Tag Archives: Kacey Ezell

Interview: Benjamin Smith

Benjamin is another author I’m looking forward to chatting with at conventions. He’s quite thoughtful, as you’ll see. Also, he said he really liked “Where Enemies Sit,” my story in For a Few Credits More, so clearly he’s a smart man.

Interview: Benjamin Smith
Benjamin Smith
Benjamin Smith

What is your quest?

My favorite stories are the ones that feature cool characters in an awesome setting, fighting against the odds with their fists and their wits. And you can find that in just about any genre, but especially in the realms of fantasy and science fiction. I started off reading Arthurian legends when I was a kid, and playing games like Final Fantasy II (IV in the correct numbering system) and Betrayal at Krondor for the PC. When I learned that Betrayal at Krondor was based off a book series by Raymond Feist, that’s what got me into reading as a full-time hobby. Looking back on it, the world of Midkemia is still my go-to example of what world-building looks like, and it’s what I try to emulate with my own stuff.

So, yeah. Cool characters in an awesome setting. With the Four Horsemen Universe, we’ve already got an awesome setting, so that’s half the work right there. It’s my hope that the characters and situation I came up with in “Return to Sender” are cool enough for the readers to enjoy! And if they do enjoy reading about Jackie and her Justin Timers, then let Chris know! I’ve got some good stuff already in the works.

Writers that I really enjoy include Raymond Feist, Brandon Sanderson, Larry Correia, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Dan Abnett, and — more recently — Mark Wandrey, Kacey Ezell, Marisa Wolf, Kevin Ikenberry, and the rest of the 4HU crew.

What is your favorite color?

I’d like to think I strike a good balance between action, dialogue, and description in my scenes, even scenes that are sometimes little more than the characters sitting around a table formulating a plan. By mixing a little bit of action and description into a conversation, it keeps readers engaged and makes the scene seem more alive. If all you’ve got is dialogue, it’ll basically just be talking heads in a white space. But, if you put too much description in, you’ll either wind up with paragraphs describing how a chair looks or loads of background information that’ll grind everything to a halt. A lot of writers call this the dreaded exposition dump. I try to describe just enough for the reader to get a sense of where and who, then through action and dialogue fill in the what and why.

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

My biggest failure early on was not pushing the emotional envelope far enough. I’m pretty laid back and reserved in real life, so tapping into extreme emotions (Whether sadness or rage or whatever) can be a little bit of a challenge. I thought it would alienate readers, and yet that’s what readers are wanting. It wasn’t until I read David Farland’s “Million Dollar Outlines” (Gimmicky title, but whatever) that I realized just how important emotional connection was in stories. I’d never really thought about it, but it was what I was most interested in as a reader.

I’ve gotten better about it in my more recent stories, but I think a huge reason why a lot of my earlier stuff went through the submission/rejection mill was because of this weakness.

My advice for anyone dealing with this is: take a risk! If a character needs to fly off the handle or fall to pieces, write it to the max, then dial it back in editing if you need to. When it’s raw, it’s real. And when it’s raw, it can be refined.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’ve always heard that I’ve got a knack for dialogue in my stories, so I try to play to that strength. Rather than focusing on a lone wolf character, stories will usually feature a team of at least three individuals, most likely more. Witty banter between different characters makes scenes a joy to write, and hopefully to read as well!

That said, my rough drafts tend to be dialogue heavy, so any editing is usually spent trimming out unnecessary dialogue and creating a better balance between description and action.

I spend a lot of my pre-writing time coming up with backgrounds and personalities for a story’s main characters. In “Return to Sender” I’ve got fairly extensive backstories figured out for the lead character Jackie Warren, her right-hand man Marcus, and the team sniper Sayra. It’s my hope to flesh the others out as the story progresses, and to add in some new characters. In addition to a dropship pilot, I think Jackie’s team needs a dedicated driver for when they’re on the ground, not to mention a finance guy and logistics expert.

Another thing I try to nail down early on in story planning/writing is the flow of the plot. Larry Brooks writes about the 7-point plot format in his book “Story Engineering,” where he describes 7 key points in a narrative that have to occur to achieve a dynamite plot. He’s not the first to come up with this idea (K.M. Wieland talks about it, as does James Scott Bell, etc), but he was the first one I read where it really made sense to me. And once I started planning out my stories a bit better, more of them started getting accepted.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Do Rigel and Pilot from Farscape count as muppets?
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy chips. Creamy soups.
  • Favorite Sports Team? The Midway Monsters from Mutant League.
  • Cake or Pie?  Cake serves as a vehicle by which buttercream icing gets into my body.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon on fried catfish. Lime in pie.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Hot Bacon Cheese Spread. Can’t be beat!
  • Wet or Dry? Both. Dry rubs for home-smoked ribs and pulled pork, then slathered in barbecue sauce once at the table.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Does Hatsune Miku count? She’s a little on the artificial side, but what singer isn’t these days?
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Bourbon-infused chocolate pecan pie. Oh, and barbecue sauce.
  • Favorite Superhero? All-Might from My Hero Academia.
  • Steak Temperature? Gray enough to know it’s dead, pink enough to be edible.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Dukes of Hazzard
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) Long live the Calico Countess!
  • Best Game Ever? For console RPGs, gotta be Chrono Trigger for the SNES with Final Fantasy VI and Shadowrun as close second and third. For PC RPGs, my favorite is still Betrayal at Krondor by Sierra, followed by Baldur’s Gate and its many clones (Icewind Dale, Planescape, etc).
  • Coffee or Tea? Sweet iced tea, and nothing else.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? If I can only have one, then fantasy. Anything from sword and sorcery like Conan the Barbarian or Record of Lodoss War, to epic fantasy like Wheel of Time or Mistborn, with some urban fantasy like Dresden Files or Monster Hunter International. I like pretty much all of it. With sci-fi, I prefer the action-oriented and character-driven rather than the overly technical, and fantasy elements never hurt. Warhammer 40000, Shadowrun, Star Wars (Before the prequel and sequels). Basically, I like to know how a hyperdrive or ion cannon works, but not if entire chapters are spent dissecting one, unless it’s integral to the plot.

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

1. What’s your pre-writing and writing process for short stories and novels? I’m always refining mine, so any tips would be helpful!

Rob’s Answer: If I have a setting or a theme, I wallow in it for a week or two if I can. I started doing this with different medieval poetic types. I have written a bunch of SCA scroll texts, which I usually write in a poetic style to reflect the recipient’s persona. So, I might get one that would want a Shakespearean sonnet followed by something in Norse drottkvaett and then maybe something Mongol.

Whether or not I was familiar with the genre, wallowing in it helps make the writing process flow. Every genre or culture has word choices and rhythms that are sort of expected. Not having them jars me as a reader, so I believe it’s important to other readers. It would be like going to an Italian place and finding they’d never heard of basil.

What I’m looking for in any short story is a bit of a twist. The ending has to be at least a little unexpected. The writer who did the best in my opinion was Randall Garrett. Once I have the twist, and the feel, it’s merely a process of putting words into that particular hole.

Novels are trickier. I usually start by creating a few interesting characters and a situation they have to deal with. I’m not good at outlining, but part of character creation is my expected end result for those characters. I don’t lock myself into those endings, because sometimes the story demands otherwise. I had a character in I Am a Wondrous Thing that I designed to be a longer term character but, uh, well, uh, I could never figure out a way not to kill them.

2. Mind giving us a tag line for your story in the “Luck is Not a Factor” anthology coming out next month? I really enjoyed “Where Enemies Sit” in “For a Few Credits More.”

Rob’s Answer: Thank you very much. I’m actually awful at taglines. I tend to explain too much. So, just for a change, I’ll try to explain too little.

“A Sword for Striking”: What story will your choices tell?

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

  • My blog is at BenjaminTylerSmith.com, and there you can find links to the short stories I’ve had published over the years, as well as updates for the couple of books I’m working on. I try to post a few times a week (The operative word is “try”), mostly about books, audiobooks, games, and anime. Feel free to post comments! I’m always happy to discuss whatever I write about, or to take the blog in different directions.
  • I’m also on Facebook as Benjamin Tyler Smith, and on Twitter as @BenTylerSmith. And I’m following Chris Kennedy’s guide to indie publishing by getting my Amazon author page up, so you can find me there, as well.
  • A few of my most recent publications can be found in the following places:
  • “Return to Sender” in Tales from the Lyon’s Den in the 4HU. Sci-fi action. “When an emergency weapons delivery goes sideways, a young and tenacious arms dealer stops at nothing to save her team, her client, and her bottom line.”
  • “A Salt on the Rise” in Issue 30 of On the Premises Magazine. Dark fantasy, in my own universe featuring an undead city called Necrolopolis and all the shenanigans that go on within its walls. “An overworked necromancer struggles to prevent a war between opposing factions of undead.”
  • “Bag of Tricks” in the Sha’Daa: Toys horror/dark fantasy anthology. This one is also dark fantasy, about a magician who wields magical paints and holy .357 magnum rounds against demons and mindless college kids threatening to destroy his hometown.
  • And while it is still seeking publication, my short story “Ash-Eater” (Set in the same fantasy world as “A Salt on the Rise”) earned itself a finalist spot in the 2018 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award contest. So, if you enjoy “A Salt on the Rise”, please look for “Ash-Eater” to appear somewhere at some point in the timeline! Wish I could say something more definitive, but it is getting shopped around.

And where can we find you?

Barring any sudden life changes, you’ll always find me at LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN. It’s a bit of a drive, but well worth the journey! It’s where I first found out about the 4HU, so that alone makes it worth the journey!

Do you have a creator biography?

By day Ben earns his bread keeping track of the dead with digital cemetery maps, and by night he corrals the undead into whatever story he’s working on next. While the focus of his writing is typically in the realm of fantasy, he has a taste for science fiction, and the more action-packed the better. Married to a saint of a woman, ruled by a benevolent calico countess, he can be found at BenjaminTylerSmith.com.

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

The lightning round should include the greatest of all internet questions: “.45 or 9mm?” I can only assume you didn’t include it because it’s largely a rhetorical question, as .45 is the one true answer. (Rob’s Note: I’ll add it in the next version)

And the obligatory “What are you working on now?” question is always a good one. To answer that, I’m working on an unnamed Jackie Warren novel. In it, the fate of an entire planet will rest in the hands of our young, yet resourceful arms dealer. This has not yet been accepted, and I haven’t even completed the proposal for it yet. But, it’s in the works, and if the Lord is willing, the book will get finished and hopefully there will be more to come!

I am also working on a novel set in the aforementioned Necrolopolis universe. It will be titled “A Soulful Job” and the tag line is: “Souls are vanishing from the city of the dead, and it’s up to an overworked necromancer to find the culprit before he gets the blame!”


Thanks to Benjamin 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: 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: 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: Marisa Wolf

Marisa is another person I met at LibertyCon. She is chock full of awesome, as you will see here.

Interview: Marisa Wolf
Marisa Wolf
Marisa Wolf

What is your quest?

To write stories that people can’t put down, to imagine what the future could look like (both in a “yaaay!” and a “yeee-ikes” sort of way), and to write characters people think about after the books let them go…

What is your favorite color?

Characters that feel real – thinking about how they might react in all kinds of situations that never make it to the story so I have a better idea of their life choices. Thinking through the emotional response I’d like to provoke. Sometimes that means reading out loud to make sure what was snarky-funny in my head lands outside of my actual head. Sometimes it’s writing a fight scene to Immigrant Song so I get the mood right. Sometimes it’s brainstorming gut-punch moments with authors who are really, really, really good at such things (coughKaceycough) (Rob’s Note: Kacey Ezell’s interview is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1470).

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

Whewwww the voice in my head is an ASSHOLE. Can we curse here? (Rob’s Note: Don’t hurt my saintly ears)

I feel like you curse when you go hurtling off the bridge, and also that voice is the equivalent of being thrown from the bridge in the middle of your grail-quest. Right, the voice – the one that tells me I’m not good enough, that people are going to notice I don’t belong with all these amazing writers, that I should probably not bother to write because no one’s going to like it…UGH that voice makes setting and keeping a writing routine hard. (Rob’s Note: That voice deserves to get cursed at)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Character development – where they end up is not where they started, even if they deny that growth to themselves (I’m a big fan of characters in denial about something, which maybe says something about me? Unclear). This is for sure a skill I developed through fanfiction, where I had characters I wrote for yearsssss.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Cookie Monster. The right answer.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy. Except when I want crunchy, and then crunchy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Bad News Bears. Hufflepuff’s Quidditch team. (for real I was raised on Boston sports and so believe firmly in the underdog and then my teams did all the winning and it’s an identity crisis, I tell you #hardproblemstohave)
  • Cake or Pie? Peanut butter pie, then everything else = yes, please, excellent runner up
  • Lime or Lemon? Someone already made the lime in the coconut joke, didn’t they?
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Cheese.
  • Wet or Dry? #thatswhatshesaid
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? #imnotahipster #basicmusicaltaste #idontcareitssogood
  • Whisky or Whiskey? YES, please and thank you.
  • Favorite Superhero? Kitty Pryde #shehadaDRAGON
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare, I will accept only rare-r temperatures as valid answers.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Not gonna lie, all the ones I thought of were 80s. Early 80s, but…yeah.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? …all you have to do is call! (dammit now that song is in my head) (Rob’s Note: My job’s done here)
  • Favorite Pet?  I can’t pick a favorite, or I will be haunted by all the good boys and girls who went before. All dogs are the best. All cats are also the best. Even the jerks.
  • Best Game Ever? Either Uno or Apples to Apples with my family (each side has claim to one) – there is always loud arguing, snorting, attempts at cheating that are immediately seen through, and so much laughter I’m honestly sore the next day.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee. Unless I want tea, and then tea. But for real: coffee.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? YES. Also you have a typo, ‘or’ should be spelled a-n-d.

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

What was the first book/story that GOT you? The one that made you catch your breath and need to read and re-read and maybe also re-re-re-re-read it?

Rob’s Answer: Well, I would probably have to say the Hardy Boy books. For a while, they were my babysitter when my parents both had classes to teach at the same time. They would buy me one that I didn’t have, which usually took me about 2-3 hours to read. That meant I got a lot of them one semester when I was five.

I’d also like to toss out The Ghost of Dibble Hollow. I read that book like a zillion times in 4th grade. I still have a copy and I might just read it again this weekend.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Coming soon: Hunter (the sequel to Assassin) and a few special projects…

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

Marisa Wolf is the author of “Under the Skin” in The Good, the Bad, and the Merc, and the co-author of Assassin, with the fabulous Kacey Ezell. With more to come in the 4HU, she’s also co-authored a short story in another universe with Kacey (“Underneath” in Sha’daa: Toys, from Copper Dog Publishing), and has apparently decided to have five or more projects going at the same time all the time.

She was born in New England, and raised on a healthy diet of Boston sports teams, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the longest books in the library (usually fantasy). Over the years she majored in English (in part to get credits for reading which…partly worked), taught middle school science and history, was headbutted by an alligator, built a career in education, earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and finally decided to finish all those half-started stories in her head.

She currently lives in Texas with three absurd rescue dogs, more books than seems sensible, and one deeply understanding husband.

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

You should have asked what nerd property do you desperately want to see come to some sort of media life in a very high quality way? That way I could have answered Dragonriders of Pern. Now! Please and thank you.

You should have also asked if there will be a sequel to Assassin so I could mention that Hunter is coming soon.


Thanks to Marisa 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: 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

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