Writing the Second Book in a Series OR “Previously on . . .”

One of the many things that’s difficult about writing a series is that each book has to stand alone, so you have to set up the stuff from the first book at the beginning of the second. But you can’t just lay it out there, that’s boring for the reader who HAS read the first book. The opening of the second book in the Rocky Start series begins with my heroine being significantly annoyed with the hero because he’s leaving her, which of course he has every right to do. Or as she puts it, “You know what I hate? I hate being mad at somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong. It makes me look bitchy.”

And that’s a worry for me, too, because she’s repressing a lot of anger in the first two pages (as she recaps briefly what’s gone before) because she knows she shouldn’t be angry BUT SHE IS. Nobody likes a bitchy heroine. So here’s the first paragraphs of Very Nice Funerals. Tell me in the comments if you think she’s too awful or if you think the recap is too heavy handed.


“I was not upset.

“I was perfectly fine with Max Reddy leaving Rocky Start. I’d only met him two weeks ago when he’d come to town, looking dangerous, dark, and gaunt, mostly cheekbones, so we’d hardly had time to bond. I had a whole new life to plan, I had a future again for the first time since I was eighteen and threw mine away, so I had to make plans, good plans this time, a better life, so I didn’t have time for Max anyway. I mean, I was grateful for all he’d done for us, especially saving my daughter’s life, I would owe him forever for that, but I was fine with him leaving. It would be good if he’d tell me when he was going to go, but it didn’t make any difference, really. It was fine.

“I even understood when he got out of my bed every morning that week to get back into shape to go back to the Appalachian Trail; he was a man’s man who needed to stride alone across rivers and through forests as manly men do. Perfectly fine with that. I did notice that today, for the first time, he had his heavy backpack on. Knowing Max, it was so he could suffer more during his walk. He’d told me “pain is weakness leaving the body,” which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Pain is a warning system. Pain is a body saying, “Sit down, you idiot, you’ve hurt yourself and you should stay where you are with that nice woman you’re having a lot of sex with.”

“I will admit that when Maggs didn’t follow him to the door that morning for another practice hike, I thought, Good for you, sweetie. Maggs is a long-haired German Shepherd, a special breed whose thick fur is pitch black. She’s large enough to be mistaken for a wolf, much like Max with his dark eyes and silver-threaded dark hair and general dark outlook on life, not to mention his lust for walking through forests and probably peeing on bushes. They clearly belonged together. So when Maggs sat down by me instead of following him to the door, I shrugged my shoulders at Max, who looked surprised. No idea why she’s not leaving with you, Max. No idea why you’re leaving me, either. You dumbass.

“Max opened the front door of my second-hand shop—my secondhand shop, the one I’d inherited from my boss/landlord Ozzie Oswald only two weeks before, the shop that was going to be my second, no third, no, wait, fourth chapter in my life—and called her, and Maggs just looked at him, the picture of A Big Black Dog Who Didn’t Understand the Situation.

“I could relate. For the past two weeks, I had often looked at Max the same way. I mean, I could completely understand why he might want to head back to the Appalachian Trail with winter approaching so he could eat frozen rattlesnakes and mice instead of hot lasagna and mustard chicken. I mean, who wouldn’t?

“Anybody, Max. Anybody but you.

“You know what I hate? I hate being mad at somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong. It makes me look bitchy.”


Okay, if you’d never read Rocky Start, the first book, which you haven’t because it’s not out until next month, would that give you an idea of the situation, enough of the back story to at least get you situated in the romance, and a solid idea of what had gone before? Or is it confusing and Rose is just a nag? This stuff is hard, help a writer out, Argh.

80 thoughts on “Writing the Second Book in a Series OR “Previously on . . .”

  1. It’s hard to give proper advice with just that snippet. Perhaps you could share another six or eight chapters? Then we could better judge. No rush. Monday and Tuesday should do nicely. 😀

    1. Nice try, Gary.

      Here’s the first paragraph of Max’s PoV, though. You know, since you’re a guy:

      “A dog, apparently, is not man’s best friend. I say this because my dog, Maggs, was not with me this morning as I strode on the path through the forest, enjoying the beauty of nature. She was with Rose, a woman who had been gracious enough to give me a place to sleep in the apartments above her shop two weeks ago, aggressive enough to have seduced the hell out of me on the second day and conniving enough to have corrupted my dog. Maggs hadn’t been limping when we went downstairs. It was only when I headed for the door that she looked at Rose and suddenly put on the act.

      “Did I mention Rose stole my wallet three times?”

      1. “As you know, Rose, a dog is man’s best friend!”

        No. “As you know” is a kiss of death. It’s a bony kiss, too, devoid of lip or tongue.

        Man’s Best Friend my ass! Magg’s – my dog – was not with me et cetera. Add emPHAsis any time “my” is used with “dog.”

        That’s all I got for now.

  2. I don’t think she comes through as unlikeable or a nag. If anything, I’m laughing because I understand this anger so I feel like I understand her.

  3. Yes, that’s enough backstory. I like like this fresh start. Can’t wait for my own copy not just snippets.

  4. She’s fine, dammit, fine! 😉

    I love that the dog is smarter than the man…full meals, warm place to sleep, just visiting outside to pee/poop and having someone giving you belly rubs when you want one.

  5. “Nobody likes a bitchy heroine.” I don’t think she’s bitchy–she’s too self-aware.
    Having read these paragraphs I am now situated, with a solid idea of the back-story.

    I do, however, think that bitchy heroines are interesting.

  6. I laughed through Rosie’s (is that her name?) part. I loved the strong voice, peppered with honest balances as well as salty irony. Great start that doesn’t sound like a load of back story.

    However, I thought Max’s first paragraph was written from a woman’s voice, not a lean, tough guy’s voice.

  7. Not that you’re asking, but… Here are my favourite lines: “Pain is a body saying, “Sit down, you idiot, you’ve hurt yourself and you should stay where you are with that nice woman you’re having a lot of sex with.””

    And: “ I mean, I could completely understand why he might want to head back to the Appalachian Trail with winter approaching so he could eat frozen rattlesnakes and mice instead of hot lasagna and mustard chicken. I mean, who wouldn’t?”

    I will say, though, but it wasn’t clear to me that Maggs is his dog not hers.

    PS, I’m with Gary J on his very polite request.

    1. Tammy, I agree that that those are wonderful lines, good indications of the characters and situation. (Yes, the dog is a character in many meanings of the word “character”.) It also didn’t hurt that the lines made me laugh out loud! I will be glad when I get to read the books, (I am not patient when good reading samples are available indicating that a wonderful book is on the way.) Taf

  8. Strong vibes of “I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything’s FINE,” which of course means everything most definitely is not fine.

  9. I do struggle with heroines I don’t like, but she’s understandable, blunt (to the reader, if not to Max) and I like her, so I think that part’s fine. I think it’s a lot of exposition in a very short space of time, and since you have to do it, keeping it this short and this funny will keep me reading to find out what happens next with woman, dog and man.

    1. If it were my work, I’d consider whether I could set it more firmly in an exact moment and then break up her thoughts with him trying his boot laces, swinging on his backpack, him walking to the door, looking down and realizing the dog isn’t with him, etc. Also, is she lying in bad, completely still, only watching him and thinking? Maybe she can have a few actions, too.

  10. That is simply mahvelous dahling! You had me worried you were about to become Jean Auel’s understudy. There’s enough there that we know what’s going on, but you have not retold the entire first book before getting to this one.

    I loved Jean Auel’s books, but by the third one, I wanted to throw it against the wall because of all the detailed retelling. I kept wishing for a Reader’s Digest Condensed Version. Her editor should be shot. It’s a tough row to hoe, to get a new reader up to speed, without boring the avid readers who just want to get on with the story. You and Bob are good at that. No worries.

    1. Also, that frozen rattlesnake and mice menu had me laughing. Nothing more delicious than those two things.

      1. When thawed, rattlesnake widely is said to taste like chicken, and per the cookbook Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, lab mice, which were the closest to wild mice that the authors were willing to come, are perfectly edible when properly prepared. I don’t remember if their taste was compared to anything. The two are probably healthier than lasagna, and maybe healthier than mustard chicken, depending on skinned/skinless and dark meat/breast meat.

        1. I wrote this before reading Lynn’s comment about not disturbing the wildlife along the Trail, which factoid Rose may even know in the depths of her memory. So the whole thing is her fantasy anyhow, and anyone wanting to try that menu should procure their rattlesnakes and mice elsewhere!

        2. Aarugh! “Skinned” doesn’t mean “with skin,” like “clothed” means “with clothes.” I should have just said “with skin”!

        3. One of my favorite scenes in “Auntie Mame” is where she serves hors d’oeuvres of pickled rattlesnake on crackers to the parents of the unsuitable girl her nephew is planning to marry. The girl says, “Have some of these little stripey things. They’re really good.” She chokes when Mame tells her what they are.

          1. Lian, There are people more fanatic about O’Brian than I, but I do have all his Aubrey-Maturin books and, in one form or another, his other sea stories, with the novels coming out after I discovered him bought in hardcover, plus some of them also as audiobooks (unfortunately on cassette), and a large chunk of O’Brian secondary literature. Oh, and The Captain’s Table CD and a DVD of the movie. Not to forget one of his nonfiction translations that I happened to own before I’d ever heard of him and his biography of Picasso. I don’t believe I’ve ever had any of the recipes from the book, but I once attended an O’Brian party where I ate some of the less exotic dishes. I brought homemade bread, but I don’t recall if it was from the cookbook or just made in a more or less period-authentic way.

  11. I don’t think she’s too cranky; after reading that excerpt, I’m more irritated with him for apparently being incapable of basic communication. I do think the recap is a little heavy-handed, with extraneous details that seem like they could be trimmed. One example: “I had a future again for the first time since I was eighteen and threw mine away” could just be “I had a future again for the first time since I was eighteen.”

    I’m a backpacker (and know plenty of people who have hiked, or are currently hiking, the AT). So I will add that the frozen rattlesnakes & mice comment is jarring to me — nobody should be killing rattlesnakes, and thru-hikers don’t forage/hunt. And every long-distance hiker talks endlessly about food, so she would be 100% aware of his trail diet within a day of meeting him (and repulsed, quite rightly, at the idea of eating that much ramen & snickers bars). Not what you asked about though, sorry.

    1. I don’t think the passage at all implies that she’s being literal about his diet, though. It’s pure snark and bitterness.

      1. I understand the snark, and didn’t think she was being literal. It just lands with a clang for me because it’s so wide of the mark. Snark is better when it cuts closer! But clearly not an issue for others, which is cool.

    2. I assumed the snakes and mice froze to death, and were not killed by Bob, and that probably that was not his real diet, just the worst possible option if he ran out of camping food.

    3. Actually, that’s one of those details that’s too detailed for a recap: He’s shadow-walking the Trail because he’s not a people person, so he’s actually walking through the woods beside the trail so he doesn’t meet anybody. He’s following the Trail, just not on it.

      He has issues. Well, Bob wrote him.

      1. From photos, I there seem to be plenty of narrow places where you have to walk the trail—mountain trails, bridges, and so forth. But I suppose you could minimize contact. Others such as Lynn could speak with more authority than I. There is also the issue of speed. Max has to get through everything, with Maggs (and dogs may not be marathoners like fit humans) within one season, going north to south. I gather this is non-trivial even when on the trail.

  12. Rose does NOT come across as bitchy at all — she’s clearly smart and she’s angry but the level of snark is perfect. There’s no real “bitchiness” coming through. And the exposition doesn’t feel like exposition because there is so much humor in there — the lines already mentioned, as well as others — including “… not to mention his lust for walking through forests and probably peeing on bushes.”
    I think its the perfect pitch set up and now I can’t wait to read more!

  13. Oh darn, I love that line about the rattlesnakes. But I don’t know much about trail hiking, but I don’t know why Rose would have to know much about it either.
    I agree I did think it was her dog
    On the other hand, Bob’s opening jarred me.
    So the only reason he’s with her is because she shagged him first. And there was never anything there. That kind of is a downer.
    Love the lines about the pain,
    You really are a wonderful writer, Jenny

    1. Here’s the next two paragraphs, if this helps;

      “I could see why Maggs liked Rose. Rosalie Malone was a sweetheart—big dark eyes, curly dark hair, soft smiling mouth–so when I first saw her, I thought, Middle-aged girl next door. Then she picked my pocket, fed me lasagna, and screwed my brains out. That was not what I expected, but then considering that the girl next door to Rose was Coral, the former honey pot assassin turned café owner, and the boy next door to Rose was Sid Quill, pharmacist and weirdo with a secret lab in his basement, Rose was pretty normal.

      ‘No, that’s not true. Rose was extraordinary, the luckiest thing that had ever happened to me. And I was going to leave her to finish the last stretch of the Appalachian Trail. I had to finish that last stretch. I always finish my mission.”

