Tag Archives: Shijuren

Rob’s Update: A Pleasant Little Peace

Week 30 of 2021

Greetings all

I’m sitting in my booth on a beautiful day at Armistice. Indeed, the weather has been exceedingly pleasant. Truly beautiful weather.

Right now, I have three very talented musicians playing medieval songs across the courtyard on viol (I think), recorder, and hurdy-gurdy. The breeze is just enough to give the air a nice feel. And all around me are the wonderful sounds of a medieval marketplace enjoying itself.

First, this week, is a poll from Chris Kennedy himself. He’d like to know what readers want. You find the poll here: https://joesolari.typeform.com/to/joz29tie. This will help us get you what you want. Better yet, if you fill it out, you’ll be  able to enter a drawing to win one of three $100 gift cards at the store of your choice or $100 cash sent to your PayPal or Venmo.

Most of what I’m doing when customers aren’t here are reading through the submissions for Talons & Talismans. I can confirm now that there will actually be two anthologies because I got so much cool stuff. One will come out in October and the other in November. I’ll announce the full lineups a week from today.

I submitted a story to Three Ravens Press on Monday for an anthology. I got to redshirt a good friend in there, as well as having fun with zombie tropes, something I’ve never done before.

My current short story is my story in Talons & Talismans. It’s about Rabah and Jaime Muniotz, two characters earlier in Shijuren’s history, whose actions shape some of the foundation of what I did with Ausartxango Belatz in Brief Is My Flame and None Call Me Mother.

In the next couple of days, I’m going to start a new novel that will be entitled The Door into Winter. Sometimes, the perfect title comes to you that not only fits your plans but seems like the perfect mold to write a story around. This one will start a new series in Shijuren following Irina, Ausartxango, and Geirr after None Call Me Mother.

I do have some disappointing news to report. Due to circumstances outside anyone’s control, I was forced to cancel my appearance at DragonCon. I want to thank all the volunteers, especially Cisca and Regina, for all their hard work. Also, we will still have a major announcement that weekend, however, so stay tuned here.

Been an eventful week, but for now, I’d better get back to selling.

What I’m Listening To

Hurdy-gurdy and recorders in the courtyard accompanied by the occasional rasp of a bowyer shaving bow staves. Quite ideal, I think.

Quote of the Week

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay. It is entirely likely that means today’s quote is apocryphal. However, like many such quotes, it’s too fun not to believe it happened.

“Damn the torpedoes!”
― Admiral David Farragut

New Mythology Works in Progress
Current open anthology calls:

I’m currently working on Talons & Talismans. Starting in September, I’ll be editing the next Milesian Accords novel from Jon R. Osborne. Really looking for that.

I am so excited for what’s coming, and I can’t wait to really give you a full schedule.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • MON (3,211)
  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • CSC (1,283)

Upcoming Events

  • FactoryCon, 22-24 October, Coinjock, NC
    Details in the CKP – Factory Floor on Facebook.
  • 20BooksTo50K, 8-12 November, Las Vegas, NV

New Releases

More 4HU awesomeness! This week it’s Robert E. Hampson and Sandra L. Medlock’s And Break it Not, where they continue their thread on the Wrogul. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09BBZY6GS.

There’s also another Buck Book, this one is Lloyd Behm’s Shadow Lands, Book 1 of his Shadow Lands series. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KX8GHYX.

.Today’s Weight: Updated in a week

Updated Word Count: Updated in a week

Shijuren Wiki: Updated in a week

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

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: Recovering

Week 26 of 2021

Greetings all

Hey! It’s Friday! What the heck happened to the week?

I have noticed that the weeks after long trips tend to be sort of timeless in that I completely lose track. Given that I have about one big trip happening each week for the next few months, I need to get used to travel fatigue again, but for now, I’m just recovering this week.

Anyway, we’re about halfway through the year. Go us!

I had another story accepted this past week! I am going to be part of the fun space opera setting of Salvage Title. This one is called “Careful With That Axe, E.U. Gene.” I’ll talk more about this story when we get closer to release date, but you can probably tell by the title it’s a bit whimsical. This will probably always be one of my favorite stories because it’s just fun. Space battles, gunfights, and archaeology oh, my!

I’m in the midst of two other short stories that I want to have finished by the time I leave for Armistice, so about three weeks. One will be for Talons and Talismans, and it will return to the characters of Rabah and Jaime Muniotz, the founders of the Order of the Fortress of Rabah in Shijuren.

As for the rest of the anthology, it’s proceeding well. I have 3 stories edited and in the can, with  several more close. I have a couple of nice surprises to add as well, some neat things happening with that project.

Can’t wait to see all the submissions. My Armistice is going to be busy as I pick the winners. I’ve got five right now that would be excellent choices, so the competition is going to be fierce.

With that, I better get to writing. There’s adventuring to be done!

What I’m Listening To

I’m at Brewbaker’s. Currently, they’re playing a Kiss song. I’m really not a fan of Kiss’s music. I find it boring, frankly. However, they were one of the headliners who helped bring Rush along way back when, so I will always have a bit of a soft spot for them.

Quote of the Week

Samuel Eliot Morison’s 14-volume set of the US Navy in World War II was one of my foundational texts. I read it in the Wichita Public Library multiple times, and it inspired my love of naval history and through that, my love of naval-themed books, including Forester and the space versions by Weber and others.

Today is his birthday, and this quote, while written for historians, is true for all writers.

A few hints as to the craft may be useful to budding historians. First and foremost, get writing!

― Samuel Eliot Morison

New Mythology Works in Progress

Current open anthology calls:

I’m currently working on reading Steven Johnson’s Heart of Ice, the second in his Arthurian trilogy. I’m also pounding away at getting a head start on the lineup for Talons and Talismans.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • CSC (2,332)
  • MON (1,056)

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s release is the next Four Horsemen anthology, In the Wings. 15 more short stories in the 4HU which, by the way, easily surpassed its goals in the Kickstarter for the role-playing game. You can find this anthology here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B098SGZZGZ.

