Or How I Learned to Take It Like a Man



Whelp, I finally got my first draft edits back for book two of my Sleeping Legion Series and it wasn’t pretty.  My novel came out at just under 90,000 words and was accompanied by 27 pages of edits and critiques.  Yes, and Tim C. Taylor even wrote the edits in red ink.  It looked like my manuscript was bleeding profusely from wounds sustained defending the old fortress.  I guess my characters, the ones I’ve joyously tortured along the way, have finally gotten their revenge, or I’ve gotten my comeuppance.  It made me a might bit sad, even though I knew it was coming after we made a last minute decision to cut the plot in half and turn what was a footnote skirmish into the battle it deserved.

The decision to split book two in half, in large part due to the grand scope of my outline, caused change that rippled throughout the novel.  Because we knew this would be an issue, we decided to simply finish it and fix it with the first round of editing.  I mention that to illustrate that I KNEW my editor and mentor Tim C. Taylor was going to punch me in the nose (metaphorically speaking) and even then it still hurt.  I died a little inside, but then I remembered that Uncle Sam removed my last feeling at Fort Benning’s School for Wayward Boys.  The Army might call it the Infantry School, but those of us in the know, well……

Now, to understand how the book went off the rails… let me tell you the story.  Once upon a midnight dreary… wait, wrong story.  Okay, so I was deep into the plot for book two and proudly sent BossMan a copy of my outline so he could see where the series was going. When he looked at the outline, he caught that what I did the book would be too big, Tolkien-esq in proportion.  I have that problem; I tend to write to much and it has to be cut into multiple books. My first book ended up getting split into a prequel novella and a novel.  With that in mind, it was determined to split it in half and focus book 2 purely on one aspect of the plot and end it there. The other parts of the book, as outlined, would become book 3.  This meant that I would need to make some radical changes to the plot arc and bulk out parts that had been relatively minor.  Add in other bits to keep them alive and see the book with tidbits that would be key later.  Foreshadowing my plans going forward, even if some of it wasn’t important to the reader now.  We made the decision to fix all of that in the first round of edits, rather than get bogged down which meant that the end result was me crying tears of blood when I saw all the red on my first draft.


One of the biggest effects of my military training on my writing is my use of sand tables.  With the eight years I spent in the Army, especially the time I spent in the infantry as a sergeant and team leader, I plan my battles as if they were real.  This means I have an outside source prep the map of the terrain (The Mom) and I react to it in as tactical of a fashion as I think is appropriate.  Keep in mind, I was an infantry sergeant and this does NOT make me an expert tactician and general.  If you think it does, reference the errors of 2nd Lieutenant Napoleon and later Corporal Hitler, who rose above their skillset and it ultimately cost them.  (I know some will quibble about my comments on these two, but for the sake of brevity lets acknowledge that there is SOME truth to it and move forward with my main point).  I don’t want to repeat those mistakes, so I DO consult veterans and friends who were sergeant majors and senior NCOs at the upper echelons of the Army chain of command.  The end result of this method is that sometimes my battle scenes seem more like a report to my boss then literary entertainment this makes them sometimes dry and boring, and I have to go back into the human interest piece I might not always list how John felt when Joey died, but I can always tell you what you did for where in the particulars of their military endeavors. I hope to improve this method of describing battles, so more of it is done in the first draft. Basically, if the reader never cares that Johnny died and I felt as a writer.



Another related aspect to my style of describing battles, is that I tend to have too many characters. I like to tell about it from both sides so I often jump back and forth between points of view strategically taking them from all areas of the battlefield so you get the whole scope of the larger battle. Ultimately, my editor believes this is too hard for reader to follow and it makes it hard for them to know who care about. I don’t know how to fix this in the first draft, what I end up doing is combining viewpoints in the rewrite. I will still have more characters than many writers, but when you write military sci-fi on a grand scale how else would it, could it be?  Ultimately since my first novel is with the final beta readers, it will come down to what the audience likes and can handle. Unlike some, I never want to assume my reader is too stupid to follow. Often, I will assume that if they don’t understand the failing is mine and adjust accordingly rather than dumb down the idea. Again ultimately I need to make the reader care and if I don’t I failed as a writer.



