The Rising Cover

We’re coming down the stretch for the release of The Rising, Book 2 of the Star Saga. Here is the cover as it stands today. What can we tweak to make it even better? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

One thing I’d like to tweak is related to a sense of speed. Perhaps a motion blur to the green starfighter. The explosion has some sharp angles near the leading edge of the wing that jar my eye. The only other thing I have is perhaps some navigation lights on the starfighters.
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3-D KiV-1 Model

My son Spencer is getting real good at using Blender. He’s been iterating through models of the KiV-1 from my Star Saga Starforgers Trilogy. You might remember the plastic models I did for my book covers. He’s taken an earlier version of the KiV, the KiV-1 which has more square wings and built it in Blender. Here are some screenshots of his model. Couldn’t be more proud of him.

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Above he’s removed the wings so you can see the fins.

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Above is the whole model from underneath, complete with landing gear doors.

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Below are the strakes under the conical nose. He’s doing all the details I had on my old model

Kiv 1 Fins with body

I’d show you the card board model that he’s using as a reference, but his Blender model is sooooo much better! Calling ILM, need some modelers for Star Wars Episode 9?

GCU Griffin Build, Part 3

First up is boxing in the scanner body ends. This area will have lots of greeblies and strips of styrene when finished. It will be recessed inside the main body. It was important that I get the shape straight and level so the rest of the model didn’t look warped. I like to listen to podcasts about writing while I work. Sometimes I listen to everything I have and move on to music. Long hours in the garage sniffing glue and cutting plastic go quicker with great tunes.
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Once the sides were done, I had to secure them to the top and bottom pieces. Now you can start to see the shape I’m going for with this scanner pod body.
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Got a bit carried away with the bottom of the head detailing and decided to attach it to the head. Big mistake. While wrestling with the model later on, I smacked it down and knocked off the detailing. Lesson learned. Do all your manhandling before you put on the details.
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Top of the head gets some shape. I made the top of the head removable so I could access the fiber optics.
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Started detailing early again. What is wrong with me?
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Regarding using gray styrene. Don’t. Just don’t use it. Testers modeling cement does not do well with it. I won’t be using it anymore. You have to sand it to get anything to stick to it.
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Dinking around with bridge details. I knew I needed an anti-starfighter gun on the top to get the greatest field of fire, but my boat kit had not come in yet so I played around with scanner details. The bridge was built with styrene sheet and strips.
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Bridge details continued. I started using thick strips like reactive armor on tanks. Looks cool anyway.
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A sense of scale. Sometimes it’s good to keep your scale in mind. Here is a 1/350 scale Japanese sailor.
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Bridge details augmented by 1/350 scale Dragon German Destroyer kit parts. I’m constantly pleased by the amount of detail that comes from Dragon model kits. From tanks to ships the details are always crisp and clean. Below are more details added and cemented into place. Including the gun on top of the bridge.
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Deck plates scored. I forgot to scribe the panel lines so had to use a dental pick after the bridge details had been added.
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Another view shows asymmetrical detailing.
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Bow of the ship. The details for the bow were mostly keys from a kid’s computer toy. I just sanded off the letters and glued them on. Lots of strip styrene used for effect.
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Top sides of the main scanner pod. The red color comes from the fact that I’m using a plastic For Sale sign for my body. Cheaper than buying it from a hobby store and just as good. Below you see the shape of the ship as it now stands. Next comes threading the fiber optics and running the wires for the lights.
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Coming next: lighting.
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Writing Bits and Pieces – Sales Numbers

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I entered my accounts into BookTrakr and this is what came back for my all time sales numbers. Not completely sure when I started selling my first book on Amazon, but I think it was about eight or nine years ago. My first book, Starstrikers was hit by lightning and sold really well for about three months. Nothing has ever taken off that well again. I have seven books on Amazon and combined they have made about as much as that fist book.

Mind you, I don’t advertise in any real way. Occasionally I’ll hit social media with a mention but that’s about it. So, things could probably be better if I actually tried to sell them. But for now, I’m not interested in that. I’m more interested in getting my first trilogy finished and that means publishing two more novels. After those two books release, I’ll take a more proactive course when it comes to advertising.

The reason I’m waiting is because of what happened to that first book. If I had had a couple more books in the series available back then, I’d be making far more money than what you see above. So back lists are important. Very important.

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These are the numbers for Starstrikers. Now this book is available nearly everywhere. I don’t do Apple or Google markets at this time. But you can get it in ebook and print form just about anywhere.

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Now let’s look at two novellas in the Amazon exclusive only market. The one above is not really doing to well at all. It’s a great yarn and both of my true fans love it. But new people don’t care about it. It has a villain as a hero and she’s a woman. That combination must be horrible for sales. This book has no reviews. Not even the people who got it for free bothered to read it or review it. What a pity. It’s a good story.

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This novella did pretty well despite having a nearly all female cast. It was about starfighter pilots and I was able to draw in my followers on Google+ who like fighters, Sci-Fi and model building to check it out. They loved it, but that’s as far as my social media footprint went. Not even a hundred customers. What’s really interesting are the numbers of lent units for each of these novellas. This one has over 16 thousand lends in like two months. So lots of people are reading it, but they are not talking about it and they are not coming back for more. Because the lead character of this novella is also in Starforgers and the Tales From Ocherva anthology and those books are not selling. It has seven reviews of 4 stars or better.

The lead character of The Blood Empress is in Starforgers, but I’m not seeing any movement between the two. So I’m failing to convert customers into fans with these books. Which is why it’s so important to release book 2 and book 3 before I advertise. Eventually, people will start to realize that the Star Saga’s Starforgers trilogy is about a bad ass woman named Devon Ardel who started as a Stellar Ranger and then became an awesome starfighter pilot in a career that eventually had her becoming an awesome starship captain.

I’ll come back and show you the money after I release the next two novels and we’ll compare numbers. Hopefully things will be better by July.

Writing Bits and Pieces – Raising the Stakes

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I’m currently writing the third act of my novella, K’nat Trap. While thinking about my story on the way home from work I realized that I had failed to account for some things during my last lunchtime writing session. For one, I had my hero return from a planet and didn’t any make mention that he’s basically lived in a bog without grooming for three days. Yeah, he’d stink and he’d have a few day’s growth of beard. I need to go back and add in those little details.

The second thing I noticed was that the good guys seemed to be getting off too easy in the big second act conflict. Turns out I had them handle lots of starfighters, but not the destroyer warships that launched them. So they are not out of the woods just yet. I think the second act needs to be drawn out a bit more. I’m going to lay the hurt on for a few more chapters to increase tension. I also have a nice little reversal going when the main plan falls short.

This is what happens when you go off-outline and have to blaze a new path through the plot. This is good news for this story though, it’s coming up a bit short on word count right now. Nothing a new battle won’t fix.

 

Writing Bits and Pieces, Going Rogue

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What happens when you spend all that time making an outline and then toss it aside when you’re in the heat of a first draft? You go Rogue. It happens with just about every book I’ve ever written. At some point, I make a change and the next thing I know I’m going off outline. Swinging the machete and clearing a new path. Most of the time I circle back and find the trail again. With my latest Work In Progress I may have ventured too far from the path as set forth in the outline.

I scrapped many scenes in a few chapters and then ditched an entire chapter. At this point, I’m having to completely wing the final act. I mean the story is pretty much the same, it’s the way things happen that has changed. Just enough turmoil to make staying on the outline impossible. But that’s OK.

Novel outlines are not like blueprints for buildings. If you suddenly decide to knock out a wall here and add a new room there, it’s not going to cause the builder any headaches. You just press on and make sure your story has a proper resolution. After you’ve written a few novels, like at least five or six, you begin to develop a second sense about what needs to happen and can often pants your way out of the sticks and back to camp without being on the established path. Can I use any more metaphors here?

So you can see I have about 20 thousand words on this novella. I might have another 10 to 15 thousand left to write. It’s much shorter than a regular novel.

Happy 13th Birthday Spencer

It’s been another fantastic year! Here are some of the highlights and memorable moments in the last year, before you turned into a teenager!

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Skiing on Bogus. The lines were boring, but the skiing was fun!

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Snuggle time with mom.

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Second Junior High concert. You made Jazz Band too! 

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Making your last Scout rank and pinning it on your old man, despite the giggles.

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Thanksgiving faces for a selfie.

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Doing 3D art of one of your dad’s models. Very cool.

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Taking 3rd place in Junior High Tennis! 

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Overlooking the Treasure Valley on a Scout camp out.

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Playing tennis on a team with your friends!

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Meeting a famous Sci-Fi author!

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Evading dad’s camera at the Fall Scrimmage for BSU.

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Flying simulators with your brother.

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Flying to Tennessee on a fun family vacation to see Momo and Dado!

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Doing flags at the cemetery for Scouts for the last time… sniff.

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Snoozing with Endora.

Military Challenge Coins

If you’ve read my novel Starstrikers, or have served in the military, you are no-doubt familiar with unit coins. The unit you are assigned to usually has a coin decorated with the unit symbol. Members carry the coin on them at all times. You never know when someone will take out their coin and challenge those around them. You’re supposed to take out your coin or risk buying the challenger a drink. Of course if you drop your coin on the floor in taking it out, you owe the room a round because you disrespected the unit.

Anyway, bringing this up again because my Civil Air Patrol squadron now has unit coins available to members. Sometimes the commander gives them out to folks who have helped out the squadron in some civic minded fashion. I know the Governor of Idaho has one. Below are some pictures of the Boise Composite Squadron’s unit coin. It’s a bit larger than the AMMO coin I carried in the Air Force.

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Writing Bits and Pieces – Removing a Character

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This week I had to rewrite a scene or two and remove a character and replace him with another. I don’t want to risk any spoilers, so I’ll be discussing this particular writing problem in slightly vague detail. In re-reading what I had written it became clear that a certain character should not be in the story. The scenes that I had written worked fine, in fact I loved having the cameo by this character from another novel of mine. But it reduced tension in this key Second Act scene and made the hero’s journey seem too easy.

I wanted the hero to have to face a new problem and didn’t want to give him anything familiar to lean on. I wanted the hero to have to trust a new character in a situation that was uncomfortable to him. That was hard to get across when he was interacting with an old friend instead of being faced with a somewhat threatening individual.

It was a hard couple of scenes to have to cut up and redo. I really liked them the way I had them. But they didn’t serve the story so they had to go. Usually I find this sort of deep cut editing in the second draft, but this one was found and handled in the first draft. Hopefully that will be one less thing to change down the line. I’ll still need to go in and tweak these scenes a bit, but at least now I have some tension right where I need it. Yet another reason to be familiar with story structure.

 

GCU Griffin Build, Part 2

Mounting

The Griffin was not going to be a large and heavy model, like the Renoke. It was a smaller starship than the GCU Sokol and would be built to the same scale as that model, 1/350. I’ve had some success with these 1/4 20 female plugs that can be hammered into a pre-drilled piece of wood. So I went to the hardware store and purchased a 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch square piece of hobby wood and cut it to the width of the scanner section.

This would also be where I mounted the 1 1/2″ PVC pipe used for the Class-C engine. I drilled and hammered into the wood four of these plugs. This would let me secure it to the PVC with the top one and give me left and right and bottom mounts for the model.

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Below we see the PVC and wood mounted with the scanner and head sections taped on for reference. 

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This is a side view of the model. Proportions are slightly long in this shot and would need to be shortened a bit to match my drawings.

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I’ve had great success gluing wood to plastic with this Gorilla White glue. The metal plug sticks out a bit so the plastic sheet on the bottom had to be removed so it set flush to the wood. I also glued some strip plastic to prevent the PVC from twisting.

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I used 0.30 gray plastic sheet for the bottom of the head. I found a couple of parts from my bins that seemed to match the scanner gear under the head. So I went ahead and glued them onto the bottom. Normally I don’t do greebles until the boxing out is complete.

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Here’s the model mounted on a stand. 

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I’m always on the lookout for interesting details. These white plastic parts are only a couple centimeters wide and come from inside the keys of a laptop computer. I thought the ones on the ends looked like they could be escape pods for the side of a starship.

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Here is a divider bin where I keep small parts. I’ve separated out the keyboard parts to make finding them easier.

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Below I’ve placed a row or two of these greebles along the side of the head to judge size and placement. I’ll definitely use them.

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Here is the head section of the ship after boxing it in. There will be more supports and I’ll have to figure out what to do with the fiber optics from the head. It’s a good bet the fibers will run through the PVC to the center scanner section where I’ll mount the LED light for them.

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