Saturday, 10 November 2012

To Boldly Float ... Orbital Airships

They’re still at it. The folks at JP Aerospace are still chipping away at their orbital airship concept. I had seen the concept on the web while writing The Black Ships and thought it might be an interesting way to get large ship modules into space. I didn’t realise, at the time that anyone was actively working on such an idea, but these guys really seem to believe in it. There are still quite a few problems to iron out, such as high-altitude buoyancy and heat transfer, but the thing that really catches my imagination is size. At seven times the size of the Hindenburg, where the heck do you park the thing? For a look at what they're working on, drop by their blog here:
I’m hoping they pull it off. There’s a certain elegance to the idea of massive airships, slowly lifting cargo into space. It almost seems anachronistic - I love stuff like that.

The image above is not from JP. I was just playing around with an open source program called Blender. I had created a model of an airship while writing  The Black Ships and thought it might show scale better if I built the Golden Gate bridge and put them together. Then I got carried away and turned it into an animated fly-by, complete with crowd sounds and police radio chatter.

Tons of fun, but I got very little writing done that day...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Release of Orbital Decay

Orbital Decay is now released on Amazon for all territories. This 18,000 word novella occurs after the events in The Dark Defiance and it revolves around the discoveries made by Jan Kennedy during the homeward flight of the Völund.
 This is a story of the Living Impaired and it will end up changing everything for the Human/Midgaard alliance as they struggle to keep their enemy at bay in the next, full length installment of the series.
Interest permitting, a  side-series of novellas will grow from the Orbital Decay story, describing events on Earth as we try to survive the outbreak.

A Black Ships Novella - Fourth in the series
Detective Sergeant Ben Mark's life is falling apart. It's been a long, painful process for years but the pace has just accelerated dramatically. A suicide turns into the case from Hell as Ben realizes that Dr. Mortensen was the victim of foul play.

And he may not be the last.

Ben's own life is in danger as he struggles desperately to uncover what Gaia Biodesign is doing on their orbital lab, and why they are willing to kill to keep it quiet. As he races to uncover the truth, he learns that the entire species may be the next victim.

Just as humanity is finally reaching for the stars, a terrible mistake may knock us back into the Stone Age.
If anyone is left alive...

(approx 18,000 words)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Dark Defiance

The Dark Defiance is live on Amazon. I’ve spent the last week knee deep in the next story and I’ve just realized that I haven’t really done anything to let folks know that the sequel to The Black Ships is now up and selling (and selling rather nicely, considering the complete lack of marketing on my part). Frankly, I avoid twitter like the plague lately. Every time I open it, I’m bombarded with book spam and direct messages with links to virus sites. Conventional wisdom tells us that it’s a hot place to market books, which means it’s probably too late to get in the game. 'Conventional wisdom' seems to be a clever euphemism for ‘obsolete concept’.
So here’s my marketing plan – spend all day writing and stay off the social media.
But I digress. Here’s the blurb:
A Black Ships Novel - Third in the series
In the decade following Earth’s narrow victory over the Dactari invasion attempt, Humans have reverse engineered much of their enemy’s technology. From captured data, they learn that the Dactari Republic is merely the successor to a much larger empire; one that died out long before Humans mastered the secrets of iron.
Many worlds of the old empire have been left untouched by the republic, and a race begins as the factions of Earth struggle for trade dominance with the independent planets.
The crew members of the Völund have each left Earth for their own reasons. They quickly find themselves embroiled in intrigue, conflict and outright war as their path, paved with good intentions, leads them straight to a hell of their own making.
They must follow their path to the very end to learn the ultimate fate of mankind.
(Approx. 90,000 words)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hints and Memes at the London Book Fair

I’ve just read an interesting article in the PW Daily. The London Book Fair had their annual CEO panel and it included, among the traditional publishing CEO’s, Donald Katz, the CEO of – an Amazon entity.
It was refreshing to hear the traditional memes about the publishing business being challenged at their source for once.  In particular, Katz called Bloomsbury’s Richard Charkin out on comments that Amazon didn’t take very good care of it’s writers, citing the generous royalty rates given to Kindle authors.
Also, in two interesting comments, Katz stated that “Publishers should never start another imprint,” (is Amazon now happy with their stable of imprints?) and also that territorial rights should go away.
Does this signal a change in the way Amazon will handle sales in the 30% zones?
Link to the article here.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Researchers Find Evidence of Non-Author Tweet Account

