Tag Archives: Larry Niven

Interview: Jon Osborne

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

This week, the interview is with Jon Osborne, who I think is a rising star. His story in When Valor Must Hold is called “The Errand” and you’ll love it.

Interview: Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne
Jon Osborne

Why are you here?

My early science fiction influences are Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, George Lucas, and Gene Roddenberry. My fantasy influences, which came later, were Charles de Lint, Randall Garrett, Steven Brust, and Gary Gygax. More contemporary inspiration comes from the likes of Eric Flint and Kevin Hearne.

I was a gamer before a writer. I started off as a Dungeon Master because I had the rules, and storytelling became addictive. I learned from an early age that characters will not do what you expect, nor do they care about your pre-conceived plans.

The Milesian Accords wasn’t a story that had been bouncing around for years. It coalesced while I was driving every week between Indianapolis and Chicago to deal with my parents’ estate. The beginning and ending of the story formed right away, and the rest filled in as I wrote the story.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

I do 95% of my writing in my home office on a sprawling, cluttered desk. When I played MMOs, I spent the bulk of my time parked in front of this corner desk, and when I transitioned to writing, I remained parked here.

I use YouTube for my background music. By and large, I listen to soundtracks. The most notable exception is the Mongolian heavy metal band The HU, and the funk band Here Come The Mummies.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so the coffee shop doesn’t hold an appeal for me. I’d rather have a whisky or beer in the comfort of my home rather than sit in an establishment full of strangers.

What are your superpowers?

Based on feedback, it appears I do dialogue well. Disney, if you’re reading this, I can help you out with that next Star Wars movie – you need it. I like to think I’m good at world-building – although my editors might say I get carried away – another trait from my background as a game master.

One of the things I had to overcome was my training – I majored in journalism in college, so I was taught to keep sentences short and my writing concise. Once I tried my hand at descriptive fiction, I found out I sucked at complex sentences – especially commas use. The way it sounded in my head was the opposite of how I should write. Fortunately, my publisher was a great mentor and patient with me.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

Superman has kryptonite, and I have squirrels. Staying focused is a huge challenge for me. In fact, I’m filling this out when I should be finishing a book. I’ve found I should keep my phone out of arm’s reach, as a quick checking of e-mail or social media turns into half an hour.

One thing I regret was never learning to type. Despite majoring in journalism in high school and college, I didn’t take typing classes. I mostly use my index fingers. If I typed faster, maybe I could keep up with my brain.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The Hu
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Battlestar Galactica
  • Favorite Weird Color? 633fcc
  • Favorite Sports Team? The Colts
  • Best Game Ever? D&D
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? When I found my missing cat on Christmas Day
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Scooby Doo
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? A 6 book RPG Lit series
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Sounds like too much work
  • Best Thing From the 80s? You expect me to pick one? Those were my high school and college years.
  • Favorite Historical Period? It depends on what Wikipedia page I’m looking at.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? See above.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Nacho cheese
  • Favorite Cereal? Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch (but it’s like eating peanut butter flavored gravel and will shred your mouth)
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? A bacon-wrapped fillet, french fries, and chili at the Ale Emporium
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Beer
  • Do You Have Pets? No
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? If you wrote under a (different) pen name, what would it be?

What question(s) would you like to ask me? What was the hardest book/story to write and why?

Rob’s Answer: So far, that clearly has to be None Call Me Mother. I’ve been working on it for two years now, and it still isn’t done. I’m getting close, but man this one hasn’t gone smoothly.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • CapriCon Feb 14-16
  • FantaSci Mar 20-22

Do you have a creator biography?

Jon R. Osborne is a veteran gamemaster and journalism major turned science fiction and fantasy author. The second book in the Jon’s The Milesian Accords modern fantasy trilogy, “A Tempered Warrior”, was a 2018 Dragon Awards finalist for Best Fantasy Novel. Jon is also a core author in the military science fiction Four Horseman Universe, where he was first published in 2017.

Jon resides in Indianapolis, where he plays role-playing games, writes science fiction and fantasy, and lives the nerd life. You can find out more at jonrosborne.com and at https://www.facebook.com/jonrosborne. 


Thanks to Jon 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: RJ Ladon

Greetings all

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

Today’s interview is with RJ Ladon. Her story in When Valor Must Hold is called “Ogre’s Brownies” and it too is a story that isn’t in one of my normal subgenres. Again, though, the story was so good I had to take it.

Interview RJ Ladon
RJ Ladon
RJ Ladon

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Gary Gygax was a huge influence. He bought our horse ranch when I was nine and introduced my siblings and I to Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t understand who he was, it was the idea of playing/acting out stories. Not just any stories, but my or my brother’s stories, that was the influence.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? Terry Pratchett, Neil Giaman, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, Walter Farley, Octavia Butler, and so many more. My bus ride to and from school was 60-70 minutes, I read both ways, going through 2-3 novels in one week. I started on non-fiction in my senior year (no car).
  • What made you a creator in the first place? See the first question in this series. Plus, my family tends to be on the creative side of things – art stained glass, sewing, painting, sculpture, carpentry, etc. My day job is on the creative side of things -computer aided design.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? Sometimes it is love – love of a character or location. Other times it is a challenge. My first acceptance into an anthology was for Sha’Daa Toys. I had never written horror before. Challenge Accepted! I would like to try my hand at romance, this is a bit scary for me. Another challenge to conquer!

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? My middle son, graduated, joined the Navy, quit, and came back home. Joke’s on him – I turned his bedroom into a writing and design studio, and I’m not about to give it up! A friend gave me a rolltop desk and, as of this Black Friday, I have a brand-new gaming computer to write and draw. I’ve been putting in 2-3 hours of writing everyday – some days more, some less.
  • Do you listen to music? Sometimes If I do, it will be Audio Machine or Two Steps from Hell. Both are known for their movie and videogame soundtracks.

http://audiomachine.com/  https://www.twostepsfromhell.com/

  • Ladon's Mouse
    Ladon’s Mouse

    What other things exist in your productive environment? Lots of reference books on mythology and science. ART created by others or myself. Sketchpads and drawing utensils including electronic drawing, sketching, photoshop and map making. Thank you, to Worth1000 and this mouse picture to inspire a scene in The Ogres Brownies – found in When Valor Must Hold.

  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Writing in front of TV. Helping my daughter with homework and trying to write – no good. Trying to keep cats out of the room or off my desk, etc – they are noisy, just let them in and let them sleep in your lap.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I’m a nature nut. So, I add anything animal, vegetable, or mineral and hopefully it will be educational to boot. I also enjoy mythology, as my pen name can attest – RJ Ladon. Ladon is the name of the dragon/hydra Hercules had to defeat to obtain the apple from the tree of wisdom.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I don’t know – I suppose I have thick skin and take critique quite well. (probably not what you meant.) I’ve been told I weave backstory in smoothly without disruption of the narrative.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? My biggest struggle is against myself. Self-doubt is a bitch. My biggest success is due to the persistence of others. Friends told me they would drag me kicking and screaming to the writer’s conventions and get me published. And they did.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? When I first joined a writer’s group, there was no direction for improvement, only vague comments like “this is bad” or “doesn’t make sense”. Eventually I went to a different group and that one was better, more instructive. Some friends have encouraged me to start my own group – now the mentor. Some things have stayed the same – I still have a lot to learn.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? My day job is computer aided design. I come up with designs, show them to engineers, and customers and within minutes I am told my design is wrong. While this sounds like a failure, the design is only wrong because “they” imagined it another way. Most of the time my design would work fine. Other times, I missed an important specification or component within a requirement, that is a failure. When a mistake is pointed out, it is not a failure it is a learning opportunity that will improve your design, (or book) next time.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? I draw. I create a map of the area I’m writing about. Or draw the character. If you can’t draw use models. Pinterest is quite helpful in that arena. I will “become” the character mentally and imagine how I would react, what would I do or say if I was that person/animal/rock/vegetable…
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest. This piece of wisdom came from a fortune cookie – but it is so true. Also – It is only too late to start when you are on the other side of the grass.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? My mother was negative about anything I did. She told me I’d never get published. I would tell my 20-year-old self “Don’t listen to your mother – or anyone else who is negative!”

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Sweetums.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Pretty much anyone at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
  • Favorite Superhero? Today? Megan, Daughter of the Wolf
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Ya, know I revisited some 70’s shows and they were horrible. Plot line? What plot line? I suppose I’ll go with The Muppets – Alice Cooper 😊 or Steve Martin.
  • Favorite Weird Color? All of them but not all at once.
  • Favorite Sports Team? SCA Heavy Weapons – no specific kingdom though.
  • Best Game Ever? Life!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? All of them for different reasons.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Someone believing in me – Looking at you Scott, You Jerk! (Kicking and Screaming)
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Courage the Cowardly Dog.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Broadzilla – my husband gave me the name.
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? You see that? I can break it, without trying. If I can’t break it – I will probably hurt myself in the process. I am stronger and klutzier than anyone has a right to be. Couch, broke it. Window, nods affirmative, foot, yup that too, Torque the head off a bolt? Sigh, do I have to answer that one?
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Ways to make the world better.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? One soul at a time.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? It isn’t around anymore, oh wait, it is 60 years in the future… Hum, now you got me thinking.
  • Favorite Historical Period? Most of them for different reasons – here’s hoping the future is even better.
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Professor Peabody
  • Steak Temperature? I’d rather have chicken.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Don’t plan on dying, I’m taking over the world, remember?
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Hot Tea – Mint
  • Do You Have Pets? 7 cats 1 dog and 20 or so chickens. Way too many pictures.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Sweetums 😊
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Can’t think of one. Perhaps one I ask you?

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

  • When did you realize you could put more than two words together and be entertaining?

Rob’s Answer: Ummm, not sure. I didn’t write when I was younger, though I learned somewhere along the way how to tell stories. I have some idea I’m making progress because of increasing sales and improving opportunities. Nevertheless, I still don’t know if I’ve put words together until someone else looks at it. I’m still a work in progress, that’s for sure.

  • Who was your mentor? Must be someone you met not just idolized from afar.

Rob’s Answer: The closest thing is probably Chris Kennedy. He’s certainly given me opportunities and taught me a bunch. Again, I started writing at 46 and did so in a hermit sort of way. I researched a bunch and went to LibertyCon to listen. I learned a ton, and owe so many people thanks for taking the time to toss stuff at me. However, it all started with me trying to dig myself out of a hole.

  • Are you active in the SCA? In what capacity?

Rob’s Answer: Not as active as I used to be. I got to about an event a month, and I sell at a lot of them. Pennsic and Gulf Wars are two great events for me. I make money and get to hang out and sing. I’m a laurel for wordsmithing and Anglo-Saxon research, which I have to say might answer your first question. I guess I learned I could do something when I saw people crying happily at the scroll texts I wrote for them. Now I just socialize and sell, though fighting will happen again.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

RJ Ladon is a nightshift writer (by choice) and a dayshift design engineer (by necessity) to pay for the afore mentioned writing addiction. She is a self-proclaimed tree-hugger and animal-lover. If she is not in her garden, pasture, or woods you can find RJ watching movies or reading books. Documentaries, thrillers, comedies, science fiction, fantasy, and even romance can be found in her book and video library. She lives with her husband, children and a variety of farm animals on a farmette in Wisconsin.


Thanks to RJ 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: Bill Webb

Greetings all

It’s release week. Friday, Trouble in the Wind blows right into the Amazon store of your choice. Here’s another author from that anthology, Bill Webb.

Interview: Bill Webb
Bill Webb
Bill Webb

What is your quest?

Let’s start with influences. In Science Fiction it all starts, like it does for so many others, with Robert A. Heinlein. By the mid 1960s he had created more classics than most people do in a lifetime, and to this day I’m stunned nobody has ever made a movie out of Tunnel in the Sky. Heinlein knew how to tell a story in the most direct way possible, although as time passed that, too, ebbed. The last book I truly loved was Time Enough For Love. But that about the time, the mid 70s, when I discovered Roger Zelazny, so to me there no dropoff in the quality of what I read, particularly with the Amber series and my all-time favorite, A Night in the Lonesome October, although one could argue those were all fantasies. But hey, even RAH wrote a fantasy novel, Glory Road. (I’ve heard from Rufo!)

But there were also many, many more in addition to those two giants, including Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Jack Williamson, David Weber, David Drake and especially John Ringo.

Fantasy influences are very clear in my mind. The godfather of them all is Robert E. Howard, of course. I write sword and sorcery and he invented the genre. Also high on the list are Michael Moorcock, Kar6 Edward Wagner and especially Fritz Leiber. As much as I love Tolkien, I’ve read LOTR at least 35 times, I consciously try NOT to emulate his writing style. Ursula K. Leguin advised against trying to out-Tolkien Tolkien, because it can’t be done.

What is your favorite color?

Blue. All shades of blue.

I am the last person to explain why my writing style works, or how it evolved, because I have no idea. But I’ve always remembered some advice given by Zelazny, that he never mentions more than two attributes of a person. One thing I rarely do is to write a description of a room, ship, character or locale. Many authors do so, and do it well, but I don’t.

What works for me, and that I might pass on to others, is to use an accurate term to describe something and then pick out one or two details that make it unique. For example, and making something up just for this interview…”The throne room was smaller than he’d imagined it would be, and oval. A simple chair of heavy and highly polished wood served as the king’s throne. Afternoon light poured through a leaded glass window.”

That style evolved over nearly 50 years of writing. Majoring in creative writing taught me how to construct sentences and how to think of scenes, but it had little relation to building a genre story. Literary fiction generally doesn’t lend itself well to a genre setting, so there was quite a bit to unlearn.

The only exception to the two-descriptors rule is when something complex needs an extensive blueprint for the reader to understand. The composition of a Roman legion, for instance, or a suit of powered armor, might require a more complete description. But even then I make it as short as possible. And it’s not because I write short books, either. The last three books I’ve had published are 133k, 137k and 300k words. But they read fast because I don’t get bogged down in details, and I am consistently told how readers can visualize everything in their minds. That’s because I let them fill in the big picture on their own.

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

I was held back for many years trying to remember all the rules I’d been taught about writing. Instead of just sitting down and telling a story, I thought and thought about the next sentence trying to keep all of my lessons in mind. Show don’t tell, don’t use adverbs, don’t overuse ‘that’, don’t do, don’t do, don’t do…the truth is, what writers need to do is to write. That’s the only way you can learn.

Now, I write a story or novel as I think it should be written, clean it up with a rewrite and/or edit, then send it to the editor.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

When I write in 3rd person it’s always 3rd person limited. That helps cut down on telling instead of showing, and it also allows for shorter scenes told through multiple points of view. It’s a way to speed up the action and keep things interesting. When you’re inside the mind of the antagonist, for example, 3rd person limited let’s you show the reader how he or she views things, and a really good villain is someone the reader can identify with, at least to some degree.

If I’m writing first person there has to be a good reason. My original series Hit World, for example, is first person in a noir style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett. The protagonist has the world-weary, jaded voice of an old-school private eye who’s seen it all, except he’s an assassin. Understanding him would be much harder in 3rd person limited. So if you’re going to write 1st person, make sure you have a reason for doing it, and that the character has a unique voice.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggie.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? My kids.
  • Your Wrestler Name? The Sluggish Lion.
  • And Signature Wrestling Move? The plop.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Coral.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? From a beach chair.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Snoopy.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A chess table when I was 13.
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To live on a beach in the Caribbean.
  • Brought to you by the letter ___? Z.
  • Favorite Sports Team? University of Memphis Tigers.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Cheese.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Status Quo.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Beer.
  • Favorite Superhero? Iron Man.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium well.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Soap.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer, all year round.
  • Favorite Pet? All of them.
  • Best Game Ever? Diplomacy.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Both.

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

What’s the best answer you’ve gotten to a question?

Rob’s Answer: Oh, man, I don’t know that I can answer that correctly. There’ve been a bunch of great answers. So, I’m going to be a mealy-mouthed answerer and pick my favorite answer from your interview.

Yeah, I’m lazy.

But part of the reason is that many of the answers have blurred together as part of the melange that has become my own writing philosophy. I don’t entirely know at this point what I started with and what the answers that all these interviews have taught me. What I can say is that doing these interviews have taught and improved my own writing. I started it as a fun exercise that would help get us all a little publicity. What happened is that it gave me great insights into other people’s processes, many of which I’ve incorporated as I try to get better.

But your best answer? Your answer about limiting yourself to two descriptive words most of the time is a good one. It’s a rule I follow as well. I am too easily seduced by the great descriptive skills of Raymond Chandler, so I consciously try to avoid his long and brilliant style because I know I’m not as brilliant.

Still, my favorite answer of yours is from the Lightning Round. Yeah, I can see “The Plop” dominating WWE for years to come!!!!

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • I’m tempted to say ‘at a bar’, except that wouldn’t be true. So maybe my website is a better bet: http://thelastbrigade.com/

Do you have a creator biography?

Yes.

Oh, you want it here?

Born, raised and warped in West Tennessee, Bill Webb wrote his first stories in grade school, scaring his parents, teachers and friends. And that was before he found comic books and science ficition.  The release in 2016 of his Last Brigade series changed his career path by actually giving him a career path. The Time Wars and Sharp Steel and High Adventure soon followed.

By age 25 he’d read all of the classics…Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Harold Lamb, Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny. Indulging himself in a double concentration at the University of Memphis of Creative Writing and History, college felt more like a long party than school.

With multiple awards and nominations to his credit, and active membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America, he reached into a long-sealed bag of literary tricks for the nascent idea for the new Hit World series. No telling what else dwells at the bottom of that bag.

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

You should have asked me what one story/novel of mine should someone read to understand me as a writer? In my case, it would be the Darrell Award winning novella A Night at the Quay.

Rob’s Note: This is a great question, and I might very well add it to my interview. I’m not sure how I’d answer that myself. Each has been a good view into the state of my soul at the time. Of them all, probably A Lake Most Deep is the most soul-baring because at the time I was in a bad place. Writing it kept me going and let me become something stronger.


Thanks to Bill 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: Doug Dandridge (Rerun)

Doug Dandridge is one of the great independent writers out there. He’s done really well in part because he puts out a ton of good material. My personal favor is his Exodus: Empires at War series, but he has over thirty published titles, including two other series, Refuge techno-fantasy and The Deep Dark Well trilogy. Now he’s started Kinship Wars, a traditionally published series. Let’s just say I’ve visited his Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1522973584&sr=1-2-ent a number of times to get his books.

Exodus: Empires at War, Book 1 Cover

And I’m not the only one. According to his bio, “(h)e has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average. 5,000 reviews! And about that same number on Goodreads. I am learning just how hard it is to get a single review out of readers, so that’s even more amazing to me than the hundreds of thousands of books he’s sold.

Clearly, he knows both how to write and how to market online, so I was excited when he agreed to answer my questions.

Doug Dandridge

What is your quest? I like to craft technically sound science fiction (and fantasy as well) in an interesting and well thought out setting, with strong characters. Sometimes I actually succeed. I like the physics, chemistry, biology to stay as close to accurate as possible. Which doesn’t mean I don’t make up whimsical of utterly fantastic elements, but I see no need to step on real world principles when not necessary. My major influences include Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, David Weber, Robert E Howard, Jim Butcher, R A Salvatore and Larry Niven. I get a little bit from each one and possibly blend them together into something of my own. It seems to work, as I was able to not only quit my day job, but make a very good living at it.

What is your favorite color? Like Jim Butcher I start off with a map most of the time. I do a lot of research. Even in fantasy, I look up a lot of information, put a lot of it on paper. I world build to an extreme, probably more than I need to, but then, when I have a series, I just need to add onto the already detailed world. And I draw a lot of things out on graph paper, which allows even a poor artist like myself to visualize my settings. Spaceships, star systems, castles, even the look of dragons. All goes down on paper. And when I’m creating a star system I like to use programs to look over the configurations of planets and make sure it all works (wouldn’t do to have your inhabited planet go spiraling into the star). Probably more than I need to, but I read the horror stories of people finding fault with the science in other works. I even use Nukemap to make sure my things that go boom have an accurate damage radius.

Doug Dandridge with Helicopter

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? I wrote a series called Refuge, which actually started off really well. Both of the first books sold over 5,000 copies. They mixed modern technology with magic, with people from Earth crossing over to another dimension against their will and having to fight wizards, dragons and things that go smack in the night. With tanks, attack helicopters and a couple of tactical nukes. Due to the physical and magical laws of the planet, the technology would only last for a short period of time, and the humans had to use it or lose it. So by book three they had lost it, and I had lost my readership. Turned out that the majority of people who bought the first two books loved the idea of technology versus magic, so book three sold just over two thousand copies, while four barely made it over a thousand. I’ve tried to salvage the series with book five, resorting to magic imbued steam tech. But I’m afraid once you lose readers you’ve lost them for good, at least for that series. The lesson? When something is working, don’t make radical changes.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I am really proud of the Exodus: Empires at War series and the spinoff, Exodus: Machine War. This is the universe that turned me into an independent success. Of the 240,000 odd books I have sold, over 200,000 of them are in these series. They have been well received, and I have collected a lot of fans from all over the world from these books. I feel that I write battle scenes really well (see R A Salvatore and Jim Butcher above), and I’m also good at putting in technical details without overwhelming people with info dumps. The Exodus series is nearing its end, but I will start another side series, going back in time to the origins of my human Empire.

Lightning Round

  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy.

    Five by Five Cover
  • Favorite Sports Team? Florida State University, because I went there and I live in Tallahassee. Any of the teams, not just football. I go to women’s soccer, both basketballs, softball, volleyball, even sometimes baseball.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie, because cake is too rich.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, because lemon is just too sour.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Home-made French Onion dip. None of that weak store made stuff. The Lipton’s Onion Soup with sour cream.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? A German Jazz guitarist named Vogel Kreigel. He played in a little hotel in North Germany back in the late 1970s. One of the best jazz guitarists in the world at that time.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I used to love Wild Turkey 101. Haven’t had a drink, for health reasons, in fourteen years.
  • Favorite Superhero? Spiderman. I’ve been a Spidey freak since I was five years old, and I bought the issue of Amazing Stories that featured the webhead.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Man, go back to the sixties and I might have something. The seventies did nothing for me, and I spent half of them in the Army.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, love the crispy temps. Best time for going to football and soccer.
  • Favorite Pet?  (provide pictures if you want) I had a ginger cat years ago named Beau who was the smartest pet I have ever had (and I’ve had an Australian Shepard). He died way too young at age nine.
  • Best Game Ever? Video Game? Fallout New Vegas, with lots of mods. Best gaming world, best story, a lot of fun to play in VR.
  • Coffee or Tea? I’m a big coffee drinking. Buy the beans and grind them myself before brewing them.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I love them both. I would actually like to write more fantasy, but somehow I slid into the scifi niche, so there I am.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? How do you come up with these questions?

My Answer: I think the first time I asked questions like this happened because I got tired of internet question memes, so oddly that made me make my own. The ones out there were just bland and boring, and so I made a whimsical one to have fun with my friends.

I used the idea again when I got married to my second wife. We wanted to make it fun, so I asked a larger series of questions to everyone involved in the ceremony. Then, we had a friend who is great at such things introduce us all as if we were wrestlers coming into a WWE event or something like that. We had a fantastic wedding.

As everyone who answers the interview questions realizes, I want to get some idea of your methods. Hopefully, this will help me and my readers find things that might improve our writing and publishing skills. However, I didn’t want it to be bland and boring, hence the Monty Python way of asking the questions.

But I also wanted to give each of you a chance to be something more than a name on an e-book. For example, I think it’s awesome that I now know you’re a Florida State fan. Plus, given how much I like to host people, it’s always a good thing to know how to cook their steak should the opportunity arise.

Aura Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? How did you ever decide to get into this crazy business?

I was out of work and pissed off at the employer that had just fired me, and decided to write a book exposing the corruption of mental health organizations. I sat down and wrote that book in two weeks, then started on an alternate history. When that was done, I went to work on a 260K word fantasy.

Refuge, Book 1 Cover

I wrote on an off for over a decade, collecting over three hundred rejection slips, but trying to do it the old way, through a publisher. Finally, in 2010, I was really sick of my job and wanted to become a full time writer. I wrote the equivalent of 7 novels that years, including the books that were turned into the first two volumes of Exodus: Empires at War and Refuge: The Arrival. I didn’t actually put anything online until December 31, 2011, and nothing much sold for the first eight months. I did a giveaway for a book called
The Deep Dark Well, and 4,100 went off the Amazon hard drive. When Exodus came out in November (I had put out Refuge first, thinking it would be the breakout novel), I started selling 100 books a day. In January of 2013 I sold 8,900 books and the sales continued into February with 5,400. I kept getting good sale the first couple days of March, and I turned in my two week notice and never looked back.

What’s Your Upcoming Event Schedule? I will also have books coming out later this year from Arc Manor Publishing (Kinship War) and Chris Kennedy Publishing (When Eagles Dare).

Doug’s Book Biography:

Doug Dandridge is the author of over thirty self-published books on Amazon, including the very successful, Exodus: Empires at War series, the Refuge techno-fantasy series, The Deep Dark Well Trilogy, as well as numerous standalone science fiction and fantasy novels.  In a five year period as a self-published author, Doug has sold well over two hundred thousand eBooks, paperbacks and audio books.  He has amassed over 5,000 reviews across his books on Amazon, with a 4.6 star average, and a similar number of ratings on Goodreads with a 4.12 star average. He has also written his first traditionally published novel, the first of a series, Kinship Wars. He served in the US Army as an infantryman, as well as several years in the Florida National Guard in the same MOS.  Doug, who holds degrees from Florida State University and the University of Alabama, lives with his five cats in Tallahassee Florida.  He is a sports enthusiast and a self-proclaimed amateur military historian.


Thanks to Doug 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.