Tag Archives: Joe Haldeman

Interview: Kevin Ikenberry

If you’re a fan of the Four Horsemen Universe, and I bet many of you are, then you’ve had the pleasure of reading Kevin Ikenberry’s contributions to that universe. He’s a fantastic writer. He’s also a fun guy to chat with at conventions.

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

Interview: Jamie Ibson

Greetings all

I am continuing Four Horsetober with Jamie Ibson. Most of you will know him as the boss of 4HU – The Merc Guild Facebook group, but he’s also a writer and will be in Luck Is Not a Factor, the second Lyon’s Den Anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe. Take a look at another writer that Chris Kennedy has fostered.

Interview: Jamie Ibson
Jamie Ibson
Jamie Ibson

What is your quest?

I’m right at the beginning of what may eventually become a career, so getting published is my main story quest. I have a non-sci-fi story out with Supervisive, my 4HU story “The Human Inside”, and a story in next year’s Freehold anthology called “Cry Havoc” about the FMF leopard handlers.

Influences include all the usual Baeniacs, Mad Mike, The ILOH, Oh John Ringo No, David Weber, David Drake, books I found on my dad’s bookshelf like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Joe Haldeman, Spider Robinson, Gordon R Dickson, as well as the next generation of up-and-coming authors like Kacey Ezell, Jason Cordova, Chris Smith and Mike Massa. My horizons were broadly expanded when I discovered the Four Horsemen series at LibertyCon 30. They say if you want to write you need to read. I read a lot.

What is your favorite color?

I like stories that get you out of the normal human perspective. Some of my favorite 4HU stories are the ones where the aliens are front and center. (Kacey does alien Very Very Well) so in my leopard story, I have parts where the narrative shifts from 3rd person limited to 1st person present and the cat tells the story. My current project, I’m doing full-conversion cyborgs and I try to imagine how alien it would be to have your entire interaction with the world be done through artificial/constructed means.

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

I write too much dialogue and have to find ways to show action rather than rely on conversation.

I have a fantasy short meant to be an intro to a setting I put together but it has not been accepted yet for publication. The last response I got was that there was too much slang (I didn’t think I used hardly any slang), and that it tried to squish too much world into too short a story, which was the opposite of what I’d been told elsewhere. But I recall that one of my favorite Freehold stories, The Humans Call It Duty, was rejected multiple times before it was finally published, so maybe it’s just not the right time.

That, perhaps, is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in writing, is being patient. Things take time. (Rob’s Note: So true!)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? 

Somewhere along the way, a certain retired Navy SEAL declared that I was the Loremaster with regards to several of my favorite series and I’m rather honored to be called that. I think when writing in someone else’s universe it is vital to get the details and fiddly bits consistent. When I first talked to Mad Mike about what eventually became Cry Havoc, I made a point to review as much as I could on what Freehold had to say about the leopards and the handler program. Somewhere along the way I ended up writing a series bible for Mike which we’ve made available for everyone else writing in the anthology. I’ve been approached by others to give their universe a similar treatment so it can be opened up to a broader writing crowd, or I’ve been asked how I do what I do. (Notes, painstaking notes and multiple rereads!) So when I write in someone else’s universe, I try to keep a very clear idea on “What is canon” vs “Where can I expand” and ensure nothing I write conflicts with established lore. You only have to look at what happens to a series that becomes a show or movie to see whether it is accepted or rejected by fandom, based on how closely it remains true to the original. (I’m looking at you, Starship Troopers).

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Pepe
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Olympic Hockey Team Canada. I pretty much ignore everything else. (Rob’s Note: This is where I get to make a gratuitous note about watching the 1980 Miracle on Ice on a 12-inch black-and-white TV)
  • Cake or Pie? Cookie dough ice cream cake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  7 layer but no olives
  • Wet or Dry? Umm
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? If you’ve seen my 4HU music playlist you will have seen Leo Morrachiolli. Norwegian metal cover god. Sultans of Swing and Feel Good Inc are always good, and then there’s 230+ more tunes to pick from. Seriously, the dude’s a machine. (Rob’s Note: And he makes the most amazing facial expressions)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Please.
  • Favorite Superhero? Canadian ones, obviously, that may not be as well known as the Avengers, like Wolverine and Deadpool, for example.
  • Steak Temperature? I’m going to be a heretic and admit I prefer burgers over steak. But if steak is what is being served, medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Heh, sweet, it counts. Dukes of Hazzard started in 1979 so… yep.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Favorite Pet? I love all my cats, past and present, but Naomi is our house panther who has declared me chief of staff.
  • Best Game Ever? Fantasy: The Witcher III. Sci Fi, Horizon Zero Dawn.
  • Coffee or Tea? Razzleberry Iced Tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci fi.

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

Best place to learn to write/code wikis?

Rob’s Answer: Honestly, they’re not difficult. The most difficult thing to learn is the CSS coding to set up the main stuff. Wiki coding is mostly set up to use toolbars, and there are plenty of references.

They are like much else, though in that they become easier and quicker with practice. It takes time to think about what the most effective way to organize it, like what categories you’ll have and such.

Two things I suggest, though. First, download Editpad Lite. It’s my favorite text editor and you need a good one. If you already have one you know well, stay with it, but if not, Editpad is great. Second, as you’re editing create yourself a set of snippets. My philosophy of wiki editing is that it is better if you can standardize as much as possible. Similar things should be displayed in similar fashion as it will help the reader. Unlike writing prose, where you want to vary your word choice, consistency is useful in this context. Snippets help.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • My forthcoming 4HU story will be in Luck Is Not A Factor.
  • “Cry Havoc” due 2019 sometime.
  • Priorities via Superversive Press in To Be Men.

And where can we find you?

I’m north of the PNW so look for me at LibertyCon once a year (until I convince America to let me immigrate).

Do you have a creator biography?

Hey, I’m Jamie. Thanks for checking out my page. I’m Canadian, born and raised in Ontario and now on the left coast. Spent some time in the CF reserves and went on a peacekeeping mission when I finished highschool. Now I’m in law enforcement and write in my spare time. I’m married to the lovely Michelle, and we have cats.


Thanks to Jamie Ibson 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