Category Archives: Aesc & Thorn Publishing

Posts related to Aesc & Thorn Publishing and various aspects of Rob’s professional life.

Rob’s Ramblings: ChattaCon and Stuff

Greetings all

This week is ChattaCon. It’s one of my favorite cons because Lani Brooks always gives me plenty to do. This year is no different.

Here’s my schedule:

  • Friday at 5pm (Vision A Ballroom): Martin Koszta Using History Panel (This might be the last time for a while. I’ve done it quite a few times, so I’ll stop suggesting it until I miss doing it.)
  • Friday at 8pm (Vision B Ballroom): Iron-Storyteller. This looks like a lot of fun and I wonder if we may end up wanting to run long because we’ll come up with so much stuff. However…
  • Friday at 9pm (Wisdom Boardroom: Beyond G-Rating. How much violence and sex should we include in fantasy and SF.
  • Saturday at 1pm (Vision A Ballroom): Blurring the Lines. We’ll discuss how to interweave real events in spec fiction.
  • Saturday at 4pm (Ballroom Hall): I believe this will be my author signing period. Yes, I’ll have books with me.
  • Sunday at 10am (Vision A Ballroom): Culture, Mythology, and Spirituality. Studying how cultures help fill out speculative fiction and RPGs.
  • There is also a game creation panels that I might attend, given the Shijuren RPG. It’s Principles of RPG Design run at 3pm in Vision C.

It’s going to be a great time. I love it that she keeps me hopping.

One thing that might be weird is this will be the first con I attend after Neil’s passing. His death is still reverberating among Rush fans and I’m not the only one not really over it.

I always wear Rush T-shirts at con. There are always a bunch of Rush fans at SF/F cons, of course, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with them.

This time will be different and I’m not sure how it’ll go.

Anyway, on to other things.

Congratulations to the Chiefs and the 49ers for reaching the Super Bowl. I’m in a hard place here as a Cowboys fan living in the KC area. On the one hand, it’s the 49ers, and I never like it when they win. On the other, it’s one of the stepdaughter’s teams and if the Chiefs win, KC fans are going to be insufferable until they next get knocked out of the playoffs. And that couldn’t be any earlier than December 2020.

I guess I’ll root for the Chiefs. Andy Reid is a guy to admire, and I’d be really happy for him to win a Super Bowl with a team other than the Eagles. Yes, I’m petty. But the Eagles fans deserve all that and more.

Anyway, we’ll have a Super Bowl party here. I generally have had one. Last year was the exception because of moving about. Hopefully, the stepdaughter can have the night off from work, but if not, we’ll make a mini version of her and sit her right in front of the TV.

Also exciting is the result of the Dragon 9/Crew Dragon test. It looks like we’re almost to the point of crewed missions for that platform.

I’ve long believed, and circumstances are proving me right, than private industry would be the real path to space. NASA has certain uses, but commercial ventures can do things NASA can’t, and do them at a much faster rate.

I would really like to see humanity have a solid and stable presence in space before I pass along the mortal coil. Dragon could make that happen.

Well, enough of all that. Back to writing in None Call Me Mother. Making progress.

Rob’s Update: The Gifts That You Give

Week 3 of 2020

Greetings all

It’s been a procrasticlean sort of week. I just haven’t really had a ton of focus since Neil died to get much done, combined with an event last weekend, so I only got about 2k written on None Call Me Mother.

I did, however, get really close to finishing my portion of When Valor Must Hold, the fantasy anthology coming out this year. I’m really excited, because all the stories are really good. Team “And More” did very well, not to mention all the cover writers.

One of my upcoming ramblings will be an AAR of this process, by the way.

I also revamped my website a bit. Go to www.robhowell.org if you want to see what I did. I’m still messing around with things a bit, but it’s getting there.

Also, the Shijuren wiki is temporarily down for some maintenance. I want to get that out of the way before releasing None Call Me Mother, as I’ll be adding all the new characters, places, and everything else.

I’ll also be improving a number of pages, cleaning up the info, adding some details, and putting in hints about the series to follow The Kreisens, mostly information about Amaranth and Euskalerria.

In other words, this was stuff that had to be done, so I didn’t waste the week, even if my mind was elsewhere.

What I’m Listening To

Rush. All of it. On repeat. Currently Cygnus X-1 from Different Stages.

Quote of the Week

“The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect
The way you live, the gifts that you give
In the fullness of time
It’s the only return that you expect”
– Rush, The Garden

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (97,812)
  • CB (8,418)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Cedar Sanderson, one of the people who first read my stuff and gave me useful feedback, for which I’ll be forever grateful. Also, I really enjoyed her story Goddess’s Tears, which will be in When Valor Must Hold. You can find her interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1956 and you can find her on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Cedar-Sanderson/e/B006WFPHO6.

Today’s Weight: 399.7

Updated Word Count: 11,660

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
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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Interview: Cedar Sanderson

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

Today’s interview is with Cedar Sanderson. Cedar is one of the first people who read my stuff. She and her husband read A Lake Most Deep and told me how much they liked the story. And how much they didn’t like the cover. Oh, the art was fine, but man, I had a lot to learn about title treatments and such-like things. She was very patient with me and has helped me a ton. That’s one reason I was so pleased to ask her if she wanted to be a part of When Valor Must Hold.

Another reason is that I’ve enjoyed reading her stuff. So, I was not surprised that I loved her story Goddess’s Tears. It’s an origin story of her Blood of Frost universe, where the hero pays a higher price than one expects to fight the evils around her.

Interview: Cedar Sanderson

Cedar Sanderson
Cedar Sanderson

Why are you here?

I started writing back when I was a teenager. I had actually forgotten about that until I found a partial manuscript – and house plans for the story! – recently. It’s pretty horrible. I think I was channeling Jo from Little Women. I know I started writing for two reasons: one, I ran out of reading material. Two, I’d always had worlds in my head and I was slowly convinced that other people would enjoy reading about them, too.

I started to read at a very tender age, so I don’t remember the first book I read. I can’t really choose a favorite author, either, because it changes so frequently, based on my moods. But I can say that I imprinted early on Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dorothy Sayers, and Louis L’Amour. Also, I happen to be named for a character in a novel, so I guess you could say that reading is in the blood. I write because I love to read.

I find myself drawn to, and writing, a lot of fantasy, which I find weird. I loved Tolkein and CS Lewis. Still do, for that matter. But I also find most modern High Fantasy almost intolerable with the tropes and the clichés and the stale pastiches, oh my. Urban Fantasy – Butcher, Correia, Briggs – can be very very good, but I had actually started to write it on my own before I was even introduced to them. I still find it weird, because all my life I wanted to be a scientist. So I should be writing science fiction. I do, and even my fantasy tends to have strong science elements in it. Still, fantasy is what calls the muse most strongly.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

I work at home these days. For a year, I had a writing office where I went and there were no children, no distractions, just quiet and minimal writing supplies. I didn’t get a lot done there. I felt guilty not being at home taking care of the family. On the other hand, I tried putting my office out in the main part of the house in the theory that my family (three teens, a husband, and a dog) would not be constantly interrupting me if they had open access to me. That was a disaster. I stopped writing for months. It wasn’t until I started taking refuge in my bedroom with the door closed that I was able to focus and write again.

I use music to create mood. When I was writing Goddess’s Tears, I spent more time than I ought putting together the perfect playlist for it. If you’re curious, you can find that here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3V5Zg2dwDACe-V99XtclfNBqC4Fhkapf the title for the playlist is my working title for the story. Sometimes I can’t use music – recently when I have been bored at work I’ve been writing longhand in a notebook (shh… actually, no one cares. I’m still training in a new role and they know I’m unoccupied for a time). This seems to be working. The one creative nut I am trying to crack is dictation. I have an hour plus commute, and it seems I should use that time creatively but I get very self-conscious trying to speak the story aloud and compose on the fly. I’ll keep trying.

What are your superpowers?

I like to explore what it is to be human, and how far you can stretch that definition before it snaps. I really enjoy developing characters, and forging them in fires to bring out the true metal of their souls. Hence the working title of Goddess’s Tears, I was writing a story where the dross was driven out of a woman’s soul in the fires of hell itself. I’m told by reviewers and fans I do character driven stories very well. I’ve wondered at times if this means I don’t do action well, but I have also been told that in a couple of my books my pacing is ‘breathless’ which is, ok? I hope?

I rarely rewrite. I did with Goddess because Rob thought the story had some dross, and it was a great experience to go hammer and tongs with him on it. I think what we wrought is better than my first draft, and I’m delighted he spent the time on it with me. It was a learning experience. Rob’s Note: The story was always good, but I wanted more. And I got it. 

 What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

Oof. This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not going to get too deep with it.

The biggest challenge for me is that I have a career I enjoy very much, on top of the writing, and being an active artist. I’m busy – often too busy – and it’s frustrating to have ideas but no time to bring them to life. When I was still in college (the second time, almost 20 years after the first attempt) I was able to juggle classes, and write. But now that I’m a full time chemist, I come home drained. That, and teenagers are almost as hard as toddlers. I thought they’d be more independent, but nope!

I have several manuscripts in various states of completion. I’m struggling to finish any of them. The problem with some is that it’s been too long since I worked on it last, and I’d have to re-read it before I could start fresh. With 70,000 words on one (another Underhill book) that’s a daunting task. And I blocked on it for a reason, so I have to unpick where I went wrong and correct that. I’m a pantser. If I try to outline, I lose the story. So my recommendation is to plow ahead on a project and finish it. Don’t set it aside and come back months later scratching your head and wondering where you were going with that. Or abandon it entirely and call it practice. I’m too stubborn to do that last.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Beaker
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Dead South
  • Favorite Superhero? Captain America
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? I grew up without television. I’m not sure what was on in the 70s.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Chartreuse
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t watch sports?
  • Best Game Ever? Oh, I really like Fluxx, with all the variations. There’s a Chemistry version!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A friend and fan sent me several fountain pens. So wonderful for drawing!
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Jessica Rabbit
  • Your Wrestler Name? La Bunuela!
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Boiling oil pour
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? How to go back to graduate school.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Bake it cookies and lull it before… but I say too much.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Die Hard
  • Favorite Historical Period? 1940s (WWII era)
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Dmitri Mendeleev
  • Steak Temperature? Blue
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Bacon Horseradish
  • Favorite Cereal? Steel-cut Oats
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Chicken and Dumplings
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Soda? Diet Dr. Pepper. Stimulant? Mead, preferably cherry mead.
  • Do You Have Pets? We have a dog, Tricksy, and two cats who are living with our daughter but were my office cats, Addie and Evie.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Scarlett Johansson
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Ask about favorite food or thing to cook!

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

So other than Butter Tarts, what are your favorite foods?

Rob’s Answer: Steak (medium rare, blackened, with garlic butter), Butter Chicken, fresh bread with butter and honey, biscuits and gravy (having already buttered the biscuits), and, uhhhh, butter, I guess?

When you write, do you share the story with anyone? I often use alpha readers when I get stuck on something.

Rob’s Answer: I think you have to at some point. It’s almost impossible for me to really judge what I’m writing. I mean, I know I like it, but I don’t know if anyone else will. I will say one of the best compliments I’ve ever had is when James Young said something like, “I know it’ll be good. It’s you.” That’s an awesome thing to hear, but I don’t believe it until someone else has given me honest input.

When you get discouraged, how do you cheer yourself up?

Rob’s Answer: Hmmm. This is a tough one, because I don’t always have a good answer here. I feel better anytime I complete something, even if it’s just the dishes. Procrasticleaning is a thing, y’all. It’s the days I go to bed having not accomplished anything that bug me, so I guess my answer is to finish a thing. Oddly, I can say that here, but I don’t necessarily think about it when I need to.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • My website is www.cedarwrites.com
  • My amazon page is: https://www.amazon.com/Cedar-Sanderson/e/B006WFPHO6
  • My latest novel is Possum Creek Massacre, a paranormal police procedural set in the Appalachians. The stories are drawn from family and true crime and my own forensic studies. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SQNLMPP
  • I’m working with my writing group on a weekly prompt challenge. You give a prompt, and are randomly assigned one in return. It’s a ton of fun, and a great way to get writing if you are having trouble gaining momentum. I started doing the group, and the challenge, as a way to give back to the community. Paying it forward for all those who have encouraged me or poked and prodded me along the way. If anyone wants to play along, check it out here: https://moreoddsthanends.home.blog/

And where can we find you?

I’m not planning any event appearances in 2020. I’ll be attending MarCon as a guest, incognito with family. I’ll be taking my kids to GemCity ComicCon, and probably the same for CincyComiCon as well. Happy to meet up if you happen to be there!

