13 January 2013

When is a series not a series?

Two of my most successful books started off as NaNoWriMo project - the goal being to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Whether you choose to push the book towards publication or not is your choice; the "win" is getting those 50K words down in a single month.

I never intended either "Blaze of Glory" or "Blood of the Pride" to be a series.

This, as you can guess, had a major effect on how I wrote the books originally. In the case of "Blaze" I set out to tell the story of a young woman forced into playing a superhero and then having to actually *be* a superhero with the entire storyline wrapped up at the end of the first book. When I was lucky enough to be picked up by Samhain Publishing and the most excellent editor Sasha Knight I didn't have any plans for a sequel.

But not long after the first book was released Sasha came back to me and asked if I'd considered continuing the story of Jo Tanis and her brave new world.

I couldn't say no.

It didn't take long for me to draft up an outline for the next two books in the series, "Heroes Without, Monsters Within" and "Heroes Lost and Found", building on the world I'd created in the first book and delving deeper into the politics and mechanics necessary to make the first book work. By the time the trilogy finished I felt I'd explained so much more about the worries and fears on both sides of the fence, both supers and of the people monitoring them. I'd never have gotten that chance if I'd stopped with the single book - but I'm still thrilled that you can read "Blaze of Glory" without feeling forced to purchase the next two in the series.

"Blood of the Pride" followed a different track.

It was originally published by a small press under a different title and when they decided to drop paranormal stories from their site I received the rights back and, after another stiff round of editing, submitted it to Carina Press. You can imagine my thrill at getting a phone call from Angela James, offering me a contract.

It wasn't long after that I began working on a sequel, feeling that the story of Rebecca, a cat shifter who couldn't shift, and her new love Brandon had more to be told. When I approached my Carina editor, Alissa Davis, with the sequel she asked if I intended more stories.

I told her yes - and we negotiated a three-book contract with Carina Press. The sequel, "Claws Bared", comes out January 21st and the third book, "Family Pride" is scheduled for June 6 with the next book tentatively set for an October release.

In both cases I never set out to create a world that demanded a series for the reader to enjoy them. But the opportunity to write more books in those worlds have given me the chance to explore them in more depth, to share much more with the reader than I could ever stuff into a single book.

I'm proud of the fact that both series have stand-alone stories to start with - if you never go past the first book you'll still have an enjoyable read and won't feel obligated or forced to buy the next to figure out what's going on or find that resolution left out at the end.

That's the way I created two successful series. Both of which I hope to keep going in one way or another - I've written a short story set in the "Blaze" world for the 2013 Origins Game Fair Anthology, a limited-edition book being published this year for the convention theme of "superheroes". "The Seat of Your Pants" is a short set before the events of "Blaze" and details one not-so-regular battle for Jo Tanis and her sidekick/Guardian, Metal Mike.

"Blood of the Pride" has four books currently set in Reb's world where Felis and humans mingle freely and her job as a private investigator places her in a position to help both societies. I don't see an end at present and hope to continue writing her story for a good long time.

Not too bad considering I never set out to create either series. They both came out of a single idea for a 50K marathon writing session.

I think they're stronger books because I didn't plan out sequel after sequel, making each book dependant on the previous one. I've seen series that do this and don't like it - so I wouldn't put it in mine. Some authors make it work and more power to them... but it's not for me.

So that's how my series started off not being a series.

Thanks for reading!
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