Ack!

That is the sound you hear — okay, maybe I’m the only one to hear it — when this writer’s brain realizes it has two active works-in-progress going on and suddenly, without warning, a third (and possibly a fourth) suddenly pops in and demands attention. That “Ack!” is immediately followed by hysterical laughter and then sobbing.  I’m sure a catatonic state will shortly occur. Not that it will silence Myrtle the Evil Muse. She, it seems, enjoys doing all she can to torture me.

I’m not really complaining. At least not too much. You see, I think this is Myrtle’s way of getting back at me because I’m not letting her have her way with one of the current WIPs. She might not care if some of my fans (waves at Amanda F.) would come after me with sharp objects if I did as she wants but I do. Besides, there are times when the Writer has to throttle the Muse, toss her to the ground and drag her, kicking and screaming, to the closet where she will be locked in until time for the next project to begin. This is especially true right now because she is drunk or high or just sadistic.

Nope, I’m not going to do what she wants.

Oh, wait, you don’t know what she wants? Oh, that’s simple. She wants me to kill off a main character, THE main character, in one of my series. Sure, the current story arc is rapidly coming to an end but it isn’t the end of the series and, as I said, Amanda F. has threatened me if I kill this particular character. And that doesn’t even come close to what the other characters in the series said they’d do to me if I allowed Myrtle to have her way.

Actually, this all comes around to a question someone asked the other day. When do you know it’s time to end a series?

I wish there was an easy answer. Well, in a way, there is. The series ends when the story is over. Except, in a series, the story can be far-reaching and include many more plots and sub-plots than expected when it first began. So, the easy answer gets a bit more difficult in application.

We’ve all seen series that have gone on too long. Sometimes it is because the author is so in love with the characters that she doesn’t want to move on. Sometimes, and this is particularly true in traditional publishing, the publishing house relies on the name of the author to sell books. They know the author will bring in at least a certain level of sales. So, they keep wanting more in a series even after it has run its course. All too often in this case, the author is ready to move on but with the publisher waving money in front of him, he keeps writing. The problem is, if the author is ready to move on, the series can and usually does go stale.

Then there is the situation where an author isn’t ready to move on and neither is the publisher but the series itself is done. The characters have been developed to the point where everything now turns into Mary Sueism or deus ex machina. Or, worse, a combination of both. Sure, the books will sell but, a critical eye will see that the sales are decreasing. But, for whatever reason — and it can be the author’s love of the characters or universe, the money the publisher is throwing at her or even the author’s fear that the next series won’t be as well-received as the current one — the author doesn’t want to move on.

In each of these cases, the author is doing a disservice not only to herself but to her readers. It’s a lesson I try to keep in mind with my own work.

Currently, I have four series working. One, the Eerie Side of the Tracks series, is more a series of interconnected characters and stories all taking part in the same fictional town. Each book can stand on its own. Another, the Sword of the Gods series, is a very limited series in number of books it will contain because of its story arc. There are currently two books in the series and, unless something unforeseen happens in the third book, that third book will be the end of that particular series. Now, I might return to that world but the current plot lines will be tied up and the characters will be ready to figuratively ride off into the sunset.

The Honor and Duty series has surprised me. When I first began it, I did so with a three book story arc in mind. Then I realized that three books would become four. That fourth book is currently in the draft phase and, while it will tie up many of the plot lines, there will still be some unanswered questions. But that’s all right because it will allow me to continue playing in that universe but with other characters taking the forefront in some of the subsequent titles. In that, it will become like Eerie Side of the Tracks. The books will be interrelated but you won’t have to read each and every book to know what is happening in the latest one.

The one series I’m beating Myrtle the Evil Muse on is Nocturnal Lives. If I have a series that I have a real emotional investment in, it is this one. Mackenzie Santos is very much one of those voices in my head I don’t want silenced. Yet, even as I say that, I know the time will come when she no longer is an active part of my writing career. This next book, which will go up for pre-order at the end of the week, will be the culmination of the main plot lines in the series. However, it will open up a whole new series of challenges for Mac and company.

But what does that mean for the series?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Yes, there will be more titles with Mac and crew. Whether it will be part of another multi-book story arc or more a series of independent stories, I don’t know. What I do know is I’m not ready to let the series go and my sales tell me it’s not time to either. So, I have to figure out where to go from here.

In the meantime, here is how Mac’s story began in Nocturnal Origins, currently on sale for $0.99.

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try. The memory remains, forever imprinted on your soul. It colors your perceptions and expectations. It affects everything you say and do. It doesn’t matter if the memory is good or bad, full of life and love or pain and death. That memory remains until the day you die – if you’re lucky.

If not, the memory haunts you for all eternity.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knew that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.

It didn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believed a miracle had occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. She knew better. She knew she had died.

It hadn’t been a miracle. At least not a holy one. Ask the poor attendant who’d run screaming from that cold, desolate room in the hospital basement, when Mac had suddenly sat up, gasping for breath and still covered with too much blood. He’d been convinced a demon from Hell had risen to come for him.

Mac couldn’t blame him. As far as she was concerned, that was the day the dogs of Hell had come for her.

Now, standing in the alley behind Gunn’s, one of the most fashionable restaurants in Dallas, Mac closed her eyes and prayed. She suspected what lay ahead. She could almost smell it – not quite, but enough to know what was there. Sweat trickled down her spine and plastered her thin cotton shirt to her back. Her stomach lurched rebelliously and she swallowed hard against the rising gorge. She had to keep control. At least for the next few hours.

Easy, Mackenzie. Just take it slow and easy.

She opened her eyes and drew a deep breath. She knew it was bad. Two uniformed officers, hands on knees, vomited into the gutter. There was no black humor, no conversation, nothing. In fact, other than the sounds of retching, the scene was eerily quiet; it felt almost like a dream. A nightmare.

She took a few more steps. The harsh, unmistakable stench assailed her nose, warning her what she’d find.

Unless the restaurant had dumped several hundred pounds of raw hamburger out to spoil in the summer heat, a dead body lay at the far end of the alley. That was bad enough. Then she felt as though she were enveloped in blood, and her stomach rolled over once again.

Oh, God.

Jaw clenched, she stepped forward. Never before had it been so hard to approach a crime scene. Not even when she’d responded to her first dead-body call a lifetime ago. She hadn’t hesitated then, not like this.

But she was different now. She knew what sort of horror awaited her. She’d seen it before and it haunted her. Haunted her because it touched something in her very few suspected even existed, something she tried so desperately to hide. The beast within fought for dominance, called by the smell of blood, the sight of raw flesh.

She mustn’t lose control. Not here and certainly not now. She blew out a long breath and slammed her mind shut to the horribly enticing sights and smells. Even as she did, the nightmare that had become the core of her existence clawed against her all-too-fragile self-control as it fought for release.

Focus on the job, Mac. Just focus on the job.

Finally, satisfied she wouldn’t lose control – yet – she nodded once. It was time to get to work.

***

You can find a snippet from Nocturnal Rebellion here.

27 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

27 responses to “Ack!

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Doyle got tired of Sherlock Holmes and tried to kill him.

    While the Holmes fans “made” Doyle bring him back, some say that Holmes wasn’t the same after his apparent death. 😉

  2. Running out of Problems is a thing. The characters are getting very powerful and very, very smart, so I’m having difficulty finding something they can’t just stare down.

    Maybe a tighter focus on some of the human characters. Mr. Cook the Ex-policeman goes on vacation, sees something that Just Ain’t Right…

    Oh oh…

    • Hahahahaha. You invoked the muse. You should know better than that. VBEG

      • I’m blaming you, Amanda. It’s definitely your fault. 😡

        Fricking characters, running around looking for trouble…

        No shit, there they were, on vacation in Amsterdam. Wandering past the picturesque houses by the canal on a sunny afternoon, just former OPP detective Robert Cook and his six-foot-eight robot girlfriend. Robert sees an abandoned high-heeled shoe, barely showing in the mouth of a narrow alleyway. Pokes his head around the corner to see an abandoned foot, farther up the alley.

        Turns to his girlfriend and angrily asks her, “Why does this always happen to us?!”

        Well, that’s my summer all laid out.

    • Mike Houst

      Antagonist inflation?

  3. paladin3001

    Muses aren’t high. They are sadists though. Pardon me, I have to get back to something. She just showed up and is giving me that “eye” again…..Thankfully she’s dressed more demurely this time.

    • Oh no. Dressed more demurely? Don’t you know that is just your muse trying to lull you into a false sense of security. The moment you relax, she’s going to pull out the whip and, while cackling madly, drive you to write something you not only didn’t know existed in the back of your mind but that your readers will be sure you wrote while high.

    • Mary

      Sometimes they get tempted, though. Recently read a work of literary criticism of superheroine in which the author says of a superheroine that she thinks that nice girls don’t do what she did to manly men — to which I, and the Muse, retorted that was true because no one short of a sociopath does that to anyone intentionally, and even accidentally is freakish.

      And off starts the novel, in which a villainess will use the nice girl line on our heroine.

  4. I recently decided to end two series. Each has two or three more books already written BUT the arcs have reached good stopping places. And sales for each series are dropping with each new release, suggesting that readers have had enough and that the book quality has slipped. Time to leave before I start seeing reviews like “If you enjoyed the series, don’t read this. This isn’t the story I liked so much” and so on [*coughNewJediOrdercough*]

    • Yep, that’s how I came to a decision about the one series that is already finished and with Sword of the Gods, which has a very finite story arc. I’d rather stop a series and leave the readers wishing there was more than to keep writing until they’re bored or, worse, hate the characters they once loved.

  5. Zsuzsa

    From a reader’s perspective, I would say that the series should end when the plot of each book becomes an afterthought. I’ve found that when a series starts dying, the books become less like a novel and more like a Christmas card from the characters. “So Ann is opening a new antique shop, Bob’s daughter is finally marrying Chris’s son–everyone knew that would happen eventually, Dave is coming back to town after a stint in the Marines, Eva is getting a new cat, and–oh, yeah right, this is a mystery series, so…um, they found a dead body. Right downtown on the library steps. Very mysterious. Now let’s get back to talking about Eva’s cat…”

  6. Running out of problems should never be a problem for your protagonist; assuming your protagonist is human, or any life form for that matter. It might be a problem for the author to come up with new, different problems for their character; well, not really. After all, we should all be familiar with the concept of same problem, different day. It’s just that stories about fixing the problem of the Viking are invading for the nth time get a bit old and stale, and usually don’t sell well.

    Makes you wonder how Weber is going to deal with Honorverse characters reaching multi-hundred year lifespans? Or when you write stories about various undead that have been around lifetimes. What are they doing all that time? and how do the stories come out? Something like Cloud Atlas?

    • paladin3001

      Something like Cloud Atlas?
      ACK! Had the misfortune of watching that rambling piece of work at a friends place. I heard the book wasn’t much better. One of many questions that came to mind (not just what was the overall point), was how in the hell did it get made into a movie?

      • Zsuzsa

        “How in the hell did it get made into a movie?”

        Two words: the Wachowskis.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        The author had the right politics, and the Wachowskis hadn’t totally wasted all their goodwill from the Matrix trilogy yet.

        • “…the Wachowskis hadn’t totally wasted all their goodwill from the Matrix trilogy yet.”

          They have now. Have you seen Sense8? I fast-forwarded anywhere between a quarter and a third of each episode. After skipping all the outright SJW stuff, and the pr0n, of course, it was only tedious and preachy.

          The Wachowskis seem to have descended into a very weird and probably painful place in life.

      • I haven’t read that one, but I did read Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, which I believe has a similar premise (certain characters reincarnated in different relationships throughout a multi-hundred year arc.) Of course, he made it as an alternate history, where the Black Death was 90% fatal in Europe instead of 30-40%, which enabled him to play with the war between Islam and the East instead of having the Christianity juggernaut.

        It’s a good book, if you like his style. (My husband is a huge fan; for me, it’s only when I’m in the mood for huge dense science fiction, which hasn’t happened a lot since having kids.)

  7. Bill

    Dagger was nice. I need a big Mac now.

  8. Mary

    Well, that’s one advantage to having stories like oysters — they each need their own shell — there’s no question where the story ends. It’s over at the end.

    There’s one three-part story, each with a different heroine, and one possible seven-part story, but those are still works in progress. And one story that I thought was three parts firmly informed me it was not able to survive being segmented; three movements, but not three stories (and it, too, is still in progress.)