Tag Archives: John Ringo

Interview: Philip Wohlrab

Greetings all

Tonight it’s time for the Docfather, Philip Wohlrab himself. He’s a writer and a combat medic. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him at LibertyCon and several other conventions. If you’re at a con and see a guy in a heavily-adorned Imperial Andermani Navy uniform, it might just be him.

Interview: Philip Wohlrab
Philiip Wohlrab
Philiip Wohlrab

What is your quest?

Ultimately, I want to tell a good story, whether it is set in the future, the past, a past that never happened, or complete fantasy. I want to entertain people, pull them out of the land of the mundane, even if for a little bit. Right now, I have a couple of projects that I am working on, first is my novel set in an entirely new universe known as the Squidverse. Think WWII meets Star Wars, with a helping of the Mind Flayers from D&D. I am also writing a short alt history of the Battle of Jutland, where the US and Germany are allies, and lastly another short set in Black Tide Rising, though whether it gets published after certain people read it is going to be interesting.

What is your favorite color?

Cyberpunk Electric Blue? Hmmm, I do draw a bit from nature when I am creating new creatures. The Akkorro, aliens in the 4HU, are literally drawn from Cuttlefish. In fact, I like squids, and octopi quite a bit so you will see them featured in my stories in some form or another. I also try to get the little details right, what were the sounds, what were the smells. As a combat vet I can tell you that certain smells will never be forgotten, and I try to bring that out in my writing.

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

Time management is my biggest issue. I should be writing more, but I find myself getting distracted by things. I also tend to idea hop, so I have to make that work for me when I am working on multiple projects. This is a bit of a learning curve.

 What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Emotion, I think I do that well. The Beach was an emotional short to write, for me, and I know it has hit readers pretty hard based on some of the feedback I have been given. I like to give people the emotions the characters are feeling, as it allows the readers to connect with the characters. You may have never experienced combat, but you have had some experience that has terrified you, or gotten the adrenaline flowing. So, if I can tap into that, and give the reader some personal idea of what the character is feeling, I am going to try and work that in.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Doozers from Fraggle Rock. I mean these guys spend all their time building stuff that the Fraggles just eat anyways. That has to take some fortitude not to poison the Fraggles.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy for the WIN!
  • Favorite Sports Team? Atlanta Falcons, I am used to disappointment.
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Definitely Both.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Ranch
  • Wet or Dry? Wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Gunship, seriously if you like 1980s Cyberpunk go give these guys a listen.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey
  • Favorite Superhero? Darth Vader. What? He has comic books!
  • Steak Temperature? Damn near still mooing.
  • Best Game Ever? Hmmm I am currently very much enjoying Battletech.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, drank black as hell, or perhaps Irish. Never adulterated with cream or sugar.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi.

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

Rob how do you find time to do all the stuff you do?

Rob’s Answer: Uh, I do a bunch of stuff? I don’t feel like it, especially right now when I’ve been fighting a bit of a dry spell with writing.

I do try to do at least a little bit each day, though. One of my favorite sections from the Prince Roger series is the bit where Roger talks about eating soup with a knife. It’s not always easy, and it requires determination, but you have to keep doing a bit here and there.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I have a couple of things up on Amazon, and a few more on the way. I have a short I independently published entitled The Medic. My short The Beach is available in The Good, the Bad, and The Merc. I have another short that will be published in the Homo Stellaris anthology, that I cowrote with Kacey Ezell, about the first pregnancy in space, and I have a short coming out in the next 4HU anthology involving a German merc company, and the Akkorro.

  • https://www.amazon.com/Philip-Wohlrab/e/B01HTBZ57A

And where can we find you?

I attend Libertycon and Dragoncon each year and can be found at other Cons in the North Carolina or Virginia area, schedule permitting.

Do you have a creator biography?

From my Amazon page: Philip Wohlrab has been a medic with the Army for over 12 years, and he has served his time in the sandbox. He currently trains the next generation of Combat Medics and runs a schoolhouse medical section. When he isn’t doing Army things he can be found at various Sci-Fi Cons, and writing.

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

You should have asked how my service has affected my writing. I have served both in the United States Coast Guard, and the Virginia Army National Guard. This has given me a unique look at very different service cultures, and I use that to ensure that when I am writing characters that they are unique to their service branches. Army speak doesn’t always translate well to Naval speak, things of that nature.

Lastly a small snippet from my upcoming Squidverse novel. Thanks for doing this Rob!

Outer Luzon System

Space itself seemed to blur as ship after ship of the Taiyo battlegroup emerged into the realm of physics that Einstein and Newton would recognize. Atago, a heavy cruiser, formed up the center of the battlegroup alongside the Taiyo, while two Nagara Class light cruisers took up station as the inside defensive ring. Six destroyers formed the outer ring of warships that would protect the heavy cruiser, and light carrier.

Admiral Lady Hitomi Izumi scanned her repeaters arrayed around her command dais, she was looking for any flaws in the deployment of her vessels. Admiral Izumi was known to be exacting in her expectations of junior commanders. Finding no faults, she sat back in her command chair and crossed her legs.

“Commander Sasaki are there any indications of enemy ships nearby?” inquired Admiral Izumi. “Also, what was it that they were calling these things now?”

