TridentsForge final cover

The good news keeps rolling in for TRIDENT’S FORGE.

For starters, we’ve got a map! I love maps in books. They really help me to place myself in the action and follow along with the plot as it winds its way through the landscape. Here’s what we came up with to help readers explore the continent of Atlantis:


Cool, huh? I love it, but then I’m probably a little biased. Anyway, in addition to the novel itself, TRIDENT’S FORGE will also feature the short story “Last Launch” as bonus content. This short returns to Earth before the fall to tell the tale of Bryan Benson’s ancestors as they fight to board the Ark… by any means necessary. It’s one of my favorites, and I hope everyone enjoys the insights into Benson family history, as well as a look at Earth’s final days.

Piqued your interest yet? I hope so. If you’re game, you can preorder your copy here in paperback or eBook.

Oh, and if you review books, TRIDENT’S is now up on NetGalley. Put your request in today and give it a read.

Hugos and Nebulas and Campbell’s, Oh My!


All the cool kids are doing one of these award eligibility posts, so here goes. It’s officially nomination season for the Hugo Awards. If you are a member of MidAmericon II, or were a member of WorldCon last year, you should be receiving a PIN soon to cast your ballots for the nomination round.

My two-year clock has started ticking on the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and THE ARK is eligible for the Hugo Award in long form fiction.

TheArk final cover

THE ARK is also eligible for the Nebula Award in the novel category, for any of you SFWA folks out there.

I’m not saying you should vote for me, but I am saying that I’m paying the NSA to track all of your internet activity over the next few months, (cheaper than you’d think, they’re in a budget crunch). So, vote early, vote often, vote Tomlinson!

Sarah Palin is a Cancer


If you haven’t heard, Sarah Palin’s eldest son has been arrested on charges of domestic violence and possession of a firearm while intoxicated.

Mrs. Palin claims that her son’s behavior is directly related to PTSD resulting from his time fighting in Iraq. Her son may very well be suffering from PTSD linked to his tours of duty. I’m more than happy to take her at her word on that point. And if so, I sympathize with his struggle. I have several close friends who are either fighting that battle now, or have had to overcome it in the past. I would never trivialize or make fun of someone struggling with PTSD. Ever.

However, PTSD is not an excuse for domestic violence, especially involving a firearm. He should be getting help.

Of course, the help he requires, and the help tens of thousands of other service members in his position require, would be more accessible if someone stopped blocking VA funding and expansion every single time it came up for a vote.

That someone is undeniably the Republican party, to which Mrs. Palin belongs and, for some unfathomable reason, still retains a significant platform and influence within.

So, does she take this opportunity to use her voice to bring pressure to bear on the people within her party that are standing in the way of expanding mental health services for her son and fellow war-fighters like him?

Do we even have to ask at this point?

Of course not. Instead of actually tackling a problem, accepting some accountability, and recognizing the real-world consequences of her party’s policies, she twists this incident and shamelessly manipulates it into a opportunity to launch another broadside of baseless, bloviating, bullshit against the sitting CnC.

This is beyond spin, beyond propaganda. It is what happens when you strip a pandering opportunist down to nothing but their naked political ambition.

As always, there is no recognition of the downstream damage of their policies. The GOP’s war on vets has made her son into an unstable, violent young man facing the potential for jail time. Their war on women’s right to choose, comprehensive sex ed, and access to contraceptives has left her eldest daughter unwed with two children from different fathers. Her home state was burning through the summer, and thawing through the winter as a sacrifice on the altar of the Republican war on climate change science.

Her family is a shining advertisement for the corruption and abject failure of Republican policies.

So who does she blame? The only people trying to help her.

Pathetic? You betcha.

State of ConFusion

It’s late January, it’s 4 degrees out, and I’m just pleased as punch to be driving six hours to visit Detroit Michigan this weekend.

“What?” you cry. “Are you mad? Are you suffering from hypothermia? Are you about to rip your clothes off and run out into the wilderness to die?”

