Guest Post: Writing a Series by J.M. Hackman

J.M. Hackman is on the blog today! She’s the author of the Firebrand Chronicles, a portal fantasy series for teens. The final book in the series, Burn, releases on May 26th.

J.M.’s graciously offered to share her experience writing a series from start to finish. Please welcome J.M. Hackman!

When I first started writing Spark, I assumed it was part of a series. The influential Harry Potter series was a big hit, and every single story I’d written previously ended up being connected. I didn’t do flash fiction or short stories. The three romantic comedies I’d written had extended families, all with single siblings (it’s easier to match everyone up that way), and the small town was full of endless matchmaking opportunities. When I switched genres and started thinking about this teen girl with unusual fire-starting abilities, it seemed obvious—of course, there’d be more than one book. But I hadn’t thought much beyond that.

When Spark was picked up by L2L2 Publishing, I did some crazy dancing around my living room. That dancing ended abruptly at the realization I’d need another book. Brenna wasn’t done growing, and there were so many more opportunities waiting for her in the Jasper Territories.

There are benefits of writing a series. If you’re a plotter, writing a series will require lots of it. This is a bonus if you’re a plotter. Do your planning as early as possible so you don’t write yourself into an impossible situation. Not that I’m talking from experience. Ahem.

Writing a series allows a writer to be immersed in the story world. The characters’ motivations, backstories, and life experiences become very well-known, and more detail can be added to the landscape and the culture. I’ve been with the Firebrand Chronicles for at least six years and I know Brenna, Baldwin, Arvandus and others very well. The corollary of this is there’s less new world building for each book and therefore more time spent actually writing.

In case you think a series is a utopian setup, there are drawbacks. The biggest is avoiding new shiny ideas. As the series is being written, you can’t start anything else (or at least I can’t). You don’t want readers to forget your world or your characters, especially if you’re releasing one book a year. Some indie writers will write all the books in their series first, then release them quickly. When writing a long-spanning series, you could forget a critical death in book one only to have that character alive in book three—here’s where plotting is super helpful. (Do you see a theme presenting itself here?)

If your writing improves (and it should), you can’t go back and fix timelines or character arcs in previous books. I know some indie authors do this to their e-books, but I personally don’t like to look back. I like to keep moving forward and creating new stories.

If you’re a writer set on writing a series, do it! But buy yourself a nice thick notebook with pockets. It will become your series guidebook. Put everything in it—notes, maps, words/language for your world, place names, just everything. There’s probably software out there that does this, but I’m old school and I prefer to carry something like this with me so I can add to it whenever inspiration strikes.

If you’re not leaning toward a series, that’s okay too. Lately, I’ve been looking for standalones because every single book I’d picked up was a series. I can’t keep all the worlds straight sometimes, especially with a year or more between each release.

The most important thing to remember is to write the story in your heart, whatever it is. No matter whether your idea spans multiple books or just one, it’s something you need to share and readers need to read.

Pre-order Burn from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other online retailer. Or request Burn at library or local bookstore. For more details, visit L2L2’s website.

Join the Burn Release Party on Facebook!

About Burn

Life: 1. Brenna James: 0.

An AWOL talent, an enemy-occupied hometown, and a Life Shade boyfriend—Brenna James just wants something to go right. Although her family has been given sanctuary in Syeira, Brenna will never be safe as long as Rune is hunting down and killing Firebrands.

Can someone please wake her up already?

When a prophecy sends Brenna and Baldwin on a confusing quest, they aren’t sure where to begin. They must find the Caelestis Staff, a powerful object that both cuts and mends space itself. Rune wants it too, and he’ll use any lethal tactics necessary to obtain it.

Yeah, nightmare material right there.

A traveling oasis, plenty of man-eating mermaids, and one Skeleton King later, Brenna seriously doubts she has the edge she needs to confront Rune. When Brenna’s faced with the biggest test of her life, will she burn like the Firebrand she is? Or will she burn out?

About J.M. Hackman

J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her two munchkins and her handsome husband who supports her in this crazy profession. Her days are filled with writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds. You can find her at

Or connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.

Burn Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 18th, Guest Post: “Writing a Series,” K.A. Cummins

Tuesday, May 19th, “Interview with Author J.M. Hackman,” Laura L. Zimmerman,

Wednesday, May 20th, Visual Post: “Burn’s Cast of Characters and Creatures,” Jebraun Clifford,

Thursday, May 21st, Behind-the-Scenes Feature: “Four Cool Facts I Learned While Writing Burn,” Pam Halter,

Friday, May 22nd, Guest Post: “Finishing Well,” Tori V. Rainn,

Saturday, May 23rd, Visual Post: “Burn’s Magical Tour of Artifacts,” Annie Douglass Lima,

Sunday, May 24th, “Exciting News about the Firebrand Chronicles,” L2L2 Publishing,

Monday, May 25th, Behind-the-Scenes Feature: “Living Chosen,” Tabitha Caplinger,

Tuesday, May 26th, Release-Day Feature, J.M. Hackman,

Wednesday, May 27th, Guest Post: “Going Dark,” Laurie Lucking,

Thursday, May 28th, Release-Party Feature, Michele Israel Harper,

Friday, May 29th, Visual Post: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” Laura A. Grace,

Publishers Weekly

When Snow Globe Travelers: Samuel’s Legacy launched last year, I didn’t know much about the publishing world. My marketing plan was to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what stuck. Not a great approach, but I learned from it. (In fact, I’m still learning from it. There’s a lot of moving parts.)

