Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Keep the Excitement Alive in a Series

On several lists I’m on I’ve read the question, “When is it Time to End a Series?”

I’ve pondered that and realized that counter to that question is another question, “How do you keep the excitement alive in a series?”

One thing I’ve noticed in a couple of ongoing series is that sometimes the main character never changes, and I think this can be deadly. Though the hero or heroine may have the same job, the events he or she lives through must have some effect on him or her. All of us grow and change because of both the good things and the crises that happen in our lives; so it should be for the on-going characters in a series.

Invisible Path is either the ninth or tenth book in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. The publisher, Mundania Press, says ninth, but in fact there have been ten including the prequel, Deadly Trail, published by Hard Shell Word Factory, now a part of Mundania. I suspect one of these days the prequel will appear with the other Tempe books on Mundania’s website.

In the prequel, Tempe is a widowed mom of a young teenaged son though she is dating the minister of the local church, but wedding plans are interrupted because of a murder—of course.

In subsequent books, Tempe and Hutch are married, most of the time happily though they do clash at times--mostly on spiritual matters. Tempe’s son, Blair grows older, graduates from high school and goes onto college to pursue his love of firefighting. Because of her job as resident deputy, Tempe must takes risks, often putting her own life in jeopardy. At the start of their married life, Hutch has trouble understanding and fears for Tempe. As time passes, though he never likes it, he is able to come to terms with what goes along with his wife’s job.

Even less major but ongoing characters change. Detective Morrison who in many books has little respect for Tempe, partly because she’s female and partly because of her Native American heritage, starts to accept Tempe as a competent law enforcement officer.

Though most of the books are set in the Southern Sierra in and around the fictitious town of Bear Creek, Tempe’s investigations take her into new areas of the mountains and the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The town of Bear Creek and the reservation have an uncanny resemblance to the little town where I live and the nearby Indian reservation.

Most of the books have a bit of Indian mythology or legend as part of the plot, which I hope will intrigue the readers of the series and keep them coming back to find out more.

To be perfectly honest with you, I won’t quit writing the series until I don’t have any more dilemmas to confront Tempe with or murders for her solve. I face each new book wondering what will happen to Tempe. She and her husband and the people who populate Bear Creek and the Bear Creek Indian Reservation are as real to me as my own family and friends. Because I am excited about what is going to happen to them next, I hope my readers will be too.

Invisible Path can be purchased as a trade paperback or e-book from or any of the usual online bookstores.


“Jesus, I need to talk to you.”

My grandma was the only one who could get away with pronouncing my name like Jesus in the Bible. My friends say it like “Hay-soos.” Grandma didn’t like it when she heard someone say my name like that. She usually corrected whoever it was by saying, “My grandson is not Mexican, he is Indian. His name is Jesus Running Bear.”

I don’t know what inspired my mother to give me such a name, and she wasn’t around to ask.

Grandma fixed her small dark eyes on me. When she smiled her eyes became crescent moons. She wasn’t smiling now. Whatever it was she wanted to say, it had to be important.

I put down the bowl I’d gotten out of the cupboard. Breakfast would have to wait.

“You’ve been thinking about something a lot. Something that’s going to give you problems.” Grandmother’s face was round, weathered, and brown as a nut. Her gray hair was pulled straight back and arranged in a bun. Wiry strands escaped and poked out around her ears and the nape of her neck. She wore a man’s red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, over a pair of faded blue jeans. Beneath the baggy clothes, she was slim and muscled. Her toes peeked out from a pair of worn leather sandals.

I loved my grandma; after all she was the one who raised me after my mother left me alone while she went on a three day drunk. My uncle found me and brought me to grandmother’s house where I’ve been ever since. No, I don’t miss my mother because I don’t even remember her. I only know what I’ve been told about her—not much of it good.

I wasn’t sure what kind of problem Grandma meant. Sure, I’d been going down to the beer joints with my cousin and friends even though I knew she didn’t want me drinking. Maybe that’s what this was about. I respected my grandmother, but I hadn’t obeyed her warning about never touching alcohol. She hated alcohol. Grandfather had died from drinking too much. Maybe my mother was dead too. No one had heard from her in years.