“They are calling them squids My Lady,” said a moon-faced heavy-set officer sitting at the sensor station. “Also, our scopes are not showing anything out here My Lady, however the sensor drones we left back in system is still showing a sizable Squid fleet around Marigold. Most of the ships though are either transports or supply vessels.”

“Interesting, I wonder where their warships have gotten off to? If they had been present in force we would never have been able to sneak in our own transports, but you would think they would have reacted by now to our presence in the system.”

“As you say My Lady, but we have no indication as to where they are, or when they left. Perhaps these Squids are harder pressed for ships than we previously thought? Could it be that they have used their entire fleet in the attacks across the entirety of the Fan and left nothing in reserve?”

“I think that most unlikely,” chimed in another officer. This worthy was Commander Asuna Hasegawa, Izumi’s chief intelligence officer. “I suspect that we have yet to see any reserve formation for these squids as you call them Commander Sasaki, it is more likely that we are seeing just the tip of their frontline units.”

“Then where are their warships Commander Hasegawa, and why aren’t they here?” growled back Sasaki.

“That is a good question Commander Sasaki, and one I wish I had an answer for.”

Oort Cloud

Luzon System

Fleet Controller 672 was proud of the fact that she had predicted that the human battlegroup wasn’t going to jump completely out of the system. It was rare that a Squantalavi female would be elevated to a position such as hers, but she had consistently demonstrated that she was one of the most agile thinkers in her cohort of officers. Even in a society dominated by males, 672 had both excelled, and been recognized as one of the best officers of her generation. That didn’t mean that she didn’t experience her fair share of hiccups in her career though. She had not been given a position in of the first assault fleets, but instead had come in as a second-tier commander, as the males of her cohort jealously guarded the prime assignments. Still Fleet Intelligence 11 had seen her potential, and rather than relegating her to one of the Skazi battlecruisers, he had given her command of a Saltze battleship.


Thanks to Philip for taking the time to answer my questions and the fun snippet.

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: Dr. Robert E. Hampson

This guy is brilliant. He’s a neuroscientist working on how humans remember stuff and he’s a science fiction writer as well. He’s also a very nice guy and fun to chat with. If you can, sit down with him. You’ll learn something, I guarantee it.

Interview: Dr. Robert E. Hampson
Dr. Robert E. Hampson
Dr. Robert E. Hampson

What is your quest?

My quest is to entertain and inform.  An online friend once remarked that I teach as naturally as I breathe.  I’m a scientist, so much of my nonfiction writing is basically: “How do I break this down so that the average reader can understand (with maybe some recourse to Google)?”  Sometimes while writing nonfiction I hit on something that I think would make a good plot point for fiction.  I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, so I want to write stories that take people on adventures in a future that has a certain hope for spreading mankind to the stars.

Then again, one of my strongest influences was James P. Hogan, so I also lean toward having sympathetic scientist/engineer characters and include the human side: love, laughter, longing and loss.

In person at conventions, I definitely like to entertain, and often I find myself in the position where my main contribution is to be the comic relief.  Strangely, that doesn’t make it into my fiction very often.  “Headspace and Timing” in Tales from the Lyon’s Den is the rare exception, and I hope folks like it. (Rob’s Note: This was released on 25 September as the first of a new set of Four Horsemen anthologies. You should buy it. You should especially buy the second one, Luck is Not a Factor, because I have a story in it 😀 )

What is your favorite color?

I like to take something from my education and professional work and weave it into the story.  Again, I tend to have sciency-type characters, although I’ve also shamelessly borrowed from friends’ careers as well.  For “Unto the Last, Stand Fast” in The Good, the Bad and the Merc I was heavily influenced by “The Last Stand” by Sabaton.  I’ve also written stories that draw heavily from dreams.  My stories for John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series were influenced by some things I remember from free-association musing and dreaming after reading John’s stories.

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

I think any writer has this – there’s something we think is funny, or cute, or an essential reference – and the reader doesn’t get it.  One of the problems with having lots of ideas, writing them down, even writing the stories (but not selling them) is that I create a character.  I *like* the character.  The character has adventures.  In my mind, I know all of these things, so when I write something else in that universe or with that character, I incorporate the known background.  Unfortunately, if the other stories never see the light of day, the reader has no idea why the fact that “Mr. Davis” was a Boy Scout camp counselor should mean anything.

I’ve had an anthology editor tell me I’m just not ready for prime time… after I’d already sold 4 stories to anthologies.  Granted, I haven’t sold to big name magazines (Analog, etc) yet, and I definitely known that I have much to learn.  But it’s certainly amusing to contemplate that 10 stories sold (by now) is “not ready.”

Rob Hampson playing the trumpet.
Rob Hampson playing the trumpet.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

My proudest production is a story that was submitted to the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Mad Science Writing contest.  My story “To Serve and Serve Again” is one of my favorites.  It has a bit of history, though – I wrote the story “They Also Serve” about a cardiovascular surgeon dealing with his own version of PTSD having to patch up soldiers and send them back to war.  It was for Tom Kratman’s Riding the Red Horse and he wanted a sequel that would continue the story. (Alien invasion, and a treatment the doc developed was key to allowing human soldiers to survive).  TAS was around 10k words, TSaSA told the tale of a combat medic, since one of my best friends served two combat tours as a medic – and it came in at almost 15k… I actually figure I could probably write 3-4 more stories in that setting and compile into a book if I ever get the time.

