The Border – Part 7

Hurray for another installment of The Border!

Hello everyone! Welcome back! I hope your holiday season is off to a smashing start, I know mine is! To break up my monotony and get my brain working on different angles for Steel Praetorian, I decided to catch up on my short story – The Border – so here is part 7 for your enjoyment. If you forgot everything that was going on, here’s a link to Part 1 to enjoy the story from the beginning.

Also remember, you can get Iron Tribune on Sale now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords! My latest novel is packed full of action, adventure, assassination and political intrigue (Or AAAP, for short!) Get it now, and be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow me on facebook as well to get all the latest updates on my novels and other fascinating topics.

Continue reading “The Border – Part 7”

The Border, Part 3

Salve! Part 3 of The Border is now live! Will Perula’s forces throw back the Quadi? Will his plan work, or will Rome lose yet another border province? Read to find out!

Salve! Part 3 of The Border is now live! Will Perula’s forces throw back the Quadi? Will his plan work, or will Rome lose another border province? Read to find out! As always, let me know what you think of it below. Not sure what’s happening? Read Part 1 and Part 2!

Continue reading “The Border, Part 3”

Five Steps to Writing Awesome Battle Scenes

Hi everyone!
As a veteran reader, I’ve read my fair share of battle scenes over the years. Now, as a writer, I find myself rereading many of those older stories and novels to see how different authors have approached battle scenes. I’ve taken these lessons and applied them to both Brass Legionnaire and Copper Centurion, and will continue to add on what I’ve learned in future novels!

First off, there’s a huge difference between writing ancient or fantasy battle scenes and sci-fi ones. After all, your weaponry, tactics, skills, battlefield knowledge, and technology (or magic!) all play a roll in how, where, and why you will fight. Urban combat in a medieval city will not take months to play out, as you have to fight it out toe to toe with your opponent. Not so the modern or futuristic era, where you can kill a man hundreds of yards away, then duck down through the sewers to the hidden bunker created in the apartment complex over yonder.

But what about for steampunk? How can I write a good battle scene for my novel if they include a smattering of things for all eras? Well that’s where I’m here to help!

First, remember that conflict is never about the weapons. It’s about a fight between two people/sets of peoples. Sometimes, in steampunk, we authors have a tendency to focus on the awesome gadgetry rather than the stories. Gadgets are cool, but humanity needs to be the guiding force. So show me how the character is feeling as he chops down his opponent. I want to see through the targeting reticule with him, slice off the zombie’s head with her, I want to feel and hear and taste (the iron tang of blood in your mouth! – Okay, maybe a bit gruesome, but you get the point) War is hell, it is experience. It is not some pretty dainty thing. Don’t treat it as such.

Leonidas is not pleased by your pitiful battle scene.

Second, do yourself a favor. Find a few movies that are in the time period closest to yours (or those with the closest weaponry-wise) and watch them. Not the extreme movies like 300, but rather a movie like Alexander. Think documentary over Hollywood flash. Don’t watch the newest “3 Musketeers” but find the original. Find a movie that shows you the battle panoramic style and close up. In other words – Do your research. While the weapons are not the focus of your story, they impact the use of tactics and how your army/soldiers fight. IE – My legionnaires are not going to charge a group of mechaniphants – They know perfectly well that they would get squashed. But they have created tactics to deal with them. you see the point.

Alternative – READ A BOOK(s)! Seriously – I read Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul prior to writing Brass Legionnaire. If you want people to take your battles seriously, demonstrate you understand what you are writing about.

Third, try to stay focused on one part of a scene at a time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to go back and reread a battle scene because I just didn’t understand what was happening. Sometimes, that’s the point, and the character is also lost in the ‘fog of war’ but then that should be in your writing. Jumping point of view can be a killer, and unless he is floating high above the battlefield, it’s hard to give him that ‘power’ to know what’s happening on the other flank in real time.

Fourth, your character is not a superhero. He/She will get tired, confused, wounded, exhausted, mad with rage, etc. Express that. I read a book once where a character sliced his way through half an opposing army. He had been a poor, simple, teenage farmer forty pages earlier, received no training, and then went to war. Realistic Result – Farmer dies on end of swordsman’s blade. Or runs away before hand.

I want to see growth and training. My characters may be Roman Legionnaires and have gone through difficult training, but they are still more deadly as part of a team, not as lone wolves. Besides, the idea that Conan the Barbarian will destroy the bad guy’s army single-handed is a bit overdone, don’t you think? And remember, most real battles ended due to the arrival of nighttime or one side fleeing. Very rarely did the losing side stay around to get pummeled into the ground. Terrain or circumstance forced that.

Finally, Don’t make your opponents cardboard props. They shouldn’t be dumb and flat, they should be sneaky, conniving, tricky. They should have motivation and a basic knowledge of tactics and warfare. Warlords get that way because they… go…to…war. They won’t lose all that knowledge the second they face your hero’s army. A talented opponent makes for a better story, a more engaging plot, and the chance for sequels.

Whew! There you have it! Five easy steps to writing awesome battle scenes. You can apply them to any era or type of battle, not just steampunky ones! Enjoy, and take a sneak peek of Copper Centurion below.

I’m about 20 thousand words in. For those of you keeping track, I have not, and won’t meet my goal of finishing it before the family vacation (six days or so away, no way I’ll be able to type 60k words or so!) But I promise you, I’m making progress! Copper Centurion involves a lot more airship combat and larger conflicts than Brass Legionnaire, so here’s a first look at an (unedited and un-beta-read) part of a larger airfleet combat. I’ve tried to follow all the rules listed above, but once again, this is a rough draft.

“Centurion, get your soldiers into position. They appear to be trying to double up on our airships. There’s more than we thought.” He shouted over the humming of the engines. The tempo of the large propellers had increased and Julius felt the ship move faster under his booted feet.

“Check your gear, lads. If you’ve got the grappler, remember to aim for the deck or something that can hold our weight as we cross on those ropes. Everyone else, clear the deck with your repeaters before you cross.” Julius passed on the orders from the briefing earlier. “Let’s not bring any extra things across. We go in fast, and either capture the ship or set the flares, and get off fast. The flares should do the work for us, but we have to get off before the fire spreads to the Scioparto. I don’t think the Captain would like that!” His voice felt full of false confidence as he gave the rallying speech to his men.

The enemy airships closed in tighter, from what Julius could tell. His view was blocked off to his left by the large bulk of the Scioparto’s gasbag and airship proper. Straight ahead, he could see several enemy airships closing fast on the line of Roman fliers headed straight at them. To Julius’ inexperienced eye, the airships seemed to vary little in design or shape, except that they had two airships that were as big as the Roman flagship. One was bearing down on the left flank of the Roman formation and the Scioparto.

The flagship began firing, joined by the ships flanking it to either side as the two lines clashed in mid air. The rolling line of explosions and the cacophony of battle started soft but were soon loud and immediate as the enemy airships closed in, engulfing the entirety of the formation. Julius counted twelve enemy warships, equaling their number. And those were just the ones he could see.

 From below, the sounds of metal and wood screeching came as the ship’s artillery ports opened. Julius and the men of the XIII Germania watched, anticipating the first salvo from the Scioparto with glee. A larger vessel appeared to be sliding towards them, closing the space until it was just parallel to the smaller Scioparto.

All at once, the artillery on the Roman ship fired, launching a barrage of explosive missiles at the Nortland vessel. This time, the artillery crews fired as fast as possible, joined by the smaller pieces on the exposed deck. Julius’ legionnaires tried to shield the exposed aircrews as they fired their lightweight weaponry. When the breeze blew away the smoke and fog of war that obscured their damage, Julius’ eyes went wide in surprise and he cried out in alarm.

The enemy vessel was mostly unharmed.

Turning Points

As a writer (And avid reader) of alternate history novels, I’ve often been asked why I read this ‘what if’ genre. I think the best way to answer it is to simply say ‘Have you ever wondered ‘what if?’
What if I was a police officer, or a medic, or a doctor, instead of a teacher? What would be changed? Who would have my job? Whose world would be turned upside down, for better or worse? Who would I have met/not met? How many of us ever wonder how the world would be different if one little thing happened? This is a ‘turning point’ or life change, or ‘point of divergence’ as some people say.

So what makes a good turning point?

I put forward three rules for good turning points.

1. It must be believable (makes sense in the story context).

2. It must be reasonable (COULD actually happen based on technology, characters, etc)

3. The results must be possible based on the outcome of the event.

Let me give you a good example. In my story, Brass Legionnaire, I have two main points of divergence. The first is the rescue of Julius Caesar by Brutus. The change is that Brutus loved Caesar (True in real life) so much that he was willing to forgive the general’s ambitions to save his life, rather than kill him for the sake of the republic.

Believable? Yes, I think so (so do several professors I’ve talked to over the years, remember, it was a big surprise to Caesar at seeing Brutus among his assassins)

Reasonable? Yes, hasn’t love for friends, family, or significant other driven you to do something a tad bit crazy? This is just asking Brutus to put his friend above the needs of the republic, a stretched, but still reasonable, idea.

Outcomes: Well, the assassins get turned in, Caesar gets his Emperorship, and the Empire gets off to a roaring start, rather than suffering through a few years of civil war at the hands of Augustus (Octavian) and the rebels. With security and stability, plus respected and talented military and economic leadership, the foundation for our world has been set.

So what is my point? Great authors create realistic and possible worlds by making their turning points believable and possible. Some of my favorites are Harry Turtledove and S.M. Stirling. Mr. Turtledove, in particular, creates beautiful portrayals of worlds that have undergone one major change, but it throws off the entire course of history. See ‘Opening Atlantis’ for a great example.
Let me know what you think!

Who does my Cover Art & new advertisements for Brass Legionnaire!

So in case you didn’t know, I’ve been using the company Streetlight Graphics for my book’s cover art. I decided to splurge on their Ultimate Pro Package, which includes the following (Those people new to self-publishing may find this really cool!)

Ultimate Pro-Package: (Taken directly from their website)

Print (Createspace only)

Book Cover Interior Print (Createspace only)

Formatting E-Book Cover

Formatting for Kindle

Formatting for Nook

Formatting for Smashwords

A written tutorial explaining how to upload your e-book

All this for only $265!* (Since increased to $285)

(It also used to include banner ads for wherever you wanted them, but they claimed that most people didn’t want them. I asked nicely and got them included 🙂 )

To me, this was an awesome deal. I mean, I know I could spend some of my own time formatting them for all the different sites, or just pay someone $50 to do it, but the fact that I get a print cover, an e-book cover, and someone to do my formatting all at the same time is really cool. Also, its the convenience factor. It’s only one person to talk to, handle, and work with, instead of several different ones. Although I’m pretty technologically savvy, I’ll take all the help I can get on this first go around.

How did I find them, you ask? Actually, it was courtesy of Lindsey Buroker, (Encrypted) someone who I admire and have been following for the last few months. She puts out great comments, tips, tricks, and really useful stuff for us self-publishing people out there. She used these guys earlier to update her cover art for her novels. I have to say my experience with them has been awesome. No complaints at all! They are very communicative, open and helpful. They are able to change the smallest things to fit your wishes.  They knew how to deliver what I hadn’t even known I had wanted (If that makes sense?).
Anyways, on to the actual point of this post. I asked for and got two different advertisements that I can use on my YouTube page (not much there now, much more planned in the future). In addition, I’ll see if I can somehow adapt it for my twitter (@dOttalini – Add me!) I figure that I can use these cool advertisements to point people watching my videos or tweets in the direction of my book once it is published. So here, I’ll post them below.

This one is a 728 x 90, which is a perfect size for a youtube video. They can be made on photoshop if you’ve got the time and desire (I’ve done it before, even though I’m a poor hand at it!)

The second one is simply 468 x 90. It’s a bit smaller and may be a pop-up ad in a video, rather than the header of a video or posting. Let me know what you think of them. Like I said earlier, It’s important to keep the theme simple, but also demonstrate the concept of your book.

I’ll take this last moment to plug my kickstarter project. PLEASE consider donating any amount of money, there are some pretty cool rewards  you can earn (For those of you with lots of disposable income, You can not only name a character, but decide if, and how, you want them to die!) Here’s the link again, talk to you all soon!

– Daniel

Sneak Peak at Chapter 1 – Brass Legionnaire

Here is a sneak peak at chapter 1 of Brass Legionnaire, my new novel!




Daniel Ottalini’s new novel – Brass Legionnaire


Chapter 1

Julius Brutus Caesar used his wrench to tighten the bolt on the sprocket. When connected to the rest of the engine, the engineers could begin the final assembly of yet another mechaniphant. Not for the first time in his life did Julius wonder why on earth someone had the desire to invent such a mechanical monstrosity in the first place. Although, he did have to admit, it was impressive, standing over fifteen imperial feet tall, with a protected driver’s seat and razor sharp chain tusks. Perfect for crashing through the center of an enemy’s battle line, especially when combined with other mechaniphants. Julius shook his head to clear his wandering mind and returned to the situation at hand. Gas lanterns burned all around the factory. Steam pipes crossed haphazardly near the ceiling, matched by spindly gantry ways and support struts. The whole factory would have been a safety inspector’s nightmare. Of course, the inspector was bribed, so the whole situation was swept under the rug, so to speak. Far above Julius’ head, large windows were open to let in the sounds and smells of Brittenburg, otherwise known as Majoris Brittenburgia, factory city and capital of the Imperial Roman Province of Germania Inferior. Julius picked up his wrench, carefully cleaning it with a dirty rag pulled from his utility belt. Continue reading “Sneak Peak at Chapter 1 – Brass Legionnaire”

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