Today’s Weight: 339.2

Updated Word Count: 171,184

Shijuren Wiki: 746 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

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

Songs of Valor

Songs of Valor came out on Friday, and boy, do we have a bunch of readers to thank. We hit number one new release in a couple of categories and were top ten overall in some categories as well. A worthy start to a great book.

As part of the lead-in to release date, I did some story sketches, along with some fun nicknames for our authors. I thought it’d be cool to gather those sketches together. Plus, I didn’t do the nicknames for the initial three authors, because it sort of happened in that post and then a number of people enjoyed them.

So here we go:

The first story is by the Grand Admiral, David Weber, and is called The Dragon and the Drunkard. Such an honor to work with David, and this was one of his first stories ever. It’s perfect for a release this week, as this story involves a leprechaun, a dragon, the Rainbow Bridge, and an interesting legal situation. And scotch. Lots of scotch. I like scotch, by the way.

Next is the Beerzerker, Jon Osborne. This story, Smoke and Shadow. is another from his really cool urban fantasy Milesian Accords series. In general, I love stories that mix mythologies and look at them in new ways. This is something Jon does really well. Also, spoiler alert, buy some jellybeans. You’ll find out just how important they can be in this story.

Third is Benjamin Tyler Smith‘s On a Wing and a Train. Side note here, one possible name is the Shirker, because he clearly planned for their baby to be born on the same day as Songs of Valor just so he didn’t have to help promote everything. Clearly. Some people will do anything to get out of promo work.

Anyway, Benjamin’s real nickname is Speaker to Dead Things because I love his fantastic Necrolopolis series, and this is another story in that series. The elevator pitch: The mean streets of the City of the Dead are no place for an honest necromancer, even if he is drinking buddies with the God of Death. Especially when he has a partner who really puts the fatale into femme fatale. By the way, this is the first of five stories in the anthology that are winners of the FantaSci short story contest. Also, he says he’s got a Necrolopolis novel on the way, and I’m really excited to see it.

Next comes from the Big Boss, Chris Kennedy himself. This is a great coming of age story called The One You’d Least Expect. I love stories where someone grows into the challenge. This is one of those, and it’s especially interesting because of the nature of those in question. Also, just saying, this is an *origin* story, so maybe one day I can nag him into a full-length novel. Or series. Because he’s not busy doing other things, of course.

Next, the Bright Newbie, Melissa Moroney Olthoff. I call her the bright one because she’s so cheerful and enthusiastic. Even so, Oathbreakeris a tough, gritty story of love, strength, and courage. It will leave you wanting more, as it did for me. This was the second of the winners of the FantaSci short story contest.

Who else could the Crusty Old Sergeant be but Kevin Steverson? Changes is a story in his Balance of Kerr universe, and I really like it because it gives him a chance to expand that world and add some really cool characters with his normal fast-paced sort of adventure. It will come as no surprise to those who gamed with me in the RPGA back in the 90s that Londar is my favorite character.

Captain Mohawk is, of course, Quincy J Allen and he wrote another Rellen story entitled What the Eye Sees. This is high end swords and sorcery stuff, with a hint of noir. Spoiler alert. I foresee huge things for Rellen in 2022. Huge with a capital huge.

Next is Songbird by the Mountie, who is obviously Jamie Ibson. Now he wrote this story while he was still living in British Columbia and hadn’t yet leveled up to New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada. Even so, this is a great origin story of a guy finding his magic, and more importantly, his purpose. The third winner in the FantaSci contest.

Following that is Backup by the Renaissance Man. Dave Butler is annoying talented. Reads like 80 languages. Is a musician. Has a law degree. Is now a teacher. And he writes stuff. Great stuff, in fact. This is another Indrajit and Fix story, and I think these are modern versions of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, which are, not surprisingly, some of my favorite characters ever.

Side note: I almost chose the Mustachioed Loomer for Dave, but I figured that was too obvious.

Dama Quixote,  Sarah A. Hoyt, gave us One More Flight, a story  about old soldiers trying to make their way after their service time should be done. But sometimes, old soldiers have to get back in the saddle, and stand up to mighty foes.

Next is the Evil Eyebrow. On second thought, maybe I should have called Casey Moores the EEEEVIL Eyebrow. If you’ve seen him, you know what I mean. Anyway, his story A Quaint Pastime is also about an old soldier. This one is trying to find his place in the next war. With a twist. Lots of aerial action and dogfighting in this one, and this is the fourth winner of the FantaSci contest.

Next is a story by J.P. Chandler, the Legal Beagle. The third of three in a row about old soldiers, this story is about a warrior who has fought and fought and fought and he’s done. He’s got a last stand left in him, though. And it turns out there are others ready for that stand. This is the fifth of the stories that the FantaSci crew are going to have to pick from.

Chandler’s story hit me in *all* the feels. I cried when I read it the first time, the second time, the third… well, you get the idea.

Next comes the Arrogant Editor. Let’s just say today’s launch success didn’t make me any less arrogant. My story in this, Magnum Opus, let me delve into Katarina, one of my favorite characters in the Edward series. What happens when evil has to be the good guy?

Then is the Ancient Master. Glen Cook‘s not really ancient but he sure he is a master. I’ve loved his stuff for years and was very happy to have a Black Company story here. Cranky Bitch has all the cynicism and War weariness you’ve come to expect from that series.

And finally, the Accountant of DOOOMMMM. Larry Correia‘s The Dregs is fantastic, full of action, and with a cool twist at the end.

What a great lineup that was, and they gave me fun stories. I was honored to get to edit all this.

I’m also proud at being a part of the FantaSci short story contest. They are going to have a heck of a time selecting from the stories from the winners.

Thanks to all involved in what turned out to be an awesome project.

Rob’s Update: New Mythology Press

Week 2 of 2021

Greetings all

Well, this has been a wonderful and eventful week for me. On Wednesday, Chris Kennedy gave me the opportunity to become lead dog on New Mythology Press, his fantasy imprint. This means I’ll be taking submissions and guiding the accepted books through the process of publication.

This is incredibly exciting and I look forward to bringing you all a bunch of great stuff to read.

