Well, it was a very good week around here until tonight. One of our cats had a problem and she’s at the emergency vet. She’ll probably be OK, and hopefully there’ll be no long-term issues, but it sucks.
The big news, of course, is the release of We Dare: Semper Paratuswhich includes my story “Nor War’s Quick Fire.” This story is a prequel to “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms” from the first We Dare Anthology.
William is an eccentric billionaire who loves Shakespeare and is determined to establish a colony on Mars. Just as the colony is about to become fully self-sufficient with all of his first-stage colonists in place, the Earth is engulfed in nuclear flame. Please take a look. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FQY6QFD/.
On the writing front, I only had four days I was able to write, but I got 12k new words in the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows. I’m currently calling it The Ravening of Wolves. I like tying titles in a series together, but that might be too close. We’ll see when we get closer.
I am really pleased with where it’s going. I like the challenges that jumped out at me. The Foresters and the Stalkers in the Stars are not going to have an easy time of things.
But that’s it for now. Heading back to the vet to get the kitteh. Will let you all know next week how she’s doing.
What I’m Listening To
Watching the Rangers at the Rockies. My birthday present from my sweetie was MLB TV. I gave up on live/cable TV for now since really all I watch is sports. I already have NFL Gamepass, which allows me to watch games over and over, though I can’t watch them live. Still, I don’t know if I’ll get anything ever again because I’m really enjoying this.
Quote of the Week
This one fits the day. Also, happy birthday, T.E. Lawrence.
“He was old and wise, which meant tired and disappointed…”
December 25th: “Silent Knight,” the first of the Nick Patara, PI Christmas gifts to my readers.
I’m incredibly pleased at the success of these stories. Four of those, including all 3 Phases of Mars anthologies and The Feeding of Sorrows, earned at least one orange tag.
An orange tag on Amazon signifies it’s a bestseller. Now I can add “Amazon Bestselling Author” to my bio. That’s pretty darn awesome.
I’m also pleased that I still love all six of these tales. I am never pleased with the quality of writing in any of my past stories, because with each new one I get better. However, the tales are all good. I know this because I still cry at the end of each one.
If I don’t get emotional reading my stuff, I can’t expect you to do so either. I still get emotional on all of them.
The biggest negative of 2019 is that I didn’t get None Call Me Mother published. I had even hoped to make progress on Edward 4, but that was always only a faint hope.
Despite that, I’m not displeased with my writing output. I’m up to 93k on None Call Me Mother, so it’s getting close. I chose to write The Feeding of Sorrows instead and it was a great decision.
I also chose to follow Bill Fawcett’s advice. He said to me at LibertyCon in 2018 that I should write more short stories. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t pay attention to him. I may yet be an idiot, but not about this.
My goal is two or three novels a year and four or more short stories. I came really close if I count the words I actually wrote in 2019. I wrote about 75k of The Feeding of Sorrows and about 20k towards its sequel. I wrote about 80k in None Call Me Mother in 2019. I also worked on a couple of special projects I’ll announce when I post my look ahead to 2020. All told, I submitted six short stories (one yet to come), and wrote about 175k of long fiction. 230k or so of fiction is not shabby.
I did this despite not taking care of myself. Following Pennsic, I spent 5-6 weeks in a funk. This was driven initially by fatigue, because I traveled a ton this past summer. Then my brain weasels got involved, chastising me for not being productive, and that spiraled down.
Fortunately, I recovered in time to complete all of the items I had promised to various editors. Had I paid attention to myself, though, I believe I would have finished None Call Me Mother. Ah, well.
I have adjustments planned for 2020. One challenge of being self-employed is that I have to play mental games with myself to keep me from doing stupid stuff, like losing those 5-6 weeks.
I went to a number of fantastic events in 2019. This was my first year as a vendor on my own at Gulf Wars. Drix and I also expanded our booth at Pennsic, and this is exciting. LibertyCon was wonderful and emotional. FantaSci went great, not great for a first time con, but great. So great I’m choosing it over Gulf Wars and Planet Comicon in 2020.
I did all these things while also getting the opportunity to serve as Their Majesty Calontir’s herald in the first half of the year. I love doing that job. Thanks to Donnghal and Catalina for giving me that opportunity. And yes, you totally got me.
