Tag Archives: Mark Wandrey

Interview: Kacey Ezell

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with the amazing Kacey Ezell. She is, I can say without doubt, the first person I’ve interviewed who has over 2500 hours flying Hueys and Mi-17s.

She’s also one of my favorite writers right now. I really enjoy her Minds of Men alternate history and am waiting for the next one in that series. She’s also one of the writers in the Four Horsemen Universe, collaborating with Marisa Wolf to write Assassin and show us all the might of the Depik.

Interview: Kacey Ezell

What is your quest?

To crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentations of their women. (I’m sure I’m not the first to say that!) For real, though, I just want to tell good stories that I’d like to read. And I want to be a dragonrider. For Science. (Rob’s Note: SCIENCE!!!!)

What is your favorite color?

Blue. I like emotional gut-punch moments in my writing. Specifically, I always try to have a moment or moments where I put the reader in the mind of the character and make the character’s emotions resonate within the reader. If I can make you cry, or laugh, or grieve, or rage, or exult, then I’ve done my job.

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

I always feel like I’m never writing enough, especially when it gets busy with the day job. I get frustrated when I fly long days and then don’t have the energy to do more than drag myself into the shower and then into bed. My discipline demands that I at least try to write something every day, but a recent string of 12-hour days has shown me that sometimes, when I’m drained, I’m drained. So I’ll settle for writing 100 words that day and call it a win.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

In writing, my personal Holy Hand Grenade is what I’ve described above. I’m always proud when I can make the reader feel something. In life/marketing, I think my personal Holy Hand Grenade is my ability to connect with people and make friends quickly and easily. I love getting to know new people, and that’s been incredibly helpful in my career!

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Cake or Pie? Apple Pie / Guinness Cake (it cooks out! I promise!)
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Spicy salsa heavy on the cilantro
  • Wet or Dry? wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Leo
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I’m Mormon, don’t care.
  • Favorite Superhero? Wonder Woman
  • Steak Temperature? Medium Rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Um, I’m too young for that. 😉
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer
  • Favorite Pet? I can’t choose. I love them both. 😊
  • Best Game Ever? Shadowrun
  • Coffee or Tea? Again, Mormon. I’ll take Sugar Free Red Bull, please
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Again, por que no los dos?

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

My Answer: Hmmm, in my younger days I could walk into any neighborhood bar in any country and become Norm before the night was over.

I suppose now my greatest superpower is drinking the bitterest beer. I’ve had brewers try to out-bitter me. I welcome their attempts to tilt at this windmill, as it means free beer for me.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Dragon Con 2018, FantaSci and LibertyCon 2019 for sure. Maybe some others along the way if I can talk my husband into it.

Do you have a creator biography?

Kacey Ezell was born in South Dakota in 1977. Her parents joined the US Air Force in 1984, and she grew up around the world on various military bases. When she was seven, her mother gave her a copy of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragondrums, and shortly thereafter, Kacey decided that she wanted to be a dragonrider when she grew up. In 1999, she followed her parents into the “family business” and graduated from the United States Air Force Academy before going to pilot training. As dragons were in short supply at the time, she reasoned that flying aircraft was the next best thing. She earned her wings in 2001, and has over 2500 hours in the UH-1N and Mi-17 helicopters.

From the time she was a small child, Kacey made up stories to tell to her friends and family. In 2009, while deployed to Iraq, she wrote the military-themed supernatural story “Light”, which was accepted for publication in the Baen Books anthology Citizens. She was asked to consult on John Ringo’s 2015 novel Strands of Sorrow, and wrote the cover story for the Black Tide Rising anthology set in Ringo’s zombie apocalypse universe. That story, “Not in Vain” was selected for inclusion in the “Year’s Best Military SF and Adventure Fiction” anthology produced by Baen Books.

In addition, she’s written a story for each of the bestselling Four Horsemen Universe anthologies, and her story “Family Over Blood” is included in the national bestseller “Forged In Blood” set in Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold Universe.

She and Christopher L. Smith are currently collaborating with John Ringo on a new post-apocalyptic steampunk trilogy from Baen, and her first solo novel, “Minds of Men” was released by Theogony Press on 10 November 2017. She returned to the Four Horseman Universe to collaborate with Marisa Wolf on “Assassin”, a novel about an alien race of felinoid killers-for-hire. “Assassin” is available now from Seventh Seal Press.

Kacey writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, noir, romance… etc. fiction. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two cats.
Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? You should have asked me about my plans for world domination, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about them. You’ll just have to find out.

And if you are interested in a FREE short story in my Psyche of War universe, you can absolutely have one by simply signing up for my mailing list! It’s also the best way to stay up to date on what’s going on with me, and how that whole world domination thing is going. You can join by going to www.kaceyezell.net.

Also, Mark Wandrey and I released Weaver at Liberty Con this year, and we’d love to have your readers check it out and if they liked it, leave a review! (Rob’s Note: Please give us reviews. Please, please, please. It’s huge)

Also, also, Minds of Men was just selected as a 2018 Finalist for the Dragon Award for Best Alternate History Novel! <cue excited screaming!> The Dragon Awards are a big deal to me, because they’re a truly fan-favorite award.

Rob’s Note: If you want to vote for the Dragon Awards, go here: http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php


Many thanks to Kacey for taking the time to let me interview her.

If you have any suggestions or comments about the interview format, let me know. I’m always looking for ways to improve it.

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

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

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

 

LibertyCon 2018 AAR

I’m sitting at Prince Street Pizza in Gallatin, TN and I’m exhausted.

Which means my plan is proceeding apace.

I’m in Gallatin because I’ll be staying at Mark and Joy Wandrey’s place for a few days before going to InConjunction this weekend. I’m exhausted because LibertyCon is the best SF/F convention around.

The best part of LibertyCon is the amount of professional networking. I got to plan for new projects and learn from some of the best in the SF/F world. It’s changed my writing schedule a bit, and that’s a good thing. I’ll talk about that more as time goes by, but some of it is too ill-formed at the moment to really discuss yet. However, I’ve planted some seeds in Shijuren and other universes that should end up being very fruitful. I begin the AAR with the networking comments because those started on Thursday before anything else.

I’d like to especially thank Steve Jackson, Bill Fawcett, and Chuck Gannon for taking the time to answer questions and pass on some of the lessons they’ve learned. Great stuff for all of them, and they’re the biggest reason I’ll be adjusting my plans over the next year.

My first panel happened on Friday at 2pm. This panel discussed historical fiction and also history in fiction. It went very well because Louise Herring-Jones, David B. Coe, and I all had good experience with historical processes as well as fiction. We all had lots of good stuff to say. Coe, in particular, showed off why he was  a deserving guest of honor with his discussion about his Thieftaker Chronicles set in Revolutionary War-era Boston.

The rest of Friday involved getting this arranged for Jamie Ibson’s party, Opening Ceremonies, and my Author’s Alley stint. That all went smoothly, including a number of sales in the Alley, which can often be hit or miss. We held Jamie Ibson’s room party in my room to make life easier for Brandy, and it went well. I went to bed late.

Even though I fell asleep late, I was up and lively at the Four Horsemen Roundtable at 10am on Saturday. I had the new laptop set up and showed off some of the wiki, along with showing the author pages. I also edited and added a few Wiki pages live, much to the delight of the audience in a few cases.

Then was the banquet at noon. The banquet is always an interesting animal for me. I don’t usually get big sales or networking, but it’s always enjoyable. Chuck Gannon, by the way, was an amazing MC.

At 3pm I then had a reading. I used Chapter 7, which is the chapter including Olga Belobashnina Cherepanova. It’s actually a perfect section for reading, as it’s essentially an entire story arc on its own. It’s only about 15-18 minutes, which usually means I have more time, so I also read the Epilogue to Brief Is My Flame, which doesn’t really include spoilers, does include the riddle, and hints at what’s coming in None Call Me Mother. The reading went well, though there weren’t many people there. Unfortunately, a woman who heard my reading last year and wanted to hear this year’s showed up after I was done. I ended up giving her my reading copy of the text at the Kaffeeklatsch. Nice, very smart woman who I’m glad likes my stuff.

Anyway, then was my autograph session. That was not particularly well attended, at least not for me, but I got to do some more networking.

At that point, it was time to prepare for the Brief Is My Flame / Four Horsemen room party. I’d like to thank Jamie for helping and contributing, even though he had to be at a different party. Anyway, it was a huge blast. My new drink, the MAC Round, went very well. I sold a few books, made a number of new readers, and we had a great time. I got to sleep about 3.

Which meant the Kaffeeklatsch at 10am was damned early. I made it, but I was generally content to let people swirl around me.

