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First Monday Mentoring for June – the joy of series for readers and writers

This week a new writer asked me if he should tell the publisher he was submitting to that his book was the first in a series. This is a fair question, as many books come out in series these days and are enormously popular with publishers and readers.
The answer depends on your relationship with the publisher. If you have a track record, even in other areas of writing, the publisher may be open to considering your book as part of a series. More likely, however, they would want to publish the first book as a stand-alone to see how it does before committing to more of the same.
Of course if you indie publish, you can do as you like, although I advise you to write two or three books in the series before self-publishing the first. Just as online streaming of movies and TV shows has led to “binge watching”, many readers prefer to collect an entire set of books before starting on the first. Recently I read two books in a series only to find I didn’t have book #3, although I did have book #4. I jumped on to Amazon and downloaded the next book to my Kindle so I could read the in-between book before continuing to the final one. Impatient? Who me? But I have a lot of company.
The results can be rewarding, with follower numbers growing as more books come out. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series or Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books. Characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, and many others have passionate followings.
If you’re writing series characters or settings, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Each book needs to provide a complete story within the pages, even if you have an over-arching story that all the books will span. This leaves readers satisfied but also keen to read the next book in the series. Readers regard your characters as friends, and your settings as places they can feel at home.
2. Filling in backstory in the second and subsequent books needs to be done with a light hand. Too much back story bores the people who read the first book. Too little annoys readers who’ve just discovered your series.

3. Each book should raise the stakes, while introducing new characters and story elements, to avoid any feeling of repetition.
4. If you use familiar elements such as vampires, royalty, small towns etc. you need to give the books your own unique twist.

 

The best aspect of series writing is being able to fully develop your fictional world. My current Beacons series of sci-fi romances is set in my own South Pacific Kingdom of Carramer, which began as the setting for several series of romantic suspense novels. Although frankly, if I’d known I would set eighteen books in Carramer, I would probably not have outlawed divorce. Over the years, getting characters out of marriages that aren’t working has been an interesting challenge.
When I decided to write the Beacons series, Carramer was a natural choice of setting. I’d always wanted to explore the province of Atai and its population of indigenous people. I saw them as very spiritual, making it easy to place a private space program there and include their natural mysticism in the story.

 

The next novella in the Beacon series, Continuum, is out next Thursday, June 9, published by Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s digital-first imprint. The three books in the series span the role my Beacons and their superpowers play in defending the Earth against a massive alien threat. Having two novellas in between let me explore individual characters and their histories.

This is another advantage series have over single titles – readers get to know your characters more thoroughly than they might in a solo book.

Cover Continuum
However you approach your series, readers should want to find out what happens next in your world. From the outset, it helps to have an idea of the overall story arc, as J K Rowling did with the Harry Potter books. You don’t need to know everything that happens. With the Beacons series, I certainly didn’t. But I did know how the story would play out at the end, rather like setting out on a journey with the destination in mind even if you aren’t sure of the exact route you’ll take.

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Finally, here are five Cs to include in your series:
• Characters – real people your readers come to care about and want to spend time with.
• Continuity – also known as Consistency – if you introduce elements in one book, make sure they are consistent with what happens in the next or previous books. Keep a series “bible” of physical descriptions, back story and other elements in file card form, as charts or on a program such as Scrivener, for quick reference as the series progresses.
• Complications aka Conflicts – even characters with superpowers, like my beacons, must have failings and difficulties to overcome, ideally in each book, the challenges growing to almost unbearable level by series end.
• Change – also known as Character Development. Your story people should grow and change as they overcome the obstacles in front of them.
• Completion – unless you want to keep the series going – and readers will love you if you do – you should tie up any loose ends by the final book. It’s easy to lose track of an individual and leave their story hanging, but trust me, you’ll hear about it from readers. In my romantic suspense series, Code of the Outback, I dealt with the stories of a woman and her two foster brothers. In the final book I mentioned a third brother but didn’t give him his own story. I was still getting emails about him years after the series ended, until I finally wrote his story in a novella, so readers could stop worrying about him.
How do you like to read series books? Do you have favourites? As a writer, do you have a series on the drawing board? This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,
Valerie
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT JUNE 9Beacon Homeworld coming June 30
via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)
Google Play (All devices except Kindle)
iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)
Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Share with me the joy of having written. For one day only – join in my Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest and be the first to read a brand new related novella

In this blog I write a lot about the struggles and challenges of being a writer. Today I want to celebrate the best part – having written.

There’s no doubt this is when writing really rocks. Your story world, your characters, and all the events once trapped in your head are alive on the page for readers to enjoy.

Then your publisher says the magic words, “We love the book, we want to publish it.”

YES!!!!!!!!!!!

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It happened this week with my new science fiction romance – Earthbound, the sequel to Birthright, books I and II in my Beacons series, published by Corvallis Press, USA.

