Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The T-Shirt Issue

The most recent attempt at opening an online merchandise store turned into a moderate waste of time. I did get a pretty high quality T-Shirt from Zazzle, as did a couple others, but we all paid twice to three times as much as we should have.

That's not outside the norm. After looking at third party providers I've discovered massive legal problems with some (Cafepress), and huge cost issues with others. This costly cloud has a silver lining, however.

Years ago I was involved in the local print and production industry and after contacting a few stale contacts I found a better way to do this. Long story short, I was able to find a way to produce the Triton T-Shirt for $20.00 including shipping to anywhere in North America.

So, the Triton Crew shirt will make another appearance along with a couple others. They'll be professionally screen printed, pre-shrunk, locally inspected and I'll have my own online store thanks to Paypal. In the next couple months the Spacer Wares shop will be open. If there's something you want that isn't there (and I mean absolutely anything), just tell me about it and I'll probably be able to have it made.

Why open a store or offer merchandise at all? The demand for T-Shirts is actually growing, in fact I already have an order from a squad from the US Army. I personally like the shirts, I think they look pretty good and I have some interesting ideas. It's a great way to spread the word, and that's why I'm not doing this for the money. In fact, Zazzle's minimum royalty was too high for my liking, which is another reason why I'm shutting down my store there.

After shipping I'll make an average of $1.00 per shirt or other item and I don't care to earn more on that end of things, simply because it's not what I do for a living. As I've said before, no one needs this stuff, but it's very cool to have it around just in case you want it, especially since this series will be around a long time and it's looking more and more likely that it'll spread to other entertainment mediums. It will be nice if some of the early adopters have the first T-Shirts to show that they were there first, they had a hand in supporting me and my little science fiction series before everyone else discovered it.

To the couple people who bought the Zazzle shirts (and I know who you are), you'll be getting a private message from me with a request for your address so I can send you something special before Christmas.

One thing I've discovered through this whole process is that the more hands on I get with the store, the less it costs everyone, and the better things turn out. I'm just glad it isn't taking much time day to day, or I would have had to scrap the entire idea. Anything that gets in the way of writing isn't worth the time, in my opinion.

I'll announce the grand opening of the Spacer Wares store as soon as it's ready. You'll find more than T-Shirts when it's up and running.

None of the eBook or printed edition listings will be affected by this stuff.

Now, back to work on Broadcast 7!


[Other than T-Shirts, what would you like to see in the Spacer Wares store? Signed books, loaded USB drives, posters, a Command and Control Unit?]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: The End Of Season 1

The questions I'm getting about Broadcast 7 are interesting to say the least. Most commonly asked is the question; "When will it be available?" Even my editor is itching to lay hands on the first third of the book. I don't mind. People are asking because I've begun to accomplish part of my mission in life: to entertain.

I write for my enjoyment first. I also love entertaining people, and I've had the opportunity to do so as a metal drummer, black jack / poker dealer, the lead story teller for a vampire live action role playing game, and I even did a stint on the mic during poetry nights for about a year. All those experiences pale in comparison to the opportunity I've had thanks to the Spinward Fringe series. Yes, it pays the bills, but there are several other occupations I could engage in that would make me a lot more, so I really don't do it for the money. Very few writers do.

So, after a run of books starting with Broadcast 0: Origins (known to many of you as the First Light Chronicles Trilogy), and extending to Broadcast 6: Fragments, I'm writing the season finale. For some readers this will be the last Spinward Fringe book they read, because you're looking for an ending and you'll find one. For others, it'll be an exciting way to deliver answers and to wrap up some old plot lines before Broadcast 8 begins a new era in the Spinward Fringe series. An era with more self contained books and trilogies.

Now that I've glanced at the elephant in the room, I'd like to talk about what Broadcast 7 means in terms of how it's being written.

I really do write this series like an on going television series, and some of the most legendary television I've seen has come in the form of finales and premieres. One of the most important differences between a novel and an episode of television is that you can expand a lot more in a book, and as I work my way deeper into the mysteries that stand between me and the writing of a good conclusion I realize that there is so much story in this finale that I find myself economizing as though I were editing a forty two minute episode of television. Even though few people would mind a massive Spinward Fringe novel, I still want this story to run lean so it is as intriguing and as exciting as possible. Besides, even without a number of ideas that could have gone into this book, it'll still be at least as long as Broadcast 6.

Pulling the trigger is critical to any season finale. In a good series there are events that the audience waits for all year, and in that last episode someone has to deliver. That's where all those pent up, unspoken answers and ideas come in. Questions are abound, and the answers are coming. What they are, and how each of those secrets are unearthed are incredibly important.

Along side the answers will come changes that some readers have been hoping for since The First Light Chronicles: Starfree Port, which will set the tone for part or all of Broadcast 8. These changes will also add a great deal of excitement and drama to Broadcast 7 while delivering on something several readers have been waiting for.

Reaching for extra depth and drama can offset a finale, often in a bad way unless it's used as the foundation for the plot. In Broadcast 7 that depth is important, since our beloved characters need to have something to fight for. The more despised personalities need extra drama to motivate them in the right direction, and thanks to the foundation set in the books preceding Broadcast 7, I don't have to dig too deep for drama or depth. It's as though a pot has been set to simmer and I'm just turning it up to a nice dangerous boil.

There are other aspects of a season finale that heavily influence Broadcast 7, but I'm sure I've gone on enough about how I think the extended ending of a plot tree should conclude. That, and if I went into some of those other, finer points, I'd be giving a few things away. I hate spoilers, so that's not going to happen.

My point with this post is that I've been seeing the story more visually than ever, to the point where I wrote an entire chapter so visually I had to return to the beginning of that scene and novelize it. I had to adapt it as though I were reading an act in a teleplay, the damn thing even had a good soundtrack. That brings me to the other spectre that has been haunting emails recently.

The television series. None is planned yet.

So I'm going to start planning. I've already taken the first step, in fact. I've hired a professional editor to work on Broadcast 0: Origins. His job is to help me polish the existing text with line editing so it's more presentable to future readers and so it will be taken more seriously. The rest of the Spinward Fringe series will follow, budget willing. Future books are going to be subjected to even more proof reading before release, to everyone's benefit.

Other steps are being taken to get Spinward Fringe to move into another medium, but I can't talk about them yet. You'll hear about them soon. It's slow, and there are a lot of things to consider but I'll keep you in the loop as much as I can.

That brings me back to Broadcast 7. If a network or production company were interested in doing work on a Spinward Fringe project, there would be a massive benefit to having many of the answers that will come in that book. Imagine how much better certain series would be if the show runners knew exactly where they were going with the story? That's part of Broadcast 7's importance.

Where would I prefer Spinward Fringe be shown? To be honest, I'd love it if Spinward Fringe were the first science fiction web series to have over five million bi-weekly viewers. Yes, if I had my way I'd have a new episode ready for the web every two weeks for forty weeks out of the year. Why go straight to the Internet? The SyFy channel has become polluted with wrestling, ghost hunting and even a cooking show, and I doubt the Space channel (Canadian version of SyFy), could afford to finance a Spinward Fringe television series. They could always pick up the episodes after they premiere online.

This is the twenty first century. We should have the option of either watching 6-12 commercials per episode or paying $0.99 to watch them commercial free. Episodes of Spinward Fringe should be streamable or downloadable in 3D or at least 1080p at our convenience and every single one of them should have a commentary available as a podcast as well as an online, live after show four hours after the episode becomes available that invites the viewers to discuss the series. I'd like people from production and members of the cast to be a part of it.

Our entertainment should be engaging, and greater minds than mine should have more direct control of their content. They should also be able to cut out the middle men - cable companies and networks - whenever it suits them. Felicia Day has the right idea with The Guild.

Sadly, the Spinward Fringe series is still no where near being a reality. All we have are these books, and all those books have behind them are you, dear reader. That's nothing to scoff at however, since there are more of you every day, and that's mighty impressive.

Now that I've already said too much, it's time to get back to work on Broadcast 7. Then I can start work on my other favourite television staple: the season premiere, in the form of Broadcast 8.


[Pipe dream? Please discuss!]

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments - Now @ Barnes & Noble

At long last, this book is available at Barnes and Noble. Keep in mind that you can get the exact same file at Smashwords.com since they're the distributor. Also keep in mind that if and when there are updates performed on this book (a couple minor grammar / continuity updates are planned for the end of the month), B&N will update 3-4 months after they're done at Smashwords. Sadly, distribution still moves at a snail's pace even with eBooks. I know many readers like to stick with one retailer, however, so I'm glad you'll be able to pick it up at B&N.

So far people have really enjoyed this book for the most part, except for one reader who didn't understand that heroes can't always get the upper hand. Many of the problems the characters face are more realistic in this Broadcast, ranging from bureaucracy issues to crew members that can't conveniently be ejected from the roster because of timing and surroundings. We also get to see how different characters handle situations in the absence of Jacob Valance's influence, which made things very interesting for me as a writer.

This book has only been available for a few hours, they haven't even added the cover image yet. To say that I've been watching and waiting would be an understatement...

I hope you all enjoy this book, and take a spare moment to write a few words about at B&N or wherever you pick it up.

Here's the B&N link.


[Thank you for your patience, for reading and for supporting me!]

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Asking For Reviews: Yea Or Nay?

Recently another author (who shall remain nameless), and I had a discussion about reviews. Within days of release on Amazon.com his books have over thirty reviews and he couldn't help but notice that my titles generally have three or less.

After really getting into the IM conversation, we determined that we sell around the same number of books in the Science Fiction category, most of our covers are roughly the same quality and we both make ourselves available to our readers through Facebook and Email. I get a lot more Email than he does, while his Facebook page has about three times as many people subscribed.

