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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nightstalkers! Coming in One Week!

Next week, the vampires and werewolves you only thought you knew return in a brand new adventure! First introduced in the Halos & Horns fantasy saga, these vampires and lycanthropes have their own stories to tell. Pandora's a carefree party girl who just happens to be a vampire. With her best friend Sharon Mordecai, a hybrid vampire; her boyfriend Cody Fenris, a werewolf; and Cody's sister Lupe, who transforms into a wolf, they run Nightstalkers, Inc., a private detective agency in Las Vegas. Pandora and Sharon also belong to Nosferatu, Inc., a worldwide corporation set up to provide relocation services for vampires, who cannot remain in one place indefinitely, lest the “breathers” question why they never age.

Nightstalkers is the second novel in the Fangs & Fur series, Previously, in Flashbacks (Book 1), readers learned the origins of the vampires and lycanthropes they'd come to love in the Halos & Horns series. Now, they're back in a brand new tale packed with action, adventure, drama, and laughs. When a Grigori unwittingly entrusts trouble-prone vampire Pandora with an ancient leather-bound box containing primordial evil, what could possibly go wrong? At least Pandora doesn't know her best friend slept with her boyfriend. Or that her werewolf beau has been targeted for revenge by one of his victims. Meanwhile, Sharon — the hybrid vampire infused with an angelic life force — has enough to worry about now that a deranged scientist/occultist is creating his own Frankenstein monster and requires an angelic life force to animate it. He's resurrected the spirit of Jack the Ripper to supply the body parts he needs from Las Vegas hookers. Should our beloved prostitute Kennedy be worried to walk the city streets? And after a Valkyrie whisks the Nightstalkers, Inc. team of private eyes — vampires Sharon and Pandora, and lycanthrope siblings Cody and Lupe Fenris — off to the Otherworld dimension of the Fae to recover Thor’s golden gauntlets from the Dark Fae's leader, the Morrigan, the team will be forever changed.

I had a lot of fun writing this new book, especially introducing two new characters: casino owner and landlord Kitty Bast (who also happens to be the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet) and Bartholomew J. Ruggles, who may turn out to be two of the most amusing characters I've ever created. Ever since I introduced the trouble-prone vampire Pandora seven years ago back in Paved with Good Intentions – in which Sharon chided her BFF that trouble followed her like a shadow and soon she’d need a box to carry her troubles around – readers have been asking me when will Pandora get her box? All I can say is be careful what you wish for!

So pre-order your copy now!



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Hair - the Age of Aquarius

I was at the barber shop the other day and I ran into a guy who...  what's that? OK, you're right. I admit it: I haven't been to a barber shop since I turned 14 and had my last 50-cent haircut. The Vitalis, greased back wet look was on the way out and the blown-dry "dry look" was in vogue, so with the start of junior high, I convinced my mother to do what all the cool kids at school were doing and have my hair not cut by Sam the barber but instead coiffed by a men's hair stylist.

The storefront bay was dimly lit and filled with the scent of burning incense. Jimi Hendrix's guitar reverberated through the eight-track system's carefully arranged speakers. Blacklights eerily illuminated posters on the walls and lava lamps adorned the reception desk and several coffee tables. Copies of Rolling Stone magazine, Zap Comix, and the Daily Planet (an underground newspaper the local hippies hawked on street corners for a quarter) were scattered across the tables, along with a few roach clips. I didn't think my mother knew what a roach clip was, but I nonchalantly covered them with the newspaper anyway. Why take a chance of getting barred from such a cool place?

My hairstylist introduced himself as Mister Lucky, or Lucky for short. I never knew his real name. Not that it mattered. He was a persona, not a person. That's how he wanted it: a virtuoso coiffeur, larger than life. He had ego, he had flair, and he had panache.  More importantly, he had talent when it came to cutting hair, so I traded in the Opie Taylor look for the David Cassidy style. It cost $10 and even Mister Lucky’s tip was twice the cost of a barber shop haircut, but when I look back on those days and recall my tie-dyed shirt, bell-bottom slacks, and Peter Max sneakers, I can thank Mister Lucky that at least he made my hair look cool.

I found another gray hair today. I keep pulling them out, but they’re like hydras: for every one I yank, two more sprout elsewhere. Mister Lucky would know what to do. I guess I’ll just have to accept aging gracefully. The years go by so quickly as you get older. And now, another has passed. Happy New Year.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Janus Effect

One of the factors that makes writing difficult is the uncanny ability of the English language to be filled with words that mean completely contradictory things. If I DRAW the curtains, am I opening or closing them? I can CLEAVE two pieces together or separate them with a meat cleaver. When you DUST, you could be adding particles, as in dusting crops; or removing them, as in dusting furniture. One might be an UNQUALIFIED success, which is very good; or UNQUALIFIED, meaning lacking any qualifications, which is not good at all.

You can SECURE something from someone, which means taking it; or SECURE something to prevent anyone from taking it. A FIX can be a predicament or the solution to one. OFF can mean deactivated, as in turning OFF the light; or activated, as in the alarm went OFF. When you SEED a lawn you’re adding to it, but when you SEED fruit, you’re taking something out of it.

Any chef will tell you to GARNISH means to add something, but a lawyer will say GARNISH means the court will be taking away your wages. If the court ENJOINS you, it may be directing you to do something or forbidding you from doing it. It could also SANCTION you, which means allow you to do something, or punish you for having done it. STAY can mean to continue or to postpone.

OVERSIGHT can refer to a watchful eye; or an inadvertent error. ROCK can be used to show firmness (“solid as a rock”), or conversely, swaying motion (“the waves rocked the ship”). SCREEN can mean conceal or display. SPARE can mean meager or extra. OVERLOOK can mean to inspect, or to miss something during an inspection.

If you TRIM a cake, you’re adding decorations; but TRIM a tree and you’re removing part of it. If you WEATHERED a storm, you came through safely and are looking good; but a building that was WEATHERED is worn away. One who is LEFT might be remaining or departed. RESIGN can mean to quit or sign up again. CLIP can mean to attach or separate. CULL may mean to select or reject. If something holds FAST, then it’s not going anywhere; but if one is FAST, he is moving quickly. If a project is a GO, then things move forward; but when your old car starts to GO, it will come to a halt.

And you thought being a writer was easy. These types of words are called contronyms because they’re so darn contrary. They’re also called auto-antonyms since one word means the opposite of itself, and more colloquially, Janus words – Janus, you may recall, was the two-faced Roman God of beginnings and transitions, simultaneously looking in opposite directions. The beginning of the year, January, is named for Janus, which makes today’s New Year’s day blog post all the more fitting. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

America vs. Europe on Iraq

Did you know I had a blog before there were such things as blogs? Neither did I, yet before I became a reluctant blogger I tried two brief stints as an enthusiastic one. My first attempt was at the end of the last century (I’ve waited all my life to say that phrase) and was merely a column on my personal Web site (remember when people had personal Web pages in the days before Facebook and MySpace?). It was entitled “rAnts and Raves” because it had these cool JavaScript ants crawling across the Web page. I know, but it was 90s and the Internet was new.

I ran across several of these posts locked in stasis in a time capsule and I thought I would share them with you over the next few weeks. Think of it as summer reruns in the fall. My first thought as I reread these words I penned so long-ago was, Wow, the more things change the more they stay the same. My second thought was, Cool, I don’t have to write a blog this week.

America vs. Europe on Iraq

An old college friend living overseas contacted me for the first time since our college days, and we began a series of correspondence on our different cultures and societies, as well as world events. As a result of my friend’s attempts to encourage me to return to my journalistic roots, I am going to try to write more frequent columns for this site, and while I doubt there will be a wide audience, at least in this medium I know my words will not end up as fishwrap. What follows are excerpts from some of those letters.

March 18, 2003

I believe the war will begin sometime this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday but no later than Saturday. I am shocked at the actions of France. I have always known France is anti-Semitic, anti-American, and deeply involved financially with Iraq, but I never believed it would go so far as to destroy the transatlantic alliance. There is a great deal of anti-French sentiment here now, and even “French Fries” are being renamed “Freedom Fries.” People have gone so far as to suggest that we return the Statue of Liberty to France! Of course that won’t happen, and eventually, probably, France and the U.S. will mend fences, but it will not happen as long as Jacques Chirac is in power.

As for your questions on Bush and the variance with Europe… I did not vote for Bush and like many, I feel he was not properly elected as president of the United States. In fact, Al Gore received more votes than Bush did, but Bush won more votes in the Electoral College, and then only because he “won” Florida’s electoral votes. The ballot was confusing and as many as 10,000 votes were not counted. Bush had a victory of 424 votes, so who knows what the outcome would have been had those 10,000 votes been counted. He basically became president because of a decision by a Republican-backed Supreme Court. As such, with no moral or legal mandate, Bush was set to be the weakest American president since the last unelected American president, Gerald Ford. The country was more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War 150 years ago, and quite frankly I think we were headed toward a major political breakup of the country. But all of that changed on September 11. The attacks unified the country and bestowed upon Bush a legitimacy he would otherwise never have achieved. He now has the support of the American people and a mandate to do whatever is necessary to secure the security of the nation. And it is a broad mandate, which ironically could mean he will go down as one of the strongest U.S. presidents in history.

