Series Thoughts: When to Stop



Series Thoughts: 

When to Stop



I love writing and reading series, but have you ever read one and it just went too far, taking something you loved and destroyed it? I have, but I would never mention names. This seems to happen in romances, particularly young adult literature.

Before any young adult writers go into attack mode, I'm one of you too and love the genre. When I discuss "series" in this post, I'm referring to continuous storylines with the same characters. My question is, is there a magic number of books that is suitable? Or is there a line we shouldn't cross? I don't think there's a clear-cut answer. Although I want to leave it as the old expression, "as many books as the story needs," I've seen authors surpass that. The story is beautiful and could wrap up nicely and then bam! Here's another one ruining the happily ever after, and we'll throw in some love triangles and an arrogant jerk we're supposed to prefer over the man we had just fallen in love with in the prior book. I may sound mocking, and as a reader I am. As an author, I am most likely guilty of these tropes too, but I never want to take a series too far.

For example, I have a YA fantasy romance series that I decided to keep as a trilogy (Celestial Spheres, book 1 Fyr is available here). Why did I choose a trilogy? Because the plot of their world and their conflicts all wrapped up nicely in three books. To add more, I would have to destroy their relationship. I had already thrown so much troubles their way that inventing something huge would be contrived and piss off my readers, so I won't even try to. I have pondered on spinoff series with a family member, other spheres--since this trilogy takes place on a fire planet--but again, I feel like I'm flogging a dying horse instead of inventing new beauteous things. I may come back one day, but for now, it's wonderful as is and will be done.


I have another series, a YA paranormal romance, that looks like it will be five books (The Immortal Transcripts, book 1 Quiver can be purchased here). It has three main characters, lots of side characters, so plenty of plot which will carry me easily through five books. My characters' love lives will take up all five books, because their love ties directly into the more political plot of how they are impacting the world around them. Sometimes it is what happens around them that is important, rather than just the romance aspect, and sometimes my main lovers take a backseat to others' love stories. Sometimes familial relationships and friendships are the more important part. Basically, it is so complex that it warrants five books without repetition or contrived plot tropes.

Last, I have a shelved YA fantasy romance series where I was four books in, thinking it would end up as five. I wondered if there was too much love story, too many tropes and relationships, meaning I put too much into books 1-4 and should spread them out. Does this series warrant seven books so my MCs' relationships appear natural in terms of time span? Do I dare take it that far?

I had always seen the magic number being five, that crossing that line in a young adult romance can cause issues: characters aging out of the category, too many cliched tropes, repetition, contrived plots, reader boredom or lack of funds, etc. As a reader, I usually lose interest after five. I have the annoyed mentality of--"what now?" I've only actually made it through a few YA romance series that were more than five with the same characters, the rest I quit after about book three and reading a sample of the next book, cheated by looking at the blurbs, or asked others if it was worth it. In most cases, I ended up refusing to invest more time and money into the series because I was annoyed it sounded dragged out in contrived ways. I don't think I'm alone in thinking this; with so many good books out there in the world, why waste time with a series that no longer wows you when you can move other ones that do?

So writers and readers, what do you think the magic number of novels is for a YA romance (with the same characters) series? Where do you typically like to cap it off?

If interested in any of these books, you can find them here. You can follow me through this link for notification of future novels too.

Query Example: Quiver



Query Example:

QUIVER



For the first time ever, last fall, I didn't have to query or pitch on Twitter to get published. I now have a publisher to submit directly to. It is a huge milestone of an author's career and I am proud, but I miss creating pitches and queries. You'll call me sick, a masochist even, but I enjoyed writing queries and pitches--the waiting and rejection, I could definitely do without. The actual process of querying sucks, but mastering how to write just the letter has been a skill I learned to love.

As a pantser (non plotting writer), drafting that query during revisions of the manuscript was essential. Summing up the plot of my novel for the query letter forces me to examine my plot. If I struggle too hard to sum it up, then I might have a plot hole or things are unclear. For this novel, this is the query I had used in 2012. It received multiple 50-page requests, 5 full manuscript requests, 2 R&R's (revise and resubmit) that I rejected due to the drastic changes being asked, 1 agent interested in taking it on to sell as a novel and movie rights. This sounds like a dream come true, but the deal fell through.

I digress. The query worked, but I didn't end up using it again, shelved the book, and then submitted it to my publisher last winter. Here is my letter with notes (in red). I have updated certain areas of the letter noted below.



Dear Agent, (This should be specific, but I stripped his details out)

You think your family is large, complicated, and dysfunctional? Archer Ambrose, previously known as Eros, would beg to differ. After over 3000 years of a mostly uneventful existence as the god of love, Archer will finally learn how much harm one’s family can do. (This is your hook, usually near the beginning of a query that sucks the reader in; I asked a question forcing the reader to align with one of my MCs and then explained whom he was.)

Let me introduce you to Quiver, a YA high-concept paranormal romance that is 93,000 words. Told in first-person by four narrators, they spin tale of mythological proportions where a profound love threatens to undermine the immortal way of life. (This is also early on in query letters; the agent/publisher needs to know word count, genre, and I added POV because that was something they felt strongly about in their feedback--they loved it or hated it. Originally, I was querying this as 106,000 words which didn't seem to affect the amount of positive responses.) When Callie Syches moves to Manhattan her senior year, Archer feels passionately drawn to her. His dysfunctional family doesn't like this new attachment including his Grandpa Zeus who wants Callie silenced forever, his overbearing mother who poses as his sister, and his uncle, the truth-seeker, who is puzzled over a prophecy concerning her. Inadvertently, Callie, who “sees” too much, threatens to destroy Archer’s mortal fa├žade. From evidence such as Archer’s eyes that shine when feeling intense emotions to his instant healing abilities, Callie begins to unravel the secrets to a world she can hardly fathom. As the couple’s love blossoms and Callie discovers the truth, Zeus makes a devastating move. Unable to contemplate life without her, Archer must decide what is more important, family or love. (This is the synopsis blurb. I gave them everything but the ending; I avoided all the subplots and other conflicts focusing on the central love story. I have included the themes of family and love, which are essential in the book.)

Blending Greek mythology into a modern love story of epic proportions seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. (Since this had been the first book I queried, my former roster was only the above and one short story--that I now leave out of queries because it's not as impressive as other titles. Not having anything here did seem to make a difference which is why I stopped querying early on and focused on publishing shorter works first. As soon as that one story was on there, I got responses. I think experience helps. I also included my degrees but only because they directly factor into writing.) I’ve published the novella “Dare” in the Kissed anthology (Evernight Teen), a stand alone novel Apidae (Evernight Teen), and book 1 of the Celestial Spheres trilogy titled Fyr (Authors 4 Authors Publishing). I’m also a college Lecturer and strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media, and use a blog and other digital venues. (This is my updated roster. I mentioned my job only because I teach writing to students who are the age group as my readers. A social media presence is good too. You don't have to mention this if you include all your links like I did below, but this was popular request in 2012 for authors to have a presence , so I added it.)  

I am looking for official representation in the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an agent with extensive experience in editing and publishing, dealing with such companies as Penguin and Harper Collins, and who is eager to explore the YA market. At your request, I would love to send the full-length manuscript of Quiver for your review. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and I humbly thank you for your time. (To wrap it up, you get to the point. We write these to have the agent/publisher read the entire MS and hopefully offer us representation. So ask. Also, it is extremely important to do your research about the company or agent and to show you have. Above, I mention details about the impressive powerhouses this man works with and how he was starting to add YA authors to his client list. Like dating, you want to butter them up a little so they'll ask you out-- but don't flirt! That was just an analogy.)


Sincerely,

Lisa Borne Graves



This may be my last query for a while as I'm lined up to release--if all goes well--eight books with my publisher without having to write another. But you never know, since I don't mind doing them.

