Interview: Mark Wandrey

Greetings all

Tonight, at the very end of #FourHorsetober, here’s the interview we’ve all been waiting for, Mark Wandrey. It is his imagination that formed the idea of the 4HU and in so doing created a platform for all of us.

Interview Questions
Mark Wandrey
Mark Wandrey

What is your quest?

I strive to be at the top of my genre, military science fiction. I want fans in my cosplay. Lots of them.

What is your favorite color?

I want my stories full of scenes people talk about, characters people hate, and mysteries people want answered..

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

My biggest challenge has been finding time to write in quantity. I learned by quitting the day job as soon as I made enough. Jump in with both feet, take the plunge. If not now, when? If not late, why?

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

My worldbuilding abilities are apparently among the best in the business. I credit that to decades wasted playing role playing games. Wait, maybe they weren’t wasted after all?

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Depends if she’s blonde or redhead.
  • Favorite Sports Team? All Blacks
  • Cake or Pie? Yes please.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Jalapeno queso
  • Wet or Dry? Always use lube
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Meat Loaf
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Neither, rum
  • Favorite Superhero? Rogue (comic book, not the crap from the movies)
  • Steak Temperature? (slightly above room temp)
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet? (provide pictures if you want) Valiente
  • Best Game Ever? KOTOR
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea. Earl Grey, hot.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-fi

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

What’s the drunkest you’ve ever been, and what did you do when you were in that state you are embarrassed about?

Rob’s Answer: Well, let’s get straight to the embarrassing part. The drunkest I’ve ever been was at a Pennsic. I actually didn’t drink that much, only seven IPAs in a several hour period, but there were complicating factors. It might have helped if I had actually eaten in the 26 hours previous to the beers. 

And what did I do? Well, I said some things in public I should not have. It could have been worse, but I still regret it.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

Bestselling author of military sci-fi and zombie apocalypse, Mark Wandrey has been creating new worlds since he was old enough to hold a pen. Author of 14 novels, he has many more coming just this year!

Located in rural Tennessee, Mark Wandrey has been writing science fiction since he was in grade school. He launched his professional career in 2004 with the release of Earth Song – Overture. Now, 12 years later, he has more than 10 books out, including an unbroken chain of 6 best sellers.

Sign up for his mailing list at http://www.worldmaker.us/news-flash-sign-up-page/ or check out his Patreon page for free stuff at https://www.patreon.com/MarkHWandrey.


Thanks to Mark 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

Rob’s Update: Warp and Weft

Week 43 of 2018

Greetings all

Lots of catching up to do. I realized this weekend that I my office had gotten cluttered and I did a bunch of cleaning up and arranging. This included a bunch of unpacking (still).

I’ve been fighting The Feeding of Sorrows. I have put a bunch of words on the page, and then cut them out. This seems normal anymore, though, since i seem to reach this point with every novel. Just gotta keep fighting through.

I’ve had a lot of fun with #FourHorsetober, but I’ll be glad when it’s done. Doing one interview is easy. Doing one a day gets challenging, especially when you’re juggling other stuff.

Still, I’m really excited about the release of Luck Is Not a Factor. That’s a fun story that I hope you all enjoy.

Well, I have to take the sweetie to dinner. She’s been working on new weaving techniques this weekend and she has lots to tell me.

Current Playlist Song

The Pass by Rush. It has one of the most powerful lyrics I’ve ever heard, which you’ll find in right below in the Quote of the Week.

Quote of the Week

No hero in your tragedy
No daring in your escape
No salutes for your surrender
Nothing noble in your fate
– Rush The Pass, Presto

News and Works in Progress

  • RTM (3,416)
  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 20,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

One more full week of #FourHorsetober, so take a look at all the interviews above.

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: 228,712

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 443 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

Interview: Jon Osborne

Jon Osborne is currently editing his draft of When the Axe Falls, his next Four Horsemen novel. You’ll want to read it when it comes out, because I’ve enjoyed his other stuff. He’s also a fun guy to stand next to at a con.

Interview: Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne

What is your quest?

I run cinematic games, relying heavily on ‘theater of the mind’, seeking to tell a fun and immersive story. When I write, I try to bring the readers into the world – I want them to see the action and hear the characters’ voices – and have fun along the way.

What is your favorite color?

As my stories are character-centered. I like for characters to have distinctive traits. I feel it not only makes the story more immersive, it helps the readers readily identify and keep track of the characters.

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

My biggest challenge is focus – it is hard to banish the squirrels and be more productive. I admit, I am a little envious of the output of some of my fellow authors. (Rob’s Note: Me too, brother. me too.)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think character interaction is my strength. The relationships between my characters are organic – I want them to feel like real people.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Colts
  • Cake or Pie? Pie
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Chipotle Hot Salsa
  • Wet or Dry? Huh?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Patty Gurdy
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whisky
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) I don’t have one
  • Best Game Ever? D&D
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Yes

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

Do you find it as hard to write about yourself as some authors (myself included) find it?

Rob’s Answer: Depends on the question. If we’re talking about my philosophies, not really. I like good philosophical discussions. I can also talk about things I’m fanatic about, like Rush or the Dallas Cowboys or Firefly.

But there’s a lot of questions I ask that I’ll struggle with when I do my own one of these. Also, some of the questions other authors ask me are really tough. I’m awful at tooting my own horn, so much so that it hurts my sales dramatically. It’s something I need to work on, actually.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

DragonCon 2018 is the last con for a bit.

Do you have a creator biography?

Jon R. Osborne has been gaming since he was thirteen. He studied journalism in high school and majored in journalism in college. Many years later, he finally combined writing and story-telling with his first published work, a short story in the military science fiction Four Horsemen Universe.

A year later, Jon has had a second story published, as well as two novels in his urban fantasy series, The Milesian Accords. The second book, A Tempered Warrior, is a Dragon Awards finalist for Best Fantasy Novel.

Jon lives in Indianapolis, where he continues to play role-playing games, and is working on the third book of The Milesian Accords as well a novel in the Four Horsemen Universe. You can find out more at jonrosborne.com.


Thanks to Jon 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: Charity Ayres

I have not yet had the pleasure to meet Charity, but anyone who teaches English in high schools definitely has my respect. Especially given the fact I don’t want her to ever wonder just what kind of play-doh is in my chest.

Interview: Charity Ayres
Charity Ayres
Charity Ayres

What is your quest?

I create stories to live in. The settings might not always be a tropical island, but they’re interesting and unlike normal life in some way. The worlds are magical or strange in a way that is intriguing to the sense of being or interesting to explore. I want to build characters that you love, or hate, or want to be around. My goal is always to create villains who are heroic, or heroes that are screwed up because perfection is overrated.

