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.

 

Weekly Summary

Still plugging away on the Corvette 2 novella. I’ve picked up a book about destroyers from WWII to read for research. Tin Can Titans by John Wukovits. Can’t wait to get into it. I’m always reading non-fiction books about the military for inspiration.

I picked up this sleeve for the new System76 laptop I use to write with. For under ten bucks, it’s a pretty nice little case. I like the handle on the end so you can pull it out of your backpack.

Here’s a picture of my home writing nook. The other night I managed to sneak in some writing time at home, which is pretty rare. As you can see, the new laptop handles the monitor just fine.

I wanted to show you all the work my youngest son is doing in Blender. It’s a Votainion warship that he’s building in pieces for reasons… Anyway, he’s going to be using his 3D versions of my ships for some short story ebook covers coming later this year. He’s excited to help because I told him he could have any profits I made from selling them.

I have some more things I’d like to show you, but I’m saving them for a future post. One of them is the cover for my next novella, K’nat Trap. It’s being done by my brother and he’s got a pretty sharp one this time.

But here’s something I can share with you now. The upcoming cover art for a Gem State anthology of SFF writers from Idaho. This is the latest version but it’s not quite finished yet. The anthology will be a free download and is a sampler of all the insane talent we have here in Idaho.

That’s all for this week. Summer has started and the kids are out of school as of this afternoon.

 

Corvette

When you hear the word Corvette, do you think of the slick sports car from Chevrolet? Most people do. In fact when I let that name slip as the title of my WIP on Twitter, I got RT’d by a Corvette car enthusiast group. But I wasn’t writing about a car, or looking for a lost candy apple red hot rod. What? You’re not a fan of Corvette Summer? Really? I loved that film. “Hey, kid. Ever pump Gaaaaaasss?”

No, I was writing about a small, military warship, otherwise known as a corvette. My Corvette was about a tiny, military starship and it was set thirty years before the events in my Star Saga. My corvette was the smallest and the oldest rated ship in the Federation. It was also run by the oldest serving captain of the fleet. Something about the Old Man of Space running the oldest starship seemed fitting.

Naval corvettes were the smallest rated warships in most wooden ship navies. In fact in a few navies the rank Corvette Captain was the first rating of Captain. Here’s a picture of a French tall mast and steam hybrid corvette called the Duplex.

But my story was not inspired by wooden ships. It was inspired by the small, converted transports used to safeguard trans Atlantic convoys during WWII. Specifically, the Flower Class corvettes that were made famous by Nicholas Monsarrat. My original source material was his seminal novel, The Cruel Sea.

The story followed the crew of the British corvette during the war and was based on Monsarrat’s own military career aboard corvettes. If you ever get a chance to read the novel, you won’t regret it. The movie isn’t bad either. Below is a color photo of a Canadian Flower Class corvette, the HMCS Regina.

What appealed to me the most about corvettes was their diminutive size. A true boat, instead of a large, ship. The crew often was less than fifty and it seemed from reading Monsarrat’s tales that everyone, both enlisted and officer grew to know and rely on each other in a way not possible on larger combat ships. It was you, your mates and the ship against the elements and the enemy. That immediacy intrigued me and I knew that I could transplant that to a Military SF story. Below is a modern example of a corvette class warship, a Swedish Visby class stealth ship.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I also build models of the ships in my novels and put them on the covers. So naturally I decided to build a corvette that would be featured on this novel’s cover. It also helps when writing a story to have some idea what your ship looks like. Many times I just sketched out a drawing of it and left it at that. But this time I knew I had to build a model of this diminutive ship. You can read about it’s construction here. Below is a photo of the completed model in 1/350 scale.

It was a classic, pre-war Federation design with three sections each separated by metal beams. The ship was originally driven by a nuclear drive but later in its service life was converted to tunnel drive which is the way my starships travel through the vast reaches of space. Because this was the oldest hull in the fleet, I made sure it looked the part with lots of weathering and exposed areas and extra plating covering the decks. All of those things became the character of the SS Weippe.

The name of the corvette was taken from town here in my home state of Idaho. It’s a Nez Perce Indian name that means “very old place”. Kind of appropriate for the oldest ship in the fleet, no? I also borrowed two things from Monsaratt’s novel, the name of the captain and the number of his boat. I used the fictional Lieutenant Commander Ericson to be the name of my corvette’s shuttle craft. I used the registration number of his fictional corvette, the HMS Compass Rose 049. You can see the Weippe’s number on her stern in the picture above, 049.

One last image of the Weippe and a destroyer class vessel for size comparison. The Weippe was incomplete and both resided on my workbench some time last year.

I hope you found this post interesting, especially if you are a writer. It’s important to have your stories based on real events or historical things as I find it gives them a resonance that most other science fiction stories simply don’t have. There are many genre specific elements to my novel’s plot and characters so it was important for me to ensure there was a realistic foundation to my story. It’s also the introduction to my universe and so I needed it to be representative of what was to come, should the reader want to go further.

 

 

Adventures in Modeling – Bard Parker #6

Ever since I started watching Paul Budzik’s videos on YouTube I’ve coveted the Bard Parker #6 scalpel handle. It’s the one dentists use and he recommends it for modeling. I went out and purchased the 25A Swan Morton blades he uses and they came in the mail pretty quickly. But I was not able to get the illusive BP #6 handle. I ordered a cheapo handle so that I could at least use the blades. I didn’t really care for the scalpel over my regular X-Acto blades for most of my cutting tasks. It was awkward in my hand and too small. Much of my cutting needs were better suited to the shape of the X-Acto blades.

The Bark Parker handle is larger and much better made than the cheapo handle. So I’m looking forward to using it on my bench. Here are some images of the two scalpels together. I’ll do a follow up post after I use the new handle for a while.

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Sign up for Newsletter, Get FREE Ebook

Doesn’t get any easier than that. You want to be informed about my latest releases, I want to give you free stuff. Either way, you win!

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Now when you join my newsletter, Dispatches, you get a shinny new cover version of Starforgers. Chose the Kindle version or the epub version, heck, take both! After you finish reading Book 1, you can pick up Book 2, The Rising and be on your way through the first trilogy of the Star Saga. Later this month, I’ll inform you that Book 3 is out and bingo, you’re in the know and you never miss a release again.

If you enjoy Starforgers and want more exciting Devon Ardel stories you can always pick up Devon’s Blade which takes place a year after Starforgers. Amazon readers have noted the similarity to WWII fighter pilot stories and that’s exactly what I was going for, so if that sounds interesting, be sure to pick up Devon’s Blade.

 

Opening Day

Major League Baseball is off an running for the 2016 season. This Cubs Fan has been loyal since about 1982 and I’ve seen many good teams come and go without being able to win a World Series. Last year I saw a fantastic team come very close. It was a great year of listening to the Cubs play and watching my son play for his American Legion team. This year, I got to watch the first Cubs game on TV and was treated to another masterful performance by Cy Young winner Jake Arieta. But the offensive big guns on this team were silent. It was the unsung heroes who hit and scored runs in their 9-0 take down of the Angels. Which gives this year’s Cubs team that special and rare talent of having a nine man slugger line up. Anyone can be a hero with the bat all up and down the lineup.

Here’s to a great run in 2016! Go Cubs Go!

Happy 13th Birthday Spencer

It’s been another fantastic year! Here are some of the highlights and memorable moments in the last year, before you turned into a teenager!

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Skiing on Bogus. The lines were boring, but the skiing was fun!

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Snuggle time with mom.

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Second Junior High concert. You made Jazz Band too! 

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Making your last Scout rank and pinning it on your old man, despite the giggles.

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Thanksgiving faces for a selfie.

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Doing 3D art of one of your dad’s models. Very cool.

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Taking 3rd place in Junior High Tennis! 

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Overlooking the Treasure Valley on a Scout camp out.

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Playing tennis on a team with your friends!

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Meeting a famous Sci-Fi author!

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Evading dad’s camera at the Fall Scrimmage for BSU.

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Flying simulators with your brother.

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Flying to Tennessee on a fun family vacation to see Momo and Dado!

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Doing flags at the cemetery for Scouts for the last time… sniff.

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Snoozing with Endora.

GCU Griffin Build, Part 1

The GCU Griffin is a prominent starship in the Starstrikers novel. It’s a Class-C Scanner ship, smaller than most other fleet starships it has to rely on bigger ships to protect it. It was such an important ship, I actually built it from cardboard when I was still in High School. The below bitmap art side view was done in the old MS Paint program and based on that original model. It will be my guide as I recreate the model in plastic and 1/350 scale for use on a new Starstrikers cover.

GCU Griffin

I have decided to use 1 1/2 inch PVC for the main stardrive and then build out my scanner pod and head with sheet styrene (0.60). These parts are cut with a sharp X-Acto knife and a metal ruler. As I go along slicing and breaking the parts from the sheet, I save my scraps off to the right to be used inside for internal bracing. Waste not, want not. Sheet styrene is expensive and I try not to waste it.

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Here we have the main stardrive tube in place with the scanner pod and the head taped into position to make sure my proportions are correct according to the digital drawing. I think a few inches off the tail pipe are in order.

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The wooden block is helping to keep the tube in place in roughly the correct height. This is as far as i got in the first day. Before going too much further I’ll have to determine mount points and lighting for the engine and the fiber optics for portholes.

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I anticipate this will be a fairly quick build. But you just never know what challenges lie ahead. At this writing, I have no idea how to do the mounts points. I’m leaning towards using 1/4 20 screw mounts, similar to what I use for the starfighter models, because this ship might be long, but it’s relatively small and light.

Below are two more drawings I did of the Griffin. I included them here as a form of research. Usually I have some kind of drawing or old photograph of something similar to what I’m trying to capture. An inspired by this type of thing. This drawing even refers to it as being spelled with an e instead of all i’s.

GCU Griffin

I drew this one of the head only. In looking at it now, it looks like the head should be shorter than I cut the plastic. Groan. Back to the drawing board.

GCU Griffin Head Detail

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