Logline, part III- back to the salt mine

Russ J. Fellows tossed in some opinion here  where he said,

“Just a bit confused – is the “newly discovered family” doing the galactic takeover, or is the protagonist saving them from one? What is a “galactic takeover” anyway? Some alien corporation looking to pad their margins? It has some intrigue to it, and it piques my interest, but too many questions that might stop me from reading further. (Just my $.00002 worth).”

The logline I’d submitted was this:

“An orphan who joined the military returns to her home planet to stop her newly discovered family from a galactic takeover.”

I think Russ spotted a huge weakness. So back to editing it to get it really right. I’ve got only 22 words there, so I can potentially add another 18 to total it out at 45, though that might feel wordy. So, I’ve got the protagonist: An orphan who joined the military
Antagonist: her newly discovered family
Active Verb: returns
Active Goal: stop her newly discovered family from a galactic takeover
Stakes: a galactic takeover

Jaime pointed out that the stakes, which I had thought not really present, were the galactic takeover. But then Russ pointed out that it’s not compelling. Why isn’t it compelling? I used boring terms. Galactic takeover.  (Galactic makeover? Story idea.)

So I shall hack away at it some more.

“An orphan who joined the military becomes marooned on her home planet and must decide between her duty to protect the Imperium or fighting her newly discovered family to take the reins to the highest office in the solar system.” (38 words)

I’ve got the protagonist: An orphan who joined the military
Antagonist: her newly discovered family
Active Verb: decide
Active Goal: protect the Imperium or fighting her newly discovered family to take the reins to the highest office in the solar system
Stakes: duty vs. taking the highest office

Better? Worse? Ideas? It’s up to you, peanut gallery. My logline is in your hands. Sort of. I mean, if you came up with something totally ridiculous, I’d blow raspberries and ignore it. Or maybe I wouldn’t.

Edit: Yeah, reins vs. reigns. Sorry.

Military Sci Fi, well done – Leo Champion

I recently finished one of Chris Nuttall’s books, First Strike, which was decently done. Chris does a great job of doing classic space opera.  At the end was a selection from Leo Champion’s book, Legion, which was a combat scene.  I read through it and bought the book on the spot.  It’s well done!

I’m about a quarter way through.  The book is about a successful copywriter who, while drinking to celebrate his promotion at works, is wooed into joining the US Foreign Legion, and how he must now do everything he can to survive his enlistment.

I like Champion’s writing – there’s nothing that screams Indy about this book (and it is published in softcover).

Sci Fi Military: Something new, or a retread of modern military?

This seems to be a controversy, which is this:

Sci fi military, is it going to be evolved and different or a retread of what we have now?

Certain things will always make sense, like that you must have hierarchy in military commands, and only one person ultimately in charge. I don’t think that can change, at least for humans. When people buck this particular nugget of wisdom, you end up with military disasters. Command by committee = Vietnam.

As for the actual composition, you would be hard pressed to find something alternate to an officer/nco/enlisted ranking structure. That’s been around for 1000s of years.

Romans | Modern
miles        private
optio         sergeant
centurio    lieutenant
legate       colonel

Without organization, you have a cluster of people who fight as individuals, and that’s not a military. Or, not an organized one.

The proposed changes stem from an idea that mankind will evolve. [Haven’t any evidence of this, so it’s unlikely.]

Absent some sort of coercive behavior, most people aren’t strongly motivated to fight. Thus, hierarchy.

Crumbling Empire Placeholder for Chapter 6

This was where Chapter 6 was, which is the confronting-the-past chapter.  Which it didn’t do. It skirts around that issue and tries to figure out why Yuen looks like someone else. I bet you can guess.  Go ahead. Why does she look like someone else? Why, indeed? Maybe it needs explosions.

If you are new, Chapter 1 is here.

As of 1/18/16, I’ve removed it. I left the comments here because those are useful.



Military Officer Function for Science Fiction

Tactics and strategy inform or should inform everything a soldier does.

Your soldiers in military sci-fi must have a doctrine of some kind which tells them what to do and how to do it.

In the modern US Army, the nuts and bolts of things soldiers are trained to do are called Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP for short).  The larger picture is strategy, and there are some pretty basic things that are to be accomplished with strategy.

With strategy, you must ask the question: Why are your military units doing what they’re doing?

If it does not have an applicable purpose, then your officers look incompetent, stupid, untrained, or insane. If the character is portrayed as competent, then his inability to understand strategy will be seen as a function of the author’s inability to understand strategy and the reader will stop reading the book. Do not misunderstand this to mean that officers aren’t sometimes wooden, textbook responders, or unable to remain focused on the objective. It means that if you portray a competent officer, he will respond to stimuli in a competent manner, based on the information they receive.

A competent officer has training to teach him to gain information about the objective, evaluate the enemy forces and intent, and either respond or initiate a response.

The things we will see in your novel will reflect whether your POV character is a grunt or a officer.  Sometimes there’s officers who are ground-pounders– that is, company level and lower– but the higher ups formulate strategy based on the size of the units they command.  A general may command an army (or divisions), and lower ranking officers command smaller sized units all the way down to the company commanders who are in the field supervising their platoons.

One important aspect of strategy (and indeed, tactics) is sustainability. That’s the dull world of logistics. Did I say dull? It’s not dull if you’re on the pointy end of the spear and you are getting no supplies, or worse, the wrong supplies. Horror stories abound from how landing ships were configured for the US Army landings in Morocco and Algeria. The doctrine of loading a ship with stuff wasn’t advanced at all, and I believe the stevedores were often left in charge of determining what would be loaded where.  This led to situations where the guys first on the beach need tanks, or jeeps, or ammunition, or medical supplies, and instead they’ve got bales of blankets or rations or underwear. It sounds absurd, but the military will grind to a halt if they don’t have petrol and bullets. And water. And boots. And artillery.

Therefore, if you want to invade a planet, a space station, or another ship, you will need logistics: Transport, gas, food, drink, armor, weapons, communications, shelters, clothes, ammunition, and batteries. It’s not enough to go in with just the stuff on your back. You will need resupply if you’re not living off the land.  One way to cut off an army is to interdict its supply lines, and those supply lines in space are ships dragging supplies around and factories on the ground factoring. Cut off the ships, you cut off the ability of the attacker to support an attack and you conceivably will win the engagement. We see this doctrine in seige warfare, starting over 3000 years ago (the Greeks), and continuing to the present day (Cuba).

So your logistics arm is going to acquire, store, and move stuff. It finds replacement personnel and stores them. It acquires, stores, and moves weapons systems.  It provides medical, legal, and psychiatric care for personnel. If any of these things does not happen, it will affect the effectiveness of the personnel by lowering their morale and inhibiting their ability to fight.

The mindset the US Army has is that, “(1) In combat, Infantrymen who are moving are attacking. (2) Infantrymen who are not attacking are preparing to attack.” (FM 3-21.8 The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, published by the United States Army.)

Overall, the strategies used in sci-fi are going to mirror those used in modern combat. Asymetrical warfare, using small unit and terror tactics, must be responded to by the larger force with a unified strategic doctrine that places forces in places to quickly react to provocation or to search for and prevent attacks before they happen.

What is the larger strategy? Follow the money. No matter how you posture your future, ultimately there are never enough resources for everyone, and that is the crux of most decisions made by the polity. It’s not for the good of the people, it’s for the good of commerce. Ultimately, no matter how deep a political system may lay in socialism, it will collapse without the application of capitalism. Therein lays the logistics argument: To get all this stuff, you must mine it, grow it, or manufacture it.  The strategy is to protect the stuff, or to take the stuff.

I see some authors who promote a character from a shivering private up to general grade levels. Being a grunt does not mean you are trained to think like an officer. It means you’re trained to think like a grunt. When you have Private Schlomo promoted way above his pay grade, he’s going to be way out of his comfort zone because he isn’t trained to understand the fight at company, brigade, or division level. A fireteam leader or squad leader has 3-8 people under them, and the decision tree may not be that complex. A platoon leader, which is the lowest level of officer supervision, is the point where the thought process must be done on a give-orders-to-subordinates basis.

You must use a staff, because you are not capable of getting the information necessary to do your job on your own. At company level, you have an executive officer who seconds the commanding officer’s lead. At higher levels than company, you see more staff to assist with functions such as analysis and prediction of enemy action, communications, IT, operations to assist in personnel (promotions, moving around, exiting the service, pay, awards, and so on), and training (both finding locations and creating the criteria for what is being taught, writing manuals, creating videos for training).

This “Was” thing is worse than I thought

“Result 4 of 127.”

This is an infestation! Does this reflect my real life? I note that the was problem seems to crop up in crappy writing clusters.  A few paragraphs of passive, and then I’m back to a sprinkling.  As I go forward, I will endeavor to simply NOT write the passive voice. It’s like author thumb-sucking. Really.


I suppose I’ll go bang out chapter 6. 793 words in, another 1300, and we should be safely up for the remainder of the night in the orphanage. Maybe. Or the protagonist is going to murder someone, the guy with the information she really needs.  That ought to be cathartic.

His life hangs in the balance.

As if it matters. Create characters, then mash out their puny existence. Muahahahahaha.

Who is the toughest audience for military sci-fi? Vets.


I’ve been slowly writing. We’re up to 10 k. I clearly need a word count widget, then people can check in to see the thermometer: “We’re this far toward our goal.” Aw, shoot.

I handed the first four chapters to four military vets: USAF NCO, USAF Officer (in satellites, no less), US Army MP and current LEO, and my steadfast mentor, Canadian Army tanker vet.

The first critique came back, and he’s saying I need to tell more about the environment.  Yar. And that I need to make the speaker tags clearer where I don’t have it. And he hates the scene where the protag removes her armor and lays down her weapon, and I can see why, so that gets a rewrite.

I’ve rewritten some sections and added more thoughts by the protagonist so we can get inside her head a little more, maybe form that emotional connection so we give a flying you know what about the character and read a little further just to see what happens.

Crumbling Empire [Chapter 3]

Happy Friday. Two more chapters. I revised and reloaded chapter 1 and 2, if you happen to have read the various revisions and such I posted. These are the perma-formed chapters, for now, until someone points out the grammar and spelling errors and tyops, or a developmental editor falls on my work and savages it with their teeth.

Edit: Newly reworked, as of 4/4/15. Formerly 2600 words. Now 3912 words.

Edit: content removed 1/18/16. Email me if you want to read it, in exchange for beta work.

Chapter 1 is here.

Go ahead, comment. It won’t kill you.  And, um, it’s not because I’m desperate. Because I’m not. I’m NOT! Just comment. If you comment, I’ll be your best friend!  C’mon. I’ll give you a cookie! Yeah, I love the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” books, too.

Publish in Polish!


Why not?

I’ll bet Polish people would like to read Crumbling Empire, too. In their native language! Imagine:

Łaska Bedell nie kapitan Przed objęciem ogolił pozycję na moście. Było jasne, że był w złym nastroju i jeśli komputery były złe, jeśli przeczucie załogi było źle, wszyscy by się pęcherze ból. Kary dookoła. Misery.

Kapitan uznał informacje na wyświetlaczu. “Oni nie są identyfikowane jako łodzi bezpieczeństwa, i nie są one Imperium. Nikt inny nie ma cztery niszczyciele i dwa krążowniki w tym sektorze, ponieważ ich właścicielem. Cholera, nie ma żadnych innych rządów oficjalne. Kim oni są?” Nikt nie odpowiedział. Oczywiście to było pytanie retoryczne.

“Panie, prep na spotkanie zaangażowanie?” XO zapytał.

“Zrób to. Stacje bojowe, dźwiękowe, stanowisk bojowych Hełm, obliczyć pole przechwytywania i zabrać nas, połowa prędkości, taktyczne dać mi rozwiązanie broni jak najszybciej, a XO, muszę aktualizacji na zespoły kontroli uszkodzeń i broni w miejscu dla ewentualnej walki. Czujniki, zacząć ciągnąć dane na temat tego, co te statki są uzbrojeni i chcę swoje dane milliday temu!” Kapitan wyprostował się i spojrzał na holo statków ponownie.

XO aktywowane stacje bojowe i alarmy zabrzmiał na całym statku, podczas gdy kurs potwierdzeń słychać było taktycznych, steru oraz czujników.Chwilę później, Grace Bedell opuścił orbitę Reville i przesunął się na kurs przechwytujący.

Apparently “Misery” and “XO” don’t translate. 😦 That’s why you need a human.

That, and I probably have some really awful language bloopers in there. Google translate, you make me sad.