  14. To answer your actual question, no, Rose doesn’t sound bitchy to me.  The Max opening sounds masculine enough to me, but as written by a man with some interest in writing, not by the manliest of manly men.  (A few obnoxious literary poseurs notwithstanding.)  This may be okay, showing that Max is not quite the kind of guy that Rose in her opening takes him for.

    A few unsolicited comments on details:  “I was perfectly fine with Max Reddy leaving Rocky Start.”  To me, this makes it sound like he’d already left.  It isn’t until the end of the paragraph that we learn he’s still around.

     And then it’s pretty subtle:  “It would be good if he’d tell me when he was going to go, but it didn’t make any difference, really. It was fine.”  Reading this inattentively, I didn’t see the difference from “he’d told me” and I proceeded blithely on the assumption that Max had snuck out with his full pack on the pretext of practicing.  It wasn’t until the middle of the second paragraph that I realized Max really was merely going out on a short conditioning hike and had so far not actually walked out on Rose.  I don’t know how much concession you want to make to people starting to read shortly after waking up (like me) or in similar inattentive states, but perhaps some rewording could be in order.

    ‘He’d told me “pain is weakness leaving the body,”’  If Max said this at all, I think it must have been in some restricted context, such as some kinds of psychological pain, or the mild pain from muscle soreness or the arthritis pain that can be eased by movement.  I see warnings about serious pain all over the place, in much the terms that Rose uses, and by now I think it must also be preached by the military or wherever Max got his training.  (Someone here probably has solider info than I, as may Bob—but bearing in mind that Max’s training and active service was more recent than Bob’s. )  Maybe Rose’s quote is just her misunderstanding Max again, of course.  She likely is generalizing out of context.

    “Maggs is a long-haired German Shepherd, a special breed whose thick fur is pitch black.”  In standard parlance, German Shepherd is the breed.  I’m not sure what one calls the next division down.  Wikipedia seems to use “variety” and “variation,” but there may be a better word.  I had to read the sentence twice, since at first I thought we were talking about Shepherds as the special breed and Maggs just happened to be long-haired.  Maybe reword as, “Maggs is a special sort of German Shepherd, a variation whose …” or some such?

    “I could completely understand why he might want to head back to the Appalachian Trail with winter approaching …”  But it’s been established that Max is heading south.  Winter is already (normally) pretty wimpy where we are at TN/NC and is only going to get wimpier farther south where Max would be by the time it really arrives.  But it may be okay in context for Rose to fantasize this way.

    1. On rereading, I see that at least in the immediate context, Rose is only thinking about the ordinary pains of a long hike. Obviously those are (normally) going to do no damage, and are not the kind of pain that the warnings in books on exercise are talking about.

    2. The “pain is weakness leaving the body” is a traditional coach thing to say, plus I think it was a Nike slogan at one point. Dumb as hell, but there you are.

      Max is hiking the mountains. There’s gonna be snow. (He does talk about that, and he’s warned that it’ll be bad at the higher elevations.)

  15. I have no problems with bitchy heroines and love her voice. And I remembered Maggs was Max’s dog from previous sharing so that didn’t jar me but I agree that should be clarified. My question is: Was Max injured at the end of Rocky Start? Is he practice hiking because he was in the same place for 2 weeks or because he was hurt? The line “get back into shape to go back in the trail” which could go either way, especially with the talk about danger and saving lives, etc.

    1. He hasn’t been hiking for a couple of weeks because there’s big trouble in Rocky Start plus Rose is distracting him.

    2. I’m thinking, from Rocky Start, that he has stiffness and injuries from his former jobs that require warming up before full-on hiking.

  16. Okay, I went back and clarified that Maggs is Max’s dog. Thank you for mentioning that.

  17. Extremely relatable. This is me basically every time my spouse has to go to the office. “FINE. It’s FINE. It’s not like I NEED you. Go talk to adults and eat the free food in the company kitchen. See if I care! I’ll just be here with the dog eating leftovers.”

