C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

#NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Readers love books in a series. Maybe when you’re done your NaNoWriMo manuscript, you may consider turning one book into several. I’m having an interesting experience with my crime novel series I thought I should share with you because it’s a new thing for me and it may be helpful to pull back the curtain on the process as it’s evolving.

Last year, I wrote a short story about Jesus Diaz, a hit man I included in my suspense collection Self-help for Stoners. The assassin I wrote about was a mature and experienced, cold-blooded sort of guy who, at the request of their soon-to-be ex wives, killed men going through divorce. Jesus (pronounced Hay-soose) knew what he was doing and was very slick. Still, things went awry in an interesting way. That was the beginning of the Hit Man Series, but I didn’t know that then.

The revelation came when I thought, I want to write a Coen brothers’ movie! Self-help for Stoners has a lot of funny stuff in it (my favorite is the funny erotica) but I wanted to write a whole novel that played with one character in a quirky way. I thought about what origins a guy like Jesus might have to make him more sympathetic. Despite what he does as an enforcer, he does not see himself as the bad guy. No bad guy does. He’s a victim and a vigilante caught in the gears of New York’s Machine (the Spanish mob).  Think of all those Coen brothers’ movies and you’ll get some of the flavor: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Death always waits on the wide and easy road out of town. Perfect fit. I write about Escape. All my books and every one of my stories is ultimately about Escape. Along the way, I try to find a balance between realism and funny. People don’t get knocked out too easily in my stories, for instance. There are some bad guys who are entertainingly dumb, but nobody’s dumb just to make the plot work. Everyone has a goal that conflicts with everyone else’s motives and perspective.

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

The first book in the series is Bigger Than Jesus. I wanted to start the action off with a bang, so when we meet Jesus Diaz, he’s hanging off the side of a building in New York. The book reads like one long chase scene with a few sparse flashbacks to give depth to the character. Dexter is driven by psychological issues. Jesus is driven by circumstance and a need for money and delusions of grandeur. He’s obsessed with movies and wants the life he see in them. In the first book, there’s no sex but lots of violence and funny dialogue. I’d call it more gritty than gory. The story often plunges the reader into a web of deception and, because everything is seen from Jesus’ limited perspective, we only uncover the mystery of what waits in locker #408 as the Cuban hit man discovers the truth. Jesus begins his story arc as a guy who can lie well and has some skills he learned in the military, but he’s certainly no master assassin.

I watched and listened carefully for feedback before and after publication. People loved the jokes and surprises. Some thought there should be more sex and less swearing. I kept that in mind as I got into writing the second book in the series, Higher Than Jesus. I put in more jokes and surprises and yes, more sex. We discover new things about Jesus Diaz’s history. (That’s kind of a fun tip of the hat, playing with readers as they find out that Jesus has been lying to himself as well as others.)

Higher Than Jesus has a fast pace, but not quite as fast as Bigger Than Jesus. We slow down long enough for a funny and somewhat poignant chapter in which my hit man is failing at group therapy. We get into issues around addiction, too. From the first chapter, the tension slides in like a knife between ribs with a quarter twist as Jesus kills a bad guy on Christmas Day. Complications ensue around an arms deal that has national and historic ramifications. He’s learning and getting better at his job, but things still go awry.

Free on Amazon until November 23: A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

Through each book I used research and consulted with friends, one who’s ex-military and another who is a SWAT trainer. Some clever aspects of the plot turned on technical details my research supplied. As I write Hollywood Jesus, my hit man is still on the run from the mob and the FBI. The events from the first two books are by no means erased. What’s different as I write the third book in the series is Jesus’s confidence and competence. He’s still at the mercy of Murphy’s Law, but now the book includes the latest technology and techniques in espionage and counter-espionage. Jesus is a troubleshooter for a security firm, specializing in dealing with celebrity stalkers. He deals with them in very unorthodox ways, often using their own tactics against them. None of the tactics or tech is too far out there, so it’s not like a Bond movie, with Roger Moore. However, there’s a lot of very cool spy tech that’s available to anyone commercially. 

What’s the arc of the series so far?:

#1 was a pure crime adventure with dark childhood secrets driving the character and a mystery leading to escape. That whipped the action across the finish line.

#2 goes deeper into the character, but at its heart it’s hardboiled action with a chapter that drips with sex and a lot of violent action broken up by fast, witty dialogue. There’s less swearing, especially since one bad guy hardly says a word and the other sees himself as quite pure and above all that. I’m proudest of the psychological gameplay throughout, the funny chaos, the clever kills and a fight scene that actually reveals something about the character and his past instead of fighting for action’s sale alone.

#3: I’m still writing Hollywood Jesus, but I think that, though the story starts fast, the tension cranks up with more range of emotion. Yesterday, for instance, Jesus confronted a very deadly and powerful stalker to make Jesus (and the reader) understand the enormity of the danger he faces. That night, Jesus scans the audience at a comedy club for the celeb stalker as the client does her act onstage. We got a sense of why this celebrity is so special and worth protecting. I loved writing that scene because every line is from the stand up act I’ve had in my head for a while and I think it’s pretty hilarious. (I’ve been thinking about doing an open mic at Yuk Yuks sometime, so maybe I’ll try my material onstage myself before publication to see if I get the same laughs as Legs Gabrielle.)

The tech stuff in Hollywood Jesus fascinates me and always has. I’m drawing on a large library of dirty tricks, revenge fantasies and bad guy techniques I’ve researched for years. This is an amazing time to be a crime novelist. There’s so much information to draw on.

What’s stays the same among all three books so far?

The humor. One thing I share with Jesus is smart-assery, especially when in danger. Reversals and bad fortune plague Jesus, often because his plans and my plots are so elaborate and my hit man is not as smart as he thinks he is. The assassin’s character does change through the books. By the third, he’s wary of falling in love too quickly, which is a fatal flaw with him. He begins to see himself differently by the end of the second book so, though he’s always been clever, by the opening of Hollywood, he’s more proactive and in control…or so he thinks.

Things are rarely as they appear in the Hit Man Series. I have an outline, but I’m not sure of all the details of what’s coming. For Jesus, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I can’t wait to see what he does about what I throw at him tomorrow.

Grab Higher Than Jesus before midnight, Friday, November 23rd

and it’s free!

(There’s an intriguing offer for more free ebooks inside and, fair warning, all the prices will be going up soon.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes hardboiled suspense with quirky twists. He’s also written two books about writing and publishing: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

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3 Responses

  1. […] #NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book (chazzwrites.com) […]

  2. […] #NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book (chazzwrites.com) […]

  3. […] #NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book (chazzwrites.com) […]

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