What’s Coming Next

With the release of the third Corvette starship novella coming in just a few short weeks, I thought I’d take a moment to let you know what’s coming up next. The Corvette Trilogy is just the first of three planned trilogies with the same main character – Armon Vance. His story started with Corvette, then advanced with Corvette: Seer of the Black Star and finishes with Corvette: Pirate’s Lair.

          

The next book I will write for this series will be called – Destroyer: Declo Demons. Look for it in the Spring of 2019. Following along on the heels of that will be book 2, Destroyer: The Mutineers, which should ship for Christmas in 2019. The trilogy will finish in the Spring of 2020 with Destroyer: Letting Go. The Destroyer Trilogy will be darker and all the books will take place in a single system with seven habitable worlds, none of which are in the Federation.

I have one final starship trilogy planned. It will be called the Explorer Trilogy. The names of those books are still subject to change, but chronologically speaking, will end with the events that take place in Starforgers, Book One of the Star Saga. That will complete the Captain Vance starship series and take you right into the Star Saga.

Speaking of the Star Saga, I need to get back into that middle trilogy starting with Book 5 – XiniX. The Starstrikers trilogy will continue in parallel with the Starship Series. After XiniX comes out, there will be a novella – Dark Wind, followed by the final book in that trilogy: Nex Gen. Now the Star Saga books take longer to write because they are closer to 300 pages long and usually have more involved plots. So it’s going to take me longer to write them. But when the Starstriker Trilogy is over, it will have three novels and two novellas, just like the Starforgers Trilogy.

Needless to say, my lunchtime writing sprints are spoken for well into the near future. I should continue to have two books come out every year for the next decade or so.

 

Cover Art

We’ve put together a new cover, this time for the Corvette 3 novella. It will be the third book in the Corvette Trilogy and the first and only to feature the new Corvette model. Well, never say never. I mean it could return for a later series appearance. Once again, this cover is put together by my brother, Byron McConnell. Another awesome job by him!

I created the new Corvette a year ago, that’s how far ahead I think. It started with a sketch and finished with a model.

The Kootenai is named for a town in my home state of Idaho. So was Weippe, now that I think about it.

 

 

Airborne Again

Those of you familiar with my novels or with me personally, know that I’m a big fan of aviation. From a young age, I’ve always liked airplanes and flying. When I was a teenager, I joined the Civil Air Patrol and got to ride in small planes as a cadet. When I got to High School, my dad bought a Cessna 150 and I learned to fly in it. I never did complete my license, but I racked up lots of time in that old trainer.

Skip forward thirty years and now I have kids in CAP and I’m an adult member. This past weekend I finally got to train as a Mission Scanner for CAP. It was my first time back on a small plane in three decades. For at least one sortie, I even got to fly search grids in the Cessna 182 assigned to my CAP Squadron. It was a fun day of classroom work and actual flying.

I spend many hours a month attending CAP meetings, training and activities. For someone like me who writes about imaginary starfighter pilots, being able to fly with an actual civilian auxiliary of the USAF, is invaluable writer fuel. I never got to fly in the Air Force, but in CAP I can be part of an aircrew and help my fellow citizens by finding downed aircraft, missing persons or helping to assist the AF with air intercept missions.

If you’ve always wanted to do something like that, look up the nearest CAP squadron near you and attend their meetings. It’s a great organization for aviation-minded students and adults.

 

Cover Models, Corvette 3

The Corvette 3 manuscript is being scrutinized by Beta Readers at the moment, so I have some time to prep the starship models I built for the cover shoot. This began by using canned air to blow the dust off of both the pirate ship and the new corvette. More time was taken on the Kootenai to ensure dust and hairs were removed as it would probably be in the foreground. I had to glue a piece back on that the air can blew off, but other than that, they were good to go.

I still don’t have an exact idea how the ships will be positioned on the cover. I’ll try and replicate a scene from the novella and make it look visually interesting. But the end cover will come alive after a decent Photoshop session from Byron, my cover artist. The color scheme will include mostly blues and oranges. No more black and white covers like Corvette 2.

The title will be orange and the nebula and twin black holes in the background will be blue. I’m going to rely on Byron to make all that. I think the end product will be engaging and fit with the previous covers of the series. Since this is a trilogy and the next books will be called Destroyer, I’ll probably combine three novellas into a single book and charge $1.99 for it. That cover might be just a collage of the other covers.

The ebook should be out at the start of this summer with the paperback version probably coming out in the fall.

 

 

Writing Update

Corvette 3, Pirate’s Lair is heading out to Beta Readers and will then go to my Editor. I’m hoping to have it out in ebook format in May. I still have to make a cover for it. At this late date, I have no idea what that cover will look like. I think it will be orange titles and mostly blue nebula. Probably have some “laser beams” on it because, hell yeah, lasers!

Meanwhile I’m well into my next Mystery novel written under my alter ego’s name, Johnny Batch. It’s called Kill Dash Nine and I hope to have it out before Christmas of this year. So if you’re one of the one percent my readers who have read Null Pointer and are still waiting for another Joshua Jones mystery, this is your year.

So what’s on tap after I finish KD9? I had planned to dive into the fifth Star Saga novel – XiniX. But looking at my book sales numbers tells me I need to keep writing Corvette books like there’s no tomorrow. I’m selling far and away more copies of them than any of the Star Saga books. So XiniX is going to the back burner for a while. I’ll probably start writing the first of a trilogy called Destroyer using the same characters from Corvette trilogy. I’d like to plan out all three books and then start writing the first one in the fall of this year.

So in 2018 you will get the third Corvette novella and a new Mystery novel. Next year you’ll probably get two new Destroyer books. I have three novella trilogies with the same cast from Corvette. The ninth novella in that series will end right before the events in Starforgers, Book 1 of the Star Saga. If I continue with at least two novellas per year, then in 2021 I’ll finally be working on XiniX.

That’s all for now. I’ll try and do another post before the end of the year.

 

2017 Book Sales

Last year I made over $18,000 US dollars selling my Sci-Fi novels on Amazon. At first glance that sounds AMAZE BALLS. But in reality, it’s just a blip on the radar for a ten year career writing and selling genre novels. Most years I’m lucky to make a couple of hundred dollars. In fact in 2016 I made $200 for the year. Not even enough to tell the IRS about. That’s pretty sad. I have 12 novels in my back list but when nobody knows who you are, they don’t sell.

Before last year my biggest success came with my first novel, Starstrikers. It earned about $3,000 US when it came out. Sales climbed and then fell in the classic three month bell curve and then I was back to nothing for the better part of a decade. Back then, I didn’t have a back list so folks read Starstrikers and then had nothing else to purchase. My next novel didn’t come out for another year and then I published at least one per year since. But nobody who purchased Starstrikers knew about the new books and so I had no sales to speak of. For a decade. That’s ten years of writing and publishing in a complete vacuum.

Then last year I put out a novella called Corvette that I hoped would attract people to my Sci-Fi series. I wrote it to market, using standard tropes and what do you know, it took off! Only this time I was ready with a twelve book back list. Readers who enjoyed the novella, did eventually try the series and my sales continued to jug along at a decent clip after the initial bell curve. By the end of the year I was making about $400 US per month.

So far in 2018, one month in, I’m making about half of that per month. If the trend continues, I’ll be making next to nothing in a few months. So much for the back list.

Cheered on by the success of the novella, I wrote a sequel and published it over the holidays. Nothing. No interest at all. Sales are flat. But I continue to write the third book to finish out the trilogy. It is doubtful that I will write any more books related to Corvette, even though I have plans for at least nine total. Book 3 will drop this Spring and then I’m back to my original series.

In all likelihood, I will continue to write at least two books a year until the series is complete. I don’t write to become rich and famous. I write because I have to. I’m sane when I write. But most of all I write because it’s fun. When the fun subsides, I’m likely to stop writing.

In 2018 I will write two books. One is Book 5 of my Star Saga and the other will be a sequel to my Mystery novel, Null Pointer. Next year I plan to write Book 6 of the Star Saga and probably a vampire novel. Just because.

Below are the numbers from 2017 per book.

These are my numbers from 2016.

Time Lapse Book Writing

On Jan 3 of this year I took a picture of my watch and the lower corner of my Write screen that showed my word count. I did it again after my next writing session and kept it up for the entire month. Everyday that I write on my novella at lunch, I document it with a similar picture. Boring, right? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If you enjoy watches, you might find it interesting to see which of my watches I’ve worn or which band decorates it. Others might find inspiration in my word count or my ever increasing page count.

Either way, I’m still taking pictures after I write and posting them in this Google photo album. A time lapse recording of the writing of a novella. Or perhaps just the last half of one.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/FkF6qESZi5oulC5G2 

Star Saga Mug

In the things you need that you didn’t know you needed department, I give you my new mug design. It includes all the covers from the first trilogy of the Star Saga. All five books, including the two in-between novellas. The covers are set against a blue-gray field so they pop better and completely wrap around a standard mug. You can purchase this fine product from Redbubble.

Now you can admire the fabulous covers while sipping your favorite hot beverage and if a friend happens to ask you who that Ken McConnell bloke is, you can tell them how much you loved my novels. See what I did there, I created a marketing tool for all my fans to use. If you get this mug, send me a picture of you using it and I’ll tweet it out on Twitter!

My Thoughts on The Last Jedi, Part 1

There’s much to love about the new Star Wars chapter – The Last Jedi. But before I post what I liked about it, I need to address the problems I have with the story. The film succeeds on many levels and has more going for it than just about any other SW film to date. However, in my writer’s mind, they botched the middle and the ending.

The middle is too long and the whole journey of Finn and Rose is largely just a political statement about how bad the one percent are. Politics aside, you can accomplish the same character arcs and the same plot points in less than half the time by just having them find the code breaker and leave – quickly. It would also help the time constraint that was created by having the Fleet stay out of range of bad guys. Because I for one started thinking about the Fleet when I was supposed to be feeling sympathy for wonder horses and slave kids. It would be even better if they found JD on another Resistance starship in the Fleet.

But what about the slave kids and the Walt Disney ending with Tinker Bell? Not needed. This is the middle film of a trilogy. It’s supposed to be a downer and you need to save the warm fuzzy hopeful message for Episode IX. This film subverts the audience’s expectations in many ways and I agree with all of them, but it does not need to offer much in the way of a happy ending or hope. It already has a Rey of hope and it botched her journey in the ending.

The second big problem is General Leia and Admiral Holdo. Their roles needed to be reversed. Leia should have been the one to drive the ship into the enemy super star destroyer. This act of bravery would have saved the Resistance and brought Luke back to the fight and his heroic ending. It would have left the Resistance with a new leader in Holdo and it would have been a great send off for both of the remaining original characters. Again, reinforcing the theme and providing an emotional punch that the film lacks in the third act. Also, given the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher, I know I would have been weeping if she had actually died in the film.

Now back to Rey. Just like in the film, after she escapes from Kylo, the movie pretty much forgets her. We don’t see her dealing with what Kylo told her about her family – the fact that she’s alone and not related to the Skywalkers. We need to see our heroine come to terms with that and that scene should provide the Rey of hope we need that the Resistance will survive. She needs to team up with Holdo and Poe and they need to pledge to rebuild the Resistance to honor what Luke and Leia died for. That’s your hopeful ending. Not some space kid who nobody cares about. As it plays now, I really don’t care what happens in the next film. I needed that final emotional scene where the Resistance leaders are inspired to make a come-back.

I waited to post this until hearing the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, because I hoped that they would come to the same conclusion as I did. They did. Go listen to it, well done them.

 

Inspirations – Marty Robbins

A few years ago I wrote a bunch of short stories about a Stellar Ranger company stationed on a small, desert world named Ocherva. Those stories eventually culminated in book one of the Star Saga – Starforgers. The western style hero of my stories was a blonde woman named Devon Ardel. Devon went on to become the central character in the first three Star Saga novels and a huge reader favorite.

But she was born from a long and masculine tradition of the American cowboy and more specifically the Texas Rangers. Pictured above are some actual Rangers posing with their weapons. Pretty much the quintessential western bad asses. So I created the Stellar Rangers in their image. But in my research about the west and lawmen I came across a 1950’s album called Gunfighter Ballads by Marty Robbins.

I loved the gunslinger pose Robbins did for the album cover and specifically I liked the flat brimmed hat he wore. That became the look of my my Stellar Rangers. As I listened to the album I quickly became a fan of Marty’s music. Some of my short stories make references to songs on that album that probably only a Marty Robbins fan would pick up on.

I’m not a fan of today’s Country music but I really enjoy these Western songs from the 1950’s. If you’ve never listened to this album you owe it to yourself to give it a spin. Great stuff and great musical story telling by Marty Robbins.

 

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