Interested in the book? Here is where you can purchase the novel: Quiver

Birth Announcement: QUIVER



Birth Announcement: 

QUIVER



Without further ado, I'd like to announce the birth of another book baby. Quiver, book 1 of The Immortal Transcripts, is now available. Here's the info and links. I'm immensely proud of this book--my first novel written that took more than a decade to get into print. Hope you enjoy it!



What would you do if you could live forever? Could you hide it from the one you truly loved, especially if her life depended on it?


Thanks to his dysfunctional Olympian family, Archer Ambrose finds out firsthand how difficult this can be. He never falls in love but bestows it on others—until he meets Callie.


When Callie Syches moves to the Upper East Side to prepare for her father’s impending death, she doesn’t expect to meet the boy of her dreams. She also never believed her father’s harebrained theory about myths, but her uncanny ability to “see” uncovers godly secrets Callie can hardly fathom.


With an immortal family demanding absolute obedience, how far will Archer go to protect his love from the storm the gods will unleash upon them?


In this reinvention of Cupid and Psyche, experience an electrifying series where familial and romantic bonds are at war, and knowledge could mean the end of everything…or a new beginning.


Can’t wait to read more? Order now here. Also available on Amazon, Books.A.Million, Shakespeare and Co, Books, Rediscovered Books, and other retailers.

Cover Reveal and Book Pitch: Quiver



Cover Reveal and
Book Pitch:

Quiver


When it comes to covers, I always want authenticity. I not a fan of stock photos. I do use them to advertise, and then notice the same image on an author's book cover and cringe. I wouldn't want that to be me. Luck on my side, I'm married to an artist who has a degree in illustration. The combined efforts of his artwork and my wonderful publisher's (Authors 4 Authors Publishing) digital prowess create the unique covers (see my prior book Fyr's cover here). When it came to this new series, The Immortal Transcripts, I wanted a cover that defined the book's mood: sweet, youthful, romantic, yet imposing and dangerous. I wanted the characters represented as well. Here my cover is: heart and arrows for my main character Archer, the god of love, and the lightning for the antagonist, the almighty and foreboding Zeus.


I also had made a faithful promise to the writing  community that I would post queries and pitches to help others who would like to study examples. I'm no novice when it comes to pitches. In fact, pitches on Twitter pitch days are how I became published through two publishers.

Lately, I'm on good terms with my publisher not needing to pitch or query, going straight to submissions, and I kind of miss making pitches--because I'm some sick masochist, I guess. Honestly, I think creating queries and pitches are a great way to wrap your head around your story and to help market. So I created this pitch as a social media friendly blurb about my book. Here it is.

Callie doesn't believe in myths. Archer doesn't fall into love but creates it. When she begins to unravel the very fabric of Archer's godly existence, gleaning deadly knowledge, what lengths will they go to be together?

Some notes about it: I introduce two main characters and the fact I'm talking about mythology where one of my MCs is the god of love. The stakes are her life, "love" and "be together" indicate the romance genre. The question shows that they most likely will go through a lot in the name of love including the possibility of her death. I left out a lot that can be covered in a hashtag such as #YA for young adult, #paranormal to show what type of romance, #greekmythology to show which mythological world I've adopted. What I did not include were the other important characters, the multiple side plots, the villains, etc. When limited in characters, space, or your audience's time, stick to the main plot and be concise.

Hope that helped you in your pitches. If interested in this novel, you can preorder here.

Anthology Review Time: From the Stories of Old




Anthology Review Time: 

From the Stories of Old


I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, so I bought this anthology hoping for a fresh take on old stories and was not disappointed. It wasn't quite what I expected with a couple gruesome stories and a few bittersweet endings, but these were still enjoyable and balanced well with the happily ever after tales. They are in fact truly the stories of the old, with hints of Grimm's gruesome and harsh realities, bittersweet lessons, and heartwarming tales of friends or lovers overcoming the odds to defeat evil. There were hints of cultural criticism wrapped up in future worlds where mankind's destruction or devolution propels the plot. There was love, loss, friendship, family struggles--all your timeless themes--imbued throughout, creating an enriching experience for the reader.


