Saturday, February 28, 2009
So, I put the question to you, dear readers and friends: which cover do you like best? It's important to know that this is a professional decision, and the final tally of the vote on the day of release will determine what cover I go with! It's simply not up to me anymore, it's all you. Keep in mind that whatever you choose will be seen by literally thousands of people across the globe, no pressure.
So vote once, then get your friends to vote once even if they don't know anything about the series, this is a purely aesthetic decision at this point. Thank you for your help on this and for your support thus far.
I'm enjoying writing the third act of Spinward Fringe Frontline and I can't wait until everyone gets a chance to sink their teeth into this book!
The voting booth is at the top of this page and the choices are:
Planet Cover With Blue Lettering
Planet Cover With Red Lettering
Ayan Cover With Blue Lettering
Ayan Cover With Red Lettering
I look forward to seeing the results!
One more thing: Don't worry about Ayan's hair colour.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The page looks pretty good, and after taking a look at it there are only a couple corrections to be made, which Glenn is happy to make. I waited a few days to post about the page here just in case the people at Wikipedia yank the page, which they've been known to do to certain blogs, bloggers, books, authors and even the greatest Internet radio show ever.
I like Wikipedia, despite the massive stigma they seem to have about people editing their own pages, which I can understand from a certain point of view. I like Wikipediaso much that I donated a little while ago (when money times were a little brighter), but even so I'll have to leave it to you dear readers to add something if you think it's worth seeing there. I only ask that you don't post plot line spoilers and that you try to post only factual info that could be verified. If you're looking to verify something you can trust everything that's said on this site or you can Email me. Having said that, there's another reason why I like having a Wikipedia page: it's yet another way to be connected to the few hundred people who I'm fortunate enough to entertain. If everyone whose ever bought one of my books had me on speed dial I'd never get anything done, but being connected to people who support me through the Internet feels just about right.
Anyway, a very special thanks to Glenn Webber and SomaCow who have given everyone a new place to learn about me and what I do. Support in any positive form is welcome, and a Wikipedia page is pretty amazing. If I could afford to post-act bribe someone (I think they call that rewarding someone in normal language), I would send stuff to Glenn, but sadly, I'm still on a shoestring budget.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I read through the manuscript so far because I wanted to make sure I was going in the right direction, that the three intertwining plotlines were all necessary and that there was no filler. What I realize now is that this book is divided into three very important acts and I'm just about to start on the third one.
As a writer quantity doesn't matter nearly as much as quality. I ask myself; is everything here important to the story? Characterization? Is it entertaining? If something doesn't make the grade it gets cut, it's that simple. So far Frontline has had about 37 pages cut (not included in the image above), and I'm keeping about 290 so far because that's what's required to tell the story this book contains. The thought of breaking the work up into two or more novellas crossed my mind, but sadly this work doesn't allow for that. You can feel when one act ends and another begins, but if I were to separate the book into different sections it would seem more like a frustrating money grab than an artistic choice, and even though I do this for a living (a job I absolutely love!), I don't like the idea of doing something solely for cash.
More about the progress of the book: I'm writing one large chapter or two or three short ones a day, six days a week to get this one finished. Research, planning, conceptualization and day to day business all happens around that. I have the third act almost entirely in mind and it feels like my brain is about to bust. I wish this novel were already a movie, I would love to see this broken up into six episodes of good television because when I think of this book the images start rolling and I can't type fast enough.
I haven't told a truly epic story for years, not since my foray into fantasy (Fate Cycle: Sins of the Past), and this book makes everything before it feel like nothing but build up. I am sorry it's taking longer to write this book than any other in the series, but from what I read in that manuscript and what I'm writing right now I can tell you that it'll be worth it. This is an Epic Space Opera, and even though it completely closes off one of the most important plot lines of the series (you know, the story that started at the end of Starfree Port), this book expands the universe, explores the characters and sets down a very solid foundation for so many books to come.
What's the tone of the third act of this book? I'll give you a hint; I've been listening to a lot of Danny Elfman (best known for soundtracks for movies like Night Breed, 90's Batman, Hellboy, Wanted, etc...). The more demented the soundtrack feels the better.
When do I expect to be finished? I hoped to be finished by the end of February, but I can't really tell. There's a lot of story left in this final act of the book and I'm afraid that quality demands that no completion date be set. The first two acts of this book were about 150 pages each, and took about a month each to complete (Christmas and a family matter added an extra month and a half to that). Most of the conceptualization and planning is finished though and that's the really good news.
Am I enjoying myself? Immensely! I honestly wish someone else had already written this and put it on the silver screen or television somewhere so I could just sit back and watch! That's not the case, however, so I have the rare honour of closing my eyes and adapting the movie as the reels roll on in my head.
Well, it's time for me to go back into the Fringe, to start work on the final act in this three act performance that is Spinward Fringe Frontline. Before I get lost in that universe, however, I need to thank everyone whose been buying the books, supporting me and spreading the word. Without you these books wouldn't be the same; I'd be writing around a full time job somewhere instead of making writing my main gig. Thank you for your help, as I said long ago the readers will determine if and when Spinward Fringe ends and so far (Triton sold it's 210th copy yesterday), the majority of my small but very kind audience seems to agree that Spinward Fringe shouldn't end anytime soon.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
It got worse. Despite the fact that I grabbed a suite of the best virus software I could find (much like the stuff that was already installed), and started a set of boot scans after a registry restoration the machine had somehow become too heavily infected to save the files or windows installation. The good news is that I had backups of most of the important files. The bad news is that I had to format the machine and reinstall all the software which took just over nine hours.
This isn't some pointless whining session, however, I have a point. I'm not the only one facing such an attack, there are a number of viruses and malware programs that open machines up to other trojan, spyware, virus and malware attacks. Once an infection like that takes root you either have to work like hell to correct the problem in a very timely manner or wipe everything out and start over. I've very rarely heard of this happening on an Apple computer or a Linux based system.
My production machine was running the latest version of Windows XP (Service pack 3 with all updates), Spybot Search and Destroy and Grisoft's AVG antivirus for protection. They were up to date and turned on. I'm also set up behind a hardware firewall and don't visit sites that are open to spreading malicious software. That didn't stop the virus attack. My point is that Microsoft and most other software companies on the globe have dropped the ball.
This is 2009.
We put humans on the moon forty years ago who survived the journey back but one of the biggest corporations on the planet can't release a completely stable, secure, intuitive software environment that the majority of three or more generations of adults can capably use. We should have computers that should wake up and ask what we want to do instead of boot up and show us a passive, blank screen that is easily invaded by windows naggnig us to log into ISP's, online communities, gaming software or even auctioning sites. I'm telling you that the security should be built in so well that we don't have to worry about it or even see it. When we turn the machine on it should tell us that we have messages from our favorite people on facebook, or that our auctions sold or that there's a video message from uncle Tom waiting.
I'm telling you that we shouldn't have to bend over backwards to install thousands of dollars worth of software to make it all happen only to watch a terrible operating system fail on its own and then be destroyed by viruses that said operating system shouldn't even be vulnerable to in the first place. We should bring the computer home from the store and it should verbally ask us; "Who are you? What are your two favourite colours? What social networks do you like; Facebook? Myspace? Or is there another you'd like me to add to the system? Do you want to use Skype to video conference with people? Do you have a friends list on MSN I can add to your system so you can tell everyone about your new computer?" When these questions are finished (which should be answered vocally, that keyboard is something we shouldn't have to touch unless we really want to), our computer should be ready to go. With a touchscreen interface and an automatic link to our cellphone, cable television, Internet and caller ID the computer could be that essential, almost invisible appliance we thought we'd be using sometime around, oh, 2009. It should also cost less thatn $1000.00 including a screen that is worthy of a living room entertainment system.
If you look at how much it costs to create the hardware, software and to distribute the technology that would be involved in this kind of system you're left wondering; why does it cost five times as much to get something that only does one fifth of what's mentioned above? Well, companies will tell you that research and development, advertising, legal fees, and other overhead factors are to blame. I'll grant that within their business models those things are very expensive, but if you keep reading a little you'll find that all those things are simply excuses when you come right down to it.
Independent programmers across the globe are all working in their spare time to make software that's in many way better than what Microsoft and even Apple have to offer. Linux is an open source operating system that welcomes users to program new software for and is absolutely free. My favourite distribution is Ubuntu, a variant of Linux that comes with Skype (a video and telephone communication program that uses the Internet), Open Office (everything I've written since 2007 has been written with this office package, which I enjoy more than Microsoft Office by far), Firefox, Google tools, a good paint program (The last distribution I installed came with Gimp), a chat client that can be used for multiple services (MSN, Yahoo, AIM and others), and everything else you'd expect from an operating system. Everything that a computer today needs to provide for a business person, student or creative individual.
Windows XP and Windows Vista come with a 30 day trial copy of office, a calculator program and a cheap paint program that doesn't even match what I've seen in public school classrooms. Out of the box the modern Windows computer is barely worthy of paperweight status until you add more software or connect to the Internet. Oh, and most manufacturers provide virus software that expires in 30 days, so you don't get any protection after that time. It's just long enough for the window of opportunity to bring the computer back to the store to close.
Back to Linux for a second before I move on. I've never seen a Linux installation fall prey to a virus. There are Linux servers that service thousands of customers a minute that have not been reset or shut down for any reason for over a decade. An eight year old computer that uses Ubuntu can do everything a brand new computer with Windows Vista installed can do except for play the latest games and you can buy said ancient computer at a yard sale for $50.00. Chances are that it won't randomy crash either, unlike Windows Vista.
This brings up my point and one really big question: What the hell are Microsoft and Apple doing that's keeping them from providing a better software package than anyone can download and install for free?
Last time I looked at what Apple had to offer (last week, actually), they had nothing that looked any better than what I could go get for a Linux Ubuntu installation right now for nothing, only the Apple version cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars just because of the logo and "careful market research and testing." I thought that big companies who spent big money on being "cutting edge" actually were ahead of the curve.
I was hoping that if we didn't get someone on Mars by now or have world hunger or the monetary and environmental management of the planet licked we'd at least have a computer that could do more than sit there and be a juicy target for viruses and malicious software by now. What are big companies like Microsoft and Apple doing other than producing shiny, barely innovative consumer products that are barely a hair ahead of what came out the year before? Nothing.
The IPhone should have happened 15 years ago, the technology existed in larger forms and the manufacturing processes were possible but no one was willing to foot the the bill for the cost back then. The truly intuitive interactive operating system should have made an appearance a decade ago and we should all have easy to use tablets that cost less than $300.00 right now. Not only that, but the one computer per classroom initiative should be old news in the third world, but since its conception almost twenty years ago it hasn't been accomplished anywhere, not even in India. We shouldn't be worried about hospitals that don't have the technology to diagnose and treat patients properly, it should already be there.
All those advancements are stuck on a slow track thanks largely to corporations who are more concerned with releasing the next new shiny gadget and turning a buck rather than making our lives better. Now they're in trouble because so many people bought into a culture of consumerism and borrowed to buy, buy and buy more. Well, that's come to an end in my home.
Here's what's happened on my production machine: I've installed Ubuntu. Now all the software on my computer is free, and it's amazing. It's easy to use, never crashes and guess what? No viruses. It's also faster than any windows installation I've ever seen. I don't have much extra money to speak of, but as soon as I do I'm going to donate to the people who were responsible for the software I'm using because every donation matters. I can relate to these people.
I used to work as a computer technician and build computers like hot rods in my spare time, but now I'm absolutely discusted with how short a distance we've come over so much time so I'm not buying anything unless I'm replacing something that's worn out.
No more tech toys for me unless they actually do something completely new, are absolutely innovative and simply nessisary. At this rate I won't be buying anything for many years, since the computers and software of the world haven't actually made a real, world changing advancements since the 1990's. The IPhone is just another carphone, texting is just another version of the telegram, the laptop is just a miniature home computer, and windows is, well, still crashing for no reason in particular.
The image at the top of this rant is created and provided by Marc Froment, my tablet using room mate.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This novella has appeared and disappeared as a free EBook a few times. That's mostly because the various distribution channels I was putting this through didn't allow free Ebooks or there were costs attached to offering the book online that I had to cover.
One thing that can kill any publishing endeavor, online or in print, is uncertainty and changes that affect availability. To put an end to this, and to make it easier for people who enjoy the First Light Chronicles and the Spinward Fringe series to share the experience I'm offering the EBooks myself in two file formats.
The first, most commonly used format is PDF. it's the most universally accepted document file and with the help of Adobe Acrobat Reader (browser plugin and/or hard drive installation), you can view the entire book as it's intended and even add bookmarks.
The second file format I'm offering this book in is .prc, or the Mobipocket format as it's more widely known. The PRC file format is readable on most smartphones, PC's and many EBook reader devices. A lot of people prefer this format mostly because there's a short cut menu right at the beginning of the book leading to each chapter, making it faster to pick up from where you left off. If you want to try the reader software you can download it from Mobipocket.com.
This is me offering free stuff as a thank you for all your support so far, and I hope everyone can finally be a little relieved that Freeground is finally free for good. Since I'm doing this for a living and I've sold too many copies of the books that follow Freeground for any publisher to pick up this series I honestly can't afford to offer any other novellas or novels for free. Somehow I think my writing would suffer a little if I were doing it from a cardboard box...
The good news is that the rest of the books are very reasonably priced on www.amazon.com (print and Kindle editions), and on Mobipocket.com (EBook editions). Even in print Freeground is only $7.99 in a large print, 6"x9" Trade Paperback format from Amazon.com. Since I don't have an agent or publisher taking a bite out of my profits I can afford to offer my work at a lower price than practically anyone else for their quality. Sadly the printed editions are only available in large 6"x9" Trade Paperback editions, making them more expensive than the small mass paperbacks, but the quality and clarity of these books make them very much worth having. Amazon does an absolutely amazing job at printing and shipping these books, I couldn't be happier with their work.
I hope you and anyone else whose into science fiction or fiction in general enjoys The First Light Chronicles Freeground, it's the start point for the First Light Chronicles and Spinward Fringe series and establishes the basic universe and introduces the most important characters in a fast paced, exciting package. Most readers suggest you start reading this in the afternoon and not at night since it's been known to keep people up in the wee hours, I'm told it's a real page turner.
Here's a synopsis!
In the middle of the darkest region of explored space sits one bright beacon; Freeground Station. Serving as a supply and trading post it is home to a select number of human beings that will take an unlikely chance to make a difference in their end of the galaxy.
Jonas and his friends spent their spare time in tactical simulations and drew the attention of Freeground Fleet Command when they hacked into restricted combat scenarios for elite trainees and defeated all comers.
Instead of punishing Jonas and his friends they offered them an opportunity to undertake a dangerous and exciting mission. They were to go out into the Galaxy and acquire any advantages that would improve life for Freegrounders.
This series is about their first voyage together, the challenges they face, and the relationships they forge with each other and the beings they meet along the way.
The First Light Chronicles Omnibus, the volume that contains all three parts of the First Light Chronicles; Freeground, Limbo and Starfree Port, has held the number one spot on Mobipocket.com (an Amazon subsidiary company that only sells EBooks), for almost six months. I'm proud of the First Light Chronicles series, and extremely happy that most people who read it go on to read the Spinward Fringe Series, the unlimited series of books in the same universe and a number of novels that I couldn't be more proud of.
So go ahead and download Freeground. Welcome aboard, I hope you enjoy the beginning of what has proven to be a long and exciting journey for hundreds of readers around the world.
Oh, and after consulting with several readers and my editor who has 35 years teaching experience, I'm happy to announce that the entire First Light Chronicles and Spinward Fringe series' are suitable for readers ages 13+, so if you want a series of books you AND your teens can enjoy, here it is.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Mobipocket did, however, give me the opportunity to post my work on their site. Then some of my fans (as few as they were back then), posted reviews and thanks to that some of the science fiction fans on MobiPocket noticed my work. From there things started to grow, and since August the First Light Chronicles Omnibus has held the number one spot in the Science Fiction section. For that I only have the readers to thank, and boy am I thankful! Only one book has sold through Amazon.com, but I'm hoping that will pick up in time.
It's important to mention people who go the extra mile before I go on; the donators, of which there have been three very minor ones and one very major. These people's donations go towards computer repair, sending promotional copies of books out to reviewers (SomaCow being a great example), and this month's donation will be going to next month's groceries.
What do I consider a fan? Well, that's simple. A fan is someone who posts a review on Amazon.com, Mobipocket.com or on their blog with a link leading back to my site. I also consider people who donate (even a little), and people who take the time to send in an email with their opinion on something in the books. Geoff, J and Ross of SomaCow are fans (especially considering the great efforts they put in to pull more aboard!), Dee is a fan, Neil is a fan (Dee and Neil's reviews can be seen on the First Light Chronicles listing on MobiPocket along with a few others) and anyone whose bought the First Light Chronicles and all the Spinward Fringe books are fans. Also, anyone who tells someone else they're a fan is a fan. It's not a very exclusive club, and membership is as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be and I am truly greatful to each and every one of you for buying the books, enjoying yourselves, supporting me and spreading the word!
For anyone who is curious, 194 people have purchased all the science fiction books released in 2008. That's the First Light Chronicles Series (either seperately or in the Omnibus), and the Spinward Fringe Series. Looking at that number, even though it's small by modern publishing standards, reminds me daily of how many people who have followed me and my characters through this turmultuous journey thus far. I have very good news for all of you: This is where it gets interesting. Just look at the next book; Spinward Fringe Frontline.
Spinward Fringe Frontline is taking a long time to write and I can tell you why. There is room for the characters to develop, villains finally tell a major part of the story and the plot moves with the overwhelming violence and speed of an avalanche. Until now I've kept a few notes on the technology and characters, but with the increase of scope and activity in this book it's been nessisary to begin work on an actual encyclopedia (currently named OMGENCYCLOPEDIA), just to keep track of the developments in this book and how they're attached to previous work. My goal is to provide a new example of what a true, complete Space Opera is in one book. Thank God I thrive on ambition. So far I'm very happy with how this book is turning out and I can't wait to see it finished even though I still have a lot of work to do yet.
A word about Spinward Fringe Triton: A week after the book was released the emails started coming in about this book. Fully a quarter of the people who purchased this volume sent emails in, and none of them had a single negative thing to say. That book brought many people to tears, got them funny looks on the tube as they laughed aloud, and left them feeling as though there was great promise for more at the end. To be honest, that's exactly the kind of journey I had while writing it, so I couldn't have been happier at its reception. On the other hand, I believe that every book has to equal or surpass the last, so I when I think of Triton I immediately think of the challenge I face in Spinward Fringe Frontline and how well I'll have to develop that book for it to be a worthy volume.
As if you couldn't already tell, my Muse is my only mistress. Writing is what I love to do above all else, and even though 1400 books sold over a five month period barely provides a living, I'll take living on the absolute minimum and being able to write full time over working a job I hate and having more money than one person generally needs. At one time I got a hell of a rush from playing drums in front of hundreds (thousands once), of people but these days I feel really high when I know I've had an emotional affect on someone. I wouldn't trade this for anything, and you people make it possible. If you keep spreading the word there's no telling what could happen.
Now, back to work on Spinward Fringe Frontline.
Feel free to leave a comment here about the portrait of Ayan above, I'm sure Marcus would love the feedback. Just don't mention the hair colour...
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
At first I wasn't sure how much I'd like this social networking tool, but I decided to give it a fair shake and before long I was interacting with two of the guys from SomaCow, keeping a few fans current on what was going on, updating my status on Facebook and keeping a mini-journal of my writing habits all at the same time. Now, I'm generally no big fan of social networking tools, but this one does help me keep everyone aware that Spinward Fringe Frontline is in the works and I'm enjoying the writing. It's an uncommon reassurance, and sometimes I wish that George RR Martin or any of my other favourite authors used such things. It might also be interesting to see what someone like George Lucas, Joss Whedon or Eric Kripke (creator of Supernatural), was up to from day to day.
So, my life may not be nearly as interesting as the entertainment icons listed above but if you want to know more about what I'm up to and how Spinward Fringe Triton is coming along from one day to the next, Twitter is the most direct way!
For those of you who don't have Twitter and don't want to sign up, I'll have an update on how things are going with the latest Spinward Fringe book right here tomorrow, so stay tuned...
Friday, February 6, 2009
The ultimate suspense for me when I'm working on something new and everything has to slow down while my editor reviews it. If I'm doing good work and enjoying myself I generally lose all objectivity and she's the one who tells me if I'm writing something that's purely self indulgent or something that other people will enjoy as well.
That time is mostly over with Frontline. A week ago (give or take a few days), I handed the first 200 pages of Spinward Fringe Frontline to my editor. There's a lot of action mixed with some serious character and plot development in those pages, and I just had to know how it was turning out from her perspective before I went full speed into the second half of the book. (I kept writing anyway, just not quite as quickly as I normally do in case I'd have to go back and change a few things, but we'll keep that between us...)
After she finished reviewing it she told me that "it read like it was written for a TV-14 or TV-MA rated television show and it was so hard to put down that my sleep schedule is all screwed up." Coming from her that's very high praise, she also liked the balance between many of the characters. (If you want to find out what that means, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the book to be available, since I'm not going to give anything away).
So, with her approval on the first 200 pages and the knowledge that I don't have any huge plot holes, bad characterization, poor dialog or unbelievable events I'm moving on. It's full steam ahead from here on out.
This novel is definitely the epitomy of Space Opera and it's shaping up to be the longest book I've ever written. I love the characters, what they're doing and that the rules and settings in this universe are coming together perfectly while the plot carries on with the intensity and impact of a tsunami. How long is the book? So far it's 278 pages, and I think I'm about two thirds through it, there's a lot of story to tell and everyone's favorite characters are right in the middle.
Thank you for sticking with me, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel and given a little more time Spinward Fringe Frontline, which has been a blast to write so far, will be available relatively soon. Until then, please continue to spread the word about the First Light Chronicles and Spinward Fringe series, especially now that the books are available on Amazon.com in print (and of course they're still available on Mobipocket as well as other good Ebook retailers). Your support matters, and I'm greatful to every one of you!
More news on the series soon!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
These are some talented podcasters who manage to put out three hours at a time each week. A lot of people don't know how hard that is, just showing up on your own at the same time every week isn't easy, imagine three guys showing up at the same time every week, that's bloody hard. They're coming up on 300 episodes. Epic, simply epic.
They manage to do it and be funny enough to keep me listening and trust me, I'm a former Revision3 and TikiTV watcher. Though they're great casts, I only have time for one podcast, and for me that's SomaCow.
Now just imagine for a moment that your favorite podcast or TV show is actually actively trying to help you accomplish something by giving you airtime, putting your name where it will be noticed and flashing your website. That's really amazing to me.
Here's me taking a moment to thank J for sucking me in about 8 months ago and being a great third chair, Geoff for the studio, the reviews and everything else, Mickey for being the almost always intelligent and practical Mickey, and Ross for being so enthusiastic.
Check them out at: http://somacow.com/ if you haven't already.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Frontline is now over one hundred and sixty pages long, that's even after cutting about thirty pages of material that slowed the pace of the book down. I'm not finished writing this one, but to keep things progressing towards a speedy release I've given my editor the first two hundred pages to review. Once she's finished and given me the good word work will go even more swiftly. Keep in mind that if it's any lesser in quality than Triton, then I'll have to work on the two hundred pages when she hands them back to me.
While she reviews the first two hundred pages I'm not slowing down, in fact I'm continuing the work on the second half of the book. In the end the extra time I'm taking on this book will pay off, just like the extra month I took on Triton did. The best part of all this is that when the work is done everyone will have a better, longer book to enjoy.
The story in the Spinward Fringe series has grown, includes even more character development, and a big picture plot that I'm absolutely in love with. Like Spinward Fringe Triton I'm writing this one as though it's the last, but notes for the next two parts of the Spinward Fringe series are still building up so if you all want more after Frontline I'll be ready.
Thank you for your patience and for spreading the word about the series everyone, I'll share news as it comes up!