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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

They’re going to kill us

AFTER Life INFERNO

is free today and tomorrow

AFTER was a medical miracle. Researchers weaponized it.

Deep in an underground vault, the weapon is waiting.

It wants out.

The Two Ways Series Fiction Can Go

Back when I was co-hosting the Self-publishing Roundtable (RIP), one of our guests was the amazing Wayne Stinnett. Wayne writes compelling page turners set in Florida. He had some interesting advice: In an episodic series, don’t raise the stakes. The adventure happens. The hero saves the day. Next book: new adventure.

Think of it like James Bond movies. Bond goes out, saves the world and comes back to save the world in the next movie. He’s eternal and unchanging. To my mind, the failing of the more recent movies with Daniel Craig is the focus on his age. In the first movie, he’s a terminator bursting through walls and new to the 007 license to kill. In the next, his superiors are ready to put him out to pasture.

In the movies, directors did the same to the original crew of the Enterprise. “Spock, am I too old for this shit?” As a fan I say this sincerely, we didn’t want to hear all that. In a perfect galaxy, Spock and Kirk are still out there saving us again and again. Kirk’s space karate is still strong and no one worries about arthritis. 

Wayne’s not wrong about the benefits of an unchanging protag whose focus is gunshoeing rather than saving the world once and then moving to Arizona to raise Alpacas. Sam Spade and Nero Wolfe never retired, either.

(For more of his excellent advice, check out Wayne’s non-fiction book, Blue Collar to No Collar: From Trucker to Bestselling Novelist in Two Years.)

That said, there is another way to go. Just know that some reviewers will kill you for it. 

In most of my series, I failed to take Wayne’s excellent advice. I raise the stakes. Stuff that happens in the first book has a big impact later on. Story arcs are long. Not everybody is going to like that. Not every casual reader has the patience to get a big pay off in Book 3 whose seeds were planted in Book 1. Alas, that’s usually what I’ve got for readers. I certainly provide thrills and jokes along the way, but the world-saving stakes are often built across multiple books.

I ran across a book blogger who didn’t like Tamara Smythe in Haunting Lessons. In the foundation book of the Dimension War series, Tam was an ordinary and innocent girl in her senior year in high school when she lost her high school sweetheart to the Grim Reaper. That’s how she found out she wasn’t ordinary. She can see ghosts and gets institutionalized for it. As her story develops over three books, she learns that our world has been invaded by interdimensional beings bent on our destruction. Tamara becomes a warrior on our side with blessed weapons and holy bullets. The blogger in question didn’t like it. She wanted Tam to be a badass warrior woman from the first page.

Okay, cool. There are lots of books like that and good for them. That wasn’t our story so my co-author and I didn’t write it that way. Across three books, we were able to tell a story with a bigger scope. And we got to enjoy training montages! People love training montages. From Rocky to the Karate Kid, that’s what makes up the bulk of those movies: learning, growing, changing, building up to kicking ass on a grand scale.

Another example, This Plague of Days definitely raises the stakes. The clues are there, but it’s a slow burn. First, we watch civilization fall. Through the lens of a mute boy on the spectrum, it starts out as a zombie apocalypse without a ton of zombies. As the action rises across the trilogy, the world-building is ambitious and many elements grow and change. New species develop. The Big Bad in Book 1 may seem over the top, but in Book 3, it is revealed why she does what she does and it’s a real kick in the brain pan. I could not deliver those twists within the confines of one book (unless that one book is the big honkin’ omnibus).

In AFTER Life, we follow a Toronto cop, Dan Harmon, into the depths of a weapons research lab. In the rest of the trilogy, he shares the spotlight with Dr. Chloe Robinson as they battle nanotech-powered brain parasites and sentient zombies bent on world domination. Surprising twists emerge that no one reading the first book could have foreseen.

My crime thrillers are a tad more episodic in nature. Jesus Diaz is the funny anti-hero who isn’t quite as good at being a hitman as he thinks he is. He doesn’t change much as a person. Kind of a slow learner. Even so, he messed with the FBI in Bigger Than Jesus. That doesn’t get forgotten just because he’s in a new city in Higher Than Jesus or Hollywood Jesus

Caveat: 

Writing more episodically, some readers may accuse you of “taking the easy way out” and writing the same book over and over. In most cases, they’re dead wrong. I have heard of an author who keeps the same plot and just changes the names and places. That’s not the norm. Conscientious writers publishing episodic series put a lot of effort into their books and aren’t out to provide any less of a thrill to their readers. I don’t think many authors go to the trouble of writing entire series with the goal of short-changing anyone. Sure, there are grifters, but most of us think we’re artistes, dadgummit!

But! And this is a big ole hairy day-glo orange monkey butt:

Many successful series are based on the episodic model and their fans love it. A lot of readers won’t give you a chance after the first book. Tons of readers want “the same thing, only different.” Just like Bond and the original Star Trek crew, the familiar is comforting. Many readers read for comfort. Books in series, particularly long series, tend to make more money.
If writing and eating is your goal, this is the way to bet.

One more time for the doubters in the back: If you want to make more money and catch more readers, refusing to raise the stakes and build castles in the sky might be a safer, more lucrative choice. 

If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write under more pen names and make sure the branding of all my covers was entirely consistent. If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write solely in long series instead of standalones and shorter series that continually raise the stakes until my protagonists are out to save the world instead of themselves. I should have been more strategic and planned series that power on for 27 iterations and go deep on one genre.

I tell myself these things, but I know I’m lying to myself. I don’t write that way, but I probably should have. Shrug. I’d take a lot of really good advice, if only I were an entirely different person.

~ Pick up your complimentary ebook of AFTER Life Inferno today or tomorrow. It’s a quick, breezy read that will get your blood pumping. (Lock the door, too. You’ll feel safer.)

For a look at all my thrill rides, check out my author site, AllThatChazz.com and, while you browse, hit the subscribe button.

AFTER Life is a fast-paced trilogy featuring flawed people, sentient zombies, and brain parasites with aspirations to take over the world. From a task force officer filled with regrets to a nanotech researcher charged with saving the world, the story arc is full of action and twists. The ending will surprise you.

The ebook for Inferno is free today and tomorrow to download at your Amazon store.

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Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

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You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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