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Four spacefarers embark on a journey of survival and self discovery when a routine operation proves anything but routine.
Four spacefarers embark on a journey of survival and self discovery when a routine operation proves anything but routine.
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89 backers pledged $1,305 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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June 5th - The additional stories as part of Captain tier pledges and stretch goals will now be included in the printed edition of the book.  Thanks to the generosity of many backers who have pledged above their tier level the budget is such as I feel comfortable offering this to all physical tier levels starting at the $12 mate.

May 25th - New stretch goals announced.  Now that we've reached the $1,000 mark, guaranteeing professional editing for Derelict, I am adding two new stretch goals.  At $1,500 I will be writing a third story for this collection, and at $2,000 I will complete the compilation with a total of four stories.  Captain tier pledges may precipitate these rewards.  Additionally as a bonus at the $2,000 level I will include a PnP roleplaying adventure module based on Derelict.

Also, the draft of the story is up for backers to read (see Update #3).  There are currently five chapters, comprising two thirds of the completed work.  More chapters will be made available as they're completed.

May 22nd - James Yee of the blog kickstarter-conversations.com has interviewed me about Derelict.  You can read the interview here where I discuss the story in more depth, defining the difference between technology and magic in science fiction and talking about how the iconic Han Solo compares and contrasts with my protagonist, Jason Conrad.

May 19th - We now have 50 backers pledging to this project.  That means the Captain reward tier has been unlocked.  One generous backer has already pledged toward it.  This means that I will be including as part of this campaign one more short story in addition to Derelict.  Details will be forthcoming but it will continue the space mercenary theme, though will be more space fantasy than science fiction.

In achieving our funding goal of $500, the Doomsday Draft reward has been deprecated.  Since we're full steam ahead in getting this story to print, the draft is no longer required.  Also, the Privileged Forum Access from the $12 Mate tier to the $1 Scallywag, enabling all backers to see the development of the story as it progresses, chapter by chapter.

We focus on the crew of a small starship travelling to the edge of known space. These are Spacers, private contractors hired on per-job basis for their specialized skills and willingness to travel beyond the frontier of human civilization. They've been sent here to salvage equipment from a mysterious derelict in an obscure solar system.

Our protagonist is Jason Conrad, a navigator by trade. At the start of the story we find that he's respected in his field and may be under consideration for the chance to captain his own vessel. He's level-headed, dedicated to his craft, and goes the extra mile to get the job done. But will his professionalism be enough to carry him through the challenges that lie ahead?

The job seems straightforward enough but on arrival they find that their target was not as derelict as at first believed. Through a tragic turn of events the crew finds themselves fighting for survival. As their lives hang in the balance, Jason is forced to re-consider what he really values in life and whether or not he's willing to pay the price to keep it.

A point that I want to stress very clearly is that this story is about people. Though it's set in the future, this is not a story that is about aliens or spaceships unless these things are used as a metaphor for the human condition. I could have set the same story during the Age of Sail, when pirates and swashbucklers fared the high seas. As a perfectionist, though, that would have compelled me to spend more time guaranteeing historical accuracy. Though it may seem ironic, in building my own world from scratch I can actually focus more effort in telling the story than if I had written it for a real world or historical setting.

The driving theme of the story is one of self reliance. The characters are in a hostile environment with no one to help them but one another. Together they have to utilize each others' strengths to overcome adversity; however, they must also seek within themselves for the fortitude to cope with circumstances that threaten their mortality, and even their individual identities.

The Space Mercenary theme is nothing new and suffice to say that I'm drawing on a long tradition in writing about an independently operated civilian starship. Han Solo is the most obvious and visible example of the archetype and people have remarked after reading my sample that they have been reminded of the Firefly television series. The classic computer game, Wing Commander: Privateer, has also played a large role in nurturing this environment in my imagination.  Yet Jason and his crew will have their own unique feel and inter-personal dynamic.

The strongest influence in developing the story has really been author CJ Cherryh. This is most demonstrable from her novel Heavy Time, which is about a similar group of civilian spacefarers working on the frontier. Though the circumstances faced in each story are very different, I appreciate Cherryh's groundedness and her ability to take activities that would seem mundane in the hands of lesser authors and turn them into thrilling adventures. If you liked Heavy Time or her Alliance-Union series of books, then I think you'll enjoy my story. Likewise, if you like my work then Cherryh comes highly recommended.

A final point that should be addressed, there will be violence in the story.  I regard it as an action adventure though with a psychological and introspective bent.  There are two deaths planned, both of which are integral to the narrative.  If you prefer to keep to light hearted reading then this story may not be for you.

... i.e. what's my story?

A lot of people have asked me over the years if I'm "a writer". I've always told them no but finally got to wondering: why aren't I?

For over fifteen years I've been part of various roleplaying (RPG) groups on the internet. Unlike such RPGs as World of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons, the games I played weren't about action and fighting but instead were efforts of collaborative fiction. One person would write a paragraph explaining what their character was doing, then the next person would submit a paragraph of what their character was doing in response, and so on and so forth. Eventually a story emerged, all the narrative threads woven together with each participant's input. This was great fun and the experience really helped me to hone my writing style and find my literary voice.

But with all this experience, what did I have to show for it? Nothing that constituted a bibliography. I decided that it was time to get into the big leagues and make an effort to write professionally. It's a daunting task to compose a story. Unlike roleplaying, where enjoyment and feedback are immediate, the reward of writing a story doesn't come until the end. It takes discipline and fortitude to make the journey from first page to last without any guarantee of success. After all, how do I know that anybody will even want to read my work?

That's how I came to decide on spearheading this effort through Kickstarter. I know that I can write this story. I chose it as my debut title because it's been on my mind for several years now and I've had time to work out the kinks. By pursuing this through crowd funding, though, I'm leaving the ultimate decision to you, the public. The major drive toward completion of this story is your belief in it. If there isn't a public interest in it, if I fail to convince you that my story will be worth reading, then that tells me I should be investing my energy elsewhere.

Another reason why I'm choosing to to crowd fund on Kickstarter is because I like dealing directly with the people that I'm writing for. I don't look at this as my selling a product for you to purchase so much as my providing a service for you to enjoy. In this case that service is entertainment. Charlie Chaplin once said, "If you want to know me, see my movies." I see the relationship between entertainer and audience as more intimate than that of vendor and customer and writing a story is, for me, a very intimate experience.

It's been a great privilege to have been a backer of Kickstarter projects in the past. Just my participation in helping these campaigns succeed has helped me grow as a person and it's with pride that I have the opportunity now to contribute my small bit to the crowd funding phenomenon. As backers, we're not just investors but a community working to advance the arts, industry, and the sciences. We're risking our money to offer people a chance to help make the world a more beautiful, more enjoyable, and all around better place to live. And we're doing this freely, by promoting enterprise and creativity. I can't think of a more noble exercise.

I don't have any published material to my name, which means that I need to demonstrate to you first hand that I know what I'm doing and that I have the capability to complete this project. Toward this end I'm offering here the first two chapters of the story, at least in early draft, so that you can sample the exposition and get a sense for my tone.

Additionally I've included two unrelated character backgrounds I wrote for roleplaying games that I've participated in. These are documents wherein I describe the character I mean to assume, i.e. the "role" that I mean to "play", to the game administrators so that may be certain it will fit within the game's theme. The first character is Mary Bexley, an 18th century English gentlewoman with an intellect far beyond what is deemed acceptable from a woman in this time period. The other is Alistair Hale, a vampire with a code of honour who relates two centuries worth of experiences as a soldier and a spy (though not a tinker or tailor).

  •     eBook ($1 minimum pledge): You receive my short story, plus any additional stories I may write as part of this campaign in ebook format. I intend to supply the eBook as a PDF file, though I will look into the feasibility of supporting other formats.
  •    Forum Access ($1 min): You will have access to a restricted area of my project forum where you can read drafts as they're being written and offer feedback, suggestions, and criticism. You'll get to see the creative process first hand as the story develops. General discussion areas of the forum remain open to all.
  •     MP3 Audiobook ($5 min): You receive a digital recording of my reading the short story. I'm not a professional voice actor but I have enough editing skills to splice together a respectable audiobook. I've provided a sample of my reading above so that you may judge for yourself.
  •     Doomsday Draft (N/A): In the event that this campaign fails, you will still receive an eBook copy of the current draft as it stands at the conclusion of the campaign. This is a no-risk reward just for pledging; you get something regardless of the outcome. (Redundant now that base funding has been achieved)
  •    Physical Copy ($12 min): You will receive a limited edition printed copy of my short story. The book will be softcover and probably about a quarter inch thick.
  •    Signed Physical Copy ($20 min): I will personally sign and inscribe your copy of the physical book.
  •     Authors Thanks ($50 min): For your material investment in my work, you may choose to have your name listed in the Author's Thanks section of the story in both its printed and eBook form.
  •     Original Story ($300 min): I will write a short story based on your parameters. You suggest a plot, characters, or theme and I will build a story around it comprising approximately 10,000-15,000 words. This will be included as part of the campaign so that everyone will receive a copy in addition to the story I'm advertising on this page. If, for whatever reason, I am unable to undertake or complete the story as promised, you will be refunded to your preference of pledge level. Please message me with your story idea for my confirmation prior to pledging for this reward so that I can weigh my capacity to produce it. 

A Note on the Physical Book Rewards: Due to the generosity of many backers who have pledged in excess of the minimum tier rate, I can now safely promise that the physical reward tiers starting at the $12 Mate level will now include a printed compilation of all the stories included in this campaign.  Originally I was unsure if I would be have to restrict the print edition to Derelict alone because of the increased expenditure in printing and shipping.  Fortunately the budget is now sufficient to cover these costs.

Shipping to Canada: Backers who wish their physical rewards send to Canadian addresses receive a discount in the amount extra required for international shipping.  Where international shipping would normally be $8, for Canadian addresses it is only $3.  (Note: If backers are unable to pledge at a discount because of Kickstarter, I will be adding a Canadian only version of the Mate tier which will be shipping inclusive)

Add-on Books: If you choose to pledge beyond your tier amount plus any shipping concerns, you have the option to acquire additional unsigned copies of the basic softcover book being offered in Mate tier.  These may be added-on for $9 apiece and are offered up to a quantity of 10 units.  If this applies to you, you will be asked the exact quantity you wish added-on via the backer survey conducted after the campaign has concluded.  Future add-ons may become available based on stretch goals met and backer input.

Privileged Forum Access: Backers pledging at the Mate or higher tier gain access to restricted areas of my project forum.  As one of these backers, should you choose to register an account on the forum and are using a screen name different from the one on Kickstarter or haven't received access to the Derelict message board after a few days, please send me a personal message to remind me.  These forum privileges have to be manually assigned by myself so it's possible I may mistake your identity or simply miss your registration.

Additional Stories: While I am focusing on writing Derelict, I may be adding additional stories to this campaign.  Such may be added by people backing at the Captain's tier or possibly as part of a stretch goal.  I will write at the most four stories to create a compilation book, with Derelict being the feature.  The expected fulfillment date listed in the rewards is based on a single-story endeavour.  I project each additional story to add another 6 weeks so that the latest I expect to achieve fulfillment is February of 2014.

My funding goal of $500 is based on three factors: the commission taken for Kickstarter and Amazon Payments, the expenditure of printing and mailing a limited edition run of printed editions of the story,  and the fair market value of my effort.

Assuming this campaign reaches near abouts its goal, I expect the cost for printing and shipping to range between $150-$250. Add $50 representative of Kickstarter's fees and on the outside total projected expenditures come to $300. So as long as the funding goal is met there's a degree of cushion insuring against unanticipated costs, even if it means dipping into "my cut".

I anticipate that my story will comprise approximately 15,000 words.  It may very well turn out higher than that but not likely less.  Based on what I am told is the going rate for freelance work, $0.02 per word, that comes to $300.  So what I'm really asking for is the same amount of money I could reasonably expect to receive if somebody came along and commissioned me to write the same story.  Once I've received this amount, funds raised in excess of operating expenses will go toward stretch goals or as a seed for future projects, as determined on the input of backers.

I'm not counting the cost of labour in terms of setting up the Kickstarter campaign and developing this page because, frankly, the effort is a reward in of itself. The experience I gain by operating this campaign is invaluable toward understanding the ins and outs of crowd funding.

Moreover, I want to ensure two things: that my backers get the best value for their money and that I get the best value for my work. This means setting my pricing competitively (you can't beat a dollar) while keeping my operating costs down. To me this harkens to the very spirit of entrepreneurialism. I think it's important that we remember that Kickstarter is about enterprise, not charity. I'm not here to take your money, I'm here to earn it.

Right now I'm operating on a shoe string budget, a limitation I intend to overcome with time, dedication, and skill.  Having reached the $1,000 stretch goal, this has guaranteed the funds to hire a professional editor to review Derelict and ensure quality control.

I don't intend to be a one-trick pony. There are a number of creative projects that I am looking to pursue and the success of this campaign will help grant me the experience and popular awareness to move further along that road. If the campaign should succeed beyond my expectations, I may even use some of the net funds accrued as a seed to initiate one of these projects. Here's a list of some of the more promising projects I look forward to working on after I've completed this one.

  •     A sequel to this short story. Yes, if you enjoy these characters, there are plans to bring them back (well... some of them at any rate). The sequel will be about a joint civilian and military effort to test new starship technology. The premise is loosely inspired by the opening plot of the game System Shock 2 and continues the common theme of self-reliance in a remote environment.
  •     An adventure novel featuring one of my roleplaying characters, an 18th century gentlewoman and a form of proto-typical Florence Nightingale. She stumbles across a Lovecraftian monster while navigating the heated politics of a Europe facing revolution in France and the turmoil of her own family difficulties. Though not a fan of horror, I've always appreciated Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and I want to use his theme of mortal insignificance in an infinite universe as a backdrop against the struggle of one woman coping with a world hostile to her ambitions.
  •     A scifi novel where humanity is ruled by a cabal of benevolent supernatural beings. When one member of this cabal mysteriously disappears, the protagonist, a human agent, is charged with discovering what happened before the status quo becomes destabilized. Was it part of a rebel effort to overthrow the cabal? Is one segment of the cabal making a power play against another? Or is there a personal motive behind the disappearance? But, above all, can the protagonist restore the balance of power before all turns to chaos?
  •     A scifi novel based on some (really, really bad) Star Wars fan fiction I wrote as a teenager. When a rogue star system threatens to unleash a devastating superweapon, only two warships stand in the way of galactic domination. The catch? The warships represent two nations at war with one another. Can an alliance be cobbled together between two enemies to overcome a common threat?
  •     A card game that sets the players to research and develop means of alternative energy before dwindling fossil fuels run out or the Earth becomes choked by rampant pollution. It is part-cooperative and part-competitive in that players have the joint goal of keeping the world clean and the individual goals of being first to research technologies and dominate the alternative energy industry. Will they work together or throw one another under the bus?
  •     A board game themed during the Cold War. Rather than focusing on military conquest, this game is more about two superpowers jockeying for support and strategic positioning in the Third World. While direct combat and even nuclear war are strategic options, victory can also be achieved by winning political support in the United Nations or blocking your opponent's efforts to do the same.

Credits: Illustration of Pioneer 11 courtesy of NASA.  Clip art courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Risks and challenges

Backing any Kickstarter project is a risk, I won't try to say otherwise. Any number of events or circumstances could prevent me from completing this story. Listed in no particular order, these include but are not exclusive to: meteor strike, earthquake, unfortunate smelting accident, ninja attack, and alien invasion. I'm not trying to be flippant here (well, okay, maybe a little bit) but let's be real: I'm asking you to trust your money to a person with no verifiable history or experience.

All of the risk is in your hands and what I want to highlight here is that fact that I appreciate and respect this. Every person who chooses to back my campaign is an individual who has chosen to believe in me. That touches me at my core and in of itself fuels my motivation to succeed. I'd rather write for a few of you who took a chance than a multitude of people who only decide to put their money toward a sure thing.

What I'd like to focus this section on is the challenges I face. I don't foresee an issue with the actual writing. I won't claim writing to be "easy" but it's what I have the most experience in and the story is one that I am very comfortable with.

More problematic will be fulfillment, because it's something I've never attempted before and there's greater chance of an unforeseen hiccup gumming up the works. For the digital rewards I would ideally like to invest in a private website, somewhere people can log in and collect the digital rewards they've pledged for. That's both costly and more sophisticated than my skills are currently able to handle. I'd probably need to enlist outside help to meet that objective. Alternatively, there are online services that provide this sort of fulfillment and this is an option I will be looking more deeply into. If worse comes to worst, though, I will simply host the digital rewards on a filesharing or "cloud" site and e-mail backers the links respective of their pledge level. Not the prettiest solution, but it gets the job done with minimal fuss.

I also need to decide on a printer to handle the physical edition of the story. At present I am looking at The Book Patch who estimates a cost of about $3 per unit. That's steep compared to a mass market paperback but less than I was expecting to pay. I continue to look for alternatives to ensure both value and quality and won't make any decisions until the campaign concludes. Since this is a limited edition run I would rather ensure that the books were well manufactured than inexpensively priced.

Development of the book layout, for both the eBook and printed editions, is another challenge that needs to be taken into consideration. To keep my operating costs down I plan on doing this myself. Suffice to say I wouldn't be here if I weren't confident in my abilities. Making a pdf document is easy enough but I've yet to create with other popular formats, such as ePub. I'll also be testing the eBooks on both a Kindle and a Nook to ensure readability and aesthetic.

As you can hear above, I have already begun practicing to read for the audiobook version. While the process was more difficult than I initially anticipated, I've improved significantly since I started and believe I will only continue to do so as the campaign winds down. If successful beyond my expectations, I will look more closely into including a professional read as a stretch goal. I plan to format the audio book to an mp3 but can easily provide additional formats, such as Ogg Vorbis and FLAC if there is a demand.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    SCALLYWAG: You will receive an eBook edition of the story.

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    HAND: You will receive both the eBook and Audiobook editions of the story. Also, in the event this campaign fails, you're promised a copy of the latest and most complete draft in eBook form called the Doomsday Draft.

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    MATE: You will receive a physical edition of the story by post along with digital access to the digital eBook and Audiobook editions. You will also receive access to the privileged area of my forum where you can read story drafts as they develop and offer suggestions and criticism. Promised is the Doomsday Draft.

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    ENGINEER: You will receive a signed physical edition of the story by post along with digital access to the eBook and Audiobook versions. You will gain privileged access to my development forum. Promised is the Doomsday Draft.

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    NAVIGATOR: You may opt to have your name printed in the Author's Thanks section of the story. You also receive a signed copy of the physical edition, as well as digital access to the eBook and Audiobook editions. You gain privileged access to the development forum. Promised is the Doomsday Draft.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    CAPTAIN: I will write an additional short story to complement this campaign, the story based on your input and preferences. (Important: Please run your ideas by me -prior- to pledging at this level) You will also have your name printed in the Author's Thanks section of the story, receive a signed copy of the physical edition book, as well as the eBook and audiobook version. You gain privileged access to the development forum.

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Funding period

- (32 days)