Tag Archives: Chris Kennedy

Interview: Doug Dandridge

Doug Dandridge is one of the great independent writers out there. He’s done really well in part because he puts out a ton of good material. My personal favor is his Exodus: Empires at War series, but he has over thirty published titles, including two other series, Refuge techno-fantasy and The Deep Dark Well trilogy. Now he’s started Kinship Wars, a traditionally published series. Let’s just say I’ve visited his Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1522973584&sr=1-2-ent a number of times to get his books.

Exodus: Empires at War, Book 1 Cover

And I’m not the only one. According to his bio, “(h)e has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average. 5,000 reviews! And about that same number on Goodreads. I am learning just how hard it is to get a single review out of readers, so that’s even more amazing to me than the hundreds of thousands of books he’s sold.

Clearly, he knows both how to write and how to market online, so I was excited when he agreed to answer my questions.

Doug Dandridge

What is your quest? I like to craft technically sound science fiction (and fantasy as well) in an interesting and well thought out setting, with strong characters. Sometimes I actually succeed. I like the physics, chemistry, biology to stay as close to accurate as possible. Which doesn’t mean I don’t make up whimsical of utterly fantastic elements, but I see no need to step on real world principles when not necessary. My major influences include Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, David Weber, Robert E Howard, Jim Butcher, R A Salvatore and Larry Niven. I get a little bit from each one and possibly blend them together into something of my own. It seems to work, as I was able to not only quit my day job, but make a very good living at it.

What is your favorite color? Like Jim Butcher I start off with a map most of the time. I do a lot of research. Even in fantasy, I look up a lot of information, put a lot of it on paper. I world build to an extreme, probably more than I need to, but then, when I have a series, I just need to add onto the already detailed world. And I draw a lot of things out on graph paper, which allows even a poor artist like myself to visualize my settings. Spaceships, star systems, castles, even the look of dragons. All goes down on paper. And when I’m creating a star system I like to use programs to look over the configurations of planets and make sure it all works (wouldn’t do to have your inhabited planet go spiraling into the star). Probably more than I need to, but I read the horror stories of people finding fault with the science in other works. I even use Nukemap to make sure my things that go boom have an accurate damage radius.

Doug Dandridge with Helicopter

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I wrote a series called Refuge, which actually started off really well. Both of the first books sold over 5,000 copies. They mixed modern technology with magic, with people from Earth crossing over to another dimension against their will and having to fight wizards, dragons and things that go smack in the night. With tanks, attack helicopters and a couple of tactical nukes. Due to the physical and magical laws of the planet, the technology would only last for a short period of time, and the humans had to use it or lose it. So by book three they had lost it, and I had lost my readership. Turned out that the majority of people who bought the first two books loved the idea of technology versus magic, so book three sold just over two thousand copies, while four barely made it over a thousand. I’ve tried to salvage the series with book five, resorting to magic imbued steam tech. But I’m afraid once you lose readers you’ve lost them for good, at least for that series. The lesson? When something is working, don’t make radical changes.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I am really proud of the Exodus: Empires at War series and the spinoff, Exodus: Machine War. This is the universe that turned me into an independent success. Of the 240,000 odd books I have sold, over 200,000 of them are in these series. They have been well received, and I have collected a lot of fans from all over the world from these books. I feel that I write battle scenes really well (see R A Salvatore and Jim Butcher above), and I’m also good at putting in technical details without overwhelming people with info dumps. The Exodus series is nearing its end, but I will start another side series, going back in time to the origins of my human Empire.

Lightning Round

  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy.

    Five by Five Cover
  • Favorite Sports Team? Florida State University, because I went there and I live in Tallahassee. Any of the teams, not just football. I go to women’s soccer, both basketballs, softball, volleyball, even sometimes baseball.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, because cake is too rich.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, because lemon is just too sour.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Home-made French Onion dip. None of that weak store made stuff. The Lipton’s Onion Soup with sour cream.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? A German Jazz guitarist named Vogel Kreigel. He played in a little hotel in North Germany back in the late 1970s. One of the best jazz guitarists in the world at that time.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I used to love Wild Turkey 101. Haven’t had a drink, for health reasons, in fourteen years.
  • Favorite Superhero? Spiderman. I’ve been a Spidey freak since I was five years old, and I bought the issue of Amazing Stories that featured the webhead.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Man, go back to the sixties and I might have something. The seventies did nothing for me, and I spent half of them in the Army.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, love the crispy temps. Best time for going to football and soccer.
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) I had a ginger cat years ago named Beau who was the smartest pet I have ever had (and I’ve had an Australian Shepard). He died way too young at age nine.
  • Best Game Ever? Video Game? Fallout New Vegas, with lots of mods. Best gaming world, best story, a lot of fun to play in VR.
  • Coffee or Tea? I’m a big coffee drinking. Buy the beans and grind them myself before brewing them.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I love them both. I would actually like to write more fantasy, but somehow I slid into the scifi niche, so there I am.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? How do you come up with these questions?

My Answer: I think the first time I asked questions like this happened because I got tired of internet question memes, so oddly that made me make my own. The ones out there were just bland and boring, and so I made a whimsical one to have fun with my friends.

I used the idea again when I got married to my second wife. We wanted to make it fun, so I asked a larger series of questions to everyone involved in the ceremony. Then, we had a friend who is great at such things introduce us all as if we were wrestlers coming into a WWE event or something like that. We had a fantastic wedding.

As everyone who answers the interview questions realizes, I want to get some idea of your methods. Hopefully, this will help me and my readers find things that might improve our writing and publishing skills. However, I didn’t want it to be bland and boring, hence the Monty Python way of asking the questions.

But I also wanted to give each of you a chance to be something more than a name on an e-book. For example, I think it’s awesome that I now know you’re a Florida State fan. Plus, given how much I like to host people, it’s always a good thing to know how to cook their steak should the opportunity arise.

Aura Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? How did you ever decide to get into this crazy business?

I was out of work and pissed off at the employer that had just fired me, and decided to write a book exposing the corruption of mental health organizations. I sat down and wrote that book in two weeks, then started on an alternate history. When that was done, I went to work on a 260K word fantasy.

Refuge, Book 1 Cover

I wrote on an off for over a decade, collecting over three hundred rejection slips, but trying to do it the old way, through a publisher. Finally, in 2010, I was really sick of my job and wanted to become a full time writer. I wrote the equivalent of 7 novels that years, including the books that were turned into the first two volumes of Exodus: Empires at War and Refuge: The Arrival. I didn’t actually put anything online until December 31, 2011, and nothing much sold for the first eight months. I did a giveaway for a book called
The Deep Dark Well, and 4,100 went off the Amazon hard drive. When Exodus came out in November (I had put out Refuge first, thinking it would be the breakout novel), I started selling 100 books a day. In January of 2013 I sold 8,900 books and the sales continued into February with 5,400. I kept getting good sale the first couple days of March, and I turned in my two week notice and never looked back.

What’s Your Upcoming Event Schedule? I will be attending, again, LibertyCon in Chattanooga (June 29-July 1) and will be on panels. I will also be an Attending Professional at DragonCon in Atlanta (August 30 to September 3). I will also have books coming out later this year from Arc Manor Publishing (Kinship War) and Chris Kennedy Publishing (When Eagles Dare).

Doug’s Book Biography:

Doug Dandridge is the author of over thirty self-published books on Amazon, including the very successful, Exodus: Empires at War series, the Refuge techno-fantasy series, The Deep Dark Well Trilogy, as well as numerous standalone science fiction and fantasy novels.  In a five year period as a self-published author, Doug has sold well over two hundred thousand eBooks, paperbacks and audio books.  He has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average, and a similar number of ratings on Goodreads with a 4.12 star average. He has also written his first traditionally published novel, the first of a series, Kinship Wars. He served in the US Army as an infantryman, as well as several years in the Florida National Guard in the same MOS.  Doug, who holds degrees from Florida State University and the University of Alabama, lives with his five cats in Tallahassee Florida.  He is a sports enthusiast and a self-proclaimed amateur military historian.


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.

ChattaCon AAR

Greetings all

I made it back from ChattaCon a couple of hours ago. I worked to find a way to please three cats who demanded attention with only two hands. Then I took a nap with three cats on top of me. I’m finally able to get to this post under the watchful eye of the WW1 Flying Kitty.

Well, under the napping eye of the WW1 Flying Kitty, but she’ll be watchful the moment I move from the keyboard.

Anyway, I had a very good time at ChattaCon, if exhausting. I ended up on 8 panels, as I covered for Chris Kennedy on a couple. I like a busy schedule, and I enjoy the work, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t tired on Sunday.

My first panel was on Friday night and it was a throwback to my academic years. It was arranged by Dr. Valerie Hampton of the University of Florida, who wanted to talk about NeoMedievalism, both in an academic and literary context.

