Tag Archives: Chris Kennedy

Rob’s Update: Main Monkey Business

Week 28 of 2020

Greetings all

Things didn’t go exactly to plan this week, but in many ways that was a good thing. Since the stepdaughter-type creature moved in with her beau, we decided to condense my sweetie’s sewing, quilting, and weaving stuff.

Condense. Seems like an interesting word to use for stuff that fills 4 separate rooms. Ah, well, she’s worth it.

Anyway, that included a bunch of moving around of boxes, furniture, and all sorts of things. We’d been planning to have movers come in and do the work, but we sort of expected that would be down the road.

Instead, Mike Hammer Moving got us on the schedule on Wednesday and we were able to get nearly everything moved either to its new spot in the house or to the curb for the trash guys on Tuesday. What a wonderful thing. The house feels so much more empty and comfortable.

Side note: I did sort of chuckle at the movers’ name. There were no smoky alleys, no down-on-their-luck, treacherous hoodlums, no femme fatales. Heck, it was even sunny and bright on Wednesday.

Anyway, while I got all the way through Part 8 of None Call Me Mother, I didn’t get as much into the final battle as I’d hoped.

But the moving/cleaning/re-arranging was well worth it. I even improved my office, with the help of a new TV. Right now, I have a Cowboys game going on with Tengger Cavalry providing a soundtrack.

I also have a cat sitting on my monitor ledge, limiting my view of the monitor, but that’s to be expected around here.

I’m taking off today because I get to game again, but will be aiming to get Part 9 finished this week, or at least really close.

Have a great week, everyone.

What I’m Listening To

Rush’s Main Monkey Business. A tremendous instrumental from Snakes and Arrows.

Quote of the Week

Today is the 60th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird. I love both book and movie, but I have to admit Gregory Peck is so fantastic as Atticus Finch I can’t read the book without hearing his voice. And this is a great quote.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (127,474)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AOOE (1,030)
  • Cynewulf (7,378)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Moved instead of blogged

Upcoming Events

  • 8 August, Olathe Writers Zoom Event
  • 3-7 September, DragonCon, Atlanta, GA
    https://www.dragoncon.org/
    CANCELED (Much sadness)
    There might be on-line things happening. Stay tuned.

New Releases

This week’s new Amazon orange tag recipient in the Four Horseman Universe is Jason Cordova’ Daughter of the Pride. Jason is a fantastic mil-SF author and I love his thread within the 4HU. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Pride-Guild-Wars-Book-ebook/dp/B08CK9Z1LP/

Also, I should mention Chris Kennedy has added  a new imprint. This one is called Quillcraft Press and it’s specifically for books by writers about writing. I don’t know the release date, but the first title will be Have Keyboard, Will Travel, by Bill Webb.

Today’s Weight: 378.4

Updated Word Count: 80,992

Shijuren Wiki: 39 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

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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

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

Interview: RJ Ladon

Greetings all

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’s interview is with RJ Ladon. Her story in When Valor Must Hold is called “Ogre’s Brownies” and it too is a story that isn’t in one of my normal subgenres. Again, though, the story was so good I had to take it.

Interview RJ Ladon
RJ Ladon
RJ Ladon

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Gary Gygax was a huge influence. He bought our horse ranch when I was nine and introduced my siblings and I to Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t understand who he was, it was the idea of playing/acting out stories. Not just any stories, but my or my brother’s stories, that was the influence.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? Terry Pratchett, Neil Giaman, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, Walter Farley, Octavia Butler, and so many more. My bus ride to and from school was 60-70 minutes, I read both ways, going through 2-3 novels in one week. I started on non-fiction in my senior year (no car).
  • What made you a creator in the first place? See the first question in this series. Plus, my family tends to be on the creative side of things – art stained glass, sewing, painting, sculpture, carpentry, etc. My day job is on the creative side of things -computer aided design.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? Sometimes it is love – love of a character or location. Other times it is a challenge. My first acceptance into an anthology was for Sha’Daa Toys. I had never written horror before. Challenge Accepted! I would like to try my hand at romance, this is a bit scary for me. Another challenge to conquer!

