Interview: Robert E. Waters

This week’s interview is with Robert E. Waters. As you’ll see, he’s also interested in using history to shape his SF, something I mention later myself.

Interview Questions

What is your quest?

Robert E. Waters
Robert E. Waters

I strive to write fun and engaging stories. Do I always succeed? I do not know, but the effort is well worth it. My early influences were Clifford Simak, Robert Silverberg, and Stephen King, an odd mix, I admit, but each of these authors brought a different perspective to my own writing.  I figure, if I can model my work around “the spirit” of what these three authors have accomplished in their lives, and if I can achieve a fraction of the skill and success that they have accumulated, then I can die a happy man.

What is your favorite color?

I’m a plotter, not a pantser. I don’t feel comfortable starting a story until I know how the tale will end. All the details in the middle can evolve as I write the story, but the big strokes of the narrative need to be firmly in my mind before I crank up the ol’ Word and get going. Most of my writing also has a decidedly historical bent, and so, I firmly recommend that if research is involved in the telling of a tale, that the research be done prior to starting the writing. I have found that I can get lost in the weeds of a narrative if I stop too often to research while I’m writing.

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

Patience. To be a good author, and more importantly, to be a published author, one needs to accept the molasses pace that often plagues the publishing industry. You must remember that there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people out there trying to get their stories and novels published just like you, and it can take a long while for your submissions to get a response. So, don’t be an ass like I was on occasion in the early days and harass editors about making a decision on your novel/story prematurely. If you push too hard, they might make a decision that you do not want them to make.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think I write combat and battle scenes very well. I’m no expert on such scenes, mind you, but I’ve been able to work in my knowledge of historical warfare with a kind of frenetic pace that showcases the chaos of battle. I once wrote a 14,000 word rolling battle sequence that took nearly two full weeks to write, but in the end, it made the story.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The Count (assuming he is one and not just a Sesame Street construct)
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? My son, Jason.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Miami Dolphins
  • Cake or Pie? In a pinch, pie
  • Lime or Lemon? Neither
  • Favorite Cereal? Captain Crunch
  • Favorite Superhero? Iron Man
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Sanford and Son
  • Best Thing From the 80s? The fact that we survived it, with the threat of nuclear annihilation present for a time
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer
  • Favorite Pet?  Bandit, my dog for 15 years; died because he had cataracts so bad he didn’t see the car to get out of the way
  • Best Game Ever? Hard to say, but with a gun to my head, Fury of Dracula
  •  Coffee or Tea? I like both, but coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi
  • Brought to you by the letter R

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

What would you consider to be the “definitive” science fiction novel written in the last ten years? And why?

Rob’s Answer: Man, this is a hard question to answer for me because I don’t read as much new stuff as I should. The definitive SF novel to me is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It’s got everything an SF story should happen, with fantastic pacing and an ending that’s only partially happy. The good guys win, but not all survive. I can’t not cry at the end.

As for recent stuff, I’m going to lean towards David Drake’s Lt. Leary series, of which I can’t pick one book. It’s strong work, solid all the way through, filled with action and strong characters. As a historian, I also love the way he uses historical events to shape the story. I just mimicked that process with my short story for the anthology We Dare, which comes partially from the Finnsburh Fragment.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

Currently Available

Coming Soon

  • The Swords of El Cid, book 2 in the Cross of Saint Boniface series, publication date August 2019
  • The Last Hurrah, media tie-in novel based on Mantic Games’ Dreadball universe, publication date TBD
  • 1636: Calabar’s War, co-authored by Charles E Gannon, set in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire series, publication date TBD

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

Robert E Waters is a technical writer by trade, but has been a science fiction/fantasy fan all his life. He’s worked in the board and computer gaming industry since 1994 as designer, producer, and writer. In the late 90’s, he tried his hand at writing fiction and since 2003, has sold over 60 stories to various on-line and print magazines and anthologies, including the Grantville Gazette, Eric Flint’s online magazine dedicated to publishing stories set in the 1632/Ring of Fire series. Robert is currently working in collaboration with author Charles E Gannon on a Ring of Fire novel titled, 1636: Calabar’s War. Robert has also co-written several stories, as well as the Persistence of Dreams, with Meriah L Crawford, and The Monster Society, with Eric S Brown.

He has also written in several tabletop gaming universes, including Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy series and in the Wild West Exodus weird tech/steampunk universe. He has also dabbled a bit in Warlord Games’ Beyond the Gates of Antares milieu, writing about assassins and rescue missions.

Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their precocious little cat Buzz.

For more information about his work, visit his website at www.roberternestwaters.com.

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

You should have asked what my favorite music is so I could tell you I love smooth jazz. All the greats: Gerald Albright, David Sanborn, Steve Cole, Grover Washington Jr., Euge Groove, etc. etc. I listen to it every evening. It relaxes and inspires me.


Thanks to Robert 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: Mia Hansson

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with Mia Hansson. I first met Mia when she and her husband came over from England to do a Vikings re-enactment event. A few years later, they graciously allowed me to use their house as a base as I roamed around to places like York, Shrewsbury, Portsmouth, and wherever else the train decided to take me.

But she’s not simply a great person, she’s incredibly skilled too. She’s also, like so many doing re-enactment, an overachiever. The Bayeux Tapestry is not a small thing. It’s 20 inches by 230 feet! That’s like a receiver catching a 76 yard pass! No one would be brave enough to embroider a full-sized replica would they? Well, here’s Mia…

Interview: Mia Hansson

What is your quest?

I have given myself 10 years to make a full scale replica of the Bayeux tapestry, the way I believe it may have looked when it was first created, before any repair work was required. I was alerted to someone’s attempt to make a half scale version and decided that I wanted to make a tapestry too. However, if you are going to make something like this, it needs to be done properly. I’m now 2 years and 9 months into the project and I have completed over 17 m, which means I have less than 52 m left to embroider.

Mia's replica stretched out
Mia’s replica stretched out

At a museum in Reading, UK is a replica made in the 1800s by the Leek Embroidery Society. That version was censored. Stallions turned into mares and nude men are wearing underpants. My tapestry will be true to the original, which can be seen at the Bayeux tapestry museum in northern France.

Alongside the embroidery, I’m writing a book in which I try to capture thoughts and ideas, as well as experiences that come with the project. I hope to publish it at the time of project completion.

What is your favorite color?

I love many colours, but if I have to pick one I would opt for red, the kind of red that goes towards blue, not yellow. Blue is a close second and a soft pink. There are both red and blue in the tapestry, which only contains seven shades: red, yellow, light and dark blue, light and dark green and a dark mixture of green and blue.

The basic images on the tapestry are horses, men, ships and buildings. Although ships take forever to embroidery, they make a real impact when they are done and so do the horses. Big blocks of colour and that’s satisfying to create. If someone was to pick one image from the Bayeux tapestry to embroidery, I would recommend a ship or a horse. Stay well clear of buildings with a tiled roof or bricked walls. They are frustrating to stitch, due to the bitty nature of many small details.

There are several different stitches used on the original tapestry and I try my best to use the same in the correct places. The couch stitch is the main one and it has become known as the Bayeux stitch. It is a very efficient way of covering a large area and I really enjoy it.

I find details important, even if they can be frustrating and for me it is a big deal to get the features of the people’s faces right. A hooked or pointy nose, big or small eyes and an upwards or downwards facing line marking a mouth can make a big different. At the very beginning of my project, I remember stitching King Edward’s face three times before being happy with it. I hate unpicking with a passion, but I’d rather do that than leave something I’m not pleased with. This is a project I want to be proud of.

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

The flying speed of a paint brush is less than that of a swooping eagle, but more than that of a person not concentrating hard enough to get out of its path.

There are two different shades of blue on the original tapestry, a light and a dark shade, which are two of the main seven colours. As they were hand dyed, of course they differ, sometimes within the same hank of wool. That means a stitched outline can start out light and end up dark, with a mid blue in between. I have to make a choice which shade to use, as I only have light and dark. Even worse is when I can’t decide whether an infilled area is meant to be light blue, dark blue or perhaps a green-blue mixture. Occasionally I have involved other people to help make a decision and at times I have worked with other colours while I try to make my mind up. Sometimes I have changed my opinion after stitching and then had to decide if to unpick my work or not. Funnily enough it is only the blue shades causing major issues. The others tend to behave.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I hold an awesome stabbing power when it comes to a small needle. Sometimes I stab so fast that I fail to move the hand holding the fabric and I have to make sure there are no blood stains on the item I’m working on. True story.

Neatness is my thing. From years and years and even more years of practice, I can keep my stitches neat, tidy and the same size. Even the back of the piece has passed the approving eye of many experienced needlewomen. I was taught by my nan at the age of 4 or 5 how to embroidery and her lessons included how to keep the backside tidy.

Before starting this tapestry project I was (and still am now and then) making Viking garments for reenactors and for museums. Some of those items featured embroidery. The person would give me an image and I would make it fit as if by magic. Perhaps that’s it, embroidery magic is my Holy Hand Grenade.

Mia with Tapestry
Mia with Tapestry

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy, of course!
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Leg warmers and permed hair. I had both.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Magic Mia – Poof and she is gone…
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Run and hide, preferably as far from the arena as possible.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Pear ice cream green. Not pistachio green, but pear ice cream green.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? I’m already the ruler of my own pink clouded world. I will stitch something so amazing that people will willingly enter my world to view it. They will realize how pleasant Mia Land is and before they know it, they will be trapped and made to see the world through my eyes. Me being crazy? Pffft, not in my world. You’ll see…. Mwoa-ha-ha!
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Lilla My from the Moomins
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A soft cuddly frog when I was a child. He was my companion for far too many years.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To make people see the world the way I do. (See above)
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? M, of course. M for marvelous, meticulous, merry, magical and mustard, sweet mustard that is.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t do sports. I like watching ice dancing, but that’s not really a team sport.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie! Oh yes, I had a piece of amazing pecan pie in Michigan last year at a place famous for its cherry pie.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, because it is small, green and cute.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Sour cream & onion, hands down.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Abba! At least one of my US friends couldn’t name a single Abba song. However, if you know the phenomenon that is (was) Abba, I’ll pick Marianne Flynner, a Swedish country & western singer.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey, I can spell…
  • Favorite Superhero? The Phantom. I even know a song about him… in Swedish. I’m singing it right now.
  • Steak Temperature? I don’t do temperature. I squish it when frying. It needs to have some squish to be rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? I loved Happy Days
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring, when the trees are light and bright green, before the summer heat kicks in. I love when nature comes back to life and I can be barefoot again.
  • Favorite Pet? Our two dogs, the Princess and the Pirate or Buffy and Bruin, if you want their real names.
  • Best Game Ever? The King’s Circle
  • Coffee or Tea? Black coffee, of course.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy, although I do like a decent alien.

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

When will we get to see you again? It has been far too long. We still have the wooden piece of art you brought back from your travels.

Rob’s Answer: I don’t know, but I’d really like to come back. I had a great time both times I was in England, and I really want to do another walking tour. I’ve been reading a lot of Dick Francis lately, and I want to walk the Ridgeway Trail and then maybe time it so I can go to the Cheltenham Festival. I’ve never seen a real steeplechase, and I really want to.

When you write, how much of your own experiences do you include in the storyline? Are any of the characters based on you, however loosely? Do you plot the entire storyline before starting on a new book or does it take on a life of its own and take you on a journey during the process of writing?

Rob’s Answer: Wow, a number of questions there. Let’s start with how much me is in there. It’s hard to say, sometimes. My normal style is to create a character, put them into a situation, and role-play what they will do. I try to give the characters agency, but every part an actor plays comes at some point from his experiences.

I do base characters on people, but not much on me. I suppose I could fancy myself as Edward, but I’m probably closer to Ragnar if I’m being honest.

I’m a pantser, actually, which means I write by the seat of my pants. Plotting to me is a generalized where I want certain characters to end up. I suppose I’m doing a little more plotting in the sense I’m trying to pants barebones first drafts and then fill them out in the editing process. They serve as sort of a chapter plan.

I’ve found that short stories can sort of spring up wholly formed, like “Far Better to Dare,” my entry in the naval alternate history anthology Those in Peril and my most recent story, “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” which will come out in We Dare this summer. It doesn’t always happen like that, but it can.

However, novels always take a journey of their own for me. In A Lake Most Deep, I was writing the scene where we meet Katarina for the first time. I intended it that scene to be merely a placed Edward had to go, or it would be an obvious plot hole. Instead, Katarina grabbed me by the throat and changed the story completely, and in so doing, all of Shijuren. While it’s often not as dramatic as that scene, the truth is novels are too big with too much going on for them not to be shaped by characters at some point during the process.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

I run two Facebook groups, Mia’s Bayeux tapestry story, where you can follow my project:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1139246322780314/

If you check out the information section of the tapestry group above, there are several links to video clips and online articles about the project, such as these ones:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2167828423246227

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2167828423246227

In Mia’s sewing & embroidery, I showcase Viking age garments and other items I have made. I take orders, if anyone is interested of a 100% hand stitched piece.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1139246322780314/

And where can we find you?

Every so often I take my tapestry out for a talk & display, fairly local to where we live. Most of the events are private bookings, but occasionally I organize something for the general public. Those will be advertised on Mia’s Bayeux tapestry story Facebook page.

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

You should have asked if I use a frame for my embroidery. Everyone else asks this question, so why not you? No, I don’t. I have one, but don’t get along with it. Years or practice have taught me how to get the tension right without a frame.

What am I going to do with the tapestry once all 69 m have been completed? Hopefully I’ll find someone with deep pockets who is willing to take over ownership. If not, I have had 10 years of enjoyment out of it and it will live out its days as a giant roll of linen and wool in my hobby room.

Rob’s Note: Y’all need to buy a lot of books, because I really want to have deep pockets when the time comes.


Thanks to Mia 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: Let It Begin Here

Week 16 of 2019

Greetings all

Sorry for missing a few updates. It’s been a grueling time of late. However, I can tell you that The Feeding of Sorrows went to the editor last week.

I’m currently finishing a short story for an anthology. Hopefully that will be done today, but probably tomorrow. It’s been a fight to get this one out, actually. When the proposal came, I had what I thought was a great idea. However, when I actually wrote it, I realized it was not as good of a story as it was worldbuilding. I just never could get the tension or the twist that makes a good story.

So I started fresh. I really like this story. It melds a number of Old English influences with Shakespeare and my whimsy into a story tentatively titled A Wall Wondrously High. Bonus points for those who recognize the reference.

Next week I’ll jump back into None Call Me Mother, which I’m going to try and have the main draft done at the start of June. We’ll see, that’s a tough deadline, but it’s certainly possible with all the prep work I’ve done.

My plan is to start back up with the Mag Reviews next week. I’ve missed them, and they often provide me with good story ideas. While my initial story for this anthology didn’t work out, I’ve gotten a number of good story ideas, too. Now if I can only find time from my writing for deadlines to write random stories.

Not a bad thing to have deadlines, though. It means people keep wanting to read my stuff. So I guess I better go write.

Current Playlist Song

Smashing Pumpkins, Bullet With Butterfly Wings. Man, Smashing Pumpkins have made some great songs. This is one of them, though my favorite is still Blue, which was originally on Lull, a very early EP that I stumbled across.

Quote of the Week

Yesterday is, of course, the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington. I have always loved this quote.

“Stand your ground. Do not fire unless you are fired upon, but if they mean war, let it begin here.”
– Capt. John Parker

News and Works in Progress

  • AWWH (6,465)
  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 15,000)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Karl Gallagher, who just released a new book called The Lost War. You can find the interview at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1694 and you can find his Amazon author page at: https://www.amazon.com/Karl-K.-Gallagher/e/B0195ZEOO8

Today’s Weight: 388.4

Updated Word Count: No clue, but well over 100k

Shijuren Wiki: Will update in May

Four Horsemen Wiki: 543 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

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Interview: Karl Gallagher

Wow, it’s been a while. Sorry for those waiting on interviews and mag reviews and my updates. Starting to get back in the groove on that after an incredibly busy March.

Anyway, today’s interview is with Karl Gallagher, who I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a number of time at conventions. I enjoy chatting with him, in part because we agree on a number of writing things. Also, since he’s also in the SCA, we have a connection there as well.

Interview: Karl Gallagher
Karl Gallagher
Karl Gallagher

What is your quest? I’m writing the kind of stories I want to read. Science fiction wrestling with ideas, people doing their best in hard situations, tactical challenges, adventures that are fun to read about but usually hell to live through.

What is your favorite color? Green. I like competent people doing smart things. Whether it’s mages figuring a clever use for a spell or engineers fixing something under fire, I like seeing people do their jobs well. Competence porn is one of my favorite genres.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? In the six years and counting I’ve been writing seriously I’ve averaged over seven thousand words written per month. I’m not consistent about it. Some people aim to write a fixed amount each day. Me, some days are nothing, some have two thousand words. I’ve also had zero word months. There was one where I wrote nearly 19k. So not attempting NaNoWriMo any time soon.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I’ve picked up some useful experience for an SF/F writer. I’m an aerospace engineer with lots of experience on satellites and rockets, which lets me get the orbital mechanics right in my hard SF novels. Game mastering table top role-playing games developed my storytelling abilities. When one of my characters decides to take a right turn off the outline I know how to roll with it. Other useful experience: some time in the military, raising kids, and being a heavy fighter in the SCA.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Kermit. I sympathize with trying to manage the chaos. Gives me Battalion XO flashbacks.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Reality: Fall of Soviet Union. Fiction: Star Trek – The Wrath of Khan.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Weeble.
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Not letting go.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Strange Tartan Combos.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Infecting people with memes spread through my books.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Foghorn Leghorn.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? First Edition hardcover of Starship Troopers.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? How to escape my day job.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Harrington Treecats.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Onion.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Jumpin’ Kate (Nebraska rocker).
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey.
  • Favorite Superhero? Ironman. It’s fun pointing out Stark Industries products actually made where I work.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium, especially if I don’t know which way that cook is going to err.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Classic Star Trek re-runs.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Best Game Ever? For tactical challenge, Ogre/GEV. For pure fun, Firefly the Game.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Lean toward sci-fi, but never exclusive.
  • Brought to you by the letter _? R for Rocket.
The Lost War
The Lost War

What question(s) would you like to ask me?  How do you throw such great room parties?

Rob’s Answer: Practice, I guess. Plus watching my parents and their friends did. I mean, high school parties were boring, but the ones Jim Erickson threw were amazing.

A lot of my party experience comes from Pennsic. There’s a certain amount of KISS principle involved. First, you need to limit the drink choices a bit. For me, that’s cider, a variety of beers, and one mixed drink that is premixed. The goal is to limit the time waiting to get a beverage. Secondly, you need to do everything you can ahead of time, just like setting out props in a play. Make it so everything is easy to see. Third, don’t stress about how many will or won’t come. Invite all you can, but make sure no one feels they have to come. Parties are about fun, not forcing people to be there. 

Basically, you create a field with all the toys and stay out of the way of people having fun.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you? I’ll be at Libertycon (Chattanooga, June) and Fencon (DFW, September).

Do you have a creator biography? Karl Gallagher has earned engineering degrees from MIT and USC, controlled weather satellites for the Air Force, designed weather satellites for TRW, designed a rocketship for a start-up, and done systems engineering for a fighter plane. He has, on a few occasions, put on armor and been hit in the head with a stick. His sole moment of martial fame was being one-shot in Crown so efficiently there was a three paragraph write up in the kingdom newsletter. He is husband to Laura and father to Maggie, James, and dearly missed Alanna.

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

You should have asked if I have any new books coming out? Why, yes! I’ve just released The Lost War.  A group of historical reenactors expected a weekend of costumed fun . . . instead a magic spell pulled them into a world where they must struggle to survive.

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-War-Karl-K-Gallagher-ebook/dp/B07QKHZCZP

The sequel, The War Revealed, will be out May 7th.


Thanks to Karl 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