Do you have a creator biography?

Cedar Sanderson is an author, artist, and a scientist. Her varied career lends extra flavor to her works of art, and her insatiable reading appetite once led her to run out of reading material and start writing her own. She hasn’t stopped yet. Perennially inquisitive, she wants to know more about everything and will ask strange questions if you stand still long enough to let her. Works in print include her popular urban fantasy (with very little urban) Pixie for Hire series, her space opera Tanager’s Fledglings, and her young Adult series Children of Myth, as well as a couple dozen shorter works that would make this bio too long to name them. Her cover art and design grace the covers of other authors as well as her own, and her cute dragon character appears in his own coloring book, Inktail & Friends.

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

You should have asked me what inspired me to write Goddess’s Tears?

Reading Jirel of Joiry. I hadn’t read it until about a year ago, and I promptly fell in love with it. The character really connected with me – I don’t want to spoil it, but the character falls in love with someone you really don’t expect and in a way you don’t see coming. But it wasn’t that. It was the chin up and face forward into the darkness. Do your duty if it sees you walk through hell. I lived that. I wanted to capture a little of that sheer chutzpah in a story of my own. I hope I succeeded in even a very small way.


Thanks to Cedar 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 Ramblings: 40 Seconds to LOS

There are times and places we all remember. Where the impact is so powerful that we are irrevocably changed.

Friday afternoon, I had one of those moments. I was standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart idly flipping through Twitter while I waited. That’s where and when I found out Neil Peart had passed away.

I’ve tried to write this post ever since then. I’ve failed. What you’re reading isn’t correct. It doesn’t hold all that I need it to. I don’t know how to make it better, though I’m sure things will come to me.

However, I need to say something now, even if it’s not quite right.

****

I can’t remember a single earthshaking moment when Neil Peart became a shaping factor in my life, but I can credit the person who made it happen: Ted Shellhamer. We’d connected over sports and other shared things, but that year he got excited about a new record by Rush.

Moving Pictures had Tom Sawyer, which everyone remembers and which we loved too, but there was so much more. However, it was when Ted gave me stuff from A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, and Permanent Waves that I really started to love Rush almost as much as he did.

The title track to Hemispheres, with its blend of science fiction and Greek mythology combined with intricately woven lyrics that wrapped back around themselves blew me away. Natural Science did the same thing. And like so many others Closer to the Heart got to me.

It seeped into me, teaching me slowly and thoroughly. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve listened to a Rush album, I always seem to learn something new. It is comforting to know I still have lessons to learn from Neil even though he’s gone.

I bought all the cassettes. Exit… Stage Left was my favorite because I got to hear Tom Sawyer and the Trees and The Spirit of the Radio all on one tape! Plus 9 other great songs. What could be better?

I’ll tell you what could be better: Signals followed by Grace Under Pressure followed by Hold Your Fire followed by Presto and so on. Best yet are the three albums of Rush 2.0, Vapor Trails, Snakes and Arrows, and Clockwork Angels.

19 studio albums all told. 19 different styles. 19 different kinds of awesome. 19 wonderful collections we are lucky to have.

****

It’s hard to describe how awesome it was to me that this music was so incredibly powerful and talked about things that fascinated me. On the one hand I could bang my head to it as much as anything else out there, but on the other hand it always made me think. Not just about mythology and science fiction, but poetry and history and philosophy and all sorts of things that I kept getting told were so utterly uncool yet I still desperately craved.

And still do, for that matter, even more than ever.

School was an awful place for me, as it was for so many. I had some good and great teachers. I had some not.

One administrator dealt fairly with me, Roel Quintanilla. He was it.  Other than that, I was fair game to all the other students because they knew I was the one who’d get in trouble, even if I wasn’t the source of the problem. I was bigger than many, frustrated, angry, and too damn intelligent to fit in those round holes they tried to fit me into. I will never forgive Katie McHenry, by the way, for explicitly telling me it was OK for girls to punch me. That it was my fault for saying anything that prompted them to punch me.  It’s been nearly 40 years for some of these things, yet I am still shaking in rage at the things she and other administrators let happen to me.

I never snapped, though. Not completely, at least. I did go off a few times, which at least had the benefit of making other students a bit wary about me.

I didn’t snap because I have great parents.

I also had Neil’s lyrics telling me that it was OK to be different.

The easy song to point to is Subdivisions of course, with its line “conform or be cast out.” But Witch Hunt was there too, showing me I was merely the target of humanity’s mob mentality. The Trees told me that I could conform, but only if I wished to give up way too much. 2112 told me that those damned administrators didn’t really know anything.

I could be different and yet the magic of life could still be within my grasp!

****

My life hasn’t really gone to plan. I was a good IT pro, and in some ways I regret leaving that line of work. It’s certainly easier than writing and it pays better.  But I’ve always struggled within that round hole of a 40-hour work week.

I thought at one time that academia would be the place for me. I didn’t have the rigid schedule chafing at me year after year and I could push my brain into ever cooler things.

But the academic world is worse than high school ever was. “Conform or be cast out” isn’t just a society thing there, it’s the professional motto.

I’m so glad I didn’t get my Ph.D. I’m proud of my research and what would have been my dissertation. I’m pleased with the skills I learned. I clearly enjoyed the publish or perish part of it all. I am pleased that my academic career mined out the useful parts of that world while I remained Rob.

In 2012, the week my second wife left me and right about when I realized I’d also broken up with academia, Rush released Clockwork Angels.

It’s a tour-de-force album. It has all the energy and passion of Moving Pictures, 2112, and Permanent Waves, but with all the skill and growth of their entire career. It’s the best album ever made. Not just by Rush, but ever.

Thank goodness for that album.

Kate had seemed like a miracle to me. Beautiful and smart and many wonderful things, but we didn’t fit as much as we thought. We had a great wedding (I entered that day to Rush’s Malignant Narcissism), but the marriage… well… we had the best wedding ever.

The chorus of The Wreckers on Clockwork Angels is:

All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Because sometimes the target is you

And there it was, Rush saving me again. She was too good to be true, and that just happens. What’s important is where we go from here.

So I did what Neil had done. I hit the road. In my case, it wasn’t a motorcycle or a bike, it was the idiotic whimsy of walking the Offa’s Dyke trail in Wales. I packed up my phantoms, I shouldered my invisible load, and I haunted a wilderness road. I was a Ghost Walker.

I’m proud to be Kate’s friend now and I’m so glad we met. I listen to Malignant Narcissism happily remembering the joys of our time together and the lessons I’ve learned. The same is true of Holly, my first wife (Vapor Trails was there after she and I split, by the way). I never married Maerwynn, again because I screwed up, but I can’t imagine her not being in my life.

Headlong Flight on Clockwork Angels says what I feel about my marriages, my other sweeties along the way like Maerwynn, and all the other things which didn’t turn out like I expected:

All the treasures, the gold and glory
It didn’t always feel that way
I don’t regret it – I’ll never forget it
I wouldn’t trade tomorrow for today

Some days were dark
I wish that I could live it all again
Some nights were bright
I wish that I could live it all again

****

I wasn’t really salvaged after breaking up with Kate and academia until mom pushed me into writing, but it felt like a squarish hole when she suggested it. I’ve grown since then and I realized some time ago that’s partly because Neil’s lyrics made me think about writing all along.

My one regret of my writing career is that I started at 46. I wish I’d at least started writing on the side when Neil was first making me think about weaving words in intricate and lovely patterns.

I’ve been blessed with wonderful parents. I’ve had a lot of wonderful other people in my life along the way, including Holly, Kate, and Maerwynn. I never met Neil and yet, outside of my parents and my significant others, I would hard pressed to name another single person who mattered most in my life than Neil.

I don’t know where I would have been had Rush not been there for me. Neil’s lyrics have always held back the worst of whatever depresses me. Often enough I haven’t enjoyed my thoughts about myself, but Neil convinced me I had to look at them as honestly as I could. I had to learn to keep on riding North and East and circling South and West. Or, as I say when talking about writing, keep on plugging away.

I’m here and better than ever and that would never have happened if Neil hadn’t made me think.

****

How does one pay that back? I never had a great answer.

I always hoped one day I’d run into Neil at a random restaurant on the road. I wouldn’t have talked to him, but I would have slid my card over to the waitress in a heartbeat and bought dinner for him and all his guests, whatever the price. Giving out food and drink is my way of saying thanks, as many who’ve camped near me at SCA events have probably figured out.

It was the best compromise I could dream of. In my dream I wouldn’t say a word to him. I wouldn’t enter within his Limelight, so to speak, but I’d have said thanks in the truest way I know how. Especially since any words that ever said to him would have bothered and embarrassed him. Simply buying his dinner or lunch would have bothered him more than I’m really comfortable with, in all actuality, but it was the only compromise I could think of.

****

I sit here in the best time of my Headlong Flight. I have the right person in my life. I am doing the thing I should have been doing all along. I’m happier with myself as a person than I have ever been.

I know dark days will come, but I also know Neil will be there helping me push through them. Bright nights will also come and Neil will be there helping my celebrate them.

I tried to write this without using too many of Neil’s lyrics. It’s hard because it’s those lyrics that mattered the most to me. It’s also hard because his language patterns flow into my hands when I’m writing. Believe me, I could have written this entire thing with powerful lyrics in every paragraph.

But I needed this to be at least partially from me. It’s what Neil would expect.

I’m going to conclude this with words from a Rush song which he didn’t write. These are words exchanged between Ground Control and the Columbia during the first space shuttle launch, which Rush immortalized in Countdown.

“Columbia, Houston, we have 40 seconds to LOS
you’re looking good burning over the hill, we will see you in Madrid.”

“And we enjoyed the music, Bob, thank you.”

“We enjoyed it, just wanted to share some with you.”

Neil shared his music and writing with us and now we’ve lost his signal. We enjoyed it, Neil, and we thank you.

I don’t know if there’s a Madrid over the hill, but if there is, I’m going to buy Neil that dinner.

Interview: William Joseph Roberts

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

The first interview is with one of the first people I thought of when I got permission to create an anthology. The moment you meet this guy, you can envision him with a giant greatsword standing next to Conan or some other great hero of legend. And then afterwords, he’ll be the one drinking mead until the gods get tired.

I interviewed William Joseph Roberts not too long ago. You can find that interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1845. However, this is a new set of questions freshened up for 2020, and he was generous enough to fill out the new version as well.

His story in the anthology is entitled “Dust in the Mouth” and it’s as if Lovecraft wrote a Conan story. Or Howard wrote a Cthulhu story. No surprise, given his influences.

Interview: William Joseph Roberts

William Joseph Roberts
William Joseph Roberts

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Without questions, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Jordan, Douglas Adams to name a few.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? That depends on the type of creation you’re talking about. I mean, you’ve got Irish Mike making these massive swords and stuff to classic cover artists and such. That’s a wide spectrum to start naming names.
  • What made you a creator in the first place? The love of invoking an emotional or physical response in someone. There is nothing like seeing something that you puked out of your brainpan cause a response in someone else.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? Just the way that the muse strikes me and what the evil brain squirrels tell me to do.
  • Feel free to add things you would someday like to create. Hehe…  um… that’s a freaking big list. Um.  How about a world so iconic that it is more or less a household name and lasts into the next century in similar fashion to the works of Howard and Lovecraft.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop? All of the above
  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples. Absolutely! Basically from any genre. It just depends on what the mind squirrels demand.  Here’s a good example.  In the last week alone with the different stories that I have been working on, I have swung from Megadeth to Postmodern Jukebox to Moonshine Bandits and back to Nahko and Medicine for the people. I’m all over the place when it comes to music.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment? Side projects, just little things around the house that I can be creative with to give the squirrels a break and do something different.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Critique groups. I spun my wheels for years in critique groups that went nowhere. One part of the problem is that they focused on literary fiction, not pulp fiction.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I like reality and the average joe over super powers and seemingly immortal characters.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been told that I pull on raw emotion at times and paint pictures well.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? I published my first novel, fLUX Runners on my own after a lot of hard work and a whole hell of a lot of fighting with those demons in the back of my head. Then I turned around and finished my second novel in 2 months.  :-/  Go figure.