Following that was the Upcoming in the Chris Kennedy Publishing panel. I was in that panel because I’ll have two follow-ups to “Where Enemies Sit” from For a Few Credits More. The first is a short story for the Lyon’s Den anthology that I’ve talked about a couple of times. The second is the full-length novel. I announced the working title of the novel, The Feeding of Sorrows, which, like “Where Enemies Sit,” is a line from the Havamal.

I just want to take a quick moment and thank Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for letting me be a part of the 4HU and tagging along on their coattails.

Anyway, that was the last thing I had scheduled for the con itself. I went to closing ceremonies, entitled the Bitch at Brandy session where they actively solicit ways to improve LibertyCon. I have no doubt this is one reason this is the best-run convention going. The big announcement was next year’s LibertyCon will be at the Read House on 31 May – 2 June, which is about a month ahead of their traditional date. However, that means LibertyCon 2019 is only 11 months away.

Sunday night at LibertyCon includes a traditional trip to a Brazilian steakhouse and more socializing / networking, and then back to the hotel for the Dead Dog party. Last year at this party, I got to do a play-test of a game similar to Cards Against Humanity with Steve Jackson. This year, I got to play one of the newly released versions of the game, Conspiracy Theory, and even won a copy to bring home. It’s a hoot.

The only real problem with LibertyCon is that there’s so many cool people to talk to and only three days to do so.

Again, I’d like to compliment the staff of LibertyCon. I’m quite serious when I say it’s better run than any other con I’ve ever seen, and it’s not close. Brandy Spraker does a fantastic job organizing things. Rich Groller is the most on-the-ball programming guy around (by a wide margin). It’s actually kind of silly how quickly he responds to stuff. Matthew Fanny keeps track of memberships, and I was a bit of a jerk to him this year as our circumstances kept changing and I switched plans with my membership four or five times. He just took care of me, even though I wasn’t easy. Misty Kat Gutierrez-Walker had the game room thrown at her at essentially the last minute, but, as she has done in the past, kept things going.

This year had to have been hard on them. They didn’t know if they were going to have a site in 2018, so they basically did the normal work of a con in about 6 months, instead of a year. That also included adapting to a new site (the Marriott Downtown), which had very particular rules. A great hotel in many ways, but not necessarily great for LibertyCon. Anyway, they did it all and the only real issues I saw came from hotel weirdnesses (like not having stairs from floor 3 to floor 2 that did not go through “employee only” areas!?!?).

This is my fifth LibertyCon, and like all the others, I’ve come out with improved plans and greater goals. I’m definitely earning a place and a name in this business in great part because of this con.

So, I know where I’ll be the weekend after Memorial Day in 2019.

 

 

Rob’s Update: In the Bird House

Week 3 of 2018

It’s been a weird, and productive week. My original plan was to go to Meridies 40th Year, but the weather was not conducive. Instead, I found myself an AirBnB place called the Bird House near Dunlap, TN.

I’ve had a kitchen, plenty of food, and WiFi. Other than my sweetie, what more could I want?

I’ve been very productive this week, starting with finishing a short story entitled A Gift of Crimson and sending it to the editor. It’s kind of an odd balance between Raymond Chandler, Stan Lee, and J.K. Rowling as it’s for a buddy who’s bringing back Pussy Katnip, a series of superhero comics/stories from the 1930s. Maltese Falcon noir with anthropomorphic animals in a superhero world aimed at young adults. I had a lot of fun with it.

It was challenging too because he asked for shorter stories than normal, around 4000 words. This one ended at 3868. Go me. I’ll have more publishing details when I know exactly.

I made huge progress on the other side project this week. I’ve been building a Wiki for the Four Horsemen universe. You can find the Wiki here: http://mercenaryguild.org/wiki/tiki-index.php. It’s low on content right now, but I’ll be updating that consistenly.

I actually wanted to make sure I could talk about it on this post, which is why I decided to wait until this morning to actually send out my update. Thanks for your patience.

Well, I suppose I should get back to work. This is my last full day on the mountain and I should take advantage of it.

Current Playlist Song: Yngwie Malmsteen, “Flamenco Diablo.” Yngwie is an incredible guitarist, and does some amazing versions of works in classical and other genres, as well as metal.

Quote of the Week

As mentioned, this week has been odd. I’ve literally not left this little above garage mother-in-law type apartment since I got here on Saturday. I’ve had internet and phone, but it’s been… remote.

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
― W.B. Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

News and Works in Progress

  • A Gift of Crimson (3868)
  • Brief Is My Flame (30000s)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Since I’m announcing the Four Horsemen Wiki, I suppose I should announce that tomorrow Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey will release the prequel in that universe, The Four Horsemen: Alpha Contracts.

Today’s Weight: 385.4 (from last week)

Updated Word Count: 6807

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

HonorCon AAR

Greetings all

I’m finally back in Council Bluffs at my own desk with enough energy after the drive to be coherent. Go me! It’s time for an HonorCon AAR and later on today, after I actually do some writing, I’ll do my weekly update.

This was my second HonorCon. The first, I met some guy named Chris Kennedy in the bar. The second, he helped make this a fantastic con. And that’s not even counting how we all made his wife blush while, you guessed it, drinking at a bar.

I went to HonorCon only being on one panel as far as I knew, my Martin Koszta Affair panel. However, the way they structured panels there was to allow people to create panels, and then staff them themselves. Chris, being the go-getter he is, had created a bunch of panels and he invited me to join him on a bunch of others so I was kept pretty busy.

The first panel we did on Friday covered Indie Publishing: Getting Known as an Author. I wish I could tell you just what all we did in this panel, but honestly, I was a bit frazzled and I really don’t remember the details. After this panel, I spent a goodly amount of the rest of the day hanging in the con suite, and had a beer or two, but I ended up going back to my hotel room early and watching baseball.

Saturday, first thing in the morning, was a panel entitled, But I Liked That Guy! In this panel, Chris, Mark Wandrey, Ian Malone, and I discussed the value and challenges of killing off characters. Most of you know that I will kill off characters in the flow of the story, but I don’t simply kill them off constantly, as in Game of Thrones. I believe characters have to die periodically, or there’s no suspense when characters get into life-threatening situations. In swords and sorcery fiction, they have to be put in such situations and the can’t always survive. So they don’t. On the other hand, I’m not playing fair with my readers if I simply kill them off for no good reason.

My next panel was several hours later, so I lounged in the con suite for a while. This was a very good con suite, and there were some good conversations. I met an airplane mechanic who had worked on P-38s, P-51s, and F4Us in his spare time. I was fascinated to hear some of the very specific details of each type, which gave me some story ideas.

At 3pm on Saturday was basically Chris’s version of the Baen Road Show: Theogony Books: A Big Year in 2018? I was a part of this panel both because of my story “Where Enemies Sit” in For a Few Credits More, but also because I’ve taken on the project to design and build a wiki in the Four Horsemen Universe. I’ll be starting on that today, as a matter of fact. The upshot, is that Chris will be publishing, either as author or publisher, a dozen books in 2018. And maybe more. Big doings, indeed.

After that was my Martin Koszta Affair panel. I designed this panel as a tool to discuss the ways I use history to world-build and create stories. It’s easy to say that history is a wonderful place to mine for ideas, but this panel goes into nuts and bolts and has been very well-received. However, about 15 minutes into it, I realized it wasn’t meshing as well with the audience as normal. It turns out they wanted simply to hear the history, and not about using it as a writing prompt. I adjusted, and we went farther into the possible ramifications, had things played out only slightly differently.

You may see alternate history novels about the First World War, which started in 1853. Just sayin…

We spent Saturday evening having dinner at the Bahama Breeze right next to the hotel. We being Chris, Sheellah (his wife), Mark and Joy Wandrey, Chris and Christine Maddox, Beth Agejew and J.R. Handley. We had a blast, and also talked about a variety of business things, which resulted in more work for me that I’ll talk more about when the time comes.

Sunday was another early morning, with a panel at 9am on Genre Blending: Scifi, Fantasy and More. Unlike the same panel we did at ConStellation, Chris was prepared to moderate and this wasn’t quite the train wreck of whimsy and confusion.

Immediately following was a panel discussing The Economics of Self-Publishing. This panel was just Chris and I. I don’t know that I helped the audience much, but I learned a ton.

Normally, I like to stay for closing ceremonies, but this panel was done at 11, and after a series of goodbyes, I got on the road. I wanted to get west of Louisville by Sunday night, and it was well we left as quickly as we did, given the snow and high winds in along I-77 in the mountains.

For a number of reasons, HonorCon was not terribly smooth for me. I forgot to get reservations and pre-register for example, and I had a number of other issues that are now irrelevant. I only had one panel initially scheduled, so I wondered how valuable the con would be. However, thanks to Chris, Mark, and a bunch of people I met, it turned out to be a fantastic con despite the hassles.

