Review: Iron Maiden Book of Souls Tour and Album

Sunday night, I saw Iron Maiden’s Book of Souls concert, with the Swedish band Ghost opening for them. Here’s my review.

I should get this out of the way. I’ve been an Iron Maiden fan since junior high. I was the only kid who liked Rime of the Ancient Mariner in English class, because of Iron Maiden’s song about the poem. Also, I happen to think that Book of Souls may be their best work. It’s powerful stuff.

I say all this so you can understand my bias here.

There are Maiden fans who think it blasphemy that Book of Souls is their best work. Most of these would look at either The Number of the Beast or Powerslave, and I can see their point. Both are excellent albums, with great songs throughout that have stood the test of time.

This last is important to me. I liked Iron Maiden in junior high. Over the last four decades, that liking has turned into love as I’ve seen more and more the depth of that music over the years. Many are the bands or songs who I initially liked, but now don’t really care if I ever hear again. Nirvana is one of those.

In any case, Book of Souls is an incredibly good album. It will not produce radio hits like The Trooper or Run to the Hills, but that’s irrelevant. Iron Maiden consists of six musicians who took music seriously when they were young, have fought a bunch of battles, including among themselves, and have come out the other side with great skill and a tremendous understanding of each other.

The songs on Book of Souls are closer to symphonic music than to 80s metal. No song is shorter than 4:59, three are longer than 10 minutes, including Empire of the Clouds at 18:01. It is a perfectly Iron Maiden thing to do that they released Empire of the Clouds as one of the two singles. They really don’t care about the “radio” way of doing things as opposed to the music.

The iconoclast in me loves that.

Anyway, Empire of the Clouds tells the tale of the R101 airship incident in 1930. More people were killed in its crash than the Hindenberg, actually. It’s a great song of dreaming big, the risks that entails, death, and bravery. It’s 18 minutes of swirling music that dreams big and risks boredom, but sails on through.

The other 10 minute plus songs, The Red and the Black and The Book of Souls are also songs that could be too long, but instead are simply opportunities for the musicians to push themselves. The closest things to “radio” songs are The Speed of Light and If Eternity Should Fail, are actually too good, too complex, though shorter, to do well on the radio.

Obviously, I could go on about how much I love Book of Souls, but let’s talk about the concert. First, one of the things about Iron Maiden that I’ve appreciated for some time is their confidence. I’ve seen a lot of bands choose a mediocre opening act lest that act outshine the headliner.

Maiden doesn’t have that problem. They chose Ghost, which is a very good band in its own right, with a large following of their own. They may not be megastars in heavy metal like Maiden, but they are not chopped liver.

And Ghost was excellent. I’d heard some of their stuff before, but I didn’t realize quite how good they really were. They create a cool, slow atmosphere while hammering the music. Great combination. They’re not the hardest metal out there, but they put on a great show. I loved the interplay between guitarists before Cirice.

When watching Iron Maiden in concert one is immediately struck by the energy of Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer. He’s almost 59. He’s survived cancer. Yet he bounces around the stage and pours it all out. By the end of the show, he is drenched in sweat. He’s talked in interviews many times how much a performer owes to an audience, and by the end of an Iron Maiden show, there’s no doubt he lives up to his own expectations.

Maiden has three guitarists, which is not unique, but is uncommon. The disadvantage is that there’s a lot of redundancy in sound. The advantage is there’s a lot of redundancy in sound. By that I mean that one guitarist can carry the song along while allowing the other two to add to it. For Maiden, what this means is that Adrian Smith does a lot of the carrying along, freeing Janick Gers to be a wild showman doing tricks with his guitar while playing and Dave Murray to add intricate and rousing riffs. Smith gets his own chance to show off at times, too, as they all take turns carrying the song along, but Gers and Murray are the most obvious beneficiaries.

The rhythm section is one of the best around. Not on Rush’s level, but then who is? Nicko McBrain, the drummer, is very good, and Steve Harris, the bassist, is the master of Iron Maiden. It’s been his baby all along, with everyone else coming and going at various times.

This may not be Iron Maiden’s only lineup in its history, but this is the iconic lineup. And it shows with the quality of music since they came back together in the late 90s. They are better than ever.

