Rob’s Update: Fire from Fire Quickened

Week 10 of 2020

Greetings all

Been a pretty good week here. Not much in terms of word count, but that’s because I was putting the final touches on “Fire from Fire Quickened,” my next installment in the Queen Elizabeth’s Own Foresters. I sent it off to CKP today and I hope it’ll be accepted for the next anthology.

I love this story and let me just say, things are getting worse for the Foresters before they’ll get better. If Roosevelt Edmonds were to ever meet me in real life, he’d bop me in the nose. Or worse.

I also managed to finally break through on some technical issues related to the Shijuren wiki. I’ll hopefully be able to get it back up soon, though it’ll take a bit to learn the new version.

Today I began the final push on None Call Me Mother. I’m at that stage in the writing where I have to separate each thread and make sure I follow them to the concluding battle. I have a lot of the concluding battle scribbled in notes here and there, but this will help me block the scene properly. Also, this will help eliminate some redundancies that have cropped up as well as plot holes.

Getting there.

Tomorrow, I’ll pop on over to St. Louis and watch the second Battlehawks home game. The first one was a ton of fun, and I will do my writeup on both weekends on Sunday.

What I’m Listening To

Iron Maiden’s Back in the Village. Not one of their more well-known songs, but like Rush, Iron Maiden’s B-sides are often better than the hits.

Quote of the Week

“I liked working with smart people.”
– Katherine Johnson

I’ll bet that’s what people said about working with you. Godspeed, and thanks for helping us reach the stars.

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (108,716)
  • CB (8,418)
  • RQS (1,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on D.J. Butler, whose story “No Trade for Nice Guys” reminded me so much of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, I went back and started reading those again. You can find my interview with him at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2021.

Today’s Weight: 396.8

Updated Word Count: 42,769

Shijuren Wiki: Rebuilding

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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Interview: D.J. Butler

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

You might notice this is coming out on Thursday. I seem to have misplaced Tuesday. Anyone know where I put it?

Anyway, this week is one of the cover authors from When Valor Must Hold, D.J. Butler. Butler’s story “No Trade for Nice Guys” reminded me so much of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser I’m re-reading those stories. Which of course reminds me of the original TSR Deities and Demigods, which I also re-read.

Let’s just say you’ll want more of his two main characters, Indrajit and Fix. Fortunately, they star in a full-length novel coming out in July, In the Palace of Shadow and Joy.

Interview: D.J. Butler
D.J. Butler
D.J. Butler

Why are you here?

What made you a creator in the first place? My parents gave me a copy of the silver jubilee 25th anniversary edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was seven or eight. I stayed in bed for a week reading them back to back to back, and I have been attempting to recapture that experience ever since. Tolkien has influenced what I write on every level, from the genres I choose to write in to the themes and subject matter to my obsession with including music as music in my novels.

What are other major influences on you? Other hugely important novelists to me are Mervyn Peake, Patrick O’Brien, and Dorothy Dunnett. My favorite current novelists in speculative fiction would have to be Tim Powers (I love his playful use of history) and Neal Stephenson (I love the fact that he tackles big ideas within rollicking yarns). There are also songwriters who have had an enormous impact on what I write and how I write it; chief among those would have to be Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave.

Are there lesser-known creators you favor? I love to buy art, including writing, by people I know. Some of the lesser-known writers who are my favorites include: L.J. Hachmeister, who writes young adult space opera adventure, including the Triorion Universe books; David J. West (also writing as James Alderdice), who writes terrific pulp fiction influenced by sources ranging from spaghetti westerns to H.P. Lovecraft to Conan to The Book of Mormon (!!!); Thad Diaz, whose Lunatic City launches a terrific noir cop series set on the moon; and Michaelbrent Collings, who writes principally horror, but has also written a delightful middle grade series called the Billy Saga and a reimagined mashup of Twilight and Peter Pan.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

The Cunning Man cover
The Cunning Man cover

Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop? Yes. Also: airports, airplanes, restaurants, trains, hotels, convention center floors, friends’ parlors, and the shotgun seats of moving cars. I still work for a living (as a corporate trainer and consultant), so I have to write when I can. For a time, I was a full-time writer, and I was very good at systematically writing twelve pages every day, six days a week, but that is unfortunately not my situation now. Now, I will go without writing for a month, and then spend a month trying to write 20 pages a day, however and whenever and wherever I can.

What helps you be productive? Deadlines and contracts. Close association with other writers, who are themselves being productive, inspires me. Reader communication is great—it’s very hard to write sequels if you have no idea whether anyone is reading book one. 

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

In the Palace of Shadow and Joy cover
In the Palace of Shadow and Joy cover

What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. I have long periods in which I do things in my life that are important and good, but are not writing. I have not been as successful as I want to be at writing every day, no mater what.

Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Never forget that, as a writer, you are an entrepreneur. You are shareholder, CEO, business development VP, head of manufacturing, salesman, and customer service, all at once. You are not an employee of your publisher or of your agent. Be actively engaged in growing your business at all time.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Dr. Teeth
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Bonnie Prince Billy
  • Favorite Superhero? Luke Cage
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Favorite Weird Color? Magenta
  • Best Game Ever? RuneQuest
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Your Wrestler Name? El Bigote
  • Steak Temperature? Hot. Medium rare.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French onion
  • Favorite Cereal? Bacon
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Bacon
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Diet Mountain Dew
  • Do You Have Pets? No

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  1. LibertyCon in Tennessee
  2. Dragon Con in Georgia

Do you have a creator biography?

D.J. (Dave) Butler has been a lawyer, a consultant, an editor, and a corporate trainer. His novels include Witchy Eye, Witchy Winter, and Witchy Kingdom from Baen Books, as well as The Cunning Man, co-written with Aaron Michael Ritchey, and the forthcoming pseudofantasy thriller, In the Palace of Shadow and Joy. He also writes for children: the steampunk fantasy adventure tales The Kidnap Plot, The Giant’s Seat, and The Library Machine are published by Knopf. Other novels include City of the Saints from WordFire Press.

Dave also organizes writing retreats and anarcho-libertarian writers’ events, and travels the country to sell books. He plays guitar and banjo whenever he can, and likes to hang out in Utah with his children.


Thanks to D.J. 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: Over the Top

Week 8 of 2020

Greetings all

It’s been a strange week where I know I got lots done but I don’t really have a great way to show it. My 4HU short story is about 1000 words larger, but that’s the only word count I can point to. If that were it, I’d be frustrated about this week.

Fortunately, it’s not it. I spent the week clearing up a variety of details on this and that, including finalizing my taxes.

One of the best things I can report is the advanced copies of When Valor Must Hold went out to readers this week. Each one of these steps makes it that much more real. That much less vaporware. The authors are excited, the publisher is excited, the readers are excited, so guess what? I’m excited too.

While I only show 1000 more words in the 4HU story, I edited out a couple of thousand and cleaned up what I got. I’m now at the point where I see the whole pattern and it’ll be done on time and it’ll be good.

This weekend, I’m going to an SCA event and then the first home game of the St. Louis Battlehawks. More excitement. Going to be a great weekend.

What I’m Listening To

Various big band jazz songs at Shameless Grounds, a coffee shop owned by a couple of friends in St. Louis.

Quote of the Week

Today is the 104th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Verdun. More people think of Gandalf when they think of this phrase today, but here’s General Petain at Verdun.

I might have mentioned this before, but my grandfather enlisted at the age of 14 to fight in WW1. He never got to the trenches because they knew he was too young, so they had him cut trees and that sort of thing, but he saw more than a 14-year-old should. I still have my copy of Arthur Guy Empey’s Over the Top which he gave me.

“Ils ne passeront pas!” – ‘They shall not pass!’”
– Henri-Philippe Petain, during the Battle of Verdun, 1916

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (108,716)
  • CB (8,418)
  • FSS (6,808)
  • RQS (1,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Jon Osborne, whose is one of the cover authors in When Valor Must Hold.

Today’s Weight: On the road, didn’t check today

Updated Word Count: On the road, didn’t check today

Shijuren Wiki: 874 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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

This week, the interview is with Jon Osborne, who I think is a rising star. His story in When Valor Must Hold is called “The Errand” and you’ll love it.

Interview: Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne

Why are you here?

My early science fiction influences are Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, George Lucas, and Gene Roddenberry. My fantasy influences, which came later, were Charles de Lint, Randall Garrett, Steven Brust, and Gary Gygax. More contemporary inspiration comes from the likes of Eric Flint and Kevin Hearne.

I was a gamer before a writer. I started off as a Dungeon Master because I had the rules, and storytelling became addictive. I learned from an early age that characters will not do what you expect, nor do they care about your pre-conceived plans.

The Milesian Accords wasn’t a story that had been bouncing around for years. It coalesced while I was driving every week between Indianapolis and Chicago to deal with my parents’ estate. The beginning and ending of the story formed right away, and the rest filled in as I wrote the story.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

I do 95% of my writing in my home office on a sprawling, cluttered desk. When I played MMOs, I spent the bulk of my time parked in front of this corner desk, and when I transitioned to writing, I remained parked here.

I use YouTube for my background music. By and large, I listen to soundtracks. The most notable exception is the Mongolian heavy metal band The HU, and the funk band Here Come The Mummies.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so the coffee shop doesn’t hold an appeal for me. I’d rather have a whisky or beer in the comfort of my home rather than sit in an establishment full of strangers.

What are your superpowers?

Based on feedback, it appears I do dialogue well. Disney, if you’re reading this, I can help you out with that next Star Wars movie – you need it. I like to think I’m good at world-building – although my editors might say I get carried away – another trait from my background as a game master.

One of the things I had to overcome was my training – I majored in journalism in college, so I was taught to keep sentences short and my writing concise. Once I tried my hand at descriptive fiction, I found out I sucked at complex sentences – especially commas use. The way it sounded in my head was the opposite of how I should write. Fortunately, my publisher was a great mentor and patient with me.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

Superman has kryptonite, and I have squirrels. Staying focused is a huge challenge for me. In fact, I’m filling this out when I should be finishing a book. I’ve found I should keep my phone out of arm’s reach, as a quick checking of e-mail or social media turns into half an hour.

One thing I regret was never learning to type. Despite majoring in journalism in high school and college, I didn’t take typing classes. I mostly use my index fingers. If I typed faster, maybe I could keep up with my brain.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The Hu
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Favorite Weird Color? 633fcc
  • Favorite Sports Team? The Colts
  • Best Game Ever? D&D
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? When I found my missing cat on Christmas Day
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Scooby Doo
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? A 6 book RPG Lit series
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Sounds like too much work
  • Best Thing From the 80s? You expect me to pick one? Those were my high school and college years.
  • Favorite Historical Period? It depends on what Wikipedia page I’m looking at.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? See above.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Nacho cheese
  • Favorite Cereal? Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch (but it’s like eating peanut butter flavored gravel and will shred your mouth)
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? A bacon-wrapped fillet, french fries, and chili at the Ale Emporium
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Beer
  • Do You Have Pets? No
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? If you wrote under a (different) pen name, what would it be?

What question(s) would you like to ask me? What was the hardest book/story to write and why?

Rob’s Answer: So far, that clearly has to be None Call Me Mother. I’ve been working on it for two years now, and it still isn’t done. I’m getting close, but man this one hasn’t gone smoothly.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • CapriCon Feb 14-16
  • FantaSci Mar 20-22

Do you have a creator biography?

Jon R. Osborne is a veteran gamemaster and journalism major turned science fiction and fantasy author. The second book in the Jon’s The Milesian Accords modern fantasy trilogy, “A Tempered Warrior”, was a 2018 Dragon Awards finalist for Best Fantasy Novel. Jon is also a core author in the military science fiction Four Horseman Universe, where he was first published in 2017.

Jon resides in Indianapolis, where he plays role-playing games, writes science fiction and fantasy, and lives the nerd life. You can find out more at jonrosborne.com and at https://www.facebook.com/jonrosborne. 


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

Rob’s Update: Purposeful Motion

Week 7 of 2020

Greetings all

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve had to fight through getting words on the page. I’ve averaged just at 1000 words, but it’s been slow going despite staying at the keyboard.

I did make good progress on my next 4HU short story, and I’m approaching the main battle scene. I’ll have that done next week, though I’ll probably have editing yet still to do.

I also made progress in None Call Me Mother, though this was a bunch of re-arrangement. I have a thread I need to include in the final battle and getting the character there has been challenging. I *think* I have it now, but we’ll see. My word total went down, but as I’m at 108k, that’s fine.

The sweetie requested some small short stories for a project she’s working on. I got a draft of the first one of those written today. That one, at least, came out smoothly and easily.

I also wrote a draft of the Preface for When Valor Must Hold. In other words, it was not a week of legend, but I made progress.

Hopefully, the words will jump off the page next week. If not, I’ll keep plugging away.Have a great week.

What I’m Listening To

Cinderella Man by Rush off of Different Stages. A Farewell to Kings is a fantastic album and one I listen to frequently.

Quote of the Week

If there’s ever a quote an author should here, especially in a week where the words don’t come out easily, this is it.

“Cinderella Man
Hang on to your plans
Try as they might
They cannot steal your dreams”
– Rush, Cinderella Man

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (108,716)
  • CB (8,418)
  • FSS (5,668)
  • RQS (1,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Christopher Woods, whose story “Darkness Before the Dawn” inspired the cover of When Valor Must Hold. You can find that interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2007.

Today’s Weight: 396.4

Updated Word Count: 30,443

Shijuren Wiki: Updating

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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Interview: Christopher Woods

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

Today I’m interviewing Christopher Woods. His story Darkness Before the Dawn was a bit of new thing for him. He hadn’t done much fantasy writing before, but he’s a great writer so he gave me a great story. Also, it had a dragon and an ice wizard in it. If that sounds like the cover for When Valor Must Hold, it’s not a coincidence.

Interview: Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Most of the influences for my writing came from reading umpteen million books over a thirty year span. You can probably see different things as you read my work that remind you of other writers of days gone by. I’m not even sure if I can identify most of the particular places where this can be seen because there were so many. The biggest influence I have in my life is always my wife, Wendy. She makes me a better person and keeps me going when I feel like quitting. Her heart is big enough that I have trouble understanding how it all fits in such a tiny person.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? I have a long list of authors I dearly love, some living, some gone. Louis L’Amour may have been the best story teller I have ever read. Edgar Rice Burroughs told stories of heroes, with good and evil at odds with one another. Heroes triumph in the end. David Weber was the reason I got into Military Sci-Fi by writing his Honor Harrington series. Later I met the man and he is one of the nicest people I know in the industry. I have to give props to Chris Kennedy, who turned a writing career into a very successful publishing career. There are a slew of writers I have read that could be added to the list but it would take a novel to list them all.
  • What made you a creator in the first place? I have always written short stories but nothing that was intended to see the world at large. An active imagination and a lot of comic books had me writing stories in various comic universes. I don’t even know where those stories ever got too. The things I have published are much more recent. They sprang from a time when I was basically living in the attic room at my dad’s. I had gotten divorced, had my home foreclosed on, and gone through bankruptcy. The economy had just tanked and I was working a factory job that only gave us three days per week. I had a great deal of time and very little money, so I wrote a book.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? The first book, Soulguard, came from a dream I had three nights in a row. Seemed like a good place to start so I did. I have several things I want to do. I want to continue from several of the short stories I have done over the last year. The fantasy, Darkness Before the Dawn is one of them. Traitor’s Moon from the Salvage Universe of Kevin Steverson begs to be continued. There are three more Soulguard books to finish out that series. I would like to do a western as close to the style of Louis L’Amour as I can manage. In fact, I would like to write several.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • When Valor Must Hold
    When Valor Must Hold

    Where do you work? Mostly from home. Sometimes I work away from the house and I write there after the work is done, but most of my writing happens in my office.

  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples. I am a huge fan of Heavy Metal. Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Stone Sour, and Godsmack, to name a few. Lately I have found Shaman’s Harvest and really like their music.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment? I work in a roomful of stuff my wife has procured to give away at the conventions. There is also a stupid cat that seems to like walking across my hwfwfguwfgwfjjffrncusjuq28 keyboard.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? I’ve tried to write when I was physically exhausted and it doesn’t work very well. So now I try to write in the mornings before I go to work. It seems to work a lot better for me.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I want a happy ending. Sometimes it will be laced with loss but my heroes win in the end.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I’ve been told my dialogue is very good and the humor is enjoyed.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? Becoming a published author is probably the greatest success I can think of aside from finding Wendy. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to find her but I do know how I became a published author. She kept telling me “just do it, people will love it”, until I did and I found out she was right.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? I can never seem to get the work done where I can just focus on the writing. I had planned to be done by the end of 2019 and I still have a month or two ahead of me.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons? Readers may not follow you to another series. Sometimes they won’t even follow you to another character in the same series. There is no guarantee people will read the “next” book. The lesson is to just keep going, even when the readers don’t follow. At some point you will get new readers, you just have to keep doing the work.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? Sometimes I will take a break and play some video games. Sometimes it will be wood working. Music helps jar me out of any writer’s block too.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up too soon. There may be a time when you feel like you just aren’t good enough. When that happens, try to learn what the problem is and rectify it. Don’t give in. I wrote Fallen World and it sat doing nothing for close to two years. I decided to approach it from a different angle and put it with Chris Kennedy where we opened the world to other writers. It’s now selling and growing. Don’t give up. Look for a different approach.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? Start sooner.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Shaman’s Harvest
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Dukes of Hazzard
  • Favorite Weird Color? Candy apple red
  • Favorite Sports Team? Not a sports guy
  • Best Game Ever? Skyrim
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Wendy
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Grape Ape
  • Your Wrestler Name? Fat Boy Slim
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Run around screaming with my arms in the air
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Conquering the world
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Can’t let you in on the secret… Yet. Soon.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Hair bands
  • Favorite Historical Period? Old west
  • Most Interesting Person In History? The first guy to literally strap a rocket to his back and go into space. That guy would be interesting, I believe.
  • Steak Temperature? Med Rare
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Sour cream and ranch
  • Favorite Cereal? Marshmallow Fruity Pebbles
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Something loaded with carbs
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Diet Pepsi
  • Do You Have Pets? A fat dog and a retarded cat.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Kevin Smith or Jack Black
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? You got it covered.

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

How goes the book writing on your end? What have you got coming up?

Rob’s Answer: I’m in that drudge stage on None Call Me Mother where I’m juggling 110k and turning them into a story instead a random collection of words held hostage. I’m also writing my short story for the next 4HU anthology and soon will right a prequel for my story from We Dare.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • theprofessionalliar.com https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherWoodsSoulguard
  • https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00PEAG6WM
  • Daskada, the Legend – Feb 28,
  • Farmer’s Creed– available now
  • Salvage Conquest—Available now
  • Give Me LibertyCon (co-edited with Toni Weisskopf)
  • Freedom’s Challenge (Soulguard Book 6)
  • Dogs of God: Science Fiction According to Chris (anthology)
  • Co-authored book in Fallen World with Chris Kennedy (as yet unnamed)
  • New story in Salvage Universe anthology number 2, Farmer’s Accord (The Fallen World)
  • Traitor’s Moon novel (Salvage Universe)

And where can we find you?

  • FantaSci in Durham, NC March 20 – 22
  • LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN June 12-14
  • DragonCon in Atlanta, GA Sep 3-7,

Do you have a creator biography?

Christopher Woods, teller of tales, writer of fiction, and professional liar is the author of multiple series. His popular Soulguard series, the Legend series in the Four Horsemen Universe, The Fallen World, and Traitor’s Moon in Kevin Steverson’s Salvage Universe. He has written nine novels and been featured in several anthologies. As a carpenter of thirty years, he spends his time building, whether it be homes or worlds. He lives in Woodbury, TN with his wonderful wife and daughter. To see what he is doing just go to www.theprofessionalliar.com .


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

Rob’s Ramblings: Cleared to Engage

Greetings all

This past weekend was the first weekend of the XFL. For many years I have been hoping for a spring pro football league and the XFL has been my best hope for while.

I would like a spring league not only because it’s more football, although I always want more football. It could also serve as a developmental area, because NFL teams just don’t have time under the current CBA to really do a bunch of developmental work on down-roster players. This is especially true for quarterbacks and offensive linemen who need full-speed repetitions to improve.

It is also an area to develop other aspects. Referees and coaches can also get more experience. If done right, it could be an place for innovation and experimentation.

The XFL held this promise, despite the fact that the AAF, which was announced at about the same, failed like every other competitor to the NFL.

Why do I think this will succeed when none have before? Vince McMahon is no idiot, and he wouldn’t try this again if he didn’t think he could make it work. He also made it clear he wanted innovations, not gimmicks. Where the AAF rushed to get their product to market, the XFL took an extra year to devise new ideas, test them for effectiveness and player safety, and make sure all the financial foundations were in place.

Now, we finally got to see the product. One of the major innovations was a radically re-designed kickoff system. Those who have been watching the XFL come together have been very curious about this one change in particular.

It was a huge success. So much so that I’d be surprised if it doesn’t become the norm for kickoffs within the decade.

And it’s emblematic of the innovations in the league. They promised a faster pace and they got it. Two specific rule changes were made to achieve this. One, 25 seconds between plays instead of 40 in the NFL. Two, there’s an official whose sole job is to spot the ball between play. A little thing, one might think, but I watched the officials make ready for play with an efficiency the NFL currently can’t even dream of.

The extra point has been revised, with 1, 2, and 3 point options. This has a ton of potential, though it’s clear coaches don’t yet understand all the possibilities. Punts have to be inbounds, but coverage guys can’t leave as quickly. We also didn’t see the double forward pass play used yet, but I see a bright future for it.

The closest thing to gimmicky was the immersive coverage. Cameras can basically go anywhere. There was one play yesterday when Jordan Ta’amu had to avoid a cameraman on the field. Players who made a big play, either good or bad, were interviewed almost immediately. It’s rough on the player to have to look into a microphone after a big mistake, but it’s fantastic TV.

And the broadcasts can let us all listen to everything that’s being said by the coaches and the officials via their radios. We can hear play calls as they’re being called. Amazing. When there’s a replay, we can hear the officials talking through the play and see them looking at their screen.

This last thing is huge, by the way. Everything is reviewable in the XFL, but reviews are quick, quick, quick. And we can hear them doing it. Sure, they pause the game, but not for a commercial. Instead, we’re seeing them adjudicate the play in real time and that’s a game-changer. Replays stop being boring and become entertainment in themselves.

Plus, let’s mention that having replay officials inherent to each game means they’re on the ball. Again, quick, quick, quick.

If the NFL doesn’t adopt the XFL’s replay system, and soon, they’re missing the boat.

And that’s exactly what I always wanted from a spring league. Opportunities for players like Ta’amu to practice his craft for a while and add innovation to the stodgy hide-bound NFL that sometimes gets too high and mighty.

Of course, none of this matters if it’s not good football. Fortunately, it was. All of the players were 90-man roster types, practice squadders, or even tail end 53-man roster capable. The NFL, by the way, has 90-man rosters at the beginning of training camp. By the end of camp, they have a 53-man active roster and a 10-man practice squad, which leaves 27 players to fend for their careers. That’s more than enough to fill XFL rosters.

Also, the difference between the 90th player and the 30th player is a lot smaller than many might think. Oftentimes it’s a question of opportunity, especially if a player gets hurt.

I suspect that many players might choose the XFL over an NFL practice squad in years to come. A practice squad player gets few reps, few opportunities to improve. An XFL starter gets a bunch.

In any case, the football this weekend was NFL-fast, fast-paced in terms of plays per minute, and filled with quality play. Sure, there were mistakes, but week one of the NFL season is filled with similar mistakes. QBs threw dimes. RBs made moves. WRs made great catches. Defenders made great plays. The offensive lines struggled a bit, but that’s to be expected and is exactly what we see in the NFL in week one and their struggles were often miscommunications, not a lack of ability.

And I’m not the only one to be impressed by the XFL. All across Twitter, people were talking about in. The vast majority I saw were impressed, including every NFL player, current or former, who I saw comment.

I’m excited because this will make football at all levels better and safer.

It didn’t hurt that the St. Louis Battlehawks, predicted as a major underdog, went on the road and won.

In any case, I’m hooked. I’m so glad we got season tickets this year. Go Battlehawks! #ClearedToEngage.

Rob’s Update: Ahead of the Wheel

Week 6 of 2020

Greetings all

It’s been a good week. Last weekend was the final of several postrevels I hosted for the local barony. Weather severely impacted two of them, and the last one tends to be small and relaxed, so this year’s postrevel sequence wasn’t as epic as others have been. Still, in this one a bunch of people had a great conversation, we played Cards Against Humanity, I got a chance to talk late into the night with a baby laurel who I helped spring the surprise upon.

A good time.

Then, Sunday was the Super Bowl. I did a live FB post (which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/rhodri2112/posts/10158095267396085). I condensed that into my Ramblings post earlier in the week (which you can find here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1990). Overall, I had a good time, though I had to feel bad for the stepdaughter who’s a 49ers fan.

Then I got back to writing. I wrote about 5k on None Call Me Mother with finally connecting two large chunks together. Today, I started writing a new short story following up on The Feeding of Sorrows.

Speaking of which, my publisher informed me that The Feeding of Sorrows just surpassed a million page reads on Kindle Unlimited. How cool is that?

Side note: I actually just re-read The Feeding of Sorrows to make sure I had the voice right and to remember all the details. I hadn’t looked at it since July, and I discovered, to my amazement, it was pretty darn good. This is a bit of surprise. Normally, I look at my stuff from months ago and cringe a bit because I’ve gotten better in the intervening months. Either I haven’t gotten better, or it was pretty good to start with. I think it’s the first, though, because I know several specific things I worked on over the fall as part of editing When Valor Must Hold.

While that’s good news, it means I have to keep working at the craft so I can sustain pretty good.

Anyway, the short story I started today is going to the next 4HU anthology and ties up a loose end in The Feeding of Sorrows. I was not going to cover that lose end in its sequel, but it’s a good mystery and will allow me to add a twist I’ve been contemplating to that thread. Fun stuff.

This weekend I’ll be watching some football. Yes, the Super Bowl was last week, but this week is the XFL. I’m excited about this league. I think it has a chance to succeed because unlike the AAF and others, it has a good financial base, McMahon learned from the previous version, and it’s already injecting new ideas into football. I think some of these things will eventually filter into the NFL, once we see how they work in games. I’m excited about that because I think the NFL needs some shaking up.

With that, I’m going to go toss more words at the page. Have a great week.

What I’m Listening To

Far Cry by Rush. There will come a day when I stop listening to Rush nearly exclusively. Today is not that day.

Quote of the Week

Far Cry has a great message about life.

“One day I feel I’m on top of the world
And the next it’s falling in on me
I can get back on
I can get back on
One day I feel I’m ahead of the wheel
And the next it’s rolling over me
I can get back on
I can get back on”
– Rush, Far Cry

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (108,805)
  • CB (8,418)
  • NFS (1,034)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Quincy J. Allen, a fantastic writer with a great story in When Valor Must Hold that read something like Eddings’ Sparhawk as written by Raymond Chandler. You can find his interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1992.

Today’s Weight: 399.4

Updated Word Count: 27,649

Shijuren Wiki: 874 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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
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Interview: Quincy J. Allen

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

This week’s interview comes from Quincy J. Allen, a fantastic author who’s already made a name for himself though I think he’s still a rising star.  His story is a Fistful of Silver, set in his Guardians of Pelinon universe, and it’s something as if Raymond Chandler wrote Sparhawk instead of David Eddings. Needless to say, I loved it.

Interview: QJ Allen
QJ Allen
QJ Allen

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences?
    Jullian May, Robert Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Keith Laumer, Jack Chalker, Kenneth C. Flint, Poul Anderson, Steven Brust
  • Who are some favorite other creators?
    Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), Frank Herbert (Dune), Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), Jon Favreau (EVERYTHING)
  • What made you a creator in the first place?
    Seriously, though, I wrote my first fiction story in the 3rd or 4th grade. I’ve always written. Writing got me through primary, secondary, Bachelors, and Masters education. It was always there in every professional job I ever had. And when I got RIFed in 2009, it made more sense to just try and be a professional writer.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create?
    As a boy, I read the Jupiter Jones mysteries and loved them. A few years later, my older brother handed me his copy of “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame,” and I was hooked. There was no going back, and I devoured science fiction and sci-fi crossed with others from there on out. I read fantasy, but my staple was science fiction. When I discovered Julian May’s “The Many Colored Land” series, which is pure cross genre between sci-fi and fantasy, I truly fell in love. So, I’ve written what I love as much as possible.
  • What would someday like to create.
    The entire Blood War Chronicles series of six books is a setup so that I can write Skeeter’s story as a 30-year-old airship privateer captain gunslinger sorceress engineer. So, that will be a thing. I also plan on writing a three-book series set in that same universe that connects the three great fires of the 19th century via a Jesuit witch/demon hunter. I’ll be writing a powered armor series as well as a new fantasy series involving druids. But I have to get my current commitments behind me, and that’s no mean feat.
Blood War Cover
Blood War Cover

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop?
    I take my laptop everywhere when I travel with my wife. She travels for her job, so I sometimes get to tag along for free trips. She has mad hotel and airline points. My actual workspace, however, is in our two story shop in the back yard. It triples as her sewing room, my actual work shop for carpentry, repairs, leather working, and whatnot, as well as a three-monitor workstation where I used to also run a small book design and author collateral marketing business. I spend most of my waking time out in a shop so I can open the doors in the summer and use the kerosene heater in the winter.
  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples.
    I’ve never been able to work without music. It drove my old man crazy when I was a kid, but that part wasn’t negotiable. The first thing I do when I get into the shop is fire up Pandora. As to my music tastes, they’re more expansive than anyone I’ve ever met, and they can be quite eclectic. On any give day, you can hear Pentatonix, Joe Bonamassa, The Hu (Mongolian death metal), Steely Dan, Steam Powered Giraffe, Bach, Mozart, Five Finger Death Punch, electronica, daft punk, techno, Celtic—pretty much everything except modern country twang and most rap. Those two are a hard no, Bob.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment?
    Cigars and my tobacco pipe. I work better with them. Oh, and COFFEE. Always coffee in the morning. And whenever I can manage it, fresh air and the sound of birds. Our house is surrounded by trees here in North Carolina. I come from Colorado, where there aren’t many trees until you get to the mountains. Here, it’s pretty much a friggin bird sanctuary, and I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of the Carolinas.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked?
    Romance writing, for one. I don’t have a knack for literary fiction either. That stuff bores the shit out of me. I’ve written variations on just about all of the genres, however. Science fiction, mystery, noir, fantasy, steampunk, horror, speculative… most of my stories mix at least two of those.
Enforcer Cover
Enforcer Cover

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations?
    I’ve been told (and I agree) that I do three things fairly well. Fight scenes, dialogue, and descriptions. I’ve also been honing my skills with world building, and I think I’ve finally gotten pretty good at that. If I had to pick one, though, it would probably be hand-to-hand fight scenes. I used to train in martial arts pretty heavily, even with a marine and a Green Beret. I can see a fight in my head, and that seems to translate pretty well to the written word. That’s the rumor, at least.
  • What are specific techniques you do well?
    I’ve done it on three separate instances, and in all of them, the process was smooth and the output worth the effort. I’ve gotten pretty good at outlining as a result of those projects, although my outlines become a mix of bullet points and dialogue. I’ve also gotten pretty good at popping up prose with a more active voice. There are hiccups from time to time, but I’ve mostly broken myself of the passive voice devil.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome?
    One certainly was passive voice. Also, as a result of working with Marc Edelheit, I’ve gotten much better at flowing from one scene into the next. Looking back, I think there were pieces of a story that I skipped over. The result wasn’t jarring, per se, but what I’m doing now is much smoother as one reads through my prose. Also, I think I’ve gotten at least competent as capturing a single, targeted emotion that I want the reader to experience by the end of a story. Most of the time, especially in my short fiction, I strive to make the reader “feel” something very specific. Be it honor or sacrifice or duty or whatever, I’ve learned to write entire stories so that most of the prose leads to that experience.
Reclaiming Honor Cover
Reclaiming Honor Cover

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you?
    The first is sticking with a writing career when sales are lackluster or even worse. A perfect example is the Blood War Chronicles. They’re good books, with good reviews, but they haven’t created the revenue stream I’d hoped for. In fact, I’ve been at this game for ten—make that eleven—years now, and I can’t say that I earn a living with my writing. I think that’s the hardest part for most writers: sticking with this game even when you’re not selling. I often joke with a writer friend of mine, Aaron Ritchey, about how we’re “living the dream.” But that dream is the joke. We keep writing, we keep not selling the way we would like, and yet we keep writing. I think the other is that I’m really proud of at least a few short stories (Family Heirloom, Salting Dogwood, Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebels of Hayberry, and a few others, that I think are exceptional short stories, but they’ve never really been acknowledged for what I “think” they are. Granted, I have a bias, but I believe those stories are truly noteworthy.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons?
    From a monetary perspective, I think you could call everything I ever wrote in the first nine years of my career (except one story I wrote for Larry Correia’s MHI franchise) as failures. None of them came close to providing an ROI on the time I’ve invested in them. However, that’s hasn’t slowed me down. And that’s the lesson, one I think most writers could learn from. If you keep going and keep getting better, eventually you’re bound to gain momentum. My work in recent years with Marc Edelheit, Kevin Ikenberry, and CKP are a testament to that. Last year and this year are seeing actual returns on my investment of time. The trick is to keep going and always hone your craft.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block?
    I take Eric Flint’s advice. There is no writer’s block. You keep writing, because it’s your job. Either you are a writer and you write, or you’re a hobbyist who doesn’t want to earn a living at this mad career choice.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making?
    I’ve said this at cons and in panels dozens of times: “Don’t let the nay-sayers win.” I grew up hearing the phrase, “What? You want to be a starving artist the rest of your life.” As a young man, I listened to this “advice.” If I had started in earnest at 20 what I ended up starting at 43, I’d already be earning a living at this game. It just takes time and determination, so long as you keep getting better. So, to any writer who hears/reads this, when someone questions your desire to become a writer, just tell them to fuck off. Keep going, make sure your bills are paid, keep your bills low, and DON’T QUIT.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be?
    See above. That’s the best advice anyone in this crazy game could receive. Writers have enough doubt and imposter syndrome without getting it from outside sources. Find ways to kick the nay-sayers to the curb.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal, of course. Oh, and Sam the Eagle.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ian Moore and Joe Bonamassa.
  • Favorite Superhero? Both the Punisher and Deadpool in a perfect tie.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Monty Python
  • Favorite Weird Color? Teal
  • Favorite Sports Team? Sidney Swans
  • Best Game Ever? Halo, OF COURSE. That and Mass Effect.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? I fucking HATE snow and delight when it dies.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? My 2016 Moto Guzzi Audace. Vicki got that for me for my birthday last year. Nothing else compares.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Did they make Roy Batty into a cartoon? If so, him. If not, I guess I’d have to say the dog Marc Antony in the old Warner Brother’s cartoon “Feed the Kitty.” Ask Vicki, she’ll tell you.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Wrath
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? The Smash. A single fist to the crown of someone’s skull. REALLY hard.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Convincing Vicki that we need an AR-10 and a Marlin .357 lever action rifle in the house.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? By eliminating deceit everywhere.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? 11:59:50 pm on 12/31/1989 — the nightmare was over.
  • Favorite Historical Period? The Renaissance and dawn of looking to the stars as stars, not “the Heavens.”
  • Most Interesting Person In History? The alien that gave humans blue eyes.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare… or I’ll cut you.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Really good 7-layer dip.
  • Favorite Cereal? As a kid, Honeycomb. Now, Honey Bunches of Oats topped with sliced peaches rather than milk.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Pad Thai made by Vicki’s son, and it was REALLY good. We’re all cooks around here.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Arnold Palmer, Costco flavored seltzer, Tennesee Mules, Margaritas, and COFFEE, lots of COFFEE.
  • Pachy
    Pachy

    Do You Have Pets? He was Vicki’s dog before I moved in, but he’s my dog too, and he’s the best hound I’ve ever known.

  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Rutger Hauer when he was younger and not dead?
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Favorite food(s), nemesis, favorite vice, Commandments broken or Deadly Sins enjoyed.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • https://www.amazon.com/Quincy-J-Allen/e/B009C9C5SA
  • http://www.quincyallen.com/
  • Reclaiming Honor” with Marc Edelheit and “Enforcer” with Kevin Ikenberry.
  • Upcoming Projects: “Forging Destiny” – Book 2 of The Way of Legend with Marc Edelheit, “Scourge” – Book 2 of Hr’ent’s tale with Kevin Ikenberry, “Blood World” – Book 4 of The Blood War Chronicles, a Vorwhol novel for Kevin Steverson in his Salvage universe, and a novelization of the short story “Cradle and All” in Jamie Ibson’s universe.

And where can we find you?

  • ConCarolina
  • SAGA conference
  • LibertyCon
  • DragonCon

Do you have a creator biography?

National Bestselling Author Quincy J. Allen is a cross-genre author with a growing number of published novels under his belt. His media tie-in novel Colt the Outlander: Shadow of Ruin was a Scribe Award finalist in 2019, and his noir novel Chemical Burn was a Colorado Gold Award finalist in 2010.

Blood Oath, book 3 of his Blood War Chronicles series, debuted in February of 2019, and he is working on the fourth book in that six-book fantasy steampunk series, entitled Blood World, due out in 2020.

He co-authored the fantasy novel Reclaiming Honor with Marc Alan Edelheit in their Way of Legend series, released in October of 2019, and he is currently working on book 2 of that series. In November of 2019, he and Kevin Ikenberry published the novel Enforcer, which is set in the Four Horsemen Universe and is part of Ikenberry’s Peacemaker series. He is currently working on a novel for Kevin Steverson’s Salvage Title universe based upon the short story “Vorwhol Dishonor.”

His short story publications are numerous, including a pro sale appearing in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter: Files from Baen, published in October of 2017 entitled “Sons of the Father,” as well as several pro-sale novelettes appearing in Chris Kennedy Publishing’s mil-sci-fi anthologies in and out of the Four Horsemen Universe. He also has two short story collections in his Out Through the Attic series, and he continues to add to his short-story credits with each passing year.

He works out of his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and hopes to one day be a New York Times bestselling author.

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

You should have asked if I only work alone or do I have a support  mechanism? What keeps me going?

Then I’d answer that Vicki is my anchor and more supportive of my writing career than anyone else in my entire life.


Thanks to Quincy 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 Ramblings: Super Bowl LIV

Greetings all

Yesterday, I did a live thread on Facebook during the Super Bowl. Today, I’ll distill those comments and expand upon a few. If you want the original complete thread, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/rhodri2112/posts/10158095267396085.

Before the game, I predicted the Chiefs to win 34-27, so I wasn’t far off. I kind of rooted for the Chiefs, in part because someone in my house had to and the stepdaughter is a huge 49ers fan, and in part because the petty Cowboys fan in me wanted Andy Reid to win for someone other than the Eagles.

Overall, I thought Patrick Mahomes was mediocre until the very end, Reid outcoached Shanahan by a lot, and Nick Bosa was the MVP.

The day started with some awkwardness. The Chiefs almost bungled the coin toss and Bill Vinovich, rightly in my opinion, saved them. He overrode a player who tried to say “We’re kicking” by saying, “You’re taking the ball” until the Chiefs finally agreed. The Chiefs lost the toss, the 49ers deferred which means they get the choice to start the 2nd half. Had the Chiefs chosen to kick there, the 49ers would have chosen to receive in the 2nd half, meaning they would have gotten it to start both halves.

After the Cowboys almost botched it earlier, the NFL either needs to streamline this process by asking if the team winning the coin toss wants to get it first or second half, or these special teams coaches need to brief their players better. I go with the first, because KC’s teams were really good and well-coached all year long. The reason, by the way, for the confusing option is to allow teams to take the wind, but with fewer and fewer games affected by weather, I think we should make that option one they actively have to choose.

One reason that didn’t turn into a hullaballoo, I think, was the great Jake from State Farm commercial with a new Jake which immediately followed. Great way to use all the old humor while adding more. My second favorite commercial for the night actually.

The opening kickoff gave us the first questionable decision, and that was Mecole Hardman choosing to return the ball from 5-6 yards into the endzone. Even for the best returners, this is an iffy decision. He got to the 26, so it turned out OK, but the risk/reward there between coverage, penalty, and fumble vs. long return just isn’t there.

Side note, the the 49ers teams played really well overall, and so did the Chiefs. Almost a great day for the Chiefs if Byron Pringle, who had a great game, could pull that ball out of the end zone on the punt with about 2 minutes remaining in the first half.

Patrick Mahomes made several mistakes right off the bat. He was clearly amped too much and I think that pretty much lasted until the 49ers gave him a coverage gift in the long throw to Tyreek Hill in the 4th. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Then we got to the first mistake, the fumble on the punt return. The 49ers got really lucky that the ball bounced their way, because Pringle fought through a double-team block to get there. Like I said, I thought he was great.

Then the 49ers took the ball down the field for a FG. This is how I thought the 49ers offense would look all day. Lots of great, intricate running plays with tons of misdirection and the occasional pass to take advantage of gaps in the zone provided by KC having to play zone.

Side note one here: We’re witnessing a revolution in the running game. Analytics is clear that passing is better than running. The average pass play, counting sacks, incompletions, and scrambles gets about twice as much as every called running play. The revolution has made running much more effective, but requires constant motion and misdirection.

I am unsure what defenses will need to do to adjust, but my guess is a dramatic change in actual kinds of defenders, moving to some sort of 2-4-3-2 kind of thing. The 2 are down linemen. The 4 are hybrid edge defenders. These will vary from a big ones to play a normal DE, to heavy safeties who will be faster than LBs but still can provide good run support. The 3 are CBs to defend the 3rd wide receiver (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR is the most common offensive formation now), and the remaining 2 are more safeties. I guess, now that I write it down, I think safety hybrids will become more and more valuable.

Anyway, back to the game. Whenever the 49ers offense ran first they controlled the Chiefs defense. I’m not surprised. The Chiefs defense is better than many prognosticators said, but so is the 49ers offense. 49ers 3-0.

At least, they are when their coach doesn’t play to lose.

I think it’s at this point we got the first Tide commercial. Man, I thought those were awful. Bland humor at best repeated ad nauseam. Overall, I thought the commercials were pretty weak. The ad creators tried too hard and rarely hit the mark. I’ll mention a few highlights along the way, though.

Then came another play not to lose decision by Shanahan. On the Chiefs’ second drive, they ran a 2nd and 2 play which was incomplete but the Chiefs also had an ineligible man downfield. Had the 49ers accepted the penalty, the Chiefs would have been 2nd and 12. They declined it to go to 3rd and 2. Amazingly, one of the best offenses there is managed to get 2 yards on the next play on the way to a TD. Amazingly.

Later on the drive came a real interesting play: (2:22 – 1st) P.Mahomes scrambles right end to SF 3 for 12 yards (J.Ward). FUMBLES (J.Ward) ball out of bounds at SF 5. SF-J.Ward was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.

Ward had a great and legal hit there. What’s fascinating with this play, though, is his hit turned it from a 12 yard gain and a 1st down into a 10 yard gain and a 4th down.

Andy Reid is a great coach, and he showed it time and again in this game. He went for it. Absolutely the right call, as I said before the Chiefs converted it.

And that doesn’t even touch upon the great play call on a play yoinked by Eric Bienemy from the 1942 Rose Bowl. True story. I’ve seen the replay of the 1942 play and it’s exactly the same. It’s a small misdirection to change the direct snap that gives the defense a small hesitation and on short-yardage plays, that’s all you need. They got 4 yards and a 1st and goal from the 1.

Side note: Eric Bienemy should be a head coach next year. Should have been one this year. He may not end up being a great one, but he’s definitely an offensive wizard.

Which showed on their scoring play. They scored on 2nd down with a brilliant play. I predicted a play-action pass. What I got might have been better. It was a play fake dive just like the play-action to create exactly the same crunch of defenders in the middle. However, Mahomes then went wide with an RB at his side for an option play. Two on one against the CB. The CB can’t win that, and he didn’t. Beautiful stuff. Chiefs, 7-0.

After that was the Tom Brady Hulu ad. That was cold and cruel. Patriots fans lost their souls for about ten seconds.

Bashaud Breeland was an early contender for MVP in my mind. He made a couple of great tackles on WR screens and he took advantage of Pennel’s great hit on Garoppolo to get an interception. It’s a real shame he got dinged in the 2nd quarter for a bit.

The Chiefs got a FG on the ensuing drive, though I thought Reid’s play calls were iffy in the red zone this time. His offense focuses on horizontal passes and yards after the catch, but sometimes you need to have at least one receiver going over the top. This has happened to him before and will again. It’s not a question of aggressiveness, just style. Anyway, 10-3 Chiefs.

Now the 49ers get the ball and have a chance to get back into the groove. One play they used on this drive was the push pass. This is essentially an end around/jet sweep from the shotgun. However, it’s technically a pass because the “handoff” is a forward toss. This is such a smart thing. First, it pushes the defense to be keeping to their jobs. Second, if there’s a problem with the exchange and the ball falls to the ground, it’s an incomplete pass, not a fumble. Great stuff, and Deebo Samuel is the perfect style of WR to use it.

Samuel, by the way, had a very good game and the 49ers could have used him more.

This drive ended with a 15 yard TD to Kyle Juszczyk. Juszczyk has been fantastic this year, and he was great in this game. 3 catches on 3 targets with a bunch of great blocks. He scored one of the 49ers TD and set up the other.

Now we get to a series of mediocre decisions.

First, Hardman took an end around on 2nd and 8 and lost 6 yards. At the end, he meekly went out of bounds. Awful. Even the Chiefs struggle to get a 1st on 3rd and 14. They didn’t. With less than two minutes left in the 1st half, if he stays in bounds, he forces the 49ers to think about a time out.

In any case, the 49ers should now expect to get the ball and expect to have a good chance to score. However, Shanahan didn’t think of it in those terms. He coached not to lose. The following play was a screen pass for only 1 yard, meaning at 1:53 left on the clock it was 4th and 13 for the Chiefs. You take a time out there if you’ve got 2 or 3 remaining. He had all 3.

But he didn’t take a time out.

This is astounding to me. If you take it there, you get the ball back with about 1:45 left and 2 time outs. Any competent NFL QB can look at that as an opportunity for points. Apparently Shanahan doesn’t think Garoppolo was competent. He basically rolled over and played dead.

Then, with 14 seconds left, the 49ers got to about their own 45. They could have been there with about 1:20 or so and still with 2 TOs even with the same play calls. At that point they’re really likely to score something. Instead, they are forced to try their only deep attempt to Kittle which he clearly pushes off to get a correct OPI call, but would have given them a chance at a FG.

So many opportunities for the 49ers to at least get 3 points. All squandered. And this ends up biting them in the ass.

We go to halftime. I’ve grown to dread halftime shows. They’re all boring and canned. This time had one highlight for me, a snippet of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir which then went into a Middle Eastern style dance song. Other than that, I thought Shakira and J-Lo looked great for a combined age of 93. And meh.

To be fair, meh is a step up for many halftime shows. Prince, who I’m not really a fan of, is clearly still the best one. He gave so much emotion and soul to that performance. Clearly not canned. Clearly a great musician doing his thing. Most of the time, they lack soul. As did this one.

Anyway, we get to the second half. The 49ers came out and ran the drive they should have at the end of the first half. Lots of easy passes to receivers schemed open. They get a FG and are back on top 13-10.

In this commercial break we get the best commercial of the evening in my opinion, the Sam Elliott dancing commercial. It started kind of dumb, at first, but then got really funny really fast. The horse shaking his head, declining to dance, was a great touch.

Mahomes was bad in the 3rd quarter. Not much you can do to suggest otherwise. He had a couple of moments to start this drive, but then Nick Bosa took over the game for a while. He ended up having 12 pressures which is a ton. On this drive he gets a strip sack which Mahomes was lucky to corral.

Whether that bothered Mahomes or not, the next play he threw an awful pass made worse by the coverage and got it picked off.

Then Garoppolo leads another drive, this time for a TD. The 49ers have now shown they can run and they can pass effectively. In these two drives, he’s 8-9, 97 yards. The Chiefs are out of whack at this point, but from now on, the 49ers will sustain almost no offense. One reason is better Chiefs defense, but another is that Shanahan didn’t take advantage of his run game enough.

Anyway, at this point Mahomes goes through a sequence of awful throws. Every one is off target, at least a little bit, even the ones that are completed. This drive concludes with an off-target pass not getting caught by the receiver, bouncing off his hands, and then a great catch by Moore to get the interception. Hill would say he should have caught it. Perhaps. However, the throw was well behind him and it should not have been that difficult of a catch. I remember thinking that there wasn’t a reason not to lead Watkins on the throw, no reason for Watkins to sit down on the route, no obvious miscommunication. Just a bad throw, and Moore makes Mahomes pay.

At this point, there’s 12 minutes left in the game and 49ers are up by 10. This high win probability territory. The 49ers could have slammed the door here.

I didn’t like the play calling here. They start well, getting a nice run to Mostert and a pass to Kittle. That’s when I thought they’d rely on the run for a bit (as did Aikman). Running is one of their strengths, after all.

Mostert got 1 on a run. I am not watching the replay, but I seem to recall this was a basic run. Either way, the next play is another pass. I don’t mind them throwing to Kittle here, but I would have preferred a good misdirection run, maybe even another Deebo sweep.

For that matter, early in the game, the use Deebo as a decoy on a play and never come back to him as the primary. This despite Deebo getting essentially free on the first play. This is the point of the game where you can put a stake in their heart and that’s exactly the time to take advantage of the plays that you highlighted from the first half. Why they didn’t, I’ll never know.

Anyway, so the Chiefs get the ball back at their 17 with 9 minutes and things are dicey. Mahomes is OK at the start of this drive, but not great. He makes the good decision to scramble. He throws an off-target pass that Hill catches. Then he throws an awful pass to Hill that gets overturned because Hill trapped it. Really bad throw to a wide open receiver.

Now is when the magic happens, and it’s all because the 49ers have a coverage breakdown. Mahomes connects with Hill for 44 yards. This was an awful throw, I thought. Hill had to wait for it and had Mahomes hit him in stride it’s a TD. I’d have to see the All-22 to confirm, but I think he was two beats too late on the throw and only an awful coverage scheme left Hill so wide open he could sit and wait on the throw.

Sometimes you just need a spark.

This was it, and Mahomes was much better after that. He throws a seam route that Moore (the defender who caught the tip interception) butchers on the coverage. It’s clear pass interference. He impedes the receiver and never gets his head around, so he wasn’t playing the ball. Obvious call.

First and goal at the 1 and the Chiefs score easily. 20-17 Chiefs and I said on Facebook: “Is the wind in the Chiefs’ sails?”

Spoiler Alert: It was.

First play of the ensuing 49ers drive is a 5yard run by Mostert. Derrick Nnadi makes a real good play to get off the block and I think it’s overlooked. Mostert had a huge gap after Nnadi and if he breaks through he’s going to get 15+. That makes a huge difference in the timing of the game here.

Anyway, the next play is a ball batted down by Chris Jones, who suddenly came alive. If he doesn’t, Kittle has 15 and again we’re talking about stake in the heart kind of time. Also, Deebo was wide open in the flat on that play. This play worked really well, in other words, but only a great defensive play stopped it.

The next play wasn’t as good. It was a pass, which isn’t bad on 3rd and 5, but I’d have been looking for one of my speed guys, Kittle, Deebo, Mostert, or Breida. The last one in particular was a mistake by Shanahan. Breida wasn’t targeted a single time in the game, and he’s a really nice player with great hands and a lot of speed. I am positive that Shanahan could have schemed one of them open instead of a contested throw to a backup TE.

This is a drive of wasted opportunities by the 49ers and just enough by the Chiefs to force a punt.

Here’s another subtle moment in the game. I criticized Hardman for taking the opening kickoff from deep out of the endzone. However, here he makes a great decision to fair catch the punt. As the punt was coming down, I thought he might have a lane, but the 49ers coverage closed the gap almost as the ball got there. Had Hardman been too aggressive and tries to run, I think only bad things happen for the Chiefs.

Anyway, this Mahomes finally on his game. His throws are on and 2:26 later Williams catches his pass for the TD. This is the questionable TD where we’re not sure if Williams breaks the plane or not. I *think* Williams broke the plane but it was close. A number of others said they thought he hadn’t, but it was close.

The referee called it a TD on the field. It was too close to criticize a ref for making a decision on the field. He called it a TD. No replay gave anything close to something that showed the actual result. Slow it down all you want, and it’s still “I think.”

And so, replay came back, rightfully, “Call Stands.” No matter what the ref on the field called, replay wasn’t going to overturn it. It’s a big thing, because otherwise it’s 4th and goal at the 2-inch line. I think Reid goes for it, so probably scores anyway. It’s irrelevant, though, and the Chiefs now up 24-20.

This is where the stupidity at the end of the first half really costs the 49ers. If it’s 24-23, then the 49ers have 2:44 with all 3 time outs to get into FG range. There’s no desperation. Also, they don’t *have* to succeed the first try. If they go three and out, with 3 TOs and the best defense in the NFL, they can reasonably expect to have another opportunity with something like 1:45 and 1 TO left.

In other words, the Chiefs would have had an advantage, but not a great one. Needing a TD changes that equation significantly, especially the time part at the end.

The 49ers get to midfield with 1:56 left to play. They then throw 3 incomplete passes. At this point, the still have 3 TOs. It’s 4th and 10. I believe it’s the right call to go for it here, but I didn’t like the play call.

I said in my notes before this drive the Chiefs should throw the house at Garoppolo. Even if the 49ers manage a long TD, the Chiefs offense would have had time with 3 TOs of their own to get into FG range. They didn’t, except on this play.

And I think Shanahan should have expected that. The throw he called took too much time. Again, I haven’t seen the All-22 to see the coverage, but I think he should have gone with a five steps and throw immediately sort of play. A fade to Deebo. A seam to Kittle. A wheel to Mostert. One of those sorts of things. They’re quick, take almost no time off the clock, and have a good chance if the defense is aggressive there.

Instead, Garoppolo is sacked and the Chiefs get it at the 42.

There’s an interesting sequence here. I don’t think I was completely correct on my math but I still think Williams makes a mistake here, albeit an understandable one.

Play 1, 1:25 on the clock: Williams runs for 4, 49ers take their first TO.

Play 2, 1:20 on the clock, Williams runs 38 yards for a TD.

Now, there is 1:12 left on the clock here. I think he should have downed himself at the 1 or 2 yard line.

By scoring, he gave the 49ers 1:12 with 2 TOs and a not inconsequential chance of a TD with a 2point conversion, an onsides kick, and a FG attempt. It’s not likely, but there’s a chance.

Also note how different that would have been with 3 points at the end of the first half.

Now consider if he goes down on the 1. This forces the 49ers to take a TO, so already you’ve depleted the 49ers chances. Let’s look at the following sequence.

Play 1: Chiefs kneel. 49ers take their last TO. There’s about 1:10 on the clock.

Play 2: Chiefs kneel. 49ers have no TOs. 40 seconds run off the clock, leaving about 30 seconds.

Play 3: Chiefs kneel, game over.

Yes, the Chiefs defense makes a great interception and they’re barely able to run out the clock, but even that was harder than it could have been because the 49ers had one more TO.

Williams going down at the 1 ends the game, period. By scoring, he extended it. Frankly, he ends the game by going down in bounds anywhere after getting the first down. The math is that simple.

Anyway, the Chiefs win and Andy Reid did a fantastic job. He pushed the action and depended upon Mahomes to be great. Mahomes wasn’t, for most of the game, but I think we all knew that he’d get on a streak at some point.

Shanahan was awful. He’s a great coach, but this game doesn’t show it. He consistently overthought things. He’ll do better next time, I have no doubt. I’d guess Reid’s experience from his previous Super Bowl appearance helped him a ton.

Williams was a good player in this game, but not great, I thought. I say that not even criticizing him too much for the last TD. Few players aren’t going to score there. Too much excitement.

He does end up with 2 TDs and over 100 yards on the ground, and there’s a case to be made for him to be MVP. This is especially true since Mahomes didn’t have a great game.

There’s been once in Super Bowl history where a losing player won the MVP. That happened in Super Bowl V with Dallas’s Chuck Howley. I think it should have happened here with Nick Bosa.

No other player dominated the game like him. He had those 12 pressures and a strip sack. However, he also dominated Eric Fisher time and again on running plays. He made the Chiefs work for everything start to finish.

The scary part is that he was a rookie this year and he’ll only get better. I’d be shocked at this point if he doesn’t have a Hall of Fame career. The only thing that will stop it will be injuries, so knock on wood because he’s a joy to watch… playing against anyone other than your team.

Congratulations to the Chiefs. I said in the FB thread: “I’m really happy for Reid. I’m sad for my stepdaughter, a big 49ers fan. I’m sad for me, because this city is going to be insufferable all year.”

Well, go be insufferable, your team earned you the right.

OK, that’s way too many words on this. Time for me to go make dinner then start a short story in the 4HU.