Friday, February 26, 2016

Fangs & Fur – A Bold New Fantasy Series to be Published Next Week!

Nest week, Amber Book Company will publish Flashbacks, the first book in my new fantasy series, Fangs & Fur. You may recall my four-volume fantasy series Halos & Horns in which a demon and angel on the lam from their respective realms find refuge in Las Vegas disguised as private eyes. The series had a large cast of supporting characters, including some vampires and werewolves. While they played an integral part of the story, we never really learned where they came from or what happened to them after the saga had concluded.

Fangs & Fur focuses exclusively on these vampires and werewolves, delving into their origins, fleshing out their back stories, and revealing what comes after “happily ever after”. Flashbacks picks up after the events in the Halos & Horns series, but each chapter showcases the origin of a prominent supernatural supporting character.

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. 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. Other Nosferatu members include 10-year-old Artemus, the boy vampire; ex-KGB operative Valentina Petrovna; the maladroit, claustrophobic vampire Claude Gauthier; the vagrant “trampire” Seamus Callaghan; and the corporation’s international board of directors: Lady Chiyoko in Japan, Callum in Australia, Isra in Dubai, Amadi in Africa, Magda in Hungary, and its CEO, the mysterious human known only as Remick.

These tales in Flashbacks shed light on their dark pasts while sowing the seeds for the next two books in the Fangs & Fur trilogy. They can be enjoyed as individual vampire and werewolf stories, or read by Halos & Horns fans to learn more about the characters populating that saga, or viewed as the prologue to the story unfolding in the Fangs & Fur trilogy.

The first chapter explains the mysterious psychic bond between Pandora and Sharon Mordecai, how Sharon became a vampire, and how and when Pandora became one. In one chapter, we learn how Artemus became a 10-year-old vampire; another reveals Valentina’s involvement with Rasputin in czarist Russia; and yet another examines how Claude became a clumsy vampire too claustrophobic to sleep in a coffin. Even the mysterious human Remick has a secret origin revealed in Flashbacks. The stories take place throughout different eras and locales: Chicago in the Roaring Twenties; London during the Blitz; 17th century Ireland; World War II France; present-day Japan; 18th & 19th century Transylvania; 19th century Switzerland; 20th century Dubai; present-day West Africa; present-day Australia; and present-day New Mexico, Las Vegas, and New York. All the back stories are told through flashbacks – as the characters move forward with their lives, the reader learns how each of them became who and what they are.

Once relegated to the background of the Halos & Horns fantasy saga, these vampires and lycanthropes have their own stories to tell. Reserve your copy of Flashbacks and become reacquainted with the vampires and werewolves you only think you know!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Vampires & Werewolves You Only Think You Know

 Flashbacks is the first book in my new three-volume fantasy series, Fangs & Fur. To the casual reader, it’s a collection of stories about vampires and werewolves. But more discerning readers will notice these characters were supporting characters in my four-book fantasy series, Halos & Horns. (Some might even consider it the unofficial fifth book in that saga, but Flashbacks can be read by itself.)  Each chapter showcases the origin of a prominent supernatural supporting character through a series of flashbacks.

Fangs & Fur focuses exclusively on these vampires and werewolves, delving into their origins, fleshing out their back stories, and revealing what comes after “happily ever after”.  The tales take place in various time periods and locales. The larger framing story begins shortly after the events in the conclusion of the Halos & Horns saga but the focus is clearly on the former supporting characters, told from their point of view. The book required a tremendous amount of research to be historically accurate and because the story spans several continents. I think this new series is the perfect response to those who say nothing new can be done with the vampire/werewolf genre.

Fangs & Fur Book One: Flashbacks will be published in both paperback and Kindle editions this month.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Issues in Internet Law - Download It!

Now available as an electronic download to your computer, laptop, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Android devices, and more! Save up to $35 off the print edition price! Download the 10th edition of Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law from VitalSource for only $99.95!

The 10th edition of Issues In Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law has been updated for 2016 with the latest cases and trends in Internet Law. The new edition not only has an expanded glossary, and expanded statute and case indexes but a new chapter devoted to the NSA's spying on Internet users and a first look at the European Union's Right to be Forgotten court ruling and its aftermath.

Topics include:
Privacy: Invasion of Privacy, Public Records, Workplace Privacy, Employer & ISP Monitoring, Data Collection, Data Retention, Data Breaches, the Right to be Forgotten, E-Mail & Chat Room Privacy, Web Site Privacy Policies, Behavioral Marketing, Flash Cookies, Device Fingerprinting, Privacy & Children, Metadata, Border Searches, FISA & the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA, FISA Court, PRISM, XKeyscore;

Free Speech: Defamation, SLAPPs, Gripe Sites, Revenge Porn Sites, Mugshot Sites, Blogs & Vlogs, Obscenity & Pornography, Harassment & Hate Speech, Prior Restraint, Repression, Student Speech, CDA, Anonymous Speech, Commercial Speech, Expressive Conduct;

Social Media: Misuse, Ownership, Coerced Access, the Courts;

Cybercrimes: Spam, Phishing, Identity Theft, Spyware & Malware, Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying, Computer Trespass, Wardriving, Virtual Crime;

Intellectual Property: Copyright, Trademark, Patent, Trade Secrets, Creative Commons, Linking, Framing, File-Sharing, Fair Use, Public Domain, Work-Made-For-Hire, DMCA, VARA, Domain Name Disputes, Keyword Advertising, America Invents Act;

Business & the Internet: Internet Taxation, Internet Interstate Commerce, Web Contracts, e-Discovery, Corporate Securities, Crowdfunding, Reg A, Reg D;

Also: Cloud Computing; Digital Currency; Right of Publicity; Web Accessibility; Net Neutrality; Online Reputation Management; Social Media Monitoring; Podcasts; Geofiltering; Digital Journalism; Hyper Local Web Sites, Digital Estate Planning; Sexting; E-Books and many more subjects.

Concisely written and covering a broad range of topics, this is the most current book of its kind!


“Concise overview of Internet-related legal issues.” (Law Library Journal)

“Although it deals with the complex legal issues surrounding the Internet, it is written in layman’s terms and illustrated with ‘ripped from the headlines’ court cases.” (Amazon)

“The concepts and issues are presented in a way that is sufficiently rigorous but very easy to read, making the book one I can recommend.” (Computing Reviews) * “A valuable resource, well-researched and well presented.”

“I want a copy on my bookshelf always within arm’s reach.”

“The anecdotal nature made it easy to understand the underlying legal concepts.”

“It is imperative that schools adopt this book in a way which would help young students gain knowledge about the various issues involving the Internet.” (Indian Journal of Intellectual Property Law)

“Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law will be a welcome addition in both academic and public law libraries… It should be acquired by libraries for its concise overview of Internet-related legal issues.” (Law Library Journal)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store – ostensibly to pick up a few items, but in truth, I needed to use their restroom. But once inside the bathroom I found it occupied, so I stepped outside to wait. As I did, another man entered and I knew I was going to have an even longer wait. To take my mind off it, I glanced down at the display items in a bin. I was reading the ingredients on a package of peppermint bark, discreetly doing the “I need to go to the bathroom” jig easily recognized by any second grader, when a woman called me over.

The woman, whose name tag identified her as “Karen,” was in one of those little sampling booths that grocery stores set up to entice customers into trying products they ordinarily wouldn’t look at twice let alone buy. “Would you like some chicken?” She pointed to an array of toothpicks sticking out of tiny slivers of meat. 

“No thank you,” I replied, dancing my indiscreet jig while eyeing the restroom door.

“You look like my husband,” Karen said, almost in an accusatory tone. She stared at me intently.

It was awkward because until the restroom emptied out she had a captive audience. I made a slight grimace. “Um, well, I can assure you, I’m not.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say but I felt that would cover it.

