Tag Archives: J.R. Handley

Interview: J.R. Handley

Chances are, if you like military science fiction, you might have run into J.R. Handley on Facebook. He has science fiction podcast and serves as an admin on the Galaxy’s Edge fansite.  He’s a hard worker who adds a ton to the MilSF community. And, oh yeah, he’s a good writer as well.

Interview: J.R. Handley

What is your quest?

I strive to tell compelling science fiction stories that are fun escapism from the drudgeries of the modern world. I love space opera and military science fiction, which are the two spaces where I excise my demons and weave them into the tapestry of my futuristic universe. I let my real-world experiences from serving 8.5 years in the Army, with two tours in Iraq, flavor the action and the soldiers I write about. Hopefully I succeed in creating warriors worthy of the genre that I love to read.

Growing up I devoured science fiction from Orson Scott Card and the plethora of books written in the Star Wars Universe. I read those books clear up through the end of high school, only taking a break from reading for fun when I was in college and then in Iraq. When I rediscovered reading, I found authors like Chris Kennedy (The Theogony Universe), Tim C. Taylor (Human Legion Series), Terry Mixon (Empire of Bones Series), Richard Fox (The Ember War Series) and the deadly duo of Anspach and Cole (The Galaxy’s Edge Series). All of those styles effect the story teller I’ve become, which I hope to bring to the Four Horsemen Universe I enjoy reading.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color? I’m color blind so I don’t really have a favorite. I only see the basic primary colors, but I guess I like blue and green. Okay, my former fire team would skewer me alive if I didn’t say Infantry Blue!

As for what I like in my creations, I strive to balance the details that make the story come alive with the fast pace expected from the genres where I play. I don’t want to tell the readers about the far-flung battlefields, I want them to BE there with my characters. I would love for them to be able to envision the story, like a movie playing in their heads. One of the biggest tricks I use for my battlefields, since you’re looking for advice for other creators… I make a sand table of the space where the action happens. It lets me see the battlefield in 3D and plot realistic strategies for the situation at hand. Plus, it’s fun playing with Legos and calling it “work.” Unless my wife is reading this, then it is TOTALLY work!

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

An unladen paint brush flies at the speed of sound, divided by pie and multiplied by the weight of a porcupine on Mars. Oh, and make sure you don’t mix in the metric system or you’ll create a space-time singularity that will destroy the fabric of the universe!

Now, on a more serious note… I swear I can be serious! My biggest challenges revolve around overcoming the traumatic brain injury I suffered in Iraq. Sometimes I get my words mixed up, and my minions have to go back and help me figure out what I really meant. Most of the time it’s pretty easy sometimes involves rewriting entire sections because the gibberish was indecipherable. I can get confused very easily and have a finite number of cognitively viable hours in the day, which cuts into my writing time. Overall, I do it all again and still enjoy telling the stories even if I’m slower than molasses. It just means I have to get creative as I fight through the Amazon churn model that is in vogue.

The hardest part to answer here was regarding some of my failures. Even when I have stories rejected by anthologies, I don’t consider them failures. I write as therapy, as a way to process what happened overseas. I also write to keep exercising my gray matter so I can fend off the inevitable dementia that is often associated with dramatic brain injuries. Every day I write something, I call it a win. Most recent failure, or rejection, was from the previous 4HU anthology. I got so distracted by the shiny idea, that I lost sight of the universe canon and the story was rejected. Again, this wasn’t a failure because I can pull out anything that is proprietary to the universe and still salvage the story. Failure is only a thing if you don’t learn from it, or you have a warped view on things. I try to take everything in stride, avoid dwelling on the negative, and appreciate that I’ve got another day above the dirt. Losing so many friends definitely alters your perspective, and I try to honor their sacrifice by not giving up.

Since we focused on the negative, well on failure anyway, I want to take a second to talk about the good things. I truly feel that the story and the upcoming anthology is one of the best I’ve ever written. I’ve read all of the previous anthologies, and many of the main storyline books, and wanted to bring something a little different to the universe. I tried to honor the warrior, by remembering why they fight with this submission. I really hope that comes across and would love for your feedback once you’ve read it!