…And then the sequel anthology fell through.  The TRADOC contest wanted stories of no more than 5k words.  The problem from my perspective was that TSaSA was just right for the contest (and I was right – it was a finalist) so I had to cut it.  So I trimmed some of the explicit character development and left scenes that would allow the reader to fill in the gap.  I had to cut what I thought was important backstory, but it had to go.  The final product was lean but read well.  I was proud of it, and obviously the jurists liked it – it was in the finalist compilation of the best 25 stories submitted.

Interestingly enough, someone did an analysis of how the stories submitted to the contest were a pretty close match to the Department of Defense’s advanced research solicitations.  It seems that a keyword search of the “research wanted” announcements by DoD was a pretty close match to a keyword search of the stories submitted.  The article singled out one particular story to illustrate a fictional “portable medical record” that was nearly identical to a DoD solicitation for a “portable medical record” … and that story was mine.  So, yeah, I’m particularly proud of that one.   Military SF, ripped from the pages of actual research… kinda.  .

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The “Doctor Russ” muppet.  This one’s pretty obscure, but a long-time friend of mine worked with Sesame Street to develop educational videos for children of deployed and returning service members.  For Russell’s retirement from the Navy and DARPA, one of the Sesame Street producers showed a video featuring Elmo and Dr. Russ and presented him with the Dr. Russ muppet.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Crunchy.  More character
  • Favorite Sports Team? San Antonio Spurs.
  • Cake or Pie? Why not both?  (actually, Pecan Pie, but I can no longer eat it due to the high sugar content)
  • Lime or Lemon? Again, both.  Lymon.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  French Onion
  • Wet or Dry? I’m a big guy who’s always sweating.  Definitely prefer dry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Not a performer, but I’m a fan of video game music.  The guys composing music for Halo, Mass Effect, Destiny, etc. are composing fantastic symphonic epics.
  •  Whisky or Whiskey? Shame on you!  There is no “e” in whisky.  Single malt. Neat.  Preferably old enough to pour itself another.
  • Favorite Superhero? DC:  The Flash, Marvel: Captain America
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare, especially if it’s well-aged beef.  The longer the aging, the rarer I would cook it.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? The Six Million Dollar Man… it influenced my career, so this is a no-brainer.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • June 1-3, Guest, ConCarolinas, Charlotte, NC
  • June 29-July 1,  Guest, LibertyCon, Chattanooga, TN.
  • July 13-15, Guest,  ConGregate, High Point, NC.
  • August 30-September 3, Guest, Dragon*Con, Atlanta, GA.

Thanks to Dr. Hampson 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: Christopher Woods

Greetings all

The next entry in #FourHorsetober is Christopher Woods. He and I have been in panels together and hanging out at cons for a few years now. I really enjoyed his novel Soulguard, especially since part of it was set in Wichita, my hometown. He was recently nominated for a Dragon Award with his novel Legend, which is set in the Four Horsemen Universe.

Interview: Christopher Woods

What is your quest?

Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods

I never expected to be an author, so my initial answer would have been to get a general contractor’s license and build houses. But then I wrote a book. And another. When I published the first two, I realized that my goals had completely changed.

Now? Now, I want to write stories. I want to write stories like Louis L’Amour. Like Roger Zelazny. Like David Drake, John Ringo, and David Weber. There are so many authors I read over the years and I find that I want to do the same thing as they have.

I want to entertain people with my stories like Jim Butcher and Larry Correia. These are the things I never thought were possible until now. So now my goals are to write books and, hopefully, make enough money through that career to be able to say “Sorry, I don’t build anymore. But I know a guy who I can put you in touch with.”

What is your favorite color?

According to the Psychology of color, it should be yellow. I don’t particularly like yellow so I will say purple. The reason I say yellow is the fact that it is associated with laughter.

There are many techniques that can be used in writing. My specialties would be humor and dialogue. People like to laugh and it makes the reading that much easier with a smile on your face. The easiest way I have found to express the humor is through dialogue. The interactions between characters are fun to work with and I find a great deal of places to draw inspiration for these characters in the people closest to me.

My whole family is a family of smart-asses. I’ve been around them my whole life, and I find that the friends I am drawn to are much the same. Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment

Christopher Woods at his booth
Christopher Woods at his booth

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

I would say the speed depends on how frustrated you become. Sometimes it can reach deadly speeds. I’ve never been quite that frustrated in my quest to be an author. Perhaps in other things. What is the average speed of a thrown hammer? It will chip concrete floors.

I guess the most frustration I have felt as an author has been trying to get fans to follow me into another series. I wrote Soulguard, Soullord, and Bloodlord, then tried to get the fans to follow into a new series that just didn’t happen. Round two with that series is in the works and going to be published by Chris Kennedy. I never built the online presence to truly push my work out there. The Soulguard series did what it did on its own. We’ll see how Fallen World does through a publishing company that has a talent for putting the work in front of the right people.

