All posts by Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: Let It Begin Here

Week 16 of 2019

Greetings all

Sorry for missing a few updates. It’s been a grueling time of late. However, I can tell you that The Feeding of Sorrows went to the editor last week.

I’m currently finishing a short story for an anthology. Hopefully that will be done today, but probably tomorrow. It’s been a fight to get this one out, actually. When the proposal came, I had what I thought was a great idea. However, when I actually wrote it, I realized it was not as good of a story as it was worldbuilding. I just never could get the tension or the twist that makes a good story.

So I started fresh. I really like this story. It melds a number of Old English influences with Shakespeare and my whimsy into a story tentatively titled A Wall Wondrously High. Bonus points for those who recognize the reference.

Next week I’ll jump back into None Call Me Mother, which I’m going to try and have the main draft done at the start of June. We’ll see, that’s a tough deadline, but it’s certainly possible with all the prep work I’ve done.

My plan is to start back up with the Mag Reviews next week. I’ve missed them, and they often provide me with good story ideas. While my initial story for this anthology didn’t work out, I’ve gotten a number of good story ideas, too. Now if I can only find time from my writing for deadlines to write random stories.

Not a bad thing to have deadlines, though. It means people keep wanting to read my stuff. So I guess I better go write.

Current Playlist Song

Smashing Pumpkins, Bullet With Butterfly Wings. Man, Smashing Pumpkins have made some great songs. This is one of them, though my favorite is still Blue, which was originally on Lull, a very early EP that I stumbled across.

Quote of the Week

Yesterday is, of course, the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington. I have always loved this quote.

“Stand your ground. Do not fire unless you are fired upon, but if they mean war, let it begin here.”
– Capt. John Parker

News and Works in Progress

  • AWWH (6,465)
  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 15,000)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Karl Gallagher, who just released a new book called The Lost War. You can find the interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1694 and you can find his Amazon author page at: https://www.amazon.com/Karl-K.-Gallagher/e/B0195ZEOO8

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: No clue, but well over 100k

Shijuren Wiki: Will update in May

Four Horsemen Wiki: 543 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Interview: Karl Gallagher

Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry for those waiting on interviews and mag reviews and my updates. Starting to get back in the groove on that after an incredibly busy March.

Anyway, today’s interview is with Karl Gallagher, who I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a number of time at conventions. I enjoy chatting with him, in part because we agree on a number of writing things. Also, since he’s also in the SCA, we have a connection there as well.

Interview: Karl Gallagher
Karl Gallagher
Karl Gallagher

What is your quest? I’m writing the kind of stories I want to read. Science fiction wrestling with ideas, people doing their best in hard situations, tactical challenges, adventures that are fun to read about but usually hell to live through.

What is your favorite color? Green. I like competent people doing smart things. Whether it’s mages figuring a clever use for a spell or engineers fixing something under fire, I like seeing people do their jobs well. Competence porn is one of my favorite genres.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? In the six years and counting I’ve been writing seriously I’ve averaged over seven thousand words written per month. I’m not consistent about it. Some people aim to write a fixed amount each day. Me, some days are nothing, some have two thousand words. I’ve also had zero word months. There was one where I wrote nearly 19k. So not attempting NaNoWriMo any time soon.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I’ve picked up some useful experience for an SF/F writer. I’m an aerospace engineer with lots of experience on satellites and rockets, which lets me get the orbital mechanics right in my hard SF novels. Game mastering table top role-playing games developed my storytelling abilities. When one of my characters decides to take a right turn off the outline I know how to roll with it. Other useful experience: some time in the military, raising kids, and being a heavy fighter in the SCA.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit. I sympathize with trying to manage the chaos. Gives me Battalion XO flashbacks.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Reality: Fall of Soviet Union. Fiction: Star Trek – The Wrath of Khan.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Weeble.
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Not letting go.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Strange Tartan Combos.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Infecting people with memes spread through my books.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Foghorn Leghorn.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? First Edition hardcover of Starship Troopers.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? How to escape my day job.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Harrington Treecats.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Onion.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Jumpin’ Kate (Nebraska rocker).
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey.
  • Favorite Superhero? Ironman. It’s fun pointing out Stark Industries products actually made where I work.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium, especially if I don’t know which way that cook is going to err.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Classic Star Trek re-runs.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Best Game Ever? For tactical challenge, Ogre/GEV. For pure fun, Firefly the Game.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Lean toward sci-fi, but never exclusive.
  • Brought to you by the letter _? R for Rocket.
The Lost War
The Lost War

What question(s) would you like to ask me?  How do you throw such great room parties?

