Today I am so pleased to welcome our friend Lloyd A. Meeker to Joyfully Jay. Lloyd has come to talk to us about his latest release, Blood and Dirt. He has also brought along some copies to give away. Please join me in giving Lloyd a big welcome back!
I’ve been thinking about how to keep a mystery series fresh. What, you say — you’ve got barely two Russ Morgan stories out and you’re already worried about keeping the series fresh? Isn’t that a little premature?
Well, I worry a lot about things like this, so some of it is anticipatory anxiety, I’m sure. But also I’m one of those writers who likes to have a high altitude view of how the series might unfold, and I want to have a feel for what binds the stories together.
First and always, of course, the characters are the soul of any series. Russ, and to a lesser extent Colin, too, must give the primary reason for a reader to stick with them. It’s their series, after all.
This is a big difference from romance. A romance series has to offer related stories of new couples, since once a romance couple has been paired, I’d think it would be an unpopular idea to break them up to make room for someone else in the next book. The compelling power of the HEA is also a character’s prison. That’s its price. A character gets only one chance to be the protagonist in a romance.
I’d like to see a romance series that ran toward an intergenerational saga, with the characters achieving, failing, dreaming, fighting, raising a family, ageing and dying. I’m attempting that with my m/f fantasy romance series Legacy of Albessind over at Wild Rose Press, but I haven’t seen it in m/m romance yet. I think we’re ready for it, though.
Our stories are ready to go beyond the twenty-something lovers who disappear almost as soon as they pair up. What kind of families might evolve through them, what kind of parents will those once-angst-ridden guys become, and what love-challenges will their children encounter? I find those questions interesting.
But I digress. Back to a broader unifying thread for Russ and his stories.
For mysteries, a traditional technique is simply to make the stories episodic. Russ Morgan and the Case of the Missing Monocle. Russ Morgan and the Case of the Brazen Bobsledder. I’m being facetious, but you get the point.
The noir detective rarely changes from story to story. Nero Wolfe may disappear and lose weight to go undercover in one story, but he’s back to his enormous orchid-obsessed self in the next. Sam Spade doesn’t really change at all, and we don’t expect or want him to. Joseph Hansen showed Dave Brandstetter’s gradual decline over his stories, leading eventually to Brandstetter’s death by heart attack.
In his Dick Hardesty series, Dorien Gray develops a very believable, understated and evolving domestic life for Dick and Jonathan. Lori L. Lake in her Have Gun series did that, too. Marshall Thornton gave Nick Nowak a growth arc in his Boystown series. I think those series show really significant evolution in our literature, and hats of to each of them for their role in it.
What kind of evolution could Russ go through besides just getting older? He’s already got a strong moral compass, and he’ll never abandon that. His relationship with Colin will evolve, of course. There’s grist for the mill there, without doubt.
Blood and Dirt drew some of its story setting from the marijuana industry in Colorado, and I think socially charged issues might well provide substance for future Russ Morgan stories. There are plenty to choose from. Ecological issues or the appalling decay in quality of public education in our country could be two useful ones.
Although both Russ and Colin are Caucasian, I hope that one day I’ll be able to honorably confront racial inequality in one of their stories. But I need to grow as a writer and a human being before I can do it well. I get too angry too easily about it at the moment.
That said, I also don’t want to turn Russ into a social crusader, or a crusader of any kind, really. Crusaders are rarely nuanced, multi-faceted people, to my observation. In fiction that makes for a boring and shallow protagonist!
I just want Russ to do his work and remain emotionally engaged with the world around him. In mysteries so many private investigators insulate themselves from the world they navigate, either with cynicism or anger, with drugs or a bottle, or some other self-erected barrier. A noir detective is unlikely to have his heart break open when visiting an orphanage, or an impoverished rural school. On the other hand, Russ’ heart is already open enough to feel the ache of compassion at the hardship of others.
And there’s another possibility — inability to rely on familiar strengths. What if Sherlock Holmes went blind, and couldn’t identify the piece of mud on someone’s shoe as coming from a particular bank of the Thames? What if a noir detective had his license revoked and wasn’t allowed to carry a gun? Or a detective who often relied on skill in martial art was confined to a chair, à la Rear Window? Russ relies on his psychic sensitivity to gather information during an investigation. What if something happened to make that ability unavailable, or even just less reliable? That could be an interesting story.
So maybe I’ll shoot for some yet-to-be-discovered combination of character evolution, relationship, social issues, and variety in the nature of cases. How’s that for being vague?
To celebrate my lack of a clear path for how this series might stay fresh, I’m giving away two signed print copies of Blood and Dirt, to be awarded by Joyfully Jay. The print edition also includes the first short story, Enigma and I can ship to winners anywhere in North America. If a winner lives outside NA, I’ll be glad to send a digital copy of both stories in mobi, epub or pdf.
Thanks for spending this time with me – writing this post has helped me find more clarity about the series, and I love that!
Family squabbles can be murder.
Psychic PI Russ Morgan investigates a vandalized marijuana grow in Mesa County Colorado, landing in the middle of a ferocious family feud that’s escalating in a hurry. Five siblings fight over the family ranch as it staggers on the brink of bankruptcy, marijuana its only salvation. Not everyone agrees, but only one of them is willing to kill to make a point.
Russ also has a personal puzzle to solve as he questions his deepening relationship with Colin Stewart, a man half his age. His rational mind says being with Colin is the fast track to heartbreak, but it feels grounding, sane, and good. Now, that’s really dangerous…
Lloyd Meeker can’t help what he writes – stories arising from the between places, the mystical overlapping between the worlds of matter and spirit, and the wild beauty that dwells there. It’s his natural habitat.
In addition to his written work, which includes novels, essays, poetry and short stories, he has served since 2008 as a final-round judge in the Queer Foundation’s annual National High School Seniors Essay Contest, which promotes effective writing by, about, and/or for queer youth, and awards scholarships to the winners. Finalists are selected from schools across the United States by members of the National Council of Teachers of English.
Happily ensorcelled by music, subtle energy healing, and the wonders of nature, he lives with his very understanding husband in southern Florida, among friends and family, orchids, and giant hibiscus that take his breath away every morning.
His novel The Companion was named a finalist in the 2015 Lambda Literary Awards. You can email him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at LloydAMeeker, or visit his website at www.lloydmeeker.com.
Lloyd has brought two signed print copies of Blood & Dirt to give away to two lucky readers (U.S. only, ebooks for international). Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, October 17th at 11:59 pm EST.
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