Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Matt Williams

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

Interview: Matt Williams

What is your quest?

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

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

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Here are the links of interest:

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Chris Kennedy

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

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

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

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

Interview: Chris Kennedy

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

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

What is your quest?

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

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Lightning Round

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

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

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

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

Why yes, yes I do.

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

You can find them here:


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

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

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

Interview: James L. Young

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

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

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

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

What is your quest?

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

Aries Red Sky Cover
Aries Red Sky Cover

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

Acts of War Cover
Acts of War Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Pyre of Stars Cover
A Pyre of Stars Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Meriah Crawford

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

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

Interview: Meriah Crawford
Meriah at Petra
Meriah at Petra

What is your quest?

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

Persistence of Dreams Cover
Persistence of Dreams Cover

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Lightning Round

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

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

  1. What’s your favorite cute animal video?

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

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

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

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

3.How long will you survive the zombie apocalypse?

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Aaron Hollingsworth

Greetings all

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

Interview: Aaron Hollingsworth

What is your quest?

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Cedar Sanderson

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

Interview: Cedar Sanderson
Lab Gremlins Cover
Lab Gremlins Cover

What is your quest?

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

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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

What am I working on now?

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: A.E. Lowan

Greetings all

Welcome to the first interview of 2019. It’s going to be a great year, and we’re getting started with A.E. Lowan. Lowan is a pen name for three talented writers, Jessica Smith, Jennifer Vinck, and Kristin Vinck. I met them at Planet Comicon a couple of years ago. Our tables were next to each other in the Author Alley and we had a chance to hang out some.

But wait, we’re starting out 2019 with more, but what’s better than more? They’ve included a couple of excerpts from their Book of Binding fantasy series.

Faerie Rising Cover
Faerie Rising Cover

What is your quest?

JS: To capture a vivid world and the full spectrum of emotion that swirls within it, but also not to limit myself to a single type of story. All flavors of speculative fiction make it across my plate, and so do the possibilities that accompany those genres—but it is fun to take certain conventions of plotting and turn them on their head.

KV: My quest is to invoke emotion in the reader, to communicate the emotional lives of our characters in such a way as to make them feel real, because to me they are. These characters are some of my best friends and we are sharing them with the world. It can be scary stuff. Or liberating. It all depends on how you choose to view it.

JV: As a speculative fiction author, my quest is to tell an entertaining story that doesn’t necessarily reflect the world as it is, but as it could be. I am an idealist at heart, and my stories tend to focus on the effect that a dedicated group can have on the world. Whether my stories are set in unique fantasy worlds, urban fantasy environments with magical elements in the real world, or on a space ship, my characters crave change. They sense something wrong in their worlds and are the kinds of people who can’t let that go unaddressed. They are driven to affect change. I hope that readers will catch a fever to affect change in their own world from the passions of my characters.

There have been so many speculative fiction authors who have come before me with this same goal. I couldn’t hope to list them all, but some of the most influential on me have been Anne McCaffrey, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois Lowry, Robert A. Heinlein, John Scalzi, Octavia E. Butler, Margaret Atwood, Lois McMaster Bujold, Michael Crichton, and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

What is your favorite color?

JS: Setting wise … in high fantasy, referencing less-common cultures that inspiration might be drawn from. Everyone has seen a mock-up of the general British or French monarchy done time and time again, but what of medieval Germany? Ancient Egypt? Renaissance Spain? The Philippines, or even Sengoku-era Japan? There are so many ways to seed diversity within your world.

As for techniques, beginning in medias res helps get the ball rolling without relying on exposition.

KV: I am a trained poet and academic, though I ran away from that circus years ago. That being said, they both inform my prose. I seek to make even the most fantastical elements plausible (I love that word), drawn from history and science and the natural world, and I always strive to make the words themselves flow like music. I am not afraid of long sentences.

JV: I am a fan of flawed characters and the idea that redemption is attainable for anyone willing to strive for it. Our characters tend to come from traumatic backgrounds, both with traumas that have been inflicted on them, and traumas they have inflicted on others. I firmly believe that conflict is the root of story, and these types of internal conflicts—dealing with the repercussions of past action, seeking atonement—lead to stories of greater personal depth than just dealing with the crisis du jour.

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

JS: At this point in my life, carving out enough hours in my day to write (with being a student, running the family farm, and having a day job), and having those hours respected. Growling like a dragon so far hasn’t helped.

KV: I am a writer who suffers from significant mental illness, and it often gets in the way of me being the most creative and productive I can be. I find this incredibly frustrating. But, on the other hand, my mental illness also gives me a window onto these amazing worlds I have the privilege of writing about, so there is a lot of give and take.

JV: One of the challenges we have faced is changing the pace of our writing between book one and book two of The Books of Binding. We wrote Faerie Rising over the course of about seven years (though we have been developing the world of The Books of Binding for almost twenty). But we didn’t want there to be seven years between Faerie Rising and Ties of Blood and Bone. Learning how to produce a story that is just as good as the first at a fraction of the time took us some time to figure out and Ties of Blood and Bone was delayed for five months. But I think that we learned a lot about how we write and how to streamline the process from this failure.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

JS: In Team Lowan, I tend to be the developmental powerhouse. I’m rather good at coming up with entire worlds on the fly, and with them, massive, personalized casts to populate it.