They are also known for interesting sets, and this did not disappoint. The best aspect was the raised area all around the main performance area that allowed Dickinson to bounce around. Did I mention he’s an energetic performer?

Not surprisingly, with a library of 16 studio albums, there were songs I would have liked to hear. Hallowed Be Thy Name is my personal favorite Maiden song and that wasn’t on this tour. Run to the Hills is one of the most commercially successful songs they have and that was not played, which I didn’t mind actually. However, I would love to hear Empire of the Clouds live. I think Maiden would make an amazing production of it, but it is a long song and would take the place of two or three others, so I understand why they didn’t.

It would be a cool thing, though, if Maiden did a one-time Fathom Events thing where they played Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Empire of the Clouds, and other long-form songs. Then they could release a DVD. I’d buy that.

Anyway, they did play The Red and the Black, which is 13 minutes or so, so it isn’t like they looked for the shortest songs. 6 of the 12 songs in the main part of the concert were off Book of Souls, though the encore was entirely from earlier stuff (The Number of the Beast, Blood Brothers, and Wasted Years). If Eternity Should Fail is a great song to lead off an album and a concert.

I went to the concert with my sweetie. She’s not a Maiden fan, so she mostly enjoyed the show because I enjoyed the show.

So she enjoyed it a lot.

Even if you’re not a big Iron Maiden fan, they put on a good show. Go see them some time, you’ll be impressed.

 

 

LibertyCon AAR

I started this on July 4th, a perfect time to celebrate LibertyCon XXX. And celebrate we must. LibertyCon is the best-run science fiction and fantasy convention out there and I had a great time.

I arrived at the Chattanooga Choo Choo fairly early on Thursday, having broken the trip up in multiple sections thanks to friends who have offered me crash space. I knew I was going to push myself pretty hard during the weekend, so I did my best to ensure I was as fresh as possible after the drive.

The big event of the weekend for me was on Saturday, where I had a joint release party for Where Now the Rider and For a Fistful of Credits, the new Four Horsemen Universe Anthology. Thursday evening I did some pre-planning and moving of stuff around to figure out the best arrangement of beverages and food.

After I got pretty much all I could do done,  I went to ConSuite, which was not technically open but was still the gathering place. There I hung out with a few people and listened to Sarah Hoyt do a reading from a book that shall remain nameless. They say that traumatic events can cause selective amnesia. It was awful. All I can say is that it wasn’t written by anyone at the con. Oh, I can say one other thing. We laughed a lot.

Most of Friday was spent organizing stuff. I decided on the layout in the room and arranged things as best I could. I also went to the Opening Ceremonies and got reacquainted with old friends. I didn’t have panels on Friday, so mostly I lounged around during the afternoon.

My main thing on Friday was my stint on Author’s Alley from 8pm to 11pm. Basically, I moved all my books and set up in front of the rooms where panels were being held. I sold a few, while meeting a number of potential readers. It’s a lot of work, but it needs to be done, and in the long run it’s worth it.

After that I was tired but had enough energy to enjoy some room parties and hang out with some friends. I especially enjoyed hanging out by the pool with Aaron Mays, Jonny Minion, and a couple of others.

As I was getting a beer from my cooler, I ran into Sarah, Dan, and Robert Hoyt. It turns out that Roberts around the world like IPAs, so I got him one and we stood around chatting. It was my first time actually having a chance to chat with Sarah. Her at LibertyCon is like me at Pennsic, only with a much smaller site and a correspondingly higher chance to find another conversation.

Saturday was a really long day. At 11am I was part of a panel discussing various ways to get your plot unstuck and overcoming writer’s block. There are a ton of possible ways to do this, but it all boils down to finding what works for you. Whether it’s changing the environment, taking a shower, driving around, or something else, it’s the kind of thing that varies for everyone.

At 2pm was a panel I was very much excited to join: The Middle Ages as Inspiration for Epic and High Fantasy. Thanks to my grad school work, I anticipated I’d have lots to say, and I did. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and hope to do it again. I could have gone on for a while.

I then had several hours before my reading with Dave Schroeder at 6pm. There were a couple of very interesting panels to attend, but I chose wisely and took a bit of a nap, arranged my books and display for the party, and got as much prep done as possible.

