Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Way Out West

Attractive young people break out into spontaneous, unstaged celebrations upon hearing about the new Markhat book.   

WAY OUT WEST, the new Markhat book, has been accepted by Samhain Publishing, and will see release in early 2017 (there's a small chance that date may change to an earlier one).

 Which means the Markhat Files series is now ten titles strong. Eleven, if you count the print-only compilation of the three novellas (The Markhat Files).

Either way, it's a milestone.

I've spent a lot of time with Markhat and Darla and the gang over the last several years. I've watched the characters and their world change.

WAY OUT WEST will present the biggest changes to the series thus far. I've already revealed that the book is set on a steam locomotive, but that's all I'm saying right now.

I'd like to say thanks to everyone who's kept the Markhat series alive by buying the books. Ultimately, there is no better way to support any art than by buying it. Markhat would have died long ago had you people not clicked BUY, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

So what's next, now that WAY OUT WEST has found a home?

I plan to finish two novels this year. The new Mug and Meralda, of course, which has a working title of EVERY WIND OF CHANGE. And I've already started a new Markhat, entitled THE DEVIL'S HORN.

Which sounds ambitious until you realize that just by churning out a thousand words a day, one can finish a rough draft of a full novel in about 80 days. Of course there's still a lot of work to be done even when the draft is complete, but even if you need three months of editing and honing, it's still entirely possible to write a book in six months.

The trick, of course, is to write a good book in six months.

As I chug along with the Markhat books, I do keep wondering when I'll jump the shark. More importantly, I wonder if I'll realize what I've done before an editor has to spell out my failure in brutal, gruesome detail.

Of course there have been authors who managed to write tens on books in a particular series without a fatal misstep. Rex Stout did it with -- what? 70 titles? -- in his brilliant Nero Wolfe series. Roger Zelazny's Amber books never hit rock bottom. I did get a bit bogged down at one point with Glen Cook's Black Company series, but he recovered in the next book and the end was one of those rare times when you can't even stand up for a while after reading the last page of the final book.

So I have hope. And I'll keep turning books out. That little voice that whispers, the one that seeks to sow the seeds of doubt, that's one voice you've got to ignore.

So it's back to work for me. Take care, all, see you next week!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Devil's Horn



The new Markhat book is underway. The working title is THE DEVIL'S HORN, and the image above may or may not contain clues as to the book's content. 

I'm never entirely sure where books come from. The Markhat series was born in an instant as I listened to a Billy Idol album. DEAD MAN'S RAIN was inspired by a thunderstorm and a dark old house. THE DARKER CARNIVAL was born during a break-room discussion of writer Harry Crews and his time spent with a traveling carnival. 

THE DEVIL'S HORN sprang to life in an instant, in the shower, as I reached for the soap.

Hardly the stuff of literary legend. You never heard Hemingway say 'I applied shaving cream.  THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA popped fully formed into my head.'

But that's how it happened for me. 

I have to believe the book has been brewing subconsciously for a while now. There's too much detail, too many intricate moving parts, for it to have taken shape so quickly. I'm not that smart. 

I think it's going to be a great book. Markhat's world is changing.  The changes are drastic, and coming fast, and I suppose that aspect of the book may be driven by what I see going on in our tired old world. 

I just wish I had as much control over events in the here and now as I do on paper.

But would that be a good thing? Sure, some might say so. Just like I'm sure you'd do, given some mystical power, I'd try to eliminate hunger. Wipe out poverty. Put an end to war. Ignorance. Want.

Even so, for every person that lauded these things, I've come to realize there'd be a more or less equal number who would decry such efforts, or the means taken to accomplish them. 

Interesting how halos or horns are entirely a matter of perspective, when the focus is shifted from the wearer to the world. 

I should shut up now. The book is begun, but hardly complete. 

That's the news I have for this week. I'll close with a book cover and a link, because I've grown fond of what we call 'food.'

The author, upon learning he has been binge-drinking turtle juice.
HOLD THE DARK

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Words For Your Ears


I've always wanted to see one of my titles in audiobook format.