No, fair traveler, I’m excited about going to the biggest little con in the country. ConFusion starts Friday, and for the fourth year in a row, I’ll be getting drunk with some of the best sci-fi and fantasy authors in the country. But for the first time, I’ll legitimately be one of them!

So, this weekend, I’ll be shamelessly and relentlessly promoting my début novel and begging for blurbs on the second one participating in some great programming alongside a ton of other super-talented entertaining people, and also Bradley Beaulieu.

This is my favorite small convention, with the highest ratio of industry professionals to attendees of any gathering I’ve ever seen. It’s cheap, it’s close, and it’s well-lubricated. And it gives me something to look forward to in the dead of winter.

If you’re going to be around, here’s where and when you can find me. Come say hello:

Saturday 10:00:00 AM The Fiction of Political SFF

Most “political” science fiction doesn’t really deal with politics, it deals with the setting out of ideologies. In other words, it tells stories that have little to do with running a government. The result is a debate of ideas where the political is described by greed and corruption, but never the merely bureaucratic. Why are these tropes recycled time and again? How can politics be approached in a more authentic way and remain compelling?

Kameron Hurley, Patrick Tomlinson, Justin Landon (M), Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Saturday 1:00:00 PM Food Science in Science Fiction

Agriculture and terraforming in extreme environments or small domes. Sustainable food production in space station environments. What’s Martian taters, precious?

Patrick Tomlinson, Julie Lesnik, Elizabeth Shack, Daniel Dugan (M)

Saturday 3:00:00 PM Gettin’ Punny With It

Piers Anthony and Adam Roberts can’t help themselves. And neither can these panelists. Come watch these punsters compete against one another for the title of ConFusion Punmaster, while discussing whether or not the pun can be used without irony.

Patrick Tomlinson (M), Cherie Priest, Delilah S. Dawson, Dave Robison, Sunil Patel

Saturday 4:00:00 PM Power Armor and Rail Guns: The Science of Future Wars

Military technology in science fiction settings: Who wore the powersuit better?

David Klecha (M), Dr. Phil Kaldon, Patrick Tomlinson, Matt Pearson

Saturday 5:00:00 PM Autograph Session 2

Writers, Beware Randos Bearing Reviews


Hello! Today, we’re going to talk about book reviews and ratings, and how not to get them. You’ll have to ask someone else how to get them, because I honestly have no idea. Anyway, here we go.

Maybe you’re a debut author just getting their ankles wet in the publishing industry pool for the first time. Maybe you’ve recently learned that reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads are critically important to the success of your project. Maybe you’ve been politely reminding your friends and fans of this little factoid every so often on social media, yet still the numbers aren’t moving. Maybe you’re starting to freak out a little bit and wonder if this is how it all ends as you imagine the sounds of doors slamming shut all around you…

Or maybe I’m just projecting. But, even if I am, once your first book is out there in the wild, you’re going to draw the attention of more than just new fans. There’s a whole cottage industry out there that tries to prey on the desperation and naiveté of writers unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the publishing world. This happens at every stage of a writer’s development. Vanity presses offering to print your book for the low price of $10 a copy. Unscrupulous ‘agents’ charging  far above the standard 15-20% commission. Whole publishing houses holding onto rights they aren’t using. The number of scams have filled entire blogs.

Relatively new to the scene are ‘services’ offering to help authors address the modern problem of internet reviews and ratings, in exchange for cash. Recently, I was sent my first such offer as a comment posted right here on my website. It appears here in full. I was going to xxxx out the names and addresses, but decided, fuck them:


I saw your ebook on Amazon. From the synopsis it looks like a high quality ebook. If you are looking for some real promotion and exposure for your book, I have a few offers for you. My book promotion packages are extremely affordable and can be customized to your book. Email me at if you are interested. )

You can also contact me through my website:

Some of the ways I can help you are (ANY one of the following services you purchase will cost you 10 USD, discounts are available if you purchase more than one service at a time):

a) I can post 1 honest, detailed, insightful and helpful review on your book. This review will highlight all the positive aspects of your book and enlighten your future readers regarding the real essence and worth of your book. The book review is written by an avid book reader and Native English speaker so you can be assured of quality.

b) I can promote your book on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You get 100% targeted traffic from book readers located in English speaking countries

c) I can promote your book on 10 high quality websites EXCLUSIVELY devoted to promoting free kindle books – on Kindle free days. I can also promote your book if it is on Kindle countdown promotion (please note that it is up to each site’s owner to decide whether to list your book or not. If your book listing is approved, it will be shown ONLY during the promotion period).

d) I offer a review ‘up-voting’ and ‘down-voting’ service. For existing reviews on Amazon, you can ask for a maximum of 30 up-votes or 30 down-votes, or a combination of up-votes and down-votes which doesn’t exceed 30. This is quite helpful if there are some positive reviews you want to be up-voted, or some negative reviews you want to be down-voted.

e) I can add 30 likes to your positive reviews on Goodreads. All likes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.

f) I can add your book to 35 – 40 popular listopia lists by voting for them. All votes come from unique accounts and multiple IPs.

g) Do you have a free ebook in PDF format you want to share with the world? I can distribute your free PDF to 15 TOP QUALITY websites. These websites rank high in search engines and are considered to be authority sites for PDF sharing.

h) My BESTSELLER SO FAR: I will rate your book with as many stars you want on Goodreads, post 1 honest review, mark your book as ‘read’, become your fan and add your book to the listopia list of your choice.

Email me at if you are interested. (SERIOUS buyers only, please. I am too busy to respond to tire kickers)

In addition, I can also create professional author trailers as well as video testimonial for your book. I can also write book blurbs, back cover matter etc., for your book or add an extra PUNCH to your existing blurb to make it more exciting.

I also offer beta reading, proofreading and writing services. Contact me for details.

Well, isn’t that all mighty generous of them? None of this is illegal, of course, it’s just exchanging a little money to get those handful of reviews your book needs to get over the hump. Invest in yourself. Gotta spend money to make money, right?

Wrong. Believe me, I understand how difficult and frustrating book promotion can be. However, whatever you do, DON’T FUCKING BUY REVIEWS! There are few greater sins in the industry. Careers have been destroyed by review-buying scandals. Reputations have been damaged by the mere accusation of review-buying. Outside of, IDK, fucking your editor’s spouse, there is no faster way to get unceremoniously black-balled from the industry than to get caught engaging in this unethical behavior.

And the odds that you will be caught are higher than ever. Amazon and Goodreads (which is now owned by AMZ, by the way) are taking great steps to identify bogus, or even biased reviews and ratings. Among other methods, advanced algorithms are being used to scour social media platforms and identify suspicious links between authors and their reviewers.

There was a brief time when my debut was up to around eighteen or twenty reviews, all five stars. Most debut authors would be thrilled with a perfect rating, but at the time, I tweeted ‘How many perfect 5 Star reviews before someone accuses you of buying them? Asking for a friend.’

I was only half kidding. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when the first four star came in and broke the streak. If you need any more proof of how seriously fake reviews are being taken, Goodreads actually contacted me directly via twitter about the above letter, offering to investigate it:

I’ll be forwarding it to them shortly. Don’t fall for these scams. Don’t throw your own reputation in the mud just because things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like. One slip-up could mean the end of your career.

And for God’s sake, read and review my book.

I Wasn’t a David Bowie Fan Until He Died


I may be the only person today to admit that I wasn’t a huge David Bowie fan. Not that I disliked his work, I just never really sought it out. I’ve heard many of the songs, I’m sure. I’d seen him crop up throughout popular culture, as he seemed so good at doing. I enjoyed his cameo in Zoolander, and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Watchmen’s opening credits in front of Studio 54, where he seemed age-appropriate even decades later.

