I just finished Jenna Bennett’s latest mystery, Collateral Damage:  A Savannah Martin Mystery.  I love this series.  It started out as equal parts romance, equal parts mystery, but it’s evolved into a strong family and marriage.  I was curious how the author would handle having Savannah solve crimes and care for a baby, but it works.  Admittedly, I had one fussy baby who cried more than she cooed and one easy-going baby, but even then, I don’t know anyone whose baby is as good as Savannah’s.  Still, it works.

I particularly liked this book because it felt like Rafe and Savannah were a married team, with both of them showing their strengths and supporting each other.  For a long time, they loved each other but they each did their own thing.  Now, they work together.  The thing that keeps surprising me is that this is the NINETEENTH book, and I still look forward to the next one.  The stories haven’t grown stale because the characters keep growing–all of them.  Savannah’s mother, who was a spoiled southern belle at the beginning of the series, has changed a lot book by book.

I’m turning in my 6th Jazzi Zanders mystery this weekend, and I’ve worried about keeping each book fresh, not falling into a pattern, a rut, but Jenna Bennett proves it’s possible.  I think COLLATERAL DAMAGE is one of her best.  I’ve followed some authors for a long time, and some of my favorites hit a point where their books sagged.  It felt like they were just tired of them.  And I worried that that might be a common pitfall, something that was hard to avoid.  Eventually, they pulled out of it, and their books flexed their muscles again.  But so far, for me, that hasn’t happened with this series.  And I’m glad.  It gives me hope.

Writing: Same, but Different

I’ve started to write my fifth Mill Pond romance.  I still like the town.  I still like the people.  I enjoy having characters from previous books mingle with new characters for a new story.  My worry–keeping each story fresh and unique.  Catherine Bybee manged it in her Weekday Bride series.  Seven different romances, one for each day of the week.  Seven stories that have a similar premise, but a unique take on it each time.  My writer friend, writing as Julia Donner for her Regency romances, has done it with her Friendship series. Her eighth novel goes live on June 18, and I’ve already pre-ordered it.   I love her work.  Each one has a different feel, even though they all have healthy doses of her sly humor.  As a matter of fact, I think her writing keeps getting better and better, the longer the series goes.  Something I’d like to achieve.

(If you’re interested in Regencies, here’s the link for her latest: https://www.amazon.com/Barbarian-His-Lady-Friendship-Book-ebook/dp/B01GIFX2DM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1465673622&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Barbarian…++julia+donner)

A long time ago, I wrote a bundle of novellas to experiment with writing romance.  That’s how I ease myself into writing something new.  I try working on shorter pieces before I commit to something longer.   I liked Emerald Hills, got good feedback on each one of them (which I lost when I combined them into a bundle–didn’t think about that:), but one reviewer mentioned that she’d have liked more variety in the stories, that they felt too similar to her.  Now, I know that a writer can’t please everyone, but I wrote these as a learning curve, so her opinion stuck with me.  If I ever wrote a romance series, I told myself to vary things up–have one with some humor, another that was a little more serious, throw in some different types of characters, and mix up the plots and themes a little.  I think–at least, I hope–that I’ve achieved that.

For my Mill Pond romances, in book 1, I tried for a heavy dose of humor.  For Brody and Harmony, in book 2, I tried to create two people who’d keep butting heads.  And in the book I’m working on now, I wanted to throw in a few serious themes, but lighten them up with Miriam–a character with more snark than I’ll ever have.

When I read a series, I look forward to returning to the same setting, the same characters.  I’m reading Patricia Briggs’s Fire Touched right now, and I’m enjoying how Mercy and Adam interact as a couple, how Warren smooths things over, and how Ben has such a potty mouth.  It’s a world I want to visit and linger in for a while.  That’s the joy of a series, returning to something familiar that I’ve missed.  But each story has to be different enough to make me want to return again for new experiences.  Everything’s about balance–keeping the old and introducing the new–a happy blend.


My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

Writing: How did March get here already?

Last year, I set big goals for myself for my writing. I was going to write the third novel in my Fallen Angel series. Cross that off. I was going to write a new Babet and Prosper novella. Done. I was going to start putting short-short stories on my webpage. Check. And I was going to finish a third novel for Wolf’s Bane and maybe Empty Altars. I’ve just finished the first draft of the Wolf’s Bane novel–admittedly late, but hey!–somewhere in there, my agent asked me to try to write a romance. First, I don’t read romance. I don’t know the rhythms and intricacies of the genre. So that’s what I did first. I really believe you can’t write something you don’t read. And I discovered that I love Catherine Bybee. I read her, and ideas started to perk. I wrote the book, sent it off, my agent–Lauren Abramo at Dystel & Goderich–loved it, and we’re still doing the rewrite dance.