What is your favorite color?

Coffee. Wait! Spiderwebs. No. Is mythology a color? I love taking known ideas or worlds and sticking my hand right into the chest cavity until I can rip the heart out, squish it around like play-doh, and then I put it back. Known entities in magic, history, war…nothing should ever be the same way twice or what’s the point?

When you read one of my stories, I want you to feel like your senses are aware of every movement until you’re inside the story wondering how the F you got there. A reader should look at my settings and think it’s a tiny bit of Deja Vu or something from a dream they almost recall having.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paintbrush?

Writing is hard. No, seriously. That was the most difficult lesson for me to learn. I’ve always loved to write or create something new, but I never understood why it didn’t just happen for me. Why was it that I didn’t want to sit down, every waking moment of every day, and write these masterpieces that everyone would love and rave about? Writing is easy, right?

Anything you love is work. It’s hard. It ticks you off but then it becomes the most beautiful thing in the world when you can drop your bullshit at the door and create. The hardest failure I’ve ever faced is that I couldn’t just simply write without making myself do it. It didn’t come like breathing, it was hard. I didn’t know everything in the beginning and still have a lot to learn.

I’m still waiting to live on a mountain somewhere and write prose that my adoring masses will fawn over and throw money at me for. I’m still wondering why it’s so damn hard to explain stories to someone in a way that makes them see it’s something they’ll love. Why is that hard when I know I can turn around and write out an amazing story to share?

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I evoke laughter to the point that you should not have a mouthful of drink when you’re reading. My characters are funny, realistic, and sometimes annoying but they’re real. One thing that I hear from readers is that my stories have a strong voice and that’s an amazing compliment. They tell me they can hear the characters when they speak. What’s better than that?

I write what makes me laugh. I write a running dialogue for my character. You know the comments that flow through your head when you’re talking to someone that you’d never say because they’d get upset with you? Yeah, my characters don’t care.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Sweetums because of the name and the fluff.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? This puts the peanut butter song in my head. Thanks.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Does Quidditch count?
  • Cake or Pie? Whichever has chocolate? Or pecans. Or both.
  • Lime or Lemon? Green
  • Favorite Chip Dip? I don’t eat chips. My favorite dip is chocolate-peanut butter.
  • Wet or Dry? My deodorant is working fine, thank you.
  • Favorite Musical Performer, We’ve Never Heard Of? Me? You should totally hear my shower compilations or how great I sing with headphones on.
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Is this a trick question? How about, yes, please?
  • Favorite Superhero? Hmm. Can I say my dog? She does some pretty amazing things and can bring joy with a single spastic jump.
  • Steak Temperature? Depends on the day. Today, I prefer it mooing
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? I don’t remember the 70s. I’ll say A-Team or He-Man cartoons
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, fall, and fall. Can we have endless fall tinged by winter, please?
  • Favorite Pet?  I LOVE ALL THE FURRIES!
  • Best Game Ever? The ones that I win. Probably a MMORPG of some kind. I used to Everquest and there was never another I liked quite as much, but something along that lines.
  • Coffee or Tea? Both. Or any hot drink, preferably with that formerly-mentioned Whiskey? Irish or other.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I lean into Fantasy. I like the lack of rules and the ability to make anything happen that you want. I read both, write both, watch both…but I still lean a little more into Fantasy but I like them mixed, too. Did you see the new DC’s Legends of Tomorrow? Holy glittery heart-eating unicorns, Batman!

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

Name the first five stories that come to mind. Now rank them. Now identify them by mental color. Next, which one would make the best mixed drink?

Rob’s Answer: Let’s see. Lord of the Rings. Foundation. Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. A Catskill Eagle. Odds Against. That would be Gold (from the One Ring). Black (from the galaxy). Red (from Simon Jester). White (from the cast Spenser wears). And green (from racing turf).

Now to discuss their drink potential. Goldschlager. Hmmm, not my thing. Black porter, definitely my thing. Red IPA. More definitely my thing. Ice cream to make milkshakes. Hmmm, I guess I could use the Goldschlager here. Oh, yeah, and creme de menthe. No, no, no. I don’t drink creme de menthe after an unfortunate incident when I was 3.

So, I think the winner is the Red IPA.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

I have two new releases on the horizon: Winter Born which is book 2 of the Ice Burns trilogy, and another unnamed steampunk Pirate novel that I might be publishing through an amazing independent publisher I’ve worked with before. Shhh.

And where can we find you?

The only scheduled con so far this year is LibertyCon. I can’t wait!

Do you have a creator biography?

Charity Ayres is a Navy Veteran, teacher, mother, and wife in Virginia. Her novel-length works currently include Loki Bound, Loki: Hellbound, Secret in the Wings, and Ice Burns. She has also been published in the Wylde Times anthology, a Four Horseman Universe anthology: A Fistful of Credits, and has won awards from Writer’s Digest and the L.Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest for her short works. Upcoming works include the second and third novels for Ice Burns and a surprise new series.


Thanks to Charity 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: Kevin Ikenberry

If you’re a fan of the Four Horsemen Universe, and I bet many of you are, then you’ve had the pleasure of reading Kevin Ikenberry’s contributions to that universe. He’s a fantastic writer. He’s also a fun guy to chat with at conventions.

Interview: Kevin Ikenberry
Kevin Ikenberry
Kevin Ikenberry

What is your quest?

To seek the…wait a minute. I’ve seen this movie! The whole writing thing came around fairly late in life for me. I’d been told I was a good writer in high school and college, but I never really did anything serious (trying to get published) until 2009. I’ve always been drawn to science fiction – as a young Army officer two different books found their way into my hands: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. They were two huge influences on me and I eagerly passed them on to cadets when I had the opportunity to teach ROTC about ten years ago. When I started writing, I wanted to write stories about human beings finding their place in the universe and fighting for the right to survive and explore. I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to do that with both The Protocol War series and especially the Peacemaker books in the Four Horsemen Universe. Working with Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, Kacey Ezell, and Marisa Wolf has been an amazing experience and I’m honored to be a core author for the series.

What is your favorite color?

The thing that changed my writing career, in a very literal sense, was learning the key between story structure and character development. There are dozens of story structures out there, some following classic approaches like The Hero’s Journey and others following screenwriting theory (Save The Cat, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story). Those structures are great, but without very clearly defined characters and their goals, a structure can only get you so far. The difference in understanding that relationship and applying some screenwriting theory was that the very first book I ever wrote (now published as Runs In The Family) took me a year and a half to write and it was a mess. The second book I wrote (my debut novel Sleeper Protocol) took me seven weeks. Since then, I’ve been able to keep my first draft timeline to around three months from start to finish. It’s a tremendous process and something I teach often at writing conferences.

