Tag Archives: Orson Scott Card

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: Michael J. Allen

Greetings all

One of the most intimidating moments I’ve had so far as a writer came at Constellation in October last year. I was on a panel of writing military science fiction. What was intimidating was that Orson Scott Card was to my right and David Drake was too my left.

Wowza.

Anyway, there was a fourth member of that panel, Michael J. Allen. In truth, I think we both did pretty well. We each made a point or two, but we were also both smart enough to learn from the rock stars.

Interview: Michael J. Allen
Michael J. Allen
Portrait of Michael J. Allen

What is your quest?

I’m searching the Nothing looking for the Awesome. In his online classes on creative writing, Brandon Sanderson teaches there’s always room for more awesome.  I strive to create stories that match what I’m looking for in the bookstore. I love old things made new, creating elements everyone knows with a twist mixed in with something new to create (I hope) the awesome.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color would have to be silver. As before, I endeavor to make new from old in a way that is understandable. I want the logic to be consistent. In an upcoming release I created a world guarded by phoenixes, but I wanted every element represented, not just fire. That meant figuring out what a water or a life based phoenix might rise from if killed. So for something like a modern day water phoenix to rise from her essence, she might have to watch tearjerker movies in her nest to build up enough tears to be reborn.

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

Plaid of course. I come from a hard work equals success background, all measurable and quantitative. As a writer the equation ceases to be linear. A constant frustration in my writing career revolves around reaching the success rate my old world brain tells me I should be making in this new world as an author.

Discarded
Cover of Discarded

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

When discharged, my hand grenade creates a swirling rainbow vortex straight into fairy land, summing thousands of flesh eating sprites—talk about tasted by the rainbow.  If I had to pick one technique I use well, it would be bringing dialogue to life. I admit I worry sometimes that my stories contain too much dialogue, but it comes so naturally once I’ve figured out the internal/external goals, motivations and conflicts of a given character. A story is about people, and making the people real required them to be as fully formed in my imaginary world as you or me…probably more you.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal came to mind first, and who doesn’t want to live without bothering to filter or apply self control., but as I started to answer I remembered Grover from Seseme Street, a kind goofy guy who happens to be a bumbling superhero reminiscent of The Greatest American Hero.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? That’s a rather personal question, don’t you think?
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, one to the face is a hell of way to win a planet from the Klingons (See “How Much for Just the Planet” by John M Ford)
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, the overlooked but sweeter infiltrator from the citrus regime.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  It depends on who’s in the tub with me.
  • Wet or Dry? The night was sultry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Danny Kaye, though you probably would know who he was if you saw him. (Rob’s Note: This isn’t terribly surprising given Michael’s sartorial style. He is always very well dressed. Maybe not as nice as my Rush t-shirts, but worthy of the Danny Kaye style)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Rum, the only drink for a pirate.
  • Favorite Superhero? Greatest American Hero/ SuperGrover
  • Steak Temperature? Medium Rare and damn the consequences!
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Winter, it’s damned hot in the south.
  • Favorite Pet?   I’ve had a lot of dogs over my life, so that’s a hard choice. She’s not the best behaved of all the dogs I’ve trained, but my black lab Magesty is a dyed in the wool cuddler.
  • Best Game Ever? Wing Commander: Privateer (or its spiritual progeny Elite Dangerous)
  • Coffee or Tea? Choosing between tea and not tea, always choose the tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Science fiction, you can have all the same wonder, magic and weird races as with fantasy, plus a bunch of cool toys everyone can play with—well, okay. Some fantasy might have better toys.

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

Who was the professional author you wanted to meet most and how’d the meeting go (assuming you’re not still stalking)?

My Answer: Well, without a Tardis or something like it, I can’t meet any of the authors I really want to meet. Tolkien would be fun, especially if we could break down the Finnsburh Fragment and Episode together. I would love to talk language choices with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I’d really like to meet the writer of Beowulf and hear him perform it. Same for Homer.

If we’re talking people who are actually alive today, then I’ve been lucky enough to meet most of them. David Drake, I mentioned above. I’m met David Weber, Larry Correia, John Ringo, and a bunch of other Baen authors at LibertyCon. All of them have been generous with their experience to a fledgling writer such as myself. 

Fey West
Cover of Fey West

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? (All the web presence you’d like me to link to)

And where can we find you? (Events and cons you’re scheduled to attend)

  • July 26 through 29 Raleigh Supercon
  • August 30 through Sept 3 DragonCon

Also, I have two new releases.

