Announcement: The Odera Chronicles

co-authorship.jpgMy friend and sometimes co-author J.R. Handley recently wrote this post about an upcoming book series we are working on together. It’s called The Odera Chronicles, and it’s a science fiction book about one woman looking for redemption and glory. Buy the ticket, take the ride (i.e. give the post JR wrote a read).

If you don’t feel like taking the exodus over to JR’s page, here’s the short version:

Alexis Monroe proves her prowess by being one of the first women through an elite infantry school. Instead of going to combat, she is blacklisted to guard a warehouse in the middle of the desert. Alexis sinks into depression, gets drunk on duty, makes a bad decision, and unleashes a series of consequences involving spaceships, urinating robots, synthetic alcohol, kitten calendars, and cozy recliners.

J.R. Handley Blog

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…

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For a Few Credits More: 4HU Anthology

For-a-Few-Credits-MoreMy good friend J.R. Handley and I strong-armed our way into writing for an anthology. We stole some pets, torched a lawn, pooped in some mailboxes — but hey — that’s all part of the author hustle. Some people write query letters; some people resort to criminal mischief.

Moving along! I’m pleased to say our first jointly-written story is coming in September, and it takes place in the Four Horsemen universe (4HU). The anthology our offering will be showcased in is titled For a Few Credits More.

For the uninitiated: the 4HU is a bodacious military science fiction series that was spawned into existence by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. Instead of trying to write a hack description of the 4HU, I’m stealing the the publisher’s blurb (Seventh Seal Press). We can add this theft to our list of offenses.

It’s the Twenty-Second Century. The galaxy has opened up to humanity as a hyperactive beehive of stargates and new technologies, and we suddenly find ourselves in a vast playground of different races, environments, and cultures. There’s just one catch: we are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.

Enter the Four Horsemen universe, where only a willingness to fight and die for money separates Humans from the majority of the other races. Enter a galaxy not only of mercenaries, but also of Peacemakers, bounty hunters, and even a strung-out junkie in the way of a hired assassin.

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I’m very excited to be contributing to such a kick-ass series. Here’s the 4HU books so far, and a couple that are projected to release later this year.


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Writing a World Building Style Guide

Bible_and_Key_Divination.jpgToday, I wanted to talk about style guides. No, not the Chicago Manual of Style.  I’m talking about self-generated style guides that serve as a bible for your universe(s). I’ve been working with the Human Legion recently, and I’ve spent some time organizing world building notes spanning multiple authors. Different authors, writing different series, but in the same universe.

The solution, for me, was apparent — compile the notes and make a style guide to ensure consistency. This was easier said than done. Let’s talk about how to make one, what it can do, and potential information to keep within it.

A style guide, for those of you unfamiliar, is a tool to create consistency throughout a story, world, or universe. It is tremendously helpful to an editor, because it will show them invented words, character information, and world background. We’ve talked about World Builder’s Disease before, a style guide is a great place to dump the info filling your brain.

World Builder's Disease MemeIt should be noted, some of this information is only useful if you are writing within a large world or universe. Depending on the scope of your work, you may not need an elaborate style guide. It would be useful to create a short style guide for an editor. This becomes more essential if you have created words or are utilizing an odd stylistic device.

Before I jump into what to include, I wanted to mention how a style guide will save you time. When I first started working with the Legion, they had tons of reference documents. These documents were contained within multiple folders, spread out between authors. I’m talking about more than thirty folders, and many individual documents within.

This became a battle of navigation for me. How many arms and fingers does this alien race have?  A simple question, really. So, I would open up the shared folders, begin navigation, move from one author to another, search differently labeled folders, and maybe I would find the info…or maybe not.

Waiting for an Email

You might be saying, “Why not just contact the author?” Good point! Unless they are on a completely different timezone or work schedule. For me, the more time I spend working the manuscript and not on the phone, the faster things get done.

Usually, the info was there, I just couldn’t locate it quickly among the massive archive of folders. Plus, I have proclivity to over-organize. There is nothing wrong with organizing your files however you want. If it works for you as the writer, don’t change anything.  But as the editor, I needed a more intuitive and rapid way to find information.

While the writers and fans of the Human Legion have done an outstanding job of creating infopedias (Official Infopedia, Fan Wiki), much of the information within the style guide is secretive in nature. Hidden motivations, planet histories, and tasty spoilers. It’s intel the writers understand, but the readers don’t need to know about…not yet. As one of the editors, I needed to reference these notes to help steer the ship.

moon footprint.jpgSo began the first step: compiling all of these pertinent documents into a universal source. One that would contain all of the information hyperlinked. Now, if I need to know how many arms and fingers an alien has, I click Alien Species in the table of contents (hyperlinked), scroll the alphabetized list, click the species in question (again, hyperlinked), and viola.

Format. Much like a webpage with clickable links, if you can add navigation within the style guide, you win the prize. I use Word, which allows for linking within the document. This might seem excessive, but after compiling the needed information into a living document (i.e. it will keep growing) the word count was around 15k for the style guide.  If I relied on scrolling to navigate, it would take forever.

What should you put in the style guide?

A Refined List

Character Name List. A listing of character names, properly spelled, makes the gods of writing smile. Especially, when you have tons of characters. Non-human species seem to generate the most inconsistency — a standard helps.

Once a character name list has been generated, you can begin hyperlinking supporting documents (characters sheets, sketches, etc). This made life really easy for me.