This year, I didn’t set goals for myself, because I don’t know what to expect. My agent might ask for another romance. I hate being rushed, so I’m going to start a second one soon. Once my trusted critique partners go through Magicks Unleashed (the 3rd Wolf’s Bane), I’ll polish that and put it online. And then? I’m not sure. But for a writer with no agenda, I still feel behind. How can that happen? I’ve decided it just goes with the territory. I’m very aware that I haven’t written a third Empty Altars novel and don’t know when I will. I used to think that if I got to three books in a series, I could pat myself on the back for being a good girl. But then trilogies stretched to longer series, and some writers hit their stride on their fourth or fifth book. Yikes! That means that three books is just cutting your teeth. Anyway, I have lots of writing to go. This year, I just don’t have a plan. And for right now, that’s okay.

BTW, since I’m going to start rewrites soon, Sue Bahr did a great blog post on it. I found it really helpful. https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/five-ways-to-fall-in-love-with-editing/

Also, since I’m starting to miss Tyr and Diana in Empty Altars, I decided to treat myself by writing a short story about them for my webpage. I’m going to post one part every week for the month of March.

And if you’re ever interested in catching my author’s facebook page, it’s: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

If you have goals this year, hope you meet them. If you don’t, happy writing anyway!

Writing: Stretch a little

Too many cookies. Too much rich food. But one wonderful Christmas. My daughter and son-in-law from Florida came up to stay with us from Monday to Sunday, and my grandson’s staying with us over college break. What a bounty of good times! So no writing got done, and I don’t care. But I did a little marketing for my latest book release, and hopefully, I found some new readers. I had good luck with kboards, if anyone’s thinking of trying it. I got my newsletter up and running, and hopefully, I’ll find MORE readers with that. Sometimes I want to kick myself that I haven’t made more progress, but looking back (it’s that time of year) over the last 2 1/2 years since I put up my first e-books, I realize that I’ve learned a lot. And I want to keep learning.

I’ve talked a few times about marketing–how I’d have been ahead if I wrote a series and posted a new book every three or four months with the same characters and setting. But I didn’t, because I didn’t have a clue when I first started e-books. And I think that’s made it harder for me to find readers, because if they liked Fallen Angels, then they really didn’t pay much attention when I published Wolf’s Bane with an entirely different set of characters and supernaturals, and they scratched their heads when I published Empty Altars with Greek/Norse myths as the story’s base. On top of that, I wrote a kazillion (okay, probably not, but it felt like it at the time) novellas to post between books. Not my most brilliant move, since each series of novellas was completely separate from the novels I posted–so there STILL wasn’t any set of characters and familiar settings to follow. I shake my head over my lack of marketing brilliance, but you know, when all is said and done, I’m happy. Sometimes, stepping outside of your comfort zone makes you grow as a writer. And the past two years pushed my learning curve harder than I’ve ever been pushed before.

My daughter, Holly–who faithfully reads all of my first drafts–missed the mysteries that I used to write, so she bugged me to come up with something that combined paranormal with a mystery plot. I love odd challenges like that, so I started the Babet/Prosper series–still my “go to” novellas when I want to write for myself, for fun. Mostly because, Babet and Prosper have become “voices” in my head who are pretty darned particular about how I treat them on the pages. They like getting central billing over any clever mystery device I can think of, and I’ve tried for some of my favorites. One Less Warlock–in the first bundle–came to be because I wanted to test myself and see if I could write a clever, locked room mystery. A Different Undead (in the first bundle, too) is a “face in the crowd” mystery–when you see someone walking around who’s supposed to be dead. I’ve had a great time with Babet and Prosper. I have a new one to post early in 2015, and then I’ll offer the first bundle at a special price or maybe for free to try to find more readers for them.

My agent asked me to write a romance this year, something I considered impossible to do. But I wrote one, and I’m happy with it and so is she. I don’t know if it will sell, but I’m glad I tried it. Each new thing I’ve taken a stab at has enriched me as a writer and forced me to grow. I’ve stretched writing muscles I didn’t know I had.

I’ve read a lot online lately about writing quickly for e-books, and I’m not against that. Writers who post a book every other month develop a following faster than writers who take half a year to write a book. I get that. All that I’m saying is that some of my all time favorite authors whom I’ve read for YEARS have let me down this last year–(not in urban fantasy, I might add. I love Ilona Andrews’ and Jeaniene Frost’s new series). But authors I usually buy automatically feel like they’re sick and tired of writing the same, old thing. I know writers need to make money. And I know there’s pressure to produce more and more. But my goal for 2015 is to do my darndest to make each book I write better than the book before it. I hope you stretch your wings, too, and find a way to combine writing and marketing into a happy blend. May 2015 be a good writing year for you!

my webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
my author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writing–End of Year Thoughts

Do you know, when I first started writing aeons ago when cave men used pigments on stone walls, people kept telling me, “If you want to be published, write a good book.” Quality, according to them, was your only concern. If your book was good, someone would buy it. I’ve been on writing panels where I hear writers spout that same wisdom. Do I agree? Bull Pucky!

