Saturday, March 31, 2012

Guest Blog by J.N. Duncan and Giveaway - March 31, 2012

Please welcome J.N. Duncan to The Qwillery. The Lingering Dead (Deadworld 3) will be published on April 3, 2012 by Kensington.  Blood Justice, a Deadworld short story, was published in February.

     Qwill suggested the topic of the differences between writing the first book in this series, Deadworld, compared to the third, The Lingering Dead (out on April 3rd!). Given that I haven't really written about this or even thought about it much, I figured it would be a great topic of discussion here. Because there are some interesting, significant differences between them.

     Deadworld was my debut book. The biggest factor about this is that it was basically written in a vacuum. I had very little feedback while I was writing it, all of the ideas were mine alone, and any changes that I decided to make were my decisions. The characters, what they did, how they evolved and changed, how they reacted to things, it was all at the whim of my imagination. There is a certain freedom and fear in this. While I was free to make the story in any way, shape, and form that I desired, you're always wondering, "Is this the best way to do it? Are readers going to believe that? Is this story developing quickly enough? Am I leaving anything out?" Hundreds of questions will pour through the writer brain, and at this stage, I had only myself to answer for.

     I also had the luxury of time. First books only have the deadlines you make for them. So, while I actually wrote Deadworld in fourteen weeks, I could just as easily taken six months or a year to write it. If you get stuck or something isn't working, you can step back and take whatever time you need to figure things out. When you are then with a publisher, they need things at certain times in order to meet schedules. Your book is slotted to release on a certain month, and this is set months in advance. In order to be ready to go out the door and hit shelves by that date, the book, editing, cover and marketing all has to be done by specific dates. And I will say, working on a Deadline is not as much fun.

     When you then have an agent and an editor in the mix, each book becomes more of a collaboration. While some may eschew the fact that others are dipping their fingers into the creative pie, I actually love this aspect. This assumes of course you have an agent/editor that is good to work with, gets your writing, and knows what they're doing. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not a very good editor. It takes me a lot of time to gain any distance from my writing in order to see flaws. So, having an agent and editor who can look through my work and point out things that are problematic is a huge boon.

     For example, Deadworld was originally 116k. After some tightening and rewriting, it was 106k. The Lingering Dead came in at 93k. While I ended up shuffling a couple of chapters around and getting rid of one entirely, my word count did not change much. Pacing is a difficult element to nail down for books that rely on suspense. Agents/editors (good ones) that sell in this market understand the ins and outs of this quite well, and being able to pick their brains about how and why to do certain things in a story is great for growing as a writer.

     And that growth may be the biggest factor of all. You learn more with the writing of each book or you should if you are trying to become better as a writer. Having pros in your corner helps immensely with this process. I've not had a critique partner or beta reader with these books, but my agent/editor have been huge helps in making me a better writer.

     Readers are also a major difference between the first and third book. Unlike some writers, I do look at negative reviews of my work. Thoughtful critique can help you not only become a better writer, but it can guide certain aspects of the story. The biggest example of this, was in the backstory of the hero, Nick. I had numerous readers lament the fact that Nick's backstory got short thrift in Deadworld. They wanted to learn more about him and understand where he came from. This not only guided what I did with the villain of The Lingering Dead, but encouraged me to write up the short story, Blood Justice, which detailed Nick's original showdown with Cornelius Drake and how exactly he became a vampire.

     I learned a lot about pacing throughout the first three books here. This came not only from my agent/editor but from readers as well. Some felt the stories were too slow to build. All three books have a similar structure to them. The first half is mostly mystery, the characters attempting to figure out just what the hell is going on. The second half is suspense/thriller as they attempt to stop the villain. Part of this is due to the fact that I never set out specifically to write Urban Fantasy, which relies heavily on action/suspense to drive plot. I wrote Deadworld as crime fiction. I wanted to write a supernatural mystery/thriller, and that is what I set out to do. So I likely flew in the face of some of the usual UF expectations. While I have not altered the basic construct of my stories, I have made more effort to tighten the mystery element up in the first half of the stories.

     So, yes, there is a pretty big difference between the first and third books, at least from my perspective. For the reader, I hope they see a tighter, more engaging story. I feel that I've grown as a writer over the course of this series, and have learned so much. Honestly, I can't ask for much more than that.

     Well, thank you, Qwill, for having me here today, and for everyone who has read the post. I hope it was at least mildly interesting. For the comments, I'd like to hear from you readers about what you expect to see over the course of a series, what pulls you in more, and even those things that make you end up bored and stop reading a series. I'm curious to hear. Those who comment will have a chance to win a signed copy of EACH of the Deadworld books. This may be the last release day guest post that I give out all three, so comment while the commenting's good.

     Happy reading/writing everyone!