It has a bit of everything with recognizable tales such as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Mulan, Snow White, and Rumpelstiltskin--but of the originals or earlier versions--not Disney--to less widely read tales about Silkie or Krampus creatures, clever fables such as The Peasant's Wise Daughter, and other tales that I didn't quickly recognize, adding diversity from non-European cultures. These more obscure ones I found refreshing, but the truth is none of them are straight up retellings but stories that hold strength on their own. They are still told in the style of fairy tales, but the authors manage to slip in more characterization that the old stories could provide. Due to the genre, this appeals to teens and any adult who thoroughly enjoys fairy tales.

I enjoyed them all, but I don't want to explain any of the stories in detail and spoil them. The fun is in figuring out which tale it is based off of, then the enjoyment in seeing how it plays out in comparison to the former versions. Just know that you're getting new spins on old tales that are refreshing, current, and of multiple genres in world like or unlike our own, past, present, or future, and some are culturally inspired. If this sounds like your cup of tea you can purchase the anthology here.

Tales in Publishing: QUIVER





Tales in Publishing: 

QUIVER

To readers, I imagine the publishing world seems very slow. You read a great book to find out it's part of a series and have to wait a year or more for the next novel. Waiting can be brutal. And then you see your favorite author announce their novel was accepted for release a year to eighteen months in the future and you're like...


As an author, that year flies by. It doesn't seem long at all because we are busy perfecting and prepping that book to send it out to the world. That is what my publishers and I have been doing. We have put Quiver through about four rounds of editing, got the marketing and supplement materials together, wrote the back cover blurb--all those little things some take for granted. In short, my book is ready for the world on my end, with the publishers dotting the I's and crossing the T's and such.

In a couple weeks, book I of The Immortal Transcripts, Quiver, will launch. I've had some concern that this will mean The Celestial Spheres will take longer to come out or won't continue, but the truth is I've been writing so long and so much that clearing two books a year is doable. Therefore, Draca, book 2 of Celestial Spheres will be out July 2020. We already had a couple rounds of edits for it.


As for Quiver, it is a young adult paranormal romance novel that follows four first-person points-of-view of three Greek gods and a mortal who inadvertently upends their lives. Apollo, Eros, and Aphrodite are showcased in this book letting us into their world that seems to be on the cusp of great change. I don't want to spoil too much, but I will be posting information on the blog here on out, so stay tuned.

 


Author Feature: Deidre Huesmann




Author Feature: 

Deidre Huesmann



All about Deidre



When she isn't writing, Deidre works full-time in the local shipyard, decked out in safety gear and getting her hands dirty. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying the changes in seasons year-round. When she isn't working either job, she's catching up on the stack of books on her dresser, kicking it with her children, or playing RPG video game


 Her books



With Jeff Young’s fantastic grades, he should be a great tutor. But he’s terrible with human interaction. “You’re an asshole,” is not a unique phrase to him. Jeff’s all right with that. His past proves most people are assholes.

Even with his reputation, he takes it too far when he uses a textbook to save the track star, Braeden, from a goose attack. Braeden is everything Jeff is not. Tall. Charming. Has 20/20 vision. And would never, ever wipe his mouth after a girl kisses him.

Braeden insists on getting to know Jeff. Jeff vacillates between wanting to know him and wanting to punch him in the mouth. Then he discovers the darkness rippling beneath Braeden’s deceptively easy-going persona. As Braeden confides his secrets, Jeff does the one thing that’s socially suicidal:
He falls in love with the very popular, very straight Braeden Britely.

Find Burning Britely here. And its sequel Yearning Young here.



A MODERN GREEK MYTH trilogy 



Azalee wants a home—one that isn’t a cold, dirty prison deep within the earth. Even if she wanted to escape, she can’t walk in sunlight. Her skin will burn and flay, blistered by a god.

