The first book in my new Lost, Inc., series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, is about to be released. Having a new book released is always exciting for an author, and no matter how many times an author experiences it, it’s still a new and different experience every time.
Those readers who’ve been with me a while know that I like to experiment and push the boundaries. I wrote paranormal romance before there were paranormal romances. Military romance before there were military romances. Faith-affirming romantic thrillers before anyone called them that and women’s action/adventure novels before such a tag existed. I like blazing trails. I like pushing the boundaries. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I have to tell you, it’s gratifying to look back after it’s done and see a new sub-genre spring up and other authors think, “Oh, I like that. I’m going to do it, too.”
Authors have always defined genres and boundaries. Yes, publishers defined the lines, but those lines have shifted and moved and expanded because authors pushed them, crossed them—or as one editor told me (when I’d created a book that traveled through three eras of time and three disincarnate states)—obliterated them.
We are limited only by our imaginations, and by our willingness to take risks. I take risks. I don’t fear failure. I’ve done plenty of it. It’s not lethal and I usually end up with a new outer boundary. That’s success in my book. J
Anyway, I explained that so that you’d better understand what I’m up to in Lost, Inc. It’s a trilogy of books all centered around a small agency whose mission is to help the lost find their way home. The thing is—and this is a universal truth—when you start out to help someone else, in some way, you also help yourself. So as the characters set out to find the lost, they find themselves. They heal. They fall in love. And they catch the bad guys.
That’s more or less expected in series romantic fiction. What isn’t typically expected is that each book centers around someone working at Lost, Inc. Here’s the scoop, so you get the big picture:
SURVIVE THE NIGHT: Della Jackson, lead investigator teams up with Paul Mason, a friend to Lost, Inc.’s owner Madison McKay, who runs Florida Vet-Net. Della’s got a stalker after her and he means serious business. He’s not just after her. He wants her dead.
CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN: Ian Crain, a doctor now investigating for Lost, Inc. teams up with Paul Mason’s sister, FBI profiler and landscape artist, Maggie Mason. Maggie profiled a notorious serial killer who retaliated against her and Paul, who was with her at the time. He came very close to killing them both, and Maggie’s been on the run ever since. She’s been on the chase, too, after the guy, trying to keep him from killing again. Sometimes she’s the mouse, sometimes she’s the cat. It’s been a hard way to live—and now things have come to critical mass point. Who’ll win? I’ll be honest, it was iffy. I had to write it to know.
TORN LOYALTIES: Madison McKay teams up with Captain Grant Deaver—sort of—to determine who at Lost, Inc. has breached security and disclosed classified information regarding a facility few know exists. Everyone employed at Lost, Inc. had knowledge, most have motive and all have the means. But are any of them guilty? And what’s going on at this place that is so important someone is willing to kill to keep the truth hidden?
So here’s the thing. In each of the books, there is a villain. That villain is pursued and the matter resolved. This the reader knows and the characters know.
But there is also a second villain. One who has been extremely active—setting up, in part, the villain to be the villain. Oh, the villain is guilty of crimes, but not of all of them. Yet when the primary villain is dealt with, the characters believe the issues are resolved.
The reader, however, knows that there was another, secondary villain, who has skated—and he will be coming after yet another Lost, Inc. individual. The reader knows that this has to do with the secret facility security breach.
So book one, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, ends, in the character’s eyes, resolved. The reader knows this other villain will be back again.
And so it happens in the second book, CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN. The serial killer issue is resolved and in the characters’ eyes, resolved. But the reader knows that the other villain has escaped yet again.
In the third book, the characters, Madison McKay and Captain Grant Deaver, expose and reveal—at a high cost. And the secondary villain becomes the primary villain. This villain vexed me. I thought I knew his identity through the entire course of the books. I had chosen the villain, right?
Well, I thought I had. Believed it all the way through SURVIVE THE NIGHT, CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN and still in TORN LOYALTIES right up and until I found out I’d been duped.
The writer in you can empathize with that. I was in a near-panic. Would all the information disclosed in the previous books and in the third need to be changed? How could this happen?
As soon as villain revealed himself to me, I had to stop and re-read the first two books and then read through the third. I was less than a chapter from the end. So I did that—and found out that it all fit. Nothing needed to be changed. And I felt like an idiot because I’d pegged the wrong guy when the truth was right there in front of me the whole time.
Which just goes to show that while you’re writing your stories, you’re not their master. No, they master you. They usually just aren’t so in your face about letting you know it.
So this overarching, secondary villain that carries through three books where the reader knows more than the characters is new to series romance.
And I loved it. The reader, having access to everything, does know more in third-person, multiple viewpoint books than the characters know. And I got the tingle when I thought it was all wrapped up and discovered it wasn’t exactly as it appeared. It made me eager to write the next story to see if this villain got his, and I hope it will do the same thing for readers.
These books were to come out a month apart. But, as happens in publishing, the schedule was changed to October, December, and February—2 months apart. I wondered how that would impact readers, and then realized that it only matters until the third book is released. Then all are essentially available at once forevermore.
It helps too that the publisher does early release. Example: Survive the Night, while scheduled for October, is out now via the Reader Service. The others will be available early through that venue also. So come December, access will be there for all of three.
I am hoping that the time span between books won’t be an issue for readers. It could be, until the books are all available. But I think this risk is minimal and it’s worth it to give readers something different. Something that twists the typical and makes them look again at the villain. When I discovered what was going on, I was fascinated and I had to read again to look at the whole from a different perspective. I loved that. So I’m hoping that readers will enjoy this twist as much as I did.
As a writer, this wasn’t taxing until the end of the third book when I found out my villain wasn’t my villain. Then I freaked in full-out panic. But after I read and discovered it all fit, and my imagination went into overdrive on little things I could do to make the element stronger, I was energized and invigorated. What fun!
So that’s the story behind the book on the Lost, Inc. novels. Each has its own message and story and the whole has its message too. I loved writing them all. And I hope that readers will love reading them.
If you’d like a look at the characters and settings and more background on the trilogy, visit the Lost-Inc.com website.