KV: Music, coffee, and snacks. I am constantly listening to music to help focus my emotional life into words, and coffee is the fuel that keeps me running. I like to say that someday I’ll dedicate this series to Hershey’s and Frito Lay.

JV: I think that the element that I am most proud of in our work is the depth of our characters. They are engaging, and readers have told us that it is the characters that keep them up late turning pages until the end of each book. We write with an ensemble cast. We don’t have one or two main characters, we have a family who all have their own part of the story to tell. One of the things we always ask readers is, “Who was your favorite character?” We are very proud that we have gotten back every member of the cast as an answer.

Lightning Round

Favorite Muppet?

  • JS: Miss Piggy for her sass.
  • KV: Orlando Bloom
  • JV: I love Elmo’s enthusiasm and generosity of spirit.

Crunchy or Creamy?

  • JS: Creamy as in JIF peanut butter
  • KV: Creamy
  • JV: Definitely creamy

Favorite Sports Team?

  • JS: Bulgaria’s National Quidditch Team.
  • KV: Torn between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pembroke Titans, the pee wee hockey team my friend’s kid plays on.
  • JV: The Kansas City Chiefs. I have stubbornly never given up hope that we’ll make it through the playoffs again one day.

Cake or Pie?

  • JS: I’m partial to cake, honestly. Especially Dutch chocolate.
  • KV: Always pie. The cake is a lie.
  • JV: Both, as long as they’re chocolate.

Lime or Lemon?

  • JS: Lime. Lemon is a bit too overpowering for me, especially on fish.
  • KV: Lime. In a Coke. Delish.
  • JV: Lime.

Favorite Chip Dip?

  • JS: I’m partial to potato chips, and I don’t really dip those.
  • KV: The spinach and artichoke dip from Sam’s Club with tiny tortilla chips.
  • JV: French Onion on wavy potato chips.

Wet or Dry?

  • JS: Do I get to swim?
  • KV: Wet.
  • JV: Wet—I love both swimming and playing in the rain.

Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? 

  • JS: Erutan, and Rachel Rose Mitchell.
  • KV: Who’s to say what someone has never heard of, but I like Carbon Leaf. They write great songs (“The War was in Color” “What About Everything?”) and don’t get a lot of hits on the YouTubes.
  • JV: Sam Tsui (though more and more people have heard of him).

Whisky or Whiskey?

  • JS: Homemade icing? Whisk away!
  • KV: Whiskey. I’m Irish, second generation immigrant.
  • JV: Whiskey. In my family you get in trouble for writing it any other way.

Favorite Superhero?

  • JS: Probably Kitty Pryde. She has so many interesting arcs and an unusual ability to fuel them.
  • KV: Superman. I love his optimism and faith in humanity.
  • JV: I only get one?? Superman, though I’m normally more of a Marvel girl, if I only get one it has to be the man in the red cape.

Steak Temperature?

  • JS: Medium-rare. I don’t want a sufficiently skilled vet to be able to revive my meal, but I don’t want it to be carbonized, either.
  • KV: Mooing.
  • JV: Medium Rare

Favorite 1970s TV show?

  • JS: Little House on the Prairie, or Bewitched. It’s honestly a tie
  • KV: Buck Rogers
  • JV: M.A.S.H.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?

  • JS: I’m going to go with fall, because spring in Texas is usually about a week.
  • KV: Fall. The heat of summer has broken but the slush has not yet arrived. Plus, my birthday!
  • JV: Spring – I love when the world starts to turn green again.

Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want)

  • Sugar
    Sugar

    JS: But the furry ones are family. How can I choose a favorite? I can provide a picture of the senior office minion, though! I bottle raised Sugar and she has been my creative companion since she was an itty-bitty kitten (though she’s still itty-bitty, 6 pounds at 11 years old).

  • KV: I don’t have a single favorite pet, I have several. I won’t inundate you with office minion pictures, though Jennifer might. 😀
  • Perseus
    Perseus

    JV: Oh, this is hard, like choosing a favorite child. How about most photogenic? Our most handsome pet is Perseus, our office supervisor. Here he is napping on the job.

Best Game Ever?

  • JS: Now that’s a tough choice. I’m going to have to go with the Pokemon franchise because of its infinite replayability and the way you can customize everything.
  • KV: Calvin Ball (from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes)
  • JV: Best board game would be Trivial Pursuit (though I can’t get anyone to play with me anymore.) Best video game is World of Warcraft (yeah, I’m one of those geeks.)

Coffee or Tea?

  • JS: Tea. Green (citrus or mint), or cinnamon.
  • KV: Coffee, without reservation. Drinking coffee right now.
  • JV: Neither, please. I am a water lover

Sci-Fi or Fantasy? 

  • JS: Both! I particularly love fantasy with a science backing behind its lore and in-world tech. It grounds the setting so well and makes it feel incredibly well thought out.
  • KV: Both. Both. Yes, both is good.
  • JV: Please don’t make me choose! If I had a gun to my head I would say fantasy… but I love them both as well as a blend of the two.

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

How do you write such great books so quickly?? We are in awe of your productivity.

Rob’s Answer: Talk about funny timing. I was not at all productive in the fall, though when they originally sent this response back to me I was doing pretty good.

Either way, my answer is the same. Write some each day. My goal is to write a minimum of 1500 words a day, 5 days a week. That’s essentially three full novels and some short stories in a year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to reach that goal in 2019.

What’s next for The World of Shijuren?

Rob’s Answer: Lots! I will finish the epic fantasy series The Kreisens this spring with None Call Me Mother. Then, around Thanksgiving, I plan to release another Edward mystery novel. My intention is to aim for one of those every year, with another novel set in the world in the spring.

  • I’m also planning to open the world up to other writers to start an anthology and maybe some shared world novels. It’s a big world, even if I manage to finish all of the 25 or so novels I currently have laid out in my head, I will have only scratched the surface. I love the world, and there’s so much yet to tell.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

We would love to connect online. We love to talk with readers and other writers. You can find us here

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

You should have asked what’s next for A. E. Lowan? We are currently working on the third book in The Books of Binding – Beneath a Stone Sky. It will be out in 2019. This one picks up about a month after Ties of Blood and Bone. We are also working on audiobook versions of Faerie Rising and Ties of Blood and Bone for 2019.

And add your creator biography.

A.E. Lowan is the pseudonym of three authors who collectively create the dark urban fantasy series, The Books of Binding.

Kristin Vinck

Raised as a Navy brat, Kristin Vinck began writing as a child on the West Coast, learning her love of words at her mother’s knee. Kristin won her first writing award for urban fantasy in Seattle at eight-years-old for a story about a city on a boat pulled by dinosaurs. In her teens, Kristin moved from learning at home from her satirist mother to formal writing education at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. Kristin studied medieval studies and creative writing at Truman State University and now writes from the beauty of the Missouri Ozarks.

Jennifer Vinck

Raised among musicians in Kansas City, Missouri, Jennifer Vinck came to writing from another direction—poetry and song. Poetry was her primary creative endeavor throughout childhood and when Jennifer was twelve-years-old she was asked to write the lyrics for a song used for All Species Day (a precursor of Earth Day) in Kansas City. She auditioned for the creative writing department at the Kansas City Middle School of the Arts and there discovered a new passion—speculative fiction. Jennifer met Kristin on the first day of school at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. They began developing epic and urban fantasy worlds and have been collaborating in fiction and in life ever since. Jennifer studied linguistics and classical languages and literatures at Truman State University and spent many years as a bookseller before moving to the Missouri Ozarks to concentrate on writing.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith found her passion for fantastical storytelling where so many young writers do – through the masterpieces of fantasy’s renowned matriarchs. As the pile of worlds inhabited by dragon-riders, wizards, and fair folk caused her bookshelves to plea for mercy, the constellation of worlds inside her waiting for their story to be told grew. With enough ideas to fill the state of Texas where she was raised, Jessica first took pencil to paper before she hit double digits. Jessica’s love of the complexities of the universe and the intricacies of the human mind led her into study in the sciences. Her passion for writing took her to the internet in search of others who kept whole worlds in their minds. Jessica has been active on many online writing communities over the years, but it was on a fantasy-specific site, Mythic Scribes, where Jessica met Kristin and Jennifer in 2013. Her worlds and theirs collided as a whirlwind of collaboration began. The Books of Binding is the first project that partnership has unleashed on the world.

Faerie Rising Cover
Faerie Rising Cover

Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

Winter Mulcahy is the last wizard in the city of Seahaven, WA and all that stands between the fractious preternatural population and total chaos. Holding the city together by the skin of her teeth, the blood of her friends, and an addiction to stimulants that is slowly killing her, the young wizard is approached by a pair of sidhe lords who claim that her city is harboring a fugitive who has kidnapped a sidhe prince, and that they are on a mission to rescue the boy.

Winter must investigate this fugitive to get to the truth of the kidnapping, discover the cause of the surges of wild magic tearing open rifts between realms across her city, and navigate the deadly waters of preternatural politics before Seahaven both figuratively and literally rips itself apart.

Excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

The world shifted sideways. Winter braced herself against the wall with her one good hand, the chalk grinding against the concrete as she fought the initial wave of disorientation. Something was horribly wrong. Within the rift, power was building up, as if someone had just crimped a running hose.

And she was holding the nozzle.

Nine glyphs in the warding, each unique, complex, and time consuming. Each must be drawn with precision, or the whole seal would fail. Winter had never drawn glyphs so fast in her life, her hand frantically scraping the chalk against the wall in her desperate race against… against what? It felt like a tidal wave, rushing implacably toward her. Somehow, something was affecting the balance of power.

