Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Things That Go Bump #1

It's October, my favorite month.  Because October is the only month that culminates in Halloween. And Halloween is the only holiday that celebrates the spooky, the scary, and the mysterious!

In keeping with the spirit of the season, each blog entry this month we'll dig up a little cemetery soil to expose something buried in the shallow grave of rationality.

What better place to start digging, than beneath the headstone marked 'ghosts?'

Ghost stories are told within nearly all human cultures, and have been told throughout all the history we've been able to cobble together. Some ghosts are vengeful, some are sad, some are able to see the future, or dabble in the affairs of the living.

According to the stories, that is. Science has yet to recognize anything even remotely resembling proof that dead people go on as bodiless spirits.

But, for the purpose of discussion, let's say ghosts exist. It's October. Take the plunge. Ghosts are real. Fine.

What the heck are they?

You'll get a lot of replies to this question. Ghosts are spirits, of course. Beings composed of pure energy. Ghosts are the embodiment of our immortal souls. Ghosts are ectoplasmic remnants of our consciousness.

Today I'd like to suggest a different, lesser known theory for  the actual mechanism behind most so-called 'hauntings.'

What if the ghosts are, in fact, us?

More specifically, what if ghosts are the actualized, mobile results of our own imaginations?

I speaking about tulpas. A tulpa is said to be an entity created by the act of willful concentration and meditation of one or more people. If the people are determined and devoted to the process, believers (and this is an ancient belief) claim a tulpa can do all the things we attribute to ghosts, and more.

Case in point: the so-called Philip Experiments, conducted by a group of Canadian psychical researchers in the 1970s.

You can read about the sessions here or here. Or I'll summarize things for you. A group of researchers decided they would create a ghost. They named him Philip and gave him a detailed but entirely fictional history. They drew sketches of his likeness.

They got together and talked about Philip and thought about Philip and generally focused on Philip, even though everyone in the group was quite well aware there was not, nor had there ever been, any such person.

That's important. Because they weren't trying to contact the spirit of a deceased person.

Instead, the experiment was designed to test a theory that stated the expectation of psychic phenomena -- in this case, ghostly appearances -- was enough to actually trigger the phenomena.

Once Philip was well-known to the group, they began to engage in the methods employed by spiritualists and mediums of the last century. They sat in darkened rooms and urged 'Philip' to come forth.

If you believe the group and witnesses to the occurrences, Philip soon began to appear, even though he was imaginary.

The group reported knocks and movements and all the usual phenomena associated with seance-style apparitions.

There's even a video of a Philip session, captured by a Canadian TV show. The video shows table-tipping -- but you can see it for yourself, I've pasted it below. LATE NOTE: The video is replay-restricted, which means it won't open in the window on this page. Instead, click on the words CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS ON YOUTUBE and it will take you there and you can watch. Sorry, that's the way they posted it.

The video is either proof of the power of simple imagination, or a run-of-the-mill table tipping hoax.

Look, making a table tip via trickery is easy. Making it float isn't much more difficult. We've all seen stage magicians do far more impressive feats, and no one is suggesting anything paranormal was involved.

But what if 'Philip' was the actual agency behind the movement in that video?

Well, that means the physical world is subject to the influence of directed mental effort.

It might also mean that many of what we call 'ghosts' and 'hauntings' are nothing more than mental residue, set free to wander.

Is that really so far-fetched?  Take any location with a reputation for being haunted. People talk about what they've seen and heard. They speculate. They spend a lot of time wondering if they are alone. they jump at shadows and they tell their friends and pretty soon the whole place is awash in the very same kind of spooky energy used to raise up Philip, the imaginary ghost.

Which would make Philip a tulpa. And if my assertion is true, it would mean we are surrounded by tulpas, who make stairs creak and pop out of doorways and push glasses off of counters because that's just what we expect them to do.

Do I believe this?

Yes. No. Maybe. But it's fun to think about.

There is a downside to this school of thought, though. Let's say you are afraid of monsters in your closet, or under the bed.

If that's true, every time you think about them, they get a little closer to solidifying. A tiny step nearer to the door that opens into our reality.

But I'm sure that's all nonsense.

Sleep tight, my fiends.

What was that noise?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ask Bender!

In case you don't recognize him, that's Bender, the chain-smoking felonious robot from the brilliant animated series 'Futurama.'

