Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why the Word "SERIES" Should Be on Every Writer's Tongue... And How to Get There With Minimal Blood Loss!

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:


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? ;)


Walt Mussell said...

Good morning.

My beloved Braves allowed the annoyoing Nats to tie them in the ninth inning and then they blew it three inings later.

On the series concept, why do you think you limit yourself if you have three siblings (or something like that)? I have a series with three brothers. However, for one book, the hero is a friend of the brothers.

Helen Gray said...

Coffee pot's set.

I've loved series for zumpteen years. Romance series. Mystery series. All series.

I have a series of four, and they're not siblings.


Mary Connealy said...

I think if you're creating rich characters through your book, REAL characters, the way we're all SUPPOSED to, a series is almost easy. Because you're going to care about your characters and want happiness for them.

Nancy Kimball said...

Possibility of a merger. Love it!

Can your third book be a prequel? Does this work as well in series of books as it does for movies and TV?

Please enter me in the drawing, and the weekly first five page critique. They are hot off the monitor as I gave in and made the big girl decision to take the good advice of the seekers and my contest results, and most every craft book I've read lol, and introduced my hero in the first chapter.

It made for some painful cuts of his parent's scenes which I fought too hard to keep because I love them so much, and their story (thus the question above).

Nancy Kimball said...

Sorry for the weirdness above. Blogger is giving me attitude tonight. I need more of Helen's coffee.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, thank you ....

Slugging coffee.

Loving it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my stars! I've tried to get in here multiple times, and Blogger was DOWN....

So sad!

But it's up now, must've had its morning Starbucks or Green Mountain fix!

WALT: great question. Nora Roberts actually explored that in her 1999 Irish series. The opening book "Jewels of the Moon" is about a writer doing a paper on fairy tales, romance and the number "3"...

Kind of funny how stuck we get! The number three allows for distinct stories and character building and a decent arc. Maybe beyond that is stretching reader affection?

And yet a lot of writers have proven that untrue.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, I feel the same way. Easy-peasy.

But then you and I talk to much. Problematic in small groups.

Not so much in romantic fiction.

Pass the croissants, please? And some of those chocolate pecan turtle thingies. That Russo girl knows her way around chocolate!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Nancy, good morning! And great question.

I think a prequel works if the original stories are well-received. My first group of books with LI were out of order, so everyone (and thank you for all your nice comments on Winter's End everyone!!!) got the last book first.

And then books 1 and 2. It confused some, but overall it worked.

And LOOK AT YOU! Dumping that endearing (I know, I know, but I promise, you can put it back in by using emotional bits and pieces along the way. Promise!!!)opening is hard. Now I do it all the time because like you, I tend to write myself into the story....

Then I dump it, start at the action, and ease the back story in bit by bit. It actually is a great scene building technique and draws the reader deeper into the story because they desperately want to help.... "Don't go in that closet!!!"

"Tell him now! Don't wait!!!"

"No. Don't leave her! She's your DESTINY!!!!"

Awww... I just love emotion!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Seekerville! While my Love Inspireds aren't labeled as an "official" series, they all take place in the same little community of Canyon Springs in the pine-studded mountains of Arizona.

And while my 1st book's hero & heroine do have siblings, one isn't showing up for his own story until book #4. Books #2 and #3 are about friends connected to the heroine of book #1.

Even though they don't play a large role in subsequent books, I do like to mention characters from earlier books in later ones if I can do it in a natural way. Provides a sense of continuity. And "Dix's Woodland Warehouse" is an anchor point in the stories as well.

I also try not to "recap" in subsequent books an earlier character's story in much detail. That slows down and diverts attention from the current story--and as an author I'd like to hope that if someone likes book #4, they'll go back and read #'s 1, 2 & 3!

I'm really enjoying writing the Canyon Springs stories--and readers seem to enjoy "going back home," too.

Andrea said...

Great post, especially for those of us dipping our toe in the big pond of series writing for the very first time. Hmmm...not as chilly as I thought it'd be, and I can see the bottom. So, I took a deep breath and jumped. And it's a blast! I love these people (yes, they've become people to me--is that a good sign?) and can't wait to see what unfolds for them in future books.

From a mechanical standpoint, there's a big arc over top of everything that holds the pieces together. It took me awhile to find it, but it's nice to know it's there.

Small-Town Hearts is a must-have, Seekers. And I'm not just saying that 'cause Ruthy promised me a cookie :D

--Andrea Chermak

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Ruthy!! I can't wait to read a story with you in it!! (You know, the smart alecky one).


I love your take on series. I've had fun developing my fictional towns. makes me wish I could visit them! Your towns, too. :)

Missy Tippens said...

I know, Walt! We saw the 9th inning. But then I took over the remote. I had DVR'd Castle and had to see that! :)

Audra Harders said...

