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Rob’s Update: The Finish Line

Week 20 of 2018

The original plan was for me to turn Brief Is My Flame over to my editor on Tuesday. However, she preferred to get it on Monday, so I’ve been polishing it.

Which has actually added several scenes that I realized where needed. Editing, for me, involves taking words out of what I’ve written because they’re useless, and then adding whole chunks of new scenes. There’s little in between for me.

This other part of this week is that I took back the house in Olathe. There’s been moving of stuff, prepping to paint, and so on. We also bought a washer/dryer set today.

The house is a mass of things in the wrong places, with many more to come, but we’re making progress.

Current Playlist Song

Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven.” Disco meets classical. I’m right there.

Quote of the Week

This is why I pay Kellie Hultgren.

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”
– C. J. Cherryh

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (100k or so, off to Kellie on Monday)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events


This week’s spotlight is on Kit Daven, one of many fun people I met at Ad Astra a couple of years ago. You can find the interview I did with her here: and you can find her online at:

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 1057

Shijuren Wiki: 736 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 59 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at 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

Interview: Todd Fischer

I know Todd Fischer as Colyne from Ealdormere. Among his other skills, he’s an amazing poet who can write in just about every medieval poetic style, which I can attest is not always easy. The sonnet ain’t got nothin’ on drottkvaet.

But as you’ll see, he can write much more than that.

What is your quest? I am eclectic by nature and I think that comes through I my writing preferences—namely, that I do not have any. I’ve written fiction, non-fiction and poetry; I’ve written horror, sci-fi, fantasy and “regular” fiction. When I first began to write, however, I was primarily focused on horror fiction. I was a young teen and I had just discovered the works of H. P. Lovecraft while camping in the woods of northern Canada. On a trip to town we had stumbled across an underground bookstore—literally underground, not figuratively—and after descending the concrete steps and entering the shop I was immediately drawn to the horror section where I found a large tome that arrested my attention. The cover was black and white but had red highlights, emphasizing the alien eyes and mouths of the depicted alien entities. I had heard of Lovecraft, thanks to the Real Ghostbusters episode featuring Cthulhu, so I eagerly bought the book and read voraciously from its font under the leafy canopy of the forest. This, I decided, is what I wanted to create.

Todd Fischer

So I started writing horror stories. I dabbled in some fantasy as well. Through the rest of high school I took part in some writing programs which resulted in Leon Rooke (author of the award winning Shakespeare’s Dog) reading one of my stories and telling me I was a sophisticated storyteller. That sealed the deal for me! I was gonna be a writer!

I applied to York University to study Creative Writing, which was a three year program, but you had to pass an introductory course in your first year before you could apply. (So a four year commitment in total.) You had to send in a portfolio to apply for the intro course, and only a certain number of applicants would be selected. Likewise, if you passed the course, you went through a similar application process for the actual course. It was a harrowing experience and somehow I managed to get into the program. The program exposed me to numerous forms of writing (as did all the English courses I also ended up taking) and I began to work in more than just horror and fantasy fiction.

During this time I got married, and my wife and I started “imelod, the litzine of horror and the bizarre” and published around twenty issues over the years publishing folks such as WH Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, John Ford, Stanley C. Sargeant and Ian Rogers. We also published chapbooks and a few comics. Our bestselling issues were those devoted to Lovecraft and eventually we started a second imprint called Mythosian dedicated to work of the Lovecraftian ouvre.

When I graduated university the plan was for me to work part time and devote the rest of my days to writing. Things did not go according to plan. As they say, man plans, Cthulhu rises from R’lyeh and consumes the world. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is when my severe depression began. I had always suffered from depression (we know think since childhood) but this is when it began to become insidious and truly interfere with my life. I began to work full time in a company where the atmosphere was toxic, and I stayed there for just over ten years. My depression increased. I could no longer handle the constant rejection that comes hand-in-hand with being a writer. I stopped writing. We stopped publishing imelod.

About ten years passed. I went through a horrible six year stretch when my depression was at its worst, culminating in a breakdown. I was at a loss.

