Writing Update

I suppose I should write a blog post this year before it becomes 2024.

I’ve been working on the middle novella of the Explorers Trilogy. These are the last books of the Starship Series. So far I’m a little over half finished with it. My goal is to finish it this year and start the third and final book early in 2024. I’ve been moving right along at about ten or more pages a week, when I get the time to write. I was stuck on this one for a while, not being able to find the time or the creativity to write it.

My writing time used to be during my lunch breaks and my thinking about story time was my commute to the office. But since I’m primarily working from home now, I no longer have a commute and I don’t really take lunch breaks like I used to. So I’ve had to rearrange when I think about writing and when I actually do the writing.

I’ve set weekly page goals for writing and forced myself to think about the story as often as I can and that seemed to move me past the meridian lulls. I’m looking forward to getting to the last novella because that will be the payoff for the main characters in the series. It will also hook directly into Starforgers, the beginning of the Star Saga. After that’s done, I can start focusing on the next book in the Starstrikers trilogy – XiniX.

Part of what stokes my creative juices is that I also build models of the main starships in this series for use on the book covers. So when the weather is cool, I’m out in the garage building models and thinking about my story. Getting to combine two of my hobbies on one project is useful and fun. Working on something with my hands free’s up my mind to wander about the story so when I’m back on the computer, I can write without any blockages.

Hello, Mastodon!

Last week I quite Twitter. My account is still there, reserved just in case. But I no longer post there. I don’t support the new management. I downloaded all of my content and stored it away for posterity. I don’t expect the site to last much longer.

When the management of a social network, or a tech company goes off the deep end, the prudent thing to do is get out and no longer support them. This is why I left Facebook years ago and it’s why I have left Twitter. It’s also why I left Apple and Microsoft. Funny, in all cases, I have managed to find open source, and free substitutes and my life got simpler and less stressed in the process. I no longer pay for software unless I chose to back a developer and I no longer pay for social media unless I chose to back a server.

I tried Mastodon a long time ago, but I completely forgot my username and server. So I had to start over right as the first great migration from Twitter started. I’m a pretty tech savvy person, but even I had to Google some things and RTFM to get started. Then I had to rely on the kindness of the natives to find my way. Still doing that, to be honest. But the reward for my effort is that I’m less stressed and I feel like one person can’t derail the platform anymore. A good thing. Don’t come into a new platform expecting things to be like they were elsewhere. Be kind, and take the initiative to learn for yourself. There are lots of tutorials and articles at all the popular web sites out there on how to get started on Mastodon. Do your homework. Oh, and make a bio and an introduction post. I won’t follow you if I can’t tell what you’re like from an empty bio.

What about all my friends and followers? They either left for Mastodon or elsewhere. There are many who are staying and that’s pretty sad. I’ve never had more than a thousand followers on any platform. Primarily because I don’t sell myself and my wares. I’m just here to meet folks and tell you about things that interest me. It’s been proven that large followers don’t translate to large sales of books or artwork. But behind the scenes looks at my hobbies are what seem to interest most of my followers. That and dog pictures.

Just hooked up Mastodon to this blog, so if you follow me, you get my blog post links.

SS Ranger Build Part 1

All of my models start with a drawing. Sometimes it’s just a thumbnail, sometimes it’s an orthogonal drawing similar to a blueprint. The later is what I started with for the Ranger. The shape of the ship lent itself to a pretty basic 2D layout on paper.

This is a pre-war design that still separated the drive, body and head sections with girders. This was an early design decision that I made a long, long time ago. I still love it and it was settle on because the early starship drives were in fact nuclear and it made sense to keep the engine away from where the crew lived.

Early bitmap image

I decided to base the Ranger off of this drawing. The next step was to draw out the life size blueprint. You can see it on the work bench in the pictures of the model being built. The final design is not as long as the above image, but the hull shapes are the same. The Ranger has had a new Tunnel Drive installed and thus the engine will look a bit bigger and it round inside a rectangular shell.

The first place I start with these studio scale build is the mount points. I use a shaped block of pink resin board sheet that I got for cheap on Amazon. If I had any more RenShape, that would be preferred. I decide how many mount points I’ll need and drill out the block for a 1/2 inch rod. A couple of set screws allow me to secure the model from different axis.

I should have used a third set screw to allow for a side mount, but truthfully, that is rarely used. So I probably won’t need it. Below the block is on a stand, ready to proceed with the build.

I built up the main body around the mount block and then built up the frame of the head. The main drive engine was a one inch diameter PVC pipe. I then had to make a run to my local hobby store to get some styrene square tubes for the framework between the sections.

Main sections built up

Below you see that model on a C-stand for demonstration purposes. This is how they are mounted for photography sessions.

Mounted to a C-Stand

Below are the stock styrene I purchased along with some BanDai plastic pieces for greeblies.

Work was then able to continue on the trestles connecting the head to the body of the ship. After that was worked out, I needed to insert some greeblies before gluing the head to the body frame.

And that’s where it sits for now. Next up is framing the body and the star drive section.

File Structure for Writing Organization

I don’t hear anyone really talking about how they organize their writing. This has always been important to me, as what I write seems to be so lengthy and complicated. I have files of short stories, novels and flash fiction in all kinds of genres. How do I keep it all organized? How to I find something I wrote a long time ago? Where do I put my How-To documents and story bibles?

Quite a while ago I decided to organize my actual writing and my notes about what I was writing into two separate locations. I think at the time, I wanted a place that was in the cloud to store notes, so that I could access them from my day job or while on vacation. Since I’ve been all in on Google from the beginning, Google Drive seemed like a logical place to store my notes.

I also needed a reliable, backup place to put what I actually wrote, so that I would not lose my valuable to me words. I use Linux as my primary operating system of choice. Before that, I was non MacOS. I’m never on Windows unless I’m at work and I don’t do anything personal on a work computer for obvious reasons. So I needed a network based file system that had reliable backups. Ideally it would also store things locally, for those rare times when I’m on an airplane or out to sea or whatever else causes me to be disconnected from the internet.

I decided to use Dropbox. Once that decision was made I had a new problem. How do I organize both file systems so that I can find my notes and WIP? This is where organization can make or break your work area. Today I will focus on how I organize my novels.

Google Drive File Structure

I decided to start with my notes. So on Google Drive, this is the structure I selected for Novel. I write in at least different genres – Mystery, Sci-Fi and Horror. I decided to not distinguish between the three but to lump them into just Novels. The reason for this was because at the time, I had only three and it seemed like just adding a layer for layer’s sake.

The Star Saga is my primary SF book series. It started with three trilogies of books and then broke into another series, the Starship Series and more trilogies. Writing is a sickness. We’ll focus on my current series – Starship Series.

Starship Series File Structure

The Starship Series has three Trilogies at it’s core. Corvette Trilogy, Destroyer Trilogy and Explorer Trilogy. How did I decide on this? What does it mean? The series is about the career of one military officer – Armon Vance. In the Corvette trilogy he’s a young officer on a corvette starship. In the Destroyer Trilogy he’s the captain of a Destroyer starship. In the final trilogy, he comes out of retirement to help train the captain of an Explorer starship that is not military but a civilian exploration group. There is a fair bit of time between each trilogy so that by the last one, he’s an old man.

I have a galaxy map and my series notes in a spreadsheet for each trilogy.

Book Notes File Structure

Inside Book 7, Explorer: New Horizons, you can see the structure of my notes. Of paramount concern is the outline, synopsis and characters files. Sometimes I have a Notes file and that can be extensive and cover related real world knowledge such as astronomy or how military things are structured. There is always an Images folder with different sub folders for pictures that inspire me.’

I used to do elaborate outlines for my novels. Now I just do a synopsis that is usually less than a dozen pages long. Story structure is something that has always been easy for me, so I rely on outlines less and less. As long as my story skeleton is strong, I can move through the it pretty easily to hit all the right highs and lows.

Dropbox file structure

You can see the Dropbox file structure mirrors the Google Drive one. Above we see the three books in the Explorer Trilogy. I keep the Galaxy Map handy for reference.

Inside 07 Explorer: Searchers

Here you see the Drafts, Edits and Images folders. Everything is a draft until I go into Edit mode, then it becomes an edit until I’m ready to make a finished book or ebook. Then I create the Ebook folder or Book folder and usually have a separate folder for Covers. Images is a mirror of the Google Drive folder.

Drafts folder structure

Inside the Drafts folder are months and inside the months are the different versions that I wrote, titled by the date they were written.

Versions in month of September

Name of book, D for Draft, and the date.

And now you know the secret sauce of how I organize my books and my notes. I’m sure everyone has a similar work flow. If you’re just starting, you can use mine and then modify it as you go or come up with your own system.

Keep on writing!

Explorers Book 2, The Searchers

Hard to believe it’s September already. I have completed the first draft of Explorers, Book 1, New Horizons. Presently I’m writing the middle book of the trilogy. My outline for this book is not as elaborate as for the first book, so I’m having to do some plotting and character building for this one. It’s delaying the progress as I get my ducks in a row. I’m about twenty pages into the draft at this point.

In other news, I’m no longer the Commander of my CAP squadron and I now hold the position of Aerospace Office. I’ve cut back my participation in the volunteer organization so that I can focus on my writing. I would like to complete the first draft of The Searchers before next year comes around. That’s the goal, anyway. Then I will jump into Book 3 and finish out the trilogy in 2023. Edit all three books and get their covers created and start publishing them next fall.

I’m not going to lie, I’m ready to be done with old Captain Armon and friends. Nine novellas is a lot of commitment to what was supposed to be a prequel of sorts to the main Star Saga. I’m looking forward to getting back to the era of Starstrikers and continuing that story. As it stands now, that should happen in 2024.

I also have another Mystery novel featuring Joshua Jones in the works, so I may finish that next year just to clean the pallet before diving back into Space Opera again. The plan is to write the middle trilogy of the Starstrikers Era in order. I have already written one of the novellas in that series, so there will be one more side story taking place between Book 5 and Book 6. But first up will be to write Book 5, XinX.

Over the summer my oldest son has moved back so I’ve had to move out of my office and I’m back in the master bedroom where I now work from home. This reminds me of COVID times. It’s not a bad view of the back yard mind you, I just miss having my person space in which to work.

Hope all is well with those who read still read this inactive blog. Take care, and I hope to post again much sooner.

Current desk with map of the Star Saga galaxy.

Explorers Book One – New Horizons

I’m back to finishing up the first book of the final trilogy in the Starship Series. This takes place long after Armon Vance retires from the military. Life in retirement is peaceful, but ultimately uninspiring for the former space captain. He’s contacted by Selene Boxer and offered a chance to return to space to mentor a civilian captain on a new civilian exploration starship.

Book one is about coming back to space for Vance and about passing on his knowledge and experience to the next generation. I’m having fun writing this one and reconnecting with Vance, Boxer and Cullers. I would like to wrap this novella up in a month or so and start in on the second book. Finishing this trilogy is my top writing priority and I expect will take me into next year. When they are all written, edited and built, I will release them all together. I’m also thinking about offering a three book compilation of each trilogy, so you could get all nine novellas for the price of three regular ebooks.

Then it’s back to the Star Saga and working on Book Five, XiniX. Some time in 2024 we’ll see the release of XiniX. Then it’s just a book a year until the middle section of the Star Saga is complete. Before working on XiniX, I intend to clean up Starstrikers and re-release it with a new cover. The old coin cover was cool back in the day, but it’s dated now and needs a cool spaceship on its cover. Oh yeah, I guess I need to finish building that model don’t I?

An update on my writing process. I’m still working from a simple outline and pantsing the details. I still use LibreOffice in Pop_OS on my old HP Spectre laptop, which has a new battery. This is how I write now and this is how I’ve written for several years. Fashion a proper outline with clearly defined acts and then start from chapter one and write linearly. My brain is accustomed to working this way and has no trouble ending a chapter after roughly ten pages or until a scene completes. I have started to bookmark each chapter so that I can skip back and forth within the manuscript. My font is not always serif, but I change it to serif when I’m done to get accurate page counts.

I still prefer writing at my desk with headphones playing instrumental playlists, usually from film scores. I develop a playlist for each novel to set a tone that I’m after. The desk is the same one in which I work from home, so sometimes it’s hard to come back to and sit in the same seat to write novels, but I manage.

Until next post, keep writing!

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.