Category Archives: Interviews

Rob’s series of creator interviews, usually published each Wednesday.

Interview: Christopher Nuttall

When Valor Must Hold comes out in 2 days! I’m very excited. Today’s interview is with Christopher Nuttall. His story is “The Game’s Afoot” and it sort of a fantasy Guns of Navarone. I think you’ll all like it, and I’m honored that he participated.

Interview: Christopher Nuttall

What is your quest?

Christopher Nuttall
Christopher Nuttall

I try to write the sort of books I like to read – action and adventure, mainly; almost all science-fiction and fantasy.

What is your favorite color?

Too many things to count, really.  I like decaying empires and how they can -sometimes – flourish into something new.  I like exploring the use and abuse of magic, and how politics can interact with science to change the world.

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

I’d like to do a really big story – something akin to the Night’s Dawn or Game of Thrones books – but I find them a little annoying.  In my view, each novel should be at least partly a novel of its own – that’s what I’ve tried to do with the Schooled in Magic books – but that’s difficult to maintain. I have these ideas that are basically AMERICAN CIVIL WAR WITH MAGIC or GREAT WAR IN SPACE that would be huge, but force me to write in a format I don’t like or narrow the story too far.  No room for character development if the stories are small, you see <grin>.  The only person who did that in a single book was Tom Clancy – Red Storm Rising – and only a handful of his characters were truly 3D.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

The series I like the most, I think, is Schooled in Magic.  It draws on so many of my hobbies – history, alternate history, etc – and lets me have fun.  Ark Royal was an astonishing success, in so many ways – I’m proud I got so much out of it.

How do I write?  I come up with the plot, I sort it out and then I start writing.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? [Insert politician’s name here.]
  • Favorite Weird Color? Black.  You can’t go wrong with black.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You?  I like to think Bugs Bunny.  More likely … Millhouse.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A stack of books …
  • What Do You Secretly Plot?  I have ideas for stories that will probably never be written.
  • Favorite Sports Team? None.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Brown Sauce.
  • Favorite Cereal? Corn Pops.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The McCalmans- http://the-mccalmans.com/
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I don’t drink.
  • Favorite Superhero? Green Lantern (Kyle Reyner)
  • Steak Temperature? Medium-well.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring.
  • Best Game Ever? Chess.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea.  I go 3000 words to the pint.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Both.
  • Brought to you by the letter ___?  Q.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

Right now, I’m not due to attend any conventions.  My health is a constant issue right now – and I have kids!


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

 

Interview: Bill Webb

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

This week’s interview is with Bill Webb, whose story “Island of Bones” is good old-fashioned pulp fantasy. Heroes, ancient evils, horrifying monsters. All the good stuff.

Interview: Bill Webb

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? I’m heavily influenced by history, even in my fiction. At the end of the day stories are about characters, and most of my characters are humans. Since human nature is unchanging, and it is, the fun part becomes using those personality types in a new setting.For example, at its heart my series The Last Brigade is about the power of the individual to affect great events. This theme carries through in other stories like The Sting of Fate and The Moles of Vienna.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? That’s a very long list. Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Robert A. Heinlein, Karl Edward Wagner, all writers in the Four Horsemen Universe, John Babb, Fritz Leiber, Michael Connelly, Randy Wayne White…the list is nearly endless.
  • What made you a creator in the first place? It was probably the desire to emulate what I liked. I still have a ‘comic book’ that I started one day during High School Spanish class. I had colored pencils and everything, and drew it on ruled paper. My earliest known fiction story grew as a direct result of reading Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’ tales.But the actual compulsion to create came from somewhere out in the ether. I’m probably the worst person to guess what that means, because I have no idea why I first felt the need to share stories. Maybe I’m an insecure showoff who needs the validation of others to feel good about myself, or maybe I just like the idea of creating something new. If either one of those is true, I’m not the one to tell you which it is, because I don’t know.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? I’ve always thought the things I create chose me, but I guess there are lots of my creations jumping around and waving for my attention like children. And by writing a particular story, I’m choosing which one to pay attention to…okay then.It’s all very random. As a diehard pantser I always only start with a vague idea, and it’s always whatever seems appropriate at the moment. Oddly enough I do plan out which books I’m going to write when, so in that regard planning is important to me. But the actual creative process is about as haphazard as it gets.My rewrites almost always add substantial words to my first draft, so the choice of what to include and what not to lasts far beyond the point it does for most writers. In my experience, most writers pare down their first draft instead of expanding it.
  • What would you like to create someday? An alternate WW2 history series is one thing I want to create, which is actually coming later this year. I also would love to create an alternate Civil War series, Punic War series…and a space novel that I would really like to fit into the Four Horsemen Universe, but so far haven’t been able to make that work.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop? Home. I can work elsewhere, but I’m usually not as good at producing things. My office is a disaster, there’s paper everywhere, books, the usual detritus of a writer, and my desk has coffee stains everywhere. One limiting factor for me is that laptop keywords are too small for my hands, so I keep hitting the wrong keys.
  • Do you listen to music? Yes, 99% of the time it’s hard rock, and 95% of that time it’s my favorite band, Status Quo, or bands that grew out of Status Quo’s example, such as Piledriver or Predatür.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment? A TV. When not listening to music, the TV is on. I get some of my best dialogue from Jerry Springer. (Truth)
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Outlining. If it works for other writers, God bless ‘em, but it sure doesn’t work for me.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? Everything I write has some element of the power of the individual to affect events far beyond the scope of what one person can generally be thought to influence. I also love to play around with the role that Fate plays in great historical events. The Sting of Fate, for example, posits the difference that one wasp could have played on the history of the world, had it used its stinger at a critical moment.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? Some would argue, there are none. But I think I do a good job of putting my readers into the moment. I am often told by readers they can picture what I’m describing perfectly, despite the fact that I live by Roger Zelazny’s dictum of never using more than two descriptors. I’ve also become pretty adept at tell a scene, battles in particular, from various POVs.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? The way I was taught to write was my biggest obstacle, the one that took decades to purge. Being more or less a Creative Writing major in college, I learned how to write literary fiction. My teachers wanted me to emulate Faulkner, or James Joyce, and the word ‘genre’ might earn you an ‘F.’ I did learn to write beautiful sentences, but they went nowhere because the prose was the point, not the story. Out of sheer frustration I quit writing fiction in 1996 and didn’t try it again until 2014. By then I had gotten out of the habit of ignoring story and was able to write prose that people actually enjoyed.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? Trying to get an agent. The whole process is backward and ridiculous. Fortunately, I figured out that the whole concept of an agent is no longer important to me, or any writer that’s paying attention.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons? Boy do I. Whole filing cabinets full of them. I have one novel in which I combined hard SF with sword and sorcery. The concept isn’t impossible to pull off, some have done so, but it’s hard. I took this novel to a small press, this was in the 1980s, and they agreed to publish it, even naming an amount for an advance. But editor wanted me to expand a 70k word book to 120k. Keep in mind, this was before computers, so everything was written on a typewriter.I did it. It took two years, but I did it. However, I had not insisted on a contract, and when I finished the editor told me they weren’t publishing fiction anymore. He couldn’t pick up an phone and call me, even though we lived in the same city, he let me work for two years first.Needless to say, the bloated book read like a bloated book. I have since reused parts of it, but there are literally thousands of edited pages of that book still in my possession.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block?I have two methods. First, I don’t believe in writer’s block, I think that’s an excuse. It is for me, anyway. So if I get stuck at point, I either write another sentence no matter how bad it might be, and keep writing until the story starts flowing again, or I jump to a different scene and write that.If neither one of those works, I go to something different. It’s not unusual for me to work on 3 or 4 different projects in the same day.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Wasting time trying to get an agent so you can publish traditionally. The whole thing has become a farce. There are agents who actually charge for you to pitch to them at a conference. That’s indefensible.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? Listen to your own instincts. Attend writing classes, conferences, conventions and seminars, but write the way you like to read.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Status Quo.
  • Favorite Superhero? Ben Grimm.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? The first season of MASH. Marcia Strassman was hot.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Teal.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Memphis Tigers.
  • Best Game Ever? Chess.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? It’s X-rated.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Johnny Quest.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Wham-wham William.
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Pulling a Colt 1911.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To buy Jamaica.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? In my dreams.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? My kids.
  • Favorite Historical Period? World War Two.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Winston Churchill.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium well.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French onion.
  • Favorite Cereal? Raisin Bran.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Bacon cheeseburger with fries and chocolate shake.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Unleaded: Diet Pepsi. Leaded: mojito.
  • Do You Have Pets? Yes, seven dogs.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? If we was younger, Donald Sutherland. I once got a free meal by pretending to be his brother.
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? What book have you re-read the most?