After that I went to Opening Ceremonies and then the LibertyCon Room Party. Had a great time. Did not go to bed early. Shockingly, I did not go to bed sober, either. Fun networking, though.

Saturday was the long day, as usual. It started with a panel on combining genres at 10am. It was actually a little different than most of the similar panels I’ve been on because the others had mixed things with horror. Also, there was a lot of discussion of how this works in screenplays, which was fascinating to me.

Then at 1pm I took Chris’s spot on the How Much Science Should a Science Fiction Writer Know. Ironically, the actual scientist couldn’t make it, and to a great extent, we just faked it, which means relying on questions from the audience. This is especially true since Chris was the intended moderator, which I did not know, so I had no questions planned. My answer to this is: “A writer should know enough to avoid knocking their readers out of the story because of obvious inaccuracies or using science for deus ex machina endings.”

At 2pm was my favorite panel. We discussed the Vikings in literature, flim, and art. Sam Flegal was the sponsor, and he is a fantastic creator of Norse-themed art. In fact, I picked up his illustrated Havamal this weekend.

At 4pm we did the Theogony Books expo. Chris is publishing a ton of books in 2018. There’ll be 21 more in the Four Horsemen Universe, meaning if I only average a book a month in the wiki, I’ll be nine books farther behind in a year. Oh, well. Speaking of which, there was a good response to the wiki, and I’m excited about where it’s going.

The next panel was called More Than Swords, where again I was taking Chris’s place, and again I didn’t know I was the moderator. Still, this was a great panel for me, because I would like to think I’m reasonably knowledgeable on medieval military topics, even when we’re talking military fantasy.

Finally, at 8pm, I did my last panel on Saturday. In it, we discussed historical fantasy, and some of the ways we can draw from history and put it into our books.

After that panel, I got dinner. I had tried to get dinner between the panels at 6 and 8, but the hotel restaurant was simply too slow. I wasn’t the only one. In fact, while the service at the hotel was amazingly good, actually, the actual logistics were awful. Lukewarm showers, slow times out with food, that sort of thing. Why are the expensive hotels so consistently bad at this sort of thing? Very irritating. Don’t ever stay at the Chattanoogan unless going there for a convention.

Anyway, then was my one chance to game. That didn’t go well, not simply because I lost. I was just too tired to focus, and there were too many distractions. Ah, well. Next time.

All I needed to do on Sunday morning was get checked out an eat breakfast. It was a bit of a worry, at first, because people had glommed on to the carts and the valets didn’t know where they were. However, they took my number, helped me with my stuff, and I even had a little time to relax before my last panel.

That panel discussed storytelling. One of the fascinating subjects was the topic of opening lines and why they worked. It isn’t easy, but somehow the writer needs to connect to the reader quickly. Fun, with a lot of going back and forth.

Overall, the schedule went really well, if busy. However, the con seemed lightly attended. The con organizers did a pretty good job, though a Chattanooga official (we think) enforced a $50 fee for the vendors. This is not something that any of the vendors had seen before, and the Dealer’s Room coordinator was just as surprised. It looks like it’s being investigated, though, so maybe it was just a mistake.

I had a great time networking, and was able to get some fun gifts, so the trip was worth the time. However, I’m going to have to find a way to reduce costs if I’m going to go back to ChattaCon. LibertyCon is a much more useful con, so I’ll consistently return to the area, but we’ll have to see what else is going on around that time next year.

 

Rob’s Update: In the Bird House

Week 3 of 2018

It’s been a weird, and productive week. My original plan was to go to Meridies 40th Year, but the weather was not conducive. Instead, I found myself an AirBnB place called the Bird House near Dunlap, TN.

I’ve had a kitchen, plenty of food, and WiFi. Other than my sweetie, what more could I want?

I’ve been very productive this week, starting with finishing a short story entitled A Gift of Crimson and sending it to the editor. It’s kind of an odd balance between Raymond Chandler, Stan Lee, and J.K. Rowling as it’s for a buddy who’s bringing back Pussy Katnip, a series of superhero comics/stories from the 1930s. Maltese Falcon noir with anthropomorphic animals in a superhero world aimed at young adults. I had a lot of fun with it.

It was challenging too because he asked for shorter stories than normal, around 4000 words. This one ended at 3868. Go me. I’ll have more publishing details when I know exactly.

I made huge progress on the other side project this week. I’ve been building a Wiki for the Four Horsemen universe. You can find the Wiki here: http://mercenaryguild.org/wiki/tiki-index.php. It’s low on content right now, but I’ll be updating that consistenly.

