Monthly Archives: December 2015

Briefly Going AWOL

I apologize for missing the last few Monday posts. I’ve had some personal emergencies to take care of among all the holiday goings-on. I will be back soon. Please feel free to consider today an open forum on writing topics. And any of my Twisted Writer inmates, please consider this your space today.

Thanks,

Jesi

Top 100 Military Science Fiction Books

This is a repost of a list put together by my friend Cedar Sanderson based on recommendations from her readers. I’m honored to have Vengeance from Ashes, written under the pen name Sam Schall, included in the list.

mil SF art

Military transport drone
by LMorse

I realized that although I have made many lists of books, I have never done a list for military science fiction, one of my favorite sub-genres to read. An online friend asked about recommendations, so I did what I usually do, and crowdsourced the list-making. Over 300 comments later… No, not all of them were on-point. Thread drift is an art. But it was fun to watch the conversations spin off as folks learned about new books.

The following list I broke into two sections. The first, the top ten of MilSF, is ranked roughly according to how many people enthusiastically said “you must include…!” After that, there is no real order, just as they came in and I recorded them on the list. There are a few notes interspersed, some mine, and some from the people who recommended the books. As you will see, there are many series, but the links will go to the first book in a series, to introduce you to the author. Or to the author’s page, and you can decide from there.

Enjoy! I know I have a few more titles on my to-read list today.

Ominous Winds by Hideyoshi

Ominous Winds
by Hideyoshi

The Top Ten

 

  1. Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers
  2. David Drake – Redliners
  3. John Steakley – Armor
  4. Jerry Pournelle – West of Honor
  5. John Ringo – Hymn Before Battle (Free!)
  6. Lois McMaster Bujold – Warrior’s Apprentice (link to Baen. The covers on Amazon of her books make me cry, they are so horrible. Buy them from Baen)
  7. David Drake – Hammer’s Slammers
  8. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
  9. Keith Laumer – For the Honor of the Regiment
  10. David Weber – On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Series) Free Book!

 

Hyper G-One Confrontation by Hideyoshi

Hyper G-One Confrontation by Hideyoshi

Readers Recommend

 