Oh my goodness, Ruthy! Your energy spilled off the screen this morning making me put my cup of coffee down before I spilled it, LOL!

I love series! I love the feel of coming home to a community where everyone knows your name. There isn't enough of it these days.

And you, my dear, are one of the masters of creating "home." I'm still sighing over Marc, Kayla, Craig, Sarah, Brooks, Rita...what a community you created!

And hear tell, this series in Jamison is just as warm and rich. (I'm reading as fast as I can but the Seekers are sooooooo prolific...)

Keep doin' what you're doin' Ruthy-babe! I love it!!

Missy Tippens said...

Blogger is being WEIRD today! My name went away, and it gave me a new display name. That's why I had that strange name for my comments. I had to go in my Google/Blogger settings and change it.

Sandy Ardoin said...

I LOVE!! a series!

My favorite is Dee Henderson's about the O'Malleys. Great concept!

It bothers me to "connect" with an intriguing secondary character and never know what happens to him/her because there isn't another book.

Mary's right. If our secondary characters have interesting traits, it's easy to give them their own stories.

I need a bit of brainpower help. I have a series surrounding three women living unconventional lives for the times, and long to become the "ladies" they truly are. (1800's Texas) Can't come up with a title. Any ideas?

BTW, does Megan Russo make anything like a fancy Three Musketeers bar?

Missy Tippens said...


Do you plan an overall story arc that crosses over the three or more book?

Jan Drexler said...

Love your post Ruthy! (and pass me a puppy - I can hold one and type at the same time. Just ask my Maggie-cat).

I love reading series - like you, I started with the Bobbsey Twins and just kept going! My own WIP (first one) has all sorts of rabbit trails that I'd like to follow (What's going to happen to the hero's sister? What about his brother - will he ever find happiness and redemption?). I'm going to take your advice (and other Seekers), and when I finish this book I'll just keep writing!

Thanks for the goodies, and please hand me one of those chocolate things. I promise I won't let the puppy eat it.

Anonymous said...

Blogger is really having fits today. So today I'm anonymous. I feel like a super hero with a mystery identity.

When I started writing I didn't give a series much thought. But then two of the secondary characters started complaining that their stories were just as good, if not better.

This seems to happen with any story now. From family members, ranch hands, and random extras who were supposed to be just passing through town. In my current wip one of the villains from the first story is the hero in the second. Who knew he had it in him?

It’s always great to get to visit old friends and familiar places.


Julie Hilton Steele said...

Ah, series! Ruthy, I am reading Small Town Hearts right now (no need to enter me) and I have to say I look forward to your dedications and acknowledgments, a series unto themselves.

I am a series person up to around 10 and then I need something new. Trilogies leave me wanting more!

I do have a few series concerns folks here may have mentioned:

1) Authors spend more time recapping than writing about the new hero and heroine. I will go back and read the first books, really I will, if I find this book engaging on its own.

2) Authors spend more time selling the next book in the current read than focusing on the story at hand. It is a tricky things with community books but if I can tell a writer is just setting up the next story instead of just being drawn into the read, I am not a happy reader.

3)Authors write the series for so long they begin repeating themselves. I love writers who are willing to take chances on new locations, new situations. I could have read Cheryl Wyatt's Wings of Refuge series forever but she has changed it up by writing a new series with a medical twist. This is great for her and great for me. Can't wait. And of course, you have a new series as well.

It is a tough call for all my pet peeves because I understand the necessity. Writers need to take into consideration their market of new readers, make their current readers happy, wonder if a series will continue to sell. My admiration to all series writers is boundless.

UFO decorated ham biscuits this morning. The cicadas and their alien ship invasion sounds are increasing down here in NC.

Peace, Julie

Julie Lessman said...

RUTHY!!! A subject near and dear to my heart because must I say it??? I LOVE SERIES!!!

I agree with Mary when she said: "if you're creating rich characters through your book, REAL characters, the way we're all SUPPOSED to, a series is almost easy."

A Passion Most Pure (then A Chasing After the Wind) was the first ms. I ever wrote and I NEVER thought about a series at the time, believe it or not. UNTIL APMP didn't sell right away (almost five years, it took and 45 rejections) and I finally knew I needed to get the show on the road with another book. Since I LOVED both Mitch and Charity, I thought ... why not? After that, the rest of the books just came naturally, and I am SOOO glad because "community romance" or "family romance" is SOOOO much fun to write and read!!

And, Ruthy, you said: "By this I mean, if you limit yourself initially with three sisters, you're locked into THREE SISTERS."

Uh, not necessarily ... at least I hope not! I plan to do what Mary did with her Sophie's Daughters series, a series about the little McClellan girls all grown up. Down the road a bit, I think a series on each of the O'Connor daughters' kids would be fun, and since Faith O'Connor has three daughters, that works out nicely for a WWII cousins fest with a number of series, I HOPE!!



