Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: Jack Absolute

(Image from C.C. Humphreys' website: )

Jack Absolute, by C.C. Humphreys is an historical novel set in and around the Saratoga Campaign, which became a decisive turning point in the American War of Independence.

In this novel, Mr. Humphreys expanded the role, so to speak, of the main character in Richard Sheridan's popular play, The Rivals.

The "real" Jack Absolute is furious with his friend Sheridan for turning a romantic escapade in his youth into the romantic comedy of its day. However, before Jack can have it out with Sheridan, he is ensnared in a web of intrigue and ends up becoming General Burgoyne's spy for this new expedition against "those damned rebels." During the course of Jack's misadventure he runs into, or a foul of, several other historical figures such as: Banastre Tarleton, Chief Joseph Brant, Major Andre, General William Howe and Benedict Arnold.

I had the pleasure of attending a seminar and keynote address given by Mr. Humprheys during this year's PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) Conference. (See the 9 and 21 September postings under the PNWA 09 Author Workshop Review Section). So while reading this story I kept in mind a couple of points the author made during his talks.

First and foremost, every scene in the story must move the plot forward. This includes the sex scenes. While it is alluded that Jack has had numerous liaisons, the love scenes described at length form pivotal moments of the story.

Mr. Humprheys cautioned against giving history lessons in historical fiction. Despite Jack's role as Burgoyne's spy, in the military chain of command he is a mere captain. Therefore he doesn't have a view of the "big picture" during the campaign. Jack manages to be present at key points during the battles of Oriskany and Bemis Heights, yet the author limits his narrative to only what Jack personally observes during the chaos and confusion of the fighting.

In a similar vein, Mr. Humphreys doesn't slow his narrative down with extensive backstories, or worse--flashbacks--on Jack's earlier life. Instead, snippets of Jack's past are effectively blended into the narrative. The reader is treated to mere hints about: Jack living with the Iroquois for several years and his murdered Mohawk wife, adventures in India to regain the fortune lost by his mad father and a campaign in Spain--where he came to the attention of "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne.

This means there's plenty of fodder for more Absolute adventures!

So far there are two other Absolute novels: The Blooding of Jack Absolute and Absolute Honor, which are now on my "must read" list.

Note: Due to the cloak & dagger aspects of this 5-star novel, my review is rather general to prevent disclosing plot-spoilers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Characters in Combat and Writers of the Working Day

And so I come to the end of my recaps for this year's PNWA Summer Conference. Our final keynote speaker was, none other than Chris Humprheys, of the (in)famous Writing Sex Scenes workshop. (See The Ins and Outs of Writing Sex Scenes post, 09 Sep 09).

(Image from C.C. Humphreys' website)

I finally managed to take some pictures of the conference. Unfortunately, most of them turned out too dark or blurry. Of the two I managed to salvage, here's Chris reading from one of his books:

And this one is of Chris giving us the final motivational speech of the conference:

The main theme of Chris' Sunday morning address was writing battle scenes. We've all heard that conflict is at the heart of every story and that without conflict, there is no story.

Well, to say there's conflict a-plenty amid the mass-slaughter of a battlefield would be a gross understatement. However, unless you're writing a history book, readers want stories focused on great characters.

Therefore, battle scenes in literature serve the following purpose:

--Places characters in grave peril.

--Shows them in action (as in life-or-death action).

--Characters must have objectives beyond surviving the day (a love interest, revenge, etc).

However, when plunging into the heat of battle:

--Be sure not to give a history lesson.

--80 to 90% of the research material shouldn't go into the book unless it is important to the character.

--Instead use research as a springboard for your imagination.

After making these key points, Chris treated us to readings from two of his books.

The first one was from his novel Vlad: The Last Confession. In this scene Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler--better known as Dracula) led a force of 4,000 Wallachian warriors in a surprise attack against the sultan's camp. I can still imagine the scene Chris verbally painted, of Vlad and his troops charging through the Transylvanian forest and the dark hills echoing their war cry: "Dr-r-r-r-a-cu-la! Dr-r-r-r-a-cu-la!"

Brrrr! That was more spine-tingling than a solitary vampire, who can be chased off with a mere crucifix and wooden stake.

It took more than props from a horror movie to deal with the real Dracula:

The second reading was from Vendetta, the second book in Chris' Runestone Saga. Despite being part of a young adult (YA) series, Chris didn't pull any punches in his narrative. The protagonist, Sky, develops the power to teleport back into the body of his ancestors, thanks to his grandfathers journal and set of nordic runestones. In Vendetta he enters the mind of Tza, a feral shepherdess on Corsica in the 16th Century. During a siege, Tza kills her first man with a sling and stone.

Chris then gave a demonstration of his skill with a sling like the one Tza used. He learned this talent for his part as a gladiator in the mini-series AD. Fortunately Chris palmed the stone so--no actual humans were injured in this keynote address.

After the speech my friend Sharon had the presence of mind to ask Chris in trying out the sling. She's writing a novel about ancient Mesopotamia, circa 2350 B.C. and wanted to do some on-the-spot research. (I wish I thought of that!).

Most of us though, have no knowledge or skill at wielding swords, slings, bows and other archaic implements of destruction. This of course, limits an author's ability to "write what you know."

But Chris pointed out there is a way around such lack of experience: Seek out re-enactors.

These folks dress in period attire, ranging from ancient Rome to World War II. They practice with the weaponry of the era for events such as Renaissance Fairs, Rendezvous, battle re-enactments or living history weekends. Re-enactors are a wealth of hands-on information not often found in books or on the internet. And if you're lucky, maybe you can get a chance to practice with the weaponry you envision your character wielding. Doing so will bring more realism to your battle scenes.

Chris' keynote address though, wasn't all battles and bloodshed.

Well, sort of...

He was asked to end his talk on an uplifting note to inspire attendees with desire to continue their work when they return home. So he tied these two themes together by giving us his rendition of the Saint Crispin's Day Speech from Shakespeare's Henry V:

According to Shakespeare, King "Harry" delivered this stirring oration to his weary troops before the battle of Agincourt:

It is said that Shakespeare is better appreciated performed than read. Since I didn't have a camcorder with me, you'll have to make do with my favorite film version, starring Kenneth Brannagh:

PNWA is a great organization for writers and does more than hold annual conferences. For more information about the association's activities throughout the year, log on to their website (also found in the Writing Section of this blog):

And so dear friends, this ends my Summer Conference recaps.

Until next year...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

World Building with Team Seattle

I now came to the last batch of workshops for this year's conference. There were classes on: Pitching to agents, writing dialogue for crime fiction, writing Young Adult (YA) fiction, collaborating with other authors, learning to become a writer and world building.

World building? Hmm. Listed under the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Track, this workshop appealed to me the most for a couple reasons. First my interest in science-fiction and fantasy are close seconds to military history and historical fiction.

Second, "world building" occurs in every other genre of fiction. Thrillers, historical novels, romances and everything else do not occur in the real world. The settings in these tales are imaginary backdrops based on the real world of today or yesteryear. Our collective knowledge about the past can often be fragmentary at best, so writers of historical fiction fill-in such gaps with their stories.

With these thoughts in mind, I decided to attend this seminar.

Like the "Habits..." seminar I attended in the last session this class was conducted by a panel of writers who often call themselves "Team Seattle." They're a cabal of fantasy authors and friends who often attend book tours and conventions together. Most of their books fall into sub-genre of Urban Fantasy:
The moderator for this workshop was Kat Richardson, author of Vanished. This is the fourth book in her Greywalker series, where Seattle PI Harper Blaine develops the ability to move in and out of "The Grey," the realm between life and death. Kat did a great job as a moderator, despite having caught a cold and losing her "traffic-stopping bark" at ComicCon several day prior. (See her "Voiceless in Seattle," blogpost 30 July 09).

The first panelist, Mark Henry is the author of Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead. These stories originated from a question Mark once asked himself: "...what if the Sex and the City girls ended up rising from the dead with a craving for flesh?" (FAQ Section of Mark Henry's Bio).

As I mentioned above, most of Team Seattle writes urban fantasy stories. Cherie Priest is the exception. Her upcoming book Boneshaker, along with her previous works, fit into the Steampunk sub-genre.

And in case you're wondering what "steampunk" is:

Cherie's Steampunk website (See "Steampunk" under FAQ, for her thoughts on the genre, posted 13 Sept 09):

The third panelist, Lisa Mantchev is a fantasy author who keeps her world's magic confined within a theater. Book One of The Theatre Illuminata trilogy appeared earlier this year.

Our fourth panelist was "urban fantasy noir" writer Caitlin Kittredge, author of the Nocturne City series and the upcoming Black London series.

At the time of this writing, our last panelist Richelle Mead should be returning from her Down Under book tour. Richelle is the author of the YA series Vampire Academy and the adult Succubus series. (Succubi and their male counterparts, Incubi are the seductive demons of the netherworld).

Most of the above panelists are members of The League of Reluctant Adults:
Note: Most of the authors' pictures were obtained from their websites. The photo of Cherie Priest in her steampunk regalia I took from her Flickr page.

There are 3 methods of world building:

1. Top Down-build the world then populate it with characters.

2. Bottom Up-create the characters, write the story creating the world as you go.

3. Meet in the middle.

The 3 general categories of worlds are:

1. Our world with a "change." Most Urban Fantasy falls under this category.

2. Alternate Earth--the same but different, such as alternate histories and Steam Punk.

3. Not our Earth. Another world such as Tolkien's Middle Earth, Lucas' Tatooine, etc.

While writing how much of the world do you reveal?

Is the world closed? That is most people don't know about the paranormal/extra-terrestrial elements inhabiting and interacting in the world.

Is the world open? This means everyone knows about the strange beings and events that populate the world which makes this a part of "ordinary" life.

Keep in mind that a supernatural element has a major impact on ALL aspects of life.

The most important thing to remember is: The world must be consistent throughout your story.
Larger issues may need to be addressed, such as:

1. The physical world--it's geography, terrain and possible terraforming.

2. People--What races are there? What's the interaction among races? What's the social structure or stratification? Are there any gender issues?

3. Social aspects--Typical views on politics, economy and religion.

4. Social systems--Organized religion and law.

Worldwide issues may need to be touched on or explained in some detail:

--Trade & commerce


--The Arts


Remember the adage: "Follow the money!"

What's the economy like?

How do people feed themselves? That is what do they do on a daily basis to survive and thrive?

What's ordinary life like?

The Science Fiction Writers Association has a world building FAQ:

Towards the end of the seminar, the attendees were asked to write up a synopsis of their proposed worlds. During this time Kat said something to this effect: "Even though this workshop was geared for science fiction and fantasy, you can apply the same techniques in writing historical fiction for example."

It would be presumptuous of me to say "great minds think alike." However it was nice to hear Kat confirm my rationale for attending this workshop.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Habits of Successful Professional Writers

On 1 August, 1:29 PM (1329 hours for you military readers), I faced a dilema: The Habits of Successful Professional Writers seminar was scheduled at the same time as The Nitty Gritty: Writing Sex and Romance for Fantasy and Science Fiction workshop. Both classes started at 1:30...


Sometimes when it comes to your writing career you have to make tough decisions.

Since I attended the Writing Sex Scenes workshop I felt I had enough sex (writing, that is) for one day and that the "Habits..." seminar would be more beneficial to me. Despite the less-than sultry subject, it turned out to be a good choice after all.

This was a panel discussion moderated by Robert Dugoni, author of Wrongful Death and other legal thrillers. Rob is heavily involved in PNWA and provides inspiration to aspiring writers with his "I-was-sitting-where-you're-at" perspective.

The panelists included the following folks:

Royce Buckingham, author of Demonkeeper and soon-to-be-released Goblins! was our first panelist. From what I remember in past PNWA workshops, Royce is a veteran of numerous writing contests and encouraged attendees to keep entering them in order to get the feedback necessary to hone your writing skills.

I've also attended workshops hosted by former railroad inspector and second panelist, Kevin O'Brien. Kevin always struck me as being a very nice and mild-mannered guy--who happens to write about depraved serial killers. He's working on his eleventh novel, appropriately titled--Vicious.

The third panelist was Mike Lawson, author of the Joe DeMarco political thrillers. Most of these stories are set in "the other Washington." That is, DC, which brings to mind different sorts of depravity...

But not every panelist was a spinner of tales involving courtroom and international intrigue, or paranormal and psychotic mayhem. Like an anchorage in such a tempest, Will North's heart-warming stories deal with love & loss (The Long Walk Home) and middle-age romance (Water, Stone, Heart).

Note: All photos were obtained from the authors' respective websites.
Despite their varied background, the panelists were united in stressing the following points:

-Love what you do and be happy doing it.

-Define your own success.

-Everything you do, should be done to move your writing career forward.

-Never quit your day job!

-Finish your book! That is, make sure your manuscript is complete before approaching an agent.
-Don't do anything that will stress you out, writing is suppose to be enjoyable.

-Maintain your sense of humor.

And when writing, make each scene move the story forward and avoid what Will called "Shoe Leather Descriptions." That is, extensive descriptions of characters moving from Point-A to Point-B.

Because publishing is a business, authors should view writing as a career. Like any other job, you should have career goals and a business plan in mind.
To help reinforce these ideas, Royce provided everyone with a copy of his "Successful Habits for Writers" Handout, which is reprinted below:

Year 1--Beginning Writer ("Gosh, this is fun.")

1. Start things...write regularly...finish things.

2. Share your things (family & friends).

Year 2--Intermediate Writer ("Wow, I can't stop writing.")

1.Start things...write regularly...finish things.

2. Share you things (friends, family, critique groups, contests).

3. Research the business etiquette (read books about writing, attend conferences).

4. Meet people in the business.

5. Collect rejections.

6. Use feedback to find your sweetspot (strongest genre, attend conferences).

Year 7-? Writer on the Brink ("Aha, writing is a business.")

1. Identify and outline good ideas BEFORE writing (via: friends, family and critique groups).

2. Start things...write things...finish things.

3. Share your things (friends, family, critique groups, contests, agents, publishers).

4. Research the business entirely (read books about writing, attend conferences, join organizations).

5. Collect more rejections.

6. Become an expert in your genre.

7. Approach people in the business you've met to read and recommend your work.

8. Be professional (Take writing seriously, and it will take you seriously).

Published Author (Writing is a job...and gosh, it's still fun.")

1. All of the above.

2. Start things...write regularly...finish things.

3.Share your things (with the world).

Remember: Always be moving your career forward.

Royce also provided a second handout called the "10 Qualities of Successful Hollywood Writers" by his manager Ken Atchity.

These qualities are:

1. Focused vision of their work and themselves.

2. Persistence, determination--pertinacity.

3. Unbelievable self-discipline when it comes to writing.

4. High concept.

5. Knowing the business of Hollywood inside/out.

6. Supreme confidence and being "no-proof."

7. Willingness to "go for broke." Investing self on every level.

8. Close relationship with the market they reflect or create.

9. Writing for the audience.

10. Finding a Hollywood gatekeeper and sticking with him/her.

While not every author plans to write a screenplay, these qualities still apply. For instance substitute "Hollywood gatekeeper" with "literary agent."

Various definitions of "habit" were listed listed at the bottom of this handout. These ranged from distinctive costume, to drug addiction to tasks done often and easily such as--writing!

By the end of this session, various panelists recommended the following books on writing:

-The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
-The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
-On Writing by Stephen King
-Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
-any book by Kenneth Atchity
-The Writer's Market

So where do I place on Royce's Successful Habits Timeline?
Let's see, I started writing gaming articles 5 years ago and began attending PNWA Conferences 3 or 4 years ago. I guess this makes me an Intermediate Writer. My two major weak areas here are: Item #2 in that I haven't joined a critique group and I haven't quite found my literary "sweetspot" yet (Item #6).

My wargaming interests range from the Bronze Age to the Hyperspace Age and every era in between. However, I consider my main focus is on military history and historical fiction prior to the Industrial Revolution. This narrows my sweetspot down to--what?--3,100 years of recorded history, give or take a hundred years.
Looks like I have my work cut out for me in determining my best genre. Then I can graduate to Writer on the Brink...

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Drives My Writing?

In the October Issue of The Writer (Vol. 122, Issue 10, pg. 6), Editor Jeff Reich asked: "What drives your writing?"

Writers are divided into two camps. One set are the "happy campers," those who find writing to be an enjoyable experience.

And then there's folks like me who find splicing words together to be an onerous task.

So is it pleasure or pain that drives one to write?

Here's the answer I posted on the The Writer's online forum:

Years ago someone asked me why I like working out so much.

I replied, "I don't. I like finishing!"

This off-the-cuff remark turned out to be a key trait in my personality profile and work ethic. That is, I enjoy the results of being (relatively) lean and healthy, but on most mornings I trudge to the gym and my mood doesn't brighten until I'm half-way through my workout.

The same holds true for just about every other aspect in my life. I love a clean house, but consider cleaning a necessary evil.

With the "write every day" mantra it's easy for me to correlate writing with working out. In my mind the same rules apply whether it's for a fit body or strong prose.

So I'm usually not filled with joy over my work until someone has read it and I can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Mr. Reich's question intrigued me enough to actually post a reply in my first writer's forum. I could learn to like this...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Writing the Steamy Scenes

Okay, so what's a guy like me who writes about toy soldiers doing in a Writing Sex Scenes workshop?

Because as Deborah Schneider said in class: "Sex sells!"

Deborah Schneider, one of the workshop presenters is the author of Beneath a Silver Moon and the upcoming novel Promise Me. Her website can also be found under the Author's Section of this blog:

The numbers confirm her statement, since by 2000, romance novels outstripped all other literary genres: (Scroll down to "Markets: North America").

It truly is a New Millennium and some of us would like to be published authors before the end of it. But writing is more than just hitting publishing high notes. Love of the craft drives writers to create an enjoyable reading experience for their audience. One key element in accomplishing this is to develop realistic characters, or acurate portrayals of historic figures, that will keep readers engaged in the story. How the protagonist wrestles with love & romance can be just as important as to how well he braves shot & shell.
My own writing comes up short on this score: While I've written articles about the heat of battle, I have yet to transcribe anything about the heat of passion. It's not that I'm inhibited, just unskilled at coupling the necessary pieces for an arousing love scene. Not to mention bringing an entire book-length manuscript to a satisfying climax.

Fortunately authors like Deborah Schneider and Chris Humphreys are an unabashed and encouraging pair for a novice like me.
Chris, or C.C. Humphreys, is the author of the Jack Absolute and Runestone series, along with several other hisorical novels. His webiste is can also be found under the Author's Section of this blog:

Despite this stellar line-up, I wasn't planning on attending this course. A couple of years ago I sat-in on a similar PNWA workshop and I assumed it was like some of the x-rated movies I' about. A case of "you've seen one, you've seen 'em all," so to speak.

Well the previous night I struck up a conversation with Chris while purchasing a couple of his Jack Absolute books. During the course of our chat I discovered he use to play wargames too. So while I spent the rest of our talk trying to rekindle his interest in wargaming he convinced me to attend his and Deborah's workshop the following day.

"It will be fun!" He assured me.

And it certainly was.

Here's some of the few notes I managed to take:

The main question you have to ask yourself is: What are you trying to achieve by incorporating one or more sex scenes into your narrative?

The primary goal of any sex scene is to move the story forward. Otherwise you're just writing porn.

One effect a sex scene achieves is that it reveals more about the character than is otherwise known by the rest of the cast in the story.
People often act different behind closed doors and readers become privy to such intimate details.
Relationships are the key element in romance novels. Without a relationship beyond sex, you're not writing a romance novel, you're back to writing porn.

Two points of view are necessary for a successful romance: The hero's and heroine's.

The language used in a romance is also part of the appeal, especially when writing historical romances, which must fit the period and setting of the story.

Even if you're not writing romance, the protagonist should have a romantic interest as I mentioned in my Novel to Script post.

Clothing--especially lingerie--can be used to heighten the effect. You can add different layers and style of clothing too. Such as having your protagonist dress in conservative outer garments, but underneath--see the "behind closed doors" comment above. Or as Deborah said: "Think Victoria's Secret!"

Engage all the senses when writing a sex scene, not just sight. Taste, touch, smell and sound all come into play during intimate moments. Doing so amplifies the sensuality of the scene and builds sexual tension.

However, the hero and heroine often want more than sex. Either or both may have other goals and desires that may put them in conflict with others--or each other. Remember: Conflict fuels the story!

And while "sex sells" you want to write within your comfort level and at the same time keep in mind what genre or sub-genre you're writing in. For instance, there's no sex until the "I dos" are exchanged--and after the wedding guest have left--in Christian or inspirational romance. The same might be said for Young Adult (YA) novels, but Deborah pointed out some YA books series contain very explicit content.

The bottom line is: Writing sex scenes, like sex itself, should be an enjoyable experience. Once it becomes a chore, your work will become flaccid. So don't worry about satisfying your audience with your first draft. Writing the first draft should be a gratifying experience for yourself.
What ever your comfort level is your readers will learn what to expect and what not to expect from you.
Despite the candid banter of this workshop there are some definite prohibitions in writing romance: No rape, pedophilia, bestiality or any other depraved actions are allowed.

So an hour-and-a-half workshop boiled down to 401 words of notes?
Not quite.

Both Deborah and Chris read excerpts from their respective novels to illustrate what makes a good sex scene.

Deborah treated us to the scene in Promise Me where the heroine, Amanda Wainwright tried to seduce Secret Service Agent Samuel Calhoun. By the time Deborah finished reading, Amanda was on Sam's lap and her little black dress was about ready to fall to the floor...

Chris took us back to 18th Century London, where Jack Absolute decided to lay on the charm with actress Fanny Harper in The Blooding of Jack Absolute. This scene involved erotic poetry, candied peaches, a hooped skirt and other sorts of Age of Reason fashion contraptions. Unfortunately for Jack, Fanny was Lord Melbury's kept woman and said lord picked an inopportune time to pay a visit to his main squeeze...

These scenes played pivotal roles in advancing the plot in both stories:

Agent Calhoun is an undercover operative working to expose fraud within a mining consortium. Assuming they have a loyal employee, the consortium wants Sam to seduce and humiliate Amanda in order to put her out of business. However, complications arise when Agent Calhoun finds himself under the covers servicing Ms. Wainwright instead of faking it with the consortium. This is a perilous position for both of them, because if Sam keeps it up with Amanda he could have his cover blown.

Meanwhile, back in the 18th Century Jack wasn't as adept as Sam at laying-low. Jack was discovered in an entangled position by the irate Lord Melbury, forced to flee London and join the army. He eventually found himself a continent away, scaling the cliffs onto the Plains of Abraham before the walls of Quebec. Thanks to some derring-do on Jack's part the English won the battle against the French and Canada was incorporated into the British Empire.

Or as Chris put it: If Jack didn't try to have sex with Fanny, he wouldn't have fled London, he wouldn't have joined General Wolfe's invasion force and Canada would still be French to this day!
Talk about "moving a plot forward."

Fortunately most sexcapades don't have such sweeping geopolitical repercussions. But discussing ramifications of romance wasn't the only amusing moment in this class.

During Deborah's reading one young lady left just as Amanda & Sam were getting tongue tied. The lady in-question stood up, fanned her face with her hand and gasped, "This is too hot for me!"

Maybe it was. But I think she actually had an appointment with an agent and played the moment up for maximum comedic effect.

Then there was the woman who wanted to write about her sexploits after divorcing her dull and unimaginative husband. While this "got the attention of every guy in the room," as my friend Alynn put it, she did bring up a good point: If you're writing a memoir, how much explicit content do you include in your own tell-all tale?

Such a "cumming-of-age stories" as Chris called them, can be stimulating stuff indeed. However once again, you should keep the primary thrust of your experiences in mind. That is, they must move the story forward.

Oddly enough, our self-revealing heroine seemed uncomfortable divulging her conjugal activities to her family. For her touchy situation it was suggested she use a pen name to avoid shocking the tender sensibilities of her relatives.
The next workshop I attended was the Habits of Successful Professional Writers which will be the subject of my next post. As an aspiring writer, I felt I needed all the professional help I could get. Sadly this conflicted with The Nitty Gritty: Writing Sex and Romance for Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I'm a big fan of both sci-fi and fantasy, but I guess there's only so much sex--writing at least--I can take...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Traveller PC: Major Elazar Slacker, Imperial Marine Commando

Conducting a personal recon, Major Slacker is represented by Wizards of the Coast Rebel Captain (10/60 Rebel 21) of their Star Wars Miniatures set.

Major Slacker continues his recon in the face of an uncertain situation. But that's what commandos do...

Slacker's command car is represented by Wizards of the Coast Flash Speeder figure (4/60 Republic 41) of their Star Wars Miniatures Set.

I've played Traveller for almost as long as I've played D&D. However, most of the time I was a gamemaster (GM). Despite my GM duties, I managed to roll-up this character whom I've yet to take on an adventure. Unlike D&D, in Traveller one can roll-up a character with an extensive past.
In Elazar Slacker's case, he rose to his current rank of Major in the Imperium's Marine Commandos. Slacker is no "desk jockey." Since enlisting in the Marines at 18, Elazar has been involved in a total of 6 counter-insurgency operations and 2 commando raids, which earned him 3 decorations--along with one wound as a "souvenir."

Elazar Slacker's Stats
Race: Human Age: 34
Career: Marine Branch: Commando Terms Served: 4
Rank: Major Retired?: No Pay: 1600 Cr/Month
Attributes (UPP): Str-8 Dex-8 End-11 Int-12 Ed-9 Soc Status-8
Awards and Decorations:
1-Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry (MCG)
2-Medals for Meritorious Conduct Under Fire (MCUFs)

1-Purple Heart (PH)
3-Combat Command Ribbons (CCRs)
6-Combat Ribbons (CRs)

Leadership-2, Tactics-2, Survival-1, Zero-G-Combat-1, Battledress-1, Forward Observer-1, Reconnaissance-1, Stealth-1, Combat Rifleman-1, Laser Weapons-1, Handgun-1, Grav Vehicle-1, Heavy Weapons-1
Personal History:
18-Enlisted into the Marines
19 to 23-Involved in 5 counter insurgency operations

24-Involved in a police action, cited for bravery and was wounded. Awarded the MCG & PH

25-Sent to College

28-Graduated Officer Candidate School

29-Sent to Commando School

31-Involved in a counter-insurgency operation

32-Involved in a raid, cited for bravery and awarded the MCUF

33-Involved in another raid, cited for bravery and awarded a 2nd MCUF


Father--a wilderness guide, hunter & tracker.

Mother--a teacher

Siblings--1 older brother, 4 younger sisters and 2 younger brothers
Traveller was initially produced by Game Designers' Workshop (GDW). A link to Traveller can be found under Role Playing Games. For some reason a direct link to Wikipedia's entry on Traveller doesn't work: