All posts by Rob Howell

Interview: Alex Rath

The interviews are back! This week I’m interviewing Alex Rath, another of the many talented authors writing the Four Horsemen Universe. It’s a throwback to last year’s Four Horsetober.

Quick side note, since it’s been a while. I’ll post an interview of a creator each Wednesday. If you’re a creator, whether author, musician, artist, or crafter, and you’d like to be interviewed, send me an email at rob@robhowell.org and I’ll send you the questions.

Now, on to Alex…

Interview: Alex Rath
Alex Rath
Alex Rath

What is your quest? At the moment, my focus has been on the Four Horsemen Universe (though that’s expanding). Pretty much all of my characters will take in parts of my own personality, the big one of that being versatile, and creative. As a person who has spent 25 years in technology, starting in the days when we had very limited tools, and had to be very creative in how to accomplish our goals with only a language and no libraries or pre-made routines to work with, I always had to invent the wheel. My characters tend to do the same, and it’s a lot of fun to take things that exist in a universe, and think of a new way to apply it.

What is your favorite color? I like a combination of intense action, sprinkle in some humor, often in the form of a pop-culture reference, and then throw in some emotion from out of left field to catch the reader off guard. So far, each of my stories have had at least one scene that evokes some kind of emotional response. Even though I’m writing military science fiction, I want the readers to feel the humanity of my characters, and hopefully find at least one they can relate to and say “Yep, I know that feeling.”

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I’m fairly new to the writing game… but I’d say my biggest frustration has just been getting stuck or coming up short. I have a tendency to ‘get to the point’ which doesn’t really make a good read. I’m not accomplished at all at outlining or plotting a book and tend to ‘pants’ my way through it. That’s something I’m still trying to figure out how to work on, because both of my works so far have “ended” short of where I wanted them to be in length. Now, I don’t try to get more length just to get it… I just feel like it needs to be a certain length to contain an interesting story that gets the reader involved in the characters, which is one of my big goals.

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? Based on feedback from readers, I’d say I’m pretty good at conveying emotion, and getting the reader to FEEL that emotion. I had quite a few reviews and private comments on my first book, written with Chris Kennedy, that indicated I’d nailed the point home when it comes to dealing with the loss of comrades in a military setting. One particular person was brought to tears, and it’s a person I know well, and understand why. That was, for me, the highest praise I could possibly get, especially given that it’s not something I have personally experienced, other than losing friends who served.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
  • Your Wrestler Name? Spartan  (duh, lol)
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Blade Chop
  • Favorite Weird Color? Chartreuse
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Take over the internet
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Yosemite Sam
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Secret Labs Titan Series office chair
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Making people learn to research facts
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? R
  • Favorite Sports Team? Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps  (Drum corps is a sport, fight me) Rob’s Note: Nah, it totally is, and I’m one of the biggest sports fans around.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip?   French Onion
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Here Come the Mummies
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Neither… I quit drinking
  • Favorite Superhero? Deadpool
  • Steak Temperature? Mid-Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? W.A.T.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  Lacy, my bearded dragon!
  • Best Game Ever? Dungeons & Dragons
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Yes

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

Rob’s Answer: Mostly pantsing, though I have a general idea where characters are going to end up like dying heroically, falling in love, or whatever seems appropriate. I find, though, that the characters know the path to those ends better than I do.

Also, I often will have a scene come to mind in the shower, lying in bed, driving, or other such time where my mind can roam a bit. In a sense, I plot one scene at a time, and wait for the pantser in me to generate that scene.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Do you have a creator biography?

Alex Rath is a Military Science Fiction and Fantasy author, currently residing in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife and daughter.

He has been creative in one form or another since childhood. He got his start in fantasy with Dungeons and Dragons in 1979, and kept going from there. Some of the ideas that he writes come from his extensive experience in Role Playing Games, starting with D&D, and onward through other games like Star Fleet Battles, Battletech/Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, Masquerade, and too many more to name.

From there, he took his creativity online to more online games than can be remembered by writing character backgrounds, stories, and game related fiction. Now, he puts his creativity to the book format, and is excited to become a professional author.

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

You should have asked how I got started in writing. It actually started with a Facebook conversation with Chris Kennedy, where I pitched the idea of a short story about the Computer Operations Center of the Golden Horde, since my professional expertise is in computers, programming, information security, etc..  He suggested it could be a full book and offered to co-write it with me. That happened, and here we are!