Anonymous said...

Hello everyone! I see I've missed out on a lot of stuff! yippee Small Town Hearts is out now? Guess it'll be back to wally world for me (just went this morning but was 'good' and stayed away from the book section)

I love series but I sure get upset when they don't finish! And with Cheryl's I'm still waiting for Brock to get a story!! Elizabeth Lowell left Utah hanging in her little silhouette series and I'd rather have had his story than a couple of the others'! :-) I also like series where it's the same character(s) like J. D. Robb's 'in death' series (now the gruesomeness is more than I can take but I luv Roarke (ok and Eve too but not drooling over her!)so long as nothing is left hanging if the series ends(and talk about riding a series gravy train! whew what 30 books now in that series?!) I can't remember if my first series was Bobbsey Twins or Boxcar Children..Boxcar Children were my faves followed by Trixie Belden a few years later.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Glynna, I love the Canyon Springs setting! Wonderful small town community that just pulls the reader in. Love it!

And I can't wait until book 3 comes out. I love the glimpse of those mountains, the variances of nature that backdrop your stories! Mountain vistas... Total romance!

Linnette R Mullin said...

Enjoyed the post, Ruthy!

Hey, I wasn't able to get April's Allegany Men book through the club. Do you still have any? I'd prefer a signed copy anyway. Sign me up for this drawing. If I don't win, I'll order both books from you anyway. (I have book 1 so far.) Love your Allegany Men! :D

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Andrea, hey, girl! I'm so glad you're having fun with Small-Town Hearts! My stubborn heroine...

A-stinkin' dorable!

And my mega rich king-of-the-candy-world hero... Such a nice guy!


Hugs to you my friend, and thank you for the constant love and support! Back at ya'.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


I love towns I wish I could visit, and you set me on to a wonderful one in Georgia...

You and Deb and Cara.... you guys rock. I love having Southern Babe friends so I can pick your brains.

And who doesn't love the feeling of being welcomed into a place? A new beginning? A new crossroads? I should have mentioned Lisa Wingate in the post, her romance and WF series are wonderfully set and beautifully told.

Kav said...

I've never read so many series until I started reading inspirational fiction but now I'm a convert to both. Though I do like a series where each book has some resolution for some for the characters!

And funnily enough I read somewhere this week (don't ask me where but it was on somebody's blog) that a newbie author shouldn't fall into the series trap because it might be a deterrent to getting published! Obviously varying opinions abound.

I'm glad you stuck to your guns, Ruthy because I ADORE your books and LOVE that they are published so close together. That's the surefire way to gain a reader's loyalty and keep it! (in this humble reader's opinion.)

Don't add my name to the draw because my copies are already on their way...might even arrive today. Hoping by tomorrow anyway because it's going to be a rainy weekend and I'm looking forward to a day devoted to reading.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Audra, you probably felt my Blogger frustration... It wouldn't load pics (I never have a problem and blamed my computer, but maybe Blogger was as much at fault, hmm?) and then it wouldn't open for comments, and I think (yes, I really do!!!) that it actually SPIT at me at one point.

Spitting Blogger.

Why does that NOT sound impossible???

Hugs to you, keep writing that next book, I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

Pepper said...

LOVE a good series, Ruthy.
I can't think in any other way.
I tried to one time. Tried to write a Stand-Alone - (the one you read about the modern day 'My Fair Lady")
Well, once I met the characters, I kind of needed more room - so I expanded that Stand-Alone...
And it happens EVERY time - so I'm glad to know that's a good thing.
Happy Mother's Day back atcha!

Sandy Ardoin said...

Is that question for me, Missy?

Basically, I have three characters whose personal issues have them living a lie. Each story deals with how that particular woman handles her circumstances--if that makes sense.

For instance, I have one woman who cannot compete with her beautiful, ultra-feminine sister so she takes a different road to stand out. She chooses to shock people with her behavior and becomes a proponent of women's rights, when all she really wants is to be admired, like her sister.

I keep coming back to the words masquerade or charade, but can't find anything that pleases me.

Is it even necessary to have a series name? Is that something that's settled later in the publishing process? Am I making a bigger deal out of it than necessary?

(And Blogger keeps eating my comment.)

Pepper said...

Nevermind my rambling - I should have written:
Ditto to what Mary said.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandy, yes, we have a whipped chocolate center, Megan calls them Choco-Whips and they're delicious because she uses top quality chocolate and gentle hand techniques.


And a title... For the series itself (like a flash? Like "Men of Allegany County") or a book title for book one?

If it's series how about something like:

Out of Their League

In Their Own Time

The Ladies Of Austin series

Progressive and Proud

A Place of Their Own

Feel free to throw out ideas, everyone!

And Sandy, I love Dee Henderson's O'Malley series, too. Wonderful stuff!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Missy, I do partially. If LI picks up more books set in Allegany County (they have a four book proposal now), there's an arc over those books, and there was an arc of "rebuilding the town and mending fences" over the current series.

So the new one has a theme of "coming home to Allegany County", folks who either left and came back or found there way there for healing. Peace. Quiet.

Although with old Mrs. Dennehy around there isn't all that much peace and quiet to be had, LOL!

And yeah, I've suddenly become "Ruth" on Blogger.

Oh my stars, why do visions of HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey suddenly fill my head?

Blogger is usurping our authority. Well. Just as long as Ms. Blogger leaves the chocolate alone!

Pepper said...

LOL...Blogger really played with Julie's name.
It looks like Julie's picture, but gsus is in the house.

this is all the funnier because I just wrote a message to Julie that said people followed her around at ACFW like Jesus! LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jan, I hear ya'! Here's a puppy, be careful, they're not housebroken.

But they're SO STINKIN' CUTE!!!

And I put the chocolates from Meg's shop up high to secure the puppies' good health. Do I get a pet owner gold star for that????

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Should I be upset that Blogger was okay with my name?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kirsten, thanks for muscling through our Blogger issues! You rock!!!

And yes, those people need a story of their own and I think that's the best writing practice there is, is planting characters and just letting things unfold. That's how it happens in the real world, right?

Works in fiction, too!

Jackie S. said...

Very interesting post, Ruthy....loved it...learned a lot!
I'm planning a Ruthy week of reading soon...Winter's End is on the way and two of your books I won...think one of them is Small Town Hearts!
So I am saying yippee!!

Jason and Emily said...

Love small-town romances, especially series! Please sign me up!

Thanks for encouraging us not to feel confined to "threes". Lately I've been thinking that was the unspoken limit.

As a pantster, I love it when characters show up, bringing interesting back stories and subplots into view. Sometimes I have to tell them to wait their turn... :)


Joanne Sher said...

Okay, Ruthy - want your book IF ONLY FOR THE COVER. BBBEEAAAUUUUtiful :D

And I KNOW KNOW KNOW series are hot in romance. Is it the same with other genres? Just wonderin'(cuz I don't write romance mostly LOL).

I know I don't think in series - but I prolly should.



Patsy said...

I really enjoy reading books in a series. I don't like it though when you read a book and didn't even know it was a series. ugh!
I know your book will be great!


Myra Johnson said...

I'm working on book 1 of what I hope will be the first in a historical romance series. I didn't plan it that way, but, as I said the other day, my agent came back and asked for series ideas because apparently that's what editors are asking about.

Anyway, my agent and I both agreed the hero of the next book would have to be the "bad boy" of this story. So I'm hoping to pull off a "Mary" and a "Julie" here. They masterfully laid the groundwork for character growth and turnaround with Wade (first introduced in Montana Rose) and Charity (the bad girl in A Passion Most Pure).

Which reminds me. I need to be writing! See ya later, Seekervillians!

Myra Johnson said...

P.S.: If your name isn't showing up like it used to, click on your name and check your profile settings. I found a few of mine were different than I thought. Made some changes so we'll see if it works.

Susan Anne Mason said...


Series are my favorites, too. Writing and reading!

I had no intention of doing a series, but one character in the first book was so funny, I had to make a book for her. Then the third one was a given.

I also like 4 books as well. Nora Roberts last Wedding Series was about 4 friends who did weddings: a wedding planner, a photographer, a cake maker, and a florist. Very cute series!

I think today's series have replaced the EPIC of a few decades ago. The modern reader has less time for big volumes, but split them up into 3 separate books and no problem! Wonder how they'd split up Gone With the Wind? Hmm...

Love the cover of your new one, Ruthy!

sbmason at sympatico ca

Christine Long said...

Okay, 8th times the charm, right? This is my 8th attempt to post a comment. Blogger needs a time out today!

Thank you for posting about writing a series. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go that route with one of my books. I'm pitching it to agents now. Should I mention I'm working on a sequel or wait until it generates interest on its own? The first story is about two detectives, but one of them is the predominant character. In the second book, the partner becomes the main character.

Are detective stories still a good idea? What about using the partners instead of just one main character? Any advice on this?

I woke up last night with a new idea for a totally different story so that is what I'm working on today. I can't wait for summer break so I can write all day without interruption!

Count me in for the book please!
teaching by writing at yahoo dot com

karenk said...

a wonderful always :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Jan Drexler said...

I forgot to put my name in for the drawing!


If I win I promise to put it at the top of my TBR pile...right under "Officer's Secret"! (Of course, if I don't win, it will be there too - just not a signed copy. sigh.)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Ruthy, that pic with puppies and the Santa hats could very well go viral! So unbelievably cute!

