A while back, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by JR Handley, and now we’re in an anthology together (check out Slay Bells Ring now!), I thought I’d return the favour and introduce you all to this awesome author.
So, JR, tell us about yourself.
So, who am I? This is the existential question that my years of college prepared me for! That whole semester of that Philosophy 101 Class gives me insight here. It
tells me that this question is everything and nothing, all at the same time. The Schrodinger’s Question of interviews.
So, who am I? I am a father and a son. I am a soldier because that is a mantle you can never shrug off. More than that, I was an infantryman and a combat veteran from the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia. I saw action during my two tours in Iraq, where I served in 2003 and 2005. That time affected me to this day.
During my tours overseas, I suffered a few injuries. I hurt my back and both knees and had a traumatic brain injury. Who knew getting blown up 27 times and having as many concussions was bad for your health? But other than that, I had a blast [Gemma – ha ha!] in Iraq! After that last tour, I came home a broken man who was dealing with survivor’s guilt. I wasn’t sure what to do next; nothing made sense anymore. Somewhere along the way, I ended up on the meandering road to therapy. During my tenure on the psych ward day camp, I sought to save myself from myself and my demons. As part of that, I took a Writing As Therapy class taught by a local college professor. That time with pen in hand, helped keep my demons at bay, even if for just a little while. Naturally, I started writing, and I chose speculative fiction because it felt safest. It was disconnected from my time in Iraq, but I could still process stuff on paper. At some point during this process, a publisher acquired my stories, and I became a published author! Woohoo, yay me! After that, we were off to the races! Beyond that, I’m a nerd who’s always enjoyed the field of speculative fiction. I love fantasy, science fiction, and everything in between. I consume this medium through books, movies, and games because I’m an addict looking for my next fix of nerdy goodness! I am a dog lover who enjoys cheesy B-movies, dad jokes, and puns. Seriously, you’ll always have me laughing if you give up some witty puns.
We were recently in an anthology together titled Slay Bells Ring. I loved the concept of Santa as a badass, kicking butt and taking names. But could you tell us a little bit about your specific story?
Sure! My story was co-written with former Ranger Nick Garber, who is my co-host on The Blasters and Blades Podcast. More than that, his unit saved my life during some rather hairy times during my second deployment. We wrote a story called Santa’s Reaper Team about a world where the Christmas spirit was dying, so Kris Kringle decided to do something about it. He went feral with his Christmas elves, taking out the baddies, one hit squad at a time. I don’t want to spoil it, but you won’t be sorry you read this. No joke, this was described as ‘Santa meets the Old Testament with elven rangers that would make Tolkien weep.’ Not sure about that Tolkien part, but I’ll take it!
And outside of the Slay Bells Ring anthology, what do you write about?
Aside from the short content, I’m writing a book that will be called Operation Khopesh, a story that is the first book in The Curse Brigade Series. It is my extreme pleasure to be working on this with James M. Ward, the legendary game designer. He was a former bigwig over at TSR games, the producer of the original Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game. He was once known for his work with D&D, but soon he’ll be renowned for this series! It’s an epic tale of love and loss, where we torture our characters with action and adventure that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. The series shows what happens if you take a modern Stryker Brigade and stick them in the middle of fantasy Egypt. During this
novel, we get to see Horus, Set, and Ra like you’ve never seen them before. Our characters fight the gods, mythical creatures, and each other as they explore this strange new world! It’ll be epic; check it out soon!
And what do you enjoy about your magic system?
Personally, I always enjoy magic that comes to the ‘every man’ because I like to pretend that I could have that power too. Who wouldn’t want to suddenly be able to shoot fireballs and the like? As for the magic from Operation Khopesh, they operate like the clerics in D&D and get their power from their faith and the gods they serve.
Who do you enjoy reading? [Gemma – JR had a lot, I mean, a lot, of authors he liked so I’ve included the top 3 here and the rest at the bottom of the page!]
Wow, there are so many authors whose books I dig. I love a lot of science fiction so let me list them for you and give a short reason why I love them!
BV Larson: I absolutely loved his Undying Mercenary Series! The whole premise of this universe is that soldiers are copied and stored for later use. Then, when the soldier dies in combat, they’re rebirthed into new bodies exactly as they were whenever they were cloned. As a pure action story, this series is amazing. It’s a lot of fun to read and makes you think about how you’d handle things if you were found in this situation. However, what I really liked was the deeper ideas he explored. He looked at what it means to
be human as the characters debate whether they’re really themselves when they’re “reborn.” This all happens against the backdrop of humanity being forced to serve as mercenaries to their alien overlords. We get to see their inevitable quest for freedom and then supremacy in the larger universe. If you love military science fiction, you’ll love this series. If you want that paired with action and adventure, then this one’s for you. Everything about this 13-novel series is just amazing!
