Tag Archives: Chris Kennedy

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

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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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
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

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

Interview: 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.

Rob’s Update: Venturing to Carry

Week 45 of 2019

Greetings all

It’s been a good week here. I wrote over 8000 words overall, which is more than I’ve been able to crank out in a week in a while. I’m definitely regaining the rhythm I had in the spring.

The big chunk of writing was major progress in None Call Me Mother. I broke the 70k mark today, and I made progress in multiple threads. Some days it’s a fight to get words going on one thread, but today, the writing prompted me to make sure I filled in a blank in another, which led to another.

That’s always fun.

I also added 800 or so words to Here Must We Hold. This was my submission for Trouble in the Wind, the next entry in the Phases of Mars series of alternate military history. Unlike Far Better to Dare and In Dark’ning Storms, this story is set in Anglo-Saxon England. I am pleased to announce that it has been accepted and these new words were actually historical notes.

For a moment, writing those notes, I sort of felt like Bernard Cornwell. That was fun too.

Tonight it’s puttering around the house, watching the Blues play, and drinking Beer Barrel Bourbon. It’s actually one of my favorite bourbons and I’ve been frustrated because I couldn’t find it. Tonight, I was disappointed not to see it yet again. Then I started looking at all the choices, trying to figure out something to try.

Turns out they changed not just the label, but the bottle shape as well. I probably just didn’t see it… again and again. But I have some now, and guess what? Good bourbon is yet more fun.

Y’all have a good week.

Current Playlist Song

The dulcet tones of John Kelly, Bernie Federko, and Darren Pang calling the Blues game. It’s 2-2 in the 3rd at the moment.

Side note: I’ve been a fan of the Blues since, frankly, a terrifying moment in the Kiel Center in 1988 or so. I never really thought anything about them going into last year’s playoffs. A friend of mine who’s a big hockey fan said before they won their first series that he actually thought they had a real chance. I thought he was crazy. He might have been, but one Stanley Cup later, he’s my kind of crazy.

Quote of the Week

In 534 on this day, Justinian published his law code. It’s one of the great legal documents of history. Here’s the first section.

“The Emperor Justinian to the Senate of the City of Constantinople. Those things which seem to many former Emperors to require correction, but which none of them ventured to carry into effect, We have decided to accomplish at the present time with the assistance of Almighty God; and to diminish litigation by the revision of the multitude of constitutions which are contained in the Three Codes; namely, the Gregorian, the Hermogenian, and the Theodosian, as well as in those other Codes promulgated after them by Theodosius of Divine Memory, and by other Emperors, who succeeded him, in addition to those which We Ourselves have promulgated, and to combine them in a single Code, under Our auspicious name, in which compilation should be included not only the constitutions of the three above-mentioned Codes, but also such new ones as subsequently have been promulgated.”
– Justinian (Codex Justinianeus, Preface)

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (70,029)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,088)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is once again on J.F. Holmes and his new shared world, JTF 13. You can find his interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1814 and JTF 13: Origins at: https://www.amazon.com/ORIGINS-Joint-Task-Force-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07YR4QR18/.

Today’s Weight: 392.4

Updated Word Count: 189,665

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

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

Rob’s Update: O It’s Tommy This, an’ Tommy That

Week 44 of 2019

Greetings all

From a writing standpoint this was a 2 steps forward, 1 step backward kind of week. I went through a significant chunk of None Call Me Mother and cleaned it up.

I also did some plotting and figured out yet one more piece of the puzzle to get all the actors in the final scene.  I expect to see a huge step next week.

I’ve also started an editing project that I’ll talk more about in December.

We’re working on the house, as I often do in November. We got rid of carpet in our great room and have been laying bamboo flooring. The carpet was original, 1983 vintage, and it had seen more than a few battles.

Going to try and knock out a few more words tonight, so I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Current Playlist Song

Instead of music, I worked on this while watching Chris and Sheellah showing old pictures on their weekly CKP Facetime session. If you’re a fan of the Four Horsemen Universe, the Fallen World, or anything put out by Chris Kennedy Publishing, it’s a great way to interact with them.