Love ya, girl! Now, if only the "SERIES" was on my publisher's tongue. Nothing is impossible with God.

Casey said...

I like series set in the same locale. I just finished Julie Carobini's latest novel, Fade to Blue, set in Otter Bay and now I want to go back and read the other Otter Bay novels. It's a good strategy in my opinion. However, I haven't written series, but standalone. I know, I've got to get it together. ;-))

Sally Bradley said...

Man, Ruthy, you're so good at selling your books. I don't typically read LI, but I think I'm going to have to start with yours. :)

sallybradleywrites AT gmail [dot]com

mary bailey said...

Ruthy, I just love your posts! I always read every single word because they are so funny and so helpful and instructive. OK, so I just admitted that I might not read every single word of others' posts, but I blame that on my ADD. Sometimes I just cannot pay attention. :-)

I would LOVE to win a copy of your new book!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Myra is correct. Go in and edit your profile and check under how it is seen.

Ruth you are very amusing!@!!

(from Tina Russo Radcliffe)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Ruthy,
I'm munching on chocolate and drinking heavily sugared coffee. Whoo-hoo! Sugar high! What fun. Maybe my mind will think as fast as yours, girl friend!

Ah, and then maybe not! :)

I started with three CID special agents for my new Military Investigations series. Then, in book 3, I added a new guy--Special Agent Dawson Timmons. He's sitting on my editor's desk...or maybe she took him home last night so she could read the proposal for his story. Crossing fingers and lifting up a stream of prayers she likes the guy enough to include him in the series.

One never knows! She and the marketing department may think three books are enough.

I'll keep you posted!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Christine,
Since I'm on a sugar high, I'll jump in on your detective question. When pitching to an agent, I would discuss the first book first, then add that you're planning to write the second detective's story.

And if your detective book is a mystery, then the agent will be looking for a series. Mystery readers love series!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie H. S., you brought up some very good points and my pet peeves as well.

I hate to have a whole story re-capped, mini-synoped, and referred back to. I try to keep that to a tiny snippet (When Alyssa comes to visit Megan in Small-Town Hearts we get one paragraph about her daughter Cory's health problems the previous year. That's it. You can tell from the convo that she's happily married to a hunk called Trent and expecting a baby...)

And I made Hannah an integral part of Small-Town Hearts, but all you get of her story is a shadow of sadness that passes over her face once. But her secrets remain her secrets because to do otherwise would be gratuitous. And In Hannah's story, she tutors Callie's young son, a boy with learning disabilities... And Callie's destiny comes to town as part of Jeff's reconciliation, but all you know is what you need to know.

Julie, you be sure to tell me if I mess up on that stuff. I'm tough. I can take it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie Lessman "GSUS", yes, you have crossed the border of the three sisters, LOL!

And Mary did too, so you're right, that can be done with a new story arc. You have both done it beautifully.

Does anybody else remember Nora's strong feelings about not writing Seth's story in her Inner Harbor series? She felt the three brothers did it justice and that adding the younger brother added nothing to the original three.

I see that point. And it's fun to move on, try new things. But it's also fun to play in a familiar sandbox, but not so long as to become BORING.

Boring is So Not Good.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Linnette, you brought up a good point! Missy and I were books 5 and 6 in the book club (subscriber service) so you have to get all six to get ours.

But Reunited Hearts and Small-Town Hearts are both available at AND Small-Town Hearts will be on book shelves in three weeks. SWEET! And Linnette, I'm so glad you enjoyed Reunited Hearts! Thank you so much for saying that!

Nancy Kimball said...

Thanks Myra, I was able to fix my name (at least I think... we'll see!)

Name for the series:

Lone Star Masquerade?

Thanks Ruthy, it was tough but last night I just opened a blank word doc and stared it for almost ten minutes. I tried to "see" it and there it was. I wrote it in first person. Then went back and converted it to third. Except the first line... "My mother is a liar." Which I think is a better hook. Once I had the new opening to put side by side, giving up the first one wasn't as traumatic. Maybe a learned something there.

Myra Johnson said...

Ruthy, your comment reminded me about a contest entry I judged several years ago. It was clear in the first several pages that this was a sequel. The author kept making implications about the characters' pasts--way more than you'd normally use to set up a story opening--and it got very annoying. I kept feeling like I'd missed out on important developments by not having read the previous book.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Susanna, still praying for you and your family stuff, kiddo! Good to see you today!

You know, in actuality I'd rather an author leave me on a high note, maybe hanging a smidge than bore me to tears.

Nora's one smart lady!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, thank you! Glad that Small-Town Hearts is on its way AND....

you'll find the tone a little different, but so fun!

And I've got me some hankerin' for a cop series before too long.

I love cops. Shh... Don't tell Dave.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandy, you sound like you've developed a nice group of individual stories there, but yeah... generally the publisher will pick title and series 'catch' phrase or title.