Granted, I do a lot of pre-writing (plotting, scheming, etc.) but when it’s time to sit down and write a book, I have a solid idea of where everything is going and that saves time and mental gymnastics in the middle of a manuscript when, as a writer, I think everything sucks. That light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train and when I get the draft out of my head I can do the next part – fix it. That’s much easier with a detailed plan.

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

The biggest challenge I faced as a starting writer was staying positive. Rejections are part and parcel of this business, and there were several times that I wrote stories that were good stories in the eyes of my initial readers, contest judges, and my critique partners only to be rejected. The frustration wasn’t that I’d been rejected, there was frustration in understanding that just because one editor/magazine/market didn’t like the story didn’t mean it wouldn’t sell elsewhere. The first time that happened, I walked around in disbelief for a few hours. Now, a rejection doesn’t bother me. I package the story up, file it away in my virtual footlocker, and move on to the next project. One day, that story will find a home.

From a creative failure standpoint, I very stupidly tried to self-publish Runs In The Family in 2013 when neither the manuscript, nor myself, was ready. I had oodles of problems with creating the correct file types and I didn’t do the due diligence to really make that book what it should have been. It lasted online maybe a week before I took it down, which proved to be the best thing for it. It was picked up by a small press called Strigidae Publishing and when it released in 2016, it went gangbusters for eight months until the small press closed unexpectedly. Fortunately, Chris Kennedy’s Theogony Publishing Imprint picked up the book and re-released it in 2018 where it has continued to do well and even is now available on the Baen Book’s website. What I learned was that this publishing thing takes a team. I have a team of readers now. I have a website team. I have a marketing team. I have a creative team. I have a team that goes out for beers or whiskey. Don’t get me wrong, these are the same folks in many cases. I learned that we creators have to stick together. That’s another huge benefit of working in the Four Horsemen Universe. I have a band of brothers and sisters there that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Writing in someone else’s universe is pretty challenging. I had the chance to write some licensed short fiction in the G.I.JOE: A Real American Hero universe on Kindle Worlds before it shuttered this year, and that was the first time I stepped into someone else’s playground. I found it challenging and a lot of fun. Little did I know that it prepared me to take the Four Horsemen Universe “bible” and write a short story for the anthology A Fistful of Credits that led to the Peacemaker novels. Granted, I don’t always get the details right and Mark/Chris edit and chastise me endlessly, but I’ve enjoyed getting to play in the 4HU and feel like I’ve made a solid impact on the overall storyline with Jessica’s story. I recently wrote a modern-day thriller with my friend Nick Thacker in his universe, too which was a fantastic learning experience.

Aside from my books, I’m most proud of three short stories in three different anthologies because they were three unique experiences. In Extreme Planets, I wrote a story called “Maelstrom” in two days over my lunch hour because I had an old idea (guy jumping into a tornado in one of those “flying squirrel” suits) merge with the concept of exploring an exoplanet. For the anthology Dragon Writers, I took the theme to an extreme and did a re-telling of Puff The Magic Dragon where Puff was an exospheric EB-77 Dragon bomber with a callsign of Puff Zero Alpha. I didn’t think “Salvation, On Painted Wings” had a chance until the editor called. Finally, for the recent anthology Avatar Dreams, I was sitting with my friend and mentor Kevin J. Anderson when he looked at me and said he needed a story in two weeks. Could I do it? I gave him “That Others May Live” in a week and he loved it. All my crazy ideas eventually come to fruition and some push the boundaries – and I know now that I can do them quickly if I need to – that’s a huge confidence boost.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy. Extra Crunchy if you please.
  • Favorite Sports Team? College: Mississippi State (Rob’s Note: Moe Cowbell!!!!) / Professional: I still pull for the Cubs and the Braves – my mom would be proud.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie
  • Lime or Lemon? Limon? Wasn’t that a thing in the 80s?
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guacamole
  • Wet or Dry? Wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Jeremy Kay
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey – I’m from Tennessee, you know.
  • Favorite Superhero? Iron Man
  • Steak Temperature? Medium Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? CHiPs, Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall – I miss fall in East Tennessee particularly.
  • Favorite Pet?  My dog when I was growing up. We named him Shandy. He was an American Spitz that never met a dog he didn’t know he could whoop. I miss that feisty little bastard.
  • Best Game Ever? Cards Against Humanity. I’ve never made it through a game without my stomach hurting from laughing. I’m fairly certain there’s a handbasket with my name on it.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, with a touch of creamer. No sugar.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Science Fiction

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

What technique (process or practice) have you learned that has influence your own writing the most, and why?

Rob’s Answer: Hmmm. One that you mentioned above is important, and that’s the creation of a team. The analogy I use is a race car driver. At the end of the race, the winner gets photos, prizes, and all that sort of thing. However, he doesn’t get there without good mechanics, pit crew, and all the people involved in a race. My team is good, and getting better all the time.

Another important thing is keeping track of what’s working and what’s not. I often say, “There’s one true way of writing and it’s what gets words on the page.” If you are not productive at some point, change something. Anything. Your music. Your chair. Where you write at. For me, that will increase my productivity and then I have to change it up. Writers will always have slow periods, I think. Just keep plugging away.

One specific technique that I’ve added to my process is to read it out loud from a printed copy. Toni Weisskopf said in a panel once that editing from printed copies is much more effective than on the screen and she had studies to prove it, as well of course as experience at Baen. I also find that if I read something out loud the clumsy writing jumps at me because it will not roll off the tongue. It will feel clunky. Yes, that’s tedious. It took me four 12-plus hour days to do this with Brief Is My Flame, yet it was dramatically better because of it.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

My website is www.kevinikenberry.com. We’re headed for a major site overhaul soon, maybe in time for SphinxCon, but there’s information there on how to sign up for my reader’s group – The Reaction Squad – and a bunch of other stuff. There will be goodies (a free short story namely) when the new site goes live.

I’m on Facebook with an author page and my Twitter handle is @TheWriterIke. That’s about it for social media right now.

And where can we find you?

  • MileHiCon 50 (October, 2018)
  • SphinxCon (November, 2018)
  • Superstars Writing Seminar (February, 2019)
  • PensaCon (February, 2019)
  • FantaSci (March, 2019)
  • Phoenix Fan Fusion (May, 2019)
  • LibertyCon 31 (May, 2019)
  • DragonCon (August, 2019)

Do you have a creator biography?

Kevin Ikenberry is a life-long space geek and retired Army officer.  A former manager of the world-renowned U.S. Space Camp program and a space operations officer, Kevin has a broad background in space and space science education.  His 2016 debut science fiction novel Sleeper Protocol was a Finalist for the Colorado Book Award and was heralded as “an emotionally powerful debut” by Publisher’s Weekly. Kevin is the author of the military science novels Runs In The Family, Vendetta Protocol, Peacemaker, Honor The Threat, and Stand Or Fall. He is an Active Member of SFWA, International Thriller Writers, and an alumnus of the Superstars Writing Seminar.

