Monday, June 30, 2014

Author R.A. McCandless On Bad Scotch

quote the raven
 Image of RA McCandlessQ. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
 R.A. Thanks Steve, I really appreciate the opportunity. I’ve been a writer both professionally and creatively for nearly two decades. I was born under a wandering star that led to a degree in Communication and English with a focus on creative writing. I’m the author of the urban fantasy "Tears of Heaven", short stories "Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke" in the “Nine Heroes: Tales of Heroic Fantasy” anthology, and several other short stories due out in 2014. I continue to research and write historical and genre fiction, battle sprinklers, and play with my three boys.

 Q. In 30 words or less, give us a synopsis of your current work and why we should read it.
 R.A. Thrilling danger, fast-paced adventure, high-seas action, and heart-warming romance fill this urban fantasy “Tears of Heaven” with a page-turning story that won't let you put it down.

 Q. What is your favorite book?
 R.A. A Different Light by Elizabeth K. Lynn. It’s a science fiction novella with as much emotional conflict as physical. The layers and lyrical narrative that Lynn wove in that book are truly stunning. Everyone should buy it and read it today!

 Q. What is your fondest childhood memory?
 R.A. I friend of the family gave me a copy of “The Hobbit” when I was ten or eleven. It was the first real novel I’d ever read. I devoured it, not even pausing to swallow. Then, I grabbed all the money I’d saved, jumped on my dirt bike and hustled down to the local bookstore to get everything else the author had written. I had no idea I was buying the seminal fantasy work “The Lord of the Rings”.

 Q. What period of your life do you find yourself writing about the most?
 R.A. Of my life? Absolutely nothing. I’m as boring as a three-dollar bill. The friendships and relationships that I’ve had are the biggest portion of my life that I pull from, but they aren’t what I write about the most. Those are themes that become part of the motivation for characters.

 Q. Have you ever stolen from another author?
 R.A. Stolen? No, never. May a flaming Balrog strike me down with a lightsaber and crucify me on the Tree of Woe! That said, authors don’t operate in a vacuum. Everything you read, watch, hear or experience becomes food for the story. If it’s going to seem real then some of it has to be real, and authors know this intimately. Their best stuff is that which they draw from personal experience, either their own or someone else’s. I do love research and reading first-hand accounts of history. They’re almost always biased, but they provide a definite sense of time and place, of a normality that is vastly removed from our own. Capturing that sense of real

 Q. What author does your writing compare to?
 R.A. Bernard Cornwell and Joe Abercrombie thrown in. I like my historical fiction and fantasy to have dirt in the pages, with contemporary heroes who have legitimate flaws of time and place. I just finished a short story called “Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire” which Harren Press will be publishing in their steampunk anthology, and in researching for it, I discovered that some of the military innovations during the American Civil War and the Crimean War were misused because tactics hadn’t caught up to the technology. Despite the advent of repeating rifles and increased range of ammunition, most of the strategy was still based on putting soldiers in a line and marching them toward the enemy position, then slugging it out. They were caught up in their own experience and training, and, as with all humans, had a tough time moving past and innovating.

 Q. How does fiction question our lives?
 R.A. It doesn’t. All any work of art, novels, music, painting, sculpture, etc., can do is present a view of the world from a certain perspective. It’s up to us to determine if that perspective prompts questions or motivates us to change. That, however, is the inherent power, and the potential for questions and change isn’t just vast, it’s infinite.

Q. What kind of socks are you wearing?
R.A. White crew socks with an impact-cushion bottom. I believe they’re generic. I can’t determine if they have a brand.

Q. Reveal your secret "author" crush.
R.A. I don’t think I follow one author closely enough to have a crush on him/her. I guess Patrick Rothfuss has made me the most jealous and want to be him. I’d love to strike up a hate-hate relationship with him that had him gnashing his teeth and pulling his hair about my superior talent. I’d also like for him to mention the wearing of sackcloth and ashes.

Q. What gives your life meaning?
R.A. I’d like to say something snappy like, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.” But I’m going to have to go with a warm fire in the winter, an excellent selection of movies or television shows, and nothing on the schedule.

Q. What scares you the most?
R.A. Bad Scotch. Nothing worse than being served some terrible blend. Single malt, every time. 

Q. What can we expect from you in the future? What are you working on now?
R.A. I can see myself going to the Dark Side. I’ll make bad look smooth, smart and sexy. Day One: Laser Eyes. Also, more. More short stories and move novels and more blog posts. I have a couple of shorts lined up through Harren Press slated for this year. I have a completed historical fiction samurai novel called “The Second Cut” about Tomoe Gozen right now. I have a fantasy series that I’m building, with the first novel completed, called “The Blood of Heroes”. Also, I hope to have a semi-functional sprinkler system sometime in the near future.

Q. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
R.A. I accept psychic messaging from the aether, but that’s not as reliable during these times of heavy sunspot activity. My Facebook site is really the best place to get ahold of me, followed by the contact form on my website.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bicycle Locks and Hammers

booksBicycle locks are ridiculously easy to break into. All you need is a hammer. I know because my daughter’s combination bicycle lock decided not to open. My first instinct was to cut into it, but all I had was a pair of wire cutters, which did not work. Next, good old WD40, which should actually have been my first thought. WD40, as brilliant of a product as it is, failed. 

I searched online how to break through this lock. Turns out, you just have to whack the combination lock portion several times with a hammer. Easy-peasy.

Really, not that easy though. It was an entire day’s project, and by noon the Wyoming temperatures sored to a whopping 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and for Wyoming, that makes one want to lock himself inside with the air conditioner while you stand in front of the refrigerator in nothing but one’s underwear. To be fair, this is in comparison to earlier in the year’s –23. But instead, I was outside, standing on the cement by the bicycle rack, hammer in hand, and the sun beating down on my neck. I was frustrated and mad and pounding on the lock and pounding on it and pounding on it. Then a neighbor walked up. “Excuse me, Sir, what are you doing?”

Okay, she didn’t ask me that, but I felt guilty. Like I was a bike thief, and I’ve had a bicycle stolen from me, and it’s a horrible, horrible feeling.

When I was a kid, my bicycle was white and blue, six gears, slick, thin, street tires and I flew down my town’s roads like a bird. That’s how it felt. How I remember feeling. I ride a bike still now at forty and overweight, but it is a clunky, old, yellow rental from the University. Twenty-five dollars a semester. And today’s feeling is not fun. It is a daily commute to work, and when the end of the day comes along, the very last thing I want to do is get on that bicycle and pedal uphill all the way with zero gears the fifteen plus blocks home. Especially in the
23 weather, which I have done. If my bike lock had gotten stuck, I would have left the bicycle on the rack and taken the bus.

But my daughter’s bicycle, that is a different story. So I sweat in the sun and beat the heck out of that lock, and she could ride again like a bird, like I hope she does when she is all grown-up.



Going Down Hill on a Bicycle

By Henry Charles Beeching

A Boy’s Song

With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind;
The air goes by in a wind.
Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:--
“O bird, see; see, bird, I fly.
“Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!”
Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.
Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.
Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.