Rob’s Update: NFL Christmas

Week x of 2018

Tonight is NFL Christmas, otherwise known as the start of the NFL draft. Since perhaps my favorite reason to watch sports is to figure out how to make each team better and track prospects, this is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

If you follow me on Facebook, I’ll be doing a live commentary of my thoughts about the first round tonight. I’ll probably do it again tomorrow for the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

Last weekend was Constellation in Lincoln. I meant to do a full AAR, but didn’t have time. To sum up, it was a good time. A longtime SCA friend offered me some dealer table space and I sold a couple of books. My three panels went well, and I made some new connections.

I also got my hands on a treasure in the charity auction. I’ll talk about that when the time is right.

This week I started ferrying loads from the storage unit down to Olathe. The goal is to get the storage unit emptied before the end of May, then do a big truck for everything in the house in June.

This process is not interfering with my writing, fortunately. I’m scheduling it so I have a good writing session at Brewbaker’s each way. Even so, it’s still taking about six hours, each trip, and if I have a con or event on the weekend, I’m missing some of my ancillary project time. For example, I didn’t get any work done on the Four Horsemen wiki, though I expect to do a bunch on Sunday.

Brief Is My Flame is going well. I was actually above 70k, but I cut some back because it didn’t flow right. Hopefully, that chunk will work for None Call Me Mother, but it may just be a random snippet that shows up down the road.

With that, I’m going to start focusing on football.

Current Playlist Song

I’m watching the draft tonight at Buffalo Wild Wings, which means I’m not really listening to anything I recognize. So I think I’m just going to mention one of my favorite songs, which is odd, because it’s simply the introduction of a TV event.

But the duh-duh-duh-duhhhh of the original Monday Night Football theme gets me rocking every time.

And yes, I do have the .mp3 in my playlist.

Quote of the Week

Today is the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s baptism, and I might just be able to find a quote or two from him. I chose this one because it also sort of reflects the story of the players that will get selected in the draft this weekend.

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
– William Shakespeare

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (69,280)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Not even an interview this week.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on David L. Burkhead. You can find his Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/David-L-Burkhead/e/B005B4HLF2/. In the next week or so, he’ll be releasing the first book in a new series called Alchemy of Shadows. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of it, and I really enjoyed it.

Today’s Weight: 389.2

Updated Word Count: 1057

Shijuren Wiki: 756 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 314 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Currently Available Works

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

Rob’s Update: Let It Begin Here

Week 16 of 2018

Greetings all

It’s been a productive week here. I made solid process on Brief Is My Flame and did a goodly amount of work on the Four Horsemen wiki.

I have three big things to cover in this week’s email. First, this upcoming weekend Constellation in Lincoln. I know I’m on three panels. One where I go over the Martin Koszta Affair and talk about using history in SF/F, one called the Mean Streets of Minas Tirith, where I talk about Noir in SF/F, and then Blending Genres. I may be on other panels, too. Should be lots of fun.

Secondly, I am taking Chris Kennedy’s advice and building a release team. I’m looking for volunteers to receive advance copies of my books and be prepared to put reviews up on Amazon on the first few days of release. If you are interested in being a part of my release team, send an email to: rob@robhowell.org and I’ll get you added.

Thirdly, I have now entered the world of Patreon. You can find my Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/rhodri2112. Currently, I have two tiers of support. Both tiers are funded by me putting up snippets of my current work in progress. The $1 tier will also receive a copy of the e-book when it is released. The $5 tier will not only get a copy of the e-book, but will also received a signed physical copy of the book. Also, I have some extra special swag planned along the way. I may add some higher tiers in the future, but only if I figure out appropriate rewards.

Even if you’re not planning on joining a tier right now, you might want to bookmark the link as I’ll put up some snippets of already published works.

With that, I think it’s time for me to get back to work.

Current Playlist Song

“Rosemary’s Sister” by Claddagh Ring. Claddagh Ring was my gateway into Irish, Celtic, and medieval music. I don’t know where you can find their CDs any more, but if you ever see one, snap it up. They’re quite good.

Quote of the Week

There’s really only one quote appropriate to April 19th.

“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here.”
– Captain John Parker, to his Minute Men on Lexington Green, April 19, 1775.

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (66,250)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight was on one the most successful independent writers out there, Doug Dandridge. His interview is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1041 and you can find his Amazon page at: https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/.

Today’s Weight: 390.4

Updated Word Count: 29,048

Shijuren Wiki: 756 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 314 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
Currently Available Works

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

Interview: Doug Dandridge

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

Exodus: Empires at War, Book 1 Cover

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

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

Doug Dandridge

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

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

Doug Dandridge with Helicopter

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

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

Lightning Round

  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aura Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

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

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

Refuge, Book 1 Cover

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

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

Doug’s Book Biography:

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


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

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

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

Rob’s Update: The Far, Unlit Unknown

Week 15 of 2018

Greetings all. Sorry about mailing my update on Friday. I was wrestling with my taxes last night and I lost track of time.

I had originally planned on these updates to come out every Wednesday, but it is becoming clear that Thursday fits my normal schedule better. This is in part because on Tuesday I’m now putting out an interview on Tuesday and on Wednesday I’m doing an update post on the Four Horseman Wiki in a different forum. So, I’m just going to plan on doing them every Thursday, and stop growling at myself for being a day late. Or in this case, two days late.

Anyway, things are going well here. I crossed the 60k mark with lots coming to mind with Brief Is My Flame. I’m on track to have it done by Pennsic. I had hoped to have None Call Me Mother done by then as well, but fall is a more realistic date.

The big news here is that we finally have a resolution about my house situation. In June, I decided to move up to Omaha to be with my sweetie. At the time, there were arrangements in place to sell my house in KC so we could get a place up here.

Unfortunately, those plans did not work out. Fortunately, though, there have been two changes. One, my sweetie passed the Missouri bar. Two, my sweetie’s company is transferring her to the KC office so she can use that license. So, in a case of everything old is new again we’re moving back into the KC house.

I’m really excited, in part because we get to arrange everything in a way based off of knowing how that house flows after living there for seven years. I’m also excited to have a kitchen again, where I can cook for my sweetie. We’re even hosting the joint family Christmas get-together.

Exciting, but I predict the next couple of months will be “interesting.”

Current Playlist Song

Ironically, given that we’re moving back into a subdivision, the current song is Rush’s “Subdivisions.” This was such a huge song for me, as the lines: “Nowhere is the dreamer, Or the misfit so alone” fit me both when the song came out and often enough now.

Quote of the Week

So, maybe this my reason too…

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” – G.K. Chesterton

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (60,562)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Todd Fischer, who joined me for an interview earlier in the week. You can find his interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1029 and you can find his work on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Todd-H.-C.-Fischer/e/B079TZDYY3 and his home page is here: http://www.todd-fischer.com/.

Today’s Weight: 389.6

Updated Word Count: 26,423

Shijuren Wiki: 756 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 268 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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

Interview: Todd Fischer

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

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

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

Todd Fischer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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


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

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

Rob’s Update: Home Blyleven

Week 14 of 2018

Greetings all

It’s been a good productive week here. I made progress on Brief Is My Flame, some of which moved to None Call Me Mother.

One of the challenges to writing these books is that I have some clues and hints that I want to spread out to the end of both books. At end, you’ll all find out the answer to the riddle, but I want to make it possible to answer before the conclusion of None Call Me Mother. It’s like my mysteries. I want it possible for readers to figure out the answer, but I want to make it difficult.

This week I did quite a bit of filling in hints and tidbits that will ultimately show up as a chain. Often, as in the mysteries, it’s simply an adjective here, an adverb there, or one more sentence.

I like that part quite a bit, so it was especially fun to play around this week.

Anyway, I also threw about 1000 words at the Four Horsemen novel I’ve been planning. For that one, when I have a chunk jumping to come out, it’s stupid for me not to write it, even though I’m aiming to finish around Thanksgiving.

This past weekend was Easter and, to be honest, my sweetie and I simply lazed about together. We made Easter baskets for each other, which was fun for all of us, though there is some discussion as to who gets one of the stuffed sheep. It should be me, of course, but border raiding has commenced.

This week I’ll keep plugging away. I’m over the top of the hill, and looking down. A long way to go, but I can see the ending.

Current Playlist Song

“Rescue Me,” by KXM. I picked up KXM because the musicians in it all play in bands I really like. The least of those bands is Dokken, but I’ve always enjoyed George Lynch’s guitar work. Korn is fantastic, especially in their way of melding sounds that should not work together in way to make the whole greater than the sum. Ray Luzier is their drummer. Finally, there’s Dug Pinnick, who comes from King’s X. If it weren’t for Rush, King’s X might be my favorite band.

Anyway, these guys seem to view KXM as a place that they can push their own personal boundaries without necessarily sticking to the sound of their regular work. It’s great stuff.

Quote of the Week

Today is the birthday of Bert Blyleven. When I was young, he pitched for the Texas Rangers and became one of my favorite players. I loved Chris Berman’s nickname for him: Bert “Be Home” Blyleven. I also loved watching his incredible curveball. He’s an interesting guy, too, which you know if you listen to him call Minnesota Twins games. How interesting? Well, here’s what he said about baseball’s Hall of Fame:

“Getting into the Hall of Fame won’t change me. I’m still going to pass gas and pick my nose like I always do.” – Bert Blyleven

News and Works in Progress

  • TAV (2,007)
  • AFS (2,681)
  • Brief Is My Flame (54,424)

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Tiffanie Gray, a creator who does a ton of things. She was the subject of this week’s interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1004. You can find her books at: https://www.amazon.com/Tiffanie-Gray/e/B00QXY9BXO/, but please go to the interview page and see all of the various links to her media that are.

Today’s Weight: 389.8

Updated Word Count: 23,843

Shijuren Wiki: 745 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 255 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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Interview: Tiffanie Gray

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

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

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

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

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

What was I thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ed. note: Tiffanie does stuff… 🙂 )

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

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

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

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

Prior to following along with Bob Ross

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

After following along with Bob Ross

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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