Writing a Series

As my followers know, I’ve been writing a series—epic historical novels set primarily in ancient Minoan Crete. The series started as one standalone, now called Beyond the Waning Moon. But I couldn’t leave my people so I just kept going. It became a generational family saga. While each story has its own protagonist and story arc, the overall series also has an arc. A quest. A purpose. The haunting fear of a final destruction. The desperate fight to hold on. The glimmer of hope.

The photos here show the reconstructed hub of Crete, the temple (or palace) of Knossos which was dug out of the earth a hundred years ago after being buried for some 3,000 years. After seeing it and learning of the strong women depicted there, I wanted to immerse myself in that world. And so it began.

The fresco of the charging bull, part of the reconstructed ruins of Knossos, replicates some of the amazing art left by the Minoans of ancient Crete, one of many images that inspired me to write about the people who once lived on this remarkable Mediterranean island, now one of the beautiful Greek Isles.

I named the overall saga the Distant Glimmer Series to reflect the distant light shining into our own times. The stories take place long ago, but they speak to our own lives today.

I’m putting finishing touches on Book Seven.

Up until now I had the impression that in marketing the work, all emphasis should go on the first book. Maybe mention that there are more to come, but don’t stress it. So I haven’t stressed the series aspect.

The columns of the temple of Knossos line corridors and staircases and, as here, one of the many stairwells. The most common columns were a bold red and extended from floor to ceiling, but some like these stood shorter above low walls and were painted black with red capitals at the top and a red band at the bottom.

This September I attended a virtual writers conference, the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association headquartered in Seattle. During workshops I kept hearing about the power of a series.

I attended a pitch fest because I planned to pitch the opening book of my saga. Gerri Russell, award-winning, bestselling author of stacks of books, led the session, and when we broke out into smaller groups I felt fortunate to have her as coach for my group. We all gave our pitches for the agents, publishers, or producers we hoped to convince to take a look at our work. I hoped to lead the listener into the world pictured on this post and to bring the Cretan characters alive who walk through my thoughts and dreams in these fabulous places.

Gerri immediately got what I was doing with the book from the pitch I gave. But from that she began to question me to ferret out ways to better present it. Who are my characters? What are their goals, their conflicts? Could I be more personal about their dilemmas? I don’t remember all her specific questions but I quickly saw I needed to dig much deeper if I was to reveal the book’s strengths to the listener.

The throne room has been reconstructed with its frescoed griffins and small alabaster throne. It appears the throne would more likely fit a woman than a man, which led some to believe the leader of the people was a woman, a choice I made when I portrayed the leader as the high priestess. However, in my story she does accept a king, a warrior to help protect her people from threatening invaders.

The group members had a chance to try once more, and I bumbled through mine as I tried to rethink it in the moment. Gerri kept going back and forth with me, quizzing me, plucking out salient points. Those salient points gave the pitch new life. Then I hesitantly asked if I should say I have seven in the series written. She burst out with surprise. Yes! Of course! Yes!

So there it was. Emphasize the series. Each book has to stand alone, true. But its place in a series gives it much greater impact. Perhaps the market has changed. Maybe readers are wanting a series more than they did before. Something they can really get their teeth into. In any case that’s what I have. That’s what I’ll promote to those who hold the keys to entry into publication.

My Muse’s First Draft

Rough Draft - 4.5.15My muse just took me on a wild ride, and here’s the first draft. Done.

I’ve been writing books for many years. None ever caught me quite like this. And I must apologize to my followers for being absent awhile from this blog. I know. I know. You’re supposed to balance things out. Divide your time between writing and blogging and Facebook and marketing and all the rest. People sometimes remark about my discipline as a writer that helps me put out a lot of pages in a short amount of time. It’s not discipline, folks. It’s obsession. And this time, maybe more.

I blogged earlier about the visit of my muse, who began flooding me with ideas for this one in mid-December. I never really got away from it. I piled up notes and finally got them organized, ready to start the first draft in mid-February. I finished this draft March 22. In the last few days I gave it the first readings, one on the computer, one on paper. The photo above shows the first cleaned-up version on paper–not the final draft by any means. But it’s finally something I can hold in my hands.

Did I tell you the story of her name? My muse? I believe I alluded to it. In one post I had talked about changing the name of my character and how that ignited the inspiration for this historical novel of the Greek isle of Crete. I call the character Talia, and when I looked online for the meaning of that name I came up with several meanings like to blossom or bloom. Ah! Did she bloom! But, as I mentioned in my most recent post, one day I checked again for the name’s meaning, a different website. On this new website I learned that Thalia (an alternate spelling) is one of the nine Greek muses. Okay! That did set me back in my chair.

Is she sending me all this? It feels as if the story has come from a source outside myself. And the experience has been intense. I’ve been in this world, caught up in the joys and traumas and fiery conflicts and triumphs and pains, since the middle of December. A fantastic ride.

This is a book in my series from the Minoan world. One reason I could write an epic historical novel so quickly is that most of the research was already done for the earlier books, my scenario already developed. I just had to keep track of the generations and remain consistent–not always easy, but easier than the years of research that went into the first.

And Thalia isn’t done. Even before I finished this book, she started sending scenes for a new one. I’ll get the notes down, but I’m asking her for a brief rest.

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