  1. Dave Freer – Rats, Bats, and Vats
  2. Grossman and Frankowski – Two-Space War
  3. Dave Brin – Startide Rising, The Uplift War
  4. Peter Grant – Laredo Series
  5. John Dalmas – Soldiers
  6. Sam Schall – Vengeance from Ashes
  7. Leo Frankowski – The Crosstime Engineer, The High Tech Knight (they get a little worse with each one after that, IMO)
  8. Keith Laumer – The Cold Equations compilation (in addition to Bolo-verse)
  9. Zahn and Weber – Call to Duty
  10. E. “Doc” Smith – The Grey Lensman -verse, but especially the title book.
  11. John Varley – the last of the three Titan novels – Wizard
  12. M. Stirling – Any of the the Draka-verse, in particular, Marching Through Georgia and Stone Dogs
  13. Vernor Vinge – The Peace War, The Bubble War
  14. Ric Locke – Temporary Duty
  15. Jerry Pournelle – Janissaries, King David’s Spaceship Falkenberg’s Legion
  16. Niven and Pournelle – The Mercenary and West of Honor
  17. Gordon R Dickson – Three to Dorsai!
  18. Elizabeth Moon – Vatta’s War
  19. Jay Allan – Crimson Worlds
  20. Ian Douglas – Star Corpsman
  21. Elizabeth Moon – Serrano Series
  22. Michael Z Williamson – The Weapon (Freehold Series)
  23. Harry Turtledove – World War Series
  24. David Weber – Mutineer’s Moon
  25. Tom Kratman – Carrera series first book is free!
  26. LE Modessit – Forever Hero
  27. John F Carr – Uller Uprising (free book)
  28. John Campbell – Lost Fleet
  29. Niven – Man-Kzin Wars
  30. SM Stirling and David Drake – Raj Whitehall series
  31. Weber and Ringo – Empire of Man series
  32. Mike Shepherd – Kris Longknife
  33. John Birmingham – Axis of Time trilogy
  34. Joe Haldeman – The Forever War (note that other titles are not recommended)
  35. David Sherman and Dan Cragg – The Starfist Series
  36. John Scalzi – Old Man’s War (note that the sequels are not considered as good)
  37. Marko Kloos – Frontlines
  38. Christopher Nuttall – Empire Corps
  39. Doug Dandridge – Machine War
  40. Keith Laumer – Reteif’s War
  41. H Beam Piper – Space Viking (or, I’m told, anything by Piper, and I’d agree) Free Book!
  42. Robert Asprin – Phule’s Company (a rare humor book in the genre)
  43. Sandra McDonald – The Outback Stars
  44. Joel Shepherd – Crossover
  45. Steve Perry – the Man Who Never Missed
  46. Thorarin Gunnarson – Starwolves
  47. Andre Norton – Star Soldiers
  48. Timothy Zahn – Cobra Series first book is free
  49. Dietz – Legion of the Damned
  50. MCA Hogarth – Spots the Space Marine
  51. ZA Recht – Morningstar Saga
  52. Correia and Kupari – Dead Six
  53. JL Bourne – Day by Day Armageddon
  54. WJ Lundy – The Darkness
  55. EE Doc Smith – Lensman Series
  56. Robert Frezza – A Small Colonial War
  57. McCaffrey, Moon, and Nye – Planet Pirates
  58. Flint and Drake – Belisarius Series
  59. Chris Bunch – STEN series
  60. Mike Smith – The Last Praetorian
  61. John F Holmes – Irregular Scout Team One
  62. Sabrina Chase – The Long Way Home
  63. Mike Resnick – Starship series
  64. Jean Johnson – Theirs not to Reason Why
  65. Tanya Huff – Valor series
  66. Taylor Anderson – The Destroyermen series
  67. David Feintuch – Hope series
  68. H Paul Honsinger – To Honor You Call Us
  69. Fred Saberhagen – Beserker series
  70. Leo Frankowski – Cross-Time Engineer
  71. William R Forstchen – Lost Regiment
  72. BV Larson – the Star Force series
  73. Brad Torgerson – The Chaplain’s War
  74. Thomas DePrima – A Galaxy Unknown
  75. Elliot Kay – Poor Man’s Fight
  76. Jamie McFarlane – Privateer Tales
  77. GP Hudson – The Pike Chronicles
  78. Dan Abnett – Ravenor series
  79. Daniel La Cruz – Aye’s of Texas
  80. Niven and Pournelle – Footfall
  81. Dan Abnett – Gaunt’s Ghosts
  82. Ringo (editor) – Citizens
  83. Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson – Hoka!
  84. Michael Stackpole – Battletech books
  85. David Drake – Leary Series
  86. Roland Green – Peace Company
  87. Mark E Cooper – Merkiaari Wars
  88. Thomas A Mays – REMO
  89. Travis Taylor and John Ringo – LookingGlass series
  90. Sarah Hoyt – A Few Good Men
Carrier Concept by Kheng

Carrier Concept by Kheng

For more awesome SFF art check this out.

Can’t Get Motivated!

So I’m sitting here trying to come up with something to post about and….nuthin.’ I keep leaving Word and start doing something else, coming back hoping that an idea would hit me. Nope.

Florida has been a great place for the whole family. It’s been great for everything but my writing. Terrific weather and plenty to do. But it hasn’t been great for my writing. Look up there on top. I can’t even come up with a cartoon idea. Yeah…I’ve hit the block. Just can’t seem to get into it. I was going hot and heavy there for a while but I now I can’t seem to get myself motivated to write. I find myself blaming it on being busy, but I seem to find time to do other things. Just not writing.

