A Sneak Peek at Devon’s Blade

21702169809_5ea0ca8b92_z  Pre-order it from Amazon now. Launch date is Halloween.

http://www.amazon.com/Devons-Blade-Ken-McConnell-ebook/dp/B015Y01CO8

 

The morning mission was not intended to be a revenge killing, but I knew that’s what was on everyone’s mind, especially Katya’s. I let her lead to test her ability to control herself. If she went solo trying to get the Red Ace, it would be her last flight. I was reasonably sure she would stick to the mission plan. I kept the mission simple and instructed everyone to keep their eyes open and look for any weakness they could find in the new enemy fighters.
As for tactics, I told them to fly like they do when they go against each other in training. Assume the new fighter handles similar to their own fighters only better. The new fighter appeared to have a tighter turn radius and was faster, they needed to compensate for that fact when they tangled with them.
I could see in their eyes that they were scared again. As much as everyone was out for blood, they also looked as if I were sending them off to slaughter. Any of them could close their canopies for the final time. I wanted to go with them but I couldn’t risk my own life and leave the unit leaderless.
My preflight speech was more of a pep rally than instructional. I needed to make sure they didn’t come apart up there at the first taste of combat. They had to maintain the fierceness that had made them so good these past few months. As I watched them gather their gear and head to the flight line, I wondered how many would come back. I hadn’t even considered that before now. Dammit.
Karvuk and Sweetness would be the leads, with Condor and Double as their wingmen. I hesitated to send up Sweetness again so soon, but she was our most experienced pilot against the new fighters. I felt they had a better chance with her along. She seemed up to the task and even eager to get back in the fray. That was a hopeful sign.
All the off duty pilots gathered in Ops to listen to the mission on the comms. I stayed in my office until they reached the enemy airbase, occupying myself with trying to figure out new tactics. Nothing was coming to me.
I checked my messages hoping for guidance from Fleet. There was only a message received notice, no official response. I contacted the base Comm Squadron and asked if there were any issues receiving messages from Fleet. They assured me that the communications lanes were open. Dammit.
A knock at my door was Hank.
“Ma’am, they’re almost to their target now.”
I nodded and got up to join everyone in the main room.
The fighter telemetry was displayed on the main viewer as blue icons representing the Alpha Flight. There were no red icons on the map, but that wasn’t unusual and was mainly due to our poor scanner data of the planet.
They buzzed the airbase low, searching for parked enemy aircraft and only found a dozen or so KiV-3’s parked in their revetments. A second pass brought ground to air fire from the base defenses and made their attack more difficult. Karvuk and Condor circled higher up, waiting to be pounced on by fighters on patrol. But they encountered nobody. After several passes and at least six fighters confirmed destroyed on the ground they formed up and headed for home.
“Control, Alpha Lead. No joy on the new fighters,” Katya’s voice sounded defeated.
“Copy, Alpha Lead.”
I went to the paper map that was pinned to another wall and ran my fingers over the island chain where they had just been. There were no other bases within reach to house the new fighters. Where the hell had they come from?
I opened up my sweep to a few more hundred klicks and found another, smaller atoll. The islands were uninhabited and barely above sea level. I moved to the main screen and pushed around menus until I opened the latest images we had of the atoll. There were about seven smaller islands and two larger ones. I zeroed in on the larger ones. One of them had what looked like a natural cave entrance that was large enough to store fighters.
I grabbed the mic. “Alpha Lead, this is Rocket One. Change course heading 270. I want you to do a pass on the Ring Atoll. Copy?”
There was a pause as she no doubt was searching her navicomputer for the coordinates.
“Alpha Lead, Rocket One. Wilco.”
Seconds later they were all on course for the atoll, climbing to combat altitude. Everyone sat on the edge of their seats or stood leaning into the comm system to listen. Minutes ticked by as we waited for Karvuk to report in what they saw. As the icons got closer to the atoll the comm lines crackled.
“Holy shit, we kicked the hornet’s nest!”
“Tally ho!” said Sweetness.
New icons emerged as the combat computer was updated with current telemetry from the Swifts. Three, then six and finally nine enemy fighters poured out of the cave from the main island. It seemingly took them mere seconds to gain altitude and meet Alpha Flight. Alpha were outnumbered and they had lost the element of surprise.
“Alpha Lead, break off and disengage. Copy?” I said into the mic.
A burst of static was the only reply. Followed by excited chatter from Condor, Double and Karvuk. It sounded like they were able to gang up on the first wave of fighters and were close to splashing one. Seconds ticked by again. An eternity.
Finally. “I got one! Splash one of those bastards,” Condor said.
A cheer broke out from the other pilots and was quickly quieted when more chatter crackled over the speaker.
“Double, break right and come up. I’ve got your six,” Karvuk said.
“Negative Lead, I’m losing pressure and speed.”
“Double pull up and stall it, I got him.”
One of the blue icons winked off, followed by another red icon. Nobody cheered that time.
“Sweetness, I can’t get around him. Where are you?” said Double.
“Other side, back at you.”
Another red icon winked off.
“This is Lead, break off. Repeat, disengage. We’re out numbered up here.”
“Copy Lead,” said Sweetness.
“On your wing Lead,” said Condor.
“Control this is Alpha Lead. State twenty to splash. Lost Double.”
“Alpha Lead, Control. Enemy status?”
“They are breaking off too. Looks like they’re heading back to the main base,” Karvuk said. You could hear the defeat in her voice, or was it disappointment?
I walked over to the status board and crossed off Double’s name. Then I went back to my room. The other pilots spoke in hushed tones about losing Double. I couldn’t face them right now.

Building the Renoke, Part 7

The last two areas to detail are the top of the bridge and the bridge itself. Nearly all of the parts I used for these areas are from the same model kit – the HEMTT Gun Truck 1/35 from Italeri. Beautifully molded parts and nearly all of them worthy of use on a model like the Renoke.

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The gray parts above are from the HEMTT kit.

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The old crane mount on the left is a piece of 1/2 inch PVC scrap.

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There’s only one high intensity LED light in the engine. But it turns out to be enough.

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Nicely glowing engine even in broad daylight.

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Above is the circuit I used for all the LEDs in the model. Each one wired to a resister and then the leads that carry it to the LEDs themselves. A single 9 volt battery is all I need to light them. Later, I wired a slide switch into the circuit.

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The finished bread board looked like a squid.

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The bridge is lit by a red LED and the fiber optics.

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Night time test in the garage. You can also see the two F-4 ejection seats I used.

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Here is the switch on the left. I probably should anchor the battery in there too.

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The headlights are connected to the leads with removable metal plugs. Not what I wanted to use, but what I had on hand.

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In preparing the headlight area for painting, I used Fasmask to cover up the LEDs.

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One final shot of the pretty bridge lights. Next up is painting, followed by weathering.

Building the Renoke, Part 6

The final areas to detail are the bridge and the bridge cover.

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Fitting the top section so that it doesn’t require gluing is not an easy task. But it must be removable to get to the front mount point of the model.

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Here is the back wall of the bridge. I love how industrial it looks.

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This is the bridge back wall inside.

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This image shows the other inside wall and the pilot and copilot seat area.

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Here you can see I need to build more floor!

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Things are starting to come together in the bridge.

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Decided to give the sides some more attention with greeblies.

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Here are the bridge fiber optics drilled into the walls and glued in.

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Light test. The fiber optics are going into a single LED.

The final bit of light kit is the headlights. For these, I needed to build a box and mount an LED.

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Bright as a sun flare!

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This is the temporary bread board I use to test my simple circuits before soldering them up.

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The mounted headlight boxes.

Building the Renoke, Part 5

This is the start of the engine detailing. I used a piece of transporter diorama that I had from an old Star Trek toy. It had a blue clear plastic part that would be easy to light up with an LED. I just built up the inside of the engine exhaust with scratch plastic pipe and sheet styrene. Tedious.

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But the end result looks pretty good.

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Here are the details used to bring the engine area alive.

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This angle shows the bottom front of the Renoke with the rectangular landing pads.

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The final bits of details added for the hatch area of the bottom.

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Top of the model after primer.

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Back of the model after primer.

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Finished bottom of the model after primer.

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The bridge and front of the top are the final areas to be detailed.

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Sanding the primer gives a nice texture. But it will soon be covered with base coat.

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John Scalzi Signing

We don’t get best selling Sci-F authors here in the fly over state of Idaho. Ever. So don’t miss your chance to see John Scalzi at the Boise Public Library this Thursday night at 7:00 PM. While you’re there, thank Bruce from Rediscovered Books for arranging the signing with Tor. Oh, and don’t forget to say hi to John and buy one of his books.

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UPDATE:

Thanks John for coming to our fair city and for letting us hear a preview of your next book. Here are my two boys with John. Next time you come to Idaho, bring the family and go on a rafting trip. It really is a pretty state when it’s not on fire.

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.

A Flash Story For You

Nothing To Watch

by Ken McConnell

 

Grot sat back in his plush recliner and rested his ante-arms on their respective cushions. He cracked open a cold one in one hand and opened a bag of crunchies with another hand. His six eyes were droopy and tired from a long day’s work. All he wanted to do was vegetate for a few hours and do nothing.