Rob’s Answer: Practice, I guess. Plus watching my parents and their friends did. I mean, high school parties were boring, but the ones Jim Erickson threw were amazing.

A lot of my party experience comes from Pennsic. There’s a certain amount of KISS principle involved. First, you need to limit the drink choices a bit. For me, that’s cider, a variety of beers, and one mixed drink that is premixed. The goal is to limit the time waiting to get a beverage. Secondly, you need to do everything you can ahead of time, just like setting out props in a play. Make it so everything is easy to see. Third, don’t stress about how many will or won’t come. Invite all you can, but make sure no one feels they have to come. Parties are about fun, not forcing people to be there. 

Basically, you create a field with all the toys and stay out of the way of people having fun.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you? I’ll be at Libertycon (Chattanooga, June) and Fencon (DFW, September).

Do you have a creator biography? Karl Gallagher has earned engineering degrees from MIT and USC, controlled weather satellites for the Air Force, designed weather satellites for TRW, designed a rocketship for a start-up, and done systems engineering for a fighter plane. He has, on a few occasions, put on armor and been hit in the head with a stick. His sole moment of martial fame was being one-shot in Crown so efficiently there was a three paragraph write up in the kingdom newsletter. He is husband to Laura and father to Maggie, James, and dearly missed Alanna.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?  

You should have asked if I have any new books coming out? Why, yes! I’ve just released The Lost War.  A group of historical reenactors expected a weekend of costumed fun . . . instead a magic spell pulled them into a world where they must struggle to survive.

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-War-Karl-K-Gallagher-ebook/dp/B07QKHZCZP

The sequel, The War Revealed, will be out May 7th.


Thanks to Karl for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

FantaSci AAR

I’m home. The overall trip was over 4000 miles. There were a bunch of highlights, and you can find my Gulf Wars AAR here.

The cap to it all was FantaSci. This was the first year of the con, but you really wouldn’t have known that if you weren’t told. They did have some advantages, like pulling from a former con (HonorCon) and having it be a major event for two different fan groups (The TRMN and the 4HU Mercenary Guild). However, that doesn’t ensure success, and it was a very successful con.

I’d like to stop for a moment to thank Lyons and his staff for doing a great job. If the name Lyons sounds familiar in the context of the 4HU, it’s because he has been tuckerized as the owner of the Lyon’s Den merc bar, which provided the impetus for three anthologies of short stories. He and his crew had things organized well. As I said, one could not tell it was the first time with this con, as the issues I saw are the issues one usually finds at any con, like issues with the hotel and its bar and restaurant.

Another side note, I rather enjoyed the hotel. The food was pretty good, not terribly expensive, and the bar had an IPA on tap. The rooms were also much cheaper than one normally finds at a con. I hope they stay there.

I was in a lot of panels, which is just the way I like it. On Friday I was in a fun panel sponsored by Ian J. Malone, which discussed sports in SF and fantasy writing, such as baseball in the Honor Harrington universe and the like. Sports has been a part of humanity since we became a species, and it will continue in space and exist in fantasy worlds, just like it did it in the Middle Ages.

My next panel was a discussion of writing in shared worlds. I’m getting a taste of this in the 4HU, and have plans to open up Shijuren for at least some anthologies, so this was a valuable one for me to listen and learn, as well as comment.

Saturday was a huge day for me. I started with a panel discussing Alternate History Change Points. This was actually a major treat for me, as one of my favorite authors, Steve White was on this panel. Also included were Kacey Ezell and Christopher Woods, so it was a lively panel.

Then I went into a stretch of four panels in five hours, starting with a panel on pantsing. Pantsing, if you’ve not heard the term, means writing from the seat of your pants. The other end of the spectrum is plotting. It was a huge thing for me to discover that pantsing was an accepted and normal form of writing, because that’s what came naturally to me. I tend to plot more than I used to, but generally only in vague terms. It still makes more sense to see what the characters do rather than forcing them into a certain path.

Immediately was the Chris Kennedy Publishing panel where Chris talked about all the things that are coming. I got to talk about the Feeding of Sorrows and see a bunch of things coming down the pike. Kennedy is amazing. He has done incredible stuff and made a bunch of opportunities for other writers.

After an hour break, I was in a panel on genre blending, which of course I talk about a goodly amount given the Edward novels.

Finally, I was on a whimsical panel about the messiest ways to kill undead. This panel was designed to go off the rails, and off the rails we went. Lots of fun.