My sweetie and I did a bunch of work to the house. We replaced around 1000 sq. ft. of carpet with bamboo. I love this stuff. Nice on my feet and pretty. We also started a new additional closet in the master suite, which had a ton of useless inefficient space.
The closest thing to a true negative are my tracked items, I spun my wheels a bit. I gained a little weight, though I’ve made it through most of the holidays without gaining much extra. My tracked word count, which includes only those things I actually released to the editor or on my blog, would have exceeded my goal had I managed to get None Call Me Mother to my editor, but of course will fall short in its actual number.
My wiki suffered a hacking attack in the spring. I have recovered most of the lost things, but I plan on redoing most entries. I learned a ton working on the 4HU wiki for nearly a year that I intend on incorporating. I’ll talk about that in my 2020 post.
These are my end results. I’ll work on improving them all in 2020.
Today’s Weight: 395.2
Updated Word Count: 146,912
Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries
I have so many people to thank. I’m going to take a crack at it, but will undoubtedly forget some people. But here’s what I can think of right now with a cat demanding petsies.
Mom, sweetie, and proto-incipient step-daughter come first. Living with a writer ain’t easy.
Chris Kennedy gave me a bunch of opportunities. I can’t thank him enough. James L. Young let me write in all 3 Phases of Mars, and those are good stories. Jamie Ibson let me break his soul in We Dare. Mark Wandrey kept encouraging me, especially his help in the 4HU. Kevin Ikenberry helped a ton with the Peacemaker aspects of my 4HU stuff. Frankly, let’s just thank all of the crew that Chris has gathered about him. They’re all making me better.
Kellie Hultgren did a great job editing my personal stuff and teaching me how to become a better writer. The staff at Brewbakers put up with me, and I rewarded them with tuckering it in “Silent Knight.”
Drix helped me grow my SCA sales presence. Tons of people encouraged me. One even allowed me to stay at her family’s lake house for a week of writing and solitude. I need to schedule this sort of thing once or twice a year.
Despite not getting None Call Me Mother out and spinning my wheels a bit, 2019 was definitely my best year so far. And it’s not close.
I’m growing leaps and bounds as a writer. My most recent project has helped me turn things I knew instinctively into things I understand. This is already showing up in None Call Me Mother and in “Silent Knight,” not to mention my earlier growth in 2019.
2019 was my best year.
2020 will be better. Lot’s better. We’re building something here and I will tell you all about what’s coming in a few days.
For now, though. Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate it.
I made it home from Pennsic yesterday afternoon. With the help of the proto-incipient step-daughter, my car was empty by 5pm. Go us!
Now I’m at Brewbaker’s. As a regular here I basically sit down and they simply ask if I want the usual, which is iced tea and a really good southwestern salad to which I add more jalapenos and avocado.
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came”
That’s true for Pennsic as well as Brewbaker’s. In many ways, Pennsic is just my normal neighborhood bar where I’m a regular. In the parlance of the event, I’m just on my 50-week town run.
For the last 8 years or so, I’ve hosted a first Monday of Pennsic bardic circle. I didn’t do a great job of promoting the event this year, but I still got about 80 all told. My high is apparently something around 125. This year, we sang until about 3:45am. This is a record, by not by much. We’ve been after 3:00am several times.
Both things are actually shocking to me. I’m astounded that something I suggested as basically a chance to get a few people singing has turned into a Pennsic fixture.
I’d like to take a moment and thank all the people who routinely camp in Calontir on that first Monday. They’ve put up with this thing, enjoyed it (mostly), and assisted with extra chairs, food and beer donations, and lots of singing. Thanks very much.
I plan on continuing this as long as I can and I hope to see a bunch of you at 0-dark-30 on 27 July 2020.
One of the most enjoyable moments this year was the attendance of Jamie Ibson. If that name is familiar to you, it’s partly because his name graces the cover of We Dare, the anthology that includes my story “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.”
He was there at the bardic circle, his first one ever. Then he roamed around seeing so much with fresh eyes and a good camera. I had a great time hearing his perspective and seeing past my eighteen years of attending.
I’m glad he got to come and see the wild Rhodri in his natural habitat, which is different than the wild Rob at a convention.