I’ve met wonderful writers who knock their heads against the Great Wall of Publishing. Why? Publishers are concerned with making money. Can’t blame them. They can’t keep their profits afloat each time a child believes and claps his hands. It worked for Tinker Bell, but businesses have to pay attention to the bottom line. I understand that. I just wish publishers embraced mid-list writers a little more. Everyone’s looking for the “BIG” book these days. Or the latest trend. I used to be perfectly happy buying a lot of mid-list authors.

Mid-list probably still wouldn’t help me sell. I seem to be one of those writers who’s always writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. There are authors who hit the hot trend at its upswing and ride it to success. I’m not one of them. I’m one of the writers who gets notes from editors who say, “love your writing, but can’t buy this. The market’s glutted.”

I’m not trying to pierce anyone’s balloon, but if you write what an editor has too many of and the market’s shrinking, it doesn’t matter if your writing’s topnotch. No one’s going to buy your stuff. That used to be the end of it. You tossed your book in a drawer and gave up on it. These days, you can try your hand at self-publishing. That’s what I did, and I’m happy about it. But…here I go again…if you go that route, you’d better be ready to learn some marketing. Because there are a LOT of books on Amazon or smashwords or Barnes & Noble or wherever it is you decide to try. And if your field was glutted with publishers, it’s going to be even more glutted online. So you have to figure out a way to help readers find you. My stab at marketing? I started this blog, made an author’s Facebook page, made a webpage, and joined twitter. Did it help me find readers? Darned if I know. Did it make my sales go up? Not that I’ve noticed. But I’ve made lots of online friends whom I enjoy and appreciate AND learn from. I still had to turn to some advertising sites, though, to promote my books when they went up…with mixed success.

Another truth, some people are going to dislike or hate whatever you do, and it rankles and hurts at first, but it’s okay. You can’t please everyone. Some writers say your novel is too bland if a few people don’t trash it. But hopefully, eventually more readers will find it who’ll appreciate it.

Things I’ve learned:

1. I should have started with a series. And I should have put up three books in that series in quick succession.
2. Book covers matter. Make yours good! Make them fit your genre, and make each book in a series have the “feel” of the other books in the series.
3. It helps to post things more often than not to remind readers that your characters are doing interesting things that they’ll enjoy. Some writers post novellas between their books just to keep their readers happy. Or they post out-takes from their novels or short snippets from a minor character’s POV. I’ve tried that with my webpage. I’m not sure how successful that’s been, but then, I did everything wrong, so doing a few things right isn’t going to take right away.
4. Marketing is essential. Twitter helps, but I can’t say that I’ve sold a lot of books because I tweet. I have, however, learned a lot from other generous writers on twitter–things that have proven helpful. I love writing my blog, but I’m not sure it’s helped me sell books. Again, though, I’ve met some interesting, wonderful people. My author facebook page is still a mystery to me, but I’m getting more comfortable on it. For the first time ever, I sent out an e-mail newsletter to people who signed up to receive it, and my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if she’d have heard all the cussing involved in setting up my account and campaign on MailChimp. I’m no computer guru, and every time I have to learn something new, it’s a challenge. MailChimp felt more like torture, but I love the results. Too soon to know if it’s effective or not, but it’s my attempt at reaching READERS.
5. Writing a good book might not help you sell your first book or find a publisher or an agent, but it WILL help you sell the second one in the series. Readers know quality when they meet it. So make your book the best it can be.

This isn’t an all-inclusive post. It’s an end-of-the-year look back at what worked and didn’t work for me. I hope 2014 was good to you, and I hope 2015 is even better. Keep writing and good luck!

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
My newsletter: http://eepurl.com/_P_Eb
At twitter: @judypost

Writing: Sprinters and marathons

It’s been a long time since I sat down to write original pages for a book.  I was so far ahead for a while, my agent couldn’t keep up.  So I started writing novellas so that I’d have new things to post online.  Now, things have changed.  I have 5 books online, I’m getting feedback on them, and people are asking, “When will the second or third book be available?”

When I wrote the books, they were sort of an experiment to see which things readers liked most.  I wrote the novellas for short, quick fun.  Maybe not the best idea.  It suddenly occurred to me, I can’t possibly keep all of the series afloat.  It’s time to narrow my ambitions.  With that in mind, I created four gargoyles (one for each corner of a cathedral) in my Ally/Dante series, and when I found the right supernatural creature for the last gargoyle, I considered that series finished.  Next, I wrapped up the Death & Loralei series and thought long and hard about a novella to bring it to a happy, upbeat conclusion.  Two series down, three more to go.

