05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A New Form of Storytelling (for me)

by M. L. Buchman

After 50+ novels and a near equal number of short stories, I would have thought that I'd at least bumped my nose into most of the forms of storytelling that I'd be using for a long time to come.

  • Romance, SF, Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery, even a failed stab or two at YA, etc. These all have distinct voices and techniques and it's been fun. Obviously I especially love romance (35+ novels worth), but I certainly enjoyed them all.
  • Third person, first person, (a second person that went straight into the shredder), even a shot at omniscient (that my first reader sent straight to the shredder).
  • Almost every length from 500 words to 170,000. (I recently checked and the only 10k blocks I've missed are 120-160,000 words.
  • Stand-alone, duologies, series, even complexly interconnected series.
  • Anthologies where the challenge is to match the editor's theme.
  • Co-author? Never really drew me. I like owning all aspects of my story.
  • Shared world co-promotions...WHOOPS!
That last was a new one for me that I'd never given any thought to. And here's what I learned tackling this project.

How it started
This is all Cristin Harber's fault. She writes wonderful military romantic suspense in her Team Titan world. Three months ago, she was just another name that I didn't pay much attention to as it went by. Oddly, I read very little military romantic suspense, because I don't want those other author's voices in my head when I'm writing.

Then someone introduced us at a conference. It rates as one of the most fun conference conversations I've ever had, and there have been some doozies. We talked character, story, marketing, series, business, more marketing, more... And we spent most of the time laughing and saying, "I know!" (We missed a whole block of sessions and didn't care.)

At the end she said, "We should do something together." I suggested some conventional ideas, short story swaps on each other's websites, etc. She said, "Actually, how would you like write a novel for my 2017 Titan World project?" Sick of the strictures of Amazon's Kindle Worlds, she decided to do the same thing, but on her own. She had nine other authors lined up, I was to be the last and the tenth.

On the (really long) flight home from Florida to Oregon, I read two of her novels. In the next few days I read two more, then I (foolishly) said, "Sure. When?" Her answer of going live in 3 months was a bit of a shocker, but I got the novel conceived and written and it launched yesterday! 

But that isn't the interesting part. Nor the contract (I actually like contracts, a hangover from nearly a decade as a paralegal and legal project manager) that had to carefully protect each of our intellectual property rights against all foreseeable eventualities.

The really intriguing part for me was that it was a collaboration project. Not just a tale in a collection, but rather a world cross-over. The story was to really cross over into her Titan World. Take one or more of her characters and include them in a romance. Ten authors (plus a new title from Cristin) all sat down to write something. They took children of Titan and grew them up and gave them love stories. They wrote side adventures for minor characters. There were as many different approaches as there were characters.

Matt's adventure
I decided to take her ultra-macho, ultra-irascible team leader, along with his rockin' leather-clad lady, and introduce them to my Night Stalkers. I had read his love story, Westin's Chase, but I'd never written anything like it.

Being true to her characters wasn't the issue.

Matching her characters' voices, mannerisms, attitudes also wasn't an issue. Cristin writes very memorable characters.

The problem was the characters themselves. Cristin writes (at least compared to mine) very over-the-top folks. Jared growls as much as his bulldog and when he issues orders its at full, former US Ranger volume. His lady Lily, who everyone except him calls Sugar, is an ex-ATF, leather-clad gunsmith. Every word either of them speaks is big, strong, outrageous. Every action is doubly so. And sex? Trebly so!

Enter the Night Stalkers. Alpha strong, sure. But understated. Thoughtful. Quiet. My sex isn't behind the scenes, but neither is it a massive multi-page romp like Jared's and Sugar's.

So, I found my opening...I'm writing along...enter Jared and Sugar.

They blow my characters off the page. They're from a different kind of world and they show it. It was the single hardest part (also the most interesting for me as a writer), learning how to balance their voices. I wanted to stay true to both Cristin's and my own characters and tone, but we are different writers. We have different tones.

I'm thrilled to say that my characters were not overwhelmed by the time I was done and that hers weren't lost. But despite the horrendous deadline, I had to spend an awful lot of writing time just working on that first meeting until they all stood both Night Stalker and Titan Strong.

Then once I had the voices balanced, I still had to write a story in which characters who react and behave differently than mine were integrated into one of my stories.

It was an incredibly challenging project. It was an incredibly fun project. Would I do it again if the opportunity arises? With the right other author? Sure! With Cristin Harber? Absolutely!

You can check out Titan World at  your favorite store:
Amazon    Barnes & Noble    iBooks    Kobo

M. L. Buchman has over 50 novels and 40 short stories in print. Military romantic suspense titles from his Night Stalker, Firehawks, and Delta Force series have been named Booklist “Top 10 Romance of the Year”: 2012, 2015, & 2016. His Delta Force series opener, Target Engaged, was a 2016 Romance Writers of America RITA finalist. 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, and designed and built two houses. Somewhere along the way he also 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 a free 4-novel starter e-library by subscribing to his newsletter at:


Sarah Raplee said...

Wow, Matt! You really took on a challenge! What an AWESOME project! You definitely had some big challenges, but it sounds like you had a lot of fun, too. And it sounds like a great series (Me, the Reader, is salivating.)

Maggie Lynch said...

Thank you for both your honest analysis of the challenges and your description of how hard you worked to make both worlds strong in a single volume. I hope it brings you both a lot of cross-over readers.

I was invited to participate in a friend's Kindle World. We started our careers together as critique partners and have always enjoyed each other's writing and books. However, we've never been similar writers and especially in the world she's created. Her world is one of paranormal folks--vampires, were's, witches--but written on the light side with humor and a bit of a romance romp. My world's tend to be darker, more serious problem-solving and not much humor. Not to mention I hadn't even considered writing a vampire, were, witch, or other such characters.

As much as I loved the idea of being in her world and gaining some of her fans, I thought it was so different from mine that it would be a one-off for me and time I couldn't afford.

Now that you've described your successful project, I would love to look at those kind of opportunities where the genre is similar. Do keep us posted on how the release goes for both of you. It also intrigues me that this world-sharing is without Amazon's coordination. That, in itself, is intriguing.

Barb said...

Awesome project with an awesome author. Will be reading

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Maggie,
That's an incredibly important point. Writing something out of your own "normal" space and being in her project might gain you fans...BUT, they will be fans from outside your "normal" space and therefore will actually be disappointed in you going forward. Cristin and my world's were very close fits and still the differences were astonishing. And the challenges definitely lay in places I hadn't expected. In addition to little craziness like Cristin's overwhelming character voices, my 30-40k novella ran to 70k words against a hard deadline (I was NOT amused by that.)

Would I do another project with her? Sure. Did I learn to keep close within my wheelhouse? Have to judge that against my next co-project:
"Big Sky Ever After: A Montana Romance Duet" with historical author Grace Burrowes. We both wanted to write a new contemporary series, and when we discovered they were both landing in Montana, we couldn't resist joining forces.

Writing is such a crazy-fun business! I love it!

Judith Ashley said...

Wow, Matt. This idea is a new one to me also. I love Collaboration - not just the concept but the actual results of an awesome one like the Titans.