Yet another critique from this review, was more general. Seems I have what are known as writer’s tics.  These are habits that I repeat over and over again, such as overusing the word and or having characters nodding to each other during dialog.  An further example of this involve my repetitive use of the same sentence structure. While I will try to improve on this, to become a better writer overall, I am not sure that I would be able to. As I’ve mentioned before, I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during my time in Iraq. One too many IED’s, and then my luck ran out.  Realistically, my brain injury gets in the way of a lot. I rely heavily on my two first-line editors before my book even makes it to BossMan. First, my wife makes sure I use the word I meant to use and explain things more clearly when I am confusing. Then my mother edits the horrible grammar, partly a product of a public school system that cannot teach it, and tries to catch anything my wife missed. We then send things to BossMan for his final edit, and hope that he understands my issues.  I’m hesitant to say ‘disability’ because I have my pride, but there it is.  In summary, at least for this topic, all I can say is “God Bless Editors!”



As a consequence of splitting the book the way I did, was that I had several plot holes.  Consistency issues, character mismatches and the like.  Because of my memory issues, related to my TBI, I depend on my outlines.  I keep it outlined in my story Bible, where I update each character with what they are doing — basically list their life story. When I forget, I can refer to this to help me out. Maybe someday these detailed notes will be published for everyone else to enjoy as well. I am sure this get better, given that I will go back to more detailed outlines in the future. I’ll even start including character arcs as part of that outline, instead of strictly a timeline of events.


One slightly more confusing critique of book 2, was that the author felt I had too many ‘logic bombs’ in my text. If you googled this term, you will find definitions of it in relation to coding in computers. However, my editor was using it to say that the plot holes in inconsistency issues will ultimately blow up in my face at the end of the book. The faulty logic blowing up, hence the bomb analogy.



The last critique of my text, one most writers fall prey to, is the ‘Curse of Knowledge.’  Sometimes you write things as inevitable because you know how they will end. This makes for a very dull story, sadly.  I tend to do this a lot, and then fix it during edits. Rewriting can be a pain in my gluteus maximus but it helps save me from myself.  I also use the infamous critique partners to help me with this issue. This is hard for me to use right now, since I am writing in someone else’s universe with nondisclosure agreements and the like, but I plan on taking full advantage of this when I start my own series. In the meantime, I keep everything in-house.


I hope you enjoyed me showing you how the sausage was made and think no less of me for it. Please give me your thoughts on this process. Image result for writing How you do you avoid pitfalls. To be honest, I almost didn’t write this. I am no expert on writing as a craft, I just do what comes naturally. It is why my blog doesn’t focus on just writing tips like so many other authors, because I’m not qualified to give that advice. I can help people develop military cultures, talk tactics and generally nerd out with them but don’t ask me about commas and colons and the like.


Until Next Time,

Team Handley



PS:  I wrote this post with my Dragon Pro software, so I’m making slow progress on that goal!!


–> All images came from Google’s list of imagery which is labeled for reuse.

Writing Tag


Howdy my fellow Space Cadets!

As we speak, my first novel is about to go into its final round of beta reading. Hopefully it will be published very soon. A prequel novel will go into beta reading as soon as the first one is done and will be used as an incentive for those of you who join the Sleeping Legion’s mailing list. I just finished the first draft of my second novel, though I know it will need significant revisions. I am really excited that it has gone to the editor – though I am sure there is still work to do on it. Hopefully the edits will be finished soon and it too will be ready for the beta phase. I have my outline ready for novel three in my series – and it’s great, if I do say so myself!

While I await the red ink of my editors I’ve been updating my world building notes my post-Sleeping Legion Series. This has been a sad time, since I lost so many loved characters to the war, well they say if you love something then you should let it go. Something about it returning, true love, blah blah blah. Anyone else ready for the space marines gore fest too? Ugh, these pesky emotions….

Anyway, I decided to let you guys get a sneak peak of my characters by doing this writing tag that I got from Jenna Moreci and Kim Chance.  Did they tag me? Nope, I’m not that cool….YET!!! Pfft. But, I took it and ran with it anyway!


1) A crazy hacker’s gone into your computer, and has deleted all of your music, except for one song off of your writing playlist. Which song is it?

Right now, it would probably be anything from the King Arthur sound track because I rock the classical instrumental vibe when I write – or I listen to coffee house chatter for background noise.

2) Your protagonist and antagonist have been paired up by friends to go out to lunch together. Where do they go?

            Hmm, well I have several protagonists and antagonists but to make it easier to answer I will stick with two humans! I know, I’m a bloody alienphobe!! So I believe Lance Scipio (protagonist) and Spartika (antagonist) would go to Chic-Fil-A for some good old fashioned Earth food. They’ve been on military rations for so long and even the devil deserves to try a waffle fry once in its life!! And that sweet tea? Ugh, we just might foster world peace….Nah, who am I kidding? They’d eat their meal and try slitting each others throats but at least it would be a yummy last meal!

3) You’re crossing a bridge when the troll living under it stops you. He demands to read a chapter from your novel, and won’t let you cross otherwise. Which chapter do you give him?

            I tend to write my chapters differently, where each is more of a scene than a chapter. Some follow on chapters then use another person’s perspective in the same space of time. I would love to read him the scene where Lance and his AI, Xena, figure out how to find the cloaked wee beastie from the prequel novella. It was the beginning of something special between those two!  What can I say, I love that pesky AI!

4) Your friends have invited you out to a party. Surprise! All of your characters are there. Who do you choose to hang out with?

            Lance, he was a lady’s man who might have some sweet tips! Further, I love the company of other veterans, even fictional ones. I would also love to chat with Xena, who is likely the universes first lesbian AI! She is witty, funny and no nonsense. Oh, and I would also love to meet Hayley Mason. She has a crush on Lance Scipio – it would be fun to tease her about her school girl-esq crush. Well, maybe not…she IS a Space Marine and might break my face off. Oh heck, I’d hang out with all of my Human Legion folks….just keep me away from those Hardits.

5) Crap. You left your car keys in your house, and you’ve (somehow) locked yourself out. Which of your characters picks the lock for you?

            Marine Charlotte “Wires” Rochambeau, she is wonderfully sneaky!! Hey, if she can hack the White Knight Master Code AND keep those bunch of misfits from 1st Squad, Whiskey Company, 6907th TAC Regiment alive by fudging their grades….well, she could handle some archaic Earther key lock!

6) The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. (It sucks.) Everyone is fleeing the planet, and moving to Mars. ONE of your characters can go with you. Who do you choose?

            First, I was going to say Lance Scipio because he is a bad ass…but if it is Post-Apocolyptia then I want a lady to go with me so I choose Marine Sashala Kraevoi! She is fun, smart and totally capable of taking care of herself. Did I mention her knives? Oh, and the fact that she isn’t hard on the peepers doesn’t hurt either!!!

7) You’ve been given the opportunity to travel to one place (town, building, landmark, country) in your book. Where do you go?

            I would go to Beta City; it is where all the cool kids live!! Beta City is on the island of Scofa, in the middle of Lake Sarpedona….so it will also have a view!! And hey, Tranquility-4 is a decent place, as far as alien planets go. Plus, from there I could play with all of their cool tech and space ships!! Hello, it is near the orbital elevator!!

8) You meet your main character and start a conversation with them. Problem is, you’ve only got six words or less to do so. What do you say?

            “You’re awesome, take me with you!” Okay, anyone who knows me in real life knows I’m a talker so I probably am physically incapable of limiting myself. I would keep talking, but that isn’t a bad starting point.

9) Crazy acid rain is falling from the sky. Which of your characters would you use as an umbrella?

            Spartika, because nobody likes a coward or a traitor. OR, maybe Zempi because she is a geonocidal Hardit bent on galactic conquest….

10) You’re out at a restaurant with your main character, and the time has come to order dessert. What do you order for them?

