Thursday, November 6, 2014

Military Terms, and Acronyms, and Rank Structure, Oh My!!

My book club read and discussed Heart of Annihilation last month. It was an interesting night full of great on/off topic discussions and plenty of laughs. However, a lot of my book club friends are not what I would consider my target audience. Some were not big science fiction or action/adventure fans. Others knew very little about the military and if there's one thing my book does well it's accurately describe a military setting. This is great for authenticity, but really hard on a reader who may not know anything about rank structure, or what all those little letter/number things are that people tend to shoot with. And don't get me started on the acronyms...!

So today I'm going to give a brief tutorial of military acronyms used in the book as well as other possibly confusing military terms and relevant rank structure. Rank is super important in any military book so pay attention! Remember, this is Army rank, which is almost completely different from the other branches of the service.

Military terms:

Civilian: Anyone who is not military. Sort of like a Muggle. A lot of you reading this are civilians. Clothing that is not a uniform is referred to as "civvi's."

Armory: Traditionally used to store weapons and ammo. Nowadays the "armory" often refers to the building that is the headquarters for certain unit. This includes a CTA (see below), offices, classrooms, latrines, storage space, and, yes, even an actual armory.

CTA: Company Training Area. Large area where the company can gather for formation (ie: standing in neat rows of squads and platoons) in order to take care of formal company business and ceremonies. Also used to gather gear, clean weapons, eat, and whatever else a functioning company wants to use it for.

HMMV: High Mobility Muti-terrain Vehicle. Also known as a Humvee or a Hummer. Different from the shiny, civilian-type Hummers, these are slow, practical, powerful and can even drive partially underwater and be fine. Very reliable and sturdy.

Deuce: A Deuce and a Half, or affectionately known as a Deuce, is a large military transport truck. They usually have two long, splintery benches in the back for sitting and are covered by a pioneer-wagon-style canvas tarp.

Round: For lack of a better word, this is a bullet, except that it is actually a combination of the bullet (think metal projectile that shoots from the gun), and the brass casing that holds the "bullet", and the gunpowder. All together it is called a round. These are the things you load into a magazine (see below).

Tracer round: Basically it is a bullet that glows brightly when shot, making if visible to the naked eye. They are very cool. The round Rose carries around is a Tracer. I pulled this information off of Wikipedia because it explained it better than I could.
 Tracer ammunition (tracers) are bullets or cannon caliber projectiles that are built with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base. Ignited by the burning powder, the pyrotechnic composition burns very brightly, making the projectile visible to the naked eye. This enables the shooter to follow the projectile trajectory to make aiming corrections.

Magazine: This is not something that has home decorating tips or celebrity gossip. It is the square-ish metal thing you load your rounds into so that you can snap the whole thing into your weapon and be able to fire constantly until the ammo runs out. I would carry a half a dozen of these in my utility belt when we were out training so I wouldn't have to bother loading them.

Weapons: (note: soldiers know to call these things weapons, not guns. A rifle is a rifle, while a pistol is a pistol. Calling them all weapons is easiest. I mean, just try to call your rifle a gun when a Drill Sergeant is nearby... You'll only do it once.)

M-16: Big ol' awesome rifle, although surprisingly light and has very little kick. It is wickedly accurate, especially in the hands of a pro. I used the M-16 A2 (which is the 2nd version of the rifle) when I was in basic training. It can fire a single shot at a time (one trigger pull, one shot) or has a function where you can fire a 3 round burst (one trigger pull, three shots). The M-4 is what is used most in the military now. This is the weapon we switched to when I joined my Special Forces group. It's very similar to the M-16 and the civilian version (AR-15), but has a retractable butt. I could go on and on. There are books written about these things. If you want more information check out Wikipedia's page here.

