Eye Protection Mode

On a lark, I tried a new word processor program called WPS Office this week. It has a free version that works on Linux, Mac and Windows. I discovered that it had an Eye Protection Mode for writing that changed the page color to a relaxing light mint color. I’ve been using it for about a week and I love it. Below is what that program looks like on my desktop.

Naturally, I looked around in LibreOffice and Word to see if they had similar features. They do, kinda, but nothing as easy to activate as in WPS Office. In Microsoft Word: You can switch the program to the more eye-friendly “Read Mode,” which allows you to change the page color. Go up to View > Read Mode > View > Page Color > Sepia. We think you’ll find this easier on your eyes.

Below is a screenshot of LibreOffice Write that shows how to do it from the Tools -> Options.

You can customize the color in Write to a lighter tone that what is shown. I’ll probably stop using WPS Office here soon and return to Write, because I’m more comfortable using the LibreOffice suite. Also, there is no dark theme for Linux in WPS Office.

Switching Gears

I’ve decided to finish out the year by doing a page one re-write of Betweos. This is a stand alone novel that I’ve been working on for a long time. During a recent re-read, I discovered that I needed to change POV from 3rd person to 1st person to make the story more engaging.

The upside to this is that the novel will be more engaging for the reader from start to finish. The downside is that I have to start a fourth draft and that’s a bunch of writing. My goal is to finish before the end of 2021.

I have created a Season One of my Vella story – Ranger Tales that will end in September. Not sure if I will bother to do a second season as sales from that new platform are not worth it right now. That could change, but I doubt it. So if you loved the Devon Ardel character and want to know how some Silicants got their start, definitely check out that story. https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/product/B099JBGXXY

Kindle Vella

I wasn’t really interested in the new Vella platform from Amazon until I found a possible use case. I created a series of related short stories while I was preparing to write the first Star Saga series, years ago. Since that time I’ve been trying to find a way to market them that would actually work. Binding them into an anthology was not working. Neither was breaking them out into separate stories and selling them on Kobo.

Vella is intended to be a serialized story telling platform. They expect that each episode will be between 600 and 5,000 words. The idea is that you tell a longer story by selling individual episodes not unlike watching a TV program. They don’t specify that you have to wrap up each episode, so you could have cliff hangers and multiple episode story arcs.

My plan is to mix the old stories with new stories and create a timeline that leads into the first Star Saga novel. This is a direct attempt to bring in the younger Vella audience to my novel series. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t know if Vella as a platform will work. But it gives me the chance to further explore some popular characters and a planet that is pivotal to my story universe. I suppose if the Vella platform fails, I can always re-purpose them into more ebooks.

I’m looking forward to writing some fun Space Westerns again.

Lifespans and Literature

I’ve been thinking a lot about human lifespans and how generations interact over time. I blame Strauss and Howe and their book – The Fourth Turning. For a quick video summary, watch this YouTube. If you’re writing Epic Fantasy or Space Opera or Historical Fiction, it’s worth a read to help you understand your craft. If you’re a human being, it should be mandatory reading to help you understand your place in history.

I’m just getting started with the final trilogy of what I call the Starship Series. It’s three trilogies set during the starship career of one man. Each trilogy is named after the class of starship he’s commanding or serving on at different points in his career/life. In Corvette, he’s just starting out on his career and in Destroyer, he’s midway through it and by the final trilogy – Explorer, he’s the old wise man teaching a new generation what he has learned.

This past week I’ve created a rough, four part outline of the first Explorer’s book. I now understand where the story is going and how it should get there. I know how my hero will react and how the new, young crew of the ship he’s on, will ignore him, fight him and eventually listen to him in the end. They will need to learn the lessons he is teaching them, because they are about to face the greatest war in human history. A war that will last a millennium and define the character of the sentient species in the galaxy.

World Building – Explorer Edition

I’ve been having a hard time getting going on writing the first book of the Explorer Trilogy. Part of that is due to the pandemic, just like everyone else, it’s affected my creativity. Just today, I realized that as far as my story goes, I’ve been overlooking some basic world building. This has caused me to throttle back on the writing and do more research.

The Explorers are a civilian run exploration and discovery organization kind of like a NOAA ship. So there are some officers but most of the crew and passengers are scientists and grad students and researchers. So now I’m working out the structure of the Explorer Corps. What they do, who funds them and what the command structure looks like.

I don’t expect this will take long to make and then I can jump back into the writing.

Above is the SS Bourke on my desk. It’s modeled after a ship like the NOAAS Ronald H. Brown pictured below. Of course, the Bourke is a deep-space ship, not a blue-water ship. But they have similar crew and passenger specs and overall mission.

Complete Destroyer Trilogy Now Available

This week I finally got around to launching the last two Destroyer trilogy novellas as ebooks. They are now available just about wherever you buy ebooks. I’m currently working on paperback versions of all three books.

The cover art is once again courtesy of my brother, Byron McConnell. The ship models are designed and built by myself and you can see their build progress under Model Builds for SS Truxtun, Black Star, Sultran Warship and Ostrov Warship.

I’ll put together some cover iterations in the coming weeks so you can see how we design the covers.

You can find links to all three ebooks under the Novels menu. Now back to writing the Explorer trilogy which will end the series at the same time as Starforgers takes place.

Happy New Year!

Looking forward, over that massive air scoop on my hood, not into my rear-view mirror.

I’ve always had better luck in odd numbered years. I was born, graduated HS, got married, and enjoyed my best book sales in odd numbered years. So I’m optimistic that with a new administration and a vaccine, 2021 can only be better, not worse than 2020. I’d like to start that trend by getting a day job!

I plan on releasing at least two books this year, completing the middle trilogy of the Starship Series. Next up is Destroyer: The Mutineers and hopefully by summer – Destroyer: Letting Go. Meanwhile, I’ll start writing the final trilogy and hopefully get through at least two of them before the end of the year.

I’ve already built the models needed for the Starship Series book covers, so my modeling hobby may continue to be somewhat dormant over the winter months. Warmer temps in my garage could lead to the continuation of the Franklin model. I’d like to finish it up for a cover redo of my first novel, Starstrikers. Below are the latest pictures taken of that model under construction.

Today we eat pork and black eyed peas and look forward to a time when we can let go of our masks and shake hands with strangers and hug our friends in person again. Happy New Years Day, 2021!

The Most Popular and Least Known of My Books

Every author has at least a few hits and maybe a few unknown gems, waiting to be discovered by readers. Below you’ll find my hits and my sleepers.

Destroyer is the latest novella about Captain Vance and the crew of the Corvette novella. It’s the start of a new trilogy and a wild adventure on the jungle world of Declo. Devon’s Blade is my ode to the Fighter Pilot. Pilot Devon Ardel arrives on a water world to take over a fighter squadron beset by a poor combat record. She struggles to turn the unit into a deadly force as they face the deadliest new starfighter from the Votainion Empire. Starforgers is the start of the Great War and the first book in the Star Saga. It’s an action packed Space Opera with terrific characters and epic action.

My sleeper books are two great stand alone stories that flesh out plot threads from the main Star Saga series. The Blood Empress is how Empress Nykostra rose to power and launched the Votainion Empire on a collision course with the Federation. K’Nat Trap is set just after Starstrikers and features Kiloe’s efforts to discover the secrets of a new enemy starfighter. Great combat action with plenty of Pew, Pew.

Newsletter Restarted

I’ve decided to start up my newsletter again. It’s been so long, I can’t remember the last time I actually sent one out. If you were a subscriber and you have not received this month’s issue, please resubscribe. I changed back to Mailchimp and lost my old subscribers. Which was okay, as most of them were not legit anyway.

I’ll try and stay on top of this from now on, sending out one newsletter every month. If I don’t have anything new coming out, I’ll try and give you some insight into the making of my novels and or the models I build for the covers. Something new and original that you might not see here or on Twitter.

I hope you’ll subscribe and give me a quick read every month. Now to go figure out something to include for December’s issue before that month gets here.

Starfighters in Profile

I’ve had this idea of making a series of art books based on the old Aircraft in Profile series that my dad had when I was growing up. They were In-depth histories of fighters with multiple profiles in color of each aircraft.

The hardest part of doing a book like this is actually drawing all the different profiles needed. I was either going to have to figure it out myself or hire the task out to an artist. I decided to go ahead and learn how to do it myself. I don’t profess to be a great digital artist, but I’m learning. Here are some of the first and easiest profiles that I’ve done so far. These are all KiV-1 starfighters from my Star Saga series.

It all starts with a vector based line drawing like you see below. This one shows the fighter from the left, bottom, top and right side. I didn’t do a head-on shot. Mental note: do a head-on shot. The top and bottom sides are blended which will be more evident after this one is “painted”. The program I use for this is called InkScape and it’s free and open source.

After I have this sketch completed, I import it into Gimp, which is a free and Open Source Photoshop clone. That’s where all the magic happens. Below is another version of the above line drawing but with just a left/top/right orthographic view. This attempts to recreate the cardboard model of a KiV-1 that I built years ago.

By the way, the KiV-1 is about the same size as a P-51B Mustang, as seen in the models below.

The real point of doing this is to show multiple liveries on the same starfighter. I’ve started doing this with separate files as seen below. The first one is nearly complete. I still haven’t learned how to do shading, so I may come back to this one later and add that. But it does have decals and unit markings.

The Type 33 variant just has the main parts painted in but lacks any decals or unit badges. The Type 35 is still in the process of being painted. Each color has its own layer in Gimp so you can color outside the lines and then just use an eraser to clean them up. Once I realized this was the way to go, things go so much easier. You start with an insanely high resolution vector file and then lower it to about 1000 to import it into Gimp. The zoom in and out feature is your friend.

Because these are different types, there should be some visual different in the appearance other than just colors. I have not attempted that yet. Also, usually on these profiles the aircraft are weathered a bit. Again, have not learned how do to that yet. So I have a ways to go before these are ready for print. But at least now you can see where I’m heading with this project. Eventually I’ll move on to the Alliance fighters which will have readable unit names and numbers.

The unit markers were done seperately in InkScape and imported as a layer in Gimp. Inkscape is perfect for creating cool looking unit badges and other decal type markings.

One thing that surprised me when doing these profiles is how much fun they were to make. Listening to some jams and just coloring in Gimp was pretty relaxing. A nice creative break from writing novels and a good way to make art while the dumpster fire of 2020 burns in the backgroung.