I've even tried recording a couple of my short stories myself. Unfortunately, my Mississippi accent is both thick and omnipresent, and I simply can't do convincing character voices. If I can find either of the audio files, I'll prove both points by linking to them at the end of this entry.

But my friend and fellow author Maria Schneider doesn't suffer from my limitations, so she's made four highly entertaining audio versions of her works free for the listening on her blog, Bear Mountain Books. 

Here.s the link. I suggest you start with the first one, Bingo. It's less than 15 minutes long, and it's a hilarious variation on the old Faustian deal-with-the-Devil trope.  I felt pretty sorry for the Horned One by the end.

BEAR MOUNTAIN BOOKS, THE AUDIO VERSIONS

You'll love them all, though. Take a listen!

THE KNOCKING MAN

My Story THE KNOCKING MAN was included in an anthology back in 2011. The anthology was entitled  SHADOW STREET and while I don't think the book is still in print, you can listen to me read it aloud by clicking the YouTube link below. I'm not sure why you'd want to listen to me read it aloud. Maybe you have neighbors you don't like -- in that case, crank this one up, and go grocery shopping. They'll probably have moved by the time you get back.



It's a heartwarming tale of the walking dead, and a young man finding refuge and purpose in a dangerous world. It's a safe listen -- this isn't a zombie story at all. Well, okay, there are corpses that get up and run errands, but nobody gets eaten. Anyway, have a listen.

Have a good week, everyone, see you next Sunday!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Frank's Handy Guide to Writing a Book

The author, who has better ankles than anyone imagined.

Here's a brief sample of the ads that usually confront me on Facebook and elsewhere online:

* THE EASY WAY to PUBLISH your first BEST-SELLER!

* 10 SURE-FIRE ways to SELL YOUR BOOK!

* JOIN the REVOLUTION! Click here to SELF PUBLISH your BREAKTHROUGH NOVEL!

Just out of curiosity, I've clicked on a few of these banner ads. They're all designed to take you down the same familiar road -- pay us to do what you can do yourself for free, and we'll bleed you dry while continuing to make the same empty promises.

There isn't any ten-step program to send your book rocketing up the Amazon sales rank list. And the people who've claimed to know 'the secret' to such success usually wind up being outed as the ones who dumped thousands of dollars into schemes that hid their purchases of bogus reader reviews.

So what does make one book a best seller while at the same time a hundred equally worthy books languish in the frigid depths of sales rankings?

Sunspots. Hemlines. Paper clip sales, the ratio of European dog nose widths to the NASDAQ, the relative temperature difference of Mrs. Potter's last cup of tea to that radiator  in the apartment two doors down. 

In other words, it's all whim and caprice, and you'll go absolutely nuts trying to quantify the factors that determine sales.

What you can do is write another book. That's the best use of any author's time and effort. 

Sadly, it's also the most work.

I'm here to help, though, by making public my own half-assed -- er, sure-fire -- methods for starting, continuing, and finishing your book!

STEP 1: Assign each finger a name and a function. For index, my left index finger is Larry, and Larry is responsible for finding the + key. You get that, Larry? You have ONE JOB. I don't want excuses. Just a + sign now and then.

STEP 2: Read 'Finnegan's Wake.' That's a real book. Ask yourself what on Earth makes you think you can pull that off? Now go sit in the corner and feel inadequate for a month or so, you poser.

STEP 3: Fire up Microsoft Word. Type your title, centered, all caps, about a third of the way down the page. Be overwhelmed by what a silly title that is. Delete it. Close the file. Delete the file. Uninstall Word. Format your hard drive. Go for a long walk. Weep, letting the rain hide your tears. If it isn't raining find a lawn sprinkler. 

STEP 4: Return to the keyboard, refreshed, revived, and moderately drunk. Forget the validation code for Word. Mess around on Facebook for an hour or so. Go to bed.

STEP 5: After numerous false starts, give the thing a title, and get that all-important first page down. You've got about that much time and space to engage a reader. You'd better hit the ground running, with a potent mix of action and intrigue. You don't have time for infodumps. If the reader doesn't ask herself 'What is going to happen next?' you're screwed. 

STEP 6: Keep writing that all-important first page, substituting second for first, third for first, etc., until you've finished 250 or three hundred all-important pages.

