Friday, February 26, 2016

The Dabbler Interview

Del is back!
It’s always great to have a warm welcome from an interviewer. Enjoy!

Today’s author is working on a fascinating series about a pair of Nephilim–the children of angels and humans–that I am quite excited to sink my teeth into(if I ever finish the million other books on my To Be Read list). The second novel in The Flames of Perdition, Hell Becomes Her has just been released.

Please give RobRoy a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?
Most of the background on the Flames of Perdition Series still requires Top Secret level clearance, but the statute of limitations has run out for a few mundane details:

In the past, the children of angels and humans, the Nephilim, were allowed to lead their lives as they willed.  But they proved too strong, too ambitious, and too cunning for their own good.  They became warlords, conquerors and emperors, causing war and strife until the Throne stepped in and forced them to submit to Its will or die.  Unlike most of her fellows, Del, one of the first Nephilim, had no interest in conquest and domination.  In the ancient past, prior to the Throne’s interdiction, she met and fell in love with Dami, a Mediterranean ship captain and trader.  Together, they faced down pirates and storms and tried create a future together. In the present, two-thousand years later, Del unwillingly works for the Throne, obeying the commands of the angel Ahadiel.  She helps to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons.  At the same time, she keeps herself in the Throne’s good graces.  Whenever a rogue demon breaks free from Hell, she and her partner, Marrin, another Nephilim, work together to banish it.

The books are currently Tears of Heaven and Hell Becomes Her available at all fine ebook retailers.  Also, now in trade paperback!

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review - My Child the Doberman

What you may not know about “My Child, the Doberman” by Michael Sherwin and Nykol Dedreu is that it started life as Facebook updates as imagined by the authors in the voice of Baron, their adopted Doberman. I had the good fortune to follow Baron’s posts, which were mostly funny, but at times poignant and enlightened.

“My Child, the Doberman” is laid out as a series of conversations between Baron and either one of his human parents, Michael or Nykol. Along with the conversations come various photos of Baron. The book is at once humorous, pointed, and as with all things in life, a little sad.

If I had any criticism for the book, it’s that I wanted more information about the little family group. The book takes place over the span of a couple of years, but because the conversations are so tight (and well crafted) the time frame can seem skewed. Readers might have wanted to learn more about the Baron and his human parents, or had more narrative that focused on the various events as they occurred, giving background and outcomes.

As criticism goes, though, it’s more of a wish rather than a failing. The book is a tightly-wrapped package that delivers Baron at his finest. Readers should cuddle up with Baron, but also keep a box of tissue handy. It's a short, sweet and perfect ride of a book. Well done, Sherwin, Dedreu and most of all Baron.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Editing - Go Away

Editing today.  Do not disturb on pain of . . . ummm, pain.  I guess.  Yeah.  Lots and lots of pain.  Probably emotional pain.  Perhaps something in the spiritual department.

I don’t know.  Go away.  I’m editing!

Also, enjoy this:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Caring Less

I’ve been sick the last week.  Perhaps this will remind you of me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Books? Don't You Mean Crack?

Golden Books sure have changed!
A book came in the mail yesterday, and my youngest son, Xavi, grabbed the package.  My boys love to see packages opened, because no matter how boring the stuff is inside, there’s still the potential that it’s awesome.

Until it’s opened.

“Awww,” is the usual disappointed response.

Not yesterday.

“A book!” Xavi cried.  “For me!  I LOVE it!”

It was a book.  It was not for him.  He still loved it.

He ran off with the title clutched in his dirty little hands.  Being sick, I could barely work up the energy to chase him down.  Also, as a parent, seeing his child eager to possess a new book, regardless of the title or the content, I was pretty proud.

I’ve done little to nothing to deserve a three year old’s devotion to books—yet there it is!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Arrows and 12 Year Old Girls

Today's lesson is . . . you kill each other off.
The following names have been changed from the following to protect the . . . ummm . . . innocent?  Yeah, let’s go with that.

The post was from a: "Jane Doe". -- come on now a (12-yr. old girl) with an arrow in her lung --- and asking; "How long she has to live in order to speak?" There is no amount of potential hopeful proceeds from any sane literature that could justify that train of thought.

Suzanne Collins, Stephen King, Veronica Roth, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R.R. Martin (of course) would beg to disagree, and they would only be a few of the major writers who have beaten, wounded, maimed or killed children (and animals) for the sake of telling a strong and compelling story.  Audiences don’t like to be reminded that children die, and yet, but Richard Paul Evans wouldn’t have a career and the collective tears wouldn’t stream down our faces.

This comes in the wake of the “Nick Cole banning” incident where Cole has claimed his publisher gave him the heave-ho after his opening chapter somehow offended their editor.  I haven’t been able to dig up much of an opposing viewpoint, but the incident certainly strikes a chord in the same way as the commentator above was equally struck.

