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Monday, March 28, 2016

SERIES or SEQUELS?

       by Linda Swift
                  Tales that Touch the Heart           

A recent blog presented here by Celia Yeary discussed books published in a series, as opposed to sequels. I have recently written three connected books which seem to have characteristics of both. So what should these short novels be called? I welcome your opinions.




In late 2014, I decided to enter a story in our PbRJV Christmas Anthology. My Civil War novel, This Time Forever, had recently been published, and in my head I was already living in Chattanooga in 1865 so I developed a plot that kept me there. A Season of Miracles was set during the last year of the war. Caroline Ross, a young Confederate widow, sought help from John Oldham, a Union doctor, when her little son became very ill with diphtheria. She was drawn to this shy man who kept a bedside vigil with her but his presence threatened everything she stood for. Could she face the censure of society and follow her heart?



Caroline had a sister, Elizabeth, wife of Clyde Harper, a despicable man. Their son died from the dreaded disease. Elizabeth deserved better than an unsuitable husband and the loss of one of her two beloved children. When an invitation for Valentine stories came from PbRJV a few months later, I took the opportunity to make amends to Elizabeth. In A Season for Love, Elizabeth had become a widow, and was trying to save her farm from being taken by her deceased husband's equally despicable brother. In that time period, women could not own property in most states and only marriage to a man who would share the homeplace with her was a viable solution. Matthew Sutton, a homeless veteran, crippled in the war, was Elizabeth's only option but he was reluctant to oblige her. Could  she risk losing everything and convince him to help her try to save what was rightfully hers?



Although this novella had a satisfactory conclusion, Matt Sutton's story seemed incomplete. He had a sister who shared his estranged father's home and I kept wishing for a reconciliation now that the war was over. When another PbRJV invitation came for a summer anthology, I decided to make it happen. Enid Sutton worked for her father, Judge Sutton, and when he suffered a heart attack, a chance visitor to his office was able to offer assistance. Ben Taylor, a Yankee had come to Chattanooga to claim his aunt's inheritance but was mistaken by the judge as a carpetbagger. Enid sent word to her brother about their father's condition, and with misgiving he came home and brought his new family. The judge refused to accept either of his children's choices until a surprising development forced him to acknowledge the truth about himself.


In December, I was able to combine these three novellas into one collection titled Seasons of the Heart. Now, during our Spring Sale, you can download A Season of Miracles free at Smashwords. Book 2 and Book 3 are also available for 99cents each. Or you can get the three stories combined in the collection titled Seasons of the Heart for $1.99.

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Here is an excerpt from A Season of Miracles, Book 1 in my stories about the Ross-Sutton families. I hope you will enjoy it and check this link for your free download.
Excerpt:
The woman lay with her arm across her son's small frame in a gesture of
protection. Though God knows, she couldn't protect him from the disease
now in control of his body. John stood for a long moment looking at her.
She was completely covered by the quilt but he'd bet his wages she was
fully dressed beneath it. Her long wheat-colored hair curled loose about
her face, and for the first time he saw what delicate features she had.
There'd been no talk about her soldier husband, but he was a lucky man to
have a son and a woman like her to come home to. At least, he had a son
now, but whether that would be the case when the man returned remained
in God's hands.

John banked the fire. It seemed strange being in a real house again, and he
longed for the war to end and life to be the way it was before. Life will
never be the same as it was before for me, he silently reminded himself,
war or no war. He had burned all his bridges behind him when he decided
to join the Union Forces. Now he had no home to go back to – but sadder
still, no family.

Unfolding his bedroll, John placed it as near the fire as he could, and slid
his long length inside. His leg ached something fierce since the ride from
camp in the cold. It had been almost two years since the Christmas at
Stones River. Three days of fighting and then getting hit with a minie-ball
had been hell. If it hadn't been for the skill of Major Burke – Captain
Burke then – he would have lost his leg. It was lucky Burke found him in
that muddy cornfield and stopped the bleeding. The man was probably
glad to render aid to one of his own, even though he risked censure from
his Rebel captors. Maybe getting wounded had been lucky too. At least it
gained him an assignment to the camp in Chattanooga when the able
doctors moved on with General Thomas.

