Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book One

I love a great series of books. In a series, you get more time with great main characters.  You can see secondary characters grow. And the author has more time to expand the plot and the action.

But when you read too many series, it's hard to keep up. I fall behind on which ones are out, and lately I'd vowed not to start a new series until I complete one on my list. Which brings me to the subject of today's post. When I read the first book in series, that I didn't realize was a series, I get upset. And when that book just STOPS instead of coming to some kind of conclusion, I get angry enough to not pick up the next one.

(My critique partners are probably snickering right now because of a certain tendency in my own writing. But I'm talking about a different animal here.)

This week I read Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, the conclusion to the Sookie Stackhouse series.  It ended just the way I thought it would all along, the way it probably should have three books ago.

Next I read The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson, quite possibly the best second book in a trilogy I've ever read.

And then I read The Lying Game by Sara Shephard.

I'd been meaning to read one of Sara's books since I heard her speak at the SCBWI conference in LA last year. Of course I knew her name; her Pretty Little Liars series is a popular TV show. But I didn't want to start another series, so I picked up The Lying Game at Books a Million. Nowhere on the cover, front or back, or on the interior flap copy, did it mention that this was a series. So I erroneously assumed it wasn't.

I'm not reviewing the book here, which I actually enjoyed, although it does literally stop with no real mysteries solved. (The extra pages that misled me to believe there was more to the story were a teaser chapter from the next book and an interview with Sara. I didn't read them, because I was MAD.) Of course after a little research, I now know the SIXTH book in the series is due out soon.

My issue is not with the book, but with the marketing. I picked this book up the old fashioned way,  at a store. It was on a summer reads table, without any of its series sisters. At my Orlando conference, we talked about how an author should fulfill the contract she has with the reader. But what about the publishers and book sellers? Although I probably should have known better, I felt duped. Like I'd been tricked into starting another series. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

As I'm typing, a big box of books arrived at my doorstep. Two (I hope) stand-alones, the conclusion to another series, and three first books in new series. I know, I know. According to my own rules, I should only be starting two new ones. But at least I know what I'm getting myself into.

How about you guys? Am I the only one who has a problem with the element of a "Book One" surprise?

Music for today: Love is Blindness by Jack White


  1. Critique partners would never snicker! Isn't there a saying like "whosoever is without writing sin should cast the first snicker"? That's why it never happens, because a sin-free writer hasn't appeared on the scene yet. ;)

    I just finished a first book in a series today that was offered for free--and I knew it was free because they're trying to suck you into the series. I was okay with that part, but the elaborate worldbuilding and setup just didn't deliver.

    It was like the author went, "Holy crap this is getting long, I'd better stop this one here!" and then looked for a loose plot thread to tie up and call it "done". It was so annoying that no, I will not be buying the rest of the series.

    And I think I bought the boxed set of the Sookie books, but anything after that I was getting at the library. The oomph went out of those a while ago.

    1. The sad thing is, I did enjoy the book. But now I'll always associate it with that feeling, of "Wait, what?" right before I tossed it across the room.

      And interestingly, one of the books in my new stack is a fantasy conclusion, in a case where the publisher decided the whole manuscript was too long, so they chopped it in half and turned it into two books. The stuff in the cover copy doesn't even get addressed in book one. But the voice, the writing, and the characters are so great that I didn't care.

    2. Oh, and thanks for not *admitting* to snickering. :)

  2. I have the same issue with series books! Especially if you are backtracking to a series that is well-established, it's tough to know which book is which. Why can't they be numbered like the old Babysitter's Club books!

    I haven't read the last Sookie book yet (waiting list at library) but I agree, they should have ended at book 10. That's a series I couldn't tell you what happened in the last few books because they all blend together. And for whatever reason, Harris had this idea that she had to write in cameo appearances for all her side characters in each book, where sometimes they are literally showing up to say hi, or calling to chat and then done, not essential to the story at all. Weird.

    1. You are sooo right about the numbers. I don't know how anyone is supposed to keep up with the order of the Sookie books.

      Be prepared for tons of cameos in this one, but I enjoyed it as a way to say good bye to everyone. Unlike most of the reviews I've read, I really liked it. I think Charlaine intended for it to end at ten, then the publisher asked for three more books when True Blood blew up. But now that it's done, I'm looking forward to what she'll dream up next.

  3. I may be wrong on this, but I'm pretty sure Sara Shepard is packaging now. The PLL series ended up (or maybe even began as) a packaged book series. I say all that to say I wonder if the marketing is more elusive when it comes from a packager as opposed to a traditional writer? Maybe not since the book still is published by a traditional house. Hmm...interesting. Vampire Diaries or Vampire Academy comes to mind as well - a series that you wouldn't know was a series based on the book jacket. Gossip Girl, too, had no numbers on the spine, so I never knew which books were new and which were old. But Vamp and Gossip were also both packaged book series. Hmm...

    I agree, though - I CANNOT stand when I pick up a book only to find it's the beginning (or worse, the middle or end of) a series. NUMBER THE THINGS! Like Stephsco said - bring back the BSC model!

    1. I would sign a petition to bring back the numbers for sure!

      That is an interesting question, though, about packaging. Because I would assume numbering would be more beneficial in those cases. I mean, could someone really pick one up half way through the series and understand what's going on?

      I actually blame the store more for my issue. If the other books were out on display, I might have bought all of them. Or none. But wouldn't that gamble have been worth it for BAM?