First off, I couldn't think of a proper April Fools Day Joke to play on you all, but I'll cogitate. Second, I've got to announce the winners of the weekend prizes but I was at the doctor's yesterday, and I live so far in the boonies (the mountain of Vermont) that it takes me an entire day just to get someone to tell me I need my knee replaced. Ouch!
Today we've got a very special book on sale at Amazon in the US, UK and Au/NZ. ON THIN ICE, one of my very favorites. http://tinyurl.com/oppdfrr
So let me tell you about when good series go bad. Or when good publisher go bad. Or when good numbers go bad. There are always a thousand reasons, and it happens over and over again, much to the frustration of the reading public. The writer is soaring along, writing a series in a world she loves, and suddenly the publisher doesn't want another. They want the writer to change genres, to change names, to change series (that happened to a couple of friends of mine. One did and things turned bad, one didn't and she continued to rule the world). And readers are left wondering what happened to the characters and the stories that had been hinted at, and there's no sense of completeness or resolution. At least with a lot of cancelled tv series they get enough warning to have a satisfying (or unsatisfying) finale. Not so with cancelled book series.
It's happened to me three times. First, with the ICE series, probably the stories closest to my heart. I still don't understand the thinking behind it -- one book had just won a RITA, which admittedly has nothing to do with sales, and the last one hit #21 on the NYT extended list, the highest I'd ever been (one step off from the Golden Top Twenty). And yet I couldn't talk them into another story. I'd left an operative kidnapped in the mountains of a fictional version of Colombia and I had no way to rescue him, and my readers (Barbara Keiler/Judith Arnold referred to them as "a small group of Saffron-robed cultists") were clamoring.
But instead I wrote a serial killer book, when I really don't like serial killers. I wrote the Rohan series, and I wrote the Fallen Angel books, series that I loved, but all the while Finn MacGowan was stuck as a prisoner, waiting for me.
Nowadays you can't change publishers in mid-stream, not unless you're God or Jo Beverley, so no one else was willing to pick up the series. I had no choice. I spent the summer writing it on my own, knowing I'd have no traditional publisher.
It was a scary thing, earlier on in the Indie days. I was by no means a pioneer -- many braver people had done it before me, but I'm not someone who generally needs control over things. I'd much rather have a publisher pay me pots of money and take care of the details. Except no publisher has ever been able to get it right -- not necessarily their fault. It can just as easily be a matter of timing. So far I haven't had the right book at the right time - the closest I came was BLACK ICE, the first of the ICE series.
So I wrote ON THIN ICE in a white heat, loving it. Fortunately I've written enough, the story was clear enough that I didn't need an editor (I truly didn't have the money for one). Everything was tight and fast moving and emotionally satisfying. Doesn't mean an editor couldn't have made things a little better, but a great number of my books have gone through with very little editing. I just get it right sometimes.
It did need a copy editor, and I had two working on it, a newbie and an ancient. I should have searched more for one, because a good one is worth his/her weight in gold, but my agent had brokered a deal with Amazon involving exclusive rights and they needed it NOW. So there are occasional word repetitions that I should have caught, but otherwise I adore it. Tantor picked it up for audio and the divine Xe Sands did an amazing job on it (already a 40 day treat) and it was an Amazon Daily Deal. In all, it's done well, the cover is beautiful (thanks, Mollie) and it makes me happy. But I still want MORE Ice. Readers want more. Le sigh.
Other series have similar troubles. The Wicked Rohans cut a swathe through the 18th and 19th century, and very foolishly I left one supporting plot on a cliffhanger in the final book, expecting to make the next book about Brandon and Emma. Unfortunately my publisher didn't want a next book. And for years I've been promising people to tell their stories. I get emails weekly begging me to, and I know just where they are. Brandon is up in Scotland, swimming in icy burns to strengthen his leg and get free of addictions, Emma is training to be a surgeon. I've got to tell their story, but I'm not sure how. I might go the route I did for ON THIN ICE, I might find a small, indie publisher, I might write it as a novella rather than a full-length book. Whatever. I promised, and I've got to deliver.
And then there's my poor Fallen Angels. The uber-hero, the driving force behind the stories was Lucifer, aka the Bringer of Light, God's favorite, the first to fall. He's stuck in some sort of Limbo and the others have been trying to get him out, and the Very Bad Archangel Uriel has been left in charge of the world while God has taken a step back. I've got to bring Lucifer back, give him a nun to debauch and love, and vanquish Uriel. I think God will continue a hands off approach but at least Uriel won't be around to smite people and create AIDs and wars. It's going to be a while for that one -- I suspect it might be Epic, particularly if God's making a cameo (I actually considering making the Judeo-Christian God the bad guy, but considering that I'm a liberal but believing Christian (UCC - former deacon and Sunday School teacher) I decided that really wouldn't work. I don't think God can have a character arc).
Many of my friends have truncated series, and it's heart-breaking. Their worlds are real to us, the characters are real. Not to compare myself in any way, but what if Diana Gabaldon's editor said, after DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, "okay, Diana, Jamie and Clare have had their day, why don't you write a book about Vikings?" That's an idea of what many of us are going through, albeit on steroids.
Anyway, in this case I snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. I saved Finn MacGowan, wrote a story I love, and got to live in the world of ICE and the Committee again. If I had my choice I'd spend most of my time in that world.
But I've got Emma and Brandon to heal, and Lucifer to rescue. I've just got to figure out how to do it.