I’ll be adjusting some things related to my weekly email as part of this. I’m going to start sending them out Thursday to better flow with Tuesday releases for New Mythology Press. I’ve added a New Mythology Works in Progress section where I’ll discuss what’s going on there. There will be more changes as I adapt to this amazing new opportunity.

Thanks again to Chris.

By the way, if you’re interested in submitting a novel to New Mythology Press here are the basics:

New Mythology Press Novel Submission Guidelines

  • Novels of 80 to 120k words
  • In .doc or .docx file format
  • Times New Roman, 12pt
  • 1.5 spaced
  • Can be fantasy of any type, epic, urban, high, whatever. Needs to have heroes doing heroic things, just like you’ve come to expect from all the books from CKP.

However, this does not mean I’ll stop writing. Not at all. I actually had a great week of progress on The Ravening of Wolves, getting about 6k done despite not writing at all yesterday because it was my sweetie’s birthday. It’s good to get back into the groove.

With that, I better get working. I’ve already got submissions to read. Exciting stuff!

What I’m Listening To

Rush, all of it. Neil died a year ago Thursday and I’m not over it.

Quote of the Week

I’ve probably used this quote before, but it’s too powerful not to use again. It comes from the last song on the last album by Rush. Neil nurtured one hell of a garden.

“The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect
So hard to earn, so easily burned
In the fullness of time
A garden to nurture and protect”

– Neil Peart (1952 – 2020), “The Garden” from Clockwork Angels

New Mythology Works in Progress

Songs of Valor is basically complete. It goes to the editor this weekend. I’m really proud of how this turned out and you’ll want to get it when it comes out in March. Here’s the list of fantastic stories and ridiculously good author list, along with a note if they’re part of an existing series:

  • The Dragon and the Drunkard by David Weber
  • Smoke and Shadow by Jon Osborne (Milesian Accords series)
  • On a Wing and a Train by Benjamin Tyler Smith (Necrolopolis series)
  • The One You’d Least Expect by Chris Kennedy
  • Oathbreaker by Melissa Olthoff
  • Changes by Kevin Steverson (Balance of Kerr series)
  • What the Eye Sees by Quincy J. Allen (Rellen series)
  • Songbird by Jamie Ibson
  • One More Flight by Sarah Hoyt
  • A Quaint Pastime by Casey Moores
  • Backup by D.J. Butler (Indrajit and Fix series)
  • The Hill to Die On by J.P. Chandler
  • Magnum Opus by Rob Howell (Shijuren series)
  • Cranky Bitch by Glen Cook (Black Company series)
  • The Dregs by Larry Correia

I’m still amazed by this collection of talent. Truly an honor to be a part of it.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (35,384)
  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Working on other things this week

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is on Christopher Woods and William Joseph Roberts, who put out their own take on the Salvage Title universe with Smuggler’s Run. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08S71RJP5.

Today’s Weight: 345.8

Updated Word Count: 2,396

Shijuren Wiki: 725 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

Nick Patara, PI

  • Silent Knight (Nick Patara, PI, Book 1)
  • Under a Midnight Clear (Nick Patara, PI, Book 2) (Forthcoming)
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Rob’s Ramblings: 2020 Review

Now that 2020 is in the mirror, it’s time for me to review my output for the year and give myself a grade.

I only published one novel, None Call Me Mother. It was an important novel and a big challenge as the third of a trilogy. I learned a ton of things writing that series and I’ll never do that the same way again.

I published another Foresters story. Actually, I published another Rick Blaine story. I think, long-term, that’s where my 4HU future really lies. I got 30k into The Ravening of Wolves and it will be as straightforward a novel as I’ve ever written. At this point, it’s about arming up too damn quickly to fight a desperate fight. The physics of the 4HU means that Blaine has to be separate.

There was another story in the We Dare series. It was a prequel to “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.” I like where that universe is going and I might very well do something with it down the road. Hence, I’m calling those the “On Opportunity’s Trail” universe. There’s stuff there, once I get a chance to write in it.

I had the great honor of being the guest for the Scribblers Corner anthology Dragons and Dribbles. My first time as a “guest star.” Thanks to William Joseph Roberts for the opportunity.

I wrote several fantasy short stories in 2020. I wrote one in late 2019, “What’s in a Name,” that came out in When Valor Must Hold. I wrote another Edward-ish story for Songs of Valor. My story in Dragons and Dribbles was another Shijuren story. I also dabbled in something that’s specifically Conan-esque.

While much of the fantasy stuff I wrote will only come out in 2021, I was pleased to really start pushing more short fantasy. I’ll be doing more of that in Shijuren to fill in some of the blanks.

I did my second Nick Patara, PI story. That world is really coming into view, and I actually got about 1k written in next year’s story.

Overall, I published about 200k worth of fiction. This is lower than I want, as it only included 1 novel and 5 short stories. There were also three introductions/prefaces. I also have a couple short stories that are in upcoming anthologies. I also had about 70k on my blog, so all told I counted 268,072 words.

This isn’t enough. I’ll give myself a C here. Had I written another novel, I’d give myself an A. Missed it by 70k.

However, I will adjust my overall grade up a bit when I consider what else I’ve done. The way the schedule worked, I did most of the work for both When Valor Must Hold and Songs of Valor in the 2020 calendar year.

So, while I only wrote about 20k words in those two total, they were two full-sized projects that I’m not counting in the above 200k. I’m not quite sure how to count editing work in my word count, so that’s something I’ll have to figure out.

I also had to rebuild the wiki for Shijuren in 2020. That ended up over 100k words of worldbuilding, record-keeping, and foundational work. This made it much easier to write my story for Songs of Valor, and is really pushing another Edward story.

Also, re-doing the wiki made it much easier for me to re-edit I Am a Wondrous Thing and Brief is My Flame. That took time too. I’m in the midst of re-editing the Edward books, and by the end of January, I expect them to be fresher and faster.

I did start learning how on-line publicity works. I’m still not doing it well, but making progress. It’s not something I’ve done a ton of, and I think I’m missing some opportunities there.

Actually, now that I think of it, I did quite a bit of research during the year to turn some instinctive things into known things that I can consciously call on instead of relying upon their appearance. I’m definitely getting better.