I think my next highest frustration point was something similar. After I wrote the first four Soulguard books, I wrote a fifth about another character. His storyline is three books long and already plotted out to some degree. Once again, I just didn’t get the follow from Soulguard fans. I understand this one, I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing. When I read The Magic of Recluce, I did the same thing. When Modesitt wrote the next book about another character, it took me some time before I read it. Same with his Corean Chronicles, I think the name was. What I found out was that the second part was as good as the first, if not better. The Freedom’s Prophet story line, in my own opinion, is better written than the first ones. The following two books are still happening. It wasn’t a flop, by any means, but it made about a third of the amount of money as any of the first four. I think it will change when they see it is going to be three books. Another of those things we’ll just have to wait and see.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Dialogue is probably my greatest strength in writing. The banter between characters gives them life. They could be the fellow next to you in line at the store. They develop as people you can care for.

I’ve been told that my prose is too simple by some but that’s what I like to read. I don’t want to have to think too hard about what I’m reading. I read to relax and escape. Some call it a weakness but I consider it to be a strength.

If you want flowery language, there are many other authors out there. We aren’t competing. How many people do you see that read only one author? I feel that an author’s competition is television and video games. I try to make it as easy to read a book as it is to watch a show or play a game. That’s my theory, anyway.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Is Cookie Monster a Muppet? Cause I sure love cookies.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t do sports but I do live in Tennessee so I might get killed if I don’t say Vols
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, of course. What sort of silly question is that? (Rob’s Note: *MY* kind of silly question, thank you very much)
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, Key lime pie, just sayin’.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Salsa with…you guessed it…lime.
  • Wet or Dry? Hair or cement? Those would be totally different answers.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Leo Moracchioli, I think that’s how to spell it.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Why not both?
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare. Not sure what temp that is.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Probably The Dukes of Hazzard. Don’t laugh.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall. Summer is the fat man’s bane and winter is the old man’s bane. I love the Fall colors. (Rob’s Note: Boy, do I understand this)
  • Favorite Pet? We used to have this huge black horse named Jack. He’d chase me around the field for a while. Then I would chase him for a while. I really liked that horse. Unfortunately I have no pictures.
  • Best Game Ever? Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Been playing it for five or six years and still enjoy it.
  • Coffee or Tea?  Tea for me. But I am developing a taste for coffee. If I put enough cream and sweetener in it.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I can’t even discuss this one. My first work is a mix of both. I lean toward Sci-Fi at times and Fantasy at others. I love them both.

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

What sort of History degree do you specialize in? I’m sure I’ve heard it at one of the Cons, but for the life of me, I can’t remember.

Rob’s Answer: I am ABD in Medieval History with an MA in the field along the way. My dissertation focused on 10th-century Mercia during the time of Aethelflaed. I sought to answer whether the law codes she wrote specifying certain numbers of troops in various places were plausible or mere hopeful goals.

My answer, by the way, is that it looks like they did have the population to support those troop strengths *if* they could pull troops from more populous areas to fill gaps in lesser populated areas like what would become Cheshire. It seems likely they could, given a couple of hints that I found, but it is not confirmed.

More importantly in this context, it changed my writing plan. I decided to write fantasy over space opera / military SF initially because I wanted to use what I had learned. That focus, along with my experience in the SCA, also prompted me to use real-world cultures in my world. I feel I can write deeper cultures that way, and it’s not like Tolkien didn’t do much the same thing.

Christopher with a stray cat. Really.
Christopher with a stray cat. Really.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • SphinxCon, Atlanta, GA, Nov 2-4
  • FantaSci Durham, NC March 22-24

Do you have a creator biography?

Christopher Woods, writer of fiction, teller of tales, professional liar, and holder of the original BS degree was born in 1970 and has spent most of his life with a book in hand. Soulguard is his debut novel. It is followed by several sequels; Soullord, Bloodlord, Rash’Tor’Ri, and Freedom’s Prophet, with more to come. With other projects in Post-Apocalyptic and Military Sci-Fi in the works there should be something for everyone. He lives in Woodbury, TN with his wife, Wendy. As a former carpenter of 25 years, he spends his time between various building projects and writing new books.


Thanks to Christopher 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

 

Interview: Tom Tinney

This week’s interview is with Tom Tinney. Tinney writes in a broad spectrum of genres and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist for the Best Horror Novel with Blood of Invidia. You’ll see in the interview just how diverse that spectrum is.

Interview: Tom Tinney

What is your quest?

Tom Tinney Portrait
Tom Tinney Portrait

I have two goals. One is to achieve produce a body of work so exciting that my fan following lets me pursue writing full time. My writing is REALLY diverse. I like reading SciFi (Adventure, Space Opera, Cyberpunk, Dystopian, etc) and Fantasy (High and Urban). At the same time, I like writing in all of those sub-genres. Turns out I can switch writing-modes with relative ease.  In the long run, I probably won’t appeal to the genre purists, but I will appeal to others like me that have a variety of genres they like.

The second goal is to keep shepherding my son, and co-author Morgen Batten, along so that his writing career takes off. The purpose of our first book together is to produce enough royalties that He and I get to meet for the first time.

