Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Time Out for Race

I'm told her lipstick is to die for!

Race, in the United States, is tricky.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably selling something.

As a reasonably affluent, white, male author writing female characters and characters of color there are always potential pitfalls and landmines. That’s not ALL I write, but I certainly write those things. Me being who I am, and my characters being who I write, certainly opens the door to criticism whether deserved or not. About a year ago, I was informed (well lectured/ranted at) that one of my novels was “racist”. It doesn’t matter which one.

I have blind spots.

I’m the first to admit it.

When criticism is legitimate, I learn from it.

Racism is real, and many authors who haven’t lived it, or dug into it, stumble and bloody their nose when attempting to write characters of color. I’ve started and rejected sharing the story above many, many times. Ultimately, it’s not worth addressing, but since race and racial politics are very much a thing, and since I’m not going to back down from writing the characters I want to write, it’s very much worth sharing a more recent discussion that came up.

For one of my works-in-progress, RELICS OF PURGATORY, I’m introducing a new character. She’s a black character. Not the first that I’ve written, but that doesn’t matter. As I do with all my characters, I needed to describe her hair. Calling black hair a very touchy, very political, very divisive issue, is pretty much the understatement of the last four-hundred years. I had very specific ideas about what her hair should look like, and I wasn’t willing to compromise those just to make my life easier. There’s no great detail there. It’s a line or two at most. But hair—or lack thereof—is very much a thing we use to describe and define ourselves so it’s on my checklist of fundamental character descriptions.

Daveed Diggs is SO talented!
Hair is about 8,000% more important for black Americans. While I’m certainly not an expert, I’m well aware of American history. As always with a subject I’m not fully comfortable, I started to do my research. When I approached a writing group for some assistance, I was overwhelmed with all the helpful suggestions by other authors. It’s so great that, at least this group, is very aware of the issues and pitfalls.

A few fell into the classic traps-and-tropes, which others were quick to educate.

What I was shocked by the—thankfully few—angry responses. I was accused of “self-censorship” by one and “virtue signaling” by another. It was even suggested that I wouldn’t “survive being a writer” if I was being “uber-sensitive” about this particular issue.

Laughable, but there it is.

WWADD—What would Alexander Dumas do?
The answers, in this case, are pretty simple.

It’s not self-censorship to use correct descriptive terminology. A writer dealing with firearms doesn’t call it a “clip” when really it’s a “magazine” and knows the difference between a semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Doing research on a touchy subject is hardly the overtly conspicuous humble-brag of virtue signaling, especially for a single descriptive line in a book of 80,000-plus words. Finally, being aware of history, including one of the great evils of the world and the centuries of fallout that have lingered like a cancerous growth, isn’t debilitating so much as it’s being a smart, inclusive writer.

I’m wholly unwilling to back down from the character that I’ve envisioned. I’m also wholly unwilling to turn a blind eye. As the late, great Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” That’s not only being a decent writer, that’s being a decent human. It’s literally the least that I can do, and since I know better, I’m not just happy to do more, I’m obligated.

Here’s a wonder site, Writing With Color, if you’re interested in the avoiding some of the landmines and pitfalls.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Riverside Dickens Festival & You & Me

Not to scale!

As I vaguely vagued to y’all about ten days ago, I’m doing a thing. I signed the contract yesterday to have a vendor booth at the Riverside Dickens Fest—25 Years of Wit and Wisdom. (Please Note: No actual wit or wisdom was harmed in the making of this festival.) Here are the details:

Where: Downtown Riverside

When: Saturday, February 22nd & Sunday, February 23rd

What: Selling and Signing books, talking about books, and reading books

As an added incentive, if you need one, I’ll be giving away mini pendant pocket watches with each purchase. Emphasis on both the mini and the pendant. While they actually do open and tell time, I am not responsible for any alternative universes they might open, or changes in the historical timeline that you are otherwise familiar with.

There will be a ton of other stuff that you can do at the Dickens Festival, including other vendors of various stuff, music, exhibitions of strength, a Victorian tea party, escape rooms, and probably Baby Yoda will show up to entertain the masses.

Ok, ok. Maybe not the ACTUAL Baby Yoda, but certain "a" Baby Yoda will be in appearance in some form.

Monday, January 27, 2020


I'm sure he died of natural causes!

Helluva weekend, folks!

The big news today is that THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE was shortlisted by Chanticleer International Book Awards for the OZMA, “. . . emerging talent and outstanding works in the genre of Fantasy Fiction.” You may recall that previously, the novel survived the slush pile to move into the long list. 

I actually held my breath when I started scrolling through.

The next stage is semi-finals, so fingers crossed for that.

