Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Alex Rath

The interviews are back! This week I’m interviewing Alex Rath, another of the many talented authors writing the Four Horsemen Universe. It’s a throwback to last year’s Four Horsetober.

Quick side note, since it’s been a while. I’ll post an interview of a creator each Wednesday. If you’re a creator, whether author, musician, artist, or crafter, and you’d like to be interviewed, send me an email at rob@robhowell.org and I’ll send you the questions.

Now, on to Alex…

Interview: Alex Rath
Alex Rath
Alex Rath

What is your quest? At the moment, my focus has been on the Four Horsemen Universe (though that’s expanding). Pretty much all of my characters will take in parts of my own personality, the big one of that being versatile, and creative. As a person who has spent 25 years in technology, starting in the days when we had very limited tools, and had to be very creative in how to accomplish our goals with only a language and no libraries or pre-made routines to work with, I always had to invent the wheel. My characters tend to do the same, and it’s a lot of fun to take things that exist in a universe, and think of a new way to apply it.

What is your favorite color? I like a combination of intense action, sprinkle in some humor, often in the form of a pop-culture reference, and then throw in some emotion from out of left field to catch the reader off guard. So far, each of my stories have had at least one scene that evokes some kind of emotional response. Even though I’m writing military science fiction, I want the readers to feel the humanity of my characters, and hopefully find at least one they can relate to and say “Yep, I know that feeling.”

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I’m fairly new to the writing game… but I’d say my biggest frustration has just been getting stuck or coming up short. I have a tendency to ‘get to the point’ which doesn’t really make a good read. I’m not accomplished at all at outlining or plotting a book and tend to ‘pants’ my way through it. That’s something I’m still trying to figure out how to work on, because both of my works so far have “ended” short of where I wanted them to be in length. Now, I don’t try to get more length just to get it… I just feel like it needs to be a certain length to contain an interesting story that gets the reader involved in the characters, which is one of my big goals.

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? Based on feedback from readers, I’d say I’m pretty good at conveying emotion, and getting the reader to FEEL that emotion. I had quite a few reviews and private comments on my first book, written with Chris Kennedy, that indicated I’d nailed the point home when it comes to dealing with the loss of comrades in a military setting. One particular person was brought to tears, and it’s a person I know well, and understand why. That was, for me, the highest praise I could possibly get, especially given that it’s not something I have personally experienced, other than losing friends who served.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
  • Your Wrestler Name? Spartan  (duh, lol)
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Blade Chop
  • Favorite Weird Color? Chartreuse
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Take over the internet
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Yosemite Sam
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Secret Labs Titan Series office chair
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Making people learn to research facts
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? R
  • Favorite Sports Team? Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps  (Drum corps is a sport, fight me) Rob’s Note: Nah, it totally is, and I’m one of the biggest sports fans around.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip?   French Onion
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Here Come the Mummies
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Neither… I quit drinking
  • Favorite Superhero? Deadpool
  • Steak Temperature? Mid-Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? W.A.T.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  Lacy, my bearded dragon!
  • Best Game Ever? Dungeons & Dragons
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Yes

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

Rob’s Answer: Mostly pantsing, though I have a general idea where characters are going to end up like dying heroically, falling in love, or whatever seems appropriate. I find, though, that the characters know the path to those ends better than I do.

Also, I often will have a scene come to mind in the shower, lying in bed, driving, or other such time where my mind can roam a bit. In a sense, I plot one scene at a time, and wait for the pantser in me to generate that scene.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Do you have a creator biography?

Alex Rath is a Military Science Fiction and Fantasy author, currently residing in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife and daughter.

He has been creative in one form or another since childhood. He got his start in fantasy with Dungeons and Dragons in 1979, and kept going from there. Some of the ideas that he writes come from his extensive experience in Role Playing Games, starting with D&D, and onward through other games like Star Fleet Battles, Battletech/Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, Masquerade, and too many more to name.

From there, he took his creativity online to more online games than can be remembered by writing character backgrounds, stories, and game related fiction. Now, he puts his creativity to the book format, and is excited to become a professional author.

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

You should have asked how I got started in writing. It actually started with a Facebook conversation with Chris Kennedy, where I pitched the idea of a short story about the Computer Operations Center of the Golden Horde, since my professional expertise is in computers, programming, information security, etc..  He suggested it could be a full book and offered to co-write it with me. That happened, and here we are!


Thanks to Alex 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: Robert E. Waters

This week’s interview is with Robert E. Waters. As you’ll see, he’s also interested in using history to shape his SF, something I mention later myself.

Interview Questions

What is your quest?

Robert E. Waters
Robert E. Waters

I strive to write fun and engaging stories. Do I always succeed? I do not know, but the effort is well worth it. My early influences were Clifford Simak, Robert Silverberg, and Stephen King, an odd mix, I admit, but each of these authors brought a different perspective to my own writing.  I figure, if I can model my work around “the spirit” of what these three authors have accomplished in their lives, and if I can achieve a fraction of the skill and success that they have accumulated, then I can die a happy man.

What is your favorite color?

I’m a plotter, not a pantser. I don’t feel comfortable starting a story until I know how the tale will end. All the details in the middle can evolve as I write the story, but the big strokes of the narrative need to be firmly in my mind before I crank up the ol’ Word and get going. Most of my writing also has a decidedly historical bent, and so, I firmly recommend that if research is involved in the telling of a tale, that the research be done prior to starting the writing. I have found that I can get lost in the weeds of a narrative if I stop too often to research while I’m writing.

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

Patience. To be a good author, and more importantly, to be a published author, one needs to accept the molasses pace that often plagues the publishing industry. You must remember that there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people out there trying to get their stories and novels published just like you, and it can take a long while for your submissions to get a response. So, don’t be an ass like I was on occasion in the early days and harass editors about making a decision on your novel/story prematurely. If you push too hard, they might make a decision that you do not want them to make.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think I write combat and battle scenes very well. I’m no expert on such scenes, mind you, but I’ve been able to work in my knowledge of historical warfare with a kind of frenetic pace that showcases the chaos of battle. I once wrote a 14,000 word rolling battle sequence that took nearly two full weeks to write, but in the end, it made the story.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The Count (assuming he is one and not just a Sesame Street construct)
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? My son, Jason.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Miami Dolphins
  • Cake or Pie? In a pinch, pie
  • Lime or Lemon? Neither
  • Favorite Cereal? Captain Crunch
  • Favorite Superhero? Iron Man
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Sanford and Son
  • Best Thing From the 80s? The fact that we survived it, with the threat of nuclear annihilation present for a time
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer
  • Favorite Pet?  Bandit, my dog for 15 years; died because he had cataracts so bad he didn’t see the car to get out of the way
  • Best Game Ever? Hard to say, but with a gun to my head, Fury of Dracula
  •  Coffee or Tea? I like both, but coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi
  • Brought to you by the letter R

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

What would you consider to be the “definitive” science fiction novel written in the last ten years? And why?

Rob’s Answer: Man, this is a hard question to answer for me because I don’t read as much new stuff as I should. The definitive SF novel to me is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It’s got everything an SF story should happen, with fantastic pacing and an ending that’s only partially happy. The good guys win, but not all survive. I can’t not cry at the end.

As for recent stuff, I’m going to lean towards David Drake’s Lt. Leary series, of which I can’t pick one book. It’s strong work, solid all the way through, filled with action and strong characters. As a historian, I also love the way he uses historical events to shape the story. I just mimicked that process with my short story for the anthology We Dare, which comes partially from the Finnsburh Fragment.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

Currently Available

Coming Soon

  • The Swords of El Cid, book 2 in the Cross of Saint Boniface series, publication date August 2019
  • The Last Hurrah, media tie-in novel based on Mantic Games’ Dreadball universe, publication date TBD
  • 1636: Calabar’s War, co-authored by Charles E Gannon, set in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire series, publication date TBD