Overall, that extra work brings my grade up to a B-.  I didn’t do awful, but I’m sure I could have done more. I’ll do another post next week about my goals and plans for 2021. Next year, I’ll try and do better.

Rob’s Update: I’m Doing This

Week 49 of 2020

Greetings all

It was a bit of a down week, though some of the reason why it feels down is that I pounded away at a bunch of details that need to get done, but which aren’t necessarily the big stuff like new words.

I got my released version of Silent Knight ready to go. Under a Midnight Clear is almost done *and* I started next year’s. Also, new artwork in this series from Cedar Sanderson.

I’ve got some stuff working on improving the Edward novels with the anticipation of another Edward book coming soon. Finishing None Call Me Mother has really opened my mind to some great plans in Shijuren.

Speaking of plans, the Shijuren wiki is now virtually rebuilt. I have ten or so entries to add that have been mentioned in the books, and they’re all minor. These will get added next week and then I’ll be laying groundwork for some future series. I’d like to have a bunch of the worldbuilding already done before I start the next series.

I think 2021 will be an amazing year for Shijuren and it will catapult into something special. I’m really excited here.

Songs of Valor, the FantaSci anthology, is *almost* done. Just waiting on a few things.

Finally, I turned my focus back to The Ravening of Wolves, the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows.

When you lay all that out, a *down* week for me right now is still pretty darn productive. It was just a bit scattershot and I certainly took more time off this past week than I have in the previous few months. Not a bad week at all.

What I’m Listening To

NFL pregame shows. It’s a Sunday morning after all. Sorry I’m a little late from last week, mostly because I got distracted the past couple of days. Just fort that I’m giving you a quote from one of the greats of NFL history.

Quote of the Week

I think a George Halas quote is especially apt right now. I’m finally in the career I should have been in all along, though it took me to 2015 to realize that. I certainly would rather not be doing anything else.

“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”
– George Halas

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (33,182)
  • CB (8,418)
  • UAMC (4,785)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • A bunch more wiki additions. Starting next week, there’ll be new worldbuilding content that might give hints at future plans.

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is on Kevin Ikenberry, who is an incredibly smart guy. He’s the driving force behind the 4HU’s Peacemakers, which has become a great thing in its own right. Dereliction of Duty is in a different series, the Imprint War. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08Q44Q6SZ.

Today’s Weight: 352.0

Updated Word Count: 261,189

Shijuren Wiki: 723 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
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Rob’s Ramblings: Only *This* Story

This week I’ve been pleased to receive a whole slew of short stories for the FantaSci anthology. All told, we received 37 entrants, which seems like a good number to me. Chris and I are still discussing the ones we’re going to choose, so I’m not going to talk about results just yet.

However, since it’s fresh on my mind, I thought I’d go over some of the things I saw in this process. At this point, I’ve read a bunch of short stories over the years, written a dozen or so, and am in the process of editing my second anthology. There are many out there with more experience than I,  but this contest really helped coalesce my thoughts on short stories to something more concrete, so I’m going to post on this as much for me to remember as to help you all.

Let me lay down one overarching principle: “Only *this* story matters.” There’s your TL:DR of this post. Only this story matters and anything that’s extraneous drags it down.

First, let’s talk about exposition. The vast majority of stories that got put straight to the bottom of our list explained too much. There’s little that’ll bring a story to a screeching halt like a sizable infodump near the start.

Yes, readers need to know stuff. They’ll get frustrated when something isn’t explained. However, you want to only explain what you have to explain for *this* story, even if you have plans for that story being a part of a larger setting.

If you plan to compile a collection of connected short stories into a novel, you can come back and add exposition later if needed. But that’s part of that process, not this story.

Readers don’t always need to know technical details or the physics/metaphysics underlying a universe. They need to know only if the plot twist turns on it. Most of Asimov’s robot stories turn on the Three Laws, so the reader has to know them. But details how robots work? Not as much.

It’s really easy to throw in details the author thinks the reader needs to know. It’s rare, especially without more experience, for an author to limit that exposition to actually what is needed for *this* story. Believe me, I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and it’s a major part of my editing process to cut that sort of thing out of my own stuff.

For Songs of Valor, authors had 7-10,000 words to strike with. And I mean strike! Short stories work best with action, in my mind, not explanations of this and that. That especially includes a bunch of stuff about what the character is thinking. Show, don’t tell, the character as much as possible.

Now I don’t mind a character parsing through tactical choices a bit. “I did this to learn this and then did that to get this reaction.” This is, I think, especially useful in first person noir style stuff.

But even that’s a balance. For None Call Me Mother, a novel which needed more tactical discussion than a short story, my editor told me I’d gone overboard and I cut back on them dramatically to get a faster, sharper story. Editors are nice like that and the 148k original draft that seemed bloated ended up as a 124k sleek creature I’m pretty pleased with.

Tell us what we need to know and nothing else. And whenever possible, weave it into conversations and side notes in the story and avoid a major infodump.

But that brings up an obvious question, how do you know what the reader needs to know?

For me, short stories have a soul. This is true of all stories, long or short, but I think it’s more important with shorter stories because you have to focus on that soul and nothing else. With novels, you want to have some misdirection, extra plants, and some additional frippery. There’s simply not enough time for much of that in shorts.

The problem is that “soul” is such an amorphous term. I’m a pantser, especially with short stories. It is extremely rare that I know the soul of the story when I start it. It’s happened once, with my story “Far Better to Dare” from Those in Peril, but that’s it.

Most of the time I write at least 4-6,000 words before I realize what the soul of the story really is. Then I realize that much, if not most, of what I’ve written so far is not actually relevant to the soul of *this* story. Maybe I had to write it out to know the character well enough, or the events underlying the story, or whatever, but all that stuff is just background and I have to cut some, if not nearly all, of what I’ve written.

This is hard. You have to be ruthless with your own writing and take extra stuff out. Don’t delete it, of course, you may use it later elsewhere, but not here.

