GOOOOOD MORNING, SEEKERVILLE! And a huge shout out to all the moms out there, Happy Mother's Day! If (like me) your mother's day was too congested to be the day of your dreams, you have Ruthy-permission to "Pick-a-day" just like at the department stores, and make your own writer-friendly mother's day which would include (in my house) lots of coffee, jammy-pants, no company, somebody bringing me food on occasion while NOT talking and letting me catch up on all the things I'm behind on.
I did mention food, right? Food is essential.
Series: I've loved series from my first Bobbsey Twins book. From my first Janet Lambert book. Cherry Ames. Nancy Drew. Trixie Belden. (Wasn't Honey adorable????) Connected stories work for me and since that's HOT, HOT, HOT right now, let's jump on the Series Bandwagon today!
I LOVED Stephanie Bond's visit with us on Monday, oh my gosh, she's cute, smart, adorable, writes like a dream-come-true AND... a perfect segue into my short post today about writing 'series' whether you're a plotter, pantser or "plantser".
1. Find a series-oriented author you love: Community series authors might be Deb Macomber, Jan Karon, Sherryl Woods, Linda Goodnight, Janet Tronstad, Cheryl Wyatt, Missy Tippens or yours truly.
I LOVE using setting as another character, that just makes me want to jump up and down, do a little jig, eat jelly beans and drink more coffee. That is how stinkin' happy community romance series make me, because the setting is a tangible entity to the story. LOVE IT!
BUT.... Not all series are community based, and I love series both ways, so if you're looking for the typical three sisters, three friends, three cousins, three business associates, three... Okay, you get the drift: I would go to Nora Roberts, Linda Howard or Julie Lessman first.
For historicals: I would read Sara Donati, Madelyn Hunter. Not that there aren't more, but these are the authors I bonded with, therefore:
2. I copy them.
Not blatantly. Mostly. Well. Maybe. Kind of. I mean, not verbatim. But, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
And even if your head (Myra mentioned this on Tuesday) doesn't automatically jump from Stand-Alone Book Mama to Series Originator Mama, here's the deal:
Plant yourself a bus-load of characters and have fun with them. You might just surprise yourself when pesky little sister doesn't become BOOK TWO because the unexpected return of the neighbor's war-hero, totally smokin' hot son BUDGED THE BORING SISTER ASIDE.
And that's what I'm talkin' about! Sure you can do it the staid and solid way and PLAN your work, in which case:
WHY ARE YOU READING THIS, YOU'RE ALREADY WAY SMARTER THAN ME, GO INSIDE AND PUT OUT THE COOKIES, DARN IT!
But if your plan is for ONE book and you need THREE to compete with people like me who live for multiples, then consider your book the salad base and your characters are the seasoning. PEPPER them lavishly throughout! First, the more the merrier, and you can always cut someone who is totally extraneous, right? But those random characters may take on a life of their own, from something as simple as a shout out in book one.
Now that I'm published, I MUST go into a series with a plan. Love Inspired likes it better that way. Go figure! So, when I'm playing with my idea for the first book, I examine the characters that jump out at me, like Meg Russo from Small-Town Hearts, a self-made businesswoman who showed up in Reunited Hearts OUT OF THE BLUE....
(Reunited Hearts was contracted alone and then books 2-4 kind of wandered their way into Melissa's heart).
So here's this cool gal with a penchant for nineteenth century dressing, and she needs a book... And she runs a candy store... And Warren Buffet had just been on CNBC talking about something and mentioned See's Candies and I thought: WHAT IF THE HERO IS WARREN BUFFET? Only cuter. And about fifty years younger.
And there was story number two.... Story number three came from an innocent line uttered by my son-in-law when he was explaining how he went to Columbine High School while doing mission work and someone said to him: "Most of the teachers have gone now."
And being a HUGE "Good Morning Miss Dove" lover, I knew I had to tell the story of one of those teachers, and that planted the seed for "Mended Hearts".
And how can you fill a year with books and skip the holidays? I submit that you cannot! So when I found out that Jeff Brennan's bad boy half-brother was coming back to town, I needed the kind of woman who could win this tough construction guy's heart... And Callie Burdick just happened to need help in Mended Hearts because the rough housing economy toppled her father's business... Who better to match Matt Cavanaugh up with?
This adorable shot is my buddy Nolan with Golden Doodles... We have 8 brand new babies. Yes, this is a shameless plug, LOL!
3. Now there's a trick with successful series work: Don't box yourself in. By this I mean, if you limit yourself initially with three sisters, you're locked into THREE SISTERS.
And that can work as evidenced by the myriad of successful 'three' series in print.
But for Allegany County, I went geographic, hence "community romance series". I used Jamison, NY (based on the lovely and very real town of Angelica, NY) as my base, but then I wagon wheel locations out from that, spokes sprouting in multiple directions, using the whole county. When you envision a COUNTY, you could come up with just about anything from first responders, to town officials, to hot cops, to small business owners, to hospitals, doctors' offices, veterinarians.... think multiple Main Streets branching out into rural farmland, agri-business.
That allows greater latitude for future books (a point that Stephanie made on Monday, that leaving a few 'feelers' out there allows for great expansion in community-based series)...
But the downside of that is that you can become kind of STUCK in Mitford, like Jan Karon. Now I was fine having Jan stuck there, I loved that little town, but the author wanted out in a big way and after seven books, I get it...
Here's my Ruthy-take on that: If your series grabs hearts and souls, ride the wagon train all the way to the bank. This is not a bad thing. Really. Artistic license is over-rated. Paychecks aren't.
James Herriott's books about being a veterinary surgeon in WWII UK countryside were community-based. Beloved the world over. That's not a bad thing. People loved having that glimpse into the life and love's of a country vet.
When I was a new writer, some people scolded me, telling me not to work in series. Madeline Hunter (yes, Madeline Hunter who is slated to be the keynote at RWA/NYC and the NYT bestseller... Same gal... Nominated for 6 Ritas and has won two....) came to our local RWA (she has family in upstate) and after she told her story about being published wham, bang, boom, books 1, 2 and 3 out the door within months of each other, someone pointed me out to her. She came over and talked to me and said point blank: "Keep doing what you're doing. Don't let anyone get in your way. When that phone rings, you want to be ready to jump on whatever train happens by."
Like Mary, I had a lot of completed books when that call finally came, and that allowed me to come out of the gate with three books the first year and four the second.
And who knows what's next?
Be prepared. Be ready. And never be afraid to put your best foot forward and work hard. And no whining. None. If you feel down about ANYTHING, come here and hold a puppy. Or a baby. It puts everything in perspective. ;) Promise!
And today we're giving away two copies (when they arrive, don't hate me, guys, I haven't received my cases yet!!!) of Small-Town Hearts, which (according to my friend Andrea's phone call last night) is: "Adorable! So fun! I love her old-fashioned ways and she's funny..."
Yes, Megan Russo of Small-Town Hearts is funny, adorable, hard-working, ambitious and savvy to the ways of business, but not men. And she's a smart aleck... I wonder where she gets THAT from???? And she's very STUBBORN, hence the Russo last name. (Ask Teeeeena what her maiden name is, 'kay?)
If you guessed AUTHOR INTRUSION or REFLECTION, you might be right! Come on in for coffee, tea, sweet cream, and a table full of chocolate and cookies, courtesy of the Colonial Candy Kitchen, Purveyors of Fine Chocolates and Delicacies. Before that rich candy maker puts our little Megan Russo out of business....
Unless we can promote the possibility of a merger? ;)