Sorry about not having an update last week. I’ve been pounding away at The Feeding of Sorrows. I’m doing well, though I wanted to be farther along. I’m over 90k, though, so it’s not entirely vaporware at this point.
I’m currently ensuring I’ve got all the pieces in the right place for the penultimate battle. In this case, this is the part where I have to juggle all the timing to make it work right. The final battle follows easily enough, once we get the characters into place for this one.
Why two battles? Well, I like intrigue, treachery, and extra explosions.
Anyway, I’m really pleased with the story and I’m excited to finish and get it to the publisher.
My story is called “Far Better to Dare,” and it’s about a certain memorable thing which doesn’t become memorable until ten years after it really happened. I really enjoyed writing this story, in part because I had to research an era of naval history I only knew a little about. It turns out to be perfect for this sort of exercise, with all sorts of interesting quirks and tidbits available to toss into the pot.
With that, I think I’m going to take the rest of the night off. A Cadfael mystery or two is calling.
Current Playlist Song
Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper. Like many, not only do I love the song but I am also reminded of the great “More Cowbell” routine where Christopher Walken keeps demanding more cowbell from Will Ferrell. This skit got even funnier when I realized that there really is cowbell in the song, but it’s in the background. Ferrell picked it up, though, and, though I rarely say this about him, made comedic gold.
Quote of the Week
I might as well use the quote that provided my title for my story in Those in Peril.
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
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
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/
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.
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 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.
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.)
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.