Rob’s Update: Mechs in Action

Week of 10-16 September

Greetings all and welcome to release day!

For a Few Credits More, the second anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe is now available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075LGF41H

I want to thank Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for letting me play in their sandbox. If you like military science fiction with mechs, this is the universe for you.

My story, “Where Enemies Sit” talks about a lieutenant on his first deployment. The title comes from the Havamal which begins:

All the entrances, before you walk forward,
you should look at,
you should spy out;
for you can’t know for certain where enemies are sitting,
ahead in the hall
(Larrington, Carolyne. (Trans.) (1999) The Poetic Edda, page 14. Oxford World’s Classics)

Let’s just say the lieutenant finds enemies sitting where he did not expect.

Anyway, I’m very excited to become a part of the Four Horsemen Universe, and hope to be allowed to contribute more. “Where Enemies Sit” has spawned a number of ideas for me that I will try and fit between writing in Shijuren.

Speaking of which, I’ve done a little, but not much. With all the upheaval in my life, I simply haven’t written much. I’ve done a number of other projects, though, and have been clearing the decks of some assembled things that have also needed attention.

I’ve got a series of SCA events to attend over the next three weeks. I’ll be at Queen’s Prize Tournament, which will give me an opportunity to visit with my apprentice. The week after, I’ll be in Grimfells with my booth. I’ll also be selling at the Gryphon’s Fest event.

I hope to have copies of For a Few Credits More there, but it may take a while.

With that, I’ll get back to work.

Quote of the Week

Also from Larrington’s translation of the Havamal is a much more famous passage:

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life
– The Havamal, Stanza 77

News and Works in Progress

  • Did about 2k words in Brief Is My Flame this week. Not much really, but I’ve been scribbling out and recording notes to hopefully make the writing much quicker when everything settles down.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Last week I did my NFL prediction at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=839. There are also eight other blog posts breaking down each division. They’re linked in this main post.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I’ve put both of them here before, but this week’s spotlight again goes to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, whose Four Horsemen Universe is blowing up. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’ll be linking to other authors in For a Few Credits More.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Off to DragonCon

Weeks of 20 August – 2 September

Greetings all

Sorry I didn’t make a post last week. I spent most of last week up in Omaha looking at houses. We’re going to put in a bid later today, I think, depending upon the details. We’ll see how it goes. In past houses, I’ve been on a serious time crunch. I’ve a lot more time flexibility now, so I’m not as inclined to bid full price now. I don’t necessarily expect to get a yes on the first offer, but you never know.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time.

I did write a bit, but it was more in the way of refining stuff that had already been done, so I’m still hovering around 10k on Brief Is My Flame.

My weekend was filled with an SCA event near Omaha. Giulia and I camped, which meant we got a chance to hang out with friends much more than we have recently. We’re also in the process of combining our camping resources, and that’s been somewhat humorous as we both have our ways of doing things. Unfortunately, it rained on Sunday morning, so Giulia has deal with spreading out, drying, and folding a bunch of wet canvas.

She has to deal with it because I leave for my first DragonCon tomorrow.

I’ll probably spend a goodly amount of time at Table 22G. Van Allen Plexico and Brett Brooks have generously offered me a corner of their booth to place my books. Come buy something from all of us.

The rest of my time I’ll be pretty feral. I’ll probably see if I can play in a Pathfinder Society scenario or two. Maybe some panels. Be at Barfly Central a lot. I don’t have any real schedule so I can actually enjoy a con for a change.

I’m also excited to go watch the Dragon Awards, where a number of friends are nominees, especially the military SF/F category. I voted for Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark H Wandrey. Frankly, this category was full of books I enjoyed, but the tiebreaker was that it’s the first in Four Horsemen Universe. Yes, I’m now a part of it, so I’m biased, but this is already becoming an awesome sandbox and there’s lots more to come. However, it was a tough choice, given the competition. One of these days I’ll have a military fantasy series set in Shijuren, and I can hope I’ll be in this list myself.

I’m ready to get this party started.

Quote of the Week

Instead of a normal quote like most works, I’ll send you to a Twitter hashtag feed, which is a list of whimsical quotes overheard at DragonCon:

https://twitter.com/hashtag/overheardatdragoncon?src=hash

You shouldn’t need a Twitter account to see that list, by the way.

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

As I said, Van Allen Plexico has graciously allowed me to put my books on a corner of his DragonCon table. If you come by the table, make sure to take a look at his stuff. For those not at DragonCon, here’s his Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Van-Allen-Plexico/e/B002QISYCA/.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

LibertyCon AAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ChattaCon 2017 AAR

I attended ChattaCon as part of my trip to Birka. A very productive con, enhanced by getting to participate on a bunch of panels.

My first panel was on Friday at 5pm about what makes the well-rounded character. I believe a well-rounded character has to have a little bad to go with the good and a little good to go with the bad. Protagonists have to be appealing to the reader in some way, so that the reader wants them to succeed (compare how much people wanted Anakin Skywalker to succeed vs. Darth Vader). I also add to my characters by having them like, or not like, food or other normal things around them. The scratch of rough linen on their skin, for example. There weren’t a ton of people at this panel (nor at any panel, really) but those that were there said they got something from it.

That was my last official thing on Friday, though I believe that if I’m a professional on panels at a convention that it is my responsibility to be at opening ceremonies. I went, they were ceremonial, and then I went to the Meet the Pros ceremony, which again I feel is part of my responsibility. I had a good chat there with a number of people, including a couple that had come to the first panel.

More importantly, I got a few minutes with Mike Resnick, the Guest of Honor. One of my favorite books is Birthright: The Book of Man, which is a collection of short stories that are tied together to tell a future story of mankind. Brilliant stuff. More importantly right now, Resnick wants to promote new authors so I’ve a new venue to submit some short stories.

Guess I’d better write some.

Anyway, I spent the rest of the evening hanging out at the LibertyCon room party. LibertyCon has been very good to me, and I will attend and help as long as they’ll let me. Had great conversations with a bunch of people, and Melissa Gay and I had a great idea for a panel, which I’ll talk about more when things get firmed up.

I might have stayed up late on Friday night, so I was a little slow Saturday morning, but made it to my panel at 11am. Unfortunately, no one else did. It was my panel on Moana, humorously enough. Ah well.

At 4pm, I had my chance at the Author signing booth. In real terms, I only had 4-5 people chat with me, but in all honesty that was more than I expected. Every reader matters and that was a well-spent hour.

Immediately afterwards, I went into a panel talking about using non-European mythologies in fantasy. While I haven’t done this a ton yet, this is actually something I’ve been planning for a while. The Secret History of the Mongols and the Mahabharata are major parts of my world-building, even if I haven’t revealed those sections of the world yet. I enjoyed the panel quite a bit.

At 7pm was a panel on Gaslighting. This was an odd panel topic, in my mind, since to a certain extent at a meta level, my job is to gaslight the reader. Of course, we were talking about things like 1984. I moderated the panel, and I think we served a difficult topic well.

Given my activities the previous night and the fact that most of the socializing was at Track 29, which is a goodly distance from my hotel room, I ended up wandering about for a bit after dinner but not really doing much. I went to bed early and read.

On Sunday morning, my first panel was on Futuristic Visions of the Locked Room Mystery. This panel seemed a little disjointed to me, in part because I don’t know if it’s a topic that really needs an hour. Maybe a better topic would be a discussion of the traditional mystery types and using them in science fiction instead of limiting it to one particular type. Still, any panel with Stephanie Osborn on it is fun.

Right after that was to be a discussion of the best and worst science fiction films. Many thanks to Mark Wandrey for inviting me to join him. Unfortunately, I really don’t remember what we talked about because it was during this panel that I received mom’s call about dad passing.

Anyway, I had one more panel, the power of storytelling. It was a good discussion, and I lost myself in the topic, which was nice. We roamed far afield on our important aspects of storytelling, which included the kinds of challenges characters overcome and the importance of those challenges making characters grow. Again, Stephanie Osborn and I riffed off of each other. It was nice.

Louise Herring-Jones was at that panel, and she and I ended up having a great discussion afterwards about books and philosophies. Smart woman, lotta fun to talk to, look forward to chatting again in the future.

All in all it was a productive con. The attendance was low, but in all honesty, that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. I got to actually talk to a number of other professionals like A.R. Cook, Mark Wandrey, Dave Schroeder, Melissa Gay, Louise Herring-Jones, and a bunch of others. There was also time to spend with readers, and I enjoyed that most of all. A good time.

I’m hoping that I do well at Birka, because it would be nice to make this swing a normal trip. We’ll see this weekend.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting in bars in Frederick, MD working. Maybe do some sight-seeing afterwards.

Rob’s Update: Closing In

Week of 27 November – 4 December

Greetings all

Things are moving along on Where Now the Rider. I’m in the 90s in word count. I’m at the cleaning up and setting up the conclusion stage. Really close.

This time of year is always interesting. I’m stressing about getting the next book done, but this is also my normal time to upgrade and clean my house. Some new landscaping, two toilets replaced, and a lot of emptying of closets.

Isn’t it odd how much decluttering makes us happier?

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and things are going well towards Christmas.

Quote of the Week

This day, 30 November, in 1900, one of my favorite quote machines, Oscar Wilde, passed away.

When I bought this house, I walked into the master bedroom and said to myself, “That’s the worst wallpaper I’ve seen.” Then I went into the mother-in-law suite which had wallpaper consisting of button images in a variety of patterns. I said to myself, “No, no that’s not the worst wallpaper I’ve ever seen.” If the room was darker, the buttons followed you across the room like eyes in a Scooby Doo cartoon.

So, today’s quote is Oscar Wilde’s comment about the wallpaper in his room just before he died.

“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”
– Oscar Wilde

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider (91k)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • – Nothing new, but lots coming soon after I finish the draft of Where Now the Rider and get the wiki updated before release.

Upcoming Events

  • – 10 December: Kris Kinder, Kansas City, MO
  • – 22 January: ChattaCon, Chattanooga, TN
  • – 27-28 January: Market Day in Birka, Manchester, NH
  • – 3-5 March: CoastCon, Biloxi, MS
  • – 12-20 March: Gulf Wars, Lumberton, MS

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Mark Wandrey. I really enjoy his Earth Song series. You can find his books at: https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Wandrey/e/B00914T11A/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1480562390&sr=8-1

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

Weekly Update Archive

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

ChattaCon AAR

I had debated about attending ChattaCon for a couple of reasons.

One, I sent in a couple of emails and they fell through the cracks, in part because they had some technical issues. Stuff happens. Still, I wasn’t sure how much exposure and value I would get from the con.

Two, I was pounding on the next novel in all  of January and I was tired. The next one is much more complex and was going slower. Frankly, I was just tired.

Nevertheless, I decided to go to the con if only to get out on the road and re-energize, as driving often does for me. In the end, though, I’m really glad I did go as the con was very productive.

I want to start by thanking Larry Correia for being so gracious and patient with questions not just from me but from anyone who asked him. He knows a ton about the process and is willing to share it with anyone who is interested. I had met him briefly in the Writer’s Seminar at GenCon 2014, but since ChattaCon is much smaller I was able to pick his brain more thoroughly. I look forward to chatting with him again at LibertyCon and other events.

I also got very lucky and ran into William Dietz as he was going to the same room party as I and we had a long chat and stroll on the way. Very nice man with, again, lots of knowledge to learn from.

My biggest problem right now is that no one knows who I am and I made a few nice new contacts that I think will really be helpful in the long run. I had met Uncle Timmy at LibertyCon last year, but only briefly. He has a large following that he might help me penetrate.

He also helped me get with the programming director of LibertyCon and I think I’ll be very active on panels and such there. Probably a reading. That’s a little terrifying, but another step on the path.

Also, at the end of the con, Mark Wandrey and I chatted. I had met Mark before, I think at GenCon 2014, and he is only slightly ahead of me in the independent author career path. I think he and I can help each other quite a bit, and we’re planning on sharing a dealer’s booth at WorldCon.

The last point is a bit embarrassing. I talked with Toni Weisskopf some, and she now knows who I am, at least vagely. She knows I’m an independent author, but really not much more. I offered to give her copies of my books, but chickened out when she asked if it was a submission.

Weird. I had no fear to give her my books as just something to read. But giving them as a submission to Baen? Terrifying. Bah. Sometimes I’m an idiot. Do I think I’m a good enough writer for Baen? Yes. Do I think I’m there now? I don’t know. I guess not knowing, at least right now, is better but I need to get over that fear.

One fear I lost was my worthiness to be on panels. I realized in several that I had something important and relevant to add based on my experiences so far. I don’t know everything, but I do know some things.

To sum up, ChattaCon was a great time. I now know the system and anticipate participating on panels next year. I got to meet some new people, expand some previous relationships, and make some contacts. Totally worth the drive.

Anyway, time to get back to work. Have a great day, people.