Friday, March 23, 2012

The Smashwords Interview

David Weir interviewed me for Smashwords recently. I think it turned out well, and the timing couldn't have been better with The Expendable Few doing well with several EBook retailers.

I discuss some of the struggles I've had as a writer and how I came to write Space Opera.

You can find the article HERE.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Road To Broadcast 7

After an extended detour through the Expendable Few, I'm getting back to doing what I have to do in order to finish writing Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework.

The Expendable Few was all about telling a story that simply wouldn't fit in Broadcast 7. To be honest, I didn't have to write it at all. There were a pile of notes that would have served as a fine reference while I wrote Broadcast 7. I wasn't happy with that though, so I used the opportunity to show everyone what the repercussions of the First Light crew exposing Freeground to the galaxy were, and to travel to an issyrian world. There were other things I really wanted to do in Expendable Few - Clark Patterson's journey being a big part of that - but I won't discuss them because I like to avoid spoilers when possible.

After completing the Expendable Few I realized I needed to re-read Broadcasts 5 and 6 to get back into the right frame of mind for Broadcast 7. Instead of simply re-reading Broadcast 5, I thought I would take the opportunity to edit it. This book was released too quickly, and there were errors in the eBook conversion process, so it is in serious need of a revisit. I'm editing it the way I edit everything else; line by line, using UK spelling. It's worth noting that a lot of people have commented that there are a lot of spelling mistakes in my books - most of those complainers are mistaking UK spelling for errors. I'm in Canada, and the UK was the first region that fell in love with my books, so Spinward Fringe will always be edited (and spelled), by the Oxford standard, not by Chicago guide rules (the American way). I edit to my best ability within a reasonable time frame with the assistance of two fantastic editors. A couple errors do squeak through, but I draw the line between perfection and extra months added on to release dates and ultra-quick, sloppy publishing. My stuff comes out somewhere in the middle to higher quality range now, and the majority are happy with it.

The fresh edit of Broadcast 5 also takes care of a lot of over-writing, some awkward sentence work, and those pesky formatting bugs. I'm about sixty percent through it and I expect to be finished my pass next week. Is it worth a re-read? Yes. The story isn't changing, but every paragraph in the book is getting a tweak, so if you do re-read books, then it will be worth updating and re-reading Broadcast 5. My editor is already going through the book behind me, and our formatting partners at the 52 Novels  company will be performing the finishing. The update will be available for free to anyone who owns the book already, and will be easiest to obtain by Smashwords customers.

After I've finished my pass on Broadcast 5: Fracture, I only have to read Broadcast 6: Fragments since it just got a refresh late last year. My edit of Broadcast 7: Framework begins next. I have over one hundred ten thousand words written on that project right now, and they haven't been edited yet. After that edit is finished I'll be continuing the draft. My lowball estimate is that the book needs fifty thousand more words, but I suspect I'll be writing another hundred thousand words. That's the size of an average science fiction novel on its own, so it'll take a month or two.

So, if your quest is to find a release date in this bloated status update, there's good news. I can give you a guestimate with a little explanation. Here's how the timeline breaks down:

Finish editing Broadcast 5 - 1 week remaining. (Broadcast 5 updates will be out sometime in the following month).

Read and make extra notes on Broadcast 6 - 1 week.

Edit the existing portion of the Broadcast 7 Draft - 3 weeks. (My editor will start on that right behind me).

Extra writing on Broadcast 7 (can't talk about this yet) - 2 weeks.

Writing the second half of Broadcast 7 - 2 months.

Editing all of Broadcast 7's final draft - 2-3 weeks.

Formatting & testing - 2-3 weeks.

Total time estimated: 5 months, with a possible release date of August 14.
*** It is with only a little regret that I'm announcing that the release date above is not accurate. New material is being written for this project, and it is running long. Broadcast 7 will be released sometime in 2012. It will be out when it's finished, and polished to an appropriate standard. More updates will be available through the podcast: Complaints that appear in the comments section will be deleted. Suck it up, buttercup. ***

I have left myself a little breathing room, and an extra week to accommodate an upcoming move. I'm looking forward to having this book out in front of people, especially since I've been waiting for so long to tell this part of the story. The five month wait also doesn't mean that I'll be disappearing, or that fiction won't be appearing here and there.

Some extra information about Broadcast 7 and part of the developing press kit:

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework is the closing volume to the first section of the best selling Spinward Fringe Space Opera series. Weighing in at over one million words, the Spinward Fringe series has been read in twenty three countries around the world, and is gathering attention by agents and publishers who are interested in translating it into other languages. The Spinward Fringe series follows the tradition of Science Fiction Space Opera Adventure, featuring epic scale stories through the perspectives of characters ranging from charming to villainous.