But today, reading through all of these tributes to his life and work from my friends is helping me come to grips with what we lost. The memories they’re sharing, and the explanations of how he directly influenced so many of my weird and wonderful peers is helping me understand him, and them, as the unique, irreplaceable people they are.

He helped make generations of misfits, freaks, and weirdos find the confidence they needed to embrace their inner selves and take pride in their differences instead of hiding them. Without knowing it until now, my life would have been so much more… bland… had he not given so many of my friends the courage to be themselves. By empowering them, he enriched us all.

Thank you, Ziggy Stardust, for breathing light into a million other stars.

When Writing and Comedy Collide

“So, are you an author, or a comic?”

It’s a question I’m asked surprisingly frequently, from both sides of my professional life. For anyone who hasn’t come across me yet, I’m both a sci-fi author as well as a stand-up comedian. For some reason, people looking in at my passions seem to believe they are unrelated, or even divergent pursuits.

And up to a point, I can understand their confusion. Writing is, for most, a very solitary occupation. We hole up in our little writing nests and crank out the day’s wordcount, usually isolated from the noise and bustle of other people. Our interactions with beta readers, agents, editors, and even our audience are often through the filters of email or social media, maybe the occasional phone or Skype call. Conventions and readings are where we actually have to interact directly with these fickle creatures called humans, and even then the dance is fairly scripted, and there’s almost always a table between us and them.

Comedy is different, to put it mildly. You’re standing in front of a room packed with paying customers, blinding lights in your eyes, holding a microphone, being judged on every word, every mannerism, every inflection of your voice, and every expression of your face. It’s all weighed and graded in real time. For many of my more private peers in writing, the experience would be nothing short of a waking nightmare.

My experience has been different. I’ve never considered myself to be primarily an author or a comic. Instead, I see myself as an entertainer who works in different mediums. Whether I’m writing jokes or writing novels, it’s all writing. The only difference is in how quickly I receive the feedback.

With comedy, the response is in real-time. Either people like you, trust you, and they’re laughing along with your jokes, or they aren’t. It is so immediate that I’m able to make adjustments during the performance on the fly to better tailor a set to the peculiarities and tastes of that audience, in that venue, on that night. Imagine being able to do that with a novel!

Critiques in writing are much, much slower, often spanning weeks or even months between the time you finish a draft and feedback returning from your betas, agent, editor, etc. From the perspective of a stage performer, that is a torturous, interminable length of time. An actor, musician, comic, etc, is accustomed to knowing the quality of the day’s work as soon as they’ve finished with it.

However, in both cases, you’re performing for an audience and trying to entertain them with your words and ideas. One is conducted live through the spoken (and sometimes shouted) word, while the other happens in a quiet bedroom, or on the subway, or at a café through the written word. But in either case, your ideas, transmitted through your words, create the experience for the audience.

There are other similarities too, ways the two forms can feed off one another. Writing novel-length works has taught me a great deal about researching topics, building depth, and recognizing nuance and subtle complexity. Writing books has taught me how to be a better storyteller, which makes my time onstage all the more engaging and compelling for the audience. Whenever you can dig down beyond just the superficial layers of a premise or topic, that’s where the best material waits to be mined.

At the same time, my time onstage is always limited, usually to between five and fifteen minutes, but sometimes as short as three or four. It’s within that narrow window that I have to pack as many premises and punchlines as possible to give the audience the most bang for their buck. In a well-crafted joke, every syllable has to carry its own weight, otherwise it’s the comedic equivalent of dead air and needs to go. Watch a touring, professional comic, and you’ll see someone who maximizes the impact of every word on their audience. As a result, I’ve learned brevity and the importance of conservation of words, which bleeds over directly into my long-form writing, where rewrites are often a painful process of hacking away at unnecessary words, paragraphs, and even chapters.

And it doesn’t stop there. My accumulated time public speaking has made me more aware of comedic and narrative flow, pacing, and the cadence and rhythm of conversation. I’m a better plotter, and especially a better writer of dialogue between characters than I otherwise would have been without my comedy experiences.

I’m not actually telling you to go out and start doing stand-up as a way to improve your writing. I rather like being the only little slice of overlap in this particular Venn diagram. However, what I am saying is fight against the human tendency to compartmentalize experiences. Find the links between your passions, think about how they overlap. You might be surprised how many different connections you can make, and how those connections start to reinforce and strengthen each other.

You may find yourself getting better at both of them.

Economy Crashes As Star Wars Gets All The Money


The U.S. economy was sent into a tailspin over the weekend as Star War: The Force Awakens soaked up every last dollar of available cash and credit in the country, thanks to millions of rabid fans racing to see the movie again and again.

Signs of problems first arose Thursday as several regional banks announced their currency reserves had run dry. But the full scale of the problem didn’t become apparent until Friday morning when literally every last stock in the Dow and S&P 500 were sold in a mad dash to free up capital to buy tickets for weekend showings.

In response to the crisis Monday, the Treasury Department approved an emergency measure that authorized nearly a trillion dollars of quantitative easing to inject fresh cash into the suddenly moribund economic system. But as of Tuesday morning, 93% of that infusion has been spent on Star Wars showings that are now sold out on every available screen and show time until well into the 2030’s.

Much of the rest of the world woke up to a similar reality as the crisis spread across borders, toppling both markets and governments with a speed and efficiency not seen since the Great Depression. Only China, where the film doesn’t open until January 9th, remains a relative island of stability. But the Communist government anticipates that the later premier is only delaying the inevitable.

Meanwhile at the one place that isn’t struggling with cash flow problems,  Walt Disney Corporation, panicked managers have been handing out multi-million dollar Christmas bonuses to all employees with express instructions to go out and spend the money on something, anything to get the economy moving again. But even this desperate plan has been met with unexpected problems.

“It’s the tie-in marketing,” Bob Iger , CEO of Disney said in a phone interview. “We achieved 100% market saturation for the first time in history. There is literally nothing available for people to buy that isn’t Star Wars branded in some way. Fuck, I couldn’t even buy a bag of oranges today without BB-8 plastered all over them. The money’s coming back in here just as fast as it’s being spent. It’s a revolving door!”

Already, several major American cities have fallen back to a system of trade and barter to keep goods and services moving during the crisis. What little available cash is still in circulation has been termed “Republic Credits,” and has experienced explosive deflation, with each credit trading for between five and seven thousand dollars in pre-crisis value. Second only to credits in worth are original, in box Star Wars action figures, and any merchandizing featuring Rey, the female, force-sensitive hero of the new movie which Hasbro inexplicably failed to stock store shelves with during the holiday rush.

“The Star Wars legend has grown into the very evil empire our childhood heroes had rose up to defeat,” Bob Iger said. “May the Force forgive us.”

Republicans and Terrorists and Guns! Oh My!


Last week, the GOP controlled Senate passed a bill that would repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level, and defended the rights of suspected terrorists to continue buying guns.

The Republicans’ continued obsession with rolling back President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement is, quite simply, insane. After more than sixty votes to repeal, replace, defund, or weaken the ACA, the program continues to not only exist, but exceed even the most optimistic predictions of its supporters.

Their effort to defund Planned Parenthood, which gained momentum as a direct result of fraudulent propaganda videos, is nothing more than the most visible symptom of the feverish sexism driving the GOP’s positions on women’s health, reproductive rights, contraceptive access, and pay equality.

And giving cover to suspected terrorists who are trying to buy weapons? Well, they’re, they’re… absolutely correct.

I’m sorry, everybody, but they are 100% on point here. No one is going to accuse me of being a Republican apologist, which is why I’m hoping this is given more weight coming from me. And while it’s true that I’m a supporter of gun rights and a Concealed Carry License holder, I’m also open about my desire for greater control over the sale, transfer, and training for those guns.

