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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saying Goodbye! a series

by M.L. Buchman

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.

Where Dreams Are Born took its time being, well, born. It grew a synopsis in 2006, a draft in 2007 (that I threw out), and a different draft in 2009 (after some other projects).

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... :)


Judith Ashley said...

Thank you for telling the Angelo's Hearth series story, Matt. I'll have to check them out, especially since lighthouses and Pike Place Market are involved.

This past weekend I took a break to rest my right mouse muscles and finally read Daniel's Christmas. I'm not big on suspense/thriller stories but I really enjoyed it. A great blend of technical stuff (but not too much) and story. Your descriptions of the White House, etc. was exceptioinally well done. (I've watched several of the White House Christmas decorating specials).

Margaret Tanner said...

Sounds like a great series. Best of luck with it.



Diana McCollum said...

Matt, I remember you telling us at the one RCRW meeting about the calendar of lighthouses. That was a wonderful idea! Good luck with your new series.

Maggie Lynch said...

Oh, the pain that a writer goes through--visiting lighthouses, drinking wine, eating good Italian food. My heart just aches for your sacrifice. :)

Your description of discovery was joyful. I have a similar problem with my Sweetwater Canyon series. I had planned four books. Fourth one will be done this Fall. But Kat (who began as a teenager and will be 18 and ready for college in the fourth book) is insisting that no only does she get her own book, but she wants to start a new trilogy or more. She has friends to meet in college who will all need a story.

Oy! The time, the time. Congrats on starting and finishing and starting again. Before you know it this series will be just a dream.

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Judith,
Yes, I watched those same Christmas specials (and a lot of other research) in order to decorate my White House in Daniel's Christmas as well as Peter's Christmas. Yes, Angelo's Hearth settings were very near and dear to my heart. Book #1 is 3 years of rebuilding a 50' sailboat. Book #4 is 6 years of working at the opera and so on.

Thanks Margaret!

Yep, Diana. That's the same calendar! Took me a bit, but I finally walked the full journey with that series. Of course, I have 2 other series going and I'm about to launch a 3rd, so I had to get one of them done. :)

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Maggie!
Laughing with you, not at you...honest! My Night Stalkers is now 9 books. It has spun off a series with will probably be at least 5-6 minimum. And it has another series spinning off next April when (just like you) I have a character who insists on having her own rom. sus. series just as soon as she's old enough. Which means I have to write a YA series that I'm wholly unprepared for. :)

Paty Jager said...

Hi Matt, As a perpetual series writer I understand the writing pains for the next book or books, and what character will get their story. I thought I'd finished the Halsey brother series and then readers wanted more and I'm working on a trilogy from that series... But those will be the end of the Halsey brothers. Then it maybe a sister anthology. The readers like series.

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Paty, And not just the readers. I used to have a problem that every short story I wrote was handed back with the note "It's a novel." Now they're handed back with "It's a series." There's something in my brain that really likes the bigger arc, seeing everyone's story. Not George RR Martin, but I do love the on-going world. It just felt nice, sad but nice, to actually finish one. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

Congratulations and much sympathy, Matt!

I love the Firehawks Series name and concept! My husband was a wildland firefighter for one season, but not a smoke jumper. They are worthy heroes!

M. L. Buchman said...

Thanks Sarah. Your husband may enjoy (or laugh at) this book then. The book is actually about the heli-aviation firefighters, not the smokejumpers. (Sometimes back cover copy is just a bit odd...)