In the meantime, I’ve submitted my Aubrey Hartmann novella BENEATH A FEARFUL MOON to my publisher. Here’s a small taste from the opening:

Pulled from the mill pond, the corpse was bloated, swollen into a horrible caricature with a bluish-gray pallor. Aubrey knelt to examine the man, torn between revulsion of his current state and fascination for how he died. Only scraps of cloth remained on his body at the wrists, ankles and neck as reminders of the clothes he’d worn. Long, deep gashes covered him in a rough zig-zag pattern from the top of his head down to his toes. They looked like knife or sword wounds in tight groups of three. She wasn’t going to touch him, but the slashes reminded Aubrey of a bear mauling, except without bite marks, and no part of him had been chewed and eaten. The mutilation made her think it was a deliberate.

No release date on this yet, but definitely this year, and hopefully quite soon!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

ENMU Graduate, Award-Winning Author Discusses 20 Years of Writing

Clues everywhere!

Last week, I received a request for an interview from my alma mater. They saw the blurb that went out about me in the alumni magazine.

RobRoy McCandless, who received a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication from Eastern New Mexico University in 1996, has been a writer for over 20 years and published his fourth novel, "The Clockwork Detective," last spring.

The award-winning author, who was a 2015 EPIC eBook finalist and winner of the 2014 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Preditors & Editors Reader's Poll in urban fantasy, discusses how his time at ENMU prepared him for a lifetime of writing.

Why did you choose ENMU?

ENMU wasn't even on my radar, but they sent me a postcard that piqued my interest. I hadn't thought of a small university in a small town as the place for me, but the more I considered the class size, the professor-to-student ratio and the overall costs—even as an out-of-state student—the more sense it made. ENMU also had a reasonably diverse student body, which for a guy from suburban Utah was a powerful draw. When I found out that Dr. Jack Williamson, the "Dean of Science Fiction," had attended and sometimes still taught, I was sold!

Why did you attend (or not attend) a university?
Tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Something for Everyone—Hopefully!

"Necromancer" by vityso

As promised last week, here’s an update on all the projects that will hopefully release in 2020:

The Clockwork Detective audio book—For all those who have been asking for this, I’m working with the award-winning Joanna Teljuer to bring Constable Aubrey Hartmann to life.

Relics of Purgatory—Marrin fans get their very own standalone adventure in this post-COMPANY OF THE DAMNED tale with our favorite seven-foot tall Nordic drink of water.

Beneath a Fearful Moon—This free—yes, I said free—novella is a Constable of Aqualinne story, an adventure that takes Aubrey into the heart of greed and violence.

Unnamed Constable of Aqualinne novel—I’m several chapters in and the story is moving along at a good clip. I’m hoping to have it completed in the next few months, with a possible release late 2020.

Of course, every writer has more than a few irons in the fire. Some of these are certain. But some of these are only a better-than-average goal. All of these WILL happen, and I’m fingers-crossed that will be this year.

What are your goals for 2020?
Tell me in the comments below!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Clean Shirt, Clean Shoes

And I don't know where I am goin' to!

Stay tuned for some interesting news regarding the many and various projects coming out this year, and events that I’m going to be attending. 2020 is shaping up to be pretty spectacular.

Speaking of events, I’m super-duper excited by the purchase I just made from SteamEraProduction. Appropriately, they're located in the UK! I'll use this for steampunk/Victorian-themed conventions, readings, and whatnot (see picture). I’ve had my eye on this outfit for some time, and finally saved up to make the purchase. It’s on its way, and I’m pretty stoked. It fits right into THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE styling.

I’m still on the fence about a hat. Hats are part-and-parcel with the steampunk aesthetic. The problem is that I’ve never been a hat guy. Only in extreme camping cases, or when I have girlfriend/wife hair but have to run to the store will I even consider a hat.

Perhaps some round, wire-rim sunglasses will be acceptable?

What’s your favorite costume?
Past, present, or future?
Tell me on the comments below!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Not Today, Pal!

You can have my steampunk when you pry it from my cold dead hands!

Of course, once you’ve done that, you’re gonna wanna read it, and the next thing you know you’re buying your first pair of goggles to put on a bowler hat, and you’re wearing a pocketwatch/time machine.

So really, steampunk will never die.

That said, I did make this article, Year in Review: Steampunk in the News about the winnings and failings of the steampunk world:

The Clockwork Detective, the first book in the Constable of Aqualinne series by RA McCandless. The novel from Ellysian Press earned praise from pioneering steampunk author James P. Blaylock.

What Piece of Nostalgia Do You Keep Alive?
Tell Me in the Comments Below!