Part of it, I think, is not having my group around me, anymore. I seem to need that for some reason. That’s not good, of course. A writer needs to be able to motivate himself, not depend on others to do it for him. I’m even starting to wonder if this might have been a “passing phase” and that I’m ready to move on. Or could it be that I just need to step away from my present book and work on something else for a while?

So what do some of you do when you hit that block? Ride it out? Force it? The bad part is that it’s worse than simply having writers block. That’s when you want to write but just can’t. This, I’m afraid is a lack of interest. I just don’t want to. How can I call myself a writer if I don’t feel like writing? I’m hoping it’ll go away. Maybe I do need to start writing something new to get those creative juices flowing again.

Hopefully, it’s only temporary. But if it’s not, hey…I actually finished a novel

Writing Using Given Elements

writing

Saturday night I discovered I had a writing assignment to do in preparation for my Critique Group the next day. It’s been posted for a while but because I was still doing NaNo and working on Real Life stuff I had completely missed seeing the exerise. So, while I was out I began thinking of different scenarios I could use to write about but what I kept returning to was Christmas lights and Gremlins. I love Christmas lights. All those mutli-colored fireflies lighting up and pushing away the dark makes me happy. It’s like seeing bits of hope in the middle of the night. It’s nice when you have a community where most of the houses are decorated but my favorites are the single homes out in the middle of nowhere where there’s nothing but you and the dark. I have very fond memories of driving to my grandparent’s house at night and seeing those pop out of nowhere like lit breadcrumbs showing us the way. And as for the Gremlins, well, I kept going back to the Phoebe Cates’ scene where she’s talking about why Christmas sucks for her.

Here was the exercise details:

  • Instructions: Take the information provided below and write the first 500 – 1000 words of a new chapter or novel/short story opening. Genre is up to you. Point of view is up to you. But each of the elements listed below must be included.
  • Objective: To hook the reader and to set the atmosphere without losing reader interest.
  • Basic set-up: Your main character drives up to a small house that is off the beaten track. From the outside, the house looks like most others in the area. A single light burns in the front window. Your main character gets out of the car and crosses to the front door. It opens under the MC’s hand. The MC calls out. No one answers. MC steps inside and finds . . . .

As I was brainstorming Saturday night out loud with my husband, I knew I wasn’t really wanting to writea traditional Christmas story. Like Gremlins, I wanted my main character to have a reason to like or not like Christmas. I went to bed Saturday night and woke up the next morning with my idea in place. After getting some caffeine in my system I started writing, and the next thing I know I’ve spent an hour and a half writing without thinking about it and I had to rush to finish it because I still needed a shower and I didn’t want to be late for Group. And Group ended up being so much fun because of the exercise. Three of us apparently had the same idea in a way; we wrote a murder/mystery opening, though mine was the only one with a Christmas theme. So, below find my unedited contribution to yesterday’s writing assignment.

I have another one to write for the next meeting and I’m thrilled, I tell you. Thrilled!

xo Jesi

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

In the sleepy little town of Oak Hollow in the deepest part of the backwoods of Mississippi, you can count on three things happening throughout the year. The first is the annual Holy Roller Baptist Tent Revival and Come to Jesus Meeting, and yes, it is actually called that. All the little old ladies fry up chicken and potatoes and bake casseroles and desserts. There’s even the occasional squirrel prank pulled thanks to that old Ray Stevens song. It actually works half the time, though I’m sure the teenage boys pulling the prank aren’t trying to bring anybody to Jesus.

The second thing you can count on is Mayor Goodwin’s daughter being crowned Miss Oak Hollow for the New Year Parade, Fourth of July parade, Christmas Parade, and, hell, pretty much every town ceremony requiring a queen of events. She’s been Queen of Everything for the last five years, including head cheerleader, only because she’s the Mayor’s daughter. And she’s not even all that pretty.

