PJ Sharon, here to hang with you on a rainy Tuesday morning. And speaking of hanging…I thought I would pose a question to you, my faithful readers, writers, and book connoisseurs.
When reading a trilogy, do you like the second book to end on a happy note, satisfying our endless appetite for romance, or do you prefer the cliffhanger ending that leaves you breathlessly awaiting the next book?
For me, a good cliffhanger gets me every time. Don’t get me wrong. I love romance and I live for the HEA endings that are a hallmark of all my favorite books. With a trilogy, however, I expect my HEA to make its appearance in the final installment. In books one and two, I want to be led on the merry chase. I want suspense! Will they get together, or won’t they? Will everyone survive, or will someone be killed off? I think there can be–and should be–a complete story arc in each book, but the over arcing theme of the trilogy requires phases that bring your characters one step closer to their happy ending–just not too soon. Each book in a trilogy needs its own goal, motivation, and conflict, and we expect some resolution to come at the end of each book, but how much resolution is enough to be satisfying, and how much should be left open for book three? These questions are for professional research, of course. I’ve rewritten the ending of WESTERN DESERT, book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, four times! I so want to get it just right before I release it on the 24th of this month and dive into book three.
Thea Devine today,having just finished Beyond the Night (Pocket Star eBook April 2013), the sequel to The Darkest Heart, and I thought you might enjoy a little insight into how I got the idea for the Darkest Heart.
Actually, I’m Romanian on my father’s side, so you’d think I’d be steeped knee deep in vampire lore.
But in fact, apart from being scared to death on viewing Dracula when I was eight years old, I never gave vampires a half a thought until I was looking for an idea for my thirteenth book. And even then, and in the subsequent vampire book I wrote, the hero was not a vampire. In Sinful Secrets, the whole English parliament were vampires; in Forever Kiss, the vampire had a doppelganger who pretended to be him, so that when the vampire finally returned to his stomping grounds, he had to pretend to be the doppelganger pretending to be him. Believe me, he was royally peeved — for lots of fun-to-write pages.
However, I couldn’t find a way to wrap my head around vampire as romantic hero. So when I was thinking about my next book, which it was suggested to me should have vampires, I really was at a loss. I needed an idea and I needed this vampire to be a hero.
And I really needed to figure out some real ways a woman would feel an attraction to a vampire — because all I’m thinking is blood, gore, dessication and rot. Coffins and fetid grave dirt. NOT very sexy.
I was in a local store one day, talking about this current project, when the teenaged clerk overheard me say, vampires, and she exclaimed, “Oh, I love vampires.” I asked her why and she said, because they were sooo Romeo and Juliet.
Right: yearning for something, and never to have it. And it all ends in bloody gory death. Murderous immortality. Not hardly romantic. Not quite the jump-start I was looking for.
So I listed all the reasons why a vampire is supposed to be seductive:
He is the love that cannot be
He has super-powers
He’s dangerous to love
He’s super sexual
He’s protective (paternal and sexual)
You yearn for what you can’t have
Reckless endangerment: death is but a kiss away
Still — nothing in that list sent plotlines roaring through my head. I was discussing it with my husband one night and I read him the list. Then I asked him why he thought vampires were so seductive. I mean, there’s nothing like the male perspective, right?
John said, “they’re victims.” He said, “they have no choice.”
My jaw dropped. The heavens opened. Light flooded the earth, angels sang, and everything fell into place. Of course. Genius. But my husband always says genius things just when I need to hear them.
A whole other side of the vampire. Immediately plot questions steam-rolled through my mind. What would he do, feeling like that? How could he take anyone else’s life? How would he live? Did he want to die? How would he survive? What lies would he tell himself?
AND, if he’s a victim, you then have a heroine wanting to somehow help, nurture, make it better, change it. If you have the love that cannot be, one might feel the call to sacrifice for the other at some point. And there was the bedrock of the story — vengeance and sacrifice.
