Guest Blog: Scott Levine

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Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing well, my computer is fixed and I’m back happily slamming away on the keyboard!  Between life, illness and a wedding I will be re-addressing my personal deadline for Maternal Vengeance in the next few days.  I have an account with myWriteClub where I track my progress and list my desired completion dates.  If you’re an author and don’t have one, I highly recommend this free service.  Seriously, when it leaves the beta stage I’ll gladly pay for it.

Until then, I wanted to bring you a guest post from my favorite star gazer.  He runs a blog where he shares his passion for astronomy and all things space related.  I was in one of my low stages, where I was convinced my work was garbage, when I found him.  He helped me find my passion again, and remember why I write science fiction.  Seriously, his passion is contagious and you should check him out.  Give his post a go, and if you like him hop on over to his site!

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Hey, everyone!  I’m Scott Levine. JR invited me to do some guest blogging here.  How could I say no?  I’m not a science fiction writer, no.  I’m a writer, a dad, and an astronomy fan living in the wild and untamed suburbs of New York City.  I write about the skies as much as I can at Scott’s Sky Watch, where I talk mostly about naked eye astronomy; the kind of thing you can enjoy just by going out and looking up; no tools needed other than a love of the sky.  I try to keep it fun, and light; space, taken easy.  I’m not an astronomer, either.  I’m just a writer who, still, after all these years, can’t stop looking up.

Speaking about loving the sky, this morning, after the kids fled for the bus, I walked back up the hill.  Inside, I poured a cup of coffee and headed back outside to the boulder that’s half-buried in my yard, trying, and failing, not to spill anything.  Even though it’s made of granite, or basalt, or something much less cozy-sounding than softstone or pillowite would be, it’s a surprisingly comfortable place to sit and watch the world go by.  In the mornings, it’s people rushing to work.  By afternoon, the delivery trucks race through.  When dark has settled over the neighborhood, I have a front-row seat for the bright lights of night.

High above the houses across the street, was the Moon.  I’m not sure a lot of us spend enough time looking at our nearest neighbor.  It’s easy for us to take it for granted.  It seems like there’s always something more exotic to see.  The Moon, though, is where most of us who enjoy watching the skies got

This morning, it was just past the meridian, the point where rising becomes setting.  In the northern hemisphere, that’s just past due south, just a little more west, and just a little past third quarter; a slightly waning crescent.  I love to see our Moon in the daytime.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it in the night, too, but the day is equally great, but in a different way.

If you’ve never thought about it, the Moon’s out just as much in the day as at night. It has to make its way all the way around the Earth, which is half in daylight all the time.  So, half of its orbit is in day, too.  At night, the Moon’s so obvious, so much brighter than the surrounding sky, that it’s impossible to miss.  The late-rising daytime phases, though, the waning phases, are wonderful for their subtlety.  It’s not like seeing a bulb in the sky, your eye pulled toward it.  Instead, it’s etched into the blue, part of the underlying secret language of astronomy fans.  It’s hidden in plain sight.  You have to look for it.

The solar system’s moons have been in the news a lot lately.  Even just yesterday, astronomers announced the discovery of a moon orbiting the alluringly named 2007 OR10, a dwarf planet almost twice as far from the Sun as Pluto; so far that it takes over 500 years to make it around the Sun once.  Most of what we’ve been hearing lately is about the moons around Jupiter and Saturn.  Some of them have water, liquid water, under a thick, blanketing layer of ice and rock.  On Earth, where there’s water, there’s life, so these places are exiting.  Years ago, all eyes were on the planets, particularly the big, gas giants in the outer solar system.  Now, it’s the moons that get all the press.

It feels good to think about even the idea of life on these moons, doesn’t it?  I love to think about what it must be like to live in the seas on Jupiter’s Ganymede, a moon so big that it’s even bigger than the planet Mercury.  If you could see through the ice and rock above you, you’d spend your days with three other planet-sized moons and a giant, striped planet in your sky.  We’ve heard similar things about Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which might be the most likely place for life in the solar system.

Water or not, I also like to think of what it’s like sitting on Mars, and watching Phobos, the bigger of its two tiny moons.  It’s so close to Mars that, one day, it’ll wander too close and either crash into the planet or be ripped apart by Mars’s gravity and turn into a ring, like a tiny version of Saturn.  For now, though, its orbit gets it all the way around in just eight Earth hours.  That’s faster than Mars rotates; fast enough that as you sat on your backyard boulder with your diner mug full of coffee, you’d actually be able to see it cruise across the sky from west to east.  A few hours later, it’d rise in the west again.  For comparison, it takes our Moon more than 29 days to make it all the way around.

Back at the boulder, the Moon out of sight, behind a bank of clouds.  I took the last sip from my cup, and headed back inside.  It’ll be another late one night, but if you have a chance, and if you haven’t had a look in a while, tomorrow’s another day.  Maybe try to have look.  It’s always worth taking the time.  These days, the moons are where it’s at.  Why not start with ours?

I’d love it if you stopped by Sky Watch sometime and dropped me a line. Questions, comments, you name it.  I’d love to hear from you.  If you love space, especially taken easy, maybe it’s the place for you.  Thanks for reading, and clear skies, everyone!

Your Friendly Star Gazer,

Scott Levine
Saturn

Saturn from Hubble Telescope

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you did check out Scott’s page.  Tell him JR sent ya, I promise he’ll leave the lights on for ya!

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

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: When the Gods Aren’t Gods (The Theogony Book 2)

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Chris Kennedy Book Reviews

Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m a member of the TRMN. It’s a fan club for the Honor Harrington Universe by David Weber, and they do contests for their members all the time. There is a reading contest going on recently, and we get bonus points for reading authors who are on the TRMN Author List. And, if those authors will be at the 2017 Honor Con, we get even more points! So, you’ll see my next several reviews on books by Chris Kennedy, Marko Kloos and David Weber before I get back to Richard Fox’s Ember Wars stories.  I’m also working on book four of The Sleeping Legion Series.  Finally, if you haven’t read it, Operation Breakout is live!

 

But enough about me, onto this specific review. Now let’s get to it!

Title: When the Gods Aren’t Gods (The Theogony Book 2)

Author: Chris Kennedy

Narrator: Craig Good

Price: $3.99 USD (Kindle Edition) & $1.99 USD (Audible Add On)

Obtained: I bought the story and audiobook combination from Amazon.

Pages: 432

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Rating: 5/5 Grenades

Summary:

First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel.  I wanted to provide a spoiler free review, so here goes nothing!  This novel carries on after Janissaries, the first novel in The Theogony Trilogy.  Lieutenant Commander Shawn ‘Calvin’ Hobbs and his special forces platoon just returned from a three-month mission to the stars.  The technology they brought back will help, but it won’t be enough to hold off the alien menace headed their way.  Although they returned alive, they returned without finding any new allies or help in building the fleet necessary to ensure the Earth’s survival.

They’ve got to go back out to the stars.

“When the Gods Aren’t Gods” is the second book in “The Theogony,” a trilogy that takes Lieutenant Commander Hobbs and his special forces platoon to the stars, where they have found out that there is much more to Earth’s history than is written in the history books!

What do you do when myths become reality, and nothing you have ever been taught about history turns out to be true?  How do you find the truth when everything you know is a lie?  What is there left to believe in, when even the gods aren’t gods?

 

Characters:

In this novel, we get more in depth with Shawn Hobbs, with the other characters in the series given secondary status.  This novel didn’t lose any of the characters that were awesome in the previous books in this universe, nor did Chris Kennedy didn’t sacrifice what made Occupied Seattle Duology awesome.  Calvin Hobbs was a flushed out, three-dimensional character that I thought was a lot of fun.  I felt like I could relate to him as a person, and was someone I would want to hang out with.  While we see most of the story through Hobb’s eyes, there was still plenty of red shirts and glorious death!  Like his previous novels, I was helped by my time in the service, because Chris used his military service color this science fiction military thriller.  Here is a brief summary of the main character.

Shawn “Calvin” Hobbs: He is a fighter pilot for the US Navy who becomes an instant war herp/celebrity once he got shot down during the opening salvo of the Sino America War.  He got involved with the resistance and ends up leading a small band of disenfranchised troopers in a war against the occupying force.  These actions caught the attention of the aliens spying on humanity, and end with him being requested to lead humanities efforts to assist their new alien allies.  In this book we follow him as he helps unify the Earth around the

Overall, I will give these characters 5 out of 5 Grenades and can’t wait to see where the author takes this character throughout this series!

 

Plot:

Like most of the military fiction I love to read, this was an action-packed novel.  The story is set in the post Sino American War world, after China invaded Seattle as a feint to keep the US from honoring our commitment to Taiwan.  Immediately after the war ends, aliens make contact with Earth.  We find out that most of Earths mythologies are actually aliens who visited humanity in its infancy and those who witnessed it and left told the stories of these “gods” to their people.  As part of the quest to find allies in the pending war against the Drakuls, Shawn Hobbs gets to meet these aliens.

The premise was interesting and the set-up was well executed.  We see a conclusion of the goal of a unified Earth and a one world government, which granted access to more bad assed advanced tech from the Psiclopes’s stranded on Earth.  Chris covered the needed political gamesmanship very well, with the required non-action scenes not bogging down the plot.  I would love to give some examples, but this is a spoiler free review!

With my military background, I thought the way the military was portrayed was credible.  Well, as much as we could say about futuristic tech!  On a happy note, this book ditched some of the aviation porn in favor of ground combat.  This was excellently handled, with tactics that fit the world Chris created.  I really loved the premise of this plot, and more importantly I enjoyed how he executed it.  I couldn’t ask for anything more; excellent premise, perfect execution and wonderful pacing!  I again give Chris 5 out of 5 Grenades!

 

World Building:

This is the second book in The Theogony Trilogy, and I’m still hooked on this world!  Like in the previous novel in this trilogy, this world was very flushed out.  I was especially pleased with the way Chris Kennedy handled the evolution from our current geopolitical status quo into the unified Terran Government created in this book.  The new Republic of Terra conversion was handled well, I was sold on the way it happened.  Even with a pending alien invasion, there was dissent and political gamesmanship.  The changes were believable, and there was no waving of the hands to address the realities of geopolitics at the international level.  There would be no panacea for the new world government, as each nation jockeyed for power.  Regardless, the novel built on the modern world and made his divergent path extremely plausible.  I give the world building 5 out of 5 Grenades.

 

Description:

Like the previous book, this novel was chalk full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world.  There were some scenes which were confusing, and difficult to envision, but like the last novel he balanced the explanation of the various military minutia with the need to move a story along.  There were very few places where I couldn’t picture the scenery and the equipment, which added to world that felt tangible and I enjoyed it.  He was, alas, a little light on the details of what the various characters looked like.  And he went overboard on the mythology and religion, which isn’t something I normally look for in my science fiction.  Overall, I give Chris 4 out of 5 grenades in this category!

 

Narration Quality:

Like the previous novels, this audiobook was excellently executed.  The narrator, Craig Good, did an amazing job narrating this book.  He didn’t bore you, or make you zone out because of his monotone.  His performance didn’t feel robotic, like a machine was reading the novel too me.  Instead, it felt like a friend was sitting with me reading an amazing story that he couldn’t put down.  This time the way Craig did the voices of the various characters had grown on me and kept me engaged throughout the periods I was listening to this book.  He must be growing on me?  You might notice that my review of his performance has been the same for his last three books, and it’s because he provides a steady and consistent performance.  Overall, I give him a 5 out of 5 grenades for his performance.

 

Overall:

I really loved this book, it made my drive very enjoyable and I was able to escape the multitude of bad drivers that littered the highways and die-ways.  With this book, I listened to all but a few chapters, which is a testament to the quality of the audiobook.

Like the previous book in this trilogy, the cover was amazingly invocative.  I love how the trilogy has a similar theme running through it, and picking military unit patches for the space marines definitely fit this book.  I could definitely see this on some swag!  The military culture shown in this book was spot on, even the ground combat.  Such accurate portrayal of the tactics is rare, especially when coming from a sailor like Chris Kennedy.  He wove the action in such a compelling way that you could almost forget that he was just a silly fly boy!  As for the military equipment, well it was a lot smoother than the previous novel.  None of the future tech was perfect, it didn’t always work and sometimes failed at the worst possible moments.  That is a good thing, as it adds realism to his novels!  As an additional plus, we got to play with his believable small unit tactics when the new Republic of Terra Space Marines were formed and used by Calvin Hobbs.  Basically, Chris had me hooked from the beginning, and kept it going throughout the whole novel.  I even stayed up to late, reading in the hotel bathroom once the kids went to bed!!  It’s an amazing adventure, a look into Chris’s twisted imagination, and leaves you wondering which grunt he bribed for the insight into how we think!  This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again.  Heck, I would even recommend that you buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money!

 

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out, you won’t regret it!  Well, unless it motivates you to squeeze your fat body into your old uniform and you die from the shock to your system.  And when you die, you end up in limbo, all alone.  And since you’re alone, you go insane from the solitude.  And in your insanity, you try to fly, but can’t.  Instead, you’re left merged with the asphalt you fell onto at your failed effort to recreate Kitty Hawk.  Stuck in the asphalt, your soul wastes away until there is no you left and you fade out just as Ragnarök begins.  Yeah, it would suck to miss that so maybe you should tread lightly!  Well yeah, I guess this could be bad for you.  But hey, at least you got to see eternity pass you by as you fade into nothing.  On second thought, be warned, fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you.  Be wary, you were warned and if you have to go out like that at least enjoy the view from up there!

 

 

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

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 Red Tide

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Chris Kennedy Book Reviews

Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m working on book four of The Sleeping Legion Series.  Full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes or something!  I will hold what I made in book three; loads of action, some surprises and a lot of exploding goodness.  Don’t believe me?  Operation Breakout is live!  Now I’m working on the last two novels in The Sleeping Legion Series and outlining my next project.  More of that to come soon!

 

But enough about me, onto this specific review.  Now let’s get to it! 

 

Title:  The Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle

Author:  Chris Kennedy

Narrator:  Craig Good

Price:  $3.99 USD (Kindle Edition) & $1.99 USD (Audible Add On)

Obtained:  I bought the story and audiobook combination from Amazon.

Pages:  290

 

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Rating:  5/5 Grenades

5 Grenade

 

 

Summary:

First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel.  I wanted to provide a spoiler free review, so here goes nothing!  This novel is a very Red Dawn-esq story of what it might look like if America was invaded.  In Chris Kennedy’s twisted imagination, China uses an attack on America to hide their campaign to reclaim Taiwan.  It works, and an unprepared America quickly loses the Pacific Northwest.  But despite how bloody things get, they can’t crack the will of the American people.  Will the United States get Seattle back?  It will, if a shot down F-18 pilot, a retired Navy SEAL, and a platoon of Army Rangers have anything to say about it.

 

 

Characters: 

While it seemed like there was no main character in this novel, there were three that we’re told to watch for on the books blurb.  So here goes a review of those people!

 

Shawn “Calvin” Hobbs: He is a fighter pilot for the US Navy who gets shot down during the opening salvo of the war and ends up leading a small band of disenfranchised troopers in a war against the occupying force.

 Ryan O’Leary: He is a retired US Navy SEAL who’s taken to the hermit lifestyle when an invasion of his home forces him back into the fight.  When Lieutenant Hobbs is shot down, he rushes to save him and together they take on the world.

Army Ranger Platoon: Just your average group of grunts who join in on the mayhem to resist the occupying forces.  The provide the troops that O’Leary and Hobbs lead into the mouth of the Chinese Dragon.

 

While the novel’s blurb says that these were main characters, it didn’t really feel that way.  There are too many characters popping in and out of this story, which meant I didn’t really get behind any of them.  This made it even more important for the premise of the story to be compelling, but Chris provided that.  The characters that were there felt hollow, because we only saw them briefly before they died.  I was helped by my time in the service, because it let me relate to the characters but I don’t know that someone without my background would get out of the characters what I did.  I will say, however, that even though there were too many characters to get close too I didn’t notice it until I sat down to write this review.  Because the pace of the story kept me hooked, and deprived me of sleep, I’ll give the author 4 out of 5 Grenades.

 

 

Plot: 

Like most of the military fiction I love to read, this was an action-packed novel.  The story is set in modern day Seattle and follows a series of events that lead to China invading as a feint to keep the US from honoring our commitment to Taiwan.  If you don’t know, the US has treaties with Taiwan that state America will defend the nation from China in the event of an attack.  It was an interesting set up and premise, which had shades of Red Dawn in it.  I loved Red Dawn, and consequently I loved this story.  With my military background, I thought the way the military was portrayed was credible.  I will say that the Chris Kennedy, a retired Naval Commander and fighter pilot, spent a lot of time addressing the air war.  I’m not qualified to judge those situations, but from the outside looking in it was credible, which is all I needed.  Why is the critique of the military in the “Plot” review section?  Because in a military fiction novel, the tactics are integral to the plot.  In this section, I give Chris 6 out of 5 Grenades!

 

 

World Building:

This is the second book I’ve read by Chris Kennedy, but I loved the first book written by him that I read so decided to give this one a chance.  Further, this novel had solid reviews so I was sold, and gave it a chance.  I wasn’t disappointed!  After this novel, I went and bought every one of his published novels.  This world was very flushed out, but it was set in the modern world so it had the advantage of the readers pre-existing world view.  Regardless, the novel built on the modern world and made his divergent path extremely plausible.  I can’t wait to read the rest of this series, and see where the war with the occupying forces in Chris’s world goes.  This novel has been placed in the science fiction section on Amazon, but in the first book in this duology we see none of it.  Other than that one complaint, it was a great book and I can’t wait to read the second book in this series, [Occupied Seattle].  I give the world building 5 out of 5 Grenades.

 

 

Description: 

This book was chalk full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world.  However, in some places Chris went a little over board with the explanation of the various military minutia.  Maybe this is because I already know about some of this and don’t particularly care about military aviation?  Others might have a different opinion here?  Regardless, these flaws didn’t distract from the book to such a degree that I wouldn’t finish the series.  While parts of it were a flop for me, I still give Chris a B+++ in this category!

 

 

Narration Quality:

The narrator, Craig Good, did an amazing job narrating this book.  He didn’t bore you, or make you zone out because of his monotone.  His performance didn’t feel robotic, like a machine was reading the novel too me.  Instead, it felt like a friend was sitting with me reading an amazing story that he couldn’t put down.  The voices of the various characters were cheesy and wonky, but overall it kept me engaged throughout the periods I was listening to this book.  I would give him a 4 out of 5 grenades for his explosive performance.  The only reason it wasn’t a 5 Grenade experience was the lack of voice acting for the various characters.

 

 

Overall:

I really loved this book, though the head popping was a bit jarring.  However, this wasn’t really an issue for me because the story was so engaging that I couldn’t put it down.  This novel was awesomely written and the cover was amazingly invocative.  The military culture shown in this book was spot on, especially the nicknames, even though the author laid it on a bit thick.  Again, with such a compelling story you won’t notice!  As for the military equipment, well it was like a Naval Aviators porno, the amount of details given but I was able to skim over these details so I could enjoy the action in this story.  Basically, Chris had me hooked from the beginning, and kept it going throughout the whole novel.  It’s an amazing adventure, a look into Chris Kennedy’s twisted imagination, and leaves you wishing that his therapist had a therapist.  This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again.  Heck, I would even recommend that you buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money!

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out, you won’t regret it!  Well, unless it motivates you to squeeze your fat body into your old uniform and you die from the shock to your system.  And when you die, you end up in limbo, all alone.  And since you’re alone, you go insane from the solitude.  And in your insanity, you try to fly, but can’t.  Instead, you’re left merged with the asphalt you fell onto at your failed effort to recreate Kitty Hawk.  Stuck in the asphalt, your soul wastes away until there is no you left and you fade out just as Ragnarök begins.  Yeah, it would suck to miss that so maybe you should tread lightly!  Well yeah, I guess this could be bad for you.  But hey, at least you got to see eternity pass you by as you fade into nothing.  On second thought, be warned, fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you.  Be wary, you were warned!  And if you have to go out like that, at least enjoy the view from up there!

 

 

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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Marine Monday: Kaden Roy

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Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  Things are great here, my new novelette No Marine Left Behind will be released on Amazon on the 29th.  I’ll be at RavenCon at the end of April if anyone is going to be around.  Not on any panels, I’ll just be a guest like you.  If you see me around, don’t be afraid to say hi or throw rotten tomatoes or something.

 

So on to our regularly scheduled Marine Monday! Today I was leaked, by our friendly neighborhood LegionLeak source, the official bio of Marine Kaden Roy.  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!

 

Kayden Roy 1Kaden Roy 2Kaden Roy 3

 

Hopefully you enjoyed this sneak peek into a certain special Marine’s official record.  If you did, stay tuned for next weeks as we anxiously wait for the latest documents smuggled our way!

 

 

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

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Book Review: Exigency

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  I’m currently outlining Maternal Vengeance, the fourth novel in my Sleeping Legion Series.  I wanted to take a second away from that to share my review of the last novel I read, and recommend it!  Tomorrow I will have a new World Building Wednesday, and I’ll share some super exciting news with you!  Nothing else has changed on my end, so I won’t bore your brain buckets with gobbledygook.  Instead, let’s jump right into the nuts and bolts of the story.

 

Title: Exigency

Author: Michael Siemsen

Price: $3.99 USD

Obtained: Bought on Amazon on the recommendation of a friend

Pages: 440

 

Exigency Book CoverExigency

 

Rating: 4/5 Grenades

4 Grenade

 

Summary:

This novel tells the story of several scientists, who travel light years on a one-way trip to an Earth-like planet.  Their mission was to study the two species of intelligent lifeforms on the surface from their orbital station.  One of the species was an isolated people embarking on civilization and building their world’s first city.  The other species was a brutal race of massive predators, spreading across the dominant landmass.  The scientists believe this species is destined to breed and eat their way to extinction within a few centuries.  After almost a decade of observation, disaster struck the orbiting station and only two crewmembers eject successfully.  Drifting down through a dark alien sky, the pair realizes their escape pod launched not toward the safety of the city, but to the other side of the planet.  They ultimately touch down deep inside a land no human could possibly survive.

 

Characters:

There were many secondary characters, but I’ll limit my review to the two main ones.  The characters were exactly what I would expect from a group of scientists, but that meant they weren’t necessarily as likeable or personable.  The author does get credit for their believability, but much of this is to be expected from this sub-genre of science fiction.  Overall, the character development was one of the two reasons this was a 4 Grenade book for me, instead of a 5.

 

Minerva (Minnie): She was, hands down, the main point of view character and John was her supporting cast.  She has been diagnosis with HSPD, some new psychotic condition that forces her to remain on medicine to maintain her sanity.  Why would you send someone like this into space?  I don’t know, because the author never told us.  She was whiny, annoying and I didn’t really like her but I didn’t want her to die either.  She was well rounded, not very likeable, and shouldn’t have been anywhere near a space exploration mission.  She was believable, as a character, but I kept yelling “Why isn’t she back on Earth?”

 

John: This character was very thought out, although he came off as a bit too perfect for my tastes.  The usual “Mr. Awesome,” who sails through life until Thing X in the story requires divergence from his life’s trajectory.  He was strong at times many would have broken down, and I didn’t feel like we had enough back story to justify his actions.  Overall, it wouldn’t have bothered me if he got struck by lightning and tied.

 

Plot:

The story was disjointed at times, though I can’t tell you how without ruining the plot.  It was high octane on the drama, an even mix of internal angst and outside forces.  Though, if strange aliens wanted to eat you, you’d be pretty angst ridden as well so I can’t fault that artistic choice.  While I did think it was disjointed, the novel was easy enough to follow so that might just be a personal preference on my part.  And for all its faults, which might not be flaws for some people, the story kept me riveted.  I couldn’t put it down, even as I wanted to throw Minnie off a cliff!  I read this in just under two days, which is pretty quick for me.  Again, other than the character development, this was a solid plot that was well written.

 

World Building:

This was another area where the author excelled!  The world was vivid, I could imagine all of it and I wanted to see it on the big screen.  The world was fleshed out, and totally believable for the circumstances.  I could envision myself fighting the Hynka and dealing with the more advanced Threck.  The strange colors and toxic environment would be fun to visit, like an alien safari!  But obviously, only if we were well stocked and had food and water for the entire trip!  I have nothing to say here, this was a solid 5 Grenades.

 

Description:

The author also got this right, the descriptions were spot on, and added to the desperate vibe the unwittingly unintentional colonists were enduring.  I would love to go into more details, but I strive for spoiler free reviews.  Overall, if this is ever made into a movie the script writers won’t have to worry about imagining things because Michael Siemsen gave them what they needed!  Another 5 Grenades for this category!

 

 

Overall:

In an effort to be fully transparent, I half listened and half read this novel.  Whysper Sync I think it’s called?  Some books are better suited for that, a lesson that I learned with this book.  The audio narration WAS superbly done, since I brought it up.  Heck, I wouldn’t mind if Julia Whelan wanted to narrate my books, I certainly wouldn’t say no!  If you love audiobooks, give Julia and Podium Publishing a shot, they’ve seem to figure out the magic formula.  While I gave the book 4 Grenades, the audio narration gets 5!  One of my main issues, aside from the characters, was the use of alien languages.  I get it, you want to show your world building and how things are different but if you invent translation programs in your world, we don’t need to bog us down with the language.  Move on, tell the story!  However, the story and the plot is something the author got right!  If I rated the plot separately, he would have a solid 6 Grenades out of 5, it’s that good!  If you like science fiction, with some of the science on full display, you need to buy this book!  Heck, give the audio book a listen as well!

 

 

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 your boss fires you, because you became a book addict and a rabid Michael Siemsen fan.  Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT leave you starving.  Then again, it COULD be one heck of a weight loss plan!  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 screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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SciFy Shenanigans: Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

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Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing amazing, trying to be more disciplined in my outline for Maternal Vengeance, hoping it pays dividends in the amount of time it takes to write. I’ve also started some of the editorial reviews for Operation Breakout, which should be out ‘soon.’  I’ll have you a date once Boss Man decides when we’re going to publish it.  Stay tuned, or join my mailing list for regular updates.

 

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!  Here goes nothing!

 

As I’ve mentioned, I created 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 not 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!

 

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?

My name’s Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. I’m a 25-year-old writer and a data scientist from Sri Lanka. For the past two years I’ve been working on a very Orwellian novel, tentatively titled This is Society. Some elements of this are actually going to come true in this decade (they’ve already started). In the past, I’ve designed and programmed games, built news media properties, covered tech as a journalist, even worked retail selling custom gaming rigs…I’ve dabbled in quite a few things, most of them involving tech and wordsmithing.

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/yudhanjaya

Twitter: @yudhanjaya

Blog(s) www.numbercaste.com | www.icaruswept.com

 

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

I’m entirely self-taught. I’ve put my 10,000 hours into writing, and I take courses online – everything from data science at Johns Hopkins to Greek myth from Upenn. There’s really nothing you can’t learn with a proper online learning model.

 

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 almost anything except romance, but I’d have to say fantasy, sci-fi and biographies. I initially started reading biographies to understand how to convey detail about a person, and for a long while I found that I would default to interview mode when writing something – even the current novel was written from the point of view of a journalist exploring his subject. It’s a dance I’m familiar with.

 

Who are your biggest writing influences?

I’m not entire sure. People who read my work sometimes say I have a touch of Terry Pratchett about my words, but I’d be deluded to compare myself to his magic. I’d count Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Dianna Wynne Jones (Chrestomanci, Howl’s Moving Castle), Stephen King (Dark Tower, the Stand, Christine) and Sol Stein as my influences. I’ve certainly made a conscious effort to pattern myself after their advice.

 

Who are your favorite authors and books?

Terry Pratchett – the entire Discworld series. I really can’t pick. Okay, maybe Night Watch, Going Postal, Small Gods and Reaper Man.

Dan Simmons – Hyperion. Few books – especially sci-fi – can come close to Hyperion for me. It’s a very philosophical novel, with equal parts science and religion, and the narrative structure is genius.

Stephen KingWizard and Glass. It’s everything every fantasy book tries to be. It’s grand, it’s surreal, it’s dystopian beyond measure, and it still breaks your heart a little bit before the end.

Phillip Pullman – I read His Dark Materials as a child. To this day I cannot think of the Christian heaven without thinking of Pullman’s version of Heaven and of humans laying siege to it. It’s perhaps the finest alternate reality ever written, because Lyra’s worlds seem so close, and yet so different from our own.

Daniel Mason the Piano Tuner I credit for my obsession with the Ulysses myth.

Dante Aligheri – the Inferno. It’s a masterful work, not just of imagination, but political commentary.

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

Gormenghastby Mervyn Peake for the sheer gothic beauty, scope and invention.

Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Matthew – by Shehan Karunatilake, a Sri Lankan author, and I’ve never read a book that captured the essence of Sri Lanka as well as this.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I find that almost of today’s quack wisdom was essentially plagiarized from the last great emperor of Rome.

Watchmen by Alan Moore, for looking at the dark underbelly of the superhero myth.

 

What is your preferred writing style?

First-person.

 

When did you get serious about your writing?

When I was about fifteen, I believe. Like every other naïve writer, I sat down and thought right, I’m going to create my epic. My magnum opus.

The result is a 130,000 word monster that sits on my desk as a testament to how not to write. It swung widely between sci-fi and fantasy, between chapter-long descriptions of cities and the hero going through a stupid amount of existential angst. I showed it to some publishers but they all laughed me away, which, in hindsight, was a good thing. It’s got some good ideas in it, but I need to take a blowtorch to it before it’s decent.

The good thing is that built up my writing discipline to the point where I could crank out regular articles and blog, and by the time I was done with school I was already known for my blogging and had a few journalism gigs lined up. I basically just made a career out of writing, and with the tech I drifted into working for a Silicon Valley middleware company.

About two years ago, I decided it was time to shelve the 1000-word sprints and go for the marathon, as it were, so every Saturday and Sunday I’d lock myself in my room and write.

 

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

It’s called This is Society. It’s about a startup that figures out how to any human’s socioeconomic worth and standing in the social ladder, and sort of starts selling this as a very utopian, very Silicon Valley dream. And it’s really about how things change when you start quantifying people this way.

It’s not far out. I believe we’re already heading this way. The average degree of separation is now down to 3.1 (from 6). And we voluntarily share personal information to the point of being George Orwell’s wet dream – good data analysts can now predict your preferences better than your friends can (Click Here). As Yual Noah Harari pointed out, we’ll get to the point where Google might even be able to choose who you should marry – and because of the data it has on each person, it’ll know better than you yourself can.

 

Where did you find the inspiration for This is Society?

A combination of things. 1984. David Egger’s the Circle. And Experian, a company which does credit checking; after reading up on it, I realized that there really is this vast, multi-billion dollar industry, this empire that specializes in turning people into numbers, and it’s not just Facebook or Google. And it’s part of my job – and interests – to keep an eye on social media and search algorithms and developments, so after a while everything sort of started fusing in my head.

And on one fine day, I was sitting at a startup event at a café in Colombo. Entpreneurs entrepener’d. Investors sort of floated around the background. When two of the species met, they’d size each other up, trying to see how important this new person was. Who did they know? Where did they go to school? Everything clicked then. Not the whole plot, but the premise, the beginning and the end. The characters emerged from the story.

 

Your characters from This is Society are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins? 

That would be Julius Common. He wouldn’t fight, but he’ll bribe the guys opposite him, get them to attack the stadium, and end up buying the entire business.

 

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

Silence is gold. A close second would be Ludovico Einaudi.

 

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?

It’s either how to make napalm or Silicon Valley homeless. The searches were quite close together, so….

 

What was your favorite part of writing This is Society?

Learning. To write Society I threw into learning mode. It initially started with me studying the blockchain, and eventually it became a daily habit – listen to a podcast, read a couple of articles, go through two books a week – it’s really become this self-sustaining habit that’s been incredibly useful to me, not just in writing, but as a person.

 

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from [Book Name]?

Mahershala Ali. Did you see his performance as Cottonmouth in Luke Cage? And Vincent d’ Onofrio, because that is Julius Common down to a T.

 

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

Well, I have my day job, so I structure my writing around it. Weekdays are spent taking notes, brainstorming, drawing out plot lines. On Saturday and Sunday I sit from 5 am to 5 pm and write, take a break, and polish what I’ve written from 8 till 10 or so. On average this produces around 4000 good words a week.

 

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

No. I tried that and, while it undoubtedly works for a lot of famous writers, I just end up producing bloated drivel. Instead I try to get chunks of the story done per week.

 

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 always have an idea of who they are, as in background detail, but once I get into the meat of the writing I find myself thinking ‘no, she wouldn’t do that,’ or ‘that’s not like him.’ And I end up pruning and tweaking back and forth until the characters themselves are different to what I imagine. Julius, for example, started out as a thin, obsessed neurotic before I decided that wasn’t working. And Patrick Udo, who is the main character, was always black, but initially a seasoned journalist; now he’s a marketer. People change.

 

If This is Society had a theme song what would it be?

‘Don’t get in my wayby Zack Hemsey.

 

This is Society 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 Julius Common. Not only is he the centerpiece of the story, but he’s also the most complex. He genuinely believes that he is making the world better. He is the hero of his own story.

 

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

Read Sol Stein on Writing.

Write.

Read William Zinsser on writing.

Write.

Find friends who will clap if you produce something good, and not just if you produce something.

Write.

Write wherever you are and whatever you do. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions – we all dream of that lovely writer’s cottage with the golden sunlight and all of that, but in reality, that’s a reward, not the fuel. The laptop and your own bed works fine. Use a computer, because despite the charming image of the writer hammering away at his typewriter, there’s really nothing more convenient than to be able to cut, splice and revise at will.

 

 

I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Yudhanjaya, then follow the rabbit trail to their warren in the internet (www.icaruswept.com)!  If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!

 

 

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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World Building Wednesday: Background Noise

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Hey Space Cadets, hope everyone is doing awesome!  I’ve finished my short stories and am outlining my fourth novel in the Sleeping Legion Series today.  Should be a barrel full of laughs, if by barrel you mean massive body counts.  And if by laughs, you mean manically!  Operation Breakout was high action and Maternal Vengeance will kick it up a notch!  Speaking of high octane, the

 

ddshort story I’m co-writing with Corey D. Truax will be kick ass as well!  Can’t wait to be able to share it with you, but until then let’s rise above that noise and get on with it!

 

For today’s World Building Wednesday, we shall talk about background noise.  See what I did there in that last paragraph?  LOL!!  Okay, in all seriousness I wanted to talk about the use of background noise in your writing.  Nothing too long and drawn out, just a brief discussion.  I’m personally split on this one.  With the use of my Dragon to dictate I can’t have background noise, but I don’t write with just the Dragon.  I still write some scenes the ‘old fashion way,’ especially the more nuanced or complicated ones.  For these scenes, I pick my music to help me create a mood.

 

So, for generic scenes I’m struggling with I like to use playlists of ambient sounds to keep my mind actively engaged.  Nature sounds, campfires and the like.  I’ve also found a few science fiction based ambient noise sites to help get me in the mood for my genre fiction. Sometimes, if I’m feeling lonely I’ll listen to a coffee shop or library soundtrack for my ambient noise.  I will also listen to classical music and any other instrumental to keep the hamster spinning on his wheels.  One place where I found a collection of mood setting sites was on author Kim Chance‘s blog.  Check it out for some really helpful links.  And of course, there is YouTube.

 

When I just need intense emotions, I’ve been known to listen to music that gets the blood pumping.  Sweet beats, kick ass vocals, anything to set the stage for literary awesomeness.  Depending on the mood of the scene, I can listen to ballads, country, folk and anything else light.  When I want action and adventure, I’ll switch to rock-in-roll and heavy metal.  This works when writing the combat scenes, when you want the blood to boil and heads to roll.  Have you used any of these?  Do you have some good ambient noises to suggest?  Then throw a man a bone, leave a comment below!

 

 

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 images owned by JR Handley.

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