Category Archives: Personal

Catalina – Duchy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catalina – Duchy Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Mag Review: If (June, 1957)

Greetings all

This week I’m reviewing the If (Volume 7, No. 4) from June, 1957. I guessed I was going to like this one, given that it has an Asimov and a Biggle, but if I had any doubt, the rocket rotorship Mars lander by Mel Hunter that’s on the cover with the diagram on the inside front cover.

Mars Rocket Rotorship
Mars Rocket Rotorship

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58771

This issue starts with the Editor’s Report by James L. Quinn. It’s a bunch of short, interesting things he’s found in the previous month. He had a good eye and in this day and age he would probably be a well-followed blogger.

In this case, much of what he included relates to this issue of If, including small biographies of a couple authors in the issue. I wish more editors had done this, actually, as it’s quite interesting to see what the editor thought at the moment, especially before I read the stories.

He also talked about the Industrial Bulletin, which was a small sheet of interesting, fact-filled information. 1957 Clickbait! I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, and now I’m putting A Scientific Sampler, which has the best predictions, facts, and notes in my Amazon wishlist.

And if you need help with math you can get the IBM 709. The stats are amazing. 42,000 additions or subtractions per second. Multiplication and division at 5,000 per second. 327,000 decimal digits can be stored in it’s magnetic core, and any word in the core can be found in 12 millionths of a second. And then the piece de resistance, “You can get a typical system for about $3,000,000, or rent one for $56,000 per month! (p. 3)”

If (June, 1957) Cover
If (June, 1957) Cover

So, I suppose I should actually talk about the stories in this issue. First is Pretty Quadroon by Charles Fontenay. It’s a fascinating story about a number of different timelines related to whether there’s a second Civil War. Basically, if Beauregard Courtney meets and loves Piquette, then there will be a second war of varying results. In one, the South wins, in another the North wins, in a third the Russians nuke New York and other cities. If he doesn’t meet her, the second war does not happen.

This story is both well-written and fascinating, given that it’s written by a Tennessee man during the beginning of integration in the south. Not only that, it has the backdrop of the Cold War and fears of nuclear war. The story is thoughtful, challenging, and yet smooth to read. It is no wonder it was republished in Jim Baen’s Universe of October, 2008.

Walter Tevis is next with Operation Gold Brick and wow, what a fascinating find! Tevis is the author of The Hustler and The Color of Money. His other novel that got turned into a movie was The Man Who Fell to Earth, which starred David Bowie.

The story is a fun one about the US Army trying to build a tunnel through the Appalachians for a monorail track. They have a converter which easily cuts through the stone and creates a perfect tunnel, but suddenly it stops, having hit on a large gold brick. They try a pick, otherwise known as a manual converter, but that doesn’t work.

Then the  Army tries a variety of increasingly absurd ideas. They convert the *entire* mountain, but all they manage to do is end up with a gold brick sitting in the air about four feet off the ground. A physicist comes in and says this is the point, the fulcrum point, of Earth’s orbit. Ultimately, with a super bomb, they manage to move it, which sends the Earth on an orbit which will fall into the sun.

As a side note, this is message fiction done right. The story is humorous, catchy, and the reader keeps wanting to know more. In some ways it is a short story version of Dr. Strangelove. This story makes me wonder if Peter George, who wrote Red Alert, the basis of Dr. Strangelove, had read it, because it has the same sort of humor and message.

Next is an essay by Robert S. Richardson entitled the Face of Mars. You might have read his science fiction under the name Philip Latham. This essay talks about telescope images he worked with when Mars approached very close to the Earth in 1956. Reading the science articles in these magazines is odd to me.

I am no scientist, though I’ve read quite a bit about various scientific topics (and more now that I’m a writer, shout-out to my monitors at the FBI and NSA). However, I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I know more about Mars than Richardson did, yet he was widely recognized as an expert. He even helped as a technical assistant for Destination Moon. It’s a weird thought that’s hard to avoid as he’s describing specific aspects of astronomy and it all seems fairly basic. Amazing what’s transpired in 62 years.

Aldo Giunta’s Jingle in the Jungle is the next story. I had never heard of Giunta before, and it’s no surprise. This is the only speculative fiction he ever published. He was a playwright and a cabinet maker, as you can see from the linked obituary.

This story is about a future where boxing is much like it was in the 1930s, especially with all the corruption and fixing, except with robots.

This was another great story. A trainer, Charlie Jingle, has been working with an old boxing robot, Tanker Bell, for fourteen years. It’s way out of date and they can hardly get any fights. Then they stumble into a fight and beat the contender robot made by the shiny, big fighting-robot corporation.

But it’s a fix. It’s all a fix. The goal is to build up an outsider and suggest it has a chance. Then the champ wins big and looks even better and better. But Charlie has another idea and he tricks the Tanker into thinking he hasn’t got a chance and gets the robot mad and tricky. Ultimately Tanker Bell wins, and it is only then that he realizes his trainer has tricked him and gotten him to fight better than his best. Rocky before Rocky and with robots.

Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite writers. The Foundation and Hari Seldon shaped a style of magic in my world of Shijuren. Elijah Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw helped convince me hardboiled detectives can work in any time period. His entry in this issue shows why.

This issue’s entry is Does a Bee CareIf you click on the title links of most stories, you’ll find that the links almost always go to the bare ISFDB page. There’s rarely much on those pages, and I link to them as much to highlight the title as I do to give you places to find more information. In this case, though, the story is so powerful that it has its own Wikipedia page.

The story goes like this. An ovum was placed on Earth. The ovum grew to a creature that looked like it was human, though it was not. For 8,000 years it influenced civilization to help humanity achieve spaceflight. In the story, it has ensured that in one of the first rockets to the moon there’s space enough for it to fit inside. When the rocket reaches space the creature achieves full maturity. It is, finally, able to return to its home.

The twist is that while we see the creature manipulating things, Asimov guides us along the path of focusing on its point of view. Then at the end, asks if the bee cares what has happened to the flower after it has gotten the pollen. What a neat take on things.

Lloyd Biggle, Jr. is next with …On the Dotted Line. The story is about a car salesman getting transported to the year 2337. He’s a great salesman, but in 2337 salesmen are hypnotists, and all he’s got is psychology.

But that’s what he is, a salesman and he’s got to figure out how to make his way. Fortunately for him, after a couple of years the hypnotists are discovered and Congress passes laws outlawing hypnotism in sales. This is the salesman’s chance.

And he does pretty well, for a time. However, with his sales comes publicity, and after people have seen his pitch, they don’t buy and he loses his sales job. He’s a smart man and he succeeds in the field of space mining. He finally, however, figures out how to sell one more thing, essentially the moon Callisto, and retires, confident in his ability. At the end, though, the compulsion is still there, and he’s looking about for something else to sell.

It’s a good story, which doesn’t surprise me. Biggles had a neat way of looking at things, I’ve found, and this is an example. He made a *salesman* into a sympathetic figure.

Dan Galouye is another new writer to me. His story here is Shuffle Board. This is the first average story in this issue. Earth in a century or so will be filled with various radioactive waste. The main character is tasked with preventing the radioactivity from contaminating as much as possible. In the end, the increased radioactivity changes humanity so we’re not as susceptible to its affects.

I think this story didn’t catch me because it seemed a little obvious to me, but that’s in part because of my perspective in 2018 as opposed to 1957. I sort of expect humanity to adjust, if needed. More importantly, I felt the underlying causes see farfetched now. This is unfortunate, because the story is well-written. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Galouye, and maybe the twist at the end will surprise me.

As a side note. Dear Editor of any magazine, please avoid, “Continued on page X” for any story, especially for the last 3 paragraphs. Ah, well.

Anyway, the next story is called The Human Element by Leo Kelley. It’s a fun story that connected to me because our protagonist hearkens back to an earlier time. Unfortunately, in his era, living in the past would get you sent to the Psych center.

If (June, 1957) Science Quiz
If (June, 1957) Science Quiz

However, our hero has expressed his rebellion by putting on a clown suit and running onto stage in a modern day circus. The circus is nothing like we would think, and no one there had seen a clown before. He’s a hit, and the circus owners hire him. In many ways, this story is nothing but the cotton candy the hero reminisces about. But I am someone who lives in the past quite often, and I do wonder about today’s society.

Next is a fun little game, a science quiz. I’ve included the image. Have fun.

Then we have a series of science briefs. More little notes and tidbits from science. The most interesting one to me was the idea that we’d have nuclear-powered aircraft in the early 1960s.

Finally, we get to Hue and Cry, the letters to the editor. I always enjoy reading these, and this one had several focused on the idea of humanity and humanism as discussed in a previous If. Oddly, as I type this, I happen to be listening to the album Hemispheres by Rush. The title song is about humanity’s challenge to balance thought and emotion, which apparently the earlier If issue talked about. Odd timing, there.

But it’s an excuse to include this wonderful Rush quote:

“Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Sensibility
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere”
Cygnus X-1, Book 2: Hemispheres, Rush

Overall, this was one of the better magazines I’ve seen so far. It didn’t sell well, though, and is one of the shorter-lived SF mags of the time. It’s a shame, though, because I’m looking forward to reading more of them.

Next week I’ll be reviewing the most modern issue I’ve read so far, the Fantastic from March, 1974. This issue’s cover story is by Brian Aldiss and Fritz Lieber reviews some books. Good stuff to look forward to.

Have a great day, everyone.


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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: Grey My Way

Week 27 of 2018

I’m in Indianapolis at the Lincoln Square Pancake House getting ready to load in for InConjunction. They have a take on biscuits and gravy involving jalapeno cornbread and queso. I had to try it.

Anyway, I’m slowly recovering from LibertyCon. What an amazing time. My detailed after-action report is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1224. LibertyCon is so good, that all 750 tickets for 2019 sold out in 6 hours yesterday. Actually, 5 hours, 52 minutes, and 20 seconds, but who’s counting.

I’ve got mine, don’t worry.

The big result, from my perspective, is a slight change in priorities and focus. I’ve got two books currently planned, None Call Me Mother and The Feeding of Sorrows (working title for the Four Horsemen novel). However, I’m going to turn more focus on some short stories.

This weekend is InConjunction, which is a much different con. I’ll be involved in a variety of panels plus I’ll be selling in the author’s alley next to Jon Osborne, another writer in the 4HU. Then I get home as quickly as I can. I should be back to Olathe on Sunday night.

I’m ready. It’s been a crazy last two months, and I still have a month or so to go. It’s been productive, and I’m really happy with the direction everything is going, but I am so glad I don’t have anything huge scheduled for a while after Pennsic.

Anyway, the stories aren’t going to write themselves, so I better get back to work.

Current Playlist Song

Something too low to hear over the voices of other guests, but with the occasional country twang.

Quote of the Week

I heard this song on the drive yesterday, and as my birthday approaches, it seems more and more relevant.

My life is slipping away
I’m aging every day
But even when I’m grey
I’ll still be grey my way
– Rush, “I Think I’m Going Bald”

News and Works in Progress

  • CB (6560)
  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s interview was with Rob Hobart, an amazing gamer and now a writer. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1229 and his Amazon page at: https://www.amazon.com/Sword-Amatsu-Empire-Moon-Book-ebook/dp/B07CWKP2LW/.

Today’s Weight: 386.8 (Last week)

Updated Word Count: 154,715 (Finally totaled up everything)

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 376 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: J. Edward Neill

One of the best parts of this profession is getting to meet all sorts of creative people. J. Edward Neill is one of those people. I really enjoy his covers, and I think 22 May is the perfect day for me to interview him here.

Interview: J. Edward Neill

What is your quest? To seek the Grail…of full-time creativity! I’m an author and artist, and my subject matter varies wildly. For my books, I like my readers to enjoy vivid, approachable stories while maybe…subtly…encountering moments of introspection. Meaning, I like to dip into philosophical discussions without anyone really knowing it. As for my art, I prefer to explore darker themes. Beauty coupled with death. Peaceful suffering. Unholy deathpunk machine demons. You know…the usual.

Dark Art of J. Edward Neill

What is your favorite color? Ever heard of sculpted paintings? No? Yeah, I get that a lot. Used to be, I’d paint typical 2D images on flat canvasses. By typical I mean portraits, monsters, weird abstract trees and cities. But in the last two years, I’ve paired with another artist to create 3D paintings. We use paper mache and spackle to build up images atop canvasses, and then we go nuts with a variety of dark, metallic acrylics and soupy watercolors. It’s crazy and loads of fun. I recommend everyone try it. (ed. note: Much like the Dread Pirate Roberts feels about masks)

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? Time, time, time. There’s never enough of it. In trying to balance writing full-length novels, creating philosophy handbooks, painting every night, and enduring the perils of single-fatherhood, I find myself permanently stretched. If I spend too much time writing, I crave to pick up a paintbrush. If I fall too deep into a new canvas, I beat myself up for not hammering out more words. And then there’s my son, who just wants to sword-fight in the backyard. He always gets to be Link. I’m just a lousy Bokoblin.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I’ve definitely (along with my art-partner) achieved some pretty cool successes with 3D art. Our styles, whipped together in a blender, are both light and dark, beautiful and terrifying. Last year we spent about a month sculpting and painting a giant, futuristic robot-spider hanging inside a web of machinery. It was exhilarating to finish! As for my books, I think I’ve struck a chord with my Coffee Table Philosophy books. I researched these, quite literally, by going to various Atlanta bars and asking tipsy strangers to answer philosophical questions. The results were…well…interesting.

