To Series or Not to Series
Thank you so much for having me! I don’t write many BLOGs. I think I’ve done maybe twelve in my career – most of them dealing with one real life experience I know a bit about: Walking my dog in Alaska in all kinds of weather. I’m almost afraid of BLOGs. I wonder what on earth I can talk about. Why would anyone find it interesting? If I stick my foot in my mouth in this BLOG (saying the wrong thing at the wrong time is a common problem of mine), it’ll be there forever. All those things. But, for some reason, I jumped at the chance to BLOG for FF&P. Voluntarily. So…end of disclaimer and here goes.
I write the Vampire Assassin League. It’s a series. They’re little novellas, featuring HOT vampires who find their mates, and get reanimated throughout their bodies (everywhere!), and then they have to convince this human mate of theirs that love is worth everything. Even vampirism. Oh! And there’s a few Vampire Hunters in there that need to be eliminated, too. I just finished the 20th installment. That’s right. Number Twenty is scheduled to go live the week of July 15th. I have TWENTY of these stories? How is that possible?
- It’s actually impossible NOT to write them. These stories are one of my greatest joys. I absolutely LOVE it. A long time ago, I was a historical romance reader. That was my first love. I actually decided – back in 1983 (dating myself here) – that I wanted to be a historical romance writer. (How hard can writing be? Right?) Well. That one decision changed my life. I discovered a fantasy world I could go to and escape reality when I needed to. There wasn’t anything better. History and romance. Knights and castles. Maidens. Warriors. I wrote big tomes, full of emotion and angst and emotion. My first published book was 2004 with Zebra/Kensington. (It was the ninth one I’d written). That book was followed by ten more. They’re all standalones. I wasn’t even considering a series. I didn’t think I could write one. I thought it was too restrictive. How can you let your imagination and inspiration free if you already have pre-set borders??
I definitely write a series now. I started in the spring of 2011. I had this idea. I ran it by my agent. She was skeptical. We didn’t see eye-to-eye. I didn’t/don’t have time for naysayers, not anymore. So, we parted company. And I charged ahead. I’ve written 20 so far, and I’ve got at least another ten on my horizon. Covers are already set. My plan is in place. And it’s a shock to pretty much everyone. Me? Plan? (If you knew me, you’d know that’s amusing. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Series. I actually do, and can, write a series. But I jumped into it without knowing what I was doing or having a clue how this works. My editor even had to explain story arc to me – when she told me I have an enormous one – and I was supposedly violating it with one of my stories. It’s one of the things I’ve found out since I started this. So. If anyone thinks they’d like to write a series…great idea! And I thought I’d put some basics out there that I wish I’d thought of before I started. And please remember, this is all my thoughts. I’m sure there are experts who already have this figured out:
Planning your series.
1 – PICK YOUR GENRE. It sounds too simple, but if you’re crossing readership genres, you’ll want to set the readership promise in the beginning.
2 – SERIES LENGTH. How many installments will the series have? Are you doing a trilogy? Or is it going to be longer? Five? Ten? Twenty-four? Endless?
3 – INSTALLMENT SIZE. What approximate word count should/will each installment be? (Once you have this in mind, it help with #4)
4 – THE GAP BETWEEN: I don’t how else to word it. How OFTEN are you going to bring installments out?
5 – MAIN CHARACTER(S). (Figure out who they are and why readers should care about them.) I missed this concept in the first two. It’s obvious.
6 – STORY ARC. What is the overlying issue that never fully resolves throughout the series?
…I’m sure there is a lot more to it. These are the first six that come to mind. Now. Let’s say you’ve decided a series. It’ll be about vampires. Each installment will be a novella. They’ll come out every six to eight weeks. You’ll have a main character that never seems to get what every vampire wants – his mate. And each installment will features hot vampires and hot mates. It’ll be funny and short and have an HEA…oh wait. That’s my series! Yours will be different, and really fantastic and you can’t want to get started! You have the idea. You’re writing. PS – My advice is to have two installments fully written, edited, and ready to go, and a good start on the third one BEFORE you debut your series. Because there is a promotion phase that follows publication and if you’re in promo mode, you’re not in writing mode and you can get behind on #4 up there.
This is when you’ll need to get what I call “the themes” going. These help with building a platform. You’re writing a series. You want to hook a reader. You want them reading each of your stories. So what can you do to assist with that? Well. I’ve got a few basics for that, too.
1 – TITLE. Get a really cool one that nobody has done before. I wanted all my vampires to be assassins, too. So. I gave it a title. VAL – Vampire Assassin League.
2 – DESIGN/LOGO. I have two of them. The Vampire Assassin League title logo, and the VAL tattoo. (They are so sweet! I didn’t design them. Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs handled it. My VAL logo is on everything I do and send out anymore)
3 – TAGLINE. Figure out a tagline that will stop a browsing reader in their tracks and can be used throughout the series. Mine is “We Kill for Profit”. It’s on every cover with a follow-up statement. (Readers seem to love that. At least, the members of my Street Team tell me so)
4 – TITLES that link. It helps. (Honest) My series titles make up the marriage vows through #30.
5 – COVER LOOK. This is a cover design that makes it so a reader/browser can tell it’s your book and part of your series with a glance. It includes where you place your name. The titling. Font size. Images used.
6 – BACK BLURB. Find a cadence you like/that works. (I use a configuration of three statements). And use it on all of them.
There is more. I’m sure there is. That’s just the basics. Lots to think about – yes? Like I said, these are just the basics. Everyone is different. Every series will be, too. My 20th one should be going live soon. I’m off now to research/mull/plan on #21 – TO LOVE. Thanks for listening!
The door closed behind Malcolm, sealing them in, adding an aura of silence to the pleasure of the view. Oh. This man was definitely her mate. Absolutely. Unquestionably. Indisputably. Shivers rushed over her skin just from being in his proximity. His eyes were an indecipherable shade, nearly black. His hair wasn’t much lighter. While a hint of whiskers atop his lip seemed tailor-made for sliding her tongue across. Being near him started a wellspring of want, a fountain of desire, and a whirlpool of yearning. Every sense was heightened beyond her usual.
And she was breathing.
Erect nipples brushed the lace confines of her brassiere with every inhalation and exhalation. She could hear each breath as it matched his, as well as the slight uptick in her newly awakened heart with their continued locked gaze. She hadn’t wanted to mesmerize him, but he’d given her little choice. Malcolm had standing orders to eliminate Hunters on sight. And her mate was a Hunter. That was a fickle play of fate. It was also fortuitous. She wouldn’t have to explain much. He’d already be indoctrinated into the world of the undead. And mating. And what it meant.
My. My. My.
Her mate was handsome…very much so. She’d been accurate on that with her first glimpse of him. He was dark-haired, broad-shouldered, and extremely fit…or the shirt clinging to his torso was lying. Ruxanna dropped her gaze, taking in the bulge of pectorals, the hint of abs, the lean waist…and the distinct swelling below that. She barely stopped a blush before jerking her eyes back to his. That was uncomfortable and unfamiliar. She couldn’t remember blushing, not even when she’d been alive.
Ruxanna approached slowly, finding each step added to an allure that surrounded him. It pulled at her, attracting, even as she tried to slow it. She’d waited centuries for this moment. Dreamt of it. Envisioned it. She wasn’t rushing anything! Anticipation snagged her heart more than once, causing a jagged beat. It was followed by another. And another.
He was a lot taller than she’d calculated. Her head reached his chin. Heels might have brought her nearer his height, but she rarely wore them. Ruxanna stepped closer, within touching distance, tilting her head up so their gazes stayed connected. Her canines reacted, quivering as they stirred. Trying to elongate. Pierce. Suckle. No. Not yet. She was trembling. Fever-gripped…and then overly chilled. Almost frightened. Finding her mate, and then being this near him, was exciting. Exhilarating. Worrisome. Electrifying.
He had incredible eyes! Now that she was close, she could tell the color…and the depth. They were warm. Sable brown. Akin to looking into liquid dark chocolate. She took another step closer, craning her neck. Her new position gained the sensation of his every breath against her throat, her shoulders, atop her breasts. Sensitizing. Titillating. Causing her nipples to tighten farther. Swell more. Oh, my. She’d chosen this corset with care. Now she knew why.
She’d enthralled him almost too much, though. He wasn’t even blinking. He was simply standing there like a marionette, regarding her with an enigmatic expression. Unaffected. Aloof. Ruxanna barely kept from frowning.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
He had a low range of voice, belying his image. He didn’t sound as young as she’d judged. Now that she was close, he didn’t look all that immature, either. More breath reached her with his answer, raising her skin’s awareness even more. Ruxanna sucked her lower lip into her mouth, giving her canines something to gnaw on as she worked at controlling their growth.
“Zachariah,” she repeated, and took another teeny step closer, as if pulled there. He might as well be exuding a drug, and she was a voracious addict.
Ruxanna took another step, near enough to feel the waves of something electric emanating from him. She made fists of her hands, digging nails into her flesh. Not yet! She didn’t dare touch him. She wasn’t at all certain what might happen. Or if she could contain it. She already knew she didn’t want to. But they had things to sort out. It wasn’t time. He was a Hunter.
And she was very close to being snared.
Thanks so much for letting me BLOG!