Starting the Second Book

Writing a series has been eye-opening in many ways, but the biggest surprise is how fast the second and third books go. Well, went. This is just our second series, so stay tuned.

The thing I’m realizing now, as we start Very Nice Funerals, is how this has shifted the romance plot for me. Writing stand-alone, the lovers meet, work out a relationship, and commit. That worked for me until I did the Liz/Vince series and realized that the interesting stuff happens after the okay-let’s-do-this ending. Now they’re together. The hard stuff starts. I had a great time with that in the Liz/Vince books, showing how they tentatively got in deeper with each other, trying to navigate their issues and their needs. It was so much more interesting that my standard romance plot (although I really do not know how I’d arc that further in a second Liz/Vince series, so I’m still cogitating on that.)

But the Rose/Max relationship is even more off the wall than Liz and Vince.

The first book only lasts a week, and during that week Rose has her life turned inside out, not just by Max who restarts her libido, but by events that change her life so radically she can’t (and doesn’t want to) go back to the way things were. Max has taken some hits to his certainties about life, too, and he’s coping with that. They each have so much to deal with that their romance isn’t a priority for either of them. I like that. And it makes the negotiations they’re going to have to make with each other in Very Nice Funerals a lot more interesting. Neither of them is expecting a relationship HEA, they’re just trying to figure out how to get a personal (solitary) future that’s satisfying and secure. They like each other just fine, but they have bigger fish to fry than a love affair. So the arc in VNF has to be getting some of those fish fried and moving them closer to considering the romance more than a fling.

Of course, the reader has to be ahead of them there, seeing how well they work together, how much fun they are together, how they’re denying the thing they’re both wary of, the whole this-is-real decision. Considering they’re dealing with a serial killer in VNF, I think it’s plausible they don’t have time to deal with that, even if it’s clear on the page.

And then, of course, they have to figure it out in the next book, The Honey Pot Plot, which is about women and vengeance and a lot of other crunchy stuff, but mostly for me about Rose taking control of her life and going after what she wants. I don’t know what it’s about for Bob, but I’ll find out when we get there. It’s that push and pull between the two character arcs that make writing with him so interesting. And fun.

But first, the romance arc in VNF. The thing I’m finding really interesting about it right now is that she’s okay with Max leaving and so is he. They really like each other, but they have these separate lives with a lot of important stuff going on, so it’s pretty much “Thanks for the good time, give me a call if you’re ever back this way again.” And then the killings start.

But at least Rocky Start is finished. There’ll be more rewrites on that as we work our way through the next two books, but it’s solid right now. I think. Aaaaaaargh. Writing is hard.

27 thoughts on “Starting the Second Book

  1. I loved the romance arc with Liz and Vince. I mean, I loved the crime stuff, too, it was a lot of fun, but my “crunchy bits” are seeing how relationships grow and evolve. The hardest parts usually come after the “I love yous” so it is great to see that stage of the romance on the page.

  2. I totally agree! I find a lot of romance stories unsatisfying because they end with the leads getting together as if that’s the end, but I think struggling within the bounds of a relationship and testing/discovering the edges of those bounds is also a really important part of a relationship, and often a much more interesting one since people have to learn how to communicate and compromise. I think this is also why I’m not always super into stories that have the characters overcome great odds to end up together as if that’s the end all be all and everything is smooth sailing from there on out. There are times when it’s done well, but a lot of the times it feels like drama is just being created for the plot’s sake rather than because there’s a real good, character-driven reason for it to come about.

    I think this is part of why I like the In Death series so much. I think Roberts has done a really good job of showing how two people with very strong (and somewhat extreme) personalities navigate a shared life and a melding of two extremely different lives with different requirements and obligations. I love seeing how Eve grows and develops from someone who’s awkward with feelings and doesn’t let others intrude in her life to someone who senses Roarke’s bad moods and knows how to handle them, someone who opens up to the healing and comfort a loved one can provide. I wish more stories talked about the journey after getting together (though I’m still want a romance-novel feel in that it doesn’t get too heavy or angsty) because I find it more interesting, though I suppose that way it’s a bit harder to know where to end it.

    1. Zoe I agree about the In Death series. Further I think it is very skillful (and entertaining) the way JD Robb aka Nora Roberts has that arc into a loving, functioning relationship happening for Mavis & Leonardo and Peabody & Ian in addition to it happening for Eve & Roarke.

      1. I think that’s why I like the series so much because, frankly, I get quite bored by serial killer stories (I get it — they’re either evil or insane so they murder lots of people in terribly cruel and awful ways), but her characters are so memorable and great, and I love how we see their development all along the way. I currently have a crush on Nadine’s squeeze, Jake haha I would love to read a spin-off series that features them as the leads! I wish I could find more stories that had such great characters and their development over time (if anyone has any recs please please please send them my way).

        1. Yes yes yes! Love the character and relationship growth. Even with minor characters who show up later, like the kid she visits every Christmas for gift shopping.

