Cowboys or Killers?

Friday, June 21, 2019

It’s been an amazing year so far.

I finished the first draft of my historical western romance novel at the end of May. This was a new genre for me, and I have to say it presented its challenges. Between learning what readers expect in a romance, researching what life was like in the 1870s, and getting new words written, I wondered whether I’d bit off more than I could chew.

But I did manage to finish it, and I liked a lot of what I’d written. I also knew there would be extensive revisions necessary before I could publish the book.

There’s also the fact that books sell better when they’re part of a series. Currently, you have to have three books in a series ready to release, with a fourth book in process, before you should publish the first one. That way, you can do what’s known as a “rapid release,” meaning you can publish each of the books no more than thirty days apart. That’s because Amazon’s computers favor new releases in the first thirty days of publication, giving them more exposure. If you can have a book in the series that qualifies for this special attention for a total of 90 days, you stand a good chance of selling a lot of books.

I’m pretty good at math. Since it took me five months to write the first book, I knew it was going to take at least two or three months to write each of the next books. (The first book generally takes longer, because you’re building a whole cast of characters, your setting, and developing the tone for the series.) So it would be the end of the year, assuming revisions go smoothly, before I’d be able to start publishing. That’s a big investment in time.

And I’m not even sure the first book is any good.

So I let my readers decide. I edited the first three chapters and made them available to people on my mailing list, since they’ve most likely bought at least one of my previous books. I set up a survey to ask them what they thought. Of those who responded, most overwhelmingly want me to finish that book. A few of my “superfans” even wrote emails asking me to please hurry and give them the rest of the story.

Hear that sound? That’s me breathing a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t just twiddle my thumbs while waiting to hear what my readers thought, so I started researching and planning another series. This one is a mystery, but since I seem to be living in the Victorian Age lately, I decided to put this series in that timeframe as well. This time I chose the next decade, what’s called The Gilded Age, for my setting.

I also decided on a male protagonist.

That didn’t come out of the blue. Neither did other aspects of this mystery series. It’s pieces of a story I’ve mulled over for years. I even decided to use a wicked good character name that I’ve been saving ever since I heard it from a real person. It will also take place in a seaside village. I’m kind of tired of the dry desert and wanted to write about a place with water.

Planning for this series is going a lot faster. For one thing, I’m a mystery fan, so I don’t have to figure out how a mystery should work. I know the basic plot points, the mandatory scenes that make up a mystery. I’d already done a lot of the historical research on the time period, so there are only little facts I need to check (until I get to the actual writing). And, as I said, I’ve been noodling this series for quite a while.

I’ve made a map of this fictional town and created the core characters, the ones who will appear in almost every novel in the series. In doing this, this town and its people have really come alive for me. I’m very excited about the whole series, even though I only have sort of a plot for the first book.

My plan is to have the first draft of the first novel in this series done by the end of the summer. Then I’ll have to look at the two series and decide which one I’m going to develop first. It’s going to be a hard decision.

Regardless of which one I decide on, I’ve been having more fun than I’ve had since I came up with the idea for the African Violet Club mysteries. There’s nothing better than making stuff up.

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A Clash of Kings
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