Friday, April 29, 2011

The Future Of Spinward Fringe Part I

There are some stories, some characters that writers spend time with and they find their lives changed. It's true to some extent that every character is a side of the writer who pens them, but it's also true that we borrow traits from people around us.

The characters of the Spinward Fringe series are a combination of both - ideas and borrowed traits. After a conversation with a writer who is much better than I who said simply, "I hope you never try to outrun Spinward Fringe. It'll be with you forever."

I ended up thinking about that all day. I went to that author with advice, and, like many great thinkers, he not only answered my questions but left me with a bone to gnaw on (thought-wise). After a full day of working on the Expendable Few, setting up a schedule for updating Broadcasts 1-6, and doing research reading, I'm comfortable with the notion that I'll never outrun Spinward Fringe. I love the characters, and I think they've grown from those patched together figures in my head into personalities that I carry around constantly.

At the same time, it's not like it's a huge entity or something I consider a burden. Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments has only sold about 10,000 copies in the US and Canada. While I find that a staggering number, I'm still no more than a pebble on the vast beach that is science fiction. I love where I am right now. Many readers have become long range acquaintances and friends. I make a decent living, and I know that when I release the next two or three books there will be people interested in reading them. As a reader recently told me; "I'm living the dream."

It's a lot of work, don't get me wrong, but I'm doing what I want to be doing - no complaints, only thanks. That leads me back to my point. I don't want to outrun Spinward Fringe, I'm glad it's here, and writing Broadcast 7 is hard because I don't want to end this part of the series. I'm writing Broadcast 7 as if there will never be another Spinward Fringe book. That's difficult.

I know I'll begin new challenges in Broadcast 8, so it's not at all impossible. Endings are important in fiction - they give us an opportunity for closure that real life doesn't always provide. At the same time, I can't wait to write Broadcast 8. Why, then, am I taking a break to write a horror novel?* Dark Arts is a concept I've been developing for a while, and I need to clear my head before seriously starting a new book in the Spinward Fringe series. I have a few things written for Broadcast 8 already, but the smart thing to do is to put it down for a little while so I can get back to it fresh, eager to return to that universe.

So, what can I promise for the future of Spinward Fringe? More Polish! Two more books in the next couple months (if my editors and beta-readers sign off on them)! More books after that! I'm also doing work in the background so side projects like the store go more smoothly. Balancing what I have on my plate right now has become challenging, so I'm doing something about that. More about that coming this week.

Looking to the very near future, the first chapters of Spinward Fringe: Expendable Few,  go to test readers Monday. Things are moving right along.

As for reader mail and other correspondences, I'll eventually answer everyone, just give me time.

In short, the future of Spinward Fringe looks pretty good. I'd much rather ride along than try to outrun it.


*More info on that other book here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Horror Adventure Novel

Before I dig in to my Easter blog post, I'll give everyone the update on the Spinward Fringe books. Both of the books I"m working on right now - Spinward Fringe: Expendable Few (the novella), and Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework - are finally going smashingly well. I wrote a ton of material for Broadcast 7, including two previous drafts. A lot of it was tossed out so I could deliver a denser, tighter book plot wise. I'm near the end.

The novella, Expendable Few, is almost finished. It's really helping me develop the ending of Broadcast 7 while delivering a type of story that is vastly different from the existing Spinward Fringe series. Test readers will see chapters by the end of the month.

Now, on to the topic I planned to bring up here. The Horror Adventure Novel. That's what the Dark Arts novel will be. I've written three and a half Spinward Fringe books in a row, without a break, so Dark Arts will be a very good palette cleanser between Broadcast 7 and Broadcast 8. The reasons why the Dark Arts novel is being written are few:

1) Horror Adventure novels seem sort of rare. I remember the choose your own adventure books from my youth, and there's H.P. Lovecraft. I'm sure there are others, but in a market awash with Young Adult, soft horror, I don't see much. Oh, and before someone asks: no, Dark Arts will not be a 'Choose Your Own Adventure'

2) I love the idea behind Dark Arts, and there are some compelling characters living in my head that don't want to exist in any other world.

3) The Dark Arts experimental short has its own dedicated fans. I have received emails form people who actually accused me of having the finished novelized version, or extra chapters. They made it perfectly clear that I MUST release them, or something might happen to my house pets, I might even get something nasty in the mail. Thankfully, I don't have any house pets at the moment. Sadly, I don't have a completed novel or finished extra chapters to release to the public either.

4) Even though the experiment was completely unedited, the major complaint about the short was that it was.... too short. That tells me that there was some content in there that was worthwhile to someone other than myself.

So, it's time to approach this book seriously, and write a one shot horror adventure novel. By the time I'm done, I'll be able to approach Broadcast 8 with a clear head.

I know I'll enjoy writing the Dark Arts novel. Writing the experimental short was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to finishing Broadcast 7, then taking a break in a different world.


[If you want to see the Dark Arts experiment page, click this link.]

[You can also grab the newly formatted ePub version here. Right click & choose save.]

The Kindle Version is coming, just waiting for word back from Scrivener support.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Predicting the Future, Social Media Megalomania, and Being Nosy

Recently a reader asked me why I included Crewcast in the latest books. He didn't like the fact that there was any kind of social media reference in Spinward Fringe. it's not traditional, I'll admit, but I think it's essential. As I was writing my response, I realized it would make a better blog post, so here it is.

First, let's take a quick look at Crew Cast. It's a fictional information management system that is used by Spinward Fringe characters to find each other, see what people are doing professionally and personally, organize medical information, schedule gatherings, duty shifts, communicate, and much more. I'm sure you get the gist. It's the everything of social media, supervision software, and entertainment.

I included Crew Cast because it didn't make sense that they wouldn't have that sort of thing all figured out in the distant future. it also made more sense than the original concept in the First Light Trilogy - that our personal and professional lives would be managed by an artificial intelligence. That would be like having the voice of your mother, or little sister with you 24/7, telling you where to be and when. I love my mother, don't get me wrong, but she doesn't have to tell me when to brush my teeth or when to see my doctor anymore. An artificial intelligence nagging you on a fairly constant basis would drive me to drink. A lot.

While thinking about how we would be connected to each other in the future, I was obviously led to ponder how we're connected now. I very quickly came to a few realizations.

I'm convinced that the reason why I don't have a flying car, a Swiss Army knife with a fold out lightsaber, or the option to buy a condo on the moon is at least partially due to the fact that we're too busy looking at each other. I'm not talking about hanging out with your friends or loved ones in person. I'm talking about those disappearing minutes and hours when we open our email, check Facebook, LinkedIn, or are busy Tweeting, , or tweaking the knobs on our HAM radios. Okay, maybe not checking our LinkedIn accounts, no one really does that, do they?

The moment I start looking at social media my productivity begins swirling down the drain. I've seen it happen in to so many people now that I believe writers, hell, content creators and developers of all kinds, shouldn't turn their routers on until 4pm. These days, I try to avoid my browser completely until I have two thousand words down.

Since my brain is at least one quarter megalomaniacal villain, I immediately realized that it was all about the illusion of control. I love socializing on Facebook sometimes, even Twitter can be fun. I have some readers who message me sparingly these days because they're afraid that they'll slow my productivity and further delay the release of my next book. I hate to admit it, but they're at least a little right, but they're not part of the problem. Not even a little.

The problem is simple, sort of. I think I'm subconsciously trying to be as close to omniscient as possible. I don't think I'm the only one, either. I want to know what's going on with my fellow Tweeters, what's scrolling on Facebook walls, and who most recently stepped in to say hello on the Goodreads Forum. It doesn't stop there, but those are the biggies. Like a nosey suburbanite, I'm peeking over your fences, looking in your yards because I just can't help myself.

Ever since I had the notion that social media was a blue and white productivity vampire, writing and creativity have been going a little better. Day by day I'm creeping up on the average word count I had going three years ago, when I was putting a book out every four months.

So, back to the question that started all this. Why is Crewcast in the series? The answer can be summed up very simply. I predict social media will be with us for as long as we can produce the devices that facilitate its function. That's hundreds, maybe thousands of years into the future - I hope. I'm not going to say that social media is completely bad, either. Like most fixtures of the digital age, we are still learning about it. So far I think it's becoming obvious that there's a time and a place for its use.

As a side note, if James R Berry knew we'd have social media when he was writing about life 40 years in his future, I think he would have taken things down a notch. He got some of it right though, we love our gadgets.


Monkey photo credited to: Leo-Avalon

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Return to Freeground In The Expendable Few Novella

The story in Broadcast 7 outgrowing the confines of one book has become a calling to tell a story that was left out of the Spinward Fringe series. Normally, when I cut a story out of a book it's because the book is already dense enough, or that story wasn't good enough to run as a sub-plot.

When I cut this recent story out of Broadcast 7: Framework, I did so knowing that I would still have to tell it. I still had to develop that plot line. More importantly, I had to tell it before the current Spinward Fringe series came to an end.

That plot line has become the upcoming free novella called The Expendable Few. If there was to be a fourth book in the old First Light Chronicles Series, this would be it. For all the readers wondering whatever happened to Freeground, here are your answers. As a further nod to the three novellas that started it all, Freeground, Limbo and Starfree Port, the new novella - Expendable Few - will be free.

There is a testing group already mostly in place, the novella is half finished, and if I've done everything well enough, someone could read this book without reading the rest of the Spinward Fringe series. It's far more interesting if you read it as part of the series, particularly as Broadcast 6.5, however. I'm offering it for free, AND it will be included with Broadcast 7 when it is released.

Here's a brief synopsis for The Expendable Few:

Freeground has changed since the return of the First Light. Instead of re-integrating with the rest of humanity, the Freeground Nation has become more xenophobic and Isolated. The Puritan Party has assumed control. Censorship, social engineering, and xenophobia are even more common, and thousands of citizens who have the means and opportunity to leave are doing so. The dream of living in a secure and free culture hasn't died entirely, however.

A few Freeground Citizens opposed to the Puritan Party put plans into motion that will either bring liberty back to the Freeground Nation or send the entire culture into a downward spiral. This tale is told from the perspective of a politically contrary Fleet Commander, Clark Patterson, who is obsessed with the adventures, intrigues and antics of the First Light crew. He knows everything one can about their short service aboard, and has every piece of contraband footage of them after they departed. He's even investigated the terrorist, Jacob Valance, whose very name is a curse according to the Puritan Party. His life, his world and those he holds most dear are shaken when he has a direct run in with a West Keeper - a spy working for a galactic cult called the Order of Eden that is bent on controlling industry and the natural wonders with their reach and beyond.

--- Synopsis Ends ---

The real thrill for me in writing the first half of the novella was writing Freeground as it was originally conceived. I honestly didn't have the patience to demonstrate the xenophobia and censorship that surrounded the Freeground culture before. I was too excited about telling the Jonas story, and I don't regret it. I don't regret it because in The Expendable Few the problems of censorship, control and xenophobia drive the story in the first half of this novella. A return to first person perspective after a million words or more of writing is also very interesting to me.

How far away is the release of The Expendable Few? We're talking weeks if the test group enjoys it. Only two members of the test group have read the Spinward Fringe series, the rest are new to it, so it's getting a trail by fire.

Work on Broadcast 7 continues, and that book will only be delayed for a couple of weeks because of The Expendable Few. I believe this is a necessary book to developing the final act in Broadcast 7, however. I'd much rather write the Expendable Few in its entirety rather than write it up as twenty pages of developmental notes and shut them away after Broadcast 7 is finished.

I hope you agree.


[If you have no idea what I'm talking about in this post, then you should go download a copy of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins. It's free, and the download links are on the right hand side of this page.]

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spinward Fringe Update: Broadcast 7 + 1

The news is good. Work continues on Broadcast 7 - I'm into act 3 and enjoying it. Something came up along the way, however.

If I were under contract to write these books I'd be working closely with an editor to make big changes to the manuscript to accommodate a broader part of the story or to cut a huge part of the book out in a quest for simplification. Thankfully, I'm not under contract.

I found a story in this book that is too large to add to Broadcast 7, and it doesn't line up with the timeline well. There was an opportunity to make huge changes to accommodate it, but it could be so much more than just a few flashbacks, or a sudden plot line that seems jarring because of its manner of appearance.

So, I'm working even harder, finishing Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework and working on this new novella as well. Here are the details I can share so far:

The novella takes place during Broadcast 6 and Broadcast 7. It is about the recapture of the Sunspire (formerly known as the First Light), and other events closely tied to that action. There's a focus on Freeground and what the regular characters in the Spinward Fringe series left behind. A new group of characters are introduced but you will find a familiar face or two. I consider this book an opportunity I decided NOT to waste - it is a bit of important connective tissue that draws many parts of the series together while telling a story of its own with new characters.

Here's the best part - I'm half way finished the novella already. It'll be available for free here. It'll also be included with Broadcast 7 when it's released. [Edit / Correction: Since this post was written the novella has grown into a full blown novel, and will only be available seperately.]

This is going to be a good summer / fall for Spinward Fringe, and I'm enjoying the work more than ever.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Publishing House Picks Up Fate Cycle Series

It's as if Amanda Hocking paved a great big in-road for indie authors when she signed her book deal in March. This morning I was woken up by an editor who had read my Fate Cycle series (currently out of print), and was wondering if they could buy the rights.

I thought it was a joke, since I've all but abandoned that series, but he kept asking about the manuscript for the final book in the series and, looking at the leather case containing the rough draft, I said; "yes, but I wrote it six years ago. It'll take some work."

He didn't care.

He asked if I would be willing to work with someone to polish it up and I told him the editor could cut it into ribbons and make a fancy hat with it after they owned the rights. I really didn't care.

So, it looks like the rest of the year will be devoted to necessitating this old fantasy yarn so it can be on your shelves by next Christmas. I'll spill details about advances and such when I've signed on the dotted line.


[The artwork above is from the ever-talented Marcus Froment]

*** For everyone who has difficulty reading the comments section because of the device you're using: This was an April Fool's joke. I didn't actually think I'd get anyone with it, buuuuut as it turns out there are at least a few dozen readers who think this is true! Rest assured, I'm not being seduced by an over-zealous publisher and work continues on Broadcast 7.***