Blood of Invidia Cover
Blood of Invidia Cover

Never met my son? Nope. Not in person. He and I are proof it’s about genetics and not environment. He is me. Same attitude, quick mouth, and smart. He also likes fantasy and SciFi. He’d probably be a biker, like me, if he lived here in the U.S.A. Once we started talking (and texting) we found out about our mutual loves for the genres. Funny side story, and how Jim Butcher played in our relationship building.

Morgen and I were messaging about favorite authors. I tell him that Jim Butcher is excellent, and he needs to check him out.

A few weeks later, he messages me that he LOVES the Butcher books. I get excited and text back about Harry Dresden and Murphy and the urban fantasy angle.

He messages back “Who the hell is Harry? The kid’s name is Tavi and it’s like Roman times with elementals.”

“WTF? What are you reading? I said Jim Butcher. As in Dresden files.”

“I’m reading Jim Butcher. As in Alera Codex. Who’s Dresden?”

After some back and forth, I go buy “Furies of Calderon” and he buys “Storm Front”. We were both right.

He and I both read Feist, Tolkien, and now love Butcher. He talked me into reading Wheel of Time by Jordan. NOBODY gets to gripe about my info dumps after that. My Scifi Influences were Herbert, Asimov, Gibson, Williams, Drake, Niven, and Bradbury. Later on, I came into David Weber, John Ringo, Larry Correia and Nick Coles. All good. All influential.

Soldier 10.0 Cover
Soldier 10.0 Cover

What is your favorite color?

Dialogue. Once you can get that right, the rest just flows. I blow through flowery descriptions. I think authors get to caught up in them. Going for that “Literary award” with every word and sentence. I like a real conversation. One where I feel I am sitting between the characters while they converse. I like to be pulled in. That is how I write my conversations as well.

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

Self-Published marketing is the toughest thing to do. The writing comes naturally and has improved in a short time-frame. I can now make my own book covers and poster art in 3D modelling programs, so another talent found. The process of formatting and manipulating the technologies that allow me to produce a quality printed or epub book (Along with hiring professionals when I want more polish) is straight ahead, as well. But the marketing takes the most time and creates the largest stumbling blocks. It is also the costliest when a mistake or miscalculation is made. Following trends, or listening to “Gurus and money grabbers” Spew their nonsense has drained a LOT of indie pocketbooks while preying on their dreams. It takes awhile for us, but we learn to ask a LOT of questions and demand empirical evidence of the snake-oil salesmen’s results before we spend a dime.

Resprite Cover
Resprite Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Brain worms. My talent and the bane of my existence. Once an idea gets planted, the back of my brain grinds on it, twists it, stretches it and flushes out the story possibilities. Then BAM…I start writing. I can scream along for days or weeks (Wrote my first 185,000 word novel in 6 weeks). I have learned NOT to edit while writing. Just freakin’ type. Let it flow. Go back later and tweak. Much later.

I have also learned to avoid conversations with people that start “You write? I have a story idea…” Nope.  My response, as I hold up my hand, “Gotta stop you. I’d suggest you take some time and really hit the keys. Write that bad boy yourself. If it’s a good idea, you should profit from it.”

I’m also really good with the 3D programs (I use Poser11) to create covers. To the point I made an animated book promo. It’s a brilliant release, watching a character you’ve written come to life in 3D, then posing, lighting and rendering a scene from a story or book. Technology in creative tools has come a long way.

Resprite II Cover
Resprite II Cover

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal. Come-on…he’s awesome.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Was the Steelers, but being a Veteran, I gave up on NFL.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake. If Pie had frosting, then pie would pull ahead.
  • Lime or Lemon? Neither unless we are making some sort of goofy new organic battery.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guacamole. Goes with any chip and meal.
  • Wet or Dry? Dry. I’m a desert rat at heart and I ride motorcycles, so DRY is always better.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Allen Stone (https://youtu.be/2G29lvYkSjY)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey.  ‘MERICA! Favorite drink is JD and Amaretto. Over Ice. A shot of each. No other fillers. NUM-NUM!
  • Favorite Superhero? Thor. Ever since I was a little kid. Silver-age comics guy. “Have at Theeee!”
  • Steak Temperature?  Medium Rare. Any more well done, you should just eat hamburgers and not embarrass yourself.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Tie. Night Rider and Battlestar.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer. Hotter the better.
  • Favorite Pet?  My Boston Terriers. All of them over time. The best Dogs EVER!
  • Best Game Ever? RPG: D&D. PC: X-Wing Fighter. Console: Assassin’s Creed.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee. And it it takes you more than three syllables to order it, you should be slapped.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? FantaSci. Deal with it.

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

If they made Adult Underoos, would you wear Superhero, Star Wars, or Disney character?

Rob’s Answer: I don’t get to wear more than one? Then I wear Han Solo underwear every day. And before you ask, Han Shot First, dammit!!!

If I can wear a few others, I would go with Robin Hood, still my favorite Disney movie, though you might get me to wear Baloo from the Jungle Book occasionally.

As for Superheros, I really never read a ton of comic books growing up. My favorites of the current Marvel heroes are Groot and Rocket Raccoon. Deadpool is fun, too. I also have to say I really like how they did Captain America. Much stronger character than I remembered, but then I didn’t know much about him to begin with.

Threads Cover
Threads Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Libertycon next year. Riding all over Wisconsin and Illinois on my bike. Online other than that.

Do you have a creator biography?