The shop went really well this year, I thought. Thanks to Renaissance Arts and Designs, our neighbor, we were able to expand our footprint. For the first time we weren’t cramped for space and we could hide a bunch of the clutter behind tent walls.
We have a number of tweaks of course. I built a really night shelf unit that I’ll add a special Pennsic add-on. We’ll have a better gutter between tents. We’ll tweak some table and item layouts. But overall, I think the general consensus is it was a vast improvement.
Sales for me were slightly up from 2018. Nothing huge, but I’ve increased every year and this was no exception. However, I’ve already noticed my post-Pennsic e-book spike has begun. This is encouraging as it’s usually late this week before I see much as it takes that long for people to unpack my bookmarks.
I was able to do a little more roaming this year, in part thanks to beautiful weather. Sometimes dealing with the weather at Pennsic is exhausting, especially over 16 days. This year had a little rain, though not much compared to what it could have been. The temps never got to 90 and were often lower than 80.
So I had more energy to go to some bardic circles and events. My highlight was getting to see a friend from Atlantia have her laureling vigil. A laurel, by the way, is a title bestowed on someone for being good at arts and sciences, and one sits a vigil before receiving it to contemplate a change in station. She’s a great addition to our ranks.
Overall, it was a good war and I hope see you all next year.
Also released since my last update (sheesh, I’m so easily distracted), is We Dare, a collection stories of augmented humanity. My story in there is called “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.” If you get the reference, you’ll have some clue how it goes down, but more than anything I was influenced by the Finnsburh Fragment and Episode, two bits of Old English poetry. Also, I had a chance to pay an homage to Dick Francis, and I took it. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SK6WKM1/.
I’m currently working on “In Darkening Storms,” the follow up to “Far Better to Dare” from Those in Peril. The new anthology will be called To Slip the Surly Bonds. For those of you reading this message, if you go to my blog, you can see the cover art there.
If you’re wondering about None Call Me Mother, I was just too ambitious. The new date to get it to the editor is the end of July with the hope to have it published in September. Thank you for your patience.
I was at Lilies War last week. I had a great time, did way too much, sold some stuff, and came home with a number of projects for Pennsic. The good news is right now I’m looking as ready for Pennsic as I have ever been and I don’t leave for five weeks.
After LibertyCon, I’ll be at Hypericon in Nashville. This will be my first time there, but I’m looking forward to it. After all, if Terry Maggert is the Guest of Honor, things have to be whimsical.
While I have more to chat about, that’s probably enough. That’s what I get for not sending out a weekly message. Next message will come from the Marriott in Chattanooga.
See you all out and about.
Current Playlist Song
Rush’s One Little Victory. This always reminds me of the final show of the Vapor Trails tour. They played this song to open the second set, and it was a reminder of all the challenges Rush had gone through the previous five years, especially Neil.
At one point, simply picking up drumsticks was a little victory for him, and yet at that moment he had managed to not only record a new album with Alex and Geddy, he had made it through an entire tour.
It was, and is, one of the most emotional moments of life.
Quote of the Week
Might as well quote from the song, too.
The measure of the moment
Is a difference of degree
Just one little victory
A spirit breaking free
One little victory
The greatest act can be
One little victory
-Rush, One Little Victory
News and Works in Progress
None Call Me Mother (Approx. 60,000)
Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions
I need to get back to doing my interviews and mag reviews.
This week’s interview is with Mia Hansson. I first met Mia when she and her husband came over from England to do a Vikings re-enactment event. A few years later, they graciously allowed me to use their house as a base as I roamed around to places like York, Shrewsbury, Portsmouth, and wherever else the train decided to take me.
But she’s not simply a great person, she’s incredibly skilled too. She’s also, like so many doing re-enactment, an overachiever. The Bayeux Tapestry is not a small thing. It’s 20 inches by 230 feet! That’s like a receiver catching a 76 yard pass! No one would be brave enough to embroider a full-sized replica would they? Well, here’s Mia…
Interview: Mia Hansson
What is your quest?
I have given myself 10 years to make a full scale replica of the Bayeux tapestry, the way I believe it may have looked when it was first created, before any repair work was required. I was alerted to someone’s attempt to make a half scale version and decided that I wanted to make a tapestry too. However, if you are going to make something like this, it needs to be done properly. I’m now 2 years and 9 months into the project and I have completed over 17 m, which means I have less than 52 m left to embroider.
At a museum in Reading, UK is a replica made in the 1800s by the Leek Embroidery Society. That version was censored. Stallions turned into mares and nude men are wearing underpants. My tapestry will be true to the original, which can be seen at the Bayeux tapestry museum in northern France.
Alongside the embroidery, I’m writing a book in which I try to capture thoughts and ideas, as well as experiences that come with the project. I hope to publish it at the time of project completion.
What is your favorite color?
I love many colours, but if I have to pick one I would opt for red, the kind of red that goes towards blue, not yellow. Blue is a close second and a soft pink. There are both red and blue in the tapestry, which only contains seven shades: red, yellow, light and dark blue, light and dark green and a dark mixture of green and blue.
The basic images on the tapestry are horses, men, ships and buildings. Although ships take forever to embroidery, they make a real impact when they are done and so do the horses. Big blocks of colour and that’s satisfying to create. If someone was to pick one image from the Bayeux tapestry to embroidery, I would recommend a ship or a horse. Stay well clear of buildings with a tiled roof or bricked walls. They are frustrating to stitch, due to the bitty nature of many small details.
There are several different stitches used on the original tapestry and I try my best to use the same in the correct places. The couch stitch is the main one and it has become known as the Bayeux stitch. It is a very efficient way of covering a large area and I really enjoy it.
I find details important, even if they can be frustrating and for me it is a big deal to get the features of the people’s faces right. A hooked or pointy nose, big or small eyes and an upwards or downwards facing line marking a mouth can make a big different. At the very beginning of my project, I remember stitching King Edward’s face three times before being happy with it. I hate unpicking with a passion, but I’d rather do that than leave something I’m not pleased with. This is a project I want to be proud of.
What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?
The flying speed of a paint brush is less than that of a swooping eagle, but more than that of a person not concentrating hard enough to get out of its path.
There are two different shades of blue on the original tapestry, a light and a dark shade, which are two of the main seven colours. As they were hand dyed, of course they differ, sometimes within the same hank of wool. That means a stitched outline can start out light and end up dark, with a mid blue in between. I have to make a choice which shade to use, as I only have light and dark. Even worse is when I can’t decide whether an infilled area is meant to be light blue, dark blue or perhaps a green-blue mixture. Occasionally I have involved other people to help make a decision and at times I have worked with other colours while I try to make my mind up. Sometimes I have changed my opinion after stitching and then had to decide if to unpick my work or not. Funnily enough it is only the blue shades causing major issues. The others tend to behave.
What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?
I hold an awesome stabbing power when it comes to a small needle. Sometimes I stab so fast that I fail to move the hand holding the fabric and I have to make sure there are no blood stains on the item I’m working on. True story.
Neatness is my thing. From years and years and even more years of practice, I can keep my stitches neat, tidy and the same size. Even the back of the piece has passed the approving eye of many experienced needlewomen. I was taught by my nan at the age of 4 or 5 how to embroidery and her lessons included how to keep the backside tidy.
Before starting this tapestry project I was (and still am now and then) making Viking garments for reenactors and for museums. Some of those items featured embroidery. The person would give me an image and I would make it fit as if by magic. Perhaps that’s it, embroidery magic is my Holy Hand Grenade.
Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy, of course!
Best Thing From the 80s? Leg warmers and permed hair. I had both.
Your Wrestler Name? Magic Mia – Poof and she is gone…
And Signature Wrestling Move? Run and hide, preferably as far from the arena as possible.
Favorite Weird Color? Pear ice cream green. Not pistachio green, but pear ice cream green.
How Will You Conquer the World? I’m already the ruler of my own pink clouded world. I will stitch something so amazing that people will willingly enter my world to view it. They will realize how pleasant Mia Land is and before they know it, they will be trapped and made to see the world through my eyes. Me being crazy? Pffft, not in my world. You’ll see…. Mwoa-ha-ha!
What Cartoon Character Are You? Lilla My from the Moomins
Best Present You’ve Ever Received? A soft cuddly frog when I was a child. He was my companion for far too many years.
What Do You Secretly Plot? To make people see the world the way I do. (See above)
Brought to you by the letter ___? M, of course. M for marvelous, meticulous, merry, magical and mustard, sweet mustard that is.
Favorite Sports Team? I don’t do sports. I like watching ice dancing, but that’s not really a team sport.
Cake or Pie? Pie! Oh yes, I had a piece of amazing pecan pie in Michigan last year at a place famous for its cherry pie.
Lime or Lemon? Lime, because it is small, green and cute.
Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Abba! At least one of my US friends couldn’t name a single Abba song. However, if you know the phenomenon that is (was) Abba, I’ll pick Marianne Flynner, a Swedish country & western singer.
Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey, I can spell…
Favorite Superhero? The Phantom. I even know a song about him… in Swedish. I’m singing it right now.
Steak Temperature? I don’t do temperature. I squish it when frying. It needs to have some squish to be rare.
Favorite 1970s TV show? I loved Happy Days
Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring, when the trees are light and bright green, before the summer heat kicks in. I love when nature comes back to life and I can be barefoot again.
Favorite Pet? Our two dogs, the Princess and the Pirate or Buffy and Bruin, if you want their real names.
Best Game Ever? The King’s Circle
Coffee or Tea? Black coffee, of course.
Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy, although I do like a decent alien.
What question(s) would you like to ask me?
When will we get to see you again? It has been far too long. We still have the wooden piece of art you brought back from your travels.
Rob’s Answer: I don’t know, but I’d really like to come back. I had a great time both times I was in England, and I really want to do another walking tour. I’ve been reading a lot of Dick Francis lately, and I want to walk the Ridgeway Trail and then maybe time it so I can go to the Cheltenham Festival. I’ve never seen a real steeplechase, and I really want to.
When you write, how much of your own experiences do you include in the storyline? Are any of the characters based on you, however loosely? Do you plot the entire storyline before starting on a new book or does it take on a life of its own and take you on a journey during the process of writing?
Rob’s Answer: Wow, a number of questions there. Let’s start with how much me is in there. It’s hard to say, sometimes. My normal style is to create a character, put them into a situation, and role-play what they will do. I try to give the characters agency, but every part an actor plays comes at some point from his experiences.
I do base characters on people, but not much on me. I suppose I could fancy myself as Edward, but I’m probably closer to Ragnar if I’m being honest.
I’m a pantser, actually, which means I write by the seat of my pants. Plotting to me is a generalized where I want certain characters to end up. I suppose I’m doing a little more plotting in the sense I’m trying to pants barebones first drafts and then fill them out in the editing process. They serve as sort of a chapter plan.
I’ve found that short stories can sort of spring up wholly formed, like “Far Better to Dare,” my entry in the naval alternate history anthology Those in Peril and my most recent story, “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” which will come out in We Dare this summer. It doesn’t always happen like that, but it can.
However, novels always take a journey of their own for me. In A Lake Most Deep, I was writing the scene where we meet Katarina for the first time. I intended it that scene to be merely a placed Edward had to go, or it would be an obvious plot hole. Instead, Katarina grabbed me by the throat and changed the story completely, and in so doing, all of Shijuren. While it’s often not as dramatic as that scene, the truth is novels are too big with too much going on for them not to be shaped by characters at some point during the process.
Tell me again where we can find your stuff?
I run two Facebook groups, Mia’s Bayeux tapestry story, where you can follow my project:
Every so often I take my tapestry out for a talk & display, fairly local to where we live. Most of the events are private bookings, but occasionally I organize something for the general public. Those will be advertised on Mia’s Bayeux tapestry story Facebook page.
Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?
You should have asked if I use a frame for my embroidery. Everyone else asks this question, so why not you? No, I don’t. I have one, but don’t get along with it. Years or practice have taught me how to get the tension right without a frame.
What am I going to do with the tapestry once all 69 m have been completed? Hopefully I’ll find someone with deep pockets who is willing to take over ownership. If not, I have had 10 years of enjoyment out of it and it will live out its days as a giant roll of linen and wool in my hobby room.
Rob’s Note: Y’all need to buy a lot of books, because I really want to have deep pockets when the time comes.
Thanks to Mia 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: https://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.