Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting your free ISBN in Canada.

UPDATE (March, 2014): According to several small publishers and independent writers, the people working at the ISBN office in Canada are more friendly and helpful than the person who I spoke to years ago. If this is true, and I hope it is, I applaud them for turning the office around and helping Canadians who are working in the difficult field of publishing.

UPDATE: I have removed instructions regarding the Library and Archives Canada because I was told by two representatives there that 1) it is likely that any electronic documents submitted may be made available to the public for free. They further explained that the publisher or writer will not have control over this. 2) They also told me, in no uncertain terms, that publishers and writers do not have to submit their work to Library and Archives Canada in order to obtain an ISBN. I invite anyone who uses this guide to do their own research, but I won't be submitting anything to this agency. Both of my conversations with people there gave me the impression that they did not care about my copyright  or whether or not decisions they made would damage my livelihood, which is earned through the sale of eBooks.

Now, back to the Guide!

ISBN’s are free in Canada, greatly reducing the costs for independents and small presses who are operating in this country. We're lucky here, because in several other countries the process of getting an ISBN and the maintenance of databases has been privatized. That has led to the cost of a single ISBN being as high as $150 USD or more depending on the process you use. There's more good news for Canadians, in that we can get free ISBN's for anything, including a CD, DVD, paperback book or any other object that can benefit from an ISBN.

eBooks are a very new thing to the Canadian ISBN system, however, so there are a couple extra hoops to jump through and I’ll cover that.

I’m walking you through the whole process so you don’t have to speak to the impatient, irritable lady in charge of the whole ISBN support department in Canada. Yes, according to her she’s the only one answering emails, taking phone calls and answering questions. She doesn’t like answering questions and it seems that I was causing her incredible grief just by being on the phone with her. Maybe she’s under a lot of strain, being the only woman in charge. There’s a WARNING at the end of this article that you may want to read before taking the steps below.

Back to the heart of the matter, getting your own ISBN!

Step 1: Head on over to
Step 2: Click “Join CISS” (CISS stands for Canadian ISBN Service System)
Step 3: Click Yes – I Accept (Unless you disagree with the conditions on that page)
Step 4: Fill in the publisher registration information. If you’re an independent in Canada, you’re still considered a publisher, so you’re in the right place.
Step 5: Click SUBMIT and follow the instructions on the following page. There’s nothing complicated there. You’ll eventually be asked to wait for an email from the administration.
Step 6: You should receive that approval email on a workday (Mon-Fri). If you get an email telling you that your account wasn’t approved, read it carefully for a reason and either re-apply (if you chose a publisher name that was already in the system, or filled in the form incorrectly, for example), or give the number in the Email a call if there is a more complicated problem. [The current number is 1-866-578-7777 (Select 1+7+3), and God help you.]
Step 7: After you receive the Email with your ISBN prefix and publisher name (keep that Email forever!!) head on back to and login using your new username and password.
Step 8: Edit your profile if there’s anything you need to alter.
Step 9: Click on MANAGE LOGBOOK (Left hand panel)
Step 10: You will have to request a block of ISBN's. To do that, you click on the pull down menu in the middle of the Logbook page. In the future, this is the page you will see your previously assigned ISBNs. As of the second writing of this guide (2014), the minimum amount of ISBN's you can order is 10. It can take several business days for them to approve your request. This is an antique method of assignment no one in the US has to put up with, but it's how they do it, so there's nothing we can do.
Step 11: Once your block of ISBN's has been approved, return to your Logbook Page and click ASSIGN NEW ISBN
Step 12: Fill in the form according to the particulars of your product.

There are special instructions for eBook publishers, I verified these with the Government rep on the phone, step by step, even though she was impatient and rude during the entire process.

