Book Review: A Fistful of Credits


Hey Space Cadets, how’re you doing?  I’m good, working on finalizing the edits on a short story and starting writing my super secret book. Meanwhile, I’m still reading and wanted to share what I’ve enjoyed lately. Here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  I’ve just finished editing the final book of  the Sleeping Legion Series, which is with Boss Man for final approval, and am working on editing a short story that was accepted into The Expanding Universe 3 Anthology.  Finally, I have two recent publications to recommend to you. If you haven’t read it, Operation Breakout and a Four Horsemen Anthology, For a Few Credits More are available on Amazon.

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World Building Wednesday: Cover Art



Hey Space Cadets, how are you doing today?  Things are good here, the interview with The Dead Robots Society Podcast went well.  As soon as I know when it’s going to go live, I’ll spread the word.  I tried not to sound like too much of an idiot, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.  And on the writing front, I’m half way done with my short story for the Four Horsemen Anthology.  I’ve also started the outline process for book four, which we’re tentatively titling Maternal Vengeance.  I don’t know the date book three, Operation Breakout, will go live but I’ll keep everyone posted.


Now, on to today’s World Builder Wednesday!  Today we talk about cover designs!  I’m no expert, and I’m actually colorblind, so this is a hard one for me.  My friends Corey and MLS Weech are actually much better at this part, so you should check them out if you want an expert opinion on the topic!  To my way of thinking, there are several steps you have in picking the cover for your next best seller, and I’m sure I’m missing a few. So rather than tell you this is the way, let me just say that this was my way. That’s right, the Burger King of cover designs.


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The first step in picking out a cover was to figure out my genre, since I know each genre and subgenre have their own idiosyncrasies.  Once I knew where my book would fall in the pantheon of fictional greatness, it was a simple matter of looking at other well received covers in that genre.  I found out what expectations they created, trying to get a general feel for my own design.  This step is the most dangerous, as you could spend hours drooling over art and lose yourself so completely that your wife and kids send out the hounds and form a search party.  Be warned, never browse covers alone!  Seriously, that’s my PSA for the day!!  Don’t do it, you’ve been warned!


Once I knew what I wanted, overall, I started to figure out designs for my own book.  How could I come up with a cover for my own book that fit within this niche?  You want to do two things; show your reader what type of book they’re getting, and not create false expectations of your own book. You don’t want pictures of spaceships on your novel if they’re planet bound.  Nor would your cover have some half naked beefcake if you’re writing lesbian erotica.  The cover HAS to show the potential reader what they’re likely to find inside.  For me, this meant considering the overall theme of the book and scenes from within it.  How you choose to go about it is largely dependent on the book you write, but you have to have a starting point for any potential artist you hire.


After you pick the general idea you want for this masterpiece, you begin the second most dangerous part; browsing the portfolios of cover artists.  This is another phase that can suck you in, and still your soul.  You could lose days, weeks, maybe even years rousing the artistic awesomeness of the various cover designers out there.  Don’t be that guy, be disciplined and direct.  After all, you have to get this done an expedited manner so you can write the next great American novel there’s always more books to write, so you can’t afford to get sucked into the outer trappings.  I was lucky for this stage, I had another author, Chris Kennedy, lend me his cover designer.  He made it easy by serving as the middleman, but I know this will always be the case and don’t need to learn to stand on my own.  My advice, at least for finding good cover artists, is to start searching now so when you’re ready you just have to reach out.  And find several you like, as you never know when they’ll be available.


Just to show you an example of my process for my pending short story, “No Marine Left Behind.”  This story tells Sashala’s journey during Phase Guinshrike of Tim C. Taylor’s Renegade Legion, into Lance’s world in Fortress Beta City.  For this story, I told the artist to give me space Marine’s in bad assed power armor.  I wanted them to be in some burning woods after a shuttle dropped them off, and I wanted the dying Beta City in the background.  This is the progression of the art in question.  Hopefully this helps clear up my muddy explanation of the process!  If not, least you get pretty pictures!!


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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 grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.


Marine Monday: Tirunesh Nhlappo



Hey Space Cadets, how’re you doing today?  I’m doing good, coming down from my editing high.  Corey and I just spent four hours reading through the first 14 chapters of Operation Breakout, with another longer session planned for tomorrow to get through to chapter 30.  Tomorrow I also have an interview with The Listeners of the Dead Robot Society, one of my favorite podcasts!  I’ll share before it goes live, though I won’t know the exact date right away.  And I’ll try not to look too much like an idiot, I promise!!  Finally, I’ve made good progress on my submission for the Four Horsemen Anthology.


Now, on to today’s Marine Monday!  For today’s chat let’s talk about what was leaked to me by our friendly neighborhood LegionLeak source!  We have the official bio of Field Marshal Tirunesh Nhlappo.  Now the important parts!  Remember, destroy this message after reading it so the anonymous source can live long enough to continually feed us excellent intelligence!  Without further ado, here is the leaked document!

Nhlappo 1Nhlappo 2Nhlappo 3


Hopefully you enjoyed this sneak peek into our favorite bad assess official dossier.  If you did, stay tuned for next week as we anxiously wait for the latest documents smuggled our way!  And if you wanna drop a little into the LegionLeaks tip jar, they wouldn’t mind one bit!



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 grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.


SciFy Shenanigans: Felix R. Savage



Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing amazing, yesterday I had to rewrite some chapters in Operation Breakout because the developmental editor caught a glaring error.  Yeah, I had one character in two places at once!  Oops!!  But, I think the resulting chapter was even better than it was before which is always the goal.  I’m 1k words into the “Luck of the Draw” short story for the Four Horsemen Anthology which has been fun to play with.  It’s a tale of a bounty hunter, think Judge Dredd meets Barney Fife with a touch of Don Quixote mixed in for good measure and you’ll get a hint of the shenanigans to come!


Now, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting!  Yes, 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!  If they write in any of the science fiction subgenres, then I’ll interview them, so here goes nothing!


The plan here is to create a template 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!  Today, we have science fiction author Felix R. Savage under the big top!


Just a taste of his prolific portfolio!


Felix 2.PNG

He keeps some mighty fine company!


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


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

Hello JR, it’s great to be here! I cannot reveal too much about myself as it might compromise my operational security. See here. However, my fiction is more of a reaction to my background than a reflection of it. Example, I majored in history and now I write about the future! Go figure.


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

I enjoy roller-skating.


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?

Everything I read feeds into my writing and I’m omnibibliovoracious. I made that word up just now. I read every genre under the sun with the exception of romance (sorry). In the last week I have read two thrillers (by Gregg Hurwitz and Cate Holahan), a new economics book (Tyler Cowen’s The Complacent Class), and a time travel sci-fi book (Extracted, which was a Kindle First selection and one of the only GOOD Kindle Firsts I’ve found yet).


Who are your biggest writing influences?

Other authors. I read something great and think “I want MORE of this,” but there isn’t more to be had, so I have to write it myself, and in the process it turns into something completely different. But still moreish, one hopes.


Who are your favorite authors and books?

How long can this blog post be? Kidding. Some of my all-time favorite authors are Iain M. Banks, Tolkien (of course), C.S. Lewis (of course), Peter F. Hamilton, Robert Harris, George Macdonald Fraser, Douglas Adams, Evelyn Waugh … Hmm there is a pattern here. All Brits and nearly all dead. Peter, stay healthy and keep writing!! Oh and my favorite NEW author is Gavin G. Smith (another Brit), whose space opera series you should go and pick up RIGHT NOW.


What is your preferred writing style?

All day every day. Sadly I have a 9 to 5 job so this is a dream rather than the reality at present.


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

You mean there’s any other way to live? *tries to see out of weeds* Nah. I’m happy right here!


When did you get serious about your writing?

At the age of 11.


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

I just wrapped Shiplord, Book 3 in the Earth’s Last Gambit Quartet. This series starts out in the present day and involves a first contact scenario like nothing you’ve ever read before. I call it “techno-realistic science fiction.” Nearly all the technology in the series either really exists, or could be developed based on stuff we have. There are a few bits of armwavium here and there. See if you can spot them!


Shiplord is obviously a series, where can we expect it to go?

Book 4 will be entitled Killshot. It will involve a stupendously thrilling battle for the future of Earth!!!

Where did you find the inspiration for Shiplord?

As I mentioned above, I often get inspired by other authors. In this case it was John Sandford. He co-wrote a sci-fi book called Saturn Run. I really liked the concept, but I thought the execution left something to be desired, and the less said about the ending the better. So I decided to do the same sort of thing but do it right. You judge whether I succeeded or not!


Your characters from Shiplord are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins? 

My money’s on Jack. There is a reason his nickname is Killer, and it isn’t entirely ironic!


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

Unfortunately I have no choice in the matter. I either write to a soundtrack of my co-workers nattering, or (on weekends) kiddie shows on the iPad or noisy children’s let’s-pretend games.


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?

You’re trying to catch me out here, aren’t you? *adjusts tinfoil hat*


What was your favorite part of writing Shiplord?

I enjoy ALL of it except research. Thankfully I have help with that? Bill Patterson, my science consultant, is a paragon of patience and answers all my scientific questions without laughing in my face. You’re a rock star, Bill.


Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Shiplord?

If I ever got a film deal, I wouldn’t mind if they were played by clay animation models.


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

Since I have a day job, every bit of free time is writing time.


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

As many as possible.


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 start out with a clear idea of them which always turns out to be wrong.


How did writing your current novel differ from your writing your previous novels? 

This one was tough. It is the story of a space voyage. The voyage takes two years. How do you write an interesting story about people cooped up aboard a spaceship for two years? It’s kind of like a country house mystery except the country house is a bunch of tin cans attached to a nuclear reactor.


If Shiplord had a theme song what would it be?

Something by the Red Army Choir.


Shiplord 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 try not to play favorites. It’s not fair to the others.


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

Put your head down and write as much as you humanly can, because you will probably need to write a LOT before you start to get the hang of it. Improvement is a never-ending journey. And read a LOT, too. That is just as important as writing.


I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Felix R. Savage 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’!  And watch out for those lizard people, I hear they bite!



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.


World Building Wednesday: Technology Creation



Hey Space Cadets, I hope everyone is doing great and voted in my friends Clash of the Covers contest!  I’m still working on the Four Horsemen Anthology and hit a bit of a time snag.  Try not to shudder, but I had to do something disgusting and unpleasant…. I filed my taxes today.  I know, I cried too, there’s no shame in it!  As for the next novel in the Sleeping Legion Series, well I’ll start outlining that this month and writing it as well. I will keep you posted on the progress as I try to bump up my production speeds!  Pulp glory here I come!


Now, on to my World Building Wednesday topic!!  Onward I say!  Today we talk about how I figure out the technology of my futuristic worlds.  Let’s start with your restrictions, which is especially important if you’re writing in someone else’s sandbox.  In Boss Man’s universe there is no such thing as FTL because science doesn’t think it is viable at the moment.  That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but because of the perceived improbability of this method, he decided against using it.  Other limitations imposed on your technological development might come from your subgenre; is it space opera, military science fiction or hard science fiction.


A famous example of how this played out would be from Star Trek, where they got around the limitations of science as we know it by using warp drive.  This used Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity.  He speculated that the speed of light in a vacuum will be the same from any frame of reference moving at a constant speed. I won’t go all technical (Translation, I don’t know all of it), but basically it showed that FLT wasn’t possible.  However, he speculated that you could instead bend space-time to traverse long distances in an expedited manner.  Then Mexican physicist, and SciFy Nerd, Miquel Alcubierre theorized it might actually possible, without violating the theories of his predecessors.  Way back in the dark ages of 1994!  I mean, they didn’t even have Facebook back then.  Or Myspace, for us old timers in attendance!  If you want to know more, click the links at the bottom of this post.


When I write science fiction in my own universe I plan on running with the theory Dr. Alcubierre gave us and traveling faster than light, if not in fact, then in deed.  So, now that you’ve considered your own limitations you need a starting point.  I tend to look at science and technology as we know it and then postulate where it might go in the distant future.  This is mostly guess work, lots of technical research and some good ole fashioned SWAG!  Not that kind of swag, but a scientific wild arse guess!  Okay, quasi scientific in my case but work with me here!  This does require you to know your world so you can have the end points, since the starting points would be today. 


How do I stay abreast, well I follow several science blogs that break it down for you Barney Style.  I’ll work on collating it for you as soon as I can.  Another way I use is to pick the brain of my father-in-law, a trained biologist and my dad who’s a mechanic who understands machines.  Then I made friends with people way smarter than I, and let them prevent me from looking like an idiot.  Well, more of an idiot than normal!


To recap, basically I do some research to know the limitations I’m starting with and then I guess where things might go in the future.  But that’s how I do it, what is your process?



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 grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.



Faster-Than-Light (FTL) Travel

Interstellar Travel

Warp Drive