Automated Paper Shredder

My son Spencer was given the task of shredding a big box of old financial papers for us. His response was to automate the task using his Arduino microcontroller. He built an auto feeder with a stepper motor and a wheel and some cardboard. Then he put a light sensor over the jam light panel to detect a jam, which then turns off the feeder and sounds an audible alarm.

I think this kid might be an Engineer. Also, I may be raising my replacement at HP.

Cover Reveal – The Rising

This past weekend the cover for my next released novel, The Rising has been finalized. I thought I’d share with you some of the final little tweaks we did to it. Big thanks to my brother Byron McConnell for once again pulling all the elements together in Photoshop and making them shine!

The Rising Cover 2-7-16

The above version had five important design changes. The First was the yellow flame out the back of the top fighter. The second was the new explosion. The third was the canopy glass on the bottom fighter, and the fourth change was the motion blur added to the green fighter and the bottom fighter. The fifth design change was to punch up the brightness of the stars.


In the above version we changed the color of the top fighter’s exhaust back to blue, realizing that the yellow didn’t fit our stated blue and orange color guide and it conflicted with the yellow of the green fighter’s leading edge. The two lower models didn’t have motion blur and looked static to me. Also the canopy glass was not yet applied to the bottom fighter. The explosion in this version was not as dynamic as the first one either. The stars are not as bright in this version and it was determined that when you looked at the cover in smaller sizes, the stars faded away entirely. 

The Rising Cover 2-15-16

For the final version of the cover we merged the best of the above versions into a single version. So now you have the blue flame of the top fighter, the more dynamic explosion and the motion blur of the middle and bottom fighters. The canopy glass on the bottom fighter is reflecting the explosion which makes it more realistic.

Here’s a quick look back at how the cover evolved over time from my original sketch.


My original sketch was inspired by model airplane box cover art from WWII which usually depicted aircraft dog fighting in dramatic fashion. I still had the series banner at the top the same way it appeared on the older coin covers.


Above we see a finished version of the initial sketch. We decided that the title should be on one line and that we didn’t need to keep the series banner. 


So I did this format change to make the textual parts more clean. All of the books in the Star Saga would now conform to this template for the cover title, saga title and author name.


I added a third fighter in the foreground to help add interest and show the fighter who shot down the green fighter. Now the battle depicts the good guys winning the engagement. The bottom fighter was eventually swapped out for a better model of the Vicker’s Victory fighter. Actually, both Alliance fighters would eventually be the same newly created plastic version with more details.

You can see what was involved with building the two models used on this cover in the Model Builds section of this blog.

Vickers Victory Fighter

Kiv-3 Starfighter Large

Plume Creator Dark Theme Preview

Those of you writers out there using the fantastic writing tool – Plume Creator are in for a treat in an upcoming release. Plume is getting themes and that means a dark version is in the works. I’ve been helping the developer, Cyril, work out a dark theme for the Linux version of Plume. Below is an early screenshot showing the unfinished theme.

So what do you think? Are we on the right track?

If you have any UI or design experience please leave a comment with your constructive criticism. We aim to please!

Library Talk on Ebook Publishing

Getting Your Work Published Online SATURDAY, MARCH 16, 2013, 1 – 3PM
Location Library! at Collister
Room Sycamore Room
Registration Required No
Contact Name Jim
Contact Phone 562-4995
Location Library! at Collister
Type of Event Classes/Workshops/Speakers
Age Teens

Young Adults grade 7-12 join local author Ken McConnell, author of the Sci-Fi novels Starforgers, Starstrikers and Tyrmia, to explore the why and how of self-publishing and showcase some of the tools needed to render your work. Getting Your Work Published Online is part of the Collister Media Arts series of programs.

Partner’s In Crime Guest Speaker

Tonight’s guest speaker for the Partner’s In Crime mystery writer’s group will be Nate McIntyre from Black Label Press. Nate is a good friend of mine and not coincidentally is who I’ve decided to go with on my ebooks. New versions of all my ebooks will be hitting the virtual shelves soon.  Get a sneak peek at the new one tonight.

If you are curious about what goes into making a polished ebook and why you might not want to do it yourself, this talk is a must see. This is a great opportunity to talk with someone who has in-depth technical knowledge about making quality ebooks.

7:00PM at the Barnes & Nobel on Milwaukee in Boise.

The talk is free and all writers are welcome.


Ebooks by Hand

This past weekend I was building a new ebook of Starstrikers to release with my next novel, Starforgers in October. I’m using the stylesheet that I created for Tyrmia, my last novel. If you intend to self-publish your ebook, you basically have two options, make it yourself or hire a professional. For the vast majority of authors, hiring a professional is the way to go. Just do it. Don’t go with the automated methods offered by many publishers.

I tend to do things like this myself, because I can. I have built web pages and ebooks many times before. So I know enough to attempt something like this myself. I don’t claim to be a professional ebook designer by any means. I don’t completely do things from scratch in Vi either. No need. Time is something I don’t have much of these days. I use Sigil and I have my own style sheets as I mentioned above. For most ebook authors, that is usually enough.

My next novel will be written in Scrivener and when I finish it, I may use that program to create my ebook ARC. But when it comes to making a final ebook product, I’ll be doing it by hand again. Because I know that I can have complete control over the final product and any mistakes are all my own.