And since they're signing the paychecks, we're okay with that, LOL!

PEPPER!!!! We're built the same way, chica. A little looney, but so much fun! And I love the Appalachian folk in that story. The setting. The air of diffidence in the heroine.

Did I use that word correctly????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Blogger likes JHS better than the rest of us?




You judge.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Yep, Ruth, you are tough but I read you precisely because you haven't messed up...yet. ;-) Gotta keep you on your toes.

I have talked about my tolerance for lengths of series but I am wondering how authors decide when to end one and begin another.

Peace, Julie

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jackie, I hope you love 'em, chica! And thank you for finding a copy of Wiinter's End! You rock!

And Emily, same, you, me.

Or something like that! Give me enough to sink my teeth (and we all know I have big teeth, hence the perpetual smile: My mouth simply cannot close!) into and I'm a happy gal.

Myra, thanks for the tip. I'm kind of enjoying seeing everyone's "other persona" and wondering how Google/Blogger did that? They were revamping something overnight, but it looks like they've taken obscure e-mail addy's and had fun with them.

Interesting personage, this Blogger dude.

Is Blogger male? Female? Androgenous?

Sandy Ardoin said...

Thanks to Nancy and Ruthy for the series title suggestions! I just don't want an agent or editor to ask for the title I've given the series and my answer is, "Ahhh..."

Mmmm. Choco-whips! Send me a couple dozen! :-)

Love the Doodles!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Joanne, yes. Mysteries love series work.

Science fiction with romance you often find in threes.

Paras? Not sure, anybody know?

In horror and thriller stuff, that's different. I think you'd suspend reader disbelief if you have too much bad stuff in one spot.

Suspense.... Sometimes yes and sometimes no. And sometimes that's because there's a background bad organization or guy (think the running threads in the backdrop of NCIS, the suspense back-story that may skip multiple episodes but comes out in the end and ties things together. They do that better than anyone in my humble opinion)

What does everybody else think? Are series as hot outside of romance? And I know series are hot even in ST romance.... bigger books, a little more room to delve, right?

Erica Vetsch said...

Ruthy, I adore your posts, and my heart gets warm and fuzzy when you mention your love of Janet Lambert and Cherry Ames. :)

I love writing series. Community, family,, love, love!

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

First: from “Reunited Hearts:”

Maude leaned toward Meg, almost conspiratorial.
Marilyn and I were friends in grade school, then she moved away…”
page 155

So we like the letter “M” do we now? : )

I did a serious marketing analysis of the romance series last year called:

Philosophically, What Would Constitute the Ideal Romance Series? January 2010.

This might be of interest to professional writers but it is TMI so I won’t put a link here.

About Julie: I think her “The Daughters of Boston” also qualifies as a community romance.

About Mary: I thought Mary had ten books written when she got the call. Were you just joking?

About the sagging middle: I have found that it is hard to write three equally good books when you have to write them about three sisters or brothers. The first one has to sell the series. The last one has all the good stuff you saved or laid the foundation for. And the middle one is more or less a bridge to cross. Beware the middle book. (Maybe someone should shoot the middle sister and have a cousin take her place.) Not!

About Meg’s Allegan Maple Fudge: I’m going to the grocery store and buy the ingredients at lunch time. I hope you actually made this fudge before!

About “Reunited Hearts”: the best stand up and cheer community-involvement ending since Lucy Gordon had an entire Italian town join the hero with a brass band and full parade that marched to the heroine’s home to ask her to marry him!(She just could not make up her mind!)



Nancy Kimball said...

Series hot outside of Romance?
For sure in Young Adult and Fantasy, from what I see on the shelves of Barnes & Noble.

It seems like this is becoming a trend in film making too. Aside from the Twilight Saga, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Bourne movies, which were book series themselves. Fast and the Furious has become the Die Hard and Rocky of my generation. Same with the successful Tyler Perry movies staring Madea. Any one else seeing this?

CatMom said...

I can skip vitamins today, because I just read a Ruthy-post!! (*smile*) ~ LOVE your energy!!! :) Another keeper post for sure--you gave me lots to think about today. ~ When you mentioned Cherry Ames it brought back so many wonderful childhood memories (one of my older sisters--a nurse--gave me those books and I adored them! They're still in my house...somewhere...*sigh* )~ Yum, that candy sounds soooo good. I also brought freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies (cannot have too much chocolate!). ~ Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo p.s. Have I mentioned I LOVED Reunited Hearts??!? :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Patsy, I hear ya'! But you know what? I never care which one I read in a series. I mean...



Like we don't know how it's going to end?

(ruthy ducks as she ruins Christmas for little children 'round the world...)