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? My middle son, graduated, joined the Navy, quit, and came back home. Joke’s on him – I turned his bedroom into a writing and design studio, and I’m not about to give it up! A friend gave me a rolltop desk and, as of this Black Friday, I have a brand-new gaming computer to write and draw. I’ve been putting in 2-3 hours of writing everyday – some days more, some less.
  • Do you listen to music? Sometimes If I do, it will be Audio Machine or Two Steps from Hell. Both are known for their movie and videogame soundtracks.

http://audiomachine.com/  https://www.twostepsfromhell.com/

  • Ladon's Mouse
    Ladon’s Mouse

    What other things exist in your productive environment? Lots of reference books on mythology and science. ART created by others or myself. Sketchpads and drawing utensils including electronic drawing, sketching, photoshop and map making. Thank you, to Worth1000 and this mouse picture to inspire a scene in The Ogres Brownies – found in When Valor Must Hold.

  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Writing in front of TV. Helping my daughter with homework and trying to write – no good. Trying to keep cats out of the room or off my desk, etc – they are noisy, just let them in and let them sleep in your lap.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I’m a nature nut. So, I add anything animal, vegetable, or mineral and hopefully it will be educational to boot. I also enjoy mythology, as my pen name can attest – RJ Ladon. Ladon is the name of the dragon/hydra Hercules had to defeat to obtain the apple from the tree of wisdom.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I don’t know – I suppose I have thick skin and take critique quite well. (probably not what you meant.) I’ve been told I weave backstory in smoothly without disruption of the narrative.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? My biggest struggle is against myself. Self-doubt is a bitch. My biggest success is due to the persistence of others. Friends told me they would drag me kicking and screaming to the writer’s conventions and get me published. And they did.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? When I first joined a writer’s group, there was no direction for improvement, only vague comments like “this is bad” or “doesn’t make sense”. Eventually I went to a different group and that one was better, more instructive. Some friends have encouraged me to start my own group – now the mentor. Some things have stayed the same – I still have a lot to learn.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? My day job is computer aided design. I come up with designs, show them to engineers, and customers and within minutes I am told my design is wrong. While this sounds like a failure, the design is only wrong because “they” imagined it another way. Most of the time my design would work fine. Other times, I missed an important specification or component within a requirement, that is a failure. When a mistake is pointed out, it is not a failure it is a learning opportunity that will improve your design, (or book) next time.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? I draw. I create a map of the area I’m writing about. Or draw the character. If you can’t draw use models. Pinterest is quite helpful in that arena. I will “become” the character mentally and imagine how I would react, what would I do or say if I was that person/animal/rock/vegetable…
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest. This piece of wisdom came from a fortune cookie – but it is so true. Also – It is only too late to start when you are on the other side of the grass.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? My mother was negative about anything I did. She told me I’d never get published. I would tell my 20-year-old self “Don’t listen to your mother – or anyone else who is negative!”

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Sweetums.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Pretty much anyone at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
  • Favorite Superhero? Today? Megan, Daughter of the Wolf
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Ya, know I revisited some 70’s shows and they were horrible. Plot line? What plot line? I suppose I’ll go with The Muppets – Alice Cooper 😊 or Steve Martin.
  • Favorite Weird Color? All of them but not all at once.
  • Favorite Sports Team? SCA Heavy Weapons – no specific kingdom though.
  • Best Game Ever? Life!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? All of them for different reasons.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Someone believing in me – Looking at you Scott, You Jerk! (Kicking and Screaming)
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Courage the Cowardly Dog.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Broadzilla – my husband gave me the name.
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? You see that? I can break it, without trying. If I can’t break it – I will probably hurt myself in the process. I am stronger and klutzier than anyone has a right to be. Couch, broke it. Window, nods affirmative, foot, yup that too, Torque the head off a bolt? Sigh, do I have to answer that one?
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Ways to make the world better.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? One soul at a time.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? It isn’t around anymore, oh wait, it is 60 years in the future… Hum, now you got me thinking.
  • Favorite Historical Period? Most of them for different reasons – here’s hoping the future is even better.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Professor Peabody
  • Steak Temperature? I’d rather have chicken.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Don’t plan on dying, I’m taking over the world, remember?
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Hot Tea – Mint
  • Do You Have Pets? 7 cats 1 dog and 20 or so chickens. Way too many pictures.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Sweetums 😊
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Can’t think of one. Perhaps one I ask you?

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

  • When did you realize you could put more than two words together and be entertaining?

Rob’s Answer: Ummm, not sure. I didn’t write when I was younger, though I learned somewhere along the way how to tell stories. I have some idea I’m making progress because of increasing sales and improving opportunities. Nevertheless, I still don’t know if I’ve put words together until someone else looks at it. I’m still a work in progress, that’s for sure.

  • Who was your mentor? Must be someone you met not just idolized from afar.

Rob’s Answer: The closest thing is probably Chris Kennedy. He’s certainly given me opportunities and taught me a bunch. Again, I started writing at 46 and did so in a hermit sort of way. I researched a bunch and went to LibertyCon to listen. I learned a ton, and owe so many people thanks for taking the time to toss stuff at me. However, it all started with me trying to dig myself out of a hole.

  • Are you active in the SCA? In what capacity?

Rob’s Answer: Not as active as I used to be. I got to about an event a month, and I sell at a lot of them. Pennsic and Gulf Wars are two great events for me. I make money and get to hang out and sing. I’m a laurel for wordsmithing and Anglo-Saxon research, which I have to say might answer your first question. I guess I learned I could do something when I saw people crying happily at the scroll texts I wrote for them. Now I just socialize and sell, though fighting will happen again.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

RJ Ladon is a nightshift writer (by choice) and a dayshift design engineer (by necessity) to pay for the afore mentioned writing addiction. She is a self-proclaimed tree-hugger and animal-lover. If she is not in her garden, pasture, or woods you can find RJ watching movies or reading books. Documentaries, thrillers, comedies, science fiction, fantasy, and even romance can be found in her book and video library. She lives with her husband, children and a variety of farm animals on a farmette in Wisconsin.


Thanks to RJ for taking the time to answer my questions.

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

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: William Joseph Roberts

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.

The first interview is with one of the first people I thought of when I got permission to create an anthology. The moment you meet this guy, you can envision him with a giant greatsword standing next to Conan or some other great hero of legend. And then afterwords, he’ll be the one drinking mead until the gods get tired.

I interviewed William Joseph Roberts not too long ago. You can find that interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1845. However, this is a new set of questions freshened up for 2020, and he was generous enough to fill out the new version as well.

His story in the anthology is entitled “Dust in the Mouth” and it’s as if Lovecraft wrote a Conan story. Or Howard wrote a Cthulhu story. No surprise, given his influences.

Interview: William Joseph Roberts

William Joseph Roberts
William Joseph Roberts

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Without questions, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Jordan, Douglas Adams to name a few.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? That depends on the type of creation you’re talking about. I mean, you’ve got Irish Mike making these massive swords and stuff to classic cover artists and such. That’s a wide spectrum to start naming names.
  • What made you a creator in the first place? The love of invoking an emotional or physical response in someone. There is nothing like seeing something that you puked out of your brainpan cause a response in someone else.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? Just the way that the muse strikes me and what the evil brain squirrels tell me to do.
  • Feel free to add things you would someday like to create. Hehe…  um… that’s a freaking big list. Um.  How about a world so iconic that it is more or less a household name and lasts into the next century in similar fashion to the works of Howard and Lovecraft.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop? All of the above
  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples. Absolutely! Basically from any genre. It just depends on what the mind squirrels demand.  Here’s a good example.  In the last week alone with the different stories that I have been working on, I have swung from Megadeth to Postmodern Jukebox to Moonshine Bandits and back to Nahko and Medicine for the people. I’m all over the place when it comes to music.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment? Side projects, just little things around the house that I can be creative with to give the squirrels a break and do something different.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Critique groups. I spun my wheels for years in critique groups that went nowhere. One part of the problem is that they focused on literary fiction, not pulp fiction.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I like reality and the average joe over super powers and seemingly immortal characters.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been told that I pull on raw emotion at times and paint pictures well.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? I published my first novel, fLUX Runners on my own after a lot of hard work and a whole hell of a lot of fighting with those demons in the back of my head. Then I turned around and finished my second novel in 2 months.  :-/  Go figure.

fLUX Runners CoverWhat will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? Distractions, self-doubt, lack of knowledge. Top of the list would probably be the lack of knowledge being shared in part of the writing community.  If the knowledge that LibertyCon existed had been spoken about, I could have learned about it years ago. The group I was with knew about it, they just didn’t like to talk about “those” authors.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons? Yes, my old podcast. We had a blast and we helped to spread the word to a lot of people about different artists and their works, but it was a failure in that I lost my focus. Instead of being a platform to promote myself and my work, I focused on making a better podcast.  Now the upside to all of this hard work was the knowledge gained on networking, promotion, and collaboration.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? Jump to another story or project. The squirrels get bored if they are stuck on the same thing for too long.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? From spinning their wheels doing something that will never pay off. (Critique groups!) While they may be great for some people, they did nothing for me.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? TO WRITE! See, way back at the start of my podcast, I had the privilege of interviewing author Ben Bova. Now the one thing that he kept saying over and over again was, that if you want to be a writer, then write. Don’t make excuses, just sit down and write. Choose a set time that is your writing time and that’s when you write, without question. Everyone else is to leave you alone during this period unless it is an absolute emergency.  Well at the time, with the distractions of the podcast and three small babies, it didn’t sink in.  It finally did after a while. I now get up at 0400 every morning if not earlier and write till at least 0600 before getting ready for work. Add in my hour of lunch and any other time that I can squeeze in, I’m finally doing it.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Tiny Tim
  • Favorite Superhero? Lobo
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? BJ McKay and his best friend Bear
  • Favorite Weird Color? Der… intestinal pink?  … hell I don’t know
  • Favorite Sports Team? What if you don’t watch sports?
  • Best Game Ever? Starflight
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A framed picture of my Grandkids
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Hell if I know. The kids just said I’d be the Mask
  • Your Wrestler Name? Bubba Joe Bob
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Spine Splitter
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? The fall of the mosquito empire! Those bloodsuckers will pay for generations of attacks upon our people!
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Everyone loves brownies.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Mullets, music and muscle cars!
  • Favorite Historical Period? 1600’s and the colonization of the Americas
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Shakespeare
  • Steak Temperature? Mooing
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guac
  • Favorite Cereal? Cocoa pebbles
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Pot of crawdads with a side of soup beans, cornbread, fried okra and fried green tomatoes.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Coffee
  • Do You Have Pets? Yes, two pups.. do kids count?
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Der… that guy that played Ron Weasley just cause he’s a redhead?
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? The most embarrassing moment you’re willing to share.

fLUX Runners CoverTell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Upcoming events and conventions you plan to attend. Chattacon (Jan), Anachracon (Feb), FantiSci (March), Conglomeration (April), Metrotham (May), LibertyCon (June), Next Chapter Con (Sept)

Do you have a creator biography?

In a previous lifetime, William Joseph Roberts was once an F-15 mechanic and Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He has traveled the world and experienced many things in his few years.

During his tenure in this lifetime, he has been called a Jack of all trades, a Renaissance man and insane squirrel wrangler by his peers. Since his enlistment he has perused careers as an industrial and architectural designer, design engineer, and now, eclectic writer.

William Joseph Roberts currently resides in the quaint southern town of Chickamauga, Georgia with his loving wife, three freaky smart nerd children, and small pack of fur babies.

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

Most folks at some point usually ask WTF is wrong with me.  I generally just smile, then maybe give them a face lick. 😊


Thanks to William 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: 2020 Visions

Greetings all

Last week, I did a post on just how good 2019 was for me. You can find it here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1912. My conclusion? 2019 was my best year ever.

2020 will be better.

Let’s start with None Call Me Mother. I should have that to my editor within a few weeks. I know it’s been slow. I wanted to have this done in 2018, much less last year. Stuff happened and I apologize. But it’s coming and it’s good.

What will happen in Shijuren after that?

Glad you asked.

This fall I’ll be working on the next Edward novel. I don’t have a working title yet, but it’ll be a bit of an homage to Dick Francis. There’s trouble at Achrida’s Hippodrome and it might hurt horse-racing across the entire Empire of Makhaira if Edward can’t figure it out.

Then, I’ll start another trilogy in Shijuren with different characters based in Amaranth. I’ve said a number of times that chickens are coming home to roost all across Shijuren, and this will tell of roostings in the south.

My plan is to write one Shijuren novel a year, alternating between an Edward novel and whatever other series I’m working on at the time, at least for now. It may end up being one Edward and two series novels, but we’ll see.

I also plan on writing short stories set in the universe. In fact, the first is already written and I’ll get to that in a moment. I’m really enjoying writing short stories in general, and whenever I get a chance to write one in Shijuren, I will.

But wait, there’s more. I’m making progress on creating an OGL d20 based system set in Shijuren. The first embryonic concepts of Shijuren started rolling around my head 25 years ago as a place for great D&D adventures. In many ways, it’s exceeded my expectation in that aspect alone.

The system I have in mind aims to streamline game play with a cool character creation system that allows players to mold characters to fit their own playing style.

It also aims to encourage players to try stupid but fun stuff that isn’t necessarily defined in the rules. Whether it’s trying a crazy tactic, using a skill in an unorthodox manner, or using magic in a weird way to save the day, it’ll be designed to give DMs guidelines to react to players making stuff up on the fly.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in this so far has been how to mold my magic system into a usable system for a game. It’s a great magic system from a writing perspective, but it hadn’t been obvious how to translate it to gaming. However, I’ve finally come up with what I think is a really cool plan that ought to be a lot of fun.

Creating a game system is a big project, even with many of the basics already built in from the OGL side of things. I’m blessed to have some skilled and talented friends who will be helping along the way. I’ll tell you all more about them later.

I don’t have a specific timeline for getting this game published, but at some point, hopefully in 2020, I’ll be at cons running some playtest adventures as well as starting a home group.

What you can expect is periodic updates. I might even add a category in my Weekly Updates related to game concepts and ideas.

As you can see, though, Shijuren is going to grow a ton in the next few years. Thanks for coming along.

Of course, I’ve got a bunch more planned for 2020 than just Shijuren, including The Four Horsemen Universe. After I finish None Call Me Mother, my long form work in progress will be the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows.

I have lots of stuff to play with in here.

  • What are Edmonds and Tahnerif going to do?
  • I promised Jackson a platoon. What’s going to happen to his momma’s boy?
  • Kiial will definitely have more to say about his uncle as his time in the Foresters continues.
  • Speaking of the uncle, Tlanit and Rick Blaine are going to work at peeling away some of the layers.

Going to be fun.

I’m actually going to describe some of this in a short story in another Four Horsemen anthology coming out in 2020. Right now, I’m playing with a number of ideas, but rest assured, there’s more happening with the Foresters.

Speaking of short stories, I’ll be contributing to the second We Dare, anthology. The story I’m working on will be a prequel to “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” my story in the first anthology. We might just find out why the Allardecks and Fieldings hate each other. This will also be fun, as I’ll be collaborating for the first time. Yvonne Jacobs is already helping me plan the story.

I intend to do four or five short stories for anthologies each year, so don’t be surprised if I announce a couple more later in the year. I’ve been asked to be a part of some others already, but I’m still trying to balance my writing schedule.

That doesn’t include, by the way, the return of Nick Patara, PI. I’ve enjoyed the response and I had a great time writing it. I also enjoyed being able to give back to you guys.

The next big news comes from a comment above, I mentioned that I’ve submitted a Shijuren story to an anthology already.

And this one is special.

Chris Kennedy gave me the opportunity to create a anthology of fantasy stories. It will be entitled When Valor Must Hold.

The writing prompt I gave the authors was the opening of Conan the Barbarian, where Akira the Wizard concludes, “Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”

The authors have given me what I wanted: stories with adventures and action across a really broad set of fantasy sub-genres. It’s a great mix and I think you’ll like it a lot. Heroic deeds done by characters who might not start as heroes but end up in that category. The characters all face things to test their valor and we shall see how their valor holds.

The anticipated release date is 20 March, which is the Friday of FantaSci. We plan to have a great release party there and I hope to celebrate with a bunch of you.

This brings me to my plans for Howell’s Howls this year. I really enjoyed my system of having a blog post Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Rob’s Updates will continue on Fridays. I’m going to tweak the format a bit, like including game notes each week, but it’ll continue much the same.

I’m also going to continue with the interviews. I just finished re-writing the questions I send out, so you’ll see some new interviews by people who I’ve already interviewed. I’m going to start the year with interviews of authors in When Valor Must Hold, and run those interviews as long as it takes.

Hit me up if you’re a creator of any type, and I’ll send you the questions and get you into the queue. I really enjoy doing these and hope to be more proactive about making sure I have an interview ready to go each week.

That brings us to Mondays. Mag Reviews take a ton of time, too much for just a regular blog post. I’m going to replace them with Rob’s Ramblings, which will be a catchall thing for whatever interests me. including reviews of movies and albums, snippets, poems, sports topics, or whatever. This week, it was my ShadowCon AAR. One post you can expect in March is an AAR about creating When Valor Must Hold. It’s already taught me a bunch.

This does not mean Mag Reviews will go away. They take too long as a blog post, but there’s a still a place for them and I’m playing with some ideas.

Overall, my online presence will continue as it has been. In September, I stopped reading my Facebook News Feed. This was a great decision on my part. I miss out on a number of things, but that News Feed brought me down.

I check my Facebook Notifications consistently, though, and that’s been enough. If you want me to see something, please tag me and I’ll check it out. Otherwise, I’m almost never going to see anything.

I originally planned to limit my Facebook posts to business-related things, but I think I’ll start posting about the same frequency I did prior to last September. I’ve missed chatting with people about a variety of fun things and while I’ll never go back to reading the News Feed, I’ll get back to posting fun things along with my professional stuff.

The same is basically true on Twitter. I have always limited my Twitter feed to focus on some excellent sports bloggers and other interests like that, along with professional stuff. I will continue to look at those sorts of things, so if you want me to see something, you better tag me.

I’ve played around with MeWe, but the interface has yet to click with me. I’ll keep trying though. I’ll also keep dabbling in Instagram. This might expand with some of the other things I’ve got going on. I’ll also keep my eyes open for better social media options.

My appearance schedule in 2020 is going to be amazing. The biggest news is, of course, I got accepted as an Attending Professional at DragonCon this year. What an amazing honor. I will do my best to reward them for giving me the chance.

I also received word this weekend that I’ve been approved as a vendor at Dagorhir’s Ragnarok XXXV in June. This is a major LARPing event and I am excited to meet a bunch of people and introduce Shijuren to them.

I’ll be at LibertyCon again. None of what’s happened above would be possible without the lessons and experiences I’ve had at LibertyCons past. It’s really pushed me along and I’m incredibly grateful to Brandy and her peeps.

The expansion of Drix’s shop at Pennsic last year went well, and it’ll be even better this year. We’ve had a great time there and sales keep inching up there for me.

As I mentioned, we hope to have a great release party for When Valor Must Hold at FantaSci. I picked FantaSci over Gulf Wars, Planet Comicon in Kansas City, and a bunch of other events on the weekend of 20 March. Why did everything have to be then? In any case, even without the release party, I would go to FantaSci. It’s already a great con.

My next event is ChattaCon in a few weeks. It’ll be a blast, in part because Lani Brooks puts me on a bunch of panels.

Let’s see, do I have my yearly goals covered in 2020?

  • 2-3 novels: Check. I hope to have two by September and be working on the Edward novel in the fall.
  • 4-5 short stories (plus Nick Patara): I have one in the can, two planned, and some opportunities to juggle. I can’t say this is fully laid out, but I anticipate no real problems.
  • 3 blog posts per week: Mag Reviews made that really challenging, and I expect to be more consistent here. I won’t stress too much if I miss out on one of the weekly standards, but it’s a reasonable, feasible schedule
  • Figure out a way to make Mag Reviews work: I’m playing around with this. Probably won’t happen for a while, but there’s value here.
  • Make progress on the RPG: Meetings are scheduled and I anticipate consistent activity on this front. Again, I don’t have a realistic timeline, just a plan to turn it from vaporware into something real.
  • Create a smart travel schedule: Spring is fairly light, and will be productive from a writing standpoint. Summer will be go go go and I’ll have many miles on the road. Fall will be light, much like spring. This past fall, I didn’t go to any cons after September. I will add a con or two because I think more than three months is too much of a break from going to a con.
  • Take care of myself: I’m starting with being more conscious of things, as shown by pacing my travel schedule better. I’m also going to adjust my summer production expectations to match reality. Finally, I’m going to schedule some down time/vacation/retreat type things. No details yet, but they’ll be there.
  • Get back to fighting: This includes working out and losing weight. I’ve a helm on order and I can’t really fight until it gets here, but I can work out. I’ll have a plan for that soon.

I look at these goals and am getting even more excited. None of them seem outlandish and if I complete them, it’ll make 2020 amazing.

Now that I have a plan, I think I’ll watch the Blues and play a game for a while. Then, tomorrow, write a chapter or two in None Call Me Mother.

It’s going to be a great 2020.

 

 

 

Rob’s Update: 2019 in Review

Greetings all

2019 was my best year ever. Thanks to all the readers who supported my writing throughout the year. It couldn’t have happened without you.

Things I published in 2019:

I’m incredibly pleased at the success of these stories. Four of those, including all 3 Phases of Mars anthologies and The Feeding of Sorrows, earned at least one orange tag.

An orange tag on Amazon signifies it’s a bestseller. Now I can add “Amazon Bestselling Author” to my bio. That’s pretty darn awesome.

I’m also pleased that I still love all six of these tales. I am never pleased with the quality of writing in any of my past stories, because with each new one I get better. However, the tales are all good. I know this because I still cry at the end of each one.

If I don’t get emotional reading my stuff, I can’t expect you to do so either. I still get emotional on all of them.

The biggest negative of 2019 is that I didn’t get None Call Me Mother published. I had even hoped to make progress on Edward 4, but that was always only a faint hope.

Despite that, I’m not displeased with my writing output. I’m up to 93k on None Call Me Mother, so it’s getting close. I chose to write The Feeding of Sorrows instead and it was a great decision.

I also chose to follow Bill Fawcett’s advice. He said to me at LibertyCon in 2018 that I should write more short stories. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t pay attention to him. I may yet be an idiot, but not about this.

My goal is two or three novels a year and four or more short stories. I came really close if I count the words I actually wrote in 2019. I wrote about 75k of The Feeding of Sorrows and about 20k towards its sequel. I wrote about 80k in None Call Me Mother in 2019. I also worked on a couple of special projects I’ll announce when I post my look ahead to 2020. All told, I submitted six short stories (one yet to come), and wrote about 175k of long fiction. 230k or so of fiction is not shabby.

I did this despite not taking care of myself. Following Pennsic, I spent 5-6 weeks in a funk. This was driven initially by fatigue, because I traveled a ton this past summer. Then my brain weasels got involved, chastising me for not being productive, and that spiraled down.

Fortunately, I recovered in time to complete all of the items I had promised to various editors. Had I paid attention to myself, though, I believe I would have finished None Call Me Mother. Ah, well.

I have adjustments planned for 2020. One challenge of being self-employed is that I have to play mental games with myself to keep me from doing stupid stuff, like losing those 5-6 weeks.

I went to a number of fantastic events in 2019. This was my first year as a vendor on my own at Gulf Wars. Drix and I also expanded our booth at Pennsic, and this is exciting. LibertyCon was wonderful and emotional. FantaSci went great, not great for a first time con, but great. So great I’m choosing it over Gulf Wars and Planet Comicon in 2020.

I did all these things while also getting the opportunity to serve as Their Majesty Calontir’s herald in the first half of the year. I love doing that job. Thanks to Donnghal and Catalina for giving me that opportunity. And yes, you totally got me.

My sweetie and I did a bunch of work to the house. We replaced around 1000 sq. ft. of carpet with bamboo. I love this stuff. Nice on my feet and pretty. We also started a new additional closet in the master suite, which had a ton of useless inefficient space.

The closest thing to a true negative are my tracked items, I spun my wheels a bit. I gained a little weight, though I’ve made it through most of the holidays without gaining much extra. My tracked word count, which includes only those things I actually released to the editor or on my blog, would have exceeded my goal had I managed to get None Call Me Mother to my editor, but of course will fall short in its actual number.

My wiki suffered a hacking attack in the spring. I have recovered most of the lost things, but I plan on redoing most entries. I learned a ton working on the 4HU wiki for nearly a year that I intend on incorporating. I’ll talk about that in my 2020 post.

These are my end results. I’ll work on improving them all in 2020.

Today’s Weight: 395.2

Updated Word Count: 146,912

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

I have so many people to thank. I’m going to take a crack at it, but will undoubtedly forget some people. But here’s what I can think of right now with a cat demanding petsies.

Mom, sweetie, and proto-incipient step-daughter come first. Living with a writer ain’t easy.

Chris Kennedy gave me a bunch of opportunities. I can’t thank him enough. James L. Young let me write in all 3 Phases of Mars, and those are good stories. Jamie Ibson let me break his soul in We Dare. Mark Wandrey kept encouraging me, especially his help in the 4HU. Kevin Ikenberry helped a ton with the Peacemaker aspects of my 4HU stuff. Frankly, let’s just thank all of the crew that Chris has gathered about him. They’re all making me better.

Kellie Hultgren did a great job editing my personal stuff and teaching me how to become a better writer. The staff at Brewbakers put up with me, and I rewarded them with tuckering it in “Silent Knight.”

Drix helped me grow my SCA sales presence. Tons of people encouraged me. One even allowed me to stay at her family’s lake house for a week of writing and solitude. I need to schedule this sort of thing once or twice a year.

Despite not getting None Call Me Mother out and spinning my wheels a bit, 2019 was definitely my best year so far. And it’s not close.

I’m growing leaps and bounds as a writer. My most recent project has helped me turn things I knew instinctively into things I understand. This is already showing up in None Call Me Mother and in “Silent Knight,” not to mention my earlier growth in 2019.

2019 was my best year.

2020 will be better. Lot’s better. We’re building something here and I will tell you all about what’s coming in a few days.

For now, though. Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate it.

Happy New Year!

Rob Howell

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Interview: Kevin Ikenberry

And here’s Kevin Ikenberry, who’s not only part of Trouble in the Wind, but he’s also Peacemaker Six in the Four Horsemen Universe. He’s a fantastic writer who was very helpful to me as I was writing The Feeding of Sorrows.

Interview: Kevin Ikenberry
Kevin Ikenberry
Kevin Ikenberry

What is your quest?

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

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

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

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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

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

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


Thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions.

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

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: With Unbounded Determination

Week 48 of 2019

Greetings all

Yesterday got away from me, but it’s been a good week. We’re mostly decorated for Christmas, I made progress on None Call Me Mother, and I made progress on another short story.

Plus, I’ve been running a bunch of interviews as we lead up to the release of the third Phases of Mars military alternate history anthologies, Trouble in the Wind. My story in it is Here Must We Hold, and it’s the first time I’ve really written in my area of research. That was fun.

I also made progress on the secret project. I’ll let you know all the details early in 2020, but for now, you’re just going to have to be patient.

What I haven’t done is my next Magazine Review. I may do it next week, but this is a really busy time and those take a while.

I’m going to add to None Call Me Mother tonight as I clean house here and there and watch NCAA playoff games. It’s going to be a great night.

What I’m Listening To

LSU v. Georgia. LSU is really, really good, in case you didn’t know.

Quote of the Week

You already know that today is a day that will live in infamy. The whole speech is powerful, though, not just the opening lines. Here’s another quote from Franklin Roosevelt about 7 December, 78 years ago.

“Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounded determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (83,723)
  • SK (2,283)
  • CB (8,418)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Chris Kennedy, the publisher of Trouble in the Wind. Here’s a rerun of his interview: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1215.

More importantly, here’s the book he released yesterday: A Gulf in Time at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0829FLV92

Today’s Weight: 397.8

Updated Word Count: 210,632

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
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Interview: Chris Kennedy

Chris Kennedy has given many indie writers such as myself a bunch of opportunities. The world of SF is far better for having him be a part of it.

Interview: Chris Kennedy

This week’s interview is with Chris Kennedy, who has shown many of us how to be an independent writer. He’s written several series of his own, founded a publishing company that supports other independent authors, and, along with Mark Wandrey, started the Four Horsemen Universe of which I’ve contributed.

He’s taught me quite a bit already, and I suggest you listen to him and watch what he does.

What is your quest?

I want to sell a million books. Failing that, I want to help my authors sell ten million books.

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

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

Not coming from a writing background, I had to learn to do it right. I read blogs for 15 minutes a day for four years to help develop my craft and my ability to sell more books. I’m still not totally where I want to be, but I’m a much better writer than when I started, and I’m a lot closer to the goal.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I like writing gritty combat and a good motivational speech once in a while.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Definitely crunchy. I don’t know why they make that other stuff.
  • Favorite Sports Team? UNC Tarheels basketball (despite their showing in the NCAAs last year), NY Yankees baseball, and Atlanta Falcons football.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie…but why can’t I have both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon…because you can put it in Corona and make it taste better.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Helluva Good Sour Cream and Onion
  • Wet or Dry? Sopping wet. (Rob’s Note: He’s a Navy guy)
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Two Steps from Hell. Outstanding for combat writing music.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Bud Light. (Rob’s Note: Sigh)
  • Favorite Superhero? Gal Gadot Wonder Woman. Because Gal Gadot.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Game Ever? In # of hours played? Everquest.
  • Coffee or Tea? Diet Pepsi
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Scifi, with a side of fantasy.

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

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

Rob’s Answer: If we’re talking a magnetically accelerated piece of tungsten, then zero if the trooper isn’t in a CASPer. If we’re talking the fully-loaded magazine of MAC rounds we’re going to have at our LibertyCon party, I would say most can survive five or so, depending upon rate of fire and body mass. However, this survival is likely to be more painful and the target might prefer the quick death of tungsten.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

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

You should have asked, “Do you have any free book promotions coming up soon?”

Why yes, yes I do.

Both “Janissaries” and “Cartwright’s Cavaliers” will be free this weekend. Want to introduce someone to my writing or the 4HU? This is your chance to do it—get them to pick up a free copy this weekend!

You can find them here:


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

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

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