Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ram-Jack art

There can be no doubt that my inspiration for Ram-Jack is coming from the visual style of anime. I have been sketching up lots of studies of my basic Ram-Jack. This is the workup I have sketched so far, it is not a 3D model, just 2D painting in quick grey tones. You can see the difference between the more finished bottom half and the sketchy top half.

Friday, June 21, 2013


(this is me playing in the sandbox of an anime inspired space opera)


By Thomas Cardin
I closed my eyes to the whirling stars as my Ram-Jack spun out of control. Thirty tons of fighting machine, reduced to scrap. Well, thirty tons at launch would be more exact. Now with its head and right arm blown off and right leg more holes than leg, I would place the weight at more like twenty tons. Even with the damage, the damn thing should still fly.

“Lieutenant Kell, maintain radio silence. We are picking up your passive telemetry feeds. The bogies in your quadrant are targeting transmission sources.”
“Thanks for that bit of news,” I muttered to myself. “It’s a damn good thing I didn’t cry for help when my head stopped spinning.” That sounded bad for the other thirty one Ram-Jack’s in the trashed battle group.  Those who called for help after the initial salvo of enemy fire must have gotten an alien care package, special delivery.
With my eyes closed, the diagnostic visuals were still alive in my head. Those would go out once all the reserve power was gone. I would get a few minutes of peace and quiet while I sucked on the last of my air, something fun to look forward to.
That was way down the road. I had at least a whole half hour to get the main battery power back on line. The two battery cells read zero amperage, when they should be at nearly full charge. They were either blown away, or otherwise disengaged from their couplings. Just one of them would be enough to light up the thrusters and limp back to the Battlecarrier Katrina, assuming she still existed by then.
I took stock of what I did have working on my Ram-Jack. My electronics and life support were running on reserve battery power. Communications, awesome, use it and eat a few more rounds of whatever the bogies were firing at us. Four of six ion ram thrusters, operational but powered down. They could not come close the charge needed to fire on reserve power. The armored cockpit around me remained intact and held full atmosphere. My neural interface was working as designed, giving me sensory feedback on what remained of my Ram-Jack. Three tons of railgun ammunition, it should be four since I had not shot any, but one ton must have gone with the right arm of the Ram-Jack. I could move the left arm and leg, but the servomotors would be a heavy drain on my reserve power.
Yes, I am indeed sitting in the remains of a battery operated giant robot. A running joke among my fellow pilots—we called ourselves ‘kids’, and there was no mistaking what our ‘toys’ were.
Left hand toolkit read intact—finally some good news. Now to see if the problem with the main batteries was something I could fix.
Cameras were at 50%. A significant chunk of what was missing had been on the Ram-Jack’s head, but there were many more scattered around the machine. I shut off the ergonomic interlocks and swung the machine’s left arm behind me. The main batteries were right where a human’s kidneys would be, right below the back thruster package. I isolated my view down to the left hand camera and took a look.
The armor skin had a nice, blossoming exit wound over the right side battery. All kinds of tasty goodness bled out in a thin spray of particles. I shivered for a second. That shot had to have passed very close to my cockpit hidden deep under the thickened chest armor, probably only inches past the plating where my right foot rested in its actuator harness. I swallowed that ninth life back down and examined the area over the left hand battery. Clean white armor skin.
“All right, let’s find out what’s eating you.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Approach to Writing

I posted the main body of this on a GoodReads author's discussion.

I write fantasy, and I am planning a science fiction story as well.

My process used and refined during the writing of the Gifts of Vorallon trilogy:

Imagine my loose concept--"It's going to be a story about A1 going to B2 and all hell breaks loose until C3 gets F4'd"

I like Shakespeare's 5 act story construction as a loose guideline for the dramatic arc. My take on it is:
1. establish the problem
2. come up with a plan to fix problem
3. Uh oh! The plan fails or compounds the problem
4. pick up the pieces and dig deep for the true fix
5. execute final plan

This is a general dramatic arc for the whole novel or series, but each subpart can also run through a similar or partial treatment.

Coming up with the problem is first, followed immediately by coming up with the final solution, even if a partial fix is all that can happen. I boil both of these down to a simple statement like, problem-The God of Undeath is going to destroy the world and all life upon it. Solution-Use all the power of life that can be mustered to stop him.

I then created the intervening moments with the same level of detail: The Plan-create the hero that can stop the God of Undeath. The Uh Oh-There is another opponent of the hero who must be dealt with first.
The new plan-The hero must gather all the life that remains to have a chance of winning.

Then I work on my characters:
I build up my characters until they are alive in my head, a sort of compartmentalized roleplaying. This involves sketching out their likeness so that I can picture them. To define who they are as people, I need to know how they will react in given situations and how they view the world past the end of their own nose. This takes the form of mental and written notes and an interview process I put them through. My goal being to create an individual who feels genuine, and it is just a starting point because the story will further shape them.

I then write a loose outline that connects characters and events together. They all must grow, even though some are going to grow towards the negative and lose some of what makes them sympathetic to the reader.

It is the characters who really fill in the details as I flesh out the story, they see the conflicts from very different perspectives. In the case of my trilogy, the Uh Oh of act 3 was different for everyone. Even the initial problem was not equally understood by all characters until deep into act 4.

Those of you who have read the Gifts of Vorallon may be scratching your head at much of this, but the story really did come about this way. The complexity is the number of levels each character's personal view.

My current project, The Fire of Falraan is even more driven by the characters and my outline is far looser. It has become a fascinating experience for me to write as I allow the characters to guide my hand. All I have given them is a loose "I would like you all to get to 'here' by the time we're done".

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Final Demon Line-Up

Here is the final line-up of the demons of May:
If you have purchased or read one of more of the Gifts of Vorallon books, please send me an email or private message on goodreads or facebook with your mailing address and your pick of demons to receive a signed postcard featuring your favorite demon. Choose up to three demons if you have the entire trilogy. End of June will be the last day to request your signed demon postcards. Friend and follow me on facebook to be alerted for any other chances to receive signed graphics of my Vorallon art.