The Corvette Trilogy

When I set out to write the Corvette novella I specifically designed it to appeal to a certain type of reader and for the most part, that reader type responded and made it my most popular novel to date. I also intended it to guide new readers to my Star Saga series which it has, quite nicely. I didn’t expect it to do quite as well as it has, but now that fans have found it, they deserve more stories about the crew of the oldest corvette.

I spent the early spring months of this year brainstorming about where to take the crew next and what kind of stories to tell. I went off on a tangent that I thought would have been awesome and then realized that the readers of Corvette, probably wouldn’t accept what I was writing. So I stopped and recast and re-plotted the story into what you can read today as Seer of the Black Star.

It’s hard to talk about the new book without triggering spoiler alerts, so I’ll talk about it from a 30,000 foot vantage point. The big picture. I decided to make the Corvette books a trilogy in the classical sense and to loosely follow the career of Commander Vance. There is one year between each book of the trilogy and the over-all character arc concerns how Vance adapts to being a captain and handles some difficult crew issues and tough villains. If the trilogy continues to sell well and there’s a market for more books about Vance, I will continue his story as a Destroyer captain in a second trilogy. There is a very definite finale in mind to Vance’s character arc and hopefully readers will get to that point.

In Seer of the Black Star we start to see how a respected loyal crew member can go rogue and leave the Fleet. In many ways Vance takes that personally as he is involved with that crew member. But it is more than just a strained relationship story. There are rises and falls in many of the minor character arcs in this trilogy. As for Commander Vance himself, his career will take its own path and it’s not always going to be the proper one. I hope you come along for the ride. It’s going to be fun.

Corvette Draft One Complete

Yesterday morning the house was quiet with everyone asleep, so I wrote the final two scenes in my latest novella, Corvette. It feels good to have that behind me. I was thinking it might stretch out to be a novel, but at under 50K words and about 215 pages, its a decent sized novella. Corvette is my attempt to write to a market and create a prequel to the Star Saga. The structure and tropes that I used are similar to what is selling right now in Military SF. I hope to have it out in ebook form early next year.

Right now my writing sprints are focused on the second draft of K’nat Trap. This is the novella that I wrote earlier in the year and its set a few years after Starstrikers, Book 4 of the Star Saga. Looking forward to making the changes my beta readers have suggested and tightening up the second draft. With any luck, it will be out before Corvette, sometime next year.

In other news, I’ve nearly completed the K’nat fighter model for use on the novella’s cover. Here are some shots of the model on my bench.

This is a 3rd Generation Votainion starfighter and appears in Starstrikers and K’nat Trap. It has a standard engine and two NexGen space/time drives that let it move through space and time for short duration.

It’s quite the challenge to paint and weather an all black fighter. The canopy in these shots is just primer gray. Eventually it will be painted.

Chapter 2 of The Blood Empress



It was several rotations later that Nykostra finally heard from Ketar again on her tablet. He left her a recorded message in which he recounted how his master’s hunting party had come under attack and he was the only one to survive. The incident clearly affected him on some primal level that she might never understand. There was a dullness in his eyes and in his demeanor that bothered her. He seemed morose and less chatty than he had been before the hunting expedition.

Near the end of his message he confessed to having become a full warrior. His newfound status also came with new duties that would sometimes take him off world for extended periods of time. He didn’t know when they would be able to talk again. Her heart sank when she realized that he might be moving on without her. Perhaps he no longer needed their secret friendship. Perhaps. But she refused to give up hope that he would return to talking with her. For nights after receiving that recording, she tuned in and looked for him to no avail. He would be back. He had to be back. She needed to see him again.

* * *

Empress Nykostra sat perfectly still and upright as the parade began. She was dressed in her formal red and black gown complete with imperial headdress. There was a chill in the air as winter was fast was approaching. Her clothes were well insulated against the weather but her blue cheeks were slightly darker than the rest of her smooth skin.

Palace guards and the Kwizarra Lonn surrounded her. She was careful to make him sit far enough away from her so that his thoughts weren’t constantly in her head. They were not aware that she could sense when they were probing her thoughts and she preferred to keep them clueless for as long as she could.

The procession included a squad of the best soldiers from the Votainion Fleet, high stepping in perfect unison. They were followed by the Imperial Army guardsmen in their regal red uniforms from several thousand years ago, before the Empire had become a space faring civilization. Even before the nine Kastra had fanned out into the galaxy and formed their own home worlds.

Nykostra loved the pageantry of the parade and all the formal customs that came with it. When she was a few years younger she could recall wishing that she could don a brilliantly colored uniform and join the soldiers. Now she was content to simply watch and marvel at the precision on display for her benefit.

Next came the hardware, her favorite part. Armored vehicles of all kinds, crawled, hovered and walked along in freshly painted colors that made them seem less like killing machines and more like children’s toys. Still, the power on display was impressive.

She sat up a bit straighter to catch sight of the contestants. The nine chosen men who would fight to win her hand in marriage. Each warrior hailed from one of the nine Kastra of the Empire. They were all between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one and each was a sterling example of Votainion honor and bravery. Coming from the ruling caste and each having served in combat either on the newly created human front or from any one of several military skirmishes the Empire was currently involved in. They were battle tested and worthy of the attentions of their Empress.

From her vantage point on the royal platform she couldn’t make out their faces. Each man walked alone and in single file with several paces between them so the Empress could see them clearly. They all had broad shoulders and round faces with stern expressions. Warm puffs of air escaped their mouths as they marched.

They were escorted by the top military person on Voton, General Verlome. He barked an order and all nine contestants turned their heads up to her and saluted in unison. She was under no obligation to return the gesture. She merely nodded her head to acknowledge their passing.

As the final contestant approached her, Verlome projected an order arms command. The group continued in lock step with their eyes forward. She sighed and sat back against the cool throne seat. She didn’t see much difference in any of the contestants. In fact, she thought they all looked pretty much the same. But then that’s the point of a formation. She didn’t like conformity much, having had to conform to someone else’s idea of how to live for all of her short life.

She glanced down at the Kwizarra Lonn and caught his look of satisfaction. Perhaps he could marry one the suitors for her. She smiled at the thought, and he naturally mistook her expression for one of approval. These idiots are so easy to fool, she thought.


The first two contenders were out before she had time to even learn their names. Lord Karno from Sett and Lord Zegg from Khara. Both of them were apparently not bright enough to pass the intelligence test. Then again, they were from worlds not known for having particularly brilliant people. Nykostra had been paying more attention to her teachers than they might have thought. Both Sett and Khara were the weakest Kastras in the Empire. The fact that either Kastra had sent a representative was strictly ceremonial.

After the results were known, the two losers unceremoniously left the group. The remaining warriors were brought before the Empress so that she could reward them with their first close up look at who they were fighting for.

She wore her finest imperial gown, resplendent in red silk and black lace. For a Votainion woman, she was considered pretty but not flawlessly so. She was of royal blood after all and not the product of selective breeding, as some Kastra were known to have practiced. Her beauty was natural and unblemished by gaudy makeup or the lines of age.

For most of the participants, she was undoubtedly the most beautiful female they had ever met. She could see it in their eyes and on their brutish faces. They were in awe of her like no house attendant she had known. It made her feel good to know that at least some men found her desirable. Although she wasn’t particularly impressed with any of them yet.

They stood at attention in a line for her. She walked before them, an attendant arranging her gown on the tiled floor so that she wouldn’t trip on herself. Typically they were a head taller on average than the tallest females.

None of them dared glance down at her for fear of disqualification. The last warrior was shorter than the others and she caught him sneaking a peek at her. When his dark eyes locked on her own they both recognized the other. It was Ketar.

His eyes shot back up over her head and then back down again, when he realized she was still staring at him. His shock and amazement caused her to smile. He hesitated before looking up again but she could tell he wanted to look at her directly and to say something to her.

But both of them were bound by traditions and ceremony. Now was not the time. Her heart skipped a beat as she moved past him, stealing a glimpse back at him, before returning to her throne.

As she took her seat on the pillow she looked down on the warriors with a strong gaze. They all bowed their heads at once and saluted her with a right hand across their chests.

Then they all did a right facing move and filed out of the chamber single file. Ketar risked a glance up at her as he filed past on his way out. She slipped him a disarming smile and she could have sworn that he winked at her.

When they had left Nykostra ordered her attendants to leave her alone. She sat on her throne and replayed in her mind Ketar’s shock and then amazement at having recognized her. She had to find a way to meet with him. To talk with him in private. But her time and attentions were ruled by others and she knew that she would never be able to pull it off during the competition.

Something inside her warmed her heart. Her fondness for Ketar was growing into an obsession. She found it hard to keep his sly grin out of her mind’s eye. Hard to not keep thinking of him over and over until it hurt. What the hell is wrong with me?

Nykostra ordered her attendants back in and stood still as they undressed her. There were two young girls and a stogy older woman whom Nykostra had never trusted. Things said in the company of the woman somehow made it back to the Kwizarra Lonn.

After they had dressed her in her a simple robe and wrapped around her waist a leather cummerbund, she dismissed them except for one of the younger attendants.

The old woman all but snarled at the order but left with the other girls trailing behind her. When the huge metal doors to the chamber closed Nykostra took the hand of the young attendant and guided her off to the center of the massive chamber.

“Velore, I have a task for you,” she said.

The girl was clearly nervous with being alone with her Empress. She nodded shyly.

“You must arrange a visit between myself and the boy from Vicar.”

The girl’s eyes got large before she shook her head slowly.

“But my Empress, I cannot do such a thing. I’m not even allowed into their side of the castle.”

Nykostra took the girl’s hand into hers and squeezed it tight. Quickly it became uncomfortable for the girl and she protested weakly.

“You’re hurting me, my Empress.”

“Do this or I will do more than just hurt you. I will have your head,” Nykostra said. Her voice was low and powerful. It was the voice of coercion that she used when she wanted someone to do her bidding without question.

The girl stopped struggling and lowered her head. “Yes my Empress.”

Nykostra let go of her hand and she knelt in a formal bow.

“Get up. Go fetch him at once and bring him to my bed chamber.”

The girl nodded and then rose to her feet to scurry out of the chamber as fast as she dared.

Nykostra relaxed and then left for her bed chamber.


Nykostra had retired early and had ordered food brought to her bed chamber. She told the head attendant that she was not feeling well and just wanted warm tea and bread. Her wishes were honored without question. Whenever she even hinted at not feeling well, she was never questioned.

Pacing around her huge bed chamber she felt a growing anxiety like she had never known before. Her stomach was indeed upset, flipping and flopping like it did before a test. Only this feeling was different. It made her wonder if the Kwizarra Lonn was somehow messing with her from a distance.

Part of her was nervous at having a warrior brought to her bed chamber and part of her was excited to see Ketar in person. To actually talk to him outside the pretense of their respective positions. Like they used to chat on the tablet. She wanted to look into his eyes which she had just today noticed were not completely black, but had a light wash of brown in them. It was endlessly fascinating to her. She could just stare into them for hours and be perfectly content.

She paused in mid stride as she thought how strange that was to be so obsessed with a boy’s eyes. A knocking came from her door and startled her.

“Enter,” she commanded in her Empress tone.

The large wooden door creaked open and the young girl attendant entered. Her eyes were large again. Like a scared animal.

“My Empress, I present to you, Lord Ketar, of Vicar.”

Nykostra waved impatiently at the pretense of a formal introduction. The girl moved aside and in strode a man wearing the blue and black colors of his Kastra. It was Ketar.

Nykostra waved for the attendant to leave and the girl pulled her big eyes away from the warrior long enough to bow and leave.

Ketar looked directly at her and her heart melted inside. He was the same old Ketar she had always talked to but now he was here in the flesh and standing before her in her bed chamber.

“This is not at all how I pictured us meeting someday, Kaleen.”

She smiled weakly and tried to keep her heart inside her chest. He had called her by her assumed name and not by her title. She was impressed by that.

He no longer wore his formal body armor, just the quilted garments worn underneath the armor.

“I had to see you alone Ketar,” she said. She took a step closer to him and he matched her until they were toe to toe in the dim light of her room.

He looked down at her with a childish look on his face.

“I never thought I’d ever meet the Empress. You are far prettier in person that you ever were on the view screen.”

Nykostra blushed, her cheeks slightly bluer than before.

She ran a hand across his chest, stroking him. “I never imagined I would see you in person. It’s wonderful.”

He nodded and then sighed. “What’s wrong,” she asked.

“I dare not touch you or risk death. You’re the Empress, Kaleen. Just being this close to you violates a half dozen rules.”

“Forget the rules, Ketar and just hold me tight.”

She wrapped her arms around his chest and hugged him. He was hesitant to do the same but eventually gave in. They stood in a hug each of them thankful to be with the other.

Nykostra looked up and licked her dark blue lips. Ketar could not stop himself. He kissed her gently and was surprised by the passion she returned. When they finally parted, he pushed her away slowly.

“We can’t do this. I can’t be here, with you like this.”

She wrinkled a brow and said, “You don’t like me then?”

He shook his head curtly. “No your highness, far from it. I love you more than anything else in the universe. But you and I are from different worlds.”

“If you win the contest, we can be together forever.”

He frowned and turned away, taking in her huge bed, wondering how anyone could sleep in such a vast area. All his life he slept in a small, rectangular area slightly larger than his own height.

“I’m the youngest contestant. I have the least experience and I have never been to battle. You would be a fool to pick me over the any one of the other warriors.”

She slipped her cool hands into his.

“But I don’t know them and besides I love only you.”

He smiled at her and kissed her again. “I have wanted to be with you ever since we first met on the tiny screen, so long ago. I can’t believe this is who you are. my Empress, my leader and my love.”

She stared up into his brown eyes and sighed.

A knock at her door made them both look up in fear. “Enter,” Nykostra said in her command tone.

The door opened and the girl attendant stuck her head in.

“My Empress, the boy must leave now.”

Nykostra held onto him a moment longer and they kissed again before parting. Then he slipped out the door and was gone.

Nykostra became weak. She fell to her knees on the stone floor and put her head in her hands to weep. Tears flowed freely from her hands to the floor.


Later that evening, Nykostra lay on top of her bed fully clothed. She had no desire to sleep, her thoughts still lingered on Ketar. He was the first boy she had ever kissed and it felt so right inside her. She knew he was her soul mate. Her one true romantic love.

Votainions were not a very romantic race. But they did believe in destiny and sacred love. Their literature was filled with great romances between warriors and their lovers. Some with happy endings and some with tragic endings. Hers could not be allowed to end in tragedy. Ketar had to win the contest outright. She knew that he would, no matter how difficult the task. It was only a matter of time before they were together forever and she could focus her attentions on expanding the empire.

She felt a sudden drop in temperature as a cool breeze swept over her from across her room. Her heart turned cold as she realized who it was that had slipped into her bed chambers.

Standing across the room in his black cloak was the Kwizarra Lonn. She knew he had a secret entry into her bed chambers, but she had never caught him in the act of entering by one.

“My Empress, I was hoping you were still awake. We need to talk.”

She sat up and stared coldly across the room at the shadowy figure.

“Get out of my chambers! How dare you enter without permission?”

The figure floated forward as if on air.

“I felt it best that only you knew that I was here, my Empress.”

Her mental shields were up and fully hardened. She was ready for anything he had to say to her.

“What is it?”

“I know about the boy you sneaked in here earlier. I know who he is and I know how long you’ve been seeing him over the communication link.”

Nykostra’s face flushed with anger, her normally pale blue skin nearly white. Her anger boiled just below the surface.

“I have come to warn you away from him, my Empress. For he will not survive the competition. He is young and weak and no match at all for Lord Surg.”

“Be gone you gray brute! Who I see and where I see them is of no concern to anyone but me. Lord Ketar will defeat all your efforts to keep him from me, so don’t bother trying.”

The old man smiled wickedly as he stopped before her bed, his arms crossed before him. She peered into his mind and repeated her sentiment but it was like penetrating one of the solid stone bricks in the wall of the castle. Hard and immutable.

Nykostra rose to her knees and faced the Soothsayer. Her voice lowered to the command tone. “Get out of here before I get my falchion.”

His wicked smile faded. She had never threatened to kill him before and she knew that he would take such a threat seriously. For she had slain his master before him and would show no hesitation to slay another vile creature from the underworld.

The Kwizarra Lonn retreated silently to the hidden door near the back of her room. How he managed to come and go through solid stone she had no idea. Sorcery was a skill that only the most powerful Soothsayers could command.

“The final test is to the death, my Empress,” said the disembodied voice of the Kwizarra Lonn.

She felt the breeze again and the dark shadow was gone.


The second test was one of teamwork. But the contestants were not told this. Instead, they were tasked with a typical military mission to assault a target and retrieve an item from the enemy. There were no rules, per se. Just that the winners had to return with the object.

The opposing forces were captured enemy soldiers from the farthest planetary system that the Empire was currently fighting in. The Benzotii race were scattered around three star systems. The Votainions had been at war with the Benzotii for hundreds of years and never seemed to be able to rid the galaxy of them. Clans would pop up every few decades and fight tooth and nail until the very last one was killed.

The average Benzotii stood seven feet tall on two legs and a sturdy tail that they often used to leverage balance in combat. They had two sets of opposing arms and two heads, a primary and a secondary that gave them nearly a three hundred and sixty degree field of view.

Both heads had drop hinged mouths packed with tiny daggers for teeth. If you managed to evade their razor sharp claws they could easily swallow a Votainion head in one bite. The Benzotii didn’t wear much in the way of clothes, at least not in combat. Their warriors preferred sharp edged weapons when in close, but they primarily used large caliber projectiles to take you out from a distance.

The Benzotti had been a space faring race for thousands of years before the Votainions encroached in their home lands. At first the Votainions thought they were just particularly viscous animals native to the only Class M planet in the system. But they soon discovered otherwise and in one bloody battle after another they learned the true power of kinetic weapons in space.

For this test, the warriors faced anywhere from ten to two Benzotii prisoners who were given their own weapons to defend themselves. To make things interesting, the Benzotii were promised their freedom if they killed any of the contestants. It would be a fight to the death for all involved.

Due to the dangerous nature of this test, it was conducted on a barren steppe of the northern hinterlands. The Benzotii were told to defend long abandoned earthen hovels into which were placed the objects that the contestants had to retrieve: A nest of Verner snakes, the venom from which would kill a Votainion in seconds.

The Empress could hold court above the playing fields in a circling, heavily armed platform. She was close enough to watch the fighting but far enough away not to be killed by stray or intentional shots from the Benzotii.

The contest had been playing out for hours before any of the Votainion warriors had gotten near their objectives. Two warriors had already been killed. Both had neglected to respect their adversaries and paid the price for it. The hardened ground near the entrance to the hovels was red with their spilled blood. Body parts had been consumed by the Benzotii, who had over the years developed a taste for blue Votainion skin.

Empress Nykostra sat on her portable throne in the center of the round observation room. She had been standing against the windows looking down on the battlefield when the two men were caught by surprise and taken apart like slaughtered cattle. It was no contest and she became bored of it before the man from Khangor was completely dead.

An attendant offered her a drink as the Kwizarra Lonn entered the room from a staircase below. As his cloaked form glided over to her she took a long drought of the hot beverage. It was miserably cold and windy down below and some of the windows were open to afford her a clear view. She was dressed for the cold and it didn’t bother her in the least.

“Two contestants have failed to enter the hovels and one is about to be bitten by his objective. A worthy test, don’t you think, my Empress?”

She scoffed at him and watched a monitor screen that showed the warrior from Settak snatching the Verner nest.

“What makes you think this one will be bitten?” she asked.

“They don’t have snakes on Settak. He has no idea what’s inside that nest. Prudence can be a decent indicator of intelligence.”

Almost as if on command the man was attacked by the juvenile Verner snakes and took one last step before falling dead. She nodded to the Soothsayer who flicked his gray, bony fingers to a second monitor.

“Here comes Ku’nar from Surg. He is a canny warrior and will know how to properly transport the nest.”

Nykostra watched the warrior approach the dead man and stop. He looked around for a stick and found the dead man’s falchion instead. Using the blade, he encourage the startled snakes back into their straw and dirt nest.

A second figure cautiously entered the room. It was Ketar. He was carrying a Benzotii rifle and pointing it behind him. There appeared to be words between them but Nykostra could not hear what was said. She imagined that they were working out how to transport the snakes together. Another part of the test no doubt. Teamwork.

A blinding flash erupted and several Benzotii soldiers seemed to have the Votainions surrounded.

“Ah, now it begins to get interesting, my Empress,” the old Soothsayer said.

Free Short Story Ebook

To celebrate the release of my first novella, Devon’s Blade, I’m offering a free short story. Ambush! is set on Kew and is the antithesis of Devon’s Blade in that we see life from the Votainion side. What it’s like to be a pilot flying the KiV-3 against the Alliance pilots. You can get your free ebook for Kindle (mobi) and epub with the links below. If you like the story, please take a moment to purchase Devon’s Blade because you’ll really enjoy that one.





Pre-order the novella here. –>

This novella ebook is only available for Kindle for the first 90 days. I’ll be going wide with it after that.

A Trilogy, Sorta


It seems to be taking me forever to write a simple three book trilogy. In fact, I’m crafting a five book trilogy. I have an established numbered book series known as the Star Saga. There will be nine total books in this series. Think Star Wars. These nine numbered books are divided into three trilogies each separated by 500 years. The first trilogy is called Starforgers, the second is called Starstrikers and the third is called Starveyors. I’ve written the first book in each of these trilogies. Now I’m returning to the first trilogy, Starforgers and finishing books, two and three.

Starforgers, Book 1 – The Rising, Book 2 – Counterattack, Book 3

Starstrikers, Book 4 – XiniX, Book 5 – Unnamed, Book 6

Starveyors, Book 7 – Tripartite, Book 8 – Ancestors, Book 9

I’ve finished Book 2 and will be writing Book 3 this year. It has been taking me a year to write, edit and publish a novel. Last year, I wrote Book 2 and a second novel, intended to fit between Book 2 and Book 3, called The Blood Empress. This year I will also write a middle book set between Book 1 and Book 2, called Devon’s Blade. So when I’m done with this first trilogy I will actually have written five books. So this is what the first “Trilogy” will look like next year:

Starforgers, Book 1

    Devon’s Blade

The Rising, Book 2

    The Blood Empress

Counterattack, Book 3

Each trilogy in the Star Saga will have two filler books between each numbered book. This is to focus the reader on events that take place between the novels and add to the over all story that I’m trying to tell. I was pleased to see Disney taking this same strategy with the Star Wars movies it plans to make in the final trilogy of that series. I must be doing something right.

The first trilogy deals with the creation of the Alliance and the birth of the Stellar Fleet. The main character, Devon Ardel moves up the ranks from a former frontier Ranger to a starship captain and her adventures directly influence both the creation of the Alliance and the fleet that will go on to fight a thousand year war with the Votainion Empire.

There are two other primary story lines in the trilogy. One focuses on why the war started from the Votainion perspective through the eyes of the child empress, Nykostra. The other deals with the rising of sentient androids known as Silicants. The Silicant characters are the only ones that span the entire nine book series while the human cast of characters changes out completely with each trilogy.

Currently I’m filling in the outline for Book 3, Counterattack. I plan on doing the outline for Devon’s Blade next so that I can write each book one after the other and finish them before the end of this year. Book 2 and The Blood Empress will be out this fall. By the end of 2015 the first trilogy will be completed and I will take a break from the Star Saga to write something else. When I come back to this universe, I will be writing the fifth and sixth books of the saga and two fillers to go between them.

Cover Evolution

The Rising EBook Cover 4-18-14    The Rising EBook Cover_changes

Here’s the latest cover version of my next novel. It’s Book 2 in the Star Saga and takes place about five years after Starforgers, Book 1. We are stepping away from the unit coins and going all starship action for the next two book covers. This includes an all space background which means we have to rethink the title. We are sticking with the same font and the same series banner for continuity sake. This version uses the marble from the Starstrikers cover as if the title was cut out of marble. But that doesn’t scale well. So the next version will try something different for texture on the title font. Either a light gray or perhaps the steel of the coin from Starforgers.

The image on the right has been adjusted a bit in terms of alignment. I do this using cut and paste in Gimp so that Byron, my cover designer can see what the finished product should look like according to me. He then takes the original art and modifies it with care in Photoshop. I’ve also removed one of the ships to help focus the eye of the viewer.

Next Byron will fine tune the damage and make alterations in color for the ship’s exhaust flames. The cover is getting closer to finished and I think it will attract some attention when it finally launches. The models were built and photographed by me using my new blue screen set up. I’m building new models for Book 3 which should ship some time next year. It’s currently in the outline stage of writing.

As usual, comments are welcome from anyone.

The Board

I had a major revelation about my current WIP this week and it meant pulling out about ten chapters of the book. They had not all been written, but a major subplot is now gone. This means reordering my remaining scenes to focus on a different plot. So I have decided to get a cork board and stick my scenes up on it act by act.


I’m using half index cards in order to squeeze them onto my smaller board. I’ve since changed the blue tape to show just the first three acts of a four act story. A second board is under this one to show the fourth act. According to Larry Brooks, a novel will consist of about 90 scenes. I have my scenes divided into chapters, but that could change.

Here you see my laptop open to Plume Creator, my novel writing software. The note card is to the right along with colored pens to highlight POV characters. This makes it easy to see who has the most scenes.

Here is a close up of the note cards. Brief description, followed by some meta data about the scene. Sometimes this will change as I go through drafts. (-/-) is a way to show emotional changes, (><) is a way to show conflict and POV is of course the Point Of View character.

Just about all of this meta data is already in my program, but I think it will be easier to see the big picture on a board and move scenes around as needed.



Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward

I was moving right along on my latest novel when suddenly the brakes came on and the next thing I knew I had lost about four thousand words. Reading books on plot and structure and some heart-to-heart chats with a writer friend convinced me that whole sections needed to be sucked out of the novel and thrown into the next book. Those sections concerned the Votainion Empress Nykostra and were perfectly fine in the next book, but out of place in this book.

So Starforgers Book 2, The Rising is going to just be about how the new Alliance deals with the Silicant threat and internal strife. Before you can gear up and fight your enemy, you have to clean house. The Rising is about the house cleaning needed before the war can really get going. This means it’s back to the drawing board for me. I’m restructuring the second half of this book before I can continue writing.

The upshot of all this is that I probably won’t get the book out before next year. This will be the first time in like five years that I have not published a new book in the fall. I don’t have millions of fans waiting for me, so I probably won’t hear a peep out of anyone. But the professional side of me hates to miss deadlines. Even self imposed ones. But this is also a part of the learning process that all writers go through. Time spent getting my outline in order now, means I can write faster down the line.

I just finished reading the Save The Cat book about Screenplays and the author talks about using a cork board and index cards to lay out your story. Brooks advocates the same approach for novels. I’ll be building my Board this weekend for Book 2 and seeing where I need to tighten things up now that I have an entire plot thread yanked out of the book. I also need to focus the book more on the hero and the true villain of the book. Who until this point was largely unseen. After the book is published, I’ll do a spoiler filled post about what exactly happened. It should prove useful to my fellow writers.

Lastly, Book 2 now has a cover thumbnail! You’ve probably already noticed it up there at the top of the post. I don’t claim to be an artist, but I think you can see where we’re going with it. Exciting WWII era model airplane box art is the inspiration for this cover. The Starforgers coin will go to the back cover. Since we’re doing battle scenes on the front now, things are getting more dynamic and exciting. Hopefully I’ll lure in some new readers with this new cover.

Before you ask, yes, I’ll be building new models to be featured in this art and they’ll be doctored up by my brother in Photoshop. The effect will be more like a scene from a space opera movie than the CG inspired coins. I’ll start up a blog page for the model build for this cover soon. So stay tuned if scratch building starship models is your thing.





Empress Nykostra sat on the huge marble throne that was built to a scale that would have been too large even if she were an adult. She hated the monster seat, as she called it, but tradition dictated that she sit on the throne whenever she directed official Empire business. The heads of the nine Kastra of the Empire stood in a line before her. They were all elderly males, white of hair and long of tooth. She hated them. They were wrinkled, old and smelled stuffy and foul.

Several of them had issued orders to kill her in the short time since she had taken over the throne. They had successfully butchered her mother and half her immediate family. To say she despised them was an understatement. She loathed them on the same level that one reserves for only the most despicable and lowly insect. All her life she hated koichs, the black, hard-shelled insects found wherever food was stored. She hated stepping on them in the dark and hearing them scraping around on the floors of the castle at night. These Kastra Lords reminded her of koichs. They scurried around behind her back and squeaked orders that had on more than one occasion led to a physical attack on her.

The last attack was nearly a harvest ago and she had killed the assassin with his own poison tipped falchion. So offended by the attack was she, that she sent the man’s head back to the Kastra with a warning that if it happened again, she would personally behead every adult male in that Kastra’s ruling family.

Votainions respected bloodletting more than any form of law or verbal agreement. Now that she was big enough to successfully swing a blade, she did not hesitate to do it. She was known as the Blood Empress but only out of earshot. It started with the first attempt on her throne by the Soothsayers. When she had suddenly and without mercy lopped off the head of the Kwizarra Lonn, they immediately stopped whispering into her ears and kept their distance.

It was long known that the Soothsayers, with their witchcraft and magic had influenced many generations of Emperors and Empresses. None of the former leaders had stood up to the Soothsayers for fear of upsetting the prophecies that guided the Empire ever since its founding nearly three thousand years before.

But Nykostra did not believe in the same fates as her ancestors. She had her own ideas about how the Empire would grow and what her role would be. She had sent Lord Kantor on his mission to the far side of the Empire to find the origin planet. He had succeeded in his mission, despite failing to return. She believed beyond a doubt that the enemy’s home world was the planet of origin of her people. The legends she read as a child and still believed in with all her heart were in fact true. Now she would send her armadas into battle to retake that home world and reclaim it as the one true home world of the Votainions.

“Leaders of the Nine Kastra, hear me clearly. We shall mobilize our forces on a scale never before attempted. We shall follow the river of stars to the enemy’s home and destroy them all. When we have cleansed the planet of their disease, I shall transfer the throne and rule for the first time from our one true home world – Kerra-jorro.”

The Kastra leaders mumbled to themselves and shook their bearded faces. They clearly did not agree with her plan. She stood up quickly and screamed at the top of her lungs. The high-pitched screeching caused all of the men to stop talking abruptly and look at her. Some probably thought she was being stabbed in the back. They were soon disappointed when she stopped and drew her red blade.

“Let any man who opposes me step forward now and strike me down!”

There were no takers. The youngest Kastra leader was well into his eighties and none of them could match her youthful energy. Her dark eyes swept over their heads as if she were trying to find the one she wanted to separate from its body.

“This Empire will be fully engaged in this mission until we have met my objective. I will no longer tolerate infighting amongst the Kastra. If it takes until I’m as old and fragile as you all, then so be it.”

A Soothsayer stepped out of the antechamber beside the throne. Nykostra whirled with her falchion pointing to the man’s head. He was bald and his skin was a deep, blue-gray shade that was nearly black. Heavy set eyes and a large, smooth forehead framed an indifferent face.

“It is my duty to inform you of the eventual failure of your mission, my Empress. We have searched the possible futures and can find only one, long and bloody path forward. That path leads to the end of the Empire itself.”

More unrest from the elderly House leaders, they all trusted the Soothsayer implicitly, especially the new Kwizarra Lonn. Nykostra looked at the Soothsayer with disgust. She could easily lop off his head with one quick slash. But that would not win the confidence of the Kastra leaders. What she needed was to prove to them that Kantor really did find Kerra-jorro.

The Empress lowered her falchion to her side and stepped off the dais of her throne. The adult Kastra leaders loomed over her like great, snowcapped trees. She breezed past them in her modest silken robes. They turned to face her as she strode up to a communications station and started punching the controls that were too high for her to reach comfortably.

A blue and white hologram of a planet appeared in the center of the room. The Kastra leaders watched it with suspicion. Slowly they surrounded the transparent image.

Nykostra pointed to the planet with her falchion.

“Behold, Kerra-jorro. This image was sent to us before we lost contact with Kantor’s warship. She pressed a button and the clouds were stripped away. There was a mountain range across the northern hemisphere. She traced the image in the air with the tip of her falchion.

“These mountains are remarkably similar to the ones here on Voton; this peak in particular. The hologram changed again, fluttering as it morphed into the topographic relief map of the mountain where Kantor died.

“In a cave, at this peak, Lord Kantor found evidence of our ancestors.”

The men seemed unconvinced. They waited patiently for her to provide further evidence that what they were looking at was in fact the legendary birthplace of their people.

Nykostra’s thin blue lips parted in a wicked little grin. It made her elfin face seem mature beyond her years.

“Behold the legend of the Origins, as told by our ancestors, light years from here on our home world. Kerra-jorro,” she said.

The image changed again to a scan of the ancient cave paintings that Kantor captured and sent back to the ship before he died. It was a long mural that she rotated in front of the Kastra leaders. The faded images were outlined in red to clarify what they were. The minute they saw the outlines, the leaders began whispering amongst themselves.

The Kwizarra Lonn stayed on the dais; his eyes flashed blue with the flickering light of the hologram. She could tell he was not prepared to counter visual evidence. He was probably trying desperately to peer into the minds of the weakest leaders and fill them with fear and doubt.

“The invasion must not be delayed further. I want the armadas moving into enemy space now. We are going to take back our heritage. We are going home.”

The leaders all nodded their approval. She put her falchion back in the sheath at her waist, turned off the holo-projector and walked to the center of the room. They moved to surround her but she was not on her guard. She didn’t have to be. She had their loyalty. Not only for this mission, but for every mission the Empire would embark upon for the next thousand years.


Author’s Comments: 

In Book 2, The Rising, we will continue Nykostra’s story. She will grow into adulthood and write her name into the history books as one of the most powerful leaders of the Votainion Empire. We will also continue with Devon Ardel’s story as she transitions from being a pilot leader into a starship captain. But perhaps the most important story in book two will be about the fate of the sentient androids known as Silicants.

Look for The Rising, Book 2 of the Star Saga late 2013.