About a month after launch, I discovered indie books could be submitted for a Publishers Weekly review through BookLife. So, with both hope, and the expectation they would reject my request, I submitted Snow Globe Travelers.

In March, nearly a year later, BookLife notified me that Snow Globe Travelers was being considered for a review. I was surprised and elated and anxious. What if it got a bad review?

Every book will have bad reviews. As an author, I’ve learned to distance myself from reviews. After all, reviews are for readers, not authors. However, Publishers Weekly is an international publishing magazine for industry professionals. And a review by Publishers Weekly is huge.

All I could do was pray. I lifted the situation up to God and let it go. It was in His hands.

A few days ago, I learned God had answered my prayers. Publishers Weekly had reviewed Snow Globe Travelers the week before, and the reviewer called it “. . . [an] entertaining debut novel.”

(Cue smiling heart-eyed emojis everywhere.)

Thank you, Lord!

You can read the full review here on Publishers Weekly’s website:

A Review of “Lost on the Titanic (Out of Time Book 1)”

What would you do if you found yourself aboard the Titanic—hours before it sank?

Allie and Vic Taylor and their friend Max land aboard the Titanic after the Taylor’s precocious puppy, Luna, swallows a mysterious object from an equally mysterious woman. The three kids are sure their venture through time has something to do with the object, known as an infinity spinner. It must be a time travel device! But the infinity spinner is in Luna’s stomach and she disappeared the moment their feet hit the deck. Stranded aboard the vast ship, the kids have hours to find Luna and return home.

Lost on the Titanic (Out of Time Book 1) is the first book in Jessica Rinker’s chapter book series for middle-grade readers. Delightful illustrations, a quick pace, and a light hearted tone make this time-traveling adventure a fun, easy read, while interesting twists will keep young readers turning pages. History fans will also delight in the well-crafted depiction of being aboard the Titanic. 

On the flip side, there’s a male antagonist briefly featured at specific moments to add conflict. His introduction seems important for the series going forward, but, in this first story, his role feels small. It’ll be interesting to see the development of this character as the series progresses. 

The story reminded me of the old Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego television series. Readers who enjoy similar stories featuring historic moments will enjoy this book.

Lost on the Titanic (Out of Time Book 1) by Jessica Rinker releases on May 19, 2020.

Lost on the Titanic (Out of Time Book 1) by Jessica Rinker is available from Amazon and other retailers.

Content Guide

Romance (low)

Violence (low)

Language (low)

Sensitive Topics (low)
The kids steal a teapot from the Titanic before it sinks.

*A complimentary copy of Lost on the Titanic (Out of Time Book 1) was provided via Netgalley. Opinions are my own.

About Lost on the Titanic (Out of Time Book 1)

Allie and Vic Taylor are just regular kids who help out in their parents’ antique shop. Until one day, when they find they can travel through time! From Epic! Originals, Out of Time is a middle-grade chapter book series about time-traveling kids who explore important moments in history!

When Allie, Vic, and their friend, Max, are mysteriously sent back in time to the Titanic, they have to find a way to save their parents’ shop, save their futures, and get off the ship before it sinks! Join them as they explore the Titanic in its prime and attempt to find their way back to the present!

After the adventure, readers can flip to the back of the book to learn interesting facts about antique stores as well as the Titanic and its passengers!

About Jessica Rinker (Author)

Jessica Rinker is the author of The Dare Sisters as well as several picture book biographies. She teaches in the MFA program for Writing for Children and Young Adults at Sierra Nevada College and lives in West Virginia with her husband, who is also a children’s author. If she could go back in time, she would choose to see her Viking ancestors building boats!

About Bethany Stancliffe (Illustrator)

Bethany Stancliffe is a Central-Washington-based artist who grew up in the Rockies, where she spent her time building tree forts, reading fairy tales, and filling up sketchbooks. Having had a spectrum of creative interests since childhood, she has found a home in illustration, where design and storytelling meet. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Bethany studied art and illustration at BYU-Idaho. She draws most of her inspiration from nature, films, and childhood adventures and has a love for interesting textures and patterns. When she’s not painting, she enjoys exploring outside with her son, Max, and creating original stories with her husband.