    I consider myself a nightmare of a reader WRT having a critical eye and I wasn’t moved to quibble over any of the details. It’s pure vibe and hits the mark. I did forget that the dog is supposedly his…

  18. I think Max’s first paragraph makes it clear that it’s his dog, although I had read the preview too.

  19. Bitchy heroines are fine. They’re the smart, funny ones. It’s the mean ones I have trouble with. As other Argh-ers have mentioned, Rose is angry, frustrated, hurt, and snarky–exactly where a smart woman would be in these circumstances. She’s not trying to get back at Max. She simply doesn’t understand him. There were all those unspoken promises hanging in the air.
    Like everyone else, I initially thought Maggs was Rose’s dog. But you already fixed that.
    Don’t know what to tell you about the other confusions mentioned in the comments. I loved the hyperbole of frozen rattlesnakes and mice. I had no problem with the order of the narrative. I expect an order-of-personal-importance flow in a first-person narrative.
    But, but, but…
    But an editor once spent a half hour yelling at me for changing the coat color of one of the cats in the third story of a series. When she finally paused for breath, I pointed out that the cat was described in the first sentence of the second story in the series, which she had also edited. I was consistent. She had just gotten it in her head the cat was another color.
    So, mileage may vary?

  20. I don’t find this “thought monologue” the least bit bitchy. She’s talking about something she feels unhappy about, and of course that shows, but unhappy doesn’t equal bitchy. I think all the humor, the poking fun at herself about the way she feels, is quite funny and saves it from any bitchiness. The thought stream gave me a good sense of who Rose is and what’s going on in her life. Since I haven’t read the book that’s being summarized, I can’t be positive that was enough backstory, but it feels about right to me.

  21. There are various ways to write series.  In the straight romance genre, you need a wedding (or equivalent) for each novel, so the usual way to build series, and that a weak kind of series, is to gradually marry off the friends and relatives and offspring from the first book. 

    In the mystery genre, you can have a “template” series where there are continuing characters but one book does not much affect the next.  In recent times, however, it has become more common to have a gradually developing background plot and changing character and circumstances from book to book.  In science fiction, in the olden days it was more common to see stand-alones or novels sharing a common “future history, ” but without a lot of overlap of characters.  Particularly on the adventure-story side of sf, there were also many template series.  Even many decades ago, however, a few more developed series, such as Poul Anderson’s Flandry stories, existed.  Eventually they became pretty much the norm. 

    Thus it is that sf writers have been for several decades confronting the problem of how to ease a reader into a later book of a non-template series. At an sf convention panel, I heard Jack Campbell (John Hemry) remark on how hard it was getting to write the start of a new Lost Fleet novel in a way that would bring new readers up to speed but keep return readers from falling asleep.  That likely was at least ten novels ago now!

    1. I think it’s just giving enough context each time. You need to know who the protagonist is and where they are in both geography and the story, but I think that’s it. You don’t need to know Rose’s daughter’s name, or any details from the previous book aside from the things the PoV character is remembering in the now, in fact, too many details just get confusing because a new reader isn’t going to remember them, and a reader of the previous book already know them. So you’re basically introducing a character in a compelling situation that moves the directly into action (Rose goes next door to her friend’s bakery and asks for help at the end of her scene, somebody tries to kill Max at the end of his). You have to start THIS story as fast as possible, with as little detail from the previous book as possible. But you need enough to get them into this one . . . ARGH.

  22. I agree with the others that she’s too snarky and funny to be considered bitchy. And I see you cleared it up that Maggs is Max’s dog. I was confused too.

    And I’m with Gary. I could use a bit more in order to truly make up my mind. LOL!

  23. Jenny, I know “no pain, no gain” is a (dangerous) cliche. My point is that by now I think that everyone else with half a brain cell knows that too, since I see warnings about that cliche all over the place. I strongly suspect that, for the benefit of people lacking a half brain cell, by now the warning has been incorporated into training regulations for the military and for Max’s former employers, whoever they are exactly. But as I realized on rereading, mine was an irrelevant point since that’s not the kind of pain at immediate issue, which is just normal pain from hiking. Obviously I don’t the context for what Max originally told Rose.

    It’s not yet winter. It’s still marijuana growing season. Max is already in TN, and south of its northern edge. My best guesstimate from what I can determine from the internet and considering that Max is in incredible shape for his 50s, is that he can average 15 miles a day and has 300 miles to go. That’s 20 days. He would likely be in GA, if not done with the whole hike, by early winter. The terminus of the trail is on Springer Mountain in GA, which, per internet, sometimes has a light to moderate snow cover in winter. But Max should be finished before winter in GA. Granted, he could get hit by a freak snowstorm, but I think other weather dangers are more probable. Again, this all is likely irrelevant, since the winter dangers are just in Rose’s thoughts. (Although she lives near the Trail and probably knows a lot more about it than I do.)

