Rob’s Update: Closing In

Week of 27 November – 4 December

Greetings all

Things are moving along on Where Now the Rider. I’m in the 90s in word count. I’m at the cleaning up and setting up the conclusion stage. Really close.

This time of year is always interesting. I’m stressing about getting the next book done, but this is also my normal time to upgrade and clean my house. Some new landscaping, two toilets replaced, and a lot of emptying of closets.

Isn’t it odd how much decluttering makes us happier?

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and things are going well towards Christmas.

Quote of the Week

This day, 30 November, in 1900, one of my favorite quote machines, Oscar Wilde, passed away.

When I bought this house, I walked into the master bedroom and said to myself, “That’s the worst wallpaper I’ve seen.” Then I went into the mother-in-law suite which had wallpaper consisting of button images in a variety of patterns. I said to myself, “No, no that’s not the worst wallpaper I’ve ever seen.” If the room was darker, the buttons followed you across the room like eyes in a Scooby Doo cartoon.

So, today’s quote is Oscar Wilde’s comment about the wallpaper in his room just before he died.

“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”
– Oscar Wilde

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider (91k)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • – Nothing new, but lots coming soon after I finish the draft of Where Now the Rider and get the wiki updated before release.

Upcoming Events

  • – 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
  • – 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
  • – 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
  • – 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
  • – 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Mark Wandrey. I really enjoy his Earth Song series. You can find his books at: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Wandrey/e/B00914T11A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480562390&sr=8-1

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

Weekly Update Archive

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Weekly Update: Thanksgiving

Greetings all

One of the things I’m most thankful for is all of you who subscribe to this email. Thank you very much.

I’m also thankful as Where Now the Rider is flowing along. I actually cut a bunch out that I did not like but I’m back up to 77k words with a number of scenes percolating. I’m now to the waffling about the bad guy stage.

Yes, I write mysteries without knowing who the bad guy will be. Oh, I usually have an idea but I’m not wedded to the idea. I get close to the end and then I figure it out. I also let my alpha readers guess, and if they guess my idea too easily then I need to change the mystery somehow. My initial bad guy in A Lake Most Deep was too obvious so I changed who it was.

Does that mean I have to go back and add and change clues? Yep, but I actually don’t know how to write a story without going back and changing stuff to meet the final ending. Often, it’s merely adding flavor words here and there. Maybe a sentence or a paragraph. Sometimes, it’s creating or filling out characters to make other potential suspects.

It might not be the “right” process, but it’s a process that works for me, and I’m thankful for that too. For more that I’m thankful about, check out my Thanksgiving blog post at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=517

Quote of the Week

I haven’t read it in decades, but I loved Erma Bombeck’s The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank when I was a kid. Maybe it helped her sense of humor, but she was one tough lady. She dealt with a kidney condition for most of her life and still beat breast cancer. I’m thankful she lived long enough to give us her sense of the world, and this quote has always spoken to me.

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.”
– Erma Bombeck

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider is up to 77k

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

  • – 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
  • – 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
  • – 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
  • – 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
  • – 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight

I’ve been doing a lot of re-arranging of late, and that has included putting up some of the art that I’ve gathered along the way. One of those pieces was this one by Sam Flegal: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5714279c7da24f0475e0cfe3/57142ba47da24f0475e0e9e7/57142baa7da24f0475e0e9fd/1461937124629/LibertyorDeath_watermark1.jpg?format=1500w

You can see a bunch more cool art from him at: http://www.samflegal.com/

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

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

Weekly Update Archive

Thanksgiving

Greetings all

It’s much easier to focus on what’s wrong and not what’s right about something. To let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Thanksgiving is a perfect example. I’ve seen people complaining for years about how it’s just a time for gluttony, an insult to Native Americans, and it leads into all the greed of Black Friday. There’s some truth to all of these and other complaints.

But there’s so much to appreciate about Thanksgiving that is forgotten when focusing on such things. It’s a time for many people to enjoy spending time with family.

Gluttony yes, but also an opportunity to make great food and share it with friends.

It’s also a great day for football. I personally really appreciate it.

I know there are those who love Black Friday in the way a hunter loves the opening day of deer season. Not my thing, but I’m happy for people who enjoy it.

More importantly, Thanksgiving prompts all of us to think about our lives. Cliche though the idea is, it’s a great thing to simply think about what we’re all thankful for. If you don’t do that now, I hope you do that at some point. It will make you happier.

So here are some things I’m thankful for.

My parents. I’m especially thankful my mother has survived breast cancer and that it looks my dad will survive his cancer for many years.

My sweetie. I’ve a great sweetie who puts up with me, despite my abilities to dig myself into a hole by being mouthy. She rocks. She even loved that went I went to see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood last December that I had them pose with no one in between them so I could caption it as a picture of her with them.

My kitty. She’s a really nice cat who needs more love than I can really give her at times, but she’s still always there purring when I fall asleep.

My job. Writing is hard, but I love it. I’m not successful enough financially at this yet, but I keep plugging away.

Brewbakers. This is a bar in Lenexa that lets me sit here for hours writing and doing my job. In some ways, it feels like my office. Tonya and the rest take good care of me.

My readers. I’m very thankful for those who’ve made it clear that as long as I keep plugging away and doing my best they’ll read my stuff. The most important one in many ways is Cedar Sanderson, who has twice been there with nice things to say at exactly the time I needed nice things the most.

A myriad of *things*. By things, I mean my car, my house, my computer, my scrolls, my books, and all the rest of my stuff. I’m wealthy indeed when it comes to that and I’m thankful for all of it.

Rush. It’s really hard to express how important Rush’s music is to me. It’s been there when I’ve needed it ever since 1980. It’s inspired me many times.

My other favorite artists, authors, and performers. Too long to list, but I’ve admired a lot of great stuff over the years. In 2016, my new passion is Tengger Cavalry, which is Mongolian folk metal.

The Dallas Cowboys. I’m not saying that because they’re doing so well this year, but because they’ve given me a lifetime of great moments, even if some of those moments were some of the saddest in my life. Really, I could just say football. Or frankly, sports.

The SCA. The SCA continually gives me great opportunities to grow. Whether it’s as a person, or a public speaker, a poet, or all the other things, I am much stronger. Also, some of the best friends I’ve ever met.

My friends. Very lucky here, especially as I’m a guy who’s never really been anything but socially awkward. I do better now, but it’s never been easy. Thanks for staying when I’ve screwed up.

There’s so much more, but that’s a fine list. I don’t know about you but seeing it laid out like that makes me much happier.

I often quote Wallace Stevens, “death is the mother of beauty.” The universe gives us bad things that we dwell upon, but that makes all of the good things so much brighter.

Oh, one last thing.

Thanks to all of you for reading this.

 

 

 

Weekly Update: The Unforgiving Minute

Week of 13-19 November

Greetings all

I’ve spent much of this past week re-organizing and cleaning my garage / shop. I’ve made huge progress and can soon do some projects, which is great because I find myself generating writing ideas as I work with my hands.

I’m moving along well on Where Now the Rider, too. I’ve also been working on a few poems, some for the SCA and some for Shijuren. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be publishing a collection of Shijuren-themed poetry someday.

In general, I’ve filled the unforgiving minute well.

Quote of the Week
I’m a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Have been since I was 4. Yesterday, Tony Romo, the quarterback of the Cowboys, showed what kind of man he is. I have a blog post about what he did here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=496.

I didn’t intend to quote from Kipling two weeks in a row, but If is too appropriate. Tony Romo has filled his unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run and more.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If, Rudyard Kipling

News and Works in Progress
– Getting Where Now the Rider finished is my main focus right now
– Starting to add things to the wiki from Where Now the Rider. You can find some links below.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

  • – Decided against going to Toys for Tots to get various projects done
  • – 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
  • – 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
  • – 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
  • – 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
  • – 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight
This week’s spotlight is on Amanda S. Green. I especially enjoy the Honor and Duty series she co-writes.

Her author page at Amazon is at: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-S.-Green/e/B004TYLM96/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1479327165&sr=1-2-ent

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works
A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Bk 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Bk 2)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Bk 1)

Weekly Update Archive

 

Weekly Update: Ramping Back Up

Editor’s Note: A week late publishing it here. This week’s update is coming soon.

Week of 6-12 November

Greetings all

Sorry I’m late this week, been a strange week for a number of reasons.

In any case, I’ve been clearing a bunch of other projects not related to Shijuren off of my plate recently. I’ve helped write a number of ceremonies for SCA peerages and started working on some scroll texts. I’ve also been cleaning my garage and decluttering some. Lots of trash to the curb on Tuesday. Strange isn’t it how much decluttering can make one feel better.

Today I started back on Where Now the Rider with fresh eyes. So glad I stepped back. Glaring improvements jumping off the page.

Nice to be back.

Quote of the Week

I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day, so today’s quote is from Kipling. Thank you to all who have served, including my father and both of my grandfathers.

If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white, Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight: So take open order, lie down, and sit tight, And wait for supports like a soldier. Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .
– Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier

News and Works in Progress
– Working again on Where Now the Rider
– Patrick has given me draft art for WNTR, getting there
– I have an idea on a way to sign, sort of, e-books. Been working on that.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions
– Not much as I have focused on other things.

Upcoming Events
– Decided against going to Toys for Tots to get various projects done
– 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
– 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
– 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
– 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
– 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight
Chris Kennedy is a very successful independent writer who has spent hours encouraging many of us. If you’re interested in writing yourself you should follow his Twitter feed at @ChrisKennedy110.

His Amazon author page is at: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Kennedy/e/B00E4MIJA8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1478897285&sr=1-1

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works
A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Bk 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Bk 2)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Bk 1)

Weekly Update Archive

Filling the Unforgiving Minute

Social media has been in many ways at its worst this past week because of the election. Lots of man-bites-dog stories, which in all actuality are minimal representations of what a country of 325 million is really about. If only we would report millions of dog-bites-man stories of people being decent to each other, we might realize there are fewer divisions than we think and more ways to resolve those we have.

Yesterday, though, there was a man-bites-dog story about a person acting with class and respect in a situation that many expected would cause strife. Yes, there’s frustration, pain, and anger as you will see, but none of it directed at the only people in reach, people who are not at fault.

What happened? Tony Romo came out and publicly accepted that he would be the backup quarterback to Dak Prescott for the Dallas Cowboys. Here’s the video.

Now, let’s get some perspective. Football is the ultimate team sport, and a failure by any player, coach, or front office guy can be the one thing that prevents a team from winning a Super Bowl. We know mathematically that games decided by 7 points or less are essentially coin tosses. Even the worst team in the NFL consists of talented world-class athletes, and the difference between the top and bottom is simply not much.

Watch  the Immaculate Reception (Google it, it’s a fun play to watch), and tell me if the ball hit the ground. The Steelers don’t win the Super Bowl that year if it did. But the referees said it did not, so Ken Stabler did not get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until after his death. An entire legacy hinged on a play that close. This sort of thing happens *every* year again and again.

It’s why we watch sports. The ultimate reality show, where people put everything they have into something and every time someone wins someone else loses.

And it’s why we care about the people, good or bad, justified or not, we care about the players.

Football is a ballet of 11 people moving in an intricate dance. If certain arm angles, foot placements, knee angles, and many other technical details are even an inch incorrect, it can mean the difference between victory and loss. There are a maximum of 20 games that matter in a season, and each one might be the one that shapes a season or a career.

Out of 32 teams, there’s only 1 Super Bowl winner. E pluribus unum, indeed.

Tony Romo will be criminally underrated unless he is the quarterback of a Super Bowl winning team, but for the bulk of Tony Romo’s career, the talent around him has been continually overrated. I can go for hours about that.

I can also talk about bad luck. Many remember the botched snap against the Seahawks in the playoffs, but don’t realize that the NFL had seen that happen a number of times that year and was already planning to change to a different ball for kicks because the ones they were using were too hard to handle. Then there’s the catch by Dez Bryant against the Packers in 2014. I can go on about that too.

I’ve watched him turn bad teams into average teams, average teams into good teams, and good teams into great ones. His results have been especially amazing since he wasn’t even seen as good enough to be drafted. 262 players were drafted in 2003. 13 of them were quarterbacks. 1 of them still plays, Carson Palmer, who is nowhere close to as good as Romo is.

There’s an advanced metric that correlates strongly to winning, it’s called ANY/A, or Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. Basically, it penalizes the bad plays, credits the good plays, and comes up with a total. Tony Romo’s *career* ANY/A is 7.02, which is 5th all-time. Now he benefits from the era, but 5th puts him in the elite quarterback range of this era.

But he’s never had a great team around him.

I know the Cowboys went 4-12 last year, but for the first time in a while I had high hopes for this roster.They invested in the offensive line, giving the team the best one in the NFL. Ezekiel Elliot. A plethora of targets. A great offensive identity. They created a defense that was underrated, but more talented than many realize and designed to make up other talent deficiencies with hustle. A great kicker, perhaps the best in NFL history.

Last year was an aberration. Injuries yes, even more than this year, and there have been a ton of injuries this year too. But also a lot of bad luck, like 2-7 in close games and a league-worst fumble recovery rate, which is also a coin toss. A perfect storm of awful.

This year the luck has rebounded and the Cowboys have been a lucky team. The fumble rate is about average, but they’ve been 4-1 in close games. Can that continue? Not in the long term, but an NFL season is *not* long term. Remember it is, at most, 20 games.

This was to be Tony Romo’s year. After hundreds of hits, years of pounding, playing through a punctured lung, ignoring pain you or I cannot imagine, *this* was to be Tony’s year.

I had higher hopes for this year than any in recent memory, and the 8-1 record, though aided by some luck, validates that hope.

But it’s not been Tony’s year. He got hurt on an odd play with an injury medical professionals repeatedly insist had nothing to do with age, only the odd angle and timing of the play. Just a bad luck play for Romo, but it opened the door for Dak Prescott to take his place. To replace Wally Pipp in the sports lexicon with Tony Romo.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic when the Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott. I didn’t expect he’d be as good as he’s been so quickly, but I did have high hopes for him. And he’s been good, not as good as Romo as a quarterback, with a number of missed passes and reads and subtle mistakes, but he’s been just as good of a leader. And he’ll help us lift a Lombardi someday, maybe even this year.

Certainly, the Cowboys have played really well this year. 8-1 is a great record, and as Tony said, it’s not easy to do in the NFL. I’m especially pleased with the defense, though things will get tougher in the next few weeks because their strength has been depleted by repeated injuries in the defensive backfield. Still, this is a team that will be favored in most games for the rest of the year and justifiably so. This is a damn good team that can play anywhere.

But. It’s. Not. Been. Tony’s. Year.

As a writer, this is an amazing story. Tony is a tragic figure, one the gods seem to especially love to torture. They put his ultimate goal, a Super Bowl victory just within reach, only to snatch it away time and again. A Prometheus who brought the fire to the Cowboys and has been punished eternally by a vengeful Zeus.

As a fan, I’m watching that tragedy play out. I live and die by the Cowboys each week. I’ve had the pleasure of watching them with 4 Super Bowls, which is more than most fans of any sport can claim. I’ve also watched about 40 years where the didn’t win. I will always want the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl.

Yet I want to see Tony do it before Dak gets his. Tony is a *great* quarterback, better than a number of ones that will get into the Hall of Fame, and in a just world, he should be there eventually.

But it’s not a just world. If he is the quarterback for a Super Bowl winning team, he’ll be seen as one of the greatest ever. Without that Super Bowl win in the ultimate team sport, his legacy will be forgotten.

That would be a great shame.

Now that I’ve said all this stuff, go watch that video again. This is a man whose lifetime dream may elude him once again because of some fluke. *This* is the root of that pain and emotion in that speech. Because he knows. And yet, despite that, despite the eagle eating his liver, Romo stood up and took one for the team. As Mike Fisher, one of the reporters who cover the Cowboys said, “he threw himself on the quarterback controversy grenade.”

After all of this, I leave you with Kipling, the third stanza in particular.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Tony has filled his unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run and more.

 

World Fantasy Con AAR

Greetings all

I’m mostly recovered from the drive back from World Fantasy Con. In all honesty, it was a fairly easy drive, helped by the fact that the tough part of the drive consisted of the Cowboys v. Eagles game on the radio so I was never close to falling asleep. Ranting in frustration a few times, yes, but never sleepy.

Oh, by the way, 6-1 and a 2-game lead in the NFC East is not something I predicted for this team, especially when Tony went down with injury. But I sure will take it.

Anyway, back to World Fantasy Con. I’ll probably do a real football post later.

First, I want to thank my friend Mary for giving me a place to stay over the weekend. Much as I prefer to stay at the hotel for extra chances to socialize, it’s can get so expensive.

I knew I would not get enough sales at the con to pay for the trip, which was correct, but I did get to talk to a bunch of new people and added quite a few to my mailing list. Bit by bit, I’m reaching out.

I moderated two panels, one on fantasy in the American heartland and then the impact of George RR Martin on fiction. These panels went really well. I don’t know that we discovered anything earth-shattering or surprising, but we covered the topics well enough that I received quite a few compliments on the panels in general and my skill in moderating as well. I actually really enjoy moderating panels so I hope that helps me get a reputation so I get more opportunities to moderate.

Because I was in the Dealer’s Room most of the time, I did not do a ton of socializing, except for those people who chatted with me at my table. I barely partook of any of the rest of the con, which is one reason I will probably not get a table at a World/World Fantasy Con again. The other reason, of course, is cost. They’re some of the most expensive cons around in terms of dealer tables.

I’d like to tell all of you more about World Fantasy Con, but in truth that’s pretty much all I can talk about. I was either at my table or in a panel, with a little socializing in the bar when I could afterwards.

Overall, though, I would have to say it was worth the time and effort. I did get to meet quite a few people. To a great extent, that’s the whole purpose of cons is to meet people and get my name out there. And that’s what I did.