What is a 52-year-old man doing with a Bender (in)action figure?

Bender often acts my writing muse. See, this is no ordinary Bender figure. He talks.

And, being Bender, he gets right to the point.

For instance, when today when I sat down to write, I was feeling tired and overwhelmed and frankly all I really wanted to do was fire up The Witcher and take on a side quest or two.

Instead, I asked Bender for advice, and he imparted the following words of patient wisdom:

It's a short video, but one replete with ancient wisdom.

It's also the perfect advice for me today -- shut up and get busy.

Thanks, Bender!


The Markhat Files now has its own Facebook page!

Head on over and ask Markhat, Mama Hog, or Darla a question. I'll also be posting new about the new book's progress there.

Here's the link:

I've also updated the Paths of Shadow Facebook page. The link to that is below.

Stop by and say hello!

Bender is glaring at me. Time to get back to work. Take care all!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Journey Nearly Complete

© Pintxoman | - Locomotive Photo

After many a false start, back-track, re-write, change of course, vow to give up writing forever, hasty return to writing, and severe headache, the new Markhat book is nearing completion!

I won't lie to you, gentle readers. 

2015 has been one of the hardest years of writing I've faced. 

By this time last year, I'd written and sold two complete novels. 

Now I'm just hoping to wrap this one up and get the new Mug and Meralda started before Halloween.

Why is that?

As with most wounds in this business, they've been self-inflicted. I think my biggest mistake was my blind determination to churn out a couple of thousand words a day. Yeah, okay, I did that -- but they weren't often the right words.

Which resulted in moments of gut-wrenching horror when I'd re-read things and realize the last 70 pages or so were, to be blunt, crap.

Badly-written? No, not necessarily. But even a bad story, told with eloquence and passion, is still a bad story.

Crap, in other words.

So I'd identify the spot there the narrative went off the rails, and I'd delete everything after that, and I'd start over.

I lost count of the number of times I did that with Way Out West

The only thing worse than gutting a book and going nearly back to page one, chapter one is NOT gutting the book and starting over. I am happy to say that, even though I was sorely tempted, I didn't shy away from taking a big sharp ax to my pile of words.

Not necessarily because I'm committed to my Art or any such lofty nonsense. No, I know my editors and my publisher and my readers, and they wouldn't be fooled for a moment by second-rate storytelling.

So, the good news -- the new Markhat book (Way Out West) is one I am truly proud of. I've done some new things, taken some risks. I think you'll see Markhat and Darla and their friends do some interesting and unexpected things, take off in directions no one saw coming. At least I hope so.

I am less than 20 thousand words from typing out the blessed phrase THE END. Now that I've gotten my head right and I'm working steadily, that won't take long at all.

How did I get my head right?

Back to basics. Fun, in other words -- forget strict adherence to some rigid outline. Forget walking the characters through intricate character and plot arcs that look good on paper but come off dry and rehearsed in the actual book. I think people read the Markhat books because Markhat makes them laugh, because he's a hero they want to cheer on, because he and Darla are a fun couple. 

So that's what I went back to. Sure, there's character development and arcs and subplots -- but there are also moments when Markhat spits right in Evil's eye with a wisecrack and a sneaky kick at its groin, while Darla prepares to shoot it right in its big red eyes.

So while I may not finish two full novels this year, I'll at least have written one good one and have a healthy start on a brand new Mug and Meralda that I hope is a worthy successor to that series. 

And maybe I learned something, too. Writing isn't typing. Word counts are important, yes, but 500 good words are preferable to 1500 mediocre ones all day every day.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

When There Is No More Room in Central Casting, The Dead Will Be On At Eight


Undead Proctologist, coming this fall to TNT!
They're everywhere, if by everywhere you mean movies and TV. And books. And graphic novels.

Zombies have shambled, crawled, and stumbled their way right into Western social consciousness, which has resulted in a spate of scholarly papers penned by bewildered sociologists trying to explain the popularity of walking corpses.

I can solve that mystery right here -- zombies are cheap for studios to create and easy for authors to write. Some latex, some make-up, ragged clothes and a limp -- presto, you're a zombie extra!

Writing zombies is even easier. Here's an example of nuanced zombie dialog:

"Urg," said the zombie. "Urg," replied the zombie horde.

You can put that on a keyboard macro and skip even typing out the whole word.

I'm kidding, of course. I've read some truly excellent zombie books -- World War Z by Max Brooks foremost among them. The book, not the movie, which should really have been titled World War Z The Movie Which Doesn't Make Any Effort Whatsoever to Even Hint at the Contents of the Book We Just Used the Title Ha Ha Ha.

I've read some pretty bad zombie books, too. Reading zombie books is how I spin my mind down and try to relax after working on my own books. Every now and then I'll just buy a slew of zombie ebooks and plow right in.

More than half of them are awful. The kind of awful that generates a stench you can almost smell rising from the display of your ereader. I try to keep going, no matter how bad things are, for at least a quarter of the book. Sometimes I can't even make that.

It appears a formula of sorts is being circulated among certain zombie authors.


1) Introduce Intrepid Hero, who is surrounded by a vast collection of firearms. Introduce each and every weapon, being careful to include Rates of Fire, Muzzle Velocity, and Favored Ammunition, you big sissy.

2) Add four to seven Secondary Characters. Sure, give them names, although descriptions such as 'Dies Screaming After Failing to Clean His Weapon' and 'Clueless Office Work Devoured Alive in Chapter 2' would probably work about as well.

3) Rescue the Love Interest without neglecting to maintain a count of rounds expended and providing graphic descriptions of exploding zombie craniums. Bonus points for spontaneous sex scene in gore-covered gun store.

4) Point Hero, Love Interest, and Band of Expendables toward some distant goal ("If we can make it to Disney's Epcot Center we can hide in that big dome thing!")

5) You need dramatic tension! Cue the Mindless Shambling Hordes. Pare down the Band of Expendables. Remember to include one coward who is bitten but conceals the injury until they turn and interrupt another sex scene in a gore-splattered gun shop.

6) Stop when the Hero and Love Interest, the only survivors of the journey, are thirty miles from Epcot. Because it's sequel time, baby!

I shouldn't laugh too hard. You see, once upon a time, long ago, I wrote my own zombie apocalypse thriller.

My hero was the owner of a gourmet foods grocery store which hadn't had its grand opening when the world falls apart. Marvin rides out the initial rising by locking himself in his half-stocked store. He isn't looted because his signage wasn't up yet and the windows were still covered, so he dines on expensive German sausages and a collection of middling good wines for three weeks.

No roaming the wastes with a steely glare and his trusty Mossberg G-17 tactical automatic shotgun with nuclear flash suppressor and custom 900 round magazine for my guy Marvin. Nope. In his defense, he does bravely manage to pair an inferior Cabernet with a suspect platter of imported Beluga caviar and live to tell the tale.

Marvin isn't alone, though. He lets an injured clerk from another store inside before anyone knew what being bitten means. When the clerk expires, Marvin locks the body in the store's office, and when the teenager reanimates, our hero keeps him there. Marvin even throws food into the office from time to time, and he talks to the zombie out of boredom. After weeks of that, the zombie starts throwing bits of food back to Marvin, and when the zombie does finally escape from the office, he dutifully goes about trying to stock the shelves, showing no interest in biting anyone.

Ultimately, Marvin and domesticated zombie 'Dude' set out across the wasteland -- but only after a fire destroys the strip mall.

Marvin and Dude. Part buddy movie, part road comedy, part apocalypse novel.

It really wasn't all that bad, looking back.

Maybe one day I'll open up a new Word file and start all over with it. I'll need a catchy title, something with the word 'dead' in it -- CLEAN-UP ON AISLE DEAD, maybe. Or DUDE OF THE DEAD. Perhaps even THE CHRONICLES OF MARVIN, BOOK 1: THE ROAD TO NEWARK.

I smell a TV tie-in!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

So Long, and Thanks for All The Hits

This may well be the very last entry in this blog.

No, I'm not going to stop blogging, but my log will be moving from Blogger (which has been a great platform) to an integrated blog on my new webpage.

The webpage will also be new.  Designed and executed by the good folks at ADsmith Marketing and Advertising, it will still be found at, and you'll still be able to reach me via email at my usual franktuttle at franktuttle dot com email address.

What you won't need to do anymore is gaze upon my own amateurish efforts at web design.

I'm going to keep this Blogger blog up, as an archive of my previous work. When the new website goes live, all my "New blog entry is up" messages will send you to the new place. So will clicking on 'blog' at the new website. You won't need to do anything to get to the new place.

So stay tuned for big changes here in my electronic house!

For Us Readers

If you're looking for something new to read, and who isn't, there's a new book review site on Facebook worth checking out. Bear Mountain Books invites you to like their FB review site, which your clicky little fingers can locate by clicking on the Bearmountainbooks FB page here.

I trust Maria's judgment, and a good review site can save you a lot of time by picking through the slush to find the hidden gems. Check it out!

The Horror of Author Photos

Anybody who knows me will agree -- I have the perfect face for writing. 

My body is the perfect author's body. Shaped by many years of overindulgence and hunching over a keyboard, I am at once as smoothly aerodynamic as any perfect pear and metabolically well-suited to long periods of complete inactivity. 

Which are both useful qualities when swimming for the pool bar for a third whiskey sour or writing books, but the resulting physique doesn't make for a very good author photograph. New website, new pics, so I really need a good photo, but -- this is hard.

First of all, as soon as I am required to smile, I forget how. Yeah, I know the ends of the lips go up and you show some teeth, but my conscious smile is more furious primate defending territory than friendly author saying hello. 

And then there is  what I believe is called 'resting bitch face.' My usual expression, I am told, is one of mild but growing annoyance. This doesn't reflect my inner being, since most of the time I am basically unconscious, but that's how am I usually perceived. That look doesn't work well with photos either.

Which leaves me with the middle ground, or the 'simulated friendly grin.' Lift the corners of the mouth, yes, but keep your teeth out of sight since we're not really trying to frighten off a troop of rival gibbons.

This look comes off as demented and possibly also caught in the act of hiding a body. Honestly, if I came across someone with that face, I'd not turn my back to them. Ever.

Hiring a model would of course be both unethical and possibly fatal to the model's career, so that's right out.

Digital enhancement? Sure, but there's only so much you can do with that. Jabba the Hut isn't going to pass for George Clooney no matter how many filters you apply. 

I think my only hope is to wear a large hat and hope viewers scroll past really fast.

So expect big changes coming soon. Thanks for sticking with me!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Guest Spotlight: Cecilia Dominic

If love is the ivy, secrets are the poison. Aether Psychics, Book 1

Nothing is more fun than a new book release.

Well, okay, very few legal things are as much fun as a new book release. Which is why I'm proud to announce that fellow Samhain author and MidSouthCon alumni, Cecelia Dominic, has a new book out on the 25th of this month (but you can pre-order now with a single quick click, hint hint).

The book is called Eros Element, and the cover is above.

I've have the privilege of reading the book, courtesy of the author. So when I tell you this is a damned good book, I'm not engaging in guesswork or hyperbole.

Before I start blabbering, here's the blurb for Eros Element:

After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.

Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his school's faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they search for an element that will help harness the power of aether. 

Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholar-and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal-while hiding the truth of her father's whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin. 

Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discovery--and break their hearts.

Yes. Steampunk, baby. Set in an 1870 that never was but should have been.

I loved this book. I swear I could hear steam hissing and gears clacking the whole time I read it. The 'aether' of the title was my favorite of Dominic's inventions. She obviously knows her discredited Victorian physics, and she brought them to life brilliantly in a laboratory demonstration early in the book.

PROTIP: Show Frank a copper sphere and then cool it to draw down a vacuum, and you've won him over instantly. 

In fact, her handling of the more fantastic elements of the book is a great strength. Without giving too much away, there's the aether, which is being sought as a power source. There are also some subtle and well-handled psychic talents, which I won't name, that also add flavor to the tale. But nothing is overdone, and there is a refreshing lack of deux ex machinas throughout.

Her version of 1870 is perfectly executed. She did one thing I haven't seen a lot of lately, in that she showed the downside to steam-powered society. Early in the book, the party's train makes a stop on the outskirts of London, and though brief, the scene is particularly illuminating -- the sickly poor, the railroad workers passing mirrors on poles beneath the train to detect the presence of Victorian spy-bots that might be crawling on the undercarriage, waiting to creep inside and spy on businessmen. It's deft touches like that which really transport the reader into the world of the book.

But I've read plenty of books with stunning technical settings that fell flat because I just didn't care about any of the characters.

