SciFy Shenanigans: MK Clark

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Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing amazing, going through the scheduled panels to pick my RavenCon schedule.  I should have that posted this weekend, so if you’re there you can say hello!  Now, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting!  Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug!  They’re still super fun, because I get to talk to a lot of interesting people.  Would you believe I was once called “motor mouth” as a kid?  I know, it’s hard to believe!  Anyway, enough about me, here is another installment of the SciFy Shenanigans.  I took out my weed whacker – and cut the weeds back enough that I found MK Clark!  Grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride!

 

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

 

 

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

Obviously, I love to write. What I love most about where I’m at right now is that I get to write all day at work and then come home and write some more.

I currently live and work in the “keep it weird” city of Austin, TX. I work downtown as a technical writer, so I get to see all different kinds of people coming in for the conferences and the cons and SXSW, etc. It can be a lot of fun and it provides a lot of inspiration, even though it makes public transportation crazy.

When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot. As I got older, I figured out that you had to be good at taking orders or science, and neither of those was really my specialty. So, I had to figure something else out. And although I started writing when I was 14, but up until my junior year of college, it was just a hobby, not something I really wanted to pursue. So, with a year and a half left to go, I switched majors and broke out into the world of writing.

 

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

Before I switched majors, I was actually on the road to graduate with a degree in dance. My goal was to dance with the ballet corps in NY.

 

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 really do enjoy reading. My husband and I have a whole library in our house. I really enjoy reading sci-fi and fantasy, although he is a fan of the dystopian and zombie apocalypse, but we both also really enjoy historical fiction as well.

So, I think a big one for me is that, I love science-fiction, but none of my friends did, because it was too “dry” for them, too technical. So when, I started to really think about writing and writing sci-fi, I had to look at the differences between sci-fi and fantasy and ask myself, why does my best-friend love this book, and not this one? And I’ve tried to use that to make my stories enjoyable to everyone, a way for someone to ease into the genre, without losing the wonder of sci-fi.

 

Who are your biggest writing influences?

Orson Scott Card has been a huge influence for me. I was captivated with his books and tried to get everyone I knew to read them. At the same time, I’ve been fascinated by Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, I love how real she makes things, how chaotic and yet relatable in a “I’ve been there” kind of way. And she’s funny. I admire that. I want that for myself.

 

Who are your favorite authors and books?

Brian Jacques will always be a favorite of mine. His Redwall series was probably my most read growing up until I found Card. But in addition to that, I have quite an eclectic collection of favorite books from the Nine Princes of Amber and the Golden Compass, to Grapes of Wrath and Life of Pi, to Momo and Howls Moving Castle, as well as The Book Thief and All’s Quiet on the Western Front.

 

What is your preferred writing style?

I enjoy writing in third person, past tense. I’m not a huge fan of present tense. I don’t do it well, even though others have. When they do, I am both impressed and flummoxed by it at the same time.

 

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

To be honest, I hated writing as a kid. I distinctly remember being in the fifth grade and getting straight A’s in all my subjects except English. I only really started writing because my sister used to write, and my father would read her stories and encourage her, and I was jealous. So, really, I have jealously and my fiercely competitive nature to thank.

 

When did you get serious about your writing?

That’s a hard question to answer. As I’m not entirely sure myself. I’ve already said how it started, but we moved in the middle of all that, and I was mad, so I threw myself into writing as an escape. Somewhere in those high school years, I realized, I had a real story here, and if I could finish it, I could do something with it. The best I can say is high school, even though I never intended to go into a writing career until half-way through college.

 

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

My current novel, is actually my first. It’s call Space Jumpers and it follows the life of Don O’Hara, son of a well-known General in a long-running war with an alien race. But it doesn’t just follow Don’s life, the novel starts out about two decades after Don’s story begins. This snapshot provides readers a glimpse of how Don is known, he’s not the hero, almost everyone hates him and wishes he’d left their lives well enough alone. After that, readers are transported back in time to the beginning of Don’s story and how he started this journey to being the most hated man alive.

At some point in high school we were studying WWII and I happened across the history of Alexander the Great at the same time. I just couldn’t get over the idea of how this guy, who probably was responsible for the death of more people than Hitler was known as “the great.” The idea of hindsight being 20/20 and winner’s writing the history books caught me and I knew I wanted to write a story that embodied this and it just so happened that Don’s story was the perfect one for it.

 

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

Space Jumpers is just the first part of Don’s story. The series is called The Young Soldier. In the next book Pursuing Dreams, which I’m currently editing and getting ready to publish, reader’s will continue to see snapshots of the future in parallel with “present” events that provide readers with all the answers on how it happened and why. In this way, it really is left up to the reader on whether Don was justified or not in his actions and how he should be judged.

 

Where did you find the inspiration for Space Jumpers?

This book grew out of a different story I was writing, a very different story. It was going to have 5 main character’s and be told from their POV’s. I was developing the characters and giving them backgrounds and I just fell in love with Don’s character. So, I put everything down and started writing his story and the world he came from. And, if I’m remembering right, about three of the characters from that original story made the cut for The Young Soldier series.

 

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

Wow, that’s a lot of characters, but I’d say, probably the Suit, Nathan. He’s a minor character, but he’s ruthless and has a darkness in him that I think gives him a leg up.

 

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

I have three Pandora channels that I’ve tweaked to my liking. They’re based off of Disturbed, The Halo Soundtrack, and the Skyrim soundtrack. Before Pandora was a thing, I listened to music composed by Justin R. Durban, and still do. His music is forever tied to the book for me.

 

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?

So early on, when I knew this was going to be a book about war, I had to brush up on my military knowledge, including weapons, bombs, etc. At the same time, our high school had a bunch of bomb threats in a row, and I thought for sure someone would come knocking at our door.

 

What was your favorite part of writing Space Jumpers?

My favorite part was probably when I re-wrote the first three chapters. I’d always hated how the book started, so when I finally did something about it, and found that I liked the result, I was super happy.

 

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

You know, I’ve never really seen any one actor or actress. I actually always thought it would make a good manga or anime series.

 

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

These days I generally write at night or on the weekend as I work during the day. And I’m happy with that. I really enjoy working as a technical writer. I feel like I get the best of both worlds right now.

 

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

Nope, words or pages per day was never really my thing, it’s more about scenes for me. I try to get through one or two scenes based on the time I have.

 

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 think it’s a little bit of both. There are characters that I know are essential to the story, but they are a part of a future book, so I know key things about them, but I’m not focused on them yet, I’ll develop them when I get there. Others I developed a long time ago, but sometimes I still learn new things about them as I’m writing.

 

If Space Jumpers had a theme song what would it be?

I don’t know about a theme song for this book, but I think, the series as a whole would be “This is your life” by Switchfoot. I think it really captures both the immediate question Don struggles with of who he is and what he’s going to do with his life? But it also embodies the idea of looking back on everything that’s happened and wondering if he is now who he started out to be. I’ve always wanted to do a music video to this song, I even did the story boards for it a while ago.

 

Space Jumpers 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?

Probably Tony. I really love Tony. I think he’s relatable. He hates mornings, likes his life and the comforts of home. He’s at basic because he has to be, but when it’s over, he’s just going to go back and return to his old happy life. He’s not caught up in the war like everyone else. He’s figured out that its ok that war isn’t his thing, it doesn’t have to be. I love that about him. He’s just very sure of who he is and what he wants.

Of course, most of this isn’t in the book because it’s about Don, not Tony, but that’s kind of the background behind Tony. And I really think it’s interesting that he’s the guy that is Don’s best friend, because all Don wants is war. It’s an interesting balance.

 

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

Get someone to talk to. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of figuring it out yourself or thinking your idea isn’t good enough yet to share. Having other people’s input has been so valuable to this experience, and I’m not talking about Beta readers, I’m talking about people that act as sounding boards AS you are writing.

Thankfully, I had my sister as a sounding board in high school. She really helped me get through the beginning sludge and figure out what story I was telling. I could come to her with questions or suggestions and use our discussions and answers to help me develop my story. Even if I disagreed with her responses, I had to work through the disagreement to figure out why and then I had what I needed to move forward.

 

 

I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about [MK Clark] 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’!

 

Amazon

Facebook

GoodReads

Instagram

Twitter

Website

 

 

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

brown_bess

JR

 

–> 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.

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SciFy Shenanigans: Raven Oak

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Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing amazing, busy taking care of my wife as she recovers from her concussion post-accident.  Sorry I didn’t post my blog yesterday, but I was exhausted and just forgot. I’m getting back on the writing horse and if I can swing a measly 15k words this month I’ll call it a win!  One final note before we delve deep into the forest of Raven Oak’s writing interview, I’ll be attending RavenCon at the end of the month.  If you’re there, look for the fat guy that looks like Santa shaved his beard!

 

Now, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting!  Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug!  That being said – here is the next installment of SciFy Friday!  I put my weed whacker to work and found Raven Oak!  Now grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride!

 

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 bestselling science fiction and fantasy author best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 EPIC Awards & Ozma Awards Finalist) and Class-M Exile. I’ve got several short stories in anthologies like Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology and Magic Unveiled. I spent most of my K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet. When I’m not writing, I’m gaming, indulging in cartography, or staring at the ocean. I’m also a former public school teacher and live in the Seattle area with my husband (he works for Bungie) and our three kitties who enjoy lounging across my keyboard when I’m working. Like right now. G93he-wjew.

 

Well hopefully your editing guru can help translate the cat’s writing back into English!  Until then, you’ll just have to persevere! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I was a music composition & theory major in college before I changed majors to English/education. And just to throw another topic into the mix, my Master’s is in computers. I also had my first graphic design job at fifteen, so I have a varied background in many different fields outside of writing.

 

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 read most widely in speculative fiction, which influenced me the most growing up. The idea of what-if and why made my brain buzz. I didn’t like that the adults around me couldn’t answer those “big life” questions such as “Why are we here?” and “What if magic used to exist?” Okay, maybe that last one isn’t such a big life question, but still—my childhood self wanted to know! SF/F not only allowed me but it encouraged me to think outside the box and ask every question I could think of.

Outside of spec-fic, I read a lot of mystery and mythology. I read some general or popular fiction, but not a ton. Too cliché and ham-fisted for me. Mystery on the other hand encourages my inquisitive nature, much like speculative fiction does. One of my stories in Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays entitled “Ol’ St. Nick” is a closed-room mystery in space involving a mobster Santa. I enjoy taking the structure of whodunits and tossing it into a science fiction or fantasy setting. Lots of fun. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of Santa as a mobster?

 

Who are your biggest writing influences?

Definitely Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Melanie Rawn, and Anne Bishop. They write so succinctly and with such flair. They could write a phone book, and I’d buy it.

 

Who are your favorite authors and books?

My favorites include those names above—specifically American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, the Kingkiller Chronicle by Rothfuss, the Dragon Prince series by Melanie Rawn, and the Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop.

 

What is your preferred writing style?

Whatever style tells the story best. Yes, authors all have their own styles, but inside of those styles, voices and such shift depending upon the story one is telling. If I’m writing humorous space opera, my style is slightly different than when I’m writing epic or general fantasy.

 

How did figuring out what your preferred writing style was?

Discovering what my style was meant writing and writing and writing some more until I discovered it.

 

When did you get serious about your writing?

At sixteen. No, really. I wrote a 300 page novel in 6th grade, but that was for fun. When I was in high school, I began attending professional writing conferences and was involved in a critique group full of published and not-published adults who also wrote SF/F. I’ve known since I was very young that I wanted to be a writer. The only way to do that was to be serious about it, so I did. But a lot of what I wrote in high school was immature drivel, so I didn’t really begin writing as an adult for publication until about my late twenties.

 

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

I’m currently rewriting and revising Amaskan’s War, Book II in the Boahim Series. Book I, Amaskan’s Blood, came out in 2015. The best comparison I’ve ever received was from another author who said it was like “if George R. R. Martin wrote [Disney’s] Tangled,” which is an apt description for this fantasy novel. The main character (Adelei) is an Amaskan, a sort of holy assassin who protects the Little Dozen Kingdoms and its people. She’s a typical cocky 19-year-old who’s sent into the hands of the Amaskans’ worst enemy, her father. Lots of political intrigue, world-building without taking five pages to describe a table leg, and self-discovery.

But being about sci-fi, I’ll give you some tidbits on a space opera of mine called Class-M Exile. The main character, Eerl, is a Tersic (alien race) who studies extinct humans via old Earth videos, specifically westerns. He thinks everyone talks with a bad Texas drawl, so he talks like that too. Then he stumbles into a human and they go off on an adventure that teaches them both that nothing is as it seems. I really wanted to look at prejudice from a different perspective than the typical “humans good, aliens bad” angle. I’ve been told by many that it’s very Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) meets Firefly.

I’m also doing rewrites on the first in a space opera trilogy due out Winter 2017/2018 entitled The Eldest Silence, which is set in the same universe as Class-M Exile. It, too, deals with prejudice in space.

 

The Eldest Silence is part of a series, so where can we expect it to go?

It’s going to be a trilogy and like most things I write, it’ll be humorous with some darkness to it. The main character, Captain Kris Berstenfin, isn’t going to make it out of the war completely unscathed, but she’ll learn who she is and how to love in ways she never imagined.

 

Where did you find the inspiration for Class-M Exile?

When I was in middle school, I met a girl who was the complete antithesis of Texas (where I lived at the time). She was a feminist and liberal (both sins in the Bible belt) but also an atheist who played with tarot cards. She was the child of a single mother, who arrived at school amidst a car full of dogs and cats. Her first day of school, it was like a stampede of afraid kids as they reacted to this girl sporting tons of hair braids, pentacles, and hippie-style clothes. I like to tell people that this was a town where even the Catholics pretended to be Southern Baptists. You were either a church-goin’ Christian, or you were Satan himself. It didn’t take long for them to jump into bullying and harassing her. Ostracizing her. She became one of my best friends and introduced me to the world of science fiction and fantasy. I am the writer I am because of her, and I wanted to tell her story.

 

Your characters from Class-M Exile are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins? 

Mel. She’s fiesty.

 

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

I have mood/setting-based playlists I created in iTunes made up of wordless songs. If it has words, I’ll sing along and not write. I mostly pull from movie or television scores. If I’m writing a sad scene, I’ll plop on my “sad writing” playlist, which is made up songs that evoke a sad emotion in me. Helps me write.

 

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?

What haven’t I been flagged for? I’ve looked up how to poison someone and how that poison would react in zero-g and with no oxygen, how to fire a revolver and a pistol in an oxygen-less environment, medieval-era feminine hygiene products/methods, how to weave on the large looms of the 1800’s, and the difference between a bottlery and a buttlery.

 

What was your favorite part of writing Class-M Exile?

Eerl’s proclivity for bad American puns and how to get them wrong.

 

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Class-M Exile?

I know a lot of authors give this thought, but I haven’t! Eek! Um, Eerl’s a three-legged, multi-eyed, multi-nosed alien who always tells the truth, so I don’t know that it matters too much who plays him. Someone who can fake a bad Texas drawl. I’ve heard Keanu Reeves is hideous at a southern accent so maybe? For Mel, we’d need to go back in time as I’d want a really young Daryl Hannah.

 

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

I write full-time, so my entire day is filled with writing activities. I usually write on the current Work-In-Progress in the morning, then revise on another project in the afternoon. After I hit my word counts or page counts, the last thing I work on is promotion/marketing/social media.

 

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

I have a minimum of 1500 words per day in terms of writing. In terms of critiquing works for others or revising works, I tend to aim for two-hour’s work.

 

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?

A mix of both. Some characters pop into my head completely formed, but sometimes I start writing and they have other ideas about who they are.

 

How did writing Class-M Exile differ from your writing your previous novels? 

I was at a writing workshop with Sci-Fi Grand Master Connie Willis and Chris Barzak, who wanted us to take a real life event and flip it on its head. I took that moment when my friend stepped out of the car and people fled, and turned it into the opening scene of Class-M Exile. The story grew from there, but it’s essentially my thoughts about how everyone is capable and guilty of prejudice. I would hope that people would look a little deeper at themselves and their own misconceptions and prejudices, to learn that we share more in common with “Them” or “Others” than we think. It was the first time I’d had someone I admire as an author encourage me to finish something I’d just started that day. It certainly lit a fire under me to do just that.

 

If Class-M Exile had a theme song what would it be?

Honestly, I can’t think of one particular song that fits the book, but I did listen to the Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves score a lot while writing it.

 

Amaskan’s Blood 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?

Definitely Adelei. Being an Amaskan, she’s trained in multiple forms of combat, but she also carries a belief set that reminds me of Buddhist monks. Because she’s nineteen, she has the flaws of youth while carrying a great weight on her shoulders. Flawed characters are the most well-rounded characters and the best to write. She’s so badass and yet so vulnerable.

 

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

Find time to write every day. Even if it’s five minutes. Even if it’s via voice recordings on your phone while on the bus. Get in the habit of writing regularly and stick with it.

Also, write for yourself. Tell the stories you want to see in the world, the ones you want to read. If you write on the hopes of striking it rich or playing the market, you won’t be happy. If you’re not happy writing, your readers won’t be happy either.

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I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Raven Oak 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’!

 

Raven Oak’s Social Media Platform:

Website

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Instagram

Google+

YouTube

Goodreads Author Page

Amazon Author Page

 

 

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

brown_bess

JR

 

–> 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.

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Happy Good Friday

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Hey Space Cadets, I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a Happy Good Friday!  Enjoy your time with your family, and we’ll catch you on the other side!

 

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

brown_bess

JR

 

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

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Book Review: The Honor of the Queen

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  I’m currently reading one of the greats of military science fiction, David Weber.  I want to read his novels, and mine them for useful skills.  He created one of the largest fan bases, so he is clearly doing something right.  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 Honor of the Queen

Author: David Weber

Price: $0.00 USD (Kindle Version)

Obtained: I bought it on Amazon

Pages: 421 pages

 

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Rating: 4/5 Grenades

4 Grenade

 

Summary:

This book shares the story of Captain Honor Harrington of the Royal Manticoran Navy.  She commands the newly commissioned HMS Fearless, which replaced the one she lost fighting at Basilisk Station.  After the incident between the Havenites and the Royal Navy on Basilisk Station, tensions rose and a state of ‘cold war’ existed between the two nations.  Once her ship was commissioned after the one she’d had shot out from under her, Honor is tasked with escorting a diplomatic envoy to the planet Grayson to negotiate for the ability to put a forward operating base in their territory.  While there we see a clash of cultures between the more egalitarian Graysonites and the ‘modern’ Manticorians.  Her mission ends up smack dab in the middle of hostilities between the Protectorate of Grayson and the Madasan religious state.  If you want to know more, read the book!

 

Characters:

The main character in this novel is Honor Harrington, a naval captain who is given command of the newly rebuilt HMS Fearless at the beginning of the novel.  Like before, I found myself drawn to her, but this time she came across as a little too perfect to me.  There were times where her perfection was annoying, but David Weber did a good job making her ‘perfection’ become a hindrance which is why I kept reading.  Regardless, she was a well-developed character with enough depth to make her believable.  She’s a no-nonsense kind of woman, who gets the job done and overcomes, no matter the cost.  This annoys me, because you get the impression that Honor doesn’t really worry about the hundreds of lives lost in every battle.  Unlike On Basilisk Station, Honor seems to sacrifice her troops needlessly in an all-out bid for victory.

 

Plot:

I felt like the plot moved along at a steady pace, a bit slow in places but not enough to draw you out of the universe David Weber was creating.  The author loves his descriptions of the science of space flight, but I skim over those in favor of the actual story.  I don’t care how the space flight works, just that he has a reason that it does.  However, there are those who love this about David’s work.  Like his earlier novel, the plot was enough that I kept turning the pages for more.  What more can we really ask for!  This novel was heavier on the space combat, and the parts where we’ve combat on the ground it felt forced.  This novel was easier to read than book one, but I still had issues with the changes in POV.  It felt jarring and the shifts were hard to follow, though it wasn’t as bad as the previous novel.  I read this novel as an eBook, and it was published as a trade paperback in 1993.  Again, I’m guessing that the novel was simply poorly converted, and the indications of the swapping POVs weren’t carried over.  Either way, it was an issue for me.  The plotting was a four out of five grenades for me.

 

World Building:

I felt like the world building in this novel was solid, there was just enough to understand everything.  The setting was cogently written, believable and fun to imagine yourself joining.  Probably a bad idea, as lots of people die in these fights, but such are the dangers of SciFy fandom.  Admittedly, I came into these novels after being seduced to the dark side by the TRMN Fan Club at RavenCon last year so I knew a lot about the universe going in.  I think it would’ve still stood alone on the laurels of the world David Weber created, but felt the need for full disclosure.  If you don’t remember, I enjoyed the world building in book one.  This book kicked it up a few octaves, which I loved.  There were parts where I felt it was lacking, but as a lover of stories I recognized them as hooks to what I expect to happen in later novels.  I would love to wax poetically here, but I’m striving to avoid spoilers.  In this section, I give David Weber five out of five grenades!

 

Description:

I felt like this one is hard, my visualizations were colored by the outside representations I’ve seen from the TRMN.  These fans are dedicated and cosplay his universe, so when I read these books they were what I pictured.  I think it was well done, but it’s possible my affiliation with his rabid fans colored my readings of things.  That said, I definitely feel like the descriptions of this book was greatly improved from the last one.  In that regard, this was a success for David Weber.  However, in some cases he went too far the other direction with regards to descriptions.  This isn’t an issue for me, but it’s worth noting it to you, dear reader.  I’d give this section five out of five grenades.

 

Overall:

Aside from my issues with the jarring switches from one POV to another, I really enjoyed this novel.  It kept me hooked, and gave me an idea of how to make the hard science fiction approach to space combat more enjoyable.  Like the earlier book in this series, it was a bit heavy on the math.  I’m in no way qualified to judge the veracity of the math, but this book was otherwise enjoyable and I’ve already bought book three.  Another oddity, at least for me, was the pot calling the kettle black syndrome I saw between the Grayson Protectorate and the Kingdom of Manticore.  The Manticorian’s thought the sexist, antiquated views of the Graysonites were backwards.  The polygamous marriages, and how women were kept solely in the domestic sphere was foreign to Honor and her crew.  This seemed a bit judgmental to me, given the classists nature of Manticorian society.  One society was classist but egalitarian, while the other one was a merit based society for the males.  This might’ve been missed by some, and might just be one of my quirks, but it did stick out to me.  Not in a bad way, just an oddity I noticed right away.  I liked the novel enough to buy book three and will be reading that next.  When the author is such an iconic master like David Weber, us noobs need to read and learn.  And as an aside, how many books must one publish before we stop calling them noobs?  Asking for a friend!  Anyway, this wasn’t a WOWZER five grenade novel, but it was good.  Damn good.  Despite my issues with the POV hopping, was a book I would happily recommend.  Heck, I would even recommend that you buy the novel in the digital AND hardcover 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 on your bookshelves.  Overall, the POV hopping wasn’t as bad in this novel, so if grenades weren’t such an all or nothing endeavor this would be a solid 4.5 grenades.  However, grenades don’t do things by half measures so four it is.

 

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out after you read On Basilisk Station!  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 because you’re late, since you have no car, your boss fires you.  And without viable employment, you become a rabid David Webber fan, blowing your life savings buying all gazillion of his novels in this universe.  And then, because you’re unemployed and need a job, you enlist into the Royal Manticoran Marine Corps.  As a grunt, you’re then deployed to the front lines.  And then you die in a hail of laser fire, forcing your spirit to carry on in the limbo as a ghost.  With nothing left to lose, you haunt David, the man who ruined your life.  And then his wife, a smart woman, exorcises you with holy water.  Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you.  Be warned, but enjoy the high!

 

 

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

brown_bess

JR

 

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

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Sleeping Legion SWAG

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Hey Space Cadets, how’re you doing today?  Things are good here, and I have some exciting news I want to share. We’ve finally crossed the threshold, The Sleeping Legion has SWAG!!  Boss Man design some excellent coffee cups for you to enjoy your coffee or grok in!  Or both together, we here in the Handley Trenches don’t judge. Okay, maybe a little… I mean we can’t tolerate people putting pineapples on perfectly good pizzas! A man has to have standards.

 

US buyers click here for your awesome drinking beverage!

 UK buyers click here for your awesome drinking beverage!

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

brown_bess

JR

 

 –> 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.

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Book Review: The Ruins of Anthalas

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Richard Fox Book Reviews

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 Ruins of Anthalas

Author: Richard Fox

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

Obtained: I listened to this through the audio book, which I received for free from Podium Publishing.

Pages: 452 pages

 

Ruins of Anthalas cover.htm.jpg

 

Rating: 5/5 Grenades

5 Grenade

 

Summary:

This follows the story of Marc Ibarra, an alien probe, Marine Lieutenant Hale, Captain Valdar, and the star cruiser Breitenfeld.  The alien probe has successfully saved a sliver of humanity, and now they have to prepare because the Xaros are coming back.  They fly off to the planet Anthalas to discover a lost technology which would allow humanity to use their abundance of omnium to save themselves from the alien threat.  With most of Earth’s defenses destroyed, the survivors must look outside themselves for a solution.  In this story we’ll meet new enemies, new allies and learn that Marc Ibarra isn’t done manipulating the human race. There’s plenty of action, intrigue, and sci-fi adventure, but on a much larger scale as the war grows to include the Alliance that saved humanity from the Xaros invasion.  This novel takes the reader even deeper into the war against the Xaros, and with the fate of humanities very existence, all bets are off.  If you want to know more, read the book!

 

Characters:

There were three main characters in this novel; the star cruiser Breitenfeld, Captain Isaac Valdar, Lieutenant Hale, Marc Ibarra and the alien probe.  The same ones from the previous books, which added to the familiarity with the universe.  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!  I also loved how we see the ship get more battered as the war with the Xaros continues to play itself out over interstellar space.

 

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.  His flawed nature is on display in this book, but it only makes me like him more.  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!  However, as he continues to fight in the war it becomes more believable and was less of a distraction.  The character was even more likeable and well thought out than in the first novel in the series.  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 series, and while we still 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.  I will say, the more I get to learn about the terrible duo, the less I like them.  Not because they’re badly written, but because they make me want to punch them in their almost face!

 

Plot:

This plot moved along at a steady pace, though it felt a bit slower than the first novel.  I still loved the story, but maybe it was the history lover in me?  I wanted to explore Anthalas myself, seeing how these aliens lived.  I loved the detail and precision that Richard Fox still paid to the military technology.  I also liked that he didn’t get bogged down in the science of space travel, and most of the action in this book took place on the ground or the derelict space ships.  Richard didn’t ignore the science, but rather he didn’t let it bog down the story.  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.  Compared to book one, it was twice as much ground action than space fights.  While this novel changed POVs several times, it never felt jarring and the shifts were easy to follow.  You might have noticed, it is something I pay attention too when I read.  Again, I read this novel as an eBook while listening to it as an audiobook.  The Whisper Sync feature via Amazon’s pairing with Audible didn’t work with book two, but it didn’t mess me up.  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, even better than the first book!  There was just enough to understand everything, without slowing the pace of the novel too much.  I could picture most of what he described, which helped me a lot.  I sort of envisioned Incan Temples for the ruins of Anthalas.  If you weren’t rooted in history, then maybe you picture something different?  Hey I have to use that history degree or the bill for Villanova’s graduate program would just be a waste!  However, with regards to the space technology, it was persuasively written, but not substantially different from book one.  And yes, I still want my own Gauss Rifle!  There were some parts where I felt it was still lacking details, but as a lover of stories I recognized them as hooks for what I expect to happen in later novels.  This happens when the story spans several novels.  It never felt forced, or cliff hanger-esq, and it only made me want to keep reading.  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.

 

Description:

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.  Even having said that about the first one, book two kicked it up a notch.  In regards to description, this was another win for the author.  I’d give this section five out of five grenades.  There was still room to make the descriptions really pop, but it didn’t hurt the overall story for me.  In fact, if he did give more on the description I might’ve complained about the slower pace.  It’s all about balance, and none of these sub-components to the story can exist without the others, so bare that in mind as you read book reviews.

 

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.  Also of note, the first two novels of this series are on the same audiobook.  The whisper sync only worked for the first book but if you pay attention to the chapters you can easily find your place.  Five out of five grenades.

 

Overall:

In spite of my issues with the accents from the narrator, I really enjoyed this novel.  I loved this story even more than the first novel.  The story kept me hooked, and made me want to read the rest of the series.  I’ve bought book three already, and suggest you do too!  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!  This is one book 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!

brown_bess

JR

 

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

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Indie SciFy Video #5

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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! 

brown_bess

JR

 

 –> 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.

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