Step 1: For eBooks the Product Form is [Electronic Book Text]. The term EBOOK is not in this site’s vocabulary yet, but I was told via Email and on the phone that “Electronic Book Text means eBook”)
Step 2: You skip [Product Form Details] entirely, don’t change it.
Step 4: Enter in the [Title] [Subtitle] [Subject] [Publisher Name] normally.
Step 5: For [Projected Publication Date] enter the date you expect your work to be published OR the date it was published.
Step 6: I was told I didn’t have to fill in [Publication Date] but I did anyway because the website insists. I suggest you fill that field in, otherwise the site will probably reject the form.
Step 7: Set [Publication Status] to [Active]
Step 8: Leave [Number of Pages] at 0, since eBook pages are different from one reader device to the next. (The rep on the phone told me 0 is the correct setting for eBooks as well).
Step 9: Leave the Replacement ISBN Information section empty if this is the only ISBN you’ll be using for the eBook. If you’re using this ISBN to replace another, please email the administration through the form at the top of the page. I’m not going to make any assumptions regarding that option.
Step 10: Fill the [Contributor Information] in normally. If you’re the author, select [By (author)] and fill in your name. Skip the rest of that contributor form unless you have to add other contributors by clicking the [ADD] button.
Step 11: Select the language the book is written in under [Language Information].
Step 12: Under [Rights Information] leave it set to FOR SALE WITH EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS IN SPECIFIED COUNTRIES and select [Canada]. According to the representative, only the Publisher sees this setting, and it has no impact on international use of your ISBN. I asked more than once, which she found really irritating.
Step 13: Skip the entire section called [Supplier Information]. (The rep was insistent that I didn’t change or enter anything into that section).
Step 14: You should get a message telling you that you’ve successfully created an ISBN for your eBook. Click on [Manage Logbook] to see it listed on your account.

You're finished!

A special note to the Canadian Government regarding the ISBN and Library Archives Canada

Dear Canadian Government officials and administrators,
The form used to submit this information, and the publisher information form is outdated. Here are a few minor and major issues that exist in your system.
- The term "Logbook" is an outdated artefact. Update this so it is easier for people to understand.
- Requesting blocks of ISBNs is an outdated and inefficient system, and is completely out of step with the times. In the very near future, as soon as next year, most requests of ISBN will come from individuals who only need one. The minimum block size is 10, so 9 will be wasted.
- The need for your agency to manually approve blocks of ISBN's is a slow and antique notion. If there is a person who is doing this on a case by case basis, it's an unnessiary labor because ISBNs will be used however a publisher likes after going through this process regardless of whatever process of approval this person has. If the automated system takes 1-3 business days, you need an upgrade.
- I am very happy to see that the ISBN office seems to have more people working there, and that some improvements have been made, but from what I'm seeing, there is still room for a lot of modernisation.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8 Continues To Take Shape

Once again you've voted on an aspect of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8 and determined the shape of the book. If you consider the race for second place, things seem a little more evenly split, so I'm going to account for that..

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8 will be a first person perspective book, and the story will be told from the perspectives of Jacob Valance and Alice Valent. Minh-Chu Buu will be a major character in the book as well. Since the second most popular book in the series was Spinward Fringe Broadcast 5: Fracture, I'm going to make sure that Broadcast 8 takes place at a break neck place, with ultra smooth transitions between chapters. As a result, it won't be in the exact form of the First Light Chronicles Omnibus. I think I've grown as a writer since then and I'd like to take the first person perspective further in Broadcast 8. I'm up for the challenge, and I'll be able to tell a story that was already planned for Broadcast 8 or 9. In fact, Broadcast 8 may propel the series forward more than I anticipated, without using a cliffhanger.

That's right, my plans are to write Broadcast 8 as a stand alone book, so it makes perfect sense for it to have its own style.

What about Broadcast 6 and 7? In short, Broadcast 6 is looking good so far. The writing is going nicely, I'm close to the end and I'll be posting a progress report early next week.


What do you think of voting on aspects of an upcoming Broadcast? Is there something else you'd like to help determine?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Will Broadcast 8 Revisit A First Person Perspective Style?

That's what it's starting to look like. The votes have been coming in a little slower on this topic, and it's understandable. A question on style is more difficult to answer than one that asks which is your favorite character or ship.

There are still more than enough votes to say that there's a definite result. The majority of you want to see a new first person perspective novel, something that hasn't come along in big way since the First Light Chronicles Omnibus.

It's true, the beginning of Broadcast 5 was in first person perspective, and there's an epilogue planned that will be in first person as well. In science fiction and strange fiction beginning a film or television episode with a first person voice over isn't uncommon.

When it comes to first person perspective novels my mind drifts to detective books, even though I know vampire and werewolf fiction has gone there often in recent years. That wasn't why I wrote the First Light Chronicles in the first person perspective, however.

I used that style because it was a challenge, and it was in line with my goal of writing a mostly character driven book that took place in the far flung future. With the votes showing me that you may want me to revisit that style, I'm left wondering how much my writing has improved since I last wrote in first person. The type of story I enjoy telling now is a bit different from the type of tale I enjoyed spinning two years ago, so Broadcast 8 will be quite different from the Omnibus regardless of whether or not it's in first person perspective.

The poll is still open for a few more hours, so there's no guarantee that Broadcast 8 will be in first person. If you'd like a different style, or want to ensure I revisit the first person perspective, then vote, and encourage other readers to vote while you still can!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spinward Fringe Encyclopaedia Entry: Intoxicants

The general consensus of the Mobileread and Syfy forums as well as my blog, the twitter activity on this, Email responses and the threads on Facebook is that alcohol has a future. That’s actually a good thing for the series of books I’ve written and continue to work on.

As for the side commentary on the topic of self censorship, well, it was far over blown. The simple truth is that these science fiction books have nothing to do with substance use or abuse, and the reason why I reduced the mention of non-alcoholic substances was because I didn’t want drug use to steal attention from the story and characters. If some Church Lady came along and started screeching about heavy drug use, well, she’s either overreacting or I overdid it on the depiction of substance use in the book, handicapping my own main plot. Why bother risking any of it when it’s not central to the story?

What have I decided after reading the thousands of words written on this topic over the last week or so?

Well, space opera is a funny space to write fiction in. Before drugs and alcohol were used as a tool to help set a scene. Now I feel I can employ them in to a sub plot that I've been considering, and I'm fairly certain that they'll help support the main story in the way I'll be using them, not draw attention away from it. More will be happening in social settings as well, so the role of a casual drink or five at a favorite watering hole will become more visible, and while they will serve alcohol there, other substances and “treatments” will be featured as well.

There will be a nod to consequences and that includes addiction. Why would addiction go away in the future? That’s something so many people supposed, and frankly, current day studies on soon to be approved pleasure substances prove that drug and “leisure substance” companies are constantly trying to find ways to make the new buzz as addictive as possible without breaking the law. That’s not even considering the back room chemist, who is a growing concern in smaller towns across Europe and North America. His stuff is so addictive that, according to addicts, entire lives change with one hit.

Now that I’ve had your help, and I’ve been led down several different paths of consideration, I’ve decided that the future is bright (or dark, depending on your point of view), for alcohol as well as other substances in Spinward Fringe. In fact, I’m ready to write it all in stone. The alcohol loving characters in my little science fiction series will have plenty to drink. The characters inclined to enjoy chemicals will do so right along side them, and the cyborgs will have their neural manipulation software packages and memory packets.

I’ll still balance all that so it doesn’t overwhelm the main plot, but that’s something any writer should do. Thanks to this debate, however, I’ll be using all the brushes in my kit to paint a broader, more interesting backdrop when it comes to what people are up to in night spots and watering holes.

Bring it on Church Lady.

Here's the Encyclopaedia entry:

Alcohol: This age old substance exists in many forms. From fine wines, old scotch, well brewed beers to poor colony moonshine and prison wines. It is at the same time the least expensive intoxicant beverage (a filling and potent worker ale, for example), and the most expensive treat (a fine centennial scotch).

Designer Beverages and Foods: These were once touted as the replacement to alcohol, and became common long ago at great expense initially. Most of these synthetic substances are tailored to trigger any number of emotional and / or physical states. Some of these substances (see: Michnikel – first mentioned in Spinward Fringe Broadcast 1: Resurrection), even cause increasing amounts of memory loss as one becomes more intoxicated. These beverages are commonplace, as they can be shipped as concentrates, or materialized on site in establishments that have licensing agreements in place. While few of these beverages and foods are truly addictive, the emotions and states they cause can increase one’s inclination or attachment to a certain substance.

Treatments: This is the most expensive type of leisure substance. This category covers substances that are not necessary, but are often treated like medication. They are long lasting  injections and pills that alter a persons long term fitness level, attitude, outward appearance or other non-essential facet of existence unnecessarily. While the debate concerning what necessary treatments include goes on, these regimens continue to be administered, often unregulated. Many of these substances change the user on a genetic level.

Environmental Intoxicants: Many premium night spots add mood altering substances to the air and / or surfaces. The intention behind this practice is to make their clients more pliant, some times more active (in the example of a dance club), more relaxed (in the example of a issyrian mating den), and at other times more positive minded (this is often seen in government buildings and corporate offices). Most regulated core worlds must post clear signage informing patrons that environmental intoxicants are in use. It’s important to note, however, that most cities aren’t as well regulated.

Mechanical Manipulation:
This is software that, through the use of nanotechnology or a neural link (often called a “brain bud”), alters a persons mood, knowledge or other facet of a person’s being. This has been known to go terribly wrong when programmed by an unqualified user.

Regulation: This varies from city to city, government to government and from culture to culture. It’s best to check with local law enforcement before trying to transport, use or seek out any substance.


Thanks again for engaging in this debate, it's been a fantastic and enlightening read!


[Addendum: I use the term "Church Lady" in this post. I respect and adore several religious women who I would consider ladies, and when I use that term I was not referring to them. I was using the term to refer to screeching, backwards thinking women (and men, to be fair), who misguidedly use one book to justify the burning and banning of others. If this describes you, feel free to email me at with your entertaining insights into how I should entertain people. Keep in mind that I find your complaints quite amusing, and may use it to continue entertaining my readers.]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Does alcohol still make sense in the future?

The artwork in this post is by My Orange Hat.

As a futurist I can't help but think that every time I put a glass of scotch or whiskey in one of may characters' hands I'm being lazy. Some of you are asking why, and the answer is actually pretty easy. As a leisure drug, alcohol doesn't make sense.

Before some of you rush down to the comments section to tell me why I'm wrong, let me give you a little background on my thinking. By its very nature, alcohol is a depressant. As soon as you add the substance to a social occasion the chances of violent behavior and injury start multiplying. Those are indisputable, proven facts that have come from decades of concentrated research conducted around the world. Alcohol also contributes to many diseases if consumed in too large a quantity (as little as 3 drinks a day, most new research says), and under age drinking has been proven to hamper development as well as cause behavior problems that often last for the rest of a young person's life. Again, these are all facts.

Now, I'm not going to say prohibition is the answer, it certainly isn't, and I'm not going to look down my nose at anyone for having a drink or three. Everyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows I have the occasional drink. The last one I tried was called a "Lemon Bomb" [1 shot lemon juice, 4 shots rum, 7oz ginger ale over ice. I enjoyed it, but next time I'm doubling up on the ginger ale]. My long time favorite is Guinness, however, and I'd have a picket sign in my hand within seconds if the government threatened to take that away!

What I'm asking with this post is simple: In the distant future, wouldn't it make sense for people to socially drink beverages that don't feature alcohol, but some other mood altering substance? I know I explored that a little at the end of the First Light Chronicles: Freeground, where we're introduced to a blue beverage that left the drinker with a euphoric buzz. No one has complained thus far.

In reality, more than one chemical company is looking for a replacement for alcohol that they can introduce into foods and drinks. One such company in London, England is testing this chemical on closed groups, intoxicating them for hours then using an anti-inebriant to completely remove the effects in the space of 5-10 minutes. From the little the subjects could say on the BBC documentary; "Do I Drink Too Much?" the feeling of this intoxicant had most of the highs of alcohol, but none of the lows and very little of the dis-coordination that we all suffer when we've had too many. The reading I did on the topic didn't have testimonials, sadly, so we're left with the single subject's opinion. It was good, really good, but not overpowering, more simply altering. Walking wasn't a huge challenge, and he'd do it again outside of the testing environment. Driving and using heavy machinery seemed to remain out of the question, however.

In one of my books one of the guards threaten to use an anti-inebriant to sober an officer up, what I don't tell the readers is that the officer in question wasn't drunk on alcohol, but a random mixture of substances he drank earlier that night. It resulted in behavior that was similar to alcohol, to be sure, but it was clear he was more than drunk when the chapter was originally written. In the end the substance was written out, since I know parent groups love slamming books that contain drug use. Letting the audience think my character was inebriated due to an over consumption of alcohol would actually draw less attention.

The most recent example of self censorship rests in a drink that Ashley has in Broadcast 5: Fracture - The Licorice Doll. The name is a loose translation of an Asian drink that uses licorice alcohol as a base. As originally written, the beverage has roughly the same effect as Valium, only at a recreational level. To avoid controversy I left that bit of description under the white out, so to speak. I think it's a perfectly fine favorite beverage for that character in particular, it seems to suit her personality.

Back in the reality of 2010, where drug abuse is a real problem, and the fight against recreational drug use is well justified, I'm left to wonder how necessary those edits are. I'm against drug abuse, including the over-use of alcohol and legal drugs. I also think that future recreational drugs should be vigorously tested before they head to market, and wonder what would have happened if we tested the heck out of alcohol 30,000 or so years ago when our ancestors were getting buzzed on fermented berries. Would it be the substance of choice today? Or would we be socially consuming something else?

I don't think society is ready for chemical and food companies to try to replace alcohol just yet, but my futurist thinking leads me to believe that most people will imbibe something with more sure-fire effects. Alcohol will always be around, I think, if for no other reason than how easy it is to make, but I don't think it's the buzz of the distant future.

In the end what I'm asking is if readers are ready for characters in a science fiction series like Spinward Fringe to start openly using the alternative to alcohol. This question is especially important right now because I'm slowly working on final edits of each book in the series, and I'm wondering if I should re-insert the material that includes descriptions of substances that are non-alcoholic mood altering substances. Upcoming scenes in the books I'm working on right now involve settings where beverages and food are served as well, so I'm wondering of self censorship is actually something I have to worry about.

So, what do you think of social consumption of mood altering substances (besides alcohol) in science fiction?


I'm looking for as many comments on this as possible.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Poll: Which broadcast is your favorite?

I like trying new things and breaking my own story telling formulas. That's at the same time what I believe makes me improve as a writer and is often responsible for slowing me down. Broadcast 6: Fragments is a perfect example of that. I've never written a more challenging volume.

As a result of my need to offer something different with each broadcast, each Spinward Fringe book has been at least a little different. Here's a quick overview:

Broacasts 1 and 2:
Resurrection and Awakening were written in a fairly straight forward episodic style. We followed characters that were either in drastic flux or watching everything change around them while they embarked on a quest to simply come together.

Broadcast 3:
Triton was written using a pattern that we often see in television, where there is a big picture story going on while another storyline begins and ends (for he most part) in that book. The smaller storyline determined the pace and length of Broadcast 3. A lot of people really enjoyed watching Stephanie Vega develop and grow while she dealt with her changing environment. I still get reader mail about her story in that book.

Broadcast 4:
Frontline was a darker, longer adventure book where a number of characters embark on an adventure in the beginning that determined the course of the book. To put it simply, they go somewhere, get into trouble and end up somewhere else by the end, completing that particular journey. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Their journey was complicated by numerous obstacles, and so was the writing of that volume. It turned out that it was the longest book in the series, over 200,000 words, and if I had to do it over again, there are few things I'd do differently. Then again, I can say that about most of my work.

Broadcast 5:
That brings us to the first part of the Rogue Element Trilogy: Broadcast 5, Fracture. When I planned that book I did so using a method common to Hollywood action film directors, with each scene and point of view leading directly to the next. It was a new kind of challenge and when I was finished I was certain that I'd written perhaps the best adventure novel in the Spinward Fringe series so far. There were loose ends, lost characters, and opportunities for exploration that were abandoned, but life is chock full of unanswered questions, short term associations and paths not taken. The cliffhanger ending was brutal, but that's typical of the old space adventure serials I was looking to for an example of pacing and style. The good news is that the next book in the series (working on that now), Fragments, is in a different but compatible style that allows for a more complete story.

Broadcast 0:

Let's not forget the daddy to all these books: The First Light Chronicles.
These days I consider the entire trilogy as one book now, even though they were written as three distinct episodes. Written from a very close to character first person perspective, we got to see what Jonas Valent saw and felt. It was the first time I'd written in that style, and it was a massive challenge. The journey I wanted to ultimately take everyone on was a personal one. The goal was to develop one character, Jonas Valent, and detail his journey from being a fairly self centered individual to him becoming a more well rounded person who could be selfless.
While I like to think I managed to pull that off and the style of those books was critical in accomplishing the goal, I found writing in first person confining. I couldn't break out and switch to another character in the middle of the book, I kept that to prologues and epilogues, the only places I could justify a point of view switch. (More than one reader has contacted me about that to tell me that 'you just don't do that, ever! Not even in a prologue!' Thankfully, their dissenting voices are drowned out by the kind readers who enjoyed the First Light Chronicles.) Would I do another first person perspective book? It's been over two years since I wrote the last one, so I might, but I'd do it a little differently.

I know for a fact that I haven't mastered any particular style of story telling, and even if I do someday become the master of a particular style, I'll be the last to admit it. There's always room to improve. Most of the plans for Broadcast 8 are still open, so it's an opportunity to revisit a style, but only if the majority would like to see it happen.

Now that I've recapped the basic style differences of each of the books, it's time to ask the question: Which style would you like me to write Broadcast 8 in? You've already selected the main characters, (Jacob Valance, Alice and Minh-Chu - in that order), now it's time to tell me how you want the story told.

Check out the poll to the right.


[Feel free to discuss your favorite Broadcast in the comments section, I'd love to hear your opinion!]

Monday, May 17, 2010

Result! Jacob and Alice Emerge As Favorites!

The turn out for this poll has been the highest so far, and the results are clear.

The fact that Jacob (Jake) Valance is the most popular character in the series tells me that featuring him as one of the main characters in every book has been the right decision. It also tells me that he'd be sorely missed if he weren't a point of view character in a future book.

Thankfully, his journey is far from over. Space Operas thrive on characters who have plenty of miles behind and ahead. While Jake often serves as a guide, telling us what we need to know about the places and situations we see in the books, he also has a lot to learn. I could write a whole series of blog posts discussing what Jacob Valance doesn't know about relating to people, his environment, and on and on, but then I'd be spoiling an awful lot.

The second favorite character is Alice. I was cheering for her, to be honest, so I'm happy to see her up there. She's a challenging character to write for, but she's driven a lot of the need to discuss the difference between artificial intelligences and biological characters. It all started with one line where I stated that there is a difference between emotions in software and in biological beings. Alice has been a great vehicle for showing everyone what that difference is, being a character who has experienced both sides. She's still an interesting character for me, and I'm glad 26% of you prefer her.

In a distant third place is Minh-Chu Buu. What can I say? He's one of my favorites, always has been. Is he a challenge to write? Hell yes! He was also the source of the first controversy in the series. I can't say more because there are many readers who haven't read the entire series yet. Of all the characters, he's the one I can talk about the least, because spoilers would come spewing out if I discussed him at length.

There are a few other interesting things about these results and the top three characters:

- Jacob Valance (yes, Jacob, not Jonas), Minh-Chu Buu, and Alice were the first characters I was sure would be in the First Light Chronicles. Ayan, who wasn't in the survey, was fourth or fifth.