By this time I had joined a medieval recreation society and I was feeling adrift within it, as if I had nothing to offer the group. One of my friends suggested I try writing wording for club awards (in the Ontario chapter of this society each award handed out usually has personalized wordings). I had done some writing for the club when I started but had stopped as my depression got worse. So I took that suggestion and began to write again. From researching and writing these awards I began to write stories and articles and—most notably—poems. I wrote two monographs for the society’s monograph series and published poems and articles in several other society publications. One of my books (Osse Poetices) grew out of a project I did for the club.

In 2017 I decided it was time I got back up to bat and I began writing again for a wider audience. And that is the goal of my quest, my MacGuffin. While publication credits are excellent, and I am glad to be getting some again, it is the simple act of creation period that is my real goal.

(ed. note: One of the reasons I started writing fiction was to pull myself out of my own dark places. They weren’t as dark as what Todd faced, but dark enough. The need of a creator to create, I guess.)

What is your favorite color? I generally prefer stories (or poems) that are weird or surreal, such as the writings of China Miéville. Whimsical, but dark. You may find parts of my writing inspired by Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carrol, Mercer Mayer, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Thomas King. My visual depictions draw on Tim Burton and the Rankin-Bass specials and films.

I prefer language that is direct, and usually conversational. Realistic dialogue. I don’t mind when rules are broken, but to truly break them, you have to understand them.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? As I mentioned above, I have severe depression. I also have several other mental and physical conditions that can make concentration difficult. It tends to take me a long time to finish a project if it’s longer than a few pages. I am highly self-critical and constantly doubt the validity and worth of my work. Since I work in short bursts when the stars are right, I sometimes rush things through during these manic periods, which means I do not spend enough time editing.

Occasionally I scratch my head when I receive a rejection from an editor. One specifically said they doubted the veracity of several details of a scene in my submission that was autobiographical—each incident they said was unbelievable had actually occurred. (Still, getting personal feedback is a rarity, and I appreciated receiving it.)

(ed. note: A perfect example of writing needing to make sense, where history doesn’t care if it makes sense or not.)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I have always been told that my dialogue is realistic, and that my imagery can be a “tour de force”.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? I think I identify the most these days with Kermit the Frog, who feels as if they weight of the world is on his shoulders, who is desperately trying to navigate this crazy world while creating art.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I do not follow the sports ball, so I generally just root for the home team wherever I am.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake, of the cheese variety.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon, in an ade.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Dill.
  • Wet or Dry? Lubed is always preferable.
  • Favorite Musical Performer we’ve Never Heard Of? Leo Moracchioli’s heavy metal covers on YouTube are great.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I don’t tend to drink much, and when I do I’m generally not picky.
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine. As a short, hairy Canadian I always identified with him. I also loved his bestial nature and his claws were cool, yo.
  • Steak Temperature? Well done. My stomach demands it.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? All in the Family.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Autumn. The season of apples, and pumpkins, of baking pies and crunching leaves, of oranges and reds, and All Hallow’s Eve. Spring is my least favourite season. It is cool and damp and wet and all the snow melts revealing the trash it had been hiding.
  • Favorite Pet? (provide pictures if you want) Mine, of course. She’s a rescue; a beagle-lab mix named O’ber (which is short for October). She has come a long way since we adopted her but she still sometimes has issues with other dogs. I have also had cats, rats and gerbils.
  • Best Game Ever? I play way to many games to choose one as the best of all time (card, board, RPG, video, etc). However, I loved the Mass Effect video games (especially 3), especially the setting they had created. For board games I enjoy paying Scythe, Parade, and Firefly: the Game. While I know the system is not everyone’s favourite, I grew up playing the Palladium Books RPGs and am still partial to them.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea, but usually only if it’s iced. (In Canada, iced tea is sweetened. If I’m in the States I enjoy both iced and sweetened tea.)
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I generally think that a lot of sci-fi is just fantasy in space anyway, so I tend to gravitate more to fantasy. If it’s dark, that’s even better.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? Just how much of your writing is grounded in actual history?

My Answer: That depends upon what you mean by grounded in. If you are asking if I have specific events that I am writing around, generally not.

However, I tend to write sort of like making a stew or pot roast. I don’t have a set recipe, more of a gathering of what’s at hand. Yet, at the bottom it’s almost always a beef roast.

History is sort of the base to everything for me, but it’s often not the big things. Trade routes, logistics, types of food that are available, materials and techniques used to produce stuff are all things I pay attention to. For example, I am constantly checking to see what vegetables and fruit are available in various places during different times of the year. I won’t say they’re always precise, but you can generally expect that what characters glean during their travels is, in fact, accessible.

That’s not to say that I don’t also pull from real events, people, and places. I do that, too, especially from stuff I find using Wikipedia’s random article function.

It’s all what comes to mind at a given moment that gets tossed into the pot.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Many thanks to Todd for taking the time to join me. Take a look at his work. Or don’t and risk Cthulhu’s wrath. Choose wisely 😀

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

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 and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Rob’s Update: 2018

Week 1 of 2018

Greetings all

I hope everyone is recovered from New Year’s Eye. I am, as of today. Yesterday was a bit of a zombie moment as I recovered from enjoying our trip to St. Louis.

However, I’m of as sound of mind and body that I can be right now and I make these plans without duress, though I see the WW1 Flying Kitty is on the prowl.

Speaking of sound mind, thanks to my apprentice, I may be of sounder mind than I have been in a long while. I’m someone who stares at his phone at night. I’m also someone who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since the early 2000s. Those things do not correlate, exactly, as one is not necessarily the cause of the other, though it is a contributing factor. My apprentice pointed out that blue light is a problem, and my phone has a blue light filter. I don’t know if it’s entirely the cause, but I’ve been sleeping better since I turned it on. There are other factors, like some temporary stability in December and such, but it’s certainly helped. While I’ll probably never get a good night’s sleep, as defined by most people, I am sleeping better of late.

Anyway, I have two goals this year. The first is to put out 365,000 publishable words. Yep, I’m aiming at 1000 publishable words per day. What do I mean by publishable? Well, something that is either published or in the process of getting published. I will count blog posts towards that, in part because now doing blog posts will seem more productive in my head than I normally conceive of them. I know I need to put more there for it to get more followers, but it’s not easy for me. Doing this will appeal to the same part of my mind that really enjoys mowing the lawn. I get my exercise out of the way and I’ve done something else.

Speaking of exercise, my other goal is to lose weight. Both my sweetie and I want to walk when things get finally settled, though that’s still a ways away. Still, the day to day life is better now, even it’s not our permanent solution, and when I’m home I’m eating better than I have been. That’s helped.

However I do it, I’m going to use you all to help me but holding myself accountable on both things. The last thing on each week’s update will be my current weight and updated word count. You’ll get to see it happening.

For my blog, I’ll be setting things up to have a standard day to put some things out. For example, Wednesday will be my update day.

Friday will be Event Report Day, though I’ll sometimes do it on other days given the schedule, depending upon the schedule of the event. Here I’ll comment on the last event, or recent ones, and talk about events I’m attending.

I have some ideas for Monday. I think it might be Random Wikipedia Article Story Prompt Day, or something like that. Basically I’ll look at a few random Wikipedia articles, something I routinely do anyway for story ideas, and put the first story idea that comes to mind out on a blog post.

Please note that I will *not* be emailing these out. I said I’ll send you at most one email a week, except for the occasional major announcement, and that’s my limit. These things will only show up on the blog, which will then get announced on Twitter and Facebook.

As for the Weekly Email,  I’ve added content as well as accountability. The first thing will be the song I’m listening to when I send this email, with maybe some commentary or memory about the song.

One more thing I’m going to do is put the current word count of the next novel, so you have a benchmark. I’ll also be putting the short stories I’m working, under their file name acronym, which means you won’t know anything about them, other than that I am working on them. I’ve been wondering how to tell you when I’m making progress on these, and I think this will be the way.

This blog post has 1057 words. Only 363,943 to go in 2018.

Current Playlist Song: “Wish Them Well” Rush (Clockwork Angels) It’s just not worth keeping the demons in your life. Just wish them well.

Quote of the Week

You have now heard my plan. I think this quote from Firefly sums up the notion of plans right well.

Zoe: Cap’n’ll come up with a plan.
Kaylee: Well, that’s good. Right?
Zoe: Possible you’re not recalling some of his previous plans.
– Firefly (Safe)

News and Works in Progress

  • Short Story: DOR (1678): A new project I aim to finish next week.
  • Brief Is My Flame (28834): I did a lot of cleanup on these files, mostly because I realized I had mixed a couple of things up.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events


I love Firefly not just because of the writing, characters, and stories, but also because how it inspired some friends of mine, the Bedlam Bards. You can find their music on Amazon here or just search for them. On the Drift is an entire CD of Firefly-themed music.

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 1057

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to

2017 Season Overview

Here are my predictions for the 2017 NFL Season. I’m really excited for the year.

This, by the way, is the TL:DR page. You can find my detailed discussions at my divisional breakdowns.

Here are my divisional breakdowns
NFC East:
NFC North:
NFC South:
NFC West:
AFC East:
AFC North:
AFC South:
AFC West:

NFC Playoffs by Seed
1. Seattle Seahawks (NFC East champion)
2. Dallas Cowboys (NFC West champion)
3. Green Bay Packers (NFC North champion)
4. Atlanta Falcons (NFC South champion)
5. Washington Redskins (Wildcard 1)
6. Minnesota Vikings (Wildcard 2)

AFC Playoffs by Seed
1. New England Patriots (AFC East champion)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West champion)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North champion)
4. Tennessee Titans (AFC South champion)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (Wildcard 1)
6. Denver Broncos (Wildcard 2)

Wild Card Round
Green Bay over Minnesota
Washington over Atlanta
Pittsburgh over Denver
Los Angeles over Tennessee

Divisional Round
Dallas over Green Bay
Washington over Seattle
New England over Los Angeles
Kansas City over Pittsburgh

Dallas over Washington
New England over Kansas City

Super Bowl
Dallas over New England

I look back at my predictions for 2015 and I see much the same things. That makes me worried. However, I really do think this Dallas team is far deeper than I’ve ever seen. Had Tony Romo stayed healthy in 2015 and they had average luck on fumble recoveries (they were extremely unlucky), I think they’d have done really well.

I don’t like my predictions in the NFC. All four of the division winners are the same as 2016. In all honesty, the Cowboys are the most vulnerable, though perhaps the Packers. I simply don’t see anyone taking the division titles from the Seahawks and Falcons. Still, the two wildcard teams are different and that’s about right.

In the AFC, I have three new playoff teams, which is again about right. Tennessee is the only new divisional winner, though. Still, I just can’t see anyone dethroning the Patriots or Steelers, though I could see anyone win the AFC West.

Still, there’s too much chalk. It’s too close to what it was last year. I’m not seeing my mistakes, but they’re there.

However, I’ll stick with this as it’s what my process ends up saying. It’ll give me a chance to examine my process next year. By the way, I explain that process here:

Welcome to the new season, everyone!

Review: Iron Maiden Book of Souls Tour and Album

Sunday night, I saw Iron Maiden’s Book of Souls concert, with the Swedish band Ghost opening for them. Here’s my review.

I should get this out of the way. I’ve been an Iron Maiden fan since junior high. I was the only kid who liked Rime of the Ancient Mariner in English class, because of Iron Maiden’s song about the poem. Also, I happen to think that Book of Souls may be their best work. It’s powerful stuff.

I say all this so you can understand my bias here.

There are Maiden fans who think it blasphemy that Book of Souls is their best work. Most of these would look at either The Number of the Beast or Powerslave, and I can see their point. Both are excellent albums, with great songs throughout that have stood the test of time.

This last is important to me. I liked Iron Maiden in junior high. Over the last four decades, that liking has turned into love as I’ve seen more and more the depth of that music over the years. Many are the bands or songs who I initially liked, but now don’t really care if I ever hear again. Nirvana is one of those.

In any case, Book of Souls is an incredibly good album. It will not produce radio hits like The Trooper or Run to the Hills, but that’s irrelevant. Iron Maiden consists of six musicians who took music seriously when they were young, have fought a bunch of battles, including among themselves, and have come out the other side with great skill and a tremendous understanding of each other.

The songs on Book of Souls are closer to symphonic music than to 80s metal. No song is shorter than 4:59, three are longer than 10 minutes, including Empire of the Clouds at 18:01. It is a perfectly Iron Maiden thing to do that they released Empire of the Clouds as one of the two singles. They really don’t care about the “radio” way of doing things as opposed to the music.

The iconoclast in me loves that.

Anyway, Empire of the Clouds tells the tale of the R101 airship incident in 1930. More people were killed in its crash than the Hindenberg, actually. It’s a great song of dreaming big, the risks that entails, death, and bravery. It’s 18 minutes of swirling music that dreams big and risks boredom, but sails on through.

The other 10 minute plus songs, The Red and the Black and The Book of Souls are also songs that could be too long, but instead are simply opportunities for the musicians to push themselves. The closest things to “radio” songs are The Speed of Light and If Eternity Should Fail, are actually too good, too complex, though shorter, to do well on the radio.

Obviously, I could go on about how much I love Book of Souls, but let’s talk about the concert. First, one of the things about Iron Maiden that I’ve appreciated for some time is their confidence. I’ve seen a lot of bands choose a mediocre opening act lest that act outshine the headliner.

Maiden doesn’t have that problem. They chose Ghost, which is a very good band in its own right, with a large following of their own. They may not be megastars in heavy metal like Maiden, but they are not chopped liver.

And Ghost was excellent. I’d heard some of their stuff before, but I didn’t realize quite how good they really were. They create a cool, slow atmosphere while hammering the music. Great combination. They’re not the hardest metal out there, but they put on a great show. I loved the interplay between guitarists before Cirice.

When watching Iron Maiden in concert one is immediately struck by the energy of Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer. He’s almost 59. He’s survived cancer. Yet he bounces around the stage and pours it all out. By the end of the show, he is drenched in sweat. He’s talked in interviews many times how much a performer owes to an audience, and by the end of an Iron Maiden show, there’s no doubt he lives up to his own expectations.

Maiden has three guitarists, which is not unique, but is uncommon. The disadvantage is that there’s a lot of redundancy in sound. The advantage is there’s a lot of redundancy in sound. By that I mean that one guitarist can carry the song along while allowing the other two to add to it. For Maiden, what this means is that Adrian Smith does a lot of the carrying along, freeing Janick Gers to be a wild showman doing tricks with his guitar while playing and Dave Murray to add intricate and rousing riffs. Smith gets his own chance to show off at times, too, as they all take turns carrying the song along, but Gers and Murray are the most obvious beneficiaries.

The rhythm section is one of the best around. Not on Rush’s level, but then who is? Nicko McBrain, the drummer, is very good, and Steve Harris, the bassist, is the master of Iron Maiden. It’s been his baby all along, with everyone else coming and going at various times.

This may not be Iron Maiden’s only lineup in its history, but this is the iconic lineup. And it shows with the quality of music since they came back together in the late 90s. They are better than ever.

They are also known for interesting sets, and this did not disappoint. The best aspect was the raised area all around the main performance area that allowed Dickinson to bounce around. Did I mention he’s an energetic performer?

Not surprisingly, with a library of 16 studio albums, there were songs I would have liked to hear. Hallowed Be Thy Name is my personal favorite Maiden song and that wasn’t on this tour. Run to the Hills is one of the most commercially successful songs they have and that was not played, which I didn’t mind actually. However, I would love to hear Empire of the Clouds live. I think Maiden would make an amazing production of it, but it is a long song and would take the place of two or three others, so I understand why they didn’t.

It would be a cool thing, though, if Maiden did a one-time Fathom Events thing where they played Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Empire of the Clouds, and other long-form songs. Then they could release a DVD. I’d buy that.

Anyway, they did play The Red and the Black, which is 13 minutes or so, so it isn’t like they looked for the shortest songs. 6 of the 12 songs in the main part of the concert were off Book of Souls, though the encore was entirely from earlier stuff (The Number of the Beast, Blood Brothers, and Wasted Years). If Eternity Should Fail is a great song to lead off an album and a concert.

I went to the concert with my sweetie. She’s not a Maiden fan, so she mostly enjoyed the show because I enjoyed the show.

So she enjoyed it a lot.

Even if you’re not a big Iron Maiden fan, they put on a good show. Go see them some time, you’ll be impressed.



Rob’s Update: Circumstances

Week of 28 May – 3 June

Greetings all

Where Now the Rider is done and will go live for e-book on 3 June. The paperbook version is in process and will be live about the same time. I’ll be ordering copies and will have some in a week or two.

Waiting over the weekend allowed me to strengthen the ending. I had some great ideas come up when I was writing the conclusion, ideas that build Edward up and further enmesh him in Achrida while still touching on the over-arching metastory of Shijuren. By letting it all percolate over the weekend, I was able to slide all that in without the seams being as obvious as they might have been. I’m really excited about it.

If I don’t enjoy reading a story, how can I expect you to? Well, I enjoy this story.

I’ll admit that after the con and getting a bunch of detail work done, I haven’t created much new content this week. I’ll do a bunch of writing over the weekend to catch up. I’ll be focusing on two short stories, though I’ve got a chapter of Brief Is My Flame that is wanting to come out as well.

I’ll be doing that writing amidst a bit of chaos. I’m going to move at some point in the early fall, it looks like, and packing has commenced. I’m trying to do a little here, a little there, and I’m making progress. Man I have lots of books.

Quote of the Week

There are days when this lyric just matches everything.

All the same we take our chances
Laughed at by time
Tricked by circumstances

– Rush, Circumstances

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame
  • Two short stories
  • Fiddly bits of getting Where Now the Rider live

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events


At ConQuest I had a lot of fun on panels with Selina Rosen. You can find her stuff at

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to

Weekend Notes

The basis of my plans most weekends involve either doing something with my writing, like a con or event, or spending time with my sweetie. This weekend I got to do both.

We had planned to go to an SCA event on Saturday, but the weather literally put a damper on that. Plus, I couldn’t sleep for some reason on Friday night. So we ended up going to Ikea and getting barbeque.

I don’t buy much from Ikea for two reasons. One, their modern style simply isn’t to my taste. Give me Victorian, Edwardian, or medieval and I’m happy. Two, as a non-svelte man I find much of Ikea’s stuff terrifyingly light. My big butt needs a big chair.

However, I do like going to the store because they often have interesting ideas and cunning ways to arrange things. They’re really innovative, even if they don’t fit me. I got some ideas for my next house.

Plus, my sweetie really enjoys shopping there, even if her tastes match mine to a great degree. We’ll be moving in together at some point in 2017 and had a great time talking about how we would prefer things in our house arranged.

We went to Joe’s KC initially for barbecue. When we got there, the line was hugemongous, out the door, and around the building. I don’t blame them. Joe’s KC is my favorite KC barbecue place. However, I didn’t want to wait that long so we went to another barbecue place I had heard good things about: Q39.

The reviews were correct. Not quite as good as Joe’s, in my mind, but still very tasty. The pork belly, white bean cassoulet, onion string appetizer was fantastic.

However, they did something that I hate hate hate. Did I mention hate?

For all that is holy, barbecue restaurants should never serve their meat with sauce already on it! Anybody can make a sauce, but it takes real skill to make great meat.

Yes, I know I could order it dry. Yes, I normally do so. However, Saturday, I was tired and forgot. And I want my meat without sauce!

What? Oh, yes, that’s a pet peeve, why do you ask?

Anyway, I’d still recommend going there. It’s not quite as good as Joe’s KC, but still very good. Just remember to order it dry.

Yesterday, I drove around 550 miles to St. Louis and back to record two episodes of the Write Pack radio podcast. One episode focused on Plutarch and writing non-fiction. Obviously, as a historian I was able to use my academic experience here. My big point of emphasis was to constantly critically examine your sources and to get as many different sources as possible.

I suspect most of you reading my blog already know this, but it is important enough to mention again. Every source is biased. You need a bunch of sources from different points of view so you can reduce the overall effect of those biases. The most biased source you will ever deal with is yourself, so always try and account for it. You’ll fail to do so completely, but it is a windmill that one must always tilt at.

I believe this episode will air on Sunday, 4 June.

The other episode we recorded involved how to use editors and criticism. Among the things I talked about is creating a team of people around you, like a race car driver does, and trusting them to do their job.

I also talked about how Kellie has improved my writing by telling me some of the mistakes I’ve made time and again, so I can eliminate them in the future.

This episode should air on Sunday, 11 June.

You can find Write Pack Radio and all their podcasts in a number of places, depending upon how you like to listen:

All in all, a fun, productive, and tiring weekend. The way they oughta be.

Rob’s Update: Pre-Order Madness!

Week of 14-20 May

Greetings all

Sorry for the delay this week. I’ve been wanting to wait until I could announce that Where Now the Rider is live on Amazon for Pre-Order!

Yes, Where Now the Rider can be ordered on Amazon at:

I still have one last editing pass to do. That’ll be done next week. The pre-order is listed as coming live on 3 June, because Amazon has a rather draconian policy about pushing back a release date but has no problem with pushing it forward. Makes sense, I suppose, but it means that every time I do pre-order options I’ll be factoring in an extra week just in case.

This has been an odd week for me, in that I’ve spent so much time on WNTR and this past week I’ve had to let it sit and work on other projects. There’s been a short story I’ve made progress on and some work on Brief Is My Flame. I’m going to start a couple more things soon, in part because I think I’m a guy who will be more productive flipping back and forth on more projects. Two books a year is nice, but certainly not enough.

Quote of the Week

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Chris Cornell. His voice was simply amazing, and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger is one of my all-time favorite albums. At one point, I loved much of the grunge movement, but in truth, most of that faded for me. I can’t even really listen to Nirvana anymore. The only bands whose music has remained strong and fresh were Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

Outshined was the lead song on Badmotorfinger, and Cornell said about it once that it described how the most insignificant thing could take him from amazing self-confidence to the depths of self-loathing. Small things, but stuff that gets in his head. I’m much the same. The good news is that sometimes it goes the other way and a small thing can get me going again.

Humans are weird creatures, and I think I’m about the weirdest.

I’m feeling that I’m sober
Even though I’m drinking
I can’t get any lower
Still I feel I’m sinking
– Soundgarden, Outshined
News and Works in Progress
Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions


Upcoming Events


I’ve talked about him before, but I’m going to put Patrick McEvoy back in my spotlight. I think this is my favorite cover of the ones he’s done for me. It has the happiness of food, beer, friends, and a friendly cat, all with the unknown threat. He does a bunch of stuff, and you can find his art at:

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to

Rob’s Update: I Am Groot’s Speechwriter

Week of 23-29 April

Greetings all

It’s been a great week here. Some weeks you pound away and you don’t see any real progress. You know there’s some there, but you don’t see it. This was one of those weeks that make the others look better.

First, it’s always a great thing when you get a good review. I got a fantastic review about The Eyes of a Doll this week. Reviews are life for writers, independent writers especially. I can’t emphasize this enough. Feedback helps us become better writers, of course, but the Amazon algorithm tends to push items that have more reviews. If you buy books, either e-, audio, or paper, from independent writers, please give us reviews. They matter. They really do.

And, if it’s a good one, it doesn’t hurt our ego any, which is nice too.
Second, I have made real progress on the audiobook front. It’s still some months away, but progress has been made. I’ll tell you more when I have more details, but they’re a-coming round the mountain.

Third, I’ve essentially finished Where Now the Rider. I’ve started to do a final editing pass where I read it in my Kindle app. For some reason, things I miss on a larger screen are blindingly obvious to me when I read it on my phone. But it’s a complete story.

Fourth, it’s a good thing, too, because this weekend will be packed. I’ll be in booth 2245 at Planet Comicon. I had a great time last year and would have made money if I hadn’t bought dinner for all my help. I think I’ll do better this year because I have a third book. I’ll also have a couple of other things, and once I have pictures I will show them off.

Fifth, I did the reveal for the cover of Where Now the Rider on Facebook. For those not there, I put this on my blog, and you can see the large version at:

I really like this cover. The colors feel right to me, and I love the doom of the clutching hands reaching at us. Patrick McEvoy has done fantastic work for me over the years.

Sixth, a number of little things, all positive, that should make my life easier going forward.

A little bit here, a little bit there.

I do hope I see a number of you at Planet Comicon this weekend. If not, have a great weekend. I will.

Quote of the Week
I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, and I suspect I’ll see some cosplayers portraying characters from the first movie, especially since we’re only a week away from the second one hitting the theater. I’m excited, and I hope I get to sign “I am Groot’s speechwriter” on a bunch of books this weekend.

Here’s another of my favorite exchanges from the movie:

Groot: I am Groot.

Peter Quill: Well that’s just as fascinating as the first 89 times you told me that. What is wrong with Giving Tree here?

Rocket Raccoon: Well he don’t know talkin’ good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to “I” and “am” and “Groot,” exclusively in that order.

Peter Quill: Well I tell you what, that’s gonna wear real thin, real fast, bud.

News and Works in Progress
  • Finishing touches on Where Now the Rider
Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions
Upcoming Events

I find that some times I need to leave the house to be at my most productive, so I find bars or restaurants to work at. My favorite for some time has been Brewbaker’s in Lenexa. It’s probably time I put my spotlight on them, especially given that I’ve spent something like 30 hours here in the past week and a half. Their website is:

Right now, I’m eating their chicken strips, which are really good, and their zucchini and squash, which is even better. Actually some of the best I’ve ever had.

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to

Scroll Text Sunday – Albrecht von Trier’s Chivalry Text

Greetings all

It was a busy weekend and I’m only now catching up with the blogging. Here’s Sunday’s scroll text.

I have been blessed to get the opportunity to write scroll texts for a number of awards bestowed outside of Calontir. This one was written for a friend who now lives in the Outlands, Albrecht von Trier.

The text is modeled on that of the Hildebrandslied, an epic poem of the 9th century. Also serving as inspiration was the Ludwigslied. This was an example of a Preislied, a poem in praise of a warrior.

As I’m sure you can tell, it seems very much like that of Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon poetry. This is not surprising, of course, as they all come from a similar poetic tradition. About the only difference is that the Germanic tradition is a little looser on the location of the alliteration but much stricter in the language, preferring not to have much in the way of kennings or other word-play.

I chose this style as opposed to my initial expectation that I would be writing in the style of the Nibelungenlied because it matched better with Albrecht’s historical persona of a warrior in Saxony during the tenth century. Interestingly, as a result of the Anglo-Saxons wanting to convert the old homeland of Saxony, much of the literature and learning of Saxony especially was influenced by Wessex and Mercia.

Some words are glossed below. They are all in Old High German.

Albrecht – Chivalry

I have heard tell                                of heroic deeds
When armies stood                         arrayed against foes
Of a heriman proud                         wearing bright halsberg
Who stood in battle                        when stags shed blood
And held shieldwalls                       with soaring huscarls                   5
His sight so clear                               seeing all around him
No foe escaped his eyes                 except that lantwyrm
Lurking in southern sands            luring wandering souls
Though he stood tall                       even after it struck
And he heaped ruin                        on other hosts                                  10
With flickering spear                       and flowing blade
Such that falkkuning’s                    own sword was given
And on fields where                        blood flowed to three seas
Yet once more did                            Albrecht von Trier
Stand before many hosts              breaking linden-shields             15
There did Garick kuning                 gift-giving kneht
And Yasamin kuningen                  call to their host
That Albrecht be raised                 to his rightful station
So on this, the feast day                of St. Theotimus
In the XLIVth season                       since the stag first ran               20
Is Their word spoken,                     sealed and witnessed.


Line 3: Heriman: warrior
Line 3: Halsberg: coat of mail

Line 4: A reference to Estrella War

Line 5: Though getting this award in the Outlands, he was also a Calontir huscarl

Line 6: This line refers to his eyesight, which is terrible

Line 7-9: Lantwyrm: land dragon (in this case the culverts at the Florence Estrella site). This refers to his ability to stumble through huge obstacles which he cannot see yet somehow emerge unscathed. These concrete irrigation culverts are 4-5 deep and 6 or more feet across that required bridges for everyone but Albrecht.

Line 12: Falkkuning: Falcon king, and this line tells of the Sword of Calontir that was bestowed upon him.

Line 16: Kuning: King
Line 16: Kneht: warrior, obviously a cognate with cniht in Old English and knight in Modern English

Line 17: Kuningen: Queen

Line 19: Theotimus was a saint who preached through Germany in the 4th and early 5th centuries.