I’m working with cover designer Nat Shane to get two books ready for the marketplace.  They are HOLLYWOOD STARLET, a novella, and TEMPORARY ALLIANCE.  These are prequel and sequel to THE MOVIE STAR AND ME which was published last August.

HOLLYWOOD STARLET is set in 1939 and is the story of a small-town girl, Vera Vance, who chases her dreams to Hollywood, beats the odds and becomes a motion picture star.  Vera, of course, is the “starlet/ movie star” of THE MOVIE STAR AND ME and plays a key role in the success that Frank Russell, the “me,” enjoys in that book.

TEMPORARY ALLIANCE is the first true sequel I’ve written, even though in the past I have carried characters from one book to another.  TEMPORARY ALLIANCE picks up the story of Frank Russell three years after THE MOVIE STAR AND ME.  Frank is still head of feature film production at Pacific Pictures, still working for studio founder Abe Baum.  Many characters from THE MOVIE STAR AND ME are back, but Frank gets a new colleague and a new romantic interest in this second installment in the series.

I decided to write TEMPORARY ALLIANCE shortly after I completed THE MOVIE STAR AND ME last spring.  I had enjoyed the characters and setting in the first book and I had a great plot idea for continuing Frank Russell’s story.  And while TEMPORARY ALLIANCE is a sequel, a reader can enjoy it without having read THE MOVIE STAR AND ME—and vice versa.  Each book stands alone.

That’s not always the case, as I found out recently.  I’ve been trying to read more lately believing that the more you read, the better you write.  Last week, I checked a book out of our local library.  The book was written by a multiple award-winning author whose works have been praised by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal to name a few.  The plot seemed right up my alley: history students making use of time travel technology to study World War II first-hand.

I dove into the book with high expectations based on the author’s pedigree and the plot summary.  It’s a long book and I kept expecting it to get interesting.  Alas, it did not.  The characters were poorly drawn.  They said and did the same things repeatedly.  And while the author did a good job of depicting the place and time to which the students had traveled, the plot never established any momentum.   Then I read the final sentence on that last page and realized I’d been pranked!

For the riveting conclusion to [this book],

be sure not to miss [the sequel]

coming in Fall 2010.

I was annoyed to say the least.  I’d worked my way through a nearly five hundred page book—a mediocre one at that–only to discover no resolution, only to learn that it was just a set up for a sequel.  Guess what book I won’t be reading!

Even if a book is advertised as part of a series (this one wasn’t), it should have a stand-alone plot with at least partial resolution.  I felt cheated after reading the time travel book and was glad that it was a library book and that I hadn’t purchased it.

 I’ve already started work on the third Frank Russell-Pacific Pictures book.  It doesn’t have a title yet, but when it hits the marketplace, it will have a story that can stand on its own because as a reader I feel we all deserve this.