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote comes from Kipling in honor of Veteran’s Day. Here’s the whole poem: https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/tommy.html.

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
Rudyard Kipling, Tommy

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (63,637)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,088)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on J.F. Holmes and his new shared world, JTF 13. You can find his interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1814 and JTF 13: Origins at: https://www.amazon.com/ORIGINS-Joint-Task-Force-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07YR4QR18/

Today’s Weight: 394.4

Updated Word Count: 187,467

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
Short Stories

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

Interview: Alex Rath

The interviews are back! This week I’m interviewing Alex Rath, another of the many talented authors writing the Four Horsemen Universe. It’s a throwback to last year’s Four Horsetober.

Quick side note, since it’s been a while. I’ll post an interview of a creator each Wednesday. If you’re a creator, whether author, musician, artist, or crafter, and you’d like to be interviewed, send me an email at rob@robhowell.org and I’ll send you the questions.

Now, on to Alex…

Interview: Alex Rath
Alex Rath
Alex Rath

What is your quest? At the moment, my focus has been on the Four Horsemen Universe (though that’s expanding). Pretty much all of my characters will take in parts of my own personality, the big one of that being versatile, and creative. As a person who has spent 25 years in technology, starting in the days when we had very limited tools, and had to be very creative in how to accomplish our goals with only a language and no libraries or pre-made routines to work with, I always had to invent the wheel. My characters tend to do the same, and it’s a lot of fun to take things that exist in a universe, and think of a new way to apply it.

What is your favorite color? I like a combination of intense action, sprinkle in some humor, often in the form of a pop-culture reference, and then throw in some emotion from out of left field to catch the reader off guard. So far, each of my stories have had at least one scene that evokes some kind of emotional response. Even though I’m writing military science fiction, I want the readers to feel the humanity of my characters, and hopefully find at least one they can relate to and say “Yep, I know that feeling.”

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I’m fairly new to the writing game… but I’d say my biggest frustration has just been getting stuck or coming up short. I have a tendency to ‘get to the point’ which doesn’t really make a good read. I’m not accomplished at all at outlining or plotting a book and tend to ‘pants’ my way through it. That’s something I’m still trying to figure out how to work on, because both of my works so far have “ended” short of where I wanted them to be in length. Now, I don’t try to get more length just to get it… I just feel like it needs to be a certain length to contain an interesting story that gets the reader involved in the characters, which is one of my big goals.

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? Based on feedback from readers, I’d say I’m pretty good at conveying emotion, and getting the reader to FEEL that emotion. I had quite a few reviews and private comments on my first book, written with Chris Kennedy, that indicated I’d nailed the point home when it comes to dealing with the loss of comrades in a military setting. One particular person was brought to tears, and it’s a person I know well, and understand why. That was, for me, the highest praise I could possibly get, especially given that it’s not something I have personally experienced, other than losing friends who served.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
  • Your Wrestler Name? Spartan  (duh, lol)
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Blade Chop
  • Favorite Weird Color? Chartreuse
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Take over the internet
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Yosemite Sam
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Secret Labs Titan Series office chair
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Making people learn to research facts
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? R
  • Favorite Sports Team? Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps  (Drum corps is a sport, fight me) Rob’s Note: Nah, it totally is, and I’m one of the biggest sports fans around.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip?   French Onion
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Here Come the Mummies
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Neither… I quit drinking
  • Favorite Superhero? Deadpool
  • Steak Temperature? Mid-Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? W.A.T.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  Lacy, my bearded dragon!
  • Best Game Ever? Dungeons & Dragons
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Yes

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

Rob’s Answer: Mostly pantsing, though I have a general idea where characters are going to end up like dying heroically, falling in love, or whatever seems appropriate. I find, though, that the characters know the path to those ends better than I do.

Also, I often will have a scene come to mind in the shower, lying in bed, driving, or other such time where my mind can roam a bit. In a sense, I plot one scene at a time, and wait for the pantser in me to generate that scene.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Do you have a creator biography?

Alex Rath is a Military Science Fiction and Fantasy author, currently residing in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife and daughter.

He has been creative in one form or another since childhood. He got his start in fantasy with Dungeons and Dragons in 1979, and kept going from there. Some of the ideas that he writes come from his extensive experience in Role Playing Games, starting with D&D, and onward through other games like Star Fleet Battles, Battletech/Mechwarrior, Shadowrun, Masquerade, and too many more to name.

From there, he took his creativity online to more online games than can be remembered by writing character backgrounds, stories, and game related fiction. Now, he puts his creativity to the book format, and is excited to become a professional author.

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

You should have asked how I got started in writing. It actually started with a Facebook conversation with Chris Kennedy, where I pitched the idea of a short story about the Computer Operations Center of the Golden Horde, since my professional expertise is in computers, programming, information security, etc..  He suggested it could be a full book and offered to co-write it with me. That happened, and here we are!


Thanks to Alex 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

LibertyCon 2019 AAR

Greetings all

I’m in Rocky Mount, NC visiting relatives after another fantastic LibertyCon. As always, so much happened that I’ll forget things. It’s the way of cons in general and LibertyCon in particular. I float from awesome thing to awesome thing without enough time to process stuff properly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, as I’ve mentioned, LibertyCon faced some of the greatest challenges any con has ever faced. Their hotel crapped out on them. The Read House in Chattanooga might be pretty, but they burned some bridges here. A hotel breaking a contract is no big thing, I had it happen to me, and NeoCon in Wichita ended because of it. I had to tell some relative unknown named David Weber that we had to cancel the con and not have him as Guest of Honor. The fact that LibertyCon rolled with it and made it work, especially in the time frame they had is amazing to me.

That is, of course, a credit to the incredible staff, both in their skill and stability. There will come a time when Brandy, Rich, Donnie, Matthew, Vonn, Fritz, and all the rest are not LibertyCon’s spark plugs, but it is not this day! It is one of my favorite aspects of LibertyCon that they are so competent at their jobs, which allowed them to handle this year so smoothly from the perspective of those attending the con. Thanks to all of them and their staff.

That staff is a testimony to the foundations laid by Uncle Timmy. I have talked about him before, but the best tribute is 32 years and going strong of the best SF/F con I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I was a lot less emotional at the con than I expected. I thought about him quite a bit, though I was never terribly close to him, but I was rarely sad. Sad he wasn’t there, of course, but the truth is I was reveling in his creation too much to be sad. Not a bad legacy to have.

I will note, I’m crying while writing this. When I cry at Brewbaker’s, the staff there isn’t surprised or worried. I’m usually killing a character that I like, so that’s alright then. The waitress here at this random bar is probably worried about me. Hopefully, she’s just remember me as a random weirdo.

Speaking of parents, my mom joined me on this trip. She loved LibertyCon too. At Closing Ceremonies, when Brandy announced the dates for membership sales, mom told me to get her one and that was before Linda Bolgeo, among others, taught her to play Yahtzee at the dead dog party and she lasted longer than I did. Yes, Fritz, you’re right: “Rob’s mom sucks less than he does.”

Side note: Fritz, you made me laugh with this, which is just as well as you made me cry for the other.

The weekend started with getting together on Thursday night. This will shock people, but we closed the bar. It’s always great to get together and catch up, especially after such a productive year for all of us.

Side note, we’re not the Inklings, but the writing crew Chris Kennedy has gathered into his orbit is talented and hard-working. We’re doing great stuff already, and the future looks bright. Tons of stuff planned, announced, and plotted at LibertyCon. I’m honored to be a part of this.

The con started with those of us in the Four Horsemen Universe talking about the future of the 4HU. The Omega War series concluded with Alabaster Noon, and there was concern that this meant the 4HU was slowing down. To the contrary, the Omega War, despite its name, is only the second of five main-line series being plotted right now. That does not include side novels like The Feeding of Sorrows and a slew of other projects. The 4HU ain’t going away now. I’d be shocked if the eventual corpus of the 4HU is less than 100 novels plus anthologies, games, and whatever else. We’re at 35 and growing now.

Next was a panel on the contact between history, historical fiction, and fantasy. The best part of this con was chatting with David P. Coe, who is a very smart man and excellent writer.

I mentioned there wasn’t as much emotion as I expected about Timmy at LibertyCon, but Opening Ceremonies was one of two places where it was greatest. Gray Rinehart sang a new filk about Timmy, making Brandy cry. Then, Christopher Woods, looking bewildered, was drug up on the stage by Toni Weisskopf to announce a new anthology tuckerizing all of LibertyCon in honor of Timmy that will include a bunch of big names. The proceeds will go to both LibertyCon and a scholarship to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. Really cool, and it’s great to see good things happen to Chris.

My autograph session at 7pm went well, as I got a chance to chat with a few people and even sold a book or two. That’s what such a session is there for, and they are also one of the few times I can actually talk for a bit with a fan instead of the usual go-go-go. That’s so nice.

Then I did a reading with Theresa Howard at 9pm. Readings are fun, but sadly, 9pmm readings don’t tend to get many viewers. Probably just as well, because I don’t like the selection I made from The Feeding of Sorrows. Not enough action. I’ll pick a better choice next time.

I intended, at that point, to make it an early night. Narrator: “He did not make it an early night.” We got into a long discussion that turned into revelry at the bar. Closed it down again. I knew I wasn’t closing down the bar on Saturday, though…

Saturday started with a number of logistical things for the party, plus getting a bunch of old computer equipment to Gerry Martin. He has found ways to take all the old stuff, refurbish it, and provide it to a variety of users. Plus, it got boxes of stuff out of my house.

The banquet was the other moment of big emotion about Uncle Timmy, especially Arlen Andrews’ speech. It was also a great time for my mom, which I really enjoyed.

At 4pm, Chris Kennedy hosted his year ahead. He might have to do it in two hours next year, as he has so much going on. I got to announce the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows, When Need Shall Arise. I’m aiming to have it out around FantaSci next year.

At 6pm, I had an Author’s Alley time. This, too, went really well I thought. I would have done really well if I could have had a solid block of three hours, but there simply wasn’t time this year.

And that’s because of the Rob Howell/Chris Kennedy Publishing Party. This was, again, a rollicking success. We lasted past 3:30am. We went late enough that the bartenders were able to close the bar and come join us for a bit. Technically, we did *not* close the bar. Technically.

It’s become such a success we’re looking at getting more square footage as we’re just doing too well. Plans are afoot to make it even more fun next year.

Sadly, that meant when 9:30am rolled around and I theoretically had to get down to Author’s Alley at 10, I simply rolled over and got another hour or so of sleep. Sorry, not sorry. Will plan better next year.

I concluded my panels with a fun one called: Pantsing for Beginners. If you’ve never heard the term, Pantsing is “writing by the seat of your pants.” In other words, not plotting ahead of time. This ended up as a pretty good two-hour panel including Rich Weyand and Stephanie Osborn.

We left that to get to Closing Ceremonies, where Brandy announced the 2020 dates, 12-14 June. Then we went to meat fest at Rodizio’s, which wasn’t as organized this year because the restaurant didn’t respond to Gerry. Ah well, we ate meat. Lots of meat.

Last year I checked out of the dead dog party early. I almost did so again, but I caught a second wind and lasted until 11:30. Mom lasted until midnight. I had a great time chatting with Bubba of Bubba Truck fame and a bunch of others.

LibertyCon was, as usual, fruitful in all the ways. I have a number of new irons in the fire. While I don’t have many details at this time, suffice to say, I’ve got a bunch of new projects to work on. And that means, at LibertyCon 2020, I’ll just have to make new plans.

So thanks to Brandy and everyone running the con. Thanks to Mark and Chris for the 4HU. Thanks to the fans that are keeping The Feeding of Sorrows at number two new release in Action and Adventure. Thanks to all I hung out with at LibertyCon. And thanks to all who’ve supported me over the past few years. I’ll keep trying to get better.

Now, to go work on None Call Me Mother.