STEP 7: Edit. Re-write. When it's as good as you can reasonably make it, either publish the thing yourself or shop it around with publishers. Don't pay anyone calling themselves a publisher for anything, ever. Don't agonize over sales, either. It will sell or it won't, and waving feathers and fish-bones over the ranking page isn't likely to do any good.

STEP 8: Start all over. You can start with Step 5 the second time around. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Frank's Guide to 2016


As the new year looms (see also lurks, lies in wait, prepares an ambush), I thought many of you might be comforted if you know what to expect from 2016, and what preparations to take.

So I'm going to reveal, right here, right now, the major events 2016 has in store for us. By doing so I risk damaging the timeline, but even the Time Police just shrug and roll their eyes -- frankly, this timeline is already so hosed additional damage will be hard to even spot.

What kind of year will 2016 be? Hmm. If 2016 were a person, they'd be the sort of person who displays a well-honed expertise at clubbing, and I'm not referring to the kind of club that features lively music and overpriced drinks.

So pull on your Wasteland Rampage stomping boots, slam a fresh magazine of zombie-killing rounds into your marauder rifle, and lets have a quick look at 2016, the Year That Will Be!

1) NASA confirms the existence of life on Mars. At first, the Martians are said to be subsurface microbes, existing a few meters below the surface, shielded by Martian soil from the sleet of hard radiation and nourished by the remnants of a long-dead sea. When the first 900-foot-tall Martian squid rises from the dirt and declares the presence of our rovers an act of war,  President Trump responds with an orbital bombardment of Europa, sixth moon of Jupiter. The Martian squids exchange puzzled glances, mutter something derogatory about primates, and vanish once more beneath the sand.

2) Daytime highs of 125 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 8 hectares Celsius) become commonplace. This is especially concerning because that 125 degrees is the temperature of the oceans. Reporting daytime air temps is outlawed by the Real Good Science Act of June 2016.

3) Tank dealerships begin to outnumber car dealerships in 21 US states.  Tank battles on public roads now commonplace.  

4) Spectacular daytime UFO crash on busy Dallas highway can't be suppressed by government, provides undeniable proof of alien visitations. The surviving aliens speak to reporters, reveal that Earth is in fact an ancient colony world, abandoned by the Galactic Empire because 'you guys turned out to be such butt-heads.'

5) Vladimir Putin invades Norway, claims the failed attempt to annex the mountainous nation was 'hunting accident only, was out riding horse with 22 armored divisions and Russian Air Force and everybody panic.' Victorious Norwegians celebrate by devising yet another way to pickle fish organs.

6) Melting ice caps reveal massive technological artifacts that predate humanity. The South Pole Structure, as it comes to be known, contains a vast 'control room' centered around a single red button. This button is surrounded by glyphs, markings, and pictograms which clearly warn against pushing the button. Bet you can guess what happens next.

7) Airlines attempt to maximize profits by introducing 'plank seating,' in which travelers are stacked atop each other  in neat piles. The traveling public can opt out of this arrangement by purchasing a first class ticket, which mandates a maximum of two passengers per seat. 

8) Gasoline drops to 68 cents per gallon, and who needed national parks anyway, amiright?

9) Ford Motor Company introduces the Road Rager, an armor-plated SUV marketed as 'the fun tank alternative!' With superior speed and agility, the Road Rager claims to offer good survivability in everyday traffic, a luxurious array of interior amenities, and two forward-mounted armor-piercing 90mm anti-tank guns in a variety of modern designer colors. 

10) Linguists note with alarm the rapid emergence of an all-emoji language among teenagers and the under 25 demographic. "Smiley-face clouds radish stick stick fire melon dog wagging dog wagging," said a proponent for the new language, adding "Butt butt nose lightning."

That's all I can safely reveal. I suggest you stock up on canned beans, start buying rice by the 50 pound bag, and of course now is an excellent time to start camouflaging the entrance to your survival bunker -- you DO HAVE a survival bunker, don't you?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Very Markhat Christmas


If you've read my Markhat Files series, you've seen several references to a midwinter holiday called Yule. The books are also filled with references to angels and devils, heavens and hell. A couple of Rannit's five main churches have also been the settings for scenes, including one very rushed wedding.

One thing I've never done, though, is lay out the theology behind the references. 

I despise infodumps. Maybe you never heard the term before -- if that's true, here's an example of an infodump set in our world:

"As you know, Bill, Hitler's Germany and the other Axis powers lost World War II, which was effectively ended with the use of atomic weapons against the Japanese Empire."

"That's true, Steve."

Which is dumb. People rarely explicitly describe events or concepts which are common knowledge to them.  That's why Markhat and Darla will never sit around and discuss the religious and historical significance of the Yule log they burn every Yule.

But I'm under no such constraints here in the blog, so here for the first time is a thumbnail sketch of the religious landscape of Rannit, and indeed all the remnants of the Old Kingdom in the Markhat books.

BASIC RELIGIOUS COSMOLOGY PROMOTED BY THE CHURCHES:

Creation was completed by God. Three planes came into existence -- Heaven, God's Realm. Hell, the realm of the Infernal. And the World, balanced between Heaven and Hell, peopled by humanity, Trolls, the Fae, and various other mortal creatures. Shortly after the three realms came into existence, Heaven and Hell went to war. God and the Devil slew each other, leaving both Heaven and Hell in ruin. The remaining angels gathered their forces above the middle world, following God's final order to  protect humanity. The devils amassed beneath it, ordered to destroy mankind. Magic is used by both sides to either empower or corrupt humans.

Five mighty Angels took charge of the angelic survivors. These five angels formed the Five Great Churches, which hold doctrines that differ in certain details and traditions. Each of these Five Angels has a devilish counterpart, whose names are never spoken. 

YULE, THE MODERN PRACTICE THEREOF:

While the five churches don't agree on much, they do share certain holidays. Yule is the foremost among them. By Markhat's time, Yule is very much a commercial and secular holiday, observed mostly by the exchange of gifts, parties, and of course the ceremonial burning of a Yule log, which has evolved into a ceremony all its own.

Celebrants, who may be friends or family or both, gather around a fireplace after the Yule eve meal is enjoyed. Everyone places a scrap of paper or a small flammable 'gift' around the log. Yule songs are sung, a sweet dark Yule wine is drunk, and as the sun sets the fire is lit.

Gifts are exchanged after the log catches fire. More songs are sung. More wine is drunk. Children are encouraged to search the room for presents hidden by the 'Angel Ernmost,' who is said to watch from the flames and reward good children with the best gifts.

Tradition dictates that all present must remain present until the log burns out. Children, and anyone who gets sleepy while the log burns, this must light a watchlight (a small white candle) before falling asleep to ward off bad luck for the next year.


In essence, Yule is very much like our Christmas, only without the tree. Children love it. Adults love food and wine. 

So that's what's behind all the mentions of Yule and angels and devils in the books. It's why you'll never see anyone, at least not a human, pray to a god -- their creation mythology, like so many actual human myths, saw the creator perish as part of the act of creation. Priests believe they intercede on behalf of the faithful to the patron angel of their church -- often for a fee, Markhat is quick to point out with a derisive snort. Seems Angels are always short on cash.

Since Markhat and Darla now reside on a houseboat named Dasher, they'll have to improvise. The boilers belowdecks provide their heat, but you can't burn a proper Yule log in either of them. Instead, the Yule log will be burned in a clay fire-pit on Dasher's deck. It will be a smallish log, but a Yule log nonetheless. A small tent will be erected over the firepit to shield it from rain or snow. 

Dasher's wheelhouse is lined with windows, now trimmed with holly and hung with sticks of red and white peppermint candy. All with gather, as the log is lit. Then Markhat, Darla, Evis, Gertriss, Mama Hog, and of course Slim and Cornbread will watch the log burn from the warmth within Dasher's wheelhouse. Wine will be drunk. Mama Hog and Slim will make horrific noises under the guise of singing Yule songs. Mama will chastise Markhat for feeding Cornbread right from the table. Gifts will be exchanged , but it won't matter what the gifts are, or how much any of them cost.

No, they'll treasure the giver, not the gift. The people in the Markhat books have had a rough time of it, book after book. They've seen loss and hardship, faced danger and death. They've all lost people. 