  3. Honestly, the thought of trying to plot a three-book arc gives me agita! I’ve written four books about my characters Andy & Victor, but it wasn’t a Grand Plan.

    I do like the After HEA, though. Several others of my books are more (or at least as much) about “what happens next” than “are we in love” (F/M: Smooth, A Few Kisses Ago; M/M: Giving It Up, Be Mine).

  4. This topic seems a good excuse to mention some puzzles from the sample of the first book that I expect will be elucidated when it is published. I wrote this up earlier and then got distracted by the Real World:

    I learn from the Internet that people hiking the entire Appalachian Trail typically start from the south in the spring,  and move north before it gets unbearably hot on the south end and as the winter weather disappears farther north. But Max tells Pike he is moving north to south.  Probably he is not doing the entire trail, and started “months earlier” (he tells us)  in the fall fairly far north, in Maryland or thereabouts at a guess.  It couldn’t be all that many months if he’s avoided winter snows (if the trail is even open through snow season) and because the temperature near Rocky Start is not hot enough to be worth remarking on either by Max or the townsfolk, while marajuana plants are in growing season (somewhere in the range March to November depending on local conditions, per the Internet).  The Internet also tells me that hiking boots should be good for 500 to 1000 miles.  With good boots, one could probably do the whole length of the trail on two pairs.  Therefore Max probably did not start with newish ones, suggesting the long distance hike was somewhat spur of the moment.  It likely was inspired by something unsettling happening on the job.

    It’s odd that Max relies on his former boss for resupply, rather than on friends or straight ordering from a cell phone (or just visiting an off-trail store), but maybe that has to do an odd shoe size plus maintaining anonymity.  It’s doubleplus odd that the boots went to Rocky Start rather than somewhere nearer the trail.  Maybe on the former boss’s instigation Max was supposed to be diverted from his hike by a message from the postmaster?

    Also, surely the watchful Pike knows about the marajuana field only a few miles out of town, so what’s the deal in sending Max into it?

    1. Jennifer
      I am also looking forward to this series, I love the variety of characters (you have a real knack for describing quirky characters) that bring a reader into the book for the first reading and subsequent re-reads. I have been a fan of your writing ever since I got my hands (and eyes) on the first book I grabbed! (I don’t remember how long ago that was, thanks for all the years of enjoyment, and please keep going!)

      If you would like another beta reader, my e-mail is and I am eccentric enough to like doing multiple passes to see if there are any typos (they are so sneaky). Even though my major was English/Writing, I enjoy reading too much to take the time needed to write well (too many books, not enough time). Taf

    2. Those are all good questions, and some things I also wondered about. But, as we only got a sample, I hoped the answers would be in the rest of the book. Jenny and Bob are pretty thorough about research and thinking things through. It’s one of the things that makes them great writers.

    3. The Trail and boots stuff is Bob, so he’d have the details but . . .

      Max starts in Maine; his reason for walking the Trail is a function of his sobriety; if he can do the whole thing and get to the end, in his mind, he’ll be sober again.

      It turns out that Max’s boss is nefarious and sent him to Rocky Start to pick up the boots deliberately for his own purposes.

      Pike knows all about the weed.

      Ask me about food. I can answer the questions about food.

  5. I really enjoyed your description of writing series. I think your challenges, in part, rise from exploring older main characters. They’re already shaped and honed by experiences and interactions. They think far more broadly than they did in their 20s and 30s. In a way, they’re past the HEA: they’ve already passed that as a goal and are on to much more fulfilling lives.

    By the way, I didn’t buy that Liz and Vince were as young as they were supposed to be. They were too experienced. But that’s fine. Just my take.

  6. Reading over what I wrote much earlier, I think I meant “started in the early spring,” not in the fall. Unless I was thinking that Max could start in the fall and time it to to beat the snow in the north and arrive in Rocky Start in spring before it got hot, but after the marajuana crop was already growing, say in April or so.

  7. I am practicing patience. As much as I could join the parade of “I Can’t Wait” folks, I find that I can. There was the latest Murderbot; there will be a final Vixen War Bride book in a couple weeks. There are still Ring of Fire/Assiti Shard books in the pipeline. If all else fails, I have a dozen webcomics to follow and Netflix/Hulu/Amazon prime/Paramount to watch.

    Besides, as long as you share the status of the books with us, I will be entertained. Be well. Stay well. Write.

    What I have trouble waiting for is when Bob starts helping you with all those other Works in Progress.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better. Keep writing. I can’t wait for the other works in progress too.

  8. Jenny – thank you for sharing your actions and thought processes as you write. I have learned so much as a writer on top of having great books to read and reread as a result of your work.
    The same applies to Bob in & out of your collaborations with him.

    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – if I ever manage to finish a novel to my satisfaction – it will be in large part due to what I’ve learned at arghink.

  9. ” And then the killings start.”

    It’s been a long and somewhat challenging day salvaged by just that sentence. Thank you.

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