Secondary Characters, Sequels, and Fans

I’ve started on my third novel while waiting for my first to debut in March and my second to catch the eye of a publisher.  This tale will acquaint readers with some secondary characters from Secrets and Charades that seem to have captured the hearts of my prereaders. Writing a sequel reminds me of when I meet someone outside my workplace. I wear scrubs as a receptionist for Heartland Blood Center. Faithful donors see me often. On occasion, I bump into them in stores or another public place. They don’t know me in my civvies but they have that look. I know you from somewhere but what if I’m wrong.  Sometimes I greet them. One older gentlemen left the store and then came back in to track me down. He had to know where he knew me from. That’s the feeling readers get when they open a character-driven sequel.

Mary Connealy’s The Kincaid Brides focuses on Three Brothers and how they come to meet and marry their wives. Once I followed the first brother I was hooked for the series.

Secondary Characters

Secondary characters who are given their own story already have a fan base. The reader will remember them and how they aided in the enjoyment of the previous story. They’ll be curious to get to know them better.

Aaron Gansky’s Hand of Adonia Series left his characters hanging at the end of Book One. So now I have to see where the teens end up in the next installment.

Who did your readers want to know more about?

Before I started this project I presented my editor with two possible directions for a sequel. The other idea introduced a new character in the lead. I was undecided as to which one to start. Both ideas had merit. Yet, filling out the story on a character my readers will come to love in Secrets and Charades gave me a shoe in. As I said, a fan-base should already be there if sales go well from my first novel.

The novels  which comprise DiAnn Mills FBI Houston series are excellent as stand-alones. She writes so well that reading only one FBI Houston book is not an option.

Write a stand-alone

What if the sales don’t go well? What if my debut does ok but not enough to warrant a sequel? I’ll write this story so it could stand alone. If someone never read Secrets and Charades, they could still embrace this story without wondering what was happening.

Hoping for a stellar sequel

I’ve read reviews of sequels that bemoaned how they lacked the spark of the first one. We’ve all seen movie sequels which left us saying… Why?  So, I want my sequel to have a definite theme and a plot that is compelling. I find as I set words to paper and the characters spend more time with me I’m surprised at their reactions to things. So fun.

Family, Setting, and Neighborhood

Sequels can follow a family through generations. Such as Karen Kingsbury’s Newman Family or Gilbert Morris Winslow family. Both of these series filled several books. A typical series is three or four books. The main characters might be siblings, best friends or various neighbors in the same community. (Think Amish).  Settings can be the basis of a sequel. The characters from the previous novel only have a cameo appearance or none at all. The town, mountain or river, for example, may be the connecting element.

What are your characters saying to you?

If you’ve written your first novel see if any other character would like to get better acquainted with you. Maybe he or she is begging for you to tell their tale. Maybe the setting has many possibilities for the same characters from your first novel to have another adventure. Or a new lead to explore a different area of your setting.

What’s your thought about sequels? Leave a comment.

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Authors and Book Cover Creation

Creating a cover design is a fascinating process. My publisher provided a questionnaire for me to fill out. It gives the artist clues into my story world. Up until this point I had no idea what I wanted. The questions help get the creative juices flowing. The first few questions are basic: Title, author’s name. taglines, theme.

The next set of questions delves into specifics about the main character. What does your hero look like? Any distinguishing marks? Same questions for your heroine. This is where I get to give a clear description of the physical features of my characters. I had the option of adding photos of my ideas about the characters.

Who do my characters look like

The question about what actor or actress do you see playing them in a movie sent me to the internet to find photos. Did you know if you type in red-haired actresses with green eyes that you’ll find a large selection of photos? Evangeline’s hair is burgundy rather than carrot colored. I already had a picture of a model with burgundy hair but looking at more faces really helped narrow down an idea.

I have pictures of Tom Selleck, John Cusack and Sam Elliot all in cowboy garb that give me a feel for Jake. Evangeline looks a bit like Maureen O’Hara or Lori Loughlin (she’d have to dye her hair.)  I found a wonderful picture of Emma Stone. So I am adding photos of these actors to the form.

A fun exercise for you and your story, search the character description: cowboy, regency, blond soldier sees what comes up. If you’re a plotter and an outliner, you have probably already picked out your pictures before you started writing. What you want on the cover may be clearly define in your head. But, if you’re like me and lack artist know-how, you’ll be relying on the designer to bring your idea to reality. FYI: The publisher usually gets the final say on your cover. This is a good thing because they know what sells.