Warning—Invisible, Onion-cutting Ninjas ahead.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty.”  Story telling doesn’t have to be based on suffering, either real or imagined.  Most children’s books have very little in the way of conflict.  Venture into more mature fare, even middle grade and young adult, and you’ll be hard-pressed to name a major or good piece of writing in which at least one of the major characters doesn’t suffer hardship, pain or loss of one form or another.  Not impossible, mind you—there’s sure to be a few out there—but those would be the exceptions which prove the rule.  Dramatic conflict is what storytelling is all about, and characters only grow through experience the legitimately effects their lives.  You don’t even have to venture far out of the hack-and-slash or scifi-explosion genres—The Fault in our Stars is told through the point of view of a sixteen year old girl suffering through cancer.

Telling a good story doesn’t mean the writer has to kick puppies on the way to the keyboard.  But the “author as bastard” is a long-standing tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the ancient Greek tragedies.  It’s a reflection of life, in a world from which none of us gets out alive, and sadly some of us leave far too soon.  Reflecting that reality might be a grab for “potential hopeful proceeds” but it might just be writing what we know—life is hard and unfair on the best of days.  On the worst, it's downright cruel.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I'm a Drunk, Alcoholics Want to Quit!

I'm not as think you drink I am!
The filters on my particular email system handle the spam pretty well.  I never really pay attention until there’s a good dozen and then I go through and clean them out.  Most days, 99.44% of the spam is actual spam.  It’s mostly the run-of-the-mill stuff, like male/female enhancement products, get-rich-quick and quicker schemes, various natural and chemical “remedies”.

The usual.

Today, I was treated to “Find the right Alcohol Rehab for You!”

Should I be worried?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Darkness of DARK DUNGEONS

Friends don't let friends RPG.
A long, long time ago in a country no so far away, there was a crazy scare about roll-playing games (RPGs).  The freak-out was of the pre-internet viral type that came from misinformation and a news cycle that would could latch onto the crazy and play it as fact.  Misinformation and disinformation became fear, confusion and utter chaos.  Suddenly, Satanists were everywhere, peaking from around alley corners, prowling graveyards and offering free 20-sided dice to first graders.  Mothers were warning their children away from playing RPGs because they were a gateway, literally, to Hell.  Individuals interested in gaining their fifteen minutes of fame quickly jumped on the bandwagon with claims of teen suicide and lost souls due to the games.

All of it bunk, but in the late 70s and early 80s as “real” as the many pop-rocks-and-soda deaths that led the headlines.

Every bit of that paranoia, including the disquiet over university “steam tunnels,” has been built into the short 40 minutes of the movie Dark Dungeons.  This is an absolute must for anyone with aspirations to become a rogue, paladin, barbarian, spell-chucker or player class of any stripe. Based on the infamous “Chick tract” of the same name, Dark Dungeons follows a pair of naive girls, Debbie and Marcie, who enter the “addictive” and apparently rave/party world of spectator role playing games (RPGs).  Yes, I said spectator.  I meant it too.  Although warned by straight-shooter and Jesus-loving Mike during their orientation that RPGs are addictive and no one who has started has ever stopped playing, Marcie and Debbie are on a mission of dubious proselytizing and socialization.  They end up partying with the RPGers, and then start playing!


The genius of Dark Dungeons is that it takes the Chick tract seriously and plays everything straight.  Sure, this is a Dead Gentlemen Productions film, and DGP has brought us such RPG funny and friendly entertainment as The Gamers and JourneyQuest.  You’d expect them to gleefully take head-on everything wrong with Dark Dungeons through the source material.  But there’s no need.  What makes the film so uproariously funny is that DGP allows the silliness of the Chick tract to inform the story, such that college parties are broken up by the
I crush your mini. CRUSH! CRUSH! CRUSH!
“thrill” of watching—yes, watching—others role play.  There are cheers and groans from the sidelines as characters win or fail.  Especially hilarious is Jonathan Crimeni as Nitro.  As his name implies, he’s amped up about everything that goes on in the game, and acts as a kind of enforcer for Tracy Hyland’s Mistress Frost.  As Debbie and Marcie go deeper down the RPG rabbit hole, the movie brings in such fantastic elements as the Necronomicon and Cthulu his ownself!

Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons or the hundreds of variations, it’s quickly clear that the films premise deviates so far from reality as to be taking place in an alternative dimension.  Don’t—DO NOT—let that stop you from watching this hilarious film.  It’s worth it to your SOUL!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Travis Ludvigson Five Star Review

By all means, mess with Del!
It’s always a little odd to see me referred to, as I refer to authors, by last name.  It’s like reading about someone else, especially when the reviews are so positive.  It makes me feel like a really real author with the talent and the skill and everything!

Once again, McCandless succeeds in creating an engaging story full of interesting characters immersed in a fast moving plot.

In "Hell Becomes Her," we dive back into the life of Del, the deadly Nephilim, and bear witness to her newest dilemma. There is no lack of action (one fight in particular between Del and another powerful warrior had my adrenaline pumping and drove me to read with greater speed to see what was going to happen). But it is much more than that. Del's character grows tremendously through the course of the story, showing a great amount of depth and connecting to the reader. Both old and new characters are very well thought out and believable, eliciting a number of different emotional responses as the story progressed.

