Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lines that Speak

Trust but verify!
Editing sucks, but sometimes a bit of writing speaks well:

“In the wake of their . . . loss,” Freyja replied.
“You mean in the wake of me emptying a full magazine into Alfred Waru’s face.”
“Blunt and to the point,” Freyja replied.  “But always accurate.”
“Well, I practice a lot,” Del replied.

From Company of the Damned coming soon.  Soon-ish.

Bigger and Bigger and Bigger

Bouquet may be larger than appears.
My regular work shoes have been showing signs of wear for a few months now.  In my old, single life, I would have replaced them long ago.  In this new world, where children want and need things—like food and clothes—I’m willing to put up with some additional abuse.  But, I’d saved up and was all set to go to my favorite shoe store.

Then my wife let me know she was having bad day (month, year—take your pick).  Instead of buying my shoes, I decided to surprise her with flowers.

That did the trick.  I even wrote on the card that I was sending the flowers instead of buying myself shoes because it’s more important to me that she’s happy.

She knows how much I like my footwear.  She also would, despite how much it makes her day, prefer I not buy flowers.  Hence, the following conversation:

“I hope you were buying yourself cheap shoes,” my wife said.

“Have you . . . have you even met me?”

Yeah, I don't buy cheap shoes, and I don't send my wife cheap flowers.

You shouldn't either.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Magical Monday

Strong women? Big guns?  Yes please!
Some exciting things are afoot in the world of R.A. McCandless and his writing.  Here’s a quick rundown (with plenty of exclamation points).  For obvious reasons, some information will be spottier than others, but in the coming weeks and months, that should all start to become clear(ish):

Edits are in for Tears of Heaven—Mostly minor stuff, a little tightening of the language here and there.  Your “original” edition the books should be considered collector’s items . . . in whatever alternate universe where I’m rich, handsome and incredibly successful, but you'll definitely want to see if you can find the "changes" in this new edition!

Editing is on for Hell Becomes HerWith Tears of Heaven’s edits complete, my editor is moving on to the second book.  Same caveats of rich, handsome and successful apply in the same alternate universe.  Same challenge offers for the "changes" to be found!

New Covers—My publisher and I agreed on a cover artist who will supply new cover art for Tears of Heaven and Hell Becomes Her.  This will only add to the collector’s value of your originals!

New Story Now Available—This will be covered in a separate blog post, but the steampunk short story “Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire” for the Gears, Gadgets& Steam (Tinkered Tales Book 1) anthology will be released in paperback version soon so it can sit proudly on your shelf!  This is a very early appearance of Constable Aubrey Hartmann, before she was a constable as featured in the short story “Into a Watery Grave” in In Shambles (A Scarlett Nightmare Book 2) which is already available in ebook and lovely paperback!

Even Newer Story Available Soon—A short story discussed way back in 2014, “He Who Tells the Tale” should be releasing in the coming months.  One of the many fantasy adventures of Wei Shen Shou Wan Por, Master Guide, Scout Unparalleled, Finder of Items Lost or Desired, Cicerone of Wonders and Curiosities will be revealed for all in The Dormancy of Harren.

Even Newer New Del Book—When is the new Del book coming?  Soon-ish.  Soon-esque.  Soon-adjacent even.  The plot is all mapped out.  The trick is to get it from the brain onto the page.  The working title is Company of the Damned and most assuredly Del will ride, shoot and sarcasm again!

Stay-tuned for more details.  As always, you’re welcome to post up comments or questions here, like my Facebook Author Page and post there, or send me letters stuffed with cash.  Whatever you prefer!

Friday, February 24, 2017

You May Get A Charge Outta This

As with most things—needs more bikini!
Two years ago, almost to the date, my old flip phone (a Convoy 3) finally gave up the ghost.  The hinge had been giving out for some weeks, but when I dropped it on the floor, it broke into two, almost equal pieces.  I walked into a Verizon “authorized retailer” and they totally saw me coming.  There was probably a wager on how gullible I would be. 

How gullible, you ask?

All the gullibles.

These guys are not Verizon.  There’s a reason my wife and I have been Verizon customers for 15+ years now.  Sure, there are always bad experiences, and you may have had one of them.  I’m sorry.  That sucks.  Let’s go grab a beer and you tell me all about it.  I’ve had nothing but good customer interactions, and I’ve even been impressed from time to time.

So again, the “retailer” is not Verizon.  They’re more interested in the bottom line than customer experience or repeat sales.  Hint: when you’re there to replace a phone, slam your hand down on the counter, and insist they do nothing but replace the damn phone.

They may give you shocked, hurt looks, and tears may form, but this is war damnit.  War is hell!

I think I see your problem.
Two hours later—and let me repeat that for emphasis—TWO FREAKING HOURS LATER, I walked out with a new, horribly mediocre plan and two phones which I didn’t really want—my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone and the phone my wife would reject out of hand because her husband is an idiot.

Did I mention this took two hours?

Two hours.

The dealer made bank off my naivete.  The S5 had already been out for about a year and the S6 was about to drop.  Not being a smartphone guy, and not really a tech guy (although I love stuff and gadgets and stuff), I wasn’t really aware, and that much was obvious to the sales dude (who kept calling me “bro”) because of the sign on my forehead that said, “Cheat Me, Please—I Need a Reason to Drink!”

I had a phone that was already outdated, and I’d paid at least full price for it.
That's not going to quite cover your phone,
but can we interest you in our reasonable payment plan?

The thing of the thing is that, despite the crappy service I’d received (and would continue to receive when I tried to return my wife’s phone) and the fleecing—part of which I deserved for being an uninformed consumer—I really liked my S4.

I still like my S4.

Unfortunately, the charging port has decided that after being out for nearly four years, it deserves to retire.  It didn’t just slowly stop working either, such that you could wiggle the cable, stand it at acute angles, or sacrifice goldfish to the tech gods for charging miracles.  It simply refuses to take a charge no matter what cable I use, or how much I play with it.

Insert your own joke here.

Wiser, now, in the ways of the smartphone, I went out to the Verizon site to look at prices and promptly fell out of my chair.  I’ve bought computers that cost less than a new smartphone.  Even the “certified refurbished” S5 was more than my monthly truck payment!

I talked with my friend Jeff (hi Jeff!) who shared his iPhone experience with me.
Wireless charging? What sorcery is this!?

I talked with my friend Rick (screw you, Rick, you bastard!) who mocked me, and suggested that I ride a dinosaur down to the port and take a steamer back in time to French Morocco where I could pick up a telegraph at the old bazaar.

(Thanks Rick, you bastard!)

As I was lamenting the need to shell out a Benjamin, and moaning that the only real problem with the phone was the charging port which would no longer take a charge cord . . . it hit me.  Literally, it jumped up from the screen, and slapped me, twice, about the head and shoulders.

I’ve been looking at wireless charging pads as a potential means to clean up the rat’s nest of charging cords at my house.  Alas, they have yet to invent a one-size-charges-all-devices-especially-seven-different-ones-at-the-same-time pad.

It arrives Saturday.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Uniform Uniforms

There's just something about a uniform . . . 
A fellow writer posted up an article about Star Trek uniform variations, and commented that the rank on the sleeve cuffs is a bit silly.

It may, indeed, be foolish (military rank is more easily read when it’s closer to the face and shoulders, since that’s where you’re going to look anyhow when meeting, talking to, or taking orders from someone), but what writers should like most about the variation of Star Fleet uniforms throughout the Trek universe is that it recognized a diversity of positions, assignments, ranks, and divisions which most other universes don’t show.  Indeed, even Captain Kirk had varying uniforms depending on if he was sitting on the bridge, beaming down to a planet, or entertaining the ladies!

Historically, uniforms grew out of the need for form and function.  Since any military has multiple forms and functions, their “uniforms” would also be multiple and varied—even among a “standardized” army.  For example, grenadiers (soldiers who literally threw grenades) usually wore brimless hats or caps rather than the more standard brimmed hats because of their need to sling/unsling their rifles over their shoulders and pitch their explosives overhand.  This developed into the use of bearskin or bishop mitre style hats among grenadier units from different countries.

Similarly, specialized units, mercenaries or auxiliary units might likewise develop unique
I say, that's a DANDY of a uniform!
uniforms, either out of necessity, regional considerations, or to distinguish themselves from the rank and file.  Spartan Hoplites, German Landsknechts, and Ottoman Janissaries were all very distinctive in their (somewhat) standardized military uniform—although those uniforms would vary from time to time as the needs and the technology changed.

The 8,000+ soldiers depicted in the Terracotta Army (around 200 BCE) bear some similarity to each other, but there are seven major distinct variations of armor.  There doesn’t appear to be standardization among the individual “units” which likely reflected the real-world disposition of that particular Chinese army.

Among Japanese samurai (one of my favorites), standardization was generally not a thing until the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate.  The Tokugawa loved standardization!  Prior to that, much like the European feudal structure, samurai foot soldiers (ashigaru) owed their immediate allegiance to a local samurai of higher standing, who would, in turn, be under the command of a regional lord, usually a “daimyo”, who in turn (by theory) would be under the command of the shogun who was (again, in theory) appointed by the emperor.  Thus, more often than not, samurai of any given rank would be wearing wildly varied equipment (hint: samurai wore metal and leather armor in battle).  This gave rise, during the Sengoku Era, to the use of sashimono, the small flags that you sometimes see in movies and documentaries attached to the backs of samurai to help provide a sense of uniform to the various clashing armies.

Finally, it’s really fun to try to find the “standard” issue for the Roman legions of any given
Historically accurate Roman legionnaires. 
time period.  Depending on any number of factors (standardization, reforms, location, assignment, etc.), you’d be hard-pressed to find any group of legionnaires who wore exactly the same armor and carried the exact same weapons.  Roman soldiers were generally allowed to wear any armor that was still serviceable, so it could be the latest fashion, or passed down from previous generations.  If you had the money, you could (and most like would) have your armor custom-made.  Even armor produced in the government “factories” would vary from province to province, because it was all hand-made, and because of the regional differences.  Rank and units were distinguished by cloaks, helmet plumes, phalerae (chest ornamentation), and numbers or symbols painted on the shields!

This is not to say that your fictional military army can’t all wear the same, factory issued uniforms, armor and weapons as suits your needs.  In fact, the more similar and standardized your military is, the easier it is to function as a single unit.  A corporal from the Outer Rim of Ceti Alpha V will more easily defer to a first lieutenant from the Inner Core Home Worlds Tuscan Raider division, if identifying the star cluster rank on her collar is standard-issue across the Glorious and Unified Hegemony’s military.  This is only to say that even among very standardized armies, space navies, and colonial marines, uniforms can and should vary.  Uniform uniforms differentiate the real world from the fictional world, while variation portrays an understanding of width and depth that every military requires.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Goldfish are Stupid

Stupid fish, with stupid, pretty coloring.
Stupid goldfish.

Three years ago, my oldest son “won” a goldfish at a local pecan festival.  It was one of those local Boy Scout booths where, if there’s no line, they’ll let you play until you do win.  Porter won pretty quickly, which meant that his younger brother, Tristan, had to win as well.

The Boy Scouts manning the booth were very cool, and very patient while my then 4-year-old tried and tried and tried to win the goldfish.  It was, he informed me, his greatest life’s ambition since fifteen minutes previous when his brother won.


Finally, whatever the “skill” needed to win the much-desired goldfish finally found Tristan, and bam, we had two goldfish.  My wife and I didn’t expect the little feeders to last the trip home, much less the week. 

