Devon’s Blade Review

Getting the word out about your novels is pretty important and its been a weakness of mine for a long time now. So in an effort to increase my exposure I purchased a review for Devon’s Blade from the Self-Publishing Review website. So far it has not resulted in any sales, but there is no way to gauge how many people actually saw the review. It was a very positive review and you can read it on their site. They also supplied a quote for my Amazon page.

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I’ll be venturing into many new advertising avenues in the weeks and months to come. Hopefully something will result in sales. In the mean time I’m slugging away on yet another Military SF novel.

Devons Blade Cover 4-26-15

 

Pre-Production, Part 1 – Premise

PRE-PRODUCTION

What follows is an overview of how I go about starting a new novel. It’s not a very detailed explanation but it is specific to this novel. I’ll not give away any salient details of the story so as not to ruin it for potential readers. My aim here is to inform you about my processes. I’ll also be updating this blog in regular posts with my progress. I’d like to move rather quickly on this one and see how fast I can conceive, outline and write a novel. I’ll be recording the time spent writing it in a spreadsheet so I will have an accurate account of how long it takes to complete each phase of book construction. For me, a book goes through three stages, Pre-Production – everything done prior to actually writing it, Production – the actual writing of the first draft and Post-Production – everything that happens after the first draft to include editing, proofing and publication. If you know much about how films are made, you will recognize these phases.

Pre-production is everything that happens before I actually start to write. In order to write this novel as quickly and efficiently as possible, I will be outlining it down to the scene level before commencing the actual writing. This is normal for me so I don’t anticipate any difficulty other than doing it much faster than I normally would.

SET-UP

When I begin a novel I usually start a new book in Plume Creator my first draft writing tool. I have areas for the book itself, notes on character, plot and locations. This lets me keep all my written notes in one place right with the actual chapters of the book. Under Plot I create a synopsis page. This is where I start hashing out the overall plot of the book in a few paragraphs. I’m just noodling at a distance, no details and usually just the main character is known at this time. Once I have the overall plot described almost as if on a back cover blurb, I start thinking about the main characters and what changes they will endure. I also start trying to figure out the theme of the book and what will be the original concept. What will make it unique and what about the story will follow common tropes.

This past week I managed to do all the above paragraph in about two hours. I spent a third hour breaking the plot down into the necessary story structure elements needed for a four act novel. This will look familiar to those of you who have read Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. I use this format for every novel and novella I write.

STORY STRUCTURE

[ACT ONE] THE SETUP

HOOK – Setting a killer hook

Introducing your hero

Establishing the stakes

Foreshadowing events to come

INCITING INCIDENT – Launches Hero On Mission

FIRST TURNING POINT – AT 25%

[ACT TWO] THE RESPONSE

PINCH POINT #1

MIDPOINT

[ACT THREE] ATTACK – The hero fights back

SECOND TURNING POINT

PINCH POINT #2

[ACT FOUR] RESOLUTION

 

CONCEPT

This novel will follow the current Military SF tropes that are selling for Indie authors.

1. Old captain with an old ship on perhaps a final mission.

2. Only ship in the area.

3. Secret military mission.

4. Happy ending with only side characters dying.

5. Violent, overpowering enemy that prove to be cunning and dangerous.

6. They have to beat the larger, better armed enemy vessel.

If you have read any of the top selling novels in this genre these tropes will be quite familiar to you. They all have a cool looking starship on the cover and many are named after ship classes or starship names. I have followed this convention closely. The name I have chose for this novel is Corvette. A corvette is a small, fast ship that usually escorts civilian ships in a fleet or convoy and protects them from submarines. The inspiration for my starship corvette is the Flower-class corvette’s from World War 2. I have spent time researching the Flower-class corvettes for original source material.

These ships were small, no longer than about 200 ft and had a crew of about 50. They were simple and sturdy vessels that could be build fast in smaller ports and were initially designed to stay in ports to protect them from enemy subs but as the progressed they were pressed into escort duties across the North Atlantic. They usually had one main 4 inch gun and several smaller guns aft.

As part of my research I’ll be watching the films The Cruel Sea and Deep Six as well as reading the novels the films are based on. Both of these films have ships the size of the corvette or slightly larger. In researching naval life and battles I’m looking for interesting bits that are common to all such stories. While my story is set in space and with space ships, they are not much bigger than these sea ships and so I can draw parallels quite nicely. While I have never been to sea in a Navy ship, I’ll have to rely on my research and talking with friends who were in the Navy.

My corvette starship was sketched out on paper and I’ve already started building the model that will be on the cover. Modelling is a hobby of mine and I love that I can use it to prepare unique covers for my SF novels. This model is built to 1/350 scale and will be about 400 ft in length if it were real, but the total living space is about that of a WWII corvette. In other words it’s tiny.

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Because this corvette is so small I need a large enemy warship to illustrate how out gunned it will be on the cover. So I will be using my Votainion warship model, actually built to the same scale as the corvette. I hacked together a cover concept that will no doubt change over time but gets my creative juices flowing for writing the novel.

Corvette

Next up I’ll talk about my main characters and some more about the original source material for the novel.

Writing To Market

The idea that writers should only write what interests them and not write what is currently popular is one of those golden rules that gets bandied about by writers agents and publishers. Probably because when you get right down to it, nobody really knows what will be popular next and maybe it could be what you are writing. That’s a pretty big risk to take on a project that will take you months to complete. But then as a writer, every time you write a novel its a big risk. Maybe no agent will like it, maybe it will languish on Amazon with no reads. Maybe it will in the end, only appeal to you and nobody else.

What if you studied what is currently getting popular and used the tropes of those books to write a novel that should by all means succeed? That was the position that Chris Fox took with his book Write to Market. I read it with particular interest because his next novel is a Military SF genre and he’s specifically writing it with the currently popular tropes. Just putting his own spin on it. When you read his book, and I recommend every writer read it, you begin to see that he’s actually thought about it more than most. I think aside from his arguments, which are quite logical, I began to realize that after writing nine novels of what I like, maybe it couldn’t hurt to write what readers like for once. Just to see how it goes. It’s not like I have a huge audience clamoring to read my next original novel.

One thing that did occur to me while I read Chris’s book was that John Scalzi did the same thing with his first real novel, Old Man’s War. He checked out the book shelves and saw that Military SF was doing well and then went and shadowed the plot of the book considered by many as the first best example of that genre, Starship Troopers. It certainly worked out for him. Although that is a very small sample size, mind you.

So I’m diving into the Military SF market using the same common tropes that the top selling Indie authors are currently using. Of course I can’t just make up a new universe, so I’m setting it before my current Star Saga novels. This will allow me to use it as a funnel in the unlikely event that people enjoy this novel. Of course the danger is when they come to my original plotted books they might be disappointed. So be it. At least my name will be out there as having written at least one popular novel.

It just so happens that Space Opera is becoming popular again due in no small part to the latest Star Wars movie setting the box office on fire. I was hoping that would happen because I have a lot of that lying around my Amazon author page. All I have to do now is grab reader’s attentions and then sort of go, pssst, over here is something like Star Wars but less silly. Wink, wink.

Military SF is an off shoot of Space Opera in specific and Science Fiction in general. In Military SF the focus is usually more on a battle or at least the fighting bits. Where as Space Opera’s scope is more galactic in nature and may or may not directly involve fighting. Usually the tone and pacing is fast and realistic as it pertains to combat. While I’ve written plenty of battle bits in my Space Opera saga, the focus often shifts between points of view of the enemy and the good guys and sometimes pulls away from the combat to include the political maneuvering and some civilian plot lines. In a true Military SF story it’s just about the men and women doing the fighting.

In my next post I’ll start a detailed series about how I write a novel. My intention is to knock this one out as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. So I’ll be compressing my normal timeline for book completion to just a few months. It’s all part of the experiment to see if I can use these techniques of writing quickly and pushing a novel through editing and out for publication in as short a time as I can. Since I don’t write full time, this will all be done on my lunch hours as my day job. A maximum of five hours a week to be spent on the writing, editing and publishing bits. I usually build a model or two for my book covers and that time will be done on the weekends and not subjected to specific hourly increments. I just have to complete the model and shoot it before the book is ready for it’s cover.

Of course this moves out the start date of my next Star Saga novel, XiniX, but I’m okay with that. Ideally this new novel will be released by summer. Being that it’s now nearly March, I had better get cracking.

 

 

Historic Inspiration For My Sci-Fi Novella

I’m currently writing a novella set just after Starstrikers. It’s called K’nat Trap and its about the efforts of the Starstrikers to capture a new Votainion starfighter that has NexGen technology. That won’t make any sense to you unless you’ve read Starstrikers. Neither will knowing that the novella stars Kiloe and Tamia from the Starstrikers novel.

The scenes I’m currently writing for this novella take place on an Alliance starship that has been fighting on the front lines of the war with the Votainions for some time. I’m trying to capture the cramped conditions reflected by WW2 naval carriers. This involves reading books about WW2 and looking at images of ship interiors from that time period on Google Images.

Airmen are prepared men---In a photograph notable for its sharpness and depth of perspective, Navy fighter pilots are snapped in the ready room of their aircraft carrier before a strike somewhere in the Pacific in a recent battle operation   Feb. 27, 1945

The above picture is the look and feel I’m aiming for in my story. It’s a great image with tons of detail.

Airmen's Restful Air -- Indicative of their lack of tension, Navy fliers Lieutenant (jg) John H. Cantrell (left) and Lieutenant John L. Carter catch 40 winks in the ready room of their carrier while awaiting the word to man their planes during a recent battle action in the Pacific.  Lt(jg) Cantrell is from Portales, N.H. and Lt. Carter from Jacksonville, Florida.  Released November 28, 1944.

I love this one of some pilots waiting to launch on a carrier during WW2.

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This is a modern carrier equivalent, sorry for the small size.

Take away’s for my story include the comfy chairs they sit in, cramped quarters and how their gear is both worn and hanging nearby. I like the moody atmosphere of the older ships and will describe my starship as being old, stuffy and dimly lit. I’ve been in a few Navy ships in museums and they have a certain smell just with all the gray paint and machinery, but you have to imagine how they’d smell if they were filled with nervous pilots.

Of course my starship will have holographic projectors and other high tech stuff but I’m using real life history as my inspiration in an attempt to make my fiction more realistic and to paint images and moods in my reader’s head.

 

The Blood Empress – Launch Day

On Wednesday you will be able to purchase and have delivered to your Kindle my second novella set in the first trilogy of the Star Saga – The Blood Empress. It is the story of a young, vicious empress who comes of age in the brutal Votainion Empire. Is it possible to tell the bad guy’s story form her point of view and have her come out sympathetic enough for the reader to emphasis with her? That was the question I asked upon setting out to write this story. Whether or not I succeeded will be up to you, the reader. If you like this action packed novella, please leave me a review on Amazon. Spreading the word on your social networks and among your friends who enjoy Sci-Fi also helps me gain a readership for my novels. Thanks for your continued support of my writing!

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Chapter 2 of The Blood Empress

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CHAPTER 2

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.

Outlining K’nat Trap Novella

Work has commenced on the initial outline of K’nat Trap. I use Plume Creator for all my first drafts and below is a screenshot of Plume and the outline. Plume has a spreadsheet view for outlining, but lately I’ve taken to just using the editor’s tree view.

This story is set in the Starstrikers Era or the second trilogy of the Star Saga. It features Tamiya and Kiloe from Starstrikers and is essentially, a smaller strike mission.

I finished a first pass and now I need to go back through and make sure character arcs are there and drop in the tags for plot points. Kiloe is the main character in this one, but Tamiya gets plenty of page time too.

Alliance Spieron Starfighter

The primary starfighter of the Alliance in the middle trilogy or Starstrikers Era is the Spieron. It’s fast and sleek and well loved by pilots. I built this model in 1/48 scale out of poster board. But it’s due for a plastic update in 1/32 for the K’nat Trap novella cover. So I expect to be building it this winter.

 

The finalized plastic version will probably look like a mix between these drawings and the cardboard version. I’m excited to build this one in plastic with real mounts and possibly lights. You’ll be hearing more about this model’s progress this winter as I build it and the new Triak fighter.

Votainion Terrox Starfighter

The primary Votainion starfighter in the Starstrikers Era is the Terrox. This twin engine, twin canon design is fast and deadly. A direct ancestor of the Twin Tube design from the early war years, the Terrox is a war tested tried and true design well loved by those who fly it.

This is the only decent drawing I have of it. I expect to build this in 1/32 scale at some point for the book covers in the middle trilogy of the Star Saga. The final design will no doubt look slightly different.

This old drawing shows the three main lines of Votainion starfighter designs. The KIV line eventually dies and the Terrox and Reemer lines carry on into the second trilogy. I’ll have to update this graphic when I finalize on the Terrox. The Reemer is final, though I have not built it in plastic 1/32 scale. There are always more ideas for models than time allows me to build. You can see the KIV line dies out after a great run in the first trilogy.

Devon’s Blade Draft Two

I just completed my read through for Draft Two of the Devon’s Blade novella. All issues raised by the Beta Readers have been addressed. It reads fast and the story is pretty tight. No wasted space, as usual for my first drafts. I’ll go back through it again before handing it over to my editor, but right now, I’m pretty happy with it. If you like pilot stories this one is pretty good. Nothing deep, just a great tale of pilots jousting in the skies.

Screenshot from 2015-08-07 12:01:51

It features my all purpose hero of the Starforgers Trilogy, Devon Ardel and is set during the time between Starforgers and The Rising. At just shy of 200 pages long, you can easily read it in a couple of hours. It was really fun to write and after having just read it, I’d say the same applies to reading it.

I upgraded to the latest version of Libre Office during this draft and I have to say, I love the new changes in edit mode. Especially when you turn on the non-printing characters which are now blue and easily stand out against the black font. Shinny. I also like the smaller footprint of the Navigator bar to the right. When you go back to regular mode, you no longer see the blue rectangle that defines the writing area. I really like that too. Hopefully my epub converter plugin works, I have yet to try that.

Screenshot from 2015-08-07 12:07:25

 

Well, back to my vacation. I’ll post again soon.