So when they gather this Yule, it's not the log or the presents they celebrate. 

It's each other.

I hope you too find yourself surrounded by the people who matter.

Markhat and Darla, Evis and Gertriss, Mama Hog and Slim and Stitches and all the rest -- they raise a glass to you, and wish you well. 

Happy Yule, to one and all!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What to Buy a Writer for Christmas. Or, Look, a Liquor Store


Is there a writer in your life? Are you struggling to come up with that perfect Christmas gift for him or her?

If so, my condolences, because I'm a writer and I know full well what a morose bunch of budding alcoholics we writers usually are.  I'm constantly staring off into space, oblivious to the world around me until the front bumper strikes something solid and the air bags deploy.

Every year, it's the same dilemma.  What to give for Christmas? What will make your writer's eyes light up, or at least open halfway?

As usual, I'm here to help.  My list of suggestions follows, in order of descending utility.

1) BOOZE.  HOOCH. ROTGUT.  That's right, kids, the Demon Rum himself.  Why?  Simple.

A writer's job is to plumb the depths of the human condition, or at least convince a harried editor that he or she is plumbing said depths long enough for the ink to dry on a contract.  And the first thing you'll learn when you start taking a really close look at the much-vaunted human condition is that doing so induces a sudden, powerful urge to have a drink.  Or three.  Or maybe just leave the whole bottle and start running a tab, because right after the urge to drink comes the realization that it's going to be a long bad night.

2) A THESAURUS. Because nothing works better as a coaster for the drinks mentioned above than a really thick book.  I'd counsel against actually using a thesaurus for writing, because no one wants to read sentences in which characters advance, meander, promenade, traipse, or wend one's way across the room.

3) A CAT.  Hemingway had a cat, right?  He had a cat because a cat is the only creature on Earth more vain and self-centered than the average author.  While other more social animals might feel neglected or ignored by an author, who is probably staring off into space or rummaging in the cabinets for more liquor, a cat is perfectly comfortable being ignored because it doesn't know anyone else is in the room anyway.  The cat's 'I don't care if you exist or not' attitude is perfectly suited to the author's mindset of 'What? Huh? Who?'

4) AN ELEGANT LEATHER-BOUND JOURNAL.  We all know that writers, and I mean serious professional writers with book contracts and everything, are always prepared to whip out a convincing character or a heart-wrenching plot at the drop of a dangling participle. So give your author the most expensive, ornate leather journal you can find, wait a year, drag it out from under the whiskey-stained thesaurus, and give it to the writer again.  They won't ever know, because each and every page will be as blank as it was the day you bought it.  Seriously, people.  I tried the whole notebook by the bed schtick for years, and I recorded exactly two notes in it, which read:

"Char. A sees the thing, intro. other scene w/char B, str. exc. Plot hole & 9 days."

"Why G. not cld/not E?"

Which explains why Hemingway's cat had six toes, for all I know.  But leatherbound notebooks make pretty good coasters too, and if the glasses sweat on them, you can tell people the stains are from a solo hike through Guatemala which you took to 'reconnect to your muse.'

I don't have a Number 5.  You should probably stop at Number 1, because gift-wrapping a cat is nearly impossible and writers can spot a gift wrapped thesaurus from across a crowded room anyway.

I'm kidding, of course. For instance, I'm listing my Christmas Wish List below. If anyone would like to buy me a gift, each item comes with a handy link!

Frank's Wish List

1) A book about airplanes and airports, reasonably priced at only $19,000.


I remember wincing inwardly when I paid nearly 30 bucks for a Harry Potter hardcover. This book is 19 grand and that doesn't include shipping. But it is a hardcover, and word on the street is that Chapter 4 contained scenes of sensual baggage handling so explicit and provocative Jane herself was reluctant to include them in the final edit. 
I'll wait for the movie.
2)  A simple analog wristwatch, $55,000.


The Rolex Cosmograph. I generally opt for finer timepieces -- Timex is a well-established brand, after all -- but this watch did catch my eye. I assume the maker, Rolex, is an upstart Chinese brand, but all the lads at my club will get a hearty chuckle when I sport such a plebian bit of flash. 
Shipping is free, and it comes with a 2-year warranty. Quite the bargain, really.
3) Learn to speak Mongolian, for only $10,000!


Learn Mongolian! Because if you don't, the grumpy lady on the box will come around and beat you with a platter of genuine Mongolian khorkhog. For only ten thousand dollars, you get a cardboard box and a single CD-ROM that will fit in your Mac or your iPod shuffle, as soon as you travel back to 2003 and find your iPod shuffle. Hurry, there's only 1 copy left!
4) A toy robot. This one is a little pricey, at $999,999,999.99. Batteries are also not included, but frankly you can afford a couple of double-A cells if you've got a billion dollars to throw around on anime robots. 
The billion-dollar robots is named 'Sakura,' which is Japanese for 'I still can't believe Amazon let me list this.' According to the ad copy, Sakura can sing up to five songs, and she also 'records your secrets,' which means she probably blackmails you later. 
Heck, get two, so they can at least sing in harmony.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas Songs for Writers

I
If you're like me (and for all our sakes, let's hope you're not) you tend to replace the lyrics of songs you hear once too often with fresh new words, usually while you grit your teeth.
Face it, the one class of song you'll hear repeated endlessly for the next few weeks is that of the Christmas song. 
Here are the words I hear, when the inevitable tunes sound out. Enjoy....

IT CRASHED UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

It crashed upon a midnight clear,
my brand new Toshiba hard drive,
it took with it a manuscript,
not a single  sentence survived.
A backup failure, a bad CD, a corrupted Word file in my cloud,
30 novel pages just disappeared,
scared the dogs with cussing so loud.

WE THREE THEMES

We three threads of story arc are
screwing up Chapter Seven and that scene in the bar.
Plot holes we widen, contradictions create,
Oh, why did he take us this far?

GOD REST YE MINOR CHARACTERS

God rest ye minor characters,
whose names we can't recall,
You bring us drinks and sell us things,
advance plots in matters small.
In Chapter Four you said 'hello,'
while passing in the street,
In Chapter Six you lay quite dead
knocked down in quick defeat.
But be at peace, dear what's-your-name
You did not die in vain,
I'll be right back to end this verse,
as soon as I recall your name.

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

Over the river and through the woods,
this chapter knows not where to go.
My protag ignores the way my outline did say
While my word count continues to grow.
Over the river and through the woods,
Oh, this whole book doth blow.
Editors shriek and beta readers look bleak
As over the same ground we go.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Frank's Guide to Sports


As many of you know, I'm a huge sports fan.
Wait. It seems I misspelled several words in the sentence above, which should have read 'I'm huge, because I am inordinately fond of cheesecake. Sports? Why?'
I live in a college town. Which means the place erupts in a frenzy of football madness each autumn. Game days are a non-stop traffic jam. Crowds roar. Fortunes are made or lost. Angry words are exchanged both online and in person. Fights break out when irate LSU fans learn they can't take their wife-goats into the nice restaurants on the Square.
We stock up on groceries and stay home until the last arrest is made and the last camper pulls out for whatever they call home.
I've never really understood the allure of sporting events. To me, sports is all that noisy bit that takes place behind the cheerleaders, which is the only aspect of any sport that makes any sense to me. And you sports that don't have cheerleaders? 
What's your problem, soccer?
Here's the summation of every sport I've ever seen:
A ball is chased, kicked, thrown, batted, rolled, dribbled, struck, or otherwise set in motion. This motion appears to anger one group and delight another. Whistles are blown. Can I go now?
But Frank, someone says. What about the athleticism? What about competition? What about the spirit of friendly rivalry?
"What?" I reply. "Sorry, didn't hear you, was watching the cheerleaders. Is this one of the sports at which hot dogs are served?"
Maybe you're like me, and don't have much to contribute to the inevitable (and interminable) conversations about sports. As always, I'm here to help, with another Frank's Handy Guide. 

Frank's Handy Guide to the Life-Lessons Illustrated by Various Sports!

1) NFL football. Provides extensive insight into that aspect of the legal system which deals with domestic violence, homicide, and animal abuse. 
2) Pro baseball.  An invaluable primer to the fine arts of baccy-spittin' and poorly-concealed steroid use. Also perhaps the last holdout of socially acceptable venues in which males may adjust their privates in public and on camera.
3) NBA basketball. Ready to riot? Win or lose, spill out of that stadium and overturn a few Kias, sports fans, because, um, friendly rivalry? Also a great place for tall people to find work since the invention of the ladder destroyed the top-shelf shopper assistance industry.
4) Soccer. I'm sort of at a loss on this one. Is it really a sport? I suppose so, since there's a ball and a lot of vigorous running. People routinely get trampled to death at soccer matches. At first, I was sure these poor unfortunates were trampled while attempting to flee from the soul-crushing boredom of a soccer game, but I'm told this is not the case. I'm sure there's a life lesson in all that somewhere, but for the moment I'm going to stick with 'Soccer teaches us to avoid soccer games.' As far as I know, nobody was ever trampled to death by a horde of crazed badminton fans.
5) Tennis. Tennis might not even belong on this list. I have a sneaking suspicion tennis is nothing more than a clever way to get young women to dress like cheerleaders and whack away at balls just so men can watch intently and not have to pretend they're concentrating on athleticism. 
6) Hockey, Curling, Shot-Putting, Wrestling, Boxing, etc. There's only so much you can do regarding outdoor activities if you're stranded on some Godforsaken ice-floe of a continent. Shout out numbers at random, call them scores, and pretend two of your toes didn't just fall off, eh?


MEET RAHMAN TOWHIDUR, SCAMMER 

THIRD CLASS!


Facebook is many things to many people. To your grandparents, it's a place to swap baby pictures and distribute poorly-manipulated images of Obama as the AntiChrist. 

To scammers, it's a hunting ground. Last Friday, a Nigerian advance-fee fraud scammer picked me as his next victim, and initiated an IM conversation.

I'm not blurring out the scammer's name, which after all isn't really his name. Nor have I changed any of his words. If the scammer has a problem with this, he is welcome to A) bite me and B) bite me again. 

Now, a quick word about how the scam works. Rahman or whomever is running the thing contacts people at random with a bizarre song and dance about millions of dollars and a need of assistance to get it out of his country. The details vary, are NEVER spelled correctly, and don't make any difference anyway. 

All they want to do is trick the gullible into sending them money, via wire transfer or Western Union, as some ridiculous 'fee' which will, upon receipt, unlock untold millions of easy money.

It's a clumsy scam, but people get taken by these clowns every day. Which is why I try and waste the scammer's time whenever I can.

Below is the IM conversation. I emailed the 'banker,' but haven't received a response yet. If I get one I'll post it here next week.

Enjoy this tragic tale of 'euphoric' lung cancer, and my Pastafarian blessings upon the scammer!




Yeah, I was getting a little testy by the end. Us Pastafarian ministers aren't known for our patience. 

If you'd like to see even more scam-a-licious hijinks, I suggest you check out 'Scamorama!' Link is below...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Away


At long last, a new Markhat and Darla book is out and away!
Way Out West is now with the publisher, under consideration. So while I may indeed be popping the champagne cork early (there's no guarantee Way Out West will be bought), just finishing and submitting a new book is a minor victory in itself. 
2015 has been a rough year for writing. But I got one book out, with time enough to start another, and I'm proud of that. 
My next project will of course be the continuation of Mug and Meralda's adventures. If you read All the Turns of Light, you might remember them spotting something very strange in the sky, high above the Great Sea. Will that play a role in the new book, which is entitled Every Wind of Change in my files?
Could be. You'll just have to wait and see!

On a Serious Note

My original plan for today was to include a section about how writers celebrate sending off a new book. But in light of all that's happened, it came off as being in poor taste.
Maybe later. I'm not going to post any images of the Eiffel Tower, or pontificate about the need for peace. 
In fact, I'm not going to say anything at all. I'll let the great Charlie Chaplin do the talking, in this remarkable clip from 1940's The Great Dictator. If you've never seen this speech, I humbly suggest you take a couple of minutes and listen. It was true then, and true now.


Take care, people.