Of the stories we received that I thought had potential but weren’t in our top 4 and thus a part of the anthology, I would say nearly all of them suffered from too much exposition that didn’t matter to that story’s soul. In some cases, this exposition was the kernel of the story, and hence the author thought it had to be in the story. However, that’s not always the case, and took away space for action without adding as much as the author realized. That chunk mattered, because it drove the character, but the reader didn’t need to see all of it, just hints of it.

Let me give you an example from my story from this anthology. Its POV character is Katarina, the chaotic evil crime boss from Achrida who Edward has to deal with far too often. I initially started with a thread of her comparing people around her to those she’s murdered in the past. Number twelve, number two, number 47, etc. It’s a fun thread for this character and I had to have it in mind as I was writing from Katarina’s point of view as the most unlikely/reluctant hero I could think of, but those words were wasted in this story.

Don’t worry, I have all those murders saved and listed.

But what’s the soul of the story? That’s hard to determine and it could be really far afield from where you started.

When I started writing “Here Must We Hold,” my story about the Battle of Maldon in Trouble in the Wind, I wanted to write a version where Byrhtnoth’s decisions weren’t because of “ofermod,” or hubris, but rather from smart strategic thinking that gave up a tactical advantage. That’s there, of course, but in the end, it became about something else, a pure redemption arc I won’t spoil by describing here. That forced me to change the entire structure of the story, remove some particulars, and add others.

My story in We Dare, “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” is a version of the Finnsburh Episode & Fragment, or Romeo & Juliet if you prefer, set on Mars. That was all, but in the end, it became more of a story about the hero in the Wanderer or the Seafarer, two of my favorite Old English poems. That, too, forced a series of changes, cuts, and tweaks. I didn’t realize that until I reached the absolute end of the story and needed the extra gut punch.

I could describe the journey of each story I’ve written, but I think you get the point. Be open to finding a soul of the story after you’ve written it, then shaping the story around it.

Whatever I’m writing, I constantly think about Raghunath Rao. He’s a character from the Belisarius series by Eric Flint and David Drake. He is fond of saying, “Only the soul matters in the end.” Not a bad thing to remember when writing short stories.

Returning to “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms,” I mentioned I thought it needed an extra gut punch and that’s because I think short stories need a twist. Something at the end that forces the reader to think and want more. I get this philosophy from one writer in particular, my favorite writer of short stories ever, Randall Garrett.

He was about as flawed a man as he could be, which is why many of you have never heard of him. He wrote only when he needed drinking money. However, he was so good he could go to John Campbell and ask for an advance on a story and get it! What a crazy thing, especially in the era of the pulp magazines of the 50s and 60s.

If you ever see a copy of The Best of Randall Garrett paperback in a used book store, get it. Even if you already have a copy so you can gift it to someone. There’s an e-book on Amazon with the same title, but it’s not the same as the paperback, though the two are linked. Here’s the link for the paperback on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Randall-Garrett-1982-01-01/dp/B01K3JZWX2. Again, the e-book version is not the same.

That paperback has the single best collection of SF/F short stories I’ve ever found. Every story in here is absolutely amazing and powerful. And they all have a twist at the end, some which have never stopped resonating with me since the first time I read this collection in the early 80s. I would never suggest anyone emulate Garrett’s life, but his skills as a writer of short stories are hard to match.

So I try to have all my stories have some sort of twist at the end. It could be just a subtle thing like the last word in “Far Better to Dare.” It could be big like the gut punch at the end of “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.” The twist in “What’s in a Name” is the word “Deor,” which is an odd word in Old English, but which added a neat addition to the redemption of Edward, provided the title, and shaped the soul slightly.

Doesn’t really matter what the twist is, nor is it necessarily a requirement. However, I think we can all understand that a story that hits you at the end with something extra is likely to be more memorable than without. In an anthology where you’re surrounded by great stories, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. And if you’re in a muddle of 37 stories for a competition, it’s even more important.

Finally, I’m going to touch on something that’s important, but which *can* be overcome, and that’s the use of language.

This is a fantasy anthology. We got a variety of definitions of fantasy, which was great, but of course some of it was medieval fantasy. There were a few of these submissions that suffered because the language was too modern for the setting. Imagine, if you will, Gandalf saying, “Well, hindsight is 20/20.” Wait. What? That totally throws me out of the story.  So does “OK.”

Likewise, if you’re writing an urban fantasy or SF and the characters speak in a Shakespearean style, the readers are going to wonder what the heck is going on. It might work, like David Weber’s Jiltanith character from his Mutineer’s Moon series, but it has to be explained.

It may seem cool, but that exposition might take the place of action later on or confusing the soul of the story. In other words, getting in the way of the story’s power.

Now, sure, an editor can go through and edit all of the modernisms out of a medieval fantasy story, or whatever other oddnesses might be there, but in a contest, it’s a factor from the editor’s point of view. It means your story has to be clearly one of the winners. In a tie or close race between two stories, it will matter more. It’s quite literally part of the discussion Chris and I are having right now.

So to sum up, here you go.

  1. Only *this* story matters right now.
  2. Exposition only as needed for *this* story.
  3. Only the soul of *this* story really matters, in the end.
  4. Find a twist to give *this* story extra punch if you can.
  5. Use only the language that makes *this* story work.

Yeah, sure, these targets are amorphous and difficult to hit. I’m also not perfect at hitting them. However, I know that when I have these principles in mind, I write better stories. I also know that those stories submitted for this anthology that matched these principles got noticed more.

Again, you’ll find others out there with more experience than me, and also more success. You should absolutely pay attention to them. Also, there’s one true way of writing, and it’s whatever works for *you.* Still, I would say you wouldn’t go wrong at least considering these five things as you write short stories.


Rob’s Update: Stories, Magic, and Books, Oh My!

Week 47 of 2020

Greetings all

What a great week here, what with Thanksgiving and the release of None Call Me Mother. Thanks to all of you who’ve supported me along the way. I really appreciate it.

It’s great to have it finally finished, in part because it’s like finishing three books at once. Here’s the whole series, by the way:

I Am a Wondrous Thing: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HHKZJVA
Brief Is My Flame: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F1BQPNC
None Call Me Mother: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08NYDC6ZL

As I’ve said before, I’m really pleased with how this story turned out. I’ve re-read them all in the past week and they still entertain me and make me care about the characters.

