07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Series Thinking

by M. L. Buchman

You might think that for a series demon like myself with five active series would find starting the next one to be a simple and straightforward task. Or, better yet, that with five active series, I would have more common sense than to start another. The answers to those are: not so much, and...sigh...not so much.

Other than the fact that I'm a lunatic, there is an answer to this one. Here are the five series I have going:

  • The Night Stalkers - military romantic suspense  about the first women to fly for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (think secret helicopters)
  • Firehawks - romantic suspense about heli-aviation wildland firefighting women and their men (think cool helicopters and forest fires)
  • Delta Force - military romantic suspense about the first women to qualify for Delta Force (think awesomely cool fighting women and men)
  • Dead Chef - foodie thrillers (what if television cooking become a lethal occupation)
  • Deities Anonymous - fantasy (what if the Software That Runs the Universe throws the Armageddon subroutine right in the middle of the Devil's mid-life crisis).
But there's something missing. Two years ago I finished a five-book contemporary romance series (that I just reread big parts of and discovered that I still dearly love it):
  • Angelo's Hearth - contemporary romance set in the culinary and fashion world in Seattle's Pike Place Market

I LOVE writing contemporary romance, but I'd become so involved in romantic suspense that I couldn't find time to get back to it. But I miss the comfortable world of contemporary romance. 

I think that it fills a specific place for Me-the-reader and Me-the-writer is always trying to keep Me-the-reader happy:
  • Romantic suspense and Thrillers are for the "real-life" superheroes that we all wish lived inside of us.
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction are a chance to escape our mundane world and see how the rest of the universe lives
  • But Contemporary Romance is for the person inside of us who lives in the world around us. For me it tells the story that love is really possible for each of us--as we are and who we are.
So, even though I'm overwhelmed by all of the series I'm presently writing, I can't resist the urge to go back to telling contemporary romance stories.

It is rare for my wife and I to go for a drive (or even a walk) and not comment at length on the beauty of the world around us. We live in the scenicly spectacular Oregon Coast. It's not just the ocean. There are fields, mountains, old growth trees, Stellar Jays, eagles, great horned owls, and, oh yeah, there is that ever-changing ocean.

As a writer, I'm always on the outlook for a new and interesting idea. Of course the idea that lies right outside my window couldn't be interesting...or could it? I love the Oregon Coast. My wife had spent much of her younger life here in times before I came along. 

It was only recently that I had the "Duh!" moment of connecting my search for a new contemporary romance series and my love of where I live. 

There is a unique challenge to bringing a series to life rather than just writing a book. A series has many of the same elements as a book, but they're on a grander scale. I can write a book about a town that will make an amusing setting, but to scale it up and create a setting that will be amusing and fun and varied and interesting for a series of three, four, or more books, that's a different challenge. There are things I know about "my town" now while I'm writing the first book that won't appear until the fourth! (As a matter of fact, the launching concept for the series isn't in book one at all, it is the key piece of book #4.) That's how peculiar series can be.

A series, just like a book or even a character, has its own voice, pace, and rhythm. This is good, because it is what connects all of the books together. This is a challenge because once it is set in book one, it is set for the series. (Can you tell that I'm starting a new series and have been working hard on finding its voice?)

Well, no amount of talking about it gets the job done. I'm thrilled to say that after years of thinking about it, months of tinkering with ideas and voice, that I've finally hit it and book one is just being finished and polished.

So, the good news is that my "small town Oregon romance" series will be launching in March! Whoot!

The great news is that there is nothing I enjoy reading as much as a good series and I like to think that this will be a nice addition for others like me.

The amazingly great news if you're a writer in addition to being a reader? Start your own new series and there will be a whole world of fun just waiting for you.

M. L. Buchman has over 40 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and twice Booklist “Top 10 of the Year,” placing two titles on their “Top 101 Romances of the Last 10 Years” list. He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive other cool treats by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mlbuchman.com.


Judith Ashley said...

So glad you are coming back to Contemporary Romance, Matt. I loved your Angelo's Hearth series.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Interesting take on series and why we enjoy certain genres, ML!

Maggie Lynch said...

I hear you on the romantic suspense vs contemporary romance. For me I need to write both. I love your description of the differences: ""real-life" superheroes that we all wish lived inside of us" for romantic suspense versus "the person inside of us who lives in the world around us." That is really insightful.

What's interesting to me about your series-ness (is that a word?) is that most people tend to write a series of 3-5 books and then stop that series. They then write another series of 3-5 books. Whereas you, being a glutton for punishment, keep your series going on and on and...

I know that readers LOVE revisiting a world they already know. But do you also? With 6 ongoing series, does that mean you will be consistently writing 6 books a year?

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi, Sorry I missed these comments back in February when they were made. I was on several frantic deadlines (including assisting at a week-long course) and I sort of lost track of things.

Thanks Judith. I enjoy contemporary, it is a refreshingly different challenge than romantic suspense. A contemporary feels like a purer form. It needs, in a way, to be sustained completely by itself--just the characters themselves. Rom. Sus., I get to lace in dynamic, challenging plots that get right into the character's faces. Fun as well, just very different.

Hi Maggie. Yep! There are some of us long-series crazies out there. Suzanne Brockmann being the one I'm most aware of at the moment because I'm gearing up for our presentation together at National "Plotter vs. Pantser: a big-series face off" which is going to be a blast. She, in many respects, has only one, massive series (with a little dabbling off to the sides). Most people will parse it down into blocks of 3-5, even if it stays in the same world (Roxanne St. Claire's Barefoot series, Terry Brooks' Shanara).

Yes, I LOVE revisiting my worlds, my characters, their on-going lives and loves. And yes, with 6 series running, I'm trying to constantly feed them all. To help, I recently declared that one series is all short (short stories and novellas)--I don't ever expect to write a novel in it. Another series, I'm numbering consecutively (short-med-long doesn't matter, a novel can be #3 and a short story #4) because it lets me keep the flow on that (both as a writer and a marketer).

At times I wish I could make fewer series...but I don't seem to be able to do that. I have 3 more that want to launch in 2017...I'm resisting, but not very well.

M. L. Buchman said...

Oh crap! I just realized this was LAST YEAR'S post. I'm further behind than I thought! grin