Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Fish, A Fowl and a Mammal

Sometimes I feel out of step with most of the world of romance. I think myself and a very few others are kind of like the lone wolves of the romance reading world. I was visiting a message board earlier and a few posters were talking about looking forward to the brothers’ stories in a new series by a well known author. I read things like that and I feel not only not interested, but almost slightly annoyed. I dislike intensely the fact that just about every romance book written these days screams sequel bait. Wendy also has a post up about something very similar. She’s a fellow lone wolf. She started out as a mystery reader and doesn’t mind the endless series in mysteries, but she is also suffering from seriesitis when it comes to romance.

What happened to the good old days when a book stood on its own? When you closed the cover on the book and that was it. Finito! End of story, dust off your hands and move on to the next book which will be entirely different. I miss those days! I want them back again, at least for some books.

So – who is responsible for my current annoyance? Why readers for the most part unfortunately. Now this is just my theory and I could be all wet, and feel free to tell me I’m full of BS, but having been a romance reader for many years now, I’m going to put it forth as a thought. I think things started changing more dramatically once the internet began to catch on in a big way. Now, through web sites, blogs and other on line medium sources, readers had a way they could quickly contact authors. I’m sure quite a few readers used to use the old fashioned snail mail approach, but not the way they do with email. I only ever hand-wrote one letter to an author and I had no address to send it to so I sent it to her publisher hoping it would somehow make it’s way to her. It did but that’s another story. Nowadays with authors snail mail addresses, email addresses and web sites, they are very accessible. I myself have sent a few emails to authors when I’ve enjoyed their works; not many mind you, but a few. So with readers being able to contact authors much more readily, they feel much more likely to ask if the author is planning so and so’s story. And I think authors, wanting to please their readers have obliged. Then of course you have publishers taking note of this rather interesting phenomena. Now, I think, they almost require an author to write sequels. Authors don’t mind because they already have a base established so they don’t have to start from scratch with a story line, readers are happy because they don’t really have to say goodbye to beloved characters. It’s only a few people like me who really don’t like this new way of story telling. Now in some cases I don’t mind sequels, there are some secondary characters that really stand out and beg to be written. (and of course the rare one that hasn't been. Where's Cat's story I ask you damn it!) But on the whole, I’m not overly impressed with the whole thing. It's just done too much and too often.

And even less do I like the looooonnnggg extended series. Years ago, this wasn’t nearly as common as it is now. Back then Jo Goodman wrote a rather lengthy series about five sisters all named Mary. And as much as I adore Jo Goodman today, I really don’t feel like getting invested in that many books. Another author I remember from years gone by is Leigh Greenwood. He wrote a series about seven brother who all married flower girls – no, not girls from the 60’s . The heroines all were named after flowers - although one was called Fern and I don't know if ferns have flowers. I read a couple and then lost interest. But where I think this new way came in strong is with the incredible success of Julia Quinn and the Bridgerton clan. I lost interest long before she wrapped it up, but I know I’m in the minority – a salmon swimming upstream so to speak. As Wendy mentioned we have Stephanie Laurens. Now I’ve only read one book by her, the first in the long never ending series she’s written. I didn’t like it, again that salmon thing, ‘cause I know most readers did, and I’ve never been tempted to try her again. Then there is Christine Feehan and her Dark series, I’ve read a couple, Sherrilyn Kenyon, I made it to four and her Dark Hunter series and it goes one and on.

I know I’m an odd duck – or so Lisa always tells me – but I just long for a nice stand alone book these days.

‘But wait a minute,’ you’re thinking. ‘Didn’t you just say in your previous post that you can hardly wait until the next Elizabeth Hoyt book comes out?’

Well yes, yes I did. But that was more so because the author’s voice was so wonderful, and less so because I’m particularly anxious to read about a secondary character from The Raven Prince. It’s the authors’ voice that keeps me coming back book after book if I love her writing. Not the fact that I get to read the heroes sister, brother-in-laws cousins story or the best friend of the sister who has a cousin who is interested in the step sister of the hero. I could mostly care less about that. What I think would just fit the bill for us is a hero and heroine – both of them without siblings and if they have friends, they aren’t mentioned very often.

