When A Story Doesn't Come Together

I’m one of those writers who has a book writing plan. That is, I sit down every December and plan out what books (and hopefully short stories and essays) I will be working on during the coming year. This usually involves a bit of note-taking, rough outlines, the whole nine yards.

Now do I stick to that plan?

Until the year of Covid, yes. Oh, I’d modify the plan every quarter. But the books that I wrote every year fell into a nice neat little sequence. Perhaps not quite in the order I originally planned. However, they marched right along.

Then November of 2019 happened. I pitched a standalone book to a startup press, based on some agricultural technology research I’d been doing. It was going to be about a woman rancher fighting against the odds to save her ranch through the use of agtech, and her quest for funding while marketing her new tech.

Um. Covid happened. The book didn’t work for the press. So I blew it up into a trilogy (which was already starting to happen), listened to the ex-husband character who kept insisting that he was not the jerk that I was trying to make him, and…well…

The Martiniere Legacy was born. And it’s at four books, assorted short stories, a fifth book in line to be released at the end of April/first part of May, plus three more tie-in books that I’m working on right now.

Was this part of the plan? Nope. Books four and five (The Heritage of Michael Martiniere and Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere) were on the table. But the next three…didn’t really come to the fore until I finally admitted that I simply was not ready for the next project on my list.

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The next project on my list was supposed to be an expansion of the Goddess’s Honor series, a new trilogy that takes off from the ending of Judgment of Honor. I had a rough idea of the series storyline and what might be involved in expanding that series. I was starting to rock and roll on it in early January.

Then January 6th happened. Was that a factor in the Martinieres becoming more vocal while the problems of the Darani Empire faded? I don’t know. I just know that more and more, I was delving into the pieces of the Martiniere Family history that begged to be told. The trilogy (Inheritance, Ascendant, Realization) was told from Ruby’s perspective. The Heritage of Michael Martiniere from Mike’s. Broken Angel from Gabe’s.

Blame Gabe, I guess. His voice was the one that expanded the Martiniere Legacy from one book. And while I was working on his book, a spinoff story showed up as a submission for a themed anthology. As I wrote it, I realized that I could write more stories set in that segment of Gabe’s life, and that I might want to do just that. I visualized a set of short stories, titled Alvarez Armory, about Gabe as a part-time mercenary, in business with his brother-in-law to fight against a rising tide of corporate militias during the 2040s/50s.

And as I finished off Broken Angel, Justine started to talk.

Now Justine has been one of the will-of-the-wisp characters. She is a foundation of the Legacy, both in her support of Ruby but also in the silent support she has provided over the years to the rebellion against her tyrannical, narcissistic, manipulative father. But she’s not wanted to talk, until I got a few whispers in my ear from her, and boy howdy, I was NOT about to ignore her when she decided to speak.

Oh, I’m used to courting these characters. The Goddess’s Honor series happened the way it did because Rekaré, who is fundamental to the series, was evasive in the same manner (and when she did decide to talk, hoo boy did she ever tell a story).

But Justine is not Rekaré. And the only way I can get her to talk is to tell recent family history from her perspective. So. A book with framing stories. Okay, I’ve not done that before. We’ll see how that works. So far, so good. Justine Fixes Everything works in that context.

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Still. Justine Fixes Everything and Alvarez Armory were intended to be written after I wrote the next set of Goddess’s Honor books.

And then another Martiniere Legacy book reared its head. I wrote a quick piece to help me with understanding the end of Broken Angel, because it desperately needed a rewrite. It’s currently up on Curious Fictions.

https://curiousfictions.com/stories/3899-joyce-reynolds-ward-return-of-the-prodigal-son

And at that point I realized that there was yet another book. One thing my editor has been nagging me about is showing what happens after Gabe becomes the Martiniere. What do he and Ruby do to stop the rise of indentured servitude? What about the problems within the Martiniere Family and the Martiniere Group, because the end of Broken Angel starts to show that Gabe is not the only Family member abused and traumatized by Philip Martiniere?

Oops. Another book. Repairing the Legacy.

It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve been reading an author new to me, Beverly Jenkins, and absolutely LOVING her Black Western Romances. MsBev (as Romancelandia calls her) is deft at interweaving some multigenerational stories set against unknown history that SHOULD be known, but isn’t. And I’m finding (since I’m getting these books from the library so far, saving my money for the ones that AREN’T in the library) that it’s easy to slip into her interconnected books without having to read them in order.

It’s a different way of doing a series, especially the multigenerational variant set around a location. And it has certainly expanded my parameters for what constitutes a series, and whether a series needs to be strictly linear.

(Seriously. Go read MsBev. Good books. Highly recommended. Powerful women and mindful men. A lot of authors can learn from her, and by God, her stories are fun and also a nice antidote for those of us who want western settings but are sick to death of THAT set of genre cliches. Read her. NOW. Especially if you want spicy stories.)

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But what about that floundering Goddess’s Honor set of sequels?

The longer I sat down to grapple with the second trilogy (plus, because it seems that I can’t just write a trilogy, it’s gotta be longer than that!), with interruptions by assorted Martinieres, the more I realized that the reason that the books didn’t want to be sketched out and planned was a simple one.

The books aren’t ready to be written yet.

I wanted to tackle some heavy issues. Witmara is a young Empress, coming from a former colony. She rapidly realizes that she is dealing with a wrecked political structure that includes elements, such as slavery, that she abhors. She’d like to eliminate it immediately.

But. Magic. Significant opposition.

She has to destroy the Darani Empire to save Daran.

And that is harder to contemplate than it seems.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m wrestling with rebuilding a flawed political and corporate structure in the Martiniere Legacy while struggling to examine the implications of a failing empire in a fantasy. At the moment, it seems easier to look at it from a setting similar to our own world, with technology instead of magic.

Besides, other areas to research have made themselves known. Textiles, amongst other things.

All the same, it’s clear that the process of destruction while trying to preserve what is of value is not as easy as it first appears. And that for whatever reason, that’s where my brain wants to go at the moment.

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Short version?

Sometimes stories don’t want to come together For Reasons.

And sometimes it’s kind of hard to figure out just why that is.