Who is Tom “PiR8” Tinney? He is the published author of numerous Science Fiction, Flash Fiction, FantaSci and Biker stories. Yes…a Biker-nerd.

His time in the service (USAF), and riding with two-wheeled ne’er-do-wells, has left enough skeletons in his closet to crush a small car. His political slant, biker attitude/lifestyle and previous experience editing a motorcycle magazine, along with homegrown writing skills, have led him to produce and contribute numerous novels, stories and articles into various genres (Science Fiction, FantaSci, Biker, Detective and technical).

Blood of Invidia With Authors
Blood of Invidia With Authors

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

Can Bikers be nerds? Yep. There are a bunch of us. Tattoos, brawls, drinking, and hitting the open road, followed by binge-watching  the Expanse, Lord of the Rings and Marvel Movies (Sorry, DC, you only make good animated movies). My “bucket list” has one line where I DM the largest game of D&D ever held at Sturgis. I kid you not.

Rob’s Note: I’d suggest a game that was less dungeon crawls and more cavalry and centaurs across the steppes 🙂


Thanks to Tom 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.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

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

 

Interview: Michael J. Allen

Greetings all

One of the most intimidating moments I’ve had so far as a writer came at Constellation in October last year. I was on a panel of writing military science fiction. What was intimidating was that Orson Scott Card was to my right and David Drake was too my left.

Wowza.

Anyway, there was a fourth member of that panel, Michael J. Allen. In truth, I think we both did pretty well. We each made a point or two, but we were also both smart enough to learn from the rock stars.

Interview: Michael J. Allen
Michael J. Allen
Portrait of Michael J. Allen

What is your quest?

I’m searching the Nothing looking for the Awesome. In his online classes on creative writing, Brandon Sanderson teaches there’s always room for more awesome.  I strive to create stories that match what I’m looking for in the bookstore. I love old things made new, creating elements everyone knows with a twist mixed in with something new to create (I hope) the awesome.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color would have to be silver. As before, I endeavor to make new from old in a way that is understandable. I want the logic to be consistent. In an upcoming release I created a world guarded by phoenixes, but I wanted every element represented, not just fire. That meant figuring out what a water or a life based phoenix might rise from if killed. So for something like a modern day water phoenix to rise from her essence, she might have to watch tearjerker movies in her nest to build up enough tears to be reborn.

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

Plaid of course. I come from a hard work equals success background, all measurable and quantitative. As a writer the equation ceases to be linear. A constant frustration in my writing career revolves around reaching the success rate my old world brain tells me I should be making in this new world as an author.

Discarded
Cover of Discarded

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

When discharged, my hand grenade creates a swirling rainbow vortex straight into fairy land, summing thousands of flesh eating sprites—talk about tasted by the rainbow.  If I had to pick one technique I use well, it would be bringing dialogue to life. I admit I worry sometimes that my stories contain too much dialogue, but it comes so naturally once I’ve figured out the internal/external goals, motivations and conflicts of a given character. A story is about people, and making the people real required them to be as fully formed in my imaginary world as you or me…probably more you.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal came to mind first, and who doesn’t want to live without bothering to filter or apply self control., but as I started to answer I remembered Grover from Seseme Street, a kind goofy guy who happens to be a bumbling superhero reminiscent of The Greatest American Hero.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? That’s a rather personal question, don’t you think?
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, one to the face is a hell of way to win a planet from the Klingons (See “How Much for Just the Planet” by John M Ford)
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, the overlooked but sweeter infiltrator from the citrus regime.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  It depends on who’s in the tub with me.
  • Wet or Dry? The night was sultry.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Danny Kaye, though you probably would know who he was if you saw him. (Rob’s Note: This isn’t terribly surprising given Michael’s sartorial style. He is always very well dressed. Maybe not as nice as my Rush t-shirts, but worthy of the Danny Kaye style)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Rum, the only drink for a pirate.
  • Favorite Superhero? Greatest American Hero/ SuperGrover
  • Steak Temperature? Medium Rare and damn the consequences!
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Winter, it’s damned hot in the south.
  • Favorite Pet?   I’ve had a lot of dogs over my life, so that’s a hard choice. She’s not the best behaved of all the dogs I’ve trained, but my black lab Magesty is a dyed in the wool cuddler.
  • Best Game Ever? Wing Commander: Privateer (or its spiritual progeny Elite Dangerous)
  • Coffee or Tea? Choosing between tea and not tea, always choose the tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Science fiction, you can have all the same wonder, magic and weird races as with fantasy, plus a bunch of cool toys everyone can play with—well, okay. Some fantasy might have better toys.

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

Who was the professional author you wanted to meet most and how’d the meeting go (assuming you’re not still stalking)?

My Answer: Well, without a Tardis or something like it, I can’t meet any of the authors I really want to meet. Tolkien would be fun, especially if we could break down the Finnsburh Fragment and Episode together. I would love to talk language choices with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I’d really like to meet the writer of Beowulf and hear him perform it. Same for Homer.

If we’re talking people who are actually alive today, then I’ve been lucky enough to meet most of them. David Drake, I mentioned above. I’m met David Weber, Larry Correia, John Ringo, and a bunch of other Baen authors at LibertyCon. All of them have been generous with their experience to a fledgling writer such as myself. 

