Self-publishing 101: The Lone Star Dynasty Series… What Not to Do

Rule number one should probably be the following: when you write a series, don’t leave your readers hanging. Alas, I didn’t know the rules when I became a publisher.

Where’s Jack? What happened to Jack? Does he have a story, too?

Several readers have emailed me about Jack after finishing Book 1, and the fact that they have gives insight into the chaos of my creative mind where confusion too often reigns. I’m apologize for causing confusion to others.

A professional publisher should have a plan. Right? If she creates a series, she should write and publish it.

I make plans and then life happens. Writing is no different. I plot a novel and then the story takes over. One minute I think I know where I’m going. Then, bam, I slam into a wall. When I recover, I’m off and running in a different direction.

When I designed my Lone Star Dynasty series, I was brand new at self-publishing. I was getting advice from all sorts of sources. I was learning so many things, I had zero focus. Yes, I had a vision for the series and for the mystery surrounding Jack to be resolved when I began writing it.

For those of you who haven’t read Love with an Imperfect Cowboy, Book 1, in the prologue of that book a small child, Jack, vanishes. Chapter 1 begins many years later.

Jack’s storyline was to lie under the series. His disappearance was to haunt other characters in the following books. Then Nell, the bad twin, intrigued me, and she took me out of Texas to New York and, thus, away, from the characters who couldn’t forget Jack. Next, I wanted to know more about East and Audrey and their dysfunctional marriage. Need I say, they were New Yorkers, too, and not blood kin to the Texas family.

Worst of all for poor Jack, whom I’d left stranded, I took a break from the series and published another series, Texas: Children of Destiny series.

When I retired from Harlequin and started publishing my own books, the journey took me into a world of technology and marketing challenges that were and are way out of my comfort zone. Publishers package and brand products to appeal to their readers, and they market their entire brand.

As a Harlequin writer, all I had to do was come up with characters and stories, present my premise to my editor, and then she would give me direction and forbid me to do certain things in the story, and I would write the book. Once I turned the manuscript into Harlequin, Harlequin’s people edited it, proofed it, published it and marketed it while I busied myself writing the next book. Lots of people work at publishing houses. As a self-published person all those tasks were left to me.

Self-publishing has taught me so much about all my publisher did for me. For one thing, Harlequin kept me focused on one project at a time. I could never have published Book 1 of the Lone Star Dynasty series in 2016 and gone off to publish other things before returning to the series in 2019. My bad.

Nor would I have been allowed to write Book 4, Love with an Imperfect Bride. Period. Publishers acted as gatekeepers. Certain settings and subjects simply were too risky to publish.

This book and its cover were both outside of my comfort zone, too. But a tragedy in my own life inspired this story. I could not write about that specific event because I would hurt people I cared about, but I think I needed to write a story about denial and the damage it can do in big and small ways, so I could process what was going on that so profoundly troubled me.

I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to reading reviews of Books 3 and 4. I was worried about book 3 because it wasn’t a traditional romance, and the characters don’t get their happy endings until later books.

In one review of Book 4, Love with an Imperfect Bride, a reader wrote, “In an email about Ann Major, she is described as a ‘Bestselling Author of Short, Spicy, Contemporary Romances.’  I would like to add one more word to that description – intrigue. I am not much for intrigue wrapped inside a romance.  Given the story line, however, intrigue was the perfect ingredient to keep me turning the page.”

My reader’s words reminded me of the guilt I felt about writing and publishing a story that might upset and alienate my readers, many of whom might be wounded themselves, and yet something compelled me to tell this story. I thought long and hard about the cover, but I decided perhaps a provocative cover would warn readers who might be offended or threatened by the subject matter not to read it.

As to my current plans for future books in this series: I am writing Love with an Imperfect Boss, a story that features Jack as an adult. I have a completed manuscript, but since I wrote Book 5 FIRST, it no longer quite “fits” the series and must be revised.

Another character who is tugging at my heart is Marisela from Book 3. Her first relationship with East ended badly, but sometimes we learn more from the bad things that happen to us and relationships that don’t work out than from anything else. I really want to stop everything and write her story because I want to give her the best happily-ever-after ending ever.