Not so here.  Edward Bailey and Iris McTavish step right out of the book from Page One, big as life and lots of fun.

This isn't a love-at-first-sight book. Oh no. Not at first sight or second or even well up into the twenties. I loved the way she handled the romantic aspects of the book, because -- well, you read it, I can't say too much, save to say I was well entertained.

There are a lot of characters to love here. Again, no spoilers, but Iris's female traveling companion is also thoroughly entertaining.

I think there's something for everyone here. You've got intrigue, suspense, and a globe-trotting party of adventurers. You've got aether and airships, romance and derring-do.

Best of all, Miss Dominic can turn a phrase.

If you enjoy steampunk, you'll love this. Even if you've never read a steampunk adventure in your life, you'll love this.

Here's a list of links to get you started. Eros Element, which is Book 1 of a planned series, goes on sale the day the 25th, but now's a good time to grab a pre-order!

EROS ELEMENT Amazon link

EROS ELEMENT Barnes & Noble link

EROS ELEMENT Samhain Publishing link

Cecilia has quite a few titles for sale. Check out her Amazon author page here, She also maintains a great blog, which is here: Cecelia's Blog.

That's all for this week! I'm still working on the new Markhat, while Meralda and Mug tap their feet and tendrils, respectively, in impatience.

Take care, folks!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dreams and What They Mean

For some reason, my various media feeds have been full of dream interpretation spam this last week. I'm sure you've seen the same thing, each with a title such as 'Ten Dreams and What They Mean,' or something similar.

I never bought into the one-size-fits-all concept when it comes to interpreting dreams. I don't think the landscape of any two brains matches closely enough to let someone say 'if you dream about X, then it means Y.'

That said, I do think writers have their very own subset of nightmares. In keeping with the internet tradition of making lists, here's my list:

Dreams Writers Have

1) The I'm Being Chased by That Unfinished 92-Page Novel Manuscript I Abandoned Years Ago Dream

2) The I'm Falling on the Amazon Sales Ranking Lists Dream

3) The I'm Naked at a Book Signing and People Actually Showed Up Dream

4) The I Just Submitted a Book Manuscript in Comic Sans Font Dream

5) The My Cover Art Was Done Entirely in Microsoft Paint Dream

6) The All My Reviews Compare My Book To 'Battlefield Earth' Dream

And, since we're talking about writers here, all the dreams listed can be interpreted thusly -- "I recently returned from the liquor store."

News From Behind Keyboard Ridge

I'm still chugging my way through Way Out West, the new Markhat book. I'm finally making good progress, after yet another deep delete and change of plot. 

I think it's going to be a great book, so just bear with me! I'm lying as fast as I can....

In the meantime, why not give The Darker Carnival a try, if you haven't already? 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Summer of Nope

Dive in, the water is fine!
I'm not a big fan of public swimming pools.  Oh, I can swim, but the thought of immersing myself in the same fluid that extends to the nether regions of the crowd that regularly graces the pages of People of Walmart has no appeal to me.

Do I not like people?

I like most of them just fine, as long as they A) keep their distance or B) live in an alternate universe. Preferably B.  

But I've digressed.  Swimming pools, as I said, are not for me.  I can say much the same about the outdoors in general.  I find that my preferred environment is cooled to 72 degrees, dimly lit, and features menus and wait staff.  I mean, why bother evolving into a sentient creature in a technological civilization if you don't spend every waking moment getting as far away from that hunting and gathering nonsense as is possible?

I'm sure my primitive ancestors spent their whole lives mucking around in dangerous bodies of water.  I'm also sure they hated it, right up until the time the crocodiles ate them or the deadly snakes bit them.  So I feel I owe it to the ghosts of the elders to keep myself well-fed, comfortable, and well away from bodies of water, including swimming pools.

Too, there are customs dictating what is and is not appropriate clothing for a dip in the pool. If you're a trim 20 year old, by all means put on a bikini.

But if you are, hmm, let's see, me, do you really want to subject the water-going public to the sight of your bare torso?

Fig. 2, an artist's rendition of the Author sans shirt.
Face it, pools are bacterial stew-pots.  People bring in babies.  People bring in themselves.  Have you looked at people lately? Gross. Unless there's enough chlorine in the water to bleach my swim trunks a sudden stark white, forget it.