fLUX Runners CoverWhat will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? Distractions, self-doubt, lack of knowledge. Top of the list would probably be the lack of knowledge being shared in part of the writing community.  If the knowledge that LibertyCon existed had been spoken about, I could have learned about it years ago. The group I was with knew about it, they just didn’t like to talk about “those” authors.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons? Yes, my old podcast. We had a blast and we helped to spread the word to a lot of people about different artists and their works, but it was a failure in that I lost my focus. Instead of being a platform to promote myself and my work, I focused on making a better podcast.  Now the upside to all of this hard work was the knowledge gained on networking, promotion, and collaboration.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? Jump to another story or project. The squirrels get bored if they are stuck on the same thing for too long.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? From spinning their wheels doing something that will never pay off. (Critique groups!) While they may be great for some people, they did nothing for me.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? TO WRITE! See, way back at the start of my podcast, I had the privilege of interviewing author Ben Bova. Now the one thing that he kept saying over and over again was, that if you want to be a writer, then write. Don’t make excuses, just sit down and write. Choose a set time that is your writing time and that’s when you write, without question. Everyone else is to leave you alone during this period unless it is an absolute emergency.  Well at the time, with the distractions of the podcast and three small babies, it didn’t sink in.  It finally did after a while. I now get up at 0400 every morning if not earlier and write till at least 0600 before getting ready for work. Add in my hour of lunch and any other time that I can squeeze in, I’m finally doing it.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Tiny Tim
  • Favorite Superhero? Lobo
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? BJ McKay and his best friend Bear
  • Favorite Weird Color? Der… intestinal pink?  … hell I don’t know
  • Favorite Sports Team? What if you don’t watch sports?
  • Best Game Ever? Starflight
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A framed picture of my Grandkids
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Hell if I know. The kids just said I’d be the Mask
  • Your Wrestler Name? Bubba Joe Bob
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Spine Splitter
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? The fall of the mosquito empire! Those bloodsuckers will pay for generations of attacks upon our people!
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Everyone loves brownies.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Mullets, music and muscle cars!
  • Favorite Historical Period? 1600’s and the colonization of the Americas
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Shakespeare
  • Steak Temperature? Mooing
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guac
  • Favorite Cereal? Cocoa pebbles
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Pot of crawdads with a side of soup beans, cornbread, fried okra and fried green tomatoes.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Coffee
  • Do You Have Pets? Yes, two pups.. do kids count?
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Der… that guy that played Ron Weasley just cause he’s a redhead?
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? The most embarrassing moment you’re willing to share.

fLUX Runners CoverTell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Upcoming events and conventions you plan to attend. Chattacon (Jan), Anachracon (Feb), FantiSci (March), Conglomeration (April), Metrotham (May), LibertyCon (June), Next Chapter Con (Sept)

Do you have a creator biography?

In a previous lifetime, William Joseph Roberts was once an F-15 mechanic and Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He has traveled the world and experienced many things in his few years.

During his tenure in this lifetime, he has been called a Jack of all trades, a Renaissance man and insane squirrel wrangler by his peers. Since his enlistment he has perused careers as an industrial and architectural designer, design engineer, and now, eclectic writer.

William Joseph Roberts currently resides in the quaint southern town of Chickamauga, Georgia with his loving wife, three freaky smart nerd children, and small pack of fur babies.

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

Most folks at some point usually ask WTF is wrong with me.  I generally just smile, then maybe give them a face lick. 😊


Thanks to William 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: 2020 Visions

Greetings all

Last week, I did a post on just how good 2019 was for me. You can find it here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1912. My conclusion? 2019 was my best year ever.

2020 will be better.

Let’s start with None Call Me Mother. I should have that to my editor within a few weeks. I know it’s been slow. I wanted to have this done in 2018, much less last year. Stuff happened and I apologize. But it’s coming and it’s good.

What will happen in Shijuren after that?

Glad you asked.

This fall I’ll be working on the next Edward novel. I don’t have a working title yet, but it’ll be a bit of an homage to Dick Francis. There’s trouble at Achrida’s Hippodrome and it might hurt horse-racing across the entire Empire of Makhaira if Edward can’t figure it out.

Then, I’ll start another trilogy in Shijuren with different characters based in Amaranth. I’ve said a number of times that chickens are coming home to roost all across Shijuren, and this will tell of roostings in the south.

My plan is to write one Shijuren novel a year, alternating between an Edward novel and whatever other series I’m working on at the time, at least for now. It may end up being one Edward and two series novels, but we’ll see.

I also plan on writing short stories set in the universe. In fact, the first is already written and I’ll get to that in a moment. I’m really enjoying writing short stories in general, and whenever I get a chance to write one in Shijuren, I will.

But wait, there’s more. I’m making progress on creating an OGL d20 based system set in Shijuren. The first embryonic concepts of Shijuren started rolling around my head 25 years ago as a place for great D&D adventures. In many ways, it’s exceeded my expectation in that aspect alone.

The system I have in mind aims to streamline game play with a cool character creation system that allows players to mold characters to fit their own playing style.

It also aims to encourage players to try stupid but fun stuff that isn’t necessarily defined in the rules. Whether it’s trying a crazy tactic, using a skill in an unorthodox manner, or using magic in a weird way to save the day, it’ll be designed to give DMs guidelines to react to players making stuff up on the fly.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in this so far has been how to mold my magic system into a usable system for a game. It’s a great magic system from a writing perspective, but it hadn’t been obvious how to translate it to gaming. However, I’ve finally come up with what I think is a really cool plan that ought to be a lot of fun.

Creating a game system is a big project, even with many of the basics already built in from the OGL side of things. I’m blessed to have some skilled and talented friends who will be helping along the way. I’ll tell you all more about them later.

I don’t have a specific timeline for getting this game published, but at some point, hopefully in 2020, I’ll be at cons running some playtest adventures as well as starting a home group.

What you can expect is periodic updates. I might even add a category in my Weekly Updates related to game concepts and ideas.

As you can see, though, Shijuren is going to grow a ton in the next few years. Thanks for coming along.

Of course, I’ve got a bunch more planned for 2020 than just Shijuren, including The Four Horsemen Universe. After I finish None Call Me Mother, my long form work in progress will be the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows.

I have lots of stuff to play with in here.

  • What are Edmonds and Tahnerif going to do?
  • I promised Jackson a platoon. What’s going to happen to his momma’s boy?
  • Kiial will definitely have more to say about his uncle as his time in the Foresters continues.
  • Speaking of the uncle, Tlanit and Rick Blaine are going to work at peeling away some of the layers.

Going to be fun.

I’m actually going to describe some of this in a short story in another Four Horsemen anthology coming out in 2020. Right now, I’m playing with a number of ideas, but rest assured, there’s more happening with the Foresters.

Speaking of short stories, I’ll be contributing to the second We Dare, anthology. The story I’m working on will be a prequel to “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” my story in the first anthology. We might just find out why the Allardecks and Fieldings hate each other. This will also be fun, as I’ll be collaborating for the first time. Yvonne Jacobs is already helping me plan the story.

I intend to do four or five short stories for anthologies each year, so don’t be surprised if I announce a couple more later in the year. I’ve been asked to be a part of some others already, but I’m still trying to balance my writing schedule.

That doesn’t include, by the way, the return of Nick Patara, PI. I’ve enjoyed the response and I had a great time writing it. I also enjoyed being able to give back to you guys.

The next big news comes from a comment above, I mentioned that I’ve submitted a Shijuren story to an anthology already.

And this one is special.

Chris Kennedy gave me the opportunity to create a anthology of fantasy stories. It will be entitled When Valor Must Hold.

The writing prompt I gave the authors was the opening of Conan the Barbarian, where Akira the Wizard concludes, “Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”

The authors have given me what I wanted: stories with adventures and action across a really broad set of fantasy sub-genres. It’s a great mix and I think you’ll like it a lot. Heroic deeds done by characters who might not start as heroes but end up in that category. The characters all face things to test their valor and we shall see how their valor holds.

The anticipated release date is 20 March, which is the Friday of FantaSci. We plan to have a great release party there and I hope to celebrate with a bunch of you.

This brings me to my plans for Howell’s Howls this year. I really enjoyed my system of having a blog post Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Rob’s Updates will continue on Fridays. I’m going to tweak the format a bit, like including game notes each week, but it’ll continue much the same.

I’m also going to continue with the interviews. I just finished re-writing the questions I send out, so you’ll see some new interviews by people who I’ve already interviewed. I’m going to start the year with interviews of authors in When Valor Must Hold, and run those interviews as long as it takes.

Hit me up if you’re a creator of any type, and I’ll send you the questions and get you into the queue. I really enjoy doing these and hope to be more proactive about making sure I have an interview ready to go each week.

That brings us to Mondays. Mag Reviews take a ton of time, too much for just a regular blog post. I’m going to replace them with Rob’s Ramblings, which will be a catchall thing for whatever interests me. including reviews of movies and albums, snippets, poems, sports topics, or whatever. This week, it was my ShadowCon AAR. One post you can expect in March is an AAR about creating When Valor Must Hold. It’s already taught me a bunch.

This does not mean Mag Reviews will go away. They take too long as a blog post, but there’s a still a place for them and I’m playing with some ideas.

Overall, my online presence will continue as it has been. In September, I stopped reading my Facebook News Feed. This was a great decision on my part. I miss out on a number of things, but that News Feed brought me down.

I check my Facebook Notifications consistently, though, and that’s been enough. If you want me to see something, please tag me and I’ll check it out. Otherwise, I’m almost never going to see anything.

I originally planned to limit my Facebook posts to business-related things, but I think I’ll start posting about the same frequency I did prior to last September. I’ve missed chatting with people about a variety of fun things and while I’ll never go back to reading the News Feed, I’ll get back to posting fun things along with my professional stuff.

The same is basically true on Twitter. I have always limited my Twitter feed to focus on some excellent sports bloggers and other interests like that, along with professional stuff. I will continue to look at those sorts of things, so if you want me to see something, you better tag me.

I’ve played around with MeWe, but the interface has yet to click with me. I’ll keep trying though. I’ll also keep dabbling in Instagram. This might expand with some of the other things I’ve got going on. I’ll also keep my eyes open for better social media options.

My appearance schedule in 2020 is going to be amazing. The biggest news is, of course, I got accepted as an Attending Professional at DragonCon this year. What an amazing honor. I will do my best to reward them for giving me the chance.

I also received word this weekend that I’ve been approved as a vendor at Dagorhir’s Ragnarok XXXV in June. This is a major LARPing event and I am excited to meet a bunch of people and introduce Shijuren to them.

I’ll be at LibertyCon again. None of what’s happened above would be possible without the lessons and experiences I’ve had at LibertyCons past. It’s really pushed me along and I’m incredibly grateful to Brandy and her peeps.

The expansion of Drix’s shop at Pennsic last year went well, and it’ll be even better this year. We’ve had a great time there and sales keep inching up there for me.

As I mentioned, we hope to have a great release party for When Valor Must Hold at FantaSci. I picked FantaSci over Gulf Wars, Planet Comicon in Kansas City, and a bunch of other events on the weekend of 20 March. Why did everything have to be then? In any case, even without the release party, I would go to FantaSci. It’s already a great con.

My next event is ChattaCon in a few weeks. It’ll be a blast, in part because Lani Brooks puts me on a bunch of panels.

Let’s see, do I have my yearly goals covered in 2020?

  • 2-3 novels: Check. I hope to have two by September and be working on the Edward novel in the fall.
  • 4-5 short stories (plus Nick Patara): I have one in the can, two planned, and some opportunities to juggle. I can’t say this is fully laid out, but I anticipate no real problems.
  • 3 blog posts per week: Mag Reviews made that really challenging, and I expect to be more consistent here. I won’t stress too much if I miss out on one of the weekly standards, but it’s a reasonable, feasible schedule
  • Figure out a way to make Mag Reviews work: I’m playing around with this. Probably won’t happen for a while, but there’s value here.
  • Make progress on the RPG: Meetings are scheduled and I anticipate consistent activity on this front. Again, I don’t have a realistic timeline, just a plan to turn it from vaporware into something real.
  • Create a smart travel schedule: Spring is fairly light, and will be productive from a writing standpoint. Summer will be go go go and I’ll have many miles on the road. Fall will be light, much like spring. This past fall, I didn’t go to any cons after September. I will add a con or two because I think more than three months is too much of a break from going to a con.
  • Take care of myself: I’m starting with being more conscious of things, as shown by pacing my travel schedule better. I’m also going to adjust my summer production expectations to match reality. Finally, I’m going to schedule some down time/vacation/retreat type things. No details yet, but they’ll be there.
  • Get back to fighting: This includes working out and losing weight. I’ve a helm on order and I can’t really fight until it gets here, but I can work out. I’ll have a plan for that soon.

I look at these goals and am getting even more excited. None of them seem outlandish and if I complete them, it’ll make 2020 amazing.

Now that I have a plan, I think I’ll watch the Blues and play a game for a while. Then, tomorrow, write a chapter or two in None Call Me Mother.

It’s going to be a great 2020.

 

 

 

Rob’s Ramblings: ShadowCon 2020 AAR

Rob’s Note: I’m starting a Monday column for whatever I want to write about. This will include reviews, sports, other interests, and, obviously, AARs.

The first convention of 2020 is in the books! ShadowCon 2020 was fantastic. I had a great time, sold books, and learned a ton.

ShadowCon is a small Memphis convention run by an SCA household name Shadow Legion. Obviously, that means there is a huge SCA presence at the con. It’s not just the SCA, though, as Memphis has an active SF/F creator community.

In the past, I have actively tried to avoid having a dealer’s table *and* sitting on panels. However, a dealer’s table opened up at the last moment and I decided to pounce on it.

The reason to avoid doing both remained, but this would be my first con in a while and I thought I’d have the adrenaline to push me through the challenge of back-to-back 12+ hour days. Also, since ShadowCon is only on Friday and Saturday, I didn’t have to worry about doing too much on Sunday.

Whether I thought things through well or not, this turned out to be an excellent decision. I was, in fact, busy. I did, in fact, get exhausted. However, I also sold a bunch of books I would not have otherwise.

I did three panels as well. One was a panel on adding mystery elements to SF/F. This is the first time doing that panel. I don’t think I organized it well, but that happens the first time one does a panel. I like the core of the idea and I’ll do it again. Also, it’s a panel that would work better, I think, with more people than me on it. I was up against Opening Ceremonies, so many of the other authors were there instead. Nevertheless, it was a solid panel, with 5 people who got at least a little something out of it.

I also did my Martin Koszta panel again. Unfortunately, this was at 8pm on Saturday and I only got two people there. Worse, in one way, they were both experienced writers and that panel is aimed more at people starting to dabble in history as an inspiration. It may not have been terribly effective, but the story is so fun we all enjoyed it.

My favorite panel discussed specific methods one can use when you get stuck. I was joined by a couple of other writers and we had a decent sized audience. It went really well, and I think I’ll add that one to my list as well.

ShadowCon advertises itself as a “relaxacon,” which means the social aspects after the official events are important. Friday night I hung out and chatted until about midnight.

Saturday night, however, I was up and chatting until about 4am. Allan Gilbreath is a hoot! He’s also very smart. He and Robert Allsup talked about some of the specifics of writing screenplays, especially those for TV. Much to think about, and I do want to try my hand at that.

They also gave me an idea for my Mag Reviews, which I think I’ll play around with.

One of the anticipated highlights was spending time with Bill Webb. He’s in a couple of the Phases of Mars anthologies and I hadn’t really met him before. He’s a really sharp guy and I’m really glad I aimed to spend time with him. I suspect we’ll work together in the future.

Last year at ShadowCon I felt a little out of the loop. This isn’t really surprising as I often struggle the first time at a con to know where I fit in. It’s also not surprising, then, that the second time I’m at a con I’m much more aware of things, more confident, and therefore more productive.

I never stop learning these things, of course, but I realize I should factor this in my calculations more than I do. I shouldn’t necessarily discount a con where the first time doesn’t click a ton. I need to pay attention to why it doesn’t click, because if it’s just that I was feeling a bit out of the water it might be a great con, I just need to go a few times.

ShadowCon has now locked itself into my normal rotation because of this year. I’ll be doing more cons with a dealer’s table, even if no one else is there. It’s hard work. I just need to consider how many panels and how much other stuff is going on at the same time.

Thanks to Aubrey Stephens for handling the panels and Gunder Johanssen for handling the dealer’s room. Thanks to Bill Webb for introducing me into the Memphis creator scene.

And thanks to all who bought books, chatted with me, and helped me a have a great time.

I’ll be back next year.

Rob’s Update: 2019 in Review

Greetings all

2019 was my best year ever. Thanks to all the readers who supported my writing throughout the year. It couldn’t have happened without you.

Things I published in 2019:

I’m incredibly pleased at the success of these stories. Four of those, including all 3 Phases of Mars anthologies and The Feeding of Sorrows, earned at least one orange tag.

An orange tag on Amazon signifies it’s a bestseller. Now I can add “Amazon Bestselling Author” to my bio. That’s pretty darn awesome.

I’m also pleased that I still love all six of these tales. I am never pleased with the quality of writing in any of my past stories, because with each new one I get better. However, the tales are all good. I know this because I still cry at the end of each one.

If I don’t get emotional reading my stuff, I can’t expect you to do so either. I still get emotional on all of them.

The biggest negative of 2019 is that I didn’t get None Call Me Mother published. I had even hoped to make progress on Edward 4, but that was always only a faint hope.

Despite that, I’m not displeased with my writing output. I’m up to 93k on None Call Me Mother, so it’s getting close. I chose to write The Feeding of Sorrows instead and it was a great decision.

I also chose to follow Bill Fawcett’s advice. He said to me at LibertyCon in 2018 that I should write more short stories. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t pay attention to him. I may yet be an idiot, but not about this.

My goal is two or three novels a year and four or more short stories. I came really close if I count the words I actually wrote in 2019. I wrote about 75k of The Feeding of Sorrows and about 20k towards its sequel. I wrote about 80k in None Call Me Mother in 2019. I also worked on a couple of special projects I’ll announce when I post my look ahead to 2020. All told, I submitted six short stories (one yet to come), and wrote about 175k of long fiction. 230k or so of fiction is not shabby.

I did this despite not taking care of myself. Following Pennsic, I spent 5-6 weeks in a funk. This was driven initially by fatigue, because I traveled a ton this past summer. Then my brain weasels got involved, chastising me for not being productive, and that spiraled down.

Fortunately, I recovered in time to complete all of the items I had promised to various editors. Had I paid attention to myself, though, I believe I would have finished None Call Me Mother. Ah, well.

I have adjustments planned for 2020. One challenge of being self-employed is that I have to play mental games with myself to keep me from doing stupid stuff, like losing those 5-6 weeks.

I went to a number of fantastic events in 2019. This was my first year as a vendor on my own at Gulf Wars. Drix and I also expanded our booth at Pennsic, and this is exciting. LibertyCon was wonderful and emotional. FantaSci went great, not great for a first time con, but great. So great I’m choosing it over Gulf Wars and Planet Comicon in 2020.

I did all these things while also getting the opportunity to serve as Their Majesty Calontir’s herald in the first half of the year. I love doing that job. Thanks to Donnghal and Catalina for giving me that opportunity. And yes, you totally got me.

My sweetie and I did a bunch of work to the house. We replaced around 1000 sq. ft. of carpet with bamboo. I love this stuff. Nice on my feet and pretty. We also started a new additional closet in the master suite, which had a ton of useless inefficient space.

The closest thing to a true negative are my tracked items, I spun my wheels a bit. I gained a little weight, though I’ve made it through most of the holidays without gaining much extra. My tracked word count, which includes only those things I actually released to the editor or on my blog, would have exceeded my goal had I managed to get None Call Me Mother to my editor, but of course will fall short in its actual number.

My wiki suffered a hacking attack in the spring. I have recovered most of the lost things, but I plan on redoing most entries. I learned a ton working on the 4HU wiki for nearly a year that I intend on incorporating. I’ll talk about that in my 2020 post.

These are my end results. I’ll work on improving them all in 2020.

Today’s Weight: 395.2

Updated Word Count: 146,912

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

I have so many people to thank. I’m going to take a crack at it, but will undoubtedly forget some people. But here’s what I can think of right now with a cat demanding petsies.

Mom, sweetie, and proto-incipient step-daughter come first. Living with a writer ain’t easy.

Chris Kennedy gave me a bunch of opportunities. I can’t thank him enough. James L. Young let me write in all 3 Phases of Mars, and those are good stories. Jamie Ibson let me break his soul in We Dare. Mark Wandrey kept encouraging me, especially his help in the 4HU. Kevin Ikenberry helped a ton with the Peacemaker aspects of my 4HU stuff. Frankly, let’s just thank all of the crew that Chris has gathered about him. They’re all making me better.

Kellie Hultgren did a great job editing my personal stuff and teaching me how to become a better writer. The staff at Brewbakers put up with me, and I rewarded them with tuckering it in “Silent Knight.”

Drix helped me grow my SCA sales presence. Tons of people encouraged me. One even allowed me to stay at her family’s lake house for a week of writing and solitude. I need to schedule this sort of thing once or twice a year.

Despite not getting None Call Me Mother out and spinning my wheels a bit, 2019 was definitely my best year so far. And it’s not close.

I’m growing leaps and bounds as a writer. My most recent project has helped me turn things I knew instinctively into things I understand. This is already showing up in None Call Me Mother and in “Silent Knight,” not to mention my earlier growth in 2019.

2019 was my best year.

2020 will be better. Lot’s better. We’re building something here and I will tell you all about what’s coming in a few days.

For now, though. Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate it.

Happy New Year!

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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Rob’s Update: The Week After

Week 50 of 2019

Greetings all

Not my most productive week, but it was to be expected. Saturday, of course, was Kris Kinder. Sunday was Kris Kinder recovery. The week after this event is always a down week as I sort of plan for those days to be off.

However, I got a bit of a head cold earlier in the week, and that slowed me. The worst was yesterday, as I basically did nothing.

Nevertheless, I got quite a bit done on the other days. I’ve been going through None Call Me Mother, cleaning it up as I get ready to write the final chapters. I’m at page 219 of the clean-up, which is about half of what I think the final total will be.

Part of the reason I do it right now is that I sort of lose track of the story in this range. I tend to work in threads and this allows me to weave the threads into place.

Plus it lets me judge the overall story. I’m liking what I’m reading.

I also worked on a couple of other projects. One of these mailing list subscribers will see on Christmas. I’m sending them all a present. The second I’ll announce at the beginning of the year.

For now, it’s time to get back to work.

What I’m Listening To

The 1974 Murder on the Orient Express with that awesome cast. Love this movie.

Quote of the Week

December 21st has a number of anniversaries. I’m going to use one to honor another.

Gen. Patton died today in 1945. Today’s quote is from him in honor of…

In 1861, Lincoln signed the bill including the original version of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Actually, at the time, it applied only to the US Navy, but they added the Army in July of 1862. It took some time after that, however, to include the Air Force.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
– Gen. George S. Patton

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (89,410)
  • CB (8,418)
  • SK (7,084)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Been focusing on other things this week.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is still on Trouble in the Wind, which still holds the Amazon orange tag as the number 1 new release in Science Fiction Anthologies. Thanks to all of our readers.

Today’s Weight: 390.2

Updated Word Count: 224,096

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
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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Rob’s Update: Trouble in the Wind

Week 49 of 2019

Greetings all

Trouble in the Wind is live! Sixteen stories of ground warfare that might have been. My story is “Here Must We Hold” about the Battle of Maldon.

You can find an excerpt of my story here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1899.

Trouble in the Wind
Trouble in the Wind

I’m quite pleased with the story. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to contribute. I’m absolutely stoked I get to be in a book with David Weber, Kevin J. Anderson, and S.M. Stirling, among others.

I made some progress on None Call Me Mother. Much of it wasn’t in words written, but rather cleaning up. I’m at that stage where I need to go back through it all to firm up the earlier chapters, fill in some connections, and make sure I’m ready for the final chapters.

What I mostly did was write another short story. I’ll tell you all about it when it’s about to go out the door. I also made progress on another project. All in all, a good week, even if it doesn’t show up in the raw numbers.

I also spent a goodly amount of time cleaning house. This is Kris Kinder Weekend, which means I have a big sales event then host everyone after the event.

It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year, but I’ll be exhausted on Sunday. It’s a fair trade.

What I’m Listening To

La Villa Strangiato by Rush. Such a great song.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is the inspiration for my story’s title. Thanks to Rosalind Jehanne for granting me permission to use it.

Here must we hold     So hearken to my counsel
Felled is our lord     Slain by foemen on the field
Now we must honor     The oaths we made in mead-hall
Now we must shoulder     The burden of his shield
– Rosalind Jehanne

It’s one of my favorite songs. You can find the complete lyrics to her song here: http://www.calonsong.org/CalontirSongs/battleofmaldon.htm

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (86,645)
  • CB (8,418)
  • SK (6,874)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on all of the great authors who participated in Trouble in the Wind. Again, you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082K73QPD. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Today’s Weight: 396.4

Updated Word Count: 216,398

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
The Phases of Mars
Other Short Stories

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