- A cover for a future novel featuring a model cast as Alice was created over a year ago. The summary I wrote for that book is still good, and I'll be using most of it in a future broadcast.

- I didn't know what would happen to Alice until I wrote the end of First Light Chronicles Limbo. I originally had a plan to have her get stuck in Minh's comm unit for a book as extra comedy relief. The ending I wrote for Limbo made that idea pretty much impossible.

- The inspiration for Minh-Chu came from an elementary school friend of mine. The character almost wasn't included because I wasn't sure if I wanted ethnicity to divide people on Freeground. It turns out that ethnicity is becoming important as I broaden the scope of Spinward Fringe as a series.

- Alice almost didn't appear early on either, because I thought it might be a better idea for AI's to be outlawed. Jake would "adopt" her later. I put her back in because Jonas Valent needed someone familiar to talk to in the elevator on his way to Admiral Rice's office.

- In the original opening chapter of First Light Chronicles: Freeground, Jacob was in prison with Minh-Chu Buu for violating electronic security laws. The simulation that serves as the opening now was done in flashback.

- The rough draft of the Spinward Fringe two hour pilot starts with Jonas Valent who is in prison having a conversation with Alice that tells us what he's imprisoned for and why he values the freedom of his co-conspirators much more than his own. She's nested in a "Brain bud" (computer implant in his skull). Minh is brought in next and he tells Jonas that the entire Admiralty is discussing their case.

So, with all those non-spoiler examples of those three characters being in close proximity from the early days, I'm wondering if there isn't some kind of lesson I should be learning from the poll results. The lesson will come to me.

As promised, I'll write Broadcast 8 from the perspectives of Jacob Valance, Alice Valent and Minh-Chu Buu. It'll be my pleasure!

Broadcast 6 is two weeks from being handed in to my editor. I've been told that if Fragments isn't finished by the time she arrives back in Canada, I'll be in serious trouble. Thankfully, I don't need the extra motivation, but it doesn't hurt.

What will the next poll be? Tune in Tuesday to find out.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Futurama Rebirth

That's right future fans, in case you haven't heard the buzz already, Futurama will return to the small screen on June 24, 2010. What's even better is that it'll be on Comedy Central, so they can get as colorful and edgy as they like.

I've been quietly cheering for the return of this future toon ever since it went off the air. Then when Matt "Simsons" Groening found financing for a couple movies that were designed to be later cut apart into 20-22 minute segments and broadcast on whichever channel would take them, I was hopeful the cartoon would become a regular guilty pleasure.

The flames of hope were fanned even further when Comedy Central aired the sliced and diced versions of the movies (Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs, Bender's Game, Into the Wild Green Yonder, and Bender's Big Score). The devious plan worked, ratings jumped and I'm looking forward to seeing a new season.

More on the story here:


Next up on the blog? Survey results, what they mean, and what you'll be voting on next.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Space: The Imagination Station - True SciFi

For some time I've been tracking new topics on the SyFy (formerly well known as the American SciFi network), bulletin boards. One third to one half of the new topics board wide are from users condemning and complaining about the new line up. It's true, they've been straying for years, adding wrestling, reality television, terrible ghost hunting shows and most recently a cooking program to their lineup. It's depressing watching the channel that brought us hits like Farscape, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica go straight down the crapper. Their heyday is over. Their core audience feels shunned.

All that has little to do with what's happening on our very own Canadian Imagination Station: Space. I love this channel. Any day of the week you'll find wall to wall Star Trek with shows like Lost, Smallville, V, and Doctor Who (yes, the new one!), sprinkled in. As my writing takes me stoically striding away from regular Space Opera convention (the Spinward Fringe series is taking a decidedly un-Star Trek / Star Wars turn), being able to flip to the Space station while I'm house sitting is a warm comfort.

That's why, when I was receiving yet another new topic notification from the SyFy bulletin boards entitled "Sci-Fi fans should fight back" a thought occurred to me. I'm in Canada, where we still have a science fiction themed channel that's true to itself, why not praise it for doing things the right way instead of attack a channel that has clearly lost its way?

Space: The Imagination Station doesn't have much original programming, and what little it has is pretty low budget, but it's not bad. They have a show called Inner Space that reports on science fiction and pop culture and the reruns they have are absolutely appropriate. They're the reruns we love, ranging from Star Trek to canceled shows like Defying Gravity and Flash Gordon. Most fans think these shows were canceled before their prime, and Space isn't afraid to pick up the completed episodes of these orphaned series. I appreciate a lot of the reruns because I can't afford to buy boxed sets of Star Trek: Generations, Deep Space 9, Voyager or Enterprise. I'm not alone, many of us science fiction fans can't afford to buy these huge collections.

Missing are the awful SyFy movies, made on a pauper's budget with screenplays that leave viewers choking on bad dialog and cliche. This week on the Space channel they're featuring Final Draft (B Grade starring James Van Der Beek), Hitcher (the A Grade Horror remake), The Mist (B Grade starring Marcia Gay Harden), The Fog (B-ish grade remake starring Tom Welling, Selma Blair), The Last Sect (B Grade vampire film starring David Carradine). They may not be top shelf, but every single one of those films beats the most recent SyFy films: Mega Piranha and Monster Ark. To me, it's better to pick from the B Movie shelf than to continually try to make a low budget scifi/horror film and fail every single time, at least in SyFy's case. I'm aware that many great directors started with B grade low budget film, but there's no spark in the SyFy drivel. I've never seen a quality film made exclusively by SyFy. Over the last year those films have been a continual source of complaints on the SyFy bulletin boards.

There are shows like Stargate: Universe, Caprica, Eureka, Sanctuary and Warehouse 13 that live on SyFy, but those few bright spots don't redeem the station. I hope the lower budget shows in that list have other buyers lined up, because I doubt the all new SyFy network will continue to carry them with the way they're going. The funny thing is that all those shows are filmed in Vancouver.

So, looking away from the tragic example the American SyFy network is setting and back to our own lower budget but higher quality Imagination Station, I'm compelled to say thank you. Thank you for being the home of beloved reruns, fantastic B and low A grade films, original programming that may be short in size and budget but big on ambition, and for staying true to your own name.

May you forever be absent of terrible reality television, wrestling and cooking shows.


If I were offered a television deal from the SyFy station at a one million dollar budget per episode, and another deal from the Space Station at three hundred thousand an episode, I'd take the deal from the Space Station. It's better to be amongst respected reruns, instead of crammed into the embarrassingly bad SyFy schedule.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Votes Keep Coming In...

It's pretty nice to hear that the majority of your readers prefer your main character. So far Jake (Jacob Valance), is the clear leader with over 40% of the votes. Lucious Wheeler, the most mentioned villain in the series, judging from what I read in emails, is the least favorite character.

Alice is in second with 21% of the votes, which is slightly surprising.

A few people have been asking why Ayan, Frost and Stephanie aren't listed in the favorite character poll. The answer is simple, really. Stephanie was a central character in Spinward Fringe Broadcast 3: Triton, and Ayan is at the center of the whole Rogue Element Trilogy (Broadcasts 5, 6 and 7). As for Frost, well, I thought about including him in the list, but I honestly don't think the world is ready for a book about Shamus Frost. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

So, what's going on with Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments? I'm drafting towards the end quickly, my editor can't wait to dig in, and I'm hoping to be at the end of this draft by the middle of next week. Editing and proofing will most likely take a month or longer, depending on notes from my editor.

I think it's turning out well, and things are looking good for Broadcast 7, even though whole chunks of that book have found their way into Broadcast 6. I'm really enjoying this final draft, and I can't wait to make it available. We're all working at a good pace to make that happen in June.

Until then, I hope the votes keep coming in, and there's another poll ready for when this one ends.


[EDIT: My deadline for my first edit of this book has been pushed up to May 28. That means I have to have it in my editor's hands on that day. More info on that in a post this weekend.]