Tag Archives: James L. Young

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
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Interview: Monalisa Foster

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Trouble in the Wind gets released on 13 December, a week from tomorrow. I’ll be running a number of extra interviews this week from authors who joined James Young and I in the anthology. This one is Monalisa Foster, who is as interesting as her name suggests, in part because she emigrated to the US from Romania in 1978.

Interview: Monalisa Foster
Monalisa Foster
Monalisa Foster

What is your quest?

My goal is to write science fiction with heart. That means I concentrate on human drives rather than hyperdrives. No matter the genre (and I’ve written not just alt history, but hard SF, mil SF, and space opera), my goal is put the reader inside the story so they can experience the emotions of the characters I’ve created and the wonder and delight of the world I built for them. It’s a kind of magic and I particularly enjoy practicing this part of my craft.

Since I learned English by translating Heinlein’s juveniles (not as a job, but as a way to teach myself when I was nine), I was heavily influenced by his ideas. It took me about two years to attain fluency and I remember reading about a novel a day every summer. It wouldn’t be untrue to say that my body was merely life-support for my eyes and my brain because it was pretty much all I did every summer. I devoured everything the library had, both in the juvenile and adult sections. I wish I’d have kept a list of everything I’d read, because it would be a wonderful resource for answering questions like this. Most of it was science fiction. Very little of it was fantasy, although I did read some.

Over the decades, my reading tastes have changed substantially. I discovered Bujold and fell in love with her Vorkosigan Saga. In fact, I used to read the entire series from beginning to end every year. And I love stories heavy on romance, but not necessarily the Romance genre itself. One of the reasons I wrote Ravages of Honor was because I couldn’t find what I wanted to read.

I remember the first time I put something up for someone else to read. I posted it on a critique site and then rushed to the bathroom to throw up. It was horrible. The writing, to be clear.

So, it became apparent, very quickly, that reading all my life had not prepared me to write well. And I’d done it professionally before, but that was non-fiction and technical/scientific writing, both of which are altogether different beasts.

Think of it this way. You’ve been watching your parents drive for sixteen years. That doesn’t mean you can just get into a car and drive, unless you’re a very unique individual. I was not that individual.

The first thing I had to accept was that I had a lot to learn, both about the craft and the business of writing. And being me, I threw myself at learning both my craft and the business before I unleashed my writing on the world. And I wouldn’t have had the freedom to do what I’m doing now if it hadn’t been for my husband’s support.

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

One of the most frustrating things about the craft is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I thought that I could study what others had written (see above) and emulate it. But the truth is that what worked 10 or 30 or 50 years ago, doesn’t mean it’ll sell today. You’d need a time machine to go back and sell that stuff. Or you’d have to already have a made name.

I think in some ways, we’ve all experienced this. You buy a book because it’s on the best-seller list or because your friend loved it, and you either can’t finish it or you force yourself to, and you go, “Wait? This is a best-seller?” No thank you.

So, you have to figure out some things. Is it taste? Is it the target audience? Is it marketing? It is something you have no clue about? This is the most frustrating aspect of the business for me, in addition to marketing, because there are no right or wrong answers. There are just the answers that work or don’t, for you. What may work for one author will not work for you. What works for one audience won’t work for another. You have to figure out who you are writing for and why. And then you have to figure out how to reach those people. And sometimes that is far more work than what’s involved in your craft, your creative process, and the actual stuff you end up writing.

Fortunately, I’m a vicarious learner. This is a very good thing because it means I learn from other peoples’ mistakes, not just my own. And the number one thing I’ve learned, is that if it doesn’t pull me in and hold me, it’s not worth studying. It can be the best-selling novel of all time. It can have sold millions. If it’s not my cup of tea, it will teach me nothing. On the other hand, if it draws me in and holds me, I will pull it apart and figure out why and then I will incorporate that into my own writing. Doing that can be its own challenge, and the execution takes time, but it’s worth it.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

My go-to techniques, the two absolute things I will fight every editor on (Wyatt’s Torch, as in I will burn it down rather than give in), are depth and viewpoint. Now, that means different things to writers, so let me explain what it means to me. I write inside-out, rather than outside-in, about 90% of the time. It can’t be 100% because there are some scenes where you can’t do that, but 90% of the time I absolutely can and will.

Imagine you are a camera. There are five characters in a room. When you are floating outside all of those characters, moving anywhere you want, you are writing outside-in. Some people do this very well. But when it’s not done well, the writing is dry and thin because the camera can’t put the reader inside the character’s head.

