Starting a New Series

by Elise M. Stone

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer. I put that dream on hold for decades while I got married, had a family, and built a career. It was one of the many things on my “someday” list. Then 9/11 happened, and I realized that “someday” might never happen. If I wanted to write a novel, I’d better get started.

I’ve written nine cozy mysteries in two different series over the past few years. Cozies generally have a romantic subplot, and mine are no different. While writing the last book, I realized I was enjoying writing the romance more than the mystery. What if my next book was a romance novel instead of a mystery? An intriguing question, which I decided to answer.

I began 2019 by starting on a sweet historical western romance series for a change of pace. This has been coming for a long time. Years, in fact, although I didn’t realize it myself at the time.

I have trouble sleeping. In the quiet, my brain is like a hamster on one of those spinning wheels. It thinks of all kinds of things it should not be worrying about at midnight. I have to distract it in order to fall asleep.

OTRW-TotTROne of the things that helps is listening to a podcast of Old Time Radio Westerns. Before most of the classic western series of the 1950s and 1960s were on television, they were on radio. I grew up with those TV series, so the stories, while different, are very familiar. Now I fall asleep to the Lone Ranger or Gunsmoke or the less-familiar Frontier Gentleman.

I’ve been absorbing these stories in my dreams for at least two years.

I find the time between the Civil War and the beginning of the twentieth century, when cowboys and outlaws and marshals were in their heyday, fascinating. The legends in themselves are romantic.

But I’d forgotten how hard it is to start a new series in a new genre. There are new characters in a new place in a new time.  The people are like cartoon outlines with indistinguishable features. They’re not even wearing any clothes. They’re white blobs like the Pillsbury Doughboy. This is quite a change from going back to my senior citizens in the fictional town of Rainbow Ranch, Arizona, characters I love who live in places I’ve visualized dozens of times.

Another stumbling block is the historical aspect of this series. I often find myself stopped with questions like when did the railroad arrive in Tucson? (1880, which means I can’t use it because my story takes place in 1872.) Or did Philadelphia have mass transit in 1872? (It did: a horse-drawn streetcar.) Or handling issues of diversity for today’s sensitive audience.

The biggest threat to the settling of southern Arizona was Apache raiders. The attitude of most back then was that the only way to solve the problem was to exterminate the Apache. This was the opinion of not only whites, but Mexicans and the Papago, an Indian tribe now known as the Tohono O’odham. In fact, these three groups banded together and massacred a group of over ninety Apaches, mostly women and children, in a peaceful settlement outside Camp Grant in 1871. But not all Apaches were peaceful, and they were a serious problem for the ranchers and miners and homesteaders in the late nineteenth century.

And then there’s the romance plot itself. I bought several books on how to write a romance novel because—ahem—I’d only read one or two of them prior to this year. Unlike cozy mysteries, where I’d read hundreds over the years before I tried to write one, I had no gut feel about how a romance needs to work. A lot of times, I feel like I’m stumbling in the dark.

I know, eventually, the whole story will start playing itself out in my head faster than I can type. I’m looking forward to that stage because that’s when the magic happens. In fact, it happened for a time his past week as I was writing a scene and the characters started interacting in a way I’d never thought they would. I love when that happens. So I’ll keep pushing forward, stumbles and all, because I’m addicted to that magic.

And I love a happily ever after.



Elise StoneBest Photo Reduced Size Lavender Background 2Brief Bio:

Elise M. Stone was born and raised in New York, went to college in Michigan, and lived in the Boston area for eight years. Ten years ago she moved to sunny Tucson, Arizona, where she doesn’t have to shovel snow. With a fondness for cowboys and westerns, Arizona is the perfect place for her to live.

Like the sleuth in her African Violet Club mysteries, she raises African violets, although not with as much success as Lilliana, who has been known to win the occasional prize ribbon. Elise likes a bit of romance with her mysteries. And mystery with her romance. Agatha and Spenser, her two cats, keep her company while she writes.

Elise StoneAVC Series Six Books
Elise M. Stone
Elise M. Stone’s article was posted by The Writers In Residence member Jackie Houchin.

Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

12 thoughts on “Starting a New Series”

  1. Elise, I enjoyed your take on starting a new series very much, and I sympathize with trying to find research for your time period. At least yours is in the US. The time period for my current project takes place in China in the 1880s. How fortunate, though, we are to have Google, a boon to writers. Your series sounds like the perfect match-up of romance and mystery – a hot trend these days. Good luck with sales, and thank you for sharing your insights.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’d heard other writers of historicals talk about how much time the research took, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I had to do the same thing myself.


  2. Thanks for sharing this sometimes painful and always interesting process. Your mysteries look fun, and I love the Arizona desert. As soon as I find out how much today’s vet bill will be, I’m hopping on Amazon to buy one of each series!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fun post–especially for me, since I’m currently pondering a new series, too! This was especially enjoyable to me since I also often include both mysteries and romance. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elise, thanks for a wonderful post.

    I love this: “… as I was writing a scene and the characters started interacting in a way I’d never thought they would. I love when that happens.” It’s a great moment when my characters take over a scene.

    As humans, we tend to be romantic and mysterious. It follows that there’s romance in every mystery (even the hard-boiled type). And mystery in every romance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So very glad you visited us today, Elise. Many writers face the same dilemma of starting a new series, but the Wild, and even not so Wild West is a great place to start. I have been watching the old Virginian TV series and really like the take they have on that era. It isn’t the shoot ’em up variety. All the best with those characters that are coming to life in your head. Let them tell you who they are. Good luck with the series.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very nice “meeting” you, Elise, and how exciting starting a new series. For me, research is one of the most fun parts of writing, and especially if you are researching a new area or occupation. Admittedly, a lot of my research never gets in the book–but I learn so much and have such fun. Much success…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for visiting us, Elise. I had to laugh when you wrote, “I’d forgotten how hard it is to start a new series in a new genre” for I’m in the process of doing that with a spin-off of my current series. Your experiences and suggestions will come in handy.

    Liked by 2 people

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