“Come. Sit down.” She motioned to the chair where I usually sat. In front of her was a cup of tea. “We’re going to find out exactly what is going on with you.”

I sat on the edge of the seat. She was going to do some weird Indian stuff. We were Miwok—though we didn’t live on or near a reservation. We lived in a small town in the foothills above Modesto which is in the Central Valley of California. Frankly, I didn’t know much about my heritage except what my grandma told me.

She was an amazing woman, and could do so many things. I was proud of most of what she did. She knew how to gather herbs that could cure most sicknesses. She wove beautiful baskets that she sold at Pow Wows and to tourists in gift shops in Yosemite and other places.

When I was a kid, she took me on camping trips into the back country. She could out hike me even today. But I wasn’t crazy about all the Indian stuff she did that I didn’t understand.

Grandma stared into the cup and began speaking in her native language. That’s what she always did when she was concentrating on something.

She lifted her head and fixed her eyes on me again. “You’re looking for a girlfriend. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Well, sure. What young guy isn’t trying to find a girl? But for once I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

Again, she peered into the cup. “I see all kinds of women. Be careful not to choose the wrong one. If you do, you’ll be miserable.”

She stared and her eyes looked funny, like she was seeing something far, far away.

I squirmed, wondering where this was leading. Maybe she already had someone picked out for me.

“I see a pretty girl with a nice figure. She has long straight hair, clear down to her waist. She’ll wiggle her plump bottom and you won’t be able to think. Women have power–especially young pretty ones. Don’t you so much as give her more than a passing glance. If you do, you’ll be miserable your whole life.” Grandma didn’t look up.

In my mind I could see the pretty girl walking down the street, her shiny black hair swinging back and forth like her hips.

After a few minutes my day dream ended when Grandma said, “There’s another one. Short and skinny like I was when I was young. But beware, she’s nothing like me. This one is sneaky. She’ll act like she cares for you when she has lots of other men.”

Interesting. This was more fun than I’d expected.

“I see another one, curly headed and laughing. She’ll welcome you to her bed.”

This was sounding better and better, and I risked a smile.

“Take my warning, grandson. Don’t marry her. She knows nothing about being a wife or taking care of children. She only knows how to have fun. She only wants to party, party, party. She’s not for you.”

I was beginning to wonder if there was anyone Grandma would see in that teacup who was good enough for me.

“Ah, there’s the one you must look for. She’s a sweet girl, with dark brown wavy hair and a dimple in one cheek. She knows and respects the old ways.”

“Where is she? Does she live around here?” I was ready to introduce myself to this wonderful woman.

“No, she lives far away. It may take a long, long while before you meet her.”

That wasn’t such good news. “How will I find her?”

“The path lies straight ahead. Sometimes it will be invisible, but it’s always there.”

Grandma’s discussion about my future seemed to be over.

She picked up the cup and dumped the dregs in the sink. Wiping her hands on a tea towel that had been draped through the handle of the old refrigerator, she asked, “Are you ready to eat?”

* * *

I almost forgot about Grandma’s predictions, because I started drinking more and more with my buddies. I became an embarrassment to her and my other relatives, and I didn’t care.


Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at her website and her blog

Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.
She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.


  1. Thanks for hosting Marilyn today! I hope your readers enjoy the excerpt and look for more information about Invisible Path.


  2. No growth means stale writing and boring reading!

  3. I thought I posted here earlier. I want to thank you so much for allowing me to visit today.


  4. I mentioned in a previous comment that I need to read the Tempe Crabtree books. After reading this excerpt, I'm even more certain I want to do that. Great writing always hooks me.

    Mike Orenduff

  5. Thanks, Mike. My Tempe Crabtree mysteries are much different than my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series.


  6. I'm glad somebody brought up this question. I've never written a series, but I love many series by other writers. I've yet to read one of these lines that I wanted to see come to an end.

    If I should ever consider a series, this would certainly be the major factor: keeping the reader interested in the characters. And letting them change, as you said, certainly would be crucial.

    Enjoyed the blog, and loved the excerpt!