Fey West
Cover of Fey West

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? (All the web presence you’d like me to link to)

And where can we find you? (Events and cons you’re scheduled to attend)

  • July 26 through 29 Raleigh Supercon
  • August 30 through Sept 3 DragonCon

Also, I have two new releases.

Do you have a creator biography?

Michael J. Allen is a bestselling author of multi-layer science fiction and fantasy novels. Born in Oregon and an avid storm fan, he lives in far too hot & humid rural Georgia with his two black Labradors: Myth and Magesty. Warped from youth by the likes of Jerry Lewis, Robin Williams, Gene Wilder and Danny Kaye, his sense of humor leads to (in order) occasional surrender, communicable insanity, a sweet tooth and periodic launch into nonsensical song.

Fresh out of teenagers, his days are spent writing in restaurants, people watching and warring over keyboard control with the voices in his head.  On those rare breaks from his highly contested ​102-key self-therapy ​program, he can be found​ experimenting in the kitchen, enjoying bad Sci-​Fi movies, playing D&D or the occasional video game, getting hit with sticks in the SCA or hanging out with the crew of Starfleet International’s U.S.S. DaVinci.​He’s great at remembering names – if they’re fictional, and knows basically nothing about music.

To learn more about Michael, check out his website at www.deliriousscribbles.com

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

The same question I asked you. Which pro did I want to meet most? For me, unfortunately, it was Terry Pratchett, and I was not fortunate enough to make his acquaintance. (Rob’s Note: He would indeed have been fun to meet, especially tossing ideas back and forth)


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

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

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

 

LibertyCon AAR

I started this on July 4th, a perfect time to celebrate LibertyCon XXX. And celebrate we must. LibertyCon is the best-run science fiction and fantasy convention out there and I had a great time.

I arrived at the Chattanooga Choo Choo fairly early on Thursday, having broken the trip up in multiple sections thanks to friends who have offered me crash space. I knew I was going to push myself pretty hard during the weekend, so I did my best to ensure I was as fresh as possible after the drive.

The big event of the weekend for me was on Saturday, where I had a joint release party for Where Now the Rider and For a Fistful of Credits, the new Four Horsemen Universe Anthology. Thursday evening I did some pre-planning and moving of stuff around to figure out the best arrangement of beverages and food.

After I got pretty much all I could do done,  I went to ConSuite, which was not technically open but was still the gathering place. There I hung out with a few people and listened to Sarah Hoyt do a reading from a book that shall remain nameless. They say that traumatic events can cause selective amnesia. It was awful. All I can say is that it wasn’t written by anyone at the con. Oh, I can say one other thing. We laughed a lot.

Most of Friday was spent organizing stuff. I decided on the layout in the room and arranged things as best I could. I also went to the Opening Ceremonies and got reacquainted with old friends. I didn’t have panels on Friday, so mostly I lounged around during the afternoon.

My main thing on Friday was my stint on Author’s Alley from 8pm to 11pm. Basically, I moved all my books and set up in front of the rooms where panels were being held. I sold a few, while meeting a number of potential readers. It’s a lot of work, but it needs to be done, and in the long run it’s worth it.

After that I was tired but had enough energy to enjoy some room parties and hang out with some friends. I especially enjoyed hanging out by the pool with Aaron Mays, Jonny Minion, and a couple of others.

As I was getting a beer from my cooler, I ran into Sarah, Dan, and Robert Hoyt. It turns out that Roberts around the world like IPAs, so I got him one and we stood around chatting. It was my first time actually having a chance to chat with Sarah. Her at LibertyCon is like me at Pennsic, only with a much smaller site and a correspondingly higher chance to find another conversation.

Saturday was a really long day. At 11am I was part of a panel discussing various ways to get your plot unstuck and overcoming writer’s block. There are a ton of possible ways to do this, but it all boils down to finding what works for you. Whether it’s changing the environment, taking a shower, driving around, or something else, it’s the kind of thing that varies for everyone.

At 2pm was a panel I was very much excited to join: The Middle Ages as Inspiration for Epic and High Fantasy. Thanks to my grad school work, I anticipated I’d have lots to say, and I did. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and hope to do it again. I could have gone on for a while.

I then had several hours before my reading with Dave Schroeder at 6pm. There were a couple of very interesting panels to attend, but I chose wisely and took a bit of a nap, arranged my books and display for the party, and got as much prep done as possible.

I did not have time to create a 20-minute long reading from Where Now the Rider, so my reading at 6pm on Saturday was one from I Am a Wondrous Thing that I have done before. It’s a scene where Irina is convinced to give up the title of Velikomat and the immediate aftermath of her stepping down. It’s an emotional one for me, and I always cry when I read it. It’s a powerful section, and I get a pretty good response from those that listen. Dave read a bit from his new fantasy series, the Congruent Apprentice, which sounds interesting but which I’ve not yet read, and a small bit from his Xenotech Rising series, which I have read some of and really like.

The Four Horsemen Universe is a series of stories about humans discovering that interstellar mercenaries are their best export good. It’s a large sandbox created by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey and many fantastic mil-sf authors are joining in. I am looking forward to reading these stories, just as much as I’ve enjoyed the novels in the universe. Oh, and I just might be working on a short story for the next anthology.

However, this party was to celebrate the release of their first anthology, as well as my newest book. The writers of the anthology brought all the food and I brought nearly all the beverages. As usual, I am coming home with about the same amount as I took out, but at least we didn’t run out of alcohol. Many thanks to Kacey Ezell, one of the contributors to the anthology, who also contributed her cooler to help organize the drinks.

Which is a good thing because we were packed. It was a great party and I sold a goodly number of books, as well as added to my mailing list. Basically, we went four solid hours with guests.

Around 12:30, the crowd dissipated, and with the help of Aaron and a few others we transported the leftovers over to the ConSuite and shut the party down. I was toast. So toast that it took a while for me to relax enough to get to sleep.

I was still tired Sunday, but I had expected that. I started the day at the Kaffeeklatsch. I had a great conversation with the Science Guest of Honor, Dr. Elisa Quintana and Dr. Tom Barclay, who is also a scientist. They study exoplanets and we discussed the most efficient ways we can get humans in space. Well, I asked questions and they taught me stuff, which was wonderful from my perspective.

Immediately after that was my turn at the signature table, where I joined Gray Rinehart and Charity Ayres. The signature table can be packed if a David Weber, David Drake, or John Ringo is sitting there, but for us was fairly quiet. I think we all sold a book or two, with signatures, but mostly the three of us had a great conversation.

One of the joys of LibertyCon is comparing notes with other professionals, because there is such a high percentage of professionals to fans. LibertyCon caps its attendance at 750, and over 150 attendees are professional writers, artists, scientists, or something else relevant. Also, I would bet that a large number of the remainder are people like me at my first LibertyCon, those who want to become professionals. It’s a great chance for us all to learn, and over the years I’ve learned a ton.

Anyway, my last panel of the weekend was Cooking Out of this World. This panel went off the rails. At least we were funny, but we were all a little tired and we strayed from the topic early and often. Todd McCaffrey did ask one interesting question that we talked about a bit but not enough, and that’s what are the environmental factors that will affect the way things taste in space? Obviously, things taste differently on airplanes, which is something airlines are already dealing with, but will be an issue for interplanetary and interstellar travel.

The last session of LibertyCon is the Bitch at Brandy session. Brandy Spraker is the chairman of the con, and she does a fantastic job. The closing ceremonies each year are a chance for people to suggest things that could be improved. Once everyone has had their chance to make comments, good and bad, about the con, she officially closes the con. They take these suggestions seriously, too, and I have seen some implemented in the four years I’ve gone.

Much of the rest of Sunday involved me finishing cleaning up after the party and doing most of my packing. I have learned that I want to stay  overnight on Sunday and leave Monday morning, but I basically pack everything but Monday’s clothes and shower stuff.

I got that done in time to join about 35 of us at a Brazilian steakhouse. I had the fortune of sitting next to a few people I knew, but had never really talked with, including Miriam Ringo, the wife of one of the best mil-sf writers around, John Ringo. What a fun and generous person she is. She had a bracelet on that I admired and thought Giulia would also like. Miriam immediately removed it and handed to me as a gift. By this point were about 3 minutes into our conversation. I was stunned by her generosity then, and still find it amazing and admirable now. Then we had a long and wonderful conversation.

Actually, everyone at dinner had a great time. It has been decided that this will be a LibertyCon Sunday evening tradition.

Following dinner was something that is already a LibertyCon tradition, the Dead Dog party. Basically, those who stay on Sunday evening eat drink as much of the leftovers as possible and play games or hang out.

Again, I had some incredible good fortune. Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games, the inventor of Munchkin and a bunch of other great games, was playtesting some games and I got to join in. Steve is a wonderful and fun guy, and the rest of us had a blast tossing out ideas and picking them apart.

Getting to toss out suggestions on games, even bad ones, to a legend like Steve Jackson is definitely a highlight for me.

Around 12:30, we called it a night, and therefore the end of the con. I went to bed and left for a fairly smooth drive back. The only real excitement was seeing a collision about a half-mile ahead of me in the oncoming lane. The truck driver did a great job and controlled his 18-wheeler in the median so our lane never had to worry.

As I’ve mentioned, LibertyCon is a different beast from other cons. I will be going back there every year, though there’s some question as to when and where the next one will be.

For the four years I’ve attended, it has been at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, but the hotel has sold off about 80% of its rooms to make apartments / condos. Basically, while the convention space is fine, there are only rooms for about 20% of the con goers. This means many are off in the Marriott, which is not far but still puts a crimp in the con experience. Part of the fun of cons is going to room parties which are elsewhere in the hotel. Have fun, drink a few beverages, and then trundle to your room. No travel logistics to speak of. Even free shuttle buses are not a great solution, though of course those were provided.

In short, the Choo Choo simply cannot work anymore. Unfortunately, convention sites are notoriously difficult to find at times, and Brandy and her folks are casting about for a solution. I heard a rumor that a new convention hotel is getting built in Chattanooga, but will not be fully ready by summer 2018. I’m not sure if that’s true, but while they aren’t at all sure of time and place next year, or even if they might take a year off, they all seemed confident that things would be fine by 2019.

Whatever they come up with, I’ll be back.