This week I’ve been going through some of my writing notes, talking about some of my processes. I do this with every novel released, because each one teaches me something new or, at the very least, hammers in a point more than before. I touched on this in this blog post: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2163.

This seemed to spark some interest, so I then did a sketch of some of my thoughts behind a few characters, Irina Ivanovna, Eleonore Drechsler, and Etain Muirghein. You can find this post here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2166.

Then finally, at least for this week, I will talk about the evolution of Shijuren’s magic system tomorrow on both my blog and on Mad Genius Club.

Honestly, I should get back into the habit of doing a Monday Ramblings post. I have lots of thoughts, and often these posts help me think through them all.

Also this week, I basically finished two short stories. Both just need their print and read editing pass. Both turned out well, I think. You on my email list will get to see one for free on Christmas Day. The other will come out in the anthology.

I’ve also started cleaning up the Edward books to match my new improved arrangement. That’ll take whatever time it takes. I’ve found of late I can use the verbal editing pass as a good way to relax before going to bed, oddly enough. I read through a few chapters and my brain is done for a bit.

*And* on top of all of that, I keep adding to the wiki. This has become a relaxing process as I start playing with world-building ideas. I have more series to write in the world, and I’m about to do some more Edward stories, so it’s really giving me ideas.

What I’m Listening To

Lost in Germany by King’s X. I can remember the exact moment I first listened to King’s X. A buddy had suggested it and I picked up their CD Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. This is a fantastic album, and the first song, Out of the Silent Planet, just blew me away. If I have to pick a Best Rock Band Ever (Non-Rush Category), they’re in the running.

Quote of the Week

Here’s a taste from Upon a Midnight Clear, the free story I’ll be sending out to those on my mailing list. If you want to get it for free, just go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form on the left.

An embarrassed elf stood at my door amid swirling snow.

This wasn’t as uncommon a thing for me as it was for many people, but it’s never a good thing for your intel guy to look embarrassed.

Upon a Midnight Clear

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (32,068)
  • UAMC (4,785)
  • MO (9,971)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is on Benjamin Tyler Smith, who just released Blue Salvation, the 13th in Christopher Woods’ Fallen World universe. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P49L1D3.

Today’s Weight: 355.0 (A bit of a step back, but Thanksgiving will do that)

Updated Word Count: 250,745

Shijuren Wiki: 543 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
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

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

Rob’s Ramblings: Casting a Spell

I’m going to continue with this thread of posts going under the hood of my writing process with None Call Me Mother and the now-completed trilogy, The Kreisens, with a discussion of my magic system and what thoughts went into its creation.

By the way, if you want to see the first two of what is becoming a series, here they are. On Monday I talked about improving my production process at: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2163. On Tuesday, I went through my thoughts creating three of the characters in this series at: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2166.

Also, I want to take this moment to thank Cedar Sanderson and the crew at Mad Genius Club for cross-posting this as a guest post over there. You can find them at: https://madgeniusclub.com/. Also, check out Cedar’s page at: https://www.cedarwrites.com/. I’m not saying that just because she advertised None Call Me Mother there.

Anyway, back to this topic. I’m quite pleased with my magic system. I wanted to have a system that was easy to write, made every mage a little different, and forced wizards to make choices. It also had to have limitations and it couldn’t be pure handwavium. At the same time, I wanted to have something that connected with traditional magical depictions and expectations.

The roots of this system go all the way back to 1980 when I first played D&D. I was always a guy who enjoyed breaking things down and I had always wanted to design a magic system that was plausible and powerful.

The first challenge to me came from looking at the huge spell lists of various RPGs. From the standpoint of a game, discrete spells are a great thing. They allow for the kind of immediate choice needed for any turn-based system.

But I don’t like them from a writing point of view. I’ve enjoyed  various game-related books over the years like DragonLance and the Forgotten Realms books, but I’ve always struggled a bit with the prose describing these discrete spells in action.

So my system had to be a little more free-form from a writing point of view. On the other hand, that vast list of spells does includes just about every magical effect one could want, so I had to consider it.

I also didn’t want to break things down the same way as D&D. The divine/arcane magic system works great from a game point of view, but I just sort of think magic should be defined by its processes, not its source.

So what are the processes of spells? Not the idea of components, but how does a spell do the thing it does?

The first, and possibly most important, set of spells I broke down were the cure spells. I started with them because there has to be healing, if only because I tend to hammer my characters.

Now, hit points are a simple concept that handwaves over a bunch of stuff. Is a person harder to kill as they gain skill? Undoubtedly. Does the amount of physical trauma required to kill that person increase dramatically as their skill rises? Well, that’s a different question. I don’t want to dive into that philosophical discussion, but it’s useful to remember this question here.

The easy thing, and first to come to mind, is the concept of Life Magic. From a healing standpoint, it’s obvious. But it’s just as easy to harm. Excellent. I’ve now got a starting point for magic to be just a tool to be used as a character wants, good or bad.

But “life” is such a huge word, and I started spinning off idea after idea. I still do, by the way. Magic traditionally assigned to druids like controlling animals and plants, for example, is easy.

Yet there’s even more. I said I wanted something that made each wizard a little different, and Life Magic ended up being about variable as them all. Some cure well, but can’t hurt and vice versa. I’ve got Life Mages who really can’t do either, but can do other things really well. One essentially talks to bees. Connection to a single animal like a familiar. Some plantlords.

And I’ve got fun ways I can describe all of this. One of my standard things is for healers to step in and stop the bleeding and minimize the chance of infection. Obviously, they don’t have the same basis of medicine that we do, but people have known about infected wounds long before germ theory.

I also use Life Magic in a forensic way, having some Life Mages specialize in tracking traces of evidence off bodies. This is great for my Edward books, which are fantasy/mystery/PI hybrids. Again, they won’t know DNA per se, but they can track bits and pieces that give some clues. Great from my perspective.

Every aspect of life has its own calling, so I’ve hit on one magical process that works great. Life Magic works with life in every form but is individual to the mage. It can’t, however, deal with inanimate objects unless it can get a life form to do something to it, like say having a tree push its roots to destroy a rock.

That’s a great start, but clearly, I needed more types of magic.

Again, the question of cure spells guided me. How does one increase morale with magic? I’ve seen it happen with a group singing a song or following a banner. With speeches and theater. With rewards and gifts.

All of these things had effects as symbols greater than their intrinsic value as things. Magic, then, could push these symbolic effects to even greater heights and we’ve got so many traditional things to draw from here.

Bardic spells, so music and song. Religious ceremonies. Any kind of ceremony, actually. Runes and arcane scripts. Banners. Flags.

These things can influence just about any endeavor. I have never come up against a limitation of what symbolic magic could do. Heal, harm, teach, warn, refrigerate, heat, attack, whatever I wanted.

That’s a great thing, but from a story standpoint is a problem. All of the wizards had to have limitations, and so did Line Magic, which is what I ended up naming symbolic magic.

Fortunately, the limitation for Line Magic is fairly obvious. Symbols and morale *are* limited. You can be Rudy all you want, but you still have to have a certain level of size, speed, and skill to make the NFL. So Line Magic became the most versatile, but least powerful of all my spell types.

The next spells I looked at were Fireballs and the like. They don’t really fit with Life or Line Magic, but we need something like this.

I don’t talk about it much anymore, because I’ve integrated it so fully I don’t really think about it at this point, but I have a physics layer underneath my magic system involving Shijuren’s geodynamo.

Now, I handwave a jump or two, like the old cartoon with a math equation that has in the middle, “and then a miracle occurs.” However, it’s important that I keep it in mind and make sure those miracles aren’t too miraculous.

This concept of a layer of physics underneath the magic provided the answer to the fireball. I created a magic process that is basically e to m and vice versa. A fireball is just liberating a tiny fraction of energy from matter.

But again, this gave me a whole slew of possibilities. Heat, sound, light, and so much more. Stones that warm things or refrigerate them. Stones that create light or lock doors. Listening to mountains.

So now I have Land Magic. Here’s where I made the most handwavium decision in the whole process, though. One could make the argument that since living creatures have mass than Land Magic could affect them just as easily. I decided Land Magic could only work against inanimate objects. That life, for whatever reason, resists this sort of manipulation. Yeah, it misses a bit on the logic, but it creates a distinct limitation that works well to differentiate mages.

By the way, yes I went through and came up with “L” words for each type of magic. Stupid maybe, but it seemed like fun at the time.

OK, so what am I missing? Let’s look at charm spells. To a great extent, these rely upon manipulating emotions. Love Magic! Perfect. Magic that manipulates emotion can be extremely powerful, but only with humans and some more intelligent animals.

I’ve extended this a bit as I’ve gone along, by the way, to the study of the amygdala and how humans create emotions. It’s a strange process that we don’t really understand as far as I can tell, but that’s perfect for my purposes. I can adapt as needed.

I’ve also used this as forensic magic in the Edward books, as emotions presumably spike during murders and such, leaving a residue that can be tracked.

For ease of description, I say emotions flow from a person in tendrils. Then I use Pluvchik’s Wheel of Emotion to give me guidelines. To step from one emotion to another is one degree of difficulty, as does going up and down in intensity.

From a magic standpoint it’s fairly versatile. From a writing standpoint it’s fun to describe. However, this magic system tends to lead to fewer differences between wizards since there’s only so many different emotions. There are some differences, though, as each Love Mage has their own preference. Some work best with love and some with hate. So far, this has seemed to be enough for my purposes and I’m coming up with more, like those specializing in forensic magic.

That’s a pretty good collection of magics, but I got to this point still thinking I was missing a process. Living things, non-living things, symbols, and emotions don’t allow for what D&D calls the divination school. Also, we really don’t have a that traditional long-bearded knows-everything iconic wizard. I mean, you could have that from each of the four we’ve described, but knowledge itself should have power.

This was especially important to me as a historian, by the way.

Lore was an easy L-word to use here, but it took me a while to figure out how to make Lore Magic work.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across the Greek concept of kairos. This gave me a kernel of an idea, especially when I considered the concept of how so many wizards in other stories often don’t do D&D style magic but instead just happen to be at the right place at the right time and do the right thing.

So maybe I have something here. The more you know and research, the more you can pick out those kairoi, which means you can influence them to come out the way you want. A Lore Mage, then sees a series of kairoi as butterfly points of potentialities. They then shape the potentialities to fit the desired result.

Wow! What a fun concept, though I will say it’s been proven hard to write with. How do you shape potentialities on the fly? This magic has to work over time, not really in the heart of a conflict. To shape a battle, a Lore Mage has to anticipate the fight then put themselves into a stronger position to win.

OK, this actually isn’t so bad from a writing perspective. I now have a way for bad guys to shape a plot and I have ways for good guys to respond. Best of all, each Lore Mage is limited by what they’ve studied, so there’s a differentiation built into it from the beginning. Plus, not every Lore Mage views how to manipulate kairoi in the same way. Veikko, for example, manipulates kairoi not be using his magic to change them but to put people in the place where they can change it for him. Nebheshu has a much more direct and arrogant approach.

In the end, Lore Magic became the single most powerful magic one can do in Shijuren. It can do just about anything. However, it requires time, often lots of time. I’ve had mages create spells that are centuries long. Of course, the shifting of kairoi can be undone by the shifting of other kairoi by an opposing mage.

Lore Magic is the hardest to write, but the most fun, when I get it to work.

We now have my Five Streams of Magic, each with limitations and options.

I then decided that those humans capable of magic could only do one of these types. I did allow for a very few exceptions, though, in part because it fits some of the hidden backstory of the world, but these are incredibly rare, in part because they are extremely powerful. Their ability to mesh magical concepts means they can do more with each because of synergistic effects.

In any case, this means that mages in Shijuren have a very limited toolbox. They essentially have a hammer and they have to figure out how to make that hammer work in the situation they face.

This has been awesome for me as a writer. I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to do this or that, based on the tactical situation and the wizard’s set of skills.

More importantly, my spells haven’t really broken down into routine from wizard to wizard. They’re not all blasting away with a fireball or healing with cure light. Sure, an individual wizard might do the same thing multiple times, like Egill and his runes, but each has a flavor and an individuality, just as I had hoped for.

There’s my system. It might not be perfect, but it’s been magical for me and my stories.

Speaking of my stories, I will take this moment to talk about None Call Me Mother. Did I mention it came out on Tuesday? No? Well, hey, just to let you know, it came out on Tuesday!

In a way, it’s almost like I released *three* books on Tuesday, because None Call Me Mother finishes up a trilogy. I also took the time a week ago to clean up the other novels in the Kreisens trilogy, which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G8MTPP4.

And if you want to go straight to the first book, I Am a Wondrous Thing, it’s here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HHKZJVA.

Finally, if you’ve gotten this far, I might as well just link to my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Rob-Howell/e/B00X95LBB0/.

Thanks for reading this post, and I hope you enjoy my stories. Best wishes for a great holiday season to you all.



Rob’s Ramblings: Character Origins

Todd Searls mentioned that he liked seeing under the hood yesterday, and when I thought about his comment, I realized I love that from my favorite creators too.

One of my basic principles is to be the author I want be a fan of. Write the stuff I want to read and interact the way I want to be interacted with. So I’ll do some more of these posts, especially now while None Call Me Mother is new and fresh in my mind. In this one I’ll discuss some of the things I thought of while designing a few characters.

Irina Ivanovna

Irina Ivanovna is probably the most important character I’ve ever designed, not simply because she is the key to this story, but also because she shaped the entirety of Periaslavl and hence, much of the entire world.

I love Star Wars, but as I’ve gotten older, the Luke Skywalker character gets really boring. It’s a common fantasy trope, of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. How could I create a character than had all that “destiny” but knew a ton, yet didn’t know anything? That’s a thought exercise, let me tell you.

What if the character’s been sheltered? What if their limitation is that they’ve been focused on something else, not living in the world. And that led to the idea of the velikomat, or Great Mother, of Periaslavl. I won’t get into some of the reasons behind why Periaslavl made sense for this because it’d be a spoiler, but I had here a vehicle to make sure that the Great Mothers lived for a looooong time.

During the events in None Call Me Mother, Irina is 140 years old but her body is still that of a teenager. M-a-a-a-gic. If it’s a fantasy world, I should darn well use it.

Making her a ruler with all this experience and power meant she knew all sorts of top-end things. How much food an oblast would need to make it through the winter. How many troops Periaslavl could support. What was the Empire going to do? Or Svellheim. And so on.

Yet, of course, she’s never really been a person. She was chosen at 16 to be the Great Daughter, and for 124 years her life has been nothing but ruling Periaslavl. It’s a great set of experiences for a character, but it’s also a great set of non-experiences. I had a ton of fun playing with those things she never experienced or, more importantly for one kinetic reason, didn’t remember.

So there’s my callow character of “destiny.” I really have a problem doing the easy thing, don’t I?

One last note about Irina. My mom’s mom’s name was Irene. Yeah, I’m shallow, but I loved making that connection as the “Great Mother.” You should all expect this, by the way, because my mom’s dad’s name is Edward.

Eleonore Drechsler

The second character I’m going to look at is Eleonore Drechsler. I’ll start with her name. I use a random generator on Behind the Names. It’s a fantastic site, one of the most useful on the internet. I had to laugh at this name when it came up, because one of my favorite basketball players ever is Clyde Drexler. Ha! I slay myself.

Anyway, in many ways she draws from the same sort of fallen paladin ideas I often love. In some ways, she’s a hard-edged version of Edward. Sometimes it’s fun to write a good guy doing bad things. Really bad things.

Eleonore had to be a great warrior. More important, a skilled leader. I needed to inject a bit of skill into the cesspool that is the Kreisens anyway, and Demmenkreisen, as one of the largest and most powerful Kreisens was a good place for it. That it was in the exact right place (thank you, Adam, which I might touch on in a different post), was a bonus.

Part of the reason that it was important to me that she was a leader is that I needed that to be able to break her down. She has to take a path, not an easy path, but the one that seems easiest for someone who’s enraged. I think most people get enraged not on their own behalf, but on behalf of those close to them.

Her character arc, then, is to screw up but then spend the rest of the series overcoming her mistake. In many ways, this is my favorite arc because it’s something we all do. Her part of the epic battle is perhaps the most subtle, as she cannot win her fight. She can, however, slow the magic that’s attacking her and thereby give the others a chance to win. I probably make this too subtle in the book, because as a set of actions it’s not terribly active, but I, at least, know what battle she faced, and it’s one that I rather enjoyed.

Etain Muirghein

Many of you know the story behind a bunch of characters that appeared in Brief Is My Flame. These were a bunch of redshirts as part of a fundraiser for a great guy who had some health issues.

Obviously, I won’t go into these characters’ origins, because if you know the person redshirted, you’ll catch the references and if you don’t, you won’t care. However, I did want to touch on a few ways these redshirts helped shape Shijuren and the story.

Etain Muirghein was a character I mentioned briefly in I Am a Wondrous Thing. As the Thalassocrat of the Western Isles, she had a part to play in the political maneuvering between realms. However, I didn’t say anything else about her at the time.

Then I was asked to redshirt someone I really respect who helped shape Calontir. Etain suddenly became a great vehicle for that, and so I put in all of her I could. Feisty, tough, awesome. I even added her dog, sort of. It’s named Madra Te in the books, which is a great pun for those who know her.

Anyway, that meant I had to put Etain into some of the action. I hadn’t anticipated that I’d do anything really involving the Western Isles or anything on that end of the Kreisens, but in the end it became a fantastic vector to get to the end.

Plus, I got to write fantasy ship battles using another redshirt, and have both die gloriously. Man, that worked out well, and it’s all because I had to fit this redshirt somewhere and Etain was the absolute right place.

So there you go. A bit of a sketch behind three of the most important characters in the series. There was some serendipity involved in these characters, but at least I was smart enough to recognize it when it hit me upside the head. Serendipity’s got a punch, let me tell you.