M-249 SAW: Light machine gun. Used by a single gunner. When I was in the service we were still using the M-60, also known as the "pig". It's similar to that. It can mount on top of a Humvee, or be carried. You can shoot it from your shoulder, but I wouldn't recommend it, despite what Rambo does. And I dare you to fire it with the ammo belt wrapped around your shoulder. Ouch! Learn more about the SAW from Wikipedia here.

9mm: Small, reliable handgun. A pistol (which means is uses a magazine). Standard army issue.

.50 caliber machine gun: Big, freakin' heavy machine gun. Has to be fired from a vehicle mount or from the ground on a tripod. Butterfly trigger (meaning you use both your thumbs to fire it), and has rounds as long as your hand. I have a pen made from a .50 cal brass casing. It's totally wicked. I sign books with it sometimes. Learn more here.

An M-16 A2 hard at work. The blocky thing sticking out of the bottom near his hand is the magazine. It is filled with rounds.


There are rank names for the pay grades. For enlisted personell this is their E-grade (E stands for enlisted), or pay grade (how much they get paid compared to others). For officers it is an O-grade (O for officer). Officers always outrank enlisted no matter how high the enlisted person or how low the officer.

NCO: Noncommissioned Officer. These enlisted soldiers have gone through an intensive Leadership Training course and are fit to lead soldiers under their command. They are smart and hard-working, but always need to answer to the officers over them. They are made up of Corporals and Sergeants. (Learn more about enlisted rank structure below.)

Officer: Trained separately from enlisted soldiers and are taught to lead while enlistees are trained to follow. They always outrank an enlistee, even a high ranking NCO. (Learn more about Officer rank structure below.)

Private (PVT): Very lowest in the military. E1-E3  Private E1 is the lowest of the low. They don't even wear a rank insignia on their uniform. Private E2 is just above that, and then Private First Class(PFC) is an E-3. Luginbeel is a Private E-2, just out of basic training. Poor, little peon... He probably just got his mosquito wings (see rank insignia below).

Specialist (SPC): E4, just above Private First Class. Kris Rose is a Specialist. It sounds special but it's really just the name of a rank, and not a very high one at that.

Corporal (CPL): Also an E4. However a Corporal is considered an NCO(see above). Therefore, he outranks a Specialist even though they have the same pay-grade. Thurmond is a Corporal. I like that it almost makes him and Rose equals.

Sergeant: Sergeants come in all shapes and sizes. They make up the rest of the "enlisted" soldiers. The first is your average Sergeant (E5-SGT), or "Buck Sergeant". Sergeant Sanderford is an E5. Then is a Staff Sergeant (E6-SSG). Wichman is a Staff Sergeant. Then Sergeant First Class (E7-SFC), Master Sergeant (MSG) and First Sergeant (E8-1SG), and then the highest of the enlisted Sergeant Major (SGM), Command Sergeant Major(CSM) and Sergeant Major of the Army (E9-SMA).

Rank Insignia

I don't deal with a whole lot of Officers in Heart of Annihilation, but the ones I do are important. Check out where Justet and the commander fit. It might surprise you.

Lieutenant: 2nd Lieutenant (O1-2LT) is the lowest of the officer rank. Often referred to as a Butter Bar (see rank insignia below). 1st Lieutenant (O2-1LT) is just above that. Justet is a 2nd Lieutenant. He's bottom of the barrel, probably just out of a college ROTC program and knows very little about what an enlisted soldier goes through for training. Technically, however, he still outranks any of the enlisted soldiers, although a wise 2nd Lieutenant will always defer to the advice of his NCOs. You can also see why Sanderford refers to him as "LT". It's subtly disrespectful.

Captain(CPT): O3.

Major(MAJ): O4. The commander (Major Jaimie Kuntz) holds this rank. "The commander" is an unofficial title used for the officer who is commanding a particular unit. Any officer could hold that title, not just a Major.

Lieutenant Colonel(LTC): O5.

Colonel(COL): Full bird Colonel. O6.

Brigadier General(BG): O7.

Major General(MG): O8.

Lieutenant General(LTG): O9.

General(GEN): O10.

General of the Army(GA): We'd call him a 5 star. No O-grade. There is only one of these in the Army. The lower Generals are also extremely limited.

Officer Rank Insignia

Then there are Chief Warrant Officers (CWO) O1-5. I'm not going to get into those because I know little about them and they are not relevant in my books. If they ever become relevant I will do the necessary research. Although I did know a guy once who went from being a Master Sergeant to a CWO....

So there you have it. By no means a comprehensive list (you'd have to go through Boot Camp to learn all that). If there are any in the book that I missed, or that you're simply curious about, let me know and I'll add them to my list.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Memory War

Today I'm hosting the talented Paul Anthony Shortt, a fellow WiDo author. He just released the third book in his trilogy, Memory War, and agreed to sit for an interview, electronically speaking.

Christauna:  Hi there, Paul, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from?

Paul: Hi Christauna, thanks for having me.
I live in Ireland, with my family. We've got three little girls and a pair of very energetic dogs so it's a busy household. Sometimes it can be tricky finding time to write. 

C: Boy do I understand that! So this is the third book in your trilogy?

P: Yes. Originally the series was going to be 6 books, but it came to getting the second book ready, I realised that the series would be much stronger and more focused if I reduced the length.

C: How is writing the conclusion of a series different than writing a first novel or even a second one? I only ask because I'm plowing through revisions on the second book in my series currently and have only just started writing the third. So spill. I'm dying to know.

P: Endings are a big deal. For me, there's no more important part of a story. I've seen a lot of series, whether they be books, tv shows, or movies, where the series ended on a flat note, and it's so disappointing. I wanted to make sure this book did everything I've always wanted to see in an ending. I had to bring everything I'd learned in my time working on the trilogy; pull out all the stops and make it as exciting as possible, while still keeping the story grounded in what had come before, and making sure the end was satisfying and didn't leave too many loose strings.

C: I couldn't agree more. Now I'm even more worried about concluding my series the right way. Anyhoo... tell us about Memory War.

P: Memory War sees the conclusion of Nathan Shepherd's story, something that's been brewing in my head for years now. After realising his past as a reincarnated champion of good, and giving hope back to New York, Nathan now has to face his greatest challenge. His relationship with Elena, his former lover, is strained to breaking point because of his betrayal in a past life, and his nemesis, Athamar, returns to New York to wage war. Nathan has to rally his allies, come to terms with his mistakes, and accept the possibility that this lifetime may well end with blood and pain.

C: What inspired this story?

P: That's kind of hard to say for certain. As a whole, the idea for the series came from wondering what would happen if, in a world of the supernatural, ordinary humans had an edge of their own against monsters? I was tired of seeing vampires and wizards as the primary heroes, with regular people relegated to supporting roles. That's where the reborn came from, the idea that everyday people can remember past lives, and if they practice, can draw strength and knowledge from the memories. Memory War, itself, came from simply wanting to present the most explosive, satisfying conclusion I could offer. 

C: What is your favorite thing about being an author?

P: Getting to lose myself in a story, and indulge my childish side as I soak up lessons in story structure, character development, and narrative from as many sources as I can, from mythology to video games to the latest animated kids' movie.

C: Tell us about your writing process.

P: I'm a reluctant plotter. I usually like to dive into a story and see what ideas come to me, picking and choosing the ones I like. Of course for sequels this becomes trickier, as I have to take into account what's gone before. I get my best ideas while listening to music. I'll imagine scenes happening along with the music, most often coming up with the ending first, and then craft the story and characters around that. When I get to around the halfway point in a draft, I then start to determine how to bring the story to a finish.

C: Last question. Have you ever patterned a character after a person in order to honor that person... or perhaps to get revenge? No, don't answer that... hee hee...

P: Definitely not to get revenge. That's a risky proposition for any author. But I did base Nathan's father, Mike Shepherd, off my own dad. While the two have different backgrounds and traits, they both have the same level-headed, pragmatic idealism. Both wanted their sons to be the best men they could be, and passed on valuable lessons about how to approach life. Both would fiercely protect their loved ones from a threat.

C: Anything else you’d like to add?

P: Thank you again for having me. I hope you, and everyone else, enjoy the new book!

C: It was a pleasure! Thanks for being here.

You're going to want to get the first two in the series first, Locked Within (book 1), Silent Oath (book 2). Oh and don't forget the prequel to Silent Oath, Taking Sides. All are available on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

War is coming to New York. Nathan Shepherd’s growing band of followers is dedicated to protecting the city, but they now face their greatest threat. 

Athamar returns, plunging the city into chaos. Uniting the forces of darkness against Nathan and his allies, Athamar strives to discover a secret hidden for thousands of years. A secret lost to Nathan’s memories. Something so dangerous, even the gods themselves fear it. 

Nathan and Elena were once the greatest of heroes, champions against evil. Now, haunted by Nathan’s past-life betrayal, they must work together and brave the pain of long-buried lifetimes. Somewhere, locked within their former incarnations, lies the key to stopping Athamar, an enemy who has hunted them from one incarnation to the next. 

As the city burns and innocents suffer, as heroes fall and hope dies, Nathan and Elena face their final battle, a battle where legends will be reborn.


A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends.

The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica. Their fourth child, Olivia, was born in January, 2014.

Monday, August 4, 2014


If you've been wondering why I've been unavailable for the past week it's because I've been out of town. Well, more like out of the country. Like in Mexico... helping orphans.... Are you impressed?

When I agreed to attend the 2014 Asay family reunion last year, I had no idea that it would land a week before my book release and send us far off the grid. As I realized that the dates were so close, I balked. How could I step away from my home, my book-related work and....and....wi-fi for a whole week just before Heart of Annihilation hit the shelves?! Even to help Mexican orphans.

I whined, complained, stressed and probably even cried a little until my husband gave me the option to back out of the trip. It was then that I realized that I really did want to go. I wanted to spend time with my children and help those in need. Honestly I think I really needed to get away from my life. So I contacted my publisher and, being the fantastic company that they are, they suggested that I go on the trip. The book was in good hands and would be here when I got back. So I packed my small children off to my parents house and my larger children in the car and we headed to Mexico.
We roughed it in little adobe bunk houses near the orphanage

 I worked on a massive mural and helped build a rock wall.

We went took the orphans to the beach...
...played with kids...

...ate with kids...
...fed the homeless, learned some spanish, tried some great food, sweated a whole lot, killed a ton of bugs, shared two toilets and three showers among fifty people, and fell into bed each night exhausted. 

Publishing this book has been an all encompassing task. I've slept, ate and drank it. I've obsessed over every detail and let it take over my life. Going to Mexico really pulled me out of my rut. I couldn't work on anything book related, so I didn't. I was able to look outside myself. I was able to separate the things of most importance and prioritize. I'm still tired from the week and thrilled to be back in the states. I'm so grateful for my life and the opportunities I have in this country.

I'm ready to get down to the nitty gritty publishing related work and get this book released tomorrow. But I will be doing it from a different perspective.

Realignment complete. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Life will never be the same

It’s been 6-7 years since I typed the first words to Heart of Annihilation. That’s right, more than half a decade of work and expectations. Sort of like being pregnant for an insanely long time….but I digress…

Every year that has gone by has brought me closer to my goal. Every revision, query letter, rejection, revision, contract, failed contract, new contract, edit, and final revision has brought me to the doorstep where I can finally deliver my baby.

Fine….let’s just run with the pregnancy metaphor, shall we?

Coming up to the birth of your child a thousand thoughts and emotions encircle you. Will others love this child I’ve created? Will she be good, interesting, wonderful, exciting and worthy of love? What does the future hold for this her?

Words cannot describe the thrill it will be for me to hold this little creation of mine in just over a week. Perhaps no one will adore Heart of Annihilation as much as I do, but my sincere hope is that these characters that have grown over the years will become as dear to you as they are to me. I hope that you will enjoy their journey, weep at their misfortune and failures and bask in their success as I have done. I hope that you will take them into your heart and want to share them with others.

Because honestly, folks, 6-7 years of pregnancy deserves acknowledgement. It actually deserves a freakin’ standing ovation....but I suppose simply reading the book or leaving a review will suffice. 

Welcome to the world, Heart of Annihilation! It’s going to be a fantastic run!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Guest Post by Angela Hartley: Seven Gates, seven Books.

Today I have Angela Hartley here, telling us about her newly released novel Copper Descent and her writing journey.

Seven Gates, Seven Books
When I first began my career, I was a novice who believed I controlled my work. I thought I’d write happy children’s books, and everything would be hearts and rainbows. I never set out to write horror, but the genre chose me. Whenever I’d sit down to write, it turned ugly. The worst aspect of humanity would fill my pages with terrible nightmares.

I wondered if there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I also noticed a pattern emerging. The same dark figure appeared in each piece, and he was always the driving force behind the mayhem. 

The granddaddy of all antagonists was in my head and I wanted to lay him to rest once and for all, which meant I either needed to find an exorcist or create someone who was just as powerful to take him on (Don’t worry too much about my mental health. All writers do this. It’s just that few would actually admit it out loud).

My first novel, Copper Descent really started out as an exploration of the monster, and his weaknesses. I say monster, not man, because even in the beginning I knew he wasn’t human. Sinclair Devereux didn’t actually announce himself as being Lucifer though until his story landed on paper, but once he started talking he wouldn’t stop, and my single novel suddenly became a seven book project.

Yes, seven books, the first three following different sets of characters that all come together in the fourth. The interesting part is I decided this before I even began my research. I knew my heroine carried an amulet that was also a key, but a key to what, I didn’t know. Around this time I stumbled upon the book of Enoch. What a stroke of plot hole luck!

Reading Ezekiel wasn’t the easiest of tasks. When he would go into his tangents of knowledge causing death, all I could think was he’s out of his mind! But I kept going because the man also knew more than any person of his time should have. He spoke of the gateways to heaven, seven by land and four by sea. The people of this age weren’t even aware that the earth was round, let alone be conscious of how many continents and oceans existed, yet this crazy old man somehow documented exactly that.

This premise was a perfect building block for what I’d already created. I coupled this concept with Paradise Lost as well as legends and folklore from around the world, and found I had a unique twist on an old story. Each book is represented by a metal—a different gate to open and aspect of human nature to overcome. Lucifer goes through his own evolution, and eventually returns to the angel city. The journey is equally heart-wrenching and rewarding, and I hope it will inspire all to look deeper.

Angela Hartley, Author of The Sentient Chronicles
Angela Hartley spent much of her childhood being shuffled from house to house with only a book for companionship. The magic she found in the written word saved her in many ways, transporting her into worlds far more enjoyable than the one she resided in. Literature became a passion and the idea of writing carried her through years of uncertainty.
After high school, she met and married her own Prince Charming. They rode off into the sunset in his blue Toyota and a whole new world full of hope and happiness opened up. He claimed they could move mountains together, and they did.
While facing the painful realization that sometimes there are no tomorrows following her father’s tragic death in 2005, she decided it was time to follow her dreams. With the love and support of her family, she dove into another world, full of procreating angels and demon rock stars.
 Her debut new adult horror novel, Copper Descent will be released on Amazon May 2014. Angela currently resides in Midway, Utah with her three children and husband.

The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for eighteen generations. But the truth has been brought into light.
The dark god of legend is real.
Caught in an ancient war still raging strong in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, Nina must resist the seductive charm of a beautiful monster, or prepare to lose everything she holds dear.
Temptation has a name, and he is coming for her.