Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Post – Jennifer Estep (and Giveaway)

Jennifer-Estep Tangled Threads the fourth and penultimate book in Jennifer Estep’s deservedly popular Elemental Assassin series was released April 26. Gin Blanco and her allies draw ever closer to exacting their revenge on Mab, the powerful fire elemental and criminal leader that dominates the city. Fans should love this latest installment, as the action is non-stop with plenty of thrills and a terrific setup for the fifth and final book in the series Spiders Revenge.

I asked Jennifer if she would be willing to do a guest post talking about the intricacies of plotting out a multi-book series and she was happy to oblige. This series is one of the best urban fantasy series going and I urge you to give it a try. And in order to do that Jennifer has kindly provided a copy of Tangled Threads, to be won in a random draw (simply fill out the form at the end of the post).

Jennifer will be dropping by today to respond to reader questions and comments, so please comment away. Jennifer has also posed a number of questions for readers in her post. Have your say.

Welcome Jennifer!

Plotting (Not just another assassination)

Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to say thanks to Doug for having me back on the blog today. Thanks so much, Doug!

So today, Doug asked me to talk a little about “the Tangled Threads of plotting” – in other words, how I plan out story arcs for my books. I’m four books into my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series now, since Tangled Threads was released on April 26.

tangled-threadsI like five-book story arcs – that’s what I have planned for the Elemental Assassin series. In the first book, Spider’s Bite, I introduced by heroine, Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, and the dark, gritty world of Ashland. By the end of book five, Spider’s Revenge, which comes out in October, Gin will confront her nemesis, Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who killed Gin’s mother and older sister when Gin was a kid.

Why five books? Well, I think that’s enough time/words for me to tell a good story and for readers to get really invested in the characters and their relationships, but not so long that folks will get bored waiting for Mab to figure out who Gin really is. As a reader, I’m not the biggest fan of series that just go on and on without closing out any of the story arcs.

Originally, I was contracted for three books in the series, so I knew I was taking a risk thinking about a five-book story arc. So when my publisher offered to buy books four and five in the series, I decided that I would have Gin confront Mab at the end of book five. That way, I could give readers a complete story, something I wanted to do just in case my publisher didn’t want any more books after these five.

I’m not much of a plotter. When it comes to actually writing the books, I’m pretty much a panster. I think of the villain, the main plot points, and what needs to happen in the book to drive the main story arcs forward. Then, I just sit down and write the book. But for the Elemental Assassin series, these were the major plot points that I had in mind for each book that would drive Gin and Mab toward their inevitable confrontation:

Book 1 – Spider’s Bite – Introduce readers to Gin and the city of Ashland.
Book 2 – Web of Lies – Gin finds out that Mab murdered her family.
Book 3 – Venom – Gin declares war on Mab, and her long-lost sister Bria comes back to Ashland.
Book 4 – Tangled Threads – Mab hires another assassin to find and kill Gin.
Book 5 – Spider’s Revenge – Gin and Mab have their big smackdown fight.

I’m not sure exactly why I settled on five books. Three seemed to be too short to tell the story I wanted to, and seven too long. I think the five-book arc appeals to me because you can set up the characters/world in books one and two, and then sort of turn everything on its head in book three, which can drive the story through books four and five. For example, in book three, Venom, Gin declares war on Mab, which sets up the action in Tangled Threads and Spider’s Revenge. Of course, I want to write more Gin books beyond these five, but that’s a post for another day. LOL.

Hopefully, readers will enjoy the story arc and all the adventures that Gin has getting to the end of book five. Fingers crossed, anyway. ;-)

What about you guys? How many books do you like in a story arc or series? How many books is too few or too many?

Jennifer writes the Ele­men­tal Assas­sin urban fan­tasy series for Pocket Books. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assas­sin code­named the Spi­der who can con­trol the ele­ments of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing peo­ple and right­ing wrongs, Gin runs a bar­be­cue restau­rant called the Pork Pit in the fic­tional South­ern metrop­o­lis of Ash­land. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vam­pires, and ele­men­tals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

Books in the series are Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, and Venom. Tan­gled Threads, the fourth book, was pub­lished on April 26, while Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book, will be released in Octo­ber.

atouchofffrostJennifer also writes the Mythos Acad­emy young adult urban fan­tasy series for Kens­ing­ton. The books focus on Gwen Frost, a 17-year-old Gypsy girl who has the gift of psy­chom­e­try, or the abil­ity to know an object’s his­tory just by touch­ing it. After a seri­ous freak-out with her magic, Gwen is shipped off to Mythos Acad­emy, a school for the descen­dants of ancient war­riors like Spar­tans, Valkyries, Ama­zons, and more.

