Thursday, October 31, 2019

In Memoriam—Jeremy McIntosh

My friend—Jeremy McIntosh

The last time tragedy took someone I was fond of, and after the initial shock of their loss wore off, I wrote. That’s how I process my thoughts, open to the grieving, and share with others. Yesterday, I learned that an old friend from Battle Mountain—Jeremy McIntosh—passed away suddenly. Jeremy was that rare individual who seems to know everyone and be loved by everyone. His loss struck deep, not just at me, but all those around him.

This morning, as I was preparing to write up this memorial, I opened Facebook to gather a couple of pictures from his page to share. My feed was flooded with an outpouring of sorrow, grief, condolences, and warm memories. They weren’t directed at me of course, which is the point. The fact that Jeremy had touched and impacted so many lives was testified to by the overpowering will of those in his vast, vast circle.

Jeremy was easily one of the most unique individuals I’ve ever met. He befriended me—a scared, shy, “new kid”—when he recognized (according to him) a kindred creative soul. What I remember most about Jeremy was his ability to draw. He always, always, always had a sketchpad or a spiral notebook, filled with his doodles, drawing, portraits, and experiments.

Once, Jeremy shared with me the start of a comic book he was working on at the time, a kind of X-Men/Justice League group of super heroes. This being Jeremy, though, the group wasn’t going to have it easy. Their budget (for fighting crime and evil) was astoundingly small, and limited. They would have to become self-sufficient or the group would be disbanded.

That was Jeremy. A guy who could see the beauty of the world, but knew that it was finite, knew that it required work to maintain and grow.

Jeremy was a reader. A voracious consumer of books. When I knew him, through high school, he was reading mostly fantasy novels. His library of stacked paperbacks mixed with a few hardcovers, was enviable. We shared that love of reading, and talked about authors and stories, and exchanged books. We branched out into movies, and he recommended The Highlander to me—it was a good recommendation. My mother reminded me that she’d lent him one of Terry Brooks’ Shannara books. He devoured it in days and returned the borrowed copy in perfect, pristine condition.

There's that smile!
Always conscious of others, and how his actions might impact them.

Jeremy was one of the people I made an active and concerted effort to track down and friend on social media. Back in the day, Jeremy had believed in my writing. He was interested and encouraging and present. I wasn't sure if he'd read anything of mine, but I recently discovered that not only had he bought my books, he'd been encouraging others to buy them too. Reading through the memories and thoughts of others this morning, that was the epitome of who Jeremy was—he believed in and liked people for who they were. He saw what they were capable of and urged them to pursue it. If he could, he would help you accomplish great things.

I think he saw that in himself too. A relentless pursuit of who he was and what he could become, just like when he taught himself to backflip. He did this first by standing on a four-foot tall cinder block wall surrounded by concrete benches, concrete tables and more concrete. He leaped out, backwards into the air in an impossibly tight spin. The first time I watch him do it, it freaked me out. I had visions of him slamming his head into any one of the many concrete shapes that surrounded us. 

He didn’t.  He was always successful. He was very much like the speaker in the Shel Silverstein poem Hug O’ War:

I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins

That’s how I will remember him. Friendly and a friend. Accomplishing things that scared me. Smiling his ever-present smile, one that said the world was very clever for remembering to include Jeremy McIntosh in it, because the world was a better place with him in it, and people were better for having known him.

I'm certainly glad that I knew him.

Jeremy, you are missed.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Achievement Unlocked - Fake a Photo

Yep. Just sitting there, officer.
Not brought in a all!

There are some fantastic people who have somehow decided that I’m worthy of association.  I received this picture today from London, England’s very own Waterstone’s Books in Picadilly!

It’s a completely staged photo. As far as I know, no brick-and-mortar bookstores carry my books, but it’s such a beautiful thought. I spent hours and hours at my local Sam Weller bookstore, sitting in the fantasy section, reading the back covers of pretty much every story on their shelf.

If you’ve read my first two books—TEARS OF HEAVEN and HELL BECOMES HER—and would like a FREE copy for review of COMPANY OF THE DAMNED, please let me know. You can drop me a message in the comments below, or reach out to me on any of my social media platforms:

Twitter: @RobRoyMcCandles

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Margaret and the Awesome Covers of Awesomeness

The model, the myth, the legend!

The first rule of cover art is: Don’t overcomplicate things.

I overcomplicate things out of reflex.

A couple of years ago, when I’d been freed from my evil contract with the evil publisher Evil Maya (cue the ominous lightning and thunder) I immediately set about recovering the disaster that she’d insisted was a work of art. My new publisher, Johnathon Clayborn at Clayborn Press was thrilled and very supportive.

I started sifting through models that never quite met what I was looking for. There’s a lot that a good artist can do to make a mediocre model work for a cover. Still, it’s better to start from a position of strength and reinforce it.

That’s when it hit me. I have a friend who models on the side. She’s even into science fiction and geekdom, and has done some geeky/nerdy model work.

What has made my writing fun has been the involvement of my friends and family. I have beta readers I’ve known since junior high school, and my genius brother has provided all kinds of assistance from a historical standpoint. Friends have served as the inspiration for characters, events, and entire plots.

What better way to celebrate the re-release of my first two books—TEARS OF HEAVEN and HELL BECOMES HER—and the release of my third book—COMPANY OF THE DAMNED—than to do so with a friend?

I reached out to Margaret and asked if she had any shots that might meet my needs. Margaret did me one better. She said she’d get with her photographer, Jess Middlebrook, and shoot the shots that I needed.

And she did.

Well . . . she's half-angel!
The artwork was great, just super-strong and covered in awesomeness. My cover artist, Julie, took off from there and returned outstanding artwork. Everything came together incredibly fast. We spent only a day or three on each cover, and BAM we were done. I had to wait longer for Amazon to actually populate the new covers than I did working with Julie to build them.

It couldn’t have worked out better. I have friends who have helped me, and continue to help me, at every aspect of my “writing career”. Champions and cheerleaders who promote my work, rush to congratulate my victories, and mourn my defeats.

Thank you John, Jess, Julie, and Margaret.

And of course, thank you to all my friends and family. I can’t thank everyone enough!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

S. Andrew Swann's "Teek: The Children of Prometheus"

Does she have psychic powers? Oh yeah!

Years ago, way back in 1993, I stumbled on the book “Forests of the Night” by S. Andrew Swann. The cover alone, which features an anthropomorphic tiger holding a rather large firearm, was enough to get me to shell out the $4.99.

Put simply, it was amazing. Riffing off the idea of genetically-engineered animal soldiers, Swann crafted a genius story where those animals—or rather their descendants—now found themselves not on the battlefield, but in a post-war society that had no idea what to do with them.

Swann was the first author that I actively sought out and tried to follow online. I loved his website, where he provided a couple of essays for wannabe-authors (just like me!) and when I sent him an email or two, asking questions, he actually responded.

Recently, he’s decided to go indie, and the small press/indie ranks couldn’t have asked for a better member. As an indie, I was very fortunate to join S. Andrew Swann’s street team, and received an advanced reader copy of his latest re-release “Teek: The Children of Prometheus”.  Here’s my review:

There is no point in S. Andrew Swann’s “Teek: The Children of Prometheus” that isn’t wholly believable.  Swann creates original, believable, and relatable characters that could walk through the doorway at any time. While the story itself is set in the 90s, Swann deftly avoids the classic tropes of stuffing his world with nostalgic items. Instead, the story he provides is practically timeless.

The world needs more
anthropomorphic tigers!
Swann’s urban fantasy story centers on Allison Boyle, a pretty average high school girl with pretty average teenage concerns—boyfriend, grades, social circles. There is one catch, of course. Over the last six months Allison has suffered debilitating migraines, often when creepy Chuck is around—and he seems to always be around. When push comes to shove between Chuck and Allison, she lashes out with a power she didn’t know she had—telekinesis, or “teek” for short.

Life for Allison suddenly becomes incredibly complex. Her ability is both wonderful and the root of most of her troubles. She goes from run-of-the-mill high schooler, to fugitive-on-the-run, tracked by men with guns who have “teeks” of their own. Only Allison’s best friend, Macy is able to help her as they start to run across country toward Allison’s father or may or may not be able to keep her out of the clutches of something far more sinister.

All of Swann’s books are extremely real and engaging, and “Teek: The Children of Prometheus” is a wonderful edition to that library. What sets Swann’s books apart from so many others in the urban fantasy/science fiction genre are the rules. He sets up the rules of the world, and then sticks rigidly to them, never giving his characters and easy out. The pacing and flow of the story are expertly crafted by a master as Swann breathes life into every scene. It’s less like reading a book, and much more like watching a real life drama unfold. Readers will love Swann’s attention to detail, the incredibly alive characters, and the overall scope and scale that he creates.

Have you ever engaged with a celebrity/public figure?
Tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Old Grudges - Excerpt from The Clockwork Detective

Beware the steampunk girl who carries a big cane!

A little excerpt from THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE. Here, Constable Sterben and Aubrey are being confronted by a “street tough” with a grudge. How he’s out of prison so early baffles Sterben and is part of the mystery Aubrey later untangles. For now, she and Sterben face a fight they may not be able to win:

“Anders,” Sterben said as he rolled his shoulders inside his coat, “you don’t have the stones to pound that little girl, much less me. But if you’re determined, tell your brothers to go home, and you and I can settle this like men.”

“Like men? Is that what you tell yourself? You needed five officers to help take me in, Constable.”

Sterben gave a quick laugh and smiled. “I needed three, and that’s because I didn’t want to hurt your pretty face and take away any chance you had in prison. I’m sure they gave you the same loving embrace as your brothers.”

Sterben was intentionally goading Anders and the other men – it was the only thing that made sense of his actions. He hadn’t looked in her direction once, and neither had anyone else. She was essentially forgotten in the confrontation, which was what Sterben wanted. He was giving her time to get away from the brothers. It was a good tactic, but with her bad leg, she would quickly be caught as soon as someone remembered her. No matter how well the boffins in Grazburg had designed the leg, it was only good for the daily use of walking. Running was beyond Aubrey’s physical abilities.

Anders growled at Sterben. Aubrey twisted the handle of her cane, and felt it rotate a quarter turn. She measured the distance between herself and Anders, and knew he was a pace and a half too far.

It’s never easy, she thought.

“Is that true, Anders?” Aubrey brought the full weight of all five men back to herself. “And here I could have used a good pounding too!”

Anders’ face flushed red with rage. Aubrey could see Sterben’s look of warning but ignored it.

“You’ll get yours,” Anders told her. “How about now?”

He moved forward, and Aubrey had to stifle her smile. She twisted the cane’s handle again and pulled. The soft scrape of metal on wood was completely lost to Anders as he came at her. The cane’s blade wasn’t as sturdy as her boarding saber, but it had a wicked sharp point, which she thrust under Anders’ chin and held against his throat. The skin broke and a small line of red ran down his neck. He tried to back away, but Aubrey moved with him.

“Don’t move. Not an inch.” Aubrey’s gaze fixed on Anders, but her voice was pitched to carry to his brothers. “You lot, either.”

Everyone froze.

What’s Your Favorite David and Goliath Scene?
Tell me in the comments below!