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

Writing Update, December 2015

Workspace 1_001

As 2015 winds down I thought I’d update you all on my writing adventures. 2014 and 2015 saw me producing two novels and two novellas. The novellas (Devon’s Blade and The Blood Empress) have been published as ebooks on Kindle, but the novels are still being edited. I hope to release them in January or February of 2016. The first one out will be The Rising, Book 2 of the Star Saga and the second one will be Counterattack, Book 3 of the Star Saga.

Currently both are being edited and both are waiting for cover art to be completed. Since I have to rely on others to provide me with both editing and cover art, I can only move as fast as my partners. In the mean time, I’m currently writing a novella that takes place between Starstrikers, Book 4 of the Star Saga and XiniX, Book 5. The novella is called K’nat Trap and if focuses on Kiloe and Tamia, two Starstrikers Special Forces personnel on a mission to steal a new Votainion starfighter. I’m having fun with this one which is a bit like Devon’s Blade in that it focuses on starfighters and those who pilot them. It’s just set in the middle of the Great War and takes place a year or so after Starstrikers.

After I finish that novella, I’ll be diving into XiniX which takes place a few years after Starstrikers and will star all four Alpha Team members and various other characters introduced in Starstrikers. Unlike last time, I’ll make an effort to get both K’nat Trap and XiniX out in ebook format before the end of the year.

I recently switched laptops from an aging Dell XPS 13 to a new System 76 Lemur. I’m loving the Lemur and of course, still using Ubuntu Linux as my operating system and Plume Creator as my first draft tool of choice. I’ve started transitioning away from Sigil and over to Calibre for my primary ebook editor. Sigil is no longer supported on Linux so that’s why I’m moving to Calibre. I’m still using LibreOffice 5 for my editing software.




Ebook Creation


This week work on the WIP has been suspended until I can finish making the ebook of The Rising for my Newsletter subscribers. It’s nearly complete, so only a few days will be spent polishing it up. This is a special release that will only be available to the subscribers. It is not the final release of the book. That will happen later this year. So if you are a subscriber, enjoy this sneak peek at the ebook and please inform me if you find errors.

When I make an ebook I use Sigil. This time around I converted my manuscript to html using LibreOffice and then sucked that into Calibre to make the ebook. After all that, I loaded the epub into Sigil and added all the other pages required for an ebook. Experimenting with workflow is just part of the job when you do things yourself. In Sigil I ensure the epub has all the pages that my other ebooks have for consistency.  For the reader, once they upload it into their reader, The Rising should match all the other books in the series. There will be a few new things in the title though, noting that it’s book 2 of the Star Saga.


The Rising Ebook Cover

Below is the final version of the ebook cover for The Rising, Book 2 of the Star Saga. Kudos go out to my brother, Bryon McConnell for another fine composite and layout! The models used were scratch built by myself and photographed by Bryon, who then imported them into PS and added the visual effects.

One new thing we are trying is adding the book’s series number to the cover. This is to avoid confusion about reading order. Starforgers is Book 1 and you should start there with the series. Until we release this ebook to the general public, the only way you can read it is by joining my newsletter. So if you loved Starforgers and are ready to continue on, you know what you have to do. If you are just starting, you can pick up Starforgers for only a buck on Kindle, Nook and Kobo. There is no firm release date set for The Rising.  I suspect it will be later in the year, possibly in December.


Writing Update

Nothing. I haven’t written new words on a first draft of anything at all this year. But I did finish the first edit of The Rising, Book 2. Now I’m onto the first edit for The Blood Empress. At this rate, I might be able to start my next novel sometime in the summer. I was a bit ambivalent about the likability of the story in The Rising but my Beta’s all enjoyed it, so maybe it will do okay. I’m liking The Blood Empress much better. Great criticism from the Betas on that one are helping me sharpen that novel to a much finer edge.

I did want to mention that I’m using a new productivity tool for keeping track of my novel’s progress. Indie publishing usually involves working with two or more people to get a book out. Following the advice of the guys over at The Self Publishing Podcast, I’ve started using Asana, a web based task organizer for groups of people working on one or more projects. Right now I have my Editor and my Cover/Art Designer involved and soon I’ll rope a copy editor into the group. If your publishing team needs organizing, Asana is a good collaboration tool to try.

We still don’t have a cover artist for The Blood Empress. Both artists on Deviant Art that I tried to contact, have blown me off and not responded. Too bad. So now I have to see what Byron and I can come up with on the fly. That novel looks to be done by summer, too late in the process to hire an artist to work from scratch. Hopefully we can come up with something interesting in the next month.

Meanwhile, the cover for The Rising is pretty much set, just have to wait for Byron to put the elements together. That one’s going to scream Space Opera for sure. All the rest of the Star Series books will have awesome space scenes on the cover so they should do well and be easy enough to execute. But the little novels in between the numbered series books should have more character based covers to set them apart.

I will be attending the first Indie ReCon Live! in Utah this October. If you attend, look for me in the book sellers area!


The Rising Update

Many thanks to my Beta Readers who read The Rising last month and provided me with some outstanding feedback! I’ve completed the spot fixes from the Second Draft and now I’m preparing to start the third and final draft of the manuscript. At this point, I’m looking at the ebook release some time in May. I still need to finish up this third draft and then have it edited and copy edited.

My novella, The Blood Empress is now in the hands of Beta Readers so I should be getting comments back from them in the next few weeks. Then I get to start the whole, Second Draft routine again with that book. In the meantime, I’m not writing. With only a few hours a week to work on this writing career, things move slowly for me. I have outlined the 3rd book of the Starforgers Trilogy and so writing that will go faster as a result. Next up is to outline my next novella, which will probably get written before Book 3.

On the workbench:


Anyone care to guess if the KIV-3 model rocket above is capable of actually launching? I plan to find out this weekend. “Hit the deck, he’s launching!”


A Novella is Born

I’ve had a fairly productive week of writing on my Work In Progress – The Rising. I’m currently sitting at around 62K words and I’ve just crossed over into the fourth act. So things are moving right along. I had a bit of a revelation yesterday about the parts that I have jettisoned for this novel. A few months back I realized that the Votainion based subplot in the book was not working. It was about characters who in the end, never actually engaged with the hero of the story. It was like I was telling two different stories that never connected. I didn’t throw all those chapters out, I simply copied them into the third book. But the events I was writing about needed to happen before Book 3 of the series. They actually did happen at the same time as the events in Book 2, The Rising.

My solution is to create a novella and set it in the Starforgers time frame between Book 1 and Book 3. That novella will be all about Empress Nykostra, ruler of the Votainion Empire. It will be called The Blood Empress and I’ll write it after I complete The Rising. I have already written about 3K words and most of the story is already outlined, so hopefully it will write faster than a regular novel.

My goal now is to try and get The Rising out as an ebook before Christmas, but a more likely date will be January of next year. The novella will be pushed out within a few months after that. Then I’ll dive into Book 3, Counterstrike and hopefully get that one out by next Christmas. That’s more writing than I think I’ve ever done over a two year period. It will be cool to try and get it done. After I publish Book 3, I’ll give the Star Saga a break and go write a Mystery novel.

Hopefully I’ll get back to the saga with Book 5, XiniX, sometime around 2016.

The Board

I had a major revelation about my current WIP this week and it meant pulling out about ten chapters of the book. They had not all been written, but a major subplot is now gone. This means reordering my remaining scenes to focus on a different plot. So I have decided to get a cork board and stick my scenes up on it act by act.


I’m using half index cards in order to squeeze them onto my smaller board. I’ve since changed the blue tape to show just the first three acts of a four act story. A second board is under this one to show the fourth act. According to Larry Brooks, a novel will consist of about 90 scenes. I have my scenes divided into chapters, but that could change.

Here you see my laptop open to Plume Creator, my novel writing software. The note card is to the right along with colored pens to highlight POV characters. This makes it easy to see who has the most scenes.

Here is a close up of the note cards. Brief description, followed by some meta data about the scene. Sometimes this will change as I go through drafts. (-/-) is a way to show emotional changes, (><) is a way to show conflict and POV is of course the Point Of View character.

Just about all of this meta data is already in my program, but I think it will be easier to see the big picture on a board and move scenes around as needed.



Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward

I was moving right along on my latest novel when suddenly the brakes came on and the next thing I knew I had lost about four thousand words. Reading books on plot and structure and some heart-to-heart chats with a writer friend convinced me that whole sections needed to be sucked out of the novel and thrown into the next book. Those sections concerned the Votainion Empress Nykostra and were perfectly fine in the next book, but out of place in this book.

So Starforgers Book 2, The Rising is going to just be about how the new Alliance deals with the Silicant threat and internal strife. Before you can gear up and fight your enemy, you have to clean house. The Rising is about the house cleaning needed before the war can really get going. This means it’s back to the drawing board for me. I’m restructuring the second half of this book before I can continue writing.

The upshot of all this is that I probably won’t get the book out before next year. This will be the first time in like five years that I have not published a new book in the fall. I don’t have millions of fans waiting for me, so I probably won’t hear a peep out of anyone. But the professional side of me hates to miss deadlines. Even self imposed ones. But this is also a part of the learning process that all writers go through. Time spent getting my outline in order now, means I can write faster down the line.

I just finished reading the Save The Cat book about Screenplays and the author talks about using a cork board and index cards to lay out your story. Brooks advocates the same approach for novels. I’ll be building my Board this weekend for Book 2 and seeing where I need to tighten things up now that I have an entire plot thread yanked out of the book. I also need to focus the book more on the hero and the true villain of the book. Who until this point was largely unseen. After the book is published, I’ll do a spoiler filled post about what exactly happened. It should prove useful to my fellow writers.

Lastly, Book 2 now has a cover thumbnail! You’ve probably already noticed it up there at the top of the post. I don’t claim to be an artist, but I think you can see where we’re going with it. Exciting WWII era model airplane box art is the inspiration for this cover. The Starforgers coin will go to the back cover. Since we’re doing battle scenes on the front now, things are getting more dynamic and exciting. Hopefully I’ll lure in some new readers with this new cover.

Before you ask, yes, I’ll be building new models to be featured in this art and they’ll be doctored up by my brother in Photoshop. The effect will be more like a scene from a space opera movie than the CG inspired coins. I’ll start up a blog page for the model build for this cover soon. So stay tuned if scratch building starship models is your thing.

Back in the Saddle Again

vintage: great-grandfather on horse Flam via Compfight

This week I’ve been writing on a regular basis again. I surpassed the 40K marker on Book 2, The Rising. Which means I still have another 40K or more to write. I’ve had to put my foot down at work and force myself to leave at lunch time in order to write. It’s so easy to keep working through my lunch hour but in the end, for me at least, that kind of continuous work burns me out.

I love my job and I feel like I’m beginning to get a handle on it from a technical standpoint. But my head needs a mid-day shot of creativity to keep me going all day long. That’s not to say that working up a useful perl script isn’t creative, but I need a shot of creative writing to keep me going throughout the day. The world is a much brighter place if I get to write during lunch time. Even if all I do is sit there and think about my novel, that little bit of not doing my job, relaxes me and keeps the stress down.

I’ve been averaging about 800 words an hour on my lunch breaks this week. Which is not too shabby. The story is already broken down into chapters and scene beats, so all I have to do is write. If I think about the story on the ride into work, sometimes that helps me get back into the swing of things quicker. I’m going to be getting back to my morning lap swims at the YMCA next week and that will be about 30 minutes of think time on the novel. I don’t count laps when I swim. I just swim until my time is up or until I can just barely get out of the pool unassisted. It’s a great time to let my mind wonder while my body works out. Of course the added benefit of working out is that I lose weight and melt away stress at the same time.

It was great to see my SF writer buddies last night at our monthly get together at Rediscovered Books. Saw Bruce, the owner, always a pleasure. If you live in the Boise area, write some kind of SF and want to hook up with us, we’d love to meet you. We gather on the third Thursday of the month at Rediscovered on 8th street from 6:30-8:00PM.