Behind the Scenes

The Challenge of Clash

This was originally posted before the book was finished on my Patreon Site. If you haven’t read Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash, then you should stop here. There are some major spoilers ahead. You can find the Audiobook and EBook versions of the novel in this blog post. enjoy! Now let’s get on with the show!

Image courtesy of Adobestock. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

In this new series of posts, I’m going to give some patrons a peek behind the scenes. I wish I had the time to record these as podcasts, and that may come in the future, but I take way too long editing each one – about two hours for every hour of recording, so I won’t be getting back to that until I have more time.

Spinward Fringe reinvents itself every few books. The living situations and status of the characters have been evolving fairly quickly, and that’s been a good thing. That was, until about a year ago. A change in direction was needed, but it would have to stick this time. Let me explain.

There aren’t many series in any genre that has gone as long as Spinward Fringe, and as I was doing a re-read of the entire thing I started looking back at what was left behind as the characters moved forward. While I enjoy how the Alice story has unfolded, I started seeing that a feeling of disconnection was starting to set in. It felt like she was drifting too far away from some of the original main characters, and something that compounded that was how difficult it was becoming to write Jacob Valent.

When a character becomes too loaded or complex, it can be good to give them a rest, which usually means making them a secondary or even tertiary character who doesn’t come up as often for a while. It also seemed like he was struggling less. He would be justified in thinking that he’d found his place and that what he had to do next would be predictable.

Jake is in his thirties, slowly approaching the same age I was when I started writing this series. Back then I was definitely not where Jake was at the end of Broadcast 16. I felt like I’d barely earned my place in the world, and I had a lot to work for. My career prospects were narrowing while my employment situation was absolutely terrible. I’ve made great strides since then, but my situation is arguably more precarious in most ways.

That was why I couldn’t easily relate to Jake anymore. His struggle against the Order of Eden remained, and he was getting used to being part of an expanded family, but he seemed pretty secure in himself and sure of his path. Something had to change if I was going to write him as the main character again, and I definitely wanted him to be in the spotlight.

So there we have two big problems. Alice and her friends were disconnected from the original main characters of the series, removing a sense of familiarity from future books. Jake, a character I still enjoyed, was too uncomplicated in a bad way. He was in a situation I couldn’t relate to.

As I realized these problems had to be solved, I was fulfilling another promise to the very few people who read my fantasy novels. NEM: Awakening ends on a sort of cliffhanger, with the core group formed through trial and trouble, but looking to the future after a very rough encounter. When I released Awakening I promised that there would be a much more definitive ending coming soon, so I got to work on NEM: Crimson Shores soon after Broadcast 16 was finished. After that, I followed my muse to Psycho Electric, which was a space opera cyberpunk novel that I’d been piecing together for about ten years. A three-week or so fling with The Last Of The Bullet Chaserf followed as I frantically worked out what would happen to Jake at the beginning of Broadcast 17. I apologize to everyone who expected Broadcast 17 sooner. I had to take a side trip or two to clear my head, learn a few new things about writing, and expand the Spinward Fringe Universe with books that would invite new readers into the fold. I also had to prove something to myself as a writer, which I’ll talk more about in another episode.

The idea that Jake would be punished for unleashing an unrestrained artificial intelligence virus (again) came to me as I was doing my read-through of the entire Spinward Fringe series. I was also about a third of the way through writing Psycho Electric, and I realized that I had the thing that would give me everything I needed for my old main character.

This idea would also facilitate the return of the British Alliance along with Lorander and the Mergillians. More importantly, they could re-establish themselves as the good guys. There would be reparations made by the British Alliance for what the previous government did, but the three allies would demand something first. Haven Fleet would have to clean house in order to show that they were playing by the same rule book. Jake’s removal from the Fleet would bring Alice and all the other original main characters to his side, and he could make a deal that would ensure a good sense of familiarity going forward. He could get the Triton back.

I thought it was a pretty good way to go, so I wrote a few outlines with Jake on trial. The first thing I saw was that I would have a lot of research to do if I went in that direction. The second thing I realized was that, unless I could get John Grisham as a guest writer, it would be pretty boring. Trials are long, testimony is often drawn out, and truncated, abridged versions of them can seem fake. I put the outlines away for a week, then came back to them and realized that I overlooked one very important question: “What would Jake do?” The answer came right away. He’d make a deal. In my opinion, that fixed it. As long as I was clear about what Jake’s deal was, why he was being punished, and that I provided all the details by the end of the book, I could start Broadcast 17 at the end of the legal stuff. Alice wouldn’t know anything about it, that way readers could find out with her.

On to the next thing that big shift would bring in. Jake needed a way to continue fighting, a reason for him to take the Triton back.

One of my favourite unpursued storylines was the Privateering idea, and since Jake would have access to a share of resources and wealth from the Haven System, he could afford to hire a crew and a fighter squadron. The Defence Minister would allow him to hire out of his old unit to prevent a split in the military. To many, Jake is seen as one of the founders of the whole thing, so Oz’s hope was to prevent a massive crisis using this strategy. There’s more to it, but that will come later on.

The Triton makes a perfect mobile base. It truly is a character in this series, and there’s room for new friends as Alice’s story starts to merge with her father’s and we get to see what the honeymoon phase of her relationship with Noah looks like. That is until they have their first real fight, which had to happen in this novel. A relationship without stress isn’t worth reading about, and they had some unresolved issues. They still don’t have a perfect relationship, which is good.

So, Jake is the owner of the Triton again, but he’s free to do as he likes because he has Stephanie Vega in the captain’s seat. I regret that I haven’t been able to feature Frost on the Gunnery Deck in this book, but that’s coming. I brought Ayan aboard, but that’s temporary since we can’t leave Little Laura without her mum for too long.

The next book in the series, which I’ll be starting right after Broadcast 17, is called Samurai Squadron, so it was important to establish Minh-Chu, Ashley, Cooper, and a few others as important characters on the Triton. That group of characters will have a lot more time on the page since Samurai Squadron launches the first real trilogy in the series since Fracture, Fragments and Framework. The Squadron is at the core of the main story in each book.

There was still something missing.

The best Spinward Fringe novels arguably have one thing in common aside from characters we want to spend time with. New ideas. Whether it’s the proposal of new technologies, deadly trade-offs, or cunning enemies, I think new ideas are important in science fiction. They can challenge characters and sometimes make us think. The concept of the lost colony isn’t new, but it presents a massive challenge for Jake and his crew, especially since they’re freshly disassociated from the military.

To keep the story small so Broadcast 17 wouldn’t be 300,000 words long, I decided to focus on two brothers. Wish fulfilment and science fiction go well together, so the concept of Orner being disabled came in right at the beginning along with Moxa and Eve using him as an example for the miracles they could bring to the people of Tiy. The struggle was in keeping that story from overwhelming the book since it would seem so unfamiliar at a 1920’s technology level. Too much of a new thing can be bad too.

Now we’ve come to things that I haven’t released yet, so I have to stop talking about story. That is, other than to say that the end will lean right into Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron in a way that I’ve been looking forward to for a while now. It’ll be the Twenty-First book in the Spinward Fringe Series, including full-length .5 editions like The Expendable Few and Carnie’s Tale. I may have to take a two or three-week break to make sure that Broadcast 17’s editing is properly wrapped up, but I’m already looking forward to posting chapters from 18 here.

Having said that, I should address the first point I raised in this rambling piece. Things changed in Spinward Fringe again. The shift is drastic, bringing some old ideas back with new character dynamics aboard, and one of those ideas looks as far back as Broadcast Two. Now we’re ready for the next phase, where the Triton will be at the very centre. I actually hope that doesn’t change for a long time, perhaps for the rest of the series. That is if the Triton survives what’s coming.

ADDENDUM: One More Thing…

When I wrote that there were still a number of unwritten chapters and the edit wasn’t locked in. There was even a proof reader who was yet to come on board, and she whacked over eighty typos while providing some good input. I hadn’t decided on a few important things either, and the ending was rewritten twice. Once on the whiteboards, once as it was released on Patreon, and then again for the final edit. Even then the final draft wasn’t locked. I looked back at the very beginning and realized I had a problem.

There was a Prologue that explained how the Haven Government had sent many Nodes into the galaxy that used new technology that made communication over many light years as good as instant. This came up in Psycho Electric and enabled a whole chunk of that book’s story. It would also come up later in the Spinward Fringe Series, but I realized that explaining its existence and significance in a prologue wasn’t only boring, but unnecessary. I also explained that Jake had been sort of missing for two weeks and that Alice had been assigned to the Cefa System for a little over three months.

I wonder if you’re thinking what I was after going over the book for the third time. “Wait. Why am I explaining all that in a prologue when we get to discover what happened to Jake along with Alice while she’s standing in the middle of a Palacial Garden? A place she’s been relocated to in order to use her empathic ability for a job that she didn’t choose or enjoy? Wouldn’t it be more effective and entertaining if we let her show us what was going on?”

The prologue served its purpose when I was still writing the book. It set up the starting point, but it wasn’t required anymore, so after talking to a couple of people who were involved with the final edit, I cut it. Now I know it was the right decision. If you want to see it, you can check it out here on Patreon, where it’ll exist in a rough form.

I’m starting work on Spinward Fringe Broadcast 18: Samurai Squadron this week. Years of work have gone into it. I’ll share more about it later on.

For now, I’d like to hear about the direction the series is taking. Don’t worry about spoilers since only people who have read or listened to the book should participate. So, what do you think of their new course?

Spinward Fringe

The Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 Rollout and Audiobook

Your shipment is here…

The day has finally come. Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 is here! The release is landing early everywhere. Starting with Amazon and Google Play on 12 / 12 / 2022, Clash will be available to everyone. The other distribution network is slower, so the book will be released at the other vendors (Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Rakuten Kobo), on 19 / 12 / 2022. I’m grateful to everyone who preordered and thank you for picking the book up after the release, it’s been a great launch so far.

The timing for this is unusual, but when I had the opportunity to release it early I took it because I didn’t want this to come out so close to the holidays. People have enough to deal with in the second half of December, so I really wanted to have this out before you started travelling and hosting family.

There’s another thing. I’ve been experimenting with Google Auto-Narration which is, simply put, audiobooks that are narrated by an artificial intelligence. The cost of producing these is extremely low and the quality has just improved quite a bit. I wouldn’t call the Auto-Narration a performance, but the reading style is acceptable now, so I’m releasing the Audo-Narrated audiobook version of Clash along with the ebook edition for a low price that reflects the fact that it isn’t read by a human who is offering a performance instead of simply clear reading with a good cadence.

If I could afford to pay a narrator to produce this book I would, but I’m still five figures in the hole from producing Broadcast 0, 1 and Psycho Electric, so I have to earn that back through audiobook sales before I produce any more with a live narrator. There’s still a small demand for Spinward Fringe in audiobook form, so the Auto-Narration version will do for now, and I’d like to thank the team at Google that is working on this. The improvements over the last year are surprising. Oh, and if you buy this version your copy will be updated every time the Auto-Narrator improves for free. You can check the Clash: Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17 Audiobook out here.

Here are the links for the eBook.

My Bookstore (Out 12 / 12 / 2022)
Amazon – US | UK | AU | CA | DE (Out 12 / 12 / 2022)
Google Play Books (Out 12 / 12 / 2022)
Apple Books (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)
Barnes & Noble (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)
Rakuten Kobo (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)
Smashwords (Out 19 / 12 / 2022)

I truly hope you enjoy this book in the series. I think you’ll find that it’s a little different from the rest because it takes the time for real character development and there is a great big pivot that changes things for most of our favourite characters.

Thank you in advance for picking it up. If you have any interest in an audiobook version, I encourage you to listen to the sample.

Spinward Fringe

The Last of the Bullet Chasers – A Spinward Fringe Short

It’s out! An adventure no one saw coming in the Spinward Fringe Universe starring a pilot with a mission that could cost him years, his life, or take him to a new beginning in the Rega Gain system has finally come out as an ebook short. This seven-chapter story came about because I had an irresistible idea. What if there was a crew tasked with chasing after missiles, torpedoes and worse that missed their initial target, but could destroy a world, end a civilization, or worse years later by mistake?

I got into more detail in the Foreward, but suffice it to say, I had to follow that story to its end, bringing this pilot, Cooper, also known as “Breaker” along with his repair bot named Ratter and the rest of the crew to life. Characters from this short will appear in at least two of the new Spinward Fringe books that are coming in 2022 and 2023, so if you like the crew, you’ll see them again once this stand-alone tale is over.

Here’s the synopsis:

War has gone interstellar, and the galaxy has become an even more dangerous place. Firing a weapon in the vacuum of space can cause repercussions days, years, or even centuries later when that bullet, missile, torpedo or other instrument of destruction makes an impact. That’s where heroes like Cooper come in.

Interplanetary civil war has raged on in his home solar system for decades. Every missed shot could strike an unsuspecting innocent and one side is interested in keeping the devastation of their conflict from spreading to the rest of the universe. That’s why they started the Chaser program, which enlists pilots like Cooper, callsign Breaker, to pursue wayward munitions so they can be destroyed before they end a civilization, wreck a space station, or end all life on worlds that had nothing to do with the fight that inspired the firing of a weapon.

With the civil war winding down, the government is changing, and the Chaser program is coming to an end, but not before Cooper, a faithful repair robot named Ratter and the rest of the crew of the Monte Carlo finish one last pursuit. There’s a dangerous group of missiles and torpedoes travelling at nearly the speed of light headed for the civilized Rega Gain system. There is enough antimatter aboard those munitions to crack a planet.

For reasons he’s not sharing, Cooper is determined to stop the missile group from destroying the terraformed moon of Tamber and damaging the world it orbits, even if years pass relative to the minutes it takes the Monte Carlo to finish its mission in this all-or-nothing effort.

Come and witness the end of a tradition of duty, sacrifice, and glory. Will it be the end of the crew, or lead them to a new beginning in a solar system that is largely unaware that they’re in danger, but the crew of the Monte Carlo are desperate to save?

The Last of the Bullet Chasers is available at my store in epub format (compatible with all Apple, Android devices and most Kindle readers). It will be an Amazon Kindle exclusive starting on the 24th of September. (The exclusivity will most likely end three months later).

UPDATE: Thanks to readers who contacted me since this post, The Last of the Bullet Chasers will not be exclusive to Amazon, but will be available everywhere. Watch this post for links to Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other sites as the book comes online before the end of September.

Here’s the direct link to the book on my store: The Last of the Bullet Chasers at Randolph’s Bookstore
Other Retailers: Smashwords | Other retail links will come soon.
Amazon Kindle Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Amazon Germany | Amazon Canada

3D render of a Robots celebrating at a party
Spinward Fringe

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 17: Clash Begins This Saturday!

This podcast has an audio version!

After writing a fantasy novel (NEM: Awakening), a Cyberpunk Space Opera (Psycho Electric), and a space adventure short (The Last of the Bullet Chasers), it’s time to write the next Spinward Fringe novel: Clash.

This book starts by looking back on major events in Broadcast 11: Revenge, when Jacob Valent ordered the release of an intelligent virus called Mary. The aftershock of that is ongoing as Haven Fleet allies worry that he may resort to breaking other Galactic laws, so they’re demanding that Haven take action to make sure that this doesn’t happen. We see the results of that fear in the prologue, which takes place over three months after the end of Broadcast 16.

At this point, Alice, Ayan, Minh-Chu and the rest of the gang are near their breaking point because the fight against the Order of Eden and the Edxi hasn’t progressed. What happens next will push them over the edge.

I’d love to tell you more about this book, especially since I’ve been preparing to write it for a year now, but you’ll have to read along as the chapters come out or wait a little longer for the completed ebook. For more information and links to each chapter, check out my Patreon index page at