Now imagine that the “camera” is inside a character, right behind his eyes. You can only see what he sees, hear what he hears, feel what he feels. Your viewpoint is limited. It is filtered through one person at a time. When it’s well done, you’re inside the character’s head and you stay there throughout one scene. The reader only knows what that character knows, when he knows it. That is inside-out writing. I work very hard at putting the reader inside one character at a time so they can experience the world through that one character.

The depth part has to do with the richness and thickness of the details. It has to do with evoking emotions without having to tell the reader that the character is sad or happy or angry.

I know I have successfully done my job when readers tell me that I touched their heart with something.

For example, when I wrote Cooper, a reader sent me a PM thanking me for the story. I had made him cry because the story was about him and his step-dad. When I wrote another story (which I’m not going to name because, spoiler incoming), I got a similar PM (gotta love FB, right?) which sounded rather angry at first. It was along the lines of “How dare you make me care for this character and then kill him/her?” And nothing topped getting a PM from one of my publishers going “That’s a helluva story” when I thought for sure he’d find it too un-military and too touchy-feely.

I’m not former military. I have no credentials to speak of. So I do my research and I work on making my characters real to the reader. I work on the emotional draws and the emotional beats. I do it knowing that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. But if it is your cup of tea, I make an awesome cup of what you do like.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? No clue. Didn’t grow up here. Sorry. (Rob’s Note: We have got to get you some of the Muppet Show DVDs)
  • Best Thing From the 80s? The music and the movies.
  • Your Wrestler Name? She-who-uses-metal.
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? Package check.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Slaughter-red; iron-enriched of course.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? If I told you, I’d have to kill you.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Queen Tyr’ahnee of Mars
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? American citizenship.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? The end of communism. Forever. Okay, not so secret, but there it is.
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? This is a cultural reference I don’t get. I say that a lot. Ask my friends.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Any and all of the BASEketball teams.
  • Cake or Pie? Dobos Torte.
  • Lime or Lemon? Oranges, because I will not be limited by your lack of vision.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Whipped cream.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Mark Seibert. I’m not kidding. Oh, and he’s mine. Hands off.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whatever my friends will force upon me as long as I get to sip it.
  • Favorite Superhero? Count von Krolock (Tanz der Vampire).
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Before my time.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer. In Texas. Or Arizona.
  • Favorite Pet? German Shepherds, Pibbles, Great Danes. Standard Poodles.
  • Best Game Ever? I opt to exercise my Fifth Amendment rights on the grounds that my answer might incriminate me.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee as long as I can’t taste the coffee part. Jasmine tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Seeing as my favorite level of tech is “science indistinguishable from magic” I’m going to deny the false dichotomy of your question.

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

How many languages do you speak? Is one of them German?

Rob’s Answer: I would say I can’t actually *speak* any language but English fluently. Mostly that’s because I don’t get much opportunity to practice. I took a goodly amount of German, Latin, and Old English. Old English is the one I use the most, but it’s less about talking and more about reading.

My best spoken language is probably Old English. I have performed stuff in Old English, like chunks of Beowulf and the Wanderer. Nevertheless, I don’t do that enough to prevent having a wretched accent. It’s better than my horrible French accent, which I butcher whenever I have need.

I have a moderate level of reading ability in those three languages as well as French. The ability to read them is more what I need than the ability to speak as I’m reading through historical sources. I’m also discovering that I can muddle my way through some Spanish because of the Latin and French providing cognates and the grammar being Latin that got lazier and lazier over the years.

In general, if I can separate the words spoken to me, I can generally grasp the structure of the sentence, but my practical vocabulary is minimal because I routinely have references handy.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

  • My favorite con is LibertyCon.
  • I also go to DragonCon. These are the two I strive to be at every year.
  • Locally, I attend FenCon.
  • I did LTUE and SpikeCon in 2019, but probably won’t be doing so regularly.

Do you have a creator biography?

Monalisa won life’s lottery when she escaped communism and became an unhyphenated American citizen. Her works tend to explore themes of freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility. Despite her degree in physics, she’s worked in several fields including engineering and medicine, but she enjoys being a trophy wife and kept woman the most. She and her husband are living their happily ever after in Texas.

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

You should have asked me why milk chocolate is better than dark chocolate? That way I could answer because it contains a higher amount of fat and fat is flavor. Also, bacon makes everything better when milk chocolate is not available. (Rob’s Note: So right!)