    1. Oops, this was supposed to go under Jenny’s response to my original comment. I filled in the wrong box again, sorry!

    2. The pressure to finish before winter is theoretically coming from Max. Thru-hikers are constantly aware of the possibility of running out of time, and a SOBO AT hike usually has to finish by the end of October (or earlier, if weather does weird things). There are some surprisingly big hills in TN & NC!

      1. Lynn, Per the below link, “You can expect snow and sub-freezing temperatures as early as the end of October.” I’m not at all clear on the current date in Rocky Start, except that nobody is complaining about the heat and in the snippets we’ve gotten, no one mentioned Labor Day as just over or Halloween as coming soon. Max probably figures he has wiggle room past the end of October, since that’s only a start date for the snow season and since he already successfully faced very mountainous country and iffy weather by starting the hike at the North end of the Trail. But if snow is an appreciable possibility by late October, that indeed seems to justify Rose’s musings.


        1. Oops, Lynm, I should have started that with “Just as you say …” I know you already said it snows by late October.

          1. Huh. Then even before Max got delayed two weeks in Rocky Start, he was behind schedule for someone attempting to finish the trail in one season southbound (per my newly educated understanding of the weather). Maybe from shadow walking and taking a dog along. Throws an interesting light on Max.

    3. For me the comment about pain was more a comment that was likely made to Rose by Max when he was wanting to do what he wanted to do regardless of how stupid it appeared to her (and likely was). It was a snarky comment issued to stop a discussion/argument. Then Rose remembering it would be more like her remembering a stupid (from her point of view) comment and still having the argument against it. I suspect that Max being a Bob character doesn’t use a lot of words. So, while you’re correct in your thoughts, they may be too literal for this application.

      Similarly, I would expect that Rose thinking about it being winter and things being frozen isn’t thinking about reality nor about the southern states, just that she’s grumpy he’s going to leave and in her area, winter would include snow and cold. Then again, I’m a midwesterner without a hint of geographical knowledge of my country and couldn’t tell you where the trail was nor where it would be cold or not. I’m also too lazy to look that up when I’m reading a fictional novel. People closer to the trail probably know more and could tell if there was a inaccuracy in the weather forecast.

  24. You got me. I want to read the books, as usual. I don’t think you need to rewrite it at all. But then I am not a writer, I am a reader.
    I didn’t have trouble understanding Maggs was his dog, yay for discerning dogs.
    All of the lines are hilarious. @Pain , you idiot…” is science. Peeing in the bushes etc.
    I do hate “middle books” that don’t stand alone.

  25. I didn’t find it overly angry or bitchy at all, except it’s become a thing for me when a person thinks about (or, gods forbid, addresses) their love interest as Stupid or Idiot or Dumbass. So even though this is internal monologue, those pejoratives fell with a clang. It’s already clear Rose disagrees with Max’s intentions.

    Agree with Patrick M above that Max probably isn’t the stereotypical manly man Rose is trying to cast him as, BUT they’ve only known each other for two weeks and presumably a lot of things have happened that have gotten in the way of seeing each other in all their colors. They’ve probably seen the absolute worst of each other. So maybe, IDK, a flavor of “I wanted a little more time to get to know you, Sasquatch.”

    Thanks for the snippet / teaser! Consider me teased!

  26. Love it! No, she is not too bitchy. He is leaving her. Who wouldn’t be angry. As to the backstory – I think it is just enough.

  27. Making every book in a series a standalone is incredibly hard. Absolute faith, you and Bob can pull it off. The best example I remember is Elizabeth Hoyt in the Maiden Lane Series. She made a support character a main character in the next book and the support characters were usually so developed in the other stories, so you actually wanted to know their story. Due to this, I ended up reading the whole series, when I had only picked up one book randomly

  28. I loved it. That said, I have huge issues reading a series out of order. I recently stopped reading a book once I figured out it was the 3rd book and not the 1st as it had seemed on the author’s website. (I should’ve looked at the copyright dates, but sometimes there’s prequels…) I did request the first 2 books through my library and read them before going back to book 3. Turns out the stuff that I thought would be explained more in book 2, wasn’t. It was just a short retelling of a story that isn’t told in its entirety anywhere else, which was a bit jarring.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading the whole series and in order. 😉

  29. Just read the chapter, I like it, she’s old enough and cynical enough not to get attached to a stranger just passing through Ma’am. The head knows that, but the heart wants what it wants, so she’s not going to say it, cause she knew he wouldn’t stay going in, so she doesn’t have a right to complain… But but… she wants him to stay…so she’s Fine with his decision to go really

  30. The info about the second hand store being something she inherited started feeling like too much summary, but up until that I was on board.

