New Starship Models

It’s fall and the temperature here in Boise has finally come down to tollerable levels. This means it’s model building season at House McConnell. My workbench is already dirtied up with bits of plastic and a new model frame on the stand. I have to create two new starship models for an upcoming trilogy of Destroyer novellas.

I’m starting with a Sultran Warship which is loosely based on drawing a buddy of mine did when we were kids. Of course I’m improvising the build and using a bunch of kit bashing parts from the junk bins of the company I work at. I’m hoping that foks won’t recognize anything and that I have used and it will look unique in the universe for which it was built.

There is another warship, slightly smaller that I still haven’t worked out yet. I’m considering something more along the lines of a rocket or perhaps a submarine-like shape. The Sultran ship will be a matte green color, so I might do the opposing forces in silver or something completely different than what we’ve seen before. The stories are set in a distant star system that is not part of the main Federation, and can therefore be very different in just about every way imaginable.

Stay tuned for more progress posts on these models.

What I’ve Been Doing This Year

I have to be honest. I keep forgetting I even have a blog. I just don’t have much time to tend to it these days. Well, let’s just say I’ve got other priorities right now. This has been the only year in the past ten years, that I have not published a novel or novella or even a short story. Nothing. Dead air. Only two blog posts in six months.

So have I quite writing fiction then? No. Not entirely. My goal is to write three novellas this year. I’m at 1.2 so far, so I need to keep typing as the year’s more than half over now. Can I finish one and a half novella’s before the end of 2019? Possibly. Usually I finish a book and publish it, but this time I’m planning on releasing an entire trilogy in like a few week’s time next year. Just to see what happens. Then it’s back to a book or two a year again.

These last few weeks it’s been a slog getting through book two of the Destroyer Trilogy. Part of that is due to my plot being not exactly clear to me and part of it is due to lack of interest in writing. Maybe I’ve hit some kind of wall, maybe it’s plot related and maybe I’m just tired of it all and my creativity is hybernating. Whatever it is, I need to kick myself in the butt and get writing.

I have a Mystery and a stand alone SF novel in editing, but those are both being reserved for traditional publishing. So you might not see them for years. In the meantime, I should have this trilogy out early next year.

New Addition

The youngest in our family needed a car this fall and I was ready for a new ride, so I passed down my trusty Honda Civic to him and I got something different. Well, kinda. Yesterday we welcomed this 2015 Subaru WRX to the family car lot. Now the Subbies out number the Honda 3 to 1. ;-) Anyway, the kid gets a reliable car for school and I get a fun car to commute with and sometimes carve a canyon road with.

So asside from getting his father’s old car to drive around in, complete with a VHF Ham radio, he also upgraded his Ham license to General yesterday, so very proud of the youngest. As for my new ride, I’m happy to be driving a performance car for the first time and looking forward to hearing the boxer engine rumble while rowing through the gears to work and back.

Saying Farewell to a Coworker

Sometimes the people I know find their way into my stories. I usually will honor a friend by naming a character after them but that character never looks or acts anything like the person they are named after. Such was the case for a friend who works with me at my day job. He has always been one of my best fans and has read many of my books. When I was writing Devon’s Blade I decided to honor him by creating a character named after him. That character was called Hank in the novel. For those of you who haven not read the novel, Hank dies in the end. But my friend always insisted that his death was never confirmed and that Hank lived!

This week is my friend’s last week with my work group. He’s moving on to bigger and better things and we’re all going to miss him around the office. To honor him, I wrote him a short story about Hank and what happened after Devon’s Blade finished. I hope you enjoy it as much as my friend did. Maybe someday I’ll include it in a new version of the ebook. But for now, you can read it right here, on the blog.

Goodbye, Hank.

Final Draft Editing

The rest of December is pretty much all about me polishing the final drafts of two novels that may not see the light of day for years to come. I was recently pointed to a new book called Save The Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody. I’m using it as a guide to make sure my novels stay on track and in addition to Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, it’s proving to be a big help in that department.

