Sometimes a Series Just Happens

I’ve explained how a short story led me to writing a novel. Now I’m going to explain how writing that novel led to a series.

When I finished writing A School for Sorcery, I was thinking about what I wanted to write next and remembered a novel I had started well before I wrote A School for Sorcery but hadn’t finished because I couldn’t decide where it was going. Suddenly I saw a connection between the chapters I’d abandoned and School. Despite the title, the school in A School for Sorcery is not called that in the novel; it’s called the Lesley Simonton School for the Magically Gifted. I don’t believe the word “sorcery” ever appears in the book. Originally I just called the school in it “School for the Magically Gifted,” but I wanted it to have a more prestigious name, and Lesley Simonton was a character in that unfinished and unnamed novel I’d set aside a few years before. What happened to him and why would a school be named for him? When I asked myself that question, I clearly saw the ending of the novel that became A Perilous Power and knew what had to happen and why the school was started, by whom, and how it got its name. So I wrote the novel as a prequel. But I also wanted a sequel. That was all. I wasn’t planning a series. I wanted to follow some of the characters I’d created in A School for Sorcery and discover what happened to them. To do that I wrote When the Beast Ravens. Tria, the protagonist of A School for Sorcery, appears in the sequel but isn’t a major character. The book’s protagonist is Gray Becq, who was badly damaged by his experience in School and I wanted to explore how he dealt with the trauma. As I said, both those books were published by Tor. The three novels took place in Arucadi, a land in a world I created for the books. In the meantime, I wrote another novel that started out to be a stand-alone fantasy. It wasn’t meant to be an Arucadi novel. But that’s what it turned out to be. As I wrote Mistress of the Wind, the setting it starts out in is a narrow, secluded valley, cut off from the rest of the world. But Kyla, my protagonist, finds a way out of that valley into the wider country, and lo and behold, that country turned out to be Arucadi, a land at that time bereft of magic. I didn’t plan that; it just happened. I saw the connection between that novel and the later books.

Mistress of the Wind is the true first book in the Arucadi series. It takes place many years before A Perilous Power and tells why there is no magic outside of the hidden valley that was Kyla’s home. It also introduces a powerful mage who will become the Power-Giver of the later novels, a being who is sometimes treated as a god but is most definitely not one. I went on to write a sequel to Mistress of the Wind, telling how magic is restored to the larger land and the opposition faced by the bringers of that magic. That novel I titled Bringers of Magic. I sent both novels to my agent. I also wrote a YA novel to follow When the Beast Ravens. Titled Bryte’s Ascent, the novel follows two of the students from the Leslie Simonton School for the Magically Gifted after their graduation as they go to the capital city of Arucadi to make their way in the world. That novel was sent via my agent to my Tor editor, who liked it. Mistress of the Wind and Bringers of Magic had not yet been sent out at that time, but I felt confident that they would follow Bryte’s Ascent in being published.

To my immense disappointment, I received word from my editor that Tor would not be publishing Bryte’s Ascent. The reason had nothing to do with the novel’s merits. The sales staff voted against it because, while A School for Sorcery had done very well, the prequel and sequel had not sold as well. Successive volumes in a series, I learned, are expected to do better than the preceding volumes. Because that hadn’t worked out, Bryte’s Ascent was rejected. Nor was my agent enthused about taking it on, again not because of any lack of merit but because what publisher is going to want the fourth book of a series?

My agent did send out Mistress of the Wind, but he wanted to sell it before sending out Bringers of Magic. He wasn’t offering it as part of the Arucadi series but simply as a stand-alone fantasy novel. But I suppose all the major publishers look at the sales records of previously published authors. Mistress didn’t sell, and eventually my agent and I parted ways, an amicable parting, and I remain grateful to him for the sales and contract negotiations he handled so successfully in the three books published by Tor.

I had started a book to follow Bringers of Magic and a book to follow Bryte’s Ascent. Now there seemed no point in finishing either, because they were part of a series that had come, it seemed, to a screeching halt.  But I had three completed novels that were homeless. What to do with them?

I did not want to self-publish. In fact, I didn’t feel I could afford to. However, ebooks began to become popular, and I learned of Bookbrewer, a company that was gearing up to offer a self-publishing venue for ebooks. They wanted Beta testers for their publishing process and offered the chance to get a book published at no charge in return for being a Beta tester and critiquing the process and the appearance of the result. I submitted Bryte’s Ascent to them, and it was accepted for Beta testing. We worked out some of the problems and snags in the process, and in return Bryte’s Ascent became an ebook available in all ebook formats. I receive royalties on its sales and am happy to have it available as the continuation of the Arucadi series.

Because of the growth in ebook popularity and sales, I submitted the manuscript of an adult science fiction novel titled Shadow of a Demon to Double Dragon Publishing, a company I learned of from a writer friend. It is a medium-sizes company dedicated to ebook publishing. Shadow of a Demon is the first volume of a trilogy I call the Terrano trilogy for the surname of the family prominent in the books. Double Dragon published Shadow of a Demon as an ebook and a trade paperback, and later published the second book, The Gift of the Trinde Tree. The third volume, Touch of Death, is scheduled for release in January, 2013.

I enjoy working with Double Dragon and decided to send them Mistress of the Wind. They accepted it, and it should come out later in 2013. I’ve since submitted Bringers of Magic. And I’ve gone back to work on the following book, now titled A Mix of Magics. So the Arucadi series is alive and well. The short story that spawned a novel has now become ancestor to 6 published novels in the series with two more completed and in the works and, I hope, others to come. And the best part is that Tor has now reissued the original three published volumes as ebooks, so all my novels are available in ebook formats!

So a series that “just happened” rather than being intended from the outset is healthy and moving on. The moral of the story? Don’t give up on a novel or story you believe in. It may take time, it certainly takes persistence, but you can get your work out there, and without paying to have it published.

 

 

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About E. Rose Sabin

Fantasy and science fiction author.
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