More details

I couldn’t find a picture of my ranch so I settled for writing a description. I got to choose whether I want people on the cover or a landscape. There is lots of room at the bottom of the form for more notes to further clarify.

Note all the covers of fellow-authors I’ve added to this post so you can get a better idea of cover design.


Mystery Cover


Mercy Rains

Historical landscape cover

Genre and time period are important questions as well. Secrets & Charades is set in 1870s so costumes on the cover need to resemble the period. The hoop skirt was no longer in fashion but bustles were popular.

hand of adonai smaller

Fantasy Cover


Police thriller/ fantasy cover

A fantasy cover might have someone dressed like Star Wars characters. The focus might be on an object that is key to the story line. Perhaps a space ship, a sword or a dragon take center stage in the story.

Comparing covers

There is a place on this form to add comparables. So, books with similar themes (remember that part in your proposal?) can now be used as examples. Those covers show what’s selling.


Not good ideas

If the hero is very tall, then he shouldn’t be the same height as the heroine on the cover. Unless of course she is very tall, too. I actually saw this on a cover. Until I read the story I didn’t realize the hero was well over six feet tall. Once I knew this, the cover was a bit disappointing.

If the story takes places in the winter in Florida, it will look different than winter in Alaska. That also goes for trees not native to the area. This will date me, but the movie Wayne’s World was supposed to take place in Aurora, Illinois. One scene in the movie had palm trees in the background. I suppose comedies can get away with that. Book covers not so much.

If your genre is horror you wouldn’t want a sunny sky.

A romance—unless it has vampires or some violent fantasy theme—is not going to have blood and gore on the cover.

Capturing emotion

The form asked me to describe the tone, mood, and attitude. One or two word descriptions can make a big difference in helping the designer get a taste of my fiction world. I had to google these terms to get a deeper understanding of the literary significance. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer so I don’t always have a tone or mood in mind until my characters speak to me.

Defining the tone and mood can make a difference in a novel’s content so it should reflect on the cover. A romantic comedy design is going to look different from a romance with a broken-promise-restored theme. The same with a thriller with a sullen cast of characters versus one with a hopeful mood.

Photo sites give lots of options

You may prefer symbols or settings for your cover. My fellow-writer Gloria Doty has a modern-day cowboy romance series. She opted for boots and a Stetson on the cover of Bringing  a Cowboy Home. She wanted her readers to enjoy their own images of her characters. Photo websites have lots of these sorts of images.


Publishers purchase the cover art and, if you self-publish, you’d do the same. Linda Yezak has a great cover for The Final Ride. She created it herself using pictures of a model she found online. She purchased the rights to use her likeness. This helped her create her cover.51jgIj4jqfL

Being sure your cover reflects your story means more sales. So, I am taking extra time to fill out this form. Hopefully the designer will get me. If the cover catches the reader’s eye, then they will pick it up. If you’re self-publishing, spend the money on a quality cover. I can’t wait to see what my cover will look like. I’ve been impressed with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas cover designs. The reveal of my design is some months away. But the process begins now.

The back cover is just as important as the front cover. I’ll talk about the process in the next post.

Anyone like to share their experience with cover designs?


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Author Aaron Gansky Talks About His New YA Novel

hand of adonai smallerWow! That describes the latest YA fantasy I read. Hand of Adonia: The Book of Things to Come was more than I expected. Aaron Gansky understands the dilemmas (real or imagined) of teens and shared them freely with his readers through his characters. I loved it so much I bought a copy for my 17 year- old grandson. He can’t wait to read it.

Today I have invited Aaron to join me for a Q & A on Writer’ Patchwork.

Here is the cover blurb to give you a peek at the story.

At first, Lauren Knowles is thrilled to find she’s “clicked” herself inside Alrujah, a fantasy game she created with her best friend, Oliver Shaw. But the exhilaration of serving as a magical princess fades when she senses a demonic force – one they did not create – lurking in the shadows.

Though they created a world of wondrous beauty blue-leafed forests, shimmering silver rivers, and expansive medieval castles Lauren and Oliver soon find their secret realm to be an ever-changing land of dark oppression and deadly sorcery. With the help of Aiden Price and Erica Hall, two friends from their high school in North Chester, the four teens must find a way out a way that can only be discerned from the dusty pages of the ancient leather-bound tome, The Book of Things to Come.

Faced with questionable allies, invisible enemies, and increasingly dangerous levels of difficulty, the four must learn to work together, to trust each other … or be forever lost.

Welcome, Aaron. I’ve secured the dogs in the basement. They were concerned you might bring some of the monsters from Alrujah with you. Take a seat on the couch and let’s get started.

Aaron how long have you been on this writing journey?

I’ve been writing all my life, but I’ve only been taking it seriously (as more than a “hobby”) since college. That’s when I made the decision to actively seek writing and publishing as a career. That’s probably more years ago than I care to admit. But you asked, so I’ll tell; about 15 years.

For those who don’t understand the term can you explain what the YA genre is and how it is different from writing for adults?

YA stands for Young Adult. It’s a term that describes literature that is aimed at high schoolers. Usually, the protagonists are younger, in high school themselves. Other than that, there’s not a major difference between YA and adult literature.

Tell our readers how you came up with your story idea?

I’ve always loved video games, especially role playing games like the Final Fantasy series and The Elder Scrolls. I wanted to write a book that could spoof that particular genre with all its tropes and archetypes as a type of homage. But somewhere along the line, the book became more than that. The characters came alive and I found myself really rooting for them. They’re in way over their heads, and the fact that they designed the game only adds to their confusion and fear.

What kind of research if any did you do?

I played a lot of video games and read a lot of fantasy novels. Still do. I like sitting down on a weekend, logging a few hours on something like Skyrim and calling it research. It’s really a win-win.

Even though I don’t play video games, I felt like that’s exactly where I was. The settings captured my attention. The battle scenes reflected the video game storylines. Which games did you use as part of the blueprint for your story?

As I said earlier, the old-school Final Fantasy games (specifically two, six, seven, and eight) gave me many of my ideas. But when I began writing, Skyrim had just come out. That was probably the primary game influence for me. It’s pretty immersive and deep, and it still amazes me how deep the games mythology goes.

What do you hope readers learn from Lauren and Oliver’s story?

More than anything else, I hope they enjoy the journey. I didn’t set out to make a particular point. I think that’s an easy way to fall into writing something that reads more like a brochure or pamphlet. Instead, I wanted to tell a good story. What readers learn from it is really up to them. But I imagine most will discover the power of perseverance and hope in even the darkest of places.

What is the key to writing well for a YA audience?

You have to be completely real and honest. These are savvy readers, and if you talk down to them, they’ll know it. Instead, I write like I would to an adult audience. I don’t pull a lot of punches in terms of prose. Of course, I do try to make sure my writing is clean. I want adults to feel comfortable putting this book in the hands of their teens. But the teens will immediately recognize these characters as tangible people with their own struggles and insecurities.

You captured my attention and left me hanging at the end. What can readers look forward to in upcoming novels. How many are you anticipating in the series? When are they coming out?

The second book should release in 2016 some time. I’m not sure exactly when, but when I find out, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. The series was intended to be a trilogy, but it grew beyond that, and now I’m looking at a four book series. Along the way, there will be more characters (both from North Chester and Alrujah), more excitement, more danger, more laughs, and more triumphs. The story will get deeper, and even a little darker. The stakes will rise, as they must.

Hey everyone we’re doing a give-away.

Aaron will give out an autographed copy of Hand of Adonia to a lucky reader. How cool is that. It’s simple to enter. Post a comment here or on Facebook. And if you post this blog on your FB page or other social media I’ll give you more chances to win this awesome book. Let me know in the comments that you did. I’ll contact the winner and send their info to Aaron. I’ll give everyone until Friday to comment.

Aaron Gansky

Aaron Gansky’s Bio

In addition to being a loving father and husband, Aaron Gansky is an author, novelist, editor, mentor, teacher, and podcast host. In 2009, he earned his M.F.A in Fiction at the prestigious Antioch University of Los Angeles, one of the top five low-residency writing schools in the nation. Prior to that, he attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing where he studied, in part, under Bret Anthony Johnston, now the Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University.

His first novel The Bargain (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was released in December of 2013. The first book in his YA Fantasy series Hand of Adonai: The Book of Things to Come was released in August of 2015. He has written two books on the craft of writing fiction; Firsts in Fiction: First Lines and Write to Be Heard (with Diane Sherlock).

Visit Aaron at his website.

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