Planning a Sequel

When you’re writing a series, how do you know what comes next? Book One lays the groundwork, introducing the setting, characters, and premise for the entire series. How can the second book build on this beginning?

Planning a Sequel

That depends on if your stories are more episodic or serial in nature. For whodunits, we’re more episodic with a different murder mystery to solve in each book. The crime is the focus of the plot, like exploring a new planet on each episode of Star Trek.

But this is only your main character’s external conflict. What about their internal angst? Here’s where you can introduce a serial element. By this, I mean an overarching thread that isn’t solved in book one. This thread deals with the protagonist’s struggle to overcome obstacles to achieve her ultimate personal goal. Each book should evolve from this core inner conflict.

In my Bad Hair Day series, hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail progresses in her dating life and matures to overcome past traumas and to embrace a happy future. But once your character fulfills her destiny, you’ll have to throw in another wrench to clog the wheels. This means that when one thread is tied up, you’ll need to introduce another source. Each story should evolve from the personal issues introduced in the previous story as well as any external problems that remain.

   First Four

A romance series is more likely to feature spinoffs, or a new set of protagonists per book. These stories might take place in the same town or share a theme, thus adding a commonality. i.e. A missing object must be found or something bad will happen. Each book would then focus on the protagonists revealing a new facet to this mystery, perhaps leading to another clue. It would reflect on their inner journeys as well. This is in addition to whatever external conflict is affecting their relationship.

Or in a science fiction series, perhaps the evil galactic warlord must be stopped. The heroes have many adventures along the way, making friends and enemies as they seek to end the tyranny or to prevent a worse threat from emerging.

Drift Lords Series

Think of Harry Potter. Readers know he’ll have to face Lord Voldemort someday. Meanwhile, he has other villains to defeat. Along the way, he has to find the courage and power to defeat his mortal enemy.

Your cast of secondary characters can provide plenty of opportunities for sequels based on their goals and conflicts and interaction with the protagonist. Give one a prominent role in the next story and focus on this person’s problems. Your hero gets involved because she cares about this character. She’s also grappling with some aspect of her own personal struggle to overcome.

It all goes back to the writing advice that your main characters must grow and change. What would normally happen next in this person’s life?

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Figuring out what to write next hasn’t been a problem for me. The biggest obstacles have been time and marketing decisions. What about you?


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“Why Write a Series?” at SleuthFest

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Go there, Like my page, then click on Photos. Next click on Albums and then SleuthFest 2014.

“Seriously Series” with Joanna Campbell Slan at SleuthFest 2014

In choosing what to read, knowing a book is part of a series might convince you to buy it since there’s a certain degree of success involved. If you really love a book, you’re also happy to know there are more to come in a series. So readers gravitate to series for many reasons. “The richer the world you create, the richer the experience for your readers.”


What returns readers to a series? It feels like you’re revisiting an old friend. This offers a sense of comfort. Plus you know what you’re getting. Familiarity is at the heart of a series. Characters, setting, and occupation may be recurrent.

“You create a universe and populate it.” Do a street chart and a floor plan. Sensory details make the story rich for readers. Have a timeline for your characters. Determine the timing between stories, character ages, grades, and birthdays. “The best part of being an author is when readers believe your characters are real.”

Keep track of places as you write. If you have a fake town, get a map of a real town and change the names. Use it as a model for your town. In your story bible, put a snippet of background on each character, locations, stores in the town, along with stylistic notes such as the chapter heading. Include a style sheet for grammar and special items, such as how to put in craft instructions or recipes. This story bible may also include social issues, time of year, and more.

“Novels are about people. You don’t have a novel about scrapbooking. You have a novel about a character who does scrapbooking.”

If you have a scene that doesn’t go anywhere in a long novel, consider writing a short story. Short stories are also good for side issues, like pre-wedding details or for exploring secondary characters.


Poll your readers and ask what character they would like to see more prominent in your next story.

“Every strength overused is a weakness” in your character. Try to give each person a personal problem to overcome. What are they trying to work out? What are they worrying about? Make the characters different ages because then they’ll have different issues. Everybody has angst. Every now and then, your character’s mask should slip so the reader gets a glimpse of what’s there.

End every book with a cliffhanger. Solve the mystery in this story but start a new one. Ask yourself, what seed can I plant now that will bear fruit in a future book?

“The first line sells that particular title; the last line sells the next book.”


Joanna is the author of the Kiki Lowenstein mystery series and the Jane Eyre Chronicles.

Hanging By A Hair Top Pick Review

Here is one of the early reviews in for Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries coming in April from Five Star.

