Brown River Queen cover art

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 www.franktuttle.com, 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.

Why?

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, www.franktuttle.com.

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.

THE GREAT MARTIAN WAR

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!





Sunday, July 19, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Darla

© Halfbottle | Dreamstime.com 
I don't abandon a book midway through very often, but when I do, most of the time it's because I don't care enough about the characters to bother seeing whether they get out of their mess in the end or not.

Which is a harsh thing to say. Someone out there presumably sweated blood to bring that book to life. But, if the people in the story inspire nothing more than 'meh, I'd rather be watching a Law & Order re-run,' the book is dead in the water.

Sure, it can have a clever plot, a detailed setting, intricate thematic elements. But if I don't care about the people (or the robots, or the ghosts, or whomever the book is about), it's a waste of time, at least to me. I'm looking at you, Atlas Shrugged. Didn't care after the first six pages, didn't care when it was assigned reading, don't care now, and won't care later. Classic work of literature, my ass.

I try not to write books people will put down. Look, I know my strengths and weakness as a writer. I'm damned good at writing dialog. I'm middling good at pacing and scene construction. I'm lousy at creating villains. Which doesn't mean I populate my books with poorly-penned bad guys. It just means it takes me forever to get them right.

But it's my characters I'm proudest of. They're people I enjoy spending time with.

Today, I'm going to take you backstage, and reveal a few secrets concerning Darla, Markhat's partner in everything from crime to boatsmanship.

My Markhat Files series, in case you're not familiar, focuses on a fantasy-world private eye named Markhat. The series is 8 books long now, and while Markhat started off as a bachelor, his life took a turn in Hold the Dark.




Markhat did something tough-guy private eyes seldom do -- he fell hard in love. Darla was the quick-witted accountant working at a high-end whorehouse called The Velvet. She and Markhat hit it off immediately, and things quickly progressed to the wine and roses stage.

Generally, when you see an established series character get all goo-goo eyed over someone we've never seen before, the love interest gets killed along about Chapter Ten, and the rest of the book, and perhaps the series, focuses on the protagonist's boundless rage and broken heart.

Ha. Sure, plenty of lesser authors go that hackneyed route. Amateurs. But not me, I'm better than that.

What's that? I did? Are you sure?

Oh. Right. Here's part of the behind the scenes bit I mentioned earlier -- see, in the first draft of Hold the Dark, Darla is murdered by the blood cult as an act of petty vengeance against Markhat. Which sends him on a bloody rampage, fueled by magic, that puts a permanent blot of darkness on his soul, one I planned to spend the rest of the series exploring. Darla was going to stick around, yes, but only as a wandering phantom that Markhat could never get close to, never touch.

Yeah. I did that thing. I was young and stupid.

Happily, though, the editors at Samhain raised certain arguments against Darla's murder. Even more happily, I took their advice to heart, re-wrote the book, and quickly realized that Darla and Markhat together were a far more powerful combination than a morose Markhat haunted by poor Darla's silent ghost.

The series is still chugging happily along, and Darla is Markhat's wife, and together they're hysterical.

Think Nick and Nora Charles. If you don't know the old movies, look them up. Now, Nora and Darla are alike only in a few aspects. But the dynamic is there -- the banter, the easy trust, the subtle but unbreakable bond they all share.

Darla quickly demonstrated a bloody-minded practicality that Markhat sometimes lacks. She's proven to be every bit and devious and as dangerous as anyone in the series.

And she's a lot of fun to write.

Even so, I have a few rules concerning her. I have them for all the series characters, but today, here are the Rules for Writing Darla.

Darla's Rules:
1) Darla does not get kidnapped, forcing a rescue.
2) Darla has her own money, her own schemes, and her own ways and means.
3) Darla is always armed. She might be tinkering with the houseboat's steam engine, or lounging on the deck, but she has a revolver and a knife somewhere on her person.
4) Darla is not a springboard or a foil or a catalyst.
5) Darla may or may not be a witch.
6) Darla loves clothes. Because she realizes deliberate fashion choices are a means to create one's social persona. Also, complicated gowns are excellent at concealing small firearms and handy edged weapons.
7) Darla was born dirt poor. She came up hard and she's seen awful things and she is determined to never see them again.
8) Anyone or anything that threatens Markhat, Darla's home, Buttercup, or even Cornbread will simply be shot until it falls down dead. Darla won't hesitate. Won't issue a warning. Won't threaten. She will simply act, with the cool deliberation of a threatened cobra.

The new Markhat book, Way Out West, puts Darla and Markhat on a long train ride out into the new frontier. Could there be a murder on the train? Could there be a killer on the loose, stalking his prey from car to car?

Could be. I'm not saying.

So what does does Darla look like?

She's tall and skinny. Willowy, I suppose is the term. Brown eyes. Black hair, cut in a Roaring Twenties flapper's bowl cut. She tends to dress in dark colors, and she always wear a hat and long sleeves on the deck of Dasher, because the sun makes her freckles show up.

I was thrilled when Darla made her first book cover. Here's how the artists have seen her:


That's from the cover from Brown River Queen.

Below is the cover from The Darker Carnival, showing Darla preparing to show a bunch of nasties precisely what befalls anyone daft enough to disrupt her dinner plans:


And how do I see Darla?

Given that my artistic skills are frequently exceeded by chimpanzees, cantaloupes, and asphalt, creating character images on my own is a waste of time. I tried it once, using Poser 10 and the kind assistance of a friend -- but even then, the project was an abject, hopeless failure.

By the way, I have a perfectly good copy of Poser 10. Barely used, well cussed at. If anyone wants it, hit me with an email and it's yours, free. I know when I'm licked. Art just isn't in my wheelhouse.

But The Markhat Files series has fans, and they have talents, and I have email. Sometimes all these things combine, and I wind up getting images like the ones I'm about to share. So meet Darla, as interpreted by a reader who prefers to be identified only as CatapultHA.

I think CatapultHA captured Darla perfectly, and I am deeply grateful that he or she has graciously allowed me to share these. Wouldn't it be great if CatapultHA sent some images of Makhat too, hint hint? Maybe if enough people praise these images and ask, we'll get more (that's also a hint).

So, without further adieu, here is Darla, courtesy of artist CatapultHA.


The gown even looks like it stepped right out of one of the books.

So does the next one. I can see Darla wearing this. Probably has a dagger in the hat. I won't speculate as to the hiding place of the revolver.

I started to put my own best Poser image here, but ugh. I'll spare you that. I envy people with this kind of talent.

Finally, here's Darla all dressed up for a formal dance aboard the Brown River Queen. I figure the red stoal weighs in at about a .44 calibre.


Now that, ladies and gents, is ART. Many thanks for allowing me to share it.

See you all next week!











Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Hot Day for Skeletons

Meh.

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's my steady diet of Cheez Whiz and bacon-wrapped bacon slathered in bacon and topped off with garnishes of bacon-injected bacon.

But I just don't have any energy today. Some primal instinct suggests that I shelter somewhere dark and cool until the saber-tooth tigers move on, and frankly that seems like perfectly reasonable advice.

So, here's a blast from the past. It's the day I learned to the validity of cynicism. Enjoy!

SKELETONS ARE A BOY'S BEST FRIEND

Direct your gaze onto the advertisement below. Try to see it through the eyes of a bookish six year old who loves all things strange and eerie.

Oh yeah. This is the stuff dreams are made of...

Life-sized monsters. Seven feet tall. SEVEN FEET TALL. That's tall, people. With glowing eyes! Reaching hands! Imagine the terror, indeed.

For a dollar.

Did I absolutely have to have a seven-foot-tall glowing skeleton of my very own?

Why yes. Yes I did.

So I shoved a buck thirty-five into an envelope and checked 'Boney the Skeleton' and the clock on my frantic little life came to an abrupt and screeching halt the instant that envelope hit the bottom of the mailbox.

I'd never wanted anything so bad in all my life. I went to sleep dreaming of the fun Boney and I would have! We'd stroll around town, scaring Hell out of everyone. We'd sit out on the porch and wave to horrified passers-by. We'd be the terrible talk of my tame little town, and if any kid came around with some lame Frankenstein's monster we'd knock his block off.

That is what I dreamed. Such thoughts consumed my every waking moment. And oh, did the moments drag. The ad didn't include the traditional admonition to allow six to eight weeks for delivery. How many hours did I spend, pondering the significance of that mysterious omission? Did the fine creators of Boney the Skeleton rush their sinister creations to the happy owners in a matter of mere days, instead? Was there, even now, a dark, unmarked truck speeding through the night toward Oxford, an eager Boney at the wheel?

Hours dragged. Days crept. Weeks crawled.

Moment by agonizing moment, I waited for my skeleton friend's arrival, forsaking all lesser concerns.

One Week. Two weeks. Three weeks, four. I lost my appetite. Lost interest in all things unrelated to the subtle click of clever bones.

Five weeks. Six weeks. Seven weeks, more. My eyes developed dark circles beneath the lids. I walked with a slump. Dragged my feet. How long, I wondered, so often the very words left paths in my brain. How long must I endure this never-ending sojourn through darkness?

Then, on rainy Tuesday afternoon in September, my mother met me at the door, smiling the smile of a relieved but patient parent.

I knew. I knew without words that Boney had arrived!

He was home, home at last, all seven glorious glowing feet of him! All 206 intricately connected phalanges and metacarpals and femurs and mandibles!

I was alone no more.

I was....complete.

I raced into the kitchen, sure Boney would be seated at the table, waiting to give me a cold but friendly embrace.

Instead, atop the tiny Formica eating table, sat an envelope.

An envelope. Thick, yes, and larger than the usual bills that came to us.

But only an envelope. No more for more than a single toe-bone. If that.

Mom must have recognized my confusion.

"It's from the right place," she said. "Open it! You've waited so long."

My mind raced. All right, I thought, though I'm sure I didn't use those words. Boney's delivery has been delayed. Or maybe they send a letter ahead before the actual skeleton arrives. Yes, I decided, as I tore into the paper. That must be it. It's a warning, so people won't be frightened.

Mom moved to my side.

So she was right there, for that awful moment when I removed the contents of the envelope, watched them unfold in my hand, and realized that Boney, my magnificent life-sized seven-foot-tall skeleton friend, Boney of the glowing eyes and the reaching hands, was nothing more than a cheap piece of plastic with a crude rendering of a skeleton painted upon it.

I do remember quite clearly thinking this:

Life-sized. They said it was life-sized. That means sized like life, with height and width and thickness.

They lied. The lying liars lied.

I dropped Boney on the kitchen floor and started bawling.

The weight of every moment of the long agonizing wait fell over me like a tidal wave. I had to say goodbye to my skeleton pal Boney forever, because there really wasn't any magic at all in the world, not even for a dollar plus thirty-five cents shipping, not even from storied New York.

Mom is gone now. Boney, who I kept, flaked away into bits of dust decades ago. I turned quickly past all the ads in my comic books, because after that I knew darned well Sea Monkeys didn't wear festive outfits and build little cities in your fish-bowl, and X-Ray Specs were just cheap plastic frames with concentric circles drawn on the lenses. No. Those were merely more lies. The world is what you see, nothing more. Jobs and bills and tired Dads and worried Moms and pets that sometimes never came home.

And all that came rushing back when I lifted that old comic book out of a stack of cast-offs and saw that ad again.

I still miss ya, Boney my skeleton pal.  Maybe one day.

Maybe.

This is life before the Internet, kids. Count your blessings.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Obligatory Fourth of July Fireworks Photos

Fig. 1, BANG.
I love fireworks. They're loud, dangerous, and utterly pointless.

Fireworks are the perfect monkey toy. Which means every July 4 you'll find me at Oxford's fireworks show.

This year was no different. I took my tripod and my Finepix, and while most of the images I shot are, to be blunt, crap, I got a few I'll share here.

Photographing fireworks is easy -- if you have a few thousand dollars of camera gear. If, like me, you sport a Walmart tripod and a camera that's nice but not incredibly fast, then fireworks photography is more a matter of luck than skill. If I have the shutter open at the precise moment a charge explodes, I'll get a good pic. If the luminance of the firework is bright enough to be detailed but not bright enough to wash out the image, then I'll get a good pic.

That's not what happens most of the time. Of the 300 or so pictures I took, most of them looked like the one below -- close, but no cigar.


A fraction of a second later, and this might have been a stunning image. Same with the one below.


But this why you just have to keep clicking away. You'll get lucky, sooner or later, and catch shots like the one below.


Or this.


So last night I took around 300 pictures, and have 3 or 4 to show for it.

But that's how it goes.

I'm glad writing isn't that way. Although sometimes I do wonder -- if I was offered a deal in which I was guaranteed 4 pages of timeless, perfect prose for every 300 pages I wrote, would I take the deal?

After some reflection, I probably would.

And then I'd sit down and type really really fast.

The books won during the contest will go out this week! Thanks everyone for playing.

And remember, folks -- blowing stuff up for little or no apparent reason is a pretty good way to summarize the entire 20th century and what we've seen of the 21st. Let's all hope one day we can give up all the explosives except the fireworks.

Now that would be something to celebrate.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Bunny Man, And Other Wild Tales

THE BUNNY MAN

You may not see the Bunny Man above, but he sees you...
I am fortunate to enjoy the friendship of many talented people.

Eve Edelson, for instance, makes movies. Good ones; I encourage you to check out her Vimeo page, and take in The Fare, especially.

Eve's current project is a delightfully macabre short entitled The Bunny Man. Click on the title will take you to the trailer.

I've seen the whole film, which is even now making its way around film festivals, and while I won't give anything away, I will say it's a great little movie. If you see it listed at a film festival, see it! Perfectly safe for viewers of all ages and levels of horror-tolerance.

Is it about a Bunny Man? Well, yes. Which may sound like a contrived cryptid, but isn't -- the source of the mythology seems to originate from Virginia in the 1970s. And while you might initially laugh at the idea of a man-sized rabbit threatening anyone, this one carried an axe.

Eve, you picked a fantastic cast, a talented crew, and together you told a thoroughly entertaining story! I doff my hat to you, one and all.

I'm glad to see people making films without the influence of the big studios. Yes, the studios have the endless FX budgets and the infrastructure to churn out amazing visuals, but frankly they aren't doing anything new these days, and there are only so many iterations of Batman I can sit through without nodding off in my 20-dollar theatre seat.

I'd rather see something new and surprising. So, to you all you valiant indy film-makers out there, keep 'em coming!


AND THE WINNER IS....

Last week I ran a contest. The rules were pretty simple; caption the picture below, and if your caption is judged to be the best, get a free signed book. 



Well, I loved all the submissions so much EVERYBODY GETS A FREE SIGNED BOOK. So, Critter42, April, and Maria, shoot me a snail-mail addy (to franktuttle at franktuttle dot com, replace the at and the dot, you know how it goes), and your copy of THE DARKER CARNIVAL, which will bear my illegible scrawl, will be sent to you forthwith!

One lucky winner gets *two* books, but you'll have to wait by the mailbox to see who that might be...