In a shocking announcement this morning, scientists at the Benton Coldwater research facility, deep underneath Geneva, claim to have captured evidence of a non-author twitter user. Though it may be many months before independent confirmation is provided, other research teams are already applying for grants that will help them do just that.
The team was startled when their twitter screen suddenly displayed that holy grail of researchers everywhere, a non-book tweet. ‘Thinking of getting some blueberries…’ the electrifying missive declared. “We almost missed it,” admitted senior researcher, Howard Anthidae, “but now that we’ve led the way, it will be up to others to re-create the conditions and prove us right or wrong.”
“Our lab under Sudbury may be just the ticket,” enthused senior Canadian researcher Tim Wharton. “Many have claimed such a user to be a theoretical impossibility, often going so far as to compare them to leprechauns, elves or honest politicians. Once we have the funding to buy a computer, we’ll get to work on filtering out the book tweets. We just do the pure science,” he added. “It will be up to the business world to figure out how to monetize it.”

Monday, 5 March 2012

Book Trailers - Are They Worth It?

Lately, everybody is putting up book trailers. They range in quality from a couple of stills set to music to a full production with actors and licenced music. Even some of the big publishing houses are springing for trailers when a new title comes out from an established author. I recently saw one for a writer whose work I have been reading for a decade now. I have to admit, I started hearing alarm bells when I saw it.

The bells weren't part of the soundtrack, they were in my head as I watched a couple of actors with bathmats strapped around their waists (they were supposed to be cavemen). They spent a couple of minutes wandering through the forest and starting fires. It was almost enough to scare me away from the book. If I hadn’t enjoyed her previous work so much, I probably would have passed on her latest title based on my impression of the trailer. I bought it and found it to be the worst edited thing I’ve ever read from a major house. My wife, also a big fan of this author was annoyed that we had paid so much for an eBook only to find that it was such a mess but I digress.

As I said, if it wasn’t an author that I’ve read before, I wouldn’t have bought the book. Maybe a decent or really good trailer would pull me in to read a new author, but a poorly made trailer would just scare me off.
I like the idea of doing trailers for my titles but it scares me to think how easy it is to chase away a potential first time reader. I have one for my ‘Black Ships’ short story  - ‘Metamorphosis’ and I can think of a few things that I would like to change. As an example, the text panel appears too soon after the title animation and messes up the pacing.

Fortunately, I created the animations using Blender, an open-source 3D animation program that allows me to go back and edit the environments and re-render.

I am still a new user to Blender but if anyone who sees the video has a comment or critique, I would welcome their input. I realize that it still needs work.

So the question that a lot of writers are probably asking is – “Do trailers do anything for the title?”
With bookstores closing, we need a new way to increase title visibility.

If the answer is yes, the second question is – “What kind of things are good for a trailer and what should we avoid?”

I think hiring someone to stumble around the woods in a bathmat is probably not going to help.
Showing faces probably takes away from the reader’s prerogative to imagine the characters.
Showing some of the architecture could help to set the mood?

Let me know what you think, and what you may have found from your own experiments.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

eBook Cover Design Software

I’ve just finished loading “The Black Ships” on the Kindle Direct site and find myself at loose ends. I can’t get my head back into “Firebringer” just yet so I thought I would put together a quick post about eBook covers. After using to do the cover for “Prometheus bound”, I had planned to use it for my latest release - until I discovered an amazing bit of open source software called Blender.
This really is more than just a piece of software, it’s a community. Though the program may look a little intimidating at first glance, there are hundreds of brilliant, helpful users who take the time to create video tutorials. Following the lessons from such visionaries as Andrew Price at his site Blender Guru or the insanely gifted crew over at Blender Cookie, I soon found myself creating realistic images from three dimensional scenes that I built with my own stubby fingers (I wasn’t born to play the piano – that’s for sure).
I’m not ashamed to say that I let my imagination run amok. I was deep in the midst of a complicated scene of a partially destroyed ISS habitat on the surface of Mars when I received a notice on my blog dashboard of a new post from David Gaughran. David’s blog is always worth a read and the post in question included a reminder of the importance of good cover design. He steered readers to Joel Friedlander’s site where, among other things, the importance of simplicity was stressed in the design of a cover that would display at less than an inch in height on the retailer sites.
I took another look at the complicated scene that I had spent an entire day building. It would never work for an eBook cover. I went back to the drawing board and came up with a simple concept – an orbital image showing the sun rising over Mars. Three hours later, I was looking at my new cover.
After I loaded the book, I realized that I could animate the cover. Ten minutes later, I had a short video version of the cover with some music and ambient ship noise. Sure, I can’t put that into the book itself (not currently, anyway) but I can load it to the video link on the KDP book page.

Meanwhile, I can use the various three dimensional models created while learning the software and generate video sequences from them to build a book trailer.
I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.
PS. Animated cover below, not much but it's a start.