Without posting any spoilers, I have to say that the use of mythological elements in this book is fantastic and worked very well.

I am also a big fan of the many movie references being interjected by Del's fellow Nephilim which had me smiling and laughing throughout the story.

McCandless expertly blended humor, action and drama into an exciting story that I had difficulty putting down. I highly recommend you buy a copy and read this book for yourself, you will be glad that you did.

Thanks Travis!  This really made my Monday.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Four Steps to Writing Believable Characters

Alright! Alright! You're interesting!
It’s a mistake to believe that genre fiction, fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, etc., rely more on cool gadgets and exotic locations than good characters.  Consider, for a moment, Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Plenty of fantastical, amazing, groovy settings, a fully-formed, fully-realized magic system, and grosses of groovy gadgets to serve all kinds of purposes.  But what really sold the show were the characters.  Enough so that most fans were willing to sit through the slightly less awesome Avatar: The Legend of Korra

Hey, I said “slightly”.

Good characters are necessary for writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re an angelpunk author with a crossover dark dystopian post-apocalyptic zombie world—it don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t got that character.  That said there is a whole host of ways to write strong, compelling, believable characters. In fact, you already know how because YOU are a character in your own story. You have all the key components that make up a good, solid, believable character and you can draw from your own experiences.  Of course, there are some points you’ll want to keep in mind while relating that time you escaped from Ceti Alpha V:

She's programmed with the most tragic backstory ever.
1 - Background/history—unless the character is an infant, even amnesiacs have a background (though they're not aware of it) which causes them to act a certain way in certain situations.  It’s not necessary to have a fully formed, day-by-day diary of what your character went through.  In fact, that could be a barrier to storytelling.  But major life events should and will shape who each person is as a person.

2 - Current status—Your world is real and your characters have a place in that world, even if they're bucking against the system itself or trying to stand outside it. Where they came from in a social structure, where they're going and how they plan to get there will inform a lot of decisions that characters will make.  Precious few people are 100% satisfied with their own status quo, let alone that of the world.  They’d usually, and happily, make changes if they could, and might actively be working toward them.

3 - Development/growth—Unless they're dead, your characters are on a timeline of events that changes them from day to day and year to year even as they go about changing the world. Even if they're growing in the "wrong" ways, they're still growing—which is, of course, how we get “villains”.  Characters should learn things, pick up new tips and tricks, make advancements or suffer setbacks which help guide future decisions.

I never really liked you anyway, and you have
stupid hair!
4 - Relatable and flawedMary Sue and Marty Stu are idealized versions that make few to no mistakes, and are incredibly good at just about everything, including looking into a mirror. The rest of us struggle in our day-to-day lives with day-to-day things, and generally we can't MacGyver our way out. Flawed people are real.  Certainly, most characters should have an expertise or three that sets them apart from most other people, but in other respects they should be like you and me—unable to leap tall buildings, prone to momentary lapses in judgment, and otherwise flawed.  In a word: human—even if they’re aliens.  Audiences react most strongly when they can place themselves in a character’s combat boots.

There’s probably a dozen other more nuanced tips and tricks that will help you craft living, breathing characters who act and react to whatever sparkly vampire world you’re working with.  These major points for consideration should help keep you on the straight-and-narrow to witty, clever, even sarcastic one-liners and moments of awesomeness.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Speed 2: Cruz Control

Watch out for that guy behind you!
Last night’s Iowa caucuses was not quite a shocker.  The number one and number two spots for each was pretty much a given.  You’d have had as much chance flipping a coin as trying to read the political tea leaves.  I’m pretty certain I called it for Trump, but I’d forgotten that, at the end of the day, Trump is clown shoes.  Outrageously big, very distracting, but ultimately useless for the average voter.  Ted Cruz already had a base built up in Iowa, and painted the race as a choice between him and Trump—that totally paid off.

The upside, of course, is that Iowa rarely picks the GOP nomination. They are a lot better at picking the Democratic nominee though.  This was a real squeaker between Clinton and Sanders, so we know going forward this is going to be a Thunder Dome kind of campaign—two candidates enter, one gets their head put on a pike as a warning to all the rest.

C'mon Bessie—Pick a good'un!
The big winner for Iowa is Marco Rubio. I've had him pegged as the best potential nominee for some time. Of course, I also called for Jeb before Trump became a thing, so what do I know.  If you listened to the Armchair Blasphemy podcast, I made the (shaky) prediction that this was Rubio’s turning point.  I anticipated that he would grab the bronze, and this would be a turning point in the entire campaign.  A showing on the podium is important for Rubio because he is, at the end of the day, the least-bad choice among a sea of very bad choices.  I was, however, floored by just how good Rubio’s showing would be.  It’s an impressive take-away that shows the average voter has been paying attention, and isn’t just swayed by the Trump circus, or the scary Cruz ship.