I did a shocking thing this last weekend, I said goodbye to an entire series. I started the idea for my Seattle set "Angelo's Hearth" series when my wife gave me a 2005 calendar of the lighthouses of Puget Sound. I still have it, too! (But since no one waves goodbye to lighthouses, I gave you the original Titanic departure photo instead. Uh, okay, perhaps not the best way to say goodbye to a series, but let's just not go there. Okay?)
Over that year, we set out to have a series of dates, going to visit each lighthouse in the calendar in turn. As we pursued our quest all over Puget Sound, from remote capes to cozy islands to Seattle beaches, we began discussing characters. Two people, each gifted with a calendar, going to visit them in turn on the first of each month.
The problem with the early draft and synopsis was that the heroine kept having friends (I know, very rude of her). I kept trying to shoo them aside until I realized I wasn't dealing with a single novel, but rather with a series. Three girlfriends from college, now a decade into their careers, each questing to find their own success and their own heart. Once I accepted that I was working on a trilogy, things went much faster and in 2011 Where Dreams Are Born saw the light of day.
Where Dreams Reside (book #2) was also a reluctant story. It's real problem was that my "Night Stalkers" series was born. That series began taking flight when Sourcebooks picked it up and the first two were named Booklist "Top 10 Romance of 2012" and NPR "Top 5 Romance of 2012." Let's just say that poor Jo and Angelo spent a long time begging for their book, which they finally received in early 2013 when Where Dreams Reside was released.
I thought my trilogy was well under control with the writing of that book. The only problem was that Angelo's mother interfered. When Maria Amelia Avico Parrano came on the scene, as any fine-looking Italian single-mom will, and insisted on her own book, well, I was a bit shocked.
But, like my wife and I, Maria has a real soft spot for Christmas and friends around a dinner table. Because she was such a great personality, I had to give her a short novel for Christmas of 2013, Maria's Chirstmas Table.
I had just one more novel to go, or so I thought. The third college friend, Perrin, had grown through three other books to prove herself to be the heroine of the group. She's what brought them together and held them there. She had a dark past and an insightful brilliance, both of which she kept well hidden behind an outrageous shield of razzle-dazzle.
But when she is asked to design costumes for a new opera, the stage manager and his two children walk past every barrier and shield she has as if they weren't there. It was such a joy to write her book, the just released Where Dreams Unfold.
You may notice a trend here. I loved all four sets of these characters. Finishing each story was both a joyous and a painful event. To discover their stories and find my way to a Happy Ever After for them is a long labor of exploration and and sheer fun.
Why is there always a but?
There was one more character lurking around. Melanie, a one-name supermodel, had been the former lover of book #1 hero. Fine. I thought that was all she had to say. Then she unexpectedly became the confidant of the book #2 heroine. With a shared passion for fashion (rhyme wholly unintended) as well as her own dark past, she and Perrin (book #4) always understood each other. Melanie is the anchor that Perrin's career needs. But what about Melanie's story?
Huh?! She was never supposed to have her own story! She insisted that she did.
So, there I sat last fall, with Perrin's book and the series essentially done, but I learned I had one more story to discover and tell. (I assure you discover is the right word. I didn't know her story until I told it.) Melanie was more tenacious and vibrant than I had thought. She was to be granted a short novel, such as the one Maria had been content to receive. But no! She stamped her heel, did one of those strutting fashion walks to get right up in my face and insisted she had a whole story to tell and a series to finish.
Truth be told, I've always been a little in awe of strong women (and perhaps a little bit daunted as well)--my wife and kid being two prime examples. So, Melanie's insistence turned into a dual release this week of Perrin's book and hers, where Melanie falls in love with a novelist, Where Dreams Are Written. (Now where did I get that idea? Honestly, my writer side somehow didn't see the parallels or wishful thinking or whatever it was, until the book was done. And Melanie's a little scary to me, because it turns out she really is as amazing as she looks. Who knew?)
So, now it is time to say goodbye to a series and I find that as the author, I am deeply saddened. Now the only place I will be revisiting them is on the printed (or electronic) page. Yet I am also thankful and filled with joy. Over the last several years I have been "forced" to visit lighthouses, cook and eat a lot of Italian food, taste wines, and study fashion (though I didn't quite get into designing and sewing clothes, I do quilt). It also gave me a chance to revisit favorite haunts from the heart of Pike Place Market to backstage (even in the ceiling) of the McCaw Opera House. I have also journeyed with five amazing couples as they discovered what inside themselves brings them true joy.
The "Angelo's Hearth" series is both a journey of joy and an homage to a city (Seattle) and a place (Pike Place Market) that have been such a major part of my life. So, I wave bon voyage and wish to send a thank you to my wonderful cast of characters who joined me on this journey.
[Hint for readers: E-book of #1 Where Dreams Are Born is now free or $0.99 at fine vendors everywhere. (The $0.99 may be free soon as those vendors get with the program. Kobo and iTunes already have it for free.)]
What's replacing this series now that it's done? Ah, well...stay tuned for that. A new romantic suspense series "Firehawks" debuts with Pure Heat on May 6th (already named a Top 10 Romance of Spring 2014 by Publishers Weekly). It is the story of heli-aviation wildland firefighters finding heat and love in the sky. And after that... :)