Tag Archives: FantaSci

Rob’s Ramblings: Discombobulation

Greetings all

Like many of us, this is a discombobulating time. Events canceled like Gulf Wars, FantaSci, and March Madness. Concerns over family friends. And people will be talking of the Toilet Paper Rush of Ought-20 like they did the 1849 Gold Rush.

There are silver linings, though. One, I get to use discombobulation again and again. It’s one of my favorite words.

Two, I’ve seen people in various communities band together to help their friends and neighbors. It’s not unusual for these people to do that sort of thing, but it’s more obvious right now and that’s comforting.

But it’s still a discombobulating time.

As a writer and someone who works from home, I have some nice advantages. Obviously, if I have food, water, and electricity, I can do my job normally. Without electricity, I have to hand write things, which I can do, though my hand problems make that challenging. Still, I can get through a reasonable time and still do my job. That’s comforting too.

But it’s not without dangers. I am an only child and a tendency to get too withdrawn.

Worse, the cancellations and the discombobulation exacerbate my tendencies to hermit and dwell on things far too much. I ponder where things go and game scenarios out in my head. It’s a great trait as a writer, of course, but can often send me down the road to thinking too many bad thoughts. That’s what cost me September, along with fatigue.

Today I’m writing from Brewbakers. I suspect, I’ll be here most days during this discombobulation as long they can stay open. I need to get out and see the world and not simply through the lens of social media.

My suggestion to you all is to do the things you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have time. I’m going to throw myself at None Call Me Mother and work on some projects around the house.

I also suggest everyone look for cool things to do for other people. Discombobulations bring stress. The word is fun to say, but the experiences are often not. The more nice things we do, even small ones, the better we’ll all be when we get back to our normal rat race.

The best thing about doing nice things for people in a discombulated time? It has a tendencies to combobulate all involved.

Rob’s Update: I Will Draw A Chart

Week 5 of 2020

Greetings all

This was another week where everything went a bit wonky, though I sort of anticipated it.

I got home on Sunday from ChattaCon. I expected Monday to be a real down day as I recovered from the drive, but I was moderately productive. I had a great writing day on Tuesday.

And then Wednesday is when the fatigue hit. Ah well.

I got a bunch of writing done on Thursday, and though I never really had a chance yesterday, it wasn’t an awful week. I got almost 5k written on None Call Me Mother, along with a bunch of work on other projects.

Today is also the final day of a hectic two months since Thanksgiving. Between the holidays, I hosted 3 local SCA postrevels, went to 2 cons, wrapped up my portion of When Valor Must Hold, wrote a short story start to finish, and added 27k or so to None Call Me Mother.

27k isn’t enough for two months, really, but it’s not nothing, combined with the rest. I’ll take it.

The good news is that I’m entering my spring writing stretch with only one trip between now and the end of April, and FantaSci will be worth it.

Just keep plugging away.

What I’m Listening To

Red Sector A off A Show of Hands by Rush. Fantastic song with one of my favorite lyrics every. It’s the quote of the week, and it captures the horrors of the Holocaust in such amazing fashion.

Quote of the Week

“Sickness to insanity
Prayer to profanity”
– Rush, Red Sector A

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (103,801)
  • CB (8,418)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on RJ Ladon, another contributor to When Valor Must Hold with her story “Ogre’s Brownies.” You can find her interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1980.

Today’s Weight: 398.4

Updated Word Count: 19,998

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

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

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

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

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

FantaSci AAR

I’m home. The overall trip was over 4000 miles. There were a bunch of highlights, and you can find my Gulf Wars AAR here.

The cap to it all was FantaSci. This was the first year of the con, but you really wouldn’t have known that if you weren’t told. They did have some advantages, like pulling from a former con (HonorCon) and having it be a major event for two different fan groups (The TRMN and the 4HU Mercenary Guild). However, that doesn’t ensure success, and it was a very successful con.

I’d like to stop for a moment to thank Lyons and his staff for doing a great job. If the name Lyons sounds familiar in the context of the 4HU, it’s because he has been tuckerized as the owner of the Lyon’s Den merc bar, which provided the impetus for three anthologies of short stories. He and his crew had things organized well. As I said, one could not tell it was the first time with this con, as the issues I saw are the issues one usually finds at any con, like issues with the hotel and its bar and restaurant.

Another side note, I rather enjoyed the hotel. The food was pretty good, not terribly expensive, and the bar had an IPA on tap. The rooms were also much cheaper than one normally finds at a con. I hope they stay there.

I was in a lot of panels, which is just the way I like it. On Friday I was in a fun panel sponsored by Ian J. Malone, which discussed sports in SF and fantasy writing, such as baseball in the Honor Harrington universe and the like. Sports has been a part of humanity since we became a species, and it will continue in space and exist in fantasy worlds, just like it did it in the Middle Ages.

My next panel was a discussion of writing in shared worlds. I’m getting a taste of this in the 4HU, and have plans to open up Shijuren for at least some anthologies, so this was a valuable one for me to listen and learn, as well as comment.

Saturday was a huge day for me. I started with a panel discussing Alternate History Change Points. This was actually a major treat for me, as one of my favorite authors, Steve White was on this panel. Also included were Kacey Ezell and Christopher Woods, so it was a lively panel.

Then I went into a stretch of four panels in five hours, starting with a panel on pantsing. Pantsing, if you’ve not heard the term, means writing from the seat of your pants. The other end of the spectrum is plotting. It was a huge thing for me to discover that pantsing was an accepted and normal form of writing, because that’s what came naturally to me. I tend to plot more than I used to, but generally only in vague terms. It still makes more sense to see what the characters do rather than forcing them into a certain path.

Immediately was the Chris Kennedy Publishing panel where Chris talked about all the things that are coming. I got to talk about the Feeding of Sorrows and see a bunch of things coming down the pike. Kennedy is amazing. He has done incredible stuff and made a bunch of opportunities for other writers.

After an hour break, I was in a panel on genre blending, which of course I talk about a goodly amount given the Edward novels.

Finally, I was on a whimsical panel about the messiest ways to kill undead. This panel was designed to go off the rails, and off the rails we went. Lots of fun.

Saturday night was the highlight of the event. It was perhaps the best single experience I’ve had in the con scene as a writer. The 4HU Mercenary Guild held a Dining Out. If you’re in the military, you know what this means. It is a ritual dinner, with a number of specific toasts and ceremonies. I was generally an observer, asking questions of the vets at my table and learning. I was also smart enough not to create a reason that I needed to drink the grog. A certain Minion, on the other hand, fought the grog and the grog won. Much hilarity has and will ensue on that.

After the Dining Out was a number of fun things. Saturday happened to be Kacey Ezell’s birthday, and also she and Marisa Wolf had a bestseller on Amazon to celebrate. Then there was floating to some parties, including going down to karaoke, which was a lot of fun. I even sang some Dropkick Murphys. Then we ended the night chatting in my room until late, even getting security to tell us to be quiet.

Sunday was much more laid back. I didn’t have any panels, though I did go to closing ceremonies. This was the first con where I was “featured” in any way, and I made sure I was at the ceremonies. Lyons paid me an incredible honor with that, and I can’t thank him enough.

Mostly what I did on Sunday, though, was get out my laptop and offer to update wiki entries. Many of the attendees to the con are redshirts in the 4HU, and I added fun things to a number of entries.

Then I was in a quandary. I had plans to eat with my aunt and uncle around 5pm. However, I *really* wanted to get home. I canceled and left around 2 to try and get past Nashville on a Sunday night. I made it to Clarksville, despite losing an hour to construction in Knoxville. It’s a good thing I did, because I was pushing through a bit of flu yesterday and I might have lost a day coming home. Given that in two days I set up at Planet Comicon, I really couldn’t spare the time. Side note, I feel much better this morning, even to the point of keeping food down.

FantaSci was an amazing con. Truly one of the best I have ever been to. LibertyCon level, even. I ticked off all the professional goals I had, enjoyed myself, and met a bunch of new friends.

It was also the launch of the 4HU Mercenary Guild fan group. You can find it here: www.mercenaryguild.org. I know I’m only a bit player in this universe, but it’s still cool to be a part of it. If you like the 4HU books, sign on up. I’ll be starting up a Foresters unit when the time comes.

I may not get to go next year because of timing, though. I think it’s on the second weekend of Gulf Wars next years, so I may have to make a choice.

However, I’ll go back every year I can. It’s on the list.