Tag Archives: Louis L’Amour

Interview: Christopher Woods

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 I’m interviewing Christopher Woods. His story Darkness Before the Dawn was a bit of new thing for him. He hadn’t done much fantasy writing before, but he’s a great writer so he gave me a great story. Also, it had a dragon and an ice wizard in it. If that sounds like the cover for When Valor Must Hold, it’s not a coincidence.

Interview: Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences? Most of the influences for my writing came from reading umpteen million books over a thirty year span. You can probably see different things as you read my work that remind you of other writers of days gone by. I’m not even sure if I can identify most of the particular places where this can be seen because there were so many. The biggest influence I have in my life is always my wife, Wendy. She makes me a better person and keeps me going when I feel like quitting. Her heart is big enough that I have trouble understanding how it all fits in such a tiny person.
  • Who are some favorite other creators? I have a long list of authors I dearly love, some living, some gone. Louis L’Amour may have been the best story teller I have ever read. Edgar Rice Burroughs told stories of heroes, with good and evil at odds with one another. Heroes triumph in the end. David Weber was the reason I got into Military Sci-Fi by writing his Honor Harrington series. Later I met the man and he is one of the nicest people I know in the industry. I have to give props to Chris Kennedy, who turned a writing career into a very successful publishing career. There are a slew of writers I have read that could be added to the list but it would take a novel to list them all.
  • What made you a creator in the first place? I have always written short stories but nothing that was intended to see the world at large. An active imagination and a lot of comic books had me writing stories in various comic universes. I don’t even know where those stories ever got too. The things I have published are much more recent. They sprang from a time when I was basically living in the attic room at my dad’s. I had gotten divorced, had my home foreclosed on, and gone through bankruptcy. The economy had just tanked and I was working a factory job that only gave us three days per week. I had a great deal of time and very little money, so I wrote a book.
  • Why did you choose to create what you create? The first book, Soulguard, came from a dream I had three nights in a row. Seemed like a good place to start so I did. I have several things I want to do. I want to continue from several of the short stories I have done over the last year. The fantasy, Darkness Before the Dawn is one of them. Traitor’s Moon from the Salvage Universe of Kevin Steverson begs to be continued. There are three more Soulguard books to finish out that series. I would like to do a western as close to the style of Louis L’Amour as I can manage. In fact, I would like to write several.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • When Valor Must Hold
    When Valor Must Hold

    Where do you work? Mostly from home. Sometimes I work away from the house and I write there after the work is done, but most of my writing happens in my office.

  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples. I am a huge fan of Heavy Metal. Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Stone Sour, and Godsmack, to name a few. Lately I have found Shaman’s Harvest and really like their music.
  • What other things exist in your productive environment? I work in a roomful of stuff my wife has procured to give away at the conventions. There is also a stupid cat that seems to like walking across my hwfwfguwfgwfjjffrncusjuq28 keyboard.
  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked? I’ve tried to write when I was physically exhausted and it doesn’t work very well. So now I try to write in the mornings before I go to work. It seems to work a lot better for me.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I want a happy ending. Sometimes it will be laced with loss but my heroes win in the end.
  • What are specific techniques you do well? I’ve been told my dialogue is very good and the humor is enjoyed.
  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? Becoming a published author is probably the greatest success I can think of aside from finding Wendy. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to find her but I do know how I became a published author. She kept telling me “just do it, people will love it”, until I did and I found out she was right.