            Anything, they’ve existed on space rations for so long it would all be new!! Okay, I would order pecan pie, but only so I could steal their dessert too!! Wait, Space Marines…forks…on second thought, Lance can keep his own desert! Then, for post dessert fun I would take him to Starbucks for a latte!!!




Whelp, those are my answers!! If you found these questions fun…give me all the credit! If you hated it, blame Kim!!  Feel free to do the tag too!!!

Post Project Blues


When I decided I wanted to be a writer I expected it might be emotionally taxing.  I was harnessing my war trauma and channeling it into military science fiction novels, hoping I could excise my demons while writing solid fiction.  I mean, hey, I spent 4 years in Navy JROTC, another 4 years at a state military college and 8 ½ years enlisted in the infantry.  Why not work with what I know, write militaria?  Of course, there would be risks, pitfalls, as it forced me to confront my demons.  What I didn’t expect, something they didn’t tell me about, was what happened AFTER I finish any given project.  Even if I was just a normal writer, I would expect to get frustrated when I got stuck.  I would expect to be happy when I finish a project, but I would NEVER expect I would be SAD!  Since I finished my second novel and the short story, I have been making busy work while I waited on my editors to get back with me.  In that time, without my world to visit every day, I got a bit blue.  I didn’t realize just how much I’d come to count on my fictional friends to help me cope.  Maybe I should mention all of this to my shrink, rather than my blog family, but shrinks have the tendency to give pills and white “I love me” jackets (aka straight jacket)!  What are your thoughts, dear readers?  Do you get down when you are in the situation of between projects?


JR Handley


PS:  Be kind, my editing staff have all taken for the hills….. it’s just me, my kbar and these lovely MREs.

3rd Quarter Goals


2nd Quarter Goals Update:


As you know, the last quarter has come and gone so it is time to evaluate my goals and discuss whether or not I completed them.  Here are the goals from last quarter, and my progress on them.  And THANK YOU Madame Vivian Reis for your recent video about the topic…. It reminded me mine was due as well!

  1. Finish Operation Breakout because Legion Awakes won’t see the light of day until this book is in the cue and I crave reader feedback.
  2. This is a FAIL.  The book has since been renamed FORTRESS BETA CITY, is at 78,000 words, but isn’t done yet.  I WILL finish it this week, for what that’s worth.
  3. Outline book 3 in such a way that I can dictate with it, even though I don’t know what that looks like yet.
  4. DONE!!  Woohoo me!!
  5. Outline the short story.  This can be in any universe just so long as I outline it. In the past every short story I’ve written, okay I’ve only tried once, turned into a novel. I really ought to write a blog post about when novellas growing up to be novels.
  6. DONE!
  7. Write a short story.
  8. This is a BIG FAT FAIL.  I spent too much time pushing forward on book two and made that a priority.  This IS on my list though.
  9. Practice Dragon Speak once a day.
  10. Another BIG FAT FAIL.  I need to do this, however, because my hand injuries mean I can’t sustain typing by hand.  Oh well, there is always next quarter.
  11. Write at least one scene a week using the Dragon software.
  12. Again, a BIG FAT FAIL…..
  13. Read the many self-help books I bought about learning to dictate.  I won’t list them again, but they’re on the original post for last quarter.
  14. Another BIG FAT FAIL but only because I pushed hard on the second novel at the expense of everything else.
  15. Write six blog posts.
  16. DONE!!!  As a disclaimer, those all got posted right away and I haven’t done anything recently.  We ARE looking into setting up a better website which I have big plans for.
  17. Walk at least five times a week.
  18. I had a lot of momentum in the beginning but for health reasons fell off the wagon.  There is always next quarter.  As far as a grade, I guess a BIG HALF FAIL?
  19. Lose 10 of the trillion pounds I could stand to lose.
  20. Lost 15 pounds, I’ll call that a win!
  21. Give up my daily Diet Coke habit, switch to water and drink 80 ounces a day.
  22. Done!!
  23. Read five novels and write reviews for the blog.
  24. Done, I made a point to read a variety of stuff this quarter!  I’m currently reading an ARC for Kristen Martin’s upcoming novel The Order of Omega.  So far it is looking good, and I’m enjoy helping other authors as a beta reader.  I didn’t write the reviews but that is because I have another vision for the blog which I hope you’ll enjoy when I unveil it!
  25. Incorporate the pen name J.R. Handley and set up bank accounts for it.
  26. Half Done!!  We have incorporated the name, though we haven’t set up a bank account yet as we are pre-revenue.  I will call this a win!
  27. Figure out author bio screen pic.
  28. Done, though we are doing a bit of research on the right family crest for our line before we publish it.
  29. Improve my blog/website.
  30. FAIL, though we are finally looking into it.  Maybe next quarter?
  31. Join a writer’s group (either in real life or online).
  32. FAIL, though with two special needs kids it is often hard to find any free time and when I eek some out of my day I prefer to spend some quality time with my queen. 
  33. I need to treat this writing like a job with more time actually writing, and last time being distracted.
  34. This was a 50-50 note, so I will call it incomplete and add it to next quarter!






  1. Finish FORTRESS BETA CITY and then write at least 75% of OPERATION BREAKOUT.
  2. Write a short story.
  3. Practice Dragon Speak once a day.
  4. Write at least one scene a week using the Dragon software.
  5. Walk at least five times a week.
  6. Write at least 9 blog posts for the three followers’ I currently have reading pleasure!
  7. Update my webpage.
  8. Lose 10 of the trillion pounds I could stand to lose.
  9. Set up bank accounts for JR Handley Inc.!
  10. Join a writer’s group (either in real life or online).
  11. I need to treat this writing like a job with more time actually writing, and last time being distracted.
  12. Figure out what we will do for SWAG for The Sleeping Legion series.
  13. Publish my first novel and the reader magnet short story.
  14. Sell a lot of said books!



The first novel in The Sleeping Legion series is done, and happily in the hands of the first round of beta readers.  Still no feedback, so I’m holding my breath and turning blue…..


Okay, I’m back.  I’m now working on the second book in The Sleeping Legion series, Operation Breakout.  I’m approximately 33k words into the manuscript and making some tweaks.  I had to take a break for two months because of a hand injury, though my Dragon Software program comes tomorrow, so I’m hoping it will be my end run around the pain and back into my story.  I hope to get Operation Breakout done within the next two months, though the sooner the better.  I’ve created more Human technology and hope to add some bad arsed fight scenes!!  I’ve also included some new alien hardware, though it is just a further explanation of what Tim C. Taylor wrote in his part of the Human Legion Universe.  Speaking of Tim’s books, I just finished book five, War Against The White Knights, and it was wonderful.  The only sad part is the wait for book six!!!  Anyway, enough rambling here…. Operation Breakout aint gonna write itself….. Or is it? (insert maniacal laugh)

Sleeping Legion Status Update


If you are reading this, you must either be pretty bored or have fallen off the flat part of the interwebs! As the title implies, I wanted to write a quick blog post to update you to the status of my first book. I have written part one, for a grand total of 23,244 words, and it is currently in the editing phase. The second section is still in progress, though it is currently 29,205 words. I have about two and a half scenes left to write, so I still see it being done before the year ends. I recognize the disparity between the lengths of the two parts, and upon further consideration think that the last 3,000 words will likely serve as an epilogue. That said, it is already 52,449 words and solidly in the novel territory.


As you’ve read, this is a team effort, with my wife serving as the translator between the communication issues provided to me care of an insurgent IED (improvised explosive edvice) and imperfect battle armor. We are at the stage in the writing where she really earns her money, not that I pay her, since the insanity runs amok and she has to translate it to English for the world.


Because I loved Mister Rogers and the Jerry Springer Show, I decided to leave you with a thought of the day. Some deeply philospohical thought that sums up where I am. They might be zenlike, Buddha might or might not approve, sanity might or might not reign but there it is. Here goes my inaugural idea! After deep thought and contemplation, I will tell you that writing a novel is a lot harder than getting blown up in a war zone… Keep that in mind as you plan your future!