I’ve reached a slightly frustrating point in writing lately, because I now have two books in limbo. They’re both waiting both for more feedback (I have a very thin beta reader pool, and haven’t found the motivation to try expanding it) and in one case, for a cover.
My goal is to get Below out next, and that’s mostly just waiting for a cover. I had hoped to get it out by the end of the year, but circumstances have rendered that impossible, so look for it (hopefully) in early 2015. I suppose I should get some blurb feedback before then.
Meanwhile I very recently finished Merchantman Halflight: Get a Crew, book one of the series. (I decided the subtitle had grown on me enough to keep it, pending any unforeseen better ideas coming along.) I think the blurb I have needs a little work, but it’s mostly there; the most useful feedback I got on it was the need to connect some items a little better, and see about maybe trimming it back a smidge.
(Blurb feedback is a weird thing for me. I believe, and have been told, I’m pretty good at writing blurbs for other people; I just struggle with my own. But sometimes I’ll also see feedback I absolutely know can’t work, and it makes me come off as defensive. The Halflight blurb is a great example, because with an ensemble cast you really can’t focus strongly on just one or two characters, and with a sitcom layout you really can’t point at a villain or describe the conflict in terms of stakes. I knew it’d be a tough blurb to write, because the story doesn’t fit a more typical model, but it’s hard to say “Sorry, I thought of that approach but I already rejected it because I knew it was a bad fit” without sounding like a tool.)
With the first book in the series more or less “in the can”, though, I’ve already begun work on the second. I’ve never once published a sequel to anything, but the dynamic there is very interesting. For one thing, I think it’s important to reestablish the characters. One of my very favorite books of all time (Jinx on a Terran Inheritance by Brian Daley) did this, and it worked beautifully. While throughout the book, even at the beginning, it was clear that there was history I was unfamiliar with at the time, I never once felt truly lost. Things got explained without being heavy-handed. The book was the second in a trilogy, which I discovered only because my mom picked up a bunch of books at a yard sale; but to this day it remains my favorite of all of them. It couldn’t have done that if I was lost from the get-go.
That said, I don’t fault writers of e-book series for skipping the re-intro if they want to. They can make the fact that it’s a sequel clear in their blurb, and Amazon makes it pretty easy to find the first book. But I very much like the idea of someone picking up one of my books in a series, enjoying the heck out of it all on its own, and then going back to see where it all started.
Sequels often have a tonal shift, as well. What’s surprising to me is that I can almost feel it, even in the opening chapter. The style really hasn’t changed, but I think because I know where the story is going with this book, it carries a different mood for me. The first book was very much all get-to-know-you interactions as the crew settled into their roles and repeatedly failed to establish anything like a “norm”. The second book, although it carries that along to a lesser degree, primarily has themes of expansion and revenge. (A lot of that is Xanatos Gambit stuff. I’m really looking forward to writing this.)
I’m not sure how long it’ll take to write the second book, but considering the first started in fits before it finally got rolling in a strong way, I suspect this one will go quicker. My hope is that the first will be out—and my backlog completely clear—pretty close to when the second is ready. This story has waited 13 years to be told; it doesn’t want to wait a whole lot longer.