So I wrote this as my logline:
He’s been exiled to the dank bloody world of the undead
He lives solely to destroy the one who sired him
He’s been living to die
Until he encounters the one he can’t live without
And eternity is not an option.
And from that one astute observation, I wrote The Darkest Heart, and the sequel, Beyond the Night.
Thank you, John!
What about you? Has your husband ever contributed something brilliant to your plotting and planning? Does he have any input at all, ever?
Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She just completed Beyond the Night (April 2013, Pocket Star eBook), the sequel to The Darkest Heart. The reissue of her erotic contemporary romance, His Little Black Book, is available now.
Happy Friday everyone! Casey here. I’m thrilled to have Frankie Robertson return as our guest today. Take it away Frankie!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you, Casey, for inviting me to post here today!
I didn’t set out to write three series at the same time. I didn’t even set out to write one. At present, I’ve just published FORBIDDEN TALENTS, the 2nd book of the Vinlanders’ Saga; LIGHTBRINGER, book one of the Celestial Affairs series is out; and BETRAYED BY TRUST, the first of the two TRUST books is waiting to be revised. Scattering your efforts like this is not the best way to build a following!
When I wrote DANGEROUS TALENTS I was stretching my wings. I’d written a partial novel before and several short stories. With DANGEROUS TALENTS I was giving the long form another try. It took me a year to finish Celia and Dahleven’s story, and another six months to revise it. And while I was submitting and collecting very polite rejections, my critique partners were nudging me, “Tell us a story about Ragni, Dahleven’s brother.”
That’s the problem with creating complex worlds and interesting secondary characters. People want to know more about them.
At the time, writing a sequel to an unsold book was not considered a smart move, but I didn’t have anything else in mind, so I did as they asked and began writing FORBIDDEN TALENTS. I didn’t want to ignore the main characters from the first book, though, so I decided to weave Celia and Dahleven’s continuing story into Ragni and Saeun’s romance. Now I had four POV characters and two main plot lines.
That’s where I ran into trouble. I got almost halfway into the book and ground to a halt. Writing stopped feeling good, but I was too inexperienced to understand what was wrong. I was also too stubborn to work on something else. I just kept banging my head against that wall trying to make it work, and the story kept saying, NO. Finally, somebody, somewhere said something that made the light go on. I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw. I had taken a serious wrong turn in chapter two and I needed to rewrite the first 200 pages, completely excising a really neat character in the process.
You’ve heard the saying, “Kill your darlings”? That’s what I had to do. But after I committed charactercide, the story fell into place. Writing became a joy again, and in the fullness of time FORBIDDEN TALENTS was complete and revised.
DANGEROUS TALENTS and FORBIDDEN TALENTS are long books, as you might expect romantic fantasies set in another world to be. How did I keep everything straight? I kept a folder of loose notes of character names and descriptions (later a computer file), and a calendar to keep track of what was happening to which character, when. And I had really good critique partners. Even so, my fabulous editor Rochelle French at Edits that Rock still caught a few discrepancies.
I stumbled into writing the Celestial Affairs series in a similarly accidental way, by writing a secondary character into LIGHTBRINGER that folks wanted to know more about. And when I started writing BETRAYED BY TRUST, I thought it was a standalone book, too. Wrong.
It turns out these were fortuitous mistakes.
Writing a series, especially as an indie author, is good for business. The readers who love your characters will come back for more, and the folks who discover you through the 2nd or 5th or 32nd book in the series will go back to look for the first.
If you decide to commit series, I have a few suggestions:
Keep a “bible” of characters including their backgrounds, appearance, and relationships to other characters, and their involvement in major events.
Use a calendar to keep your timeline straight.
If you’re writing a closed end series (not just connected novels), create an arc from the outset instead of figuring it out in the middle — the way I am.
If you have control over your covers, make sure they reflect the tone and genre of your book, and that they look connected to each other through fonts and composition.
It’s also important to make each book stand on its own so your readers aren’t frustrated by a cliff-hanger while you finish the next book.