So, I’m a salmon, an odd duck and a lone wolf all rolled into one; a fish, fowl and mammal. I wonder how many of us there are?

‘til later


Kaitlin said...

Kristie-I understand where you're coming from. There are a few stories out there I wish had been followed up with, but most of them aren't like that.

I do like series, if there's a good reason behind it. Kind of like Cindy Gerard's Bodyguard series. But, each of those books could also stand alone, which makes them all the better.

I dislike series where each book starts somewhere where the other one ended and if you haven't read any of the previous books, you're screwed. Happens to me too many times.

Or, if the book is part of a series and there's no reference to the previous books anywhere on the blurb. It's only when you start to read it that you realize a bunch of books were there before. Drives me batty!

I just stopped reading historicals about 10 years ago (and I'm only 30), but I got tired of the same rehashed plot lines. Ironically, one of my very favorite books is a historical, but they are very few and very far between.

Have a great night! :)

Mailyn said...

I agree with you!

first, I also blame the readers since it's, like anything else, a business ergo supply and demand is what it's all about.

I think that only good strong secondary characters that stand out need to be in a sequel but it doesn't HAVE to be a sequel. It can stand on its own like Lord of Scoundrels and The Last Hellion. You can enjoy either without ever having read the other.

I only like series if it's in Fantasy books because High Fantasy [like LotR] and Sword & Sorcery novels are hard to get in one book. Unless you want to pull 700+ book, which is fine by me but most people don't like it.

Romance shouldn't need sequels, again, unless they can be independent of each other and if the secondary character where really important. Also, if and only if, there is a bigger story that can be efficiently told in more than one book. Not just stretch it out to sell books. This is usually either a big mystery type novel or a fantasy/paranormal type novel. Plain ol' romances don't need sequels IMO.

Oh and, even when they do have sequels I rather a trilogy or, at most, 5 books but ONLY if needed to tell the plot effectively. Again, usually only needed in the Fantasy realm. Rarely, if ever, in the Romance genre.

Romance books, for the most part, aren't as complex as Fantasy books [especially high fantasy] so there is no need to stretch it out.

romancelover said...

I'm a series whore, I must admit...but I must say that only certain secondary characters deserve books. Laurens has taken it too far. I don't mind the 2 or 3 book series...when it gets to 6, 7, or 8...well, that's when the author just goes overboard for me (although I still read the books..yeah, I'm a whore).

meljean brook said...

*raises hand* I sequel-bait! But I swear I didn't mean to (although I mean to more now than I did two years ago).

The difference to me in a series is when a character is there for a purpose -- like, he's not just there to look hot and get the readers panting (gah!) but to serve a real function in the plot. In those cases, you can almost see the sequel coming naturally--like, hey, there's an interesting character, so let's tell his story (why is it always the guy? especially in paranormal?) Those are okay to me, especially if a complete story is told. (I don't mind dangling bits, either, as long as the book has a complete plot and self-contained storyline.)

It's the ones with a bunch of random hot dudes just standing around, who swoop in and save the day as a team and trade quips that make me want to cut myself. Because the function (physical and emotional) they usually serve could have been done by one person ... but, no, the readers gotta meet ALL of the upcoming heroes.

But I'm not certain who's responsible -- readers, publishers, writers. Some of it is definitely market-driven, and perhaps brought to the forefront by fan activity on the Internet ... but I also remember the Malory series and Johanna Lindsey. Jude Devereaux's Taggarts and Montgomerys. But -- even connected -- each story stood on its own.

I'm afraid of starting a few long running series (with no end in sight) for that reason -- I'm almost compulsive about finishing ... but what if I don't like them? And they're so LONG. Any series that goes on too long tells me that not much is evolving in the worldbuilding, or it's evolving very, very slowly. I guess that then is when the dangling bits just make me insane, because you know they won't get resolved for six more books. Or ten.