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

What’s the best answer you’ve gotten to one of these interview questions?

Rob’s Answer: Probably Quincy Allen’s “Don’t let the naysayers win.” This isn’t an easy job, especially since it tests one’s confidence daily and we all deal with imposter syndrome. That’s the serious answer, but I’ll admit there’s been some fantastic Lightning Round answers. Those are often my favorites in a given interview.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • www.thelastbrigade.com
  • https://www.facebook.com/keepyouupallnightbooks
  • Currently on sale for .99, the Darrell-Award winning Sharp Steel. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0785PKZDF/
    And also in audiobook, read by the great Simon Vance.
  • Standing In Righteious Rage, The Last Brigade Book 5, is scheduled for release in early May. High Mountain Hunters, a planned book in the 4HU, should be delivered by mid-May. Also, I have agreed to a World War Two alternate history trilogy with Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press, titled A World Afire. It’s a great year for me to be stoked!

And where can we find you?

  • I’m a Special Guest at Tupelocon, the first weekend in March
  • Midsouthcon March 20-22
  • Libertycon in June
  • I’m also doing a signing at Fort Knox in July.

Do you have a creator biography?

Born and raised by a family of nomadic badgers in West Tennessee, Bill Webb wrote his first stories in grade school, terrifying all who knew him, and that was before he found comic books and science fiction.  (He is still angry at having a copy of X-Men #53 ripped out of his hands during 11th grade Spanish class.)

The release in 2016 of his Last Brigade series changed his career path by actually giving him a career path. The Time Wars and Sharp Steel and High Adventure series’ soon followed.

By age 25 he’d read all of the classics…Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Robert Heinlein, Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny. Later influences include Larry Niven, Jerry Pournell and Larry Corriea. Indulging himself in a double concentration at the University of Memphis of Creative Writing and History, college felt more like a long party than school.

After multiple careers in various industries, he much prefers writing books and stories to any sort of actual work. His idea of punching a clock these days is a coffee maker that finishes brewing its magic five minutes before he gets up in the morning.

Snippet from Bill’s new fantasy story, titled Beyond the Dead River.

The crocodile wanted to submerge, but she pulled back on the reins and kept the tired reptile swimming. The thrusts of its powerful tail had slowed, as had its paddling feet, but her stance astride its back allowed direct use of the spurs on her bootheels to keep it moving forward. At last it reached the river’s far shore and hauled the entire enormity of its bulk onto the mud flat. Rolling out the tethering chain, she looped it around the bole of a giant tree and scanned both ways for potential predators.

The dense jungle didn’t intimidate her. Vines with thorns and thick, oval leaves hung from trees taller than a castle’s keep, while a nearby stream emptied into the muddy river. Despite her knowledge of the rain forest, the dense undergrowth and deepening twilight left her dreading the need to travel in darkness deeper than the perpetual shadows of the rain forest. Her nostrils flared as she sniffed a light breeze for the scent of any nearby predators, and one eye twitched at a musky smell she knew belonged to a python. She would have to be very careful.

She had the lean, muscular physique of a warrior. Her limbs didn’t have the soft curves of a city born woman, but instead had muscles that appeared roughly cut from stone. Yet no one could mistake her for being a man. She had chosen her raiment specifically for travel through in the jungle. She had tucked loose trousers of well-worked animal leather into calf-high boots of snake-skin, with a leather shirt stretched tight across her chest. Two longs knives hung from a simple belt around her waist. Thick, curly black hair fell past her shoulders, held in place by a rawhide thong. A stained, short-brimmed hat protected her head from the countless overhead threats that inhabited the country through which she had to pass to achieve her mission.


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

 

Interview: D.J. Butler

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

You might notice this is coming out on Thursday. I seem to have misplaced Tuesday. Anyone know where I put it?

Anyway, this week is one of the cover authors from When Valor Must Hold, D.J. Butler. Butler’s story “No Trade for Nice Guys” reminded me so much of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser I’m re-reading those stories. Which of course reminds me of the original TSR Deities and Demigods, which I also re-read.

Let’s just say you’ll want more of his two main characters, Indrajit and Fix. Fortunately, they star in a full-length novel coming out in July, In the Palace of Shadow and Joy.

Interview: D.J. Butler
D.J. Butler
D.J. Butler

Why are you here?

What made you a creator in the first place? My parents gave me a copy of the silver jubilee 25th anniversary edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was seven or eight. I stayed in bed for a week reading them back to back to back, and I have been attempting to recapture that experience ever since. Tolkien has influenced what I write on every level, from the genres I choose to write in to the themes and subject matter to my obsession with including music as music in my novels.

What are other major influences on you? Other hugely important novelists to me are Mervyn Peake, Patrick O’Brien, and Dorothy Dunnett. My favorite current novelists in speculative fiction would have to be Tim Powers (I love his playful use of history) and Neal Stephenson (I love the fact that he tackles big ideas within rollicking yarns). There are also songwriters who have had an enormous impact on what I write and how I write it; chief among those would have to be Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave.

Are there lesser-known creators you favor? I love to buy art, including writing, by people I know. Some of the lesser-known writers who are my favorites include: L.J. Hachmeister, who writes young adult space opera adventure, including the Triorion Universe books; David J. West (also writing as James Alderdice), who writes terrific pulp fiction influenced by sources ranging from spaghetti westerns to H.P. Lovecraft to Conan to The Book of Mormon (!!!); Thad Diaz, whose Lunatic City launches a terrific noir cop series set on the moon; and Michaelbrent Collings, who writes principally horror, but has also written a delightful middle grade series called the Billy Saga and a reimagined mashup of Twilight and Peter Pan.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

The Cunning Man cover
The Cunning Man cover

Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop? Yes. Also: airports, airplanes, restaurants, trains, hotels, convention center floors, friends’ parlors, and the shotgun seats of moving cars. I still work for a living (as a corporate trainer and consultant), so I have to write when I can. For a time, I was a full-time writer, and I was very good at systematically writing twelve pages every day, six days a week, but that is unfortunately not my situation now. Now, I will go without writing for a month, and then spend a month trying to write 20 pages a day, however and whenever and wherever I can.

What helps you be productive? Deadlines and contracts. Close association with other writers, who are themselves being productive, inspires me. Reader communication is great—it’s very hard to write sequels if you have no idea whether anyone is reading book one. 

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

In the Palace of Shadow and Joy cover
In the Palace of Shadow and Joy cover

What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. I have long periods in which I do things in my life that are important and good, but are not writing. I have not been as successful as I want to be at writing every day, no mater what.

Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Never forget that, as a writer, you are an entrepreneur. You are shareholder, CEO, business development VP, head of manufacturing, salesman, and customer service, all at once. You are not an employee of your publisher or of your agent. Be actively engaged in growing your business at all time.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Dr. Teeth
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Bonnie Prince Billy
  • Favorite Superhero? Luke Cage
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Favorite Weird Color? Magenta
  • Best Game Ever? RuneQuest
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Your Wrestler Name? El Bigote
  • Steak Temperature? Hot. Medium rare.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French onion
  • Favorite Cereal? Bacon
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Bacon
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Diet Mountain Dew
  • Do You Have Pets? No

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  1. LibertyCon in Tennessee
  2. Dragon Con in Georgia

Do you have a creator biography?

D.J. (Dave) Butler has been a lawyer, a consultant, an editor, and a corporate trainer. His novels include Witchy Eye, Witchy Winter, and Witchy Kingdom from Baen Books, as well as The Cunning Man, co-written with Aaron Michael Ritchey, and the forthcoming pseudofantasy thriller, In the Palace of Shadow and Joy. He also writes for children: the steampunk fantasy adventure tales The Kidnap Plot, The Giant’s Seat, and The Library Machine are published by Knopf. Other novels include City of the Saints from WordFire Press.

Dave also organizes writing retreats and anarcho-libertarian writers’ events, and travels the country to sell books. He plays guitar and banjo whenever he can, and likes to hang out in Utah with his children.


Thanks to D.J. for taking the time to answer my questions.

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: Over the Top

Week 8 of 2020

Greetings all

It’s been a strange week where I know I got lots done but I don’t really have a great way to show it. My 4HU short story is about 1000 words larger, but that’s the only word count I can point to. If that were it, I’d be frustrated about this week.

Fortunately, it’s not it. I spent the week clearing up a variety of details on this and that, including finalizing my taxes.

One of the best things I can report is the advanced copies of When Valor Must Hold went out to readers this week. Each one of these steps makes it that much more real. That much less vaporware. The authors are excited, the publisher is excited, the readers are excited, so guess what? I’m excited too.

While I only show 1000 more words in the 4HU story, I edited out a couple of thousand and cleaned up what I got. I’m now at the point where I see the whole pattern and it’ll be done on time and it’ll be good.

This weekend, I’m going to an SCA event and then the first home game of the St. Louis Battlehawks. More excitement. Going to be a great weekend.

What I’m Listening To

Various big band jazz songs at Shameless Grounds, a coffee shop owned by a couple of friends in St. Louis.

Quote of the Week

Today is the 104th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Verdun. More people think of Gandalf when they think of this phrase today, but here’s General Petain at Verdun.

I might have mentioned this before, but my grandfather enlisted at the age of 14 to fight in WW1. He never got to the trenches because they knew he was too young, so they had him cut trees and that sort of thing, but he saw more than a 14-year-old should. I still have my copy of Arthur Guy Empey’s Over the Top which he gave me.

“Ils ne passeront pas!” – ‘They shall not pass!’”
– Henri-Philippe Petain, during the Battle of Verdun, 1916

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (108,716)
  • CB (8,418)
  • FSS (6,808)
  • RQS (1,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Jon Osborne, whose is one of the cover authors in When Valor Must Hold.

Today’s Weight: On the road, didn’t check today

Updated Word Count: On the road, didn’t check today

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

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

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Interview: Jon Osborne

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

This week, the interview is with Jon Osborne, who I think is a rising star. His story in When Valor Must Hold is called “The Errand” and you’ll love it.

Interview: Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne

Why are you here?

My early science fiction influences are Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, George Lucas, and Gene Roddenberry. My fantasy influences, which came later, were Charles de Lint, Randall Garrett, Steven Brust, and Gary Gygax. More contemporary inspiration comes from the likes of Eric Flint and Kevin Hearne.

I was a gamer before a writer. I started off as a Dungeon Master because I had the rules, and storytelling became addictive. I learned from an early age that characters will not do what you expect, nor do they care about your pre-conceived plans.

The Milesian Accords wasn’t a story that had been bouncing around for years. It coalesced while I was driving every week between Indianapolis and Chicago to deal with my parents’ estate. The beginning and ending of the story formed right away, and the rest filled in as I wrote the story.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

I do 95% of my writing in my home office on a sprawling, cluttered desk. When I played MMOs, I spent the bulk of my time parked in front of this corner desk, and when I transitioned to writing, I remained parked here.

I use YouTube for my background music. By and large, I listen to soundtracks. The most notable exception is the Mongolian heavy metal band The HU, and the funk band Here Come The Mummies.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so the coffee shop doesn’t hold an appeal for me. I’d rather have a whisky or beer in the comfort of my home rather than sit in an establishment full of strangers.

What are your superpowers?

Based on feedback, it appears I do dialogue well. Disney, if you’re reading this, I can help you out with that next Star Wars movie – you need it. I like to think I’m good at world-building – although my editors might say I get carried away – another trait from my background as a game master.

One of the things I had to overcome was my training – I majored in journalism in college, so I was taught to keep sentences short and my writing concise. Once I tried my hand at descriptive fiction, I found out I sucked at complex sentences – especially commas use. The way it sounded in my head was the opposite of how I should write. Fortunately, my publisher was a great mentor and patient with me.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

Superman has kryptonite, and I have squirrels. Staying focused is a huge challenge for me. In fact, I’m filling this out when I should be finishing a book. I’ve found I should keep my phone out of arm’s reach, as a quick checking of e-mail or social media turns into half an hour.

One thing I regret was never learning to type. Despite majoring in journalism in high school and college, I didn’t take typing classes. I mostly use my index fingers. If I typed faster, maybe I could keep up with my brain.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The Hu
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Favorite Weird Color? 633fcc
  • Favorite Sports Team? The Colts
  • Best Game Ever? D&D
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? When I found my missing cat on Christmas Day
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Scooby Doo
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? A 6 book RPG Lit series
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Sounds like too much work
  • Best Thing From the 80s? You expect me to pick one? Those were my high school and college years.
  • Favorite Historical Period? It depends on what Wikipedia page I’m looking at.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? See above.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Nacho cheese
  • Favorite Cereal? Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch (but it’s like eating peanut butter flavored gravel and will shred your mouth)
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? A bacon-wrapped fillet, french fries, and chili at the Ale Emporium
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Beer
  • Do You Have Pets? No
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? If you wrote under a (different) pen name, what would it be?

What question(s) would you like to ask me? What was the hardest book/story to write and why?

Rob’s Answer: So far, that clearly has to be None Call Me Mother. I’ve been working on it for two years now, and it still isn’t done. I’m getting close, but man this one hasn’t gone smoothly.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • CapriCon Feb 14-16
  • FantaSci Mar 20-22

Do you have a creator biography?

Jon R. Osborne is a veteran gamemaster and journalism major turned science fiction and fantasy author. The second book in the Jon’s The Milesian Accords modern fantasy trilogy, “A Tempered Warrior”, was a 2018 Dragon Awards finalist for Best Fantasy Novel. Jon is also a core author in the military science fiction Four Horseman Universe, where he was first published in 2017.

Jon resides in Indianapolis, where he plays role-playing games, writes science fiction and fantasy, and lives the nerd life. You can find out more at jonrosborne.com and at https://www.facebook.com/jonrosborne. 


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Christopher Woods

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

Today I’m interviewing Christopher Woods. His story Darkness Before the Dawn was a bit of new thing for him. He hadn’t done much fantasy writing before, but he’s a great writer so he gave me a great story. Also, it had a dragon and an ice wizard in it. If that sounds like the cover for When Valor Must Hold, it’s not a coincidence.

Interview: Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Most of the influences for my writing came from reading umpteen million books over a thirty year span. You can probably see different things as you read my work that remind you of other writers of days gone by. I’m not even sure if I can identify most of the particular places where this can be seen because there were so many. The biggest influence I have in my life is always my wife, Wendy. She makes me a better person and keeps me going when I feel like quitting. Her heart is big enough that I have trouble understanding how it all fits in such a tiny person.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? I have a long list of authors I dearly love, some living, some gone. Louis L’Amour may have been the best story teller I have ever read. Edgar Rice Burroughs told stories of heroes, with good and evil at odds with one another. Heroes triumph in the end. David Weber was the reason I got into Military Sci-Fi by writing his Honor Harrington series. Later I met the man and he is one of the nicest people I know in the industry. I have to give props to Chris Kennedy, who turned a writing career into a very successful publishing career. There are a slew of writers I have read that could be added to the list but it would take a novel to list them all.
  • What made you a creator in the first place? I have always written short stories but nothing that was intended to see the world at large. An active imagination and a lot of comic books had me writing stories in various comic universes. I don’t even know where those stories ever got too. The things I have published are much more recent. They sprang from a time when I was basically living in the attic room at my dad’s. I had gotten divorced, had my home foreclosed on, and gone through bankruptcy. The economy had just tanked and I was working a factory job that only gave us three days per week. I had a great deal of time and very little money, so I wrote a book.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? The first book, Soulguard, came from a dream I had three nights in a row. Seemed like a good place to start so I did. I have several things I want to do. I want to continue from several of the short stories I have done over the last year. The fantasy, Darkness Before the Dawn is one of them. Traitor’s Moon from the Salvage Universe of Kevin Steverson begs to be continued. There are three more Soulguard books to finish out that series. I would like to do a western as close to the style of Louis L’Amour as I can manage. In fact, I would like to write several.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • When Valor Must Hold
    When Valor Must Hold

    Where do you work? Mostly from home. Sometimes I work away from the house and I write there after the work is done, but most of my writing happens in my office.

  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples. I am a huge fan of Heavy Metal. Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Stone Sour, and Godsmack, to name a few. Lately I have found Shaman’s Harvest and really like their music.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment? I work in a roomful of stuff my wife has procured to give away at the conventions. There is also a stupid cat that seems to like walking across my hwfwfguwfgwfjjffrncusjuq28 keyboard.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? I’ve tried to write when I was physically exhausted and it doesn’t work very well. So now I try to write in the mornings before I go to work. It seems to work a lot better for me.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I want a happy ending. Sometimes it will be laced with loss but my heroes win in the end.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I’ve been told my dialogue is very good and the humor is enjoyed.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? Becoming a published author is probably the greatest success I can think of aside from finding Wendy. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to find her but I do know how I became a published author. She kept telling me “just do it, people will love it”, until I did and I found out she was right.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? I can never seem to get the work done where I can just focus on the writing. I had planned to be done by the end of 2019 and I still have a month or two ahead of me.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons? Readers may not follow you to another series. Sometimes they won’t even follow you to another character in the same series. There is no guarantee people will read the “next” book. The lesson is to just keep going, even when the readers don’t follow. At some point you will get new readers, you just have to keep doing the work.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? Sometimes I will take a break and play some video games. Sometimes it will be wood working. Music helps jar me out of any writer’s block too.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up too soon. There may be a time when you feel like you just aren’t good enough. When that happens, try to learn what the problem is and rectify it. Don’t give in. I wrote Fallen World and it sat doing nothing for close to two years. I decided to approach it from a different angle and put it with Chris Kennedy where we opened the world to other writers. It’s now selling and growing. Don’t give up. Look for a different approach.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? Start sooner.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Shaman’s Harvest
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Dukes of Hazzard
  • Favorite Weird Color? Candy apple red
  • Favorite Sports Team? Not a sports guy
  • Best Game Ever? Skyrim
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Wendy
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Grape Ape
  • Your Wrestler Name? Fat Boy Slim
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Run around screaming with my arms in the air
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Conquering the world
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Can’t let you in on the secret… Yet. Soon.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Hair bands
  • Favorite Historical Period? Old west
  • Most Interesting Person In History? The first guy to literally strap a rocket to his back and go into space. That guy would be interesting, I believe.
  • Steak Temperature? Med Rare
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Sour cream and ranch
  • Favorite Cereal? Marshmallow Fruity Pebbles
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Something loaded with carbs
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Diet Pepsi
  • Do You Have Pets? A fat dog and a retarded cat.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Kevin Smith or Jack Black
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? You got it covered.

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

How goes the book writing on your end? What have you got coming up?

Rob’s Answer: I’m in that drudge stage on None Call Me Mother where I’m juggling 110k and turning them into a story instead a random collection of words held hostage. I’m also writing my short story for the next 4HU anthology and soon will right a prequel for my story from We Dare.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • theprofessionalliar.com https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherWoodsSoulguard
  • https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00PEAG6WM
  • Daskada, the Legend – Feb 28,
  • Farmer’s Creed– available now
  • Salvage Conquest—Available now
  • Give Me LibertyCon (co-edited with Toni Weisskopf)
  • Freedom’s Challenge (Soulguard Book 6)
  • Dogs of God: Science Fiction According to Chris (anthology)
  • Co-authored book in Fallen World with Chris Kennedy (as yet unnamed)
  • New story in Salvage Universe anthology number 2, Farmer’s Accord (The Fallen World)
  • Traitor’s Moon novel (Salvage Universe)

And where can we find you?

  • FantaSci in Durham, NC March 20 – 22
  • LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN June 12-14
  • DragonCon in Atlanta, GA Sep 3-7,

Do you have a creator biography?

Christopher Woods, teller of tales, writer of fiction, and professional liar is the author of multiple series. His popular Soulguard series, the Legend series in the Four Horsemen Universe, The Fallen World, and Traitor’s Moon in Kevin Steverson’s Salvage Universe. He has written nine novels and been featured in several anthologies. As a carpenter of thirty years, he spends his time building, whether it be homes or worlds. He lives in Woodbury, TN with his wonderful wife and daughter. To see what he is doing just go to www.theprofessionalliar.com .


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Quincy J. Allen

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

This week’s interview comes from Quincy J. Allen, a fantastic author who’s already made a name for himself though I think he’s still a rising star.  His story is a Fistful of Silver, set in his Guardians of Pelinon universe, and it’s something as if Raymond Chandler wrote Sparhawk instead of David Eddings. Needless to say, I loved it.

Interview: QJ Allen
QJ Allen
QJ Allen

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences?
    Jullian May, Robert Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Keith Laumer, Jack Chalker, Kenneth C. Flint, Poul Anderson, Steven Brust
  • Who are some favorite other creators?
    Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), Frank Herbert (Dune), Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), Jon Favreau (EVERYTHING)
  • What made you a creator in the first place?
    Seriously, though, I wrote my first fiction story in the 3rd or 4th grade. I’ve always written. Writing got me through primary, secondary, Bachelors, and Masters education. It was always there in every professional job I ever had. And when I got RIFed in 2009, it made more sense to just try and be a professional writer.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create?
    As a boy, I read the Jupiter Jones mysteries and loved them. A few years later, my older brother handed me his copy of “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame,” and I was hooked. There was no going back, and I devoured science fiction and sci-fi crossed with others from there on out. I read fantasy, but my staple was science fiction. When I discovered Julian May’s “The Many Colored Land” series, which is pure cross genre between sci-fi and fantasy, I truly fell in love. So, I’ve written what I love as much as possible.
  • What would someday like to create.
    The entire Blood War Chronicles series of six books is a setup so that I can write Skeeter’s story as a 30-year-old airship privateer captain gunslinger sorceress engineer. So, that will be a thing. I also plan on writing a three-book series set in that same universe that connects the three great fires of the 19th century via a Jesuit witch/demon hunter. I’ll be writing a powered armor series as well as a new fantasy series involving druids. But I have to get my current commitments behind me, and that’s no mean feat.
Blood War Cover
Blood War Cover

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop?
    I take my laptop everywhere when I travel with my wife. She travels for her job, so I sometimes get to tag along for free trips. She has mad hotel and airline points. My actual workspace, however, is in our two story shop in the back yard. It triples as her sewing room, my actual work shop for carpentry, repairs, leather working, and whatnot, as well as a three-monitor workstation where I used to also run a small book design and author collateral marketing business. I spend most of my waking time out in a shop so I can open the doors in the summer and use the kerosene heater in the winter.
  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples.
    I’ve never been able to work without music. It drove my old man crazy when I was a kid, but that part wasn’t negotiable. The first thing I do when I get into the shop is fire up Pandora. As to my music tastes, they’re more expansive than anyone I’ve ever met, and they can be quite eclectic. On any give day, you can hear Pentatonix, Joe Bonamassa, The Hu (Mongolian death metal), Steely Dan, Steam Powered Giraffe, Bach, Mozart, Five Finger Death Punch, electronica, daft punk, techno, Celtic—pretty much everything except modern country twang and most rap. Those two are a hard no, Bob.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment?
    Cigars and my tobacco pipe. I work better with them. Oh, and COFFEE. Always coffee in the morning. And whenever I can manage it, fresh air and the sound of birds. Our house is surrounded by trees here in North Carolina. I come from Colorado, where there aren’t many trees until you get to the mountains. Here, it’s pretty much a friggin bird sanctuary, and I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of the Carolinas.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked?
    Romance writing, for one. I don’t have a knack for literary fiction either. That stuff bores the shit out of me. I’ve written variations on just about all of the genres, however. Science fiction, mystery, noir, fantasy, steampunk, horror, speculative… most of my stories mix at least two of those.
Enforcer Cover
Enforcer Cover

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations?
    I’ve been told (and I agree) that I do three things fairly well. Fight scenes, dialogue, and descriptions. I’ve also been honing my skills with world building, and I think I’ve finally gotten pretty good at that. If I had to pick one, though, it would probably be hand-to-hand fight scenes. I used to train in martial arts pretty heavily, even with a marine and a Green Beret. I can see a fight in my head, and that seems to translate pretty well to the written word. That’s the rumor, at least.
  • What are specific techniques you do well?
    I’ve done it on three separate instances, and in all of them, the process was smooth and the output worth the effort. I’ve gotten pretty good at outlining as a result of those projects, although my outlines become a mix of bullet points and dialogue. I’ve also gotten pretty good at popping up prose with a more active voice. There are hiccups from time to time, but I’ve mostly broken myself of the passive voice devil.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome?
    One certainly was passive voice. Also, as a result of working with Marc Edelheit, I’ve gotten much better at flowing from one scene into the next. Looking back, I think there were pieces of a story that I skipped over. The result wasn’t jarring, per se, but what I’m doing now is much smoother as one reads through my prose. Also, I think I’ve gotten at least competent as capturing a single, targeted emotion that I want the reader to experience by the end of a story. Most of the time, especially in my short fiction, I strive to make the reader “feel” something very specific. Be it honor or sacrifice or duty or whatever, I’ve learned to write entire stories so that most of the prose leads to that experience.
Reclaiming Honor Cover
Reclaiming Honor Cover

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you?
    The first is sticking with a writing career when sales are lackluster or even worse. A perfect example is the Blood War Chronicles. They’re good books, with good reviews, but they haven’t created the revenue stream I’d hoped for. In fact, I’ve been at this game for ten—make that eleven—years now, and I can’t say that I earn a living with my writing. I think that’s the hardest part for most writers: sticking with this game even when you’re not selling. I often joke with a writer friend of mine, Aaron Ritchey, about how we’re “living the dream.” But that dream is the joke. We keep writing, we keep not selling the way we would like, and yet we keep writing. I think the other is that I’m really proud of at least a few short stories (Family Heirloom, Salting Dogwood, Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebels of Hayberry, and a few others, that I think are exceptional short stories, but they’ve never really been acknowledged for what I “think” they are. Granted, I have a bias, but I believe those stories are truly noteworthy.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons?
    From a monetary perspective, I think you could call everything I ever wrote in the first nine years of my career (except one story I wrote for Larry Correia’s MHI franchise) as failures. None of them came close to providing an ROI on the time I’ve invested in them. However, that’s hasn’t slowed me down. And that’s the lesson, one I think most writers could learn from. If you keep going and keep getting better, eventually you’re bound to gain momentum. My work in recent years with Marc Edelheit, Kevin Ikenberry, and CKP are a testament to that. Last year and this year are seeing actual returns on my investment of time. The trick is to keep going and always hone your craft.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block?
    I take Eric Flint’s advice. There is no writer’s block. You keep writing, because it’s your job. Either you are a writer and you write, or you’re a hobbyist who doesn’t want to earn a living at this mad career choice.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making?
    I’ve said this at cons and in panels dozens of times: “Don’t let the nay-sayers win.” I grew up hearing the phrase, “What? You want to be a starving artist the rest of your life.” As a young man, I listened to this “advice.” If I had started in earnest at 20 what I ended up starting at 43, I’d already be earning a living at this game. It just takes time and determination, so long as you keep getting better. So, to any writer who hears/reads this, when someone questions your desire to become a writer, just tell them to fuck off. Keep going, make sure your bills are paid, keep your bills low, and DON’T QUIT.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be?
    See above. That’s the best advice anyone in this crazy game could receive. Writers have enough doubt and imposter syndrome without getting it from outside sources. Find ways to kick the nay-sayers to the curb.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal, of course. Oh, and Sam the Eagle.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ian Moore and Joe Bonamassa.
  • Favorite Superhero? Both the Punisher and Deadpool in a perfect tie.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Monty Python
  • Favorite Weird Color? Teal
  • Favorite Sports Team? Sidney Swans
  • Best Game Ever? Halo, OF COURSE. That and Mass Effect.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? I fucking HATE snow and delight when it dies.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? My 2016 Moto Guzzi Audace. Vicki got that for me for my birthday last year. Nothing else compares.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Did they make Roy Batty into a cartoon? If so, him. If not, I guess I’d have to say the dog Marc Antony in the old Warner Brother’s cartoon “Feed the Kitty.” Ask Vicki, she’ll tell you.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Wrath
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? The Smash. A single fist to the crown of someone’s skull. REALLY hard.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Convincing Vicki that we need an AR-10 and a Marlin .357 lever action rifle in the house.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? By eliminating deceit everywhere.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? 11:59:50 pm on 12/31/1989 — the nightmare was over.
  • Favorite Historical Period? The Renaissance and dawn of looking to the stars as stars, not “the Heavens.”
  • Most Interesting Person In History? The alien that gave humans blue eyes.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare… or I’ll cut you.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Really good 7-layer dip.
  • Favorite Cereal? As a kid, Honeycomb. Now, Honey Bunches of Oats topped with sliced peaches rather than milk.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Pad Thai made by Vicki’s son, and it was REALLY good. We’re all cooks around here.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Arnold Palmer, Costco flavored seltzer, Tennesee Mules, Margaritas, and COFFEE, lots of COFFEE.
  • Pachy
    Pachy

    Do You Have Pets? He was Vicki’s dog before I moved in, but he’s my dog too, and he’s the best hound I’ve ever known.

  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Rutger Hauer when he was younger and not dead?
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Favorite food(s), nemesis, favorite vice, Commandments broken or Deadly Sins enjoyed.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • https://www.amazon.com/Quincy-J-Allen/e/B009C9C5SA
  • http://www.quincyallen.com/
  • Reclaiming Honor” with Marc Edelheit and “Enforcer” with Kevin Ikenberry.
  • Upcoming Projects: “Forging Destiny” – Book 2 of The Way of Legend with Marc Edelheit, “Scourge” – Book 2 of Hr’ent’s tale with Kevin Ikenberry, “Blood World” – Book 4 of The Blood War Chronicles, a Vorwhol novel for Kevin Steverson in his Salvage universe, and a novelization of the short story “Cradle and All” in Jamie Ibson’s universe.

And where can we find you?

  • ConCarolina
  • SAGA conference
  • LibertyCon
  • DragonCon

Do you have a creator biography?

National Bestselling Author Quincy J. Allen is a cross-genre author with a growing number of published novels under his belt. His media tie-in novel Colt the Outlander: Shadow of Ruin was a Scribe Award finalist in 2019, and his noir novel Chemical Burn was a Colorado Gold Award finalist in 2010.

Blood Oath, book 3 of his Blood War Chronicles series, debuted in February of 2019, and he is working on the fourth book in that six-book fantasy steampunk series, entitled Blood World, due out in 2020.

He co-authored the fantasy novel Reclaiming Honor with Marc Alan Edelheit in their Way of Legend series, released in October of 2019, and he is currently working on book 2 of that series. In November of 2019, he and Kevin Ikenberry published the novel Enforcer, which is set in the Four Horsemen Universe and is part of Ikenberry’s Peacemaker series. He is currently working on a novel for Kevin Steverson’s Salvage Title universe based upon the short story “Vorwhol Dishonor.”

His short story publications are numerous, including a pro sale appearing in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter: Files from Baen, published in October of 2017 entitled “Sons of the Father,” as well as several pro-sale novelettes appearing in Chris Kennedy Publishing’s mil-sci-fi anthologies in and out of the Four Horsemen Universe. He also has two short story collections in his Out Through the Attic series, and he continues to add to his short-story credits with each passing year.

He works out of his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and hopes to one day be a New York Times bestselling author.

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

You should have asked if I only work alone or do I have a support  mechanism? What keeps me going?

Then I’d answer that Vicki is my anchor and more supportive of my writing career than anyone else in my entire life.


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: RJ Ladon

Greetings all

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

Today’s interview is with RJ Ladon. Her story in When Valor Must Hold is called “Ogre’s Brownies” and it too is a story that isn’t in one of my normal subgenres. Again, though, the story was so good I had to take it.

Interview RJ Ladon
RJ Ladon
RJ Ladon

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Gary Gygax was a huge influence. He bought our horse ranch when I was nine and introduced my siblings and I to Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t understand who he was, it was the idea of playing/acting out stories. Not just any stories, but my or my brother’s stories, that was the influence.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? Terry Pratchett, Neil Giaman, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, Walter Farley, Octavia Butler, and so many more. My bus ride to and from school was 60-70 minutes, I read both ways, going through 2-3 novels in one week. I started on non-fiction in my senior year (no car).
  • What made you a creator in the first place? See the first question in this series. Plus, my family tends to be on the creative side of things – art stained glass, sewing, painting, sculpture, carpentry, etc. My day job is on the creative side of things -computer aided design.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? Sometimes it is love – love of a character or location. Other times it is a challenge. My first acceptance into an anthology was for Sha’Daa Toys. I had never written horror before. Challenge Accepted! I would like to try my hand at romance, this is a bit scary for me. Another challenge to conquer!

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? My middle son, graduated, joined the Navy, quit, and came back home. Joke’s on him – I turned his bedroom into a writing and design studio, and I’m not about to give it up! A friend gave me a rolltop desk and, as of this Black Friday, I have a brand-new gaming computer to write and draw. I’ve been putting in 2-3 hours of writing everyday – some days more, some less.
  • Do you listen to music? Sometimes If I do, it will be Audio Machine or Two Steps from Hell. Both are known for their movie and videogame soundtracks.

http://audiomachine.com/  https://www.twostepsfromhell.com/

  • Ladon's Mouse
    Ladon’s Mouse

    What other things exist in your productive environment? Lots of reference books on mythology and science. ART created by others or myself. Sketchpads and drawing utensils including electronic drawing, sketching, photoshop and map making. Thank you, to Worth1000 and this mouse picture to inspire a scene in The Ogres Brownies – found in When Valor Must Hold.

  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Writing in front of TV. Helping my daughter with homework and trying to write – no good. Trying to keep cats out of the room or off my desk, etc – they are noisy, just let them in and let them sleep in your lap.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I’m a nature nut. So, I add anything animal, vegetable, or mineral and hopefully it will be educational to boot. I also enjoy mythology, as my pen name can attest – RJ Ladon. Ladon is the name of the dragon/hydra Hercules had to defeat to obtain the apple from the tree of wisdom.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I don’t know – I suppose I have thick skin and take critique quite well. (probably not what you meant.) I’ve been told I weave backstory in smoothly without disruption of the narrative.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? My biggest struggle is against myself. Self-doubt is a bitch. My biggest success is due to the persistence of others. Friends told me they would drag me kicking and screaming to the writer’s conventions and get me published. And they did.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? When I first joined a writer’s group, there was no direction for improvement, only vague comments like “this is bad” or “doesn’t make sense”. Eventually I went to a different group and that one was better, more instructive. Some friends have encouraged me to start my own group – now the mentor. Some things have stayed the same – I still have a lot to learn.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? My day job is computer aided design. I come up with designs, show them to engineers, and customers and within minutes I am told my design is wrong. While this sounds like a failure, the design is only wrong because “they” imagined it another way. Most of the time my design would work fine. Other times, I missed an important specification or component within a requirement, that is a failure. When a mistake is pointed out, it is not a failure it is a learning opportunity that will improve your design, (or book) next time.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? I draw. I create a map of the area I’m writing about. Or draw the character. If you can’t draw use models. Pinterest is quite helpful in that arena. I will “become” the character mentally and imagine how I would react, what would I do or say if I was that person/animal/rock/vegetable…
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest. This piece of wisdom came from a fortune cookie – but it is so true. Also – It is only too late to start when you are on the other side of the grass.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? My mother was negative about anything I did. She told me I’d never get published. I would tell my 20-year-old self “Don’t listen to your mother – or anyone else who is negative!”

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Sweetums.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Pretty much anyone at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
  • Favorite Superhero? Today? Megan, Daughter of the Wolf
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Ya, know I revisited some 70’s shows and they were horrible. Plot line? What plot line? I suppose I’ll go with The Muppets – Alice Cooper 😊 or Steve Martin.
  • Favorite Weird Color? All of them but not all at once.
  • Favorite Sports Team? SCA Heavy Weapons – no specific kingdom though.
  • Best Game Ever? Life!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? All of them for different reasons.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Someone believing in me – Looking at you Scott, You Jerk! (Kicking and Screaming)
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Courage the Cowardly Dog.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Broadzilla – my husband gave me the name.
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? You see that? I can break it, without trying. If I can’t break it – I will probably hurt myself in the process. I am stronger and klutzier than anyone has a right to be. Couch, broke it. Window, nods affirmative, foot, yup that too, Torque the head off a bolt? Sigh, do I have to answer that one?
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Ways to make the world better.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? One soul at a time.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? It isn’t around anymore, oh wait, it is 60 years in the future… Hum, now you got me thinking.
  • Favorite Historical Period? Most of them for different reasons – here’s hoping the future is even better.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Professor Peabody
  • Steak Temperature? I’d rather have chicken.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Don’t plan on dying, I’m taking over the world, remember?
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Hot Tea – Mint
  • Do You Have Pets? 7 cats 1 dog and 20 or so chickens. Way too many pictures.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Sweetums 😊
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Can’t think of one. Perhaps one I ask you?

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

  • When did you realize you could put more than two words together and be entertaining?

Rob’s Answer: Ummm, not sure. I didn’t write when I was younger, though I learned somewhere along the way how to tell stories. I have some idea I’m making progress because of increasing sales and improving opportunities. Nevertheless, I still don’t know if I’ve put words together until someone else looks at it. I’m still a work in progress, that’s for sure.

  • Who was your mentor? Must be someone you met not just idolized from afar.

Rob’s Answer: The closest thing is probably Chris Kennedy. He’s certainly given me opportunities and taught me a bunch. Again, I started writing at 46 and did so in a hermit sort of way. I researched a bunch and went to LibertyCon to listen. I learned a ton, and owe so many people thanks for taking the time to toss stuff at me. However, it all started with me trying to dig myself out of a hole.

  • Are you active in the SCA? In what capacity?

Rob’s Answer: Not as active as I used to be. I got to about an event a month, and I sell at a lot of them. Pennsic and Gulf Wars are two great events for me. I make money and get to hang out and sing. I’m a laurel for wordsmithing and Anglo-Saxon research, which I have to say might answer your first question. I guess I learned I could do something when I saw people crying happily at the scroll texts I wrote for them. Now I just socialize and sell, though fighting will happen again.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

RJ Ladon is a nightshift writer (by choice) and a dayshift design engineer (by necessity) to pay for the afore mentioned writing addiction. She is a self-proclaimed tree-hugger and animal-lover. If she is not in her garden, pasture, or woods you can find RJ watching movies or reading books. Documentaries, thrillers, comedies, science fiction, fantasy, and even romance can be found in her book and video library. She lives with her husband, children and a variety of farm animals on a farmette in Wisconsin.


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Benjamin Tyler Smith

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

Today’s answers come from Benjamin Tyler Smith. He’s an up-and-coming author who you guys are going to really like, if you don’t already.

His story in When Valor Must Hold is “Hanging by a Thread.” This story, set in his Necrolopolis universe, combines the weary cop trying to keep the criminals of his city to a dull roar with practical necromancy.

I will say his interview answers have much more life than many characters in his stories. Of course, they’re undead, so…

Interview: Benjamin Tyler Smith

Benjamin Tyler Smith
Benjamin Tyler Smith

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences?

Fantasy books by some of the greats (Raymond E. Feist, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, to name a few), anime in a ton of genres (Mecha, Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Magical Girl), and role playing games of various sorts (Most notably Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV and VI, Baldur’s Gate, and Betrayal at Krondor).

  • Who are some favorite other creators?

Feist, Eddings, and Jordan as mentioned above. Also Kate Elliott for her Crown of Stars series, Elizabeth Haydon for her Symphony of Ages series, and Dan Abnett for his Gaunt’s Ghost series. Over in Japan, I love Reki Kawahara (Sword Art Online), Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina), Nagaru Tanigawa (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), and Kenichi Sonoda (Gunsmith Cats), to name a few.

More recently, my favorite creators include Kacey Ezell (“Minds of Men” is awesome, as are any of her stories of the Depik race in the Four Horsemen Universe), Christopher Woods for his Fallen World novels (Now I know I’m biased, but I burned through his first book in record time, then listened to it again), Mark Wandrey for his Four Horsemen stories, especially the ones about Jim Cartwright.

  • What made you a creator in the first place?

God, when He created me. I’ve always told stories, made things up, and eventually started putting those imaginings down on paper, first as King Arthur fanfiction, then as Star Wars fanfiction, and finally as my own stuff as the years have gone by. Even if I made no money writing, I would still do it. It wouldn’t be my career so I wouldn’t be able to do it as much, but I’d still do it in some form or another. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  • Why did you choose to create what you create?

Things just come to me. Often when I’m listening to music or watching anime. I can’t listen to anything without getting some kind of scene or character or plot idea, and when I’m watching a good movie or show, certain moments just inspire me, either to write something similar or to take a particular emotion I feel and try to recreate it.

  • Feel free to add things you would someday like to create.

I’ve got way too many ideas, likely more than God’s given me years on this Earth. That said, I do have some plans. For this year, my focus is on building out the Fallen World universe with at least one sequel to Blue Crucible, as well as a short story or two. I also have a Jackie Warren book planned out for the Four Horsemen Universe. That’ll be a sequel on the “Return to Sender” story in the Tales from the Lyons Den anthology from late 2018. I also want to write the first book set in the Necrolopolis universe, which will feature a lot of the characters from the short story “Hanging by a Thread” that’ll be in the upcoming sword-and-sorcery anthology When Valor Must Hold. And then there are other things like a Magical Girl meets Apocalypse Now story, a zombie high school story, and other weird things like that. Like I said, too many ideas!

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop?

It depends on the day. Once a month I head over to a local restaurant or the nearest Chick-Fil-A with just a notebook and maybe a book on the writing craft, and I get to it. Drafting, brainstorming, studying. Mostly, though, I’m in the basement at home, with my writing laptop and snacks to keep me from venturing upstairs too often. That way lies distractions, cats needing affection, and games that desire to be played. (It’s totally them, not me, right?)

  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples.

I mostly listen to video game and anime music. When I’m hip-deep in the writing, it’s all instrumentals. When I’m brainstorming, outlining, or editing, vocals can be mixed in. Otherwise, the lyrics can end up distracting me when I’m actually drafting.

  • What other things exist in your productive environment?

In the basement, I have a little table where I’ve got my writing laptop, a few craft books for reference, some snacks, and a pair of cross-shaped cufflinks given to me by Larry Dixon back during World Fantasy Con of 2016 over in Columbus, Ohio.

  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked?

Two things. The first is spending too much time in the outlining and brainstorming phase. It’s not so bad with short fiction, as there are only so many factors to take into account for a 5,000 – 10,000 word piece. But, during the writing of Blue Crucible (My first contribution to Christopher Woods’ Fallen World universe) I went from the initial idea sometime in June of last year to finally sitting down to draft it in October and November. Granted, I had a couple other short stories that needed to be finished, but a lot of time was wasted spinning my wheels. So, going forward, I’m going to strive to not spend as much time in that phase of the writing.

And the second is an area I will make work, because I have to. That’s running the blog and maintaining a social media presence. It’s something I’ve tried to start a few times, and it’s always run aground as I’ve focused more and more on writing. That part’s a good thing, but I still need to be out there. Not only to promote, but also to maintain connections to fellow writers and to readers.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations?

I like my characters. The plots can sometimes be hard for me to come up with, but I usually don’t have a problem with the core group of characters. Whether it’s Jackie Warren the arms dealer and her team of body guards in the Four Horesemen Universe, or it’s Lieutenant Nathan Ward and his squad of fellow mounted cops in the Fallen World Universe, or it’s Necromancer Adelvell and his band of undead misfits in my Necrolopolis universe, there’s someone for every reader to relate to, to root for, to laugh with, and to cry with.

  • What are specific techniques you do well?

I’ve been told that I do believable dialogue, with the characters having unique voices that don’t require too many tags to keep up with. I’ve also been told that my action sequences read like a movie or anime scene. Easy to visualize, easy to follow. I’m a harsh critic of my own writing, so I don’t know that I agree with that! But, I’ve heard it enough to give it credence.

  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome?

Completing this first novel all the way to the point of submission. I’ve drafted two other novels, both years ago. I never went back and edited them because they would need to be completely rewritten. I just didn’t know enough. With Blue Crucible, I feel like I’ve finally come around to understanding story structure enough to pull off a full-length work. Is it going to be perfect? No, and nothing I write ever will be. Nothing anyone writes ever will be, save for the Bible (And the writers had a little bit of help from on high for that). But, it was written to the best of my ability at the time, and I know the next book will be even better.

Another success, again involving Blue Crucible, has been to finally start writing with a lot more emotion. The protagonist, Lieutenant Nathan Ward, goes through hell during this book. It begins right on the day the bombs drop in Chris Woods’ Fallen World universe, and he witnesses as his hometown disappears off the map, along with a good bit of the country. He’s distraught, he’s upset, he’s barely holding it together. There are times where he breaks down and weeps. That’s hard for me to write, because it’s not comfortable for me to experience or see. But, with the encouragement of a couple good writer friends I pushed through and showed a lot more raw emotion than I ever have. And I think that’s where my writing’s been the weakest all these years, so I’m excited to see how readers view some of those emotional scenes.

 What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you?

My own resistance to writing is a personal challenge, and I know I’m not unique in that. Writing, as much fun as it is, is still a brain-burning task. It’s not difficult in the sense that we’re solving complex math equations (Well, maybe the hard sci-fi writers are) or performing life saving surgery or commanding thousands of employees or soldiers, but we’re still utilizing a lot more of the brain than we do in a lot of everyday tasks, even everyday work tasks. And the brain doesn’t always want to do that, so when it comes time to sit down and do the gritty work of writing, distractions abound! Suddenly the most amazing thing in the world is cleaning the toilets or washing the car or cooking dinner, and the writing doesn’t get done.

The other low point came when I went to my first writer’s conference and found out just how deeply political the traditional publishing industry has become (Or always has been, and maybe I just never noticed). I left there having made a few acquaintances and having met a lot of wonderful people, but overall I was very discouraged. It seemed like the industry was stacked against certain demographics and certain political and religious persuasions, and it didn’t matter how good a story you could write if you fell into those categories. My dreams of traditional publishing weren’t dashed exactly, but they were tarnished quite a bit.

And then I went to LibertyCon in 2017, and my whole perspective changed. Baen, Chris Kennedy Publishing, Copperdog Publishing, and other big to small presses out there just wanted a good story. We could have our differing views as writers and professionals and still be colleagues and even friends. What mattered was the skill and the professionalism.

  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons?

Lots of rejections, which I know is normal. I’ve had so many short stories get rejected from contests, from magazines, from token publications that I could reroof the house with the manuscripts and the rejection slips.

That said, the only thing that helped me more than the first time I received an editor’s feedback on an accepted piece (Venessa Giunta, if you’re reading this, thank you so much!) was the first time I received a personal rejection message. When an editor or assistant editor takes time out of their busy schedule to tell you why your manuscript didn’t make the final cut, you know you’re on the right track. Because they don’t do that unless they see something in your writing, something they want to see more of. The rejection still stings, but take heart! You’re in the top 5% to 10% at that point.

  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block?

In the past, before I wanted to make this a career I would try waiting for the muse to strike. That never seemed to work, but it made for a good excuse to get distracted with other things. Good things like work and car repairs and chores, and bad things like marathon sessions of video games and other entertainment.

Now I just do the clichéd thing that always works: sit down in a room with limited distractions, and it’s either write or stare at the wall. Staring at the wall gets old after about five minutes, so I inevitably put my fingers to the keyboard and type. After about an hour, I’m typing nonstop, and before I know it, six hours have gone by and it’s time for dinner.

  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making?

Don’t wait. I spent years wanting to write, and dabbling in it, but I wasn’t really, truly serious about it until 2013 or so, when I started studying the craft. I’ve been writing regularly since about 2008 (with starts and stops before that, through high school and college), but I didn’t look to improve my abilities and technique until several years into it. So, yeah, wherever you’re at, realize you can do better and strive to be better. Don’t let other people talk you out of it, and don’t talk yourself out of it. If it’s something you want to do – if it’s something you’re driven to do – then just sit down and do it. And know that there are people out there eager to read what you produce, and even more eager to see you improve with each work.

  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be?

The above statement, in all its form. I should’ve focused on writing as a career from the beginning. I always pushed it aside as a “Well, maybe by the time I’m 25. Maybe by the time I’m 30. Maybe by the time…” Nope, little Ben, sit down and get to it. This is what God’s put you on this Earth to do, and you need to do it before He smites you for your indolence.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?Do Rigel and Pilot from Farscape count as muppets?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Does Hatsune Miku count? She’s a little on the artificial side, but what singer isn’t these days?
  • Favorite Superhero? All Might from the anime My Hero Academia, followed by Deku, the protagonist from that series. Greatest superhero saga I’ve ever seen, hands down. Highly recommended.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Dukes of Hazzard for the 70’s. Magnum P.I. and the A-Team for the 80’s.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Stanky Bean, closely followed by Dorkwood and Bank Butt.https://www.geek.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot-51817-1211-PM-625×908.jpeg
  • Favorite Sports Team? Haven’t watched much sports since high school, so I’ll have to say, “Whichever team my friends aren’t rooting for in the Superbowl.” It’s fun being the contrarian.
  • Best Game Ever? Whichever Superbowl it was that the Patriots came from behind and completely dominated. It was like a switch was thrown at half-time, and then they just owned the field. Or maybe they owned it the whole time and decided it was time to show that.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Salvation of the soul is the greatest gift God has given me. After that, it’s the love of my wife. And after that, the cover art for Blue Crucible. I never thought my first book would have such epic artwork. Chris Kennedy has my gratitude.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? If we’re talking western animation, then J.T. Marsh from ExoSquad. If we’re talking eastern animation, then Naofumi Iwatani from Rising of the Shield Hero.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Sweet Tea Man
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Something akin to the Atomic Elbow Drop, like the “Deep Steep” or the “Dentist’s Drill.”
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To unseat the publishing giants and restore the writing world to one that’s based on merit and entertainment value.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? By southernizing everyone with sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, and gumbo.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? The NES, followed by Rototech and Bubblegum Crisis.
  • Favorite Historical Period? Toss-up between Medieval Europe and Revolutionary America
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Joan of Arc. Illiterate peasant girl who rallied a failing army, liberated a city, and died a martyr’s death without ever once relinquishing her faith. I’m looking forward to meeting her on the other side.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium and above.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? The hot bacon cheese spread we make for Christmas Eve every year.  https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/hot-bacon-cheese-spread/
  • Favorite Cereal? Honey Bunches of Oats, all the way. After that, Waffle Crisp.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Whatever it is, I’m washing it down with sweet iced tea.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Sweet iced tea.
  • Do You Have Pets? I serve in the Court of the Calico Countess alongside her castellan, Earl Grey.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Vin Diesel, ‘cuz why not?
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Least desired and most desired cause of death.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • Website/Blog: BenjaminTylerSmith.com
  • Twitter: @BenTylerSmith
  • Facebook: Benjamin Tyler Smith
  • Blue Crucible will be out in early April! Look for it on Chris Kennedy Publishing’s site!
  • I’m working on the sequel to Blue Crucible and the first Jackie Warren novel in the Four Horsemen Universe. So, expect lots of post-apocalyptic sci-fi and military sci-fi action for 2020!

And where can we find you?

I will be at FantaSci and LibertyCon this year. Hope we can meet up there!

Do you have a creator biography?

By day Ben earns his bread as a necro-cartographer, and by night he writes about undead, aliens, and everything in-between. His first novel is Blue Crucible, published by Chris Kennedy Publishing and set in Christopher Woods’ post-apocalyptic Fallen World universe. Other works include short stories set in CKP’s Four Horsemen military sci-fi universe, the Sha’Daa dark fantasy/horror universe by Copperdog Publishing, and pieces that wound up as finalists for Baen contests both in 2018 and 2019. He is working on the sequel to Blue Crucible, as well as a Four Horsemen novel, both of which will be finished by the end of 2020.

Married to a saint of a woman, ruled by a benevolent calico countess, he can be found at BenjaminTylerSmith.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@BenTylerSmith).


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Cedar Sanderson

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

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

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

Interview: Cedar Sanderson

Cedar Sanderson
Cedar Sanderson

Why are you here?

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

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

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

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

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

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

What are your superpowers?

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

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

 What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

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

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

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

 Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell