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R.A. McCandless

And Other Lies Older Generations Like To Tell Themselves

Back in my day, we didn’t have oxygen to breath. We had to smash our chests with two rocks to keep our hearts pumping. That was when we weren’t working in the salt mines to get enough gruel for our daily meal. It was hard, but that’s the way we liked it. Not like today’s kids, with their atmosphere and their photosynthesis!

Seriously.

Every few years it seems another blogger or journalist makes the stunning observation that “kids these days are coddled”. Spoiler Alert: It’s not new or stunning and it’s complete bunk. …


TL;DR Version: Humans aren’t responsible enough to handle firearms.

There has been no end of discussion about gun violence, gun control, and gun rights. That’s good and it needs to continue happening. The discussion part. That degree of concern and pressure needs to burn and boil and then hiss and spill onto the stovetop that is our country so that we actually start doing something rather than wishing it away with “thoughts and prayers”.

Are you a gun owner? Good. So am I. I spent part of my formative years in rural Northern Nevada. We shot everything all the time…


There’s a story behind every photograph. Some photos aren’t interesting to everyone, whether that’s Aunt Jenny at the Hootenanny, or Uncle Jim at the Barn-Raising. Others are fascinating for the sheer fact that they exist at all. Take the above Samurai Posing by the Sphinx, shot in 1863.

Wow.

Just wow.

All we need now are some ninjas, and this photo achieves transcendence. There may be ninjas there already. I’m told there are three in this article!

How many stories could you tell without actually knowing the history behind a photo? …


Prologues: How to Prologue Without Prolonging the Pain

Prologues.

Prologues have such a bad reputation — hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks, smoking cigarettes and getting tattoos — that some readers will roll up the windows and drive past quickly.

Never in the history of humankind has there been a more divisive subject.

There has never been a war, a battle or a barroom brawl without first some poor soul uttered the word, “prologue”. Don’t bother looking it up. That’s a fact.

And yet, here we are.

Here we are —

Prologues are loved/hated depending on the individual and I’m not here to tell you…


Keeping it Real: Why “Bad Guys” Do Bad Things

“It was in keeping with the practice of mankind for us to accept an empire that was offered to us, and if we refused to give it up under the pressure of three of the strongest motives, fear, honor, and self-interest.”
— Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War 1.76

Villains, enemies, allies, and friends should all act with motivation. It’s easy to tap into with the “good guys” but it becomes trickier with antagonists. This largely stems from the fact that we don’t really want to sympathize with the Big Bad. …


Quarterly Performance All-Hands Conference, About 8:07 am

They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.

― Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

Alright lads and ladies, I know these dungeon guard meetings are boring, but they’re important so pay attention. First, a quick moment of silence for our newly departed: Guillaume, Bob, and Pedro. …


The Under-Used but Super Cool Parrying Dagger

One of the coolest fighting styles — a real, that is — is sword and parrying dagger. Writers who are looking to engage the Rule of Cool, but also remain steadfastly in the realm of historic reality should really jump on this one. Shields often get a the short end of the spear, because they seem bulky, and bulky is generally not cool in a fight. But parrying daggers are fast and nimble, which means your fighter can be fast and nimble while dual wielding, which is always cool!

If you’re like me from back in the day, you hear…


Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned How to Crush My Enemies, See Them Driven Before Me, and Drink Their Tears

I n light of recent events, I feel congratulations are in order for Karen Hough! She clearly read the following excellent advice and took it to heart. As a result, her book on Goodreads rose from a mere 4.5+ stars all the way up to 1.6 as of today (April 14, 2021). Well done, Lauren! In no time at all, you’ll be #1!

You’ve taken your first step into a much larger world. Reviewers have learned to fear you!

Now, dear reader, you can learn from Lauren’s example. You’ve completed your manuscript, your best friend, spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend has given…


Why Breasts on Breastplates? Part the Second

Head, Shoulders, Chests and Those!

Don’t forget to read Why Breasts on Breastplates: Part the First Worldbuilding With Female Characters.

Breasts are a wonderful topic, and in my previous article on worldbuilding with female characters, I briefly touched on a subject that is sore among some writers. It also nicely highlights exactly what I was talking about in regard to world and character building. If you have a child-like character, why is he able to go out to the forest, rip up the biggest tree, and then start slaughtering armies? …


Worldbuilding With Female Characters

There have been, in almost any era, women warriors: Harriet Tubman, Fu Hao, Tomoe Gozen (of whom I’m writing a book), Boudicca, Arachidamia. They generally stand out as the exception, rather than the rule, rendering them even more exceptional. Tomoe Gozen was said to have been incredibly strong, not just carrying a sword, but one that was oversized. That we have so few suggests that due to social and cultural constraints and pressures — as a particular lens was applied to the investigation and writing of history — many women warriors have been relegated to the…

R.A. McCandless

Award-winning author of steampunk and urban fantasy.

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