And really, the issue here isn’t about the Second Amendment, it’s about all of our civil rights. So keep that in mind as you read through this.

At the heart of the issue is the Terrorist Watch List, and the smaller “No-Fly” list, which are extra-judicial lists of U.S. citizens compiled by various government agencies like the CIA, FBI, DHS suspected of terrorist activity, or ties to known terrorists. Inclusion on the list usually means, at minimum, a ban from domestic or international flights. But the consequences can go further than that, preventing a person from getting security clearances. They can stop job prospects in their tracks.

And it does so without the need for judicial review. Without the need for viable evidence. Without due process. And the people on the list are tasked with proving their innocence, not even to a judge and jury, but to a byzantine labyrinth of bureaucratic actors who answer to no one.

Understand this. The people on the Terrorist Watch List have not been arrested. They have not been charged with any crime. They have not had the opportunity to face their accusers in a court of law. They have not had the opportunity to see the evidence, if any, being used against them. They have not had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. They have not been convicted by a jury of their peers.

I have no problem, at all, with background checks. I think universal checks for private sales is only common sense and the minimum due diligence gun owners should be expected to meet before turning a weapon over to another person. But that’s not what’s going on here. Background checks look for convictions, they look for red flags that exist because a person has lost their right to own a firearm as a result of actions that the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt the individual was guilty of after going through due process.

That’s not what the No-Fly list represents. The people on it have only been accused of ties to terrorism, based on unproven rumors and hearsay. Thousands of names have been found to be duplications or misspellings. U.S. Senators have found themselves blocked from flying because of it. Infants have been pulled off planes. And the process to get oneself removed is daunting and can take many months or years.

Now the President and many Democratic lawmakers want to expand the power of the No-Fly list from these already invasive intrusions into our lives, to a civil right specifically delineated and guaranteed by the Constitution.

That’s not how things are supposed to work in the U.S.

Set aside your feelings about gun control and forget for a moment that we’re talking about Second Amendment rights, because that’s not really what this is about. Instead, imagine for a minute that the President had just called for anyone on the No-Fly list to be banned from internet access. Or that your inclusion on the list meant police no longer needed warrants to search your home, person, or private effects. Or that you were no longer eligible for Fifth Amendment protections.

How would you feel about that?

Because that’s exactly how you should feel about this. Like it or not, the GOP, regardless of their underlying motivations, are right. The No-Fly list should be ended, not expanded. If the government has proof that the people on it are terrorists, then arrest them, charge them, and take them to a real trial with a real judge, real lawyers, and a real jury. That’s their job, and the only route through which they can legitimately restrict our Constitutionally protected civil rights. Anything else is a flagrant infringement and overreach that we, as Americans, should oppose.

Broken clocks, guys.

How to Tackle Writing Your First Sequel

TridentsForge final cover

So, that plucky little sci-fi novel staring cybernetic vampire mermaids you slaved over for two years has, miraculously, found an agent, been sold to a publisher, rewritten, rewritten again, and finally got the green light from your editor. Congratulations! Your on-spec masterpiece has turned into your debut novel! You are now a professional author.

Now, the really terrifying shit starts.

Because you see, back when your agent sold Blood in the Water they also sold the next book in the series, or even the next two. Books that you’ve probably already cashed the advance checks for, haven’t you? For the first time since you drunkenly sat down and decided to become an author, you actually owe someone a book.

First things first. Don’t panic. There will be plenty of time for that later, when you’re alone, late at night, your deepest fears acting as your only company in the darkness. There’s a reason authors are a notoriously drinky lot. Believe me, no matter how many novels sit in your trunk, this time will feel different. Before this moment, you were the only one holding yourself accountable for you daily production. And good for you, seriously. You stuck with it long enough and held yourself to a standard without anyone looking over your shoulder. That’s not something everyone can do. In fact, it’s probably not something one in a hundred can do.