In the above image you can also see the new laptop that I purchased for writing. It’s proving to be a really good platform. For the curious, it’s an HP Spectre 13″ running Ubuntu 18.10. I normally use Google Docs for drafting, but I switch to LibreOffice Write for editing.

I’m hoping to have my SF novel to my editor by the end of this week or next and then follow that up with the new Mystery novel. Hopefully sometime in mid-January I’ll be ready to start sending them both out to agents. They each represent the best writing that I’ve done to this date. I don’t expect to have too much trouble selling either one or both of them. Unfortunately, until they get rejected by everyone under the sun, they won’t see the light of day. 

In the mean time, I’m back to writing the fourth Starship Series book, entitled Destroyer: Declo Demons. That will be published next year. My second book for 2019 will in all likelihood be Book 5 of the Star Saga – XiniX. 

Next post I promise to write about the books I’ve read this year and recommend. 

New Looks

It’s that time of year when I start to feel the need to change the look of my blog. Must be all that time off during the holidays. Anyway, we’re going black again and in the process, cleaning up some things. I’m not happy with the header image yet, so expect more change to happen there. But otherwise, the current dark theme is working for me.

My wife got a Chromebook update ahead of Christmas, and I used it last week for a writing sprint. It worked out great, so I can safely recommend the HP 2-in-1 12.3 Inch Touch-Screen for writing books in Google Docs and StoryShop.

My own laptop replacement won’t get to me until next month, so stay tuned for that report.

I’m currently cleaning up my Mystery novel and a stand alone SF novel so that I can start querying agents at the first of the year. I know, WTF? Well, we can’t stay Indy only forever, now can we? Anyway, both of these novels are pretty awesome and I feel my chances of finding representation are much improved after writing and selling fiction for the better part of a decade.

Stay tuned next year to hear how that goes.

In the meantime, I’m back to work on the Destroyer first draft. I’d like to have that novella to readers in late Spring of next year. Then I’m bound and determined to tackle XiniX, the next Star Saga novel.

In case things get crazy in December, have a great holiday season and I’ll catch you next year!

 

Oh, Hello Blog!

I’ve been away from this blog for a long spat of time. I really can’t remember when I stopped posting. Checks logs. Oh, last time I posted was on my birthday back in September. Well, high time I posted again, or the internet might revoke my domain or something.

I finished writing my latest mystery novel and it’s out to Beta Readers at the moment. So far they are loving it and I will soon be cleaning up the manuscript and sending it off to my editor. I’m not sure that I will self publish this one. I have totally failed to succeed with the first mystery, Null Pointer. So I’ve started taking it out of online stores. If you still want it, get it ASAP. I’m thinking come Christmas, it will be gone. The reason I’m taking it down is that I plan on sending the second mystery to an agent. It’s the second book of a six book series, so I’m hoping to sell it as a series. Anyway, sometime early next year I’ll be sending it to agents who work with mysteries and sci-fi.

Because, I also have a stand alone sci-fi novel that is nearly ready to be edited too. If I can snag an agent for the mystery, I’m hoping they will at least consider the sci-fi manuscript. Anyway, all that will be going on in the next few months behind the scenes. Meanwhile, I have a couple of series that I need to get back to.

First up is book 4 of the Starship Series which will be called Destroyer, Declo Demons. Follow Captain Armon Vance and his Destroyer crew into a seven planet star system in search of Trin Lestor. This is the first of the middle trilogy books and I hope to have it out in the Spring. The other book that I will write next year is Book 5 of the Star Saga – XiniX. I know, I’ve been talking about that one for a while. 2020 will be the year it gets written. Unless of course I sell a mystery series and suddenly have to write four more Joshua Jones novels. ;-)

I tried to make the writing of the Destroyer novella live on Google Docs, but I didn’t get the impression anyone cared. So I’ve taken it off line and loaded it into StoryShop. Not sure if I’ll like writing in this on-line IDE, but I’ll give it a go with that book. I do like the casting ability of this tool which lets you create character bios and pictures of your characters.

As for me personally, Fall is here and I’m still out there running three times a week and lifting in my garage and eating as best as I can. So my health is good physically. My mental health is being treated with books and less and less TV News. It’s the only way I can make it through this long National Nightmare. I’ve read far more books this year, than I have in a long time. Unfortunately, most of them are non-fiction books about politics and science. But the political books are nearly done and the science books will take over. In between them, I’m hoping to get back into more fiction. Both SF and mystery.

My trusty System76 laptop is still going strong, but will soon be retired from book writing. I’m passing it down to my son who will use it to write programs and web applications. Meanwhile, my primary writing laptop will be an HP Spectre x360. It just won’t run a crap OS. It will be running stock Ubuntu. ;-) As many of you may know, I write primarily on my lunch hour at work. My employer has mandated that we only use HP laptops while at work, so I’m towing the line. Luckily, HP makes some bad-ass laptops and I’ll be driving a pretty cool one. Here’s a picture of one, below.

 

That should get you up to speed regarding me and my writing. Next post I’ll let you know some of the books I’ve read this year and why I recommend them.

 

 

 

Scratch Building Starship Models, Part 1

I’ve been meaning to do a post about how I build the models that appear on my novel covers for some time now, so here we go. I can’t fit all these pictures and explanations into a single post, so this time we’ll talk about Designs and Mounting Systems.

I’ll be using the last model I built for the Corvette novella’s, the SS Kootenai for construction examples. You can find a Google Photo Album with tons more reference pictures from this build, here. If this kind of thing really interests you and you want to try your hand at it, there are a couple of places to get more information. First of all, this DVD is where I learned many new techniques and it’s from a former ILM modeler, Fon Davis. Recently, Adam Savage did a One Day Build using similar techniques to what I will show you here. The Fon Davis video is golden, and far more detailed than Adam’s quick video.

Design

It always starts with pencil sketches or doodle drawings where I play with shapes until I have something that interests me. The original Corvette model was an older design and it set the style for the industrial design of future starships in the series. It was basically a three section ship with a head, a body and an engine separated by gridwork beams. Below is the sketch I originally drew of the Weippe.

To show that starship design is evolving, I wanted the much newer Kootenai ship to be sleeker but also share many design cues from the Weippe.

Above is my pencil sketch for the Kootenai. The shapes are similar for the head and the body but the engine is now one long tube instead of a separate section. I have already built models of what these starships look like later in the series so this design is a morph of the old, Weippe style and the next generation of warships. Below is a picture of a later model design, the GCU Griffin. You can see they are now all just boxes in line with a spine that’s a cylinder.

One of the first decisions you have to make is what scale to build your models. This is usually determined by how close you’re going to be getting when photographing them, and by how much space you have to store it afterward. I’ll never build models the size of the Star Destroyers from Star Wars (8 Feet) because I don’t have a warehouse to store them in. So long ago I chose the ship model scale of 1/350 for my large starships. When I do smaller ships, I usually build them to 1/32 or 1/24 scale.

If the model is small enough, I will usually formalize the shape with a paper blueprint. Below you can see the blueprint I created for the Kootenai.

Once again, your model will have its own styling cues but for these models, I use simple block structures with tubes made from PVC pipes. So the main engine cylinder is going to be a one-inch diameter PVC pipe. The burnt orange colored block in the picture above is a material called RenShape. This is what ILM uses as the interior mount point for their models. It’s a polycarbonate block that you can easily drill a hole through and then tap for set screws. Hollywood types use a C-Stand to hold their models up when photographing them and C-stands have 1/2 inch metal rods that can be articulated in just about any direction. Lighting crews usually put heavy lights on them, so your plastic model will never be too heavy for a C-stand to hold up.

Here’s another, later model starship on a C-stand having its picture taken. The knobs are called Gobo Heads and let you position the model while keeping a firm grip on the mounting rod.

Mount Points

Since we seem to be discussing this already, let me explain how I do mounts for my models. This was a huge mystery to me for a number of years. I saw the ILM crews putting models on bluescreen covered mounts with metal rods in pictures. But I didn’t understand how they kept the models from spinning around the rods. It wasn’t until I found former ILM’er Fon Davis’s videos that I discovered the secret.

What they use is an industrial material called RenShape. Now the only place I’ve found this material is online direct from the manufacturer and it’s not cheap! But they do offer a grab box of samples that are perfectly sized for the models I make. I take a block of this RenShape and postion it in the middle of the model or where the center of gravity is. Then I determine how many directions I need to place a mountting rod. Usually it’s left and right side and front and back side. I drill out 1/2 inch holes where the rods from the C-stand will go and then I drill a smaller hole and tap it for a set screw. This set screw is how you keep the model from spinning on the rod and you have to make sure that you can get to it to tighten it and untighten it as needed.

Above is a block of RenShape with the mount holes drilled and the set screw protruding from the top. Below you see the set screw which is smaller than the tap, the tap and the screw that goes inside. The red handled Alan wrench is how you turn the set screw to tighten it. You have to have a long handle on it because usually, it’s deep inside your model.

These items can be purchased at your local home improvement store like Home Depot. The bottom picture is soft, but you can see the set screw meeting up with the rod inside the RenShape. This is a different model, by the way.

Below you can see another benefit of RenShape. You can epoxy plastic directly to it, because it’s part plastic itself!

I didn’t always know how to do this, and so I’ve used all kinds of things for mounts in the past. All of them inferior to the RenShape and rod. If your spaceship model will never be photographed in a studio, it probably doesn’t need this kind of mount. Static display model mounts are covered elsewhere on the internet and you can search them out pretty easily.

Prototyping

One other subject I wanted to touch on before moving on to the building up of the model using styrene is prototyping. Plastic sheets of (Styrene) are expensive, and if you’re not sure how your design will look, or if it has complicated angles or something, you will want to build a prototype in a cheaper medium. For these times, I resort to building a prototype model out of poster board. Yes, the dime store white cardstock that kids make posters from for school projects. It’s cheap and all you need to build with it is Elmer’s white glue, a hobby knife, scissors, and a ruler and pencil.

When I first started building models of my own design, all of them were built from cardboard. Below is a model my friend and I made for a film we made in Junior High School. It’s older than many people reading this blog, and it’s made entirely of cardboard. So is the one under it from the same vintage.

But for prototyping, you just need to rough out the shape, so it doesn’t have to look good. When I built the cover model for K’Nat Trap, I had to do the whole model in cardboard to get the strange angles right. The upside to doing that was that now I had a template in the same scale to build it in styrene.

Next post we’ll get into boxing and framing with sheet styrene.

 

Short Stories Now On Kobo

Are you a fan of short fiction? Did you read the Star Saga books and wish there were more stories set in that universe? Really? Wow, I thought only I wanted that. Cool. Well, if you want more Devon Ardel, Red Allen and Thirty-seven, you’re in luck. Just head on over to your phone’s app store and get the Kobo ebook app. Then you can start downloading ebooks of all my short stories set in the Star Saga universe. Kobo is the exclusive publisher for my short fiction. You can’t get these stories on Amazon or anywhere else in ebook format.

Each short story ebook will set you back a whole US dollar! So choose wisely. Collect them all for hours of reading adventure.

There are eleven individual shorts and one anthology – Tales From Ocherva, that contains many of them. I’ll be adding more stories soon, and from now on when I write a new short story, they will appear on Kobo, and nowhere else!

Corvette 3 Paperback Edition

Corvette 3, Pirate’s Lair is now available in 5×8 paperback, exclusively on Amazon. As of this writing, it has not been linked to the ebook offering page, but I expect that to change next week. When you buy the paperback, you will get the ebook for FREE. So if you like to have two versions of a book for convenience sake, like me, this is the better value.

I’m mulling the possibility of creating a Trilogy Paperback in a larger format, probably Trade Paperback. Let me know if this interests you. It would cost less than if you were to buy all three in paperback. I’m less likely to offer a similar ebook because Amazon already bundles it for me.

I’m done with this series for now. My immediate writing efforts are going towards completing Kill Dash Nine, the next Joshua Jones Mystery novel. Once that’s finished I can come back to Destroyer.