What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? I can never seem to get the work done where I can just focus on the writing. I had planned to be done by the end of 2019 and I still have a month or two ahead of me.
  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons? Readers may not follow you to another series. Sometimes they won’t even follow you to another character in the same series. There is no guarantee people will read the “next” book. The lesson is to just keep going, even when the readers don’t follow. At some point you will get new readers, you just have to keep doing the work.
  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? Sometimes I will take a break and play some video games. Sometimes it will be wood working. Music helps jar me out of any writer’s block too.
  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up too soon. There may be a time when you feel like you just aren’t good enough. When that happens, try to learn what the problem is and rectify it. Don’t give in. I wrote Fallen World and it sat doing nothing for close to two years. I decided to approach it from a different angle and put it with Chris Kennedy where we opened the world to other writers. It’s now selling and growing. Don’t give up. Look for a different approach.
  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? Start sooner.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Shaman’s Harvest
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Dukes of Hazzard
  • Favorite Weird Color? Candy apple red
  • Favorite Sports Team? Not a sports guy
  • Best Game Ever? Skyrim
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Wendy
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Grape Ape
  • Your Wrestler Name? Fat Boy Slim
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Run around screaming with my arms in the air
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? Conquering the world
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Can’t let you in on the secret… Yet. Soon.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Hair bands
  • Favorite Historical Period? Old west
  • Most Interesting Person In History? The first guy to literally strap a rocket to his back and go into space. That guy would be interesting, I believe.
  • Steak Temperature? Med Rare
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Sour cream and ranch
  • Favorite Cereal? Marshmallow Fruity Pebbles
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Something loaded with carbs
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Diet Pepsi
  • Do You Have Pets? A fat dog and a retarded cat.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Kevin Smith or Jack Black
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? You got it covered.

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

How goes the book writing on your end? What have you got coming up?

Rob’s Answer: I’m in that drudge stage on None Call Me Mother where I’m juggling 110k and turning them into a story instead a random collection of words held hostage. I’m also writing my short story for the next 4HU anthology and soon will right a prequel for my story from We Dare.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • theprofessionalliar.com https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherWoodsSoulguard
  • https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00PEAG6WM
  • Daskada, the Legend – Feb 28,
  • Farmer’s Creed– available now
  • Salvage Conquest—Available now
  • Give Me LibertyCon (co-edited with Toni Weisskopf)
  • Freedom’s Challenge (Soulguard Book 6)
  • Dogs of God: Science Fiction According to Chris (anthology)
  • Co-authored book in Fallen World with Chris Kennedy (as yet unnamed)
  • New story in Salvage Universe anthology number 2, Farmer’s Accord (The Fallen World)
  • Traitor’s Moon novel (Salvage Universe)

And where can we find you?

  • FantaSci in Durham, NC March 20 – 22
  • LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN June 12-14
  • DragonCon in Atlanta, GA Sep 3-7,

Do you have a creator biography?

Christopher Woods, teller of tales, writer of fiction, and professional liar is the author of multiple series. His popular Soulguard series, the Legend series in the Four Horsemen Universe, The Fallen World, and Traitor’s Moon in Kevin Steverson’s Salvage Universe. He has written nine novels and been featured in several anthologies. As a carpenter of thirty years, he spends his time building, whether it be homes or worlds. He lives in Woodbury, TN with his wonderful wife and daughter. To see what he is doing just go to www.theprofessionalliar.com .


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Cedar Sanderson

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 Cedar Sanderson. Cedar is one of the first people who read my stuff. She and her husband read A Lake Most Deep and told me how much they liked the story. And how much they didn’t like the cover. Oh, the art was fine, but man, I had a lot to learn about title treatments and such-like things. She was very patient with me and has helped me a ton. That’s one reason I was so pleased to ask her if she wanted to be a part of When Valor Must Hold.

Another reason is that I’ve enjoyed reading her stuff. So, I was not surprised that I loved her story Goddess’s Tears. It’s an origin story of her Blood of Frost universe, where the hero pays a higher price than one expects to fight the evils around her.

Interview: Cedar Sanderson

Cedar Sanderson
Cedar Sanderson

Why are you here?

I started writing back when I was a teenager. I had actually forgotten about that until I found a partial manuscript – and house plans for the story! – recently. It’s pretty horrible. I think I was channeling Jo from Little Women. I know I started writing for two reasons: one, I ran out of reading material. Two, I’d always had worlds in my head and I was slowly convinced that other people would enjoy reading about them, too.

I started to read at a very tender age, so I don’t remember the first book I read. I can’t really choose a favorite author, either, because it changes so frequently, based on my moods. But I can say that I imprinted early on Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dorothy Sayers, and Louis L’Amour. Also, I happen to be named for a character in a novel, so I guess you could say that reading is in the blood. I write because I love to read.

I find myself drawn to, and writing, a lot of fantasy, which I find weird. I loved Tolkein and CS Lewis. Still do, for that matter. But I also find most modern High Fantasy almost intolerable with the tropes and the clichés and the stale pastiches, oh my. Urban Fantasy – Butcher, Correia, Briggs – can be very very good, but I had actually started to write it on my own before I was even introduced to them. I still find it weird, because all my life I wanted to be a scientist. So I should be writing science fiction. I do, and even my fantasy tends to have strong science elements in it. Still, fantasy is what calls the muse most strongly.

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

I work at home these days. For a year, I had a writing office where I went and there were no children, no distractions, just quiet and minimal writing supplies. I didn’t get a lot done there. I felt guilty not being at home taking care of the family. On the other hand, I tried putting my office out in the main part of the house in the theory that my family (three teens, a husband, and a dog) would not be constantly interrupting me if they had open access to me. That was a disaster. I stopped writing for months. It wasn’t until I started taking refuge in my bedroom with the door closed that I was able to focus and write again.

I use music to create mood. When I was writing Goddess’s Tears, I spent more time than I ought putting together the perfect playlist for it. If you’re curious, you can find that here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3V5Zg2dwDACe-V99XtclfNBqC4Fhkapf the title for the playlist is my working title for the story. Sometimes I can’t use music – recently when I have been bored at work I’ve been writing longhand in a notebook (shh… actually, no one cares. I’m still training in a new role and they know I’m unoccupied for a time). This seems to be working. The one creative nut I am trying to crack is dictation. I have an hour plus commute, and it seems I should use that time creatively but I get very self-conscious trying to speak the story aloud and compose on the fly. I’ll keep trying.

What are your superpowers?

I like to explore what it is to be human, and how far you can stretch that definition before it snaps. I really enjoy developing characters, and forging them in fires to bring out the true metal of their souls. Hence the working title of Goddess’s Tears, I was writing a story where the dross was driven out of a woman’s soul in the fires of hell itself. I’m told by reviewers and fans I do character driven stories very well. I’ve wondered at times if this means I don’t do action well, but I have also been told that in a couple of my books my pacing is ‘breathless’ which is, ok? I hope?

I rarely rewrite. I did with Goddess because Rob thought the story had some dross, and it was a great experience to go hammer and tongs with him on it. I think what we wrought is better than my first draft, and I’m delighted he spent the time on it with me. It was a learning experience. Rob’s Note: The story was always good, but I wanted more. And I got it. 

 What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

Oof. This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not going to get too deep with it.

The biggest challenge for me is that I have a career I enjoy very much, on top of the writing, and being an active artist. I’m busy – often too busy – and it’s frustrating to have ideas but no time to bring them to life. When I was still in college (the second time, almost 20 years after the first attempt) I was able to juggle classes, and write. But now that I’m a full time chemist, I come home drained. That, and teenagers are almost as hard as toddlers. I thought they’d be more independent, but nope!

I have several manuscripts in various states of completion. I’m struggling to finish any of them. The problem with some is that it’s been too long since I worked on it last, and I’d have to re-read it before I could start fresh. With 70,000 words on one (another Underhill book) that’s a daunting task. And I blocked on it for a reason, so I have to unpick where I went wrong and correct that. I’m a pantser. If I try to outline, I lose the story. So my recommendation is to plow ahead on a project and finish it. Don’t set it aside and come back months later scratching your head and wondering where you were going with that. Or abandon it entirely and call it practice. I’m too stubborn to do that last.

 Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Beaker
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Dead South
  • Favorite Superhero? Captain America
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? I grew up without television. I’m not sure what was on in the 70s.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Chartreuse
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t watch sports?
  • Best Game Ever? Oh, I really like Fluxx, with all the variations. There’s a Chemistry version!
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A friend and fan sent me several fountain pens. So wonderful for drawing!
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? Jessica Rabbit
  • Your Wrestler Name? La Bunuela!
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Boiling oil pour
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? How to go back to graduate school.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? Bake it cookies and lull it before… but I say too much.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? Die Hard
  • Favorite Historical Period? 1940s (WWII era)
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Dmitri Mendeleev
  • Steak Temperature? Blue
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Bacon Horseradish
  • Favorite Cereal? Steel-cut Oats
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Chicken and Dumplings
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Soda? Diet Dr. Pepper. Stimulant? Mead, preferably cherry mead.
  • Do You Have Pets? We have a dog, Tricksy, and two cats who are living with our daughter but were my office cats, Addie and Evie.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Scarlett Johansson
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Ask about favorite food or thing to cook!

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

So other than Butter Tarts, what are your favorite foods?

Rob’s Answer: Steak (medium rare, blackened, with garlic butter), Butter Chicken, fresh bread with butter and honey, biscuits and gravy (having already buttered the biscuits), and, uhhhh, butter, I guess?

When you write, do you share the story with anyone? I often use alpha readers when I get stuck on something.

Rob’s Answer: I think you have to at some point. It’s almost impossible for me to really judge what I’m writing. I mean, I know I like it, but I don’t know if anyone else will. I will say one of the best compliments I’ve ever had is when James Young said something like, “I know it’ll be good. It’s you.” That’s an awesome thing to hear, but I don’t believe it until someone else has given me honest input.

When you get discouraged, how do you cheer yourself up?

Rob’s Answer: Hmmm. This is a tough one, because I don’t always have a good answer here. I feel better anytime I complete something, even if it’s just the dishes. Procrasticleaning is a thing, y’all. It’s the days I go to bed having not accomplished anything that bug me, so I guess my answer is to finish a thing. Oddly, I can say that here, but I don’t necessarily think about it when I need to.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • My website is www.cedarwrites.com
  • My amazon page is: https://www.amazon.com/Cedar-Sanderson/e/B006WFPHO6
  • My latest novel is Possum Creek Massacre, a paranormal police procedural set in the Appalachians. The stories are drawn from family and true crime and my own forensic studies. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SQNLMPP
  • I’m working with my writing group on a weekly prompt challenge. You give a prompt, and are randomly assigned one in return. It’s a ton of fun, and a great way to get writing if you are having trouble gaining momentum. I started doing the group, and the challenge, as a way to give back to the community. Paying it forward for all those who have encouraged me or poked and prodded me along the way. If anyone wants to play along, check it out here: https://moreoddsthanends.home.blog/

And where can we find you?

I’m not planning any event appearances in 2020. I’ll be attending MarCon as a guest, incognito with family. I’ll be taking my kids to GemCity ComicCon, and probably the same for CincyComiCon as well. Happy to meet up if you happen to be there!

Do you have a creator biography?

Cedar Sanderson is an author, artist, and a scientist. Her varied career lends extra flavor to her works of art, and her insatiable reading appetite once led her to run out of reading material and start writing her own. She hasn’t stopped yet. Perennially inquisitive, she wants to know more about everything and will ask strange questions if you stand still long enough to let her. Works in print include her popular urban fantasy (with very little urban) Pixie for Hire series, her space opera Tanager’s Fledglings, and her young Adult series Children of Myth, as well as a couple dozen shorter works that would make this bio too long to name them. Her cover art and design grace the covers of other authors as well as her own, and her cute dragon character appears in his own coloring book, Inktail & Friends.

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

You should have asked me what inspired me to write Goddess’s Tears?

Reading Jirel of Joiry. I hadn’t read it until about a year ago, and I promptly fell in love with it. The character really connected with me – I don’t want to spoil it, but the character falls in love with someone you really don’t expect and in a way you don’t see coming. But it wasn’t that. It was the chin up and face forward into the darkness. Do your duty if it sees you walk through hell. I lived that. I wanted to capture a little of that sheer chutzpah in a story of my own. I hope I succeeded in even a very small way.


Thanks to Cedar 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: Meriah Crawford

I first read Meriah in the 1632 universe. Then we met at my first LibertyCon and we talked about a variety of things related to that universe. Later, she took the time to give me a bunch of useful suggestions on a short story I was working on there. One of these days I’ll finish that story.

In any case, it gives me great pleasure to be alongside her in the Those in Peril anthology coming out on Friday. Did I mention there’s an alternate naval history anthology coming out in two days? Well, there’s an alternate naval history anthology coming out in two days. Just sayin’.

Interview: Meriah Crawford
Meriah at Petra
Meriah at Petra

What is your quest?

I spent a lot of my professional life doing super interesting things like systems analysis and application design, often for small internal applications. I worked with a lot of really smart and dedicated people, but also with a lot of egotistical, marginally competent fools. Then I had a midlife crisis, became a private investigator, and decided my path needed to involve doing something with meaning and impact. While I hope my creative writing will help me find that meaning and impact, I also have two large projects I’m working on about point of view, stemming from my dissertation. I’ve essentially redefined point of view to be more granular and useful, and then dug into second person to explore its functions. These projects are my babies, and I think they both will contribute something new and important to the world. As for my influences, I would say Where the Wild Things Are, the Bobbsey Twins, Louis L’Amour, Albert Camus, and J. K. Rowling (including Casual Vacancy) are significant for me, among many others.

What is your favorite color?

I spent some time really exploring the Hero’s Journey recently for a class I’m teaching. Thinking about it in relation to the Harry Potter books helped me appreciate what makes the books so good and so appealing. For example, in the first book, Rowling doesn’t just give Harry a single threshold moment of entry into the wizarding world, but many—and each one is a joy and an intense experience for the character and the reader. One of the mistakes many authors make—especially in the realm of YA or middle grade fiction—is to take a really basic approach to the stages of the Journey, and that can make the stories seem simplistic. So, I think that’s a real opportunity for writers, if they want to improve their writing. It gave me specific ideas, for example, about how I could use and subvert the structure of the journey for a story I’ve been struggling with.

This is a great exploration of the Hero’s Journey, including a nice overview of how The Hobbit fits into the journey: https://blog.reedsy.com/heros-journey/

Persistence of Dreams Cover
Persistence of Dreams Cover

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

My biggest challenge is always time, and I think that’s true for most people who don’t write full time. As a professor, it’s the rare day that I don’t have enough to do to fill every hour. I’m often literally grading papers or doing some kind of class prep until 11 or later at night. This makes it easy not to write, and it’s easy to continue not writing. But, that ultimately makes me miserable. Given the nature of my schedule, this will probably always be a struggle, but I’m learning a ton along the way about how to be productive. I recommend the Pomodoro Technique (https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique), which is especially valuable for people who distract easily or tend to switch to email or social media while they work, and I really love the day-long writing get-togethers that I have with friends. This is a great pomodoro (or general) timer: https://www.marinaratimer.com/

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think layers of meaning and ripple effects are important and powerful in writing. I know I’ve done them well, and it’s something I intend to do more of in more thoughtful ways in the future.

Lightning Round

  • Cake or Pie? I don’t really like pie, for the most part, except as a delivery platform for whipped cream. I love Key lime pie, though, and it’s super easy to make.
  • Lime or Lemon? I love limes so much. Years ago, I worked for a company that did seafood marketing, conferences, and publications. They had a full kitchen where they prepped food for photo shoots (I saw some scary stuff!) and they would always call me down if they were using limes, so I could have some. OK, now that I’m writing it down, it seems kind of weird.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  I make kick ass blue cheese dip! Want the recipe? (Rob’s Note: Absolutely)
  • Wet or Dry? I don’t eat cat food, you weirdo. That’s gross.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Check out this weird playlist of some supercool stuff I like: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLivHO5gGkCLD9zjGZ_at80MSEpTOnFU3B
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Tawny port.
  • Favorite Pet?  D’Argo is the best dog ever. Such a sweetie pie!
  • Best Game Ever? I once played a combination of cards during a Cards Against Humanity tournament that was so offensive the guy running it tried to declare me the winner on the spot. (And I did end up winning the tournament!) But I also really love Takenoko. What could be better than bamboo, pandas, and gardening?
  • Coffee or Tea? I am a huge tea fan. I recently discovered Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon, which is wonderful, and I have long loved the teas from www.uptontea.com.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I go both ways.
D'Argo
D’Argo

What question(s) would you like to ask me? (Ask me anything you want. If you can’t think of something specific about me, ask something general about writing or any of your interests. Or make up something like the lightning round.)

  1. What’s your favorite cute animal video?

Rob’s Answer: All of the ones involving cats. Or dogs.

2. When the aliens finally come, will they destroy us, help us, or something else?

Rob’s Answer: They’ll destroy what we were, not necessarily by choice but by the impact of dealing with another species and a different galaxy than ever before. What we become after that is what pays our salaries, often enough.

The hardest thing when writing aliens is to know that they think in completely alien ways with different goals and desires. I certainly think the concept of an alien viewing us as something to eliminate is possible. To exploit is more likely. To collaborate? Maybe.

3.How long will you survive the zombie apocalypse?

Well, hopefully forever. My goal is to end up like Simon Pegg’s buddy in the garage at the end of Shaun of the Dead. More likely, however, not long at all. I am, after all, well-marbled.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • www.meriahcrawford.com, Twitter: @MeriahCrawford, Facebook: Meriah Crawford
  • My co-authored novel The Persistence of Dreams, about a 17th century painter dealing with the influence of a time-traveling West Virginia town from the year 2000, was released last year. https://ericflintsringoffire.com/book/the-persistence-of-dreams/
  • And my story “’Nothing Can be Said Sufficient to Describe It’” is in the anthology Those in Peril. The story is made up of letters from a man to his granddaughter (sent in this century) about an important lighthouse builder from the 17th century.

And where can we find you?

I’m at Ravencon in Richmond almost every year, as well as Capclave in Maryland, and I usually teach a workshop or two. Can’t get to Balticon this year, but I’m usually there as well.

Do you have a creator biography?

Meriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a private investigator, writer, and editor. She has published short stories in several genres, a novella, essays, a variety of scholarly work, and poems, and co-edited the anthology Trust and Treachery: Tales of Power and Intrigue. Her novel The Persistence of Dreams, co-written with Robert Waters, was released in May 2018.

Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her work as a PI, spanning over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglaries, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons. For more information about her work, including articles about writing, visit her website at www.meriahcrawford.com, or connect on Twitter: @MeriahCrawford or Facebook: www.facebook.com/meriah.crawford.

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

You should have asked my favorite kind of chocolate. I would answer that I really like Leonidas, and almost anything involving hazelnuts.

You also didn’t ask me anything about being a private investigator. I have a bunch of stuff I’ve written about it on my website. In recent years, I’ve mostly worked on murders and shootings, very much part time, which has been super interesting. I’ve learned a lot about evidence and forensics, and also about how shitty our criminal justice system is. It’s a huge damn shame.


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: Christopher Woods

Greetings all

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

Interview: Christopher Woods

What is your quest?

Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods

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

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

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

What is your favorite color?

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

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

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

Christopher Woods at his booth
Christopher Woods at his booth

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

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

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

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

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

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

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

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

Lightning Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

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

Do you have a creator biography?

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


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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Rob Howell