Category Archives: Aesc & Thorn Publishing

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

Gulf Wars 2019 AAR

Greetings all

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

Gulf Wars 2019 booth
Gulf Wars 2019 booth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Rob’s Update: Gulf Wars

Week 10 of 2019

Greetings all

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

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

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

Drop in and say hi!

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

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

Current Playlist Song

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

Quote of the Week

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

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

News and Works in Progress

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

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

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

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

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

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

Updated Word Count: Not sure of this either

Shijuren Wiki: 875 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 533 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

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

Rob’s Update: Brewing A ConCoction

Week 8 of 2019

Greetings all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Playlist Song

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

Quote of the Week

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

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

News and Works in Progress

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

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

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

Today’s Weight: 388.6

Updated Word Count: 17,494

Shijuren Wiki: 875 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 533 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

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

Interview: Matt Williams

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

Interview: Matt Williams

What is your quest?

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

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

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Here are the links of interest:

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

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

Week 7 of 2019

Greetings all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Playlist Song

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

Quote of the Week

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

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

News and Works in Progress

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

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

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

Today’s Weight: 389.4

Updated Word Count: 15,187

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 518 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

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

Interview: Chris Kennedy

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

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

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

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

Interview: Chris Kennedy

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

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

What is your quest?

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

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Lightning Round

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

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

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

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

Why yes, yes I do.

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

You can find them here:


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

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

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

Interview: James L. Young

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

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

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

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

What is your quest?

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

Aries Red Sky Cover
Aries Red Sky Cover

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

Acts of War Cover
Acts of War Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Pyre of Stars Cover
A Pyre of Stars Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Meriah Crawford

I first read Meriah in the 1632 universe. Then we met at my first LibertyCon and we talked about a variety of things related to that universe. Later, she took the time to give me a bunch of useful suggestions on a short story I was working on there. One of these days I’ll finish that story.

In any case, it gives me great pleasure to be alongside her in the Those in Peril anthology coming out on Friday. Did I mention there’s an alternate naval history anthology coming out in two days? Well, there’s an alternate naval history anthology coming out in two days. Just sayin’.

Interview: Meriah Crawford
Meriah at Petra
Meriah at Petra

What is your quest?

I spent a lot of my professional life doing super interesting things like systems analysis and application design, often for small internal applications. I worked with a lot of really smart and dedicated people, but also with a lot of egotistical, marginally competent fools. Then I had a midlife crisis, became a private investigator, and decided my path needed to involve doing something with meaning and impact. While I hope my creative writing will help me find that meaning and impact, I also have two large projects I’m working on about point of view, stemming from my dissertation. I’ve essentially redefined point of view to be more granular and useful, and then dug into second person to explore its functions. These projects are my babies, and I think they both will contribute something new and important to the world. As for my influences, I would say Where the Wild Things Are, the Bobbsey Twins, Louis L’Amour, Albert Camus, and J. K. Rowling (including Casual Vacancy) are significant for me, among many others.

What is your favorite color?

I spent some time really exploring the Hero’s Journey recently for a class I’m teaching. Thinking about it in relation to the Harry Potter books helped me appreciate what makes the books so good and so appealing. For example, in the first book, Rowling doesn’t just give Harry a single threshold moment of entry into the wizarding world, but many—and each one is a joy and an intense experience for the character and the reader. One of the mistakes many authors make—especially in the realm of YA or middle grade fiction—is to take a really basic approach to the stages of the Journey, and that can make the stories seem simplistic. So, I think that’s a real opportunity for writers, if they want to improve their writing. It gave me specific ideas, for example, about how I could use and subvert the structure of the journey for a story I’ve been struggling with.

This is a great exploration of the Hero’s Journey, including a nice overview of how The Hobbit fits into the journey: https://blog.reedsy.com/heros-journey/

Persistence of Dreams Cover
Persistence of Dreams Cover

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

My biggest challenge is always time, and I think that’s true for most people who don’t write full time. As a professor, it’s the rare day that I don’t have enough to do to fill every hour. I’m often literally grading papers or doing some kind of class prep until 11 or later at night. This makes it easy not to write, and it’s easy to continue not writing. But, that ultimately makes me miserable. Given the nature of my schedule, this will probably always be a struggle, but I’m learning a ton along the way about how to be productive. I recommend the Pomodoro Technique (https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique), which is especially valuable for people who distract easily or tend to switch to email or social media while they work, and I really love the day-long writing get-togethers that I have with friends. This is a great pomodoro (or general) timer: https://www.marinaratimer.com/

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think layers of meaning and ripple effects are important and powerful in writing. I know I’ve done them well, and it’s something I intend to do more of in more thoughtful ways in the future.

Lightning Round

  • Cake or Pie? I don’t really like pie, for the most part, except as a delivery platform for whipped cream. I love Key lime pie, though, and it’s super easy to make.
  • Lime or Lemon? I love limes so much. Years ago, I worked for a company that did seafood marketing, conferences, and publications. They had a full kitchen where they prepped food for photo shoots (I saw some scary stuff!) and they would always call me down if they were using limes, so I could have some. OK, now that I’m writing it down, it seems kind of weird.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  I make kick ass blue cheese dip! Want the recipe? (Rob’s Note: Absolutely)
  • Wet or Dry? I don’t eat cat food, you weirdo. That’s gross.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Check out this weird playlist of some supercool stuff I like: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLivHO5gGkCLD9zjGZ_at80MSEpTOnFU3B
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Tawny port.
  • Favorite Pet?  D’Argo is the best dog ever. Such a sweetie pie!
  • Best Game Ever? I once played a combination of cards during a Cards Against Humanity tournament that was so offensive the guy running it tried to declare me the winner on the spot. (And I did end up winning the tournament!) But I also really love Takenoko. What could be better than bamboo, pandas, and gardening?
  • Coffee or Tea? I am a huge tea fan. I recently discovered Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon, which is wonderful, and I have long loved the teas from www.uptontea.com.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I go both ways.
D'Argo
D’Argo

What question(s) would you like to ask me? (Ask me anything you want. If you can’t think of something specific about me, ask something general about writing or any of your interests. Or make up something like the lightning round.)

  1. What’s your favorite cute animal video?

Rob’s Answer: All of the ones involving cats. Or dogs.

2. When the aliens finally come, will they destroy us, help us, or something else?

Rob’s Answer: They’ll destroy what we were, not necessarily by choice but by the impact of dealing with another species and a different galaxy than ever before. What we become after that is what pays our salaries, often enough.

The hardest thing when writing aliens is to know that they think in completely alien ways with different goals and desires. I certainly think the concept of an alien viewing us as something to eliminate is possible. To exploit is more likely. To collaborate? Maybe.

3.How long will you survive the zombie apocalypse?

Well, hopefully forever. My goal is to end up like Simon Pegg’s buddy in the garage at the end of Shaun of the Dead. More likely, however, not long at all. I am, after all, well-marbled.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • www.meriahcrawford.com, Twitter: @MeriahCrawford, Facebook: Meriah Crawford
  • My co-authored novel The Persistence of Dreams, about a 17th century painter dealing with the influence of a time-traveling West Virginia town from the year 2000, was released last year. https://ericflintsringoffire.com/book/the-persistence-of-dreams/
  • And my story “’Nothing Can be Said Sufficient to Describe It’” is in the anthology Those in Peril. The story is made up of letters from a man to his granddaughter (sent in this century) about an important lighthouse builder from the 17th century.

And where can we find you?

I’m at Ravencon in Richmond almost every year, as well as Capclave in Maryland, and I usually teach a workshop or two. Can’t get to Balticon this year, but I’m usually there as well.

Do you have a creator biography?

Meriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a private investigator, writer, and editor. She has published short stories in several genres, a novella, essays, a variety of scholarly work, and poems, and co-edited the anthology Trust and Treachery: Tales of Power and Intrigue. Her novel The Persistence of Dreams, co-written with Robert Waters, was released in May 2018.

Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her work as a PI, spanning over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglaries, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons. For more information about her work, including articles about writing, visit her website at www.meriahcrawford.com, or connect on Twitter: @MeriahCrawford or Facebook: www.facebook.com/meriah.crawford.

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

You should have asked my favorite kind of chocolate. I would answer that I really like Leonidas, and almost anything involving hazelnuts.

You also didn’t ask me anything about being a private investigator. I have a bunch of stuff I’ve written about it on my website. In recent years, I’ve mostly worked on murders and shootings, very much part time, which has been super interesting. I’ve learned a lot about evidence and forensics, and also about how shitty our criminal justice system is. It’s a huge damn shame.


Thanks to Meriah 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: Sonic Boom

Week 5 of 2019

Greetings all

Wow, I just realized I never actually posted this on Friday when I had it ready to go. My apologies, I was waiting on an email from ACX confirming the exciting news. You get two updates this week.

What exciting news, you ask? Well, the Audible version of A Lake Most Deep went to Audible for proofing today. For a variety of reasons, it has taken much longer than expected, but it’s just about ready to go. It’ll be live as soon as Audible reviews it and I’ll be posting it. Fair warning, I’ll probably post a special announcement here when that happens.

My voice actor is Rob Saladino. His IMDB page is here: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5238545/. There’s not a ton there now, but he’s plugging away and he’s got some interesting projects coming along.

This has been another productive week, though I slowed some to consolidate some of the writing. Plus, of course, there was ChattaCon. Still, I’m making significant progress at around 70k. And that’s what I’m going to go work on right now.

Current Playlist Song

The Mountain of Power Processional from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. This soundtrack is amazing. Basil Poledouris did an amazing job, and, frankly wrote music to emphasize heroism. It’s great writing music.

Quote of the Week

Since I’m listening to the soundtrack, let’s start with the words that start the film. This quote concludes with my aim as a writer.

“Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”
– Akiro the Wizard, Conan the Barbarian

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 70,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Not a great week for me on the blog front. I doubt I’ll do much on that this week either as I am really pushing on A Feeding of Sorrows.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Jason Cordova because I found Rob Saladino because he did the audiobook version of Jason’s book. Wraithkin, by I really enjoyed the book and the narration so I was excited when he agreed to narrate my books. He also is a part of the Four Horsemen Universe, and he’s got a bunch of good stuff out there.

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 14,507

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 518 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

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Rob’s Update: ChattaCon 2019

Week 4 of 2019

Greetings all

I’m in Chattanooga at the Read House hotel for ChattaCon. It’s been a great week. I started the week with 50-some thousand words in a jumble. I ended the week with over 60k towards a book. I also cleaned up a bunch of things to match some of the universe standards.

In other words, I had a great writing retreat this week. I also made progress on re-editing The Eyes of a Doll.

Now it’s time for ChattaCon. Here’s my schedule

Friday
6pm: Revisionist History, Alternate History, and Historical Fantasy. Oh, my!

Saturday
12noon: Shaved Werewolves and Other Oddities
2pm: The Book was Better
7pm: Benefits and Drawbacks of Traditional versus Independent Publishing

Sunday
11am: Tudors with Machine Guns
1pm: Obscure Heroes

Lots of great stuff here, and I’m excited to be a part of it. I really want to thank Lani Brooks for letting me be a part of things here.

If you’re at ChattaCon, please join me. I’ll be giving away old SF magazines at my panel. This week’s phrase is: Anne Boleyn. You’ll see why in a moment. If you’re at one of my panels, I’ll give you a magazine if you’re the first person to tell me this phrase.

Current Playlist Song

Pellonpekko by Korpiklaani. These guys are a fantastic Finnish folk metal band and this is an amazing instrumental that I love.

Quote of the Week

Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn on this day in 1533. She’s the first beheaded in this:

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 63,391)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Aaron Hollingsworth, a talented writer and game designer. You can find his interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1644.

Today’s Weight: Not sure

Updated Word Count: 13,870

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 518 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

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