Entwined Series

What do you do when two series decide to get friendly with each other?

One of the problems with spending January wrestling alligators instead of writing is that it left my muse free to plot in the shadows… and she has a nasty sense of humor.

A month ago everything was nice and straightforward. I was on the verge of releasing the sixth and last of the Applied Topology series. I had written the first two books of the Dragon Speech series and was well into the third. The Dragon Speech series is also set in a slightly weird Austin; it takes off after the events in A Revolution of Rubies, and Thalia from the Applied Topology series makes some cameo appearances in the first two books, but these books feature a different protagonist and a different type of magic (Dragon speech, of course. With that series title, what did you expect?)

Come February, I thought I was going to pick up and finish the third Dragon Speech book. But noooo. When I wasn’t looking, my muse was busy plotting a seventh Applied Topology book. And just to make matters more complicated, The Ransom (working title)  takes place after the events in the first two Dragon Speech books.

Now I’m really not sure how to present these books. My best beta reader thinks I should treat them all as one series. She says, “As a new reader, how would I ever figure out that I should read Books 1-6 in Applied Topology, then Books 1-2 in Dragon Speech, then Book 7 in Applied Topology, then Book 3 in Dragon Speech?” Which is, okay, what you’d want to do if you’re bent on reading the books in strict chronological order. So she would call The Language of the Dragon Book 7, A Trail of Dragon Scales Book 8, The Ransom Book 9, and Like a Dragon Book 10, all in the Applied Topology series.

But I’m thinking, “If I’ve read Books 1-6 in Applied Topology and am ready for the next installment, I’m likely to be royally ticked off if I pick up something calling itself Book 7 of the series and it turns out to be all about a totally new character who is a linguist, not a mathematician, and who isn’t even aware of the shenanigans around the Center for Applied Topology.”

My best idea so far, and it’s not much of one, is to stick with the original series titles and numbering, but to put a subtitle on the Dragon Speech books indicating that they share the setting of the Applied Topology books.

It would be a better idea if I could think of just what that subtitle ought to be.

Suggestions for that or any other solution would be gratefully received.


  1. I’m assuming that it’s the same world and reading the one won’t “spoil” the other?

    Subtitle to include the word “cross-over” maybe?

  2. My suggestion would be to put a note at the end of Rubies, introducing the Dragon books, and a note at the end of the first dragon book introducing the Topology series (possibly with teaser chapters). As a reader, I’ve run into similar crossovers and they can be fun. I don’t think making them into one series is the best idea, though.

    1. Agreed. The more I look at the books, the more they tell me that they’re just good friends, not part of the same series.

    1. Margaret had to look up Skyrim online. She does not really live in the twenty-first century.

  3. As a reader, I would like to see something along the lines of “A new series in the world of ‘Applied Topology'” on the cover, and in the blurb “between (title) in (series) and (title) in (series)” or “Book 1 of Dragon Speech, Book 7 in (general title of combined series).” That would signal to me that the new series is stand-alone, so that if I were new to your work I wouldn’t feel obligated to look for the first book in the combined series, while telling me as an established reader that I should expect new characters to be the focus.

    If you create a general title for the combined series, it establishes branding for other linked series your muse may inflict 🙂 Of course, that would also mean updating your existing covers/blurbs to include it.

    1. ‘fictional -‘verse’ series seems to be a thing for say, game-spinoffs like Forgotten Realms and DragonLance, but that’s what I read when I was a tween so I don’t have any issues with it. But they don’t seem as common on non-IP based settings/original settings, at least that I’ve seen to date.

      1. Crossover books have been a thing in stf ever since Allan Quatermain met She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. Some have been successful, like She and Allan or Tarzan At the Earth’s Core, and some not so much, like the short story where Jirel of Joiry met Northwest Smith or the Robots and Empire books. I think Moore came to regret her indiscretion; if Asimov did he hid it well and “cried all the way to the bank.” YMMV

    2. Cindy’s idea sounds good. When I did the Powers books, I made a note that they were set in the Cat Among Dragons universe, but are separate from it. The only character that overlaps is Joschka, and even then it is only two pages of the third Powers book. If you don’t know him already, you’ll miss him and not notice. They set up the world of the Cat books, but aren’t really part of that series.

  4. I’m reminded of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, especially the Tarma & Kethry/ Kerowyn books, which start as a storyline of their own, touch on the main Valdemar timeline once or twice, diverge again, and then merge completely with the main Valdemar storyline at the end of By the Sword. Perhaps you could do what she did and call them separate series within a larger “world”.

  5. afterthought: just please be very very careful how you go about crossing and combining the two. Make sure they fit together nicely. One of the worst mistakes Isaac Asimov ever made was trying to graft the Foundation series onto the Lije Bailey/Robot series, when both were originally conceived as separate universes and were not really compatible.

    1. I think they’ll fit okay. The relationship between series was built in from the start; Sienna’s troubles in The Language of the Dragon stem from Thalia’s introducing her to someone she met in A Revolution of Rubies, so Language is a natural sort-of sequel to Revolution.

      There had better not be a third series, though. There’s a limit to how weird Austin can get!

      1. You should be careful with such talk, y’know. A certain evil muse might just decide to prove to you that said limit is a lot further away than you thought it was…

        1. Austin has, and presumably someone thinks needs, the “Keep Austin Weird” thing. Madison (WI) as far as I know does not have such a thing, beyond State Street that is – and that’s quite enough.

        1. Thing is, if Austin gets stranger, it will become more like the Bay area.

          At some point, public health considerations would lead the rest of Texas to ask Oklahoma to collaborate on nuking the place to glass.

  6. The Many Worlds Theory is your friend. Also the Big Bang/Multiverse theory, not to mention time-lines separated by Fifth and Sixth dimensional topology, and so forth. Where there’s a hand, there is HandWavium.

    And speaking of, I may have discovered that one of my early stories was peripherally attached to present series. I’m going to work on that. Maybe a pre-release on Kindle? Better to practice with something small first, maybe.

  7. On TV, the Flash and the Arrow make guest appearances. I think they call it what Synova said–a cross-over. You could have “cross-over” titles, and people will understand.

  8. Lots of writers have multiple series in the same world. ISFDB has a notion of “parent series,” so if you said that “Applied Topology” and “Dragon Speech” both belonged to your “Weird Austin” universe, I think that would work. I think readers are familiar with the concept.

  9. I would suggest Michael Anderle et.al.’s Kutherian universe stories, or his James Brownstone universe stories. Anderle is a damn maniac, a writing dervish, and he must be mentoring a dozen other newish authors at the same time, all writing intertwined stories in each universe. How he and they keep things straight, even with skyping and shared workbooks is absolutely mind boggling.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love his stories. But I wonder when the last time was that he got a full night’s sleep in his home bed.

    1. I’m reading the latest Brownstone books, right now. Given that Alice (daughter) and Shay (wife) also have their own series, reading things in the right order is basically hopeless.

      The Kurtherian books do not overlap quite so tightly so out-of-order is less of an issue.

      Please put the Book X part in the front! Karma Is A Bitch: An Urban Fantasy Action Adventure (The Unbelievable Mr. Brownstone Book 12) get truncated before “Action” on almost everything.

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