He dozed. The harsh coughing of the boy woke him.

* * *

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14 comments:

  1. Hi Linda. I remember how impressed I was with your first one, A Season of Miracles, in the first anthology. I actually didn't know you created a series from it. Now I have to go back through my anthologies. How hard was it in the series to give the reader enough background without providing spoilers if they're reading out of order?

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  2. Good question, Gerald. In the second book, the main characters from the fist book were married. And the "happy ever after" conclusion of Book 2 carried over into Book 3. However, there was a substantial plot in all three that made the HEA only part of the stories. So I think any reader could be satisfied with whichever book they read as a "complete." After all, it is a foregone conclusion in any romance that the hero and heroine will get together, isn't it? Thanks for your heartwarming compliment of my story. Like you, I've read one of your entertaining stories in those three anthologies and have the others still waiting for time to enjoy them.

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    1. Yes, hopefully if we've done our jobs right as the author, events we allude to from the past will make them want to go back and read the details of that story, too. It's like getting to know someone, and then over tea asking, "So how exactly did you two meet and fall in love, anyway?"

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    2. I love your example, Gerald. And you described the motive and hoped for outcome perfectly. Thanks.

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  3. Sometimes it really is difficult to tell what's a series or a sequel. I looked it up in my Oxford American Dictionary.

    Sequel: A novel, film, etc. that continues the story of an earlier one.

    Series:
    A number of things of the same kind, or related to each other in a similar way, occurring or arranged, or produced in order.

    So, you got me. The lines seem a little blurry. I guess the sequel has the same characters carrying on in the same quest or against the same obstacle where a series involves characters or places that are related or events that take place through time.
    It all seems mighty confusing to me. I say call it a series or sequel or whatever you like. I'm probably missing some techno-lingo here.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your book, This Time Forever. If your Seasons series (see, I'm calling it a series) is anything like This Time Forever, well,they have to be excellent. And those are fantastic prices! I know these books are going to be a huge success.

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  4. Thank you so much for your comments, Sarah. I think I would have to say, based on your excellent definition that these books are definitely a series. There are different main characters and plots in each and they are in order. Thank you for your praise of This Time Forever. That book was rated PG while these novellas are G, and would be defined at Sweet Romance so these would be enjoyed by younger readers and those who don't want any bedroom scenes.Thanks again for your support.

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  5. Sarah has a good definition. This is how I see a series, and a series is the best kind for me to write. I understand how a series works. A sequel? I've had arguments..okay, discussions...with a couple of writer friends about this, when they wanted to call a story a sequel, while it was an entirely different story from the first, but had similar characteristics which made it part of a series.
    I do love your stories, and yes, you're a master of the short story or novella.
    Very good post, and it looks great!

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  6. Thank you so much for your compliment of this blog, Celia. I think maybe I'm getting the hang of the mechanics of it now, thanks to you. And thank you for your kind words about my stories. I think we have a "mutual admiration society" of two on this subject. I love to write the longer novels, could it be because I'm long-winded? But there is a lot to be said for the shorts and novellas. And here is another definition that begs defining. These teach authors to be more concise and I'm a "rambler."

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  7. Linda,
    I enjoyed all your stories in this series. And I agree, it's pretty much a given the hero and heroine will eventually find a happily ever after or at the very least a happily ever for now. :)

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  8. Thank you, Karen, for you kind comments about these stories. And thank you for creating great covers for all of these books. I hope readers will take advantage of the chance to read the first story free during our spring sale. I've been fooled a few times lately by a "free" book offer than turned into a free if you are a member of some paid for organization but this is not one of those! It is simply free.

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  9. It's always great to get the treat of a series. Its like coming home to family. You grow to love the characters, setting, and dynamics that turn the story. Your covers are fantastic. What a great story line. Congrats on the success

    Nancy

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    1. Thanks for responding to my SOS, Nan. And I think we as authors get attached to our characters and don't want to let them go. Especially if we have left something unresolved as I did with Matt Sutton in Book 2.

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  10. You're very welcome, Denise. I hope you enjoy it.

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Comments relevant to the blog post are welcome as long as they are noninflammatory and appropriate for everyone of all ages to read.
Thank you for your interest and input.