Night Owl Reviews Top Pick—5 Stars!    NOtoppick

The twists and turns will keep you guessing to the end and just about the time you think you have it all figured out she surprises you by steering you away with another clue. The author is always keeping you guessing as to where the story will lead you next. Ms. Cohen has just joined the list of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading the other books she has written. I hope you find Hanging by a Hair as great as I did.

Marla Vail, owner and operator of the salon Cut N’ Dye, and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail a homicide investigator, moved into Palm Valley recently following their recent marriage. They are attending their first Home Owners Association meeting when Dalton stands up to the Board president, Alan Krabber, for breaking the association rules after forcing another resident to comply with one Alan himself was breaking. After the meeting the man makes a suggestive offer to Marla within Dalton’s hearing followed by some very bigoted and derogatory remarks and Dalton loudly puts Alan down. Unfortunately for Marla and Dalton, Alan was their neighbor and a bigot and religious fanatic. To say life has its trials and tribulations in Palm Valley is an understatement.

The following day Alan hires someone to erect a fence and plant some trees. The problem is that he is having the fence put on the Vail’s side of the property line and is planning on planting trees whose roots will quickly grow into the pipes of their sprinkler system. After another loud shouting match between Dalton and Alan, which was heard by neighbors, Dalton threatened to go to the zoning board regarding Alan’s lack of property survey, building permits, and the workers’ failure to have a business license. The following day Alan Krabber is found dead, hanging from his second story banister railing. Dalton is removed from the case and neighbors are quick to tell the police of Dalton’s confrontations with Alan and the heated words they exchanged. Dalton is one of many named a person of interest. How on earth was such a vile man elected president of the HMA board?

Suddenly their quiet community is a hotbed of liars, thieves and a murderer who has not finished. Marla must be careful as she tries to prove to her husband’s new partner that he had nothing to do with the murder of Alan. The killer is watching and Marla is starting to become an unwanted nuisance that needs to be permanently removed. The body count is rising and Marla is finding more suspects every day. Can she figure this out, prepare the first Seder in their new home, cope with her mother and her on again, off again relationship with her crass and obnoxious boyfriend, and all the drama going on at the Cut N’ Dye?

Hanging by a Hair is the latest in the Bad Hair Day Mystery series, but is written in such a way you can easily read as a standalone novel. Not so good for me is the fact I fell in love with Marla and Dalton and their extended family and friends. Now I need to get the other books in the series to see if they are all this fascinating. The characters in the book are very well developed and balanced with enough good and bad traits to make them believable. Nancy Cohen has provided numerous clues, both blatant and subtle, to keep you invested in the story. NO Reviews

—Night Owl Review by MerryNoelle


Book Blurb for Hanging By A Hair

HangingbyaHair (518x800)

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again?

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Choosing a Series Title

Choosing a title for your new mystery series is a critical factor. This title has to hook the reader, give an inkling what the series is about, and spark your interest for years to come. As the author, you’ll be living with this series umbrella title for a long time. You may build a logo around it, add it to your signature lines, and see it on every subsequent book that comes out in this series. Thus it should be a title you love and one that resonates in your mind.

Considering the above advice, I need help choosing a series title for my indie mysteries. I’m not going to tell you the main premise, because I want you to look at this as you might my front cover, where it says A XXX Mystery. Which choice below pops out at you and holds the most appeal? Discussion is welcome.

Warrior Prince Release Party

To celebrate today’s release of Warrior Prince: The Drift Lords Series, I’m throwing a party on Facebook and on my Blog between 8 am and 8 pm. I hope you’ll join the fun.    Warrior Prince

Warrior Prince: The Drift Lords Series by Nancy J. Cohen

When mythologist and Florida resident Nira Larsen accepts a job as tour guide for a mysterious stranger, she’s drawn into a nightmare reality where ancient myths come alive and legendary evils seek to destroy her. To survive, she must awaken her dormant powers, but the only person who can help is the man whose touch inflames her passion.

After a dimensional rift in the Bermuda Triangle cracks open and an ancient enemy invades Earth, Zohar—leader of the galactic warriors known as the Drift Lords—summons his troops. He doesn’t count on a redheaded spitfire getting in his way and capturing his heart. Nira has the power to defeat the enemy and to enslave Zohar’s soul. Can he trust her enough to accomplish his mission, or will she lure him to his doom?

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Share or Tweet my posts or leave a comment on my Blog or Facebook Page this weekend and get entered into a prize drawing for a Warrior Prince T-shirt and magnet and a signed copy of Wicked” Women Whodunit.

To be eligible for a spot prize, leave a comment on any of today’s Blog posts or status updates on my Facebook Author Page.

The grand prize drawing for the weekend will close at midnight on Sunday and the winner will be announced on Monday morning. U.S. residents only are eligible for any mailable prizes. Non-residents will receive ebook copies or gift cards.

What’s on the roster here today:
*Radio Interview with heroine Nira Larsen
*Troll Trivia
*Research Notes
*What to do if you meet a Trollek
*Movies featuring Trolls
*Video Trailer

So welcome everyone, and let’s get started. I may repeat this notice periodically throughout the day.

To get the ball rolling, how about sharing your weirdest “woo woo” experience?

Warrior Prince Excerpt Conclusion

Warrior Prince Excerpt: Part 14 Conclusion
Copyright 2012 by Nancy J. Cohen

Her cheeks flushed as she latched onto his other remark. “Trolleks? Who are they? And what did you mean when you mentioned credits outside?”

He raised an imperious eyebrow. “I wish to offer you a position as our local guide.”

She gazed at him askance. Whoever these guys were, there wasn’t any doubt in her mind that they needed help. Should she accept?

With her track record, it was likely to be the only decent job offer in her future. Her temples throbbed while she debated her response.

Right now, when she could finally search for her birth parents, she didn’t want any roadblocks getting in the way. Was it worth tagging along with Zohar and his gang to earn the cash she needed for her research?

Maybe they were tourists from a backwater country, but that didn’t explain their raid on the log hut or their assault gear. Something more important was at stake here. Hooking up with them, even as their hired guide, could only spell trouble.

“Sorry.” She stood tall, giving Zohar a level glance. “Tempting as your offer is, I have to decline.”

“Wrong answer.” Zohar’s jaw tightened as he reached for her.


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This marks the end of my series of excerpts. I hope you’ve enjoyed these selections and will read more in the story. A prize drawing from all commenters will be held tomorrow and announced on this site. Go to my Contest page for more opportunities.

My Blog Tour starts today! Please visit me at Paranormal Wednesday

All commenters during my blog tour will be entered into a grand prize drawing for a
Warrior Prince T-shirt and magnet and a pdf copy of Warrior Prince. Go to for a complete schedule.

Warrior Prince Excerpt Part 13

Warrior Prince Excerpt: Part 13
Copyright 2012 by Nancy J. Cohen

“So what did you want to tell me?” she asked.

His gaze darkened. “We have much to discuss, but not a lot of time. It is unwise to linger.”

His somber expression didn’t sway her. “Feel free to go and take your friends along with you. Your problems aren’t mine, although I do want to thank you for rescuing me from those nutcases in that employment office.” Her forehead scrunched. “Just how did that place vanish, anyway? It was some sort of optical illusion, right?”

“In a way. Look, you fail to understand the danger. We cannot leave you alone.”

“I’m home, and that’s all that matters.”

He shook his head. “Not so. The Trolleks will come after you. They will follow your scent.”

“What scent?” She sniffed the air. “Are you telling me I stink? I may have been running around in the heat, but—”

A grin transformed his face. “You misinterpret, little one. Your skin is fragrant, like purpura blossoms. It is a most pleasant scent and highly alluring.”


Who are the Trolleks? Should Nira be worried about them?

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This is a 14-day series of excerpts from my upcoming release, WARRIOR PRINCE: Book One in the Drift Lords Series. All commenters will be entered into a drawing for one of my backlist romance ebooks. Two lucky winners will be announced on Day 15. Go to my Contest page for more opportunities.

Warrior Prince Excerpt Part 12

Warrior Prince Excerpt: Part 12
Copyright 2012 by Nancy J. Cohen

Their leader accompanied her forward, his boots pounding on the hot pavement. The others crowded behind as she resignedly led the way.

Inside the foyer, Nira tossed her purse on a side table. As soon as Grace was out of earshot in the kitchen, she lowered her voice. “Okay, who are you and what do you want? And where are you from? You talk like foreigners.”

“Our home is called Karrell.” Zohar’s eyes smoldered as he regarded her, his height and powerful shoulders making her feel small and feminine.

“Never heard of it. Must be a tiny country.” She swept her gaze over their belted tunics, side arms, and tailored trousers. “You could pass for invaders from outer space. Are you sure you’re not here for a convention? Because who else would dress like that, unless you’re with a SWAT team?”

“We are here to save your world, not invade it. What is this phrase, swat team?”

“I will research it, rageesh.” The man with a stubbled jaw, unkempt hair, and killer dimples could have been a double for Josh Holloway on Lost. Nira stared at him, wondering if this were some sort of reality show with hidden cameras.

“I told you not to call me that, Paz.”

“My apologies.” Paz bowed his head, making Nira wonder about his relationship to Zohar.


Are these men just clueless foreigners?

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This is a 14-day series of excerpts from my upcoming release, WARRIOR PRINCE: Book One in the Drift Lords Series. All commenters will be entered into a drawing for one of my backlist romance ebooks. Two lucky winners will be announced on Day 15. Go to my Contest page for more opportunities.

Warrior Prince Excerpt Part 11

Warrior Prince Excerpt: Part 11
Copyright 2012 by Nancy J. Cohen

“This is Zohar,” Nira supplied when he appeared at a loss for words. “Guys, meet Grace. She’s a dear family friend.”

“Where will you be staying? I know some budget hotels if you need a place.” Grace’s face lit up as it always did when she offered advice.

A hunk with golden blond hair and a youthful face had been speaking softly into his cell phone, or at least a device that looked like one. Switching it off, he regarded his leader. “Rayne has secured accommodations for us at a local hostelry.”

“Oh, that’s good. I suppose you’ll want to visit all the popular theme parks while you’re here,” Grace rambled on as the sun broiled Nira’s scalp.

“What is a theme park?” Zohar cocked his head. “Our objective is Drift World.”

Grace wagged a finger. “Personally, sonny, I don’t see the attraction in adults role-playing their fantasy jobs. Get a real one, that’s my opinion.”

“Grace, it’s too warm out here. I’m going in the house.” Snatching her keys from the carjacker, Nira used the remote to lock her vehicle. Then she wheeled toward the front door, advancing only a few steps before she hesitated. These men seemed friendly, but was it wise to invite them inside?

She turned to Zohar. “Thanks for the escort home. However, please don’t feel you have to hang around on my account,” she told him with a hopeful lilt.

“We still need to talk.” A determined look on his face, Zohar gestured toward the house.

Her stomach sank. She wasn’t going to get rid of him so easily. Maybe she could figure out a way to ditch these guys after cooling off inside.


Would you trust Zohar at this point?

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This is a 14-day series of excerpts from my upcoming release, WARRIOR PRINCE: Book One in the Drift Lords Series. All commenters will be entered into a drawing for one of my backlist romance ebooks. Two lucky winners will be announced on Day 15. Go to my Contest page for more opportunities.

Warrior Prince Excerpt Part 10

Warrior Prince Excerpt: Part 10
Copyright 2012 by Nancy J. Cohen

Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to the curb in front of Grace’s house. As the driver of Nira’s car joined them outside, the elder lady meandered into the yard. She wore a silk blouse and slacks with not a hair out of place on her teased gray head.

Nira’s heart swelled with affection. Grace was a kindly neighbor who’d offered support when her mother died six years ago. After raising her two younger sisters, Nira had moved into Grace’s house to save money. While the arrangement suited them both, Nira yearned for freedom, not to mention a measure of privacy. This was another reason why she wanted a job, to afford her own apartment. It would mean leaving Grace alone, though, and the eighty-two year old woman became frailer each year.

“Nira, what happened? I didn’t expect you back so early.” Grace peered at Nira’s companions. For her advanced age, her eyesight was still fairly sharp. “Who are your friends?”

The one with rangy black hair and a beard spoke up. “We are…cousins.”

“Really?” Grace propped her hands on her slim hips. “I didn’t know you had any relatives besides your sisters, dear.”

“No, I, uh—”

Zohar strode to Nira’s side and spoke in an undertone. “If you need credits, I am prepared to offer you a job.”

“Say again?” Leaning forward, Grace cupped her ear.

Nira shot Zohar an inquiring glance. She’d ask him what his remark meant later. In the meantime, she raised her voice so Grace could hear.

“These are cousins on my father’s side. Since he walked out on us when I was eight years old, I never knew much about his family. I was quite surprised when they showed up.” Glaring at Zohar, she waited for him to contradict her. He grinned back, a gleam of approval in his eyes.

“My word, you must be thrilled. Come inside and have some lemonade and cake.” Grace surveyed their attire. “No doubt you’ll want to lose those costumes. Your awesome guns add a nice touch, but they might frighten someone. Great choice of props, boys. I hadn’t realized a sci fi convention was in town.”


How will Nira explain their presence?

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Pre-Order Now

This is a 14-day series of excerpts from my upcoming release, WARRIOR PRINCE: Book One in the Drift Lords Series. All commenters will be entered into a drawing for one of my backlist romance ebooks. Two lucky winners will be announced on Day 15. Go to my Contest page for more opportunities.