And unless you write really fast, it’s probably better to write just one series at a time. Do as I say, not as I do.
Frankie Robertson can’t seem to stop herself from writing paranormal romance and romantic fantasy series. She lives with her husband in the desert southwest where her backyard is visited by bunnies, quail, hawks, and bobcats. If you want to know more about what Frankie is up to, please visit her website: http://FrankieRobertson.com.
Hidey Ho Scribblers! It’s Saturday once again, J Monkeys blathering here. In just a few short weeks, all of our favorite shows will go on summer hiatus…well, almost all. True Blood will be back from hiatus and really, that’s a good thing! But Fringe, Once Upon a Time, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, they will all be gone for months. Some of them might even be gone for good! Please, oh please, SOMEBODY pick up Fringe for next year…I’m not ready for it to be over!
But I digress. My three least favorite words in TV world could find their way to the screen in the next few weeks and even if they aren’t seen, you know they are lingering in the static…to be continued.
Yup, their commin’ and that got me to thinking about sequels. Do you like them? What do you like about them? For me, it depends. For example, I loved The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and I really liked the sequel, Catching Fire, but it took me a while to come around to Mockingjay. That third book is very different from the first two…
I came to the Twilight series late in the game, after Breaking Dawn was already available, but like the rest of the world over the age of 10, I had to wait years between the Harry Potter books. Of course, they were very much worth it!
I think what it comes down to is a need for a satisfying ending to the book I just finished. I really don’t like being left on tenderhooks. While you knew there would be more books coming in the Twilight series, each book stood on its own.
If any of you read Anne Rice back in the day (I heard she has a new werewolf series out!) I was really angry with the ending of The Witching Hour. This was a wonderful story – a huge tome of a book – right up to the last 4 pages. The thing was captivating for 1300 pages and then, she didn’t wrap the story up – she started a new direction, leaving the bad guy out there. I can’t remember the name of the sequel, but I was so angry that I don’t think I’ve read The Witching Hour again. That’s unusual for me. I often re-read book. I reread books I like many times. maybe enough time has passed that I can give it another go…
Today’s secret: I’m about to start the 3rd book in a series and I’m thinking about sequels a lot lately!
Today’s Question: Where do you stand on the topic of sequels? Do you love ’em or hate ’em?
Hello, Scribe Fans! We have a very special guest with us today: Laura Moore, whose novel TROUBLE ME released Tuesday from Ballantine Books. Laura is giving away a copy of TROUBLE ME to one lucky commenter, chosen at random, so get your comments in before midnight, EST, on March 30, 2012. Talk to us, Laura!
What made you want to write romances? What other writers influence(d) you?
LM: I’ve always been a romantic. But I didn’t grow up dreaming of writing love stories or any kind of stories. I was too busy riding horses and hanging out at my stable to spend time curled up with a pencil and paper. Though I devoured books, I kept my own imaginings and stories locked in my head (this was probably why so many kids teased me for being a space cadet). It wasn’t until I was married, the mother of two, and pursuing a graduate degree in art education that I sat down and tried to write one of the stories I’d dreamed up. Using one of my art education class notebooks, I began writing the opening chapters. The story in my notebook became Ride A Dark Horse and was published in 2001.
I think the first romance novel I read was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. I was about thirteen when I read it. For a girl raised on Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse, it was quite an eye-opener. In terms of writers who influenced me, the list is pretty long: Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, LaVyrle Spencer, Linda Howard, Sandra Brown, Karen Robards, Susan Elizabeth Philips, and oh, yeah, Nora Roberts. They were the authors I searched for, whose titles I hunted down, a challenging task in the pre-internet era.
Inspire the as-yet-unpublished among us and tell us how the sale of your first book came about.
LM: My background is in art history and art education so I came to be published in romance fiction by a whole lot of luck. I didn’t know anything about the industry—absolutely nothing. But my brother happened to know a literary agent, Elaine Markson. He suggested I send her my manuscript and ask her where I might send it next. Imagine how novel a query letter that was!