Corey question: the character’s eye color has changed from blue to green…what is the correct color?  Answer: Table of Contents -> Character List -> Click Character (confirm spelling) -> read character sheet.

Technology List. Holy bologna, this is a massive list for the Legion (and one I need to update). Depending on your genre, you may have invented technology. If it’s military sci-fi, then the technology probably has corresponding acronyms. Some of it might be written as a proper noun, some of it might not be. Whatever you decide as the writer, there needs to be consistency. Listing how these should appear is a step in the right direction.

Science_and_Invention_Nov_1928_Cover_2.jpgLocation List. Sweet mothers milk, another sprawling list. If your story spans cities, continents, planets, or farther, it might be wise to start compiling these locations and linking supporting documents. There will always be the handful of readers who say, “Wait a minute! Isn’t Planet D’s sun too intense without the aid of an exoskeleton?” If the reader has sunk into your world well enough to notice things like this, you owe it to them to be consistent.

Invented Word List. My favorite!  Nothing will blow Word’s circuits like a ton of invented words being thrown into the mix. Invented words, within reason, are one of the spices that make a universe unique. Just be sure to list those words. It might be wise to mention if only one person, species, or planet uses these words too.

Acronym List. Holy alphabet soup, Batman! This will probably only be useful to those of you who are writing in certain genres. An alphabetical listing of acronyms, backronyms, and initialisms makes me want to river dance. It becomes ten times more important when you are inventing these.

alienSpecies List.  Have you unleashed new races and species on your manuscript? Cool. You might want to compile a list and start linking reference documents. Remember the question above about how many arms and fingers an alien would have? This list solves those problems before they begin.

Basic Grammar and Punctuation Section. This is more of an editing thing, but if you find yourself working collaboratively with someone from another country, you might want to flush out the differences. British and American styles differ. The goal, especially if you are collaborating on the same book, is to achieve consistency of style.

question-markThat’s it for today! I’m curious about what methods you all use to compile and organize your universe notes. Do they exist in a jumble of folders, or have you found a way to compile them intuitively? I’d love to talk about it and pick up some pointers. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

Feature Friday #5 (Bloggers & Books)

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What a great week of blogging.  I discovered new bloggers, read awesome posts, and learned new aspects about the craft.  This week, I’m going to be highlighting a couple of science fiction/fact writers and a blogger who was one of my very first followers.

spotlight-facing-rightThe first spotlight shines for P.A. Kramer: Writer and Scientist.  Philip has a wealth of interesting content on his page.  The page itself is glorious, and honestly, I’m a little jealous of the layout and design.  The minimalist design is elegant, fun, and very easy to navigate.  Design aside, there are a lot of gems to be found on his page.

Philip has a doctorate in the biomedical sciences and uses this knowledge and training to analyze science fiction. He also breaks down scientific jargon and makes it more accessible to us mere mortals.  Two awesome posts are The Science of Gravity, and The Science of Killing Your Characters. In regards to the latter, plenty of bloggers talk about killing characters, but Philip explains the science behind it. Need to poison a character and leave no evidence for the authorities? Philips got you covered.

Also, Philip’s Billy and Ruben comics are brilliant.  Those two are always getting into trouble and the results are often hilarious.  Seriously, you should check them out.

spotlight-facing-rightNext, I wanted to highlight Tim C. Taylor, over at The Human Legion. Tim is a military science fiction author who can often be found at ale houses in England plugging away on his manuscripts.  Tim has been generating momentum with his upcoming books and also writing some really interesting blog posts.

The two I wanted to focus on are Starship Troopers and Military SF, and (prepare yourselves, this is a long title) Why writers pull apart owl pellets to inspect the bones within. The first article is an interesting discussion about reader expectations for realism in regards to military tactics and science.  The second post talks about how writers can generate ideas from almost any source.

I really enjoyed this article because it highlights the importance of being curious as a writer.  I think to hone our craft we must take the time to observe the world and gather new information and experiences (even if it means we have to tear apart owl crap).

Tim is a client of mine, and as such, I always feel the need to plug for their books (because I wouldn’t edit them if I didn’t believe in them).  If military science fiction is your bread and butter, you should give his books a glance.  The Human Legion is always looking for a new Legionary to populate the ranks.

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The last blogger I wanted to mention today is Angelina Kerner over at Where Dragons Reside. Angelina is one of the very first bloggers who ever followed my page, and four months later, she still takes the time to stop by and leave her thoughts.  Angelina is a prolific reader and is constantly posting book reviews on her page (which are not rated by stars, but by dragon prints!). She also posts writing tips, and that’s where I will focus the spotlight today.

The two posts I wanted to spotlight are A ‘How To’ Guide to Writing a Novel, and How To Prepare To Write Chapter Summaries.  The first article is very intuitive.  It’s no small task to try to chronicle all the steps in producing a novel, but Angelina does a great job of breaking it down and offering some useful bits of advice.  The second article posted at a time when I was researching the subject.  For those of you who like to outline, you should absolutely give it a read.

thanksI wanted to take a moment to thank all three of these folks for (1) reaching out to me, (2) being a source of inspiration, and (3) consistently encouraging enjoyable discussion about both fiction and non-fiction.  It’s people like you who make me happy to spend a chunk of my time here in the blogoverse.

hourglassThat’s it for today!  If you would like to be featured next Friday, contact me.  It always helps if you let me know what specific post you would like to be featured.  My goal with Feature Friday is to connect like-minded individuals with one another.  The blogoverse is a giant place, and it’s nice to be able to provide some navigation. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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