Sigh.  Three more novella series is no easy feat.  And I enjoy writing all of them.  But I know I’m not being realistic.  I currently have three novel series to work on, too.  I’m not a fast writer.  True, I can build up word count faster when I work on novellas.  Not because the words flow more quickly, but because I can see a goal in sight, and I race toward it.  Often, I write more hours a day, push myself harder.  It’s a sprint to the finish, and then I can relax.  Working on a novel is more like a marathon.  I pace myself, think of scenes instead of the whole story, and inch toward the final battle one step at a time.  I don’t write as many hours a day so that my brain actually works when I sit in front of my computer the next morning, and the one after that, and the one…..  You get the idea.

It sort of surprises me that I didn’t think of how I meant to balance everything when I started so many books and novellas.  But I was experimenting.  Did readers like medieval stories with witches and Harpies?  It doesn’t seem like it.  They’re my worst selling stories, but they’re also one of my favorite to write.  Who knew I’d get hooked on Christian and Brina?  And then there’s Emerald Hills, where I finally learned how to write a little bit of romance.  If I pat myself too much on the back about that, one of my romance writer friends will put me in my place:)    It’s easy for me to stay humble.  That’s what my friends and family are for.  And then there’s Babet and Prosper.  My absolute favorites.  I can’t stop writing them.  I like them too much.  And that’s just the novellas.

Aargh.  There are only so many hours a day that my brain will work.  I can only write so much.  So heed my advice.  Think before you write.  How many stories do you have time to make into a series?  People get impatient.  If they like book one, they might buy book two, and if they like that, when will book three come out?

I like balance in my life.  I’m not so fond of juggling.  So think before you write.  Hit your computer keys responsibly.  For your sake and others’.


P.S.  If anyone has any questions or topics they’re interested in, I’d be happy to give them a go.  Just let me know.

Writing a Series

I’ve been told that, for marketing, it’s smart to write a series instead of stand-alone novels.  If people like the characters in your first novel, they’ll want more stories about them.  They’ll want to see them grow and change.  Adding a romance helps.  The protagonist and his/her romantic interest can butt heads for a book or two, get together in the third or fourth, and become a team after that, with the usual complications that come with coupledom.  I have to admit, my favorite mysteries are almost all series.  I loved Nancy Pickard’s Jenny Cain, even though the author finally moved on to someone else.  Elizabeth George has shamed Thomas Lynley, married him, killed his wife, and emotionally beaten him up.  Once in a while, I wonder if she still likes him.  Same with Martha Grimes and Richard Jury.  It must be hard to come up with book after book with the same characters. Maybe sometimes, you’re just irritated with them.  But look at J.D. Robb or Sue Grafton.  Series characters are done all the time, and as readers, we like going into a world we know with characters we like.

My favorite urban fantasy authors write series.  A few of them write more than one.  Maybe that’s a good thing–when you’ve had it up to here with one protagonist, you can switch to a different one.  For urban fantasy, not only do the characters grow in each successive book, with more intense relationships in more complex arrangements, but the world they inhabit becomes more detailed and real too.  With each book, I learn more about Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock and how she and her puma share the same body, but I also learn about vampires and their society, the politics of “others” who dwell in the same city, and the origins of how vampires started.  The paranormal becomes more real the more books the author writes.

When I decided to write my novellas, I kept those things in mind.  I wanted to write at least four stories for each series.  But I wanted to use more than just settings to distinguish them from one another.  I wanted a different focus for each series too.  So, I put a strong detective slant to the Babet/Prosper stories and gave them Agatha Christie-type plots.  For One Less Warlock, I wrote a locked room mystery–with witches. For A Different Undead, I wanted to write about a person who’d died and suddenly appeared on the streets again–but instead of faking his/her death, I wanted to put a magic twist on the tale.  For Magrat’s Dagger, I wanted a stolen, prized relic, like the Maltese Falcon.

I won’t bore you–I hope–with too many details for each series, but I wanted the Loralei and Death series to have more of a poignant feel, while I tried to focus more on light and quirky romance, with a smidgeon of magic, in the Emerald Hills series.  For Dante and Ally, I made an effort to incorporate more mythology into the plots, but I let the medieval castles set the tone for the Christian and Brina stories.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you sit down to write, it doesn’t hurt to have a series in mind.  And settings help define a series, yes, but most have the same tone of voice too.  Is it humorous?  Dark?  Melancholy?  Or adventurous?  And they not only have the same character or characters, they often have a similar, underlying theme or feel.  Minor characters can grow into bigger parts.  So leave yourself some wiggle room.  At the end of your book, which is a big enough feat to accomplish in and of itself, what else could happen to those same characters in that same world?  Because you might have to live with them for a while.