Sticky the Laser Eyed Cat

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal!
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy. I like my food to break beneath my teeth.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Chicago Cubs. 2016, baby!
  • Cake or Pie? I’m a cake guy. Marie Antoinette speaks to my soul.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon. Especially Chik-Fil A lemonade, aka diabetes in a cup.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Queso with mega-spicy jalapenos.
  • Wet or Dry? I’m an ocean lover. Despite the jellyfish. Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Robert Rich. He makes these trippy, gloomy soundtracks. Absolutely perfect to paint by.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Scotch whiskey. The older, the better. Balvenie 21 Port.
  • Favorite Superhero? My grandmother. Faster than cancer. Stronger than a speeding Alzheimer’s. (ed. note: The hero Gotham needs, not the hero it deserves)
  • Steak Temperature? Medium. But really, I’ll eat any steak in the world if there’s scotch involved.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Was Lost in Space from the 70’s?  I can’t remember.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall. I like to enjoy long runs in the woods with the leaves tumbling all around me.
  • Favorite Pet?  Sticky, the laser-eyed cat!
  • Best Game Ever? Magic the Gathering. I’m a recovering addict. (ed. note: I had 3 of the Moxes. Then I gave them away *before* they got valuable)
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea. Strong and sweet.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Oooooo…tough question. I’ll go with fantasy, if only because the possibilities are even greater.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? I’m looking at your website, and I’m thinking you might like to LARP. True or false?

My Answer: One might make the case that there’s little distinction between LARPing and the SCA. And the case would be a good one in many ways. This year marks my 20th anniversary of joining the SCA, and it has helped me grow, including as a writer.

I have done very little of actual LARPing, though I did get to help run one at GenCon in the 90s. I was a designated NPC, and at one point they told me to “die interestingly.” So, I died half-on, half-off an elevator. And then they did the body tape thing. People who were just in Milwaukee, not there for Gen Con, got to the hotel elevator and there was half a body silhouetted in tape. The rest was on the 4th floor.

Also, I’d love to know your answer to this— if you could lock any two historical figures (dead or alive) in a cage for a fight to the death, which two would you pick?

My Answer: Wow, that’s a fascinating question. Here’s an answer, related to your interest in philosophy. Let’s go Hammurabi and Justinian in a duel of legal wits. But man, there’s so many fun choices.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And Where can we find you?

  • DragonCon 2018, baby! Come see me at my table.
  • Also, Pancakes & Booze Atlanta in July. Eat free flapjacks, get tipsy, and buy my terrifying paintings!
J. Edward Neill Cover Art

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

You should have asked: If you had to choose one creative outlet, and only one, which would it be?

So I could answer: Painting. Late at night. Alone in my dungeon-like basement. With music playing and a too-strong cocktail on the table.

You should also have asked: What have you done recently?

And I would answer that I’ve very recently finished up my big fiction trilogy – Eaters of the Light. Each cover was created by Amanda Makepeace, whose interview introduced me to you. This series will appeal to lovers of both fantasy AND sci-fi. Space vampires, holographic blue girls, and intergalactic heartbreak. It’s available now on Amazon.


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

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

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

 

Rob’s Update: No Quarter

Week 19 of 2018

Last weekend was Demicon. I’d like to give it a full AAR, but I’m tired and stressed about getting Brief Is My Flame completed. However, I will say that I had a great time, especially because there were so many of my SCA friends there.

The other event news is that I’ve decided to go to InConjunction on the way home from LibertyCon instead of going to Battlemoor. Part of the joy of Battlemoor was to get to go with my sweetie, but there’s a family reunion that week as well. In any case, I guess I’ll try Battlemoor next year, if the schedule works.

This week is all about getting Brief Is My Flame off to the editor and to my advance team. That’ll happen Tuesday.

Advance team? What’s that? Well, it’s a bunch of people who are going to get the raw, not-yet-fully-edited version of the book in part to help me avoid obvious mistakes and in part to help push initial reviews. Early reviews are important to Amazon.

Anyway, I’m still looking for about 10 people who are interested in helping with this. If you wish to help, drop me an email at rob@robhowell.org or direct message me on Facebook or Twitter.

With that, I’m going to get to my plans for the weekend. Write. Sleep. Write. With some sleeping. Maybe food.

Current Playlist Song

Tool’s cover the Led Zeppelin song “No Quarter.” It’s a much darker retelling of an already dark song. I love it.

Quote of the Week

“No Quarter” is such a fantastic song, I might as well pull this week’s quote from its lyrics.

The devil mocks their every step, ooh
The snow drives back the foot that’s slow
The dogs of doom are howling more

– Led Zeppelin, “No Quarter”

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (85k or so. I’ve split it apart to finish threads, has to be to my editor on Tuesday, so word counts aren’t quite as important as finishing it)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Amanda Makepeace, a tremendous science fiction and fantasy artist. You can find her work at:

Today’s Weight: 392.2

Updated Word Count: 33108

Shijuren Wiki: 756 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 331 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: Amanda Makepeace

I met Amanda Makepeace at DragonCon, I think. Whatever con it was, we got to talking about music that combines traditional instruments and metal or punk. Dropkick Murphys, Korpiklaani, Tengger Cavalry, Tyr… Er… sorry, I got distracted headbanging.

Anyway, crank up some Turisas and take a look at the answers of a great artist.

War for Jupiter
War for Jupiter

What is your quest?

I’m a Fantasy/SciFi Artist and Illustrator, which means I create dreams and visions for myself and others. My work can be found on book covers, inside game manuals and at several southern fandom conventions (like DragonCon in Atlanta). I’m inspired by nature, mythology and what lies beyond the stars.

Sharing what I love to create with others is the most rewarding part. I have my mother to blame for this crazy adventure. One of my most vivid memories is of her drawing one of my toy dinosaurs. I started drawing not long after and never stopped.

Amanda Makepeace Portrait
Amanda Makepeace Portrait

What is your favorite color?

I have soft spot for anything organic and primordial. That passion spans both my Fantasy and SciFi  art. Sometimes that applies simply to the colors I’m drawn toward; while other times, it’s the main elements and subjects of my work. It’s life—birth and death, creation and destruction.

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

There was a time when I thought I had to be either a Fantasy artist or a SciFi artist—I couldn’t be both. Silly idea when I look back on it now. Since unleashing them both I’ve been far happier and far more productive. The lesson here? Some artists work on very focused projects and it works for them. However, there’s nothing wrong with being more diverse, especially if that’s your calling. When you try to stifle your natural inclination you end up silencing the most important parts of you. Follow your heart.

Long List Anthology, Volume 3

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Late last year I provided art for the cover of the Long List Anthology Volume 3, which features stories from the Hugo nomination list. (ed. note: You can find the book here) The book was recently featured in a list of anthologies on the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog – 10 Recent Anthologies that Show Us What SFF Can Do. It’s little things like this that make my day. I’m currently working on another book cover for an anthology from the same editor.

Drusilla, Studio Cat Extraordinaire
Drusilla, Studio Cat Extraordinaire

Lightning Round

  • Crunchy or Creamy? – Both!
  • Cake or Pie? Pie. – Cake is good, but pie is love.
  • Lime or Lemon? – Lemon, but only if it’s lemonade.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? – Salsa!
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? – I think most everything I listen to (and I have eclectic tastes) someone has heard it, but Keith Jarrett may be a bit obscure?
  • Favorite Superhero? – Loki. He’s sometimes a hero, right?
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? The Bionic Woman
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, always.
  • Favorite Pet? – My studio cat, Drusilla, who also acts as my creative director and overlord.
  • Best Game Ever? Doom
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee. I like strong coffee with a lot of cream. I love lattes
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Is this a trick question?

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

At ChattaCon we talked for a bit about music and specifically metal bands. What’s a new band you’ve recently discovered?

My Answer: Oddly, it’s not so much new bands I’ve been getting into, but going back into some of the ones I’ve loved and delving deeper into their catalogue. For example, I just bought a bunch of older Steeleye Span. I’ve heard most of what’s on there, but I haven’t heard it enough.

I’ve also been buying a number of compilations to, again, get myself back with some music I’ve liked, but didn’t have on CD. I recently got a Rainbow compilation, along with a Blackmore’s Night CD. I’ll fill out all the Blackmore’s Night stuff eventually.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? (All the web presence you’d like me to link to)

And Where can we find you?

Forest Dreams

My next convention is LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN (June 29-July 1). I’ll be attending as professional, which means you can find me on the programming schedule. I’m also a part of the Art Show, where I’ll have art and prints for sale. Later in the summer I’ll be in the DragonCon Art Show again. I’ll be selling at my table and in the gallery of the show.

(ed. note: I’ll be there too. Looking forward to seeing the other 748 besides Amanda and I that will be there).

And we’ll finish with Amanda’s artist biography:

Amanda Makepeace is an award winning artist and illustrator. Her career in art began more than a decade ago while living abroad in the UK. In recent years, Amanda has worked with independent publishers and game companies. Her latest project was the cover art for the Long List Anthology Volume 3 – a book featuring Hugo nominated stories. She is also a regular at Fantasy and SciFi conventions in the southeast. Some of her awards include: Judges’ Choice Award in the JordanCon Art Show (2015), Best Space Scene in the DragonCon Art Show (2017), and Best Professional Science Fiction in the ChattaCon Art Show (2018).

Through her art, she explores mythology, magical beings, our connection to the planet, and even distant worlds. She is a member of the Changeling Artist Collective and Co-Founder of the Bird Whisperer Project. When she’s not in the studio, she can be found reconnecting with nature and the woods that inspired her as a child.


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

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

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

Rob’s Update: The Y-Option

Week 17 of 2018

Greetings all.

Well, the NFL draft came and went and it was all I expect. I’m really pleased with Dallas’s draft haul, and I’m impressed with the way they planned and went with their plan. The draft is an inexact science, but there’s very little I disagreed with at the time. They picked players that had value at the spot, that filled needs, and I think most will serve well.

Bigger than that, of course, is the retirement of Jason Witten. He’s what all of us should aspire to be. Tough, hard-working, and reliable. He’ll go into the Hall of Fame, and it should be on the first ballot. He was one of the faces of the Cowboys for 15 years. We’ll miss him on the field, but we’ll all get to see him as he’s going straight into the Monday Night Football booth.

Last year, Tony Romo announced his first Cowboys game on 5 November. This year? Jason Witten will announce his first Cowboy game on 5 November. Cowboy fans will always remember, remember the fifth of November.

One last Dallas Cowboys note. Amazon Prime has a show called All or Nothing, and it’s a behind the scenes look at a football team over a year. This season’s show is about the Cowboys. If you have the slightest interest in football or any of the controversies, or if you just want amazing reality TV, you should watch it. I’m only four episodes in, but it’s incredible.

Turning to this weekend, I’m leaving in a bit to go to Des Moines for DemiCon. I’ve not been before, but I’m excited because I have a lot of friends that are going.

Tomorrow, I’m scheduled for three panels, and they’re my usual ones on the Martin Koszta Affair, noir in SF/F, and blending genres. Should be a fun weekend.

Current Playlist Song

I’m actually getting the opportunity to write at Brewbaker’s today, which is such a great thing for me. Unfortunately, that puts me at the mercy of their overhead music. Sometimes it’s stuff I like, but today it’s something that is fortunately too low for me to hear. Instead, think of your favorite song and have a great day.

Quote of the Week

NFL play calls can be arcane, but in this case the Y-option is fairly simple. It’s a pass play describing a particular pass pattern The “Y” receiver is the tight end. He goes out about 8-12 yards and then has the option of turning any direction he wants. Jason Garrett, the coach of the Cowboys had this to say about Witten’s skill with this one route.

“It’s one of the great givens in all of sports,” Garrett said. “They say Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook was the greatest given – I’ll put Witten’s Y-Option against it any day of the week. We were down by three, we were on the plus 42-yard, and we said ‘We’re going for it,’” Garrett said. “This was the play of the game. We called Y-option.” – Jason Garrett

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (75k or so. I’ve split it apart to finish threads)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on fellow Four Horseman author Eric S. Brown, who has written a bunch of other stuff, especially horror. You can find his stuff at: https://www.amazon.com/Eric%20S.%20Brown/e/B004G6XP7E/

Today’s Weight: 391.8

Updated Word Count: Don’t have the count this week

Shijuren Wiki: 756 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 331entries

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 – Chaz Kemp

Greetings all

I’m starting a new semi-regular thing. As you probably know, I do a Spotlight on some artist, author, or vendor each week in my updates. This will be an expanded version of that, where I’ll interview some great independent and up-and-coming creators. I’ll ask hard-hitting questions like “What is their favorite Muppet?”

In truth, while I’ll be phrasing this in a light-hearted way, it is my hope that these interviews will have provide a little insight in their creative process. Remember, there’s one true creative process, and it’s the one that helps you create, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t learn what works for others.

I’m lucky to start off with Chaz Kemp. I met Chaz as part of Pandora Celtica when they came to house for a house with Sooj Tucker. It was an amazing show, and all of them gave me a bunch of CDs. I’ve listened to those over and over, and some are on the playlist that helps me write.

However, Chaz is not only a drummer and a singer, but also an excellent artist often focusing on Steampunk themes, such as this one:

You can find his work at:

The Interview

What is your quest?

To continue creating a multi-cultural steampunk/fantasy world called Ashelon by using my own Art Nouveau styled illustrations.  We’re also including novellas and short stories written by my wife, Carolyn Kay and other authors to help flesh out that world.

I want my dream and passion for Ashelon to be something amazing that fans can really groove on.

What is your favorite color?

I love creating my art digitally by using a vector-based program called CorelDraw.  It’s like Adobe Illustrator but I find it more versatile.  Through years of honing my technique, I can make my pieces feel more natural and the colors more vibrant while still embracing the illustrative quality I love so much. 

I also enjoy the way that I can make changes to my art on the fly by switching out colors, body positioning and even the backgrounds without having to take hours or even days repainting things just to try something new.

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

As a freelance artist, one of my biggest hurdles involved gaining respect.  I went out of my way to treat my clients with respect and kindness, but they didn’t always feel the need to reciprocate early in my career.

It took time to learn that I had the power to say ‘no’ when faced with the prospect of working with someone who wasn’t going to treat me well.  I could also say ‘no’ when a potential client didn’t want to adequately compensate me for the work I was to do for them.  As I won more awards and gained more of a reputation for doing good work, I ran into fewer problems.

Another challenge came with the frustration of trying to get in with big name companies like many of the New Age companies or table top RPG leaders. They just wouldn’t write back to me.

After talking with a few industry ‘insiders’ I discovered that most of those art directors don’t actually care about the artist or their art, all they really care about is whether they think the artist can make them money.  As an example, photo-realism is the hot style right now, so that’s all they’re interested in and those are the only artists they’re willing to hire. If I were a photo-realistic artist, all I’d ever be to them is a thing that made them money. So truthfully, getting rejected by them was actually them doing me a favor.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I feel that while I am inspired by the Art Nouveau movement and by Alphonse Mucha in particular, I don’t directly copy him.  I take the style and make it my own.  I love that many people can see his inspiration in my work.

I’m also quite proud of the fact that several of my main characters are multi-cultural because there isn’t enough of that in the Steampunk genre.  In reality, the 1800s happened everywhere, not just in Victorian England. So why have art centered around one culture when I can explore the ideas of Steampunk in every culture? When you do that, the ideas are endless and ongoing. Not only that, but we get to have multiple cultures represented in a way that you don’t normally see them and that’s just too cool.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?  Pepe the King Prawn – he’s quite hilarious.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy when it comes to peanut butter… Creamy when it comes to soup.
  • Favorite Sports Team?  Denver Nuggets all the way.
  • Cake or Pie?  Pie for sure… there are more varieties of pie and most of them are DELICIOUS!!
  • Lime or Lemon?  Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Bean dip FTW
  • Wet or Dry?  Wet when it comes to drinks like Moscow Mules – Dry when it comes to computers and socks.
  • Favorite Musical Performer we’ve Never Heard Of? Mark King of Level 42 – he’s a good song writer and singer, but an AMAZING bass player.
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Whiskaaaaaaaay!!
  • Steak Temperature?   Medium Well (ed. note: Sigh, it could be worse I suppose)
  • Favorite 1970s TV show?  Wonder Woman
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  Summer – perfect beach weather.
  • Favorite Pet?  Our cats Sif and Naira.
  • Coffee or Tea?  Coffee hands down!
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Fantasy every time.  The closest I get to Sci-Fi is either cyber punk (Which is cool) or Steampunk (Which is awesome)

What question would you like to ask me?

The fact that you have SO much information about your world of Shijuren is amazing.  I’d love to develop that level of detail for my world of Ashelon!  How long did it take you to create your world and what inspired you to do it?  

My Answer: It’s not really something I do all at once. I just use whatever inspiration comes to mind. If I run across something interesting, I toss that in.

One of my most useful tools is Wikipedia’s random article button. I will literally sit in front of a football game or something like that and just click it. Every time I see something interesting, I cut and paste into a Notes document. Then, when I am looking for something, a town, a new character, inspiration for an event, whatever, I glance at that. The randomness helps keep me from doing the things I always fall back upon.

I have also had help from people like Adam Hale, who does all the maps for me. I gave him license to add geographic details and names, based on certain parameters, and that helps shape strategic and tactical choices by my characters.

I love worldbuilding. I do a little bit here, a little bit there, and then suddenly there’s a thing.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

You should have asked, “What game are you currently grooving on?”  I would respond with Cards Against Humanity!!  We just had dinner at a friend’s house this past weekend where we played CaH and I laughed so hard, my face hurt the whole rest of the weekend.  So much fun!!

******

Speaking of fun, I enjoyed this quite a bit. I will start doing these on as many Tuesdays as I have one ready.

Thanks very much to Chaz for being the guinea pig and helping shape these questions. I know I’ll be seeing Chaz at ConQuest on Memorial Day. I suspect you’ll find us sharing a beverage at some point there.

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

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

Rob’s Update: Home Sweet Home

Week 12 of 2018

Greetings all

I’m back and mostly recovered from Gulf Wars. From a professional point of view, it was a productive time. I got lots written. I’ve finally broken the 50k barrier in Brief Is My Flame while tossing some towards None Call Me Mother.

I also sold enough to pay the gas and site fee. With this success, I made some new plans to expand my merchanting by getting my own booth at Gulf. I’m excited as it’s another step forward for me.

However, I did not have as much fun as I have had at such events before. These two things are not unrelated.

Basically, I came home from fairly long days and simply didn’t have as much energy as I wished to participate in the fun. Mostly, this was because I was so tired of talking to people that I needed to retreat.

Next year I’ll have my own spot, which will hopefully make things go a little smoother since I won’t be juggling two different camps. I won’t be on the corner in Calontir, but frankly, when I got home after working I wasn’t able to do the job of welcoming people to Calontir properly anyway. I’ll miss that spot, which I’ve occupied for the past fifteen years or so, but it’s time to move on.

I’d been contemplating expanding my wares to include stuff on consignment, other books, CDs, stuff we’ll make when we get a shop, and things that Giulia wants to make. By July I hope to have enough to sell to reasonably fill the front of my pavilion.

Over the past few years, Master Andrixos, the greatest trim monger I know and the owner of Calontir Trim, has greatly helped me. He’s taught me much of what’s involved in being a merchant and he’s done me any number of favors. I can’t thank him enough for his help.

But it’s time for me to have my own home at most events.

Current Playlist Song

Humorously, as I talk about taking the next leap into the wine-dark sea, the current song is Styx’s “Come Sail Away.”

Quote of the Week

Today’s quote is how my life seems as my professional life adapts alongside the personal one. I see a great future, but I have to muddle my way through the present.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

– Bilbo Baggins, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (1,144)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (50,597)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing new but check the blog on Tuesday as I’ll be adding a recurring feature.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Kevin Ikenberry, who just released a new novel in the Four Horsemen Universe. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Honor-Threat-Revelations-Cycle-Book-ebook/dp/B07BFWWL9W/

Today’s Weight: 387.8

Updated Word Count: 19,046

Shijuren Wiki: 741 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 195 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
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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

Rob’s Update: Truly, the Warrior Never Dies

Week 11 of 2018

I’ve been at Gulf Wars all week long and it’s been, as usual, productive. I spend the day in Calontir Trim writing and talking to customers. I sell pretty well, and I get lots of words on the page.

Today has been a little slow, though, as I shut down the Calontir Party last night. I might have needed a nap.

We’ve another day and a half of sales, then hoping to pack out on Saturday. We’ll see though, as the day tends to be really long. If I can do it, though, I can get to Hattiesburg, maybe even Jackson, and Sunday’s drive is much easier because I start earlier with a good shower.

As with all wars, it will be good to get home and see my sweetie. These events are lots of fun, and, as I’ve already said, productive, but they are also exhausting.

Current Playlist Song: None, actually, as I’m sitting in a tent listening to the wind blow the canvas and people having fun stepping out of time.

Quote of the Week

We always sing Warrior’s Wyrd by Ivar Battleskald many times during Gulf Wars. This year we sang it in honor of one of our own, Duane Nelson, who lost his battle with cancer this past weekend. The last line is: “If you do sing his song, truly the warrior never dies.”

Here’s us singing this song in honor of Ostwald, who passed while we were at SCA 50 Year last summer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj9TsprIgOk

I wrote this snippet a few weeks ago and it’s part of Brief Is My Flame: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=927. That’s Sveinn’s song I’m singing.

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (1144)
  • AFS (2681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (46,713)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing new to add as I’ve been at Gulf Wars

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Today, I’ll spotlight Quincy J. Allen, who has written quite a few things in quite a few styles. You can find his work at: https://www.amazon.com/Quincy-J.-Allen/e/B009C9C5SA/

Today’s Weight: No scales at the war

Updated Word Count: 18355

Shijuren Wiki: 741 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 187 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
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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