Tag Archives: Louis L’Amour

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