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

The Holy Hand Grenade is all knowing, it comforts us when we are hurting and smites our foes with impunity! Who doesn’t worship the Holy Hand Grenade? Point me at the blasphemous soul and we will smite them together!

It sounds like what you’re really asking for are my tricks of the trade, and the biggest one I use I’ve previously mentioned. I rely heavily on sand tables to block out my action scenes, and I feel like that’s where I do my best work. I can’t really pinpoint one specific success that I’m proud of, other than to say that my latest work is always my favorite and I hope that I’m growing at every step along the way. The two stories I’m most proud of are the one in the upcoming 4HU anthology titled “CASPers Widow” and one written in my Sleeping Legion Series titled “No Marine Left Behind.” I feel like they are some of my best published work, and I hope the readers agree.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit the Frog
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Coffee
  • Favorite Sports Team? Yay sports ball!!  Wait, I don’t have one… I prefer watching the USA Rugby Team or just reading a good book.
  • Cake or Pie? Coffee
  • Lime or Lemon? Coffee
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French Dip with those ridged chips
  • Wet or Dry? Wet… cause COFFEE
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard OfJoey and Rory, Dropkick Murphy’s or maybe Dar Williams? I’d guess that these are pretty main stream though.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whichever one fills my glass the quickest!
  • Favorite Superhero? GI Joe or Captain America!
  • Steak Temperature? On my plate!
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Wait, did they have to be back then? Let me run to my local museum and get the historians to answer that one for me!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Yes, as long as no deserts are involved. I’ve had my fill of deserts! For more serious answer though, I prefer spring or fall because the weather is in the Goldilocks zone.
  • Favorite PetOur benevolent leader, Lord Cthulhu.
  • Best Game Ever? Chess, though DnD is pretty fun as well. But that might just be because I haven’t played the 4HU game that is coming out soon!!
  • Coffee or Tea? Hot coffee or sweet iced tea, the ying to my yang! Clearly the secrets of an awesome life
  • Sci-Fi or FantasyD, All of the Above!

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

Well, I can tell you that the secret of the universe is 42, but you didn’t ask me that!  Or that everyone knows the Devil invented pineapple pizzas, but you didn’t ask that either! Oh, and we can all agree in the heathen blasphemous nature of unsweetened iced tea!!  What about the proper temperature one should drink beer?  I swear it should be properly chilled, but heathen Brits like Tim C. Taylor drink it warm.

Rob’s Answer: You are correct. Beer must be *properly* chilled. That temperature is different for various types of beers. Lagers, especially light lagers, are best really cold. Real Ales, especially cask-pulled ales, are usually better at about 55 degrees. If they’re too cold, you lose much of the flavor.

Stouts like Guinness are perfect examples of this. Cold Guinness is rather bland. Let it warm to about 50, and suddenly it’s rich and vibrant. So, yes. Chill your beer properly.

And one last thing. If you like beer and you go across the pond, look up CAMRA to help you find some absolute treasures. I’m sure Tim C. Taylor would agree.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

You can find my books on Amazon or hear my insanity over at the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. My website is an option too, I post a lot of book reviews there! Finally, we can chat on Facebook!

And where can we find you?

I’ll be attending the 20 Books to 50K author conference in Vegas in the first week in November 2018! Not sure about any other scheduled dates, since my life is so crazy at the moment. If any event comes up, I’ll be sure to post it on my website.

Do you have a creator biography?

J.R. Handley is a pseudonym for a husband and wife writing team. He is a veteran infantry sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division and the 28th Infantry Division. She is the kind of crazy that interprets his insanity into cogent English. He writes the sci-fi while she proofreads it.  The sergeant is a two-time combat veteran of the late unpleasantness in Mesopotamia where he was wounded, likely doing something stupid. He started writing military science fiction as part of a therapy program suggested by his doctor and hopes to entertain you while he attempts to excise his demons through these creative endeavors. In addition to being just another dysfunctional veteran, he is a stay at home wife, avid reader and all-around nerd.  Luckily for him, his Queen joins him in his fandom nerdalitry.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? 

Clearly, you need to ask the Religion Question; Star Wars, Star Trek or Firefly!  The right answer is Star Wars, pre-Disney, of course! And then Firefly, though the show was murdered prematurely by the Evil Overlords over at Fox.


Thanks to J.R. for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Christopher Winder

Today, it’s an interview with another new author in the 4HU, Christopher Winder.

Interview: Christopher Winder
Christopher Winder
Christopher Winder

What is your quest?

My quest is to write stories that I’d love to read. Stories that make people laugh, cry, get angry, feel joy, or smack their foreheads really hard.

By doing that, I want to move into full-time writing. For me, writing is play – not work. I’m mentally exhausted after a long writing session, but I have yet to sprain my ankle, get a sliver, break a leg or suffer third-degree burns because I wrote something. Yes, it’s work. Yes, it’s hard. But no, it’s not hard work. I love it.

My greatest influences in writing are Stephen King (his non-horror stuff, except Four Past Midnight, which was absolutely wonderful), and R. A. Salvatore. Both, but especially Salvatore, could drag me around by my emotions, beat me over the head with them, and force me to come back asking for more. I’m not there yet, but one day I’d like to surpass even that master of words.

What is your favorite color?

I don’t really have a favorite color overall. For cars, it’s copper. I love the look of a copper-colored vehicle – where it looks like the whole thing was made from the same stuff as pennies.

For book covers, I love contrast. I admit that my favorite covers are those of the vampire genre. Dark grays and black with a splash of red. Sometimes literally a splash… because vampires… you know. I don’t write in that genre – at least not yet – but their book covers are gorgeous.

As far as colors having influence on my writing, as far as I know, colors don’t influence me at all. I say that, but I try to surround myself with as much green as possible. I read somewhere that green helps people think scientifically. Since my main genre is science fiction, it seems to fit. I don’t know if it helps or not, but I do like the color.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

The most frustrating thing about being an author, my greatest challenge, is staying on task. I can’t visit the grocery store without thinking-up a new story idea. I can’t sit down at the computer without seeing another story that I really want to write – that isn’t going to write itself. Staying on task until each story is complete is the hardest part of the job.

The next-hardest part is character names. I know that once I write them, I’m stuck with them. I guess it’s the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane, trusting that your parachute is folded correctly. Because, once you jump, you’re committed. (Rob’s Note: Behind the Names is awesome, especially the Random Name generator)

Besides that, I also struggle with imposter syndrome. I feel a little better knowing that most authors do, but I wish none of us did. Sometimes it’s paralyzing, but I push through by reminding myself that I enjoy the task of writing even when I think it’s no good.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

The one thing I’m good at more than anything else is learning. I can learn anything I put my mind to. I learned how to write by listening to others, reading others and reading books. Throw a few YouTube videos into the mix and POOF – author.

My second magic power is teaching. I’ve learned that anyone can be taught, and the more I teach something, the more concrete it becomes in my own brain. So, I do my best to teach new authors everything I know because not only does it help them, it helps me.

Speaking of which – my doing so does not hurt my own sales. I don’t compete with them. We write in the same genre. People consume our work and move on to the next. It’s not something like a refrigerator where they buy it and hold onto it as long as possible. We are entertainers, and once the entertainment is over, it’s time to move on to something new. (Rob’s Note: Agreed, we’re not competitors because it’s not a zero-sum game)

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Mister Snuffleupagus
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team?  Winnipeg Jets
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, but only if it’s chocolate.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? French Onion
  • Wet or Dry? Vacuums? Both. Personally? Dry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Nikki McFarland (Nikkitanix)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey, on the rocks.
  • Favorite Superhero? Magneto. He counts, right?
  • Steak Temperature? Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? M*A*S*H
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Winter
  • Favorite Pet? Max my tabby cat.
  • Best Game Ever? 7 Days to Die
  • Coffee or Tea?Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Mostly Sci-Fi, but only 51%.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • Website: http://www.chriswinderbooks.com
  • Podcast: http://www.sfshenanigans.com
  • Stay tuned for several new releases both from me alone and from myself and JR Handley with our co-written stuff. Plenty of Pew-Pew, red shirts getting decimated and starships. The first should be released in October.