Defying the Fates
Joel wants to get her somewhere safe. Both are outcasts, shunned, and forbidden from taking proper Greek names. He breaks her out of an underground prison, and they flee toward Mykonos.

Angering the Gods
The battle-worn Kurios sends Niribelle after them. She’s gorgeous, she’s cunning, and she seems to have a thing for Joel. She arrives armed with Hecate’s magic, and blessed by Aphrodite’s beauty.

Inciting the War
Soon the three teenagers discover one horrifying thing: Mykonos will be no paradise.


Check out the trilogy bundled here.

SECRETS OF THE SEQUOIA trilogy



Devastated by her mother's terminal diagnosis, Rachael struggles with day to day existence as her family's cheerful facade splits stitch by stitch. Amidst her crumbling home life, she manages to make few new friends. One in particular, Holden, makes her question if she can even consider love while her mother's life hangs in the balance.

But Aaron Moreno, a lycan alpha, has a another idea: he wants to introduce Rachael to his and Holden's secret lives. And if what Holden says is true, Aaron will have no regard for what havoc this will wreak upon Rachael.


Check out the trilogy bundled here.

MOONLIGHT WARS trilogy



Six years have passed since Rachael Adair last saw her older brother, Jackson. And for good reason—Jackson is now a lycan, and since they age slowly, he has to move frequently lest the humans catch on. When he excitedly calls her and offers a flight for her to visit them in a big city, Rachael jumps at the chance. She's delighted to see her brother, his pack, and of course the alpha she fell in love with: Aaron Moreno.

But when she lands in Las Vegas, Rachael is kidnapped by a new face from the pack of an old "friend;" her first love, Holden Cavanaugh. Holden is now the alpha of a group of poly-amorous betas, and he has every intention of convincing Rachael to join him.

After killing Aaron, of course…


Check out book 1 The Alpha's Hostage here. Book 2 here. Book 3 here.

What made you become a writer?

"I can’t really say. I’ve written stories ever since I got positive feedback on a story about my guinea pig in second grade. But I kept at it, to the point my grades suffered in high school… and for me, it’s more than a passion. It’s a calling. I write stories I wished I saw more of as a teen, and even what I wish I could see more of now. There is a lot I want to say to the world, and story form is the easiest, most productive way for me to express those thoughts, especially through fantastical settings and means."

 How has the querying process gone for you? Any tips?

"I’ve been querying for at least four years now. At first I didn’t get any positive responses, but each year and each new project I get more and more interest from agents. Small presses like Evernight Teen have seen merit in my stories, for which I feel grateful, but I’m always aiming to get an agent and punch my way into the Big 5. For the past year I’ve fallen into this weird pattern where I have no fewer than 5 agents reading one of my works at any given time. So it’s a lot, a lot of rejection, but each full request has been a valuable experience overall.

"As far as tips, if you have a predisposition to taking criticism well, the process will be much easier. I have the grim joke that ever since someone told me to kill myself over my writing in my teens, no agent can possibly reject me in a way worse than that person. It’s important to remember that agents hate rejecting. I follow a lot of them on Twitter, and it’s surprising to see how many of them lament near misses or take abuse for rejecting an author.

"In short, keep querying, keep writing, and always be graceful no matter the answer. Being grateful for feedback as kept many an agent door open to me, and I’m at the point I can query the same agent with a new project and almost be guaranteed a positive response to read. In this industry, it pays to be kind and gracious."

Marketing is vital for authors. What works best for you?

"A mixture of Facebook ads and organic interaction on Twitter. FB nets me the most traction for my money (and it fits my tiny budget quite well), and Twitter has flooded with other positive authors who are happy to cheer you on. Cultivating a positive audience helps. But the other thing is behind the scenes—I keep writing, I never accept my craft as perfect, and each new book I release has done better than the last."

Where you can find Deidre:
Website
Facebook 
Twitter 
Instagram
Amazon 
Goodreads 
Barnes N Noble 

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Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...