I think underneath, the American people are still deeply divided into the red and the blue states (based on the colors used on election maps in 2000 to show Bush and Gore states). Bush has the support of the red states, about 50 percent of the country on domestic issues. Most Americans think he is doing a horrible job on the economy but a good job on terrorism. And at present, safety means more than money. I believe he will be re-elected and the economic troubles will continue. I have always found Bush to be a very likable man. I never thought he was qualified to be president, but he is there now, he is trying his best, and frankly, in these dangerous times, the learning curve is too great to contemplate any potential replacement.

As for the variance with Europe, most Americans cannot comprehend Europe’s isolationist attitude. The European people seem to feel we should all just leave the evil regimes alone. What they should have learned from WWII is that by leaving the evil regimes alone, as Europe did with Germany from 1933 to 1938, they develop into more powerful evil regimes that eventually threaten other states. The world cannot afford to give Iraq, Iran, and North Korea time to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Iraq already has a large arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, which it has used in the past and threatens to use again. North Korea sells much of the arsenal it already produces. Even if these states do not use the weapons of mass destruction themselves, can we allow them to create and sell them to terrorists like Al Queda, Hezbollah, or the PLO? When Europe is threatened by assorted terrorists wielding nuclear bombs, anthrax, smallpox, sarin gas, and other biological and chemical weapons, we Americans believe the average Europeans will finally realize the true threat posed today, but by then it will be too late. It is easier to disarm a few weapon-producing countries now than to disarm 100,000 terrorists wielding weapons of mass destruction later.

So the short answer is, Americans feel they are saving the world and cannot understand why the European people do not support and join them. The Europeans (aside from the French and the Russians, who have major financial ties with Iraq – not just oil, but the French also sell the Iraqis many component parts for their weapons systems), fear American hegemony and have a sincere aversion to war, having fought so many on their own soil in the past century. As a child and as a young man, I was a pacifist, because I believed rational men should be able to resolve their differences intellectually, without resorting to violence. I still believe that, however, I would add this codicil: sometimes your adversary is not rational, and then violence becomes the only resort. I don’t believe the Europeans have grasped that yet, with the exception of the East Europeans and Tony Blair, who may lose his position as prime minister, but has secured his position in history as a principled statesman.

April 30, 2003

As I write this, the war in Iraq is now over; at least officially. Obviously, the U.S. will be present there for some time, and as snipers and armed civilians abound, the war may be over but the peace is not yet secured.

I do not think Europe realizes how much September 11 changed the American psyche and the U.S. government’s approach to international affairs. Just as the Japanese did in WWII, the Islamic terrorists have awakened a “sleeping giant.” I think you will see a much more militaristic America, willing to take preemptive action where it deems necessary. I expect you will also see a realignment of American troops away from Germany and into the Middle East.

Personally, I would like to see the United States wipe out the terrorist regimes in Syria and Iran, but I do not think they will go that far. American foreign policy is historically incremental.

June 3, 2003

I think Europe is divided. I believe Britain, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe are leaning toward the U.S. position. Russia, France, and Germany appear to form a troika in opposition. Frankly, I think there is too much at stake for us to worry how popular we are and with whom. America and its allies will have to do whatever is necessary, and if certain individuals or governments don’t like it, that’s too bad. Actually, Russia and France are mainly siding against us because they have strong financial interests and dependencies in that region (oil and weapons contracts). Chirac also has delusions of grandeur, but I think the French people are beginning to see through him. As for what Americans think of Europe, you must recall Americans are generally quite insular, self-absorbed, and poorly educated. Most do not think of Europe at all. I think they are
positively disposed toward Britain and against France as a result of Blair and Chirac’s actions leading up to the war, but otherwise, I do not think they follow European affairs.

July 13, 2003

I think the reason 911 made such a huge impact on Americans is we has never been attacked on our own soil before, and being surrounded by two oceans and two peaceful nations (Canada and Mexico) we felt insulated and safe. The reaction was like that of a rape victim who feels violated, no longer safe and insulated, vulnerable, shocked, and then ultimately angry. And unfortunately, the news media are fanning the flames, creating fear and paranoia amongst the people. For example, today there was a news story that Al Queda is planning to start multiple forest fires in America. I believe the TV media (which are more politically-conservative than the mainstream print media) are purposely creating a climate of fear which allows the conservative Republican government to exercise authoritarian powers it could never otherwise use.