Category Archives: Aesc & Thorn Publishing

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

Rob’s Update: Menhir Musings

Week 3 of 2019

Greetings all

I’m sitting at my booth at Menhir, an SCA event in Murfreesboro, TN as I’m winding my way to ChattaCon next weekend.

Those In Peril Cover
Those In Peril Cover

This has been a good week for me. I’ve managed to get a solid number of words written and fixed a number of plot issues in The Feeding of Sorrows. j

Also, the cover for Those In Peril, the alternate naval history anthology that includes my story “Far Better to Dare, was released. As you can see, the cover is really cool and I’m excited to be a part of the project. Also, “Far Better to Dare” is perhaps my favorite story that I’ve written so far.

This week I’ll be working on two projects. One, throwing more words at the page on The Feeding of Sorrows. I’ll be in a sort of writer’s retreat this week and anticipate major progress.

Second, I’ll be mostly alone, so I can read The Eyes of a Doll out loud without annoying anyone. It’s time to do a re-edit of it so I can get new stock for Gulf Wars.

With that, I better start focusing on customers passing by. Have a great week, everyone.

Current Playlist Song

I don’t have any music right now, nor did I listen to any music on the drive. Instead, I listened to Dune. It’s been over twenty years since I read it and some intriguing comments by Christopher Ruocchio on Twitter brought it to mind. I had an Audible credit, so…

One interesting note about Audible books is the detail to me. I have a tendency to read the gestalt of a paragraph instead of every word. I miss some details here and there, but it suits my need for speed. With audiobooks, that’s not an option, so it gives me an interesting perspective, especially on books as deep as Dune.

Quote of the Week

Dune is, of course, full of great quotes. This is one describes part of the challenge of a writer, I think.

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”
Frank Herbert, Dune

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (58,516)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Cedar Sanderson, one of my favorite people out there. You can find her interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1634

Today’s Weight: 384.2

2019 Word Count: 12,415

Shijuren Wiki: 879 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: Cedar Sanderson

This week we interview Cedar Sanderson. Not only is she a skilled writer and artist, she was very helpful to me when I was first starting this process. I’m really honored to have her join us here.

Interview: Cedar Sanderson
Lab Gremlins Cover
Lab Gremlins Cover

What is your quest?

My quest is to write the stories in my head, so I can shut them up. Mostly joking, but since I was a young girl, I’ve had stories I told myself. I’ve written some down, badly at first, and discovered that the act of telling them, or writing them, emptied my brain out so I could fill it up with new stories.

Much, much later in life I realized I could create things and people would pay for them. This tangible feedback was amazing, and I still get a rush when I make a sale, whether it’s a book, art, or whatever. So there’s that, but it’s not quite as simple as ‘I’m a mercenary wench’ because there are a lot of other influences on what I do, and why.

My husband, who is also my First Reader, was the genesis of my most popular series because I started writing it to make him laugh. My mentors and inspirations in the writing world, Sarah Hoyt, Dave Freer, and Larry Correia, influenced how I carved out my own independent little business niche, because I saw publishing through their eyes. The fact that I’d already been running a successful small business made it a no-brainer to simply open my own publishing imprint – which I am in the middle of rebranding, and need to rename, if anyone has a suggestion.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color is green, my favorite pastime is reading, or photography, or painting, or writing… depends on the day. And that’s something else. I have so many things I am interested in, and want to do, I’ll die with a to-do list a mile long. I think that because of my broad curiosity, I bring a depth of bits and pieces to each book, each piece of art, and blend them together into something unique. You can’t write well if you don’t read a lot. You can’t make art well if you don’t open your eyes and really look at the world around you.

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

Hah! Well, next time I feel really frustrated and start throwing them, I’ll see about measuring. Maybe we could set up a high-speed camera? The more important question is, which is the paint water cup, and which is the coffee cup? How do fully-loaded bristles change the dynamics of a thrown paint brush? These are important questions, and I’ll work on them next time I’m blocked on writing.

Frustration? Not being able to write. Last year (2018) I made a career change, we moved into a new home, two of my children started attending college (but not driving, so I was commuting them to and from school and work), and it all added up to a a lot of frustration even though my career was taking off and the kids were growing great and the house is fantastic.

What did I do? Well, we have this little house we own, can’t sell because the area isn’t great, but it’s convenient to my day job. So now it’s my office, and I can go there to write. I’ve written, um, 17,000 words this month, since starting daily goals and office time.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Early on, one of the things that really helped me was writing challenges – you get a prompt, you have a week to write. Doing those got me writing quick, on demand, and whimsical since you don’t have time to worry about being literary. I’m doing this now with an ART365 challenge, where I make a painting or drawing every single day. It gives me permission to be bad. It gives me momentum – and that’s carrying over into my writing as well, since I am using the Wordly app to track my daily wordcount, and it sends me reminders to write, or to finish reaching my modest 1K words a day goal.

I’m a part-time writer, and a full-time scientist, so that’s all I can manage right now. But doing it every single day is really helping my productivity.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Beaker
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy toffee and creamy chocolate pie. MMM
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both? I can make you both.
  • Lime or Lemon? Key lime pie and Lemon meringue.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Bacon horseradish. Heavy on the horseradish
  • Wet or Dry? Excellent question! Dry brushes introduce some amazing organic irregularities into your painting, but for smooth blending you really need wet. I’m more a dry brush girl myself.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Tartan Terrors. Bagpipes, Rock, fantastic stage show. Yummy performers.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Depends on the character’s dialect.
  • Favorite Superhero? Captain America.
  • Steak Temperature? Blue. If I’m grilling it. Anyone else? Rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Uh. I’m going to have to take a pass. I grew up without a television so my pop culture is a touch rusty.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring. Flowers, warmth, hope renewed after the bleak abyss of winter.
  • Favorite Pet?  Our dog, Tricksy. She’s a good girl, even if she does drive me nuts.
  • Best Game Ever? Just one? Really? Ok, the one I’d play again in a heartbeat with my kids is Robo-rally
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening. Mocha anytime.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Why not both! Both is always a good answer.

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

So what is your favorite strangest historical event, and why?

Rob’s Answer: Hmmm. I’m not sure, there are so many. The easy answer is the one I know the most about, the Martin Koszta Affair. It’s filled with a number of fun things like riots prompted by prostitutes withholding their services from Austrian sailors, heroes arriving in the nick of time, and a delightful letter threatening to open fire at a certain time concluded with the phrase, “I have the honor to remain your obedient servant.” It’s not only fun and strange, it’s also a fantastic start to an alternate history I’ll write one of these days.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • In 2019 I will be at LTUE in Provo, UT from Feb 14-16 presenting and on panels as well as generally hanging out with friends.
  • I will also be a guest at LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN from May 30-Jun 2 but if you don’t already have tickets for this year, I’ll catch you next year!

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 didn’t?

You didn’t ask the classic questions like ‘what’s your favorite author’, for which I thank you, because choosing just one is painful, and besides that, my answer changes depending on my mood, what I’ve been writing, and the weather.

What am I working on now?

Well, artistically speaking I have a fun Valentine’s commission piece, but it’s a secret. Authorial, I’m working on a novella that has delusions of novel, and wants to drag romance into what was a perfectly good paranormal police procedural.


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 Update: Time And Man Alone

Week 2 of 2019

Greetings all

Welcome to 2019. Notably, the first full week of 2019 and back into the rhythm after a long and wonderful holiday season.

My holiday season basically stretched from the middle of November to Monday, if I count all the work I did to prep for Thanksgiving, Kris Kinder, and Christmas with relatives.

This was probably the largest Christmas I have ever experienced. We hosted eight others, and while this house can handle ten just fine, it was a bit or mental shift for me. I come from a tiny family. Right now, the close family to me would count five. My mom, my aunt Ginger, her husband Don, and Jimmy and Justin. Really, that’s it. Oh, I have more relatives, but I’m not close with any of them, mostly because of distance.

Anyway, we had a great time. I got to meet my sweetie’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. I got to spend more time getting to know her son and parents, who I’d met but have spent little time with so far. We all took turns cooking, and we ate way too much.

As mentioned in earlier posts, that buildup to the holidays was tough on my writing, along with moving stuff. I am, however, catching the rhythm again. I just realized last night I’ve written over 13k words in January so far. I’m on schedule for the year, even if I don’t realize it.

More is coming. I’m pleased with The Feeding of Sorrows. I like the plot and the characters. The biggest challenge for me has been writing in someone else’s universe and wondering if I’m messing with their plans. I suspect I’m not. I suspect this is me just over-worrying, but it’s something to remember for future collaborative stuff.

I actually had one of those Muse moments on Wednesday. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the Muse grabs you, shakes you, and tells you what to right. I wrote a whimsical piece of poetry for a friend in about half an hour. I may post it next week, after I’ve showed it to him.

This weekend I head down to Wichita to go to Calontir’s Coronation. There I’ll be stepping up as the new king and queen’s court herald for the reign. Fortunately, they are considerate of my convention schedule, and it won’t really impact my plans. It will also get me out of the house some more, and I think in 2018 I might have been a bit much of a hermit.

In any case, I’m excited for what is to come.

Have a great week everyone.