She spoke each glyph as she drew it, magic resonating in her voice with each syllable. Six glyphs to go. Its name spoken, the glyph would take on a glow, casting the hole in sharp relief, bringing out each line of exhaustion on Winter’s face.

Highlighting the growing cracks in the cement around the rift.

After the seal went up, the cement became irrelevant. It could be ground to dust, and the seal would hold. Before then, however… the seal needed a matrix, something solid to hold the lines she drew with the enspelled chalk. Before then, the seal was all too fragile.

When the surge hit, it would blow the rift wide open. There would be precious little left of Winter and probably the surrounding square acre or so.

Five glyphs.

She wasn’t going to make it. Winter’s shoulders were burning, her hand beginning to cramp and shake, her hurt wrist felt like it was on fire. The glow of the warding began to fade as her magic was drained by pain and panic and exhaustion. She needed more power. She did not have time to ground and pull power from the earth… leaving only one choice. “Karen!”

There is power to control in a name. She spoke the name with resonant Command, and suddenly the cougar was there, terrified eyes wide on the wizard beside her. Ruthlessly, she pushed aside the older woman’s flimsy natural protections and pulled what power there was into herself. It was wild, and tasted of dark places, pain-filled joy, and kittens warm in the den. This was not a wizard’s gift she used, but came of her mixed blood. The spell flared back to life, and Winter redoubled her efforts.

Four glyphs.

The hole began collapsing inward, little chunks of cement falling into the flame-wreathed darkness.

Three glyphs.

The chunks were getting larger, the cracks creeping closer to her fragile chalk lines.

Two glyphs.

The surge was now audible, a tsunami rushing toward them.

One glyph.

The ground beneath her knees was quivering with the building pressure.

The warding blazed just as the tidal wave of magic rammed it from the other side, the whole ravine shuddering from the impact, then the lettering settled into the cement, leaving the two women alone in the quiet night.

Ties of Blood and Bone Cover
Ties of Blood and Bone Cover

Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding

Winter Mulcahy’s life is getting better since her brush with death in October. She has a new family and they are helping her to grieve and rebuild her shattered life. She is learning to balance family, medicine, and holding the chaos of living among the preternaturals of Seahaven at bay. She meets a wizard, Alerich Ashimar, with the soul of a poet and the heart of a demon who is desperate to escape the life and choices that have been forced onto him. This man may hold the secret to the tragedies that have plagued House Mulcahy, but time is running out—for them both.

Alerich’s family is bound to a demon in a powerful geas set by his grandmother. Kill every Mulcahy by the upcoming winter solstice and her dead husband will be returned to her. Fail, and Alerich’s father, Magnus, will be forfeited to the demon. Magnus sends Alerich to collect Winter, the last of the Mulcahys, and bring her to the demon’s gate before the rapidly approaching deadline passes.

Alerich is horribly conflicted. He has been trying to mend his estranged relationship with his father, and he doesn’t want his father to die. But nor does he want to kill this beautiful, kind woman upon whom so many depend. When Alerich does not bring the girl at the appointed time, his father, feeling that Alerich has abandoned and betrayed him, strikes a terrible deal with the demon—something the demon has always wanted in exchange for the power to kill this last Mulcahy and his traitorous son.

Excerpt from Ties of Blood and Bone: The Second Book of Binding

“Thank you for coming, Alerich. I apologize for my outburst. I am under a fair bit of stress right now.”

Alerich’s brows knit together in confusion. Magnus Ashimar, apologizing for something? What was going on here? “No. It’s fine.” It wasn’t fine, but it was better to be gracious than to insist his father apologize to his friends. That would be too much. “Are you at liberty to tell me what’s bothering you?” It might not be an excuse for his poor behavior, but it would be nice to know the reason. It certainly had not been the first time Magnus had shown his temper at the table.

Magnus let out a breath. “I think I finally am.” He turned from the window to face Alerich and looked for a moment to be gathering his words. “I have been under a geas for the past twenty years, but I am nearly free. I summoned you and your sister here because I need your help.”

Alerich’s breath stilled. A geas? It was one of the most powerful of magical compulsions, second only to the soul compulsions practiced by demon lords like Arariel. His father was bound to perform a task, or forbidden from an action, under pain of terrible consequence. It was a rare wizard who could perform such magic, and though Alerich knew one who could do it, he did not want to think she would.

Not to her own son.

“What do you need me to do?” Alerich kept his tone neutral, careful. He had been forced to assist his father time and again and still carried the nightmares. Magnus was a sorcerer of blood and pain, servant to the Demon Lord Arariel. Where he went, painful, bloody death followed.

Magnus looked back toward the barn. “You know that your grandfather Adrien left your grandmother for a younger woman. Your grandmother remembers their marriage a bit differently than I do. She remembers the love of her life. I remember a miserable, disengaged man who hated being an Ashimar and felt trapped in every aspect of his existence. The minute—the second—an opportunity to leave presented itself, he ran away and left me holding the sorcerous bag.” Magnus sighed. “Left me with Arariel.” He turned back to Alerich. “They killed him for his trouble.”

Alerich’s eyes widened slightly. “Who killed him?”

“The Mulcahys.”

Alerich shook his head. “The Mulcahys? I thought their line was extinct. Isn’t that what House Daly is saying in their petition to be elevated to Great House—that the Mulcahy line is extinct and would drop the Council to ninety-eight houses?”

“They aren’t quite extinct, yet, but they have not sat in their seat on the Council in years. They were pariahs who muddied their Bloodline by breeding with anything that crossed their path, including mortals and therian.” Magnus looked disgusted. “There is a rumor of one wizard girl in a cadet branch of their line being allowed to give up her magic and take therian form for the purposes of breeding with a therian bear.”

Alerich thought it sounded rather romantic, actually, but that was an opinion he would not be sharing with his father. “But why did they kill Grandfather?”

Magnus gave a small shrug, emotions chasing each other in the depths of his eyes. “I never really knew, though I suspect your grandmother does. He fell in love with a much younger woman—Gwendolyn, the daughter of the Mulcahy at the time, himself. He left your grandmother within hours.”

Alerich’s brows rose. The Mulcahy was head of House Mulcahy, just as his father was the Ashimar, and someday he would be—if he survived Celia, of course.

Magnus’s jaw tightened. “The girl, Gwendolyn Mulcahy, became pregnant but died within a few days of our hearing the news. My father was murdered soon after. They tried to cover it up, of course, but I think they decided he, a sorcerer, was responsible for her death. They seemed to believe if he was capable of trafficking with demons he was capable of killing the girl he adored.” Rage flashed in his eyes. “Cowards.”

Alerich frowned in thought. Grandmother knew? “Grandmother did this to you?”

Magnus met Alerich’s gaze and nodded once.

“Why?”

Magnus looked up at the ceiling and then back down. “She bid me… ‘bid me’ sounds so damn tame, doesn’t it? She forced me to wipe the family out. Every. Single. One. I have until winter solstice—three more days—to finish my task. If I fail, Arariel gets my soul.”

‘They aren’t quite extinct, yet…’ Alerich closed his eyes for a moment and suppressed a heavy sigh. They had driven this Great House to the brink of extinction to avenge an Ashimar death—how very Ashimar of them. There were days when he really wondered why he was wasting his time trying to reconcile with his father at all. Not that his grandmother wasn’t just as culpable. Alerich knew what the look in his father’s eyes was, now. It was fear. How could Grandmother offer her own son to the demon for this madness? Wait… That thought brought him up short. “How was she able to negotiate with Arariel? She’s not a sorcerer.”

“I don’t know. All I know is she thinks that if I succeed, Arariel can bring my father back from the dead.”

“It can’t do that… can it?”

Magnus’s mouth twisted in annoyance. “Alerich, if you spent half the time you spend reading Shakespeare on your magical studies, you would know the answer to that question is, ‘Of course not.’ It’s playing on your grandmother’s hopes and fears, though she refuses to listen to me on the matter.” He shook his head. “And if you paid attention to me more often, you would know that Arariel is unique, even among its own kind. It’s ancient beyond the telling and I’m sure keeping secrets from us. It’s not a normal demon lord, if such a thing exists.”

Alerich forced himself to not look back toward the dining room. He had his own reasons to hate and fear Arariel, and to think too hard about it could draw it out. He looked at his father, instead. The man who had raged at him, beaten him, and belittled him all his life. A sorcerer. A murderer.

How could he let the demon eat him?

Magnus looked out to the barn again. “I need your help, Alerich. There is one last Mulcahy and I need your help to kill her. Just one more and this is finally over. I am out from beneath your grandmother’s control.”

Alerich’s shoulders sagged and he nodded. He did not want to be part of this—any of this—but he could not let his father die. If this was truly the last, then maybe… maybe nothing. Arariel would still be there, demanding sacrifices. Demanding deaths. But maybe this one death would bring his father a species of peace. “What do you need from me?”


Thanks to A.E. Lowan for taking the time to answer my questions.

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

 

Interview: A.M. Freeman

Greetings all

This week’s interview is A.M. Freeman, a really sharp cookie who likes to dress up like a cow every once in a while. Don’t let that fool you, she’s udderly brilliant.

Interview: A.M. Freeman

What is your quest?

To share the stories that build up in my head and preserve my sanity. (or whats left of it)

What is your favorite color?

My color is green. Green is the color of growth. I like to take a spark and work and mold it until it is a fire that others can be warmed by and enjoy. I’ve found my way to do that is to list the ideas from the spark, do research to get more ideas, then organize them. I think over the setting, the people, the conflicts, what motivations goals there are. I group them into rough scenes, like making a skeleton. I keep molding, filling out and adding flesh to the scenes, until the story and actions are clear. Then I form it, adding the skin, hair, eyes, the details so that everyone else can see and understand. Then I beat it over and over and over again, until the shape and textures are just right. At last my Golem is complete! And I set it out on the masses! Muhahaha!!!

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

Sloooooow. I like to say I can’t read or write, I’m just good at telling stories. In truth, I couldn’t read until I was 10. That hasn’t stopped me much, just provided some hilarious spelling mix-ups. I’m not too slow at writing, just reading. There was also the time I lost ALL the editing on a novel I was trying to write. I’m talking months spent going over the entire 100 pages. Then, the very day I finish the edits, the file goes corrupt. This was before I started constantly saving my projects in multiple places. So the last saved version of the story I had was before I started editing. So I lost all that work, plus about ten pages off the end. That was cripplingly painful. But after taking a break I got back to it and pushed on.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

It bursts forth characters. They like to pop into myself. I feel like I can translate emotions pretty well, giving others a chance to feel them. The most emotional story I’ve written is probably my most well known (relatively speaking since I’ve only got short stories out so far) I’m not even sure how much credit I can take for that story. It was a very strange and inspired story that came to me late one night when I was 15. But my technique was strong enough to convey it, so I’ll take that. It was my first publication, at the age of 18. Came out in a little (and by little I mean epic) anthology called Forbidden Thoughts. Look it up!

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy! That sass tho….
  • Favorite Sports Team? Pink Panthers! I was the star goalie back in my glory days.
  • Cake or Pie? Piecaken It’s a pie baked into a cake.
  • Lime or Lemon? Limon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? The tasty kind, just nothing too spicy.
  • Wet or Dry? Depends on the weather
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ellie Lawrence!!! We grew up in the same neighborhood. She was on season 9 of the voice. Has a real cool voice and style, and has an EP out somewhere called “If you Knew Me”
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Underaged!
  • Favorite Superhero? Wonder Woman
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? …. I don’t know any.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Anything that isn’t winter! I’m  Florida born, and my skinny body can’t handle the cold.
  • Favorite Pet? My mustang! She’s a pretty buckskin. Got her at 10 months old, from the wild and untouched by humans, and trained her myself. She’s about 5 now. We like to ride around the pasture bareback.
  • Best Game Ever? Ugh! You just made me lose it!
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, even through it makes me crazy sometimes.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Both, at the same time, rolled into a big ball of awesome, with cool technology and fantastic people/creatures.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? Have you ever seen a chicken run around without it’s head? (I have, it’s pretty funny, almost cartoonish)

Rob’s Answer: Nope. For a guy who’s mostly a Kansas boy, I haven’t spent much time on farms. My headless chickens have all involved BBQ sauce, sesame oil, or and/or rosemary.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • LibertyCon Spring of 2019. I’ll be legal to drink then! So things should get interesting. (Rob’s Note: The Four Horsemen Universe party at LC is going to get lit! And her too!)

 

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

You should have asked how Muse is today. My imaginary cat gets very cranky when people don’t give him attention. (Rob’s Note: Cats don’t have to be imaginary to get cranky without attention. My office cat has been biting me as I type this entry. Like now! Ouch!)


Thanks to A.M. for taking the time to answer my questions.

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: R.J. Ladon

I’m way behind in doing interviews. Blame it on #FourHorsetober and the dozens I did during the month.

But it’s time to get back on the horse. This week, R.J. Ladon is joining me. She, too, is part of the 4HU, but I couldn’t squeeze her interview in during the month. My apologies to her for the delay.

Interview: RJ Ladon

What is your quest?

To cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring! When I was young (8-9ish) Gary Gygax purchased our family Arabian horse ranch. He gave my siblings and I, “Dungeons and Dragons” books and modules. He even played a short game with us noobs so we could understand what D&D was all about. I learned from him that some of the most interesting and entertaining stories, creatures, and environments come from your mind. Years later, I learned who that Gygax fellow was, and how important he was to my journey, er quest.

What is your favorite color?

Yellow, no blue. You know the adage “write what you know”? Well, I had to sacrifice many children to my Nerf Guns to make the “foam dart scene” come to life. I try to learn the “how” of the things I write about. The hands-on experiences of the SCA and Rendezvous groups have been excellent. Write what you know–if you don’t know–go learn, go experience. (Rob’s Note: I really appreciate how my SCA experience helps me add touches to my writing, especially with medieval materials and food).

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

Would that paint brush be male or female? Where do I start. My biggest challenge was, and to some extent still is–finding time. The only way for me to get over this copout was to schedule time into my busy day. In effect treat writing like a job–you have to do this or you won’t get paid.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’ve been told my scenes are easy to read and understand. Like watching a movie inside my brain. Not sure that is a success or not but it makes me happy.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?   Sweetums
  • Crunchy or Creamy? sure
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t have time for sports.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake
  • Lime or Lemon?  Why not both
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Hot salsa
  • Wet or Dry?  TMI
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Ofhttps://www.tartanic.net/ Drums, Bagpipes and Belly Dancers – what else do you need?
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Not without Tango and Foxtrot
  • Favorite Superhero? The Tick
  • Steak Temperature? How about some chicken?
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Fantasy Island – no M*A*S*H
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Yes please. All seasons have their merits.
  • Favorite Pet?  Too many to choose from–someone would get jealous.
  • Best Game Ever? Blood of Heroes!!!! (Rob’s Note: Somewhere, my friend Pavel is smiling at this response. Then he’s punching an angel and saying, “The level of violence in this heaven is too low).
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Wait…is there a difference?

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

I understand you are a wealth of knowledge of the Myth and Culture of Renaissance and Medieval time periods. Where did you learn this information? School? Books? Other? Please explain.

Rob’s Answer: Yes to all of it. I loved Bullfinch’s Mythology as a kid and prowled through every Arthur thing I could find. At around 10 I read Tolkien, then stumbled on Susan Cooper’s The Tide Is Rising series. Somewhere along the way I realized that reading Beowulf and epic poetry out loud was magical and amazing.

So when I had the choice of what to study in grad school, I chose Anglo-Saxon England. Not only was wallowing in Beowulf, the Wanderer, Anglo-Saxon riddles, and all the rest fun, but there’s good solid historical evidence hidden in them. That meant reading more and more myth and legend to find small nuggets of cultural gold. I still do that.

And yes, that helps me build worlds, both because it gives me extra tools and because it’s so much fun. Shijuren is a deep, rich world that I’ve barely started to show to all my readers.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

  • Liberty Con 2019– May 31st to June 2nd at the Read House in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Do you have a creator biography?

My name is RJ Ladon. I’m a Design Engineer by trade. I’m also an author. I have contributed one Military Science Fiction story to the best-selling Science Fiction Anthology ‘Tales from the Lyons Den: Stories from the Four Horsemen Universe’, and two horror stories to ‘Sha’Daa Toys’. Currently, I’m writing ‘Bloodstone’ a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel. ‘Bloodstone’ will be the first in a series, and released in early 2019.

I’m a native of Wisconsin, where I still live today, with my husband, daughter, two adult sons, and a menagerie of animals. I also maintain a vast garden, and a fruit and nut orchard.


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: J.R. Handley

Chances are, if you like military science fiction, you might have run into J.R. Handley on Facebook. He has science fiction podcast and serves as an admin on the Galaxy’s Edge fansite.  He’s a hard worker who adds a ton to the MilSF community. And, oh yeah, he’s a good writer as well.

Interview: J.R. Handley

What is your quest?

I strive to tell compelling science fiction stories that are fun escapism from the drudgeries of the modern world. I love space opera and military science fiction, which are the two spaces where I excise my demons and weave them into the tapestry of my futuristic universe. I let my real-world experiences from serving 8.5 years in the Army, with two tours in Iraq, flavor the action and the soldiers I write about. Hopefully I succeed in creating warriors worthy of the genre that I love to read.

Growing up I devoured science fiction from Orson Scott Card and the plethora of books written in the Star Wars Universe. I read those books clear up through the end of high school, only taking a break from reading for fun when I was in college and then in Iraq. When I rediscovered reading, I found authors like Chris Kennedy (The Theogony Universe), Tim C. Taylor (Human Legion Series), Terry Mixon (Empire of Bones Series), Richard Fox (The Ember War Series) and the deadly duo of Anspach and Cole (The Galaxy’s Edge Series). All of those styles effect the story teller I’ve become, which I hope to bring to the Four Horsemen Universe I enjoy reading.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color? I’m color blind so I don’t really have a favorite. I only see the basic primary colors, but I guess I like blue and green. Okay, my former fire team would skewer me alive if I didn’t say Infantry Blue!

As for what I like in my creations, I strive to balance the details that make the story come alive with the fast pace expected from the genres where I play. I don’t want to tell the readers about the far-flung battlefields, I want them to BE there with my characters. I would love for them to be able to envision the story, like a movie playing in their heads. One of the biggest tricks I use for my battlefields, since you’re looking for advice for other creators… I make a sand table of the space where the action happens. It lets me see the battlefield in 3D and plot realistic strategies for the situation at hand. Plus, it’s fun playing with Legos and calling it “work.” Unless my wife is reading this, then it is TOTALLY work!

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

An unladen paint brush flies at the speed of sound, divided by pie and multiplied by the weight of a porcupine on Mars. Oh, and make sure you don’t mix in the metric system or you’ll create a space-time singularity that will destroy the fabric of the universe!

Now, on a more serious note… I swear I can be serious! My biggest challenges revolve around overcoming the traumatic brain injury I suffered in Iraq. Sometimes I get my words mixed up, and my minions have to go back and help me figure out what I really meant. Most of the time it’s pretty easy sometimes involves rewriting entire sections because the gibberish was indecipherable. I can get confused very easily and have a finite number of cognitively viable hours in the day, which cuts into my writing time. Overall, I do it all again and still enjoy telling the stories even if I’m slower than molasses. It just means I have to get creative as I fight through the Amazon churn model that is in vogue.

The hardest part to answer here was regarding some of my failures. Even when I have stories rejected by anthologies, I don’t consider them failures. I write as therapy, as a way to process what happened overseas. I also write to keep exercising my gray matter so I can fend off the inevitable dementia that is often associated with dramatic brain injuries. Every day I write something, I call it a win. Most recent failure, or rejection, was from the previous 4HU anthology. I got so distracted by the shiny idea, that I lost sight of the universe canon and the story was rejected. Again, this wasn’t a failure because I can pull out anything that is proprietary to the universe and still salvage the story. Failure is only a thing if you don’t learn from it, or you have a warped view on things. I try to take everything in stride, avoid dwelling on the negative, and appreciate that I’ve got another day above the dirt. Losing so many friends definitely alters your perspective, and I try to honor their sacrifice by not giving up.

Since we focused on the negative, well on failure anyway, I want to take a second to talk about the good things. I truly feel that the story and the upcoming anthology is one of the best I’ve ever written. I’ve read all of the previous anthologies, and many of the main storyline books, and wanted to bring something a little different to the universe. I tried to honor the warrior, by remembering why they fight with this submission. I really hope that comes across and would love for your feedback once you’ve read it!

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

The Holy Hand Grenade is all knowing, it comforts us when we are hurting and smites our foes with impunity! Who doesn’t worship the Holy Hand Grenade? Point me at the blasphemous soul and we will smite them together!

It sounds like what you’re really asking for are my tricks of the trade, and the biggest one I use I’ve previously mentioned. I rely heavily on sand tables to block out my action scenes, and I feel like that’s where I do my best work. I can’t really pinpoint one specific success that I’m proud of, other than to say that my latest work is always my favorite and I hope that I’m growing at every step along the way. The two stories I’m most proud of are the one in the upcoming 4HU anthology titled “CASPers Widow” and one written in my Sleeping Legion Series titled “No Marine Left Behind.” I feel like they are some of my best published work, and I hope the readers agree.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit the Frog
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Coffee
  • Favorite Sports Team? Yay sports ball!!  Wait, I don’t have one… I prefer watching the USA Rugby Team or just reading a good book.
  • Cake or Pie? Coffee
  • Lime or Lemon? Coffee
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French Dip with those ridged chips
  • Wet or Dry? Wet… cause COFFEE
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard OfJoey and Rory, Dropkick Murphy’s or maybe Dar Williams? I’d guess that these are pretty main stream though.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whichever one fills my glass the quickest!
  • Favorite Superhero? GI Joe or Captain America!
  • Steak Temperature? On my plate!
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Wait, did they have to be back then? Let me run to my local museum and get the historians to answer that one for me!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Yes, as long as no deserts are involved. I’ve had my fill of deserts! For more serious answer though, I prefer spring or fall because the weather is in the Goldilocks zone.
  • Favorite PetOur benevolent leader, Lord Cthulhu.
  • Best Game Ever? Chess, though DnD is pretty fun as well. But that might just be because I haven’t played the 4HU game that is coming out soon!!
  • Coffee or Tea? Hot coffee or sweet iced tea, the ying to my yang! Clearly the secrets of an awesome life
  • Sci-Fi or FantasyD, All of the Above!

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

Well, I can tell you that the secret of the universe is 42, but you didn’t ask me that!  Or that everyone knows the Devil invented pineapple pizzas, but you didn’t ask that either! Oh, and we can all agree in the heathen blasphemous nature of unsweetened iced tea!!  What about the proper temperature one should drink beer?  I swear it should be properly chilled, but heathen Brits like Tim C. Taylor drink it warm.

Rob’s Answer: You are correct. Beer must be *properly* chilled. That temperature is different for various types of beers. Lagers, especially light lagers, are best really cold. Real Ales, especially cask-pulled ales, are usually better at about 55 degrees. If they’re too cold, you lose much of the flavor.

Stouts like Guinness are perfect examples of this. Cold Guinness is rather bland. Let it warm to about 50, and suddenly it’s rich and vibrant. So, yes. Chill your beer properly.

And one last thing. If you like beer and you go across the pond, look up CAMRA to help you find some absolute treasures. I’m sure Tim C. Taylor would agree.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

You can find my books on Amazon or hear my insanity over at the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. My website is an option too, I post a lot of book reviews there! Finally, we can chat on Facebook!

And where can we find you?

I’ll be attending the 20 Books to 50K author conference in Vegas in the first week in November 2018! Not sure about any other scheduled dates, since my life is so crazy at the moment. If any event comes up, I’ll be sure to post it on my website.

Do you have a creator biography?

J.R. Handley is a pseudonym for a husband and wife writing team. He is a veteran infantry sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division and the 28th Infantry Division. She is the kind of crazy that interprets his insanity into cogent English. He writes the sci-fi while she proofreads it.  The sergeant is a two-time combat veteran of the late unpleasantness in Mesopotamia where he was wounded, likely doing something stupid. He started writing military science fiction as part of a therapy program suggested by his doctor and hopes to entertain you while he attempts to excise his demons through these creative endeavors. In addition to being just another dysfunctional veteran, he is a stay at home wife, avid reader and all-around nerd.  Luckily for him, his Queen joins him in his fandom nerdalitry.

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

Clearly, you need to ask the Religion Question; Star Wars, Star Trek or Firefly!  The right answer is Star Wars, pre-Disney, of course! And then Firefly, though the show was murdered prematurely by the Evil Overlords over at Fox.


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell