The Odera Chronicles

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JR Handley Blog HeaderHey Space Cadets, how is everyone on this fine day?  I’m doing well, and wanted to bring you my news!  My former editor, Corey D Truax, and I have signed our next series with a small publishing house, Theogony Publishing.  This umbrella publishing house is a part of the larger and more dynamic Chris Kennedy Publishing.  Corey and I scoped him out together, in a totally non-stalker kind of way, and liked how he operated. He’s professional, and another veteran of America’s Armed Forces. I think Corey liked that he was a sailor too, but I forgive them both for their imperfections

So, what to say about The Odera Chronicles without giving too much away?  This story tells the tale of Alexis Monroe, one of the first female infantrymen in the US Army. Alexis was an only child, her dad was a Seabee and veteran of the wars in Mesopotamia. After her mother died, it was just the two of them, so she became the son he wanted. Alexis strove to please him and honed her inner tomboy. Shortly after she graduated college, females were being allowed to join the combat arms of the military. Alexis enlisted into the infantry.  Alexis did well at training, very well. When those scores were combined with her college degree, she was quickly advanced to the rank of sergeant. Despite how well she did, her fellow grunts always assumed she was promoted because she was female. When she graduated from training at the NCO Academy, she was given an out of the way assignment. Out of sight, out of mind, or so the Army thought. Her job was simple; guard a warehouse, don’t look inside.  Of course, she looked – and a grand adventure ensued.  To find out more, you will have to read the book.

As you all know, I will keep you up to date with our plans for the series, but for now, less really is more!  I really enjoyed working with Corey as he edited The Sleeping Legion series, so I think this collaboration will be a blast. I really hope that the fun we have translates onto the page. We both really want our readers to enjoy this little tale of galactic woe. So, if you’ve enjoyed the shenanigans over here in the Handley Trenches, then re-enlist on the insanity train!

 

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.

WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES: MLS WEECH

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Hello Space Cadets!  First, I wanted to thank everyone who helped make this writing dream a reality.  Seriously, it’s a blast to think so many people (like anyone NOT related to me) are reading what I write.  It has been a thrill to be able to show my sons that you don’t have to let your injuries and disabilities set you back.  I realize that my injuries pale in comparison to others but for kids who don’t understand that level of granularity, the point is simplified for them.  So again, my humble thanks.

 

Another update, I recently submitted a short story to the Roswell Anthology that was and will be the foundation to the Odera Chronicles.  I’ll have more information about that as the time comes but there is more in the works for me after I finish The Sleeping Legion Series.

 

Now, onto todays topic.  I wanted to introduce you to an author from my WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES.  This will be the debut post in my Warrior Weekend Series, and I’m thrilled that it’s with someone I consider a friend.  Matthew is an awesome guy, and a veteran of the Naval Combat Cameraman Corps.  Meh, I probably got the specific title wrong but I’m a grunt… what’d you expect?

 

So let’s get into M.L.S. Weech!  He was born in August 1979 in Rapid City, South Dakota.  He fell in love with fantasy and science fiction at an early age.  His love of writing quickly followed when he tried to write a sequel to his favorite movie.  He clearly didn’t know what copyright infringement was.  Weech can’t remember a time when he wasn’t working on some sort of project from that day forward.  He went on to write for a junior high school (mostly called middle school now) project.  The only way his freshman English teacher could get him to settle down was to let him start writing a book.  He completed what he calls his ‘first manuscript’ when he was 17.  He got a ton of feedback that was honest, helpful, and not much fun to listen to.  Instead of quitting, he simply wrote another, and then another.

 

Weech fell in love with reading in high school, despite some of the horrible texts that are often foisted upon our unsuspecting youth the day he was introduced to Timothy Zahn and the Star Wars novels.  Clearly this wasn’t an assigned bore-fests!  Then Weech was handed Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Dean Koontz, Brandon Sanderson and so many more.  He went from reading to complete homework to reading more than three books a month.  Everyone loves an over achiever, right?

 

M.L.S. Weech then joined the U.S. Navy as a journalist in 2005.  He served on aircraft carriers and destroyers.  He served in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan.  When he wasn’t taking pictures, or writing features or news stories, he was writing fiction.  Photojournalism was a hobby he enjoyed getting paid for, but writing fiction has been and remains his true dream.  He’s completed six manuscripts and is already planning a seventh.  He took his third project to Archway Publishing, who helped him turn his life-long dream into a reality.

 

Now that you’ve heard me blather on about him, all man-crushing…. Let’s get to the questions!

 

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Without further ado, let’s get this interview cranking!

 

Tell me a little about your military service?

 

I joined the Navy back in 2005 to be a journalist.  I wanted to tell stories – wanted to write every day.  Once I got out in the military, I started having more and more fun.  I deployed on a ship, and I served on two combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The first six years were honestly a blur for me.  Everything was such a combination of work and wonderful experience.  I was a part of history.  I was a member of the first team of Sailors to operate as a sea operation attachment assigned to a strike group.  It’s complicated, but basically when the strike group (a bunch of ships that work together) needed a team of MCs, my team went to supplement their media department.  I had the honor to document the funeral of Carl Brashear.  It was just so humbling to see someone who was such a great part of American history be put to rest.  I saw the transition of power in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My last tour in the military was as an instructor for those who do the same work I did.  I loved it so much that I left the military to keep doing it.  (Also, there was this book I wrote…)

 

How do you feel that your military service has influenced your writing?

 

For starters, because my job in the military was writing, it made me a better author.  I learned about the craft of writing, and I improved my basic mechanical skills.  But more so is the inspiration my service has had.  Most of my books have some sort of military aspect.  I often describe Caught as Wes Craven meets Tom Clancy.  I’ve seen a lot through my career, good and bad.  It created a foundational background for my writing.  This inspirational part of my life is most evident in my science fiction saga Perception of War.  The short story Sojourn in Despair is the first thing from that series readers will see.  Seeing combat makes one truly consider its ramifications.  Perception of War investigates those ramifications on an epic scale.

 

Do you think your military service, and more specifically your training, adds to the realism in your books?  If so, how?

 

Absolutely!  If I’m being honest, I don’t watch military movies or TV shows.  They simply infuriate me.  I’m also bothered by something I’ll call the impact of combat.  Sure, in fiction, readers expect characters to be able to inflict and take more punishment than the “real” world, but sometimes it just gets ridiculous.  Being in the military also gave me the opportunity to travel.  I’ve seen so many amazing places, and I’ve used them in my writing.  There’s no substitution for experience.

 

When did you start pursuing your writing more seriously?

 

I “went pro” when I was 17.  That’s when I started dedicating a minimum of an hour a day, every day to writing.  That was in 1997.  I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing,” and it challenged me.  I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  After reading that book, I chose to take that dream seriously.

 

Of all your work, which was your favorite to write?

 

That’s a tough question.  I’ll have to answer Images of Truth, the first full-length novel in the Perception of War saga.  It’s a long way out from publishing, but I’m drafting it now, and it’s amazing.  I can honestly say every book I write I enjoy writing more than those that came before it.  I think The Journals of Bob Drifter is probably closest to my heart.  It’s my first published book, so it means a lot to me, but I’m always excited to start my next project.

 

How many of your characters were inspired by your military service?

 

It would be far easier to name the characters that weren’t inspired by the military.  Caught is covered in Close Quarters Combat.  I’ve already mentioned Perception of War.  The military is a major part of my life, so it’s only reasonable that it has a dominant presence in my work.

 

How many of the scenes you wrote were inspired from your service?

 

Just like with my characters, a lot of the scenes and settings are straight out of my own military experiences.  The cool thing is it’s not just the awesome combat scenes.  One thing people don’t talk about a lot is that we veterans are masters of “playfulness.”  Sure, we fight and sacrifice, but man, I don’t think you can find a better group of people.  Those scenes, scenes of brotherhood and camaraderie are equally prevalent in my work.

 

Do you feel like your writing has served any therapeutic value for you?  Has it helped you process your experiences?

 

Writing is cathartic for me.  Sometimes I’m not even aware I’m dealing with something until I’m writing about it.  I think a professional has to eventually step out of themselves and focus on the story, but I’ll never deny that a lot of my work touches on things that matter to me.  Writing has allowed me to explore issues and come to terms with situations that were frankly hard to face at times.  I’d recommend writing to anyone, even if it’s just to find a positive outlet for times when life deals you a bad hand.

 

If you could serve with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

 

I’d absolutely serve with Dom from Caught.  You’ll see a LOT more of him in Caught’s sequel.  He’s so easy going and frankly awesome.  He’s a dedicated individual too.  There’s a lot of characters I’d like to hang out with or more, but Dom would be first on the “serve with” list.  Honestly, I’d just want to go to the range with him.  Plus, if I were a combat photographer serving with his unit, I’d pretty much be the safest journalist ever.  Sal is probably a BETTER soldier, but he wouldn’t be as much fun to hang out with after the operation.

 

If you would want to avoid serving with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

 

I’d have to say that it’s only degrees of less fun to serve with.  Steve would be hard to serve with.  He’s so demanding of his people.  There are a few other characters I wouldn’t want to serve with, but that would reveal some spoilers.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

I have a few things in the works, but my writing time is mostly divided between revising Sojourn in Despair and finishing Images of Truth.  These are both from my science fiction series Perception of War.  A lot of my projects are different from each other.  This series gives me sort of a “home base” to work with.  Perception of War is a series about a galactic war based on a blend between the War on Terror and World War II.

 

How can people find you?

  1. Amazon
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Website
  5. E-Mail: mlsweech@gmail.com

 

If this convinced you to find out more, look up M.L.S. Weech.  I hope you all had a great time getting to know about Matt.  Don’t be afraid to say hello here or on Matt’s website.  If they don’t respond quick enough, glitter bomb them!  Mwahahaha!!  Or, you can do something even worse… give their number to a telemarketer!!!

 

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.

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.

 

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

Warrior Weekend Interview Series

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Hello Space Cadets, like I mentioned yesterday I didn’t plan ahead well enough for an interview series.  I am working on playing catch-up, but let me tell you about what I envision with this.  If you missed it, I’m a combat veteran of the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia.  It changed me, my world view, and the content of the stories I tell.  I’m curious how other veterans in the writing world (authors, editors, publishers, etc.) manage it.  How does it affect their process?

 

One thing that has always been important to me is to support other veterans, so this is my chance to pay it forward.  It is my thanks to the thousands who manned the lines with me.  It introduces them to the world, and lets us reminisce for a few on our shared experiences.  I hope you find this worthwhile, but on top of their military service (for any country), they are readers and writers just like us.  Maybe together we can learn from each other.

 

Since I don’t have any larger post planned for today, I wanted to recommend a book.  When I got back from Iraq my brain injury made reading difficult.  I couldn’t concentrate, the words blurred and I gave up.  Even the large print books weren’t cutting it.  I’d given up, and was listening to my neurologist lecture me again about exercising my mind when he decided to find a solution for me.  If you don’t know, your brain is like any other muscle.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.  When you suffer head injuries, the potential for the loss of said muscle down the line grows exponentially.  To combat that, they recommend brain teasers and the like, in addition to reading a lot.  After much nagging, I set a routine, I wake up and do a Sudoku or crossword puzzle with my morning coffee. 

 

My doctor wasn’t satisfied with a few minutes of mind games so he did some research about an amazing new technology called a Kindle.  It has a few neat features; backlighting, magnification and could read the book to you when you needed a break.  I was convinced, my parents ponied up the cash (gotta love supportive mothers) and I was off to the races.  I started with all of the free books available and narrowed down my searches to science fiction and fantasy.  I’m a huge fan of military science fiction and space opera, always have been since I found an old copy of Heinlein’s Starship Trooper in my local library.  It was old, battered and tucked into the back shelf.  I figured if it was good enough for someone to hide it, making sure it was there for them, I had to read it too.  Since then there have been many other good stories, jaunts through space and the like.  Now armed with a Kindle, I sought out books that fit into that genre.

 

The first successful Kindle search I made from within the device lead me to Terry Mixon and his Empire of Bones Saga.  It was great, made even better by the fact that Terry was an Army guy like me.  Let’s face it, a lot of the military veterans writing science fiction are Navy guys.  They figure SPACE ship, OCEAN going ship…. They’re all ships!  I honestly gave him a chance just because he was from the 101st Airborne too.  I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either.  Go check it out!

 

Empire of Bones (Book 1 of The Empire of Bones Saga) by [Mixon, Terry]

 

Finally, I’ll recommend a short story by my boss and science fiction author Tim C. Taylor!  Welcome Home, Janissary is set in the universe I’m writing in, and it is definitely worth a read!  It’s currently free, so you’ll get your money’s worth!!

 Welcome Home, Janissary by [Taylor, Tim C.]

 

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.

Happy Veterans Day

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Hello Space Cadets, I wanted to take a moment to write a hard post.  Anyone who has read my posts knows that I proudly served my country in the US Army.  I enlisted into the US Army Reserves as an 88K (Watercraft Operator) in a riverine squadron when I was 17 years old.  I was in a unit that was supposed to provide direct support to infantry units so I was sent to Fort Benning, GA for Infantry OSUT and given infantry as a secondary MOS.  Then I was off to my watery school of Navy lite training. 

 

For those of you who don’t know, the Navy boatswain’s mates have a playful animosity with their enginemen.  We call our boatswains mates “watercraft operators” and have the same competition with our 88L’s.  Sure, we call them Watercraft Engineers, but it’s all the same flavor with a different name.  Add to that, the typical Army-Navy rivalry…and you have a Thanksgiving with enough playful stones to throw to sink a skiff!!  Imagine my Dad’s horror when I told him I would honor his twenty years of Naval service as an Engineman (EN1) by joining the Army…as a boatswain’s mate.

 

The joke was on me, however, because when I started college and transferred to the local unit.  When I reported in, I was told that unit I was assigned to had shut down in the early 80’s.  Someone forgot to tell the Army.  Because the Army needed drivers, I was laterally transferred into an 88M (Large Wheeled Vehicle Operator) and sent to a second AIT.  I did okay, though I never could learn to back up the M915.  That is your basic 18-wheeler, if it wasn’t painted green and riddled with Army jargon on its bumper.  While trying to, I accidently knocked over a row of porta-potties.  I had listened to my ground guide, so it technically wasn’t my fault.  Sadly, the sergeant major covered in blue goo from the potty he was in when it tipped wasn’t so quick to forget.  The next day was our shooting while driving drill, a useful skill in Iraq.  I passed, highest grade in the battalion.  As a reward for my skills with my rifle, I was transferred into the infantry. They were kind enough to award me the 88M designator as a going away present; for the promotion points.

 

When I got back to in processing for my new assignment, they asked us who wanted light vs heavy infantry. Lightbulb moment, I didn’t want to carry as much!  Light infantry it was!  Jokes on me, they carry MORE since they don’t have the heavy support of armored vehicles.  I spent the rest of my career bent over at the waist with a full rucksack, loving the suck.  No regrets.  Even after getting hurt in Iraq and medically discharged as unfit for continued service.  I’d gladly do it all over again, though maybe I would duck when the IED goes off?  Nah, shit was getting real and I had a mission to accomplish.

 

I mentioned this, so you would understand where I’m coming from when I say what’s next.

 

To my brothers and sisters who held the line with me, I salute you. Today, as you receive the honors you so rightly deserve from a grateful nation and eat free food at [insert location], please take a moment to remember our brethren who weren’t so fortunate. They died that we might live, giving up their tomorrows for our todays.  I know it isn’t technically Memorial Day, but were it not for their sacrifice they’d be celebrating Veterans Day with us.  Maybe instead of us.

 

To the husbands and wives of our warriors, I apologize. In my Facebook post, I forgot to mention you. I honor you too, because those who stand and wait at home also serve. For honoring your warrior, keeping the hearth burning, I salute you. For holding him/her when the demons haunt their sleep afterwards, I honor you. For raising the next generation while we were away, I thank you. And for being something worth defending for the men/women who have the privilege of serving on the tip of the spear, I love you. Thank you.

 

And most importantly, to Randall.  Wherever you are in the afterlife that awaits, Thank You. Your sacrifice wasn’t for nothing, two beautiful boys grace this world because of the life you saved.  When they’re old enough to understand, I will tell them about you.  You’ll become immortal, through the love all who lived because of what you so bravely did.  Many others who were there with me would tell similar tales of blessing that couldn’t have existed without you.  You are still one of us, and you are still loved.

 

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

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JR

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