Well, when Elaine got back to me, she told me that although she didn’t represent any other romance authors, she wanted to represent me. She then warned me that she really only knew one editor who worked in romance. So she and I decided that she’d send the manuscript along to Linda Marrow, who was then at Pocket Books. Linda was kind enough to offer me a two-book deal. Definitely a fairy tale beginning, right? As I said, I was extraordinarily lucky.
Describe your writing day for us.
LM: I get up at 6:30 am, have breakfast, and walk Hardy, our dog. Upon my return I throw a load of laundry into the wash and run around straightening up the house. I only mention this because I’m weird and there’s no way I can sit down to write if things aren’t basically organized. By 9:00 I’m at my computer. I try to work for three or four hours without wasting too much time checking and replying to emails, surfing the net in the name of ‘research’ or surfing the net just because it’s there. It terrifies me how much time I can waste on the net. I’m almost at the point where I’m considering buying a second computer that has no internet connection on it…Is any else feeling like they’ve become over-connected?
Sorry, I digress.
After lunch I’ll try to get a few more sentences onto the screen. Then at 2:30pm Hardy, without fail, will remind me that we need another walk. Sometimes I manage to squeeze in another hour of writing either in the late afternoon or evening, but my prime writing time is really that morning block of hours.
Of course, when I look at that description I realize how few of my days actually follow that schedule. Since I also teach English there are days when I can’t get any of my own work done. Then too I have to factor in the the days when I hit a boulder-sized obstacle in my plot or I realize something is terribly wrong with my character and I can’t quite put my finger on the problem. That’s when you can find me furiously cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, grocery shopping, doing just about anything to avoid my work in progress.
Your dog’s name is Hardy? Ahem! Nice! Are you a plotter or a pantser?
LM: I’m pretty much a pantser. I begin with a broad outline of my story, which contains the key plot points and a rough sketch of my heroine and hero. Then I pretty much try to connect the dots. It’s not very efficient, I know.
When I wrote my Rosewood trilogy, the first series I ever undertook, I had to be a little more organized because I wanted to make sure the plots and subplots meshed. The trilogy required me to keep lists, make timelines, and write a lot more scene sketches, all the things my right brain finds extremely objectionable. Luckily by the time I got to book three of the trilogy, Trouble Me, I really knew my characters and where my story was going. I guess the eight hundred plus pages I’d written leading up to Trouble Me sorted out some of the unholy mess in my mind.
When you are writing, how aware are you of romance character archetypes? In Remember Me you paired a born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks uberhunk with a glamorous, born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-her-mouth heroine. Was that a conscious decision, or did it happen organically or intuitively as the story unfolded to you? How about archetypal plots?
LM: Never met an archetype I didn’t love.
Actually, when I began Remember Me I didn’t set out with the idea of making my heroine a spoiled, misunderstood princess and my hero a bad boy uberhunk. Archetypes were the furthest thing from my mind. I simply fell in love with an ad campaign for St. John that featured the actor Olivier Martinez (he’s just become engaged to Halle Berry). For those of you who don’t know Olivier Martinez, watch The Horseman on the Roof. You’ll thank me.
Just to show you how incredibly superficial I am, my idea for Margot, the heroine in Remember Me,came from another ad campaign, this one starring
Amber Valetta. I developed a huge crush on her (though not quite as big as the one I had on Olivier) and decided she really needed a love story. Because everyone, beautiful supermodels included, needs a love story.
Snaffle bits. Baker blankets. Longe lines. Your Rosewood trilogy is set on a Virginia horse farm. Are you an equestrienne, or did you just do your research really, really well?
LM: I used to ride and compete in horse shows but unfortunately I’ve had to put my riding on the back burner. I’m hoping that some day I’ll sell enough books to be able to afford a horse again. It’s a commitment that can’t be undertaken lightly.
