Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Thaddeus Nowak

Thaddeus Nowak is another KC-area writer. He and I had tables near each other at Planet Comicon and we got a chance to chat with each other about writing philosophies and styles. You’ll find some similarities in the way we like to write.

Interview: Thaddeus Nowak

What is your quest?

To be a lumberjack? Or maybe to get funding for my walk?  Not decided yet.

Thaddeus Nowak
Thaddeus Nowak

As a writer, my aim has always been to write what I like to read and that tends toward realistic fantasy. I want a somewhat gritty world that has echoes of our own world’s conflicts and struggles mixed with a magic system that obeys balanced rules. I want to feel the character’s struggles and know they have to use their minds to overcome what they face.

Some of my favorite books include The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, The Firekeeper Saga by Jane Lindskold, and many of the books by Barbara Hambly. In those series, the magic remained subdued, few people in the worlds mastered the power, and most did not fully understand how it worked. To me, that helped to keep the world in balance and forced the characters to be deeper and more well-rounded.

I do enjoy other genres, including scifi and urban / high fantasy. I even made a trip to England to buy the English copy of Harry Potter (okay, I was there for other reasons, but I bought the whole set and shipped it home when I was there).

A theme across all the genres I read is a desire for stories with strong female protagonists. I grew up in a neighborhood where my family had the only boys and all my friends at an early age were girls. That has greatly influenced what I like to read and write. The key here is to make the protagonist someone who makes decisions and who inspires others to follow her. I really get turned off by indecision.

What is your favorite color?

Heirs of Cothel
Heirs of Cothel

I like subtlety. I want to be nudged in the correct direction and allowed to make the connection before it is revealed—if it is ever fully revealed at all. It is a hard thing to do because you have no way of knowing just how much a reader does or does not know, and therefore, some hints might miss the mark. You don’t want to leave the reader wondering why something came out of seemingly nowhere, but you also don’t want to hit them over the head with facts that they feel are obvious.  The needed understanding must gradually show up as the story progresses.

I also love Easter Eggs. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was a fun story filled with little bits of geekdom that simply resonated with me. I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and while that story was specifically about paying homage to countless parts of my childhood, I like other books that slide in one or two items for the geek in all of us.  It is a good way to share a common bond.

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

Failure is such a friend of mine. I remarked the other day that the best way to learn is to pound your head on the keyboard for a few hours until you find the very obvious mistake you made. Granted, that was in reference to some C# code I was working on, but the same applies to writing. Failure is the greatest of teachers, as long as you can step back and take a clinical look at why you failed and how you were able to overcome it. You cannot wallow in it, even if you want to.

Another challenge I continue to face is one of perfectionism. My first manuscript got eaten up the edit loop and bloomed into more than 200k words and was only a third of the way done. I made a few calls and put a hit out on my internal editor. It wasn’t cheap, but it helped.

Another change I made while the editor’s body was dragged off was that I moved from being a discovery writer to being more of an architect (just at a high-level outline). I won’t advocate one form over the other for anyone, but if you are struggling, try changing your writing style from one to the other. Give it an honest attempt and see if it works. When I did, I finished writing Mother’s Curse in two months.

 (Rob’s note: There’s one true way of writing, and it’s whatever helps *you* get words on the page. Thaddeus is absolutely right. If you’re stuck, change something. It could be your style, environment, chair, music, food, medium, whatever, just change something.) 

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I am excellent at counting to five—three.

When I moved to the architect style of writing, I found that I was able to very accurately judge the word count I wanted for a given scene. I would get a reasonably idea of what I wanted the scene to do from my outline and based on how I wanted the pacing to go (fast, slow, or in between) I would come up with an estimate on the number of words / pages it would take me to write the scene. When I plotted out Mother’s Curse, I was aiming for 100k words. The final word count came in at 96.5k and I was proud to have been so close (as well as under my estimate).

Another realization I had when writing my series is that when you have royalty or powerful people involved in the story, you suddenly have another major character to keep track of: the general populace. When a normal person does something publicly, few people will notice or care, but when a person of influence is seen in public, word will spread, and as a result, the citizens of the world will have a reaction, quite often a mixed one depending on their personal perspective. This means I had to calculate societies responses, how fast the information would travel, and look at the political agendas of everyone who would learn of any given event or statement.

 Lightning Round

Pip
Pip
  • Favorite Muppet? The old grumpy guys. (Rob’s note: Statler and Waldorf)
  • Crunchy or Creamy? No peanut butter for me.  Caramel instead.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Sporting KC
  • Cake or Pie? Tea and cake, not death.
  • Lime or Lemon? Mostly lemon, but lime on certain things.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Don’t laugh, but I like sweet pickle relish on chips.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The Rogues (best pipe and drum music around)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? You want me to choose between the Scots and the Irish?
  • Favorite Superhero? Hard one. I’ll go with Hit Girl
  • Steak Temperature? Medium well
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Monty Python’s Flying Circus of course … though I watched more WKRP in Cincinnati
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  (Right now, Pip (named after Chiana in Farscape)
  • Best Game Ever? 1990, Risk, six people, New Year’s Eve
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy

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

What is your favorite obscure event in history?

My Answer: The easy answer here is the Martin Koszta Affair which many of you have seen me discuss in panels at conventions. I had a to do a project in grad school based on the letterbook of the USS St. Louis during the time of the Koszta Affair and I became perhaps the world’s leading authority on this particular event. That’s not actually hyperbole, oddly enough.

However, I have so many other ones I could choose. I modeled Edward to an extent on Imma from Chapter XXII of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Imma gets knocked unconscious in a battle and wakes up in a pile of dead including his lord and all his brother warriors. He is sworn to die before the lord, which does not happen. However, he is limited in what he can do after the fact because of the oaths he has sworn as a Christian. I love when characters have competing oaths that cannot be reconciled.

In all honesty, I get curious about everything. There are too many fun and wonderful moments in history to limit myself to just one.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Usually at Planet Comicon.  My schedule this year is light because of some local moves I am making.  Next year I plan to be back on the convention train.

Map of Cothel
Map of Cothel

Do you have a creator biography?

Thaddeus has always been interested in fantasy and science fiction. Early on, when just starting high school, his avid reading grew into a desire to write. A desire which has turned into a lifelong pursuit.

When not reading or writing, he enjoys hiking in the mountains, landscape photography, drawing, and spending time with his wife and two demanding cats.

He has degrees in Chemistry, Computer Information Systems, and Business Management and has held a handful of jobs: some in retail, some in healthcare, but primarily in the technology fields.

Thaddeus currently lives in Kansas with his wife and two cats, but wishes there were more mountains visible on the horizon.

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

What are your current and/or upcoming project?

Life events have delayed me about a year, but I am working on two different pieces. The first is another series set in the same world as The Heirs of Cothel Series, but with new characters living in the far north. I am borrowing bits from Norwegian and Scottish history and culture and the main character is living in an occupied country and she has to figure out what she wants to do about that.

The second item is an urban fantasy that involves a young woman who has been living off the grid with her parents deep in the Rocky Mountains. However, both of her parents die and she has to discover the modern world and why her parents isolated her from everyone.


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

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: Jesse Oak Rise

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with Jesse Oak Rise, an author and videographer I met in Pittsburgh last year when I went to Confluence during the middle of Pennsic. I was struck in our conversations about how much they have studied technical details of making videos, something I know very little about and Jesse taught me about.

Interview: Jesse Oak Rise

What is your quest?