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: James L. Young

I found James L. Young because he writes an alternate history of World War II, specifically focusing on naval combat. It’s stuch a great universe, I keep pestering him to find me a spot to write in it. He ignored me, though, deciding instead to focus on finish his dissertation. What the heck was he thinking? Anyway, he’s a sharp cookie who’s a great writer.

Interview: James L. Young
James L. Young Portrait
James L. Young Portrait

What is your quest?

So what got me started on this journey was to tell the best stories possible.  I’ve always been a fan of mashups, and I’d say my style is a mix of Jack McKinney (pseudonym for the authors who did the Robotech novels), Richard Austin (pseudonym for the Guardians-series), Don Pendleton, and Tom Clancy, with a touch of Michael Stackpole.  I like to have gritty stories where the good guys have a touch of black hat and the villains are sympathetic.

Aries Red Sky Cover
Aries Red Sky Cover

What is your favorite color?

“I see a red door and I want to paint it…” Wait, sorry, that reference might be kind of dated (although there is a good recent cover out there).  Black, black is my favorite color.  As for small things I like in my creation, I usually try to put a small “gut punch” of an event that will resonate with the reader.

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

Creative failures—Well, my first full novel got deleted by my sister and the only hard copy lost by one of my best friends.  However, in retrospect, that was for the best, as it finally got me to (mostly) let go of trying to write the next Red Storm Rising. (Rob’s Note: I wouldn’t mind a good next Red Storm Rising. I love that book.)

Other things I’ve learned (of which some may have differing opinions):  Print advertisement is largely dead for indies.  You can get vastly more bang for your $500 than running a ½ page ad in a magazine, even if it’s genre / platform specific.

Acts of War Cover
Acts of War Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I would say a willingness to research is one personal power.  This probably seems like a “Duh” coming from someone with a history doctorate, but I am regularly stunned by the number of authors who just won’t go through the trouble of even doing a basic Wiki scan.  Not that Wikipedia is an absolute resource, but the citations are often solid and peer-reviewed.

(Rob’s Note: This is one of the most important comments I’ve seen so far in these interviews. Research is important and Wikipedia has worked pretty hard to make their content pretty reliable. It’s a great starting point.)

The second power is that, within reason, I’ll roll the dice on just about any weird request or marketing idea.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?   My high school nickname was Animal, so…
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team?  As annoyed as they make me on a regular basis, the Chiefs.
  • Cake or Pie?  Pie
  • Lime or Lemon?  Either
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Parmesan Cheese Dip
  • Wet or Dry?  The appropriate setting for the activity being discussed.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Vic Tyler, “Dawson’s Christian” (google and listen to the Miranda’s Ghost version)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Yes when I’m in the mood to drink it.
  • Favorite Superhero?  Wolverine or Punisher depending on the day
  • Steak Temperature? Hot with a little pink.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  Fall
  • Favorite Pet? Three cats, two dogs, and this question is full of trap. (Rob’s Note: I like traps)
  • Best Game Ever?  Steel Panthers or Harpoon
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee probably, but yes.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Sci-fi, but I’m a D&D fiend
On Seas so Crimson Cover
On Seas so Crimson Cover

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

Battleship versus battleship, who is the queen of them all and why?

Rob’s Answer: What a heck of a question.

Pre-dreadnought: I’m going to say the HMS Majestic and her sister ships. She was so influential in ship design.

World War I: This is probably the easiest answer for me. There’s a reason you specified a category called pre-dreadnought. The HMS Dreadnought has to be the queen because she changed everything.

Treaty battleships (i.e., those constructed under the Washington Treaty restrictions): I’m going to say it’s the USS North Carolina. I’m not influenced too much by the fact that the North Carolina is the best battleship museum I’ve seen. I loved getting to roam in her 16-inch turrets. I’m not a fan of the British designs during the period. The pocket battleship idea was too limited. The extra armor of the South Dakota-class ended up making them less valuable.

Overall: Basically, this comes down to the Iowas or the Yamatos. I think it’s clearly the Iowas. The European designs were not innovative or versatile. The Bismarck was a step above most British designs, but I don’t think she would have done well against the Iowa. She and her sisters were designed to defeat the Yamatos, yet they were also good AA platforms. They were also among the fastest.

It’s not entirely fair to tack on their later refits, but the refitted missile-carrying versions were clearly the most powerful BBs of all time. Some people think the idea of the battleship is outdated, but I actually would suggest that with drones and a proper tactical and strategic plan, BBNs might be more valuable (especially since they’d cost less) than CVNs. Modern versions of the Iowas could be insanely capable. However, that’s a long treatise in its own right.