But pools can harbor worse things that the contents of a baby diaper.  Case in point -- this public pool in Boston held a dead human body for at least two full days.

That's right.  A woman drowned in the pool, and despite the presence of lifeguards and numerous other swimmers her bloating corpse just floated there for forty-eight gruesome, awful hours.

It's not that no one noticed.  At least one kid made a report to the laughably termed 'lifeguards,' who ignored both the report and the green limp woman floating face down in the deep end since yesterday.

I have to wonder -- just what constitutes an emergency in that particular pool?

Drowning obviously isn't it.  Dead bodies clouding up the water with the by-products of decay?  Nah, no biggie.

Splashing, though -- I bet splashing gets you a whistle, and two splashing incidents rates a ban.

The story gets even funnier, aside of course from the 'corpse' part.  The pool was visited by inspectors once during the dead woman's marathon motionless float.  

The inspectors did note a 'cloudiness' in the water.  But, since they apparently never made it past the Scotland Yard entrance exams, no one connected the cloudiness with the gas-filled cadaver making slow turns in the corner.

So yeah.  Let's all rush to the nearest public pool and exchange body fluids with strangers.  It's what summer is all about!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Webpage in the Works!

Fig. 1. Observe the happiness clean-cut businessmen derive from seeing strings of numbers on the World Wide Web.
Here in the whiz-bang ultra-sonic space-age a-go-go World of the Future, authors must have webpages. See the guy in the image above? He has a webpage. His cat has a webpage. So, as an author, I must needs have a webpage, too.


Look, I don't bloody know. Marketing. Presence. Author brand. Because all the other authors have one. Take your pick. The reasons are irrelevant -- unless you are Harper Lee and you wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" before going into literary seclusion forty years ago, writers need a webpage.

I'm not anti-webpage. I enjoy these weekly blog entries. I like knowing there's a place on the web curious readers can find out who I am what I've written. I love connecting with readers, because you guys and gals are a fascinating bunch.

Once upon a time, building a webpage of one's own was even relatively simple. You needed to know fewer than 50 HTML commands. You could build the whole page using nothing but Notepad, the HTML commands, and a web connection. It really was that easy.

You can still do that, by the way. That's how my webpages were created and maintained for many years. They served their purpose, and did so effectively if not with an abundance of flash.

But as the Web has gotten more sophisticated, so have readers and internet folk. Expectations have risen. 

Sadly, my own technical skills have not. I know basic HTML, which is the language used to build webpages. Give me an hour, and I can make you a functional web page -- but it won't be very pretty.

Give me ten hours, or a hundred, and it STILL won't be very pretty. I lack any talent for graphic design. For proof of that, look no further than my own webpage,

Go ahead, have a look, if you want. 

See what I mean? All the necessary features are there. Links. Book lists. Bio and contact information, so when Paramount Pictures wants to shove piles of cash at me in exchange for movie rights they won't have any trouble finding me.

But yeesh -- I keep getting phone calls from 2002, which wants its webpage code back.

I think it was last year, maybe the year before, when I realized my hand-coding skills just weren't up to snuff any longer. So I bought a program that allowed me to build my website without resorting to line-by-line hand coding. The program allowed me to select a template, select the color schemes and layouts, and just add my graphics and text.

I thought I'd be able to create a modern, professional website using the program, which by the way did everything it claimed it would.

Instead, I learned a valuable lesson. 

I should leave graphic design and art to artists, and stick to tapping out words.

With this in mind, I set out to find a webpage design firm or individual who could build me a decent webpage. Bring me into 2015, so to speak. I've got a few books out. They're doing well.

Time to put on some big boy pants, I decided, and tweak my public image a bit.

A few minutes perusing price lists on website design firm pages drove home the grim realization that webpage construction isn't cheap. Most of the packages started around $1500 and rose quickly into the rarefied stratosphere. I checked my website design budget coffer (i.e., looked under the couch cushions for change), and, after a few hours of abject weeping, I resumed my search for affordable webpage design.

Well, I got lucky. I found a firm that didn't laugh at my budget, and was eager to build a page. 

No, the new page isn't done yet. But the process is underway, and soon you'll see a shiny, sleek new webpage with my name on it.

I'll keep you all posted on the progress. 