To celebrate, I’m holding a Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest, so you can get up to speed on the Beacons and their adventures, before we start counting down to the sequel. The Buyfest takes place over 24 hours only. To take part, simply go to the Birthright page on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Birthright-Valerie-Parv-ebook/dp/B00A0C07BK/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and purchase the book. You don’t even need a Kindle. Amazon has a nifty free app that lets you read any ebook on your computer or tablet.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
.
If you email me Amazon’s Order Summary Code for your purchase within the next 24 hours, you could win one of seven pdfs of my brand new Beacons novella, Starfound, continuing the story begun in Birthright. You’ll be one of the first people in the world to read this story. The prize is only open to those who buy Birthright and email parv@iinet.net.au with Birthright in the subject line, within the next 24 hours.

Why I love this series, and I hope you will, too

In Birthright I combine the emotional appeal of romance with the wonder of science fiction which has fascinated me for years. Set in my invented country of Carramer, the story deals with a space shuttle mission about to be launched from the island kingdom – a mission that hides a secret agenda involving a threat to the entire world. While writing the book, I came to love my alien characters, Garrett, Elaine and Adam so much that the novella, Starfound, and sequel, Earthbound continue their story, with the final chapter, Homeworld, now in the works. It’s proving to be quite a ride.

What readers are saying about Birthright

“…a memorable read. Very well written and one for the keepers shelf.” Desere Steenberg

“My sensors were in overload, I loved it! I couldn’t put Birthright down.” TashNZ

“Note the 5 stars. I do not give them lightly. A book really has to be a winner for me to rate it this high!” Kathi Harris

“Gripping futuristic tale with an unstoppable plot and fantastic, unique, gripping characters. For anyone who grew up wanting to be an astronaut (like I did!), you will adore this book. I cannot WAIT for the sequels to come out. I’ll be preordering every single one!” Iopele

Buy, enjoy, email. Three easy steps. Way easier than writing the books. But not half as much fun as having written.

Feel free to leave a comment in the space below. If you want your comment to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. And welcome aboard.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

First Monday mentoring for 2013 – focus your writing life

Happy New Year.

Is this the year you finish your manuscript, self-publish new work, try a new genre? Whatever your hopes and dreams, this is a great time to bring them into focus.

First Monday Mentoring is our water cooler. Join me here on the first Monday of each month to talk about your plans, ideas and aspirations. Some talented writers and teachers visit this blog. Whatever your question about craft, writing life or getting published, you can ask it here.

To get us off and running, here are some ways to bring your plans into focus and reach your goals.

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

1. Know what you want to achieve.

Before setting off on a trip it helps to have at least some idea of where you want to end up. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, your “destination” may be to enter a contest and get feedback from the judges, or have a set amount of work written for a critique group or online support group every time you meet. If you’re more experienced, your goal may be to find an agent. Researching which agents work in the areas where you want to be published is a good start. Next would be writing or emailing them, or arranging to pitch an idea to them at a conference. Some writers may want to check out epublishing your own book or backlist. Again, what time frame would get you there?

2. Set definite steps to reach your goal

If you want to finish a novel or novella this year, how many words do you need to write? Breaking the total up into a weekly or daily word target will help you stay focussed and reach your goal in your preferred time frame. Remember to build in some time for family emergencies, illness and life getting in the way. If you want to meet a certain agent, you’ll need to plan ahead, find out any conferences where they may take pitches, and sign up. Or send out a certain number of emails each week until you get a positive response. Submitting work to publishers or teaching yourself epublishing can be handled in the same way.

3. Celebrate your milestones

When you get a positive response, even if it’s a “no” for now, celebrate. You kept your deal with yourself, sent out the emails, wrote the daily or weekly word count. Break out the champagne, chocolate or celebration of choice, see a movie, meet friends and share the joy. In the writing game, progress can be dauntingly slow.  Don’t wait till the book is in the ereader or on the shelf to celebrate your achievements. By then, readers will be looking for your next work. Take time now to enjoy the journey.

Can you think of any other steps to get you closer to your goals this year? Do you have questions you’d like answered? This is the place. I’ll be over by the water cooler ready and willing to help.

If you’re not sure what you’d like to achieve this year, why not read in your choice of genre and learn as you go, studying how the books are written, who is publishing them, and how you can make yours special within the demands of that genre.

Hint: if romantic suspense with a hint of science fiction appeals, you can read my latest book, Birthright (Corvallis Press) on Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook. Post a review anywhere on line before the end of January and share the link here, to be in the running for a $50 Amazon gift voucher judged by my agent, Linda Tate. The winning review will be reposted here.

Let’s make 2013 a year to remember.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Tips for writing a good book review, and a contest

For something new, I’m chatting with my lovely agent, Linda Tate (pictured below), about my near-future romantic suspense novel,  Birthright, which has already received some great reviews. To celebrate, I’m off on a blog tour starting January 8. I’ll tweet and Facebook the stops. Feel free to visit and comment to win a download of the book and a personal authorgraph.

LINDA: to help things along I’m launching a contest for the best review of Birthright posted anywhere online during January.

Linda at Valerie launch

VALERIE: a contest means prizes, right? I’m thinking a date with Hugh Jackman.

LINDA: Me too, but being practical, I’m thinking $50 Amazon gift card from your publisher, Corvallis Press, and posting the winning review here for all to enjoy.

VALERIE: No Hugh, sigh. But this is a challenge. What do you think makes a good book review?

LINDA: I like to see the book details and cover photo up front, giving the reader a feel for the book without having to hunt for the information.

VALERIE: then show us what the book is about, without retelling the story or giving too much away. A review isn’t a plot summary.

LINDA: yes, for example I like the way fantasy author, Erica Hayes, calls Birthright a “romance with aliens and evil astronauts”, covering the key elements in a clever way. To grab me, a reviewer also needs to write about what they liked and didn’t like about the book, and why.

VALERIE: the blurb gives an overview of the story, but avoid spoilers. Using brief quotes is one way to give readers a taste of the author’s style.

LINDA: I like reviewers who write in their own style, as if talking to a friend. The reviewer’s excitement, or otherwise, should come through, a bit like when I read a new manuscript.

VALERIE: I like to know how well the reviewer thinks the author built the book’s world/setting. And did they relate to the characters enough to care about them.

LINDA: when I first read Birthright, I felt you brought characters such as Adam to life. He’s gorgeous and brilliant, but a Neanderthal around women. Having strengths and weaknesses makes him very real.

VALERIE: he’s one of my favourites, but then all the characters are. I like reviews that comment on the theme, what the book is really about, and whether it kept you reading to the end.

LINDA: and it helps to give the book a rating, whether as a ‘keeper’, with stars, coffee cups or whatever the site awards.

VALERIE: not every review has to cover every point, as long as they have the general idea.

LINDA: so reviewers, here’s your challenge – review Birthright and post the link (not the whole review) in the comment space below, or on Valerie’s timeline on http://www.facebook.com/valerieparv to win the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Good luck.

VALERIE: See you on the blog tour. Happy holidays and happy reading!

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http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Welcome to a writer’s virtual world

Yesterday I had an extraordinary experience. My new romantic suspense novel, Birthright, was published by Corvallis Press and went “live” on Amazon for Kindle with more formats and print to come. Having a new book out isn’t that unusual, but having it published “digital first” is. Even more unusual for me was having a virtual launch on Facebook.

The event took place on my Pacific Island kingdom of Carramer, poolside under a vast atrium. The buffet groaned with tropical goodies and a brand new cocktail, the Carramer Sunrise, was a major hit.

My agent, Linda Tate of The Tate Gallery, helped with the organisation – thanks Linda! Lots of friends stopped in and posted messages. David Tennant – the best ever Doctor Who IMO – did the launch honours and David Barrowman from Torchwood, sang for us. Many celebrities wished the book well.

Award-winning author, Anita Bell, cleverly invited TV’s Dr. House to celebrate my book.

It  felt as if we were truly there. Two hours of fun, mayhem, eating, drinking, just like every other great party we’ve all attended. I even got to show off the designer dress I chose for the occasion.

FYI Here’s the recipe for Carramer Sunrise:

5oz champagne, 1/3 oz. Blue Curacao, 1/6oz Grenadine, 1/3oz blueberry liqueur, fresh blueberries.

Pour Curacao, liqueur and Grenadine over blueberries in a tall glass. Add champagne and stir well. Cheers!

Yet why am I surprised if the launch felt real? Isn’t that what writers do all the time? We put words on a page, black and white bird scratchings that readers translate in their minds into worlds often more real than our own. Hogwarts, Starfleet, Narnia, they’re all real places to us. I’ve set 13 books in Carramer, always wanted to explore the indigenous culture which is mystical and beautiful. In Birthright, I got that chance, adding in what Erica Hayes calls “aliens and evil astronauts” to the mix.

Last week scientists speculated that we live in a virtual universe on somebody’s hard drive. Does it matter? The kingdom of Carramer is real to me, and the launch certainly felt real. As Mr. Spock, another undoubtedly “real” alien, said once, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference.” Sheldon Cooper would probably agree, in less comprehensible terms.

David Tennant kindly did the launch honours.

Is there a fictional world that’s more real to you than our own? Love to hear your thoughts.

And enjoy Birthright, too.

Valerie

Birthright, a near-future romantic suspense,

available now on Amazon http://amzn.to/WDRPdW

Website: http://www.valerieparv.com

Twitter: @valerieparv and Facebook
www.facebook.com/valerieparv

Writing short stories for Living magazine, out now http://www.livingmagazine.com.au/

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