A Pyre of Stars Cover
A Pyre of Stars Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • Air Capital Comic Con—Wichita, November 10-11 2018
  • Planet Comic Con—Kansas City, March 2019 (Rob’s Note: I’ll be there, too)
  • Cincinnati Comic Expo—Cincinnati, OH September 2019
Though Our Hulls Burn Cover
Though Our Hulls Burn Cover

Do you have a creator biography?

James Young is a Missouri native who left small town life to attend a small, well-known Federal institution in upstate New York. After obtaining a degree in military history from West Point, Dr. Young spent six years repaying his education via military service in various locations (both foreign and domestic). Along the way he collected a loving, patient, and beautiful spouse (Anita C. Young)…and various animals that only fit those descriptions when it suited them.

Upon leaving the Army, James returned to the Midwest to obtain his Ph.D. in U.S. History from Kansas State. When not tormenting his characters, Dr. Young spends his spare time reading Anita’s first drafts, finishing that pesky dissertation, and trying to figure out how book eating shelter animals keep ending up in his office. Outside of Amazon, he can be found at conventions throughout the Midwest selling books and merchandise as James Young, Slinger of Tales.

In addition to his positive fiction reviews, Dr. Young is also the winner of the United States Naval Institute’s 2016 Cyberwarfare Essay Contest and runner up in the 2011 Adams Center Cold War Essay Contest. He has also had multiple articles published in Proceedings and the Journal of Military History since 2010.

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

You should have asked what is your latest release so I could talk about Aries Red Sky, the latest novel in my Vergassy Universe.

You should also have asked what my favorite book I’ve released is. I’d answer Acts of War, the first novel in my alternate history universe.  (Shhh, don’t tell the other kids.)


Thanks to James 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: Fitzalan to Arundel

Week 46 of 2019

Greetings all

I’m a day late on this blog post but I thought that might happen. We had plans last night and I was not able to get the update done before we left.

What did we do? Well, I’m glad you asked. After our first date, I invited my sweetie to go see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood live. They basically do a longer form version of Whose Line is it Anyway, which allows them to do some improved versions of some games and also some other games that are just too long to do in the TV format.

Colin and Brad with my Sweetie
Colin and Brad with my Sweetie

Unfortunately, my sweetie wasn’t able to join me. It was really a shame because I had even gotten the meet & greet tickets. They shook our hands, exchanged a few words, and took a picture. After they took my picture, I explained that my sweetie couldn’t come and I asked if they would take this picture.

Immediately after the show, I texted my sweetie that picture. This was a moment of truth. If she laughed a lot, there was a definite chance for us to last. If she didn’t, well, better to know then.

She laughed. A lot. Still does.

So last night Colin and Brad were in town and we finally got to have our second date. Sadly, there weren’t meet and greet tickets, probably because they’re in Naperville, IL tonight. However, we had a wonderful time. They are really good at this and they have a brilliant way of keeping threads winding through the show. If you have a chance, you should go at least once. The truth is, you can go every night since every show is different.

That was a great conclusion to a good week here. I made a lot of progress with None Call Me Mother. I’m aiming to get a draft to the editor by the end of the year. If I keep going like I am that’ll happen. I worry about the holidays distracting me, but it doesn’t look like we’re going on any long trips.

With the help of my editor Kellie Hultgren, I figured out a problem that’s been nagging at me on a short story. It’s a subtle thing, as the story has a bunch of good elements, but I forgot the Rule of Three. The conclusion seemed tacked on, when in fact I aimed for it all along. That’s an easy fix and I should have that story to the editor by Thanksgiving.

Speaking of short stories, my story Here Must We Hold will come out on 13 December as part of Trouble In the Wind. This is the third of the Phases of Mars military alternate history anthologies and focuses on land combat. I don’t know if James Young and Chris Kennedy will do more, but I’ve had a blast writing these and hope to do more. The first two, Far Better to Dare and In Dark’ning Storms could quite easily be the basis for many more stories. I couldn’t quite get a land story that worked for me, but there are more sea and air stories waiting to happen.

Today, we started putting finishing touches on the floor in the great room. All that’s left is some touch up on the quarter-round, putting in the thresholds, and putting back the outlet covers. Since the bookcases all got moved, we’re also cleaning and oiling the wood-paneled walls. Tomorrow we’ll start putting bookcases back in.

An exciting week as we get closer to things getting done.

What I’m Listening To

I made a slight change here. Many times of late it’s been something other than a song on my playlist so I’m changing the title to match reality.

