Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spinward Fringe Frontline: The Wait

So, the 1st of May is almost upon us and Spinward Fringe Frontline is still with the editor. I could give you a lengthy explanation with a few excuses mixed in but I'd rather just come out and say it; it's my fault.

Some books take longer to put out, it's true. There are a lot of reasons for it, and thankfully there are a few simple ones behind the delays with Frontline. This is a large book for the series in size and plotline scope. Some of the characters undergo subtle transformations, others aren't so subtle. The story takes a new turn and you get to discover a lot about why things are the way they are, who was involved and even where the story might be going. In terms of actual physical size this book currently stands at 419 pages and there's still a chance my editor will tell me to expand in certain areas that move more like a high budget action film than a novel. Then again, she may just tell me to keep everything as is (with a few gramattical tweaks I'm sure).

I am sorry this book isn't coming out tomorrow, and I hope to have it out by the middle of the month, but if we need more time to polish this so you'll enjoy it more, we're going to take it and I'll make sure you know about it. My fingers and toes are crossed as I hope this draft passes muster. I like this one so much I've lost all objectivity, but that's why I'm thankful I have a good editor and you can rest assured that anything she does will only make things better.

The book is coming, it's my favourite of the series right now, and that's saying a lot. Frontline is epic in scope, our characters get into more trouble than ever and if you've been reading along so far this is one to look forward to.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sit Down, Shut Up: Worst Show Since Night Rider Reboot

This show is about an "average" high school in america. It's animated, well sort of. They use real photography as background and set pieces, so there's an immediate feeling that the creators are lazier than average. Most animation studios send work to Korea or Japan when they take the lazy route, this show demonstrates a new depth of laziness.

Considering the most long running series on television doesn't actually go out of their way to enhance quality, let's move on to other critical points.

Catch phrases are a huge part of this show, they actually assign them to characters with gaudy text intros, trying to leap the writing hurtle of actually taking the time to humorously earn those catch phrases by placing them well in the first few episodes. The laziness of this show easily extends into the humour. There are more scrotum and ass jokes in the first 10 minutes than in South Park's first season. They also don't know how to tell a story or build real humour, using short cheap jokes that aren't actually funny (they represent stereotypes constantly, expecting us to get a laugh and failing miserably), and their humour building plots just wander around touching each other, like a bunch of rude old men in a sex addiction recovery group. I know, that example is graphic, but it's the only one that really fits.

If you see Sit Down, Shut Up appear on your television set (or flat screen for those of you living in the 21st century), stand up and leave. Or better yet, draw your very own stick figure flp book cartoon and send it in to Fox. After seeing this show I'm sure they'll cut you a check.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spinward Fringe Frontline: Nearly At An End

Spinward Fringe Frontline is unlike anything I've ever written. I'm almost finished my last draft and my editorial pass and I've tried to call this book a war novel, an adventure novel, a hard core science fiction novel and even a space opera novel. After reaching page 370 of 410 the best conclusion I can make is that it's a Space Opera novel that contains strong aspects of all those other things.

This book is 410 pages after cutting 68 pages out and without the last chapter. I've also scrapped three prologues, two of which were good enough to be prologues, one of which was good enough to be its own short story, but none of them were what I wanted. I have a 1.5m by 2m story board covered in post its that failed to contain what was happening with all the characters, the details of the plotlines and the overall movement of this piece. I'm not saying that writing and editing this book was a nightmare or that it's a mess, but it certainly was an unprecdented challenge for me. Thankfully this book came together as a very linear, clear telling of intertwining plotlines.

Before taking on the topics and stories of Frontline the largest book I had written was a fantasy novel called Fate Cycle: Sins of the Past. That book covers several weeks worth of events and builds a world complete with a history, system of mysticism and several other basic components nessisary to a conventional fantasy world. In comparison Spinward Fringe Frontline is much larger and yes, it addresses the weeks between it and Spiwnard Fringe Triton, the timeline of Frontline covers a week or less. In contrast to the fantasy novel I put out five years ago Frontline doesn't have to establish a universe or introduce a multitude of characters, so the four hundred ten pages (so far), are all plot, character development and action. In terms of television, this book would take about six full length hour long episodes to cover and you could easily stretch it to eight with the right special effects budget. (GRIN)

A lot of our favorite characters grow over the course of this book. At the same time the whole thing occurs during a period of adjustment, things are still developing and I enjoy some of the unexpected challenges the characters face. Other characters embark on a journey that changes them in a lasting way. I have to say that I enjoy this book, partially because of its differences from everything else I've done.

I love the dialogue in this book because it's beyond being functional, the characters are really asserting differences in their manner of speech. The story in Frontline goes a great distance to advance things while it brings a lot from the past into focus. I've lost all objectivity again and that's why I'm so happy to have a good, honest editor who will be able to tell me if my work is done or if I have to do another draft. My test readers will be able to sound alarms if I'm missing something or going in the wrong direction.

Having said that, I certainly hope she and everyone else enjoys this book as much as I have. It's complex, it's epic in scale and I'm at the same time looking forward to finishing the drafting and editing process as well as dreading the end because leaving this book behind is hard. I've lived in it for over five months now and the longer you spend with a work the harder it is to let it go.

Having said that, I hope that in a few days I'll be posting my editor's approval as well as an opinion or two from a test reader. If the feedback tells me I have more work to do, I'll tell you as soon as I know and I'll pin down another release date. I'll see you then!


What are you looking to see in Spinward Fringe Frontline? Leave a (spoiler free) comment below!

Monday, April 13, 2009

If I Were To Podcast, Would Anyone Listen?

So, as most of you know I'm editing Spinward Fringe Frontline. What you don't know is that I'll be recording a whole lot of dictated notes about the entire series thus far so I can keep the last 1500 pages or so straight.

I have the encyclopedia for the Spinward Fringe series, but the recordings will include everything I couldn't in the typed "guide to the books" I have roughed out. I'll be calling the recordings the "Spoiler Files", and I hadn't planned on making them available to the public.

The more public recordings will be a reading of the First Light Chronicles Freeground novella. I'll be making the chapters available here for free so you'll get a chance to hear me drone on gratis.

Recently I've had more than one request to actually podcast instead of blogging. To be honest I have no idea how that would be different from what I'm already doing in text (blogging), but if there's a demand I'll be willing to try. So, that's what the next survey will be about.

I need you to tell me if you want to hear me start talking. Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings if you want everything to stay just the way it is, with me cleverly typing out every blog post and keeping things prosey. On the other hand if you want me to start podcasting instead, well, me and my production team of one could give it a go and see what happens.

So vote, vote like you've seldom voted before!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Castle: Television Is Getting Better?

To answer the question above; no. It's not getting better. The networks still have their collective heads up their butts and from what I've been seeing over the last decade most good television happens as a happy accident. Somehow something with merit and entertainment value slips through their web of corporate need, unrealistic expectations and backwards thinking. The tastes and motives of big corporate television networks have nothing to do with good TV.

Having said that, it's time for a review. This is one of those happy accidents I was talking about. It's a new show called Castle.

Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic star in this hour long television show about a pulp novelist (Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion), who gets paired up with a New York Police Detective (Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic) and together they solve crimes.

Fillion plays the Castle character with great comedic timing and just the right amount of flare as he roams through the first five episodes adding his insights and drawing material from crime scenes and investigations. I love the character and it seems like another perfect fit for Nathan Fillion.

The detective in this series is played very well and at first it seems that it's an easy role. As the series continues (I've seen all 5 episodes so far), we discover that there's a bit more to Kate Beckett and she's not willing to become attatched to, or reveal much of anything personal to her new scribe partner. It's very easy to ham up the hard nosed detective part, and now that I think about it I've seen that role hammed up more often than not. No problems here, Stana Katic does a great job. her character is believable and strong enough to be a good counterpart to Richard Castle.

There are other characters, ranging from the wise daughter to the detective co-workers and though they're somewhat cliche, they're well placed, performed and not over played. The only character I dislike is the zany mother, who I've been seeing on several different television shows recently played by different similar actresses. It's like the networks put the word out that every new hour long drama or comedy must have a zany grandmother.

In short, go watch Castle. If you like detective mysteries and are a little tired of the CSI's and the Law and Orders this should be a nice change. It also stands on its own, so even if you're not into detective shows, give it a shot. It's just different enough.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

If A Spinward Fringe Movie Were Made, Who Would You Cast?

That was one of the questions a reader included in an email yesterday while I was editing Spinward Fringe Frontline, and it occurred to me that I'd never actually answered it even though these books are really just films running in my brain before they're written down.

The answer will probably change in the future, since the Spinward Fringe series is always growing, shifting in style and complexity and talent is constantly being uncovered inside and outside of Hollywood.

So, I'll answer the question and more but quickly since I'm still editing Frontline. I'll also answer as though I have all the cash in the world and access to everyone I could ever want on the project.

If Spinward Fringe were to be comitted to film I'd want at least two 2 hour movies made to be followed up by a 3 hour third part.

The directors I'd choose include; Luc Besson (known for La Femme Nikita, The Professional and 5th Element), Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame), or Martin Wood (known for Stargate Continuum, Sanctuary, Stargate Atlantis).

For the Soundtrack I'd hire Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo, Batman, Nightbreed, Wanted), or Klaus Badelt (K-19: The Widowmaker, Pirates of the Caribbean). I'd love to see them work with Apocolyptica on a couple pieces for the film as well, and if you haven't seen the soundtrack I've built for Spinward Fringe Triton and Frontline you can check it out here:

On the production staff I'd love to see Joel Silver (known for the Matrix films, Veronica Mars and over 90 other films). He's known for dedicating himself to projects he believes in and supporting new ideas while maintaining a very shewd business sense. Any of the directors listed above would also make fantastic producers as they're good with production value and long time pros.

Who would I cast for the various parts? It's difficult to say because I've always pictured the core parts being played by actors who have had a lot of theater experience but not much exposure on television or film, so they'd be relative unknowns. As for the supporting cast (cameos and short term appearances), I'd love Wheeler to be played by Christian Slater, Ayan's mother to be played by Amanda Tapping (as long as she doesn't mind dying her hair red), and Lance Henrikson to play Doctor William Marcelles (check the end of the First Light Chronicles Starfree Port for that character if you don't remember). You get the gist though, talented, famous people playing the smaller roles so the main cast doesn't feel like they're playing beside cardboard cutouts or acting class newbies and the fans get a thrill at seeing staples of the industry popping in.

As for adaptation, I'd rather see it adapted closely. The early books are fairly short because they were written to provide an experience that was similar to watching a television show or film so a fairly direct adaptation would be possible. The later books; Triton and Frontline are more complex, so there might be a little more adaptation work there, but not much. Oh, and I'll be getting back to the cleaner, faster style of writing that I started the Spinward Fringe series with (in Resurrection and Awakening), after Frontline is out. Writing an incredibly fast paced 400 page book has been more exhausting and time consuming than I thought, but it's been worth it!

Anyway, that's my quick and dirty pie in the sky wish list for the first three Spinward Fringe films. Considering how little control an author gets when an adaptation takes place I don't think it'll ever happen IF the series gets optioned, and I actually hope it does some day.

Thanks for the question Arthur. I'm sorry I won't cast Jake or Ayan, that's just not gonna happen until the film is made!


Just because I won't cast the main characters doesn't mean you can't! Who do you think should play your favourite character(s)?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Spinward Fringe Test Readers

Lately I've gotten a few emails from people who are very interested in becoming test readers. Sadly, I had to turn them all down and it's not because they were unqualified.

Typically the interested parties are well educated (engineers, teachers, other writers and more), but sadly, I still can't take them on. I wish I could, but there are a lot of reasons why I just can't include them.

So everyone understands why, I thought I would enlighten people on how I put a test group together.

The first thing I do is watch for people who I've met personally and have known for a while. I don't tell anyone that I'm looking for test readers. At least a month before I'm ready I take account of who has read all the books preceding the one I'm finishing and then choose people who don't know each other, aren't prone to posting spoilers on the Internet, are trust worthy, I've known for a while, are educated or well read and I get along with.

When I finish my drafts and my first editorial pass I send copies of secure files out to each test reader. They don't get to know who the other readers are, how many there are or where they are. My editor gets her copy at the same time and she doesn't know any of the test readers either. I have test readers in three countries right now, and the select group are all fantastic people. They'd probably get along famously if they ever got to know each other actually, but sadly, it's a blind reading.

So that's how it works. How are the results from this kind of group? Well, I'm always surprised at what people notice, of their very unique opinions and what they commonly mention. They help me improve as a writer and story teller and with a book as complex and as large as Frontline, they also make good watchdogs, pointing out problems with continuity, characterization and even turning points in the plot.

I'd love to take on more test readers, but as you can see it's hard to find people who fit just right into a blind reading.

The first quarter of Spinward Fringe Frontline has been sent out to the Editor and all the test readers, and I'm eagerly awaiting their comments as I continue to edit the rest of the book. I'll be posting their general impressions as they come in, so check back!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Spinward Fringe Frontline: The Cover and Progress

With 74% of voters in favour of the blue lettered Frontline cover featuring Pandem, the planet that most of the book takes place on, I think it's pretty certain that readers have told me which cover I should use. Thank you for voting everyone, you can check back soon for another poll.

So, with the cover chosen and editing well underway Frontline is a near inevitability. Unless the test readers and my editor have serious problems with the plot and character development I don't see any delays.

As I'm editing this book I'm actually rebuilding several chapters so there's even more focus on the characters and the personal challenges they face in this book. With so many characters vying for attention in this volume I'll admit it was difficult to decide on where the focus should be, but I'm confident in my decisions. I like where the story takes these characters, their journies, and even though I've written three completely prologues for this book so far I'm fairly sure I've got a good book on my hands.

So far the book is 396 pages thick, and when editing is complete I'm fairly certain it'll be over 400 pages long and the fastest paced piece of work that I've ever put out. I start reading this and have difficulty putting it down myself, so I hope that's true for everyone waiting for this volume.

There's more good news.

As Spinward Fringe Frontline wraps up several storylines, it also begins a new era in the Spinward Fringe series. When I started writing Science Fiction on January 1, 2008 I had a number of ideas and mental images that still haven't been used in the series. Not only that, but new material, new characters and ideas have all come up since then. There's so much more story to tell that I'm absolutely certain that I have enough for three more very good books, exciting books.

Beyond that there may be more. As I said over a year ago, I'm writing this series like a television series or large collection of serialized movies (which Hollywood simply doesn't know how to make), so as long as readers are interested I'll continue writing these books. Spinward Fringe Frontline is looking like a great foundation for the future and a fantastic story on its own.

There's more news coming, so stay tuned!