Friday, May 31, 2013

The Irresistible Sequel

By B.J. Scott (Guest Blogger)


Why are people drawn to series?

This question came to mind when I was deciding if I should write my sequel to Highland Legacy right away or finish another Scottish historical I had started that was not related to the first book. I asked on average if the reader would rather read a sequel to a book they liked or something by the author on an entirely different topic. While the response was mixed, the majority said that they enjoyed reading a sequel or series of books about a given family/clan or series of events. When asked why they gave me the following answer.


The most common response was that they if they loved the first book, they usually didn’t want the book to end, wanted to know more about the other characters in the book, wanted the story to continue. They have gotten to know the characters, fell into the sub-plots or develop a particular connection to one or more of the secondary characters. This to me was an interesting answer and one authors need to keep in mind when writing a novel they think might become a series. In my book Highland Legacy, the three brothers were all very different from each other, but shared a bond of fierce loyalty to family and country. The story focused on the hero and heroine in the book, but I got many requests to continue the story so they could find out what happened to Bryce and Fallon, or if Alasdair would ever soften his heart and find love. This laid the groundwork for the next two books, Highland Quest (my current release) and Highland Homecoming (to be released later this summer or early fall.) Knowing my readers liked the first book and wanted more of the Fraser brothers’ saga gave me a good reason to write the series.

When I penned the first book, I had a series in mind, but wrote it in such a way it could stand alone. Highland Quest and Highland Homecoming were written the same way. While they are both essentially a continuation of Highland Legacy, a reader could pick it up any of the three books, not read the first book, and not feel lost. They could also read the first book after the second or third and still enjoy the story. I did this by adding just enough back-story to Highland Quest and Highland Homecoming to let the reader know who the returning characters are and how they play a role in the sequels, without giving too much away from the first book. I think the key to writing a good series is to make it so a person can pick any book in the series and read them in any order they desire.

Fans of historical romance, any romance for that matter, who fall in love with the characters in a book, typically want more. If they found a satisfying escape from the stress of the real world in a time they loved, with characters they can relate to, it stands to reason they’ll want more. The onus now falls on the author to write a sequel or series that is as good and if possible, even better than the first book. Some might be tempted to write a quick sequel just to keep the interest going and to make more money off an already captive audience. But don’t sell yourself, your book or your reader short. Do everything you can to make the sequel even more memorable and more enjoyable and you will have fans for life.

(Leave a comment with your email on this post, by the way, and you could win your choice of either of the first two books in the series, in ebook form.)

Blurb for Highland Legacy. Book one in the series:
Faced with an abhorrent betrothal, Cailin Macmillan flees her father’s castle and quickly learns that a woman traveling alone in Medieval Scotland is an easy target for ruthless English soldiers. When Highland patriot Connor Fraser comes to her aid, his steadfast dedication to king and country is challenged by his overwhelming desire to protect Cailin—even if he must marry her to do so.
Accused of murdering one of her attackers and determined to rely on her own resourcefulness, Cailin dresses as a lad, intent on seeking refuge at the camp of Robert the Bruce. Can she elude an enemy from her past—a vindictive English lord bent on her utter demise—or will she fall prey to his carnal intent and be executed for a crime she did not commit?
The Fraser brother's saga continues in the second book in the series, Highland Quest and coming soon, Highland Homecoming.
Excerpt
Dunkeld Scotland, 1306.
Duncan Macmillan’s nostrils flared, and his piercing blue eyes narrowed with anger. Judging by the rigidity of his stance, the bulge of his neck veins, and scowl of utter contempt, Cailin had pushed her father beyond his limits. Again.
They’d quarreled often, and each time, he cursed her wild spirit, and temerity, swore fairies stole his real child at birth and left a changeling in her place. An unyielding man, he ruled Clan Macmillan with an iron fist, and made no exceptions. Cailin experienced the force of his wrath on more than one occasion, and bore the physical and emotional scars.
He paced his chamber like a restless animal ready to pounce on its prey. “Laird MacMurray arrives on the morrow and expects to find a cheerful, willing bride. You’ll not embarrass me with your obstinacy!”
“Banish me, beat me, or throw me into the pit if you wish, but I will not marry a man I dinna love. Especially a vile, contemptible swine who is almost three times my age.” As the rebellious words left her lips, memories of past punishments flooded her mind, but she refused to concede to her father’s demands, regardless of the consequences.
“This alliance is important to the clan, and I’ve given my word.” He balled his fist and took a step in her direction.
Cailin crossed her arms over her chest and glared up at him in defiance. “The alliance does not interest you as much as the cattle, land, and chest of gold he has offered for my hand.” She took a slow, deep breath for courage, and continued. “My happiness is of no importance to you. Not as long as you can pad your coffers, and increase your holdings. I am nothing more to you than a pawn, property for sale to the highest bidder.”
His face flushed red as he stomped toward her with a hand raised in preparation to strike. “Insolent, ungrateful lass, I’ll teach you to speak to me with such disrespect. When I’m finished, you’ll rue the day you were born.”
“I have, for eighteen summers,” she snapped back in retaliation. The stinging backhand she received brought her to her knees.
“Husband, please.” Before he could deliver another blow, his wife, Catherine, stepped between them, and placed her hand on Duncan’s raised arm. “She’s your daughter, and you must show more compassion and understanding. I am sure once she has time to get accustomed to the idea, she will do your bidding. Won’t you?” She glanced over her shoulder, and gave Cailin a pleading look.
Duncan glared down at his wife. “She’s been a wee devil since birth, and it is about time she learned her place. Step out of my way, or you’ll learn your place as well.” He grasped Catherine by the shoulders, and briskly moved her aside.
Cailin slowly climbed to her feet, wiped the trickle of blood from her lower lip with the back of her hand. “Dinna fash yourself, Catherine, it is a private matter to be settled between my father and me. Not one so easily resolved. Mayhap you should go and rest.”
Only two years her senior, Catherine carried in her belly what Cailin prayed would be the son her father had always wanted. If he finally had a male heir, she’d be freed from the burden of blame, guilt, and obligation that had plagued her entire life.
Duncan’s body shook as he pointed his finger in his daughter’s direction. “Do you see what I mean? Even when someone tries to help her, she shows no appreciation. Not a day goes by I have not wished she had—”
“Go ahead, Father. Admit you wish me dead instead of my twin brother and that you blame me for my mother’s death.” Toe to toe, she stood in front of him. She swallowed hard past the lump in her throat and fought back tears. “No matter how what I accomplish, my efforts will never be good enough. If I could bring my mother back from the dead, I would gladly trade my life for hers. I wish I had been born a lad, and not a lass, but—”
“Aye, instead of a son, I’ve been cursed with a headstrong daughter who is the bane of my existence. I am surprised any man would ask to marry the likes of you. But on the morrow, you will wed Laird MacMurray.”
His cruel words cut straight to the core, but she’d not give him the satisfaction of knowing he’d wounded her again. “He marries because he needs a mother for his nine unruly bairns, and someone to bear him more. They say he killed his last wife when he found out she could no longer breed.” The thought of bedding Graham MacMurray made her skin crawl. “Mayhap he lusts after the land and wealth I shall inherit should anything happen to you. As your heir, I will be a wealthy woman in the event of your death.”
Would she ever know if a man wanted to marry her for love, or would she always wonder if greed motivated her suitors? Then again, if all men were like her father, prayed for sons, cared only for wealth and power, she’d rather take the vows and spend the rest of her life at a convent. She’d not be like her mother and marry out of obligation or duty to her clan. Nor would she risk bringing a daughter into this world, only to have her shunned by her father and bartered for with less regard than a hog or a steer. No, she’d not take Laird MacMurray as her husband. Mayhap, she’d never marry.
“Excuse me, my lord.” The door opened and a servant stepped into Duncan’s chamber.
Duncan spun around and scowled at the young man. “Ian, what is the meaning of this interruption?”
“For—forgive me, my lord, but a messenger comes from the Clan MacMurray. He bears a gift for lady Cailin.” With his head bowed and his eyes fixed on the floor, Ian moved in her direction and held out a small wooden box. “His laird has been unavoidably detained, and will not arrive for a week or more.”
“Nay!” Cailin threw her hands up in protest, shook her head, and backed away. “Tell him I dinna want his gift.”
Duncan snatched the box and opened the hinged lid. From a bed of lamb’s wool, he plucked a ruby and emerald encrusted brooch with the MacMurray Clan crest. After he’d carefully examined the pin, he thrust his hand forward. “You’ll not insult your betrothed by refusing his fine gift. This must be worth a fortune.”
“I dinna care if he is insulted. There will be no wedding. When I marry, it will be to a man I love.” She turned to face Ian. “Send the brooch back, and have the messenger inform his laird I’ll not be bought.”
Duncan pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Love has nothing to do with marriage. The sooner you put aside these foolish notions the better.” He took a step closer, his hands fisted at his sides. “You will do as I say.”
“What should I tell the messenger?” Ian shrugged and glanced from Cailin to Duncan.
“Tell him my daughter thanks his laird for the fine gift and anxiously awaits his arrival. And while you’re below, tell Cook to send a tray to my solar. I’ll not be down to break my fast this morning.”
Using her father’s momentary distraction as an opportunity to put an end to their futile discussion, Cailin inched toward the door, turned on her heels, and fled his chambers.
“Damnation lass! We’re not finished with this matter. You’ll do as you’re told, or I’ll—”Duncan called after her, but she slammed the large oak door, muffling the rest of his tirade.
She raced down the long hallway. Surprised, and relieved, that he did not give chase, she paused at the top of the stairs. The daughter of one of Scotland’s most powerful lairds, she knew a day would come when he’d demand she marry, but she’d never believed he’d chose a man she found appalling in every way. Despite her lot in life, she’d always fantasized of a marriage based on passion, and mutual respect. She prayed nightly for a man who would adore her and rescue her from a life of servitude and duty.
Devastatingly handsome, in a rugged sort of way, he’d have the finely honed body of a Norse god, the strength and bravado of a warrior, yet the kindness and gentle heart of a bard. “Be he rich or poor, warrior or poet, I will marry a man I love, or I’ll not wed at all. With that oath on her lips, she bolted down the stone steps.
Despite the whispers and wayward glances of the servants, Cailin didn’t stop running until she’d reached the bailey. Her only option was to run away. The thought of leaving her home and all she held dear, of venturing out into the world alone, frightened her, but she had no choice. Her father would never yield on this matter, and neither would she.
The messenger’s arrival provided the perfect opportunity to escape her father’s ire, but to get beyond the castle walls unchallenged could prove more difficult. If Duncan got wind of her intent, he’d lock her in her chamber until the dreadful day her betrothed arrived, but she had to try.
With Scotland in a state of constant turmoil and the high risk of running into thieves, scoundrels, or worse, English soldiers, she seldom left the castle without her nurse and an armed escort. Guilt tugged at her heart when she thought about Eildth, the only mother she’d ever known. She hated the idea of leaving her behind, and she would miss her nursemaid terribly. But marriage to Laird MacMurray would be a fate far worse than death. Once she’d settled in her new home, she’d send word and let her nurse know she was safe.

Bio

With a passion for historical romance, history in general, and anything Celtic, B.J. always has an exciting work in progress. Each story offers a blend of romance, adventure, suspense, and, where appropriate, a dab of comic relief. Carefully researched historical facts are woven into each manuscript, providing a backdrop from which steamy romance, gripping plots, and vivid characters—dashing alpha heroes and resourceful, beguiling heroines you can’t help but admire—spring to life. A PAN member of RWA, World Romance Writers, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, and Savvy Authors, B.J. also writes contemporary, paranormal, time travel, and romantic suspense.
C.S. Lewis first captivated B. J.’s imagination in the fourth grade, and her desire to write sprang from there. Following a career in nursing and child and youth work, B.J. married her knight-in-shining-armor, and he whisked her away to his castle by the sea. In reality, they share their century-old home in a small Canadian town on the shore of Lake Erie with three dogs and a cat. When she is not working at her childcare job, on her small business, or writing, you will find her reading, camping, or antique hunting.

Highland Legacy: available in e-book and in print http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0065KX8P8/
Highland Quest: available in e-book and soon in print.
Highland Homecoming, available late summer of 2013
Visit my web page: www.authorbjscott.com
Or email me at bjscott@authorbjscott.com

28 comments:

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today! I look forward to visiting with you and your guests.

Violetta Rand said...

I prefer the series route. There's never enough room in one book to know the characters or history. I look forward to Book 3.

Ann Montclair said...

I love stand-alones and series romance, though three books is usually my limit for series--after that I'm ready for a new batch of characters in a fresh setting. I loved HL and HQ, so HH will sure to delight! Best of luck, BJ.

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks for dropping by Violetta ;) I agree that in a historical there is so much history and it is hard not to let it overwhelm the romance.

B.J. Scott said...

Hi Ann

Like you I think three is enough. Sometimes a story warrants a fourth but like you I am usually ready to move on to a new batch of characters. Thanks for stopping by

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, B.J.,

Welcome back to Beyond Romance. I love the excerpt!

I've never been able to write a series - I just get bored too easily, staying with the same genre for multiple books. However, I recently had an idea for a steampunk series that I might pursue.

Thanks for being my guest! And good luck with the entire trilogy.

bn100 said...

Very nice excerpt

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Urb said...

Nothing worse than a stand alone that ends too soon! Unless it's a series that goes on forever.
Urb
brendurbanist@fmail.com

PAdoglady said...

I just love a good series, such anticipation until the next book comes out.

Romance Reader Enthusiast said...

Sometimes a character just seems to take over a story that you're reading and you hope to find out more. But then they seem to disappear and you wonder what ever happened. This is what is good about a series because eventually they get their own story. I look forward to reading this series.

Lynn
lareynolds0316@gmail.com

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks
Glad you could drop by and say hello!

B.J. Scott said...

It can be hard to know when to stop a book, but a sequel or two gives you some room to continue and develop the secondary characters that often catch people's interest. When I finished Highland Legacy and it was published, people often asked about what happened with Bryce and Fallon and if Alasdair would find the love he avoided so adamantly. That is what I hoped for since it was going to be a series. Gave a little taste in the end of the book as to what was going to happen to keep people wanting more ;)

Thanks for stopping by

B.J. Scott said...

I enjoy a series as long as it is fresh and holds my interest. When I first wrote Highland Legacy I had a series in mind but wrote it to stand alone. As soon as it came out and the reviews started and readers wanting to know about Bryce and Fallon my editor wanted me to get busy and do the sequel. Sadly, I am not as fast a writer as some and while the book was done fairly quickly, the publishing process takes a lot longer than many would realize. Often it takes a year from when the book is submitted to the actual publication date. The larger the publisher the longer the wait. I know it is hard for the readers and we sit on the edge of our seat waiting because we don't want to lose our reader's interest.

Thanks for dropping by

B.J. Scott said...

I hope you enjoy the books if you get the chance to read them. In Highland Legacy, both brothers stood out but Bryce seemed to catch everyone's favor and attention. So it was a given his story needed to come next. The same happened in Highland Quest, Alasdair played a larger roll so people wanted to know what was in store for him. The three brothers in the series were so different from each other so it allowed me to write each story with a new angle but their dedication to each other kept the common threads going as well. Highland Homecoming will be out later this summer or early fall ;) For now that is the last of the series.

I enjoyed writing about the Fraser brothers, but have a couple more books in the works that I am equally excited about and anxious to finish.

Thanks for coming by

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks Lisabet!

I really appreciate you asking me back and look forward to chatting with your guests over the weekend. ;)

Debbie said...

I like to read a series, for all the reasons in your post. Sometimes though I like to read a book that ends so I don't feel like I have to go get the next one right now or even wait (not very good at this) for the next book. Anthologies are good for a quick read that usually doesn't have a second book. Just love to read so everything is fair game! Thanks for your post, best wishes on your series.
debdan2002 at yahoo dot com.

B.J. Scott said...

Every reader is different. I usually don't get into series because like in a movie, if I loved the first one, I have higher expectations for the second. While a continuation of the first the second book goes off in a different direction, but it is hard not to compare it to the first. I really debated about doing a series. I have two other books that are totally unrelated in the works that kept calling to me when I was trying to do the second and third books.

As a writer I strive to make each book better than the last because I don't want the reader to be disappointed. That is where stand alones are easier to do than a series. Once a single story is done, you can move on to the next ;) While this warranted a series, my next ones are single titles.

Joanne said...

I really enjoy reading a series. I normally don't want the book to end. I want to know more about the secondary characters and what happens after "the end". I do like stand alone books, too, but my real joy comes from reading a series.
e.balinski(at)att(dot)net

Heidi Schuster said...

I also enjoy reading a series as I usually don't want the story to end or I really want to know what happens with the supporting characters. Historical romances are my favorite to read.
Thanks for the chance to win!

hms7213(at)Comcast(dot)net

Colleen C. said...

I enjoy both stand alones and series books... the only time I do not care for series books are when I need a book as a continuation and forget to get it or have moved on to others... sometimes the waiting period between books is too long and I move on to other books. Love visiting characters again to see what is new but like to see others have their chance at happiness too... thanks for sharing!
greenshamrock AT cox DOT net

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks for stopping bye. I agree both are enjoyable

B.J. Scott said...

Good luck and thanks for dropping by

B.J. Scott said...

Unfortunately authors have to wait for the release too. Wish there was a way to speed up the process. Thanks for dropping by.

Mary Preston said...

I do enjoy series, but if they can be read as stand alones that a good idea too. Love Highland reads thank you.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks for visiting . I love historicals of all eras but Highlanders are my fav to read and write.

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks to everyone who took the time to drop by today and to those who left a comment.

Highland Legacy and Highland Quest are both available at Amazon now and watch for Highland Homecoming latter this summer!

SHARON BAKER slpetera@yahoo.com said...

I love Highland Books and especially series as you can get to know the characters so much better.

B.J. Scott said...

Thanks for dropping by. Highlander books are very popular right now with the historical romance fans. Gotta love a sexy man in a kilt. Give me three and I am sunk lol

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