Saturday night was the highlight of the event. It was perhaps the best single experience I’ve had in the con scene as a writer. The 4HU Mercenary Guild held a Dining Out. If you’re in the military, you know what this means. It is a ritual dinner, with a number of specific toasts and ceremonies. I was generally an observer, asking questions of the vets at my table and learning. I was also smart enough not to create a reason that I needed to drink the grog. A certain Minion, on the other hand, fought the grog and the grog won. Much hilarity has and will ensue on that.

After the Dining Out was a number of fun things. Saturday happened to be Kacey Ezell’s birthday, and also she and Marisa Wolf had a bestseller on Amazon to celebrate. Then there was floating to some parties, including going down to karaoke, which was a lot of fun. I even sang some Dropkick Murphys. Then we ended the night chatting in my room until late, even getting security to tell us to be quiet.

Sunday was much more laid back. I didn’t have any panels, though I did go to closing ceremonies. This was the first con where I was “featured” in any way, and I made sure I was at the ceremonies. Lyons paid me an incredible honor with that, and I can’t thank him enough.

Mostly what I did on Sunday, though, was get out my laptop and offer to update wiki entries. Many of the attendees to the con are redshirts in the 4HU, and I added fun things to a number of entries.

Then I was in a quandary. I had plans to eat with my aunt and uncle around 5pm. However, I *really* wanted to get home. I canceled and left around 2 to try and get past Nashville on a Sunday night. I made it to Clarksville, despite losing an hour to construction in Knoxville. It’s a good thing I did, because I was pushing through a bit of flu yesterday and I might have lost a day coming home. Given that in two days I set up at Planet Comicon, I really couldn’t spare the time. Side note, I feel much better this morning, even to the point of keeping food down.

FantaSci was an amazing con. Truly one of the best I have ever been to. LibertyCon level, even. I ticked off all the professional goals I had, enjoyed myself, and met a bunch of new friends.

It was also the launch of the 4HU Mercenary Guild fan group. You can find it here: www.mercenaryguild.org. I know I’m only a bit player in this universe, but it’s still cool to be a part of it. If you like the 4HU books, sign on up. I’ll be starting up a Foresters unit when the time comes.

I may not get to go next year because of timing, though. I think it’s on the second weekend of Gulf Wars next years, so I may have to make a choice.

However, I’ll go back every year I can. It’s on the list.

 

Gulf Wars 2019 AAR

Greetings all

I am at the Southern Charm Restaurant in Blue Ridge, GA on my way to FantaSci in Raleigh, NC next weekend. It’s a lovely day to drive around Appalachia, sunny and comfortable.

Gulf Wars 2019 booth
Gulf Wars 2019 booth

Comfortable is a good way to describe this year’s Gulf Wars weather. It was the best weather I’ve ever seen at Gulf Wars. We had major rain one night, but nothing huge during any day. It got warmish one day. There were a few days that got to the cool side of things, but nothing like the cold of the past few years. It was great.

For the first time, I had my own booth at a major war. I was located across from the Gode Bakery along a major road, so I had people coming by my booth constantly. I was a little worried that my traffic would drop off dramatically by not being in Calontir Trim, but the location worked out well.

The setup also worked well. I had my books and the CDs I carry on one side of the front. The other side held Lobster Rose Pottery. It was a nice combination, actually. Gwen’s stuff drew in some eyes my books didn’t, and vice versa.

Overall, sales for me continued the trend of rising each year. I did real well on A Lake Most Deep, which is nice because I get a lot of return readers, so hopefully that means even more business next year. I was actually surprised how few sales with multiple items happened. Usually, I have about a third of my total sales from people buying two or more at once. This year, I only had about one in five or so. I’m not at all sure what that means, only that it was striking.

CDs continue to add a touch extra. I broke even on CDs this year because I added Wolgemut’s latest and three of Vince Conaways. It’s a nice sideline that’s easy and continues to add a little here, a little there.

I managed to fulfill my responsibilities as Their Majesties’ herald, though it wasn’t always easy. I caught the cold/cough/allergies that seemed to be going around and it slowed me down. I made it through court, if only barely, on Thursday. Then I fell down, go boom. Friday, I felt much better, though.

I mentioned yesterday that I have a bunch of people to thank. I surely can’t remember everyone, because there’s so many, but here are some that come to mind.

  • I’ll start with Master Andrixos for helping me along the path of SCA merchanting. He also brought over Master Blackhawk, merchant-o-crat of Ragnarok, Dagorhir’s version of Pennsic. I may go this year. Drix has been a major boon to me, and I can’t thank him enough.
  • Seraphima, the Gulf Merchant coordinator, for putting up with my questions and helping me. I’ll also include her staff, who made things much easier. Thanks guys, I appreciate it.
  • Gwen for making the pottery in the first place, but more importantly, Ulf for handling the pottery setup and take down. Thanks very much. I didn’t break anything, which was a huge concern on my part.
  • I learned how hard it is to run a booth by oneself. Thanks to Kierstie and Catin for taking time out of their schedules to watch the booth. Also to Nest and Dissa, who dropped by a number of times to see if I needed anything. There were also a number of people who hung around for five minutes while I went to the bathroom or across the street to the Gode Bakery. Thanks guys, I couldn’t have made it through the war without you.
  • I want to thank Their Majesties for being patient and accommodating with my work schedule. They adapted and overcame when I wasn’t around as things changed and they needed a herald on the spur of the moment. Also, I really appreciate you allowing me to tag in Dawi to serve as stunt herald for opening ceremonies.
  • And guess what, I’d like to thank Dawi for handling opening ceremonies. It’s a fun gig, but it’s a lot of hurry up and wait, and by doing the job, it meant I had that much more time to work.
  • I had a ton of customers during the week. If I’m accounting correctly, I sold books, CDs, and pottery to over 60 different customers this past week. That seems like a lot to me. I don’t have most of your names, but thanks for coming by, I really appreciate it

To count off on the final results. I liked my location. I sold more than ever. Gwen liked the results. I learned a ton about what I need in my own booth, too. If they let me, I’ll be right there again next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Rob’s Update: Gulf Wars

Week 10 of 2019

Greetings all

I’m sitting in the Plaid Rhino in Hattiesburg, getting ready to go to Gulf Wars around noon today. I’m excited as this is my first time in my own merchant booth.

If you’re going, you can find me right across from the Gode Bakery, around the corner from Calontir Trim. I even have a sign, which looks better in real life than in the picture.

I’ll be selling my books, of course, but also a variety of CDs and, more importantly, a bunch of great pottery from Lobster Rose Pottery.

Drop in and say hi!

During the week I’ll finish The Feeding of Sorrows. I’m at the making the conclusion work stage and doing a bunch of fiddly bits, like getting rid of crutch words.

Last week was ConCoction. I had a very good time, got to be on four fun panels and I had a full day to actually enjoy a con because I had a quirky schedule. I probably won’t do a full AAR, but it’s a good con.

Current Playlist Song

Electric Avenue, by Eddy Grant. I actually love this song.

Quote of the Week

On of my favorite chess players died on this day in 1942, Jose Raul Capablanca. He had such an interesting style to me. He also had a philosophy that resonates with me.

You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.
– Capablanca

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 105,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Been on the road and have been focused on The Feeding of Sorrows. I’ll probably get back to consistent updating of the blog in April, though I’ll have some AARs between now and then.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I guess this week’s spotlight is on me setting up shop at Gulf.

Today’s Weight: Won’t know until I get home

Updated Word Count: Not sure of this either

Shijuren Wiki: 875 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 533 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Brewing A ConCoction

Week 8 of 2019

Greetings all

There some convention information to start off with this week. First, most you probably already heard that LibertyCon had to change it’s date and venue. It’s now the last weekend of June in the Marriott. I’m sure that there are a number of people negatively affected by the change, but fortunately, I’m not one of them.

The other change is that I just got added to ConCoction in Cleveland next weekend. It works out conveniently for my trip to Gulf Wars, actually, as I’ll stay in Pittsburgh during the following week before heading down to Hattiesburg.

I hope that by the time I leave I can send Chris Kennedy a full draft of The Feeding of Sorrows. I’m around 100k words on it, but better yet, I’ve been cleaning out a bunch of plot holes and mistakes. I’m about 2/3rds of the way doing that, and this process always adds a bunch of words as I realize I missed things.

The step after that is the grammer/spelling/crutch word cleanup. Then it’s off to the editor.

Following that I’ll be working on None Call Me Mother and a couple of short stories. One is a follow on “Far Better to Dare” from Those in Peril, this one with an aeronautical aspect. The other is a future of war kind of thing.

Lots of stuff to do to meet deadlines, which is really nice. Also, I’ve been averaging well over 1000 words per day in 2019. More like 1500 counting every day. It’s nice to be back into the flow, even though I wasn’t feeling well this week.

With that, I’m going to relax with the sweetie and kitties tonight and get back to the grind tomorrow. Have a great week.

Current Playlist Song

Anthrax’s Skeleton in the Closet. I’ve found myself really getting into Anthrax as I get older. Actually, I’ve found my tastes get harder and more metal in general. Anyway, it’s a great song.

Quote of the Week

On this day in 532, the Emperor Justinian began building one of his greatest legacies, the Hagia Sophia. Of this building, Procopius had this to day:

For it soars to a height to match the sky, and as if surging up from amongst the other buildings it stands on high and looks down upon the remainder of the city, adorning it, because it is a part of it, but glorying in its own beauty, because, though a part of the city and dominating it, it at the same time towers above it to such a height that the whole city is viewed from there as from a watch-tower.”
-Procopius, De Aedificiis

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 100,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Matt Williams, who writes hard SF. Take a look at his interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1668

Today’s Weight: 388.6

Updated Word Count: 17,494

Shijuren Wiki: 875 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 533 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Interview: Matt Williams

Greetings all. Today’s interview is with Matt Williams. He’s another author I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting face to face, but one of these days I’ll do a west coast swing and hopefully get a chance to share a beverage with him.

Interview: Matt Williams

What is your quest?

I guess you could say my quest has always been to write the kind of science fiction that I would want to read, the kind of stuff that inspired me growing up and made me want to become a writer myself. This comes down to hard science fiction mostly, and the classics that have remained relevant and influential long after they were written. Examples include the venerable Frank Herbert and his magnum opus, the Dune series. He was the author that taught people to take science fiction seriously, myself included.

And of course, there is 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, perhaps the most-influential works of the 20th century and the stories that taught me how science fiction is also a commentary on the present as much as a vision of the future. And then there was William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Sprawl Trilogy, which not only taught me about gritty, cyberpunk realism, but that all science fiction is about the time period in which it is written.

I also derived a lot of inspiration from Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series and Rendezvous with Rama, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space universe, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and The Outcasts, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, and various works by Charles Stross and Kim Stanley Robinson. All of these books helped me learn to dream in hard science fiction, and to weave tales of my won.

And of course, I wouldn’t be where I am now were it not for the opportunity I’ve had to write about astronomy, science, and space exploration for Universe Today. All of my published work owes its existence to what I have learned from my job, which is how to take space-related news and knowledge and make it accessible for public consumption. You might say there’s some crossover there with being a science fiction writer! 😉

What is your favorite color?

I’m not too picky, as long as the colors are appropriate to the setting. That’s one thing I like about settings, they need to be detailed so that people can get an image in their mind of what it’s like to be there. This includes not only what things look like, but also smell like and feel like. Space and place are very important when it comes to creating atmosphere and setting the mood. This is as true for science fiction as it is in real life.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

The challenges have been numerous and belligerent! But that’s pretty much how it goes and that which does not kill you makes you stronger. For starters, I found that you have to make all the mistakes before you can expect to identify them. You also have to learn that reality does not conform to expectations. Much of these lessons were learned from my first novel, which was self-published and really didn’t do that well.

And even after learning all that, I’ve found I still have some serious difficulties with the writing process. Some of these are typical while others feel like they are particular. For instance, I have a hell of a time writing the middle parts of stories. Beginnings are easy for me, which is why I start projects all the time that I never finish. Endings are great too, that’s where most of the exciting stuff happens. But those middle chapters? Ick! This seems like an example of a typical problem for writers.

But what I think may be particular to myself is the difficulty I have with writing third installments. Not sure why, but the third book in a series is always the hardest for me to write. The first book is a challenge since it involves setting the stage and all that, but it’s creatively fun and rewarding. The second book seems easy by comparison, since you’ve already set the stage and the second act is all about turning up the heat and taking things to the next level! But the third book? That’s where everything has to come together and conclude in a nice, tidy package. So many details to remember, so many threads that need to be tied!

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I would say my most effective technique is visualization, specifically the ability to picture how things will look in a story before committing them to paper. I’ve always had a fertile imagination, which could be a liability at times! In grade school, I was accused more than once of being lazy, inattentive, and stupid for the way I would be constantly daydreaming. Luckily, my educators saw the potential and recommended I channel my imagination into my work. Now my work is based on my ability to imagine things. I believe they call that “check” and “mate”!

This has led to many reviewers and commenters saying that they liked my “world-building”. I have to admit, that’s one of my favorite aspects of creating a story, picturing how everything fits into a narrative universe and fleshing it out from there. And since people seem to respond to that, I am happy to keep doing it!  

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? BC Lions
  • Cake or Pie? Cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Onion and Chive
  • Wet or Dry? Dry
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Shawn Pigott
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey
  • Favorite Superhero? Iron Man
  • Steak Temperature? Hot, but still pink in the middle
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? M*A*S*H
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Favorite Pet? Jasper
  • Best Game Ever? Skyrim
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi (hello!)

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

My questions are a bit eclectic and my I’m heavily-biased when it comes to them, so feel free to pass on any or all of them:

Beer or wine? Beer
Favorite beer? Schlafly Tasmanian IPA
How much ya’ bench? Both pounds
Best sci-fi movie of all time? Empire Strikes Back
Best recent sci-fi movie? Guardians of the Galaxy
Best sci-fi novel/writer of all time? Isaac Asimov
Terraforming or space habitats? Both
FTL, yay or nay? Eventually. There’s too much fuzziness in time and space for there not to be a way of circumventing.
What is the central question posed by the Fermi Paradox? Why the human race can’t get a date.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Here are the links of interest:

And where can we find you?

I am still contemplating attending TitanCon, which is being held in Belfast this year. It’s a bit of a hop, but one that would be worth it.

Do you have a creator biography?

Matthew S. Williams is an author, a writer for Universe Today and the curator of their Guide to Space section. His works include sci-fi/mystery The Cronian Incident and his articles have been featured in Phys.org, HeroX, Popular Mechanics, Business Insider, Gizmodo and IO9, Science Alert, Knowridge Science Report, and Real Clear Science, with topics ranging from astronomy and Earth sciences to technological innovation and environmental issues. He is also a former educator and a 5th degree Black Belt Tae Kwon Do instructor. He lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and family.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

 How about best science fiction series of all time? Opinions on this are usually divisive and varied, but for me, it’s Babylon 5. No other sci-fi series that I have experienced before or since has managed to capture J.M. Straczynski’s ability to weave a tale, set the stage, and connect it all in a brilliantly-circular fashion. At least as far as I am concerned.

Here are a couple of reviews of his first two novels.

“The Cronian Incident, which I recommended to my audience as my top Sci-Fi read of the year, is a treasure of planetary science.“ –Heather Archulette (aka. Pillownaut)

 “Exciting plot with a good foundation in science. This is not surprising given the author’s expertise as an excellent science writer for Universe Today. Inspiring ending. Highly recommended!” –Prof. Avi Loeb, Harvard University


Thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: Rock and Tempest, Fire and Foe

Week 7 of 2019

Greetings all

Sorry about not having an update last week. I’ve been pounding away at The Feeding of Sorrows. I’m doing well, though I wanted to be farther along. I’m over 90k, though, so it’s not entirely vaporware at this point.

I’m currently ensuring I’ve got all the pieces in the right place for the penultimate battle. In this case, this is the part where I have to juggle all the timing to make it work right. The final battle follows easily enough, once we get the characters into place for this one.

Why two battles? Well, I like intrigue, treachery, and extra explosions.

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the story and I’m excited to finish and get it to the publisher.

Speaking of excitement, Those in Peril, the alternate naval history anthology that I’m in, went live yesterday. You can find it at: https://www.amazon.com/Those-Peril-Phases-Mars-Book-ebook/dp/B07NPG7QFW/. I really appreciate James L. Young and Chris Kennedy for letting me participate.

My story is called “Far Better to Dare,” and it’s about a certain memorable thing which doesn’t become memorable until ten years after it really happened. I really enjoyed writing this story, in part because I had to research an era of naval history I only knew a little about. It turns out to be perfect for this sort of exercise, with all sorts of interesting quirks and tidbits available to toss into the pot.

With that, I think I’m going to take the rest of the night off. A Cadfael mystery or two is calling.

Current Playlist Song

Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. Like many, not only do I love the song but I am also reminded of the great “More Cowbell” routine where Christopher Walken keeps demanding more cowbell from Will Ferrell. This skit got even funnier when I realized that there really is cowbell in the song, but it’s in the background. Ferrell picked it up, though, and, though I rarely say this about him, made comedic gold.

Quote of the Week

I might as well use the quote that provided my title for my story in Those in Peril.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 90,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Meriah Crawford, is one of the many talented writer in Those in Peril. You can find that interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1653.

Today’s Weight: 389.4

Updated Word Count: 15,187

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 518 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Interview: Chris Kennedy

Today Those in Peril released. If I haven’t mentioned yet it’s an anthology of alternate naval history stories.

You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Those-Peril-Phases-Mars-Book-ebook/dp/B07NPG7QFW/

It’s published by the one and only Chris Kennedy, who has given many indie writers such as myself a bunch of opportunities. The world of mil SF is far better for having him be a part of it.

