Category Archives: Personal

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

Which One?

A friend of mine who is a Vikings fan is concerned about rumors that the Vikings might replace their current QBs with Kirk Cousins, now that he seems available. His position is that while Cousins is a fine quarterback, the cost to obtain him will be greater than any difference between him and the QBs currently on the roster.

The discussion requires more than what I can do with Twitter, even with 280 characters, so I’m going to do a blog post.

The QBs in question are:
Kirk Cousins (29 years old, 57 games started)
Teddy Bridgewater (25 yo, 28 gs)
Sam Bradford (30 yo, 80 gs)
Case Keenum (30 yo, 38 gs)

Teddy Bridgewater is the youngest, and the rest are all essentially the same age. Bridgewater is also the one with the least number of games started, but we still have about two full years of data to work with.

The single most important stat when looking at QB passing is ANY/A. This is Average Net Yards per Attempt. Here is the formula: (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) – 45*(interceptions thrown) – sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks). Since it is per attempt, we can get an idea of efficiency per play, which will reward skill as opposed to opportunity.  I’m not going to use this raw stat, but instead use the indexed version called ANY/A+ where 100 is average for a given year, so an ANY/A+ of over 100 is better than average, and less than 100 is worse than average.

I’ll also use the indexed version of some other stats. If you see a “+” in a stat, then again 100 is average for a year. Indexing makes it much more clear how a player is doing in a given year.

I’m also going to refer to AV, which is a stat the Pro Football Reference came up with to get a general approximation of player value. You can find more about its use and limitation here: https://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/index37a8.html. It’s not a perfect stat, but it helps with general things like games played, durability, all-pro years, and that sort of thing. I’ll divide AV by games started to get an idea of what the game average is.

The above focus on passing only, so when I break things down later, I’m also going to refer to QBR, ESPN’s proprietary stat that includes running ability, and the raw rushing and fumble stats. Quarterback rating and ANY/A do not include their ability to rush, and for some quarterbacks, that’s a big part of their contribution.

So let’s see how they stack up on three  main stats. One note, all of these are their career stats, in order to get the largest possible sample size. I’ll discuss individual years as needed.

Anyway, here are the QBs:
Cousins (ANY/A+ 109, Rating+ 107,  AV/gs 0.75)
Bridgewater (ANY/A+ 91, Rating+ 97,  AV/gs 0.79)
Bradford (ANY/A+ 93, Rating+ 97,  AV/gs 0.60)
Keenum (ANY/A+ 99, Rating+ 97,  AV/gs 0.63)

One note, I’m fudging a bit on Bridgewater and Keenum’s ANY/A+ and Rating+, since they haven’t played enough games for Pro Football Reference to have totaled their career results. I calculated the scores as best I could, but I might be off by a bit. Keenum, in particular, I might be shortchanging. Still, these are close enough to work with.

As you can see, the only place where Cousins doesn’t dominate the others is Bridgewater’s AV/gs. In all the rest of the categories, each of the others is below average, while Cousins is well above average.

Let’s glance at the subsidiary stats to see if we can find why Bridgewater’s AV/gs is so high and see if there’s a way that the other QBs can match Cousins. Here we’ll see yards per carry, yards per game, and fumbles per game. Since there are much fewer of these than pass attempts, I’ll toss out a few years where the QB didn’t play much and these numbers obscure, rather than show, the actual talent in question.

Cousins (3.0 ypc, 6.7 ypg, 0.65 f/g)
Bridgewater (4.4 ypc, 14.3 ypg, 0.39 f/g)
Bradford (2.4 ypc, 4.3 ypg, 0.59 f/g)
Keenum (3.4 ypc, 7.9 ypg, 0.42 f/g)

Here we can see that if we take rushing into account Bridgewater is clearly the best of them all. He rushes for more yards per carry and per game and has fewer fumbles than them all. Bradford is awful at running, while Cousins and Keenum are mediocre. Cousins main problem, though, is his fumbles per game, worst of the four.

However, let’s look at QBR, which attempts to quantify all of the above to see if that problem puts one of the other QBs over the top. We can’t see a true average here, so I’m going to list the QBR for each QB the years where they played more than 10 games.

Cousins (71.7, 66.1, 50.5)
Bridgewater (54.4, 57.5)
Bradford (47.0, 30.5, 51.6, 42.1, 57.3)
Keenum (37.1, 71.3)

As you can see, Cousins comes off well here again. Keenum had one very good year this past year, but that might be his career year. Certainly, it represents a major step up from previous years, where he has had some decent opportunities. Bradford has these mediocre years, but was off to a great start in 2017, having a 72.4 QBR in those first 2 games. However, that’s a really small sample size and I would not lend it much credence.