“Oh, I know that. He’s been dead for fifteen years.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” I shuffled from foot-to-foot, feeling oddly envious of him because at least he didn’t have to pee anymore. I thought perhaps I should express more condolences, maybe throw in a “sorry for your loss,” but before I could say anything, Karen broke out laughing. “It was funny when he died.”

Okay, now condolences seemed awkward. Once more, I was uncertain how to respond. “Really?” I ventured.

She leaned forward. “It’s a funny story. Do you want some chicken?”

Again, I turned down the sample.

“He wore a hairpiece. When he died, I had to call his stylist to go to the funeral parlor and fix it so he’d  look good.” She smiled.

I wasn’t sure if this was the part where I was supposed to laugh, so there was an uncomfortable silence. I was beginning to wish I had stuffed a piece of chicken into my mouth to provide me with an excuse for not replying.

“But you know,” Karen continued, “the head shrinks when you’re dead, and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get that hairpiece to fit.” She laughed, and I realized this must be the punch line. I forced a smile. Karen added, “I still have four of his hairpiece mannequin heads at home. I set them on the counter and he talks to me through them.”

My mind flashed back to an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show [“Coast to Coast Big Mouth” (1965)] in which Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) accidentally blabs on live TV that her husband’s TV star boss Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) wears a toupee. Laura attempts to apologize to an infuriated Brady, seated behind his desk surrounded by his now-obsolete  hairpiece mannequin heads. Throughout their conversation, Brady pivots to address the heads (“Fellas? There she is. There's the little lady who put you out of business.”).
Alan Brady (Carl Reiner) addresses the mannequin heads.

I pictured the woman sitting before four mannequin heads channeling the spirit of her dead husband. What was he saying to her? I wondered. I thought of the Son of Sam killer who had murdered because the voices in his head told him to do so. What might the voice she heard coming from the mannequin heads be telling her to do? I glanced down at the slivers of chicken impaled on toothpicks, thankful I had not sampled them. I began to see the possibilities of a great short story forming. And to think, people believe I’m being facetious when they ask where I get my story ideas from and I reply I pick them up at the grocery store. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Cyberspaces

Now that everyone is connected to the Internet and it’s become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, people are shopping for everything online. Take me, for example. This week alone, I've bought shoes, toothpaste, a calendar, and a set of dining room chairs, all purchased online. But many people are taking it one step further and shopping for their significant other in cyberspace.

Dating – or at least the quest for Mr./Miss Right – (or Mr./ Miss Right Now) has moved online for the same reasons everything else has: it’s quicker, easier, and you can do it at 2 a.m. in your pajamas. Typically, dating sites feature a prospective match’s profile (Unless you’re on the prowl for Mr./ Miss Right Now, in which case, you can use the one-paragraph short form, known as Craigslist, and list the acronyms – NSA, SWF, D&DF, etc. – you’re looking for. Don’t put too much thought into this process, because it doesn't matter what you list; Craigslist readers will ignore your criteria and contact you anyway).

In addition to the profile, date seekers usually post a photo of themselves. Usually, but not always. Sometimes, they post pictures of their dogs. Depending on the breed, it may be hard to tell the date seeker from the dog. About a third of the time, the dog turns out to be the better choice. Beware of photos in which the date seeker is hiding his/her face: either not facing the camera, wearing dark glasses, or in costume, or where the thumbnail photo cuts off the head (Alfred E. Neuman lookalike) or body (Sea World reports a whale escaped) … Or where there is no photo at all. There’s a reason why he/she didn't want you to see the hidden feature.

Then there are the misleading photos. The Technically Honest One: it is a photo of the date seeker, however it was taken 10 years ago; The Best Friend: the date seeker with his/her much better looking friend, whom you’ll be disappointed to learn is already taken; The Guess Who: see if you can pick out the date seeker from a group photo shot. Finally, there’s The Glamour Shot: a stunningly beautiful photo that makes you think the date seeker should be a model – it turns out, she is a model and some scammer has used her photo on a fake profile. A word of caution: if it looks too good to be true, Google Image Search the photo.