The first book, Touch of Frost, will be out in August, while the sec­ond book, Kiss of Frost, will hit shelves in Decem­ber. First Frost, a prequel e-short story to the series, will be out in July. Visit for excerpts and more.


  1. Yay! I love the Gin Blanco series :)

  2. Ren -- Thanks! Glad you are enjoying the books.

  3. Oops, I forgot to add that I'm posting it to Twitter :)

  4. Done! Oh and you are most welcome :)

  5. I like this series and I'll probably be sad to see it end after the fifth book but 3 to 5 books is about right for me. I hate it when an author keeps writting a series indefinitely just because the series is selling. At some point I usually get turned off on the series and find it hard to even go back and re-read the first several books that I originally enjoyed.

  6. I don't think there is a magic number for books in a series. As long as the story is good, I'm reading the series. I read really good trilogies and really good ten book series. However, I've read some really bad ones, too. As much as I love the Elemental Assassins,I'm not giving them up anytime soon. They are definately rereads (which is the way I rank books, how likely am I to reread).

  7. Three to 5 books is about right for me too, though for a fabulous series, I will continue to read books until the storylines stop working for me or get too repetive.

  8. Sandy -- Well, the story arc with Gin and Mab will be resolved with these five books, but there will be more in the series. I've just signed on to write books 6 and 7, which should both be out next year. I think I have some more Gin stories left to tell. I hope readers agree.

    Meagan -- Thanks! I'm glad you are enjoying the series enough to reread the books. That's what every author wants to hear. And I agree. It depends on the story. Sometimes, a trilogy is just right (I'm reading the Hunger Games trilogy right now), and sometimes you just want to keep reading about the same characters in book after book.

  9. Cathy -- I like for some of the storylines to be wrapped up and for new ones to be introduced. That helps keep me interested in a series as a reader.

  10. Hi Jennifer! Love the series and thrilled that there is a 5th book still coming out. I don't really have a number at which I think a series should end, but I do enjoy spin offs from a series on secondary characters. I think that it helps to break things up a little. Great post!

  11. Barb -- Thanks! I'm glad you are enjoying the series. I like spin-off series a lot too, like Jeaniene Frost's one with the characters from her Night Huntress world.

  12. Hi Jennifer,

    I'm so glad I read this post and the comments, because I found out you've signed on to write books 6 and 7! Can't wait to see what you have planned for Gin and the gang!

    I agree that for your series, five books would be good. For series with a major story-arc, I think five or seven books are enough. For paranormal romance series where the a couple's romance takes the focus, I would say more books are okay. One of my favorite paranormal romance series, which also has a major story-arc behind the romance, is Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. It's a longer series but still going strong! I see that Nalini has written a quotes for your books and liked them too; no wonder I love your books also =)

  13. Amy -- Thanks! Glad you are looking forward to the books. The Gin-Mab story arc will definitely be resolved at the end of book 5. But there are more bad guys waiting in the wings ...

    Oh, yeah. Paranormal romance series can really go on indefinitely as long as you have a cast of interesting characters/couples. Have you read Kresley Cole? I like her books a lot.

    Yes, Nalini was kind enough to give me a cover blurb. She's a really great person and writer. I can't say enough nice things about her.

  14. Hi, Doug & Jennifer! Jennifer, so nice to hear how you developed the series over five books. I always wonder how writers do this. (I've heard some writers have one loooong book split up.)

    Five seems like a good number. Leave readers wanting more rather than wishing you'd go away!

  15. Twitter:!/whitewolfreads/status/67796039188484096

    thanks for the giveaway!

    whitewolfreads AT gmail DOT com

  16. I've never actually thought about it... But now that you mention it! 5 in a story arc is awesome!! I've always found 3 to be a just not enough.

  17. It all depends on the books. If it stinks, one is more than enough. If it's good, I'd say 3 min. I've read series with over 15than should have died several books previously and there's another series with 10 I still really like. I've read several series with 5 and that's worked quite well as long as everything is tied up at the end.

    I think the key to a longer series is having a solid cast of secondary characters and having character development.


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