It’s also clear that last year was the worst one as a starter for Cousins. His completion percentage was down, interceptions up, fumbles up, and his ANY/A was the worst of his starter years by quite a bit. Also, in 2017 his sack percentage almost doubled from 2016, leading me to think he was running for his life, thereby hurting his production. Thus, 2017 seems like it’s an aberration, but even with that he was about where the others were, except for Keenum, in QBR, and his career rating and ANY/A is much better than the rest.

But then, what about Keenum? Is that 71.3 reflective of him finally getting a full shot or just a career year. I would guess it’s a career year, as everything screams fluke year. His completion percentage hovered around 60% in all of his previous years, but he had a 67.6% completion percentage in 2017. His TD rate was around 2.9 previous, but was 4.5 in 2017. He threw far fewer INTs per pass. In short, in every category he was markedly better than his previous level of play.

Given their similar age (Cousins being younger by about half a year), and their prior track record, I will bet good money that Cousins would significantly outperform Keenum, given the same OLine and receiver set.

Interestingly, all of these QBs are unrestricted free agents. The Vikings might have a case that Bridgewater is under contract for another year, but it’s iffy and they don’t plan to contest it, thus Bridgewater will be free.

That means all of these will command big salaries if they are signed to be the starter. To discuss them, I will assume five year contracts to be consistent with Jimmy Garappolo’s recent contract that sets the bar.

Keenum will probably be the least expensive, but if signed to be a starter, I would expect a contract in the upper teens. Same for Bridgewater. Bradford is unlikely to sign with anyone for less than $20 million per year, if signed to be a starter, and he will expect that.

Cousins will be the most effective, and I bet he’ll be something like five years, $145 million, with something like $80 million guaranteed. That’s more money than Garappolo, but less guaranteed, which I think is likely given the age difference. I could be wrong, though, and Cousins might get over $100 million guaranteed.

Now, given this research here: http://socalledfantasyexperts.com/aging-curve-nfl-offensive-players-every-single-position, we can guess how the QBs will play out a five year contract.

Assuming Keenum’s only good year is valid, he would looking something like this, based on a normal AV aging curve: 13 AV, 12, 12, 10, and 9, or 56 AV total over the life of a 5 year contract. That’s his ceiling.

Bradford, based on 2016’s AV (last full season), would look something like 10, 9, 9, 7, 6, which is clearly much worse than Keenum. How Bradford keeps getting paid is beyond me. He’s a bad QB and will continue to be so.

Bridgewater is the only one of the QBs on the upslope of his aging curve. If he is healthy, a big if, and if he returns to his 2016 form at age 23, then his AV curve could look like:  15, 16, 16, 15, 15, or a total of 77. That’s probably an ideal scenario for him, though, given the severity of his injury. We don’t actually know if he’s recovered.

I’m going to also choose Cousins’ 2016 year, which matches the curve better and reflects more of his QBR base than last year where his OLine let him down. His AV curve would then go something like 15, 14, 14, 13, 12, giving a total of 68. This seems a likely scenario for me, and those are very good AVs.

In the end, I would still choose Cousins over Bridgewater because Bridgewater’s primary argument is based upon him returning fully healthy and then immediately going back to where he was at 23, thereby fulfilling his aging curve. Cousins, on the other hand, bases his argument on being a much better passer over a larger sample size.

Basically, I don’t think Bridgewater fulfills that aging curve projection. One, I took the best possible scenario. Two, I don’t think he’s healthy. He certainly didn’t look it last year. Also, the Vikings have to know his medical situation better than anyone and they are not trying to keep him for one more year of his rookie contract.

This, to me, is huge. Rookie contracts in the NFL are great for teams. Like I said, a starting QB in the NFL starts at around $15 million per year, whereas the final year of a rookie contract is under $1 million. If Bridgewater was healthy, the Vikings would work real hard to keep that huge hit off their salary cap.

Now, if you know, absolutely know, that Bridgewater can come back and still improve based on a normal aging curve, then you’ll want to give Bridgewater the 5 year contract. The Vikings, however, have chosen to go away from him, meaning of the rest, Cousins is the clear winner to me.

So, there you go. The answer was closer than I expected, and I didn’t actually expect Bridgewater to be the primary competition for Cousins, but age is huge in the NFL. Still, I feel confident that Cousins would be the best of these four options for the Vikings.

Which means as a Cowboys fan, I’m rooting for Cousins to go to the Broncos.

Rob’s Update: Waving Towards the Clearing Sky

Week 8 of 2018

Greetings everyone, with a special shout out to all of those I added this week. Thanks for joining me here.

It was a busy week, highlighted by Planet Comicon. I had a great time, and it was my best year yet. You can find my full AAR at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=950.

One result from Planet Comicon is discovery of some more regional cons. You’ll see that I’ve added O Comic Con, an Omaha convention to my list. I’ve got several others I’m looking at in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Salina, and Hutchinson. Going to be a busy summer.

Sometimes the exhaustion of a busy con like Planet Comicon can help me think through things. I don’t have a solid number of words on Brief Is My Flame this week because I’m in the midst of switching something around. Basically, I had characters coming at something in one direction and that was fighting me. By flipping the direction, everything falls into place. The good news is that all the work I’ve done will go directly into None Call Me Mother.

I didn’t get a chance to do much writing on anything else. I did some work on the Wikis, but essentially this last week was about Planet Comicon and nothing else.

However, after I recover from a successful convention, I tend to get enthusiastic about where I am and what I’m doing. Sometimes writing is just a slog, but you gotta push through that. Not this week.

In fact, it’s time for me to get back to work.

Current Playlist Song: “Peaceable Kingdom” by Rush. Now Rush has effectively called it quits, but we thought that might be the case in the late 90s after a couple of tragedies made it so that Neil Peart didn’t want to play anymore. However, he came back and Rush gave us three brilliant albums: Vapor Trails, Snakes & Arrows, and Clockwork Angels. This one is from Vapor Trails.

Quote of the Week

Today is the birthday of Anthony Daniels. You might know him better as C-3PO. Here’s a quote from the man himself.

“I have a greater appreciation for kitchen appliances, having played one.” – Anthony Daniels

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (1144)
  • AFS (2681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (?)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Today’s spotlight is on a just released novel in the Four Horsemen Universe, Assassin by Kacey Ezell and Marisa Wolf. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079YTRLFN/

Today’s Weight: 384.0

Updated Word Count: 14441

Shijuren Wiki: 738 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 159 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

Random Music Thoughts

As I travel around, my mind contemplates a variety of things. Often, this helps my writing, and I will use the voice recorder on my phone.

One thing that’s become abundantly clear is that I’m getting my money’s worth from my subscription to Sirius XM. I got nearly all the NFL games I wanted to listen to last year, along with Rangers baseball and plenty of Premier League football. And the fantasy sports channel actually has some people who look at real numbers. Good stuff.

Of course, many of them are music. Most are rock, including several metal channels. In general, I’m listening to a broader range of music than ever before. The bad news is that my CD buying list is getting larger.

There is an oddball channel, oddball at least in terms of every other music channel. There’s a channel that plays 1930s and 40s big band stuff. Glen Miller, Glen Gray, Andrews Sisters, Duke Ellington, that sort of stuff.

And now what I desperately want is for Mike Portnoy to gather a bunch of musicians do an album of hard rock / metal covers of big band songs.

Part of this stems from Sam Nunn’s Evolution of Metal documentary where he looked at the roots of metal. One of the people he talked to was Bill Ward, drummer for Black Sabbath, who pointed out how the power of big band songs was taken by Black Sabbath and their successors. Look at “In the Mood,” for example, and think of its up-tempo beat. Now imagine metal guitars hammering that rhythm, maybe alongside trumpets, maybe not, but I hear something that could be really awesome.

Why Mike Portnoy? I can’t think of anyone who has collaborated with more hard rock and heavy metal musicians right now, plus he has a broad, jazzy, progressive rock background that could translate well.

Who are some of the others I’d like to see? Well, I’d love to hear Jonathan Davis and Maynard James Keenan. Bruce Dickinson would be awesome. And, of course, my favorite voice right now, Serj Tankian. I don’t like Lady Gaga’s music, but I don’t know too many with better voices. Put her with Lizzie Hale and one of the Nightwish singers and you could do some amazing Andrews Sisters number.

Oddly, I’d like Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill simply for their voices, despite the fact one’s a drummer and the other’s a guitarist, because King’s X has some of the best harmonies of any hard rock band ever.

On guitar, I want to hear what Zakk Wylde would do. Scott Ian, with his hip-hop metal collaborations, would add an interesting feel. Given Ward’s comments, I’d want Tony Iommi. Joe Satriani and John Petrucci would add a diverse feel, though I don’t know if Petrucci would be willing to work with Portnoy given their past. All these would be good, but the two I most want are Richie Blackmore, with his interest in translating medieval music to modern guitar, and Alex Lifeson. It’s not like Alex is working on any thing else right now.

Same would be said for Geddy Lee. He’d be my first choice. Gotta include Dug Pinnock, and the thought of Lee and Pinnock having a bass off just gives me chills. I also think Steve Harris would have a blast.

On drums, this might be the one project Neil Peart might join, if he got a chance to do some of Buddy Rich’s music. Mike would of course be the primary drummer, but I’d also want Bill Ward and I’d bet Ginger Baker would jump at the chance, assuming he can still play.

These are the names that come to mind quickly, but I’m sure there’s more.

As for songs, I’d want a mix of the big ones like “In the Mood,” but it’d be neat for them to pick some of their personal favorites.

So. Who do I know can tell Mike Portnoy to make this happen?