So if they're well told, I'll read them as I get them and I'm usually totally PSYCHED to find out it's part of a series because THEN THERE'S MORE TO READ!!!!! SUH----WEEEEEEET!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, actually, the question was for Ruthy. But I loved hearing more about your series. Love the description of the book/s!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sue, you made a great point: series replace the epic....

And I think you're on to something there. The time factor is clutch for so many folks! And shelling out huge bucks for an epic... Whoa.

Although I still love Wouk and Michener. Just love them. Clever men.

And I love that your funny character got her own story! That's awesome, my friend!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jan, I'm reading Officer's Secret RIGHT NOW and had to PULL myself away from it to feed Mary Ruth.

Really? She's 9 months old. Shouldn't she be feeding herself?


Christine, partners makes a great opp for a series. Absolutely! And you sound like a bit of spring fever's got hold of you! Every teacher on the planet can relate, and thanks for the great job you do with kids!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Karen, thank you! Good to have you stop by, chica!

And Melanie, my first books were all single sales. The first four (even though the North Country was a series, it was contracted as three separate books). You're doing A-Okay fine, kiddo! I know some publishers offer a series contract right away, but not all do. And that's okay, right? Because, SISTAH!!!!!


If they take one book at a time, honey, you're still published. And a Christy finalist. Oh my stars, I'm still wiggin' out over that!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Casey, I think it comes naturally eventually. Because you want to develop those 'other people'... they've got a story to tell!

And Sally Bradley, RUN AND BUY MY BOOKS!!!!


What are you thinking??? And here's the ticket: Honey... really....

They're like $5.

Probably $4 at Wal-Mart. If you don't like 'em I'll personally send you a candy bar.

I'm not saying how big.

Or how soon. ;)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary Bailey (from my fave all time Christmas movie!!) you're in and thank you!

I actually pay a ghost writer to be funny for me.

Ironically, he/she is well... a ghost.

Who knew the English language was so glaringly absolute????


Any relation to the very STUBBORN Russo family in Allegany County, honey?

Just wondering out loud.


Pepper said...

Did you write that I was a 'little looney'?
Like you?
'a little"?

Ruth Logan Herne said...




Wonderful job, my friend, Maggie is totally believable and your use of words... Oh my stars, stellar!

No pun intended... get it? stars? stellar?

I'm a dork.

Nate... LOVE HIM.

Yes, I'm high on God, caffeine, and Dave (very bad, DAVE!!!) brought home 4 ginormous butter rum muffins...


Oh, yum.

Ruth Logan Herne said...



Now I am calling you that 4-ever.

Or at least today. Yeah, when an entire synopsis is thrown at me to show me what I missed....


A tidbit is good, if the backstory is essential to the current story, but if people love you enough...

And your book enough....

Oh, they will find you. Thanks for mentioning that, chickie!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


I'm a little ver klempt here.

Wipin' a tear.

My baby has done GROWN UP!!! ;)

Good job, kid. We (seriously, for just a moment) can't afford to be married to our work in this business because....

Unwillingness to change?

Kiss of Death. And I'm not talkin' the RWA chapter, neither. (I love that chapter, GREAT contests!)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie, since I'm new at this, I think it's about the time the rotten tomatoes splat against my door.


I think you have to assess by idea freshness. If it's all the same family or same profession (cop series, medical series, school series, university series), then your only differentiation is story line. The plot.

If you make it a broad based series (the Alaskan Bride Rush series that LI did last year was a HOOT!) then you've got more leverage.

But I'm new, so I'll learn as I go and always open for advice.

At which point I'll pretend I thought it up myself.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Erica, yes!!!! And I got a NOOK for Mother's Day, so my upcoming task is to get all my faves INTO it.

Because I read favorites again and again. I am THAT lame.

And I don't care. Hey, am I seeing you in St. Louis???? Say yes.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, you're a hoot!

Of course Maude came from Reunited Hearts...

And Megan is Small-Town Hearts...

And Marilyn....

I just love "M" names, Vince!!!!

It's funny that you brought that up because I'm making a wall chart THIS WEEKEND because I tend to repeat names.

Sigh... Dorkdom, continued. ;)

But you forgot that Danny represents "Grandma Mary's Candies" named after our very own Mary Connealy....

Or my mother.

Or my namesake in the kitchen here with muffin all over her face, Mary Ruth....

And I have Catholic friends who use Mary a lot, but not so much in the current generation. And it's such a great name.

All right, making a note, watch the "M" names.

And I like Katie/Katy/Kate I've discovered. But I've got time to CHANGE some of that before next year, LOL!

Love you, Dude. And your wife, she's a hoot!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, YES!!! That's my personal recipe for Maple Fudge and it works perfectly.


And so stinkin' easy!

We might need an Allegany County cook book by the time we're through with these things. You know that, right? Strudels... Candies... Cookies...