Anyway, right now, I’m listening to my usual on fall Saturday sort of thing, a college football game. Right now it’s SMU v. Navy. I love watching Navy play. In fact, I love watching every triple option team play. There’s a gorgeous ballet in that offense. It’s limited and only works now because so few run it, but it’s so fun when executed well. It’s perfect for the service academies because it relies on discipline and execution more than athleticism.

Quote of the Week

Today is the birthday of William Fitzalan, 9th earl of Arundel. Who? A player in the War of the Roses, and a name I’m intimately familiar with because of the game Kingmaker. If you’ve played the game, this quote will be quite familiar.

“Piracy: Fitzalan to Arundal, Beaufort to Corfe
Killed: Cromwell, Graystoke
4-1 Victory”
– Kingmaker Card

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (76,951)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (8,163)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on William Joseph Roberts, who just released a new book called fLUX Runners. You can find the interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1845 and the book at: https://www.amazon.com/fLUX-Runners-William-Joseph-Roberts-ebook/dp/B081M3XKBV/.

Today’s Weight: 394.4

Updated Word Count: 196,635

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

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Mag Review: Analog (July, 1962)

Greetings all. This week I’m reviewing the Analog of July 1962. The cover story in this is John Brunner’s Listen! The Stars! and I love the cover art designed for it. It includes a good essay by John W. Campbell and a work by James H. Schmitz.  Side note, I’ve already reviewed the issue immediately after this one. You can find that review here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. This will be especially relevant since Mack Reynolds had a two-part story, with part one in this one and the second over there.

Analog (July, 1962)
Analog (July, 1962)

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?56754

The first article in this episode is What’s Wrong With Science by John W. Campbell. This is a distressing article, as it details things that are currently wrong in the scientific process, which means those problems are at least nearly sixty years in the making. Basically, he says that scientists are hamstrung by the process, which forces them to come up with answers that often fit the existing models that most scientists accept. Given that new research often radically changes or even replaces existing models, this means that such new research isn’t even allowed to be tried, because if it succeeds, it means that all the previous investment was wrong. Now, it’s as if instead of religious reactionaries wanting to execute Galileo, established scientists would execute him.

Sadly, I fear that this problem is even worse now, given examples I have seen.

The cover story Listen! The Stars! by John Brunner was fantastic. We discover a gadget that lets us listen to electromagnetic energy from other stars. In general these noises are not intelligible but there’s enough of a hint of something more, like hearing alien languages, that people keep listening. They’re hoping that they can understand that half-heard word they’re so tantalizingly close to comprehending.

This causes a number of societal issues, because that hope acts much like a drug. Addicts and acolytes, thieves and thespians. Worse, however, are the unexplained disappearances that seemed to be caused by “stardropping,” or eavesdropping on stars.

Dan Cross is a member of the UN Special Agency tasked to discover threats to peace. Basically, they’re trying to prevent the US and Russia from tossing their nukes at each other. The stardropping craze has finally come to their attention and he’s delving through the possibilities.

However, he and his agency are too late. Others have actually comprehended the science within what they find stardropping, science based essentially Einstein’s spooky action at a distance idea. This leads to both teleportation and telekinesis.

In the end, those who have discovered the potential from stardropping have generally unified together across the world. When the crisis happens, they reveal themselves with the intent to start the very war that Cross is tasked to protect. However, with their use of teleportation and telekinesis, they are easily able to distribute the atoms and particles of all the nuclear warheads and biological/chemical agents into the vastnesses of interstellar space.

The hint is that this will free humanity from its parochial differences and chase the stars, which are now within reach from their teleportative abilities.

It’s idealistic message fiction, promising a utopia that seems impossible for humanity. However, it’s also a fantastic story, filled with action and suspense. It’s also got enough hard science that it seems plausible.

Next is their announcement of things to come in the next issue. I won’t relate it here, but instead give you that link to my review again: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579.

Then comes a single page on a scientific discussion of laser development by GE. As is often the case reading these magazines, it’s fascinating to read these sort of discussions. They provide a snapshot, in this case, of the development of lasers 57 years ago. I suspect anyone actually in the field, would find it very interesting.

Next is Junior Achievement by William Lee. I can’t find  much about him. It is entirely possible that’s a pseudonym. One of his stories, A Message for Charity, was well-received. It has been republished a number of time and was turned into a Twilight Zone episode. However, very little else was published under this name.

Which is too bad. I rather enjoyed Junior Achievement, especially since at one time I was heavily involved in the organization. However, I didn’t have five geniuses to work with. In this case, they all come up with some new invention and the local science teacher, who is smart but not a genius, cannot quite keep up with them.

The only problem with this story is that it was more a narrative than a story. There wasn’t much of a buildup. No real crisis/climax. Instead, it went off at a rollicking pace of the kids involved making things happen and always succeeding. It was set in a town that had needed to be moved after some unexplained nuclear accident, so there’s some hint of genetic mutation, but not much, and that aspect only seems to be in the story to explain why the teacher is so poor. He has to pay two mortgages, one for the old house that’s in the fallout zone, and one for the new house. It’s an enjoyable story, but leaves you wanting more, like an ephemeral treat.

Now we get to James H. Schmitz, who I’ve grown to like much more because of the stories of his I’ve read doing these reviews. The story here is The Other Likeness, which is part of his series The Hub.

I was not disappointed. It starts with a scientist getting an alert. Then we discover he’s not just a scientist, but a member of a secret plot against humanity’s Federation involving 1200 people. These people are, in fact, aliens who were experts in genetics. They genetically raised these 1200 to be indistinguishable from humans. That would allow them to come into the Federation and create a bio-weapon that would devastate it, allowing their alien species to take over.

The scientist escapes with his three closest allies. At least, they think they escape. However, the Federation has set an elaborate trap for these 1200. They know them all because those 1200 have only 3 brain wave patterns, and are thus identified. Once captured, the 1200 are subjected to detailed scrutiny, most while they’re unconscious.

At this point, I was disappointed in the story. The initial start, with its evasion and capture, was really good, but immediately after that comes a disembodied voice explaining the plot. A series of exposition that would do Hercule Poirot proud, but in the context of a short story, takes too long.

But every once in a while, exposition can be the story, and this is the case here. Schmitz set us up to create espionage feel fighting the evil government bad guy, but the exposition reveals the truth at the very end.

The alien species was too successful. The beings it genetically created to be humans, were, in fact, human. None of the 1200 are actually going through with the bioweapon plan, instead doing something else that actually benefits humanity. The final line, which is spoken by the supposed government bad guy is fantastic: “You’ve regarded yourselves as human beings, and believed that your place among us. And we can only agree.”

It’s interesting how a really good writer can make something that shouldn’t work actually do so.

Next is an article that Dr. Robb Hampson should read, because I’ve no doubt he’d find it interesting. It’s Brain Waves and Though Patterns by Eric Holmes, MD. Holmes wrote a number of SF/F works, including the novel The Maze of Peril, but also contributed a number of essays on brain science.

This is one of his essays about understanding the brain. There’s a lot in here that I don’t know enough to appreciate. It does talk about some of the imagined possibilities, which are not dissimilar to ideas talked about today. It’s fascinating in it’s own right that 57 years ago people were talking about implanted electrodes to increase communication between brains, tracking health status, and so on. Basically, he’s talking about implants here which even then promised “unexpected marvels and possible horrors.”

I actually skipped the next story Border, Breed Nor Birth by Mack Reynolds. I tried to read it, but I have already read Part II of this story. Worse, I really didn’t like the way the story ends. Again, you can find that in the review here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. It’s hard to connect with characters when you already know your not going to like the story, especially the ending. It was like watching a horror movie, knowing the kids are all going to do stupid stuff that makes it more likely the slasher’s going to get them. I don’t like watching them, either.

Anyway, I’m going to move on to the Analytical Library. I find this fascinating as it’s an attempt to objectively quantify what the readers want. It’s essentially much like a modern Amazon/Goodreads rating system. There’s also a bonus attached of an extra cent per word to the winning author, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

What I learned in this version of the Analytical Library is that I really need to read the March, 1962 issue. Poul Anderson’s Epilogue beat Randall Garrett’s His Master’s Voice. I really like His Master’s Voice, so it’ll be fun to see the first version, but it’ll also be fun to read a story the readers thought was better.

And when I review that issue, I’ll talk about a number of interesting side notes involving Garrett and Anderson.

Anyway, next is The Rescuer by Arthur Porges. Porges was a prolific writer and a mathematician. i suspect my dad, who was a prolific reader and a mathematician, loved his stuff. I know I really liked this one. It’s very short, but also very powerful.

The story starts with a description of the greatest machine ever made, requiring multiple city blocks of space, fusion power, and computer power which might seem laughable now, but which was incredible then.

Then two scientists destroy it.

The story then turns to the preliminary hearing discussing the events that led to the destruction. In this, one of the scientists who destroyed the machine explained himself.

The machine was a time machine and one of the technicians involved in it commandeered the machine for his own purposes. However, he left a note, and the scientists, upon reading that note, decided that it was best to destroy the machine safely than allow the technician to succeed.

And this is where it gets thought-provoking. We’ve all wondered about changing the currents of time, but what if it changed so much more?

The technician is going back in time with a modern weapon and ammunition to prevent Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and execution. If Jesus had to die to save humans from their sins and that doesn’t happen, what next? Basically, it asks the question of all of us: Would you save Jesus of Nazareth? What would that do to all of history and to our souls? What a fascinating philosophical question and, as mentioned in the story, the kind of question we all have to answer for ourselves.

The last section, as usual in Analogs, is P. Schuyler Miller’s review section entitled The Reference Library. In this issue, he begins with a scathing discussion of the double-standard applied by publishing companies with respect to writers of SF and “literary” writers who happen to write an SF novel.

He nails something I talk about quite often at conventions. If you’re going to write in another genre you have to have read enough of the genre to understand the existing tropes and methods. In this case, the books in question didn’t get the hard science right, not even close to right. You also have to respect the genre, even if you’re writing a parody of it. Perhaps especially a parody, because if you despise it, your story comes out mean-spirited instead of humorous.

Anyway, Schuyler moves on to some more fun reviews. Imagine getting paid to review H. Beam Piper, Keith Laumer, Andre Norton, and a bunch of others. I’d take that job in a heartbeat.

I have to say, this was a darn good issue. It rises in my mind because I didn’t actually read through the Reynolds story, of course, but there’s quite a bit here I’m pleased to have read.

Next week, I’ll read the Fantastic Universe from July, 1957. It has works by August Derleth, Manly Wade Wellman, and Robert Sheckley. Wellman is a familiar name to me not simply because of his speculative fiction, by the way, which I’ll explain next week.

Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89841

Thanks for reading. I’m off to finish a short story for James L. Young.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Rob’s Update: In the Middle of Madness

Week 26 of 2019

Greetings all

Halfway through 2019! Happy Half-New Year. Or Half-Through Year. Whichever you prefer.

Before I left for LibertyCon, I sent off my story “In Dark’ning Storms” to James L. Young, creator of the Phases of Mars series of alternate histories. I’m finding that a lot of writing short stories is plugging away for a while, then finding the core, the soul, of the story along the way. Then, I have to cut out all that I’ve written which isn’t part of that soul. Only then do I come up with a good story.

Last weekend, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the story. When I finished on Wednesday, which involved cutting out 3-4000 words and replacing them, I was very emotional at the end. Which is as it should be.

Now I’m here in Chattanooga and LibertyCon has been fantastic already, and we still have quite a bit to go. My panels have gone well, the reader response from The Feeding of Sorrows has been fantastic, and I’ve made a bunch of connections. Lots of irons heating up in the fire.

Minutes ago at the Chris Kennedy Publishing upcoming year panel, I announced the sequel to Sorrows. The working title is: When Need Shall Arise. Again, this title is drawn from the Havamal.

Tonight will be the joint room party with Chris and I. It’ll be a blast, as it always is. We’re having MAC rounds and Peepo’s Pitch this year, along with our normal variety of stuff.

I guess I should go get everything ready for people to have fun.

Current Playlist Song

Actually, just the sound of the air conditioning. A little peace and quiet in the midst of the go-go-go is quite pleasant.

Quote of the Week

This week, I’m going with a fun Heinlein quote. It seems appropriate given the number of writers here at LibertyCon.

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
– Robert A. Heinlein

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (approx. 55,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on the staff at LibertyCon, the best con staff I’ve seen. It’s been an incredibly challenging year for them. Their initial hotel didn’t live up to its obligations, forcing a change in location. This change forced a changed in date. Then, worst of all, the founder of the con, Uncle Timmy, passed away.

And yet, we’re all here having a great time, getting new things plotted and arranged to keep creating.

Today’s Weight: 384.4

Updated Word Count: 156,157

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: Rock and Tempest, Fire and Foe

Week 7 of 2019

Greetings all

Sorry about not having an update last week. I’ve been pounding away at The Feeding of Sorrows. I’m doing well, though I wanted to be farther along. I’m over 90k, though, so it’s not entirely vaporware at this point.

I’m currently ensuring I’ve got all the pieces in the right place for the penultimate battle. In this case, this is the part where I have to juggle all the timing to make it work right. The final battle follows easily enough, once we get the characters into place for this one.

Why two battles? Well, I like intrigue, treachery, and extra explosions.

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the story and I’m excited to finish and get it to the publisher.

Speaking of excitement, Those in Peril, the alternate naval history anthology that I’m in, went live yesterday. You can find it at: https://www.amazon.com/Those-Peril-Phases-Mars-Book-ebook/dp/B07NPG7QFW/. I really appreciate James L. Young and Chris Kennedy for letting me participate.

My story is called “Far Better to Dare,” and it’s about a certain memorable thing which doesn’t become memorable until ten years after it really happened. I really enjoyed writing this story, in part because I had to research an era of naval history I only knew a little about. It turns out to be perfect for this sort of exercise, with all sorts of interesting quirks and tidbits available to toss into the pot.

With that, I think I’m going to take the rest of the night off. A Cadfael mystery or two is calling.

Current Playlist Song

Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. Like many, not only do I love the song but I am also reminded of the great “More Cowbell” routine where Christopher Walken keeps demanding more cowbell from Will Ferrell. This skit got even funnier when I realized that there really is cowbell in the song, but it’s in the background. Ferrell picked it up, though, and, though I rarely say this about him, made comedic gold.

Quote of the Week

I might as well use the quote that provided my title for my story in Those in Peril.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 90,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Meriah Crawford, is one of the many talented writer in Those in Peril. You can find that interview here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1653.

Today’s Weight: 389.4

Updated Word Count: 15,187

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 518 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

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: Serendipity

Week 40 of 2018

Greetings all

Been a good week here, though a little disjointed. Since I’ve moved back I’ve been to the doctor a bunch. During the time I was in Omaha, I kept waiting to figure out where we were going to live before getting a doctor. Since we didn’t actually find a place, I kept putting it off. Now that I’m 50, it’s not smart for me to avoid doctors, so I’ve been getting my 250,000 mile checkup, so to speak. That means a bunch of visits, and I had several this week.

The good news is that I’m doing pretty good for 50. I’m also really pleased with my new doctor. My last KC doctor took forever once you got to see her. She’s very smart, but I simply don’t want to wait three hours once I get there. This new doctor is actually incredibly quick. Other than the procedure I had last week, I’ve had something like ten office visits in the last month and a half. I’ve spent less time total in those visits, including with the specialists, than I did the first time I visited my old doctor. Nevertheless, each time takes out a chunk of the day.

What isn’t in as good of shape is my old phone. I didn’t want to upgrade to a Note 9 just yet, but I dropped my Note 5 and broke it. Ah, well. I did want the 9, and frankly the 512Gb of storage has already proven useful.

Still, I titled this week “Serendipity” because of last weekend. I got a chance to go to the Great Plains Ren Faire because a friend mentioned it. I did well and I got to briefly see my mom. I’ll be back in April.

Then, once I was there, another friend posted they were at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Fayetteville, AR. Idly, Friday night, I checked their tour dates since I wanted to see them at least once. And, lookee there, they’re playing Saturday night after the Ren Fest closed in downtown Wichita. Definitely serendipitous.

I was a little disappointed in the Marshall Tucker Band, who opened for them. For whatever reason, their sound was a bit off. Can’t You See was fabulous, though. Anyway, I really enjoyed Skynyrd. The bits where they interwove parts of Ronnie Van Zant singing on the screen were powerful. Tuesday’s Gone live was worth the price of admission.

And I got to yell for someone to play Freebird without irony.

Oh, and I also named this post “Serendipity” because I love that word. It’s so mellifluous. It was also the title of our English reader in 6th grade. It had some great stories.

Ah, well, that’s enough about me. I’m going to get back to work. Have a great week.

Current Playlist Song

Acadian Dance by Rik Emmett from Triumph. This is from his acoustic album where he basically plays around and shows off all he can do. It’s good writing music.

Quote of the Week

Today is Neils Bohr’s birthday. He’s got a number of great quotes, but this is one of my favorites, especially since I started writing. And before you ask, I still have quite a few to make.

“An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field.”
– Neils Bohr

News and Works in Progress

  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 20,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

This week I started #Four Horsetober, a bunch of interviews of other authors in the Four Horsemen Universe. You can expect a bunch of interviews throughout October in honor of the two Lyon’s Den anthologies.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on the Four Horsemen writers. See the list above for all the interview links.

Today’s Weight: 382.8

Updated Word Count: 209,771

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki:  417 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

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