Current Playlist Song

Xanadu by Rush. Rush is my standard writing playlist these days. I may add more to the list, but it’s been exclusively Rush of late.

Quote of the Week

Yesterday was the 58th anniversary of the death of Dashiell Hammett. This week’s quote comes spoken by The Continental Op, and shows one of the many reasons I love his writing.

“The face she made at me was probably meant for a smile. Whatever it was, it beat me. I was afraid she’d do it again, so I surrendered.”
– Dashiell  Hammett

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx 15,000)
  • The Feeding of Sorrows (52,679)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on A.E. Lowan, which is the pseudonym of three writers working together. You can find that interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1615

Today’s Weight: 389.2 (Basically starting 2019 where I started 2018. Given the challenges of last year, I’m OK with holding steady. Not this year though.)

2019 Word Count: 10,196

Shijuren Wiki: Not quite sure. I’m having to redo a bunch of things and it’s down for a couple of weeks. Working on it though. I was at 874 at one point, though.

Four Horsemen Wiki: 501 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

Mag Review: Astounding (March, 1951)

Greetings all

It’s the first Mag Review of 2019. I hope you enjoy these. I certainly have fun doing them.

By the way, I’m going to start something new. While I love these magazines, I don’t want to keep them all forever. So I will start giving them away at certain panels at various conventions. I’ll ask a trivia question and the winner gets it. I’ll also give out hints in my weekly update the week before those events. Stay tuned for ChattaCon.

Anyway, I’m reviewing Astounding Science Fiction, Vol. XLVII, No. 1 (March, 1951) today.

Astounding (March, 1951) Cover
Astounding (March, 1951) Cover

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57572

Whatever else this issue contains, I love this cover. Rockets, stars, emotion. I love it.

It also has a fantastic ad on the inside of the cover:

  • Live in the days of the Galactic Empire…
  • Live on the ships of the first Interstellar Expedition…
  • Live – in a million could-be years, on a thousand may-be worlds.
  • The hope and attainments – the strivings and ultimate defeats – of all the future years of endless time.
  • We’ve a Time Machine for sale – a simple little machine of paper and ink that, coupled with your own mind, can soar down the years of Eternity.
  • It’s a small thing – and the doorway to Infinity and Eternity .

Ok, you got me. Sign me up now!

The issue starts with John W. Campbell’s editorial Elementary, My Dear Watson. This discusses how man is beginning to use a variety of elements that had been difficult to use up to that point, including rare earth elements. It was cool, but I’d it’d be especially interesting to someone who actually deals with such things to get a perspective from 67 years ago.

Next is the first story of the issue, Space Fear by James H. Schmitz. This was a puzzling story to me. It had so many elements that I like, but it seemed disjointed and I never really got into the flow. It’s about an agent of the Confederacy of Vega who pilots an intelligent ship fixing problems in the galaxy. That’s a fantastic start, right?

Well, the problem is that the story sends her on a number of missions all at once. The first thing is a mission to try and trap an alien race that sends ships in that are so far advanced they come into their space, look around, and then leave without hindrance.

Trapping them would have been a great story. Instead, that’s sort of the prologue. While she makes progress, more progress than anyone had before, they send her on another mission. With it’s own set of exposition. Then another.

It’s so jumbled I’ll freely admit I couldn’t really read the story well. I kept getting jarred out of it and skimming a bit until something caught my eye. I tried four times to thoroughly read it, and it’s clearly beyond me. I’ve liked Schmitz before, but this story kept dancing around at the edge of my attention, always seeming to push me away at some point.

A full space opera novelette wasted. That is, in these magazines, a true tragedy. Cut it into separate fast-paced stories and you got a tiddly little book along the lines of the Retief adventures or the novel M*A*S*H.

Next we move on to Philosophical Corps by E. B. Cole. This was Cole’s first release, and he didn’t write much more besides it. It’s too bad, because I think he had a goodly amount of talent.

A side note. This story starts off poorly in the magazine. There’s a longish excerpt from  a future book that’s pure exposition. It has two problems. One it’s longer than perhaps works for a short story. Two, and far more important, the excerpt was printed in the magazine in a smaller font. Like difficult to read smaller font.

But if you get past that you get another story that has so much potential. The Philosophical Corps are the people who go to planets where the inhabitants are low tech and have had criminals and slavers set themselves up as gods to steal their wealth and gain slaves. Not only do they have to rescue the indigenous population from the criminals, they have to do so on a way to keep the planet growing as it has without too much corrupting of its way of life.

Man, this could be an awesome series of stories. Tap-dancing through the challenge of understanding a myriad of alien civilizations while facing high-tech organized crime? If you ever see me write a book entitled E.B. Cole, PCI you’ll know it’s about a hard-boiled detective going from planet to planet fighting interstellar crime bosses trying to be gods.

Of course, you might say Stargate already did that. You’d be right. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it, too.

I will also say that had Cole written more of these, he would have written stronger stories. This one is good, but somewhat direct. He released a later version of this story along with two other adventures in that universe in 1962, and I expect those are all stronger.

Still, this is a B/B+ story with tons of untapped potential in the universe.

Next we come to a skillfully written story, …Of the People… by Morton Klass. Klass was an anthropologist, and not surprisingly this story deals with the study of a people. Like E.B. Cole, he didn’t write much and again, it’s a shame.

This story starts out in a strange way, taking us to a place I didn’t care for initially. Basically, it’s about the President of Earth in 1975 talking about how he earned that title starting in 1955. He’s actually an alien who, with his advanced technological and cultural was able to unify the Earth.

He was actually sent here by his race because the Galactic Federation did not know what to do with this planet. We had achieved atomic power, but had not settled down. So they put us in quarantine for a while so that they could take a look at us later before possibly exterminating us.

The species that the President comes from could not let that happen without trying to help, so they sent him. Understand that this is tripping all of my buttons, and not in a good way. I may be an idiot, but I’d rather fail trying stupid stuff than having someone swoop in and protect me from making the attempt. Let me touch the hot stove and find out it freaking hurts, if you please.

But Klass is tricky and I ended up really liking this story. You see, the President has discovered that the entire council that helps him rule the earth consists of aliens sent by worlds who have just as much empathy as his. They’re all here to help.

However, the quarantine is about to end. The Federation is likely to send them all away. Not only will they rip away this world government, but they will expose that it’s composed entirely of aliens. Yes, the flying saucers did come to control us.

The President knows he can’t allow this to happen, so he confronts the council. No matter where they came from before, he and the councilors are now from Earth. Now they have to defend it from the Federation.

That’s where the story ends, so we don’t know if they succeeded or not, which is fine. A full answer would take a novel, in my mind, and I think this is stronger by Klass letting the reader think he’s going one way and then pushing into what is clearly an oncoming train full of adventure and politics.

His technique is amazing. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a story I disliked so much at the start come right around and use my distaste like that. Here, let’s challenge your independence, then let’s make it something we can root for. Brilliant.

Next we get to Casting Office by Henderson Starke (really Kris Neville). This story has an interesting premise. Basically it’s discussing the plight of actors seeking a job, along with stagehands, directors, and the like. It becomes clear that the author is God, who has made a universe of strange physical laws and outlandish events. He wants a place to exercise his whimsy and also to retreat to so he can become happy, but he also has this idea that the story will eventually be that of overcoming great trials.

Unfortunately, ratings plummet essentially. Critics lambaste his work. Eventually the directors bring in a script doctor over the author’s vehement objections. They turn his tale of heroism over the millennia into a horror movie that panders to those viewers who want violence.

Fascinating premise indeed, but not well executed. It needed more detail and less top-down discussion, I think. For example, the story talks about the critics blasting it, but never has a paragraph that talks about specific issues. It leaves the story too vague and we’re not invested in it.

There’s a solid scene where the author is in a role as a wealthy man enjoying good food, driving on beautiful days, the company of lovely women, and fine drink. Then he’s ripped from it by the director in order to face the music from the critics. That was great. It’s the only such scene, really. Oh, there are hints here and there of odd props like millions of extra bugs for England in 1869, but there’s just not enough of this quirkiness.

After that comes Experimentum Crucis by Andrew MacDuff (E.B. Fyfe). This is a solid story with a fun twist at the end. In it we have a human visiting an alien planet that is at something like our technological level of the 1970s.

The human is there negotiating a variety of mineral and resource rights on the moons of the system. The leader of the aliens is not stupid, though, and he is wary of the negotiations. His suspicions are increased when the human finds out about a particular moon with high radiation readings and has his car salesmen tendency come to the forefront.

Basically, the alien sets it up that if the human lands on the moon, he’ll come out ahead by owning the sponsorship rights. And, if the aliens’ belief that it’s a moon made of negative matter, “there will be a beautiful flare-up to prove my claim” (p. 97).

Gotta love the bad guy getting his comeuppance.

Following is the normal In Times to Come description of what’s in the next issue. Included is one of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime stories, so I’ll look forward to unearthing that issue eventually.

Then we get High Threshold by Alan Nourse. I’ve reviewed Nourse before and I will look forward to seeing him again. He writes good stories, though not yet a great story.

This one starts out very well. While experimenting with temperatures around a thousandth of a Kelvin, researchers discover an entrance to a completely alien place. The five people that have been sent into the entrance have all died of fear. The only hint they have is a tennis ball, which went into the entrance and came out completely reversed. The fuzzy part was on the inside and the rubber on the out. The same thing happened to a pencil, which returned as a sliver of wood sheathed by graphite.

The answer they come up with is to find someone so completely able to reject earlier data and accept new data, so adaptable, that they can survive long enough for their mind to adapt.

They find someone and send her in there. She goes in and realizes what’s going on, but realizes that she cannot explain the differences to the researchers because they simply have no way to understand. Her solution is to find a newborn baby and raise it in both worlds so that it can relate both universes instinctively.

This is all good stuff. The end isn’t as strong, though. She also realizes that she is going to have to trick the researchers into letting her try the baby idea. She also knows that she can now see how to get into that universe at any time. She plays as if she’s insane, and then escapes through the dimensions.

I sort of felt unsatisfied, almost as if I’d ordered chicken fried steak and there was no actual steak inside the breading. The breading, gravy, and mashed potatoes all tasted good, but it was missing the substance. Maybe the story should have been longer. Maybe a completely different twist that I’m not thinking of. I don’t know. Still, it should be noted I was sucked in reading this story and it is only at the end that I realized I wasn’t satisfied.

Next, in a half-page blank area, Campbell talks about what he looks for in the letters that he’ll respond to in the Brass Tacks section. He’s looking for things that are broad and general and will have some connection to the majority who read Astounding.

One wonders how many times he was nagged for not putting up a convention announcement for Wecanhandle50peopletotalacon or letters announcing someone has a cool pet rock for sale.

The next story is Protected Species by E.B. Fyfe writing under his own name this time. This is an oft-published story, meaning a bunch of readers liked it. I’m one of them.

It’s about surveyors and xenoarchaeologists on a nearby planet studying ruins of a long-dead alien civilization. The ruins show advanced technology, but also damage from explosions and war instead of earthquakes and natural disasters. There is no evidence that the people who made those ruins exist anymore, except perhaps a species that might have devolved from intelligence in the wake of wars.

The species provides some of the workers with a bit sport. They’re fast and hard to catch, and there’s not much else to do on the planet and their morale is generally fairly low. Then an inspector comes to look at their progress. He sees these hunts and he is bothered by them, especially with the likelihood that they are intelligent, even if devolved.

So he arranges to have them named a protected species, preventing future hunts. After so doing, he takes one last pass around the ruins, going specifically to a place where he had run into one of the natives, which had prompted his work to name them protected.

There, another native awaits him. Instead of running, or throwing rocks, or anything likes that, he greets the inspector by name. Apparently they have been watching this world for some time. His job is to watch for the revival of the original species on this world, and he is quite pleased to see the inspector name the species on this world protected. For, after all, that is what they actually did for humans after destroying this world humans inhabited. He’s very happy to see us finally returning to the stars. Perhaps, soon, we won’t be a protected species ourselves.

Fun twist, and an excellent job of twisting our humanocentric point of view against us. That’s two stories by Fyfe in this issue, and both are good to very good with good twists. I’ll keep an eye out for him.

Next is an article Notes on Nuclear Radiation by Edwin N. Kaufman. He didn’t write much for any SF magazine. He appears to have been an aeronautical researcher for Douglas and Lockheed, but I can find little more about him.

Anyway, like Campbell’s editorial to open this issue, I found this article moderately interesting, but obviously outdated. Again, i think this might be fascinating to someone in that field and interested in its history.

Jack Williamson is next with The Man from Outside. Williamson is one of the great fathers of SF of course, and I him a lot. I would expect a sizable fraction of you readers know he’s the guy who coined “Terraforming” but I had not realized until reading up on him today.

Anyway, this story is about an alien unit dedicated to watch Earth and ensure that its society is not corrupted by other aliens. The commander of the unit is hard, harsh man. A fresh idealistic lieutenant comes to him and asks to involve himself in the world below. The commander refuses. The lieutenant persists, finally convincing the commander something must be done, but the commander stalls and delays. Then, before the mission is done, he brings the lieutenant back.

The lieutenant is anguished. He wants to help some dissidents kill Stalin, who he realizes only exists because of outside contamination and who is an abomination. The commander stops him, and the dissidents are destroyed because they make a mistake designing a fusion bomb.

In the ensuing exchange, we discover that the outside influence that allowed Stalin to exist is the commander in his youth, as an idealistic lieutenant. He met Lenin, was impressed, and let slip some advanced knowledge about revolutions and the like, allowing for the Soviet Union and now Stalin.

He has stayed on this post during the decades since. He has refused promotion above his current grade and re-assignment to a better station. He knows what he’s done and his atonement is to remain here and prevent a re-occurrence. Now, because of the idealistic lieutenant’s actions, the balance is endangered. The lieutenant must now take up the commander’s mantle and “watch against the sort of men we used to be” (p. 143)

Where should duty and idealism meet? What’s the balance. It’s a tough question because unintended consequences are always lying in wait. Great story.

Next is P. Schuyler Miller’s book reviews of the month. Among this set are books by Heinlein, Merril, Lieber, and more. Imagine getting paid to read those guys.

Last is Brass Tacks, the letters to the editor. There’s a lot of discussion about previous letters in this issue. Sort of like a monthly opportunity to reply on Twitter. The only difference is that the responses here are well-written with thought behind their premise.

The one topic I think remains relevant is the discussion of what language should an author use in SF/F. It’s a tough one sometimes, and I try to strike a balance. Language in another world would be completely different with different foundations. We would all have to be linguists to understand them.

Obviously, this is what Tolkien did. Yet he knew he could not write a tale in Elvish. He was also aware that the common speech was not English. He put enough of the other language in to give the flavor of Sindarin or Quenya or whatever. I think that is what we must do to give the taste of an alien or fantasy world.

But there’s a balance, and I’m not sure I’ve achieved it. I will occasionally perform Old English poetry, usually the Wanderer or Beowulf. Mostly, I do this in modern English, but I regularly insert a few lines here and there of Old English to let the sound resonate.

It’s a tough thing to accurately re-create a medieval performer. On the one hand, they had to connect with the audience so they could make money or have a place to sleep and eat. On the other, a true performance should be in the original language, but little else sends an audience away than reciting poetry in a language they don’t understand. Might be better to recite Vogon poetry. Flipping languages back and forth is my best compromise.

I don’t know if I have the answers, but it’s something I dwell on probably too often. If the language takes me out of the moment, then I know it’ll take some readers out, too. My problem is that I also know I use words that flow with me, but not with others. It’s a challenge, and no doubting.

Anyway, overall this was a grade B issue. All the stories were quality, even if I didn’t like the execution or some other quibble. There weren’t instant classics to me, but still I’ll reread a few of these someday.

Next week I’ll review the Analog from February, 1963. This one looks promising with a Gordon Dickson and H. Beam Piper.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56747


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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: A.E. Lowan

Greetings all

Welcome to the first interview of 2019. It’s going to be a great year, and we’re getting started with A.E. Lowan. Lowan is a pen name for three talented writers, Jessica Smith, Jennifer Vinck, and Kristin Vinck. I met them at Planet Comicon a couple of years ago. Our tables were next to each other in the Author Alley and we had a chance to hang out some.

But wait, we’re starting out 2019 with more, but what’s better than more? They’ve included a couple of excerpts from their Book of Binding fantasy series.

Faerie Rising Cover
Faerie Rising Cover

What is your quest?

JS: To capture a vivid world and the full spectrum of emotion that swirls within it, but also not to limit myself to a single type of story. All flavors of speculative fiction make it across my plate, and so do the possibilities that accompany those genres—but it is fun to take certain conventions of plotting and turn them on their head.

KV: My quest is to invoke emotion in the reader, to communicate the emotional lives of our characters in such a way as to make them feel real, because to me they are. These characters are some of my best friends and we are sharing them with the world. It can be scary stuff. Or liberating. It all depends on how you choose to view it.

JV: As a speculative fiction author, my quest is to tell an entertaining story that doesn’t necessarily reflect the world as it is, but as it could be. I am an idealist at heart, and my stories tend to focus on the effect that a dedicated group can have on the world. Whether my stories are set in unique fantasy worlds, urban fantasy environments with magical elements in the real world, or on a space ship, my characters crave change. They sense something wrong in their worlds and are the kinds of people who can’t let that go unaddressed. They are driven to affect change. I hope that readers will catch a fever to affect change in their own world from the passions of my characters.

There have been so many speculative fiction authors who have come before me with this same goal. I couldn’t hope to list them all, but some of the most influential on me have been Anne McCaffrey, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois Lowry, Robert A. Heinlein, John Scalzi, Octavia E. Butler, Margaret Atwood, Lois McMaster Bujold, Michael Crichton, and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

What is your favorite color?

JS: Setting wise … in high fantasy, referencing less-common cultures that inspiration might be drawn from. Everyone has seen a mock-up of the general British or French monarchy done time and time again, but what of medieval Germany? Ancient Egypt? Renaissance Spain? The Philippines, or even Sengoku-era Japan? There are so many ways to seed diversity within your world.

As for techniques, beginning in medias res helps get the ball rolling without relying on exposition.

KV: I am a trained poet and academic, though I ran away from that circus years ago. That being said, they both inform my prose. I seek to make even the most fantastical elements plausible (I love that word), drawn from history and science and the natural world, and I always strive to make the words themselves flow like music. I am not afraid of long sentences.

JV: I am a fan of flawed characters and the idea that redemption is attainable for anyone willing to strive for it. Our characters tend to come from traumatic backgrounds, both with traumas that have been inflicted on them, and traumas they have inflicted on others. I firmly believe that conflict is the root of story, and these types of internal conflicts—dealing with the repercussions of past action, seeking atonement—lead to stories of greater personal depth than just dealing with the crisis du jour.

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

JS: At this point in my life, carving out enough hours in my day to write (with being a student, running the family farm, and having a day job), and having those hours respected. Growling like a dragon so far hasn’t helped.

KV: I am a writer who suffers from significant mental illness, and it often gets in the way of me being the most creative and productive I can be. I find this incredibly frustrating. But, on the other hand, my mental illness also gives me a window onto these amazing worlds I have the privilege of writing about, so there is a lot of give and take.

JV: One of the challenges we have faced is changing the pace of our writing between book one and book two of The Books of Binding. We wrote Faerie Rising over the course of about seven years (though we have been developing the world of The Books of Binding for almost twenty). But we didn’t want there to be seven years between Faerie Rising and Ties of Blood and Bone. Learning how to produce a story that is just as good as the first at a fraction of the time took us some time to figure out and Ties of Blood and Bone was delayed for five months. But I think that we learned a lot about how we write and how to streamline the process from this failure.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

JS: In Team Lowan, I tend to be the developmental powerhouse. I’m rather good at coming up with entire worlds on the fly, and with them, massive, personalized casts to populate it.

KV: Music, coffee, and snacks. I am constantly listening to music to help focus my emotional life into words, and coffee is the fuel that keeps me running. I like to say that someday I’ll dedicate this series to Hershey’s and Frito Lay.

JV: I think that the element that I am most proud of in our work is the depth of our characters. They are engaging, and readers have told us that it is the characters that keep them up late turning pages until the end of each book. We write with an ensemble cast. We don’t have one or two main characters, we have a family who all have their own part of the story to tell. One of the things we always ask readers is, “Who was your favorite character?” We are very proud that we have gotten back every member of the cast as an answer.

Lightning Round

Favorite Muppet?

  • JS: Miss Piggy for her sass.
  • KV: Orlando Bloom
  • JV: I love Elmo’s enthusiasm and generosity of spirit.

Crunchy or Creamy?

  • JS: Creamy as in JIF peanut butter
  • KV: Creamy
  • JV: Definitely creamy

Favorite Sports Team?

  • JS: Bulgaria’s National Quidditch Team.
  • KV: Torn between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pembroke Titans, the pee wee hockey team my friend’s kid plays on.
  • JV: The Kansas City Chiefs. I have stubbornly never given up hope that we’ll make it through the playoffs again one day.

Cake or Pie?

  • JS: I’m partial to cake, honestly. Especially Dutch chocolate.
  • KV: Always pie. The cake is a lie.
  • JV: Both, as long as they’re chocolate.

Lime or Lemon?

  • JS: Lime. Lemon is a bit too overpowering for me, especially on fish.
  • KV: Lime. In a Coke. Delish.
  • JV: Lime.

Favorite Chip Dip?

  • JS: I’m partial to potato chips, and I don’t really dip those.
  • KV: The spinach and artichoke dip from Sam’s Club with tiny tortilla chips.
  • JV: French Onion on wavy potato chips.

Wet or Dry?

  • JS: Do I get to swim?
  • KV: Wet.
  • JV: Wet—I love both swimming and playing in the rain.

Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? 

  • JS: Erutan, and Rachel Rose Mitchell.
  • KV: Who’s to say what someone has never heard of, but I like Carbon Leaf. They write great songs (“The War was in Color” “What About Everything?”) and don’t get a lot of hits on the YouTubes.
  • JV: Sam Tsui (though more and more people have heard of him).

Whisky or Whiskey?

  • JS: Homemade icing? Whisk away!
  • KV: Whiskey. I’m Irish, second generation immigrant.
  • JV: Whiskey. In my family you get in trouble for writing it any other way.

Favorite Superhero?

  • JS: Probably Kitty Pryde. She has so many interesting arcs and an unusual ability to fuel them.
  • KV: Superman. I love his optimism and faith in humanity.
  • JV: I only get one?? Superman, though I’m normally more of a Marvel girl, if I only get one it has to be the man in the red cape.

Steak Temperature?

  • JS: Medium-rare. I don’t want a sufficiently skilled vet to be able to revive my meal, but I don’t want it to be carbonized, either.
  • KV: Mooing.
  • JV: Medium Rare

Favorite 1970s TV show?

  • JS: Little House on the Prairie, or Bewitched. It’s honestly a tie
  • KV: Buck Rogers
  • JV: M.A.S.H.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?

  • JS: I’m going to go with fall, because spring in Texas is usually about a week.
  • KV: Fall. The heat of summer has broken but the slush has not yet arrived. Plus, my birthday!
  • JV: Spring – I love when the world starts to turn green again.

Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want)

  • Sugar
    Sugar

    JS: But the furry ones are family. How can I choose a favorite? I can provide a picture of the senior office minion, though! I bottle raised Sugar and she has been my creative companion since she was an itty-bitty kitten (though she’s still itty-bitty, 6 pounds at 11 years old).

  • KV: I don’t have a single favorite pet, I have several. I won’t inundate you with office minion pictures, though Jennifer might. 😀
  • Perseus
    Perseus

    JV: Oh, this is hard, like choosing a favorite child. How about most photogenic? Our most handsome pet is Perseus, our office supervisor. Here he is napping on the job.

Best Game Ever?

  • JS: Now that’s a tough choice. I’m going to have to go with the Pokemon franchise because of its infinite replayability and the way you can customize everything.
  • KV: Calvin Ball (from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes)
  • JV: Best board game would be Trivial Pursuit (though I can’t get anyone to play with me anymore.) Best video game is World of Warcraft (yeah, I’m one of those geeks.)

Coffee or Tea?

  • JS: Tea. Green (citrus or mint), or cinnamon.
  • KV: Coffee, without reservation. Drinking coffee right now.
  • JV: Neither, please. I am a water lover

Sci-Fi or Fantasy? 

  • JS: Both! I particularly love fantasy with a science backing behind its lore and in-world tech. It grounds the setting so well and makes it feel incredibly well thought out.
  • KV: Both. Both. Yes, both is good.
  • JV: Please don’t make me choose! If I had a gun to my head I would say fantasy… but I love them both as well as a blend of the two.

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

How do you write such great books so quickly?? We are in awe of your productivity.

Rob’s Answer: Talk about funny timing. I was not at all productive in the fall, though when they originally sent this response back to me I was doing pretty good.

Either way, my answer is the same. Write some each day. My goal is to write a minimum of 1500 words a day, 5 days a week. That’s essentially three full novels and some short stories in a year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to reach that goal in 2019.

What’s next for The World of Shijuren?

Rob’s Answer: Lots! I will finish the epic fantasy series The Kreisens this spring with None Call Me Mother. Then, around Thanksgiving, I plan to release another Edward mystery novel. My intention is to aim for one of those every year, with another novel set in the world in the spring.

  • I’m also planning to open the world up to other writers to start an anthology and maybe some shared world novels. It’s a big world, even if I manage to finish all of the 25 or so novels I currently have laid out in my head, I will have only scratched the surface. I love the world, and there’s so much yet to tell.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

We would love to connect online. We love to talk with readers and other writers. You can find us here

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

You should have asked what’s next for A. E. Lowan? We are currently working on the third book in The Books of Binding – Beneath a Stone Sky. It will be out in 2019. This one picks up about a month after Ties of Blood and Bone. We are also working on audiobook versions of Faerie Rising and Ties of Blood and Bone for 2019.

And add your creator biography.

A.E. Lowan is the pseudonym of three authors who collectively create the dark urban fantasy series, The Books of Binding.

Kristin Vinck

Raised as a Navy brat, Kristin Vinck began writing as a child on the West Coast, learning her love of words at her mother’s knee. Kristin won her first writing award for urban fantasy in Seattle at eight-years-old for a story about a city on a boat pulled by dinosaurs. In her teens, Kristin moved from learning at home from her satirist mother to formal writing education at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. Kristin studied medieval studies and creative writing at Truman State University and now writes from the beauty of the Missouri Ozarks.

Jennifer Vinck

Raised among musicians in Kansas City, Missouri, Jennifer Vinck came to writing from another direction—poetry and song. Poetry was her primary creative endeavor throughout childhood and when Jennifer was twelve-years-old she was asked to write the lyrics for a song used for All Species Day (a precursor of Earth Day) in Kansas City. She auditioned for the creative writing department at the Kansas City Middle School of the Arts and there discovered a new passion—speculative fiction. Jennifer met Kristin on the first day of school at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. They began developing epic and urban fantasy worlds and have been collaborating in fiction and in life ever since. Jennifer studied linguistics and classical languages and literatures at Truman State University and spent many years as a bookseller before moving to the Missouri Ozarks to concentrate on writing.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith found her passion for fantastical storytelling where so many young writers do – through the masterpieces of fantasy’s renowned matriarchs. As the pile of worlds inhabited by dragon-riders, wizards, and fair folk caused her bookshelves to plea for mercy, the constellation of worlds inside her waiting for their story to be told grew. With enough ideas to fill the state of Texas where she was raised, Jessica first took pencil to paper before she hit double digits. Jessica’s love of the complexities of the universe and the intricacies of the human mind led her into study in the sciences. Her passion for writing took her to the internet in search of others who kept whole worlds in their minds. Jessica has been active on many online writing communities over the years, but it was on a fantasy-specific site, Mythic Scribes, where Jessica met Kristin and Jennifer in 2013. Her worlds and theirs collided as a whirlwind of collaboration began. The Books of Binding is the first project that partnership has unleashed on the world.

Faerie Rising Cover
Faerie Rising Cover

Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

Winter Mulcahy is the last wizard in the city of Seahaven, WA and all that stands between the fractious preternatural population and total chaos. Holding the city together by the skin of her teeth, the blood of her friends, and an addiction to stimulants that is slowly killing her, the young wizard is approached by a pair of sidhe lords who claim that her city is harboring a fugitive who has kidnapped a sidhe prince, and that they are on a mission to rescue the boy.

Winter must investigate this fugitive to get to the truth of the kidnapping, discover the cause of the surges of wild magic tearing open rifts between realms across her city, and navigate the deadly waters of preternatural politics before Seahaven both figuratively and literally rips itself apart.

Excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

The world shifted sideways. Winter braced herself against the wall with her one good hand, the chalk grinding against the concrete as she fought the initial wave of disorientation. Something was horribly wrong. Within the rift, power was building up, as if someone had just crimped a running hose.

And she was holding the nozzle.

Nine glyphs in the warding, each unique, complex, and time consuming. Each must be drawn with precision, or the whole seal would fail. Winter had never drawn glyphs so fast in her life, her hand frantically scraping the chalk against the wall in her desperate race against… against what? It felt like a tidal wave, rushing implacably toward her. Somehow, something was affecting the balance of power.

She spoke each glyph as she drew it, magic resonating in her voice with each syllable. Six glyphs to go. Its name spoken, the glyph would take on a glow, casting the hole in sharp relief, bringing out each line of exhaustion on Winter’s face.

Highlighting the growing cracks in the cement around the rift.

After the seal went up, the cement became irrelevant. It could be ground to dust, and the seal would hold. Before then, however… the seal needed a matrix, something solid to hold the lines she drew with the enspelled chalk. Before then, the seal was all too fragile.

When the surge hit, it would blow the rift wide open. There would be precious little left of Winter and probably the surrounding square acre or so.

Five glyphs.

She wasn’t going to make it. Winter’s shoulders were burning, her hand beginning to cramp and shake, her hurt wrist felt like it was on fire. The glow of the warding began to fade as her magic was drained by pain and panic and exhaustion. She needed more power. She did not have time to ground and pull power from the earth… leaving only one choice. “Karen!”

There is power to control in a name. She spoke the name with resonant Command, and suddenly the cougar was there, terrified eyes wide on the wizard beside her. Ruthlessly, she pushed aside the older woman’s flimsy natural protections and pulled what power there was into herself. It was wild, and tasted of dark places, pain-filled joy, and kittens warm in the den. This was not a wizard’s gift she used, but came of her mixed blood. The spell flared back to life, and Winter redoubled her efforts.

Four glyphs.

The hole began collapsing inward, little chunks of cement falling into the flame-wreathed darkness.

Three glyphs.

The chunks were getting larger, the cracks creeping closer to her fragile chalk lines.

Two glyphs.

The surge was now audible, a tsunami rushing toward them.

One glyph.

The ground beneath her knees was quivering with the building pressure.

The warding blazed just as the tidal wave of magic rammed it from the other side, the whole ravine shuddering from the impact, then the lettering settled into the cement, leaving the two women alone in the quiet night.

Ties of Blood and Bone Cover
Ties of Blood and Bone Cover

Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding

Winter Mulcahy’s life is getting better since her brush with death in October. She has a new family and they are helping her to grieve and rebuild her shattered life. She is learning to balance family, medicine, and holding the chaos of living among the preternaturals of Seahaven at bay. She meets a wizard, Alerich Ashimar, with the soul of a poet and the heart of a demon who is desperate to escape the life and choices that have been forced onto him. This man may hold the secret to the tragedies that have plagued House Mulcahy, but time is running out—for them both.

Alerich’s family is bound to a demon in a powerful geas set by his grandmother. Kill every Mulcahy by the upcoming winter solstice and her dead husband will be returned to her. Fail, and Alerich’s father, Magnus, will be forfeited to the demon. Magnus sends Alerich to collect Winter, the last of the Mulcahys, and bring her to the demon’s gate before the rapidly approaching deadline passes.

Alerich is horribly conflicted. He has been trying to mend his estranged relationship with his father, and he doesn’t want his father to die. But nor does he want to kill this beautiful, kind woman upon whom so many depend. When Alerich does not bring the girl at the appointed time, his father, feeling that Alerich has abandoned and betrayed him, strikes a terrible deal with the demon—something the demon has always wanted in exchange for the power to kill this last Mulcahy and his traitorous son.

Excerpt from Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding

“Thank you for coming, Alerich. I apologize for my outburst. I am under a fair bit of stress right now.”

Alerich’s brows knit together in confusion. Magnus Ashimar, apologizing for something? What was going on here? “No. It’s fine.” It wasn’t fine, but it was better to be gracious than to insist his father apologize to his friends. That would be too much. “Are you at liberty to tell me what’s bothering you?” It might not be an excuse for his poor behavior, but it would be nice to know the reason. It certainly had not been the first time Magnus had shown his temper at the table.

Magnus let out a breath. “I think I finally am.” He turned from the window to face Alerich and looked for a moment to be gathering his words. “I have been under a geas for the past twenty years, but I am nearly free. I summoned you and your sister here because I need your help.”

Alerich’s breath stilled. A geas? It was one of the most powerful of magical compulsions, second only to the soul compulsions practiced by demon lords like Arariel. His father was bound to perform a task, or forbidden from an action, under pain of terrible consequence. It was a rare wizard who could perform such magic, and though Alerich knew one who could do it, he did not want to think she would.

Not to her own son.

“What do you need me to do?” Alerich kept his tone neutral, careful. He had been forced to assist his father time and again and still carried the nightmares. Magnus was a sorcerer of blood and pain, servant to the Demon Lord Arariel. Where he went, painful, bloody death followed.

Magnus looked back toward the barn. “You know that your grandfather Adrien left your grandmother for a younger woman. Your grandmother remembers their marriage a bit differently than I do. She remembers the love of her life. I remember a miserable, disengaged man who hated being an Ashimar and felt trapped in every aspect of his existence. The minute—the second—an opportunity to leave presented itself, he ran away and left me holding the sorcerous bag.” Magnus sighed. “Left me with Arariel.” He turned back to Alerich. “They killed him for his trouble.”

Alerich’s eyes widened slightly. “Who killed him?”

“The Mulcahys.”

Alerich shook his head. “The Mulcahys? I thought their line was extinct. Isn’t that what House Daly is saying in their petition to be elevated to Great House—that the Mulcahy line is extinct and would drop the Council to ninety-eight houses?”

“They aren’t quite extinct, yet, but they have not sat in their seat on the Council in years. They were pariahs who muddied their Bloodline by breeding with anything that crossed their path, including mortals and therian.” Magnus looked disgusted. “There is a rumor of one wizard girl in a cadet branch of their line being allowed to give up her magic and take therian form for the purposes of breeding with a therian bear.”

Alerich thought it sounded rather romantic, actually, but that was an opinion he would not be sharing with his father. “But why did they kill Grandfather?”

Magnus gave a small shrug, emotions chasing each other in the depths of his eyes. “I never really knew, though I suspect your grandmother does. He fell in love with a much younger woman—Gwendolyn, the daughter of the Mulcahy at the time, himself. He left your grandmother within hours.”

Alerich’s brows rose. The Mulcahy was head of House Mulcahy, just as his father was the Ashimar, and someday he would be—if he survived Celia, of course.

Magnus’s jaw tightened. “The girl, Gwendolyn Mulcahy, became pregnant but died within a few days of our hearing the news. My father was murdered soon after. They tried to cover it up, of course, but I think they decided he, a sorcerer, was responsible for her death. They seemed to believe if he was capable of trafficking with demons he was capable of killing the girl he adored.” Rage flashed in his eyes. “Cowards.”

Alerich frowned in thought. Grandmother knew? “Grandmother did this to you?”

Magnus met Alerich’s gaze and nodded once.

“Why?”

Magnus looked up at the ceiling and then back down. “She bid me… ‘bid me’ sounds so damn tame, doesn’t it? She forced me to wipe the family out. Every. Single. One. I have until winter solstice—three more days—to finish my task. If I fail, Arariel gets my soul.”

‘They aren’t quite extinct, yet…’ Alerich closed his eyes for a moment and suppressed a heavy sigh. They had driven this Great House to the brink of extinction to avenge an Ashimar death—how very Ashimar of them. There were days when he really wondered why he was wasting his time trying to reconcile with his father at all. Not that his grandmother wasn’t just as culpable. Alerich knew what the look in his father’s eyes was, now. It was fear. How could Grandmother offer her own son to the demon for this madness? Wait… That thought brought him up short. “How was she able to negotiate with Arariel? She’s not a sorcerer.”

“I don’t know. All I know is she thinks that if I succeed, Arariel can bring my father back from the dead.”

“It can’t do that… can it?”

Magnus’s mouth twisted in annoyance. “Alerich, if you spent half the time you spend reading Shakespeare on your magical studies, you would know the answer to that question is, ‘Of course not.’ It’s playing on your grandmother’s hopes and fears, though she refuses to listen to me on the matter.” He shook his head. “And if you paid attention to me more often, you would know that Arariel is unique, even among its own kind. It’s ancient beyond the telling and I’m sure keeping secrets from us. It’s not a normal demon lord, if such a thing exists.”

Alerich forced himself to not look back toward the dining room. He had his own reasons to hate and fear Arariel, and to think too hard about it could draw it out. He looked at his father, instead. The man who had raged at him, beaten him, and belittled him all his life. A sorcerer. A murderer.

How could he let the demon eat him?

Magnus looked out to the barn again. “I need your help, Alerich. There is one last Mulcahy and I need your help to kill her. Just one more and this is finally over. I am out from beneath your grandmother’s control.”

Alerich’s shoulders sagged and he nodded. He did not want to be part of this—any of this—but he could not let his father die. If this was truly the last, then maybe… maybe nothing. Arariel would still be there, demanding sacrifices. Demanding deaths. But maybe this one death would bring his father a species of peace. “What do you need from me?”


Thanks to A.E. Lowan 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

 

ShadowCon AAR

Greetings all

I got back last night from the first con of 2019, ShadowCon in Memphis. I got invited to the convention a couple of years ago because it’s essentially an SCA household holiday party writ large. Schedules have prevented me from going previously, and that’s too bad because I had a very good time.

Given its origin and its billing as a Relaxacon, you would be correct to assume that it’s laid back. It has all the stuff. In fact it’s got a ton packed into Saturday, but it’s pretty laissez faire about structure. This is a virtue for a con of its size. I was able to get on three panels, play a round of Pathfinder Society, and socialize until 3pm on Friday. I’d have done more but, as a Cowboys fan, I essentially took Saturday evening off to watch them play the Seahawks.

The first panel I was on discussed books new readers should look for to get started in science fiction and fantasy. There was some confusion on where it was supposed to be, and I think it might have actually been done in two places. For me, I sat with four or five people and discussed where to go and some of the subgenres. In all honesty, this was probably the best way to have this sort of panel. It might be fun to schedule a session with a number of authors in a room with various tables and interact with new readers on this level as opposed to lining us up in front.

I intended to join the Indie Publishing Pros and Cons panels. Unfortunately, I wrote down 2pm Saturday on my notes instead of 12noon. Of all the panels, it was the one I wanted to be on and I missed it. Next time, I suppose, but I’m still frustrated with myself on that one.

The one panel the organizer wanted me to take was a comparison of Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. He had a scheduling conflict at the last minute and needed help on that panel. Humorously, I’ve never watched either, though Orville looks fun. The other person on the panel had only watched a few episodes of either, but was a major Trekkie with a ton of experience in that fandom. We ended up riffing on the kinds of characters that draw us into shows and the kinds of writing keep people watching. More than anything, we talked about how Babylon 5 did both of those things well, as did some other shows. All in all, it turned out OK, but I sure felt clueless walking in.

Immediately after was my favorite panel, Where Did It Go Wrong. We panelists all had slightly different viewpoints where we going with that, and we sort of settled on where movie adaptations of books go wrong. The first answer, which is fairly obvious, is that two hour long movies will always struggle with a novel. Short stories, like the ones that spawned Shawshank Redemption and Blade Runner, are much more likely to translate well to the big screen. Novels that do translate well will tend to be fluffy, short, or both. Other novels, like Lord of the Rings or Dune will need mini-series or seasons of a regular series to tell their complex stories well. The second answer is that the producer of the movie needs to know and love the ethos underlying the book. My personal pet peeve is the animated Beowulf, where they did not have any recognition of personal responsibility. Contrast this with 13th Warrior, which gets it. That’s what makes 13th Warrior a much, much better film and, in my opinion, the best retelling of Beowulf on the screen so far.

In general, it was a good schedule of panels. Had I made the Indie Publishing Panel, it would have been about the right number for Friday and Saturday. I could have done more, but about right.

Nothing was officially scheduled for Sunday, by the way. It’s a decision I’ve thought about on the drive home. On the one hand, scheduling stuff for Sunday allows time more panels and more things to do. On the other hand, Sunday panels and events, especially those at 10am, are inconsistently attended. In the case of ShadowCon, which is at its core a social gathering, setting it up that people can hang out until whatever Saturday night without any real need to be at a thing Sunday morning makes a lot of sense. At some other cons, where the basic foundation is different, Sunday scheduling is important, but not ShadowCon.

I really enjoyed myself, though I must mention the quality of the hotel. Or rather, lack thereof. It’s the first hotel I’ve dealt with that will not allow, under any circumstances, room entrance before 3pm. It’s a request I often make, and only a request, but every other hotel I’ve asked tries to accommodate it. Then, at 3pm, they had a shift change, but if the next shift is late, as this one was, there was literally nobody to check anyone in. That meant there was a ton of people in the lobby trying to check in, waiting for way too long. Panels and other events started at 4pm and I barely made it despite being one of the first in line.  For all this, I blame the manager, who was rude and clearly did not want to deal with anyone. How dare customers intrude upon her job? Oh, and as a side note, the posted hours for the breakfast aren’t actually true. Get there early, or you won’t get anything. It’s a decent con space, especially for a con the size of ShadowCon, but I’d suggest not going to the West Memphis Clarion for any other reason.

Despite the hotel, the con is worth it. The people were helpful and relaxed. Lots of good conversations. The gaming was good and there was lots of it. The con suite was one of the best I’ve seen. I didn’t go to any, but there were a number of SCA and Larping demos. The dealer’s room was bigger than most of a con its size. The panels all had attendees who were interested and had good questions. I am intending to go back every year that my schedule allows.

Rob’s Update: 2018 AAR

Welcome to 2019. I’m excited about the upcoming year as I have a bunch of opportunities. Before I get to that, though, it’s time to look back at 2018 and give myself a grade.

I didn’t write enough. My goal was 365,000 published words. I included blog posts with that in part to ensure that I would update the blog consistently. My final total was 245,900. Essentially, I was one novel away from my goal.

I should have, indeed, finished The Feeding of Sorrows. That would have put me around 350k and I would not be too disappointed. However, I did not, nor did I finish None Call Me Mother.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

The good news is that next year I won’t have to move, nor will I start it in a cramped house. Furthermore, I won’t have to replace the flooring in seven rooms of my house. There are still major projects to do, but we’ve made huge progress. It is not unreasonable to admit to myself that I put most of my spoons in late 2018 into getting the house under control.

Next year, however, I can’t allow that to happen again. I need to publish 3 novels. My plan is to finish The Feeding of Sorrows by the end of January. I think I can, though I still have some 60k to go.

Then I will return to Shijuren with None Call Me Mother. I will release that in May. After that, I plan for a new Edward novel in December. When I started Where Now the Rider I had a mystery in mind but went a different direction. It’s time to finish that. Edward has a long way to go.

I don’t know how many short stories I’ll do next year, but I have one scheduled already. I also have several that I’ve been playing with for a while that need to get finished.

I’ll also continue to count my blog words. Again, I do that to ensure I update the blog consistently. The three regular columns will continue. I’ll do a creator interview aiming for Tuesday, a magazine review aiming for Wednesday, and my update for Friday. That regular schedule will start next week.

My goal for 2019 is 400,000. A nice even number.

My other professional goals were to improve both the Shijuren and Four Horsemen wiki. I did well, but like with my writing, not as much as I’d hoped. The Shijuren wiki is up-to-date, but needs to be improved and cleaned up.

As for the Four Horsemen Wiki, I had hoped to do more. It stands at 479 entries. My goal for 2019 is to get that up to 1500 or so. That’s about 20 entries per week, which I was doing for a while in 2018 before things got too busy.

I’ll continue to travel as much as I can fit in during 2019. I will be at ShadowCon in Memphis this weekend and ChattaCon at the end of the month. In March, I’m excited to be one of the featured panelists at FantaSci, which is the first Four Horsemen Universe convention. There’ll be lots more, including LibertyCon, which of course I’ll announce here and on my mailing list.

My personal goal in 2019 is much like what it was in 2018, improve my health. I started 2018 at 384.8. I ended it at 387.2. In other words, I held steady. Give all the upheaval of 2018, I call that a win.

Along the way I also spent much of the fall getting myself a good relationship with a local doctor. I haven’t had a standard doctor in well over a decade, and it’s nice to get that relationship going. It meant I had about fifteen different medical visits during the fall, including a colonoscopy.

My next step is to consistently exercise. My basic daily goal is to get 1000 and one. That’s 1000 words and one mile of walking. That’s the minimum I aim for each day. Most weekdays, I’ll hope to do more, lots more when it comes to writing, but it’s an easy to remember daily goal. If I do that, then at least the day hasn’t been a waste. Can’t waste days in this business.

Overall, my professional grade for 2018 is C-. I didn’t write enough, nor did I do enough of the background stuff. Personally, I would give myself a B+. I’m in better shape, both physically and mentally than I was in 2017. I’m in a comfortable home, with a great sweetie, and things are going well. My final grade for myself in 2018 is a B-. I can do more, but it wasn’t awful.

Now to go do more.

Have a great year everyone. May we all do more and smile doing it.

 

 

Rob’s Update: Happy Holidays

Greetings all

It’s Christmas Eve and I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Thanks for making my holidays better.

I apologize for the lack of updates the past few weeks. It’s been extremely busy, but also extremely productive. We completed most of the projects in the house, and for the first time since I bought the house, I feel like I’m on the downward curve. I knew this house would be a major undertaking from the day we walked into it, so it was no surprise that it would take years. It’s a great feeling to see so much progress.

That’s my biggest Christmas gift to myself. I had a great deal of fun getting gifts for my family. We have ten here this year: my sweetie, her parents, her daughter and son, her brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, and my mom. It’s been great and Christmas isn’t even here yet.

I also had fun sending out gifts to readers. I hope the recipients all enjoy their loot.

I’ve also done better than you might expect with writing as those tasks got finished on the house. Since several of the tasks were something like: “finish the room, then unpack the moving boxes intended for the room,” we’ve actually been able to get close to fully unpacking from the move. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re almost nested. It’s a good feeling, and I think the work and need to nest bothered me more than I realized.

I’m over 40k on The Feeding of Sorrows now with scenes popping up. Better yet, I haven’t even written the battle scenes, and I’ve noticed that writing battle scenes are usually the easiest parts. I’m targeting the end of January to finish it.

I’ve also made progress on None Call Me Mother. That story is writing itself in my head, and I’ve had some scenes jump at me to get it written. I’m not sure on any kind of date yet, but it’s coalescing.

Last week, I got asked to contribute to another anthology. I had the germ of a story jump out at me on that one as well. I expect it will be published in the summer.

I’ve two other short stories that are coming along in my head, along with some of the older ones I’ve dabbled with. This pleases me, as I need some more of the short fiction foundation. There are some Shijuren stories, too, and I’m planning on a Shijuren anthology hopefully by the end of 2019.

This isn’t a full update, but I plan on a full 2018 in review and list of 2019 plans in the next two weeks, and will return to normal updates following that.

Again, thank you for reading my books, giving me reviews, and generally making this possible for me.

Have fun these holidays and I wish you all a great 2019.

Rob

Mag Review: Galaxy (December, 1961)

Greetings all

This week I’m reading through the Galaxy, Vol. 20, No. 2, of December, 1961. It’s got a story by Poul Anderson that I’m looking forward to, and I always wonder what Willy Ley had to say. Also of note is that Frederik Pohl is the editor, and of course I always think of him as a writer. I loved the Heechee series.

As I grabbed the links for Pohl and the Heechee series, I noticed that Gateway was also originally published in Galaxy starting in November of 1976. That issue was edited by Jim Baen. Ah, the fascinating trail of science fiction publishing.

Galaxy (December, 1961)
Cover of Galaxy (December, 1961)

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58679

Anyway, the initial editorial is by Pohl. It’s a fun one about the size of the galaxy and the possibility of alien life. Also, he talks about some planetary conjunctions.

There are all sorts of time capsule moments when reading these books and Pohl provides one. He says that Jupiter is “monarch of more than a dozen moons. (p. 7)” Right now we know of 79 moons around Jupiter. Yep, that’s definitely more than a dozen.

The issue’s first story is The Day After Doomsday by Poul Anderson. The story begins with a starship returning after a three-year mission to find the Earth destroyed. Carl Donnan is the one man who keeps his head, barely, and he tries to lead the 300 men of the ship’s crew to find those who killed his world and maybe even find some of humanity’s other spaceships. If he gets dead lucky he can find one with women on it and humanity can survive.

The story is fantastic. I’d be on pins and needles waiting for the next issue to show up in my mailbox. There are a couple of data dumps, but the rest of it is fast-paced and full of action. Aliens and politics. Ship battles. A mystery. Clues hidden here and there. And the possibility of answers more deadly than the crimes.

Fun stuff. I’m looking forward to the conclusion.

Next we have Miriam Allen deFord’s Oh, Rats. DeFord is not an author I’ve read before, though she wrote in both of my two favorite fictional areas, SF/F and mystery.

This is a twist on the Flowers for Algernon idea. SK540 is a super-rat engineered in a lab. Unfortunately, the engineering was too successful. He understands what is going on, leads an escape from the lab of his choice of the other rats, and then takes them to the house of one of the scientists.

Then he leads a fairly diabolical campaign against the scientist and his wife. He tricks them into befriending him and keeping him secret for the moment. Then he reveals that he has impregnated two other lab rats and the scientist realizes that it’s a war.

But he realizes it too late. SK540 has used rat poison (nice irony from deFord there) to kill the scientist and his wife. The story ends with the note that it’s the tale of the founder of their race and the end of humans.

This is a great story in many ways. I love the twist at the end. Yet, I’ve sat here for a bit to figure out why I detest it and I think I have the answer. SK540 wins because the wife recognizes him as a person and treats him nicely. I don’t like characters that take advantage of people being nice, so I simply can’t want him to win, not that way.

However, despite my dislike of the result, I can’t help but admire the quality of the work.

We move on to Willy Ley’s monthly essay. This one focuses on Dragons and Hot Air Balloons. In it, he talks about the possibility that the Chinese candle balloons are ancient. His argument is that they are not because Western travelers would have spoken about them prior to the 18th-century. I’m not sure I buy his argument completely, but that’s mostly because I wonder what research has occurred since 1961. He talks about the possibility that dragon banners might have been early balloons, but dismisses that too. He does so based on weight/volume ratio of the long tail.

His last segment discusses some of the biggest guns in history. He details the ones we know of and if they fired. Interesting stuff.

Then we move to Joy Leache’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. I don’t know much about her. She only had three stories published and I can’t find much about her on the internet.

This is a cute little story that where an account administrator from a promotions company is sent to a small planet to figure out something it can export so it can join the Galactic Empire. They have to have something they can contribute before getting accepted.

The problem is they have no resources. They aren’t artists. Their planet isn’t terribly attractive. As a species, the Felicians are attractive. They look like leprechauns, and they could get by setting up a tourist industry to take advantage of that. However, that would be demeaning and likely to lead to their extinction.

The get the promoter drunk, and while he’s drunk his steno, the real hero of the story, manages to figure out that the Felicians are excellent cobblers. So they set up a method to sell the shoes and it seems like the problem is at an end.

However, the Felician shoes don’t wear out and they only produce one style per species. Any others would be inefficient and demeaning for the leprechauns. That means the sales dry up within a few years.

So they go back to Felix to figure out a new plan. While there, the steno breaks a tooth. The Felicians don’t have teeth, ergo no dentists, so she has to go elsewhere. When she comes back she realizes that the Felicians, with their small size and skilled, dexterous fingers, would make excellent dentists.

It’s a cute story, but limited. It’s the kind of thing that suggests a promising author-in-training. Unfortunately, the was Leache’s last published story that I know of. Too bad.

Next is Algis Budrys’s Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night. All I can say is wow! This was an amazing story about a media mogul getting to the top of the heap, so he thinks. However, his rival has gotten advanced tech from the ancient and dying Martian race to ruin him.

The tech essentially creates a sort of virtual reality, but with less on the virtual and more on the reality. It allows someone to essentially program a person’s future within broad guidelines. In this case, the mogul’s rival curses him with an adventure that will end with sorrow and pain.

Much of the story is the mogul trying to escape this doom. He kills his rival, sort of. However, the Martian tech keeps him alive as a sort of zombie to follow the mogul and push him into wilder and wilder bad decisions. To ruin his life. Very Shakespearean.

The Martian tech succeeds and the mogul dies at the end of the story. However, he leaves behind the seeds of his revenge by using the tech on the guild agent who eventually kills him. These agents are surgically altered to make incorruptible by removing their ability to feel, or taste, or enjoy much of anything. It’s sort of like a Blade Runner thing where they are changed into replicants and can’t ever go back to being human.

The mogul’s revenge is to change this one back. Suddenly, he can feel centuries of things he’s seen and done. And now he goes back to get his vengeance and the mogul’s.

Fantastic. Would make a great movie. And, as you can see from the ISFDB, it’s been republished a number of times. Find it if you can.

To fill out the final page of Wall of Crystal, there’s an ad for one of those book clubs. I could get 6 books for $2, including stuff from Asimov, Leinster, Farmer, Anderson, Aldiss, van Vogt, and a bunch of others. Here, take my money.

The next story is Rainbird by R.A. Lafferty. Lafferty’s an inventive writer, and this is a good example.

“Inventive” jumped to mind as this story is about an inventor who is greater than da Vinci. At the end of his life, he laments about all the things he meant to improve but never did. He has done amazing things, like wiring Philadelphia for electricity in 1799, but there’s some much else to do. So, he invents a time machine and goes back to himself while his younger self was hawking.

He lays out to his younger self a huge amount of information, to which that version of himself listens intently. The younger version puts away the joys of hawks and falcons, and invents at an incredible pace. Even gets us to Mars by 1830. However, when he is 85, he curses himself for being an idiot as he has never quite gotten around to corporeal immortality. He decides to go back to yet another younger version and impress upon him the importance of immortality to allow him to achieve all that he wants and needs to.

But this younger version is distracted by the hawk and the falcon and the joys of life. Now he is remembered for a number of useful things like a safer nutmeg grater and better wedge for splitting logs. And this one never figures out the time machine and never can do anything about all the things he meant to do someday.

Very good story, but with a limitation. It’s oddly structured in that it is almost pure exposition. This structure works, though, and you get caught up into it. It needs more of the main character doing, though, to become great.

Next we get to Floyd C. Gale’s review section. The most interesting review is that of The Science Fictional Sherlock Holmes. As far as I can tell, it’s the first SF version of Holmes and includes authors like Gordon R. Dickson, Poul Anderson, and H. Beam Piper.

I had never heard of this anthology before, and it’s no wonder. It’s not published anymore, and the only places I found it was ABEBooks where I could get it for $75 or $150. No Amazon or ebook.

I’m not a huge collector of things, but this may just happen anyway.

The next story is An Old Fashioned Bird Christmas by Margaret St. Clair. St. Clair is another author I haven’t been exposed to much, which is too bad. She’s an interesting person and writer.

But I don’t think this was her best story. She was Wiccan, and this story is a melange of Christian, Norse, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, Native American, and other mythologies combined with an evil time traveling company from 3000 AD fighting over when and how to use electricity.

The main character is a reverend who wants to return to simpler, more traditional Christmas’s. One way to do that is to avoid using electric lights and rely on candles, firelight, etc. His wife is beautiful, but she was a spy implanted by the electric company to get him to stop preaching against using electrical lights after dark.

If that all seems complex, it is, and the melange has too many elements. She loves Easter Eggs, and I’ll bet most of what’s in here exists because “So-and-so will love this!” I’m not unfamiliar with the vast majority of the mythology she uses, but it whizzes by so fast I can’t quite connect all the pieces together to make the story really work for me.

I’m also not entirely fond of the ending. In the end, he wins, and a great beings says, “You want an old-time Christmas, you can have it.” The last scene is the reverend, now converted to a Druid, getting ready to sacrifice a number of Christians in honor of the winter solstice. The main character, who is a good man that you root for, then becomes evil. I love endings that aren’t happy.

Had he been the Christian sacrificed and faced his ending with pride and honor, I’d have loved it. He’d have won, though he’d have died. In this case, he’s corrupted into evil through no fault of his own, only the great evil deus ex machina making him murderous. That’s too heavy-handed for me to enjoy.

Next we get to The Watery Wonders of Captain Nemo by Theodore L. Thomas. This is actually a long form review of 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaThomas’s main criticism is that Jules Verne’s science is awful. He didn’t look for the technology given the submarine advances that had already been made when he wrote the story in 1870. He didn’t double-check the viability of the scientific-sounding things he says in the novel. Furthermore, we may think he advanced submarine science with his ideas, but Thomas points out that what readers think is there is not, actually, there. Batteries for the Nautilus, for example.

However, Thomas loves the way Verne tells stories. He might have missed some tech that was available to him, but he captures us in such a way that even an expert glosses over things. He calls it “non-science,” though a good story.

The last story is William W. Stuart’s The Little Man Who Wasn’t Quite. I don’t know anything about Stuart and there’s not much to find about him. I will say I wish he’d written more.

This story is about a guy who pulled himself up from the gutter, but he goes back from time to time to remind himself what he once was. While there, he meets two men, one large and obvious, and the other so withdrawn as to be almost invisible.

Turns out the withdrawn man is sliding from this universe to the next. He’s not really a part of this place, and this place is not really a part of him. That means that only people who are out of touch of this place, like those on skid row, can even see him. The main character can only see him when he’s visiting skid row, but not when he’s back at his job and real life with a newspaper.

The withdrawn man leaves, saying he’s found some other friends, so he disappears. He comes back to introduce his friend and the friend is terrifying. He has a form that seems to embody a sort of Platonic Ideal of the viewer’s greatest terror. Spiders, snakes, heights, whatever.

The terrifying creature says that’s the way it always goes and the withdrawn man promises to come back with more of them. The main character and the large man hope that the withdrawn man is so connected to the large man that if he cannot connect to the large man, he can’t get back. So the main character helps the large man succeed in society and escape skid row, where the terror lies.

Great story that catches you almost immediately even though there’s not much action, just a vague hint that yanks at your curiosity for a time until you can’t get away.

This was a very good issue. The worst story might simply be the worst because of my taste, and others might find it excellent. To me, that’s a great compliment for magazine.

Next Week’s Issue:  Astounding Science Fiction of March 1961.


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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: A.M. Freeman

Greetings all

This week’s interview is A.M. Freeman, a really sharp cookie who likes to dress up like a cow every once in a while. Don’t let that fool you, she’s udderly brilliant.

Interview: A.M. Freeman

What is your quest?

To share the stories that build up in my head and preserve my sanity. (or whats left of it)

What is your favorite color?

My color is green. Green is the color of growth. I like to take a spark and work and mold it until it is a fire that others can be warmed by and enjoy. I’ve found my way to do that is to list the ideas from the spark, do research to get more ideas, then organize them. I think over the setting, the people, the conflicts, what motivations goals there are. I group them into rough scenes, like making a skeleton. I keep molding, filling out and adding flesh to the scenes, until the story and actions are clear. Then I form it, adding the skin, hair, eyes, the details so that everyone else can see and understand. Then I beat it over and over and over again, until the shape and textures are just right. At last my Golem is complete! And I set it out on the masses! Muhahaha!!!

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

Sloooooow. I like to say I can’t read or write, I’m just good at telling stories. In truth, I couldn’t read until I was 10. That hasn’t stopped me much, just provided some hilarious spelling mix-ups. I’m not too slow at writing, just reading. There was also the time I lost ALL the editing on a novel I was trying to write. I’m talking months spent going over the entire 100 pages. Then, the very day I finish the edits, the file goes corrupt. This was before I started constantly saving my projects in multiple places. So the last saved version of the story I had was before I started editing. So I lost all that work, plus about ten pages off the end. That was cripplingly painful. But after taking a break I got back to it and pushed on.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

It bursts forth characters. They like to pop into myself. I feel like I can translate emotions pretty well, giving others a chance to feel them. The most emotional story I’ve written is probably my most well known (relatively speaking since I’ve only got short stories out so far) I’m not even sure how much credit I can take for that story. It was a very strange and inspired story that came to me late one night when I was 15. But my technique was strong enough to convey it, so I’ll take that. It was my first publication, at the age of 18. Came out in a little (and by little I mean epic) anthology called Forbidden Thoughts. Look it up!

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy! That sass tho….
  • Favorite Sports Team? Pink Panthers! I was the star goalie back in my glory days.
  • Cake or Pie? Piecaken It’s a pie baked into a cake.
  • Lime or Lemon? Limon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? The tasty kind, just nothing too spicy.
  • Wet or Dry? Depends on the weather
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ellie Lawrence!!! We grew up in the same neighborhood. She was on season 9 of the voice. Has a real cool voice and style, and has an EP out somewhere called “If you Knew Me”
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Underaged!
  • Favorite Superhero? Wonder Woman
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? …. I don’t know any.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Anything that isn’t winter! I’m  Florida born, and my skinny body can’t handle the cold.
  • Favorite Pet? My mustang! She’s a pretty buckskin. Got her at 10 months old, from the wild and untouched by humans, and trained her myself. She’s about 5 now. We like to ride around the pasture bareback.
  • Best Game Ever? Ugh! You just made me lose it!
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, even through it makes me crazy sometimes.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Both, at the same time, rolled into a big ball of awesome, with cool technology and fantastic people/creatures.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? Have you ever seen a chicken run around without it’s head? (I have, it’s pretty funny, almost cartoonish)

Rob’s Answer: Nope. For a guy who’s mostly a Kansas boy, I haven’t spent much time on farms. My headless chickens have all involved BBQ sauce, sesame oil, or and/or rosemary.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • LibertyCon Spring of 2019. I’ll be legal to drink then! So things should get interesting. (Rob’s Note: The Four Horsemen Universe party at LC is going to get lit! And her too!)

 

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

You should have asked how Muse is today. My imaginary cat gets very cranky when people don’t give him attention. (Rob’s Note: Cats don’t have to be imaginary to get cranky without attention. My office cat has been biting me as I type this entry. Like now! Ouch!)


Thanks to A.M. 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