I did not have time to create a 20-minute long reading from Where Now the Rider, so my reading at 6pm on Saturday was one from I Am a Wondrous Thing that I have done before. It’s a scene where Irina is convinced to give up the title of Velikomat and the immediate aftermath of her stepping down. It’s an emotional one for me, and I always cry when I read it. It’s a powerful section, and I get a pretty good response from those that listen. Dave read a bit from his new fantasy series, the Congruent Apprentice, which sounds interesting but which I’ve not yet read, and a small bit from his Xenotech Rising series, which I have read some of and really like.

The Four Horsemen Universe is a series of stories about humans discovering that interstellar mercenaries are their best export good. It’s a large sandbox created by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey and many fantastic mil-sf authors are joining in. I am looking forward to reading these stories, just as much as I’ve enjoyed the novels in the universe. Oh, and I just might be working on a short story for the next anthology.

However, this party was to celebrate the release of their first anthology, as well as my newest book. The writers of the anthology brought all the food and I brought nearly all the beverages. As usual, I am coming home with about the same amount as I took out, but at least we didn’t run out of alcohol. Many thanks to Kacey Ezell, one of the contributors to the anthology, who also contributed her cooler to help organize the drinks.

Which is a good thing because we were packed. It was a great party and I sold a goodly number of books, as well as added to my mailing list. Basically, we went four solid hours with guests.

Around 12:30, the crowd dissipated, and with the help of Aaron and a few others we transported the leftovers over to the ConSuite and shut the party down. I was toast. So toast that it took a while for me to relax enough to get to sleep.

I was still tired Sunday, but I had expected that. I started the day at the Kaffeeklatsch. I had a great conversation with the Science Guest of Honor, Dr. Elisa Quintana and Dr. Tom Barclay, who is also a scientist. They study exoplanets and we discussed the most efficient ways we can get humans in space. Well, I asked questions and they taught me stuff, which was wonderful from my perspective.

Immediately after that was my turn at the signature table, where I joined Gray Rinehart and Charity Ayres. The signature table can be packed if a David Weber, David Drake, or John Ringo is sitting there, but for us was fairly quiet. I think we all sold a book or two, with signatures, but mostly the three of us had a great conversation.

One of the joys of LibertyCon is comparing notes with other professionals, because there is such a high percentage of professionals to fans. LibertyCon caps its attendance at 750, and over 150 attendees are professional writers, artists, scientists, or something else relevant. Also, I would bet that a large number of the remainder are people like me at my first LibertyCon, those who want to become professionals. It’s a great chance for us all to learn, and over the years I’ve learned a ton.

Anyway, my last panel of the weekend was Cooking Out of this World. This panel went off the rails. At least we were funny, but we were all a little tired and we strayed from the topic early and often. Todd McCaffrey did ask one interesting question that we talked about a bit but not enough, and that’s what are the environmental factors that will affect the way things taste in space? Obviously, things taste differently on airplanes, which is something airlines are already dealing with, but will be an issue for interplanetary and interstellar travel.

The last session of LibertyCon is the Bitch at Brandy session. Brandy Spraker is the chairman of the con, and she does a fantastic job. The closing ceremonies each year are a chance for people to suggest things that could be improved. Once everyone has had their chance to make comments, good and bad, about the con, she officially closes the con. They take these suggestions seriously, too, and I have seen some implemented in the four years I’ve gone.

Much of the rest of Sunday involved me finishing cleaning up after the party and doing most of my packing. I have learned that I want to stay  overnight on Sunday and leave Monday morning, but I basically pack everything but Monday’s clothes and shower stuff.

I got that done in time to join about 35 of us at a Brazilian steakhouse. I had the fortune of sitting next to a few people I knew, but had never really talked with, including Miriam Ringo, the wife of one of the best mil-sf writers around, John Ringo. What a fun and generous person she is. She had a bracelet on that I admired and thought Giulia would also like. Miriam immediately removed it and handed to me as a gift. By this point were about 3 minutes into our conversation. I was stunned by her generosity then, and still find it amazing and admirable now. Then we had a long and wonderful conversation.

Actually, everyone at dinner had a great time. It has been decided that this will be a LibertyCon Sunday evening tradition.

Following dinner was something that is already a LibertyCon tradition, the Dead Dog party. Basically, those who stay on Sunday evening eat drink as much of the leftovers as possible and play games or hang out.

Again, I had some incredible good fortune. Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games, the inventor of Munchkin and a bunch of other great games, was playtesting some games and I got to join in. Steve is a wonderful and fun guy, and the rest of us had a blast tossing out ideas and picking them apart.

Getting to toss out suggestions on games, even bad ones, to a legend like Steve Jackson is definitely a highlight for me.

Around 12:30, we called it a night, and therefore the end of the con. I went to bed and left for a fairly smooth drive back. The only real excitement was seeing a collision about a half-mile ahead of me in the oncoming lane. The truck driver did a great job and controlled his 18-wheeler in the median so our lane never had to worry.

As I’ve mentioned, LibertyCon is a different beast from other cons. I will be going back there every year, though there’s some question as to when and where the next one will be.

For the four years I’ve attended, it has been at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, but the hotel has sold off about 80% of its rooms to make apartments / condos. Basically, while the convention space is fine, there are only rooms for about 20% of the con goers. This means many are off in the Marriott, which is not far but still puts a crimp in the con experience. Part of the fun of cons is going to room parties which are elsewhere in the hotel. Have fun, drink a few beverages, and then trundle to your room. No travel logistics to speak of. Even free shuttle buses are not a great solution, though of course those were provided.

In short, the Choo Choo simply cannot work anymore. Unfortunately, convention sites are notoriously difficult to find at times, and Brandy and her folks are casting about for a solution. I heard a rumor that a new convention hotel is getting built in Chattanooga, but will not be fully ready by summer 2018. I’m not sure if that’s true, but while they aren’t at all sure of time and place next year, or even if they might take a year off, they all seemed confident that things would be fine by 2019.

Whatever they come up with, I’ll be back.

Rob’s Update: Drawn Like Moths

Week of 18 June – 1 July

Greetings all

It’s been a weird week here (I suppose I should say a normal week for my current norm). I apologize for not getting last week’s email out on time, but I’m going to just take advantage of the delay to do this post for both weeks.

I returned last Sunday night from Salina Comicon. I had almost no expectation of any kind of success there because it was the first one and Salina is not particularly large. I went because I had a free place to stay and it’s not far away, so expenses would be relatively low. However, the con was much better attended than anticipated and I sold far more than I hoped. It was also pretty well run, with things going smoothly throughout. I’m likely to be back, depending on schedules.

Next week is, of course, LibertyCon. I’m really excited. I have quite a schedule, thanks to the hard work of the LibertyCon staff. I’ve been to about 20-30 different cons now, and I can say without a doubt that Brandy and her staff at LibertyCon are the best con staff around. I have waited months for responses from many cons. Rich Groller responds in 30 minutes, even if I send an email at 11pm his time. Amazing job.

They cap LibertyCon at 750 attendees. And they sell most of the next year out before the weekend’s over. I’ll be buying my 2018 membership before I leave Chattanooga a week from tomorrow. The light at LibertyCon draws me in like a moth every year.

Anyway, enough gushing, what’s my schedule this year, you ask? Here’s my page on the LibertyCon website: http://libertycon.org/index.php/pros?pid=326&refer=1, but here’s a summation.

Friday
8pm – 11pm, Author’s Alley. Buy my books and I’ll sign them, of course rolling on the Wandering Signature Chart.

Saturday
11am, Overcoming Writer’s Block
2pm, The Middle Ages as Inspiration for Epic and High Fantasy
6pm, Reading
9pm, Joint Release Party with the Four Horsemen Universe guys

Sunday
10am, Kaffeeklatsch
11am, Autograph session
2pm, Cooking Out of this World

As you can see, Sunday night I’m going to be one tired puppy. This is why I pay for an extra night and drive back on Monday. Also, I get to hang out at the Dead Dog Party, which is always fun.

Hope to see many of you there. Gonna be a lot of fun.

Quote of the Week

This week, three capybara babies at a Toronto zoo have been named Alex, Neil, and Geddy. They chose the names of the members of Rush by creating an internet poll, and apparently people from across the world voted in the contest. I daresay that those who voted from places such as Argentina, South Africa, and Olathe, KS were probably Rush fans.

Not that I need an excuse to use a Rush quote, it seems too fun not to take advantage of the opportunity. The zoo in question is in not really in one of Toronto’s subdivisions, but Toronto is a city that draws people in. Now with extra Rush-named capybaras!

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

– Rush, Subdivisions

News and Works in Progress

  • Short stories, but not much progress because of packing

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Again, not much, but I’ll do some posting from LibertyCon


Upcoming Events

Spotlight

One of the people I am looking forward to spending time with this week is Chris Kennedy, who is an impressive guy along with being a fun writer to read. You can find his work at: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Kennedy/e/B00E4MIJA8/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1498574841&sr=8-2-ent
.
Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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

Rob’s Update: Leaving Port

Week of 11-17 June

Greetings all

I apologize this is a little late this week. I shoot for Wednesday every week, but clearly that doesn’t always happen. This week it’s because my life is discombobulated. It is likely to get less combobulated before getting more. Much of that is because of lots of traveling. I leave for Salina in a few hours to take part in their Comicon. I don’t expect it to be huge, but I have lots of friends there. In two weeks, I’ll be at LibertyCon, which promises to be hugely busy and a lot of fun. Then Calontir Coronation. Then Pennsic. Then the fall.

Some of the discombobulation is because of an accident we had at the house a couple of weeks ago. It’s nothing huge, but it involves a lot of doing stuff. My house insurance was paid up, so I’ll actually do fine money-wise, but it’s just extra work and part of the house is awaiting repair. While that’s happening, I’m packing to move. Things will be nicer in a week or so, as I’ll have a POD container take a bunch of stuff and get it out of my hair.

So I haven’t been terribly productive this week. I worked on a couple of short stories I want to have finished by LibertyCon. That’s about it, writing-wise.

I’ve also started revamping my website. Part of this is doing some research into the most effective things I can do on a website. If you have ideas of what you like to see, and what you don’t, please send me an email at  rob@robhowell.org.

Despite all of this, I expect to have made a ton of progress on Brief Is My Flame by the end of Pennsic, which is about 2 months away. I have a lot of driving to do, which is convenient idea-generation time. The voice recorder on my phone is excellent, especially in my car where it’s Bluetooth connected.

Have a great week everyone.

Quote of the Week

I was looking up stuff about Admiral Grace Hopper recently. She was a hero to me because both my parents were involved in computers essentially all my life, and I thought it cool that this US Navy admiral was involved in computers too. What a fascinating, smart, tough, impressive woman she was.

Anyway, she didn’t actually coin this, but it was something she quoted often. In this time of discombobulation, it bears repeating.

“A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”

– John Augustus Shedd

News and Works in Progress

  • Several short stories
  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing this week. My apologies.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

As we roll towards my fourth LibertyCon, I’m going to spotlight people I’ve met there. LibertyCon advertises that it is as much of a family as it is a con, and I have absolutely found that to be true. These last few years, many people there have taken the time to help me along the process, for which I am eternally grateful.

I’ll start with Jason Cordova, who helped me with blurbs, introduced me to people, shared beverages, and helped my find my audiobook reader (yes, those are coming, recording starting in August or September). I really enjoyed his book Wraithkin and am waiting for the sequel. He also writes excellent Kaiju-fiction. You can find him at: https://www.amazon.com/Jason-Cordova/e/B004CZHHPU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1497634523&sr=8-1
Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

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

Rob’s Update: One More Day

Week of 4-10 June

Greetings all

A Lake Most Deep is FREE on Amazon for one more day. If you’ve wanted to suggest the Edward series to anyone now is the time to do it. On Saturday, it returns to its normal $3.99 price.

One more day means much more than that to me, though. Jason Garrett, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, talks all the time about stacking good days. Do good work today. Then tomorrow, do more good work. Then the day after. Pretty soon, you’ve made great progress.

He’s right, and this is a business where that’s needed. You don’t get novels written in a week of good days, at least I can’t. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that I struggle with. This week has especially been a challenge. There was a bit of a catastrophe at my house a week or so ago. It’s nothing huge, and insurance is doing its job. I’d like to say right now that Nationwide has been awesome. Anyway, while nothing difficult, and will oddly end up being a good thing for the house, it takes time and energy, and has distracted me some from my work.Hence, I’ve done little but behind the scenes stuff all week.

