Monday’s Friend: Marsha R West

Today I am pleased to welcome Marsha R West back to the blog, with some useful tips on how to write a series.

Writing a Series! Agghh!
By Marsha R West

Marsha West (2)Thanks for having me Sara. I’m excited to tell you about my third book, SECOND ACT, which is the first in The Second Chances Series. My first two books were stand-alones, so series writing has been a new experience for me. SECOND ACT is the 6th book I’ve written, and with each book I’ve learned a few more things to help in the writing process. So far, in my experience, this is a continuously evolving process. Maybe not for others, but for me it is.

In The Second Chances series, we meet four women, now in middle age, who’ve been friends since they met when they were kids at summer camp. Whether they realize it or not, they all need a second chance.

The hero in SECOND ACT was a supporting character in VERMONT ESCAPE, my first published book, the fourth I wrote. I thought I had everyone figured out, and the story was flying along. All of a sudden, Mike Riley kept stepping out in front more and more. Mike and I had a serious talk. I told him if he’d back off, I’d give him his own book. I already had a hero in VERMONT ESCAPE, and it wasn’t he. Fortunately, he agreed. SECOND ACT is his book.

By the time I wrote Mike’s story, I’d frankly forgotten stuff about him. I’d written another book, TRUTH BE TOLD, that was published in the interim. Because VERMONT ESCAPE was already out there, I had to make sure not to contradict anything I’d written about Mike in VE when I wrote SECOND ACT.

All of this is to say, you have to keep your characters straight when you write a series. Mike couldn’t show up as a blond if he’d had brown hair in VE. If I said what color his eyes were, they couldn’t change. Readers catch that kind of thing.

So I had some idea of what I was getting into when I started this series because of my relationship with Mike. But now, there are four women. Part way into writing SECOND ACT (which I just called Book 6 for the longest time), I realized I was in trouble if in my own mind’s eye, I couldn’t tell which woman was which.

Internet searching is my friend. I found an actress to suggest each woman. Julia Ormand with long flowing black hair for Addison, an executive director of a theatre in SECOND ACT. Elizabeth Shue in CSI Las Vegas suggests Kate in the second book, ACT OF TRUST, who lost her husband on 9/11. She inherits land in Maine.

Red headed Marcia Cross suggests Devon, who has her own small make-up company in Dallas in ACT OF BETRAYAL. Mariska Hargitay suggeste Kim, a wealthy socialite who lives in Wichita Falls, TX in the final book, ACT OF SURVIVAL.

The photos are numbered to help me keep up with whose story I’m working on. I have a chart with what they each like to drink.

The second book is finished. (Well, it needs rewrites and editing, but the basic story is down.) But before I do more with it, I’ve got to get the bones of the third book written. I don’t want to have something in the second book that I can’t make work for the third book. I’d just be flat up the creek without that proverbial paddle.

I do charts for each of my main characters looking at their description, characteristics, fear, strengths, likes, dislikes, etc. I have a chart for the internal and external conflict for each character. It’s really from that, the action flows. It’s just that with a series. All of that becomes so much more important.

The most concrete example of all of this is the wine I mentioned earlier. I personally enjoy Merlot. Most of my friends drink something else. I think that’s pretty common. I was halfway through the second book in the series when I realized everyone was drinking Merlot. The idea of all four women drinking Merlot, just seemed odd to me. I had to figure out which drink went with each woman and then stick to it.

Do you enjoy series? I know I do. One of my favorite authors is Carla Neggars. She had a huge series set in New Hampshire and Tennessee. I was amazed at her ability to intertwine several families. As with hers, in my books, while we meet characters that we’ve met in earlier books, a different person is the lead in each book. So you don’t have to read the books in order, but if you’re like me, you really like to do that.

Let me know some of your favorite series or tell me why you don’t like series. Love to hear from you.


Second Act 200x300 (2)When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, the homicide detective assigned to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization, including the Executive Director.

Addison Jones Greer, divorced mother of two teens, is the Executive Director of Cowtown Theatre. When a board member is found in the costume room murdered, suspicion rests on everyone involved with the theatre, including Addie. She has angered some board members because she wants to fire the Artistic Director. Although she’s warmed him several times, he continues to go over budget for productions.

Mike Riley, Fort Worth homicide detective, hates that he caught this case. His sister-in-law dragged him to a theatre fundraiser where he met Addison, the first woman he’s wanted to pursue a relationship with in a long time. Not about to happen now.

Addison hasn’t ventured into romance since she caught her now ex-husband in their bed with his secretary. As a result she doesn’t do trust. How could she trust someone who seems determined to think she’s capable of murder? Or worse, thinks her kids might be involved.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KOBO, and iBooks.


Marsha R. West, writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013 and TRUTH BE TOLD, in May 2014. Marsha formed MRW Press LLC to provide a print version of her books. VERMONT ESCAPE is available at Amazon in pint or from her in person. SECOND ACT, The Second Chances Series, Book 1, follows up with a secondary character from VERMONT ESCAPE and begins a four-part series. Find out more at She’d love to hear from you.

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7 comments so far

  1. rosalieskinner on

    Great advice, Marsha.

    • marsharwest on

      Hey, Rosalie. This is such a learn-by-doing business. 🙂 Yes, I’ve learned from others, and so I just try to pass on those gleanings. Hopefully, it will get easier, but maybe not as I just keep learning new things. 🙂

      • rosalieskinner on

        It is great to learn and then share what you have discovered. That’s one of the rich rewards I find in writing. Great post, Sara, Marsha, by sharing your terrific stories and characters you will inspire others too. Not sure if it gets easier, everyday there seems to be more to learn. But again, that’s the beauty of the art. 🙂

  2. marsharwest on

    Thanks for having me, Sara. Really appreciate this. 🙂

  3. Helena Fairfax on

    Great post, Marsha – and I love the title! 🙂 Writing a series seems a daunting prospect to me. I admire the way you’ve succeeded with it. I do love series, especially in your genre (suspense) or in crime. A series I love is the Dalziel and Pascoe series (two British detectives). I admire how authors carry the threads of these characters and hold their readers’ interest from book to book. Congratulations on putting your series together and on your latest release!

    • marsharwest on

      Thanks, Helena. Because I write romantic suspense and not mystery or suspense by itself, I have to have a happily ever after. And I do! Love my HEAs. 🙂 But I have a different main character for each book, so I can get to the HEA. I think it must be harder to pull off with the same main character carrying the load like in a cozy mystery. Thanks for stopping and commenting. 🙂

  4. Iona Brodie on

    The idea of the internal vs external conflict driving a series is really interesting. Now I think about it a lot of my favourite series are character driven whereas I have given up on a few that rely on one thing, such as a backdrop of war, to drive the plot. Great reading!

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