Kristie (J) said...

Kaitlin - I was thinking of using Cindy Gerard as an example. I have all her books in the series and I keep buying them - not because they are a series but because I like the way she writes. If her next book were to be another RS with completely different people, with no connection to EDEN, I would still buy it.
When I glom an author, it's because I like their style, the way they write a story. It's very rare (although of course there are exceptions) that I buy it because it's part of a series.

Mailyn: And I agree with you *g* - Fanatasy books work well in a series because a whole world is being created so you need more than just one book to explore and build it. But with your typical Historical, to me it's so unnecesary to keep going with so many related characters. Although as I mentioned I don't read her, Stephanie Laurens seems to be a perfect example of someone who should have stopped already and moved on to completely different characters and left that poor family alone - from what I've heard others say anyway.

Kristie (J) said...

Meljean: LOL - I don't consider yours in the sequel bait category. I think of them more along the fanatasy realm that Mailyn mentioned. You are building a world so they aren't your average historical or western. And once you've created a world, you don't want to leave it alone right away! That would get depressing. And I do have a tolerance for series. Many of them I like. But it's just that almost EVERY book written these days is fodder for sequels. I know that people like Romancelover for example (grin) are series whores and it's not that I want to take that away from them. That wouldn't do! I'd just like to see some books as complete standalones - more in the historical line.
I think readers defintely started the snowball - but now authors, agents and publishers are all in the big ball that is the series because that's what readers wanted to start it.

And the really funny thing about this is that in real life I have issues about saying goodbye. I'll send incredibly long emails and things just because I don't want to say that final bye. I figure I'll eventually taper off........sometime.....when I'm ready..... And one reason why I always sign off 'til later. I just have problems letting go sometimes. But in romance books I'm more than willing to occasionally.

Angela James said...

But Kristie, without sequels you'd never have gotten Derek's story. You're telling me you'd rather not have authors write sequels? Hmm. No more Derek for you! ;)

I like series, though I'm more talking about series that feature the same primary characters (like JD Robb, Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine, Kim Harrison, Charleine Harris, Janet Evanovich...) But to be honest, I think it's a challenge for author's to keep that fresh. And I think Stephenie Laurens is an excellent example of an author who's drug out the "sequels" too long. I think it's time to let that family go. I used to love those books but I think I stopped reading about 5 books ago.

Karen W. said...

I'm absolutely the same way. Even if I enjoy the series, I get bored with them after the first book or two and want something NEW and different instead. Now, if I see a book is part of a long series, I don't pick it up. I have too many books I want to read to invest that much time in one series.

Kristie (J) said...

Angie: Too true, too true *grin*! And there are exceptions of course. Sometimes a character will just stand right up and yell "Write me! Write me!" And I think Derek did that. But even if she hadn't written Then Came You, Dreaming of You would have been a fabulous book all on it's own. And I haven't read many of the series you listed, but I do agree with you on the In Death books and Stephanie Plum books. There is just so much in the In Death series that has yet to be explored. The marriage of Eve and Roarke really is an ongoing story in itself. And she certainly has made Eve grow as a person and as a woman along the way. Stephanie Plum is a bit different. If they weren't so darned funny - I think I'd be a bit tired of them by now.

Karen W: I seem to have a slightly higer tolerance than you ;) Four books seems to be my limit. Even if it's very well written (eg the Bridgertons) I get tired of these people after four. With exceptions of course. And sadly - and my point - is it's almost impossible to find books that aren't part of a series anymore.

Rosario said...

Fellow salmon here. I think the key point is the difference between a sequel about a secondary character who, as you say, unexpectedly stood up and yelled "Write me! Write me!", and the calculation of most series today, where the secondary characters are getting all that space not because they're interesting in their own right, but because the author wants the readers interested in him (or her, but it's usually him) so that they'll buy his book.

I think that often has the secondary effect of making the secondary characters less interesting and preventing those "write me! write me!" characters from appearing in the first place, because the author is setting out to write a "hero material" character in the first place. Derek Craven, for instance, wasn't "hero material", and that was precisely what made him so interesting in Then Came You.

Still, unless the sequel-baiting in particularly heinous, I don't mind series of related books all that much. As long, that is, I get a full story in each of the books. I don't want to have to read more than one book to get satisfaction. That means that if the series is about related characters (à la the Cynster books) I want each to stand alone and that the reader doesn't have to have read the earlier books to understand a later entry, or have to read the following 10 books to get conclusion to an early book. And if the series follows the same couple over many books (à la the In Death books), I want satisfaction in the first book as well.

Some authors can get away with violating this rule, but only authors I already trust in the first place. I love Nora Roberts' trilogies, for instance, even though they lately read like one long book in three volumes. I already know I love her books, so I trust her enough to make the commitment to read 3 books. For a new-to-me author, or one I haven't been wowed by before, unless the buzz is absolutely brilliant, I will be very reluctant to start. And even more reluctant if it's a series in the In Death mode, because they all seem to leave the romance totally up in the air in the first book. People seem to forget that Naked in Death was a perfectly satisfying romance on its own. I didn't know there were sequels for years after I read it (this was right when it came out, before I got on the internet big time) and it never crossed my mind that any were needed.

Wow, that was a long answer! Sorry for hogging the comments.

Nicole said...

Good post, Kristie.

Yeah, it's so hard to find books that aren't sequels, or the first in a series. I've read a few contemporary romance ones in ebook that fit the bill, though. I think the two I've read by Kate Davies were standalones.

Oh, I got lucky and found The Raven Prince in my library's bookstore earlier this week for only 75 cents!

Zeek said...

I'm with romancelover, I like sequals- for those stories I love of course. but if that's ALL an author does it gets old, that's for sure!

Lori said...

I don't mind the sequels if they can also be read as stand alones (because I am SO not a series slut). If you pick one up and have no clue what the heck is going on, forget it! I like to revisit occasionally, just to say "hi", but nothing more is necessary, really.

I agree that the Bodyguard series is a great exception. I will be ready for it to end after Dallas' story, though. And the Steele Street series by Janzen is another example of one that has worn out it's welcome, I think. It's hard to keep the same ideas going for so long. An author is bound to lose some of their "uniqueness" when they redo.

Tara Marie said...

Kristie, from one odd duck to another I'm so with you on this one. I read for the voice and style, if a series fits into this fine, if it doesn't oh well, the author loses me after a few books. Sequel baiting drives me crazy it's annoying the perpetual set up of future books, Meljean your the exception for the reasons Kristie lists and I'd be reading for your voice and style.

Sandie said...

Kristie-You know, I think the reason I will still read a damn Harlequin is because they are stand alone. I don't feel like I have to "invest" in the series, the characters, the place/time, etc.

They are just stand alone short reads (sometimes LONG reads) that I feel content putting down and never meeting up with the characters again.



Wendy said...

Meljean pretty much voices my opinion. I had to read the first GhostWalker book by Christine Feehan for review and the thing that annoyed me the most about it was all the completely pointless secondary characters. It's like Feehan was just trotting them out holding signs that said, "I'm A Hot Alpha Male Baby And My Book Is Coming Out In May 2009!" Blah!

All those secondary characters have to serve a purpose or else the book hits the wall.

Like someone else mentioned, the idea of series' are just too calculated today. Publishers are looking for a "hook" and they want writers to string it out indefinitely. And idiot readers keep lapping them up - so who's the blame really?

I don't mind the romance series if I know there is going to be an end. The example I like to give is the Rock Creek Six series by Lori Handeland and Linda Devlin. These were published a few years ago, and followed 6 men who fought in the Civil War together. Each guy got his own book, and each book stood alone well because NOT all 6 guys were in every damn book! So 6 books and we're finished. That works for me. It's when I don't know if it's every going to end that I get irritated.

ames said...

Wow-look at this discussion! I'm almost afraid to post my short comment. LOL

I was chatting with someone about this the other day. About longing for a stand alone book, but then knowing I'd want to read more about the world and the characters. :P I grew up reading series myself. The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley and the connected books of Robert A. Heinlein.

