World Building Wednesday: Sand Tables

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Hello Space Cadets, how is everyone doing today?  What’s that?  I can’t hear you, sound off like you got a pair!  And if you don’t, fake it till you make it!  So, now that I have your attention, let’s have a little chat over coffee!  Today I decided to give you get a sneak peek into how I wrote my battle scenes.  Let’s dive into the world of sand tables, sometimes called Recess for Soldiers!

 

So where to start, first let me start by discussing what a sand table is.  In a nutshell, a sand table is a surface bearing a three-dimensional map of a given piece of land.  According the Merriam-Webster, it’s “a table bearing a relief model of a terrain built to scale for study or demonstration especially of military tactics.”  Basically, I a super special map!  The military has used them since forever, long before Christ was even a Corporal.

 

Now that I’ve explained what a sand table is, I’ve decided to show you the one I made for my first novel.  Yes, The Legion Awakes, which will be published on December 19th, 2016.  It’s an improvised sand table for a combat scene in the novel involving a battle that my main character is involved in.  Wanna know more, read the book!  You’ve probably already read this, but please let me be prideful for just a few words!  I’m currently writing The Sleeping Legion Series set in the military science fiction world of Tim C. Taylor.  That book will be out soon, so I wanted to share some of how I got here.  Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let us return to our regularly scheduled programing.

 

Anyway, the key to a successful sand table is that they provide you with the opportunity to visualize the battle space in three-dimensions.  This allows you to better describe the field as you’ve envisioned it.  It allows you to envision all of the obstacles which might get in the way of the armies you are describing, though this could work for any type of writing, combat or otherwise.  I supposed I would be remiss if I didn’t also tell you that these can be used to model towns, and other generic settings for your works in progress.  Not as exciting, but certainly necessary.  They are used by the military for strategic visualizations, are extremely helpful with strategic planning, but can be used by everyone!!

 

Without further adieu, my masterpiece!

 

My Sand Table

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LEGEND:

Cups: Akoni Mountains

Green Sponges: Dense forests

Brown Building Blocks: Old Government Tower and Akoni City

Blue Paper: Water Features; Dynia River and Lake Charon

 

Now that we’ve covered this in depth, feel free to sound off in the comments below!  And if this tickled your fancy, click the follow button and never miss out on the insanity or shenanigans from the Handley Trenches!

 

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

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JR

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are owned by JR Handley.

 

AMERICA’S TOP SECRET WAR: Atropia

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Hello Space Cadets, I wanted to bring you some updates. First, let me update you on my progress in the Great Quest known as NaNoWriMo.  I am currently 11,062 words into Operation Breakout, the third novel in my Sleeping Legion series.  This is a lot farther behind than I would like, but I’m trying not to psych myself up and get in my own way.  According to the scheduled, I should hit 15,000 words today.  I got a late start because I was wrapping up my last novel and getting my editing done.  What can I say, the editor Corey is a slave driver!  I finished my outline for my current project and got it tentatively approved by my publisher Tim C. Taylor on Day 4.  Hey, if your Supreme High Overlord isn’t happy, aint nobody happy!  Since that approval was granted I’ve been writing full bore in a race to the finish line.  Yesterday I wrote 2,416 words and if I can do that for four days I’ll be back where I need to be.  However, over the next two days I’ll again be knee deep into Fortress Beta City for my final editing pass before it goes to a copy editor and is published.

 

While most people are participating in NaNo so they can finish a novel, or to motivate them to just write, I’m searching for something else.  I’m searching for a technique which helps me achieve balance between writing, blogging, family time, exercising and that albatross authors simply call marketing.  Realistically, if I can hit that 2k words a day, I’ll be on pace to become the next big pulp writer of my generation cranking out 5 to 6 books a year!  And maybe, someday, I can roll around in piles of money like the Scrooge McDuck version of JK Rowling!

 

All of this has forced me to rig for silent running, hunker down and pound out words.  I’ve failed, as I couldn’t go cold turkey on the social aspect of writing.  See, told you I needed NaNo!!  But that wasn’t the only reason I’ve been less visible.  (looks around nervously)  I’ve also been silent because I’ve been dealing with Army life again.  Yes, my fat and broken body was recalled to fight in the Army’s top secret war against the dictatorial regime of the Donovian Militants.  Atropia was being invaded and the US Army has been stretched thin with our decade long campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and more recently bolstering South Korea against the aggressive posturing of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

 

This left the US Army with a critical manpower shortage, without a draft to re-fill the ranks.  Their solution, recall those who were listed in the IRR (Inactive Ready Reserves).  Basically, we’re calling up the broke dicks and grey beards.  Rest assured, we were resolute in our resolve to defend the Atropians against the evil Donovian Militants, who sought to take advantage of our national distraction in the Middle East.  In a campaign, reminiscent of the short war in Panama known as Operation Just Cause, the enemy was repelled and stability returned to the region.

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Now that I can again return to the tranquil comforts of home and hearth, I shall endeavor to get back up on the writing horse.  Wish me words as I fight the evil muse for every sentence!  But rest easy, we got this!

 

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

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JR

 

—> As usual, the two images I used today can be found under Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.

Author Update

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Hello Space Cadets, how is everyone doing?  It has been too long since I’ve written a blog post, and for that I’m truly sorry.  First, my wife got sick with the dreaded flu, so true to my husbandly duty I provided care.  This involved making loads of chicken noodle soup, manning the fort, and not burning the house down!  Then I got sick—thanks to her generous nature.  Ugh, I hate being sick but I made it through the other end alive.  I would love to tell you I soldiered through it and worked the whole time…but mamma said I shouldn’t tell lies.  I spent several days where I got ZERO done.  Ugh, I was hoping to have book two done so I could be working on book three but it wasn’t meant to be.

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Finally, at the same time I was sick, Hurricane Matthew hit my locale hard.  We had a lot of flooding, which caused a few local electrical fires when water got into houses.  People lost entire houses when flood damage forced the city to condemn them.

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My own personal vehicle flooded, so I’ve had to deal with insurance to get it repaired or replaced.  Luckily, State Farm has been awesome and is even upgrading my rental car to a truck since my injury makes tiny cars painful and no mid-range vehicles were available.  My contract only requires a car, but they are going above and beyond.  I should know in a few days whether they’ll repair it or total it.

All I know at the moment is that they categorized the damage to my vehicle as Class 2 Flood Damage.  They found water in my gas tank, mixed in with my oil and sitting inside the cigarette lighter/power port things on my floorboards.  To be honest, I forgot they were there so I missed them when I did my best to clean the water out of the inside.  Oh, and they found nasties inside my engine itself; things like leaves, trash and other debris from the storm.  I back up to our cities water drainage system and it overflowed.  It is basically a ditch that connects to a lake, which the city made deeper so rainwater had a place to run off.  When we flooded, my car sucked in some of the litter which is sadly in it and it apparently is the opposite of helpful for your engines.

 

On top of all that, my mother’s house flooded and took on several inches of water.  They’ll likely have to gut and redo the entire first floor to account for the water damage.  I’ve spent time over there, as much as I could while being sick, helping pull up carpet and other things which have to be done.  It definitely could have been worse, so for that we are grateful.  All told, Team Handley weathered the storm and came out smiling on the other end.  Some did not, AND didn’t have any flood insurance.  They’ll be struggling, but it taught us a valuable life lesson: BUY FLOOD INSURANCE if you live in a flood zone!!  Sigh, should have been common sense but I guess not.

 

But all that aside, my mother has been busy getting the corporation ready for the launch of our books.  We will have an official bank account tomorrow, and as a gift, she hired someone to do our webpage.  Within the month it will be ready, though likely sooner.  She hired Matthew from MWS Media Creative Services to do a kickass website for us!  When the page goes live, I hope to jump into my previously stated plan for the website.  That means I need to get off my arse and come up with questions for my military veteran authors, and for authors in general, about how you manage your writing life with your home life.  If you guys have any questions along those lines you’d love to see answered, put them in the comment box.

 

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And since I called this an update, I guess I’ll tell you where I’m at with book two.  I’m currently editing it, but I’ve solved all but one of the major plot holes.  I’m currently on page 138 of 202 and hope to get even further than that before the day ends.  My editor is following close behind me cracking the whip.  No really, that wasn’t a metaphor… that crazy Navy bastard has a whip.  I think he used to be an Indiana Jones fanboy.  I never judge, but those Navy boys are sometimes hard to understand.  Me, I preferred Rambo and GI Joe!  Of course, that was back when he was an All American Hero, before the remake made him some sort of UN Merc, but I’ll save that rant for another day.

 

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

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JR

–> As usual, all images are found under Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.

My Infantry Truth

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Hello Space Cadets, how is everyone doing?  I’m pleased to give you all a peak into the life of an infantryman in a light infantry unit.  Hope you got a chuckle out of it as well!  And don’t worry, supply will still issue him his Kevlar vest and helmet to go with it!  And lest we forget, his weapon system!  Hey, what’s another 20 pounds among friends?

Light infantry they said. It will be easy

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

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–> This image was found on the hilarious iFunny website, under the search word #infantry.  Go on over and check out those comic geniuses!! 

 

 

When Novellas Grow Up

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When Novellas grow up to become Novels

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Hello my fellow Space Cadets!  I thought I would write a quick post about my first novel, The Sleeping Legion: The Legion Awakes, and how I got here.  I didn’t start out trying to write novels, in fact, my contract was specifically for novellas that hit the adventure quick, fast, and in a hurry.

However, as I wrote the ideas just sort of grew organically until my novella grew up into a novel.  As I worked on the final scenes for part two I couldn’t help but hear the song “It is the book the never ends, it just goes on and on my friend… Some fool started writing it not know what it was, and he’ll continue writing it forever just because it was the book that never ends…”  You’re sing along aren’t you?

Knowing I couldn’t put it off any longer, I went to my boss with my hat clutched in hand.  I told Tim C. Taylor about my problem of not knowing what, and how, to cut things to the appropriate length.  He read through my rough draft, likely expecting to talk a novice off the metaphorical edge, then sent me a short email that started with the sentence, “JR, we need to talk.

For clarification, I’m a married man and those words often spell my doom.  As you can imagine, I was justifiably nervous.  I heard Tim, in his proper British accent, saying those five words like a judge condemning a man to his demise.  We meshed schedules, synced up our time zone disparities, and planned our Skype session.

On the day of the Skype session, his face was serious as he looked at me through our shared monitor.  After a moment, he said “JR, you aren’t writing the novellas we talked about in our contract–”

Tim didn’t get to finish as I verbally prostrated myself at his feet, telling him I could do better.  I wasn’t sure if I was laying it on thick enough, I needed him to know I was sincere.  I heaped on some more until I couldn’t be heard over the sound of his laughter.  I took a breath and looked at the cruel man who was likely going to burn my dreams.  I imagined him holding a match and burning the manuscript before my eyes.

Then, to my surprise, Tim said, “JR, these are novels.  Keep writing, but we need a new contract.”

And there I was, suddenly a novelist.  I guess in the end, it’s not the destination you chart but the adventures had along the way.

Until next time, stay frosty and remember to keep your powder dry.

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JR

–> As usual, all images are found under Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.

Honest Honey, It’s Research!

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Honest Honey, it’s research:

Or Why writers pull apart owl pellets to inspect the bones within.

 

One of the reasons I landed the contract to write a spin-off series in The Human Legion Universe was because I was active in the fan forums and on Tim C. Taylors blog.  As part of the process, I’ve had to research a lot of weird things and even some cringe worthy one.  See my article about my run-in with the law because someone heard me interviewing a nurse over the phone and thought I was planning mass murder!  LOL!!  Luckily it ended well… and not with me on the evening news!

 

Seriously though, one of the best parts of being a writer is the ability to follow these rabbit trails to places unknown.  When I read a book about the history of clowns or vampire deer, I don’t KNOW if I will use it in a book but I might.  So it becomes an issue of constantly learning and growing as an individual.  This growth allows you to flavor your worlds and stories in unique and unexpected ways.  My friend and fellow author, Tim C. Taylor recently did a blog post on this very topic.  Part of this title came from his post, so go on over and check it out!  You’ll be glad you did… and say hey while you are there because your momma taught you manners! So go ahead, click the link below… I TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU!

 

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–> As usual, all images are found from Googles cache of open source images.