Tag Archives: Mel Todd

Rob’s Ramblings: ChattaCon AAR

ChattaCon has come and gone for 2020. It was, as usual, a great time. I really enjoy the Chattanooga fan scene. It’s a bunch of smart, fun people and I’m glad I get to go there twice a year.

As usual, Lani gave me a nice busy schedule. Actually, it was brilliant this year because it was front-loaded, which I appreciate.

I’ll get to that in a moment, but one of the most important parts of cons these days is the Thursday before con networking. This time, I had a chance to sit down with Brian Cooksey and lay out some plans for getting the Shijuren RPG off the ground.

Side note: Brian will be a Special Guest next year at ChattaCon because of his game design skills. I’m honored he’s helping me out.

We spent a couple of hours agreeing upon overall goals, a general breakdown of responsibilities, and that sort of thing. I had given him some ideas I wanted to try and he gave me his opinion on them.

One thing I think is good about our partnership is that we have different perspectives. While I have a lot of gaming experience, it’s mostly in one tree, D&D/Pathfinder. Brian, on the other hand, knows a ton of game systems and he has a lot of different things to bring into the conversation.

Our basic philosophy is this: We want a game system that allows for a ton of flexibility and options in character design. I want players to play the character they want. At the same time, we want a game system that streamlines the process to minimize checking rules during the game because all the information a player needs is on his character sheet already.

I’ll expand on the game system plans as they get going. I’ll be posting process updates consistently both here and on the wiki when I get it updated.

Suffice to say I’m really excited as it starts to get off the ground. I’ve always wanted to be a part of an RPG and I think we can do some cool stuff here.

The actual convention started at 5pm on Friday with my Martin Koszta panel. As usual, people enjoyed it but I am more convinced now that I need to retire it for a few years. I’ll actually come back to it at some point, I’m sure, but I’ve presented it too much. What I really need to do is pick a new historical event, maybe run through bits and pieces of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or go through Old English poetry.

That was at 5 on Friday. Immediately after was a world-building on the fly panel by Brian Cooksey that was a lot of fun. He structured it with 4-5 things that had to be in it and 4-5 things that had to *not* be in it, then let us riff off the combinations. That’s a process I might just try for the next Shijuren series as I come up with different characters and storylines.

At 8pm was a similar panel, and had I been thinking, I would have pulled from Brian’s.

Of course, had I been thinking, I would have noticed I was the listed moderator and been prepared to direct things. We muddled out some things, but it needed more direction and audience involvement. It could have been great, but I didn’t come prepared. Next time, I’ll fix that.

And yes, I had a 9pm Friday panel discussing how much violence and sex should we include in fantasy and SF. My answer is it depends on the story I’m trying to write. I tend to action/adventure stuff, so there’s lots of violence. I can change how graphic that is up and down the dial, but it tends toward violent.

On the other hand, I’ve been incorporating more romantic and sexual themes in my stuff. The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms is a riff off Romeo and Juliet (actually the Finnsburh stuff, but same thing). As for how graphic my sexual content will be, it will depend on if it pushes the story. I don’t like either violence or sex that’s just put in just to have it.

Then was the LibertyCon party, and I hung out there until it closed. I bounced around for a bit, but I was tired and went to bed. A good day, all around, though really, really busy.

That business on Friday meant, however, that Saturday was fairly light. I had a panel at 1pm on weaving historical events and real things in speculative fiction.

I actually checked to see if I was the moderator and did a much better job at coming up with questions. I thought it went really well, though I will say having Terry Maggert as a panelist is fantastic. All you need to do is stick a quarter in him and he’ll create a ton of things to talk about.

I had my author signing/sales session from 4-5pm. It went really well, highlighted by a couple of regular readers showing up right away. They’re a joy to have as fans, smart, nice, and pleasant.

Then I spent much of the evening talking with Terry Maggert and Mel Todd about writing and processes. I learned a ton. Terry’s done well from writing and he’s definitely someone to pay attention to. Mel has studied things from a different tack, and she’s got quite a bit to teach me on the business side especially. It’s nice to have smart friends.

Then I went and hung out at parties and such-like things. One con regular hosts her own party, and I spent a goodly amount of time there. Then I went and watched the burlesque for a bit. Then I joined in on Kat’s birthday party.

I went to bed late, but it was worth it.

I was moving slowly on Sunday morning (shocking, I know), but I really enjoyed the panel on using Culture, Mythology, and Spirituality to fill out speculative fiction moderated by Amanda Makepeace.

Side note: Amanda is an amazing artist and will be Artist Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon opposite FantaSci and then ChattaCon 2021.

Anyway, I wondered where this panel might go, because it’s such a broad topic. In the end, what I think I got was a codification of something I already knew I did, but had never said aloud. I chose to use real world religions in Shijuren because I wanted to get the immediate evocative response from a Zeus or a Woden instead of a made-up deity who was some analogue. I use gods and goddesses from a bunch of cultures because I find them all fun and interesting.

Researching other cultures is one of the best parts of writing in Shijuren.

At that point, my responsibilities were done. I emptied my room, made my goodbyes, and was on the road by 11:30.

I thought about staying for some of the closing stuff, but after staying up late on Saturday and with the way the weather has been around KC of late, I decided I wanted to get on the road as quickly as I could.

At LibertyCon, I’ll be staying for the Dead Dog Party, and maybe even for a couple of days after. However, on this trip, it was time to be home. The trip went well, I didn’t even need a nap, and I made it home at 9ish.

As usual, today is sort of slow day, and I’m not doing much other than writing my AAR and puttering around on some detail work here and there. Nothing huge or stressful, nor anything I’ll beat myself up for not doing except the AAR, which really is best done today anyway when I’m still basking in a great weekend. All part of learning how to manage myself better.

Anyway, the short version. The trip went well. I achieved the goals I had in mind. I had fun.

I’ll be there in 2021.

Rob’s Update: In A Hole In The Ground

Week 38 of 2018

Greetings all

This was not my best week ever. I caught a bit of con crud at TopCon and never really got myself going. That’s one reason why every one of my weekly posts happened today. Sorry about that.

I don’t get con crud often, and this time was kind of odd because the con had very little traffic. I sold enough, I suppose, but only because it was close enough for me to stay at home.

However, I’m glad I went because I got to hang out several friends, including James L. Young and Christopher Woods. In fact, Young helped me add a new event, the Great Plains Renaissance Festival in Wichita next weekend. If you’re in Wichita, come on by, I’ll be in the Author’s Pavilion.

Anyway, I didn’t get much written or done, which is annoying. My big accomplishment was making sure my sweetie got fed. That’s about it, though it’s important.

Today, I’m watching football and catching up with stuff, including my update. One thing I’m doing now is trying some new social media things. You’ll see me using hashtags much more often. Here are some you’ll see from now on.

  • #RobInterviewsCreators: My weekly interviews
  • #RobsReviews: Primarily for my magazine reviews, but I’ll tag anything I review on this blog
  • #RobsUpdate: These reviews.
  • #Shijuren: Anything related to me or Shijuren

I’ve also added the ability for you to share my posts at the bottom of each entry. If you like what I’m doing, please don’t hesitate to share.

It’s Cowboys v. Seattle, so I’m going to pay attention to that and write later. Have a great day.

Current Playlist Song

Since I’m watching the Cowboys game right now, I’m going to chat about my listening habits of late. Thanks to a buddy’s suggestion, I’ve been listening to Rush in album order. I keep forgetting just how good some songs I don’t listen to often actually are, especially in the context of the album. Clockwork Angels continues to amaze. It really is the best album of all time.

Quote of the Week

Friday (when I was supposed to my update) was the release of The Hobbit in 1937, so this one was easy.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort
J.R.R. Tolkien

News and Works in Progress

  • RTM (3,416)
  • The Feeding of Sorrows (approx. 20,000)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AFS (2,556)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Mel Todd, and it’s one of the more fun interviews I’ve had. You can find it here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1401.

Today’s Weight: 384.2

Updated Word Count: 1057

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Four Horsemen Wiki: 417 entries

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

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works

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

Interview: Mel Todd

Mel and I have seen each other at a number of cons, but it was only this past LibertyCon we had a real chance to chat. She’s got a great sense of humor, as you’ll see…

Interview: Mel Todd
Mel Todd
Mel Todd

What is your quest?

To tell the stories I can’t find. To show people ways reality can twist, and how the ordinary person can prove themselves extraordinary.

What is your favorite color?

Purple!  Lol – one of the things I love to do is set my desktop wallpaper to random and load different themes.  For a while it was Hubble Telescope pictures, then walls of covers from multiple genres, right now it is all “You should be writing” meme’s.  I will say Tom Hiddleston’s Loki might have one or two in there.

Cover of No Choice
Cover of No Choice

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

Oh, number one – don’t join a romance group and let them read your non-romance sci-fi.  You will walk away thinking you are the worst writer ever.  Asking for help is great, but make sure they LIKE the genre you are writing in.  Hmmm… life.  Life is hard sometimes.  Finding time to write is even harder.  Make it a priority, but be nice to yourself and accept you can only do so much.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Wait you get a holy hand grenade?  No fair. AT all.  All I have is a Cat of Superciliousness. So on those days I just can’t – the want to suck the thumb and crawl into a ball – those days?  5 minute timer.  You only have to write for 5 minutes – nonstop, 5 minutes.  Most of the time I’ll decide I can do another 5 minutes.  You’d be amazed how much you can get if you just do it for 5, 10, 15 minutes.  Otherwise creatively?  I talk to myself – a lot.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?   Miss Piggy!  Sexy, confident, and has a tail.  How can you not love her?
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy.  I want my nuts to have substance.
  • Favorite Sports Team? ….. Ravenclaws?
  • Cake or Pie? Pie.  With ice cream or cheddar cheese if apple.
  • Lime or Lemon?  Yes
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  … salsa – especially good with cream cheese.
  • Wet or Dry? I didn’t realize this was an X-Rated interview.  I’d have to make sure all your readers are over 18 to answer that.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ohh… I don’t know if I am that obsure of a music person – relatively common Sisters of Mercy and Johnny Horton.
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Yes
  • Favorite Superhero? She-Hulk.  Sorry I LOVE Jennifer Walters.  She is so awesome. No angst, rolled with it, and rocked it.
  • Steak Temperature?  Blood should be dripping.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? I don’t recall telling you how ancient I am – but Bionic Woman.  Jamie Summers is my idol.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  Fall, dear goddess Fall.  I want my apple cider, my fireplace, my smores!
  • Favorite Pet?  Oh my pussy – ha, told you, no X-rated answers.  I have 3 cats who all feel like I serve them.  So, yeah.  I’m owned.  I admit it.
  • Best Game Ever?  …. You hate me don’t you.  How do you expect me to choose?  So… Colossal Cave Adventure all the way up to Planescape Torment to WoW…. And lots in between.  Then there is Munchkin and Solitare and Gems of War and LARP and White Wolf and D&D (I’m agnostic sorry) so Best Game Ever – the one I am playing at this moment.  Which happens to be called My Creative Brain Hates me.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the mornings, iced tea in the summer evenings, and hot tea with spirits in the winter evenings.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Yes.  What?  I like to try different flavors.  I’m equal opportunity.  ~Wiggles eyesbrows~
Cover of Rage
Cover of Rage

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

Well, Rob….. oh.. x-rated.. right.  So – dang it all my questions are business related and probably REALLY boring to anyone not trying to make a living at this, so Dragoncon yes?

Rob’s Answer: Well, since this is well after DragonCon I can reliably inform you I’m unlikely to go in 2018. Actually, I did not have a great time at DragonCon last year. It was fun, but not the amount of fun I paid for.

A big part of why is that I love my job. I enjoy being on panels. I like interacting with writers and readers. The bigger a con is the more difficult that becomes, especially since I’m not yet a big enough name for DragonCon to approve me as an attending professional.

Also, I recently moved and frankly needed a fall with few long trips. I go to Pennsic every year where I make money and people know me. It’s only a few weeks before DragonCon and I just didn’t have enough spoons to push to go.

Will I go in 2019? I don’t know. It’ll depend on where my career is to an extent. Ask me at LibertyCon.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

OOOH… Self Promo!!!   www.badashpublishing.com we has books, we has blogs and we will be at LibertyCon in 2019 and Dragoncon always.  What can I say, I’m addicted.

And where can we find you?

Oh… umm.. I wrote the above before I read this.. um…  Moonlight and Magnolias in 2018 and 20booksto50kVegas in 2018.  Hmm… otherwise, beg me to come (oops x-rated again) and I’ll think about it.

Do you have a creator biography?

And low the heavens opened and then slammed shut again, leaving Mel standing in the wet dreary California farmland.  What shall become of our waif? Tune in to find out.

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

Hmmm.. name/species/orientaion might have been a good start. Mel Todd – human (maybe), vertical most of the time, except when I’m horizontal.


Thanks to Mel Todd for taking the time to answer my questions.

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

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

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

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