I do try to research my stories really thoroughly. One of the earliest positive reviews I received for Ride A Dark Horse came from The Chronicle of the Horse. I was over the moon because you really can’t fool horse lovers or professionals in the business. I agonized over the details in Night Swimming too, which is a story I wrote about a marine biologist who tries to save an endangered coral reef in her hometown. Before Night Swimming, I’d done some scuba diving but there was no way I could have written the descriptions of the reefs and the signs of a massive die off of the coral without the interviews and research I conducted.
Here at the Scribes we talk about the Doubt Monster rearing its ugly head. Do you ever have doubts or uncertainty about your work? How do you slay that dragon and get on with your writing?
LM: I have doubts all the time. It’s part of my character. I also think it’s a fundamental part of being an artist. So yeah, when the words aren’t coming, I’m often visited by the foul-breathed doubt monster that settles on my shoulder and laughs hysterically over my puny attempt at putting words on a page. My emergency remedy? Chocolate…lots of it.
Over the years I’ve learned to ignore the monster’s cackles and sniggers by trying to be nicer to myself, give myself rallying pep talks, and even little pats on the back if I manage to write a halfway decent scene. It helps but I don’t kid myself that I’ll ever be able to vanquish the foul dwimmerlaik. Sorry. I’m a huge Tolkien fan and I haven’t been able to use a word like dwimmerlaik in years!
Glad I could give you an excuse to use “dwimmerlaik” in a sentence! Click here, readers, if you want more information about this nasty thing. Laura, do you have any pets? Tell us about them.
LM: We have a cat named Zevon (after Warren) and a dog named Hardy (after Thomas) and I love them madly. My plan is one day to sell a lot of books and buy a horse. If I sell lots and lots of books I’ll buy a farm.
I bet you’ll have that horse and farm sooner than you think, if you keep writing such wonderful books! When was the last vacation you took? Where did you go?
LM: Last year I took a trip to England. It was lovely. All the gardens were in bloom and the oilseed rape was bright yellow on the hills. I have family there so that made the trip even more wonderful.
What’s your junk food of choice?
LM: Popcorn with just a touch of salt.
Confess. What’s your favorite reality show?
LM: When I was writing Remember Me, the first book in my Rosewood trilogy, I made my heroine, Margot Radcliffe a fashion model, and since she liked to watch Project Runway, I got hooked on it too. Those characters can be such bad influences.
Now that the Rosewood Trilogy is complete with TROUBLE ME, (yes, I’m sniffling a bit here! Need Kleenex and a new Laura Moore novel, stat!) what’s next? Can you give us a hint, or is it a Secret? The Scribes love Secrets!
LM: I can only give you the sketchiest of sketches because I’m still figuring out some of the details. It’s a new series (the working title is the Silver Creek Series). The setting is a California guest ranch that is populated by horses and cattle and some really fine looking men in chaps and cowboy hats. And there may be some pesky goats, too.
There’s also in the first book (and I can’t tell you its title because it’s a secret) a lovely heroine. From Queens, New York, Tess is a city girl through and through. She’s also a widow and she’s come to the Silver Creek Ranch to escape a bitter secret and unhappy memories. Determined to make a new life for herself, she’s vowed never to fall in love again and leave herself vulnerable to heartbreak. Ward Knowles, the eldest son of the family that owns and runs Silver Creek, has made much the same promise…
As soon as I have more secrets to share about the series and Tess and Ward, I’ll let you know!
Thanks for being here today, Laura. Readers, here’s a little bit more about her:
A teacher and horse lover, Laura Moore lives in Providence, RI, with her husband, two children, and their black lab. Their cat Zevon keeps them all in line.
Laura’s books have won the following writing awards in the single title category: Laurel Wreath Contest (Volusia County RWA); Maggies Award (Georgia RWA); Holt Medallion Award (Virginia RWA); Winter Rose Award (Yellow Rose RWA), The New England Bean Pot Reader’s Choice Award (NECRWA) and The Write Touch Reader’s Award (WISRWA). Her books have been translated into German and her Rosewood Trilogy will soon appear in Slovenian. All of the above thrill Laura to no end.