I'll add details of which characters are the focus of each episode at some point.
At that point I must confess that it was not my intention to write a series. Indeed, I only set out to demonstrate for my own benefit that I had more than one novel in me. However, the following year, I decided to write No Time Like The Present - book two. Then I left it alone again.
In 2012, a reviewer's remark (addendum: how terse that sounds, although back then she was a 'mere' reviewer - she's now my editor and best bud, but anyway, I digress, which goes some way towards explaining why the series is, as of May 2017, at 1,736,390 words) that they hoped I would turn this into a trilogy led me to reconsider, and thus The Harder They Fall was born. At 140,000 words, it was quite a bit longer than the previous two books, for in writing it, I had realised I had a set of characters that were richly developed with distinct personalities.
Much more than a trilogy...
I reached the end of the first edit/rewrite of The Harder They Fall in December 2012, and I was thoroughly miserable. It took me a while to realise why, but it was due to one reason only. The word 'trilogy' meant I was done, finished with the characters whose lives I had created, narrated, given form and voice to.
Or I should have been done; but I wasn't.
See, my readers (who could be far greater in number, but, you know, quality matters) have often remarked that these characters are like friends - people they know and love - which means that reading books two and three became less to do with following a series and more about catching up with friends they hadn't seen in a while.
And the problem (or, in fact, benefit) is that I was experiencing them that way, too.
In psychological terms, it's something like the concept of source monitoring error - where we recall information in a different form to that which it was originally presented.
For instance, you hear a radio report of a motorway pile-up as it's happening and the memory is embellished by images so that when asked later, you'd swear you saw it on TV. Likewise, I wrote the first two books and had a four-year break. When I came back to them, I recalled 'The Circle' not as characters, but as people I had been in contact with a while ago.
And probably a little bit bonkers!
A series is born
In a staggered process over Christmas of 2012, all of my family came down with the norovirus. I wrote through it. Yeeeeaahh! I'm a literary soldier, spurning vomit and stomach cramps for festive festoons of metaphorical magic! The outcome was First Christmas - a short story which narratively follows on from The Harder They Fall (book three). I thought maybe, just maybe, I could leave it at that. Closure.
January 2013: I thought perhaps the way forwards was backwards, so I wrote another short story, but this time telling of 'The Circle' as little people, back in their primary school days. The result is Beginnings.
Done now? Erm...perhaps not.
In The Stars marks the point at which I gave up fighting this thing. I love writing about these characters and the fictional reality they inhabit. It's fun. It makes me happy and a few other people seem to like it, too, so I gave up giving up. Thus, in 2014 there were two books (In The Stars Part I and Part II), separated by a short story interlude entitled Breaking Waves.
A Midnight Clear and Red Hot Christmas were two further festive short stories (one young adult, one very adult!) released for Christmas 2014...
July 2014: A Midnight Clear and Red Hot Christmas inspired two separate, interwoven storylines. I think, probably, that the Christmas stories, and the resultant Season Six (observe the shift from book to season - I wrote long again), which is called Two by Two (and is in six manageable episodes), is probably the perfect starting point for new readers.
2014 marched on... And so did Hiding Behind The Couch!
Crying in the Rain - Kris and Ade's story - followed by Ruminations - a second prequel telling of how Josh and Sean met at university.
A bit of a dip
2015 turned out to be a much quieter year in HBTC land. After writing Hiding Out - a crossover with Checking Him Out - and Breakfast at Cordelia's Aquarium (proof positive I am quite, quite mad), I began writing Reunions (season seven) but I was mostly busy with collaborating on Seeds of Tyrone...followed by the birth of grandson #1 (12 weeks early)...into 2016 and another major health scare for Nige. I must confess, Chain of Secrets was a bit of escapism for me, and for a few months after, writing was too hard. My dad also passed away, then my father-in-law. It was a rough old year.
2016 wasn't entirely unproductive on the writing front, though. I finally finished Those Jeffries Boys - a story for my fab mate Andrea (see previous mention of reviewer-editor-best bud). Then there was The WAG and The Scoundrel - the first in a wee spin-off series starring Gray Fisher. I also restarted work on Reunions during NaNoWriMo (November). Grandson #2 arrived late December, rounding off the year on a happy note!
Back in the groove?
2017 brought the release - finally - of Reunions as well as To Be Sure, which kind of wrote itself. I love it when that happens, when I'm tuned in to the world of HBTC and the words just flow. I also started work on Alumni (Season Eight) and Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2), and wrote what turned out to be well over half of Goth of Christmas Past (Krissi and Jay's story).
2018... Goth of Christmas Past is somewhere between editing and proofreading and will definitely be out in the last quarter of the year. I'm also managing to get bits and pieces done on Alumni, and Tabula Rasa is -this close- to finished, but the ending is proving rather tricky! It's April now, and I'm optimistic I'll nail it before June. May Addendum: Tabula Rasa is done and pre-publication! Phew!
2019... I took a bit of a break from Hiding Behind The Couch to work on Meredith's Dagger - a novel I wrote waaaay back in 2011 and disliked one of the characters so much I couldn't stand looking at his face long enough to do the necessary and get the book up to scratch. Well, I redeemed him...mostly, and released the novel on my fiftieth birthday, which was awesome because it was kind of...ish...my fiftieth publication.
I originally set the story in the real Ormskirk, but in the reworking shifted it (for various reasons) to the fictional realm where HBTC resides, and I even managed to round off the year with a wee Christmas special - Not My Christmas - featuring Charlie Davenport. Woot!
2020 - a year we'd all rather forget
Distractions - the final instalment in the Gray Fisher trilogy - was released 24th April to coincide with the date at the start of the story, which is an interesting point, actually (pushes up geek glasses - you should prepare to zone out briefly).
See, this here Hiding Behind The Couch series is Massive (yup, with a capital M), and somewhere around...Season Three, I think, I realised I needed a calendar to keep track of what happened when, characters's births, deaths and anniversaries and so on. However, the stories come when they come - like English storms. There can be loads in the space of a few weeks or none for months. Soooo....I adapted a PHP calendar that calculates dates and days of the week based on Annus Josh, i.e. Josh was 35 at the start of Season One and all else is worked out backwards/forwards from that point. You can view the calendar online, but beware that it may contain spoilers (i.e. life events may not have happened yet for where you're up to in your reading).
As a general rule, the days associated with specific dates don't match up to our current year. Except...for the first time ever, in Distractions, they do!
Here and Now
So, burnout sucks. It sneaks up on you quickly and leaves you in exhausted disarray for the longest time. That's why it's now been three years since I released Season 7 - Reunions - and whilst the long real-world doesn't really matter in fictional terms, I've struggled to fit what I'd written two-three years ago with where the characters would be now. Thus I'm reworking Alumni (what would have been Season 8) into a follow-on from Ruminations - 'follow-on' in the sense that it brings Josh and Sean's alumni back together, but it happens 22.5 years later. I'm cautiously optimistic I can finish both Alumni and Scene But Not Heard (Front of House - ooh! I forgot to say - that's the name for the 'next gen' sub-series that began with Goth of Christmas Past) for release in 2021. Cautiously.
I have to write. I'd love for you to have a read of what I write, but whether you do or your don't I have to write. And let's face it, it's cheaper (and currently more doable) than a holiday!
If you'd like to start reading from the middle of the series, then below you will find links to brief outlines of the plots and key events in the first three seasons. These will spoil the story, although they are only the key events, and there will be other stuff not mentioned here, so all is not lost if you later went back and read the real thing.
NOTE: Hiding Behind The Couch (season one) is available for free here and virtually everywhere. No Time Like The Present (season two) and The Harder They Fall (season three) are available for 99c/99p. I don't write for money, but it would be nice to make some along the way.