Monday, March 30, 2015

Friends and Family Q&A

Dear Friends and Family:
As many of you know, I’ve been writing a science fiction book in my spare time over the past five years or so.  I’m thrilled to announce that I finally finished TimeWars: Manifest Destiny and self-published on Amazon a couple of days ago!
Rather than gush on and on about the story or the process of writing a book, I thought I’d just anticipate a few specific questions:

Question 1:  Why?
Answer:  Damn good question.   This book is a product of my passion for innovation, startup companies and quantum physics.  The idea for the story hit me while on a morning run near Mammoth Lakes, California, and I had one of those “you have to do this” moments—a message that certainly didn’t arrive with a lot of information about how I would get it done, how long it would take or how challenging the process would be.   I don’t know if the inspiration came from a parallel universe, a practical joker version of my future self, or just appeared out of the thin mountain air, but I felt compelled to act on it and see it through to completion. 

Question 2:  Why did it take over 5 years?
Answer:  Well, that’s an easy question to ask if you’ve never written a book!   There's a great Michael Chrichton quote:  “Books aren't written - they're rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.”  This is totally accurate.
I also have a family and a full time job so it’s hard to make real progress on a book when you can only devote an hour here or there to the process.  Most of the major work was done while I was on vacation or on long plane trips with good chunks of time to dedicate to writing. 

Question 3.  What’s the story about?
Answer:  Here’s the synopsis:
When Bill Gross, the Nobel-prize winning CEO of Idealab—a pioneering technology incubator in Pasadena, CA—teams up with the head of the Caltech Theoretical Physics Department, Dr. Paul Sinclair, to develop a next-generation quantum computer, they stumble upon the greatest discovery in human history: time travel. As they begin experimenting they quickly learn that Earth is facing the threat of imminent attack. Using their newly developed time travel technology, the unlikely team of quantum physicists and high tech entrepreneurs must devise a plan to address the impending invasion by the most dominant civilization in the universe.
With the help of the United States Special Forces, DARPA, the President and some extraordinary men from Earth’s past, their team must travel between the past, present and future to find technologies and allies that can help them save the world in 2015. But altering timelines to save the future yields unexpected results…

Question 4:  I noticed you have Bill Gross from Idealab as a character in the story.   What does he have to say about the book?
Answer:  I’ve recently spent time with Bill as an advisor to one of his startup companies, and when I first mentioned the book to him, he thought I was kidding.   When he realized I wasn’t kidding, he agreed to read parts of a working draft, and ultimately agreed, graciously, to let me use his name in the book.  I’m incredibly grateful to him for his trust, and I think the story portrays him and Idealab accurately, which is to say very favorably.

Question 5.  This is a science fiction book—do I need to be a geek to enjoy it?  Is it too technical to enjoy for the average reader?
Answer:  I’ve received some feedback that I’ve spent more time than usual building out the time travel technology aspects of the story before getting into the faster moving plot (some people might even label TimeWars as being in the “hard science fiction” genre, but that really only applies to the first ~15% of the story).   Some people absolutely love that part of the book, others less so, but thinking through the technical aspects of time travel technology was one of my primary inspirations for writing the book in the first place.  And I figured if I’m going to spend five years writing a book, I’m going to write one that I like, and if it finds a large audience, great, and if it finds an audience of one (me), that’s okay too. It’s not like I don’t have a day job.  
But to be clear, you don’t need to be technical to enjoy the story.
Question 6:  OK, Jason, do you like the book?
Answer:  Yes, very much!
Question 7 (the question you probably most want to ask):  Is the book any good?
Answer:   Let me tell you how this works.  If you’re reading this you're a good friend or family member, and as a friend or family member you have certain obligations.  First, you simply have no choice but to shell out the $4.99 and buy the book on Amazon.  You can feel free to call it a "Fairchild friend tax" and use it against me for the rest of my life (that’s a hell of an roi, by the way), but in any case you simply have to buy the book.  It’s a great value @ $4.99 (or free for Amazon Prime members).   Second, whether you read it or not, and whether you like it or not, you are obligated by friendship or blood to write a glowing customer review at Amazon.  I know, I know, that seems like an oddly aggressive request.  But we’re not talking about politics or religion here, so let’s not get caught up on morality or editorial integrity—what I need here is stars.  Specifically, five stars.  Five star reviews at Amazon.  :-)
And if you really want to earn extra credit (or just gain more leverage to use against me at a time of your choosing), you can share on Facebook after you buy it on Amazon (Amazon will prompt you after purchase). Let’s get this book viral!
Question 8:  The story sets up a sequel—do you have plans on writing another book?
Answer:  I have no idea.  I have the plot sketched out, but we’ll see.  Depends on how this book does, and it depends on inspiration—if I get inspired, then I’ll have no choice.

Question 9:  What about getting a traditional publisher?
Answer:  In today’s digital age, several authors start out self-publishing eBooks on Amazon and then enter into publishing deals with traditional publishing houses once they’ve established an audience.   I’ll evaluate alternatives as I get more market feedback.

Question 10:  Jason, all of this sounds great.  Where can I buy the book?
Answer:  So glad you asked!   You can go to Amazon and type in TimeWars: Manifest Destiny, or click on the Amazon icon on my blog:

Question 11:  What if I don’t have a Kindle?  Can I buy it in paperback?
Answer:  You can download the Kindle app on your iPhone/iPad or Android device and read it that way.   I will make the book available on paperback after the initial 90 day exclusivity period with Amazon.

Question 12:  Aren't you worried about criticism and embarrassing yourself?
Answer:  I recently read an article about Jonathan Ive (most senior Apple designer).  He has a poster hanging in his office for inspiration (I now have this poster in my office).  It offers some great, if crude, advice on design, but the words apply far more broadly.  
Here’s the link (, but my personal favorites are:
“Learn to take some fucking criticism.”
“Get over your fucking self.”
“Believe in your fucking self.”