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.

Why your editor admires you (and why you might not realise this)

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Hello Space Cadets, I wanted to share a post which has touched me personally. As I slog through the edits of book two, Fortress Beta City, I find that I need to continually remind myself that this is for the better.  As I scrolled through blogs I follow, this jumped out at me.  I definitely needed to hear this today.  A brief discussion has me wondering about the quality of what is about to go live.  If they let me, I’d polish it until nothing was ever published.  Because I’m currently anxiously awaiting the return of my second novel from my editors, with another in the final beta review.  I’m in the thumb twiddling, nail biting stage of WAITING.  I pass the time writing book three and hoping the first two are good enough to warrant publishing this.  Reading this post, when the revisions for book two are so massive, was exactly the pep talk I needed. Thank you to the lovely writer, follow her blog, it is worth it!!

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

brown_bess

JR

 

 

–> I reblog this on the assumption that the author of said post used all images are used in accordance with copyright laws.  She’s a smart cookie so I’m sure they did!

Nail Your Novel

5730710531_07b49820e8_zWhen I write a report about an author’s novel, it usually runs to at least 25 pages of detailed notes and developmental suggestions, plus annotations on the manuscript. Sometimes I’ve written 60-page reports. Although I make my responses constructive and helpful, and discuss strengths as weaknesses, I know it’s daunting to receive such a screed. I know my writers think ‘crikey, she needed to say all that? Did I get it so wrong?’

And this: ‘I thought the book was perfect. What kind of shambolic half-wit does she think I am?’

Well today, I’d like to let you know how the editor sees your book.

My open letter to the edited

Although it may be hard for you to believe when you see the size of my report, I know your manuscript represents aeons more time than the hours it takes me to glide through with my editorial eye…

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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.

Image result for muskets

 

JR

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

HAPPY UPDATE!

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First, I have to tell you I’ll likely go MIA for a week or two as I address some family issues.  My grandmother, who inspired this pen name, isn’t doing well so I’m driving north like a good grandson should.  Fret not, I will try to write some good posts… however, I’ll be less active on others blogs.  I’ll miss the great posts, so don’t get abducted by aliens while I’m away.  Coming back to your great posts will keep me motivated not to fall asleep while driving.  And never fear, my house will be protected!

 

Secondly, Team Handley will be updating our site soon for a more polished look.  We already own the domain name, so now it is all about figuring out the technical bits.  Worst case scenario, we bring in ‘the professionals’ to get it right but we hope to do it ourselves.

 

Finally, the happy note that I led with.  For those of you who’re friends with me on Facebook will know, my paperback proof of book one came in on Wednesday!!  I’m super excited, and you should be too!!!  Until next time, be safe out there and remember… if you can’t be good, be good at it.

 

–> The artwork from today is original content created by Corey at the Quintessential Editor.