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

You should have asked what’s next for me. Well, at DragonCon we announced that I’m writing a Tales of the Four Horsemen Universe book with my good friend and amazing author Quincy J. Allen. The novel will follow an Oogar Peacemaker named Hr’ent (from the pages of STAND OR FALL) and should be out in mid-late 2019. It’s going to be a hell of a ride!


Thanks to Kevin 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: Philip Wohlrab

Greetings all

Tonight it’s time for the Docfather, Philip Wohlrab himself. He’s a writer and a combat medic. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him at LibertyCon and several other conventions. If you’re at a con and see a guy in a heavily-adorned Imperial Andermani Navy uniform, it might just be him.

Interview: Philip Wohlrab
Philiip Wohlrab
Philiip Wohlrab

What is your quest?

Ultimately, I want to tell a good story, whether it is set in the future, the past, a past that never happened, or complete fantasy. I want to entertain people, pull them out of the land of the mundane, even if for a little bit. Right now, I have a couple of projects that I am working on, first is my novel set in an entirely new universe known as the Squidverse. Think WWII meets Star Wars, with a helping of the Mind Flayers from D&D. I am also writing a short alt history of the Battle of Jutland, where the US and Germany are allies, and lastly another short set in Black Tide Rising, though whether it gets published after certain people read it is going to be interesting.

What is your favorite color?

Cyberpunk Electric Blue? Hmmm, I do draw a bit from nature when I am creating new creatures. The Akkorro, aliens in the 4HU, are literally drawn from Cuttlefish. In fact, I like squids, and octopi quite a bit so you will see them featured in my stories in some form or another. I also try to get the little details right, what were the sounds, what were the smells. As a combat vet I can tell you that certain smells will never be forgotten, and I try to bring that out in my writing.

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

Time management is my biggest issue. I should be writing more, but I find myself getting distracted by things. I also tend to idea hop, so I have to make that work for me when I am working on multiple projects. This is a bit of a learning curve.

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Emotion, I think I do that well. The Beach was an emotional short to write, for me, and I know it has hit readers pretty hard based on some of the feedback I have been given. I like to give people the emotions the characters are feeling, as it allows the readers to connect with the characters. You may have never experienced combat, but you have had some experience that has terrified you, or gotten the adrenaline flowing. So, if I can tap into that, and give the reader some personal idea of what the character is feeling, I am going to try and work that in.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Doozers from Fraggle Rock. I mean these guys spend all their time building stuff that the Fraggles just eat anyways. That has to take some fortitude not to poison the Fraggles.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy for the WIN!
  • Favorite Sports Team? Atlanta Falcons, I am used to disappointment.
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Definitely Both.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Ranch
  • Wet or Dry? Wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Gunship, seriously if you like 1980s Cyberpunk go give these guys a listen.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey
  • Favorite Superhero? Darth Vader. What? He has comic books!
  • Steak Temperature? Damn near still mooing.
  • Best Game Ever? Hmmm I am currently very much enjoying Battletech.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, drank black as hell, or perhaps Irish. Never adulterated with cream or sugar.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi.

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

Rob how do you find time to do all the stuff you do?

Rob’s Answer: Uh, I do a bunch of stuff? I don’t feel like it, especially right now when I’ve been fighting a bit of a dry spell with writing.

I do try to do at least a little bit each day, though. One of my favorite sections from the Prince Roger series is the bit where Roger talks about eating soup with a knife. It’s not always easy, and it requires determination, but you have to keep doing a bit here and there.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I have a couple of things up on Amazon, and a few more on the way. I have a short I independently published entitled The Medic. My short The Beach is available in The Good, the Bad, and The Merc. I have another short that will be published in the Homo Stellaris anthology, that I cowrote with Kacey Ezell, about the first pregnancy in space, and I have a short coming out in the next 4HU anthology involving a German merc company, and the Akkorro.

  • https://www.amazon.com/Philip-Wohlrab/e/B01HTBZ57A

And where can we find you?

I attend Libertycon and Dragoncon each year and can be found at other Cons in the North Carolina or Virginia area, schedule permitting.

Do you have a creator biography?

From my Amazon page: Philip Wohlrab has been a medic with the Army for over 12 years, and he has served his time in the sandbox. He currently trains the next generation of Combat Medics and runs a schoolhouse medical section. When he isn’t doing Army things he can be found at various Sci-Fi Cons, and writing.

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

You should have asked how my service has affected my writing. I have served both in the United States Coast Guard, and the Virginia Army National Guard. This has given me a unique look at very different service cultures, and I use that to ensure that when I am writing characters that they are unique to their service branches. Army speak doesn’t always translate well to Naval speak, things of that nature.

Lastly a small snippet from my upcoming Squidverse novel. Thanks for doing this Rob!

Outer Luzon System

Space itself seemed to blur as ship after ship of the Taiyo battlegroup emerged into the realm of physics that Einstein and Newton would recognize. Atago, a heavy cruiser, formed up the center of the battlegroup alongside the Taiyo, while two Nagara Class light cruisers took up station as the inside defensive ring. Six destroyers formed the outer ring of warships that would protect the heavy cruiser, and light carrier.

Admiral Lady Hitomi Izumi scanned her repeaters arrayed around her command dais, she was looking for any flaws in the deployment of her vessels. Admiral Izumi was known to be exacting in her expectations of junior commanders. Finding no faults, she sat back in her command chair and crossed her legs.

“Commander Sasaki are there any indications of enemy ships nearby?” inquired Admiral Izumi. “Also, what was it that they were calling these things now?”

“They are calling them squids My Lady,” said a moon-faced heavy-set officer sitting at the sensor station. “Also, our scopes are not showing anything out here My Lady, however the sensor drones we left back in system is still showing a sizable Squid fleet around Marigold. Most of the ships though are either transports or supply vessels.”

“Interesting, I wonder where their warships have gotten off to? If they had been present in force we would never have been able to sneak in our own transports, but you would think they would have reacted by now to our presence in the system.”

“As you say My Lady, but we have no indication as to where they are, or when they left. Perhaps these Squids are harder pressed for ships than we previously thought? Could it be that they have used their entire fleet in the attacks across the entirety of the Fan and left nothing in reserve?”

“I think that most unlikely,” chimed in another officer. This worthy was Commander Asuna Hasegawa, Izumi’s chief intelligence officer. “I suspect that we have yet to see any reserve formation for these squids as you call them Commander Sasaki, it is more likely that we are seeing just the tip of their frontline units.”

“Then where are their warships Commander Hasegawa, and why aren’t they here?” growled back Sasaki.

“That is a good question Commander Sasaki, and one I wish I had an answer for.”

Oort Cloud

Luzon System

Fleet Controller 672 was proud of the fact that she had predicted that the human battlegroup wasn’t going to jump completely out of the system. It was rare that a Squantalavi female would be elevated to a position such as hers, but she had consistently demonstrated that she was one of the most agile thinkers in her cohort of officers. Even in a society dominated by males, 672 had both excelled, and been recognized as one of the best officers of her generation. That didn’t mean that she didn’t experience her fair share of hiccups in her career though. She had not been given a position in of the first assault fleets, but instead had come in as a second-tier commander, as the males of her cohort jealously guarded the prime assignments. Still Fleet Intelligence 11 had seen her potential, and rather than relegating her to one of the Skazi battlecruisers, he had given her command of a Saltze battleship.


Thanks to Philip for taking the time to answer my questions and the fun snippet.

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: Dr. Robert E. Hampson

This guy is brilliant. He’s a neuroscientist working on how humans remember stuff and he’s a science fiction writer as well. He’s also a very nice guy and fun to chat with. If you can, sit down with him. You’ll learn something, I guarantee it.

Interview: Dr. Robert E. Hampson
Dr. Robert E. Hampson
Dr. Robert E. Hampson

What is your quest?

My quest is to entertain and inform.  An online friend once remarked that I teach as naturally as I breathe.  I’m a scientist, so much of my nonfiction writing is basically: “How do I break this down so that the average reader can understand (with maybe some recourse to Google)?”  Sometimes while writing nonfiction I hit on something that I think would make a good plot point for fiction.  I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, so I want to write stories that take people on adventures in a future that has a certain hope for spreading mankind to the stars.

Then again, one of my strongest influences was James P. Hogan, so I also lean toward having sympathetic scientist/engineer characters and include the human side: love, laughter, longing and loss.

In person at conventions, I definitely like to entertain, and often I find myself in the position where my main contribution is to be the comic relief.  Strangely, that doesn’t make it into my fiction very often.  “Headspace and Timing” in Tales from the Lyon’s Den is the rare exception, and I hope folks like it. (Rob’s Note: This was released on 25 September as the first of a new set of Four Horsemen anthologies. You should buy it. You should especially buy the second one, Luck is Not a Factor, because I have a story in it 😀 )

What is your favorite color?

I like to take something from my education and professional work and weave it into the story.  Again, I tend to have sciency-type characters, although I’ve also shamelessly borrowed from friends’ careers as well.  For “Unto the Last, Stand Fast” in The Good, the Bad and the Merc I was heavily influenced by “The Last Stand” by Sabaton.  I’ve also written stories that draw heavily from dreams.  My stories for John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series were influenced by some things I remember from free-association musing and dreaming after reading John’s stories.

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

I think any writer has this – there’s something we think is funny, or cute, or an essential reference – and the reader doesn’t get it.  One of the problems with having lots of ideas, writing them down, even writing the stories (but not selling them) is that I create a character.  I *like* the character.  The character has adventures.  In my mind, I know all of these things, so when I write something else in that universe or with that character, I incorporate the known background.  Unfortunately, if the other stories never see the light of day, the reader has no idea why the fact that “Mr. Davis” was a Boy Scout camp counselor should mean anything.

I’ve had an anthology editor tell me I’m just not ready for prime time… after I’d already sold 4 stories to anthologies.  Granted, I haven’t sold to big name magazines (Analog, etc) yet, and I definitely known that I have much to learn.  But it’s certainly amusing to contemplate that 10 stories sold (by now) is “not ready.”

Rob Hampson playing the trumpet.
Rob Hampson playing the trumpet.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

My proudest production is a story that was submitted to the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Mad Science Writing contest.  My story “To Serve and Serve Again” is one of my favorites.  It has a bit of history, though – I wrote the story “They Also Serve” about a cardiovascular surgeon dealing with his own version of PTSD having to patch up soldiers and send them back to war.  It was for Tom Kratman’s Riding the Red Horse and he wanted a sequel that would continue the story. (Alien invasion, and a treatment the doc developed was key to allowing human soldiers to survive).  TAS was around 10k words, TSaSA told the tale of a combat medic, since one of my best friends served two combat tours as a medic – and it came in at almost 15k… I actually figure I could probably write 3-4 more stories in that setting and compile into a book if I ever get the time.

…And then the sequel anthology fell through.  The TRADOC contest wanted stories of no more than 5k words.  The problem from my perspective was that TSaSA was just right for the contest (and I was right – it was a finalist) so I had to cut it.  So I trimmed some of the explicit character development and left scenes that would allow the reader to fill in the gap.  I had to cut what I thought was important backstory, but it had to go.  The final product was lean but read well.  I was proud of it, and obviously the jurists liked it – it was in the finalist compilation of the best 25 stories submitted.

Interestingly enough, someone did an analysis of how the stories submitted to the contest were a pretty close match to the Department of Defense’s advanced research solicitations.  It seems that a keyword search of the “research wanted” announcements by DoD was a pretty close match to a keyword search of the stories submitted.  The article singled out one particular story to illustrate a fictional “portable medical record” that was nearly identical to a DoD solicitation for a “portable medical record” … and that story was mine.  So, yeah, I’m particularly proud of that one.   Military SF, ripped from the pages of actual research… kinda.  .

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The “Doctor Russ” muppet.  This one’s pretty obscure, but a long-time friend of mine worked with Sesame Street to develop educational videos for children of deployed and returning service members.  For Russell’s retirement from the Navy and DARPA, one of the Sesame Street producers showed a video featuring Elmo and Dr. Russ and presented him with the Dr. Russ muppet.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy.  More character
  • Favorite Sports Team? San Antonio Spurs.
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both?  (actually, Pecan Pie, but I can no longer eat it due to the high sugar content)
  • Lime or Lemon? Again, both.  Lymon.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French Onion
  • Wet or Dry? I’m a big guy who’s always sweating.  Definitely prefer dry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Not a performer, but I’m a fan of video game music.  The guys composing music for Halo, Mass Effect, Destiny, etc. are composing fantastic symphonic epics.
  •  Whisky or Whiskey? Shame on you!  There is no “e” in whisky.  Single malt. Neat.  Preferably old enough to pour itself another.
  • Favorite Superhero? DC:  The Flash, Marvel: Captain America
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare, especially if it’s well-aged beef.  The longer the aging, the rarer I would cook it.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? The Six Million Dollar Man… it influenced my career, so this is a no-brainer.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • June 1-3, Guest, ConCarolinas, Charlotte, NC
  • June 29-July 1,  Guest, LibertyCon, Chattanooga, TN.
  • July 13-15, Guest,  ConGregate, High Point, NC.
  • August 30-September 3, Guest, Dragon*Con, Atlanta, GA.

Thanks to Dr. Hampson 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

Mag Review: Astounding (May, 1941)

Greetings all

You have my apologies for not getting a chance to review a magazine last week. It will happen again next week as I’m on the road for most of the week.

This week, I’ll be reviewing the Astounding from May, 1941 (Vol. XXVII, No. 3). This is the first time I’ll be reviewing a magazine where I’ve read the issue immediately before or after. You can find my review for April, 1941 here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1352.

Astounding May, 1941 Cover
Astounding May, 1941 Cover

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57588

This issue starts out with an editorial by John W. Campbell entitled History to Come. The opening line is a fun one to remember. “Fundamentally, science-fiction novels are “period pieces,” historical novels laid against a background of a history that hasn’t happened yet” (p. 5). I like that thought, especially since Campbell uses this editorial to discuss what that means. He focuses especially on the research involved and emphasizes that what an SF author should be doing is “mental research into possible future” (p. 5). He does this to set up Robert A. Heinlein’s “History of Tomorrow” timeline, which we’ll discuss in about 120 pages.

As I research this editorial and wallow in Campbell’s brilliance (and, of course, Heinlein’s), I discovered something very interesting. Alexei and Cory Panshin said in The World Beyond the Hill that this idea of world creation, which seems fairly obvious to me, changed science fiction. “Science fiction hadn’t been seen in these terms previously.  But the publication of Heinlein’s Future History chart would force a general alteration of perception of what science fiction was about and how it was made” (Alexei and Cory Panshin, Heinlein and the Golden Age (excerpt of The World Beyond the Hill), https://www.panshin.com/critics/Golden/goldenage3.html). I suggest you all read the whole article.

Baseball Yearbook Cover
Baseball Yearbook Cover

Then there’s an ad for the Street & Smith Baseball Yearbook of 1941. As a guy who got into sabermetric research in the late 80s, I think this is awesome. It’s the forerunner of Bill James and those who followed him.

That’s a young Bob Feller on the cover, by the way. He would play the summer of ’41, and do well, though not as well as in 1940. Then, of course, he loses 1942-44 and most of 1945 for the war, serving part of that as a Chief Petty Officer on the USS Alabama. I hadn’t actually caught that before, and it makes my time roaming around the Alabama a bunch of times as a kid even that more awesome.

These magazines are like traveling in time.

Anyway, I suppose we should actually turn to the fiction. The first story is Universe by Heinlein. Not surprisingly, given Campbell’s editorial, we see some of Heinlein’s most intricate world-building in this story.

The story is about a generational ship on its way to the stars. One fascinating little touch Heinlein used was the standard greeting, “Good eating.” With just that little bit, we learn a ton about the time and place. He’s so deft.

And the story is really good. What happens to humanity if they’re on a generational ship and many generations pass? What happens to their understanding of science? To their society?

It would change, undoubtedly. Our hero is someone who has grown from that society, raised by exiled muties, and learns the truth of their ship. His is now the job of tilting at the windmill of those generations’ evolution to get them, perhaps, finally, to Centaurus.

Oh, look. We move from Heinlein to Isaac Asimov. What a darn shame, having to read these two hacks. Such a bummer. Anyway, the story is another early Robot one starring Susan Calvin called Liar.

You’ve probably read this story as it was reprinted a bunch of times, but here’s a synopsis anyway. A brand new robot has the astounding ability to read minds, though how its positronic brain gained this talent is unknown and is completely not repeatable until they learn just how it happened.

RB-34, Herbie, is programmed with early versions of the Three Laws of Robotics, so this ability is a real problem for it. When it talks to people, it knows what they want, so telling them the truth might actually hurt them. So, it supplies the answer that the person talking to them wants.

Of course, this leads to conflict as Calvin desires the love of one of the other scientists and another character hopes to be the next director. After they realize Herbie is providing different answers to each person, they confront him. Now, Herbie is in an insoluble situation. No matter what he says, he will hurt at least one of the humans. In the end, he collapses in positronic insanity.

I love Asimov’s Robot stories because he’s so good at creating logic puzzles. Reading these stories in original form is incredibly fascinating because the laws of Robotics aren’t actually specified until 1942. In some ways, this is Asimov fumbling towards something amazing.

And yes, its a great story. Shocking, I know.

So we move to a story called Solution Unsatisfactory by Anson MacDonald. There’s a goodly amount to unpack in the author here, because that’s a pseudonym for Heinlein. Yes, he’s got two stories in this issue. What a fascinating time that was for science fiction.

And dates are really important when unpacking this story. This issue was released in May of 1941. The story is, essentially, about Mutually Assured Destruction. He’s asking the same questions that Truman would have to answer in 1945 and in the years following.

MAD was, and is, an unsatisfactory solution. Heinlein proposed another, that of a world-wide dictatorship which has a monopoly on the superweapon, but even he points out that will never work. Campbell has a follow-up to this story where he asks for any better suggestion. The request is almost pleading.

Moving on we get In Times to Come, the preview of the next issue. It promises a neat murder mystery, a “whodunit-to,” if you will, that helps deal with the challenge of writing a murder mystery in science fiction. The story is Ross Rocklyne’s Time Wants a Skeleton. I’m looking forward to reading that when I find that issue.

Also on that page is the scores from the ratings of the previous issue. Yeah, Heinlein might be good and really prolific at this time. The April issue also has one by him and one by him as Anson MacDonald. They were, by a large margin, the best-rated stories of that issue.

The next story is Eric Frank Russell’s Jay Score. This wasn’t a bad story, but I’ve had the twist before. It’s about a freighter that is blown off course by a micro-meteorite. It’s headed directly to the sun with broken rockets. They get the rockets going, but even so a slingshot around the sun will be difficult.

They only manage it because of Jay Score, the assistant pilot. He’s a larger than life figure. Six foot nine or so, laconic, immensely capable, and so good at chess that he’s actually able to be the Martians on occasion. He is, of course, a robot names J.20.

As I said, it’s a twist I’ve seen before and done better. It’s the kind of deus ex machina that bothers me. Surviving only because he’s a robot means that there’s no real heroism involved. Robots can be heros, just look at Asimov’s examples. But here we’re expecting to see a hero and instead we see something superhuman. It lessens the story for me.

Next is a cute little entry called Fish Story by Vic Phillips and Scott Roberts. Basically, it’s about a an old colonel telling tall tales in a bar. This particular story is about catching highly poisonous giant frog-like creatures on Venus. He succeeds by the use of creative chemistry.

As I said, it’s a cute piece of fluff, but highlights one of the few drawbacks of this exercise. I often wallow in the history of these stories, like I did in Solution Unsatisfactory. However, that’s a two-edged sword. So many of these are set on Venus or Mars as if they’re teeming with life, which we now know isn’t true. It’s a case of knowing too much sometimes.

We move on to Subcruiser by Harry Walton. This is ripping yarn of a ship captain drugged by his executive officer so he can steal their subspace cruiser and take it to their enemies. The captain thinks the drugs are simply part of alcoholic fits brought on by depression from a previous battle.

In the end, he manages to defeat his XO and save his ship, and in the process regain the trust of his crew. Great story. To bad Walton didn’t write more.

Next we get to the monthly section called Brass Tacks. This one is special, though, as it publishes a chunk of Heinlein’s timeline, as mentioned in the opening editorial. The entire section can be found here: http://astoundingstoriesatwar.lmc.gatech.edu/files/original/5c982f03ae0d7bd88f8b8a0f636f3860.pdf.

Next is the conclusion of The Stolen Dormouse by L. Sprague de Camp. Here’s the link to my review of the Astounding of April, 1941 and Part I: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1352.

This story is a mashup of a number of different threads. A bit of Ivanhoe. A heaping helping of Romeo and Juliet. Some Purloined Letter. However, there are a ton of loose threads. The heroes survive and live happily ever after, so that’s fine, but I feel like the ending was rushed and condensed. De Camp almost built too much depth into this world, and I didn’t think all of it was explored enough.

If you go to the story’s Wikipedia page, it has a number of comments from a variety of different perspective and I think that’s part of my frustration. So much is going on, it’s written well, and it’s full of action, so it’s a good novella. It’d be a better better novel, though.

That’s it for this issue. It was another great issue, but it’s hard to go wrong with two Heinleins and an Asimov.

I’ll probably not have a chance to do a review next week, so I’ll plan on getting one out Halloween day. That being the case, I’ll review the Imagination of October, 1950. This is actually the first issue of this magazine. I’m curious what I’ll find in a debut.

Thanks very much and have a great day.

Next Week’s Issue: Imagination of October, 1950.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Ian J. Malone

This week’s interview is with Ian J. Malone, who I met while on the same panels at a number of conventions. He writes SF, including a short story in For A Few Credits More along with me.

He’s also a guy who works hard for all of us independent writers. At least once a week, he’s posting useful links or websites in his Facebook group the Alliance for Indie SF&F Authors. If you’re an independent writer, it’s a good group to keep track of.

Anyway, here’s the guy himself.

Interview: Ian J. Malone
Ian J. Malone
Ian J. Malone

What is your quest?

I’m easy to peg on that one, brother. I aim to live on the beach one day, making enough money as a full-time SF author to support my family. That’s it. If I can pull that off, I’ll be over the moon.

What is your favorite color?

As the tagline goes, I write “character-charged sci-fi with a shot of country.” That’s a fancy way of saying I write stories about every day, blue collar folks who wind up in situations that aren’t so every day in nature. Most of the time that involves high flying space ships in some capacity, plus aliens, other worlds, AI, and so forth.  Inevitably, though, most of my protagonists tend to be human as I’ve always found them more relatable to read/write.

As an aside, I also really enjoy wearing hats… a lot.

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

The biggest challenge I faced, particularly in the beginning, was learning how a story is supposed to look in text, on the page. I’m legally blind, and have historically done all of my reading via audio. So, when the time came to write a novel of my own, I had A TON to learn about style and technique.

Example: I never knew when penning my first book that a character’s thoughts were presented in italics. You kinda don’t get that in an audiobook.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’m a chronic lister. My daily tasks at work, chores around the house, writing goals. You name it, and I’ve probably got it dictated onto a note in my phone somewhere.

As social media goes, I’m also a big fan of the list feature on Twitter. I keep lists for every topic imaginable, from craft and publishing to geek culture, news and sports. Moreover, the tweets on those lists come exclusively from sources that I’ve vetted, which helps to cut down on the whole fake news thing.

Note: I wish Facebook would give me a feature like this. It’s absurdly efficient. Alas, Father Zuckerberg hasn’t seen fit yet in his infinite wisdom to bestow upon we, the little people, such an enormously helpful tool. *sigh*

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? ANIMAL!
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy, all the way.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Florida State Seminoles
  • Cake or Pie? Gotta go with pie, especially when it’s my wife’s homemade apple.
  • Lime or Lemon? “He was green! Like a lime!”
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  I make a Mexican layer dip that I’m told is legendary back home in Florida.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet makes me think water, so I’ll go with that.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Joe Bonamassa featuring Beth Hart
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Never was a Scotch guy, so gimme that e.
  • Favorite Superhero? Superman.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? 70s were before my time. Best I can do is early 80s, in which case I’ll go with Miami Vice.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall = college football season and chili weather
  • Favorite Pet?   The Cranes!
  • Best Game Ever? John Madden Football
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, black
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi

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

Why in the holy name of frak are you a Cowboys fan, Rob? Come on, man. I thought you were better than that! :p

My Answer: Because I grew up in Hillsboro, TX in the early 1970s, which is near Dallas. I’ve been a Cowboys fan since 1973 or so. In other words, I come by this fandom honestly.

Every night at Pennsic I’ll spend some time checking on Twitter and my feeds for news from Cowboys training camp. I’m really excited about this year’s team. Last year was lost to Roger Goodell being a jerk, and at some point we’ll win it all again and I can’t wait to see him have to give Jerry the Lombardi Trophy.

 Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I’m for sale “wide” in all the usual places: Amazon, Kobo, B&N, iBooks, etc.

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

As a graduate of Florida State University, sci-fi author Ian J. Malone has written in a variety of arenas ranging from public health to news and sports. When it comes to his fictional work, however, he’s a firm believer that nothing shapes a person’s writing like experience. That’s why he credits his tenures in radio, law enforcement, and military contracting for much of his inspiration, plus the legion of family and friends who’ve stood with him along the way.

Beyond writing, Malone is an avid fan of audiobooks (he’s legally blind) and the outdoors. It’s also not uncommon to find him at a ballgame, a concert, or somewhere out by a grill.

Malone is an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and a resident of Durham, North Carolina — but he’ll always be a “Florida boy” at heart.

Colonies Lost
Colonies Lost

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

You might have asked, “where can readers test drive your work before buying?”

Answer: Anybody who signs up for my email newsletter at ianjmalone.net gets not one but two free short stories! The first is titled Mako: Genesis, and serves as the official prequel to my SF adventure series, The Mako Saga. The other is titled Nightfall: A Roanoke Short Story, and serves as the prequel to my new book, Colonies Lost.

Subscribers will also get first look sneak peeks at new book materials, as well as occasional updates on release schedules, events, and discount/freebie promotions.

Malone’s latest book, Colonies Lost, tells the story of a disgraced US Marshal who takes a freelance case to feed his family, only to come face-to-face with America’s greatest unsolved mystery: What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island?

You can find Colonies Lost for sale on Amazon, or wherever ebooks are sold.


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

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

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

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

Interview: Christopher Winder

Today, it’s an interview with another new author in the 4HU, Christopher Winder.

Interview: Christopher Winder
Christopher Winder
Christopher Winder

What is your quest?

My quest is to write stories that I’d love to read. Stories that make people laugh, cry, get angry, feel joy, or smack their foreheads really hard.

By doing that, I want to move into full-time writing. For me, writing is play – not work. I’m mentally exhausted after a long writing session, but I have yet to sprain my ankle, get a sliver, break a leg or suffer third-degree burns because I wrote something. Yes, it’s work. Yes, it’s hard. But no, it’s not hard work. I love it.

My greatest influences in writing are Stephen King (his non-horror stuff, except Four Past Midnight, which was absolutely wonderful), and R. A. Salvatore. Both, but especially Salvatore, could drag me around by my emotions, beat me over the head with them, and force me to come back asking for more. I’m not there yet, but one day I’d like to surpass even that master of words.

What is your favorite color?

I don’t really have a favorite color overall. For cars, it’s copper. I love the look of a copper-colored vehicle – where it looks like the whole thing was made from the same stuff as pennies.

For book covers, I love contrast. I admit that my favorite covers are those of the vampire genre. Dark grays and black with a splash of red. Sometimes literally a splash… because vampires… you know. I don’t write in that genre – at least not yet – but their book covers are gorgeous.

As far as colors having influence on my writing, as far as I know, colors don’t influence me at all. I say that, but I try to surround myself with as much green as possible. I read somewhere that green helps people think scientifically. Since my main genre is science fiction, it seems to fit. I don’t know if it helps or not, but I do like the color.

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

The most frustrating thing about being an author, my greatest challenge, is staying on task. I can’t visit the grocery store without thinking-up a new story idea. I can’t sit down at the computer without seeing another story that I really want to write – that isn’t going to write itself. Staying on task until each story is complete is the hardest part of the job.

The next-hardest part is character names. I know that once I write them, I’m stuck with them. I guess it’s the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane, trusting that your parachute is folded correctly. Because, once you jump, you’re committed. (Rob’s Note: Behind the Names is awesome, especially the Random Name generator)

Besides that, I also struggle with imposter syndrome. I feel a little better knowing that most authors do, but I wish none of us did. Sometimes it’s paralyzing, but I push through by reminding myself that I enjoy the task of writing even when I think it’s no good.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

The one thing I’m good at more than anything else is learning. I can learn anything I put my mind to. I learned how to write by listening to others, reading others and reading books. Throw a few YouTube videos into the mix and POOF – author.

My second magic power is teaching. I’ve learned that anyone can be taught, and the more I teach something, the more concrete it becomes in my own brain. So, I do my best to teach new authors everything I know because not only does it help them, it helps me.

Speaking of which – my doing so does not hurt my own sales. I don’t compete with them. We write in the same genre. People consume our work and move on to the next. It’s not something like a refrigerator where they buy it and hold onto it as long as possible. We are entertainers, and once the entertainment is over, it’s time to move on to something new. (Rob’s Note: Agreed, we’re not competitors because it’s not a zero-sum game)

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Mister Snuffleupagus
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team?  Winnipeg Jets
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, but only if it’s chocolate.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? French Onion
  • Wet or Dry? Vacuums? Both. Personally? Dry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Nikki McFarland (Nikkitanix)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey, on the rocks.
  • Favorite Superhero? Magneto. He counts, right?
  • Steak Temperature? Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? M*A*S*H
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Winter
  • Favorite Pet? Max my tabby cat.
  • Best Game Ever? 7 Days to Die
  • Coffee or Tea?Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Mostly Sci-Fi, but only 51%.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • Website: http://www.chriswinderbooks.com
  • Podcast: http://www.sfshenanigans.com
  • Stay tuned for several new releases both from me alone and from myself and JR Handley with our co-written stuff. Plenty of Pew-Pew, red shirts getting decimated and starships. The first should be released in October.

And where can we find you?

I’ll be at 20 Books Vegas in November. Just look for the charming, handsome, tall, great-smelling, hysterical, humble guy.

Do you have a creator biography?

Chris Winder is a United States Marine Corps veteran who spent nearly half his eight years training other Marines in the fine art of field wire and switchboard operation.

Each class was dosed with a big helping of humor, which he learned is the key to helping people absorb and remember information. Therefore, Chris tries to sneak some humor into every book he writes.

His first novel, Cloud Development, is a technothriller revolving around a ten-year-old boy, his parents and the corporation his father works for. For years, LumoTech has been trying to unlock a dangerous secret and when their research targets the little boy as the key, his parents aren’t given much of a choice.

He currently works as an Information Technology Specialist for his local government where he spends much of his days wondering if there’s life on other planets, if aliens will be bipedal and if they think we are delicious space-cows.

Chris lives in a small town in northern Arizona with his wife and son, (his two oldest, daughters, are grown and live in the greater Phoenix area), his two cats, (Squeaker and Max), and his elderly dog, Scout.

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

Everyone has a dream – a really big thing that seems like it’s out of their reach and it too hard to accomplish. You should have asked what’s my really big dream?

And I would answer it’s to teach kids how to write creatively. I find that writing is not only fun, it’s therapeutic. I have at least a million words which will probably never see the light of day because I wrote them for me and me alone.

I’ve confronted demons which I’ve held deep inside for decades. I’ve learned things about myself I’d forgotten. Most of all, I’ve learned to be okay with who I am.

My dream is to travel the state of Arizona speaking to kids about how to do what I do. I’d first like to visit juvenile detention, residential treatment centers and the like. Once I have a cadre who can learn to write, who I’ve helped build the confidence in, I want to publish their work and donate all the proceeds to the charity of their choice.

Once that’s done, I’ll move on to the adults.

That’s the great thing about being an author. We don’t need resumes. We don’t need job experience. Nobody cares if we had a rough past, if we’re in jail, if we have a history of drug abuse, or anything else. So long as we can string words together in a way that is entertaining, we can make a living.

I’m not the same person I was before I started writing. I’d like to pay that gift forward to as many people as possible. Even if they don’t become full-time authors, they will know they have the ability. If they only publish one book to prove they can do it, that’s still a win.

Writing makes people better.


Thanks to Christopher 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