And where can we find you?

I’ll be at 20 Books Vegas in November. Just look for the charming, handsome, tall, great-smelling, hysterical, humble guy.

Do you have a creator biography?

Chris Winder is a United States Marine Corps veteran who spent nearly half his eight years training other Marines in the fine art of field wire and switchboard operation.

Each class was dosed with a big helping of humor, which he learned is the key to helping people absorb and remember information. Therefore, Chris tries to sneak some humor into every book he writes.

His first novel, Cloud Development, is a technothriller revolving around a ten-year-old boy, his parents and the corporation his father works for. For years, LumoTech has been trying to unlock a dangerous secret and when their research targets the little boy as the key, his parents aren’t given much of a choice.

He currently works as an Information Technology Specialist for his local government where he spends much of his days wondering if there’s life on other planets, if aliens will be bipedal and if they think we are delicious space-cows.

Chris lives in a small town in northern Arizona with his wife and son, (his two oldest, daughters, are grown and live in the greater Phoenix area), his two cats, (Squeaker and Max), and his elderly dog, Scout.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

Everyone has a dream – a really big thing that seems like it’s out of their reach and it too hard to accomplish. You should have asked what’s my really big dream?

And I would answer it’s to teach kids how to write creatively. I find that writing is not only fun, it’s therapeutic. I have at least a million words which will probably never see the light of day because I wrote them for me and me alone.

I’ve confronted demons which I’ve held deep inside for decades. I’ve learned things about myself I’d forgotten. Most of all, I’ve learned to be okay with who I am.

My dream is to travel the state of Arizona speaking to kids about how to do what I do. I’d first like to visit juvenile detention, residential treatment centers and the like. Once I have a cadre who can learn to write, who I’ve helped build the confidence in, I want to publish their work and donate all the proceeds to the charity of their choice.

Once that’s done, I’ll move on to the adults.

That’s the great thing about being an author. We don’t need resumes. We don’t need job experience. Nobody cares if we had a rough past, if we’re in jail, if we have a history of drug abuse, or anything else. So long as we can string words together in a way that is entertaining, we can make a living.

I’m not the same person I was before I started writing. I’d like to pay that gift forward to as many people as possible. Even if they don’t become full-time authors, they will know they have the ability. If they only publish one book to prove they can do it, that’s still a win.

Writing makes people better.


Thanks to Christopher for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: In Flanders Field

Week of 5-11 November

I would like to begin by thanking every veteran or their service. I appreciate the gifts you have given to all of us. I especially want to thank the memories of my grandfathers, Edward Gay and Bob Howell, and my father John Howell, who all served in their time.

This has been a reasonably productive week as I get settled back in. Brief Is My Flame is finally starting to roll again, and I’m finally past the 20k word barrier.

I’m really enjoying where the story is going.

I also started a project I’ll talk about more in the future, but am not quite ready to put out there just yet.

Quote of the Week

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.   Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
– John McCrae

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame (about 20k)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing yet, but you’ll see more Wiki additions over the next week.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Today’s spotlight is on a friend of mine who started writing in part to help him deal with his time in the service, J.R. Handley. He’s in For A Few Credits More and he’s got his own series of military SF. Check him out at: https://www.amazon.com/JR-Handley/e/B01N0SEX3A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1510426976&sr=8-1

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

HonorCon AAR

Greetings all

I’m finally back in Council Bluffs at my own desk with enough energy after the drive to be coherent. Go me! It’s time for an HonorCon AAR and later on today, after I actually do some writing, I’ll do my weekly update.

This was my second HonorCon. The first, I met some guy named Chris Kennedy in the bar. The second, he helped make this a fantastic con. And that’s not even counting how we all made his wife blush while, you guessed it, drinking at a bar.

I went to HonorCon only being on one panel as far as I knew, my Martin Koszta Affair panel. However, the way they structured panels there was to allow people to create panels, and then staff them themselves. Chris, being the go-getter he is, had created a bunch of panels and he invited me to join him on a bunch of others so I was kept pretty busy.

The first panel we did on Friday covered Indie Publishing: Getting Known as an Author. I wish I could tell you just what all we did in this panel, but honestly, I was a bit frazzled and I really don’t remember the details. After this panel, I spent a goodly amount of the rest of the day hanging in the con suite, and had a beer or two, but I ended up going back to my hotel room early and watching baseball.

Saturday, first thing in the morning, was a panel entitled, But I Liked That Guy! In this panel, Chris, Mark Wandrey, Ian Malone, and I discussed the value and challenges of killing off characters. Most of you know that I will kill off characters in the flow of the story, but I don’t simply kill them off constantly, as in Game of Thrones. I believe characters have to die periodically, or there’s no suspense when characters get into life-threatening situations. In swords and sorcery fiction, they have to be put in such situations and the can’t always survive. So they don’t. On the other hand, I’m not playing fair with my readers if I simply kill them off for no good reason.

My next panel was several hours later, so I lounged in the con suite for a while. This was a very good con suite, and there were some good conversations. I met an airplane mechanic who had worked on P-38s, P-51s, and F4Us in his spare time. I was fascinated to hear some of the very specific details of each type, which gave me some story ideas.

At 3pm on Saturday was basically Chris’s version of the Baen Road Show: Theogony Books: A Big Year in 2018? I was a part of this panel both because of my story “Where Enemies Sit” in For a Few Credits More, but also because I’ve taken on the project to design and build a wiki in the Four Horsemen Universe. I’ll be starting on that today, as a matter of fact. The upshot, is that Chris will be publishing, either as author or publisher, a dozen books in 2018. And maybe more. Big doings, indeed.

After that was my Martin Koszta Affair panel. I designed this panel as a tool to discuss the ways I use history to world-build and create stories. It’s easy to say that history is a wonderful place to mine for ideas, but this panel goes into nuts and bolts and has been very well-received. However, about 15 minutes into it, I realized it wasn’t meshing as well with the audience as normal. It turns out they wanted simply to hear the history, and not about using it as a writing prompt. I adjusted, and we went farther into the possible ramifications, had things played out only slightly differently.

You may see alternate history novels about the First World War, which started in 1853. Just sayin…

We spent Saturday evening having dinner at the Bahama Breeze right next to the hotel. We being Chris, Sheellah (his wife), Mark and Joy Wandrey, Chris and Christine Maddox, Beth Agejew and J.R. Handley. We had a blast, and also talked about a variety of business things, which resulted in more work for me that I’ll talk more about when the time comes.

Sunday was another early morning, with a panel at 9am on Genre Blending: Scifi, Fantasy and More. Unlike the same panel we did at ConStellation, Chris was prepared to moderate and this wasn’t quite the train wreck of whimsy and confusion.

Immediately following was a panel discussing The Economics of Self-Publishing. This panel was just Chris and I. I don’t know that I helped the audience much, but I learned a ton.

Normally, I like to stay for closing ceremonies, but this panel was done at 11, and after a series of goodbyes, I got on the road. I wanted to get west of Louisville by Sunday night, and it was well we left as quickly as we did, given the snow and high winds in along I-77 in the mountains.

For a number of reasons, HonorCon was not terribly smooth for me. I forgot to get reservations and pre-register for example, and I had a number of other issues that are now irrelevant. I only had one panel initially scheduled, so I wondered how valuable the con would be. However, thanks to Chris, Mark, and a bunch of people I met, it turned out to be a fantastic con despite the hassles.