This is where the mistakes on my end started to pile up.

The stupid fish survived the ride home.  We dropped them into an actual goldfish bowl, which we had for some kind of “scientific experiment” and I bought the smallest container of food.

Tristan named the goldfish: Dash and Sonic.

Artist's Rendition of Dash as a Young Fish
He also insisted that they should have “more friends” and I don’t know if you know this, but for “reasonable” requests like this, it’s really hard to say no to a 4-year-old.  I also thought, since these fish would likely all die within weeks, that it would be a good life lesson. 

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

We made a deal—if Tristan fed the fish every day for the entire month, I would allow him to have more fish.  This would also mean that we’d need a bigger tank, but I thought I was pretty safe in this deal.  Tristan can be incredibly focused when he has his mind set on a goal (playing a game, watching TV).  After the Great Over-Feeding on day three (I’m certain those fish started a cult based around the Big Blond Blur Who Sends Mana from the Heavens) he fed those damn fish, and they made it through the month.

Much chagrined, and with the dogged tenacity that only a 4-year-old can muster and maintain, I did some research on keeping goldfish, bought a 30 gallon tank, top-of-the-line filter, rainbow rocks, a couple of plastic plants and a poly-resin hollow log.  We picked up the “friends” Tristan wanted (he picked them out himself) at five for a dollar, and now had seven.

Promptly, two of the new fish died.

I did not hide this fact from the boys.  I made certain they knew and watched as I took the fish out.  There were no tears, or much sadness at all, except for me.  That should have been a clue.

Over the next three years, the number of fish would continue to decrease.  Dash and Sonic continued to survive, as the deaths started to rack up.  About eight months ago, we were down to four fish, two of the new “friends” and the two originals.  I assume Sonic went first, though it was hard to confirm.  One of the “friends” went next, and we were down to two.  A beautiful white-and-gold koi-type goldfish, and Dash.

Dash left us six months ago, and the koi goldfish was the only one who remained.
The Great Goldfish Bowl in the Sky.

This morning, we lost the last fish.

On the one hand, as I turned off the filter for the last time, I was relieved.  Going on vacation was a bit of a pain, and keeping the tank clean was even more so.  For a single fish, that koi certainly generated a lot of filth.

On the other, I’ve always been a pet-person—dogs especially.  Even if the fish only saw me as a big blurry hand pouring out their food, I liked them.  It was a thing for me to feed the fish in the morning before I went to work, and as soon as I got home.  I kept my gear near the fish tank, inside the stand, so that I wouldn’t forget.

Stupid goldfish.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Naming Names and Namers—Book Titles

A title no one else had thought of!
We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but damned if we don’t.  There’s a whole industry of book cover artists and marketing experts who are doing their damnedest to get you to pick up a book off the shelf (or click on the digital link) based solely on the cover.

If that’s bad, think about the book’s title.  A really good title, or a really bad one, can be as important as the cover itself.

I made a mistake with my first published book, Tears of Heaven.  It’s not a bad title, per se.  In fact, it’s reasonably memorable—as the song by Eric Clapton “Tears In Heaven”.  Amazon keeps asking if I’m interested in that, rather than my own book.  It certainly is a great song, very moving, especially if you know the history—it’s just not what I’m looking for.  On top of Mr. Clapton’s classic, there’s a five book “Tears of Heaven” series, which, like my book, also has some religious themes, and there’s also a stand-alone romance book by the exact same name.

If ever there was a time to sigh, this would be that time.

Trying to sell any book in today’s market is hard enough, but when readers have any difficulty in finding the title you’re aiming them toward, it’s an order of magnitude harder.  Any obstacle to finding your book should be eliminated as quickly as possible, and with titles this incredibly easy.

Amazon.com lists almost every book every written (even if they’re having a feud with a publishing house).  So, a quick search of the title you’re writing under should turn up any exact or near hits, and let you make an educated decision from there.  A single source, even one as comprehensive as Amazon, may still miss a title here or there, so there’s Google’s Advanced Book Search.  Finally, there are any number of alternate book finding sites, mostly for used, out-of-print, or rare books who can tell you if a title already exists.

Should your perfect title already be attached to another author’s book, DO NOT PANIC!  Definitely DO NOT track that author down and threaten them, or attempt to discredit their work just because they published your title before you did.  That’s not only silly, it’s pretty rude.  Titles aren’t the end-all be-all of the book marketing process.  Chew over the concept of your book, the ideas you’re trying to get across, and the cleverness of your own mind will most likely come up with an alternate, even better title in no time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

In Memory of Richard Hatch and Captain Apollo

It's no feldercarb—Hatch will be missed!
Years and years ago, my parents set me down a path that would forever dominate my destiny.  Consume me, it has, for nearly 40 years.

They took me to see Star Wars.

In the theater.

At four years old, I was sold.

Fantasy!  Science Fiction!  TOGETHER!

A year later, riding high on the wave of Star Wars Mania (yes, that was a thing), NBC launched Battlestar Galactica.  Everything was coming up Rob!  I wanted a Colonial warrior jacket more than anything, and to strap on a blaster.  Starbuck was the coolest thing ever, and I wanted to Pyramid and drink ambrosia—which at that age, I thought would taste like sarsaparilla.  For Halloween, I wore a brown sweater and a hand-made wooden gun that I’d used a black marker to make look like a BSG prop.

Bromance before bromances were cool.
But more than that, though, I wanted a friendship like that between Apollo and Starbuck.

Apollo, as embodied by Richard Hatch, was great—dutiful, capable, passionate.  But he was made awesome by his association with Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck.  Yet, for all that, Starbuck really wouldn’t have been who he was without Apollo, and neither would have been anything without Hatch.

Hatch had an amazing passion for any project that he undertook.  BSG was no different.  Hatch loved the concept, he loved the characters, and he became a very strong advocate for a sequel of the series.  He wrote seven novels for the BSG universe, and wrote, directed and produced (out of his own pocket) a trailer to try to win support for a new series—The Second Coming.  His passion brought together some of the original cast members, including John Colicos’ Baltar, and Terry Carter’s Colonel Tigh, and some other faces you might recognize.

In a documentary on Battlestar Galactica Dirk Benedict commented on Hatch and some of the animosity his attempts sparked by BSG creator Glen Larson.  Benedict said something along the lines of, “They both have such passion . . . if they could just get together . . .”

Who could say no to that smile?
Although initially, Hatch opposed the reimaging of Battlestar Galactica in 2004, he eventually came to respect and admire the effort.  He came on board with another stellar character, Tom Zarek, written specifically for him.  As a firebrand, Zarek was charismatic, popular and driven toward his goals.

It was very much how Hatch had lived his own life.

Hatch, of course, was more than just Battlestar Galactica, but that’s where I was first introduced to him, and it’s how I always knew him.  The little boy in me will always think of Captain Apollo whenever I see Hatch, no matter what he’s in.

I think that’s the kind of legacy he would have liked.

May the Lords of Kobol bless you and keep you, Captain Apollo.  You’re cleared for launch.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sick of Being Sick

The most comfortable ever.
Pneumonia isn’t fun.

That’s pretty much all I can come up with.

I’ve been living my life in four hour increments, because that’s when I have to, or get to, take the various medications I’ve been prescribed.  I’m pretty certain this is as sick as I’ve ever been.  I did that year with Crohn’s before they realized it was Crohn’s and had to have surgery, but at least with that I didn’t have chest pains, and congestion and morning coughing jags that lasted fifteen to twenty minutes.

I don't know if honey is a miracle cure, but everyone has counseled honey, including my doctors.  I was already using it ease my cough and sore throat, but it was fascinating to have doctors and nurses suggesting it.

I’m pretty tired.  I’m also tired of being tired.