He turned on the interstellar holo-vision and started clicking channels looking for some mindless entertainment. He slowed down when he got past the pay per view channels out around four million and two and then took a chance on the long range incoming signals. Sometimes he got lucky and found a war picture where an entire civilization struggled against the galactic odds and eventually lost out to the ruthlessness of the universe. Other times he found documentaries on various animals, plants or politicians. Tonight was not looking good.

Grot kept going higher and higher through the interstellar channels until he stopped at something that got his attention.

He thought it was just another emergent civilization, trying to find out if they were alone and getting the cosmic cold shoulder that the universe so often favored. But it was more than that. It was a drama of some catastrophic disaster that was befalling the planet where the sentient aliens lived. The coverage never stopped and the worried expressions on the faces of the aliens got progressively disturbing. But the cameras kept running, constantly. People running in panic and rioting in the streets, were being inter cut with scenes of a looming asteroid.

Grot grunted in disgust, “Just get out of the way you idiots! Leave the planet and go somewhere else!”

But the aliens did not heed him. They had elaborate discussions about how to get the asteroid to move out of the doomed planet’s way, but nobody seemed to have a good way to make it happen. What ineptitude, Grot thought to himself. He watched warily for a while, knowing the end was near enough to stick around to see if it worked out for the hairless aliens.

He was disappointed. The live coverage continued until the skies above the broadcast station lit up with fireballs. Eventually the studio was destroyed and the signal fell silent. No more aliens and no more live coverage from that planet.

    Grot continued on through the channels. Some nights there was just nothing to watch.

New Release From Val Roberts

You may not have heard of us yet, but the state of Idaho has a small but totally awesome bunch of SF writers. One of us has recently launched a new book that has moved to the top of my reading stack. Author Val Roberts has released Book One of her new series: Ganymede: The Survivors. It’s even got a catchy title: Open Mike at Club Bebop. If you like a bit of romance mixed in with smart storytelling, fantastic world building and great characters, you’ll love all of Val’s work. Don’t forget to leave reviews when you finish, we authors need the love. When you finish reading this and you need more awesome from Val, pick up her other two novels also available on Amazon:  Blade’s Edge and The Valmont Contingency.

What I’ve Been Reading and Listening to Lately

I’m always reading fiction and non-fiction when not writing or modeling. Reading non-fiction for me is about improving my craft, research and getting new ideas. Show Your Work by Ausitn Kleon is about how to relate to your audience by letting them see you working on the stuff you do. A behind the scenes look at the creation of your art. That’s been easy for me when it comes to modeling. I document my builds with pictures and blog posts on this site and on Google Plus.

But showing my writing has been harder to do. You don’t want to give away plot points, but you do want to let your readers know that you are working, making progress and some of the things you deal with as a writer. I don’t like to preach about craft here, because this site is not about  how to be a fiction writer. There are plenty of sites like that around the web. This site focuses on just how I do things. If that proves useful to you, great. Otherwise, it helps give my readers a glimpse behind the curtain of being a writer.

Kleon’s book helps you think about how to show off the creative work you are doing in order to build social awareness and spread your reach. I highly recommend it to all artists and writers.

I also try and read the books that my personal friends publish whenever possible. Lately I’ve been reading Aurum, The Golden Planet by my writer buddy, Sharon Joss. Sharon recently moved away from our local writer’s group in Boise, Idaho to Oregon. So I don’t get to talk with her much these days. But she’s putting out some awesome work and Aurum is one of them.

I’ve also been sampling other genre books similar to mine that have been indie published. There are a few of them that look promising and are in my stack to be read. I also read traditionally published books but I rarely mention them here. I figure they already have the attentions of fans and don’t need the boost. Unless of course they are my absolute favorite writers. Then I’ll indulge you with their latest.

I’ve also added a few new podcasts to my phone lately, all of them concern writing. Kobo’s Podcast hosted by Mark Lefebvre. If you are a writer and you sell your wares on Kobo, this podcast is well worth the listen.

The second new program I’m listening to is The Creative Penn hosted by Joanna Penn. If you don’t know who Joanna is, you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years. She’s a best selling indie author and all around great champion of writer’s everywhere. I’ve tuned in on occasion, but now her s how is in my phone and ready to listen to.

The final new show I’ve been listening to since it started is Simon Whistler’s Rocking Self Publishing Podcast. Simon’s show is well executed and he brings a wide range of guests who are doing the self publishing thing in some way. A well produced and professional look at the people behind the maker revolution in books.

There are lots more podcasts that I listen too, but these I’ve recently added. Two more I’ll recommend in passing are Writing Excuses and The Self Publishing Podcast. Go and seek those out too.