The real difference with regards to reviews is that he asks people to review his work. He doesn't warn against spoilers, he just watches for them and has Amazon remove them when they pop up.

My position in our little discussion was that it's not the author's right to ask that his / her readers review their work. For some reason I was under the impression that a writer requesting something from his readers after they had purchased his book was a little vulgar. My contemporary thought that notion was ridiculous, that there was nothing wrong with asking for his reader's attention, then he dared me to ask for reviews.

That brings me to this point, where I ask you, dear reader to review my work on Amazon.com. I have to add the proviso that, if you are generous with your time in writing a short review, try to stay away from spoilers and be honest about your experience with your favourite book in the series.

So, there it is. I've made good on the dare, and I ask that you be gentle, be honest and I think you for volunteering your time. Here's a link to the list of books on Amazon.com: Link


[What do you think about a writer asking for his readers to review his work? Vulgar or just part of the new, necessary, self publicity culture - as my contemporary put it.]

[The image in this post is by Liviu, check out his work - there's some interesting stuff there!]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Watching Part Threes: Skipping To The End

This weekend is probably the last quiet summer house sitting weekend of the summer. House sitting all summer has been like a long writer's retreat. I get to be alone with my thoughts, hammer out plot points out loud and Mystery Theatre 3000 my way through films both good and bad.

Writing has been the focus of my time here, and I've gotten a lot done. Some of Broadcast 7 has already been scrapped, but that happens when you're writing off the map. There's always waste in experimentation. Most of what I've written is being kept, so it's going well. My white board tells me that I have one chapter to draft this weekend, so I'll be finishing that and then having a "Part Three Marathon" where I watch the final parts of trilogies.

On the list so far I have Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (I liked part 4, but I see it as a glorious addendum, and the word quadrilogy isn't in my vocabulary), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Matrix Revolutions, Return of the Jedi, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and maybe something else if there's time. Why these films? Well, they're on hand, I saw each of them in the theatre, and they're different kinds of adventure films that sum up their stories pretty well.

When I was in the middle of Broadcast 6 I did the same thing, only with middle movies, or part twos of trilogies, and a funny thing happened. I realized that nothing I saw reminded me of what I was writing, but it gave my brain a nice long break. That break led to the Wheeler appearance, and for those of you who have read Broadcast 6, you know how important that was. Sadly, watching middle movies didn't accomplish what I was hoping for: a kind of calibration or certainty in how I wanted to handle the ending. My editor had to step in and work with me on that, and things worked out fairly well as far as I'm concerned.

I'd like to say that I'm looking for some kind of calibration while watching the endings of all these trilogies, but that's just not the case. While writing Broadcast 7 I have such a distinct feeling of being way off the map, creating something I've never seen anywhere else on a big scale. I'm thinking that watching these films will most likely just be a brain break, and I'll probably be pretty fresh on Tuesday. The chapter my white board says I'll be writing then could be pretty entertaining, and I'm looking forward to digging in!

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and takes some time to relax!


[Anyone care to name their favourite trilogy?]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spacerwares Is Open - Merchandise From The Spinward Fringe Series

You've probably seen the store listing at the bottom of the blog with outrageously expensive merchandise. It all started when I whacked my favourite coffee mug across the room while turning around and it exploded into a bazillion pieces. 

I had an idea: Use a few graphics to make a custom one. While I was doing that I decided to make a poster out of the cover of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments, since the artwork looked really good on the print edition. Before long I had two products on my brand new Zazzle page.

Why Zazzle? Their prices were competitive and they didn't charge me a fee to have a larger store like some other services. Sadly, all the prices are still way above what I'd expect anyone to pay, but I don't have the funding to order bulk T-Shirts or the shelf space to have 24 coffee mugs fired. I still couldn't resist ordering a coffee mug for myself, and I drink out of it very carefully.

A while ago someone mentioned T-Shirts on the Facebook page and I went shopping for solutions. Again, Zazzle is expensive, but the quality is there, and most other providers charge more or less within a dollar or two. Some day I'll be able to either find a provider who offers things at a decent price or I'll have the cash to order in bulk so you can get these things at a more reasonable price, but for now, the T-Shirts, a mug and a poster are available.

If anyone knows of a better provider (not Cafepress!), feel free to suggest them. Until then, my Samson Crew T-Shirt is on the way and I'm carefully drinking out of my Spinward Fringe Rogue Element Trilogy mug. When I finish writing this book I'll probably go find a few quotes and put them on something, I'm sure Minh has said something Merch-worthy.

In conclusion: There are several shirts and a hoodie in the store. If I didn't match your heart's desire, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments!


[If you're not eager enough to order stuff for these high prices, just wait until November. I'll be putting in a bulk order with a real print company and the T-Shirts will be about half the price from me directly. My target price will be about $20.00 in the US or CAN with shipping.]