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

Robert E Waters is a technical writer by trade, but has been a science fiction/fantasy fan all his life. He’s worked in the board and computer gaming industry since 1994 as designer, producer, and writer. In the late 90’s, he tried his hand at writing fiction and since 2003, has sold over 60 stories to various on-line and print magazines and anthologies, including the Grantville Gazette, Eric Flint’s online magazine dedicated to publishing stories set in the 1632/Ring of Fire series. Robert is currently working in collaboration with author Charles E Gannon on a Ring of Fire novel titled, 1636: Calabar’s War. Robert has also co-written several stories, as well as the Persistence of Dreams, with Meriah L Crawford, and The Monster Society, with Eric S Brown.

He has also written in several tabletop gaming universes, including Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy series and in the Wild West Exodus weird tech/steampunk universe. He has also dabbled a bit in Warlord Games’ Beyond the Gates of Antares milieu, writing about assassins and rescue missions.

Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their precocious little cat Buzz.

For more information about his work, visit his website at www.roberternestwaters.com.

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

You should have asked what my favorite music is so I could tell you I love smooth jazz. All the greats: Gerald Albright, David Sanborn, Steve Cole, Grover Washington Jr., Euge Groove, etc. etc. I listen to it every evening. It relaxes and inspires me.


Thanks to Robert 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: Mia Hansson

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with Mia Hansson. I first met Mia when she and her husband came over from England to do a Vikings re-enactment event. A few years later, they graciously allowed me to use their house as a base as I roamed around to places like York, Shrewsbury, Portsmouth, and wherever else the train decided to take me.

But she’s not simply a great person, she’s incredibly skilled too. She’s also, like so many doing re-enactment, an overachiever. The Bayeux Tapestry is not a small thing. It’s 20 inches by 230 feet! That’s like a receiver catching a 76 yard pass! No one would be brave enough to embroider a full-sized replica would they? Well, here’s Mia…

Interview: Mia Hansson

What is your quest?

I have given myself 10 years to make a full scale replica of the Bayeux tapestry, the way I believe it may have looked when it was first created, before any repair work was required. I was alerted to someone’s attempt to make a half scale version and decided that I wanted to make a tapestry too. However, if you are going to make something like this, it needs to be done properly. I’m now 2 years and 9 months into the project and I have completed over 17 m, which means I have less than 52 m left to embroider.

Mia's replica stretched out
Mia’s replica stretched out

At a museum in Reading, UK is a replica made in the 1800s by the Leek Embroidery Society. That version was censored. Stallions turned into mares and nude men are wearing underpants. My tapestry will be true to the original, which can be seen at the Bayeux tapestry museum in northern France.

Alongside the embroidery, I’m writing a book in which I try to capture thoughts and ideas, as well as experiences that come with the project. I hope to publish it at the time of project completion.

What is your favorite color?

I love many colours, but if I have to pick one I would opt for red, the kind of red that goes towards blue, not yellow. Blue is a close second and a soft pink. There are both red and blue in the tapestry, which only contains seven shades: red, yellow, light and dark blue, light and dark green and a dark mixture of green and blue.

The basic images on the tapestry are horses, men, ships and buildings. Although ships take forever to embroidery, they make a real impact when they are done and so do the horses. Big blocks of colour and that’s satisfying to create. If someone was to pick one image from the Bayeux tapestry to embroidery, I would recommend a ship or a horse. Stay well clear of buildings with a tiled roof or bricked walls. They are frustrating to stitch, due to the bitty nature of many small details.

There are several different stitches used on the original tapestry and I try my best to use the same in the correct places. The couch stitch is the main one and it has become known as the Bayeux stitch. It is a very efficient way of covering a large area and I really enjoy it.

I find details important, even if they can be frustrating and for me it is a big deal to get the features of the people’s faces right. A hooked or pointy nose, big or small eyes and an upwards or downwards facing line marking a mouth can make a big different. At the very beginning of my project, I remember stitching King Edward’s face three times before being happy with it. I hate unpicking with a passion, but I’d rather do that than leave something I’m not pleased with. This is a project I want to be proud of.

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

The flying speed of a paint brush is less than that of a swooping eagle, but more than that of a person not concentrating hard enough to get out of its path.

There are two different shades of blue on the original tapestry, a light and a dark shade, which are two of the main seven colours. As they were hand dyed, of course they differ, sometimes within the same hank of wool. That means a stitched outline can start out light and end up dark, with a mid blue in between. I have to make a choice which shade to use, as I only have light and dark. Even worse is when I can’t decide whether an infilled area is meant to be light blue, dark blue or perhaps a green-blue mixture. Occasionally I have involved other people to help make a decision and at times I have worked with other colours while I try to make my mind up. Sometimes I have changed my opinion after stitching and then had to decide if to unpick my work or not. Funnily enough it is only the blue shades causing major issues. The others tend to behave.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I hold an awesome stabbing power when it comes to a small needle. Sometimes I stab so fast that I fail to move the hand holding the fabric and I have to make sure there are no blood stains on the item I’m working on. True story.

Neatness is my thing. From years and years and even more years of practice, I can keep my stitches neat, tidy and the same size. Even the back of the piece has passed the approving eye of many experienced needlewomen. I was taught by my nan at the age of 4 or 5 how to embroidery and her lessons included how to keep the backside tidy.

Before starting this tapestry project I was (and still am now and then) making Viking garments for reenactors and for museums. Some of those items featured embroidery. The person would give me an image and I would make it fit as if by magic. Perhaps that’s it, embroidery magic is my Holy Hand Grenade.

Mia with Tapestry
Mia with Tapestry

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy, of course!
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Leg warmers and permed hair. I had both.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Magic Mia – Poof and she is gone…
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Run and hide, preferably as far from the arena as possible.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Pear ice cream green. Not pistachio green, but pear ice cream green.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? I’m already the ruler of my own pink clouded world. I will stitch something so amazing that people will willingly enter my world to view it. They will realize how pleasant Mia Land is and before they know it, they will be trapped and made to see the world through my eyes. Me being crazy? Pffft, not in my world. You’ll see…. Mwoa-ha-ha!
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Lilla My from the Moomins
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A soft cuddly frog when I was a child. He was my companion for far too many years.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To make people see the world the way I do. (See above)
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? M, of course. M for marvelous, meticulous, merry, magical and mustard, sweet mustard that is.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t do sports. I like watching ice dancing, but that’s not really a team sport.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie! Oh yes, I had a piece of amazing pecan pie in Michigan last year at a place famous for its cherry pie.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, because it is small, green and cute.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Sour cream & onion, hands down.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Abba! At least one of my US friends couldn’t name a single Abba song. However, if you know the phenomenon that is (was) Abba, I’ll pick Marianne Flynner, a Swedish country & western singer.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey, I can spell…
  • Favorite Superhero? The Phantom. I even know a song about him… in Swedish. I’m singing it right now.
  • Steak Temperature? I don’t do temperature. I squish it when frying. It needs to have some squish to be rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? I loved Happy Days
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring, when the trees are light and bright green, before the summer heat kicks in. I love when nature comes back to life and I can be barefoot again.
  • Favorite Pet? Our two dogs, the Princess and the Pirate or Buffy and Bruin, if you want their real names.
  • Best Game Ever? The King’s Circle
  • Coffee or Tea? Black coffee, of course.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy, although I do like a decent alien.

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

When will we get to see you again? It has been far too long. We still have the wooden piece of art you brought back from your travels.

Rob’s Answer: I don’t know, but I’d really like to come back. I had a great time both times I was in England, and I really want to do another walking tour. I’ve been reading a lot of Dick Francis lately, and I want to walk the Ridgeway Trail and then maybe time it so I can go to the Cheltenham Festival. I’ve never seen a real steeplechase, and I really want to.

When you write, how much of your own experiences do you include in the storyline? Are any of the characters based on you, however loosely? Do you plot the entire storyline before starting on a new book or does it take on a life of its own and take you on a journey during the process of writing?

Rob’s Answer: Wow, a number of questions there. Let’s start with how much me is in there. It’s hard to say, sometimes. My normal style is to create a character, put them into a situation, and role-play what they will do. I try to give the characters agency, but every part an actor plays comes at some point from his experiences.

I do base characters on people, but not much on me. I suppose I could fancy myself as Edward, but I’m probably closer to Ragnar if I’m being honest.

I’m a pantser, actually, which means I write by the seat of my pants. Plotting to me is a generalized where I want certain characters to end up. I suppose I’m doing a little more plotting in the sense I’m trying to pants barebones first drafts and then fill them out in the editing process. They serve as sort of a chapter plan.

I’ve found that short stories can sort of spring up wholly formed, like “Far Better to Dare,” my entry in the naval alternate history anthology Those in Peril and my most recent story, “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” which will come out in We Dare this summer. It doesn’t always happen like that, but it can.

However, novels always take a journey of their own for me. In A Lake Most Deep, I was writing the scene where we meet Katarina for the first time. I intended it that scene to be merely a placed Edward had to go, or it would be an obvious plot hole. Instead, Katarina grabbed me by the throat and changed the story completely, and in so doing, all of Shijuren. While it’s often not as dramatic as that scene, the truth is novels are too big with too much going on for them not to be shaped by characters at some point during the process.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

I run two Facebook groups, Mia’s Bayeux tapestry story, where you can follow my project:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1139246322780314/

If you check out the information section of the tapestry group above, there are several links to video clips and online articles about the project, such as these ones:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2167828423246227

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2167828423246227

In Mia’s sewing & embroidery, I showcase Viking age garments and other items I have made. I take orders, if anyone is interested of a 100% hand stitched piece.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1139246322780314/

And where can we find you?

Every so often I take my tapestry out for a talk & display, fairly local to where we live. Most of the events are private bookings, but occasionally I organize something for the general public. Those will be advertised on Mia’s Bayeux tapestry story Facebook page.

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

You should have asked if I use a frame for my embroidery. Everyone else asks this question, so why not you? No, I don’t. I have one, but don’t get along with it. Years or practice have taught me how to get the tension right without a frame.

What am I going to do with the tapestry once all 69 m have been completed? Hopefully I’ll find someone with deep pockets who is willing to take over ownership. If not, I have had 10 years of enjoyment out of it and it will live out its days as a giant roll of linen and wool in my hobby room.

Rob’s Note: Y’all need to buy a lot of books, because I really want to have deep pockets when the time comes.


Thanks to Mia 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: Karl Gallagher

Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry for those waiting on interviews and mag reviews and my updates. Starting to get back in the groove on that after an incredibly busy March.

Anyway, today’s interview is with Karl Gallagher, who I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a number of time at conventions. I enjoy chatting with him, in part because we agree on a number of writing things. Also, since he’s also in the SCA, we have a connection there as well.

Interview: Karl Gallagher
Karl Gallagher
Karl Gallagher

What is your quest? I’m writing the kind of stories I want to read. Science fiction wrestling with ideas, people doing their best in hard situations, tactical challenges, adventures that are fun to read about but usually hell to live through.

What is your favorite color? Green. I like competent people doing smart things. Whether it’s mages figuring a clever use for a spell or engineers fixing something under fire, I like seeing people do their jobs well. Competence porn is one of my favorite genres.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? In the six years and counting I’ve been writing seriously I’ve averaged over seven thousand words written per month. I’m not consistent about it. Some people aim to write a fixed amount each day. Me, some days are nothing, some have two thousand words. I’ve also had zero word months. There was one where I wrote nearly 19k. So not attempting NaNoWriMo any time soon.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I’ve picked up some useful experience for an SF/F writer. I’m an aerospace engineer with lots of experience on satellites and rockets, which lets me get the orbital mechanics right in my hard SF novels. Game mastering table top role-playing games developed my storytelling abilities. When one of my characters decides to take a right turn off the outline I know how to roll with it. Other useful experience: some time in the military, raising kids, and being a heavy fighter in the SCA.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit. I sympathize with trying to manage the chaos. Gives me Battalion XO flashbacks.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Reality: Fall of Soviet Union. Fiction: Star Trek – The Wrath of Khan.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Weeble.
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Not letting go.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Strange Tartan Combos.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Infecting people with memes spread through my books.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Foghorn Leghorn.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? First Edition hardcover of Starship Troopers.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? How to escape my day job.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Harrington Treecats.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Onion.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Jumpin’ Kate (Nebraska rocker).
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey.
  • Favorite Superhero? Ironman. It’s fun pointing out Stark Industries products actually made where I work.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium, especially if I don’t know which way that cook is going to err.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Classic Star Trek re-runs.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Best Game Ever? For tactical challenge, Ogre/GEV. For pure fun, Firefly the Game.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Lean toward sci-fi, but never exclusive.
  • Brought to you by the letter _? R for Rocket.
The Lost War
The Lost War

What question(s) would you like to ask me?  How do you throw such great room parties?

Rob’s Answer: Practice, I guess. Plus watching my parents and their friends did. I mean, high school parties were boring, but the ones Jim Erickson threw were amazing.

A lot of my party experience comes from Pennsic. There’s a certain amount of KISS principle involved. First, you need to limit the drink choices a bit. For me, that’s cider, a variety of beers, and one mixed drink that is premixed. The goal is to limit the time waiting to get a beverage. Secondly, you need to do everything you can ahead of time, just like setting out props in a play. Make it so everything is easy to see. Third, don’t stress about how many will or won’t come. Invite all you can, but make sure no one feels they have to come. Parties are about fun, not forcing people to be there. 

Basically, you create a field with all the toys and stay out of the way of people having fun.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you? I’ll be at Libertycon (Chattanooga, June) and Fencon (DFW, September).

Do you have a creator biography? Karl Gallagher has earned engineering degrees from MIT and USC, controlled weather satellites for the Air Force, designed weather satellites for TRW, designed a rocketship for a start-up, and done systems engineering for a fighter plane. He has, on a few occasions, put on armor and been hit in the head with a stick. His sole moment of martial fame was being one-shot in Crown so efficiently there was a three paragraph write up in the kingdom newsletter. He is husband to Laura and father to Maggie, James, and dearly missed Alanna.

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

You should have asked if I have any new books coming out? Why, yes! I’ve just released The Lost War.  A group of historical reenactors expected a weekend of costumed fun . . . instead a magic spell pulled them into a world where they must struggle to survive.

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-War-Karl-K-Gallagher-ebook/dp/B07QKHZCZP

The sequel, The War Revealed, will be out May 7th.


Thanks to Karl 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: Matt Williams

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

Interview: Matt Williams

What is your quest?

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

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

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Here are the links of interest:

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Chris Kennedy

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

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

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

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

Interview: Chris Kennedy

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

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

What is your quest?

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

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Lightning Round

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

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

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

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

Why yes, yes I do.

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

You can find them here:


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

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

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

Interview: James L. Young

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

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

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

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

What is your quest?

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

Aries Red Sky Cover
Aries Red Sky Cover

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

Acts of War Cover
Acts of War Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Pyre of Stars Cover
A Pyre of Stars Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Meriah Crawford

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

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

Interview: Meriah Crawford
Meriah at Petra
Meriah at Petra

What is your quest?

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

Persistence of Dreams Cover
Persistence of Dreams Cover

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Lightning Round

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

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

  1. What’s your favorite cute animal video?

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

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

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

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

3.How long will you survive the zombie apocalypse?

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Aaron Hollingsworth

Greetings all

This week’s interview subject is Aaron Hollingsworth. He’s not only a good writer, but he’s a guy who writes role-playing game content, something I’d like to do one of these days. Plus, he’s a Kevin Smith fan.

Interview: Aaron Hollingsworth

What is your quest?

My primary goal is completing the Four Winds-One Storm saga, a series of science fantasy novels. I have 5 planned.

In a broader sense, my quest is to write fiction that will inspire readers in unexpected ways. I strive to amuse while planting seeds, hoping for a fruitful yield without knowing exactly what will come from the planting. I have no particular agenda when composing stories. I just want to stimulate minds. My influences are: Garth Ennis, Kozou Koike, Kevin Smith, Jim Butcher, Shakespeare, Quentin Tarentino, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, to name a few.

What is your favorite color?

I grew up thinking blood red was the coolest color, but mustard yellow or brown suits me best. When it comes to employing creativity, I find it best to see how the ideas I want to use relate to one another. Assembling ideas is a puzzle process based on free-associative thought. The number 7 may be lucky, but 3 is more helpful. Writing a story is sort of like a math problem. First Act + Second Act = Third Act, or Setting/Characters + Problem = Outcome.

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

An unladen paint brush would have no paint. It would not get used. Therefore, the answer is 0 mph (or 0 kph if you use the metric system.) My biggest challenge has always been my own comprehension. I’m a bit of a ditz in that I can only learn things I am passionate about. So, when it comes to learning technical things I tend to struggle. I’m more clever than smart.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Thanks to some of the influences listed above, I feel I have a good grasp on writing dialogue. Thanks to some martial arts training, I can narrate combat scenarios. I can’t fight that well in real life, but I can write a fight okay. My proudest successes are getting most of my books turned into audiobooks and working with amazing narrator/producers from both coasts, as well as Australia.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Hard to say, but The Muppet Christmas Carol breaks heart every time without fail.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy is dreamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I’m not a sports enthusiast, sorry.
  • Cake or Pie? Gooseberry pie, please. Rob’s Note: Good answer!!!
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon juice on papercuts.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Anything without Cilantro. It tastes like soap to me.
  • Wet or Dry? Smooth.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Modern listeners need to research the amazing work of Crash Test Dummies.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? WhisKEY has a better ring to it.
  • Favorite Superhero? Evil Ernie
  • Steak Temperature? I prefer hamburgers. Well done.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Saturday Night Live
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Forever Autumn (it is the name of a good song)
  • Favorite Pet?  We moved around a lot as a kid. I never really bonded with a animal, unfortunately. I prefer cats over dogs.
  • Best Game Ever? Video Game: Balder’s Gate: Dark Alliance. Table Top: Pathfinder
  • Coffee or Tea? Espresso. Lots of it.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? My favorite fantasy series is the Codex: Alera by Jim Butcher, but my favorite fantasy writer is Clark Ashton Smith. His Averoigne and Zothique cycles are wondrous!

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

How would you describe your desk/work station? Use only adverbs.

Rob’s Answer: Surely, literally, totally well enough

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

  • I will be working tables at Planet ComiCon and ConQuest 50, both in Kansas City. Rob’s Note: I’ll be at ComiCon too.

Do you have a creator biography?

Aaron Hollingsworth is an anomalous mass of molecules conspiring to describe the impossible in the best way possible. His weird fiction works include The Bone Brick City, The Geohex of Wraith County, The Broken Bards of Paris, and The Apothecary of Mantua. He also develops RPG content compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He lives in Kansas City.

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

You should have asked what advice I would give aspiring writers?

If your story is important to you, get it done as best you can, get it published as best you can, and promote it as best you can. No matter what results from these three endeavors, be satisfied that you did your best.


Thanks to Aaron 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

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

Interview: Cedar Sanderson
Lab Gremlins Cover
Lab Gremlins Cover

What is your quest?

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

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

Final question for you: What should I have asked but didn’t?

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

What am I working on now?

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell