Hey, y’all. Hope all is well and you’re having a great fall.

I’m taking a break from writing about books today to rant about something else that I’ve always been passionate about — NASCAR.

As a lot of you know, I spent a good chunk of my career working in sports. I worked with Florida State athletics, EA Sports, the Indy Racing League (now IndyCar), and even the Charlotte Motor Speedway while in graduate school.

Nowadays I don’t write about sports unless it’s for fun, which is why from time to time I pen posts like these.

Before I go any further, I do want to say congratulations to Martin Truex and the entire 78 team on winning the 2017 Cup Series championship at Homestead last weekend. I remember Martin when he entered Cup racing via JR Motorsports from what was then the Busch Series. He was a talent then, and he’s a talent now evidenced by one of the most dominate seasons in recent NASCAR history. He’s also, best I can tell, one helluva good guy with the makings of a great champion.

Way to endure, Martin. Truly, you are the man.

So, why NASCAR and why now?

A lot has been made of NASCAR’s dire financial situation in 2017. I’m not here to discuss that, although if you’d like to know more, I’d highly recommend reading this excellent column from Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. I’m here to talk about solutions.

In short, NASCAR today reminds me in many ways of the National Hockey League following the 2004 lockout, which saw the league forfeit an entire season. Radical change was the only way the NHL would ever recover, and radical change it embraced. It moved forward with three things in mind:

  • How do we make our product as exciting as possible for fans?
  • How do we maximize our league’s value for owners and potential sponsors?
  • Who can we partner with to grow our renewed brand?

Fast-forward a few years, and the NHL is quite healthy in 2017. Still, it all started with the league’s willingness to retract, cut costs, adapt, then move forward with a strong foundation.

This is the path NASCAR should embrace today.

What would Commissioner Malone do?

The following are six far-fetched (as in, they’ll never happen) ideas I’d pitch were I tasked with fixing NASCAR.

Step 1: Slash the schedule and realign

There is absolutely no reason for a sport — any sport — to run a 10-month season. Thirty-six races are entirely too many, and that’s not even including exhibition events like the All Star race and pole winner shootout.

I’d cut ten weeks from the schedule. That’s nine points races and the All-Star race (no sport in America has a thriving all-star event, so why bother?). This, in turn:

  • Puts a premium on remaining races
  • Makes significant cuts to travel costs for teams
  • Ends the season during the summer with minimal competition from other sports for TV viewership

Once the final list of tracks has been established, I’d design a schedule with as much emphasis on geography as possible to prevent teams from crisscrossing the country for dates.

My ideal season would consist of 27 races (20 regular season and 7 postseason). It would begin in February with the Daytona 500 then end on Labor Day in NASCAR’s backyard — Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bonus Thought: The Memorial Day date would go to the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Step 2: Rebrand the “playoffs” as “the tournament,” reduce participants

Dear NASCAR. Stop calling your postseason “the playoffs.” You’re not football, and honestly you look ridiculous pretending otherwise. Be who you are.

I get that NASCAR wanted to put an emphasis on wins by giving automatic postseason berths to race victors throughout the regular season. It makes sense. The problem is you inevitably end up with one or two drivers who fluke out a win then eek into the title hunt with no real right to be there.

That’s not competition; that’s a gimmick, and it cheapens the crap out of your title.

The time has come to reward consistency again. I’d do this by crowning a regular-season points champion after race 20, then giving that driver the top seed in a seven-week tournament (ala the NCAA Basketball Tourney) using much the same format as exists today (twelve drivers trimmed to eight after three races then four after six, creating a four-driver shootout in the final event).

This rewards the old-school fans who value consistency while giving NASCAR’s television partners something exciting to sell with the postseason.

As for how these 12 drivers would be selected: I’d do so on points, while allotting major point bonuses to stage and race winners throughout the regular season (yes, I’d keep stage racing).

Step 3: Cut the cost of racing… A LOT

Some reports claim it takes $25-30 million per year to field a competitive Cup Series team. That’s freaking absurd! NASCAR should find ways to slash that in half, minimum. This would achieve two major goals:

  • Creates enormous value for sponsors (NASCAR Sales Pitch: “Hey, Outback. Would you rather spend $10 million annually for eight weeks of scoreboard sponsorship at Dolphins Stadium, or be featured front-and-center on the hood/fire-suit of our champion for seven straight months, including the postseason? Oh, and he’ll eat a steak in Victory Lane!”)
  • Creates parody within the sport since more race teams can afford to compete at high levels (good equipment, equal testing time, etc.)

As for how best to do that, I wouldn’t begin to speculate, although the schedule changes shown above are a great way to start.

This is one of those areas where NASCAR leadership would need to sit down with their stakeholders (owners, tracks, manufactures, racing engineers, television partners, safety crews, etc.) and heed their expertise in formulating a plan.

Step 4: Partner with blue collar brands

NASCAR’s core fanbase has always been blue collar, always. They’ve lost a lot of that identity, and frankly, it’s time to get it back. This begins by reinjecting value into the sport via the means above then realigning it with companies/brands who cater to that same working-class audience.

So, who are these people?

They’re most Americans, which is to say they live on a budget. They drink Miller High Life beer because it’s $6.99 a twelve-pack. They grocery shop at Walmart. They wear clothes from JC Penny, and occasionally they treat themselves to a nice dinner out at the Olive Garden because they had a Groupon.

Does this mean blue-collar folks don’t spend money? Not at all. They’re just a lot more intentional about how they do it.

Examples of companies that might resonate with NASCAR fans:

  • Superstores like Walmart and Target
  • Wrangler, Lee Jeans
  • TV streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV
  • Redbox movie-rental service
  • Domestic beer companies
  • Discount wireless services like Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, and Cricket
  • Bargain-hunter websites like Overstock and Priceline
  • Fast food chains
  • Bulk/wholesale chains like Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and Costco
  • Bargain clothes stores like Payless Shoes, Ross, and TJ Max
  • Popular grocery store brands for cereals, coffee, or frozen pizza

It would also behoove NASCAR to invest in the American family. This means offering father-son discounts on race tickets, or partnering with charities that support impoverished homes. This advances goodwill toward the public, and helps build NASCAR’s next generation of fans who, in a time before computerized engines and iPads, learned about cars in the family garage with their parents and a toolbox.

This segues nicely into…

Step 5: Cut costs for fans

NASCAR’s equal footing with the big-league sports lasted a hot minute then ended years ago, though you’d never know that from the cost of a race weekend. Between tickets, travel expenses, hotels/camping, concessions, and race swag, fans can expect to shell out primo bucks to attend an event.

Time for that to change, too.

NASCAR should take the minor-league sports approach to event costs. That means cheaper tickets, reduced costs for concessions (i.e. Dollar Dog Night), discount bins on old swag, and *GASP!* free parking at the track.

No fan should ever pay $120 for a race ticket again, period. $120 for a full weekend, maybe. But not just a Cup race.

Other things NASCAR can do to create value for fans:

  • Strengthen partnerships with other series like ARCA and IndyCar to provide additional on-track action for race weekends
  • Spotlight local racers with “big track” heat race events (many large tracks feature built-in short tracks that could facilitate this)
  • Continue adding concerts and non-racing attractions to bring more fans to race weekends

Step 6: Bring on the NASCAR Network

NASCAR needs to get with the times and launch its own digital network (ala the WWE Network). This would provide them a platform through which to connect with a whole new generation of cord-cutting fans while simultaneously creating a one-stop-shop for original content, classic race footage, and expanded coverage of NASCAR’s national touring series.

Other features of the NASCAR Network:

  • Make the Truck Series the network’s crown jewel property and run it offseason from Cup and Xfinity (ideally Truck Series teams would operate for pennies on the dollar compared to Cup)
  • Coordinate with grassroots tracks to live-stream weekly events like the K&N Pro Series, though blacking out broadcasts in local markets to maintain fan attendance at venues (this would also offer tons of value to smalltime sponsors of hometown race teams)
  • Create NASCAR-themed entertainment such as reality shows, lifestyle pieces, and live-streamed video podcasts (i.e. The Glass Case of Emotion Podcast) to create a more rounded viewing experience

In closing, some might say I’m thinking too small with this model — that the goal should be to challenge the NFL, not run from it. Maybe that’s true. However, NASCAR tried that, and it seems to me that all it gained in the long-run was a boatload of empty stands, dwindling TV ratings, and a legion of fleeing of sponsors.

Put simply: It’s better to be a healthy niche sport in the black then an overextended has-been that’s hemorrhaging fans with no sustainable future. Alas, that’s just one humble sci-fi writer’s opinion.

Got ideas of your own for how NASCAR should change? Feel free to weigh in via the comments below.

Cheers, gang. Take care, travel safe this week if you’re hitting the road for the holiday, and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ian

Anyone who knows me knows I’m anything but a mark for Apple. To this day, I think Steve Jobs’s “the iPhone is perfect; there’s no need to add anything to it” line is one of the most arrogant statements in the history of tech (it’s not perfect, by the way. Not by a long shot, but I digress).

Having said that, I’m  extremely grateful that Apple offers a toll-free customer support line for Voiceover users (iOS software for the low visioned). That is an ENORMOUS help to people like me, and something neither Google nor Microsoft has ever seen fit to invest in. You have no idea how frustrating it is to hit a snag with a device, then be forced to bounce from forum to forum in search of answers that may not even exist, using a screen magnifier at 900X. It’s beyond maddening.

With Apple, I can simply pick up the phone, call the number reserved exclusively for me, and ask a flesh-and-blood human being for assistance.

Jobs wasn’t perfect, and neither is his company. Apple is still king for accessibility, though, and until Google/MS figure that out, disabled users will continue spending money hand-over-fist with the fruit guys.

Cheers, Steve. I find you less of a tool today.

Sincerely,

IJM and Blind Folk Everywhere

Well, folks, it’s finally here. As of this morning, MAKO: THE SECOND EDITION is now for sale on Amazon! Better yet, I’m offering it for a limited-time price of just $2.99!

For those who’ve never read my series, MAKO is very much a sci-fi adventure with all the starfighter bells and whistles one would expect from the genre. At its core, however, it’s very much the tale of five college friends from Florida State, reuniting at a time in life when frankly they need each other most. The story offers tons of action, along with a healthy dose of humor, a shade of drama — and, yes, even a touch of romance for those who dig that sort of thing. 😉

For those who HAVE read MAKO, I think you’ll find 2.0 quite different from edition one, as I’m honestly just a better writer today than I was in 2009. Give it a read and let me know what you think via the comments below.

Gotta jet for HonorCon, y’all. Take care, thanks as always for supporting my work, and please feel free to share this post with your friends/followers (The social media algorithm gods tend to smile upon that).

Cheers,

Ian

BOOK SYNOPSIS:

A down-and-out history professor leads a team of old friends to virtual glory as the first-ever group to beat “Mako Assault,” a revolutionary new game that has emerged from nowhere to take the Internet by storm. As a reward for their achievement, and under the guise of publicity, the group is flown to meet the game’s mysterious designer, only to learn that Mako’s intent was never to entertain its players, but rather to train them.

An epic science fiction thrill-ride of action, suspense, laughter, and romance; MAKO is the story of five ordinary people, rising to the challenge of extraordinary events, driven only by their faith in each other.

Morning, y’all.  See below for my HonorCon 2017 panel schedule this weekend, or visit the HonorCon website for the full slate of events.

Friday:

3:00-3:50 pm (Room D) “Getting Known as an Author” with Chris Kennedy and Ian J. Malone

5:00-5:50 pm (Main Ball Room) “Tips for Taking Your Book to Market” with Chris Kennedy and Ian J. Malone

Saturday:

9:00- 9:50 am (Main Ball Room) “But I Liked That Guy!” with Chris Kennedy

10:00-10:50 am (Room D) “Livin’ the Dream: Tips for Becoming a Full-Time Creative” with Ian J. Malone

You can also expect a Facebook Live session or two in there somewhere.

Cheers, and see you soon… Ian

For those craving something new from the Makoverse, today is your day!

As previously announced, Mako: Genesis (the short story prequel to Mako, starring everyone’s favorite loud-mouthed Tuskan pilot, Link Baxter) is now available for download. Here’s the catch, though: it’s not for sale on Amazon.

The only way to get this story is to sign up for my email list, which you can do here if you haven’t already.

Oh, and did I mention that Mako: Genesis is totally FREE?

Story Synopsis:

Link Baxter defied orders on Mako Assault’s nineteenth environment to save Markus Katahl. Neither he, nor the others could’ve ever known what that started.

Witness the moment when the Renegades first came to Jon Reiser’s attention in “Mako: Genesis,” the action-packed short story available only to members of the Ian J. Malone email list.

The Genesis of Genesis

I’ve been meaning for some time to:

  1. Pen something new for the Renegades, and;
  2. Pen something exclusive for my email listers as a way of saying “thank you” for supporting my work.

It’s no secret that I’ve been undergoing something of a rebranding of late with my books, and frankly this just felt like the right time to roll this project out.

Mako: Genesis also gave me the chance to “put right what once went wrong” with one of The Big Five: Link (That’s Quantum Leap humor… Kids, ask your parents).

In going back over Mako for the second edition, it occurred to me that everyone got a proper backstory except for Link. He’s small. He’s brash. He’s a lawyer who hates his job, and blows off steam at night by flying starbombers into hot zones and shooting bad guys from extreme distances in a videogame. Beyond that, not much else is known about him in the beginning.

Genesis gave me the chance to flesh Link out a bit in those early days — who he was, why he hated his life, and what inevitably put him on that plane to San Diego with the others. You’ll even find out what drew him to sniper school as an MOS in the game, as well as later when… well, just later (keeping it spoiler-free here).

It goes without saying that all five of the Renegades changed a lot over the course of three books. However, in some respects, I think you can say that’s truer for Link than anyone. Read this story then think about where he’s at in life when the final page turns for At Circle’s End. Think about who he’s become, what his priorities are, and what it is in life that truly makes him happy.

Link came a long way, man. Read Mako: Genesis and you’ll know what I mean.

More short stories to come

FYI, this will not be the only one of these that I write. As mentioned on social media, I’ve got Colonies Lost on deck in the coming months, and I plan to write a prequel short for that one as well (titled Nightfall). Since you’re already subscribed to this list, you’ll have that (in addition to Genesis) as soon as it hits.

Again, these short stories are not available for sale to the public. They’re solely my way of saying thanks for following my work, and continuing to put up with my emails. LOL

Hope you enjoy Mako: Genesis and drop me a line anytime if you’ve got questions.

Cheers,

Ian

PS – Big thanks to my pals at Streetlight Graphics for helping me retool the original Mako cover for a new generation. I’ve always loved that cover, and am glad to see it sticking around.

Yo, gang! I’m working on a new Mako short story which will be a freeie for my email list subscribers. I need some beta readers to help me polish it out. Should be done in the next day or so.
 
Shoot me a message via the contact page if you’re interested.
 
Story Synopsis:
 
Link Baxter defied orders on Mako Assault’s nineteenth environment to save Markus Katahl. Neither he, nor the others could’ve ever known what that started.
 
Witness the moment when the Renegades first came to Jon Reiser’s attention in “Mako: Genesis,” the action-packed short story available only to members of the Ian J. Malone email list.

Hey y’all, it’s finally here! For a Few Credits More is officially live on Amazon! Click here to score your copy in ebook or paperback!

For those unaware, this marks the second in a series of anthologies set in the bestselling military science fiction world known as the Four Horsemen Universe (4HU).

My entry, A Family Tradition, tells the story of a young man in Jacksonville, FL who is left to pick up the pieces when his older brother (a mercenary and local hero) passes away in a tragic starship accident at the pentacle of his success. It’s a tale of legacy and loss, though ultimately it’s the story of a family pulling together in search of better days — days that may well be at hand with a stranger’s proposition that could change everything.

I hope you enjoy A Family Tradition, as well as all the other fantastic works in this anthology. I can tell you that we as the authors are extremely proud of them.

Cheers, y’all. Have a fantastic Friday and I’ll catch up with you later.

Ian

PS – Favor to ask: Hit me up via email and or social media once you’ve read the story. I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

About the 4HU

The 4HU is a brilliant new military science fiction canvas from the minds of Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, both Amazon bestsellers in the genre.

Here’s a quick blurb from the publisher (Seventh Seal Press):

It’s the Twenty-Second Century. The galaxy has opened up to humanity as a hyperactive beehive of stargates and new technologies, and we suddenly find ourselves in a vast playground of different races, environments, and cultures. There’s just one catch: we are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.

Enter the Four Horsemen universe, where only a willingness to fight and die for money separates Humans from the majority of the other races. Enter a galaxy not only of mercenaries, but also of Peacemakers, bounty hunters, and even a strung-out junkie in the way of a hired assassin.

To date, the 4HU has seven books for sale on Amazon.