I *like* to be surprised while writing a story. It does mean that it's terribly difficult to convey to anyone else how to do something that I suspect may be terra incognita - you have to get in there and discover it all for yourself.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Plots and Sundry

by Allison  Pang

I'm probably one of the worst people to ask about plotting, because for the most part I don't really plot much of anything. When it comes to books or short stories, I usually have some basic idea of how I want things to go, but the most I do is write a rough outline. Most of the time I don't even know what's going to happen until I get there, and sometimes I don't even know why things happen until I get to the end and *then* it all falls into place.

(And then I go back and edit. And re-edit.)

It's probably not the most efficient way to write and there have been times where I've tried to be a bit more organized, but success has been limited overall. Sometimes I think if I spend too much time on the idea and write down all the little details, I tend to lose interest in telling the story.

That being said, when it comes to my webcomic, I do tend to write up a more detailed storyline - mostly because it's a joint venture and even though Aimo and I are pretty good at knowing how we want to put things together, it's still just good manners to make sure I'm not stringing my artist along with last minute plot changes.


As an aside note, today is my last post as an official Word Whore. I'm turning in my corset for now - and just want to thank the readers and my fellow Word Whores for all their support and fun over the last few years. My decision to leave is simply based on a number of "real life" factors, but I'm confident I'm leaving the site in good hands.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Series Plotting

The Persephone Alcmedi series has six books so far. It was not planned at the outset.
In fact, I wrote up this awesome Johnny guy…6’2” leather wearin’ tattooed and pierced rock n roll bad boy while at the airport in New Orleans waiting for my flight home. Then I had that shrimp po’boy and tried to figure out who his ideal woman would be, yanno, since he couldn’t have me.

Persephone hit the page, took over, and never thought twice about it.

By book five, I was able to start telling his story from his POV. He’d been very patient.
And no, I don't recommend po'boys as a plotting mechanism.

Lemme back up...and address the topic a bit clearer.

When the contract came for VICIOUS CIRCLE, it was for a three book deal. Color me surprised. No agent, no warning, fairy godmother smacked me upside the head with a dream come true. (Thank you thank you thank you.) I’d of course tossed some ideas around in my head, daring to think about it but not really committing to it. Afraid to jinx it and all…
And then I had to come up with two more novel ideas, and tell the publishers about them.

Let me share a secret here. I can’t do short stories. Really. I envy those who can conceive an idea and work it open to close, concisely, done, a short story. When I try, I get lost in details and other ideas and poof, a novel. It gets deeper and longer and I don’t know how to stop. Beginnings, middles, and ends take time. Time to explore and discover. And I LOVE that discovery.

So to have someone tell me to figure out two more whole books at once?

Gasoline on my fire.

Seph accomplishes this, then that, then that, and then THAT! But how? Oh, she has to do this and this. Then that and that. Ideas have no trouble finding me. How can I make that harder to achieve? Who can stand in her way? What does it cost her? him? them? How do I make all that matter more?

If you write, you totally get that I’m sure.
Guess what? I plotted eight. Loosely, but eight.

And then I sat down to write.

Book two, Hallowed Circle, was not part of the intended arc. AT ALL.

Creative juice? I’ll have a double, thanks. And shake that bitch up.

So I want to write nine.  O.o

—Insert industry going fickle on me—

—Insert desire to show I can write more than urban fantasy—

—Insert the reworking of an old sword and sorcery fantasy— 
I’m nearly done with it now…but I’m pushing 150,ooo words.
At what point is an intervention necessary? 
(And I'll get back to Seph & Co. soon!)
I'm hardwired to plot big, to plot series with the overarching plot, and the novel to novel steps that get you there. I ask questions. And keep asking. What if? How? Now who's going to stand in the way? Why? Who's going to help? Who wants to help but can't? What are the outside forces beyond all control doing? Who represents that? What little things can mimic all this stuff? (Like a dying houseplant or a leaky faucet?) What outsider looking in can say something that throws the opposite emotion into play for the main character? Would that have a good effect?

I'm like an annoyingly curious and relentless child, so my advice is: Question everything. The answers will become your story.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Going Under: @JeffeKennedy Book Release

While this week is all about series and planning for them, our prolific Sunday Word-Whore Jeffe has another book out this week...and it's the first in a SERIES. See? See how we planned that? (No? Go with it anyway).

Knowing all too well the damage online trolls can inflict, game designer Emily Bartwell takes privacy seriously. Living in solitude and working remotely under a male alias gives her a sense of security. The sexy writer renting the house next door ignites desires she'd forgotten she had, and when he invites her to play games of a very different sort, Em is ready and willing. Even if it means breaking all her own rules to abide by his.

Undercover tech reporter Fox Mullins is so close to the biggest scoop of his career: finding the elusive programmer Phoenix. An increasingly erotic adventure with his reserved but passionate new neighbor is the ideal way to heat up the chilly Pacific Northwest nights as he tracks the brilliant gamer.

At first Fox is happy to help Em explore her newly awakened kinky side, no holds barred, no strings attached. But as they push the limits of intimacy, both physical and emotional, Fox discovers he's not the only one keeping secrets. And revealing hers may mean betraying the one woman who embodies everything he desires.

It's an eBook out from Carina Press, but it now: 
     Amazon     B&N     Carina Press