Hannah doesn't cook so we're safe there, but Callie does! ;)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Aw, Patti Jo, thank you!!! I'm just deeeelighted to hear that, girlfriend!

I love that story... Trent... Alyssa.... Her family....

That town....

Oh my stars. I'm all ver klempt, again! So I lightened it up a little in Small-Town Hearts and these folks are hysterical. I'm not selling here, it's just so stinkin' much fun to do this!!!

Thank you! On all counts!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Stellar? Thank you, Ruth! I'll send money...or chocolate!

You got a NOOK? How fun is that?

Kiss Dave for me. Saw his pic on another blog a few days ago. He's a cutie. And you make a darling couple. Like teenage lovebirds. Really!

Debby Giusti said...

I love "M" names.

Matt, Maggie, Mac, Michele (heroine in current WIP).

Hmmm? Maybe I need a character chart.

Does anyone like Marshall? Madison? Monroe? Maybelle? Molly? Marjorie? Margaret? Mark?

Nancy Kimball said...

Hahahaha, I had to google ver klempt :p Thanks Ruthie. I'll just look forward to that day when my name is twice the font size of the titles on my books and I can start my story wherever and however I want LOL. Although hopefully by then I'll have written enough that it's the right place naturally, not the hundredth rewrite later!

I feel special to know I had the same name problem as you Ruthie, except my letter for Chasing the Lion was C.

Cornelius, Clovis, Caelina, Caius, and Caesar. Personally I'd as soon rename Caesar than my fictional characters, but that would get me kicked out of the historical genre for sure.

Renee Ann said...

Since my first Trixie Belden book, I've loved series--yours, Ruthy, and most of the ones you mentioned. If I love a group of characters, I want to return to them again and again. This is a plus for an author because even if a book is not about my favorite character, I'll still want to read it to keep up with what's going on in that imaginary world. That's a power stand-alone books miss out on.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Consider Dave kissed!

He'll send thank you note in a timely fashion, no doubt. ;)


That's our Golden Retriever's name:

Hearthside's Madison O'Malley

call name: "Maddie"


I have "Mitch" as a hero in an unsold-as-yet work. Love it. And love Julie's Mitch, oh my gracious sakes to all that's good and holy... :)

Molly. Molly's are special. They're... Molly's.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Aw, Nancy, we all do that stuff. It's the nature of the beast. And when I discovered a recent mistake, I took GREAT SOLACE in remembering that my self-taught Romance 101 course through our public library was studying Nora Roberts' books and finding the timing, name, age mistakes in them.

No offense, Nora!!! But if NORA made the occasional mis-step, Ruthy's bound to follow!

And RENEE ANN!!! Yay!!!! Thank you, I'm so much the same way.

We're dorks of a feather. I'm okay with that!

KC Frantzen said...

Hey Ruthy,
You SAID it would be short ha! :)

I looked at this in the wee hours but blogger was giving me a fit. Just now back.

I've done May on the Way with a series in mind, so hopefully we're on the right track.

Thanks for great info and a good post as always... And the FOOD. Yippee!

No time to read NINETY THREE comments right now. Wow! But I will!

Julie Lessman said...

HOLY COW ... I just saw what Blogger did to my name ... YIKES!! That's actually part of my e-mail address, gsus at dot com, so I'm not sure how that happened!!!


Julie Lessman said...

Meant to mention this, Ruthy -- CUTE PIC of Nolan with the Doodles!!!


Lorna Faith said...

thanks for the post:) Great insight and ideas for writing a series. My WIP is the 1st in what I hope will be a trilogy:)Still new at this...but the ideas for scenes and characters are running around in my head...and on post it notes on my wall:) I understand what you're saying about thinking of our book as the salad base and the characters as the seasoning. Characters are fun to create.They are so varied and deep, which makes the story come alive and I guess you never know which character might lead to another book...:)
I would love to be entered for a chance to win your book, Ruth...especially after all the great comments from others on this blog!

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Vince said...

As they say:

"You only get one chance to make a first impression."

I suggest that you write a series of posts on series. It looks like you had the ‘black moment’ in the first chapter!

Don’t mind me. I just thought you should at least have one comment on this repost.

Vince I win anything?

vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Tina Radcliffe said...

Vince you rock!


Tami Brothers said...

Great information here. I usually have a series idea in mind when I sit down to write but you have given me that extra push to keep at it.

Thanks a ton for posting this.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love Vince and Tami! Teeeeena, I'm amazed you found this, proof yet again that NOTHING DIES ON THE INTERNET...

You rock, chica! And Vince, hugs to you, my friend. You found me! :)

Tami, I always think in series. Some brains seem to work that way, like a web-design, branches pushing out.

So I've learned not to fight it. I figure if they want more, I've left openings to lead me forward, no harm, no foul.

Drinking coffee. Pouring rain.

Puppies are asleep.