The third thing, and in my opinion the most exciting, is the Christmas Eve murders. Every year for forever, one person in the town dies on Christmas Eve. Where most people supposedly go to bed dreaming of sugar plums and all that magical crapola, here in Oak Hollow we all go to bed wondering who’s going to be wrapped up in tinsel with a big, bloody bow stuffed down their mouth. It’s been going on for so long now you’d think the police would have caught someone by now, but nope, this here is Oak Hollow. We’ve got one of the laziest sheriffs in the country, and he’s fanatically superstitious.

By the way, I’m Mags, and in the Oak Hollow people context I’m the girl with the big mouth always asking for trouble, according to Sheriff Boggs at least. Most of the kids in this town try to get as far away as they can once they turn eighteen, but not me. I want to catch the murderer who killed my Uncle Johnny on Christmas Eve three years ago.

Now, imagine the scene. I’m eighteen and have a license and a beat-up old junker of a car. I bought it for $500 from Old Miss Johnson, the crazy chicken lady, after her license was taken away from her because she drove her car into the middle of the entrance of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Not that that matters right now but I’m damn proud of that car. Took me all summer working at the Piggly Wiggly as a cashier to earn the money to buy the thing and I get to crow about it all I want, thank you very much.

So here it is Christmas morning and we’re all ignoring the fact that we know someone’s been killed. We’ll know by lunchtime who the unlucky victim was, because that’s how small towns work, even on Christmas. Mom’s in the middle of making her usual big Christmas lunch and she tells me to go pick up Uncle Johnny, her bachelor brother, who lives on the outskirts of town. Why me? Because I’m eighteen with a license and a car, remember?

Ever notice how Southerners have a way of making it sound like you’d be doing them a favor when in reality they just got you to do something they don’t want to do? “Maggie, be a dear and run to the store for some milk please.” “Mags, honey, I can’t leave the house right now and I need you to go drop this casserole off at the church for me, thank you.” And my mom is the queen of guilt trips. So when she “asked” me to go get Uncle Johnny, I went. I tug on my galoshes because it’s been raining for the last three days and there’s mud everywhere, and I grab my jacket, keys jangling in the pocket where I left them knowing I’d be sent on some mission today. I’m like Mom’s messenger/errand runner since I got the car. Next, out the door, into the car and pray to the car gods that the engine will start in the cold air. Yes! The engine turns over though not without its usual groaning that it has to wake up so early in the winter. Now for the trek out to Uncle Johnny’s.

It’s still a little dark, thanks to the cloud cover, and most people have left their Christmas lights on. I love seeing the multi-colored lights shining on the houses. It reminds me that hope is hard to kill, despite the fact that we all know someone’s dead. My little car trudges along the street with Christmas music playing fitfully from the radio. I only get one station and since the tape cassette player is broken, Christmas music it is. Besides, I don’t own any tape cassettes. Actually, the Christmas music doesn’t bother me and I’m merrily singing away with Jose Feliciano when I reach Uncle Johnny’s driveway. My tires leave that satisfying crunch sound as I turn onto the gravel and pull up to the house.

The first thing I notice is that Uncle Johnny’s Christmas lights are off. All of them. He owns about four acres and every Christmas he puts on a big Christmas light display for the town. Everyone brings their kids out to see it because he’s always doing something different every year, and he leaves them on all day every day. Today would be the only exception I’ve ever known. Maybe he just forgot or overslept, my mind rationalizes. I don’t even think it could be anything else. Still, I hesitate just a moment before walking up to the door.

I see the traditional Christmas candelabra in the front window, its electric candlelight sending a warm yellow glow out into the gloom. Seeing that on must mean Uncle Johnny is still in bed sleeping. So, I run up the porch steps and knock on the front door calling out as I do, “Uncle Johnny! It’s Mags. Mom sent me to come pick you up for lunch!” But my words trail off as the door creaks open under the force of my hand. Shit! This would be where the unsuspecting heroine of the horror movie finds herself in trouble. I don’t want to go in. I don’t want to go in.

I have to go in.

I push the door open and warily stick my head through the entrance. It’s much too quiet. Not even Uncle Johnny’s infamous snoring. Damn, damn, damn. I don’t have a cell phone because I bought a car instead, so I’ll have to go inside the house to use the landline phone. I take a deep breath. Okay, Mags. You can do this, I tell myself. I walk through the door trying not to let my eyes fall on anything specific. The phone is in the kitchen which is only accessible through the living room. Crap. I turn to my left and begin walking that way. So far, so good. Nothing out of the ordinary. The Christmas tree is up and the lights are on. Everything seems normal. Except it isn’t. Christmas music blaring and the smell of pancakes cooking should be assaulting my senses but they’re not. This does not bode well. I have a feeling I know what Uncle Johnny received for Christmas.

“Get to the phone, Mags. Just get to the phone. You can call mom and then dad can drive over and check things out himself.” I repeat this over and over as I walk through the living room to the kitchen. I get through the kitchen doorway and there’s Uncle Johnny sitting in his normal spot at the kitchen table, a surprised look frozen on his face. He’s been draped in tinsel and there’s a big red bow-the kind you put on cars-tied around his chest. There’s no blood anywhere, though. He’s simply frozen solid holding a piece of paper with a message on it. I don’t want to look but curiosity compels me forward to read the missive. It’s only three words long.

“Ho Ho Ho.”

 

Oops!

I am sorry this post is late today. Life has gotten in the way, but in a good way. 🙂 I had a fantastically lazy and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t worry about very much (for a change) except reading my book and getting caught up on some chilled out family time. With all that laid back time, I just didn’t get my post done this weekend.

Then last night I went to see a production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, starring Sir Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench, broadcast from the Garrick theatre in London’s West End through a Fathom Events Live special showing at a local movie theater. It is a treat to see something like this, or NT Live’s Coriolanus, which I have seen a few times in local movie theaters. I have seen a few others and am also thinking I will HAVE to check out the Fathom Events Live broadcast of Sherlock – The Abominable Bride that will be here in the US in January.  With all the excitement of seeing the play, I didn’t manage to get anything written by the time the play was over at almost 10:30.

So even though this is late, I wanted to share a story with you from my super relaxing long weekend. Before we go to sleep at night, we take turns reading to the kids. They can read on their own, but there is something about having that time, reading aloud to the kids to get them to sleep. I have one book I’m reading to the twins and I had another I was reading for quite awhile to my oldest. He had gotten the book, The One and Only Ivan, on his school librarian’s recommendation, at the last book fair at school. We always end up spending a boatload at those book fairs by the way. 🙂

We read this book for a little while, though it is a children’s book with very short chapters. (I love short chapters for night time reading sessions!) The story is basically about this gorilla, Ivan, who has lived his life in a small cage, not in a zoo or in the wild, but doesn’t seem to mind too much until he meets a baby elephant named Ruby who needs his help. He makes a promise to his friend Stella the elephant to help save Ruby.

It’s a sweet and easy read, which I’d recommend reading, regardless of your age. What I wanted to share with you, though, was that I had one of those ugly cry moments (as Oprah might say) reading it to my son. I thought he was asleep so I’m just all choked up and unable to get any words out, then I look over and see he is waiting patiently for me to continue. It took me a few minutes to get myself under control enough to finish reading it to him.

I admire writers who can tell a story that makes a reader feel so strongly as to break into an ugly cry. I admire writers who can make a reader feel sad, or happy, or even angry reading their stories. The book I was reading myself over the weekend wasn’t the Great American Novel, but rather a feel good romance novel I knew exactly what to expect from the author as soon as I checked it out from the library.  This author may not give me much that is unexpected, but she manages to stir the emotions up from time to time in each book of hers I read.

I like reading books that make me feel and hope to be the writer that manages that for my readers someday.

Thanks for stopping by and for your forgiveness for the lateness.

Have a great week!

~CJS