Indie SciFy Video #5



Hey Space Cadets, today I wanted to bring you some awesome little science fiction films.  They’re indie productions, but still worth the watch!  I plan on posting more of these to entertain you while I’m buried deep in my bunker working.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy this little vignette from HALO fans!  Tomorrow, in lieu of a Marine Monday I plan on posting another book review for book two of Richard Fox‘s Ember War Series.  Meanwhile, enjoy this little video!



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry! 




 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are videos used by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.


Indie SciFy Video #4



Hey Space Cadets, today I wanted to bring you some awesome little science fiction films.  They’re indie productions, but still worth the watch!  I plan on posting more of these to entertain you while I’m buried deep in my bunker working.  The ARC copies were sent out, and I’ll let you know when the novel goes live.



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry! 




 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are videos used by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.



Calling ARC Readers



Hey Space Cadets, we’ve just finalized the third book in the Sleeping Legion Series, Operation Breakout.  It will go live later this month, and we’re looking for a few brave warriors to read the advance copy.  In exchange, I would ask you to consider leaving reviews on Amazon.  GoodReads too, if you’ve an account!  I value your opinion, so feel no pressure to be anything but as honest as you normally are on your reviews.  These reviews are what Amazon uses to determine the visibility authors get, and are thus crucial.  As advance readers, you play an important role in the publication process.  So I’m playing the bugle, will you answer the call?  If so, contact me here!  Just have the subject mentioning the request for an ARC copy!  Looking forward to getting into the trenches with you!



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!




 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.


Book Review: The Ember War


Richard Fox Book Reviews.PNG

Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  I’m currently taking a break on reading the Honor Harrington Series to read The Ember War Saga by a fellow Army veteran, Richard Fox.  He seems to be pretty successful, so another author whom might have something to teach us all.  I always want to read novels by well written authors, because I mine everything I read for useful skills.  Nothing has really changed on my end, so I won’t bore your ear holes with gibberish.  Instead, let’s jump right into the nuts and bolts of the story.


Title: The Ember War

Author: Richard Fox

Price: $3.99 USD (Kindle Version) or $2.99 (Add on Audiobook)

Obtained: I bought the novel, but also received the audio version for free from Podium Publishing.

Pages: 426 pages


Ember Wars.PNG


Rating: 5/5 Grenades

5 Grenade



This book shares the story of Marc Ibarra, an alien probe, Marine Lieutenant Hale, Captain Valdar, and the star cruiser Breitenfeld.  The alien probe arrives to help Marc Ibarra prepare Earth for the coming invasion.  A series of events and political assignations end with two super powers fighting for dominance and an arms race.  Ultimately this prepares the Naval forces for what was to come when they fight this mysterious enemy force. The survivors of humanity had been tasked to escort a colony mission, but disappeared, only reappearing where they’d left.  Only, it wasn’t the same year they’d left.  They’d returned 60 years into the future, with Earth wiped out and an alien invasion.  If you want to know more, read the book!



There were three main characters in this novel; the star cruiser Breitenfeld, Captain Isaac Valdar, Lieutenant Hale, Marc Ibarra and the alien probe.  Like most novels with multiple POVs, each one served a unique purpose in the evolution of the plot.  Each of these characters were well written, and you could feel enough depth to make them believable.


Breitenfeld: While the ship didn’t have any personality, per say, she was such an integral part of the story that she began to have agency and personhood.  I was never a sailor, but I understand our swabbie friends have said similar things about current naval vessels.  Like all good weapons of war, human and machine, she begins to show her age as she progresses through the plot.  Scars, however, show her character as she bleeds oil and vents atmosphere to protect her crew.  The way Richard Fox describes the ship, you could almost believe it was a sentient being!


Captain Isaac Valdar:  This character allowed you to see the naval action of the story, always at the tip of the spear in the war against the Xaros alien probes.  His position as the ships commander make it extremely plausible for him to be in any action that directly involved the Breitenfeld.  He was a troubled man, who’d lost his entire world when Earth was wiped out.  I could feel his pain, and it became my pain as I read his story.  As an author, if you can make your audience emotionally invested in your characters, you won.  Richard Fox did his job, and this character was extremely well flushed out.


Lieutenant Hale: This character allowed you to see the action of the story, always at the tip of the spear in the war against the Xaros alien probes.  His position as one of the junior Marine officers, and a member of a special forces wing of the Marine Corps makes it extremely plausible for him to be everywhere when the Gauss Rifles start firing.  He was a bit too ‘gung ho’ and competent for a junior officer but otherwise he was flushed out.  Admittedly he had a competent senior NCO at his side, but I would’ve preferred to see the LT make a few mistakes so we knew he was, in fact, actually still an LT!  I’ll honestly admit, I was an enlisted NCO and the author was an Army officer so some of this is merely a matter of perspective.  That aside, the character was likeable and well thought out.  I felt he was believable and he showcased the authors own time in the US Army.  Overall, an extremely well flushed out character.


Marc Ibarra/Alien Probe:  We meet the unnamed alien probe and a young Marc Ibarra at the beginning of this story, and while they don’t get a whole lot of face time they’re both so integral to the story that I feel like they’re defacto main characters.  They were flushed out, with just enough information to be believable and yet vague enough we could picture them as embodiments of character archetypes we know and love.  They were just the sort of shady that keeps you up at night, and conspiracy theorists spinning circles at the possibilities.



This plot moved along at a steady pace, I never felt like it slowed down, which I loved.  I loved the detail and precision that Richard Fox payed to the military technology.  Further, I liked that he didn’t get bogged down in the science of space travel.  He didn’t ignore it, but rather he didn’t get bogged down in it like hard science fiction stories do.  As a reader, I don’t care how the space flight works, just that the author had a reason that it did.  This novel was heavier on the ground operations than the space combat, but none of it felt lacking.  While this novel changed POVs several times, it never felt jarring and the shifts were easy to follow.  I read this novel as an eBook, and listened to it as an audiobook via the Whisper Sync feature via Amazon’s pairing with Audible.  The plotting was definitely five out of five grenades for me.


World Building:

The world building of this novel was expertly done, and it never felt like it was done as an “info dump.”  I felt like the world building in this novel was solid, there was just enough to understand everything.  I could picture most of what he described, though it started in “modern” America, which helped me a lot.  However, with regards to the space technology, it was persuasively written, believable and fun to imagine myself joining.  Now I want my own Gauss Rifle!  There were some parts where I felt it was lacking details, but as a lover of stories I recognized them as hooks for what I expect to happen in later novels.  I can’t really say anything else here without spoiling it for people who haven’t read the stories, but the world building was a solid five out of five grenades.



Much like the world building, the detailed descriptions were solidly done.  I could envision what he wrote, and I can’t wait for the graphic novel out of this universe!  Hint, hint Richard!  I definitely feel like the descriptions of this book set the standard, balance the not enough against the too much.  In regards to description, this was a success for the author.  I’d give this section four point five out of five grenades.  There was room to make the descriptions really pop, but it didn’t hurt the overall story for me.


Audio Quality:

I received the audiobook free as a proof of concept from Podium Publishing while in we were in negotiation for my own series.  In fact, the quality of this production was why I pushed Boss Man to agree to the contract.  The only real complaint the accents of the various characters made them slightly difficult to understand.  Because of this, I couldn’t tell you a single call sign for the pilots in this novel.  Full disclosure, I lost some of my hearing while in the service, so this might just be my own issue.  Besides, if this is my only complaint, I call it a win!  Five out of five grenades.



In spite of my issues with the accents from the narrator, I really enjoyed this novel.  The story kept me hooked, and made me want to read the rest of the series.  I’ve bought book two and three already!  This wasn’t a novel to revolutionize the world, but that isn’t why I read military science fiction.  I want explosions, gun fights and cool stories.  A few cool aliens wouldn’t hurt, and in every regard Richard Fox delivers!  I would even recommend that you buy the novel in the digital AND audio format!  Some novel’s I’ve only like enough to check out from the library, but this one you’ll want to buy for your reading pleasure and keep to read again.  This was a solid 5 grenades.



If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out!  You won’t regret it!  Well, unless it keeps you up all night and you’re late to work… and then you fall asleep while driving and wreck your vehicle.  And while you’re stuck on the side of the road your boss calls and fires you because you’re late.  Without viable employment, you become a rabid fan, blowing your life savings buying all gazillion of his novels in this universe.  And then, while looking for a job the alien probe arrives… and well, you know what happens.  Then, you’ll try to tell your friends but they’ll think you’re insane and lock you up in a funny farm.  And then they give you good drugs, making you see even more of the aliens, forcing your spirit to carry on in the limbo as your body sits in a drugged-out comma, restrained by your straight jacket.  With nothing left to lose, you astroproject in Richard’s office because he ruined your life.  But you go insane at the futility because he can’t see or hear you.  Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you.  Be warned, but enjoy the happy pills!



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!




 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.


Marine Monday: Standard File Formation



Hey Space Cadets, how are you today?  I’m great, though my wife is still recovering from her accident last week.  Some fool texting and driving rear ended her, and now we have the joys of dealing with insurance.  But she’s on the mend, and soon we will have a release date for Operation Breakout, which I’m excited to be able to share with you!  In fact, soon there will be a need for ARC readers, who will receive early access to the novel in exchange for an honest review on Amazon and/or GoodReads.


Now, onto today’s topic! Today’s Marine Monday is a continuation of previous discussions about combat tactics in an interstellar universe.  If you missed it, read about the previous formations here and here.  You really missed out, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, but if you do…maybe that’s the universe telling you to check in on my blog more regularly!


So, the tactics of void combat!  Such tactics require fighting men and women to consider things in this spherical manner instead of on a plane.  However, some of terrestrial tactics will transfer and this is one example.  This doesn’t change the fact that it’s not just what is above you and around you, now it’s what’s below you and around you as well.  This obviously means that future warriors will have to be even more alert than their modern counterparts.  Further, the cost for making mistakes escalates when you are discussing combat in the vacuum of space or on inhospitable planets.  The universe is a harsh and unforgiving place where only the strong survive, which necessitates the adaptation of old tactics or the creation of new and constantly evolving ones for the battlefield.  What works today, might not work tomorrow, or at least not in the same way.


How do we know all of this?  Today we have another excerpt from one of the manuals purloined by our LegionLeaks hero!  Take a peak, before they come for us and it disappears forever!


Military Tactics


One of the afore mentioned tactics is the Standard File Formation.  Interested in knowing more?  Read the excerpt from their manual, and give it a quick look over!


Standard File Formation DescriptionHMFManual_StdFileFormation


Hopefully this will whet your appetite for me, and if so you should pop on back next week where we look at another combat formation!



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!  




 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are videos used by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.


SciFy Shenanigans: Nicholas Woode-Smith



Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing amazing, I decided to try the Camp NaNo so I can kick myself in the butt and get book four out.  Not much else is going on in the Handley Trenches, so let’s get straight to today’s blog.


As you’ve noticed, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug!  I’ve started the Warrior Weekend Series, the Family Friday Series, and now the ‘SciFy Shenanigans’ series that only serves to talk with other authors of science fiction!  Here goes nothing!


The plan here is to talk to authors about their latest books and their process.  They’ll be able to pitch the other stuff too, of course, but when authors have deep back catalogues it’s hard to get into the weeds with them.  Those weeds have grown too high, so I took a weed whacker to the mess.  Here’s the final results!  Now grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride, because today we interview author Nicholas Woode-Smith!


Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages,……


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First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I’m a student, sci-fi author and political commentator from Cape Town, South Africa. I have been writing since 2009, swapping between fiction and non-fiction until I recently decided that I can do both. I am currently studying politics, philosophy and economic history. These all inform my fiction and non-fiction writing.


What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I am the youngest council member of the South African Institute of Race Relations in its history. I got the position due to my contribution to classical liberal activism.


I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books you also enjoy reading them.  What other genres do you enjoy reading, and how have they affected your writing?

I love reading science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction. My love of reading started with high fantasy when I was very young. This continued until university, where my studies shifted my interest into non-fiction, mainly history, political science and philosophy. I mainly read non-fiction now, but also a lot of sci-fi when I have the chance.


Who are your biggest writing influences?

I started my reading with high fantasy and among all the writers who influenced me, Raymond E. Feist is probably the most pervasive. His generation spanning universe drew me in completely and inspired my original love of world building. Later on, Brandon Sanderson’s enthusiastic prose and attention to detail influenced my love of intricate systems in my books. As far as sci-fi authors go, Heinlein stimulated the blend of philosophy and sci-fi that can be seen in some of my later works.

Transitioning from a who, to a what, I am heavily influenced by history, politics and philosophy. For the keen reader, there are a lot of allusions to famous philosophers, historical events and key political concepts in all my works.


Who are your favorite authors and books?

Authors: Tolkien, Orwell, Heinlein, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Niall Ferguson, Feist.

Books: Lord of the Rings, Rift War Saga, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, 1984, The Wheel of Time, Empire, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.


What is your preferred writing style?

I write only in the third-person, past tense. This is part habit, wrought from reading too much high fantasy, but also because I do want to externalize the reader, somewhat. While I do give the reader access to some thoughts of the character, I ultimately want the reader to be an observer, watching a world that is a character in itself.

My fundamental passion is world building, so my style is built very much around providing information about the world itself and the characters that inhabit it. But I don’t swamp the reader. My action scenes are fluid, detailed and frenetic – providing a much more personal outlook of character interactions than mere description.

My tone, at times, can be very dark, but I do like to break the despair with the occasional quip or witty remark by a character.


How did that lead you deep into the weeds of the writing life?

I’ve loved world building since my first fantasy novel. I constructed worlds for my D&D group, for games as a child, and later for my books. Writing, for me, was originally about providing a canvas to allow others to view my world. But as I continued writing, I became attached to my characters and started seeing it as more and more a theatre to demonstrate humanity, philosophy, ethics, survival, violence and all these aspects of our world. The truth is stranger than fiction, so it tends to become easier to describe these concepts and phenomena in a fictitious setting.

I’m a cynic and an idealist, and this does influence my writing. Perhaps, I write so to achieve a victor between the two. So far, neither have won.


When did you get serious about your writing?

I started my first novel in 2009 but only finished in 2013 (school is a pain). After that, I started writing on and off. I would say that my serious writing only began in earnest in 2015, when I co-founded a political commentary platform and began writing countless non-fiction articles about the state of politics in South Africa.


What is your current novel?  Tell us a little bit about the premise?

I am about to release a short novel titled ‘Devil Child’. It is a prequel to the main series and written entirely from an alien perspective.

While I normally write from a mainly human perspective, Devil Child stars an Edal girl named Re’lien, who is a pariah in her highly authoritarian society. Punished for a crime she did not commit, Re’lien has become used to her lot in life – but not for long. A kindly stranger with revolutionary intent has shown her that life is more than just torture, and now, she wants vengeance.

Devil Child provides an illuminating look at the aliens of my universe and their society, providing a much needed contrast with future human society.


Fall of Zona Nox is obviously a series, where can we expect it to go?

The Warpmancer Universe/Series is going to be around for a long time, if I can help it. It is going to be progressing both forwards and backwards. I have already finished the sequel to Fall of Zona Nox (Defiant), and have released a short story prequel. Devil Child is also a side story, shedding more light on the universe. While this series is about a core group of characters, it is also about an era and a universe. I want to have as many opportunities to invite readers to this universe as possible. This will take the series all around the galaxy.


Where did you find the inspiration for Fall of Zona Nox?

Everything. Specifically, a mish-mash of video games, anime, non-fiction and Warhammer. I wanted to create a sci-fi world in the vein of high fantasy. My influences and inspirations come from many mediums, including obscure games like Dark Colony to real world technology and history.


Your characters from Fall of Zona Nox are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins? 

That’s a lot of characters… From the get go, probably one of the Xank Immortals. They are given that title for a reason, and could crush any of the others in hand-to-hand combat. Like real warfare, the superiority of many factions is based on their ability to work together, utilize technology and strategy. A Human Trooper would not enter a situation where they would have to fight a Xank Immortal one-on-one. They would prefer orbital bombardment.


What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence? 

Depends on my mood. Often, I prefer silence, but just as often, I will listen to “epic” orchestral music, to inspire the scene.


What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

The government actually has flagged me, but that is due to my political commentary and not my fiction writing. Embarrassing research wise – probably basic multiplication. I’m bad at math.


Don’t feel bad, I’m not so good at math either!  What was your favorite part of writing Fall of Zona Nox?

I love the emotional, glorious scenes. The ones that make even me cry, and hate myself for killing a character. I love the action and the contrast of hopelessness and perseverance on the battlefield. My favourite scene to write was the final battle. It allowed me to tie together the technical details of the war machine with the emotions of the soldiers. What I love about these sections is that it demands a level of self-doubt in the characters, and can lead to some very thought provoking themes.


Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Fall of Zona Nox?

The irony of the difficulty of me answering this is that James is actually a very generic looking young man. 17, above average height, dark brown hair, Caucasian. But it seems I don’t want enough films to name anyone.


Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? 

I write when I get the itch. That tends to happen after midnight.


Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?

Yes. I try to churn out at least a scene per a day. I feel satisfied if I can churn out 2000 words when I’m uninspired and a chapter if I’m in the mood.


When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

I would like to say that they all start with a general foundation, but most of my characters develop organically as I write. I’ve found it much more natural to do this, and even when I set up a plan, I tend to stray from it.


How did writing Devil Child differ from your writing your previous novels? 

Devil Child is my first book from a female perspective. The main character is a young girl caught between the dichotomy of being from the ruling family of her planet, and being a pariah. This departs a lot from my comfort zone of writing about criminals (I watch a lot of crime films) and warriors.

It was an interesting experience, however. I had to think carefully about every word and sentence, so to convey the alien-ness of the society while also making it approachable for a human reader.


If Fall of Zona Nox had a theme song what would it be?

A range of songs. Epic music, something from Two Steps from Hell or hardcore dubstep for the battles. Classic rock for ambience in peaceful scenes. For an overarching theme song, I’d trust Hans Zimmer to pick something good.


Fall of Zona Nox is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

I loved one of the main characters, Danny Marzio. He provides a lot of levity in the story, breaking up the darkness with a lot of wit and good humour. He is also a very competent and straightforward character, without being boring. I like the other characters, sure, but they’re too angsty to be my favourite.


What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?

Identify a goal. That will inform your writing. Is your goal to write a story? Then write that story. Is it to make money? Then do the market research first. Above all of this – don’t give up. In my capacity as co-founder of a commentary site, I have to deal with many intelligent and skilled writers who sell themselves short. They want to write, but feel they won’t be good enough. Breaking them out of this self-doubt is very important. Fundamentally, if you want to write, write. Appealing to a wider audience is only relevant if you’re in it for the money.


I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Nicholas Woode-Smith then follow the rabbit trail to their warren in the internet!  If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!

Nicholas’s Facebook

Nicholas’s Website

Nicholas’s Twitter



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!




–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen shots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission.  If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions!  You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.