Jason Anspach: He’s an extremely versatile author who writes in a few series and genres. His Galaxy’s Edge Universe, which was co-written with Nick Cole, was incredible! It is everything I loved about the Star Wars-style science fantasy that I read as a kid. It is science fiction without all of the unnecessary political drama and bad writing. In this universe, the stormtroopers actually hit what they’re shooting at. Even better, these guys are elite soldiers who are universally crack-shots. It takes that space fantasy premise and amps it up to 11! The universe is far-reaching and spans across the galaxy. In full disclosure, my novel, The Reservist, is set in this world, and I’m very biased. His other notable series, The Forgotten Ruin Series, was co-written with Nick Cole. It was a ton of fun, and I was glad I spent the money to buy it! It’s based on a premise that I loved. What would happen if you sent a modern Ranger unit into the middle of a Dungeon’s and Dragon’s fantasy world? Everything about it is fun and amazing. Seriously, what’s not
JN Chaney: This author is amazing! He’s a veteran of the US Air Force who made it big with his writing. First, you have to check out his Renegade Star Series. It’s pulpy, bubblegum science fiction that allows you to turn your brain off and have fun. I don’t say that as a dig at the author or this world. No, I absolutely love pulp science fiction! Very few people do it as well as J.N. Cheney. It’s so good that I routinely check in to see if he’s written more in this universe. Next, his Last Hunter Series is amazeballs! He co-wrote this series with Terry Mixon, and it’s everything I love about the genre. It’s a mash-up of Battlestar Galactica without the poor writing that doomed the show. It’s a story of a museum ship that is called back into
service to fight alien robots bent on galactic destruction. The crew is a cast of misfits sent on an impossible mission, and it’s one heck of a ride. I can’t wait to see with the series takes me.
Where can we learn more about you and your book(s)?
JR Handley’s Website: https://jrhandley.com/
JR Handley’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jr_handley/
JR Handley’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sgt.jr.handley/
Blasters & Blades Podcast Twitter: https://twitter.com/SF_Fantasy_Show
Blasters & Blades Podcast Email: email@example.com
Blasters & Blades Podcast Facebook Group:
Blasters & Blades Podcast Website: https://anchor.fm/blasters-and-blades
Support JR’s Podcast & Writing:
And all the other awesome authors JR listed with his reasons:
Joe Vasicek: I loved his Sons of the Starfarers Series and Star Wanderers Series. They literally saved my life. I found his series when he was still releasing them in a serial fashion as novellas and novelettes. At that time, I was struggling to process the war and the survivor’s guilt of having lived when my friends didn’t. I can vividly remember reading his books at the Veteran’s Administration hospital as I waited for them to figure out what was wrong with me. It was a struggle; there were times when I thought about
self-deleting. I didn’t take that radical choice because of Joe’s books; he hadn’t resolved their main arc. That made me tell myself, “Not today because first I need to know what happened next.” That serialized fiction gave me a reason to go on until my therapy had done its part. Together, the shrink and Joe saved me. I will forever be in his debt, and I still look forward to his writing.
Jonathan Yanez: I love all of his books, especially his werewolf stuff called Hunters For Hire. But you can’t go wrong with any of his titles! All of his books are written in such a hopeful and uplifting manner, something the world sorely needs right now. Those stories allow you to escape the humdrum nature of modernity and ignore the chaos that is happening all around us. His works are universally feel-good fun, and I’m here for it! But despite their upbeat nature, Jonathan doesn’t do that at the expense of the
novel’s action and suspense. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with anything he writes; it’s all amazing. Give him a read; you’ll thank me later.
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit? Lord of the Rings? Need I say more? This is one of the most iconic fantasies out there, and he literally set the standard for the entire industry.
Marc Alan Edelheit: His Stiger’s Tigers Series is phenomenal! See, I know more words! This series explores what would happen if you took the missing 9th Roman Legion and stuck them smack dab in the middle of Middle Earth. The story takes that premise and then sends it into overdrive. In this tale, we meet Stiger, a Roman legionary officer struggling in a world where his father tarnished the family name. Throughout the course of the series, he has to revive it through acts of courage and feats of bravery. The writing in this series is well done. The action is compelling, the fantasy is awe-inspiring, and overall the story is just the chef’s kiss of awesome.
Mark Wayne McGinnis: This is one amazingly talented author. His Scrapyard Ship Series is amazing. I know, I say amazing a lot, but those who made this list are, and there aren’t enough synonyms for the word. This Scrapyard Series premise is that a guy finds a spaceship buried under his family’s junkyard. He is recovering from a hard life; he was recently discharged from the military and was put through the wringer in a divorce. He went looking for something to occupy his time and found it with the
discovery of a fixer-upper spaceship. Over the course of the series, he brings the ship back to life and sends it into the stars with him at the helm. From there, he gets involved in global conflict and intrigue. He brings humanity to the forefront of the Galactic stage and takes us along for the ride.
Marko Kloos: His Frontline Series is simply phenomenal. It’s some of the best military science fiction that I’ve ever read. I’m not surprised that he’s been repeatedly nominated for the Dragon Award for the year’s Best Military Science Fiction. The action is compelling and well-written. As a combat veteran who did some of that in real life, I can say that it checked out. I was not surprised to learn that Marko served in the German Army before moving to the US. Even better, the suspense in this novel will hook you from the first sentence to the last. Seriously, there’s nothing not to like about this cat’s writing.
Nick Cole: He’s an extremely versatile author who writes in a few series and genres. His Galaxy’s Edge Universe, which was co-written with Jason Anspach, was incredible! It is everything I loved about the Star Wars-style science fantasy that I read as a kid. It is science fiction without all of the unnecessary political drama and bad writing. In this universe, the stormtroopers actually hit what they’re shooting at. Even better, these guys are elite soldiers who are universally crack-shots. It takes that space fantasy
premise and amps it up to 11! The universe is far-reaching and spans across the galaxy. In full disclosure, my novel, The Reservist, is set in this world, and I’m very biased. His other notable series, The Forgotten Ruin Series, was co-written with Jason Anspach. It was a ton of fun, and I was glad I spent the money to buy it! It’s based on a premise that I loved. What would happen if you sent a modern Ranger unit into the middle of a Dungeon’s and Dragon’s fantasy world? Everything about it is fun and amazing. Seriously,
what’s not to like? Finally, I loved his Strange Company Series. It is just a fun romp through space, where we get to know the wacky mercenaries in the Strange Company Voodoo Platoon. The story leaves you guessing, but the action is spot-on and compelling. Go check it out!
Phillip Richards: His C.R.O.W Series is simply amazing! He wrote some of the best and most underrated military science fiction that is out there. Sadly, this man is an active-duty soldier in United Kingdom’s military. That isn’t the sad part, but it was the unfortunate way that his duties to the crown kept him from writing more than the six books that are out in this world. I check his Amazon profile periodically, hoping to see if he’s published anything new. His books still sit with me, even five years after I read them. You can’t go wrong with these, so go read them, and you’ll thank me later.
Rick Partlow: First, in full disclosure, I love his work, and I’ve published a few of his short stories in my anthologies. His Dropship Troopers Series is amazing; I love the overall premise. It was everything the iconic Starship Troopers could’ve been if it hadn’t focused entirely on philosophy and morality. In this series, Rick zeroed in on the action of the individual soldiers. We get to meet the warriors wearing those suits as they jump feet-first into hell. Yeah, I know that was the tagline of the ODST from HALO, but this universe felt in the same lane as those stories. His writing is top-notch; it’s compelling in the simplicity of his prose. It’s a very Tom Clancy-esq style of wordsmithing, one that speaks to me, and I really enjoy. The
action is intense, his characters don’t fall flat, and I always love the premise of his work. I’d read anything by him; they’re all equally enjoyable. However, if you’re looking to dip your foot into the waters of Lake Partlow, start with Dropship Troopers. You can’t go wrong with this soon-to-be new classic military science fiction world.
Scott Moon: If you love mechs as much as I love mechs, then you won’t want to miss the ShortyVerse stories by Scott Moon! This book was a series of novellas and was an extremely enjoyable read. It literally set the bar for modern mech combat and tells a story of an underdog soldier in an undersized mech kicking butt and punching way above his weight class. Who doesn’t like to see a little guy make good? Overall, you can’t go wrong with a Scott Moon novel, but this is my favorite story from him. His writing
is compelling; the action he writes is intense and everything you’d expect from a SWAT officer. I loved everything about it and recommend him to all of my friends. And we’re friends now, right? You’ve been reading what I’m writing, so I’ll go with yes! So, yeah, go check out Scott Moon and his ShortyVerse.
Terry Goodkind: I really loved the Sword of Truth Series that he wrote, it was well-written, and I was invested in the main characters. It made me think about the world we live in through the proxy of a fantasy world. It was unabashedly an allegory to the dangers of extremes in government. And
since my branding is apolitical, I will say that this series didn’t take sides, so you can read into that what you will. But within the scope of this series of novels, the action was intense, and the magic was fun to watch play out. Even better, the character arcs were to die for. I loved all nine books in the series, and even the spinoff series had me hooked from page one. His writing style is somehow a mix of simplicity of Tom Clancy and the pretty prose of J.R.R. Tolkien. If you like fantasy, you’ll love his books, and you should
check them out.
Terry Mixon: His writing is some of the best pulpy space operas that I’ve ever read. It harkens back to the stories I grew up reading, feel-good escapism. His Empire of Bones Series is amazing. It’s the story of an imperial bastard who is sent on a secret mission to get him off stage. Along the way, they discover the lost Terran society and the dregs of their fallen empire. If you want action and romance wrapped up in the blanket of galactic space opera, then give this a go! Next, his Last Hunter Series is amazeballs! He co-wrote this series with JN Chaney, and it’s everything I love about the genre. It’s a mash-up of Battlestar Galactica without the poor writing that doomed the show. It’s a story of a museum ship that is called
back into service to fight alien robots bent on galactic destruction. The crew is a cast of misfits sent on an impossible mission, and it’s one heck of a ride. I can’t wait to see with the series takes me.