About Deadworld

The Lingering Dead
Deadworld 3
Kensington, April 3, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 343 pages

She cracks the FBI’s toughest supernatural crimes, from Chicago’s windy streets and beyond, into the next world. But a malevolent force now has her reputation—and her team—in its sights…

Jackie Rutledge has faced down everything from the darkest sorcery to uber-vengeful revenants. But heading up the Bureau’s special paranormal unit is presenting unexpected challenges. Handling otherworldly egos and politics has never come easy to this loner agent. And opening up to her sexy vampire lover, Nick, is as unnerving as her unwanted new ability to slip between the realms of the living and the dead...

Now an insidious power holding helpless ghosts in thrall is using any means necessary to discredit Jackie and split her team apart for good. The only chance she has means baiting the terrifying Deadworld being stalking her dreams, hunting her every step—and growing ever more hungry for her ultimate sacrifice…

Blood Justice
A Deadworld Short Story
February 21, 2012

In 1862 Wyoming, Sheriff Nick Anderson led a good life, raising his family and protecting those who lived within his territory. When the preacher came to town, setting up his revival tent, and working his mysterious charms on the locals, Nick new he was trouble. Then people began to die. Now a simple invitation to leave has turned into a tragic showdown with a man who is no creature of God at all.

The Vengeful Dead
Deadworld 2
Kensington, October 4, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

She's the FBI's go-to expert on Chicago's most brutal supernatural crimes. But a bloodthirsty, revenge-crazed killer is using her deepest fears as a terrifying weapon . . .

Jackie Rutledge just can't put her past to rest. Her Bureau partner is dead, but not gone. And her sanity is becoming as fragile as her career. Worst of all, a wrenching journey into Deadworld has given her unwanted new abilities-and exhuming memories she hoped to keep buried . . .

Now a merciless force capable of possessing humans is on a killing spree, destroying the guilty and innocent alike. It isn't long before Jackie is a prime suspect, struggling to stay two steps ahead of her savvy new partner, and her undead P.I. and paramour, Nick. But to clear her name, she'll have to take on her greatest challenge yet: confronting an inner darkness as inescapable as the one she hunts-and capable of annihilating more than her soul . . .

Deadworld 1
Kensington, April 5, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

She’s as tough as anything haunting Chicago’s streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won’t stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price…

Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether evidence, and a city on the edge of panic mean that she and her psychic partner, Laurel, are going to need more than just backup …

So Jackie is fine with any help rugged P.I. Nick Anderson can give—even if that includes the impish ghost and sexy vampire who make up his team. But Nick is hiding secrets of his own. And Jackie’s investigation has plunged them both into a vengeful game reaching back centuries—and up against a malevolent force hungry for more than just victory…

About J.N.

J.N. Duncan is a father of four and an aspiring teacher, living in Ohio. He's got as many pets as kids, and a partner who is published as well (romance author Tracy Madison). He's a big fantasy gamer, sf/f geek, lover of astronomy, and generally scores pretty high on the nerd scale, if one were to measure such things.

J.N.'s Links


The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win signed copies of Deadworld, The Vengeful Dead and The Lingering Dead from J.N. US/CANADA ONLY.

How:  Leave a comment answering J.N.'s question:

What do you expect to see over the course of a series, what pulls you in more, and even those things that make you end up bored and stop reading a series?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Saturday, April 7, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. Hmmm... lots to think about here. Okay, what I expect over the course of a series is a solid core of characters that interact with each other. I really like it when the hero or heroine has strong friendships or develops friendships with characters s/he would have avoided in the past. So relationships are key (they don't have to be romantic, although I like that).

    I usually stop reading series when the cast of characters grows immense and everything gets way too complicated or if I get bored.

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  2. I expect to see character development over the course of a series. I get bored when the plots start to become unbelievable.

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  3. I can't believe this series hasn't appeared on my radar until now.. Deadworld sounds like a fantastic series that I'd love to read!

    I read. A lot. What do I look for in a series that keeps me reading? I absolutely LOVE UF and Fantasy, so it's the details and world-building that pull me in, as well as well-drawn characters (main AND secondary) that I want to know more about.

    While I realize nobody's perfect (even authors) -- and not every book is going to be a perfect read for me -- what really will turn me off a series is lack of development in the characters. I've noticed this seems to happen quite a bit in well-established series (14-15) books in. The author finds a formula that works and the characters stay in this time-warp and never change, just regurgitate the same jokes, situations, etc. -- Time moves forward-- people change. This should be true of characters in a series as well.

    The other thing will put me off a series is a forced story arc -- like the author forced the characters to go in a direction that, well, seems manufactured and awkward, to get them from where they are to where the author "needs" them to be (if that makes any sense...)

    Thanks for the amazing giveaway!
    elizabeth @ bookattict . com
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  4. I really enjoy series that keep me interested and for me that means seeing the characters grow or encounter situations that enables readers to understand them. I don't want for story plots to be dragged out when it's obvious it should have ended. For long-standing series I want story arches to be complete and balanced with new ones. That way there is some resolution but still something to keep reading for.

    GFC follower.

  5. Great premise sounds really good! I think what draws me in is character development, but not too much back example is The Stand by Stephen King. Loved the story, but it does kind of tend to bog down on too much back story! A little is necessary to develop character,but too much and people will lose interest fast (at least that's how it works for me) A good kick-ass heroine or hawt leading man will pull me in every time!!!! A combination of the two...wowser!!! I love the journey, but not too many unnecessary pit stops along the way!!!
    Thanks for the great giveaway..would love to read these books!!!
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  6. Thanks for a wonderful and informative post! It's always neat to read about an author's journey and writing style. Definitely makes me appreciate more the time and effort it takes for my fav books to come out :)

    For a series, especially a UF series, I want character growth, not only as individuals but as fitting to the world that the author created. It's all well and good if they are supernatural and have great abilities, but if they can't grow or demonstrate growth with their abilities or discover new aspects, then it's just reading the same story over and over. I also want world building. We have multiple books, now expand the world we see and give us a glimpse of more than the just the main characters. I don't want the supernatural equivalent of Cheers where it's one location but different people moving in and out. And take the main characters out of their comfort zones and knowledge base. I don't expect them to have to fight for their lives/world in every book but mix it up so it's not the same villain, same problem book after book. Rereading this, it sounds demanding and pretentious, but I think as a reader who reads *a lot* of UF/PNR, I've gotten a good sense of what works and doesn't work.

    I really enjoyed Deadworld and I'm a bit behind and I really want to read TVD ASAP :) Thanks so much for the generous giveaway!

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  7. I expect to see some background of the main character or characters and world building in the first book as well as a great plot, and then each book builds on that with more background added as we go along, in addition to the character's growth. What pulls me in are interesting characters who grow in their abilities and their personal life and a good bit of action going on to keep things interesting. I don't think I've ever stopped reading a series once I've started, but if each book seemed like the same thing keeps happening and the characters didn't learn from their mistakes, or grow in some manner, I'd probably get bored.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com
    GFC follower - Barbara E.

  8. I love the character development that comes with a series. edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOtcom
    GFC Krystal Larson

  9. I expect happy endings for characters and the eventual resolution of issues.

    I follow the blog.

    Thanks for the giveaway.


  10. I like to see somethings resolved and some things continuing into the next book. Debby236 at gmail dot com

  11. I love to see a wonderful storyline and what a couple goes through to be together. All of the obstacles and their struggles. I love happy endings. I don't like when a series doesn't have an ending.

  12. It's hard for me to explain most of my personal preferences, but the best series get me emotionally invested in the characters. And I'm not a fan of overly wordy descriptions of places and outfits.
    I'm a gfc follower.


  13. If a series features the same main characters, I would like to see character and relationship developments.

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    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  14. I love series! And what I expect to see happen throughout a single-protagonist series is growth and development of the cast of characters. I love it when a protagonist experiences things throughout a number of books that changes his or her outlook, behavior, decisions, etc. Particularly considering UF characters tend to go through major ordeals…it's hard for there to be no perceivable impact.

    Similarly, it's also nice to see some overarching plot threads. Serial-style plot in a series book is cool, but if it feels like nothing crucial ever changes, or like the books can be read in any order even though the series follows the same protagonist, then I tend to be less enthusiastic.

    Perhaps one of the most crucial things to me, however, is a solid world-building. I don't know how the great book universes are created in a writer's mind--all at once or little by little--but when it is fleshed out and built upon across installments, it makes picking up the latest book really exciting. ^_^

    [p.s. - Thank you for the awesome guest post and giveaway! I appreciated getting to learn more about the actual writing process, particularly how it's affected (for better or worse) by external elements.]

    Entries: 2 (comment, GFC follower)

    myneedtoread at/gmail/dot/com

  15. Over the course of a series I like to see character growth and an larger plot endgame that strings together the singular plots of each installment. I get pulled out of a series if the characters get old and keep going through the motions.

    GFC: ML
    mljfoland AT hotmail DOT com

  16. I have found when reading a series if there's not some kind of love interest to look forward to, I will drop the series. What's funny is that I recently just started reading paranormal romance/romance for the first time ever.

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  17. I've come to find that if there's not a love interest in a series that I grow bored with it and possibly put it down.

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  18. An interesting cast of supporting characters help keep a series rich and me interested.

    GFC Anne38

  19. I think for me I like when the series characters grow. I really like a love interest. I also like good world building. I dislike when the story doesn't really go anywhere. Thanks for the chance.

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  20. This was a great post, thanks for sharing. I am amazed that you wrote book one in 14 weeks. So much for timelines, you so didn't need one there. But true that with a first novel you are isolated, doing your own thing and hoping it is something that will work. I am a bit of a control freak and I think it would be very difficult to let someone else get their fingers in my work. But it seems your editor knows what they are talking about so that would help in the faith department. =)
    As for reading a series I expect the characters to develop more depth, to discover secrets and backstory that left you hanging in the first, or second books. And yes I do like to see an author grow through the process, you only get better the more you do something right. So why not being able to improve writing as well?
    Thanks for the fun post! Good luck with your release!

    GFC follower Lexi
    eyesofblueice (at) gmail