My next manuscript

I started feeling a little out of sorts last week after sending off my manuscript to a couple of beta readers. I’ve been telling myself for weeks to step back from it because I  have to much emotional investment.

This was also a good time to get stuck into my “homework” from the editing course I’m doing. But once I’d completed my assignment I got the fidgets again.

I had also been struggling with where to start a second book. Was it going to follow on from the first or should I write something completely different? The answer happened automatically when I began a sequel to the first.

After a week I have my protagonist starting a new/continuing adventure six months after the end of the first story. As of last night I have 4500 words and it’s into the second chapter.

31″ Nautilus W.I.P build part 5. The salon part one

Over a couple of years, I had admired this kit, and all the while wondered why it never came with any interior build up for the Salon. I suppose it was because this is a semi-commercial garage kit as opposed to one that has all the financial backing of a larger kit manufacturer and then there would be the licensing issues from Disney.

So naturally when the kit arrived I immediately made the bold decision to build a salon from scratch. Did I say bold? Perhaps I should have said inspirational insane. I knew from the onset this wasn’t going to be a case of just wacking some bits and pieces together and stick it behind the 1.5 inch wide windows in the middle of the boat.

As I said from the onset, I always planned to assemble this kit in a manner, for me at least, which suited the subject. Because of that, I purchased copies of the original studio plans which had already helped me with the Wheelhouse and Skiff.

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Imbued with a sense of purpose and challenge I started on the what was and has been to date one of my best scratch built pieces I ever attempted. Again I should impress upon the reader that the entire salon, when completed, was almost four by three inches in size. Or to put it in a more visual sense it ended up being the size of an early model iPhone.

After purchasing several sheets of styrene plastic card in various thicknesses and some lengths of styrene tube for the ballast pipes. To start the process I went through several sheets of copy paper till I had reduced the plans down to a size I could use as a true scale reference. With that done I started carving out the plastic card for the floor and end walls and shaping the ballast piping.

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It took two goes to get the right length and breadth of the floor, but I was pretty chuffed at how it was coming together.

To help with maintaining the scale, I decided to make Nemo’s pipe organ after which I started on the fountain.

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After the organ and the fountain, I began work on the smaller sub-assemblies for the writer’s desk and bookcase at the opposite end of the salon. The writing desk and some of the other furniture including the Persian rugs, curtains picture prints and frames all came from a company in the States called small scale miniatures. I wasn’t able to get anything that resembled the couches the crew sat in when looking through the big observation windows. So I had to file and reshape two HO scale white metal lounge.

apart from the white metal books for the shelves and bookcases I also shaped and glued small strips of plastic together to make the numerous tomes in Nemo’s possession. The gold decoration on each book shelf is actually cut from craft ribbon and adhered to thin clear plastic film and glued into place. The couch opposite the writing desk is handmade from air dried modelling clay. apart from the books I also purchased in scale bottles and jars in different colours along with white metal vases and knick knacks.

The small hanging set of navigational guages was as close as I could make for those which hung in the Salon for Nemo’s reference when he wasn’t in the wheelhouse.

31″ Nautilus W.I.P build part 4

In this part I will quickly cover the lights, I installed into the model.

As with the Allegator eye lights, I wanted to keep the light temperature of the lights at a warmer tone to reflect the Victorian era. The smaller lights around the Salon windows were the same as I used in the Lights above the Wheelhouse and the two larger ones were five mm LEDs. At the same time, I installed a three mm LED on the bottom hull under the wheelhouse floor to provide some ambient light and illumination through the depth indicator tube. I then added the small electric motor wrapped in foam as insulation and sound proofing. To have the motor spin at the slower revolution required for the model’s scale, I used larger resistors to hold back the current. It was easier than making a reduction gear box which would have proved too noisy for a display piece. I understand that it wasn’t an ideal way to slow the motors revs, but then I’m not an electrical engineer either. Besides the motor is only on for limited times as an additional animated show off piece.


The little circuit board at the front section is what I used for lighting the atomic clock on the port side of the wheelhouse wall. It was just a simple two light flasher I purchased from Jcar with two small blue LEDs connected to a single strand of one mm fibre optic.  To help with directing its glow, I used a strip of silver, reflective tape. Normally, I would  use  white high gloss paint to spread and diffuse the light. But in this case, I wanted a more reflective cast to the light.

Once I fitted and tested the lights I glued the completed Wheelhouse sub-assembly into place. Which wasn’t anywhere near the perfect fit it should have been. To fix the horrible gap I used thin styrene strip, superglued and filled with a super fine filler. At theis point of the assembly, the top and bottom hull pieces were not glued together because I had plans to add a scratch built salon and fit it into the model behind the large observation windows. I’ll cover off the salon build in the next instalment.


With the Wheelhouse installed I did some further lighting tests. Once the hulls were eventually glued in place I had now way to fix any problems so as I mentioned in an ealie post I constantly check the lights through out the build.