Presently I run a blog dealing with topics surrounding the trans and non-binary community, mental health, and Crohn’s Disease. In the future I have several plans for my YouTube channel, The Knighted Nerd, which are creating video reviews of trans related media as well as video game content through a trans perspective. This would include Let’s Plays of various games. Interviews with trans and non-binary community leaders. Hopefully gain interviews with politicians and political leaders. Attend trans and mental health related conferences and, hopefully, document them.

I wouldn’t say I have success. My influences, however, are as follows: Lyndsey Sickler, educator and advocate, among other things. Created and runs TransPride Pittsburgh. The late Nancy Evelyn Gold, who inspired me in the first place to learn Adobe Premiere Pro / Final Cut. Anthony Q. Artis, author of The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide and The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide, Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic by Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt, The Art of Voice Acting: The Craft and Business of Performing for Voiceover by James Alburger.

Also these YouTubers: Caleb Wojcik, creator of FIT Video Guy, DSLR Video Shooter, Lindsay Ellis, Chase Thomas, PushingUpRoses, MarzGurl, and, of course, Markiplier / Jacksepticeye

What is your favorite color?

I’m, by no means, a professional videographer, voice actor, or YouTuber. What I am is a person that has worn many hats.

No matter which of these you do or want to do the biggest lessons I’ve learned in all three are: Make sure your audio is on point. No $10 microphones. Go for a Blue Snowball or  Yeti. If you want to go XLR,  go for Rode Mic with a usb interface. Make sure you’re audio is shielded in some way, even if you have to build makeshift plywood walls to stick soundproofing on, it’s better than having anything under or over your voice.

Video, depending how you want to do it, look for either a quality web cam or a camcorder. If you got the bucks, look into getting a DSLR camera. Look into 3 or 4 point lighting. This will bring your video game up a notch.

If you’re going to do green screen, YouTube and your local library are your friend to learn. These are how I have learned everything I know now.

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

What do you mean? African or European paint brush?

The biggest challenge I have has plagued me all my life: money. I don’t have the funds to do the things I want to do the things I mentioned above, much to my dismay.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’ve been taught all my life that I’ll never amount to anything. Over the last two and ½ decades I’ve learned that I have an innate ability to quickly learn almost any skill quickly. With this tool I know I could succeed at almost anything, if given the opportunity.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The mahna mahna guy
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Both at once
  • Favorite Sports Team? What’s a sports?
  • Cake or Pie? Piecake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? French onion
  • Wet or Dry? Yes.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Myself, Jesse Oak Rise.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Jagermister
  • Favorite Superhero? Deadpool
  • Steak Temperature? 650
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? All in the Family
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, cause every day is Halloween
  • Favorite Pet?  Can I own Death as a pet?
  • Best Game Ever? Will it blend
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Yes

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

Have you thought about adding authentic transgender characters in your writings?

My Answer: Thought about it, yes? Done it? No, because it’s never been relevant to the story I’m telling. Given that I write hack and slash, swords and sorcery action novels, I generally focus on whether my characters are strong, smart, fast, tough, or wise because those things matter in a fight. Rarely does plumbing of any type affect the outcome of a fight or a story, so I don’t talk about it much. 

If it ever matters to a story, I have no problem including transgender characters. However, I’m not going to throw one in simply to throw one in. I think that sort of thing is dishonest and disrespectful if the only reason to do so is to say, “Here, look at me, I put in a transgender character, aren’t I awesome!” If and when I put a transgender character into a story, it’s because the “transgender” part matters. Otherwise, transgender people are simply “people.”

It all boils down to what makes a good story. If a character being transgender makes a better story, I’ll make that happen in a heartbeat. If it doesn’t, I already try to strip everything I can in my writing that doesn’t push the story along.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I can be found at

And where can we find you?

Currently I only attend Confluence in Pittsburgh, PA

Do you have a creator biography?

Presently on my blog, which needs work


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: Gray Rinehart

This week’s interview is with Gray Rinehart. My first experience with Gray was at LibertyCon, where he was the toastmaster. He performed a fun filk of Major Tom so I listened to some of his other music. It’s very good, and even appeared on the Dr. Demento show. I intend to add some to my booth in future events.

He’s also a writer and editor, currently serving as Baen’s ‘Slushmaster General’  while publishing a number of short stories and a novel. Oh, and he was in the Air Force, serving a career that sounds fascinating, though probably the kind of thing he can’t entirely discuss.

Anyway, let’s hear from the man himself.

Interview: Gray Rinehart

What is your quest?

I seek the Grayl … it’s a bit like a Grail … no, to be honest, it’s nothing like a Grail … it’s uglier, and less useful.

More seriously (perhaps too seriously?), my writing quest is to write things that ring true.  Obviously nonfiction ought to do more than “ring” true, and the “truth” of music is something a bit different from the truth of a text, but we’re mostly talking about fiction.  In my fiction, I want the story to feel real, to feel true, to the reader even when it’s obviously not true.  I want to convey a sense of reality even in the unreality of the story.

Gray Rinehart

What is your favorite color?

Grey!  No, wait:  orange!  [Aaaah….] (Rob’s note: Finally, someone with the right answer 🙂 )

Speaking of things I didn’t get right when I started writing, it took me a long time to grasp the fundamentals of point of view. I’m a long way from mastering it, but I think I’ve gotten better at staying consistently with a character and delving deeper into what that character is thinking and feeling at any given moment of the story.  I think (I hope?) that adds to the overall realism I want my stories to have.

In addition, I try to make sure my characters have some emotional depth — not that they wear their hearts on their sleeves, but that they process through emotions in ways that readers find appropriate.  If something happens to them or to people they care about, whether it’s good or bad, I try to show their reactions and to make those reactions fit the characters’ personalities.

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

If it’s one of my wife’s paintbrushes that she’s flung at me for some snide comment I’ve made, those things fly at near lightspeed….

Walking on the Sea of Clouds

In terms of things I had to learn the hard way, I mentioned above that point of view has been difficult for me.  Back when I was still in the Air Force, but I was trying (after a long hiatus) to write fiction, I gave a story to a friend to read.  He turned out to be that most valuable kind of friend who would actually tell me the truth — and in this case, the truth was that the story was awful, largely because I had no idea how to handle POV.  I still struggle with it at times, whether I’m trying to capture the POV of one character or other and stay consistently in that POV within a scene, or just trying to figure out whose POV to use in a particular scene.  I don’t know that I’ll ever master it.

And, just to be clear:  That story remains unpublished!  One day I may try to fix all its many problems.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

“Three shall be the number thou shalt count …”  These questions are awesome, by the way. (Rob’s note: Thank you, and again with the right answers 😀 )

I feel as if my strength lies in stringing words together to form coherent and hopefully interesting sentences.  My skills tend to falter, though, when I’m trying to put those sentences together to form stories.  Sure, sentences become paragraphs and paragraphs become scenes and scenes become stories, but I find that I’m not a natural storyteller.  As a result, beyond the mechanical level of words and sentences, writing is hard for me.

I liken it to carpentry.  I’m a pretty fair journeyman carpenter.  I can frame something that’ll be solid, and I can even do some fair finish work, but I’m not a very good architect.  I have a tendency to forget certain features, or to neglect the building code, so the end result will stand firm but it may not be the prettiest house on the block.  So in my fiction the prose itself will be fine, but it’s hard for me to make the narrative live up to the narration.

