Explorers Book One – New Horizons

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

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

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

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

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

Until next post, keep writing!

Eye Protection Mode

On a lark, I tried a new word processor program called WPS Office this week. It has a free version that works on Linux, Mac and Windows. I discovered that it had an Eye Protection Mode for writing that changed the page color to a relaxing light mint color. I’ve been using it for about a week and I love it. Below is what that program looks like on my desktop.

Naturally, I looked around in LibreOffice and Word to see if they had similar features. They do, kinda, but nothing as easy to activate as in WPS Office. In Microsoft Word: You can switch the program to the more eye-friendly “Read Mode,” which allows you to change the page color. Go up to View > Read Mode > View > Page Color > Sepia. We think you’ll find this easier on your eyes.

Below is a screenshot of LibreOffice Write that shows how to do it from the Tools -> Options.

You can customize the color in Write to a lighter tone that what is shown. I’ll probably stop using WPS Office here soon and return to Write, because I’m more comfortable using the LibreOffice suite. Also, there is no dark theme for Linux in WPS Office.

Switching Gears

I’ve decided to finish out the year by doing a page one re-write of Betweos. This is a stand alone novel that I’ve been working on for a long time. During a recent re-read, I discovered that I needed to change POV from 3rd person to 1st person to make the story more engaging.

The upside to this is that the novel will be more engaging for the reader from start to finish. The downside is that I have to start a fourth draft and that’s a bunch of writing. My goal is to finish before the end of 2021.

I have created a Season One of my Vella story – Ranger Tales that will end in September. Not sure if I will bother to do a second season as sales from that new platform are not worth it right now. That could change, but I doubt it. So if you loved the Devon Ardel character and want to know how some Silicants got their start, definitely check out that story. https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/product/B099JBGXXY

Kindle Vella

I wasn’t really interested in the new Vella platform from Amazon until I found a possible use case. I created a series of related short stories while I was preparing to write the first Star Saga series, years ago. Since that time I’ve been trying to find a way to market them that would actually work. Binding them into an anthology was not working. Neither was breaking them out into separate stories and selling them on Kobo.

Vella is intended to be a serialized story telling platform. They expect that each episode will be between 600 and 5,000 words. The idea is that you tell a longer story by selling individual episodes not unlike watching a TV program. They don’t specify that you have to wrap up each episode, so you could have cliff hangers and multiple episode story arcs.

My plan is to mix the old stories with new stories and create a timeline that leads into the first Star Saga novel. This is a direct attempt to bring in the younger Vella audience to my novel series. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t know if Vella as a platform will work. But it gives me the chance to further explore some popular characters and a planet that is pivotal to my story universe. I suppose if the Vella platform fails, I can always re-purpose them into more ebooks.

I’m looking forward to writing some fun Space Westerns again.

Lifespans and Literature

I’ve been thinking a lot about human lifespans and how generations interact over time. I blame Strauss and Howe and their book – The Fourth Turning. For a quick video summary, watch this YouTube. If you’re writing Epic Fantasy or Space Opera or Historical Fiction, it’s worth a read to help you understand your craft. If you’re a human being, it should be mandatory reading to help you understand your place in history.

I’m just getting started with the final trilogy of what I call the Starship Series. It’s three trilogies set during the starship career of one man. Each trilogy is named after the class of starship he’s commanding or serving on at different points in his career/life. In Corvette, he’s just starting out on his career and in Destroyer, he’s midway through it and by the final trilogy – Explorer, he’s the old wise man teaching a new generation what he has learned.

This past week I’ve created a rough, four part outline of the first Explorer’s book. I now understand where the story is going and how it should get there. I know how my hero will react and how the new, young crew of the ship he’s on, will ignore him, fight him and eventually listen to him in the end. They will need to learn the lessons he is teaching them, because they are about to face the greatest war in human history. A war that will last a millennium and define the character of the sentient species in the galaxy.

World Building – Explorer Edition

I’ve been having a hard time getting going on writing the first book of the Explorer Trilogy. Part of that is due to the pandemic, just like everyone else, it’s affected my creativity. Just today, I realized that as far as my story goes, I’ve been overlooking some basic world building. This has caused me to throttle back on the writing and do more research.

The Explorers are a civilian run exploration and discovery organization kind of like a NOAA ship. So there are some officers but most of the crew and passengers are scientists and grad students and researchers. So now I’m working out the structure of the Explorer Corps. What they do, who funds them and what the command structure looks like.

I don’t expect this will take long to make and then I can jump back into the writing.

Above is the SS Bourke on my desk. It’s modeled after a ship like the NOAAS Ronald H. Brown pictured below. Of course, the Bourke is a deep-space ship, not a blue-water ship. But they have similar crew and passenger specs and overall mission.

Complete Destroyer Trilogy Now Available

This week I finally got around to launching the last two Destroyer trilogy novellas as ebooks. They are now available just about wherever you buy ebooks. I’m currently working on paperback versions of all three books.

The cover art is once again courtesy of my brother, Byron McConnell. The ship models are designed and built by myself and you can see their build progress under Model Builds for SS Truxtun, Black Star, Sultran Warship and Ostrov Warship.

I’ll put together some cover iterations in the coming weeks so you can see how we design the covers.

You can find links to all three ebooks under the Novels menu. Now back to writing the Explorer trilogy which will end the series at the same time as Starforgers takes place.

Happy New Year!

Looking forward, over that massive air scoop on my hood, not into my rear-view mirror.

I’ve always had better luck in odd numbered years. I was born, graduated HS, got married, and enjoyed my best book sales in odd numbered years. So I’m optimistic that with a new administration and a vaccine, 2021 can only be better, not worse than 2020. I’d like to start that trend by getting a day job!

I plan on releasing at least two books this year, completing the middle trilogy of the Starship Series. Next up is Destroyer: The Mutineers and hopefully by summer – Destroyer: Letting Go. Meanwhile, I’ll start writing the final trilogy and hopefully get through at least two of them before the end of the year.

I’ve already built the models needed for the Starship Series book covers, so my modeling hobby may continue to be somewhat dormant over the winter months. Warmer temps in my garage could lead to the continuation of the Franklin model. I’d like to finish it up for a cover redo of my first novel, Starstrikers. Below are the latest pictures taken of that model under construction.

Today we eat pork and black eyed peas and look forward to a time when we can let go of our masks and shake hands with strangers and hug our friends in person again. Happy New Years Day, 2021!

The Most Popular and Least Known of My Books

Every author has at least a few hits and maybe a few unknown gems, waiting to be discovered by readers. Below you’ll find my hits and my sleepers.

Destroyer is the latest novella about Captain Vance and the crew of the Corvette novella. It’s the start of a new trilogy and a wild adventure on the jungle world of Declo. Devon’s Blade is my ode to the Fighter Pilot. Pilot Devon Ardel arrives on a water world to take over a fighter squadron beset by a poor combat record. She struggles to turn the unit into a deadly force as they face the deadliest new starfighter from the Votainion Empire. Starforgers is the start of the Great War and the first book in the Star Saga. It’s an action packed Space Opera with terrific characters and epic action.

My sleeper books are two great stand alone stories that flesh out plot threads from the main Star Saga series. The Blood Empress is how Empress Nykostra rose to power and launched the Votainion Empire on a collision course with the Federation. K’Nat Trap is set just after Starstrikers and features Kiloe’s efforts to discover the secrets of a new enemy starfighter. Great combat action with plenty of Pew, Pew.

Cover Evolution – Declo Demons

I thought it would be interesting to talk about how covers evolve using my latest novella. The covers for my Star Saga are usually designed by me and executed by my graphic designer brother. This is the most thought out series of novellas we’ve done since the original Star Saga coin books.

The color schemes for each book within the trilogies is: Blue, Gray, Orange. The Corvette trilogy used lighter colors for the titles: Light Blue, Gray and Orange. The Destroyer trilogy uses darker shades: Dark Blue, Black and Dark Red. The Explorer trilogy will use slightly brighter colors to signify coming back to service: Blue, Darker Gray and Red.

It all starts with a few thumbnail sketches and a search for the perfect background. Below is the sketch I made for Declo Demons. I imagined a darker, jungle planet and a smaller Truxtun streaking downward like a meteorite.

I found a blue planet shot and tried to make a demo cover with Gimp. It just didn’t have any motion or interest. I used a generic photo of the ship model that was not lit properly.

Taking the Truxtun’s photograph.

Not happy with this version, I found what was to become the perfect background image and then did a proper photographic session with the model, to closely match the original sketch. I didn’t have the proper font for the title, but the darker tone does come through. From this, Byron was able to make what became the final cover.

He added engine exhaust, navigation lights, porthole lights and proper fonts. The final product turned out exactly how I originally envisioned it when I sketched it out.

I hope you enjoyed this look behind the scenes of what goes into the cover art of my books. You can download the eBook version of Declo Demons wherever they are sold. A paperback version will hopefully be available before the end of the year.