by Gail Z. Martin
TV shows go on hiatus between seasons, but what do you call the time between when novels come out in an ongoing series? (OK, most of the time, what we readers call that break doesn’t use polite words, but work with me on this.)
I write four different fiction series–two epic fantasy series (Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga), an urban fantasy series (Deadly Curiosities), and the Iron & Blood Steampunk series co-authored with Larry N. Martin. Lately, I’ve been bringing out a book a year in at least three of the series. But what about the other 11 months between books?
How about tie-in ebook short stories and novellas with additional adventures featuring the characters from the novels for a more detailed, in-depth look at the world and the people?
I started writing tie-in short stories with my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, which will eventually be the equivalent of three serialized novels that are prequels to The Summoner, the first book in my Chronicles series. Jonmarc is a favorite character from the Chronicles series, someone who plays a major role, but whose back story is not fully explored in the books. Solaris Books, the publisher of the first four Chronicles books, has now published The Shadowed Path, a collection of the first 10 Jonmarc stories plus an exclusive eleventh story, in print and ebook. There are 18 Jonmarc stories (the equivalent of the first two serialized novels), and I plan to have the last three novellas finished this year.
My Deadly Curiosities novels are dark urban fantasy, set in modern-day Charleston, SC with an alliance of mortals and immortals that battle supernatural threats, fight monsters, and get cursed objects off the market and out of the wrong hands. There are two novels so far in the series, and 18 short stories in my Deadly Curiosities Adventures tie-ins on ebook. The short stories function like extra ‘episodes’ for a TV series, with lots of action and adventure. Modern Magic: Twelve Tales of Urban Fantasy, the new 12-full book, 13 author ebook boxed set, is currently the only place you can get Trifles and Folly, the collection of 10 Deadly Curiosities short stories.
For my Ascendant Kingdoms post-apocalyptic medieval epic fantasy series, the extra novellas fill a six year ‘gap’ at the beginning of Ice Forged, the first book in the series. Something major happens, there is a six year fast-forward, and the main action of the book begins. Readers wanted to know more about the gap, so three novellas–Arctic Prison, Cold Fury and Ice Bound–tell the story of Blaine McFadden’s imprisonment in Velant (collected as King’s Convicts on ebook), with three more novellas to come about Blaine’s years as a colonist on Edgeland. And along the way, readers get to know main and secondary characters better and find out how the key relationships formed that affect the rest of the series.
Iron & Blood, the Steampunk series I co-write with my husband, Larry N. Martin, also have a tie-in series, The Storm and Fury Adventures, which feature Mitch Storm and Jacob Drangosavich, agents with the Department of Supernatural Investigation. Mitch and Jacob are secondary characters in the books, but are the protagonists (so far) in the short stories and novellas, which also add more ‘episodes’ and further explore the alternate history 1898 Pittsburgh and environs of the novels.
Expanding a series with short stories and novellas works for authors and readers. Readers don’t have to wait a year or more before the next book comes out to get more of favorite characters and adventures. Authors create a chance to attract new readers and keep current fans happy with extra, shorter adventures, and create indie-published content that can be used in collections, anthologies and used in promotion. Publishers benefit from increased sales of the original series as new readers find their way to the novels. It’s a win for everyone.