Truths, Lies, Make Believe

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? I’m not a drummer, but I always get a kick out of Animal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Creamy!  (Or, if you prefer, smooth….)
  • Favorite Sports Team?  Clemson Tigers, in whatever sport they’re playing.
  • Cake or Pie?  As much as I like cake, I’d give a good chocolate chess pie the nod over most near anything. (Rob’s note: NOM!)
  • Lime or Lemon?  You’ve got me thinking about pies, so I’d go with lemon, as in lemon meringue pie.  (Although lemon bars are good, too….)
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Crab dip.
  • Wet or Dry?  Dry rub, whether on ribs or any other to-be-barbequed meat, but I do enjoy a good barbeque sauce on the side.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  This question hurts my head!  How do I know who you’ve heard of and not heard of?  And how am I supposed to decide on a favorite, especially when so many of my family and friends are musicians and singers?
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Whiskey with an “e”, please.
  • Favorite Superhero?  Hard to say, but for a different reason than with the musician question above:  I’m not much of a superhero fan.  I suppose of all the superheroes I know about, I appreciate Captain America the most.
  • Steak Temperature?  Medium.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show?  (Was there TV in the 70s?)  Probably Charlie’s Angels, just to watch Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson.  Although I also enjoyed Baretta, and Quincy, M.E.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  (“All you have to do is call, and I’ll be there….”)  Anything but winter!
  • Favorite Pet?  Alas, we are down to a single pet these days:  a very rambunctious shepherd mix named Mr. Tumnus.
  • Best Game Ever?  Great song!  (You did mean the Mikey Mason song, right?) (Rob’s note: Uh, yeah, sure, I was totally thinking of that all along)
  • Coffee or Tea?  Tea, most often of the cold and sweet variety.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  More science fiction than fantasy, usually.

    Mr. Tumnus

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

How do you find the patience to put up with slackers like me who promise to turn in their answers and then don’t?  Whatever your secret is, I appreciate it.

Rob’s Answer: Easy. I send these questions out to a bunch of people and I only need one person a week to answer. Strategy for the win! In all truth, I usually have one or two waiting, and if I don’t, it only really takes a couple of “Howdys” on IM and people are all like “I’ll get it to you today.”

Doing these interviews have actually been a blast for me. I enjoy seeing other people’s methods and thoughts. And their favorite muppets. Plus, if any ever come to visit me, I know how to make their steak on the grill.

If I’m being cynical, I will also say that I’ve seen a good uptick in traffic to my blog, more people on my mailing list, and more contacts in the creator community. It’s been a win-win, I think, and I love positive sum games.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Distorted Vision

The first weekend of June I’ll be at ConCarolinas in Charlotte; the second week of June I’ll be a featured author on the “Lorehaven” book club Facebook page; and at the end of June I’ll be at LibertyCon in Chattanooga.  Meanwhile, folks are welcome to friend me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gray.rinehart), follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/grayrinehart), or connect with me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/grayrinehart).

If anyone wants to see what some of my music is about, I put montage videos for three of my songs on YouTube:

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

How about:  Beach or mountains?

We’re beach people, mostly, but we just spent a few days in the mountains – that’s the advantage of living in close proximity to both!

(Rob’s note: For me, mountains every time. I’d much rather climb than be bored in the sun)

Author Biography:

Gray Rinehart is the only person to have commanded an Air Force satellite tracking station, written speeches for Presidential appointees, and had music on The Dr. Demento Show.  He is the author of the near-future science fiction novel Walking on the Sea of Clouds (WordFire Press), and his short fiction has appeared in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies.  He is a contributing editor (the “Slushmaster General”) for Baen Books, and a singer/songwriter with two albums of mostly science-fiction-and-fantasy-inspired music.  During his rather odd USAF career, he fought rocket propellant fires, refurbished space launch facilities, “flew” Milstar satellites, drove trucks, processed nuclear command and control orders, commanded the largest remote tracking station in the Air Force Satellite Control Network, and did other interesting things.  His alter ego is the Gray Man, one of several famed ghosts of South Carolina’s Grand Strand, which is why his web site is graymanwrites.com.


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: J. Edward Neill

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

Interview: J. Edward Neill

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

Dark Art of J. Edward Neill

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

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

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

Sticky the Laser Eyed Cat

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And Where can we find you?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

Interview: Kit Daven

This week’s interview comes from Kit Daven who I met at Ad Astra a few years ago. I was invited to go to it by my friend Pasi who ran the con suite and I’m really glad I did. I met a bunch of great people, including, as you’ll see, Kit.

Kit Daven Interview

What is your quest? As a writer, my current quest is rooted in the exploration of fictional narrative, primarily novels and short stories. In my youth, I spent many years exploring poetry and short fiction, published my own zines, and attempted several longer works, including an unfinished, abandoned epic fantasy. The maze of fictional narrative is vast, and the paths to be taken many. Here are some of the authors who have stood at pivotal intersections and either handed me a power key or pointed the way.

Roald Dahl was the first to hand me a golden ticket and lead me to the entrance of the maze. In the earliest turns and bends, C. S. Lewis pointed out the rabbit holes and mirrors, and Astrid Lindgren provided me a young companion, a strong girl with carrot-coloured pigtails, who took me in a little deeper. From imaginative hallways down into dark tunnels, Edgar Allan Poe showed me mood, atmosphere, and mystery. H. P. Lovecraft showed me that the unknown and the ambiguous could be effective, and William Hope Hodgson made the sea forever creepy. Later on, a young man in a possessed car drove me a good distance with Stephen King, from whom I learned that in-depth characterization can be done without putting a reader to sleep. William Blake showed me how to develop my own eclectic rhythms and that without self-publishing his work, no one would know his writing today. Tanith Lee pointed the way to the flat earth, where I explored style and concision and how to bend fairytales and myths. Douglas Adams showed me you can be funny and smart at the same time. There have been other writers across the mediums who have been influential, all noteworthy yet too many to list. Recently, I took a turn at George RR Martin and am exploring world building in more depth.

All of them have been teachers. All of them have told me, “Go forth but beware trolls!”

What is your favorite color? Purple. My favourite colour is always purple.

Experimentation is an important aspect for my stories. I tend to start with rules and see how I can bend them. One rule in particular was quite fun to play with while writing A Xiinisi Trilogy. The rule goes like this: unnamed characters shouldn’t be given dialogue. So, I went ahead and gave the occasional unnamed character dialogue, by putting it in italics. I made sure there were several background characters available to chime in on whatever was happening, offering three to four bits of dialogue that acted together as a beat in the narrative. I did this sparingly throughout each novel to great effect.

Who does she think she is?
You can’t do that.
Hack!
Rules Schmules! I learn them mostly to break them, then I play with them until they cry.

When it comes to characters, I love creating foils, because like real people, they want to show you how they see themselves. A foil, however, peels away that veneer and shows you what they are like beneath the surface. In The Forgotten Gemstone, the main character Ule is hungry and tired. She has been invited to sit by a fire where she patiently listens to stories told by a boy. The boy offers her what he’s been cooking over the fire, and after she discovers she’s nearly eaten a roasted spider, she storms off into the desert in a temper tantrum. At this point in the narrative, she’s not as mature as she likes to think she is.

Kit Daven Portrait

In general, I really love to listen to what the story wants, how it wants to be told and presented. A project that I’ve been working on for a couple of years has been calling out for multiple POVs. When I mean multiple, I mean every character will get at least one turn in contributing to the narrative. I’m not sure how to present that yet, but I’ll figure it out.

Oh, and I love the colour orange, too.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? (What are some of the challenges you’ve faced that have frustrated you? Maybe some creative failures that you’ve learned from)

The biggest challenge I face is rooted in a huge fail on my part. I quit writing for many years over a decade ago. I’d quit before, but this last time was for good. I was writing straight literary fiction, and I crashed into this wall. I’d get dry tongue when I sat down to write. My body would vibrate and not in a good way. I used to love poetry but couldn’t bring myself to write it anymore, because my favorite pieces elicited zero response from readers. My readers (mostly family and friends) liked the literary stuff. It was good, never great. Then, I decided to try a new approach, and I found this beautiful intersection of writing from both my heart and my mind. However, the reactions I received were ones of discomfort and I often heard, “I couldn’t say that.” At the time, I interpreted these reactions as negative responses.

No longer enjoying the process, I gave up. I stopped writing fiction. I stopped reading. I must have purged a couple hundred books out my library and got them down enough to fill two tall bookshelves, then channeled my creative energy into art. It was, at that time, the right thing to do and a huge relief. Later, however, I realized being a writer is very much a part of who I am, whether I like it or not. To reintroduce myself to the subject, I began reading online about writing and writers and discovered something interesting. Those reactions my readers had all those years ago were, in fact, progress, but I hadn’t recognized it at the time.

The first challenge was to get my writing skills back up to where they were before I quit. So I decided to dive into writing a novel and completing it By Any Means Necessary. That novel turned into a trilogy, and not only has my skill level returned, but I’ve leveled up. The second challenge I continue to struggle with is catching up on reading, especially currently published books. I’m a tortoise. I read slowly, and I write carefully, so I always feel behind the times and suspect I may never catch up to where other writers are. Doesn’t mean I won’t try. 😉 Who knows, perhaps with enough practice and time, I’ll pick up speed.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? My Holy Hand Grenade is all shiny and gold and beveled, and on each bevel is a mark: the question mark. The almighty question. That is by far my biggest power. I ask questions, a lot of them. Questions drive characters, they propel plots, they make you think, and when something doesn’t make sense, I ask What’s wrong? How can I make this better? Can a woodchuck chuck wood? And why am I suddenly channeling Chuck Wendig?

The Other Castle

When I was a kid, my parents got so annoyed with my questions, they bought me an encyclopedia set. My teachers cringed when I tried to articulate questions and did their best to answer but couldn’t quite grasp what I was asking. People run when they see me, because I ask hard questions, the kind that can’t be answered with glib, greeting card responses. I’m a question monster, and I finally realized that my super power is, in fact, troubleshooting. I do it all the time with everything now, especially my writing.

Questions lead me down interesting rabbit holes in my narrative, and they help me get back out again when the rabbits down there want to serenade me or paint my toenails. Questions are sensitive beasts. Can I write a short story? isn’t the same as How can I write a short story? One questions the writer’s ability, the other questions their approach.

For the longest time, I didn’t think I could write a short story. Every time I tried, it turned into a novelette or longer. The short story format eludes me most of the time, but I persisted with my questions. Then last year, for the CBC Short Story Competition, I finally wrote a legitimate short story, less than 2100 words. That in itself has been my biggest achievement lately. So, when I found out the story didn’t make it to the long list or win, I honestly didn’t care. I’m in the process of going over it again, making a few more changes, and then will start submitting it to other markets. Now I want to know, How long will it take until someone wants to publish it? Who will publish it? And where’d that rabbit go?

When I finish The Starry Rise, that’ll be my next huge success. Not only will it complete the trilogy, it’ll be a third novel under my belt, which I think is a notable milestone, and a tricky one, too. I’ve read a lot about writers throwing the towel in after the third book, but that isn’t going to happen for me. I have too many stories I’d like to tell, too many questions to explore.

Lightning Round
  • Favorite Muppet? Animal. No! Sloan. Wait! Animal with Sloan. Oooo, is there a fan fiction forum for this? Oh, and Beaker.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Depends.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Hell, no!
  • Cake or Pie? Neither.
  • Lime or Lemon? Both.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? My mouth.
  • Wet or Dry? Towels?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? My mom; she plays the harp.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Hell, no!
  • Favorite Superhero? Unfortunately, growing tired of them, but I am looking forward to the second Deadpool movie.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare to well done, because I’m a heathen.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Laverne & Shirley
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Autumn
  • Favorite Pet? Siren and Skye, sibling Siamese cats, as opposite to one another as you can get. Siren is one of those quiet surfer, vegan, yoga, pansexual, meditation cats, who gives you these looks that say, “It would be really wise for you to pet me, dude.” Skye, on the other hand, is an all around brat, very direct, very forceful, very demanding of attention. She walks like she’s cruising for a fight, and she’s likely to be heard saying. “Pet me, dammit! Now!”
  • Best Game Ever? I go through phases. My last phase was Skyrim. I picked up a special edition with three or four add-ons. Installed them all in one go. I don’t get much time to play anymore. I figure it’ll be years before I finish it.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea. I just quit coffee, so tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy.

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

What kinds of tactics do you use to keep yourself on the writer’s path?

My Answer: I think the biggest thing is to listen to your body and see what’s working. For example, I built a really good office in my basement. Then I realized I never used it. I put an office in a first floor room, and it worked well, even though I never really set it up completely. I’m excited, because as I’m moving back into the house that room will be my office from the start, meaning I can arrange it exactly the way I want.

But I’ve also found that I sometimes need to work in a different environment. Right now, I’m sitting in my favorite place, a bar called Brewbaker’s. They have good beer, a tasty salad I really like (especially with extra jalapenos and avocado), and a tall half-booth near an outlet that is just really comfortable to me. It’s been perfect, and I missed it while being in Omaha. Basically, it gets back to

the main rule: “There’s one true way of writing, and it’s what works for you to get words on the page.” If you find you’re having problems being productive in your home, go to a different room. Or go to a coffee shop. Or a bar. Or a library. Change the music you listen to. Turn it off. Turn it louder. Put sports on in the background. Or Supernatural. Or Firefly. Or whatever.

And if you’re stuck on a project, start a different one. Asimov apparently had a bunch of stories/novels going on at once. When he’d get stuck with one, he’d shift to another. By the end of the year, I hope to have built that process up so I can get more than a couple of short stories each year to go along with 2-3 novels. For me, if I know what a chapter/scene will be, i can write the first draft pretty quickly. If I’m fighting one novel, going to a short story can let my backbrain come up with the next set of scenes or vice versa.

Basically, if you’re stuck in a rut, change something. Anything.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And Where can we find you?

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

You should have asked, “What is A Xiinisi Trilogy?”

A Xiinisi Trilogy follows the adventures and misadventures of Ule, a trans-dimensional world builder with the ability to manipulate matter and energy, including her own body.

The first book, The Forgotten Gemstone, is primarily a fantasy, in which Ule finds herself trapped in a world she created and must find a way back to her realm. In doing so, she discovers an unprecedented phenomenon, the presence of demons. In the second book, The Other Castle, the story takes on a more violent and mysterious tone when Ule discovers she’s been poisoned. Determined to figure out who murdered her and why, she returns in a new form, that of a man, and discovers there’s more to these demons than she first thought. And in the third book, The Starry Rise, fantasy segues into science fiction and a bit of cosmic horror as Ule embarks on the last leg of her journey, during which she figures out why the demons are there and her true calling as she undergoes her final transformations. The trilogy explores themes of self-identity, transformation, the shadow self, and finding purpose. Also, it is queer friendly.

You should have also asked, “Do you have any sample fiction of your work available online?”

Why yes, Rob. Yes, I do.

Forgotten Gemstone

The Forgotten Gemstone

The Other Castle

And, jeez Rob, why didn’t you ask, “When is the third book in A Xiinisi Trilogy coming out?”

The Starry Rise is coming out in Late Summer/Autumn 2018.

Author Biography

Kit Daven is a long time writer but has only started promoting herself as an indie writer in the latter part of 2013. To date, she has published the novels The Forgotten Gemstone and The Other Castle, the first two installments in A Xiinisi Trilogy, through her author press Eager Eye Books. She enjoys writing along the darker spectrum of fantasy, and blends her fiction with science fiction, suspense, adventure, horror, mystery, and romance. Weird tales are her favourite kind of story. She resides in Cambridge, Ontario.


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: Amanda Makepeace

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

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

War for Jupiter
War for Jupiter

What is your quest?

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

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

Amanda Makepeace Portrait
Amanda Makepeace Portrait

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

Long List Anthology, Volume 3

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Drusilla, Studio Cat Extraordinaire
Drusilla, Studio Cat Extraordinaire

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Where can we find you?

Forest Dreams

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Interview: Eric S. Brown

Greetings all

This week I’m interviewing Eric S. Brown who is, among other things, one of the many writers like myself writing in the Four Horsemen Universe. He’s also written a bunch of horror, military science fiction, and kaiju stuff.

And when I say a bunch, I mean it. Take a look at his Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Eric S. Brown/e/B004G6XP7E/. You’ll find twelve pages of books there.

Eric, what is your quest?

I am a professional horror and SF writer.  I’m also a collector of all things comics and SF.  David Drake is my hero.  I learned how to write by reading his work when I was younger.  One could blame my whole career on Dave.

What is your favorite color?

I like the color green.  I also like to scare people with words.  I’ve been writing horror for about 17 years now.  I write the type of stories I want to see as a fan.  That’s how my book Bigfoot War came about.  I had been writing zombie stuff for a long time and even did a Z novel for Simon and Schuster (War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies).  I was burnt out on zombies and really wanted to do something different.  Bigfoot War is that.  It makes Sasquatch truly frightening beasts and unleashes hordes of them upon the world.  Bigfoot War (Bigfoot Wars on IMDB) was adapted into a feature film by Origin Releasing with C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders) and Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club).  While the paycheck was nice, I really didn’t care for the movie and it didn’t have a lot to do with my then series of Bigfoot War books.

Eric S. Brown
Eric S. Brown

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I like to think that the books I write are FUN above all else.  From Bigfoot War to Kaiju Apocalypse to Casper Alamo (set in Chris Kennedy’s Four Horsemen Universe) my books are about guns and monsters with loads of action and more than a little gore.  I have a Mech/Psionics/Vampires book coming out later this year entitled Psi-Mechs Inc.  I am biased but I think it’s the best thing I have ever written.  It’s about mech pilots and psychics who hunt monsters.

Lightning Round (answer any or all, be as verbose and whimsical as you wish)

Casper Alamo cover
Casper Alamo cover
  • Favorite Muppet? The Shrimp guy.
  • Favorite Sports Team?  I don’t do sports so I am going with The Micronauts on this one.
  • Cake or Pie?  Cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip?    Don’t have one.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.  Always wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?   Sorry but to me music consists of Rush, more Rush, and a little more Rush. (ed. note: I knew I liked him for a reason)
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Don’t drink.
  • Favorite Superhero? Wonder Woman for DC and Daredevil for Marvel.
  • Steak Temperature? Well Done. (ed. note: Sigh)
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) I love cats.  The favorite cat of my life was Howard, named after Lovecraft.  I had him for seven years but he passed from health issues.
  • Best Game Ever? I don’t really game so I will go with 2nd edition D&D from back in the day.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee!!
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi all the way.

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

How did you get into interviewing people?

My answer: I had been interviewed by other people, and I wanted some more content on my blog. Also, it turns out that perhaps the most time-consuming aspect of writing my weekly email is finding someone to spotlight. This way, I don’t have to worry about it.

Do you love the rebooted BSG as every right thinking SF person should?

My answer: Oddly no, mostly because I haven’t actually seen it. Much like Eric, I loved the original and I found it hard to give it a chance. Also, I don’t watch many TV shows. Usually, my personal preference is something to do with sports.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

The Squad cover
The Squad cover

And Where can we find you?

I try to attend Liberty con every year.  Aside from that, I am a very stay at home sort of writer.

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

My newest release is The Squad.  It’s a Bigfoot horror book set in the south.  Other books I have had released this year as Casper Alamo, Day of the Sasquatch, Bigfoot, and a dark fantasy, Lovecraftian Roman novel entitled Beyond Night.


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: Doug Dandridge

Doug Dandridge is one of the great independent writers out there. He’s done really well in part because he puts out a ton of good material. My personal favor is his Exodus: Empires at War series, but he has over thirty published titles, including two other series, Refuge techno-fantasy and The Deep Dark Well trilogy. Now he’s started Kinship Wars, a traditionally published series. Let’s just say I’ve visited his Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1522973584&sr=1-2-ent a number of times to get his books.

Exodus: Empires at War, Book 1 Cover

And I’m not the only one. According to his bio, “(h)e has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average. 5,000 reviews! And about that same number on Goodreads. I am learning just how hard it is to get a single review out of readers, so that’s even more amazing to me than the hundreds of thousands of books he’s sold.

Clearly, he knows both how to write and how to market online, so I was excited when he agreed to answer my questions.

Doug Dandridge

What is your quest? I like to craft technically sound science fiction (and fantasy as well) in an interesting and well thought out setting, with strong characters. Sometimes I actually succeed. I like the physics, chemistry, biology to stay as close to accurate as possible. Which doesn’t mean I don’t make up whimsical of utterly fantastic elements, but I see no need to step on real world principles when not necessary. My major influences include Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, David Weber, Robert E Howard, Jim Butcher, R A Salvatore and Larry Niven. I get a little bit from each one and possibly blend them together into something of my own. It seems to work, as I was able to not only quit my day job, but make a very good living at it.

What is your favorite color? Like Jim Butcher I start off with a map most of the time. I do a lot of research. Even in fantasy, I look up a lot of information, put a lot of it on paper. I world build to an extreme, probably more than I need to, but then, when I have a series, I just need to add onto the already detailed world. And I draw a lot of things out on graph paper, which allows even a poor artist like myself to visualize my settings. Spaceships, star systems, castles, even the look of dragons. All goes down on paper. And when I’m creating a star system I like to use programs to look over the configurations of planets and make sure it all works (wouldn’t do to have your inhabited planet go spiraling into the star). Probably more than I need to, but I read the horror stories of people finding fault with the science in other works. I even use Nukemap to make sure my things that go boom have an accurate damage radius.

Doug Dandridge with Helicopter

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I wrote a series called Refuge, which actually started off really well. Both of the first books sold over 5,000 copies. They mixed modern technology with magic, with people from Earth crossing over to another dimension against their will and having to fight wizards, dragons and things that go smack in the night. With tanks, attack helicopters and a couple of tactical nukes. Due to the physical and magical laws of the planet, the technology would only last for a short period of time, and the humans had to use it or lose it. So by book three they had lost it, and I had lost my readership. Turned out that the majority of people who bought the first two books loved the idea of technology versus magic, so book three sold just over two thousand copies, while four barely made it over a thousand. I’ve tried to salvage the series with book five, resorting to magic imbued steam tech. But I’m afraid once you lose readers you’ve lost them for good, at least for that series. The lesson? When something is working, don’t make radical changes.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I am really proud of the Exodus: Empires at War series and the spinoff, Exodus: Machine War. This is the universe that turned me into an independent success. Of the 240,000 odd books I have sold, over 200,000 of them are in these series. They have been well received, and I have collected a lot of fans from all over the world from these books. I feel that I write battle scenes really well (see R A Salvatore and Jim Butcher above), and I’m also good at putting in technical details without overwhelming people with info dumps. The Exodus series is nearing its end, but I will start another side series, going back in time to the origins of my human Empire.

Lightning Round

  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy.

    Five by Five Cover
  • Favorite Sports Team? Florida State University, because I went there and I live in Tallahassee. Any of the teams, not just football. I go to women’s soccer, both basketballs, softball, volleyball, even sometimes baseball.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, because cake is too rich.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, because lemon is just too sour.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Home-made French Onion dip. None of that weak store made stuff. The Lipton’s Onion Soup with sour cream.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? A German Jazz guitarist named Vogel Kreigel. He played in a little hotel in North Germany back in the late 1970s. One of the best jazz guitarists in the world at that time.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I used to love Wild Turkey 101. Haven’t had a drink, for health reasons, in fourteen years.
  • Favorite Superhero? Spiderman. I’ve been a Spidey freak since I was five years old, and I bought the issue of Amazing Stories that featured the webhead.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Man, go back to the sixties and I might have something. The seventies did nothing for me, and I spent half of them in the Army.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, love the crispy temps. Best time for going to football and soccer.
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) I had a ginger cat years ago named Beau who was the smartest pet I have ever had (and I’ve had an Australian Shepard). He died way too young at age nine.
  • Best Game Ever? Video Game? Fallout New Vegas, with lots of mods. Best gaming world, best story, a lot of fun to play in VR.
  • Coffee or Tea? I’m a big coffee drinking. Buy the beans and grind them myself before brewing them.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I love them both. I would actually like to write more fantasy, but somehow I slid into the scifi niche, so there I am.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? How do you come up with these questions?

My Answer: I think the first time I asked questions like this happened because I got tired of internet question memes, so oddly that made me make my own. The ones out there were just bland and boring, and so I made a whimsical one to have fun with my friends.

I used the idea again when I got married to my second wife. We wanted to make it fun, so I asked a larger series of questions to everyone involved in the ceremony. Then, we had a friend who is great at such things introduce us all as if we were wrestlers coming into a WWE event or something like that. We had a fantastic wedding.

As everyone who answers the interview questions realizes, I want to get some idea of your methods. Hopefully, this will help me and my readers find things that might improve our writing and publishing skills. However, I didn’t want it to be bland and boring, hence the Monty Python way of asking the questions.

But I also wanted to give each of you a chance to be something more than a name on an e-book. For example, I think it’s awesome that I now know you’re a Florida State fan. Plus, given how much I like to host people, it’s always a good thing to know how to cook their steak should the opportunity arise.

Aura Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? How did you ever decide to get into this crazy business?

I was out of work and pissed off at the employer that had just fired me, and decided to write a book exposing the corruption of mental health organizations. I sat down and wrote that book in two weeks, then started on an alternate history. When that was done, I went to work on a 260K word fantasy.

Refuge, Book 1 Cover

I wrote on an off for over a decade, collecting over three hundred rejection slips, but trying to do it the old way, through a publisher. Finally, in 2010, I was really sick of my job and wanted to become a full time writer. I wrote the equivalent of 7 novels that years, including the books that were turned into the first two volumes of Exodus: Empires at War and Refuge: The Arrival. I didn’t actually put anything online until December 31, 2011, and nothing much sold for the first eight months. I did a giveaway for a book called
The Deep Dark Well, and 4,100 went off the Amazon hard drive. When Exodus came out in November (I had put out Refuge first, thinking it would be the breakout novel), I started selling 100 books a day. In January of 2013 I sold 8,900 books and the sales continued into February with 5,400. I kept getting good sale the first couple days of March, and I turned in my two week notice and never looked back.

What’s Your Upcoming Event Schedule? I will be attending, again, LibertyCon in Chattanooga (June 29-July 1) and will be on panels. I will also be an Attending Professional at DragonCon in Atlanta (August 30 to September 3). I will also have books coming out later this year from Arc Manor Publishing (Kinship War) and Chris Kennedy Publishing (When Eagles Dare).

Doug’s Book Biography:

Doug Dandridge is the author of over thirty self-published books on Amazon, including the very successful, Exodus: Empires at War series, the Refuge techno-fantasy series, The Deep Dark Well Trilogy, as well as numerous standalone science fiction and fantasy novels.  In a five year period as a self-published author, Doug has sold well over two hundred thousand eBooks, paperbacks and audio books.  He has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average, and a similar number of ratings on Goodreads with a 4.12 star average. He has also written his first traditionally published novel, the first of a series, Kinship Wars. He served in the US Army as an infantryman, as well as several years in the Florida National Guard in the same MOS.  Doug, who holds degrees from Florida State University and the University of Alabama, lives with his five cats in Tallahassee Florida.  He is a sports enthusiast and a self-proclaimed amateur military historian.


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: Todd Fischer

I know Todd Fischer as Colyne from Ealdormere. Among his other skills, he’s an amazing poet who can write in just about every medieval poetic style, which I can attest is not always easy. The sonnet ain’t got nothin’ on drottkvaet.

But as you’ll see, he can write much more than that.

What is your quest? I am eclectic by nature and I think that comes through I my writing preferences—namely, that I do not have any. I’ve written fiction, non-fiction and poetry; I’ve written horror, sci-fi, fantasy and “regular” fiction. When I first began to write, however, I was primarily focused on horror fiction. I was a young teen and I had just discovered the works of H. P. Lovecraft while camping in the woods of northern Canada. On a trip to town we had stumbled across an underground bookstore—literally underground, not figuratively—and after descending the concrete steps and entering the shop I was immediately drawn to the horror section where I found a large tome that arrested my attention. The cover was black and white but had red highlights, emphasizing the alien eyes and mouths of the depicted alien entities. I had heard of Lovecraft, thanks to the Real Ghostbusters episode featuring Cthulhu, so I eagerly bought the book and read voraciously from its font under the leafy canopy of the forest. This, I decided, is what I wanted to create.

Todd Fischer

So I started writing horror stories. I dabbled in some fantasy as well. Through the rest of high school I took part in some writing programs which resulted in Leon Rooke (author of the award winning Shakespeare’s Dog) reading one of my stories and telling me I was a sophisticated storyteller. That sealed the deal for me! I was gonna be a writer!

I applied to York University to study Creative Writing, which was a three year program, but you had to pass an introductory course in your first year before you could apply. (So a four year commitment in total.) You had to send in a portfolio to apply for the intro course, and only a certain number of applicants would be selected. Likewise, if you passed the course, you went through a similar application process for the actual course. It was a harrowing experience and somehow I managed to get into the program. The program exposed me to numerous forms of writing (as did all the English courses I also ended up taking) and I began to work in more than just horror and fantasy fiction.

During this time I got married, and my wife and I started “imelod, the litzine of horror and the bizarre” and published around twenty issues over the years publishing folks such as WH Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, John Ford, Stanley C. Sargeant and Ian Rogers. We also published chapbooks and a few comics. Our bestselling issues were those devoted to Lovecraft and eventually we started a second imprint called Mythosian dedicated to work of the Lovecraftian ouvre.

When I graduated university the plan was for me to work part time and devote the rest of my days to writing. Things did not go according to plan. As they say, man plans, Cthulhu rises from R’lyeh and consumes the world. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is when my severe depression began. I had always suffered from depression (we know think since childhood) but this is when it began to become insidious and truly interfere with my life. I began to work full time in a company where the atmosphere was toxic, and I stayed there for just over ten years. My depression increased. I could no longer handle the constant rejection that comes hand-in-hand with being a writer. I stopped writing. We stopped publishing imelod.

About ten years passed. I went through a horrible six year stretch when my depression was at its worst, culminating in a breakdown. I was at a loss.

By this time I had joined a medieval recreation society and I was feeling adrift within it, as if I had nothing to offer the group. One of my friends suggested I try writing wording for club awards (in the Ontario chapter of this society each award handed out usually has personalized wordings). I had done some writing for the club when I started but had stopped as my depression got worse. So I took that suggestion and began to write again. From researching and writing these awards I began to write stories and articles and—most notably—poems. I wrote two monographs for the society’s monograph series and published poems and articles in several other society publications. One of my books (Osse Poetices) grew out of a project I did for the club.

In 2017 I decided it was time I got back up to bat and I began writing again for a wider audience. And that is the goal of my quest, my MacGuffin. While publication credits are excellent, and I am glad to be getting some again, it is the simple act of creation period that is my real goal.

(ed. note: One of the reasons I started writing fiction was to pull myself out of my own dark places. They weren’t as dark as what Todd faced, but dark enough. The need of a creator to create, I guess.)

What is your favorite color? I generally prefer stories (or poems) that are weird or surreal, such as the writings of China Miéville. Whimsical, but dark. You may find parts of my writing inspired by Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carrol, Mercer Mayer, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Thomas King. My visual depictions draw on Tim Burton and the Rankin-Bass specials and films.

I prefer language that is direct, and usually conversational. Realistic dialogue. I don’t mind when rules are broken, but to truly break them, you have to understand them.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? As I mentioned above, I have severe depression. I also have several other mental and physical conditions that can make concentration difficult. It tends to take me a long time to finish a project if it’s longer than a few pages. I am highly self-critical and constantly doubt the validity and worth of my work. Since I work in short bursts when the stars are right, I sometimes rush things through during these manic periods, which means I do not spend enough time editing.

Occasionally I scratch my head when I receive a rejection from an editor. One specifically said they doubted the veracity of several details of a scene in my submission that was autobiographical—each incident they said was unbelievable had actually occurred. (Still, getting personal feedback is a rarity, and I appreciated receiving it.)

(ed. note: A perfect example of writing needing to make sense, where history doesn’t care if it makes sense or not.)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I have always been told that my dialogue is realistic, and that my imagery can be a “tour de force”.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? I think I identify the most these days with Kermit the Frog, who feels as if they weight of the world is on his shoulders, who is desperately trying to navigate this crazy world while creating art.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I do not follow the sports ball, so I generally just root for the home team wherever I am.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake, of the cheese variety.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon, in an ade.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Dill.
  • Wet or Dry? Lubed is always preferable.
  • Favorite Musical Performer we’ve Never Heard Of? Leo Moracchioli’s heavy metal covers on YouTube are great.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I don’t tend to drink much, and when I do I’m generally not picky.
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine. As a short, hairy Canadian I always identified with him. I also loved his bestial nature and his claws were cool, yo.
  • Steak Temperature? Well done. My stomach demands it.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? All in the Family.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Autumn. The season of apples, and pumpkins, of baking pies and crunching leaves, of oranges and reds, and All Hallow’s Eve. Spring is my least favourite season. It is cool and damp and wet and all the snow melts revealing the trash it had been hiding.
  • Favorite Pet? (provide pictures if you want) Mine, of course. She’s a rescue; a beagle-lab mix named O’ber (which is short for October). She has come a long way since we adopted her but she still sometimes has issues with other dogs. I have also had cats, rats and gerbils.
  • Best Game Ever? I play way to many games to choose one as the best of all time (card, board, RPG, video, etc). However, I loved the Mass Effect video games (especially 3), especially the setting they had created. For board games I enjoy paying Scythe, Parade, and Firefly: the Game. While I know the system is not everyone’s favourite, I grew up playing the Palladium Books RPGs and am still partial to them.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea, but usually only if it’s iced. (In Canada, iced tea is sweetened. If I’m in the States I enjoy both iced and sweetened tea.)
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I generally think that a lot of sci-fi is just fantasy in space anyway, so I tend to gravitate more to fantasy. If it’s dark, that’s even better.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? Just how much of your writing is grounded in actual history?

My Answer: That depends upon what you mean by grounded in. If you are asking if I have specific events that I am writing around, generally not.

However, I tend to write sort of like making a stew or pot roast. I don’t have a set recipe, more of a gathering of what’s at hand. Yet, at the bottom it’s almost always a beef roast.

History is sort of the base to everything for me, but it’s often not the big things. Trade routes, logistics, types of food that are available, materials and techniques used to produce stuff are all things I pay attention to. For example, I am constantly checking to see what vegetables and fruit are available in various places during different times of the year. I won’t say they’re always precise, but you can generally expect that what characters glean during their travels is, in fact, accessible.

That’s not to say that I don’t also pull from real events, people, and places. I do that, too, especially from stuff I find using Wikipedia’s random article function.

It’s all what comes to mind at a given moment that gets tossed into the pot.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Many thanks to Todd for taking the time to join me. Take a look at his work. Or don’t and risk Cthulhu’s wrath. Choose wisely 😀


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: Tiffanie Gray

This week’s interview is with Tiffanie Gray, a renaissance woman in many ways, as you’ll see.

What is your quest?  To have fun, make beautiful things, to learn and grow, and hopefully to make a little money on the way.

I have never had formal lessons. But, I have had many mentors along the way, both personal and book/video. I love Boris Vallejo’s work, and it definitely has influenced me, as has old Bob Ross videos which a discovered a couple of years ago! I’ve read the Lord of the Rings 4 times (one time in a single weekend while I was babysitting!), Mercedes Lackey, the Dragon Riders of Pern, the Chronicles of Narnia and so many other stories and authors. I would say that my favorite story of all time, though is Jonathon Livingston Seagull. I guess it came at a good time in my life and has always stuck with me.

I’m creative it so many ways, it’s hard for me to stick with one. If you look up the book “Refuse to Choose”, I am a scanner by their definition, of the Serial Master/Sybil type. That means that I have several things that I want to master, and will come back to them over and over in a circle to increase the mastery level and as the Sybil, I keep finding new things to add to my list!

My creations have gone in cycles, and I’ve added more, as it went. As a child, I wrote stories from a very young age. I still have my first written story from second grade, about Pegasuses. My drawing came next, but it was, like my stories, very crude. Embroidery and crocheting were next, followed by sewing, then pattern design, wood carving and burning, and then macrame. All of that was by high school. Stories and drawing were still developing, but I was by no means a prodigy in them. I really wanted to do book cover design and so studied and read everything I could on it. After a year of community college I joined the US Army at 17 years old. I turned 18 during basic training.

What was I thinking?

Military life slowed some of the mastery levels down, though it added some new ones, and marriage and family took another chunk out of my creative time! But, once I was out of the military, I really started working on art again, and made a number of leaps and bounds as I learned how to manipulate colored pencils. I started really getting into portraits, mostly fantasy portraits of the characters we were playing in our weekly D&D/ShadowRun/GURPS/Battletech games.

As we played, my story telling abilities were growing, too. I kept being frustrated, though, by Hollywood stealing all my story ideas, and partials, and turning them into movies before I could get them finished and published…..

Then I found Project Dogwaffle…The funny little paint program with the funny little name. I had wanted to learn oil and water color, and this looked like the answer, especially since I couldn’t afford Corel, the giant at the time and had too many kids in the house and not enough money/space to try Pigment Media. I have worked with Dogwaffle, since free version 1.2, until it was renamed PD Pro. During that time I became a beta tester for the program, and then it was renamed PD Howler (It’s current name), and I’m still a beta tester for it. Now I also do tutorials and webinars on it. I specialize in Landscapes and graphic design, and 3D art and texturing using it.

At the same time I was teaching myself Web design, I designed and administered websites for 3 non-profit companies. I improved in sewing and added beadworking and wire jewelry making and creating Celtic knotwork, both in art and in cord and wire.

I was also sewing and designing Renaissance costumes, for our family and for sale and learning blackwork embroidery, homeschooling 5 kids, improving acting, singing and dance skills. I also edited 2 books, several short stories and designed covers for them, for my husband and my niece. I wrote some short stories and did the covers for them too. Published on Amazon. But, I wasn’t thrilled with my skills on that so, I knew I needed to find something else to improve it. So I started leaning how to create clothing and avatars for Second Life, mostly at the urging of my kids, so that they could get free stuff.

Once the kids were all out of the house, I started putting my mind to getting better at the art and the writing. I really started working on DAZ Studio and Poser, which I had owned for some time, but had never conquered. Now, I theoretically had the means to make covers! In a very short time. I was joining writing groups and working on things, and mostly percolating ideas and skills at this time. I also went to Beauty College, followed by Instructor’s College, so I have a Master Instructor of Cosmetology License and am licensed in Oklahoma, Colorado and working on North Dakota. I owned and managed my own shop in Colorado before we moved. And I was my husband’s legal assistant during that time. Now he is a high school teacher and we are living on a reservation, so I have a little more time again…

I still only have the 3 short stories and a coloring book published, but I have 3 novels that are more than ½ done. I took a side trip into texture design for 3D works, and have 3 stores with my products in them. So, another thing I’m working on mastering! I also really need to update my websites and get my galleries up and running. If I could work on one thing, or at least one thing at at a time, I might accomplish more, but there isn’t anything that I want to give up, so I’ll have to keep developing slowly.

(ed. note: Tiffanie does stuff… 🙂 )

What is your favorite color?  Blue is my favorite color. It’s hard for me NOT to have blue in a picture or even a story. (I have a lot of blue eyed characters!) Practice is my biggest ally, and curiosity…ie, how can I do this thing? What does this thing do? What happens if I do this? While it may cause a mistake, those mistakes help you to learn/grow.

If I’m doing portraits, I always start with the eyes, they are the windows of the soul, and the place that people notice likeness the most. I love contrast, but it took me a long time to be willing to have ENOUGH contrast in a picture to really create the atmosphere and mood.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? Pleasing judges is my biggest frustration. I have never won a prize, even though I was really proud of the image that I created. I have sold very few copies of my books, another marker of judging by the public, and I know that it is more a product of people’s taste/opinion than it is of my skills, but it is frustrating. And moreover, I also know that marketing is the death of me. I will eventually have to add that to my repertoire, if I am going to have more than lukewarm success.

Like Bob Ross says, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. I have gotten very down on myself at times, before I learned and REALLY accepted that saying. And I still have problems with it, as I am a first born perfectionist. Children help you to learn that. I have had several colored pencil pieces that children have “helped” on. Then I had to figure out how to incorporate it into the image. With digital, I can usually just “undo” something that I really love about it! For writing, Losing several pages of work, everyone has had that pain. You just write again, and it’s often better, because it’s like self-editing! For Sewing? Sewing a pleated skirt to a lined bodice and having part inside and part outside, making a lovely mobius strip…we laughed, took pictures, and then slowly seam-ripped it apart.

Prior to following along with Bob Ross

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?  When I was in my local chapter of the CPSA, there was a guy, Don Pearson, who was quite famous for his landscapes. I felt that I could never achieve anything like that. When I started working on PD Howler, I made some tries, but still didn’t feel like it was up to the level that he did, or frankly even that I wanted to get to. But, when I started practicing along with the Bob Ross videos, I suddenly started making huge leaps of skill, because I was gaining information that I didn’t have before. Now, I have my tablet, and continue to build on those beginnings, and I’m very proud of my landscapes and have sold several packs of background images and am getting ready to set up stores at Fine Art America.com and Zazzle.com so that other folks can enjoy my art too!

After following along with Bob Ross

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Grover…And I can mimic him, too, and Yoda. Though if you are including ALL muppets, then Fizzgig from the Dark Crystal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Potatoes- Crunchy, Whip Cream– Creamy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Rutgar’s Jugger Team, which I don’t think had an actual name for the team.
  • Cake or Pie? Cookies is best. Pie, with ice cream, though Spice Cake and Black Forest and Cheesecake with fruit toppings are up there. The more important part is icing…only buttercream will do unless it’s on the aforementioned cakes.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon. Always.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guacomole. But my way is smashed avacado mixed with about an equal part of sour cream or greek yogurt if I’m out of sour cream, nothing else. Ranch dip would be next, but I prefer that with vegis.
  • Wet or Dry? Water I prefer wet, sodas too. Chips I prefer dry, and towels. Dog and Horses – Dry, Fish-wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Tim Gray, Jon Reneau, Tullamore, Serafem or Boru’s Ghost. (Though the last two are groups, though, not individuals) For commercial successes Mercedes Lackey, Heather Alexander, Alexander James Adams, Leslie Fish, Silly Wizard, Nightwish and Within Temptation you’ve probably heard of.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I’m allergic to alcohol, and have issues with American spelling, but I work on it.
  • Favorite Superhero? Original Luke Skywalker
  • Steak Temperature? Medium Rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Mork and Mindy, Chips, World of Disney (Sunday movie), Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring- the flowers are blooming, the weather is still cool, everything is bright and renewing!
  • Favorite Pet? Gray’s Jackie Mo Kida Toy (aka Jackie) – Pomeranian. He is about 13 years old now, and weights about 3 lbs. He thinks he is a human or a cat (is there a difference?). He loves to travel, and will bark and pout if he doesn’t get to go with us. We have 3 cats; Fuzzbot-a siamese look-alike, Yuriel Storm Tiger (aka Tiny Tiger) a strange grey tabby that we think was part wild cat, and October (aka Little Cat) a black, ½ Russian Blue. But they are my hubby’s favorites, and you said I could only have one favorite!
  • Best Game Ever? GURPS!!!! Because you can play in any universe with it!
  • Coffee or Tea? Bengal Spice Tea, Postum or Pero. Never coffee!
    Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Yes, though with a slight bias towards Fantasy.

What would you like to ask me: While walking around Wales, did you encounter any Good Folk?

My answer: I don’t know that I encountered any Fae during my walk through Wales. I did have magical moments, though. There’s a Bronze Age hillfort that I rested in as I climbed the Black Mountains. Then, from the top, looking over the valley to the east was amazing.

There’s an age to Wales. The hills are rounded. The land has that comfortable lived in feeling of your favorite chair. Is that the doing of the Tylwyth Teg or Sidhe? I don’t know but I do know that history sinks into in that place if you let it. When you’re on the path and you literally are the only person around, it’s hard not to let it.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

Have I every been in a beauty pageant? Yes, Miss Teen Arizona, I was in the top 100, but didn’t make it past there.

Do you play an instrument? Yes, I play Piano, Flute, Penny Whistle, Guitar, all badly. I sing well.

Have you ever been Soldier of the Year? Yes, at Ft. Meade, MD (I also competed in the Eastern CONUS Soldier of the Year, but came in second…which counts for nothing, as it is neither a horseshoe or a hand grenade.)

Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate or White Chocolate? Dark Chocolate, followed closely by White Chocolate.


Thanks Tiffanie, for the interview. You are definitely a creator with almost no media unturned. Now, I’ll just crawl back to my keyboard and do my one, little creative thing 😉

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.