I actually wanted to make sure I could talk about it on this post, which is why I decided to wait until this morning to actually send out my update. Thanks for your patience.

Well, I suppose I should get back to work. This is my last full day on the mountain and I should take advantage of it.

Current Playlist Song: Yngwie Malmsteen, “Flamenco Diablo.” Yngwie is an incredible guitarist, and does some amazing versions of works in classical and other genres, as well as metal.

Quote of the Week

As mentioned, this week has been odd. I’ve literally not left this little above garage mother-in-law type apartment since I got here on Saturday. I’ve had internet and phone, but it’s been… remote.

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
― W.B. Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

News and Works in Progress

  • A Gift of Crimson (3868)
  • Brief Is My Flame (30000s)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Since I’m announcing the Four Horsemen Wiki, I suppose I should announce that tomorrow Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey will release the prequel in that universe, The Four Horsemen: Alpha Contracts.

Today’s Weight: 385.4 (from last week)

Updated Word Count: 6807

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

HonorCon AAR

Greetings all

I’m finally back in Council Bluffs at my own desk with enough energy after the drive to be coherent. Go me! It’s time for an HonorCon AAR and later on today, after I actually do some writing, I’ll do my weekly update.

This was my second HonorCon. The first, I met some guy named Chris Kennedy in the bar. The second, he helped make this a fantastic con. And that’s not even counting how we all made his wife blush while, you guessed it, drinking at a bar.

I went to HonorCon only being on one panel as far as I knew, my Martin Koszta Affair panel. However, the way they structured panels there was to allow people to create panels, and then staff them themselves. Chris, being the go-getter he is, had created a bunch of panels and he invited me to join him on a bunch of others so I was kept pretty busy.

The first panel we did on Friday covered Indie Publishing: Getting Known as an Author. I wish I could tell you just what all we did in this panel, but honestly, I was a bit frazzled and I really don’t remember the details. After this panel, I spent a goodly amount of the rest of the day hanging in the con suite, and had a beer or two, but I ended up going back to my hotel room early and watching baseball.

Saturday, first thing in the morning, was a panel entitled, But I Liked That Guy! In this panel, Chris, Mark Wandrey, Ian Malone, and I discussed the value and challenges of killing off characters. Most of you know that I will kill off characters in the flow of the story, but I don’t simply kill them off constantly, as in Game of Thrones. I believe characters have to die periodically, or there’s no suspense when characters get into life-threatening situations. In swords and sorcery fiction, they have to be put in such situations and the can’t always survive. So they don’t. On the other hand, I’m not playing fair with my readers if I simply kill them off for no good reason.

My next panel was several hours later, so I lounged in the con suite for a while. This was a very good con suite, and there were some good conversations. I met an airplane mechanic who had worked on P-38s, P-51s, and F4Us in his spare time. I was fascinated to hear some of the very specific details of each type, which gave me some story ideas.

At 3pm on Saturday was basically Chris’s version of the Baen Road Show: Theogony Books: A Big Year in 2018? I was a part of this panel both because of my story “Where Enemies Sit” in For a Few Credits More, but also because I’ve taken on the project to design and build a wiki in the Four Horsemen Universe. I’ll be starting on that today, as a matter of fact. The upshot, is that Chris will be publishing, either as author or publisher, a dozen books in 2018. And maybe more. Big doings, indeed.

After that was my Martin Koszta Affair panel. I designed this panel as a tool to discuss the ways I use history to world-build and create stories. It’s easy to say that history is a wonderful place to mine for ideas, but this panel goes into nuts and bolts and has been very well-received. However, about 15 minutes into it, I realized it wasn’t meshing as well with the audience as normal. It turns out they wanted simply to hear the history, and not about using it as a writing prompt. I adjusted, and we went farther into the possible ramifications, had things played out only slightly differently.

You may see alternate history novels about the First World War, which started in 1853. Just sayin…

We spent Saturday evening having dinner at the Bahama Breeze right next to the hotel. We being Chris, Sheellah (his wife), Mark and Joy Wandrey, Chris and Christine Maddox, Beth Agejew and J.R. Handley. We had a blast, and also talked about a variety of business things, which resulted in more work for me that I’ll talk more about when the time comes.

Sunday was another early morning, with a panel at 9am on Genre Blending: Scifi, Fantasy and More. Unlike the same panel we did at ConStellation, Chris was prepared to moderate and this wasn’t quite the train wreck of whimsy and confusion.

Immediately following was a panel discussing The Economics of Self-Publishing. This panel was just Chris and I. I don’t know that I helped the audience much, but I learned a ton.

Normally, I like to stay for closing ceremonies, but this panel was done at 11, and after a series of goodbyes, I got on the road. I wanted to get west of Louisville by Sunday night, and it was well we left as quickly as we did, given the snow and high winds in along I-77 in the mountains.

For a number of reasons, HonorCon was not terribly smooth for me. I forgot to get reservations and pre-register for example, and I had a number of other issues that are now irrelevant. I only had one panel initially scheduled, so I wondered how valuable the con would be. However, thanks to Chris, Mark, and a bunch of people I met, it turned out to be a fantastic con despite the hassles.

Rob’s Update: Mechs in Action

Week of 10-16 September

Greetings all and welcome to release day!

For a Few Credits More, the second anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe is now available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075LGF41H

I want to thank Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for letting me play in their sandbox. If you like military science fiction with mechs, this is the universe for you.

My story, “Where Enemies Sit” talks about a lieutenant on his first deployment. The title comes from the Havamal which begins:

All the entrances, before you walk forward,
you should look at,
you should spy out;
for you can’t know for certain where enemies are sitting,
ahead in the hall
(Larrington, Carolyne. (Trans.) (1999) The Poetic Edda, page 14. Oxford World’s Classics)

Let’s just say the lieutenant finds enemies sitting where he did not expect.

Anyway, I’m very excited to become a part of the Four Horsemen Universe, and hope to be allowed to contribute more. “Where Enemies Sit” has spawned a number of ideas for me that I will try and fit between writing in Shijuren.

Speaking of which, I’ve done a little, but not much. With all the upheaval in my life, I simply haven’t written much. I’ve done a number of other projects, though, and have been clearing the decks of some assembled things that have also needed attention.

I’ve got a series of SCA events to attend over the next three weeks. I’ll be at Queen’s Prize Tournament, which will give me an opportunity to visit with my apprentice. The week after, I’ll be in Grimfells with my booth. I’ll also be selling at the Gryphon’s Fest event.

I hope to have copies of For a Few Credits More there, but it may take a while.

With that, I’ll get back to work.

Quote of the Week

Also from Larrington’s translation of the Havamal is a much more famous passage:

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life
– The Havamal, Stanza 77

News and Works in Progress

  • Did about 2k words in Brief Is My Flame this week. Not much really, but I’ve been scribbling out and recording notes to hopefully make the writing much quicker when everything settles down.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Last week I did my NFL prediction at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=839. There are also eight other blog posts breaking down each division. They’re linked in this main post.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I’ve put both of them here before, but this week’s spotlight again goes to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, whose Four Horsemen Universe is blowing up. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’ll be linking to other authors in For a Few Credits More.

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

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

Weekly Update: Ramping Back Up

Editor’s Note: A week late publishing it here. This week’s update is coming soon.

Week of 6-12 November

Greetings all

Sorry I’m late this week, been a strange week for a number of reasons.

In any case, I’ve been clearing a bunch of other projects not related to Shijuren off of my plate recently. I’ve helped write a number of ceremonies for SCA peerages and started working on some scroll texts. I’ve also been cleaning my garage and decluttering some. Lots of trash to the curb on Tuesday. Strange isn’t it how much decluttering can make one feel better.

Today I started back on Where Now the Rider with fresh eyes. So glad I stepped back. Glaring improvements jumping off the page.

Nice to be back.

Quote of the Week

I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day, so today’s quote is from Kipling. Thank you to all who have served, including my father and both of my grandfathers.

If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white, Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight: So take open order, lie down, and sit tight, And wait for supports like a soldier. Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .
– Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier

News and Works in Progress
– Working again on Where Now the Rider
– Patrick has given me draft art for WNTR, getting there
– I have an idea on a way to sign, sort of, e-books. Been working on that.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions
– Not much as I have focused on other things.

Upcoming Events
– Decided against going to Toys for Tots to get various projects done
– 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
– 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
– 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
– 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
– 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight
Chris Kennedy is a very successful independent writer who has spent hours encouraging many of us. If you’re interested in writing yourself you should follow his Twitter feed at @ChrisKennedy110.

His Amazon author page is at: https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Kennedy/e/B00E4MIJA8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1478897285&sr=1-1

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
Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works
A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Bk 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Bk 2)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Bk 1)

Weekly Update Archive