Tuesday, February 9, 2021

In Memoriam - Shawn Rost-Howen

True to form, and only as Shawn would have had it, this memoriam went through several false starts, drafts, and not nearly enough editing.

In the writing industry, you get to meet some really interesting people. Some of them, you’ll click with, and even if you don’t become BFFs, you’ll at least have a friend or acquaintance for life. If you’re really lucky, you run into someone like Shawn Rost-Howen, and you have a mentor, a teacher, an editor, and a dear friend all rolled into one person.

Shawn and I met over 20 years ago, on the now defunct forums of Writers-Write. There was a small but very active fantasy writers group, and it was my first experience ever really sharing and discussing with other writers the craft. Shawn was, by far, the most experienced of us, and she warmly and willingly shared her knowledge, even with people who were *cough, cough* stubborn and blinded by the brilliance of their own talent.

That’s something that always, always, always amazed me about Shawn. She was friends with everyone, and even if she had an argument, she never (or at least almost never) took it personally. Shawn was smart—MENSA smart—and witty. She also had a creative streak that ran a mile wide and deep. But she was never competitive. She truly believed that the candle that lights others lost nothing.

About a year after meeting, Shawn and I lost touch. This was before social platforms, and if someone misplaced their links or got an email address wrong, that was pretty much it. Later, I learned that Shawn had done some internet searches and came across my name in an obituary. She thought I was dead. When I reappeared she was certain I was someone playing a weird prank. but after we sorted it all out, we were overwhelmed with joy at the reunion.

That reunion, above all, epitomized Shawn and her relationship with me. Immediately, she asked if I was writing anything, and let me know she was editing at Wild Child Publishing. I’d actually just finished writing a book, and she asked to see it. That was, as they say, that.  Shawn essentially, and almost single-handedly, kicked open the publishing door and shoved me through.

She was also a brilliant author in her own right.  Her “Medicine Man” won awards and sold reasonably well. The series remains one of my favorite horror/alt-history concepts, something I wish I'd written myself. I always wanted to know what would happen in the last book. For the last two years she'd been working on a huge epic, lots of characters, millions of words. It was the thing that drove her.

Shawn was many things to me, and I will always be grateful for her kindness and patience. We knew each other for better than 20 years and we worked closely on every project I published for the last 10 years. But most of all, Shawn was my friend.  Through thick and thin, through success and failure, we talked constantly. If not every day, then at least once a week. It was when I didn’t hear back from her that I knew something was wrong. Shawn had fought for years against failing health, though she had fought brilliantly throughout that time. She told me in October: “I've been type 1 diabetic over 50 years it catches up with you. Not many make it past the 50th anniversary from diagnosis.”

That was Shawn.

Tell her the odds and she’d set out to break them. Shatter them. She made it her personal mission in life. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I expect to find a message from her waiting for me.  It took me some time to pull this final draft together, and I’m certain she’d say, “Well, it’s a good FIRST effort. Let’s see if we can make something out of it.”

I miss you Shawn. Thank you for everything you did for me, and so many others.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Roadside Attractions by Eric Lahti

It shouldn’t be a secret that Eric Lahti has some writing chops and an imagination to boot. Diving deep down the urban fantasy hole, Lahti has arisen again with a new set of characters to rival his HENCHMEN series. In ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS we’re treated to ghosts, ghost hunters, demon hitters, Satanists, rogue demons, and the titular roadside attraction.

Dragoon, Arizona a dusty, dirty backwater that has exactly one claim to fame with its tourist trap attraction is the setting that brings Jennine, a less-than-enthusiastic ghost, Char and her guy-Friday Jordan, two ghost hunters, and the demon assassin Lilith to town. It seems like too much, but Lahti deftly weaves together a story of betrayal and loss older than time that culminates in a battle for the very soul of the world.

Followers and new readers can come to this latest book with fresh eyes to look at Lahti’s dirty old world that still hasn’t told all it’s stories. There’s always the fun, frenetic pace of the characters’ witty banter, and a plot that grabs you and shakes you for all your worth. Fans of urban fantasy and especially “Supernatural” will definitely enjoy this ride. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Spirits Have Spoken—Medium Has Become A Thing

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

I'm not moving to medium—yet—but I'm definitely there.

Medium.com is an online publishing platform, almost like a blog, except if you get enough reads, you get paid some money. I started this blog as an active and ongoing update of my journey as a writer and published author. I’ve also used it to curate information and arguments that I found relevant.

Some of the entries here can even be cleaned up and presented to a wider audience with the hope of turning advice and experience into a little of the cold, hard, spendable stuff.

The only downside is that, unlike this blog, Medium exists mostly behind a paywall. That’s what allows them to pay writers (like me) and in some ways it helps push authors to become better at their craft.

I hope that you’ll follow me over to Medium, but I totally understand those who are uninterested in it, or simply can’t afford it.  I’ll still maintain this blog for the foreseeable future, and post updates on my works, so don’t feel like this place will become abandoned.

It would just be nice to get paid a little for all the writing I’ve done outside of my stories. With any luck, you’ll also see a higher quality of article from me (and perhaps you’ll see others that you enjoy as well). 

Give Me and Medium a Shot!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

And the Award for Most Drama in a Non-Dramatic Situation Goes To . . .

Wonder Woman does not
approve of your shenanigans 
Yesterday, my wife had the GENIUS idea (and that’s not said sarcastically) to go to the drive-in theater.  I mean, it’s a Tuesday, right before a big holiday, and no one is really thinking about the movies anyhow, and there’s not THAT much out there playing anyhow.

“Wanna go see Wonder Woman?”

My answer was inappropriately excited but appropriately profanity laden.

“We’ll get dinner at Sonic which is just down the street from the drive-in.”

Genius, I say!

My two older boys were reasonably excited to go to the movies.  When my youngest, skeptically, asked what we were going to see, I told him.

“Ugghhh! I HATE your old movies. They’re sooooooo boring.”

That’s a direct quote.

I tried to talk him down, but he insisted I was lying/teasing. I can’t recall which and both are legitimate criticisms of my parenting skills. I even sent him to his mom, which usually shuts these things down, but he was adamant.  Only the promise of Sonic drive-thru soothed his broken soul.

Never apologize for
an effective kill circle
So, off we went. Sonic was indeed a decent enough, if somewhat expensive, choice. I can’t begrudge their flavor, but their portions-by-price leave some things to be desired. Like portions.

All was well. Until we actually pulled into the theater. Then, a mutiny the likes of which would cause even Captain Bligh to shudder with fear. My oldest son was bemoaning, in his patient and kind way, that his brothers weren’t old enough to watch “Monster Hunters” which was also playing. Then, suddenly, they all saw that “The Croods: A New Age” was also playing at the drive-in . . . and my dreams of seeing both 1984 and Diana Prince in action again were shattered, cast into the fire, and scattered into the winds.

This was when my 8yo decided the evening wasn’t enough about him. Keep in mind, at this age, he’s small enough to sit comfortably in a cup holder, and we were in my Ford F-150 Crew Cab. So, naturally, he was angry about where he's sitting, how he's sitting, why he's sitting.  Right on queue, as the action is heating up in the movie, he has to go to the bathroom.

The movie WAS fun and so was getting Sonic food to eat before the movie, but . . . yeah, sometimes these dudes, especially the little one, harsh my calm.

Monday, November 30, 2020

PageTurner's Podcast Interview with Eric Lahti

Eric Lahti grew up looking for UFOs and buried treasure in northwest New Mexico.

Unfortunately, he never found either of them, but he did get some good stories.  He currently works as a programmer, database admin, sysadmin, and a whole host of other things.

Karai and I interview Eric about his latest work ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS and talked about all kinds of things, including searching for buried treasure and UFOs, Satanists, ghosts, and of course the writing process.


Listen to the entire podcast here!


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

In Memorium—The Amazing James Randi

A little over a year ago, I wrote a letter to the Amazing James Randi. I knew from a friend who

was close to him that James wasn’t doing all that well, and was mostly secluded in his home.  I’d delayed writing to Randi for a number of reasons, mostly because I couldn’t believe that a man who seemed to SO have it together would deign to respond to me.

For reason that have nothing to do with personality, and everything to do with his failing health, I learned that he would never respond.

While I understood, I was also deeply saddened.  I also reflected back on what I had learned, not just from Randi but the community of people who had gathered around him to share in his common interest.  Randi was not just a wizard of a magician and a sorcerer of an escape artist; he was also a skeptic, who debunked those who would profit from the ignorance and the hope of others.

Unfortunately, The Amazing Randi passed away today. I was asked to write about Mr. Randi, against this very day. I decided I had already done so in that letter I wrote to him a year ago, and which I share with you now: 

Dear Mr. Randi –


I’ve been meaning to write this letter to you for some time. I admit, I only stumbled on you and your vibrant community of skeptics when I was doing research for an alternative-history novel. About ten years ago I found the James Randi Education Foundation forums and, for me at least, it was a truly a turning point in my life. I’d never engaged with so many intelligent, well-spoken, and thoughtful individuals, passionate about understanding the world, but unwilling to accept “easy” answers.


From there, it was simple to start to understand how important your role was in the world. While I’ve always loved magic, I’ve also always understood it was a learned skill, with presentation and showmanship being the key components. I was fascinated and impressed with the many, many videos of you debunking various claims of supernatural ability, and greatly enjoyed reading the updates regarding the Million Dollar Challenge and those individuals who attempted to win the prize. Attempted, but all failed.


After watching the documentary An Honest Liar, I was even more impressed with you and your life. I was especially intrigued when you taught journalist Barbara Walters to bend a spoon to match the one that Uri Geller had given her, showing how it was a skill/trick rather than a supernatural ability. That image, a spoon bent by a man who claimed no special powers except the ability to create a convincing illusion, epitomized for me the need and desire to understand the world. I mentioned this to my friend, Jeff Wagg, when discussing the movie, and how much I would love to have a spoon bent by you. He kindly provided me with your address so that I could make this request.


Mr. Randi, would you do me the extreme honor of bending the enclosed spoon with your “amazing” skills and returning it to me in the enclosed envelope? I intend to frame and display it for anyone who comes to my house and to proudly explain it’s very interesting, but also very natural, origins.


Thank you very much!


RobRoy McCandless

While I will never get that spoon, that was only a material symbol of the turning point in my life and the role that Randi played in it. It would have been nice to have, but it wasn’t necessary. What Randi had already given me, without even knowing it, was much more valuable, and something that I will never lose.

Thank you Mr. Randi, for all you did, for me and countless others. You may have never known the impact you had on our lives, but we are all better just for having known you.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, I strongly recommend watching An Honest Liar which is an excellent, if too short look, into the life of James Randi. It’s available on many streaming services.

ETA: Yesterday, after perusing a series of James Randi talks and appearances, I discovered the exact Barbara Walter’s episode. Randi didn’t bend a spoon, but instead bent a key. I’m not sure how I got in my head that it was a spoon, except that Randi was revealing Uri Geller’s lack of psychic ability, and Geller was/is known for his spoon bending. I’m leaving the error as-is, since that’s how I originally wrote the letter.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Entertainment Round-Up—Comedy, Drama, Mystery and Music

DCs Legends of Tomorrow—Doesn’t suck. At one point, I said, without thinking, “This is SO

It's still Rock and/or Roll to me!

cartoony.” Then I remembered the source material and was ok with the rest. I’m not that much of a comics fan that I can say why some of the mistakes are made, but I’m sure there’s a reason. If you go in like this, there’s some fun super powers, like Doctor Who but with laser guns and stuff. (Netflix)

The Van Halen Story: The Early Years—Meh. When your documentary about the band barely contains the band at all, and nothing but lousy audio for some, ya gotta know you’ve gone the wrong way. Not all bad, as Diamond David Lee Roth is never shy with a camera around. (Amazon Prime)

Scoob!—Tolerable. My boys got a kick out of it, but I was only mildly entertained, and mostly by the call-outs and meta-moments. Most all the characters were reasonably on point with their older cartoon counterparts, but Scooby’s full sentences and lack of “dog” accent was a little off-putting. (BluRay)

New Girl—Still funny. Maybe more so as this is my second time through. I’m looking for the hints at certain relationships and the changes in characters. Winston is still the most misused of the bunch, devolving into a one-note joke like Joey Tribbiani from “Friends”. Except for the stellar performance by Lamorne Morris, that’s a shame. But still funny. Yeah, still funny. (Netflix)

The Lorax—Excellent. Like all of Dr. Suess’ work should be, this one feels pretty timeless to me. Doesn’t matter if the concern is trees or lives, the “Unless” quote definitely applies: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” (Netflix)