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework takes place fourteen weeks after Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments, where Jake, Ayan, and the other characters were stranded and in great peril - again. From their position amidst the wreckage of a galaxy in decline they make every effort to take advantage of every opportunity and fit in with a culture that is trying to rebuild itself. The experiences and instincts of the Spinward Fringe crew members could just as easily pull them apart as draw them together.

Meanwhile, a new seat of power rises. The Order of Eden asserts its position in the galaxy of the conquerer of more civilized worlds than any ruling body in history. All the while, the prophets of the Order declare that a darkness approaches.

Long running plot lines come to a close, there will be losses on all sides, and a new side of the galaxy will be seen in Framework.


I'm happy spending more regular time blogging, popping up on Twitter (@randolphlalonde) and into the Facebook Page, so you'll be seeing me!

Now, back to work!



It's official! Spinward Fringe Broadcast 7: Framework has been released early thanks to the hard work of editors and the EBook formatter working on the project.

Here are the links so far!


Amazon (US):
Amazon (UK):
Amazon (FR):

There's much more info in the podcast:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Expendable Few Release Update

The Expendable Few has done well wherever it has appeared so far, and I thank you. It is taking some time to some retailers, however, so I ask that you be patient, or purchase the book on Smashwords.

Why Smashwords? They provide file formats for all readers, any book updates are available immediately for all readers for free, there is no DRM, and they specialize in EBooks, nothing else. They are the experts in the industry. They pay a little more, too - I can't lie.

Here are the links for all the retailers offering The Expendable Few right now:

The book is currently on its way to the iBookstore, Kobo, and Sony.

Thank you very much for your support throughout this launch, I'm doing everything I can to make sure you get access to this book the way you want to.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Carter: Science Fiction Adventure Lives?

When George Lucas made Star Wars: A New Hope, he was partially motivated by a void in the entertainment industry. Those high flying Science Fiction adventures from his childhood had failed to evolve into something that matched what was in his mind's eye. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and other icons from early movie making were long gone, or had suffered bad remakes.

Star Wars brought about a short-lived era during the late 70's and early 80's that featured a glut of Science Fiction adventure films that attempted to imitate the energy and spirit of George Lucas' vision. Everyone from Sean Connery to David Hasselhoff starred in films that studios hoped would capture the imaginations of audiences like Star Wars did. A few efforts did lead to some good entertainment (example: Battlestar Galactica), but that wasn't the norm.

When I saw previews for John Carter (of Mars), I was hoping that it would be successful, and infuse television and movie studios with the desire to start making more science fiction adventure movies. The critics and many loud-mouths of the Internet gleefully attacked the film based on the trailer alone, which is common these days, I realize. Normally that sort of thing doesn't hurt a film very much, people aren't stupid, most of us pan pre-emptive negativity.

The over-zealous critics and eager social media mavens of the Internet did do some damage in this case, however. John Carter suffered from ineffective advertising, and it's been released in the action movie dead season, too far before the summer blockbuster window. The guerrilla marketing was mismanaged as well. You can find it if you look for it, but that's not the point of guerrilla marketing, it should be everywhere, and people should be talking about it in a positive sense before the movie arrives. People should be excited, even if they're not entirely sure why yet. That didn't happen. The razzle dazzle fizzled in grand fashion, especially after one or more name changes.

I've seen the film, and I can tell you that it's a great adventure movie. The special effects are spectacular, the story is solid, and there are some interesting twists. The book will be better for some, but if you're looking to have a fun, adventure filled night out at the movies, it's a great flick. I really did feel like I was watching an old 1936 episode of Flash Gordon with new special effects, a more sophisticated story and slightly better acting. The high-flying-adventure feeling was there for long stretches.

I forgot it was in 3D by the end, but that's my average experience with 3D films. It's a good adventure romp with or without it.

It seems that, between Disney's poor advertising effort and misrepresenting this film, perhaps event trying to sell it to the wrong audience, John Carter (of Mars) won't even earn it's budget back. $250,000,000.00 is a lot to gamble on anything. I suppose John Carter may earn its cost back after Blu-Ray and PPV release, but studios don't consider that a success. A loss like that will most likely discourage other film makers and studios from investing in Science Fiction Adventure films.

That's the opposite of the effect Star Wars had in 1977, and there was a time when I would say the glut of SciFi B-Movies was a bad thing, but these days I find myself in the opposite camp. Special effects and movie making isn't as expensive as it once was. Serenity (Joss Whedon, based on the Firefly television series), cost $35,000,000.00 and, while it didn't have as many special effect shots as John Carter, it certainly was enjoyable. I would put it above John Carter or Avatar any day in terms of how much I enjoyed the movie.

In fact, I would rather see seven $35,000,000.00 Science Fiction Adventure movies in the place of one $250,000,000.00 any time. Some may say that the comparison between films like Serenity and Avatar is unfair, but I believe the days of depending on special effects selling a movie instead of story craft and great filmmaking are coming to a close.

Perhaps the failure of John Carter will lead studios to the same conclusion, and we'll see better writing combined with an appropriate budget for special effects. Someone get Joss Whedon on the phone, I hear he's finished making that Avenger movie.


[What did you think of John Carter?]

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Farewell Mobipocket

In my working and private life I'm constantly reminded that the advancement of technology and ideas is accelerated on the internet. More so than we could have ever imagined even during the spread of electricity, the high times of the industrial age or even during the early days of the ARPAnet. This acceleration comes with benefits and drawbacks.

Mobipocket, a French company that was once at the absolute forefront of EBooks and their distribution, can provide an interesting example for the life cycle of a company that depends on having a web presence. I'm not going to go into the history of the site in this post, I'm going to talk a little about my experience with it. If you want to see an accurate history of Mobipocket, the Wikipedia page is a great resource.

While the First Light Chronicles (now collected in Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins), first appeared on, it didn't actually get picked up by a significant number of readers until it was posted on Mobipocket.

Pictured above: a sloppy screenshot of the first time one of my books hit #1 on Mobipocket.

Within a few months it actually rose to number one in the Science Fiction category. During those early days, I was on stress leave from my job at a call centre that provided customer support for a New York cable company. Thanks to that rise in placement and earnings, I didn't have to return to that particularly hellish cubicle.

The Spinward Fringe novels occupied the top 10 site wide regularly over the following two years, and never left the top ten science fiction spots. Until Amazon began distributing my books, Mobipocket was my primary source of income. Smashwords became the replacement for Mobipocket when the Kindle started out doing the Mobipocket mobile app, and I needed a new distributor.

My long stunt on Mobipocket wasn't all happy times, however. On several occasions their servers went down, and they removed my books from the Science Fiction category entirely so big publishers could get into the top 10. Readers complained every time, and every time they claimed it was a system error. Regardless of those bumps in the road, I'm glad they were there, and grateful for the platform they provided.

During Mobipocket's most successful period, they distributed to over thirty different small and large EBook retailers, and was in use by all the major publishers. Little did I know that Amazon purchased Mobipocket in 2005, long before I came along.

They used the software Mobipocket designed for PC, Mac OS and other devices as the foundation for their  Kindle app, and adopted the EBook format as their own. Since 2010 Amazon has been phasing out Mobipocket, stopping new publishers (indie and large alike), from joining and directing focus to the Kindle.

Independent publishers weren't stranded, however. Migration to the Kindle Direct Platform went fairly smoothly in most cases, and that further bolstered EBook sales on Kindle, not that they needed the help. Sadly, most readers were stuck with a sizeable number of books that were purchased through Mobipocket. These files were heavily DRM'ed (copy protected), and would only work on a Mobipocket app / compatible device.

My story with Mobipocket was clearly ending by the end of 2010, and I couldn't help but be a little sad about that, considering there were a couple thousand readers with my books stuck on a mobipocket device, and Mobipocket was a fantastic platform for over two years. A couple months ago the majority of titles were removed from Mobipocket, with the exception of a few public domain titles.

Amazon seems to have finished phasing out my old stomping ground, but I can't blame them. That's what they do when they need new technology and another company of an affordable size has it. They absorb the company and the technology to improve their customers' experiences while offering new products.

Seeing it shut down is sad, but in the end I'm glad I was brought along for this phase of technological progress. I just hope that Amazon found a way to migrate their Mobipocket customers' libraries to Kindle...


[Farewell Mobipocket, and thanks for all the support!]

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Origins Book Trailer & Contest

On February 2, 2010 I posted a book trailer for the First Light Chronicles Omnibus on Youtube. Since then the First Light Chronicles has been polished and re-released as Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins. I never finished the video, and after the name of the book changed, I decided I would let it rest in its incomplete state until I had time.

The incomplete video has a guide track with the right script, but a temporary voice over recorded in very low quality sound. I'm still happy with the script, it has just the right amount of cheese, but I was never happy with the voice over. I posted the video because I didn't know when I'd get around to finish it, and I wanted it up there, somewhere just in case I started looking for local professional to do a good job on it. Time never really presented itself. I have the audio gear for a professional recording, but haven't found the pro voice or the time.

Since it's been posted, it's become a pleasant curiosity for people who have already discovered the books, and a few people have used it as an example (good and bad), for a book trailer. It's also been aired on television (the SPACE Channel and CTVin Canada), while television presenters spoke about the release date of Broadcast 6: Fragments.

Considering the licensing for the graphics and music cost less than $60.00, I'd say I've gotten unexpectedly good milage from it.

So, over two years since I posted the video, readers on the Facebook page started talking about sending in their own versions of the voice over. I'm willing to give it a go. In fact, I'll pay the best voice over submission a Spinward Fringe T-Shirt, a signed copy of Origins and the Expendable Few. I can't guarantee that your voice will be used in all versions of the video, but the winning version will be posted.

Here's what I'm looking for:

I would like the most professional quality recording you can manage. No laptop or cheap microphones please.

No background noise. One way to accomplish this is to take the microphone under a comforter with you for the recording.

Stick to the script. The final version I wrote for the trailer is paced perfectly, and it has just the right amount of cheese.

Use the guide track. The pacing and inflection is the way I want it, that's why the guide track was recorded, to clearly express what I wanted out of a vocal performance. My voice just wasn't up to the task.

The character speaking is Jonas, so the trailer will eventually feature a male performance. Having said that, I'm accepting submissions from women. I may not use your performance in this trailer, but there is another opportunity coming later this year for a female performer, and the winner of this contest can be male or female. I'll be judging on general talent and sound. The casting may call for a man, but the contest won't discriminate.

Email your submissions to in .mp3 format. The winner will have to submit a higher quality copy. I'll be accepting submissions until June 1, 2012.

Here's the script:

Freeground station: All alone in the outer reaches of explored space. Home.
I served in the last war as a starship engineer, and retired at the end of my tour.
Then the simulations began, and I couldn't stay away.

We beat the common scenarios, so we found our way in to the military sims.
As an anonymous crew, we took on everyone.. and won.
Then fleet command identified us, and instead of locking us up they sent us out in to the galaxy to do it all for real.

One ship. One crew. On a mission to collect technology, find new allies, and fight for our lives.

My tour may have ended, but our adventure is just beginning.

Good luck!


[Special thanks to Mark Nielsen for posting this on the Facebook page while I was editing Broadcast 5 this morning.]

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Resist The Reader

The release of The Expendable Few has become a massive learning experience. Even with extra editing work, the cooperation of a digital formatting house and the announcement of the location and timing of the launch, there were difficulties.

Someone launched a fake version of the book on Amazon, a few people still had difficulties with their own devices, and there were a couple other problems that kept this from being a completely smooth launch. The funny thing is, those negative parts of the experience didn't detract from the marvellous success that the Expendable Few has become early on.

Amazon was quick to respond to reviews and complaints from readers about the fake copy of Expendable Few. It happened so fast that, by the time I got in touch with Amazon Legal, their only response was; "We know - see? It's already disabled." They are refunding payments to anyone who bought the book and reports a problem. Readers also helped each other read the book on their devices properly when there were problems. They even helped each other find the download page.

As of this writing, The Expendable Few is the best selling book in the last 90 days on Smashwords.

What's even more surprising is that you readers put Spinward Fringe at the top in a more general sense. Not only is Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments the number one best selling novel of all time on Smashwords, but a total of 7 Spinward Fringe novels occupy the top 25 all time best seller list. You readers did that, I'm more grateful than I can express.

That's why, when pressure to distribute the Expendable Few outside of Smashwords didn't let up after release, but increased, I had to rethink my promise to offer the book there exclusively for 30 days. I have the files required to offer the book on Amazon (US, FR, UK, etc...), and Mark Coker has made it absolutely clear that he and his staff are eager to distribute the book to B&N, the iBookstore, KOBO and numerous other retailers, so there's no reason not to put the book in the pipeline earlier than planned.

I don't even think Mark Coker would be offended. In fact, I really hope he won't be, he's been good to my readers and I.

The files are ready, you readers have demanded broader distribution and are responsible for my success, so I'm giving you what you want. Starting on March 9, 2012, The Expendable Few will begin appearing on Amazon and other retailers. By March 14 it should reach most retailers, but it could take weeks longer, so be patient. Everyone is working as fast as they can to get this out.

There is a negative side to this, however. Thanks to the way the ebook market works, and the contract I have with distributors like Amazon, the price of The Expendable Few will change on Smashwords to $2.99 as of March 9, 2012. That's over $2.00 below the average readers elected to pay when they used the option to name their own price when buying the book.

My hope is that this book gets out to all of you the way you want it, and that you enjoy it even more than the previous Spinward Fringe novels.

What's next? I'm currently working through an edit of Broadcast 5 in preparation for a return to work on Broadcast 7. Broadcast 7 is currently 110,000 words long, and I think I may be half finished. I expect to be writing more new material for that by the end of next week.

Once I'm finished with my run through of Broadcast 5, it'll see more work from an editor and 52 Novels, the formatting company I use before getting updated everywhere. The update will be available for free if you already own Broadcast 5: Fracture.

Thank you for your support, there's more Spinward Fringe on the way!


For anyone who doesn't want to wait, here's the link to the book on Smashwords! I'd like to thank Mark Coker and everyone at Smashwords who helped make my overall experience there fantastic.