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The last two inmages in the slide show were taken the following night after I attched the main raker arch. In the origional Disney film much of the lighting inside the wheelhouse and outside the boat was done with green bulbs to add the slightly supernatural look.While I tried to remain faithfull I also took some artistic license by directing the lights to a softer more realistic glow while still maintaining the green tint. In fact the scene in the film where the boat is surging through the water surrounded by a bright green glow was, as I understand it, an editing issue because those scenes were filmed on an underwater dolly with a bank of green lights in the approximate shape of the sub. It is a rather good effect but the green glow is never seen again in any of the underwater shots of the filming miniatures.



31″ Nautilus W.I.P build – The Skiff

The skiff which came with the kit is in itself well done and a good enough representation to attach as is. But for me, it just needed tweaking to give it some added realism. To do that I  made the tiller arm, rudder and control wires using copies of the original studio plans to help get the scale right. Just to so there is an understanding on size the completed skiff is approximately one and a half inches long.


Because of its size, I used the skiff to gauge how the final colours would work on the model. What the picture on the slide show reveal is the painting from the first coat over the base coat through to the final dry-brush and weathering with washes and chalks.

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31″ Nautilus W.I.P build Part 3

Lighting the wheelhouse and the Alligator eyes was a bit of a treat. As you can tell by the picture the blanks above the observation windows needed to be drilled and ground out with a Dremel moto tool so I could fit the small LEDs. The aqua green glow from the fibre optics is the transmitted light from a green LED. I learned the hard way on previous models was always test the lighting as I progressed.


Because of the era, I felt it fitting to use LEDs that produced a warm light rather than a cool or blue-white light. All the LEDs I used were all purchased pre-wired from a model train supplier.


Once I had the wheelhouse lighting and sub-assembly where I wanted it I put it aside to work on the main hull. As with all my resin kits, I always use a high-quality auto primer and primer filler which for convenience I buy in a rattle can. Unfortunately, with virtually any resin kit there will always be slight imperfections that need fixing. What I found with the kit I got was a minimum of pinholes and air bubble defects from casting. The worst was on the phosphoric atomisers. But these were easily fixed with a fine water-based filler.


The next part which I tackled was preparing the holes for the lighting around the main Salon windows and then attach all the cleats, bollards and hatches along with the laser cut timber flooring. That’s right it is real timber, and it is only as thick as four sheets of photocopy paper. It wasn’t cheap but boy it was worth every cent. Not content with the basic parts supplied to detail the wheelhouse I  soldered up the internal stair rail and dividing rail. Remember we are talking HO scale here so the stair rail was another true test of my abilities, especially since the greater part of my soldering experience was attaching wires, resistors and small hobby circuit boards.

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Now the more astute reader will notice that the skiff is already primed. I will cover the work on the skiff in part four. So once all the little extras were added I then went and primed the hull and outer wheelhouse structure. Once the primer was applied I waited a couple of days for  it to completely dry. When I was satisfied the primer dried I started detailing the wheelhouse floor and added the wheel, the depth tube indicator and added some crew.

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31″ Nautilus W.I.P build Part 2

In part one, I said I wanted to light the kit and the simplest way to do any of that was with LEDs and fibre optics. By that time I had a reasonable amount of success with using LEDs and fibre optics in my other models so it seemed like a natural progression to continue with them.

One thing to remember with fibre optics is not to bend them by force because firstly they’ll most likely snap and secondly they craze so the light won’t get through. I got around this little dilemma by dipping the fibres into boiling water and then quickly bending them at 90 degrees before dipping them in ice water. To make the mushroom lens all I had to do was move them up to a naked flame which melted back the tip.

To actually put light through them all that is required is drilling equal diameter hole into the top of some LEDs and glueing in the fibres. (for the record don’t use any sort of super glue or similar)

Am I a clever lad?

The next stage of the wheelhouse construction was painting the interior wall sections with different sheds of metallic hobby paints. I can’t remember why but at the time I decided to hand brush the parts instead of using my airbrush. But to correct the error, I dabbed on some eco-friendly paint stripper I had previously used on other styrene kits to remove a bad paint job. Well, remember I said this was a resin kit. It turned out the stripper while working on plastics didn’t like the resin. When I found the part the next morning I was mortified, enraged and on the verge of tears. The stripper had turned the part into a gooey rubbery mess and had virtually dissolved the thinner parts with the paint. So my cleverness scale crashed big time.

But as the saying goes, from adversity comes triumph. After washing away all traces of the stripper I let the piece dry outside in the patio. By the following day it had fortunately rehardened so I set to work with a sharp Exacto knife and removed all the wall panels or what was left of them. I then used some styrene sheet to remake the walls. To make the rivets I mixed PVA glue and plaster together ad applied it with a toothpick by then I was feeling my confidence return so I pulled out the copies of the actual Disney blueprints and scratch built some additional detail.

And below is the end result of the rebuilt wall in situ after its final painting, washes and shading.


Now who’s a clever lad?

Building the 31″model Nautilus Part 1

Back in 2011 when I was recovering from a broken back, I decided to tackle building what I consider to be one of the holy grail models from my childhood. The Nautilus from Disneys Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

As such it was always a model subject I have wanted, and though there have been many variations of this iconic boat through the years, no one was yet to do the subject accurately. Let alone in a styrene. So we are left with kits like this little resin beauty by Scott Brodeen. I decided that I was going to do as much to this build as I can. The first was to add some lighting then add some people. Try my best to make a detailed salon interior behind the two big observation windows. I also added a 200 second sound card.

The kit itself is pretty basic per sae. By that I mean it is cast in resin with only several main parts. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take any pictures of the separate parts before I began assembly. I blame that on the painkillers at the time. When I received the kit from the states, I made a conscious decision to enhance the build as much as I could. The first and obvious thing would be adding lights and where possible add some crew and passengers. I was also adamant in making a detailed salon interior behind the two big observation windows. I also decided to try out a sound 200-second card and see if I could animate the propeller. Back then I wasn’t sure which of these additions were going to be the greatest challenges. As it turned out, each of them and others provided their own unique challenges.

The model is sold and supplied as an advertised 1/69th scale kit but I later found out that figures in that scale were just too large to work with. With additional research, I found that 1/87th scale or HO railway figure worked a treat. Because the kit was supplied as primarily just a top and bottom hull with a wheelhouse assembly and some minor parts. tyhe only interior setting it had was the wheelhouse. The parts supplied was a wheel & binnacle assembly, the dive plane controls, depth tube indicator and a ballast control lever. to use under the resin wheelhouse exterior part. It also came with inserts fro the interior wall and although not entirely screen accurate they were pretty damn good.

Once I checked all the parts I did some test fitting and found my first problem per sae. The supplied white metal parts for the dive controls and the wheel were slightly out of scale so I had to rework the dive controls and scratch build the wheel. I also added a small disc of plastic to the binnacle which on the live set piece has a chain run around it but at that scale to add the chain, which I wanted to do, meant my ambitions went beyond my abilities. As for the figures Well the generic railway worker figures needed some serious rework and carving to get them to work. Challenge number one! I left the original wheel in the picture to compare it to the new scratch built one constructed from thin styrene sheeting and copper wire.


A new exercise from my course – Character Arcs!

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working on my exercises assignments from the express editing course I am attending.

Primarily it’s to do with character arcs. Sounds easy, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I mean, I created the characters. Therefore it only stands to reason that I being the author, should know their path.

Within almost two hours after starting one for my main protagonist, I was in panic mode. Was the protagonist in any pressure scenes, did they advance his growth, are there enough said pressure scenes? Pulling the brakes on my mouse and keyboard, I started asking myself just what exactly constitutes a pressure scene? Diving to great depths in the ocean certainly creates pressure. But that’s not the kind of pressure I needed or one that even worked in my story. Ah-ha! I cried out. Action scenes that’ll do it, Well almost. Unless your hero is like mine and is comfortable in such scenes. Unfulfilled and knowing my wake up alarm for work set to go off in just under five hours, I heaved an exasperated sigh and shut down my PC for the night.

Pressure tends to make great stews and meats or turn coal into diamonds. However, as I said, that’s not the pressure I need so it is not just about pressure per sae. My characters aren’t meat nor are they coal. They are real (in a fictional sense) with values and desires whether they are one dimensional or multi-faceted. Um, does that make them a diamonds? Okay, moving on now.  My characters should have had something happen, either by physical action or some form of emotional content guiding them and the reader through to an understanding of who or what they are.

The second attempt was soon following the dark path of my first. But on the third attempt, a small, yellow-skinned creature with large goggles screamed out, “illumination!” when I had a light bulb moment.

I looked closely at the planner I had recently drawn up. It lists all the chapters broken into scenes with key points written for each those chapters and scenes. Kapow! It was as if I’d walked into a wall. The revelation was both painful and enlightening. Why is that? Well, you try walking into a wall instead of turning down the hall. Seriously people.

Now for my revelation. In fact, it was pretty simple, all it required me to do was divide up my manuscript into three main acts. Yes, yes, I know for all you seasoned writers it’s a relatively obvious thing, but remember this whole manuscript writing is kind of new to me. Now having separated the book into three parts I could look at each characters journey and what pressure points they went through.

So by the end, I discovered my main protagonist goes from feelings of failure and disillusionment to achieving what his heart and soul wants. The antagonists rise to a point and have the rug pulled out from under them. Another minor character goes full circle finishing his last scenes in a personality similar to when he was introduced.  One of the secondary protagonists discovers he can offer his loyalty to someone new and be able to accept and follow that person into battle. Which by the way is not something the character sees but is something into which the reader should be able to see. (I hope)