In the meantime, though, I need a new photo for the obligatory author bio page. I've selected a few random snapshots of me, taken as go about my daily routines. I'm sharing them below. One may wind up on the new page.

Does this beard make my butt look fat?
Practicing my puppet hands.

Just out for a ride on my horse, I'm totally NOT invading Ukraine.

The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly?

On my way to Waterloo, astride my war-horse Mr. Binky.
 I think I may go with the first image, because say what you will about my mug, I've got million-dollar gams.

The new page will be along in a few weeks. Until then, I'm plugging along on the new Markhat, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Mr. Mug

Image by Laura Wright LaRoche, LLPix Photography
Yes, that's Mug, co-star of the Paths of Shadow books, seated in front of Goboy's Glass.

If I put up a poll asking you guys which character from any of my books is your favorite, I'd bet money Mug would win, probably by a sizable margin.

Mug, for those of you not familiar with All the Paths of Shadow and All the Turns of Light, is Mage Meralda's sarcastic sidekick. Mug was unintentionally enchanted to life by Meralda when she was a toddler, and he's grown up beside her, been her constant companion and partner in numerous adventures.

I originally wrote Mug as a cat named Mr. Muggins. About halfway through that first draft, I realized I loved the way Mr. Muggins talked -- even in that incarnation, he was a smart-mouthed cynic -- but a cat? Really? Cats don't have the vocal apparatus to talk.

So naturally, I made Mug an enchanted houseplant.

Whoah there, I know you're thinking 'but plants can't even meow, much less speak.' That's true -- but Mug has the ability to vibrate his leaves and mimic and sounds he hears. He can imitate anyone's voice. Play entire musical pieces, using different leaves for different instruments. He can even detect sounds better than a cat, because he can hear by sensing minute air disturbances with his many leaves, from all directions at once.

Yes, he is sessile. Mug can't move on his own, and had to be carried everywhere in a bird-cage in the first book. But of course by the second book, Mug can fly his own birdcage, after Meralda installed a pair of tiny flying coils to the base of it.

So now Mug is a flying, wise-cracking, magical houseplant with 29 eyes.

And as much as I love cats, well, Mug is more fun this way.

Last week I revealed my Rules for Writing Darla. Today, you get to see my rules for Mug!

  • Mug understands magic, and shares much of Meralda's intellect and mathematical talent -- but since Mug is magic, he can't do magic. For Mug to perform even a small magical act would be to risk his own stability; he might literally unravel, right there on the spot. 
  • Mug understands a lot more about human nature than he leads people (even Meralda) to believe. 
  • Mug's pathological fear of aphids and beetles is surpassed by his fear that one day Meralda will simply not need him anymore.
  • Mug has what we would call a photographic memory. He can recall with complete accuracy everything he has seen or heard. 
  • Mug is friends with half a dozen of the more dangerous items stored in the Royal Thaumaturgical Laboratory. Even Meralda is unaware of this -- were she threatened in Tirlin, Mug wouldn't hesitate to suggest to these items that they go after any threat to her. Mug keeps this a secret, naturally. 
The main rule is a simple one -- Mug is Meralda's closest friend. They may argue, they may drive each other to the point of exasperation, but there's a powerful bond between them.

I think that may be why the Paths books are as popular as they are. People enjoy seeing that kind of relationship. Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Frodo and Sam. Can you imagine one without the other?

I can't. Furthermore, I don't want to. 

If you have no idea who or what I've been talking about, I've put the links to the books below. All the Paths of Shadow is the first book; All the Turns of Light is the second. The third and fourth books are still in the works.

Click here for All The Paths of Shadow on Amazon!

Click here for All the Turns of Light!

Finally, I leave you with something neat to watch today.

What if World War I was fought not against each other, but against an invading force of Martians?

There's a brilliant piece of film out there called The Great Martian War that presents such an event as a History Channel documentary. Using footage from WW I and some brilliant CGI, the creators managed to make everything look absolutely real.

Here's an excerpt, showcasing some of the footage, with music overlaid that is NOT part of the documentary.


You can get the whole 2 hour special -- well, blast it, I spent a good 20 minutes looking for a video-on-demand link or the DVD and found neither. I do know it was originally released by the BBC under the title "The Great Martian War 1913-1917." If any of you can find it, I'd love a link!