And don't get me started on Laurell K. Hamilton! hehe

Kris said...

I have to admit I love series. I hate when the story ends, I want to know what happens after. I love fantasy series because the worl intrigues me but i also love romance series because I want everyone to get their HEA (as unrealistic as that is). But what does annoy me is when it takes too long in a series for a character to get their HEA especially if it is the main character.

Kristie (J) said...

Kris: I think we all hate to see books we've enjoyed end. But I just find all too often, going in the author sets out to write sequels and I think in many cases the current book is given the short shift because she is not entirely focused on the present book. Sad as it is to see it end, I would rather see that then ALWAYS being set up for the next book and the next book and the next book.

Ames: I don't want every book to be a stand-alone. I think historicals are the worst though because there is no world building to justify more in a series. Instead we have the Duke and his friend the other Duke and their good buddy the Viscount. And natch they are all hot and studly and single except they are widowed and their first wife was a cheating slut who was killed by her lover. While I KNOW romance world is not real life - still I've stopped believing that there were that many hot single Dukes etc. running around merry Old England. And specially running around in winter with no shirts!! Them and all their friends and brothers.

Wendy: Exactly!! It's calculating and I'm tired of being expected to buy all the books in a series. Sometimes sure - I dont' mind. The next Elizabeth Hoyt one for example. It's going to be different anyway. A commoner and a titled heroine. And so true that all the friends of the first hero are there for only one purpose!! For a sequel. And for me the worst offender is Sherrilyn Kenyon. I will not read another book by her because I know it's only purpose is to try and get me to buy the one after that - and so on and so on and so on.

Sandie: Harlequin's Historicals aren't the worst offenders. I hold that for THE PUBLISHER I SHALL NOT NAME. And I think they've held out the longest but I've noticed even they have jumped on the bandwagon lately too.

Tara: I'm pretty much the same way unless the book just screams "EXTRA! EXTRA! SEQEL COMING IN ONLY 4 MONTHS." Then I get annoyed.

Lori: The Crazy books are a good example. I ate the first 3 or 4 up and then was less excited about the next one. I have her latest one but I'm not nearly as anxious to read it as I was the first few.

LOL Zeke. I think you and Romancelover make up the majority. And that's why almost every book is part of a series. And like I said, I'm not opposed to series in general - just all of them (especially historicals) being just one of many.

Nicole: Oh good! You're finally going to read a book I've heard of *big grin*. It seems that's it's only been in the past several years that sequel after sequel has really taken off. It used to be two - maybe three, but now it really seems out of control to me.

Rosario - not a problem hogging *g*. I'm afraid Nora Roberts lost me as a reader with her constant trilogies. I still adore the In Death books and I still like her stand-alone books, but I haven't read her trilogies for a few series now. And like like both Wendy and you said - it's the calculating, the deliberately setting out ready to write a sequel from the first page almost that I find frustrating and will turn me off an author. And I HATE HATE HATE that phrase "first in a new series" That guarantees it's a book I won't be reading.

farmwifetwo said...

Someone put your blog on a bb and I followed it here and kept reading and reading. And found someone who got the "snow" :) We only got 4" but buses were still cancelled since we are in the SE corner of the TVDSB. Hope you don't mind if I come back again.

About your post.

I find it depends on the story and the author. I still auto buy JD Robb's and Laurie R. King's. I am becoming annoyed with Kay Hooper's FBI's and Catherine Coulter's FBI's. Where's the "romantic" part. Now they are just suspense. Library first. Suzanne Brockmann's Seals are no longer an autobuy in h/c. Will still purchase in pb.

I have since found Cathy Mann, Julie Miller and PJ Tracy that are autobuy's. Allison Brennan writes in 3 book series'. The next ones come out just after Xmas. All these I can recommend.

Even long running authors without series' can get stale. I haven't finished the last 2 Nora stand-alone's yet, I won't admit how many times I've read Northern Lights :)

It's very hard for authors to change their "voice" for each story. Also after a while I get tired of the same romance plot style from author to author. There's only so many variations out there. Then, I switch to mysteries or fantasy so I don't get bored.

So no, you're not alone. A friend sent me a link to another blog with the same topic last week. I have since deleted it - sorry. But it seems to be an important topic of discussion with readers lately.

Kristie (J) said...

Farmwifetwo: Thanks for dropping by! I'd love to have you come again and visit. It's hard to believe what a difference a week can make isn't it? All our lovely white puffy snow is all gone and the giant snowman the kids across the street made has melted away - just like poor Frosty *sad sigh*. I used to watch that cartoon on *I think it was *Captain Kangaroo and cry and cry and cry when that poor snowman melted. I was a sensitive little thing. I think the part of the city I live in got the worst of it too last Friday.
And I hear what you are saying. I can't see me ever tiring of JD Robb. But I think back on some of my favourite authors of the past and many of them wrote stand-alone books. Linda Howard for example rarely writes more than one. Or Anne Stuart - until her latest. See - even she is getting into it. I think series are a good thing that has gotten out of control.

Devon said...

This was an interesting post. I like series a lot of the time, but, like Wendy, I do find it kinda annoying when there are lots of characters introduced, and they don't seem to serve much purpose other than to be sequel bait. Some authors do this more smoothly than others. I think J.R. Ward avoided this by making her characters very distinct and they do seem to play actual roles in the story arc. On the other hand, you've got Sherrilyn Kenyon, who's got about a million Dark Hunters floating around, and they all kind of run together (I'll still read 'em though). New ones are constantly mentioned. I just finshed A Hunger Like No Other, and though I enjoyed it, I was definitely struck by the sequel-baiting going on. So many characters entering and exiting, with those small, tantalizing bits about their pasts.

Sarah said...

I have to agree with this. It seems now that nearly everything is coming out in series format. I don't really like this because now instead of just picking a book up, I have to wonder if there were other ones before this that may prevent me from getting the whole story.

I also agree with the comment on the Dark Hunters. Seems that they are always bringing in new ones, and well, they don't all have much to do with the storylines.

I do love the J.R. Ward series.. so far.. but I also loved the Darkhunters at one point, but that fizzled out.

And working at a bookstore and being in charge of the Romance section has taught me this. Everyone is trying to do paranormal now. It's scary and I am positive that a lot of it just isn't any good. The normal historicals seem to be fading out, and normal contemporary isn't bringing in much either. Its all paranormal now, and I can't say that I'm too happy with that. I don't mind it, but a little bit of variety would be loverly.

Sarah said...

I have to agree with this. It seems now that nearly everything is coming out in series format. I don't really like this because now instead of just picking a book up, I have to wonder if there were other ones before this that may prevent me from getting the whole story.

I also agree with the comment on the Dark Hunters. Seems that they are always bringing in new ones, and well, they don't all have much to do with the storylines.

I do love the J.R. Ward series.. so far.. but I also loved the Darkhunters at one point, but that fizzled out.

And working at a bookstore and being in charge of the Romance section has taught me this. Everyone is trying to do paranormal now. It's scary and I am positive that a lot of it just isn't any good. The normal historicals seem to be fading out, and normal contemporary isn't bringing in much either. Its all paranormal now, and I can't say that I'm too happy with that. I don't mind it, but a little bit of variety would be loverly.

But as long as the authors are making mad money on their series books, they will keep on churning them out.

farmwifetwo said...


The link I mentioned. I got my friend to send it to me again.


Kristie (J) said...

Farmwife 2: I think I probably read that blog too. I visit Dear Author quite a bit!

Sarah: That is one of the things most irritating - the expectation that now we have to buy more books by the author to get the whole story. If it's an author whose work, it's not a problem, but it it's only a meh author then I'm faced with the decision to I spend more money when I'm not so sure I'll like it - or do I pass on the next in the series and possibly miss a good book. I know you take the risk all the time anyway - but still - it seems a harder decision with series.