    The info after that section was funny, but repetitive, up until the last line about hating being mad at someone who hadn’t done anything wrong. That last line feels important and definitely worth keeping.

    I don’t know, I think you get to be mad at people for leaving. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, or you get to force them to stay, but you get to be mad at them when they walk out the door.

  31. Not at all too bitchy, Jenny. She’s funny and annoyed, and the sarcasm about the manly man and peeing on bushes is wonderful. I am immediately on her side.

    I did get slightly confused by this para: ‘Max opened the front door of my second-hand shop—my secondhand shop, the one I’d inherited from my boss/landlord Ozzie Oswald only two weeks before, the shop that was going to be my second, no third, no, wait, fourth chapter in my life—and called her, and Maggs just looked at him, the picture of A Big Black Dog Who Didn’t Understand the Situation.

    The jump from present to past and back to present in one sentence had me thinking that the two weeks before was when Max opened the door and called Maggs. I sorted it out fairly quickly, but that double time shift is a bit clunky. The rest is sheer delight.

  32. Rose doesn’t come across as a nag, or bitchy, or as awful. It’s a strong voice, and I’d want to read on. But I think I would be confused (and I did read the intro to Rocky Start you posted before). It’s the paragraph about the shop which would throw me. I wouldn’t be clear what I was supposed to understand about it from that – feels like it’s either too much information, or not enough. The “pain as weakness” quote would make me wonder whether I had misunderstood the rest and Max is not in fact the hero – as it feels a bit of a red flag thing to say. Agree that the sentence “I had a future again” would be stronger without “and threw … “, and maybe without “a better life” too.

  33. I love it. I can’t wait for Rocky Start to come out. When it does I’m going to take my Maggie for a huge walk so she is happy to snooze the rest of the day and then curl up in front of the fire (it’s winter here) and read it all in one go. Perfection.
    So the food thing is going to be lasagna this time? That’s what I’ll be craving?

  34. Yeah, I think you’re right about all that inheriting the shop stuff. I’ll take it out.

  35. I am the worst judge of this. I read what you write & I think – no no don’t change a thing. And then you say – I need to cut 2000 words out of this scene & my heart stops – and then you cut the words out & it is so much better.

    I’ll just say – it doesn’t cross the line from snark to bitchy & I trust you & Bob.

  36. She’s not bitchy, she’s snarky. And maybe cranky but that’s different than bitchy. Also totally understandable under the circumstances.

    I loved the whole thing but I’m particularly fond of the parts “and threw mine away” ,
    “he was a man’s man who needed to stride alone across rivers”, “pain is weakness leaving the body,” which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” , and “the picture of A Big Black Dog Who Didn’t Understand the Situation.”

    There is so much characterization here and so much amusement. This is the least boring backstory I have ever read. So, no, not boring at all, not too long, not too much. I can’t wait to read the rest.

  37. I loved it. I agree with others that I couldn’t tell whose dog Maggs was though I leaned toward it being his.

    I laughed all the way through this. I got from the very start that she was extremely pissed off and having one of those conversations we’ve all been known to have with ourselves.

    I didn’t think she was bitchy at all. I just wanted to spend more time with her.

  38. I think I would be more comfortable/clearer with it and her if the whole thing started with
    “You know what I hate? I hate being mad at somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong. It makes me look bitchy.”

    The self-awareness in it is important, and, for me at least, is what keeps Rose from crossing the line. Somehow, it’s like telling the your best friend, “yup, gonna rant, no, not reasonable” or something. I’m having trouble articulating it.

  39. I agree with Llewella’s comment that breaking up her thoughts with morning actions – Max getting out of bed, getting dressed, putting on the big pack, etc – would make it seem less like exposition. She could have the rattlesnake thought as he stuffs his bag with trailmix and snickers!

    But all the thoughts seem like things you should keep – just present with interspersed scene setting. I loved it!

  40. Chiming in late but omb, I am really looking forward to this series. Regarding bitchy heroines, I am okay with that. Books let me have a lot of experiences I can’t have IRL. Sadly no car chases, hidden treasures or beating the stuffing out of annoying people in my life. Also I always have to be the adult, well someone has to, so I don’t get to be bitchy. So let me live vicariously through a fictional character.

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