Introducing “Off the Grid”

Off the Grid

As I was reflecting on the works of fiction I’ve written these past years, I realised that most of them are behind some form of paywall. The first volume of Minigrooves is available on the iBooks Store and it’s not free (you can, however, download a free sample with three full stories). My biggest project, a science fiction novel called Low Fidelity is published in serialised form on my Vantage Point magazine, and a subscription costs $2.99/month [Update: Vantage Point magazine ceased publications at the end of 2016. As of April 2017 work on Low Fidelity has resumed to complete the last episodes and publish the first book of the series before Q3 2017]. You can, however, get a taste of the novel’s world with the extra-narrative fragments I publish on the Crosslines/Low Fidelity website.

But still, the problem is that most people aren’t willing to take a leap of faith and purchase something to read without knowing the author, his style, his ‘voice’. I feel I needed to get something out there, available for anyone to read, so as to hopefully generate more interest in the rest of the fiction I’ve published since 2013. That’s why I’ve decided to start a new series, called Off the Grid.

Off the Grid is a science fiction story I’ll publish on this site as part of the Minigrooves Project. It will be published in serialised form, at regular intervals; it will remain freely available to read; and what’s more, while being a completely independent story, it’s set in the same post-apocalyptic world of Low Fidelity. This means that, even though Off the Grid can easily be enjoyed as a separate work, reading both Off the Grid and Low Fidelity will give the reader a richer picture of the world where the events take place.

I hope you’ll like this. Episode 1, Silently, downwind and out of sight, will be published tomorrow.

You can send feedback via Twitter, either at my personal account @morrick, or at the official @minigrooves account. Visit my main website for my more tech-oriented writing. You can find contact information there, too. As always, thanks for reading!

 


A few links of interest

An update on the absence of updates

Or — Whatever happened to Minigrooves Volume 2?

I have been so busy on various fronts that I didn’t realise my last update was published five months ago. Despite the silence, the Minigrooves project, and the work on the second volume of short stories, have been going on behind the scenes. But yes, there has been an unexpectedly huge delay in publishing the second book.

In part it’s because other creative projects have kept me busy: Vantage Point looks small on the outside — a compact magazine with a few articles and an episode of my serialised sci-fi novel Low Fidelity in every issue. But then I’ve launched a new series of short stories, which I publish in Vantage Point’s Single Specials. This series is centred on the character of Ian Charles Winterman, a consultant detective with a unique gift, a sort of heightened perceptiveness that allows him to have special insights and intuitions, and help the police force specifically in cases of abductions and missing persons. I’ve written two stories so far, and am working on the third. Planning the ‘adventures’ of this particular detective, and the intricate world and plot of Low Fidelity take considerable time and energy, probably more than what I expected.

These past months I’ve also had to deal with more translation work, and I tend to feel quite overwhelmed when things start overlapping. It’s a bit of a short circuit that hampers my creativity. It’s the clash of two opposing factors: my inability to multitask and my inability to compartmentalise. When I have multiple things to work on, I have to do them one at a time, and I can’t really divide my days into discrete sections like “carry on the translation assignment every morning, then work on the novel in the afternoon, then write tech-oriented articles on my main website at night”, etc. Sometimes I manage to make it work, but some other times inspiration may be so strong I have to work on one thing for an entire day.

But there’s another, more important reason behind the delayed appearance of Minigrooves Vol. 2, and it’s more technical in nature.

I started assembling Volume 2 in a new iBooks Author project, and at first — for consistency’s sake — I basically copied the template of Volume 1 with the intention of producing an iBook that visually looked and felt the same as the first volume of stories. But then I realised I was being myopic: since I plan to also release Volume 1 and Volume 2 on the Kindle platform, and given that now iBooks Author lets me create an ebook in ePub format directly, I started considering a different approach to this whole project that may be a little more future-proof, but it’s costing me more time in the present. My reasoning: if I publish Volume 2 as an ePub (and not an .iba file) on the iBooks Store, with a simplified, more practical layout, and I also update Volume 1 and publish it as an ePub with that same simplified layout, then I could more easily publish both books on the Kindle platform shortly after.

So, what’s been happening behind the scenes hasn’t just been the preparation of Minigrooves Vol. 2:

  • I’ve been reworking Volume 1, which will be re-published as a version 1.5 update;
  • I’ve been re-reading and editing the 24 stories that make up Volume 2;
  • I’ve been trying different layouts for both books, creating samples and exporting them to my iPad, to test navigation and user interaction;
  • And I plan to do a similar thing on a Kindle device, to see if I can save some headaches in the future.

Again, the idea is to make a step backwards at the moment, rethinking the layout of the first volume of stories, to hopefully make two steps forward later, and have two books in ePub format that can be published both on the iBooks Store and the Kindle Store without much hassle. I really apologise for the delay and for the silence. I’ve had another idea to make it up to you, so stay tuned and keep an eye on this space — something new is coming, and that should really be soon.

Minigrooves Vol. 2 — Coming soon

Volume 2 coming soon
Note: this won’t necessarily be the final design for the cover of Volume 2

Later than expected

It’s not that I’m bad at planning, but since my previous status update on the project, various things and setbacks have happened behind the scenes, and publishing the second volume of Minigrooves before August became unfeasible. I could have made it in a rush, but I want to offer a decent product, not a hurried job carried out in a few intense days.

At the time of writing, I have completed the editing and proofreading stages, and written a new short story to set the final count right. I thought I had 24 stories ready, but it turns out that I mistakenly counted The Blessed Event Room (Part 1) and The Blessed Event Room (Part 2) as two separate stories, while they’ll count as one in the book. So I ended up with only 23 stories and had to rectify the mistake.

What’s left to do: perfect a final layout on iBooks Author and assemble the materials, write Author’s Notes about the stories, add a few extras. All things considered, I think I should have Volume 2 ready by end of September – first half of October. It will be available first on Apple’s iBooks Store, then on the Kindle platform together with a reworked edition of Volume 1. I really hope to debut both books on the Kindle platform in November, but I guess at this point it’s more a they’ll be ready when they’re ready kind of ETA.

Lessons learnt from Volume 1

With the first volume, perhaps due to my excitement for finally self-publishing many stories I wanted people to read, I may have made the mistake of offering too much stuff in a single package (42 short stories, plus various extras). Despite my repeatedly saying that one can read Minigrooves in a non-sequential manner, that you can just open the book and read one story when you want and when you have time, I have the feeling that the overall impression has been, Whoa, that’s a lot. I’ll never finish this.

The main consequence of offering so many things packed in one single volume is that, for all the work I’ve put into it, I had to set a price that reflected the time and effort, and the quality of the materials. I thought that $9.99 was a fair price, I still think it is, but I guess that the utter disaster Volume 1 has been with regard to sales is largely due to its price. It’s already difficult to convince people to buy a useful, well-designed $3.99 app, imagine a $9.99 ebook.

Therefore, Volume 2 of Minigrooves will have a different vibe, a different approach. Fewer stories to begin with (I think 24 is perceived as more manageable than 42), fewer extras, and a lower price point (I’m thinking about a $3.99-$4.99 tier). As for the Kindle platform, I’m thinking about launching both books at the same (lower) price.

As for marketing, I’m always open to help and suggestions. One thing I’ll never get tired of repeating, though: If you purchased Minigrooves and liked the stories, PLEASE tell other people about the project, RECOMMEND the ebook, write a brief review. Everything helps to support my writing. Thank you.