Monday, June 23, 2008

Starfree Port: I like it, I really, really like it!

You've heard me say this before. When I released First Light Chronicles: Freeground and First Light Chronicles: Limbo I told everyone that I enjoyed writing them so much that I wasn't sure if they were actually any good. My objectivity went out the window as I finished both novellas.

Well, the third book, First Light Chronicles: Starfree Port is really almost ready, I'm just finishing the editing then shipping it off to my editor (digitally of course). I have honestly had so much fun writing this one that I have no idea if it's any good, my objectivity is completely gone. There are a couple of problems, however.

It's not a novella. I can't even pretend it's short fiction. I haven't finished editing it yet and the manuscript is weighing in at 246 pages so far. It may end up being longer if bits that I've cut out are deemed nessisary in the end. At this point 118 pages have been cut from the book, I don't think any of it will find it's way back in, but you never know. These pages include several complete scenes that dragged the pace down, didn't quite seem to fit, or I didn't think were good enough. I edit my books like a finished film, I even write in bits that make the book as a whole work better (much like a film's reshoots). A few such short scenes have been written into this book, and I like those too. No one I've spoken to about the size increase has complained, however, so I think I'll be able to get away with it running a bit long.

There is other good news about this book. The crew get to do a lot together, even though it's like the previous books in the way that the story is told from the perspective of the Captain, this book is really more about the entire crew and less an examination of what's going on in Jonas Valent's heart and mind. The characters surrounding the Captain develop more in this book than in the other two combined as he interacts with them, it wasn't easy, but again, it was very enjoyable.

In a week or less my editor will have his hands on Starfree Port and a couple days later I'll know if it's any good. If it passes muster I'll give it another editorial pass (that takes about two to three days), then it'll be posted online for purchase. I appreciate all your patience, especially since there was only a six week wait between Freeground and Limbo while Starfree Port has taken months. It's my hope that most of you agree that it was worth the wait.

There is more news concerning the First Light Chronicles Series, big news. That'll come out sometime in the next couple days. In the following weeks it's possible that you'll hear even bigger news. If I'm lucky things may be moving ahead in a few huge leaps and bounds. You'll be the first to know.


Oh yeah, and the above image is the graphic from the new cover.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

July 7: The day it all gets turned off.

July 7 is my birthday and to be honest, I don't want anything. Nothing you can buy anyway.

I've noticed over the last year that I haven't spent a single day away from a computer, and when there's no computer screen in front of me I have a cellular phone or an mp3 player or I'm watching I'm watching a film.

There are also televisions to consider. I don't watch television often, but I could probably say that I've spent a lot of time with family watching it together. We're not looking at each other or playing a card game or dominos, we're watching television and sharing commentary. As much as I enjoy that kind of time spent together I'm lead to wonder what kind of conversations we'd have if there were no glowing screen in front of us.

Don't get me wrong, I love my laptop, my big powerful gaming PC, my cellular phone is only ever turned off in movie theaters and a good dose of teevee is often welcome. You will rarely find me walking outdoors without my mp3 player. It wasn't always like that, however.

There was a span of years where I didn't own a computer and the most sophisticated tech I had was a VCR, TV and an old stereo that sounded amazing. I did, however, have an active social life, attend a weekly poetry reading in a very nice nightclub as a favorite, and played in a heavy metal band or two. Getting together with friends, entertaining people on stage were both things I did regularly, very regularly.

Now I write to expand my mind, and as far as public performances are concerned, my prose does the speaking one reader at a time. Computers make promoting my work easier, allow me to communicate with people who are important to me professionally and personally a breeze. There isn't much you could offer me in trade for that. Not even the life I had before I got back into computers.

Regardless of my comfort and enjoyment of this technology I've decided that for at least one day a year I'll just turn it all off. My laptop and desktop computers will sit quietly idle, my cellular phone will report that I'm unavailable, I won't even watch a minute of television or go see a movie. Instead I'll meet a couple friends at a local pub, maybe read a book, and who knows what else?

That's how I'll mark the occasion of my birthday, I'll unplug.


Oh, and that pic features a device you can purchase on Think Geek, just in case you don't feel as plugged in as you'd like:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Atlantis: Bridging the Gap

I don't write spoilers. Not for my own projects and not for anything else. Now that I've gotten that out of the way and you know that this little article is spoiler safe, let's get on with it.

Like a few other million people around the globe I eagerly await each and every episode of this little series called Battlestar Galactica. Producer / Writer Ronald D Moore has a talent for keeping us glued to the screen. The first time he did it for me was when he was working on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The only time he lost me was when Star Trek DS9 when he got all religious. That was so terrible that I didn't see the series finale until years later.

Let's let the past reside right where it belongs; way the frack behind. I say that because the new Battlestar Galactica uses all the classic elements of the original series and introduces important new factors. With a female president and Starbuck with along with few other transformed and invented elements the show feels new and shiny. Well, not quite, since they do such a great job of making everything look so used and dirty. The work they've done has been enough to carry this new show much further than the original.

Over the years since this show first started airing it has become a staple to science fiction fans, as much as the various Star Trek series were, as much as Buffy or Angel were. There's a certain group of core fans that need science fiction content on television, they're discriminating, they demand quality, but that doesn't mean that they won't watch bad science fiction. They watch it, and they tear it to pieces on the Internet. Other science fiction fans read the posts and blogs. The same happens when a show like Battlestar Galactica goes wrong, those core fans are the first to scream. Funny thing, we're seasons in and I don't hear much screaming yet, that's a good thing. A welcome change if you ask me. Battlestar Galactica has not reduced in quality at all as far as I'm concerned, and as we watch the last few episodes for the next several months, I'm looking forward to finding out where this wild ride goes. If you haven't seen this show yet, you should know it's available on iTunes and DVD, I highly recommend it.

There's one other point that I feel is really important to mention. Battlestar Galactica came just in time. Star Trek Enterprise flopped and disappeared, Stargate SG-1 came to an end after 10 seasons (watch out for the straight to DVD movies!), Firefly was slapped down fast by Fox (need a big damn sequel!), and most of the other shows weren't that great. Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Atlantis has bridged the hungry, lonely gap for us Science Fiction lovers. It has been a dark few years where deep space futuristic science fiction is concerned.

In about 10-12 episodes Battlestar Galactica ends for good, forever. This is a decision that I'll back all the way. I say it's better to call an end to something well before it ceases to be at it's best. That way, when I pop the DVD collection into my player I don't sit there thinking; too bad the last season sucked. We are left with a classic that may stand the test of time. Now THAT is rare in this environment where the big networks don't trust their showrunners unless their show is an instant hit and can draw massive advertising revenue. Something inside me will still miss awaiting new BSG episodes on Friday nights. I think it's my inner child.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however! This September Caprica, a prequel series in the same universe as Battlestar Galactica, begins. In July Stargate Atlantis comes back with a new season and I can't wait. This summer the animated series; Star Wars: The Clone Wars launches with a major motion picture release. The rest of the series will air on the Cartoon Network in half hour episodes every week. George Lucas has informed the world that the new live action Star Wars series was in the works as of fall 2008 and we should see it sometime in 2009 or 2010. In May of 2009 the new Star Trek movie, a franchise reboot under the direction of J.J. Abrams of Lost fame, will premiere. That's just the stuff that's set in outer space, there's a lot more science fiction that's set on or near earth, in current day or not long from now.

The future of science fiction is looking a little brighter again, and I'd be remiss if I forgot to thank Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Atlantis for keeping us all entertained while we waited for it to happen. Here's to you!



Hey, if science fiction gets really popular, maybe I could get my own little First Light show on television?

Friday, June 6, 2008

First Light Chronicles: Starfree Port [Editing]

Writing the third book in the First Light Chronicles series has been the biggest challenge I've taken on in years. There have been a number of interruptions in my life recently and that slowed things down. What's more important to this project is the fact that the events in this novel change a lot for how the series will manifest itself in the future.

After I finished the second book I knew that, regardless of size, the third book in this short series would be the last in this plot cycle and there would be a very firm ending. My approach is no different than if I were writing this as a television series. With the attitude of North American networks treating their shows like they're disposable, my approach towards writing for that medium is that every episode can be your last. As a result I write every book as though it will be my last. The biggest problem with that is the ending planned for this plot cycle has been very difficult to balance with the rest of the book. If this were a conventional book or television series from the 80's or mid 90's there would be several episodes before the events of this third book. Some would be filler, others would be used to develop characters and plot. I write at a different pace, however, and would rather not take more time than I have to on character development, especially since the style these books are written in determine a default focus on one character, a singular perspective.

I like moving things along faster under these circumstances, and writing filler is just cheating. I'm not after your money, so I'd rather write a short, exciting book and have you talk about it endlessly so I can get popular with your friends, who will hopefully spread the word just like you did. I write to entertain and excite and if I'm lucky these little books might just amount to a living, and then you'll see even more books that entertain, and the cycle continues.

Knowing that this is the last book in this plot cycle makes re-drafting and editing really picky and slow. The good news is that I'm about half way through my final edit now and enjoying the story as I go. After I've finished this edit I'll be forwarding it to my editor, who will do a grammatical pass and review the plot line. While he's busy working on that I'll design the cover and synopsis. After he's finished with the book I'll do another pass on it and post it online if it's ready. That whole process normally takes a week. Then I order printed proofs to make sure the non-digital cover came out properly.

All told, everyone waiting for an electronic version of this book has 2-3 weeks ahead of them at the most. Printed early copies (proofs), will be coming along in 3-4 weeks. That's not bad for a 240+ page book, it's actually pretty quick.

My major point with this post is that editing this is as much of a challenge as every other step. This is my last chance to reconsider plot decisions that will effect this series for the long run before I hand it over to someone else for final editing and review. It'll take more time, and I appreciate every one's patience. I'm doing my best to make sure this third part of the series is worth the wait.