Speaking of far better, I hope you enjoy “Far Better to Dare,” my entry in the Those in Peril.

Interview: Chris Kennedy

This week’s interview is with Chris Kennedy, who has shown many of us how to be an independent writer. He’s written several series of his own, founded a publishing company that supports other independent authors, and, along with Mark Wandrey, started the Four Horsemen Universe of which I’ve contributed.

He’s taught me quite a bit already, and I suggest you listen to him and watch what he does.

What is your quest?

I want to sell a million books. Failing that, I want to help my authors sell ten million books.

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Not coming from a writing background, I had to learn to do it right. I read blogs for 15 minutes a day for four years to help develop my craft and my ability to sell more books. I’m still not totally where I want to be, but I’m a much better writer than when I started, and I’m a lot closer to the goal.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I like writing gritty combat and a good motivational speech once in a while.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Definitely crunchy. I don’t know why they make that other stuff.
  • Favorite Sports Team? UNC Tarheels basketball (despite their showing in the NCAAs last year), NY Yankees baseball, and Atlanta Falcons football.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie…but why can’t I have both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon…because you can put it in Corona and make it taste better.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Helluva Good Sour Cream and Onion
  • Wet or Dry? Sopping wet. (Rob’s Note: He’s a Navy guy)
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Two Steps from Hell. Outstanding for combat writing music.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Bud Light. (Rob’s Note: Sigh)
  • Favorite Superhero? Gal Gadot Wonder Woman. Because Gal Gadot.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Game Ever? In # of hours played? Everquest.
  • Coffee or Tea? Diet Pepsi
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Scifi, with a side of fantasy.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

Rob’s Answer: If we’re talking a magnetically accelerated piece of tungsten, then zero if the trooper isn’t in a CASPer. If we’re talking the fully-loaded magazine of MAC rounds we’re going to have at our LibertyCon party, I would say most can survive five or so, depending upon rate of fire and body mass. However, this survival is likely to be more painful and the target might prefer the quick death of tungsten.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked, “Do you have any free book promotions coming up soon?”

Why yes, yes I do.

Both “Janissaries” and “Cartwright’s Cavaliers” will be free this weekend. Want to introduce someone to my writing or the 4HU? This is your chance to do it—get them to pick up a free copy this weekend!

You can find them here:


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Interview: James L. Young

I give my heart to James L. Young today (I mean the tiny fraction that’s not already owned by my sweetie) for giving me the opportunity to be a part of Those in Peril, the alternate naval history that comes out tomorrow. My story in that anthology is called Far Better to Dare, and it might be my favorite story that I’ve written.

Here’s a re-run of the interview I did with him back in October.

I found James L. Young because he writes an alternate history of World War II, specifically focusing on naval combat. It’s stuch a great universe, I keep pestering him to find me a spot to write in it. He ignored me, though, deciding instead to focus on finish his dissertation. What the heck was he thinking? Anyway, he’s a sharp cookie who’s a great writer.

Interview: James L. Young
James L. Young Portrait
James L. Young Portrait

What is your quest?

So what got me started on this journey was to tell the best stories possible.  I’ve always been a fan of mashups, and I’d say my style is a mix of Jack McKinney (pseudonym for the authors who did the Robotech novels), Richard Austin (pseudonym for the Guardians-series), Don Pendleton, and Tom Clancy, with a touch of Michael Stackpole.  I like to have gritty stories where the good guys have a touch of black hat and the villains are sympathetic.

Aries Red Sky Cover
Aries Red Sky Cover

What is your favorite color?

“I see a red door and I want to paint it…” Wait, sorry, that reference might be kind of dated (although there is a good recent cover out there).  Black, black is my favorite color.  As for small things I like in my creation, I usually try to put a small “gut punch” of an event that will resonate with the reader.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Creative failures—Well, my first full novel got deleted by my sister and the only hard copy lost by one of my best friends.  However, in retrospect, that was for the best, as it finally got me to (mostly) let go of trying to write the next Red Storm Rising. (Rob’s Note: I wouldn’t mind a good next Red Storm Rising. I love that book.)

Other things I’ve learned (of which some may have differing opinions):  Print advertisement is largely dead for indies.  You can get vastly more bang for your $500 than running a ½ page ad in a magazine, even if it’s genre / platform specific.

Acts of War Cover
Acts of War Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I would say a willingness to research is one personal power.  This probably seems like a “Duh” coming from someone with a history doctorate, but I am regularly stunned by the number of authors who just won’t go through the trouble of even doing a basic Wiki scan.  Not that Wikipedia is an absolute resource, but the citations are often solid and peer-reviewed.

(Rob’s Note: This is one of the most important comments I’ve seen so far in these interviews. Research is important and Wikipedia has worked pretty hard to make their content pretty reliable. It’s a great starting point.)

The second power is that, within reason, I’ll roll the dice on just about any weird request or marketing idea.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?   My high school nickname was Animal, so…
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team?  As annoyed as they make me on a regular basis, the Chiefs.
  • Cake or Pie?  Pie
  • Lime or Lemon?  Either
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Parmesan Cheese Dip
  • Wet or Dry?  The appropriate setting for the activity being discussed.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Vic Tyler, “Dawson’s Christian” (google and listen to the Miranda’s Ghost version)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Yes when I’m in the mood to drink it.
  • Favorite Superhero?  Wolverine or Punisher depending on the day
  • Steak Temperature? Hot with a little pink.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  Fall
  • Favorite Pet? Three cats, two dogs, and this question is full of trap. (Rob’s Note: I like traps)
  • Best Game Ever?  Steel Panthers or Harpoon
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee probably, but yes.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Sci-fi, but I’m a D&D fiend
On Seas so Crimson Cover
On Seas so Crimson Cover

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

Battleship versus battleship, who is the queen of them all and why?

Rob’s Answer: What a heck of a question.

Pre-dreadnought: I’m going to say the HMS Majestic and her sister ships. She was so influential in ship design.

World War I: This is probably the easiest answer for me. There’s a reason you specified a category called pre-dreadnought. The HMS Dreadnought has to be the queen because she changed everything.

Treaty battleships (i.e., those constructed under the Washington Treaty restrictions): I’m going to say it’s the USS North Carolina. I’m not influenced too much by the fact that the North Carolina is the best battleship museum I’ve seen. I loved getting to roam in her 16-inch turrets. I’m not a fan of the British designs during the period. The pocket battleship idea was too limited. The extra armor of the South Dakota-class ended up making them less valuable.

Overall: Basically, this comes down to the Iowas or the Yamatos. I think it’s clearly the Iowas. The European designs were not innovative or versatile. The Bismarck was a step above most British designs, but I don’t think she would have done well against the Iowa. She and her sisters were designed to defeat the Yamatos, yet they were also good AA platforms. They were also among the fastest.

It’s not entirely fair to tack on their later refits, but the refitted missile-carrying versions were clearly the most powerful BBs of all time. Some people think the idea of the battleship is outdated, but I actually would suggest that with drones and a proper tactical and strategic plan, BBNs might be more valuable (especially since they’d cost less) than CVNs. Modern versions of the Iowas could be insanely capable. However, that’s a long treatise in its own right.

A Pyre of Stars Cover
A Pyre of Stars Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • Air Capital Comic Con—Wichita, November 10-11 2018
  • Planet Comic Con—Kansas City, March 2019 (Rob’s Note: I’ll be there, too)
  • Cincinnati Comic Expo—Cincinnati, OH September 2019
Though Our Hulls Burn Cover
Though Our Hulls Burn Cover

Do you have a creator biography?

James Young is a Missouri native who left small town life to attend a small, well-known Federal institution in upstate New York. After obtaining a degree in military history from West Point, Dr. Young spent six years repaying his education via military service in various locations (both foreign and domestic). Along the way he collected a loving, patient, and beautiful spouse (Anita C. Young)…and various animals that only fit those descriptions when it suited them.

Upon leaving the Army, James returned to the Midwest to obtain his Ph.D. in U.S. History from Kansas State. When not tormenting his characters, Dr. Young spends his spare time reading Anita’s first drafts, finishing that pesky dissertation, and trying to figure out how book eating shelter animals keep ending up in his office. Outside of Amazon, he can be found at conventions throughout the Midwest selling books and merchandise as James Young, Slinger of Tales.

In addition to his positive fiction reviews, Dr. Young is also the winner of the United States Naval Institute’s 2016 Cyberwarfare Essay Contest and runner up in the 2011 Adams Center Cold War Essay Contest. He has also had multiple articles published in Proceedings and the Journal of Military History since 2010.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked what is your latest release so I could talk about Aries Red Sky, the latest novel in my Vergassy Universe.

You should also have asked what my favorite book I’ve released is. I’d answer Acts of War, the first novel in my alternate history universe.  (Shhh, don’t tell the other kids.)


Thanks to James for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell