In today’s Journal

* Series
* Of Interest


For awhile now, I’ve been casting about looking for a Jack Reacher type character, by which I mean one who would carry a series that was both interesting for readers and fun to write. To that end, I’ve gone through several series:

Joseph “Joey Bones” Salerno, a Brooklyn mob-guy anti-hero, stood up and carried several short stories and a novella. But I had neither the chops nor the permission to write a Joey Bones series.

Then along came Nick Spalding in the exploratory Hemingway-esque novella Jobs Like That. Spalding was fun, and the novella led to the four-novel Nick Spalding action-adventure series.

But with that one I inadvertently limited Nick and his stories (and therefore myself as a writer) to the period between the Spanish Civil War and World War I.

Nick also found himself a woman, one who turned out to be a lot like my ex-wife. But she disappeared and later he found another one — a good one — and soon after that he lost interest in being a mercenary.

Marie Delacroix (the second woman) was a pretty capable mercenary herself, but she also was in love, wanted children, etc. Sigh. So Nick collected his pay and went off hand-in-hand to a new kind of adventure. One I will not put on the page.

After that, Stern Talbot came along. Stern is a classic detective turned PI. As I wrote the stories, I even saw Bogie in the lead role. But there are only so many stories you can write in that genre, and it’s mostly for a very niche audience. I’ll probably write more Stern Talbot books, but I’m not in a rush to do so.

Then I turned to the Blackwell Ops series. I thought for certain (in the early stages) that would be my Jack Reacher series. But the series characters (yeah, plural) themselves had other ideas.

Several POV characters popped up, each wanting to tell of his or her own experiences as an operative for TJ Blackwell. And who could blame them? All I could really do as the writer was sit down at the keyboard and hold on for the ride. (grin)

I hasten to add that it’s been a good ride so far and it will continue. But it isn’t the Reacher character I was looking for when I came through the door.

In the Blackwell Ops series, because of the necessary series-of-stories structure in each novel, the actual writing is like encountering an accordion effect in traffic on a major highway at rush hour.

You know. You race along for awhile, then come to a crawl, then race along again. Eventually you get to your destination (the end of the book).

In Blackwell Ops, the POV character goes on an assignment and the story races along. But the assignment eventually ends. Then I’m obliged to write a short, quieter transition as the operative is between assignments. Then another assignment comes in. The story grinds to a standstill as I take an hour to a few hours to a day to research the new location so the setting is authentic. Then the story speeds up, etc. Again, the accordion effect.

So in the back of my mind, even as I write Blackwell Ops, I still want to find that one character who carries a series on his or her own strong, capable shoulders.

But awhile back I realized I’d already written that character once.

The Wes Crowley Saga, although it featured dozens of characters, remained focused on (was “about”) one character, Wes Crowley, from the beginning to the end around 700,000 words later.

And with one exception as I neared the end of the third prequel in the saga, when I had to tie-in the prequels to my first novel (which would become Book 4 in the series), the story raced along throughout. I love it when that happens. (grin)

I think that’s one of the reasons I keep looking for a new series to write. I want the endorphine rush (or “writer’s high” or whatever it is) to keep going, unabated by anything but my own happy fatigue at the end of the day. And certainly unabated by anything in the story iteself.

I had an “Earth invaded” story going, and it might have lasted through several books, but I painted myself into a corner with that one. So it lasted through only two novels and I seriously doubt I’ll revisit it.

Then I also had The Future of Humanity (FOH, or Journey Home) SF series (10 novels) in which Earthers climbed aboard a generation ship and headed off to Terra 2, a new home planet. They were doing all right when I last talked with them, and it was great fun to write, but I’m pretty sure that one’s over.

Even as I continue toward the end of the sequel to The 13-Month Turn, I was thinking my next series might be a spin-off of Blackwell Ops, even as I continue the BO series into the future.

All I know about that possible new series (all that popped into my head) is that it would have three main characters and that they would strike out on their own on their downtime from Blackwell Ops. But I feel like that one isn’t going to pan-out. I’m just not that interested.

In a way, I’m like a Hollywood producer. Characters come in to pitch me story ideas, and the idea either grabs my interest and I make the “film” in my head or it doesn’t. Frankly, I wish another character as magnetic and interesting and real as Wes Crowley or Four Crows or as interesting and real as almost any of the major characters from the Future of Humanity series would step forward.

But probably I’ll stop looking. I’ve learned we tend to find things more easily when we aren’t straining to look and therefore focusing on too small an area. Probably I’ll just write one-off novels and short stories, and one day a character will really grab me and we’ll be off and running in a new series.

What about you? What does your ongoing learning look like? What do you want to write that you’ve never written before (or what do you want to write again)?

I hope you’ll play along. We can all learn from each other. I appreciate you sharing your comments in the comment section below.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “One Day Extension of the Sale” at

See “Pumpkin Spice and Writing” at

See “How to Write an Absolutely Great First Sentence” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1110 words

Writing of The Stirchians (novel, tentative title)

Day 10… 1330 words. Total words to date…… 28459
Day 11… 2337 words. Total words to date…… 30836
Day 12… 2115 words. Total words to date…… 32951

Total fiction words for October……… 41143
Total fiction words for the year………… 161525
Total nonfiction words for October… 22410
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 175630
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 337155

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2022 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2022 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 68
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this Journal I promote Writing Into the Dark, a Zen-like letting go and trusting yourself and your characters. I have never said (and never will) that WITD is the “only” way to write, but it greatly increases both your productivity and the amount of practice you get as a writer, and it provides a rapid ascension along the learning curve of Craft. This is not opinion. It is all numbers and facts.

6 thoughts on “Series”

  1. Good questions Harvey!

    I love to read Epic Fantasy, Game of Thrones style series and have a desire to write this style in the future. But as we have talked about in our mentorship this desire leads me to try to write “THE BIG EPIC NOVEL” (add sound effects and flashing lights) and crashing in the door comes critical voice. Which is silly and I will write an epic fantasy series at some point soon, I love the genre too much not to. Its just a case of getting out of my own way which I am practicing in my current novel.

    I do have a couple of characters ready made to write in a series. I wrote a short story collection at the start of the year about a retired police detective who can see and speak to the dead. It is set in my home city of Edinburgh, Scotland. I can see Detective Hugh McRath and his sidekick Fanny Archibald (a teenager who died in the mid 19th century) investigating problems with ghosts at different locations around Edinburgh. One location per novel. It will allow me to write about my city as well as the characters. I loved writing these characters and I think they primed for writing a series of novels. I’ll check in on them after I finish my current novel.

    • Very cool, Scott. Sounds to me like you’re on exactly the right track. But put the thought of writing a series out of your mind. Just write a story (novel), then another one, then another. Keep it going as long as you want, but write other stories as they come up too. You wrote your own key to all this: “I loved writing these characters.” That’s all you need. Just record the story the detective and his sidekick (and other characters) give you. Just let it run. And I love that you’re keeping it all in one overall setting that you know and love. That will save tons of time on research. I also like that you’re solving one crime or problem per story. Perfect.

  2. In terms of what I’d like to write in the future, I’d love to write more historical stories set in Canada’s past (particularly during the French and Indian war. War of 1812 and the Northwest rebellion of 1885). History is one of my greatest loves and I hardly see any screenplays/films based on Canadian history, so I want to ‘fill in’ that market.

    Tonight, I’m going to start a new story set in post Roman Britain centered around two main characters. One is Ambrosius Aurelianus, the leader of the Britons during this period (and who is the King of Britain in this version) and the other is a character of my own imagination named Cynewulf, a young Saxon warrior who serves under the brothers Hengist and Horsa.

    • Even while I’m in the midst of my own slowly unfolding novel, I envy the excitement you must feel at starting something brand new. Enjoy, Matt. The characters and story await.

  3. To series or not to series, is it a serious question?

    This is me playing along…

    My now long-running series (from the Black Book Investigation of Michael Grant and Associates) keeps on giving. But it began as something else. I’ve detailed its birth or genesis before, I’ll try for a condensed version.

    I’ve been writing poetry in the vein of “WITD” (Writing Into The Dark) since 1964. It was never formulaic poetry, except for periods of ‘testing’ myself or rather letting the character’s whose voices spoke in my poetry to ‘speak’ in forms such as The Shakespearian Sonnet, other sonnet forms, Villanelles, and etc, Even then when my conscious mind became ‘metaconscious competent’ with a ‘form’ I simple let the characters and event’s from my subconscious mind fill the space, ‘the form’, with their stories. (To me, poetry is about story, if nothing else.)

    Thus when I wrote a particular longish poem called “Love Letters From the Sky” in 1998 I found, when I finished it, that there was a much larger story there to tell. The story required ‘a someone’ to tell it. That character became Michael Grant, former soldier, former homicide lieutenant, clandestine operator, and private investigator. The telling of that larger story became my first novel “Jamaica Moon”.

    After finishing “Jamaica Moon”, the characters kept living, kept interacting, kept talking and doing. I’ve just been trying to keep up ever since.

    A handful of aide de camp type characters (LEO of all stripes, government agents/assets and associates) assist Grant in his investigations in which he becomes embroiled on domestic and foreign soil. I am now writing the 25th novel in the series, which should be finished by mid November—if the characters finish telling their story by then. There are numerous secondary characters that have and do reappear in the series, if not in succeeding novels. And there have been over two thousand named characters populating these stories.

    More to the point, about ‘branching out’, I have written several short stories in which some secondary character holds court in telling the story. However it seems, since this character also interacts with ‘the usual good guys’ most of these short stories become in essence chapters or plot-points, if you will, in a separate Michael Grant novel—thus get swallowed up elsewhere in the series.

    I have and do wonder or think about writing in another genre or looking for one of the many (Michael Grant & Associates) characters to sally forth to carry his or her own novel.

    That said, as I now run along beside the characters in “Red Sky” (MG&A novel #25) scribbling down their escapades, I already have four other MG&A novels standing in line with their tales to tell. So it does not appear that I will be quitting this series in the near term.

    Could I write stand alone novels? I am confident I could. However the impetus for writing a series was born—not only by my own preferences for reading novel series like those of Robert Ludlum, James Clavell, and John Sandford—of the characters’ need to live and fulfill their own character arcs. And so far, he and they are still living it. So am I.

    • “[T]he impetus for writing a series was born … of the characters’ need to live”—perfectly said, my friend. I remember that origin story, and it’s a good one. Thanks for conveying it here.

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