Avoid profiles that are too short. If the date seeker is continually answering essay questions with “ask me anything you want to know” or “we can talk about that later” it shows he/she has put less thought and effort into meeting you than into writing the weekly grocery list. At the other extreme, if the date seeker has indeed written a long grocery list of specific qualities, characteristics, or other requirements a prospective match must meet, then this person is too picky and shallow to become involved with.

Peruse other date seekers’ profiles to learn what they do right, and more importantly, what they do wrong. I found three examples on one site in the first five minutes, this morning. In response to the question “What are you doing with your life?” she wrote: “Studying hard to become a charter accountant.” Obviously, she wasn't studying hard enough, because if she had been, she would've known her chosen occupation was a chartered accountant. If you’re too stupid to know what you are studying to become (or worse, so careless that you don’t check what you've written before you post it … not a good idea, by the way, for detail-oriented professions like accounting), then you’re not dating material (and I certainly don’t want you doing my taxes, either).

The second profile I saw today featured a chubby girl in a string bikini. Now, health concerns aside, there’s nothing wrong with a potential match being a bit overweight. We can’t all look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But when marketing yourself, you should always lead with your strongest features, not highlight your weakest attributes.

The third profile began – and ended –  by stating the woman was “Not interested in casual sex”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being upfront about what you are, or are not, looking for in a relationship. But don’t send mixed messages by labeling the same profile with the username “Cutie2PlayWith”.

Remember, online dating is all about marketing yourself. You are the promoter, as well as the product. Prospective daters will assume whatever image your profile conveys is the image of yourself that you've carefully chosen to present. While the zombie costume may have won raves at a Halloween party, it’s not a good choice for your dating profile photo. Your rant about your ex might be justified, but is your dating profile the right place for it… is that the first thing you want a potential date to read?

Successful marketing begins with truth in advertising. Don’t lie or mislead. Be upfront about your weaknesses, but lead with your strengths. Put the time and effort into writing a profile that shows that you think finding the right relationship is important. And if all else fails, at least you can still buy shoes and toothpaste on the Internet.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

 A paranormal coming of age story. Brendan has a hard time fitting in as the new kid in town, especially on Valentine's Day. Although he hasn't made any friends at his new school, there is one girl he hopes will be his Valentine. But will their holiday end in newfound romance or heartbreak? A short story for young adults by Keith B. Darrell. 2,564 words.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Love Potion No. 9

Love spells on eBay? Going once, going twice, sold. Apparently there is nothing that can’t be purchased on the Internet. Although the auction site banned the sale of spells and hexes in September 2012 –  at which time, CNN reported eBay’s Spells and Potions category had “more than 6,000 active listings and happy feedback from quite a few satisfied buyers”  – a quick check of auction listings reveals there are still plenty of spells to bid on.

There’s the “Full E-mail Love Spell” for only $9.99 (free shipping!). You may want to hurry though; with Valentine’s Day approaching, there are only three spells left from this seller.

If you haven’t found your true love yet, you can always purchase a Soulmate Spell for a mere $10. The Soulmate Spell comes with the following warranties: “Will not interfere with any existing spells or work done by other spellcasters. My spells are completely safe and will not backfire or cause any harm. This spell is permanent and will not fade over time.”

Of course, if your intended is proving resistant to your natural charms, you may have to resort to “The Most Powerful Black Magick Love Spell”  At $36.99, it might seem a bit pricey, but it does come with this guarantee: “If you do not see results in 60 days from when your spell was cast and are not completely satisfied please email me and I will perform a new spell service free of charge.” Even more reassuring, in the fine print of the eBay auction details, the seller assures us that the love spell does not involve the sacrifice of animals.

If things go really well for you on this Valentine’s Day, you may wish to purchase the “Fertility Conception Pregnancy Spell” for only $1.75. Presumably, this spell would require some physical effort on your part, which you may enjoy repeating as necessary.

Of course, the flip side of love is hate. Need a voodoo doll? Where else, but eBay? (Pins not included; batteries extra). The seller states: “This order is for the voodoo ritual service only. We do NOT send out any physical item. We have hired a traditional Haitian Voodoo priest named Houngan Louidor, who is in charge of magic rituals and is a link between humans and the Voodoo spirits, also known as Loas.” The scary thing is, that of the three available, two have already been sold.

But when simple incantations are not enough, eBay will still help you find the right hex to put the whammy on someone. What could be more appropriate than the “Total Vengeance Black Magic Spell Book”?  Granted, at a mere 48 pages, it’s hardly an arcane tome, but it features some sure-fire winners, such as the General Turmoil Spell, the Enemy Affliction Spell, and instructions on how to create an “Enemy Doll”. I can tell it’s user-friendly because it comes with an  Easy Hexing Spell, and I’m already composing a list of victims for the 6-Day “Shut Up” Spell.

Of course, returns could be problematic.

     Dear eBay:
     I am writing to request a return authorization for a spell I purchased on eBay last week. The incantation was supposed to turn my ex into a horny toad. Instead, it just made him horny and now he is humping every girl in town except me!
     Sincerely yours,
            Witch Hazel
             666 Devil's Lane
             Salem, MA

Perhaps for this Valentine’s Day, you’d be better off doing your bewitching with flowers and candy.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Shame on John Lewis!

Shame on John Lewis! His comments today prove he is nothing more than a political shill bought and paid for by the Clinton machine. This is how political cronyism works. Backroom politics at its finest – you grease my hand and I’ll grease yours. This so-called hero of the civil rights movement was a young black man who got beat up protesting for civil rights. Guess what? A lot of young black men got beat up protesting for civil rights, doused with fire hoses, bitten by police dogs, and attacked by racist Southern cops. These black men were fighting for their own civil liberties; it was personal, and they had everything to gain. But there were many young white men who also risked – and in some cases lost – their lives fighting for black civil rights. These young white men had nothing to gain for themselves. They weren’t fighting out of personal interest – they already had civil rights – but out of altruism. They were protesting against an unjust social order and discriminatory laws. These young white men drove from their safe, comfortable homes in northern states to the highly volatile, deadly Southern hotbed of segregation and racial strife and put their safety and lives on the line to help bring about a political revolution so that black men and women today would have the same rights as white people, including the right to vote.

Bernie Sanders was one of those young white men. Unlike John Lewis, he wasn’t fighting for his own civil rights; he was fighting for the rights of people like John Lewis. Bernie Sanders was active in two of the most prominent civil rights organizations in the 1960s: the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In fact, Bernie Sanders was president of his university's CORE chapter. Under Sanders’ leadership, the CORE group at the University of Chicago joined with SNCC’s campus chapter, held sit-ins to protest segregation in university-owned apartment buildings, and raised money for voter registration efforts focused on blacks. Bernie Sanders wasn’t protesting because he was going to get something out of it; he was there because he knew it was the morally right thing to do. Bernie Sanders was arrested for protesting to secure John Lewis’ civil rights; if John Lewis didn’t see him, maybe it was because they weren’t sharing the same jail cell. Bernie Sanders was arrested in 1962 for protesting against segregation in Chicago’s public schools. He isn’t just talking the talk; Bernie Sanders walked the walk.

John Lewis had the chutzpah to go on TV today and say in support of the Clinton campaign “Well, to be very frank, I'm going to cut you off, but I never saw him, I never met him,” Lewis told a reporter. “I'm a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and directed their voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”

I’m sure there were a lot of people, hundreds of thousands if not millions actively involved in the civil rights movement, whom John Lewis never met. But to denigrate their commitment, their passion, and their efforts in the name of a political campaign is, to be very frank, shameful.