The good news is that weeks like this often mean my mind starts bubbling with ideas, and that’s happened. I was in the shower the other day and I realized exactly how I will kill off a very important character. It won’t happen in the next book, or probably even in the book after that. However, there will come a time when that character will die in a certain way.

That’s always a satisfying feeling, actually. Oh, I cry every time I kill off a character I like, and I’ll cry when I kill this one off, but now I know the character’s entire story arc. I have a bunch of details to fill in between now and then, but the character has carved out his or her place in my world. One of these days, this character will have served its purpose, and I am happy to say its an important purpose.

Now I just have to keep stacking days, type out the hundreds of thousands of words between now and when that character meets its fate.

One last thing to mention. I was a guest on last Sunday’s Write Pack Radio discussion of Plutarch and writing non-fiction. I’ll be on again this upcoming Sunday where we discuss working with an editor. You can find them at:

Quote of the Week

The catastrophe basically involved water overflowing. Hence, this quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of my favorite poets, seems apt.

I first learned this poem, by the way, by listening to Rush. I learned another Coleridge poem from Iron Maiden, and I think I was the only person in 8th grade who really enjoyed going through the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Anyway…

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan

News and Works in Progress

  • Not much to report this week in terms of new fiction.
  • Started working on revamping my website.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Right about now, three friends of mine are flying to France so they can walk about 500 miles of the Camino Real to Santiago de Compostela. This is a pilgrimage that I’d like to take someday. In 2012, I walked about 100 miles of the Offa’s Dyke trail, and I will say that long distance walks are awesome, even if exhausting and tough. If you go to http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=248, you’ll find the first of my blog posts about that trip. I enjoy reading through that quite a bit.

However, this is a spotlight section, so I’ll point the spotlight at Heather Dale, who has provided a theme song for all pilgrimages at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww_lVS2P9cM. You can find the rest of her stuff, which is brilliant, at: http://heatherdale.com/.

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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

Weekend Doings

Greetings all

Been a busy weekend here in Rob-ville, though much of the work was done weeks ago.

First, Where Now the Rider is live on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Where-Rider-Adventures-Edward-Book-ebook/dp/B071462WXM/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

In honor of the release of Where Now the Rider, the e-book version of A Lake Most Deep is free on Amazon starting tomorrow and running all week long. If you have been wanting to tell your friends about my books, now’s the perfect time.

If you want to hear about my writing philosophies, you can check out Write Pack Radio today.  This week’s podcast talks about Plutarch and Writing Non-Fiction.

I’ll also be featured next week when we talk about working with an editor.

For me, I’ve spent this weekend packing and plotting several things.

Plot. Plot. Plot.

Bwa ha, bwa ha ha.

Rob’s Update: Circumstances

Week of 28 May – 3 June

Greetings all

Where Now the Rider is done and will go live for e-book on 3 June. The paperbook version is in process and will be live about the same time. I’ll be ordering copies and will have some in a week or two.

Waiting over the weekend allowed me to strengthen the ending. I had some great ideas come up when I was writing the conclusion, ideas that build Edward up and further enmesh him in Achrida while still touching on the over-arching metastory of Shijuren. By letting it all percolate over the weekend, I was able to slide all that in without the seams being as obvious as they might have been. I’m really excited about it.

If I don’t enjoy reading a story, how can I expect you to? Well, I enjoy this story.

I’ll admit that after the con and getting a bunch of detail work done, I haven’t created much new content this week. I’ll do a bunch of writing over the weekend to catch up. I’ll be focusing on two short stories, though I’ve got a chapter of Brief Is My Flame that is wanting to come out as well.

I’ll be doing that writing amidst a bit of chaos. I’m going to move at some point in the early fall, it looks like, and packing has commenced. I’m trying to do a little here, a little there, and I’m making progress. Man I have lots of books.

Quote of the Week

There are days when this lyric just matches everything.

All the same we take our chances
Laughed at by time
Tricked by circumstances

– Rush, Circumstances

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame
  • Two short stories
  • Fiddly bits of getting Where Now the Rider live

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

At ConQuest I had a lot of fun on panels with Selina Rosen. You can find her stuff at http://www.selinarosen.com/.

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

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

ConQuest AAR

This past weekend was ConQuest 48 here in Kansas City. I had originally intended to attend with the plan of getting a dealer’s booth, but decided against it when I had the opportunity to be on 7 panels.

Two of the panels were a little whimsical. One was about beer. Not necessarily beer in science fiction and fantasy, just the kinds of beer we like. It was well-attended, which was nice from my perspective as the moderator. I went around the room and let everyone talk about their preferences, because otherwise it would have been a short, boring, rambling panel. By going around the room, we all participated and riffed off of each other.

The second whimsical one was bars in science fiction and fantasy, which didn’t go as well. I moderated this one as well, and I couldn’t really think of many good questions to move things along. Fortunately, the panelists, Selina Rosen and Tom Trumpinski, didn’t need much prompting.

I moderated another panel, this one on writing strong characters. This panel had four panelists, and ranged far afield. I didn’t do a good job here, because I think we could have focused on some specifics but instead talked more theory and philosophy. Obviously, those are important, but I don’t know that what we discussed was overly helpful to anyone there. The panelists did a good job and were always contributing, but I never emphasized a focus, and in retrospect, I think we could have given more had I done so.

I was a panelist on three panels. My favorite was Selina and I talking about writing combat scenes. One specific I need to print out and put in my office is: “Remember what your character is actually fighting.” Just because a particular opponent is facing them doesn’t mean that’s the character’s real battle. Luke isn’t fighting Vader, really. He’s fighting the Dark Side. This actually came from a discussion ahead of time in a conversation about both strong characters and combat scenes. It’ll help me going forward, I think.

I was also on a panel about using sources from across the world, not just the Arthurian / Celtic / Norse / Greek myths that form the basis of much fantasy. There are already a bunch of hints of that in Shijuren, and more to come. I include Russian, Balkan, and Middle Eastern myths already, along with a touch of Sub-Saharan African and Mongolian. There’ll be more coming from Amaranth, too, which will be heavily influenced by the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Vita from Indian traditions. There’s good stories in a lot of traditions, and I’m happy to use them.

My other panel was my using history in SF/F by going through the Martin Koszta Affair. I’m going to continue doing this, as the people there seem to be really interested in how I look through things. My big problem is that I get so excited I go too fast. I need to pace a little better. I had about 5 minutes of flex that I should have used simply by going slower.

Finally, I had a reading on Sunday. Not surprisingly, there weren’t many people there. The other reader, Jeri Frontera, had a great idea to Facebook Live her reading. I’m going to do some research to see if I can’t start doing that. I definitely need more media on my website.

Overall, a good weekend of schmoozing and meeting people, which is what a con is supposed to be.

Rob’s Update: Percolating

Week of 21-27 May

Greetings all

I am done with Where Now the Rider, except I’m gonna let it percolate over the weekend. I have completed all the edits I’ve been given and I like it a lot. But oddly enough, thanks to a quirk in scheduling I need to have it done on Tuesday, but not today. This weekend is ConQuest 48 and I could rush to put it up on Amazon and deal with all the details on CreateSpace, but instead, I’m going to read it one last time this weekend before putting it up on Tuesday. I doubt I’ll find much to change, but I’ll admit that I’ve never ever finished anything I’ve ever written, I’ve just released it into the wild.

Seems oddly comforting to have a few days to let it sit, though.

Anyway, I’ll be swamped over the weekend. Here’s my schedule

Friday, May 26
8:00pm:    Bheer! Glorious Bheer! (Moderator)

Saturday, May 27
10:00am:  What Gives Characters Depth (Moderator)
2:00pm:    Using History in Fantasy and Science Fiction
4:00pm:    Writing Fight and Combat Scenes
6:00pm:    Bars in SF (Moderator)

Sunday, May 28
10:00am: Fantasy in the Rest of the World
12:00pm:  Reading

The using history in fantasy and science fiction panel is the one I did at CoastCon on the spur of the moment. In it I go through the events of the Martin Koszta Affair of 1853 and show how those event can inspire me to write speculative fiction. It’s did well at CoastCon, though I only had 8-9 people. We’ll see what I get at ConQuest.

The beer panel should be interesting. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it here, but I had a friend of mine brew a special ale for Ragnar. Yes, a real beer made by my fictional character. Sort of. Anyway, I brought a couple bottles for that panel. I may bring more tomorrow for the panel discussing bars in SF.

Quote of the Week

The convention hotel, by the way, is near the World War One museum, which I cannot recommend enough. It’s a great museum and well worth visiting when you can. I’ll swing by this weekend for Memorial Day, even though I won’t have time to visit the museum itself. However, my mom’s father served in WW1 and I arranged for him to be on a brick in the patio in front of the museum.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend, but I also hope we remember why we don’t have to work on Monday.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae, In Flanders Fields

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider done but percolating one last time
  • Brief Is My Flame, some plotting and 1k words written
  • Short stories, 2k written

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

A couple of my friends have a small publishing company. They’re great people, and if you’re looking for a small house to publish with, you might try Stonebunny Press. You can find them at http://www.stonebunnypress.ca/. I especially encourage all my Canadian writer friends to look at them.

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

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

Weekend Notes

The basis of my plans most weekends involve either doing something with my writing, like a con or event, or spending time with my sweetie. This weekend I got to do both.

We had planned to go to an SCA event on Saturday, but the weather literally put a damper on that. Plus, I couldn’t sleep for some reason on Friday night. So we ended up going to Ikea and getting barbeque.

I don’t buy much from Ikea for two reasons. One, their modern style simply isn’t to my taste. Give me Victorian, Edwardian, or medieval and I’m happy. Two, as a non-svelte man I find much of Ikea’s stuff terrifyingly light. My big butt needs a big chair.

However, I do like going to the store because they often have interesting ideas and cunning ways to arrange things. They’re really innovative, even if they don’t fit me. I got some ideas for my next house.

Plus, my sweetie really enjoys shopping there, even if her tastes match mine to a great degree. We’ll be moving in together at some point in 2017 and had a great time talking about how we would prefer things in our house arranged.

We went to Joe’s KC initially for barbecue. When we got there, the line was hugemongous, out the door, and around the building. I don’t blame them. Joe’s KC is my favorite KC barbecue place. However, I didn’t want to wait that long so we went to another barbecue place I had heard good things about: Q39.

The reviews were correct. Not quite as good as Joe’s, in my mind, but still very tasty. The pork belly, white bean cassoulet, onion string appetizer was fantastic.

However, they did something that I hate hate hate. Did I mention hate?

For all that is holy, barbecue restaurants should never serve their meat with sauce already on it! Anybody can make a sauce, but it takes real skill to make great meat.

Yes, I know I could order it dry. Yes, I normally do so. However, Saturday, I was tired and forgot. And I want my meat without sauce!

What? Oh, yes, that’s a pet peeve, why do you ask?

Anyway, I’d still recommend going there. It’s not quite as good as Joe’s KC, but still very good. Just remember to order it dry.

Yesterday, I drove around 550 miles to St. Louis and back to record two episodes of the Write Pack radio podcast. One episode focused on Plutarch and writing non-fiction. Obviously, as a historian I was able to use my academic experience here. My big point of emphasis was to constantly critically examine your sources and to get as many different sources as possible.

I suspect most of you reading my blog already know this, but it is important enough to mention again. Every source is biased. You need a bunch of sources from different points of view so you can reduce the overall effect of those biases. The most biased source you will ever deal with is yourself, so always try and account for it. You’ll fail to do so completely, but it is a windmill that one must always tilt at.

I believe this episode will air on Sunday, 4 June.

The other episode we recorded involved how to use editors and criticism. Among the things I talked about is creating a team of people around you, like a race car driver does, and trusting them to do their job.

I also talked about how Kellie has improved my writing by telling me some of the mistakes I’ve made time and again, so I can eliminate them in the future.

This episode should air on Sunday, 11 June.

You can find Write Pack Radio and all their podcasts in a number of places, depending upon how you like to listen:

All in all, a fun, productive, and tiring weekend. The way they oughta be.

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.