Playing with Legos

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Hello Space Cadets, how are you today?  I’m doing good and going through my interweb folders and finding older posts that nobody read.  I want to bring them into the light of day now that this is a real blog, so bear with me.  This was my fourth post, so climb with me into the wayback machine and let’s go!  I won’t even edit the errors, so you can see how far we’ve come!

 

Beep, bop, boop, beep…..

 

Looking back in time!

 

Today I was, in fact, playing with Legos.  My wife came home to find me playing with Legos after a long hard day at work housewifing.  Naturally she was curious, as there was real work to be done.  Dishes to be washed, Christmas presents to be wrapped, good ole fashioned adulting.  My answer was simple, “I’m building sand-tables.”  What are sand-tables you ask?  Well, they are places where you use sand that can be molded to accurately represent the topography of a specific battlefield.  Basically, you use a sandbox to plan your battles.  When I used this in Army ROTC, we sometimes even used little green army men!  I seem to remember those little troopers being the same color my face turned after I ate my first MRE!!!  I am using Legos (as well as army men, yay!) for this purpose, allowing me to plan out a battle that makes sense and can be clearly explained.  Hopefully this means I write better battle scenes, but at a minimum this helps me clarify things in my own head.  That’s an important factor if I’m going to tell that story to my audience.  Let’s just say she wasn’t convinced, but finally my puppy dog eyes paid off.

 

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

brown_bess

JR

 

–> This image is under available under the free creative commons and was originally posted to Flickr.com.  It was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 15:22, 25 July 2007 (UTC) by Ranveig (talk). On that date it was licensed under the license linked to above.

World Building Wednesday: Sand Tables

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Without further adieu, my masterpiece!

 

My Sand Table

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LEGEND:

Cups: Akoni Mountains

Green Sponges: Dense forests

Brown Building Blocks: Old Government Tower and Akoni City

Blue Paper: Water Features; Dynia River and Lake Charon

 

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

 

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

brown_bess

JR

 

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

 

Space Dock Interview

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Hello Space Cadets! Today, I wanted to offer you a gift in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season.  Don’t worry, it’s not a fruitcake.  It’s an interview with Paul P. Corcoran. Paul works at the publishing house, Tickety Boo Press, and their science fiction imprint, Space Dock.  I know most of my readers are also writers, so here is a chance to learn from a successful author and discover the publishing house that might print your next big idea!

 

To help you appreciate why I chose to interview him, let me tell you more about Paul.  He is the author of the Amazon best-selling Saiph novels, a military veteran, and has been appointed as Acquisitions Editor of Tickety Boo Press’s Space Dock imprint.  He is ideally suited to running Space Dock – not only has he served in the military in various roles, including security and intelligence, but his knowledge of the military and his love of Science Fiction have already combined into becoming a full-time career as a writer of action-packed SciFi.

 

On a more personal note, Paul is very willing to mentor new writers (though he likely regrets accepting my friend request!) through his social media presence.  He’s an overall decent fella, the kind you’d enjoy doing business with.

 

 

 

INTERVIEW:

 

JR:    Where did your company name come from? To my American ears, Tickety Boo sounds like an odd word.

Paul:  Tickety Boo is most definitely an odd word. In normal conversation, it refers to ‘things being OK’, however, in this context I had to ask the founder of Tickety Boo Press, Gary Compton, what it referred to.  It turns out that Gary is a big fan of a Scottish comedian called Billy Connolly whose production company went by the name of Tickety Boo, so in effect Gary stole, or should I say borrowed, the name in homage to Billy.

 

JR:    I’d like to talk about your work as the Acquisitions Editor of Space Dock. How did you come to this position?

Paul:  It happened rather oddly. I was in contact with Gary in early 2016 in relation to publishing my own work through his press, which led to several long conversations about my process for self-publishing the Saiph series and how I kept the various books in the Amazon listings for so long. At some point Gary asked if I could do the same with other good quality work, to which I foolishly answered, yes! Gary then asked me to take on the role of Acquisitions Editor of Space Dock, which I accepted in September 2016 and I’ve been hard at it ever since! I’ve filled Space Dock’s publishing schedule for the whole of 2017 already, but, I’m undeterred and I’m always on the lookout for more authors to join the Space Dock family. (Get in touch, People!)

 

JR:    You’re an author, with several successful novels under your belt. Tell us about your works and how your writing pulled you into the publication business.

Paul:  Well, as you know I’ve only been writing for a couple of years and I don’t have the advantage of any formal writing training. But, I’ve been an avid reader and fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember. A few years back I noticed the book market was flooded with very similar military sci-fi plots, I thought I could write something that I thought was missing – an epic ‘origins’ space opera – and I outlined what later became my first novel, Discovery of the Saiph. The story really developed itself, the basic premise is that the crew of the first faster-than-light ship discover a buried library from a long dead alien race called the Saiph, hence the title of the series. As I reached the 80,000-word mark of my first novel I realized that I couldn’t squeeze my whole story into one book and, before I knew it, my original outline turned into a four-book series! I was lucky enough to reach #1 in several of the Amazon bestseller lists with the series and even managed to slip in to Amazon’s Top 100 Science Fiction Authors for a short time.  The success of the Saiph series has been unexpected and amazing! I’ve been privileged enough to be able to give up my day job and write full time and to start on my new series, The K’Tai War.

Planned as a trilogy, the K’Tai series views interstellar war from different angles. While epic fleet engagements rule, I’ve thrown a more personal perspective into the mix with the Carters, who appear to be a run-of-the-mill family caught in the middle of an alien invasion of their planet Agate. But, the Carters have a secret past, which they thought they’d left behind, now, they must use all their skills to ensure their family survives. Without revealing too much of the plot, the K’Tai Imperium has its own problems and what they thought would be a quick invasion becomes much more… You’re going to have to read it if you want to know more, LOL.

Now, you’ve also asked me how I got into the publishing business. The answer is quite simple. I had no idea of the existence of agents or publishers.  My wife pointed out that I could self-publish on Amazon (whatever that meant!), so, I set about learning. I found myself an editor, with good reviews, from the internet. My wife, who has an art degree and is a computer geek, learned how to create book covers, format eBooks and print books and, before I knew it, I had a finished book and it was on sale worldwide, courtesy of Amazon.

This sounds pretty much like every other self-publisher, however, I quickly realized that getting your book onto Amazon was the easy bit. Finding a readership and keeping them is a whole other ball game. I knew very little about marketing, never mind marketing books, but I came across the brilliant advice of Joanna Penn. I’m not affiliated in any way, I simply think her website is packed full of great advice and mostly free.

After researching The Creative Penn and other similar websites, I discovered there was such a thing as eBook advertising, Amazon algorithms, SEOs and keywords. So, with the help of my wife, we devised a marketing plan and to our great surprise it worked! The Saiph series hit the bestseller lists and remained in the top 100 for many months, shortly after this Tantor Media contacted me through my website (just shows how important an author website is!) and they bought the audio rights for the complete Saiph series and the K’Tai War trilogy.

It was only after all of this had happened that I realized that if I could do this for myself then I could do it for others. Therefore, when Gary Compton came along with the offer of Acquisitions Editor for Space Dock I jumped at the chance. And voila! I am now involved in publishing.

 

JR:    As the Acquisitions Editor of Space Dock, what are you looking for in submissions?

Paul:  A good story. One that gets me hooked in the first ten percent. Why ten percent? Simple, Amazon allows you to read the first ten percent of any book free so if that ten percent doesn’t have the reader hooked then they’re not going to buy.

 

JR:    How do you decide which books to sign and which ones to pass on?

Paul:  Unlike traditional publishers, I don’t demand cover letters with bio’s and the like, I’m much more interested in the story and if you have a good story, you are most of the way there. I’m notoriously hard to please in terms of sci-fi stories, and I know if I like the story then other readers will too.

Also, unlike traditional publishers, I actively seek authors and I’ve found Facebook to be a great resource for doing that. I’ve met interesting authors and read fantastic works from people I’ve met on Facebook. I particularly love the flash fiction competition run by the Space Opera Writers page. (It’s a closed group for SF writers.)  I’ve found outstanding stories here and have even signed an author or two!

I have found, though, that there are authors who are a little too ‘precious’ about their work. By this I mean that they are reluctant to make changes to their work so it is more commercial, or to fit into a specific genre a little better. I, as an author, have learned that to make a living as an author, I have to appeal to my readers and it might mean changing my writing. In terms of publishing, if an author is not willing to do the same then I have to walk away.

There are also those authors who, after writing a great story, expect the publisher to do everything else for them. In my eyes the publisher has responsibilities to market and sell the book. However, the author also needs to be involved in actively seeking publicity and for building their own following. If I don’t get a sense of this ambition from an author, I won’t sign them.

In essence, all I’m looking for is a good sci-fi story and an author who is willing to work at building their readership.

 

JR:    What types of publishing do you offer? (Tradition Publishing, Co-Publishing, Self-Publishing)

Paul:  Space Dock is primarily an eBook publisher whose major market is Amazon. Space Dock will provide cover design, editing, formatting, advertising and marketing opportunities. Books we publish will be available as eBooks, paperback and even limited edition hard covers.  In this day and age, however, the publishing lines are becoming blurred and in my view Space Dock are taking on more of an ‘agent’ role. We are able to offer the sale of audiobook rights to our contacts in market leaders Audible and Tantor Media, or use our in-house production team to produce the audiobook.

In the near future, Space Dock hopes to move into the field of foreign rights and give our authors the opportunity to have their books translated and selling worldwide. I have successfully secured contracts for my own work in Spanish, Portuguese and I’m making inroads in the Chinese market.  I am actively researching how to do this on a larger scale for all authors signed to Space Dock.

Our focus is author success, to that end we will encourage authors to build a relationship with their readers, if an author doesn’t already have a website Space Dock will build one for them, free of charge. We will also provide a dedicated Author Page on the Space Dock website.

In terms of self-publishing, Space Dock’s parent company, Tickety Boo Press, offers various self-publishing services to authors which can be found on their website.

 

JR:  What sub-genres of science fiction do you prefer?

Paul:  My personal preference is military science fiction, however, whenever I began receiving submissions for Space Dock, I discovered I enjoyed all kinds of sci-fi sub genres,  as I eluded to earlier, if I receive a good story then I will not say no because it doesn’t fit into military SF. Space Dock’s 2017 publishing schedule bears this out, as you will find everything from dystopian to time travel to military to near fantasy.

 

JR:  How does someone submit to Space Dock?

Paul:  Simple. You email me at paul.corcoran@ticketyboopress.co.uk with the word ‘submission’ in the subject line. Attach a synopsis and the first three chapters and I will get back to you when I have read it. How easy is that?

 

JR:  After an author has signed with you, and the novel is done with the last editing pass, what do you expect of your authors?  What part of the process do you cover?

Paul:  Space Dock will publicize the author and their work on social media platforms, blogs etc., we’ll arrange regular advertising and organize interviews, however, in the modern world that is not enough. Space Dock expects their authors to use social media, their friends and family, fellow authors and anyone else they know to let the world know about their book.

 

JR:  What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Paul:  It depends on the author’s goals. If your ambition is to simply publish a quality book, then get it edited or at least proof read and publish it on Amazon, Smashwords or Draft2Digital. For me Amazon has the biggest reach. If you publish with KDP Select your book is available for sale and for borrowing. Don’t produce your own cover, unless you are a designer in your day job! You will need a decent cover and there are many cover designers online who are low-cost and look out for pre-made cover offers which may fit your book exactly. If your goal is to self-publish and sell books to make a living, then you need: a great book, well edited and proof read, a great book cover (don’t, I repeat, don’t produce one yourself, unless as I said earlier you are a designer), a marketing plan and a small advertising budget. You will also need to work hard at promoting yourself, building an email list and a following on your social media of choice, whether it’s a blog, Facebook, twitter, Instagram or a forum. Also, be prepared to approach audio publishers or translators to sell your audio and translation rights or to get them produced. The other option is to come to Space Dock and we’ll help you along your way, LOL. Just kidding! … no really…

 

If this convinced you to find out more, look Paul Corcoran and Space Dock up here:

Space Dock

Paul Corcoran

paul.corcoran@ticketyboopress.co.uk

paul@ppcorcoran.com

 

I hope you all had a great time getting to know about one of the United Kingdom’s newest publishing house!  Don’t be afraid to say hello here or on their own website.  They’re always quick to respond when not searching slush piles for the next big thing!  And for proof of their ability to handle a stressed-out author, Paul is friends with little ol’ me!  Quick, give that man a medal!!

 

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.

Beta Reading Recon Team

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Hello Space Cadets, do you yearn for action and adventure?  Does your soul beg to shake free from the shackles of Mother Earth?  Do you love reading, diving into fictional universes and then discussing it in depth?  Basically, there’s a call out for all of the Geeks, Nerds, Fan boys/Fan girls and all around science fiction fanatics.  If this sounds like you, and you want to help an author launch his debut novel, head on over and join the Legionnaires!!  Be a part of the adventure, shape it and mold it until it is a piece of literary perfection that Heinlein would be proud of!  🙂

 If you want to join the recon teams, you need to first join the Legion, which you can do here.  You can then discuss your thoughts on the BattleNet, but you don’t need to do so to chat away.  You can find join the discussion here.

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

Introducing the Human Legion Universe

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Hello Space Cadets, today is my inaugural Marine Monday where I slowly introduce you to the world in which I’ll be writing in.  I stole the concept from Corey over at QuintessentialEditor, who does is weekly Wasteland Wednesday where he sells up his post-apocalyptic world!  Grab some popcorn with him, cause you’ll love the show!  Now, back to your newly scheduled program! 

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In honor of my first Marine Monday, I wanted to introduce you to my favorite world!  I was such a fan that I was invited to write in it!  If you’ve read any of my posts, you’ll know that I’ve mentioned that my first set of novels will be written in the Human Legion Universe.  This is a series of novels written by author Tim C. Taylor centering around the lives of post-Earth humans. Their ancestors were given away as children, in return for protection from outside alien incursions. By giving up a million 5-year old humans, whose descendants would be trained into the fighting arm of their new overlords, Earth would become a White Knight client state.  This relationship made Earth off limits to other species in the Trans-Species Union.  If you are looking to understand these excellent works, I’d summarize them as Starship Troopers meets Soldiers, the 1998 cult classic starring Kurt Russell.  The characters are raised/brainwashed from young kids to be nothing but killers, super soldiers, members of the Human Marine Corps.  This book ranges from small-scale rebellion through to epic space battles… from teenage infatuation to the tragedy of doomed love… and everywhere with dark conspiracies that threaten the existence of humanity, the Human Legion’s fight for freedom has been a hit with science fiction readers worldwide. In its first year, the series earned hundreds of five-star reviews, sold 70,000 copies, and hit the #1 bestseller spots for military science fiction and space opera in the US and elsewhere.  Since then the fandom has only grown! Find out more on Tim’s site and give it a go.  I highly recommend it!

 

Don’t believe me, try it out!  If this sounds interesting, and it should because it is awesome, then go get a copy for yourself!  You won’t regret it!

 

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

brown_bess

JR

PS: Tim has a short story available for free right now!  Check out The Meandering Mayhem of Thogron Throatbiter and enjoy an awesome ride!

The Meandering Mayhem of Thogron Throatbiter (a short story) by [Taylor, Tim C.]

–> The first image is the wholly owned work of Tim C. Taylor and any use of said image must be with permission.  He’s a reasonable chap, ask and he might work with ya!!  😉

–> The second image was a screen capture from Tim’s Human Legion webpage, used with his permission.

–> The last image is from Google’s “labeled for re-use” section of the Creative Commons. 

Shenanigans and Updates

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Hello Space Cadets, how is everyone doing?  I’m well, so is my grandmother!  Thank you, truly, to everyone who sent their happy thoughts into the ethos for my Grandma Handley, it meant a lot.  As a quick update, I should (fingers crossed) have the new look for my website up within the week.  Once it is up, I will let everyone know what is going on with that.  We should seamlessly merge it into this page, since I bought the domain and a premium account from WordPress.  If it doesn’t work as planned, I will direct everyone where to go… but I hope it isn’t necessary.

Here is a quick look at where I want my blog to go.  While I work on getting my professional looking blog and a few articles in every category cued up, I will continue on as I have been.  I have to coordinating with the authors I hope to interview, prepare the questions I want to ask and generally be prepared so I don’t look like a boot recruit.  If any of you have any general questions for the warrior authors or the family series, post them in the comments!

  1. Marine Monday’s: A series of world building from the Human Legion Universe, to include my own Sleeping Legion.
  2. World Building Wednesdays: A series of posts on my writing process, not necessarily the right or best way, just my way.  Dang, now I want some Burger King!
  3. Family Fridays Interview Series: A series of interviews with other writers, editors, agents and anyone else involved in the wild world of books.  The focus will be on how we manage our passion for the written word and our duties to our kinfolk.
  4. Warrior Writer Weekend Interview Series: A series of interviews with veterans who write, edit or have any other role within the wild world of books.  I will try to publish these on Saturday, but the guarantee is that it will post on a weekend!  I want to highlight their service, reflect upon how it has influenced or affected their works and get all fanboy over their stuff!  There could be overlap, as many veterans who write also have families, but the focus here will be their service and writing.
  5. Funny Fill Ins: Basically, I’ll keep the witty and humorous bent that I’ve had so far.  If it doesn’t fit into another category I will post it on a Tuesday, Thursday or on an open weekend day.  I will also post any reblogs on these days as well.

 

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

Image result for musketsJR

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

When Novellas Grow Up

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When Novellas grow up to become Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JR

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