Do you have a creator biography?

Michael J. Allen is a bestselling author of multi-layer science fiction and fantasy novels. Born in Oregon and an avid storm fan, he lives in far too hot & humid rural Georgia with his two black Labradors: Myth and Magesty. Warped from youth by the likes of Jerry Lewis, Robin Williams, Gene Wilder and Danny Kaye, his sense of humor leads to (in order) occasional surrender, communicable insanity, a sweet tooth and periodic launch into nonsensical song.

Fresh out of teenagers, his days are spent writing in restaurants, people watching and warring over keyboard control with the voices in his head.  On those rare breaks from his highly contested ​102-key self-therapy ​program, he can be found​ experimenting in the kitchen, enjoying bad Sci-​Fi movies, playing D&D or the occasional video game, getting hit with sticks in the SCA or hanging out with the crew of Starfleet International’s U.S.S. DaVinci.​He’s great at remembering names – if they’re fictional, and knows basically nothing about music.

To learn more about Michael, check out his website at www.deliriousscribbles.com

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

The same question I asked you. Which pro did I want to meet most? For me, unfortunately, it was Terry Pratchett, and I was not fortunate enough to make his acquaintance. (Rob’s Note: He would indeed have been fun to meet, especially tossing ideas back and forth)


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

Thanks 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.

Also, 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.

 

Constellation AAR

I’m a little late posting this because I’ve been so busy over the past week, but better late than never.

This was the last Constellation, which is a shame because it was such a nice little con. There weren’t a ton of people there, but the quality of those that were there was impressive. The guests, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Orson Scott Card, David Drake, and Toni Weisskopf were great. The fans at the panels were generally interested and engaged, with some excellent questions. Also, since there weren’t so many people, we were able to interact with most of them multiple times. I love it when I can actually get to know some of the others there.

Most of my programming happened on Saturday, where I basically worked from 11am to 6pm. I love those kinds of schedules, even if they’re tiring.

My first panel was Combat in Science Fiction – Weapons and Strategy. I enjoyed this panel, though it was a little terrifying. To my right was Card. To my left was Drake. Uhhhhh…. Those two, of course, have a lot of great things to say. I managed to get a few good things in myself. One of the things that I think will be true in warfare, no matter in a fantasy universe, the real world, or in a science fiction future, is that logistics will shape how and where battles are fought. Only after I figure out what is scarce or what is required to fight, can I write combat.

After that panel, I had three straight hours at a table to sell my books. I sold a ew, but the better part of this time was spent chatting with Michael Allen, Rich Groller, and Stephanie Osborn. These are all really good authors and I like looking at their solutions to the things we all deal with, like for example the logistics of moving books around. Michael had a neat arrangement that let him move a tall bookcase around. I think, once I get my next woodshop, I can do something like what he did, only purpose built instead of adapting various things.

At 4pm I was in a panel about History in Science Fiction. Obviously, this is a perfect panel for me and I had a great time. We had a lot of great things to say, so much so that we went over.

This wouldn’t have been a problem except that my last panel of the day was immediately following. This panel covered blending genres and it was rough but fun. There were two of us on the panel, Allen and I. As I say, the history panel went long and he was also on that panel so we got started late. Plus, neither of us had planned to moderate so it took a bit to get rolling. However, this was probably the most fun of my panels. We played a game where I went around the room asking for favorite books, movies, things and then I would riff on a blended genre. Lots of improvisational fun.

I thought about going to bed early because I was tired, but ended up heading to the Moon Princess Party. I had a fantastic time and got to chat with a bunch of people. Really glad I went.

I was only involved in one panel on Sunday, and that was a roundtable discussion about endings. I learned a ton, but the most surreal moment was hearing Drake talk about listening to Manly Wade Wellman’s stories as Wellman was on his deathbed. The surreal part is that I had heard one of the stories before, related to Wellman’s time in Wichita and Kansas as a newspaperman, but I had never heard who it was that was involved. Weird how close we all are sometimes.

Constellation was also notable for being my mom’s first SF/F convention. She thought she’d be kind of bored, but ended up going to more panels than I did. Overall, take my mom to work day went very well.

It is a shame Constellation is ending. It was a great con, well run, with good guests and fans. Plus, the sequence of events on this trip are excellent, and I would have liked to have the option to do all three events again.