But this time will be fundamentally different. You’re a professional now. Others are counting on you to produce a quality product in a timely fashion so that all of you can make money. You have a deadline imposed on you by outside forces with their own motivations. It’s back to business, literally.

Maybe you’re prepared for this. Maybe you had always planned “Blood in the Water” to be the entry point into a world spanning thirty novels, graphic novels, and inevitable movie adaptations, all of which you already have obsessively detailed outlines waiting for.

My experience was subtly different. And by that I mean that my debut novel, The Ark, had been conceived, outlined, and written as a stand-alone novel. When I turned the draft over to prospective agents, there were exactly no plans for a sequel, to say nothing of a series.

That changed rather dramatically when a well-respected New York agent emailed me back to say, “I love this! Get me a synopsis of the next two books by the end of the week.” Er. Okay, (furious rewrite of the last chapter to leave open a crack for the next book in the series). Voila! My debut is suddenly the first entry in a trilogy.

Now, it’s not all bad. Yes, you have to answer to other people who have their own schedules which hold little regard for yours. However, for the first time as an author, you also have a multitude of people in your corner. Your agent, publisher, publicist, and editor are all personally invested in the success of your novel. Because your success is their success. Remember, the only way anyone involved makes money in this, from you, to your agent, to the publisher, is if your work sells into the hot little hands of readers. Everyone along the chain wants that to happen for you, because then they get to eat too.

This means giving up some autonomy in exchange for having a support structure. It’s a fair trade, but it means new people have entered the decision loop, and being your first sequel, you’re going to have to keep a level head and accept their judgment more often than not. They’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have, after all. Don’t fight them. Listen. Use their experience and learn from them. This is your on-the-job training to be a career novelist.

Now, a couple of other things you may not have known about sequel writing. For starters, your first book tees it up, but the second book sells the series. Debut novels are often met with a great deal of fanfare and interest from the reading community. But that often dies down after the first book has been on the shelves for a few months. There is an almost unavoidable drop off in buzz and sales between the first and second books in a series as people decide whether to continue with it or not. As a result, the sales figures for a debut novel, even if impressive, have less to do with the publisher’s decision to continue that you might think.

But not to fear. Even if the drop off between the first and second book in a series is steep, publishers have learned through long experience that the people who read the second book are in it for the long haul. The drops between books two, three, four, etc, are much smaller. If you’ve hooked them in book two, you’ve probably got them on the line for the foreseeable future. This is why so many contracts these days are written for two books with an option on the third. As long as sales are strong enough on your sequel, you’re odds of continuing the series are high.

So the pressure is on to create a compelling, fresh story that isn’t just a reheated copy of your first book, while at the same time holds onto the characters and flavor that made people fall in love with your debut. Sounds simple, right? It’s really not. Most debuts are written as stand-alones with self-contained plots to make them easier to pitch and sell. It was certainly true of my own. Second books seldom are. Instead, they try to either continue a plot that had already been seemingly resolved, or try to pick up a loose thread and run with it. They can often start out with confusing direction, and have trouble finding a balance between advancing a story arc in a way that sets up the next book, while also being self-contained enough to be a satisfying read in their own right. Many editors, my own included, have found that second books often require an even greater level of scrutiny and a longer, more involved rewriting process than debuts.

But, some things will feel easier. For one, you’ve already spent months, maybe years walking around in your character’s shoes. You’ve already spent a great deal of time scene-setting and world-building, which opens up a lot of space for you to dig deeper into the plot and characters this time around. It’s not that there’s less to do, but your focus changes.

The important thing to keep in mind while writing your first sequel is although the process may feel different and unfamiliar, you have people now looking out for your best interests. None of these new challenges are insurmountable. Just roll with the punches, keep up with your wordcount, hit your deadlines, and communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t be afraid of feeling stupid. Don’t be afraid of asking questions. You’ll be an old pro at this soon enough. For now, act like the student you still are and let your team help you stay the course.

I’m looking forward to reading your sequel. I’m a sucker for a good series.