I’ve supported civil rights my entire life and I have stories from the 60s and beyond that I could share to support that statement. But the funny thing is, in all that time, I’ve never once met John Lewis. And after his comments today, I don’t want to.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

E-Storybooks on the Move

More than five years ago, I coined the phrase “eStorybook” for individual short stories published in eBook format. I made them available for purchase in Kindle format through the website but at that time Amazon wasn’t set up to handle short stories. Amazon prohibited me from offering my e-Storybooks for less than 99 cents – which I felt was too much to charge for a single short story – and its pricing structure was such that any e-book price at less than $2.99 yielded only a 30 percent royalty for the author. So my readers were paying a dollar per story while I was receiving only 30 cents. It was not a good arrangement for either myself or my readers. Amazon was reaping 70 percent of the proceeds for merely hosting the files, profiting from overcharging my readers and under-compensating me.

I’m pleased to announce that my e-Storybooks are migrating from Amazon to a new home at Payhip. If you’re reading this on, simply click on the eStorybook tab to see the current selection of e-Storybooks now available on Payhip. If you’re reading my blog on a syndicated site, follow this link instead -

I have 40 e-Storybooks available at Payhip so far and will be adding new ones throughout the year. At present, all of my e-Storybooks are in MOBI format and can be read on Kindle e-readers, Kindle for PC, and on your iPhone with MOBI apps.

Monday, February 1, 2016

7 Reasons Why 2016 Will Be a Banner Year!

2016 is on schedule to be a banner year for myself as an author, and for my publisher, Amber Book Company. January marks the release of a special 10th anniversary edition of Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law available exclusively on Two months earlier, the same edition was published in paperback and hardcover mass-market editions, and in digital format from VitalSource. Over the past decade, Issues in Internet Law has grown from an obscure 250-page book to a 586-page book used not only as a resource by business owners, lawyers, and IT professionals but also as a textbook by colleges and universities around the world.

February kicks off the launch of my Fangs & Fur fantasy series with Flashbacks, the first book in the series. Fangs & Fur takes place in the same universe as my previous four-volume fantasy series, Halos & Horns, telling the stories of the vampires and werewolves you only think you know! First introduced in the Halos & Horns fantasy saga, these vampires and lycanthropes have their own tales to tell in Flashbacks, shedding light on their dark pasts while sowing the seeds for the next two books in the Fangs and Fur trilogy. Flashbacks can be enjoyed as a freestanding book of vampire and werewolf stories; or read by Halos & Horns fans to learn more about the characters populating that saga; or viewed as the prologue to the larger story unfolding in the Fangs & Fur trilogy.

March sees the return of Mackenzie Mortimer, the 13-year-old boy with the time controlling pocket watch, last seen in The 25th Hour, published last July. The Tomorrow Paradox is the second novel in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer trilogy and picks up where The 25th Hour left off. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but if you thought nothing could top the cliffhanger at the end of the first book in this young adult science fiction series, think again!

May is National Short Story Month and to celebrate, Amber Book Company is publishing an omnibus edition of Shards, my short story collection from 2011. The original edition was a whopping 540 pages of cross-genre speculative fiction, but the new Shards: The Omnibus Edition contains an additional 210 pages of new stories, weighing in at a mind-blowing 750 pages!

Over the summer, look for More Essays of a Reluctant Blogger, the sequel to 2014’s Collected Essays of a Reluctant Blogger. Like its predecessor, my new book features the best of my blog, from humorous anecdotes to philosophical musings to insightful commentary on today’s societal concerns.

When winter arrives as 2016 draws to a close, one item you’ll want to be sure to include on your Christmas list is my forthcoming novel, All the Time in the World, the final book in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer young adult science fiction trilogy. Of all the books I’ve written, I found All the Time in the World to be the most difficult to write. The conclusion of Mackenzie Mortimer’s coming-of-age story is intense, dramatic, and action-packed. Plan on spending an entire evening reading it, because once you start you won’t be able to put it down.

And the seventh reason 2016 will be a banner year? Next month marks five years of my writing and publishing this blog! To quote the inimitable Mortimer Snerd: “Who’d a thunk it?”