Thanks to Alex 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

Quick Thoughts on Pro Football

The NFL has proven itself time and time again that it’s blind to the wishes of the fans. It’s really frustrating how badly Goodell has mis-managed this league. In an ideal world I would replace him with Amy Trask, who has the experience, toughness, and common sense to vastly bring the league back in touch with its fans.

Side note: Follow Amy on Twitter, even if you’re not a football fan. She’s chock full of awesome.

Last night’s game between the Packers and the Lions was simply another example of the NFL’s short-sighted lack of care. There *is* a step they can make that would dramatically improve the quality of officiating, and that’s the creation of a sky judge.

It is no shame for NFL referees to admit that the speed of the modern NFL is too much for human beings to officiate. Unfortunately, it seems clear that NFL officials take it personally when a call is overturned. I get that feeling, but getting it right is more important than their ego.

I would also create full-time officials. Generally speaking, NFL referees are part-time employees. That’s ridiculous to me. The NFL said there’s no improvement from full-time officials, but as far as I know, they only tried it on a limited basis for *one* year. Not exactly a good sample size.

One point that I think might be valid is that frame-by-frame looks at plays might not be valid for many plays. They’re absolutely valid for things like whether a player gets his feet down on a catch and objective calls like that. I can see why on pass interference and such it might be less relevant. Contact 1/32nd of a second before the ball arrives isn’t worth a penalty, for example. However, you could easily stipulate that on such plays the slow motion goes at a particular speed, a balance between the challenge of officiating live at full speed and the ability to slow things down. Once that’s agreed on, the networks would be able to match it, providing us all with a standard level.

In any case, something has to be done when play after play are misjudged by officials. I understand why the two hands to the face penalties were called last night at real speed. A sky judge, with the ability to see a replay quickly, could have just as easily seen why they weren’t penalties. Taken maybe 5 seconds.

This idea of a sky judge is much closer to college football, and it is part of the XFL.

Ah, the XFL. Their draft started today, and I’m getting really excited about it. I think more than anyone else recently they’ve looked at what fans want. The rule changes look promising, including their method of handling officiating. Another promising thing is the way they’re looking at making special teams important again while still finding ways to keep players reasonably safe.

I like the XFL ideas so much, I’m actually getting two season tickets for the St. Louis Battlehawks. Ticket prices are very reasonable, actually, which is another factor of course.

Whether the XFL succeeds where the WFL, USFL, AAF, previous XFL, and all the other attempts failed remains to be seen, however, I’m pleased at the thought going into the league. I’m really hoping it’ll survive, in part, because I love football and want a successful spring league.

Mag Review: Worlds of If (October, 1971)

Greetings all

It’s been a while since I did a magazine review, so I’ll explain what I’m doing. I have a goodly amount of Analogs, Amazings, Astoundings, and a bunch of other SF/F magazines from the 30s to the 70s. I’m going to read one a week and give you my review. I’ll be looking at everything, including the ads, because there’s lots of fun things to see in these. Also, I’ll be linking everything I can, usually from the fantastic Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

This week I’ll be reviewing the “Worlds of If” from October, 1971. This was an exciting issue to read for me because it included both a Stainless Steel Rat story and a Retief story. Not surprisingly, the theme for this issue is “insouciant.”

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58836

Worlds of If (Oct 71) Cover
Worlds of If (Oct 71) Cover

This isn’t my favorite cover art of all time, but it is such a great example of the powerful, evocative art that is on so many covers. It’s kinetic, which now that I think about it is probably the best way to describe the goal of these magazines.

The ads on the interior covers of these magazines are often delightful. This issue’s is no exception. It leads with the questions: “Can Freddie Fong Fine save the world? If so, should he?” OK, you got me to look. It’s an ad for Richard Lupoff’s  Sacred Locomotive Files, which includes not only the titular locomotive, but also, among many things, a hyponuclear submarine (which sounds cool), Mavis Montreal the groupie, and “other denizens and features of the world of 1985.” I certainly wish Lupoff had accurately predicted 1985, because my junior year in high school was nowhere near that interesting.

The first section is Hue and Cry, the letters to the editor. The best letter was by a geology student taking issue with A. Bertram Chandler’s use of the word “extrusion” with relation to granite. Indeed, she “leaped up in horror!” upon seeing that usage. She concludes with a truly dire curse: “May the next koala bear Mr. Chandler meets eye him with reproachment.”

The first story is The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison. The Stainless Steel Rat is a fantastic character so I was really looking forward to this story, especially since I hadn’t actually read this one before. In the story someone is going back in time to change the upstream to kill off the entire Special Corps. Slippery Jim is just the man to get sent back in time to return time to its proper course.

The Rat gets sent back to 1984 with the help of Professor Coypu’s Helix. Things happen in a rush, of course, and he is sent back in time with all the equipment that they can throw at him. Gotta love the toys the Rat’s toys.

He arrives in 1984 and quickly gets himself a criminal associate. They rob a bank, but the associate leaves the Rat in the lurch. The Rat steals a police car in order to escape. Eventually he ends up in the hands of the mastermind, and only by the aid of the special potion hidden in one of his teeth that turns him into a superman is he able to escape. He turns the tables and defeats the evil mastermind and thereby saves the world.

I expect the Rat to have a useful gadget for every occasion, even though more often than not it is first mentioned right when he needs that precise thing. For some reason though, this particular tool bothered me. Supermen, even temporary ones, don’t work as well for me as the gadgets.

That kicked me out of the story for a moment, and the joy of Stainless Steel Rat stories is that you put your seat belt on and get taken for a roller-coaster ride. This is probably my least favorite Rat story, which means I liked it but didn’t love it.

Side note. When I roam through the ISFDB or other pages as I do these reviews, I come across various interesting things here and there. I now know that “acciaio” is stainless steel in Italian. In Dutch? Well that’s “roestvrij staal.” I’m sure one of those will provide the answer for Final Jeopardy one of these days.

I’m a fan of the Stainless Steel Rat, but I’m a fanatic about Jame Retief, who stars in the next story. The All-Together Planet by Keith Laumer is a Retief story I’ve never read, which is a surprise, since I thought I had all the Retief books and collections.

Another uncovered tidbit: Laumer always pictured Retief as having black hair and looking something like Cary Grant. Hence, he didn’t like the covers from the 1980s Baen reprints where Retief is blond. In fact, those covers of him were based on Corbin Bernsen. Now I have this vision of Jame Retief playing third base for the Cleveland Indians in Major League.

Anyway, this is all that one wants from a Retief story. The Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne has sent him and Magnan to a planet with an odd species, the Lumbagans, that evolves as separate body parts which gather together beginning with a group of ten. These parts can be anything, legs, arms, eyes, spleens, whatever, but the initial critical mass is ten parts. That’s a Singleton. Two of them get together and you have a Dubb. Two Dubbs can join together to become a Trip, and then two Trips can amalgamate and become the pinnacle of evolution, a Quad.

As usual, the Groaci are trying to gain control of the planet. Retief navigates with his usual wit and skill through the normal Groaci diplomatic corps, but finds one of their leaders, Ussh, to be unusually elusive.

Eventually Retief tracks Ussh down to discover he’s one of the largest Groaci he’s ever met before. Ussh is also more ambitious than most Groaci, which is saying something. He actually wants to rule the galaxy and his plan includes breeding Lumbagans to make a modular army of sorts.

As usual, Retief gathers allies among the locals, Gloot and Ignarp. At the end, in prison, he comes up with a desperate plan, one that leaves his allies in horror. Retief has figured out that Ussh is not a Groaci at all, but a super Lumbagan who is an amalgamation of two Quads who merely arranged his appearance to look like a Groaci. He tells Gloot and Ignarp that the only way to defeat Ussh is for them to combine as well, giving them equal powers to the mighty Ussh. They name themselves Lucael, which Retief agrees is “better than Michifer.”

Lucael and Retief head off to face Ussh and the Lumbagan emperor. In the end, it turns out that the emperor is essentially mindless and is completely controlled by Ussh. However, this taxes even the power of a super-Lumbagan, especially when faced with one who is just as powerful. In true Retief fashion, he manipulates the scene to expose the fraud, allowing Lucael to split Ussh back to his constituent Lumbagans.

At that poing Lucael assumes the throne and makes several proclamations, including telling all foreigners to stop meddling in Lumbagan affairs or “be shipped home in a box,” much to the horror of both the Groaci and CDT (except, of course, Retief). Then he declares all laws illegal, “including this one.” At the end, Lucael promises their emperor will return, should the need arise.

Then Lucael disappears to Ignarp and Gloot can separate back into themselves. But fear not for them, they take positions in the newly-created government-in-exile, “the only place for a government to be.”

No mere review can properly convey the sly subtleties that Laumer slides in. You may not be able to read this particular story, but I suggest you find a Retief story somewhere and remember the absurdity of bureaucracies.

The next story is To Kill a Venusian by Irwin Ross. This is the third and last story Ross ever published in a SF magazine. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not a pleasant one. Ross plagiarized To Kill a Venusian from Anthony Boucher’s story Nine-Finger Jack published in 1952 and no magazine ever published anything else by Ross.

The story basically involves a serial killer, who discovers his latest wife is actually a Venusian, who can’t be killed with any method known to humans. Ultimately, he discovers that human flesh is a deadly poison to them, and he escapes by killing the Venusian wife by cutting off his finger and putting it into their food. Gruesome and fun. Nice job by Boucher in 1952.

By the way, here’s an article by Robert Silverberg that discusses plagiarism in SF, including Ross’s. It’s at: http://www.asimovs.com/assets/1/6/Reflections_RobertHeinlein_OctNov14.pdf.

Anyway, next we move to One Moment in the Sand by Barry Weissman. In this we have a variety of people scrabbling about in a post-Apocalyptic world. These people are fantastically changed, though, including one who is a red dragon.

They find a cave and start exploring. The find a cave with a lot of oldtime equipment, including a large pillar. They start playing with it all. One presses a button causing lights to flash and sirens to wail. They keep pressing things and ultimately the large pillar ignites, burning them all and launching, for it’s an ICBM. It comes down on a farm halfway across the world.

All in all, not my favorite. It was less a story than a vehicle to say that nuclear weapons are bad. For message fiction to work, it has to be a good story, and this wasn’t.

Next we turn to After the End and Before the Beginning by William Rotsler. I will say that this magazine had some interesting authors, as Rotsler was also a writer, director, and actor in about two dozen porno movies as well as an illustrator in SF fanzines along with his SF writing.

This story is also message fiction in its own way, but far better written. It’s also set in a post-Apocalyptic world, one where the Earth has essentially been covered in buildings but the civilization has foundered. Dagger, the main character, is the leader of one of the many roving gangs.

Along the way, he finds a girl he wants to take so he chases her. Initially, he kidnaps her but eventually convinces her to come with him because one of his gang has books and knows how to read. He tells her of pirates and Robin Hood. In the end, he promises her he will read books to her. He’s not sure how he’ll do that, but he knows he will. The message is that reading will change your life in ways you never anticipate.

A solid story, with action and character growth. It’s not one that would win awards, but it’s worth reading.

Lester del Rey provides his list of reviews next in his Reading Room. He starts this with a discussion on the importance to SF readers and writers to read a wide variety of things, not just SF but fantasy, mystery, history, and everything else one can. The most interesting review in here was a collection called simply The Pulps edited by Tony Goodstone. This includes a bunch of pulp covers as well as fifty pulp stories, including a couple SF titles, some Lovecraft, The Shadow, Doc Savage, and a supernatural story from Tennessee Williams. This looks fun and I’ll probably get a copy one of these days.

The science article in this magazine is an essay by L. Sprague de Camp called Death Comes to the Megafauna. It’s a study of the possible reasons why megafauna disappeared. I would guess that in the half-century since he wrote this there have been many discoveries to answer and inform his questions, but I’m not knowledgeable enough in this field to be able to pick through this properly. These science essays provide a lens to see the process and growth of a discipline, and I suspect people in this field would really find fun connections. Not so for me, I’m afraid, though I did learn some places to look when I write a story about megafauna.

The last story in this issue is Abyss of Tartarus by Robert F. Young. This is one of his Spacewhale series, which are leviathans who can see in time and space and can be fitted as an FTL spaceship for humans.

The story centers around Starfinder, a man with blood on his hands, including the spacewhales, who he hunted to make ships for men. He had achieved some absolution by saving one whale from death, but now has new blood on his hands.

The spacewhales dive into the Sea of Time, which the Starfinder discovers is a passage as well to Tartarus. The Erinyes board the vessel to damn him for his guilt. The fight not only goes between him and the Furies, but also with the spacewhale, who resents the human’s attempts to master him. In the end, they become friends and allies.

This is one of those frustrating stories that I could really love, but the arc felt rushed. The conflict resolved itself too quickly, especially after the excellent setup including the Erinyes. If he’d have had time, I bet Young could have had Starfinder face each of the Furies in turn, dealing with each of their specialties, and at the same expanding on the transition from uneasy allies to friends, which felt forced and hurried.

This is not an uncommon problem in SF magazines, and of course many of these are expanded from shorts to novels and novelettes. I’m going to look for more from Young to see if he expanded on the story, because the idea of the spacewhales is really cool.

Lastly, we come to the SF Calendar, which is a list of upcoming SF conventions. If I ever create a time machine, I’m definitely going back to some early conventions.

Overall, this was a very good issue, but not a great one. The Retief story brought it close, but the other stories didn’t quite carry enough of the load to put it in the absolute top tier. Say, an 8 or even an 8.5.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56754

Next week, I’ll be reviewing the Analog from July, 1962. The cover story is from John Brunner, and includes James H. Schmitz and Mack Reynolds. See you then.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: Restart

Greetings all

It’s been ages since I did an update. This won’t even be a regular one, with the quote of the week and all that, but rather a get-things-going-again update.

Somewhere along the line in August I got knocked completely off-kilter. Whether it was fighting the black dog made me fatigued or fatigue making me fight the black dog, I don’t know for sure. I suspect it was a bit of both, feeding back on each other. A feeding of sorrows, I suppose.

It’s clear to me that I have to manage my headspace to keep my production consistent. Some of that is being realistic about my day-to-day goals. I aim for 1000 words a day, which is not usually a problem for me. When I have a plot in my head, I can reasonably expect 2-4000 words per day for weeks on end. I did that in the spring and felt great.

What happened between the spring and now? Well, my summer schedule was crazy. Between Lilies, LibertyCon, Pennsic, and other events, I was on the road more days than not from early June to Memorial Day. Despite that hectic schedule, I didn’t allow myself a respite from writing. I had several deadlines during the summer for my own stuff that I didn’t get to.

I met nearly all of the deadlines for other publishers, but none of my own. As I got behind, I got down on myself. I kept pushing through with a few words here and there, but it’s been an uphill climb in the last two months.

The good news is that I’m back on the upswing. I’ve been consistently writing for two weeks now and building back on the other things involved in being an independent writer, such as this update. I’ve also been examining my processes and am making some changes.

First, next year I’ll be cutting down a bit on long-distance events except during the summer. I’m not cutting them out completely. I’m still going to FantaSci and ChattaCon in the spring and in most years, I’ll also do Gulf Wars. There are also events within a few hours that are easy. However, I’ll be generally avoiding the bigger three-week long trips that are efficient, but exhausting. During the summer, I’ll do those trips and write when I can, but not setting myself deadlines that get into my head when I don’t meet them. Deadlines for other publishers are fine, as I said I generally met those, but I’m changing those to land in the fall, winter, and spring.

Second, I’m getting back on a regular schedule of blog updates. Mondays I’ll be doing a magazine review, Wednesdays will be interviews, and Fridays I’ll send out my update. I noticed last fall that structure helped me keep consistent, and consistency is hard for me.

Third, I realized of late that social media in general kicks me down, so I’m drastically cutting back from Facebook. I’m still there, and will probably check my notices every couple of days, but not really scroll down the feed. I still have Facebook Messenger, because that’s such a convenient tool. Feel free to connect with me there. I’ve got a MeWe profile, but I don’t really check it that often. Same for Instagram. I’ll post in all those places, especially when I have my three weekly normal blog posts, but otherwise I’ll just be in and out.

I am more active on Twitter, oddly enough, mostly because there’s some fantastic sportswriting there and I’ve always kept that feed pared down to specific things I wanted to see. I do, however, like to say whimsical things to the internet, so I hope you follow me there. Also, I’m going to start putting those comments on my blog, as I can do posts there just as easily on my phone as I can with Facebook without wading through the mess there.

I appreciate all you being patient these past couple of months. Tune in tomorrow as I review the “Worlds of If” from October, 1971, which includes Stainless Steel Rat story and a Retief story.

 

 

Pennsic AAR

Greetings all

I made it home from Pennsic yesterday afternoon. With the help of the proto-incipient step-daughter, my car was empty by 5pm. Go us!

Now I’m at Brewbaker’s. As a regular here I basically sit down and they simply ask if I want the usual, which is iced tea and a really good southwestern salad to which I add more jalapenos and avocado.

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came”

That’s true for Pennsic as well as Brewbaker’s. In many ways, Pennsic is just my normal neighborhood bar where I’m a regular. In the parlance of the event, I’m just on my 50-week town run.

For the last 8 years or so, I’ve hosted a first Monday of Pennsic bardic circle. I didn’t do a great job of promoting the event this year, but I still got about 80 all told. My high is apparently something around 125. This year, we sang until about 3:45am. This is a record, by not by much. We’ve been after 3:00am several times.

Both things are actually shocking to me. I’m astounded that something I suggested as basically a chance to get a few people singing has turned into a Pennsic fixture.

I’d like to take a moment and thank all the people who routinely camp in Calontir on that first Monday. They’ve put up with this thing, enjoyed it (mostly), and assisted with extra chairs, food and beer donations, and lots of singing. Thanks very much.

I plan on continuing this as long as I can and I hope to see a bunch of you at 0-dark-30 on 27 July 2020.

One of the most enjoyable moments this year was the attendance of Jamie Ibson. If that name is familiar to you, it’s partly because his name graces the cover of We Dare, the anthology that includes my story “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.”

He was there at the bardic circle, his first one ever. Then he roamed around seeing so much with fresh eyes and a good camera. I had a great time hearing his perspective and seeing past my eighteen years of attending.

I’m glad he got to come and see the wild Rhodri in his natural habitat, which is different than the wild Rob at a convention.

The shop went really well this year, I thought. Thanks to Renaissance Arts and Designs, our neighbor, we were able to expand our footprint. For the first time we weren’t cramped for space and we could hide a bunch of the clutter behind tent walls.

We have a number of tweaks of course. I built a really night shelf unit that I’ll add a special Pennsic add-on. We’ll have a better gutter between tents. We’ll tweak some table and item layouts. But overall, I think the general consensus is it was a vast improvement.

Sales for me were slightly up from 2018. Nothing huge, but I’ve increased every year and this was no exception. However, I’ve already noticed my post-Pennsic e-book spike has begun. This is encouraging as it’s usually late this week before I see much as it takes that long for people to unpack my bookmarks.

I was able to do a little more roaming this year, in part thanks to beautiful weather. Sometimes dealing with the weather at Pennsic is exhausting, especially over 16 days. This year had a little rain, though not much compared to what it could have been. The temps never got to 90 and were often lower than 80.

So I had more energy to go to some bardic circles and events. My highlight was getting to see a friend from Atlantia have her laureling vigil. A laurel, by the way, is a title bestowed on someone for being good at arts and sciences, and one sits a vigil before receiving it to contemplate a change in station. She’s a great addition to our ranks.

Overall, it was a good war and I hope see you all next year.

 

 

Rob’s Update: At Pennsic We Have Only Perfect Weather

Week 32 of 2019

Greetings all

Today we close the shop at Pennsic. It’s been a very good war. Sales have been good of the physical copies and I’ve already seen the Pennsic spike of e-sales. Really pleased about that.

Writing on None Call Me Mother has been consolidation work, generally. I’ve been editing what I had in part because I was losing track of the story. Too many trees, not enough forest. This seems to happen between 50-70k which means I’m right at that mark.

I’m getting excited as I get closer to the final battles that will conclude my first trilogy. I’m laying out the cool naval battle todayand the sequence where the final face off against the bad guy is almost entirely planned. It’s odd to have planned stuff, but that’s what thinking about a particular story for three years now will do for me, I guess. The big reason I’ve been editing/consolidating is to make sure I get those threads all in their channel.

Side note: Writing a trilogy is a bit of a different beast. I’m learning a number of techniques that will help for multi-book series in the future.

Anyway, we should be packed up and on the road tomorrow early afternoon. This is always a strange time. I love being at Pennsic. It’s productive and fun. However, I’m ready to be home.

One last thing. I was not, sadly, nominated as a finalist for the Dragon Awards. However, there slate of nominations includes a bunch of great stuff. You can vote here: https://www.dragoncon.org/awards/

Current Playlist Song

No music, but I’m hearing the passing conversations punctuated by the occasional cannon blast starting a battle on a lovely, calm morning in a Pennsylvania forest.

It’s actually a beautiful, calming time right now.

Quote of the Week

“That’s a really bad idea. Let’s do it!”
– My version of the unofficial Pennsic motto

News and Works in Progress

  • JH (416)
  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 60,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Been focused on Pennsic, so nothing else on the wiki

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Renaissance Arts and Designs. They’re the T-shirt vendor next to Calontir Trim every year. The gave up some of their frontage on the road so we could expand our booth. This version of the booth was significantly better than previous years, and I thank them for their generosity.

You can find their stuff here: https://renarts-design.com/.

Today’s Weight: Not really sure

Updated Word Count: Around 165,000

Shijuren Wiki: 874 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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

 

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: Birthday Festivities

Week 29 of 2019

Greetings all

First, the nomination period for the Dragon Awards ends tonight. Please nominate and then vote. You can do that here: http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php. I obviously would love it if you voted for The Feeding of Sorrows, but more than anything I want to get people involved.

Second, since my birthday was Tuesday, I’m having a week of sales.

A Lake Most Deep: Free until the end of day tomorrow. It’s here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WYIU6OG/

The Eyes of a Doll: $2.99 for another couple of days. It’s here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018MVZFP8/

And Where Now the Rider: $2.99 for another couple of days. It’s here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B071462WXM/

I’ve rewarded myself with work in the shop, though I haven’t done a ton with None Call Me Mother. Ran into another snag that I’ve spent the week clearing up.

And that’s what I’m working on this weekend as I’m mostly packed for Pennsic.

Current Playlist Song

Rush’s The Weapon. The things that we fear are weapons to be used against us.

Quote of the Week

There’s only one possible choice for a quote this week.

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
– Neil Armstrong

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 50,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on

Today’s Weight: 383.8

Updated Word Count: 160,781

Shijuren Wiki: 874 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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

 

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

Catalina – Duchy

I haven’t posted a scroll text here in a while, but this one was a lot of fun, especially since a bunch of people helped me read it.

I chose to write her text in the muwashshah style of poetry. This is a style of poetry that appeared in the 800s or so, and was popular in Andalusian during Catalina’s period. It is structured as stanzas of rhyming couplets separated by a chorus that is held together by a rhyme throughout the poem. Usually, as I’ve done here, there are five stanzas.

One of the reasons I chose this style is that in period it was seen as a visual representation of the wisah, the ornamented belt. The idea is that the stanzas are ornaments hanging from a belt formed by the refrains. This seemed too appropriate to Catalina not to choose.

The form is designed to be performed orally. Sometimes it would be spoken, such as will be done in court, but often these poems became the words for various songs. Usually, the performance is a soloist speaking or singing the lines, and a chorus joining in on the refrains.

I did a similar scroll for her Laureling, but this time I was able to arrange for the chorus by handing out a bunch of copies. By the end of the poem, most of the hall had joined in and the echo up front was damn cool.

Side note, since it was often sung, this means that yes, Rhianwen’s version might very well be more period in form, though not in tune.

Catalina – Duchy Text

In sweet days of Falcons soaring
With great rivers swift and roaring
Purple and gold were ascending
and great keeps they were defending
Came a queen of their kingdom fair
Whose charm and skill were all aware

All in this great Celestial sphere
(Chorus) Admired bright pearl of Calontir

Then to war went gold bird of prey
Steel and skill she brought to the fray
When riders lanced and arrows flew
Her courage held as all there knew
And those who cared for warriors bold
Brought sweet water as she foretold

In noble dance of swords and spears
(Chorus) Fought the bright pearl of Calontir

In tall and mighty heartland’s halls
Where nobles heed our kingdom’s call
Wisdom and law did she proclaim
Showed the falcon’s honor and fame
Calling folk before royal thrones
Their deeds to be forever known

Gifts to surprise people most dear
(side note, I almost cracked up reading this line, given that she and Donngal had surprised me in morning court)
(Chorus) Granted bright pearl of Calontir

As memories of bright lilies fade
Relaxing now in soft, cool shade
Heartland’s souls recall awhile
Love and grace and wit and smiles
They raise a cry to celebrate
Catalina’s story so great

Soldier, artist, and server cheer
(Chorus) Feats by bright pearl of Calontir

Anton and Yseult royal heirs
Listen well Their people’s prayers
At Lost Moor hall in summer’s heat
Fifty-fourth year of dream so sweet
Mushira will she now be called
By each poet, scop, bard and skald

A kingdom showed their love sincere
(Chorus) For brightest pearl of Calontir

A kingdom showed their love sincere
(Chorus) For brightest pearl of Calontir

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Update: Consolidation

Week 28 of 2019

Greetings all

Welcome to all the new people who signed up during LibertyCon and Hyperican. Glad you’re here.

This hasn’t been my most productive week. One reason is I was tired from the trip to LibertyCon and Hypericon. Another is I had a sequencing problem in None Call Me Mother which forced a major cut out of words and significant re-arrangement of the text.

The good news is I’ve recovered and I figured out the way the story needs to go. I put out 2000 fairly easy words, in the midst of fixing the flow, so I’m back on track. However, I’m behind my needed pace so next week will have to be brilliant.

I will add I began a couple of new projects that I’ll talk more about when the time is right. Plus, I did a bunch of procrasticleaning in my office. As mentioned, it wasn’t my most productive week, but not my least, either.

Tomorrow Their Majesties Calontir Donngal and Catalina will step down as King and Queen. That means I too am released from serving as Their herald. I love doing this job, but it can be time consuming, especially since the first part of 2019 was one of my most productive and intense periods of my career.

And I’m proud of the fiction I’ve released this year, especially in the case of The Feeding of Sorrows. Even I can tell I’m getting better at my craft, which is encouraging when I start getting down on myself. Such as those times when I’m banging my head against a problem in a story.

Anyway, have I mentioned here that The Feeding of Sorrows reached the number one spot in Action and Adventure New Releases? It’s still number 3. And, it got all the way up to about 1600 in all of Amazon. It’s currently still around 7000. This is awesome to me. Thanks very much to all who’ve read the book and gave me a review.

It’s worth reminding everyone that reviews are the best thing you can give a creator. Amazon’s algorithms really take notice, so if you get a book by me, or someone like me, please give us a review. It can be as simple as, “I really liked it.”

Side note, I’m sitting at 47 reviews and the algorithm kicks in another level at 50. Just sayin’…

In any case, I did the math yesterday and realized The Feeding of Sorrows is eligible for the Dragon Awards. I encourage everyone to participate if you have any interest in SF/F books, games, movies, or TV shows. I’d love it if you nominated my book, but I really hope everyone joins in. Nominations are accepted a week longer, and you can find the link here: http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php.

With that, I shall prepare to go weep like a baby as Donngal and Catalina step down tomorrow. Have a great night.

Current Playlist Song

I love baseball season, and many nights I’m listening/watching a game. Right now it’s the Tigers at the Royals. Not an enthralling game, but baseball is good background for writing. The pacing works nicely.

Quote of the Week

If you’re going to read only one baseball book, and there are many worth reading, Ball Four by Jim Bouton wouldn’t be a bad choice. He passed away a couple of days ago, but this is a good quote to remember him by.

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
– Jim Bouton

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 50,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing to speak of

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Calontir Trim, where I’ll be selling my books for two weeks at Pennsic. If you want cool strips of cloth, this is the place to go.

Today’s Weight: 386.8

Updated Word Count: 159,778

Shijuren Wiki: 874 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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

 

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: The Dust is Clearing

Week 27 of 2019

Greetings all

It’s the Saturday of Hypericon. Tomorrow, I will head home, and I’m ready to be back in my bed. These long trips are efficient, but can be very draining.

So far, Hypericon has been very laid back. A complete contrast to LibertyCon. Of course, I have much less planned here. I also know quite a few less people.

I have an interesting panel coming up at 1, though. Building a Better Monster. I like that idea quite a bit and will probably suggest it in the future. Then I’ll do my take things from one media to another panel at 8. Tomorrow, I have one more, about characters that should be brought back. Then we hit the road.

I need to start remembering just how draining LibertyCon is. It’s amazing and wonderful, but I have been dragging all week. Next year, I may have to plan on this week being a mini-vacation, though it’ll be on the road again, I think.

I have been writing a bit, but not much. Mostly, I’ve been reviewing where I was, which means editing. Not much word change but I’m prepping to hit the ground running on Monday and Tuesday.

Time for me to get back to that.

Current Playlist Song

By-Tor and the Snow Dog from Rush in Rio. Fun song, and maybe one day I’ll write it in story form.

Quote of the Week

Today is John Paul Jones’s birthday. Today’s quote isn’t his most famous, but it’s perhaps my favorite by him.

“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
– John Paul Jones

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 55,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Those in Peril. I’m getting happier and happier with my contribution to To Slip the Surly Bonds, which is in the process of editing. “In Dark’ning Storms” follows the events of “Far Better to Dare,” plus there are a number of other follow-up stories in the second volume that you’ll get more out of if you’ve read the first one.

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 158,282

Shijuren Wiki: 874 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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

 

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