Saturday, December 31, 2016

"2016 Can Kiss My Ass!" and other Children's Favorites

I have to say that I've never experienced quite a year as this one. So many disappointments and heartbreak mixed with wonderful high points within a span of twelve months made it a roller coaster ride of emotion.

I'm not just talking about the loss of our heroes, whether they be actors, singers, writers, or whatever. I am talking about personal loss as well. Friends have lost spouses, parents, and other friends. My wife and I lost a dear pet, a miniature dachshund, to megaesophagus, a condition that causes a loss of control of the esophagus, making it very difficult to eat and causing pneumonia and other fun things.

We lost our dear Penny after a brief but painful fight. We were unable to say goodbye to her as the vet had her sedated by the time we arrived. I think I will forever be second guessing our actions, thinking of other things we could have done to save her life. However, what is done is done, and she's gone. We will forever miss our loving diva. In the days that followed her death, all I wanted to do was break down and scream.

Click here for Tom Petty - Room At The Top

On the positive side, we were able to extend a home to another dachshund through Midwest Dachshund Rescue, a little rascal named Parker, a two year old survivor of a puppy mill. He is wild and funny and gives Luke and Moxie, our other two doxies, an energetic playmate.

The loss of music icons like David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, and so on, were and always will be, devastating. They and others like authors Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, and Jim Harrison shocked the literary world. Beloved actors, George Kennedy, Abe Vigoda, Doris Roberts, and perhaps most surprisingly and supremely tragic, Carrie Fisher followed almost immediately by her mother, Debbie Reynolds. There's a vast collection of others that I've not listed here. I just can't bring myself to do it. These great people fell like dominoes this year.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right. You usually are, and I have to agree with you that I am sensitive to these losses. Why? Because these people have dedicated their lives to entertaining the masses. Us. They are in the limelight all the time, and take quite a bit of criticism and sometimes, even abuse from their 'fans'. These people become a part of our lives and we should feel sadness when they pass.

Then there's the cop shootings, and this bizarre presidential race. I just don't know what to think of it all. Such negativity, hatred, racism, I cannot stomach it. Facebook and Twitter have been a nightmare to deal with this year and it seemed to get worse even after it was over. Being an author, I need to keep my Facebook active, but I find myself using it less and less. It's exhausting reading the bad news, memes based on lies, and reading the hateful comments in the threads. It's disgusting.

On the other hand, there are those that have suffered worse than my wife and I this year, by far. I read their posts and feel the desperation of their loss. For me, being unable to do a thing about it is the worst of it.

But hey, I don't want to be all doom and gloom here. I'm writing, editing, carrying on and will be trying to attend more events. I need to concentrate on local fans and book fairs, I'm tired of driving hundreds, yes, hundreds of miles to sell a handful of books. In 2017, I'll be making the rounds nearer to home.

So, there are those friends and family that are having health issues and other challenges. I'm not talking about just mine, but yours, too. Let's all keep them in our thoughts and remain hopeful and helpful. As a nation, we need to show one another more kindness and understanding than ever before. And for the love of crap, people, don't believe every damn thing you read on the internet! Check your sources before sharing these 'news' items on Facebook, Twitter, and whatever the hell else you use.

*Sigh. Anyway, I digress.

I leave you with this: For each and every one of you, may you have a very good new year. Help make 2017 a year of positivity and truth. May you have peace, love, and joy in the new year.

Have a toast to absent friends and...let's be careful out there.

"Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on"

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy Xmas [War is Over]

So, this is Christmas. And what have you done?

We Americans have been lied to by the media for years and, considering the outcome of this last presidential election, it’s clear to me that the majority of Americans have lost the ability to think critically. We believe the most outlandish and ridiculous crap we read on the internet and this time, it directly affected the presidential election.

As an example, I point out this phony "War on Christmas" that many people believe we’ve been “fighting”. I think I first heard the term about seven or eight years ago and I dismissed the notion immediately. It’s utter bullshit carried on solely by the media, and if you think there’s actually been some sort of restriction on greeting people with “Merry Christmas”, then guess what. It’s on you and no one else. There is no war on Christmas. You saw that on the news, read it in the paper or online, and for some reason, decided to believe it.

The phenomenon known as “Political Correctness” is a term that’s been around more than twenty years and its effect on people turns by stomach. The media has duped Mister and Misses America into thinking that their beliefs and thoughts need to be curbed in order to avoid insulting or offending people.

Well, Merry freakin’ Christmas, people. Your so-called First Amendment privileges have been compromised…all by yourselves. It’s a shame to see such wonderful people, as we Americans can be, handcuffing themselves in the name of something that shouldn’t exist. Throw away your “Political correctness” nonsense and wish someone Merry Christmas if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with it.

The worst thing that should ever occur by wishing someone a Merry Christmas is a minor blip of embarrassment when the other party is not of your faith. For instance, if you hear “Happy Hanakkuh” in return, you both need to smile, nod, and move on with your day. There is no need to feel shame or to censor your words because this country is comprised of people of all races, creeds, and religious beliefs, and we all need to remember that and be understanding. There’s no reason in the world to take offense just because someone greets you with the wrong holiday message. Further, I couldn’t give a shit about the design of Starbuck’s holiday coffee cups. 

What are we, children? Grow the hell up. I’m sure we all have better things to worry about. Of course, there will always be people with an abundance of negativity all stored up so they can go on a rampage on Twitter or some other social media site. This is America, land of the free, at least in theory.

It may come as a surprise to you that I am an atheist. This means that I do not believe in any religion’s gods, goddesses, or what-have-you. I say “Merry Christmas” anyway, though sometimes I say “Happy Holidays”, too. Why? Because I can.

As an atheist, I am aware that some of us non-believers protest Nativity scenes on church lawns, Christmas trees in the lobbies of courthouses, or including the phrase “under God” in the updated “Pledge of Allegiance”. These people make a big deal out of every little thing and I’m here to tell you that no matter what the reasons they state publicly, the simple reason behind their protests is that they have nothing better to do than to screw with the happiness of other people. That’s the beginning and the end of it and it’s sad.

My point here is that we are, all of us, everyone, are just people that want to be happy. Not just here in America, but as humans, that is what we all want. The holiday season is a time of the year where we are supposed to embrace peace and love and show each other kindness.

Like many of you, I have very fond memories of the Christmas season. I love giving gifts, and yes, I’m not going to lie to you, I love receiving them. I love the decorations, the lights on the tree, Christmas cookies, plastic Santas that light up, "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and holiday freakin’ punch. My Christmas is about songs of peace, winter, snow at Grandma’s, and how Santa lost a ho. It’s about spending time with friends and family, exchanging gifts, having food and drink, and remembering those that can no longer be with us.

Click here for the song: Santa Lost a Ho

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I am just a regular Joe just like you, despite being an atheist. My wife is a Lutheran, as is my mother-in-law, and I’m fine with it. I believe in letting people celebrate whatever holiday they wish in whatever manner they wish, as long as it is not of a violent nature.

So, you may be wondering why I’m writing this in a rather gruff manner. I believe that what’s happening in this country started with being “politically correct” and the nonexistent war on Christmas. Many people bought into that garbage and it got worse from there. Fear of offending people and having a public backlash became more important than showing each other humanity and respect.

This did nothing but breed negativity in people, and in turn, the populace lashed out, taking up the cause of ‘taking the country back’ and ‘making America great again’. Back from what? Where’d it go? Talk about your meaningless, uninspiring buzz words and phrases, those were just a few I’ve been hearing.

To label those that voted for Donald Trump as stupid or racist is too broad, unfair, and, for the most part, incorrect. Recently, I was surprised to learn that a couple of friends of mine, people I’ve known since high school, voted for him. In asking about this further, although I typically wouldn’t have, I was shocked to find out that they believed quite a lot of the fake news reports regarding Hillary Clinton. People like my friends are reasonable, intelligent people, and were duped by unscrupulous, dishonest people that write these mean-spirited phony articles for their own amusement.

2016 has been a rough year for America. With mass shootings by lunatics, more shootings involving police, rioting, the harassment of the Sioux by the Federal Government, sponsored by the oil industry over the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the strangest presidential election I’ve ever witnessed, Americans are divided, perhaps as severely as we once were over the Vietnam War.

This is exactly why we all need to relax and show one another a little humanity this holiday season. This Christmas, let the frustrations go. Why not perform a selfless act of kindness for a stranger? Drop a little extra in the big red bucket while you’re at it. Visit with family and friends and talk of better times. Leave the politics at home, it’ll still be there in the new year.

“And so, happy Christmas
(War is over)
For black and for white
(If you want it)
For yellow and red ones
(War is over)
Let’s stop all the fight.
A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year.
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear.” ~ John Lennon
Click here for the song: Happy Xmas [War is Over]

Merry Christmas, everyone! I wish you all peace and love this holiday season.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Looking Back Fuzz

So, it's finally occurred and I never thought I'd see the day. I internalized it, not letting my wife know that it bothered me, but it does.

You see, when I was a child, I was fortunate enough to spend some summer time with my grandmother in the wonderfully calm and beautiful town of New Buffalo, Michigan. I'd get a week, sometimes two, sometimes an odd number of days somewhere in between, but there it is. I could ride a bike around town, or we'd watch television, go shopping, have dinner at a restaurant that one of her friends managed or owned, I can't recall. I do remember great baskets of breaded baby shrimp, shrimp sauce, beds of French fries, and glasses of root beer that never seemed to go empty. I remember that when we did eat in, it was often a Tombstone frozen pizza and how oddly she pronounced the word, pizza, as more the leaning tower than the dish. I can hear her voice speaking it and it makes me smile.

If I were lucky, and good, I'd get one of those greasy burgers from Redamak's, a place that's been around for decades and thrives to this day. Or, sometimes, I'd get the burger at Charlie's Truck Stop, which is now something else. On hot summer evenings, a banana split from the Tastee Freez would top off a fantastic day. I think it's a pizzzzzz-aria now.

These visits lasted from the late 1970's on through the 80's. I visited her many friends right along with her, sharing in her joy of them. I even called her friends Vera and George my aunt and uncle. My grandmother hung out with some really fine folks and I enjoyed them. I'd like to think most of them enjoyed having a youngster around without the attachment that came with being relation.

It's been right around thirty years and all those people are gone. Every last one. I have trouble recalling some of their names.

Many times, my grandmother, Pauline was her name, would take me to movies at a Michigan City, Indiana theater, which sat on the fringes of the parking lot of Marquette Mall. In that theater, we saw some James Bond's, two of the three "Smokey & the Bandit" flicks, "Cannonball Run", and some others. Back then, going to movies was a big deal, perhaps not as big as thirty years prior, but I wasn't around for that. All I know is that I enjoyed them very much. I even got her to go to "Return of the Jedi", where she covered her eyes until the scene in Jabba's palace was over. From what I can see from the latest shots on Google Earth, the theater is there, but it appears to be boarded up.

Last night, while my wife went out to take part in her church's extracurriculars, I decided to pick an old fave from the DVD collection. It was 1983's "WarGames", the Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy movie about the computer hacker and the threat of nuclear war and all that. A faint memory tried to seep in as I loaded it into the machine, but sadly, it bounced off my cranium like a firefly in the dark. I watched the movie, enjoying it as I always have, even while noting the continuity errors and wondering what the screenwriter was thinking when a character spoke a line of 'Duh'-alogue.

As I put the movie away, that fleeting memory returned to me. My grandmother had taken me to see this one. We had watched it together in that theater in Michigan City. The thought had never fully dawned on me throughout the picture.

I know what you're thinking and you're right. "Return of the Jedi" was released in May of 1983, and "WarGames" came out early the next month. That's two new movies that she took me to in the same visit. Yeah, I know. I was spoiled, so deal with it.

So, the evening went on and I began remembering more, thankful that I could, but sad at the thought that the details and triggers, if you would, of my memories are fading like the vibrant color from an old photograph. Who was it that said you can't go home again?

Click here for: High Hopes

Do yourself a favor, would you? Trust me, it's a small favor and one that you will benefit from. All I need you to do is to take a step back from the news and social media and go through some of your old stuff. It doesn't matter what it is, whether it's from your movie collection, music collection, old baseball cards, old stuffed dolls and toys, whatever you've got. Pick something that ties you to your grandparents or someone that was around when you were growing up.

If it's a movie, watch it. If it's music, turn it up. If it's a photograph or a toy, hold it and stare at it for a while. Close your eyes and remember.

That's not so hard now, is it?

Thank you for reading. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We Began as Wanderers, and We Are Wanderers, Still

As I write this, I’m sitting in my favorite writing spot at home, having just returned from our voting place. Truly, it’s been the most unusual race for the presidency I’ve ever witnessed. From my perspective, the phrase, “lesser of two evils” has never been more clearly defined.

I won’t get into who is right or wrong for our country, and I certainly won’t debate anyone, attack anyone, or defend anyone for their choice or political beliefs. It simply isn’t any of my business, for one. For another, it’s none of your business who I voted for and I don’t care about the opinions of others, anyway. At 46 years old, the curmudgeon in me is fully developed and I simply don’t give a shit what other people think. I’m not very interested in politics, in any case. Besides, history has shown me that the vast majority of things that I worry about never occur. If the person I did not vote for wins, I’m sure it won’t be as bad as we fear.

Ultimately, no matter whom we think is ‘running the show’ from behind the desk in the Oval Office, it is the owners of the corporations that steer the world with their dollars. Collectively, however, the citizens have the last say. We only need to become collectively pissed off enough about something to act. I do fear, however, that most of us have become complacent and let the media control us. We are dazzled by our electronic toys, creature comforts, and fancy cars, too pampered to do anything about the world’s issues. Men like Bill Hicks and George Carlin have been trying to warn us about such things for decades, but most don’t believe it. Like it or not, we’re a nation founded by rich men, made up of stolen land, and built on the backs of slave labor. We have come a long way since then, but the history remains.

Below is a link to a collection of Bill Hicks routines that make one think. Warning: Explicit language.

Here's a bit of Carlin's brilliance. It may be a little harsh, but he has some good points here.

At this point, I have to say in all honestly, I love being here. There’s no doubt about that. I do love my life here on Earth, in this country, and in this state, and in this town. I doubt that I’d enjoy living outside the U.S., despite its sketchy history and tenuous place in today’s world.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. A lot of other countries in the world started out similarly, and are a lot less able to care for their citizens, are poor, and cannot hope to offer the standard of living that I’m used to. Furthermore, millions of humans have been killed by their governments during our brief existence. I do sleep very well at night, knowing that, at the very least, we are relatively safe and secure here in America.

Now to the crux of the post.

In case one does not realize it, November 9th, 2016 would have been Carl Sagan’s 82nd birthday. Unfortunately, however, he passed from this plane of reality nearly twenty years ago. I’ve been a fan of this world-famous astronomer, astrophysicist, etc., since Cosmos was first on the air on PBS here in Chicago back in 1980, and he helped to shape my sense of wonder and, in many ways, my manner of reason. He is one of the many reasons I’m a writer and often, it is his voice I hear when I read the words I write back to myself, almost more so than Leonard Nimoy’s. I have Cosmos on DVD and have a great time revisiting it every once in a while.

While I work, whether I’m writing or editing another’s work, I often watch or listen to videos on YouTube. There are some amazing compilations that feature Sagan, setting music to the man’s voice as he narrates his written works. I’ve included some links to those here, but I often share them on Facebook.

Here's a nicely done video by YouTuber, Melodysheep.

I know for certain what Carl hoped for. He knew that our next step as a race was the immense undertaking of space exploration. He would not be too happy with NASA’s lack of progress today, but I do think he would applaud the entrepreneurs that have taken it upon themselves to build their ships and space stations. Companies like SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Bigelow Aerospace, and many more, would have his support, I’m sure.

Sagan was concerned for our well-being as a species, hoping beyond hope that a nuclear apocalypse would not occur, ending our miniscule bid of existence in the vast universe. He wanted what men like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Stephen Hawking have wanted all their lives: to see mankind take their place in the stars. Sagan wrote many books on humanity’s evolution and shared his hopeful vision for our future. He wrote heartfelt science fiction that went hand-in-hand with his nonfiction and gave millions of people hope.

He spoke of our narrow-mindedness, our irrational beliefs, our slow social progress, our propensity to nationalize rather than humanize, and our wastefulness of resources. Carl also spoke of our great potential, our ability to adapt, our phenomenal sense of wonder, and our natural need to explore.

I have always appreciated this man and will continue to appreciate his memory, and those like him. We, as a species, need men like Carl Sagan, to point out what we’re doing wrong, to keep that humility in us strong and healthy, and remind us what we are capable of accomplishing, if only we wish to achieve it. We also need the comedians who make us think, like Bill and George, who give us the ability to laugh at our own stupidity while stimulating critical thought.

Here's a Bill and George mashup I like:

We humans are capable of greatness:

Happy 82nd, Carl Sagan.

Thank you for reading, everyone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Author Natalie Silk and "Snowfall's Secret"

FHC: Today on the blog, I welcome author Natalie Silk, who's about to launch a new book for Solstice Publishing. Hi Natalie!
So, please tell us all about this new novel.

My current work is Snowfall’s Secret.  It’s a about a girl from another world who must live like any other tween on Earth (and she suffers from amnesia).  Of course, she learns to enjoy shopping at the mall with her very own debit card and has a few secrets. At its core is the message that everyone has value and has something special to share. 
FHC: It reminds me of "Starman", but from a young girl's perspective. Where did the inspiration come from?

The story was inspired by a dream I had when I was twelve.  I saw five monks standing in a semi-circle.  They were all wearing a triangle-shaped pendant with a red stone in the center.  One of the monks looked at me and said, “You’re not ready,” and I woke.  I had subsequent dreams of a girl with a pendant to the one the monks wore and I wrote them all down.

FHC: Who's your favorite character?
My favorite character to write about (funny how that turned out) was a secondary one to the story:  Mrs. Margot Greenfield. I based her on a favorite childhood teacher.

By the way, my favorite genre to write is science fiction.  Surprise!  Just kidding.
FHC: I have had the pleasure of reading it and I think it's a fantastic story, but what's next?

My focus right now is science fiction for girls; but I’m still playing around with a short story that’s alternative history to give myself a mental stretch.  I have this irrational fear that the last thing I finish writing will be my last.  I wonder if I’m not alone.
FHC: "Snowfall's Secret" is a wonderful example of science fiction for girls. I certainly don't think you're the only writer that shares your worries about the future of their writing. A big part of that is your methods?

I’m pretty ‘old school’ when it comes to my writing habits.  The first thing I do is buy a brand new hand-sized spiral notebook and use it to write the basic story that’s mostly action punctuated here and there by dialogue.   The little notebook helps me believe that I’m accomplishing so much.  I then use my trusty laptop to write the second draft that looks as if I threw words down to see what sticks.  The technical term I like to use is word hurl.  Each subsequent draft looks a little more refined than the previous one.  I then use the little spiral notebook to make notes and jot down ideas for the story.
FHC: How did you start writing and when?

I began writing when I was ten and back then we didn’t have home computers.
FHC: Any advice for young writer?

I’ve been asked advice by aspiring writers.  I’m very, very flattered.  But let me tell you, I’m still an aspiring writer. My advice is simple:  don’t ever, ever (and I mean ever) give up.
FHC: Where can readers find you on social media?

Please reach out to me on:

Facebook  Natalie Silk, Author

Twitter @natalieasilk

My website

Amazon Author Page

READERS! This book is available for pre-order beginning today! Shoot on over to Amazon and be among the first to get your copy!
Thank you so much for being on the blog today, Natalie! Best wishes on the new book!

Monday, May 30, 2016

What Memorial Day Should Mean to the Modern Civilian

I've heard many arguments over whether our American soldiers are fighting and dying for our country, the flag, or our freedoms. It is often said the soldier is fighting for the survival of his brother and sister soldiers.

These arguments among civilians, often negatively heated and televised on various news networks, over the reasons for the wars and why the soldiers are fighting are pointless. I'm fine with whatever the mindset of the soldier, as long as they come home safe. Too many of them do not, however. Many are wounded, whether it be in the physical or the mental sense, and far too damn many come home in caskets draped in our colors.

What every civilian needs to remember these days is that they are doing all of these things at once. They are fighting for our freedoms here at home, which is the United States of America as it is represented by the flag of red, white, and blue. What we also have to understand is that they are fighting for their very survival. These men and women will have seen and experienced things they will never wish to speak of, and if your grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle, sibling or friend, do not wish to talk about it, the worst thing you can do is press them.

For the life-long civilian, like myself (I am physically unable to have served in the military), do them a favor and satisfy your curiosity about a conflict they were a part of by reading a book or watching the History Channel. Making your loved one or friend who was a veteran of a conflict speak of it will do nothing but upset them and create more distance between themselves and you.

So, today social media is flooded with your friends and family posting pictures of loved ones in uniforms from the era in which they served. They are all special and they are all heroes. Give them a 'like', a 'heart', or a 'share', or some kind of kind acknowledgement. I have no such pictures to share, as my mother's father passed away in 1958 and my other grandfather became estranged to my family in 1983. Both men were WWII veterans and I am unable to thank them or pay tribute. My father-in-law, who passed away in 2004, was a Marine in Korea, and I have the privilege of joining my family in a dedication to the armed services today.

If you see a veteran on the street or during a memorial service of some sort, shake a hand, give them a smile and, above all, give them your respect. Unless you are preparing to write a history book and you are lucky enough to find that special veteran that wishes to speak of his/her experiences, leave it at that.

This is especially true for the younger veterans of the conflicts against terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and points in between or beyond. Mostly, these veterans want nothing more than normalcy. For the love of our country and their sacrifice, give them that feeling of belonging. WE have NO idea what they are struggling with from minute to minute, from day to day, or through the night.

So, to all us civilians: this Memorial Day, let's all drop the political arguments at our family gatherings, discussions of 'what was', 'what should have beens', and 'what's coming', and be as respectful and positive as we can be. The veterans among you are thinking of their lost comrades.

Happy Memorial Day to all, and to all families and friends who have lost a loved one, my sincerest gratitude.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Meet Author Francene Stanley!

Today, we meet author, Francene Stanley! We have some Q & A with her about her career and the new novel.



1. What is the title of your latest book?

Karm Currents – A grieving woman looks back, while a charming knave completes her set of Egyptian jewellery, and together they discover the shocking past.

2. Do you want your reader to come away from reading your book with a strong message? If so, what is it?

 I want my readers to enjoy the story on the surface, but realize how people could have known each other in a past life; to realize the power contained in each thought and action.

3. Would you rather take your reader to another way of existence than share a message?

 I would. I want them to step into other personalities and learn vicariously how events connect.

4. Will your novel expand the reader's mind? If so, in what way?

 A person can drift away to another world and share in the joy of being a kind of superwoman, albeit in the guise of an ordinary being. You see, my heroine, Liliha, wears a ring that takes her to other situations where she helps people in need.

5. How long have you been writing?

 For nearly ten years I've written novels. Before that, I composed songs and poems. The creative process lifts me out of everyday life and transports me to pure enjoyment.

6. How did you learn your craft?

 I wrote my first book, Still Rock Water and then searched online for courses. I signed up for about three and learned what not to do, and how to maximize the story's potential.

7. Where do your ideas come from?

 Ideas abound, there for everyone who seeks. It's just a matter of grasping them. The renown psychic Edgar Cayce suggested that great departed minds exist in the Universal Consciousness, which is why many discoveries are made at the same time here on Earth. On a lower level, I use imagination.

8. Give the reader links to your work.

 Amazon author page:
Karm Currents is the fourth and final book in the paranormal Moonstone series set in the little village of St. Ives, Cornwall, England.

Apart from her telepathic sojourns of whispering advice to strangers, Liliha is an ordinary woman, separated from her teenage daughters in Australia. Her youngest daughter, Alissa, arrives to live with her, and brings her grandmother. As if that interference isn't enough, Liliha's ex turns up to take their daughter home.

Lovesick Harry steps in to help, bringing with him an ancient Egyptian necklace in the hope of compensating for the bracelet he lost. When more jewelry turns up, all seemingly connected, regressions reveal a previous relationship between Alissa, Harry, and Liliha.
Thank you, Francene Stanley, for dropping by the blog!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Saying hello to A.B. Funkhauser

Say hello to A.B. Funkhauser, a fellow Solstice author and all around great lady. Check out her upcoming sequel to Heuer: Lost and Found, the exciting, Scooter Nation.

From the author of HEUER LOST AND FOUND

New from the land of gonzo

A city divided;

A community under seige;

Conflicting values;

And the death of a beloved.

What will it take to right the wrongs?

A line in the pavement.



Flattening the playground.

Coming 03.13.2016

From Solstice Publishing
solstice publishing - Copy.png
Book Blurb


Aging managing director Charlie Forsythe begins his work day with a phone call to Jocasta Binns, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Weibigand Funeral Home founder Karl Heinz Sr. Alma Wurtz, a scooter bound sextenarian, community activist, and neighborhood pain in the ass is emptying her urine into the flower beds, killing the petunias. Jocasta cuts him off, reminding him that a staff meeting has been called. Charlie, silenced, is taken aback: he has had no prior input into the meeting and that, on its own, makes it sinister.


The second novel in the UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SCOOTER NATION takes place two years after HEUER LOST AND FOUND. This time, funeral directors Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take centre stage as they battle conflicting values, draconian city by-laws, a mendacious neighborhood gang bent on havoc, and a self absorbed fitness guru whose presence shines an unwanted light on their quiet Michigan neighborhood.




The old humpback with the cloudy eyes and Orwellian proletarian attitude pushed past the young embalmer with a curt “Entschuldigen Sie bitte!—Excuse me!” That Charles E. Forsythe, bespectacled and too tall for his own good, didn’t speak a word of German was incidental. The man grunting at him, or, more accurately, through him was Weibigand senior embalmer Heino Schade, who’d been gossiped about often enough at Charlie’s previous place of employ: “Weibigand’s,” the hairdresser winked knowingly, “is like a Stalag. God only knows where the lampshades come from.”
Whether she was referring to Schade specifically or the Weibigand’s generally didn’t matter. What he gleaned from the talk and what he took with him when he left to go work for them was that he was not expected to understand, only to follow orders.
Schade, muttering over a cosmetic pot that wouldn’t open, suddenly tossed it; the airborne projectile missing Charlie’s black curls by inches. Jumping out of the way, he wondered what to do next.
Newly arrived from Seltenheit and Sons, his new master’s most capricious competitor, expectations that he perform beyond the norm were high. Trading tit for tat, his old boss Hartmut Fläche had fought and lost battles with Karl Heinz Senior since 1937, and wasn’t about to abandon the bad feeling, even as he approached his ninetieth year. That his star apprentice had left under a tenacious cloud to go work for the enemy would no doubt hasten old Harty’s resolve to plot every last Weibigand into the ground before he got there first.[1]
It was incumbent upon Charlie, therefore, to dish some dirt hopefully juicy enough to shutter Seltenheit and Son’s for good.
Stories of the two funeral directors’ acrimony were legend: late night calls to G-men during the war asserting that Weibigand was a Nazi; anonymous reports to the Board of Mortuary Science that Fläche reused caskets; hints at felonious gambling; price-fixing; liquor-making; tax evading; wife swapping; cross dressing; pet embalming; covert sausage making; smokehouses; whore houses; Commie-loving; Semite-hating; and drug using sexual merry-making of an unwholesomeness so heinous as to not be spoken of, but merely communicated through raised eyebrows, was just a scratch.
Ducking under the low rise water pipes that bisected Weibigand’s ceiling in the lower service hall, Charlie shuddered with the thought of retributive action, if only because old men were scary and he was still young. At twenty, he had finished his requisite course requirements, albeit at an advanced age. A lot of the guys were finishing at seventeen, only to be packed off to Vietnam. But Charlie had been delayed by way of the family pig farm which in many ways, could save his hide in a pinch. As the eldest male in a houseful of women, running the farm made him essential if the Draft ever became an issue. It hadn’t so far—he was too old, the 1950 and up birthdates pulled by lot would never include his. Yet he was haunted by the prospect of a violent end.
His mother—a gentle soul who knew the Old Testament chapter and verse—never missed an opportunity to discourage his dreams for a life in the city. This only aggravated matters. He was different, and he knew it. For that reason he had to leave.
“You’ll wind up in hell if you try,” she said fondly, every time he negotiated the subject. In the end, it was a kick in the ass from the toothless old neighbor that sent him running far and fast off the front porch: “Yer not like the others, are ya sweetie?”
 “Don’t expect an easy time from the Missus,” Heino Schade said offhandedly from his vantage over a pasty deceased.
“Mrs. Weibigand?” Charlie asked, noting that the old man used Madame Dubarry commercial cosmetic in place of the heavy pancake Seltenheit’s favored.
“You assisted her out of a particularly difficult situation. She will expect more as a show of your constant devotion.” He knocked his glass eye back into place with a long spring forceps.
Charlie understood. He hadn’t expected a call from the Lodge that infamous night, but then, it wasn’t everyday that a good friend of the Potentate was found dead in a hotel room under a hooker.
“In flagrante delicto,” Schade continued ominously in what appeared to be Latin.
“Indeed,” Charlie said, faking a working knowledge of the dead language; the unfamiliar term, he guessed, having more to do with what Karl Heinz Weibigand was doing with a woman in a seedy hotel room, than his desire to ask Schade how he made his dead look so dewy.
My Interview with A.B.
1)      You have a lot of bright, funny characters. Are they based on anyone you know, or are they bits and pieces of several people? If so, do they know about it?
I’ve said more than once that behind every fiction there’s a fact or two. I think my characters began as personal observations made either by me or by others over the last three decades. Things I’ve read in the news, places where I’ve worked, associations that I’ve belonged to gave rise to thoughts and feelings looking for a place to land. That’s where the characters emerged. They provided the voice; the novel: a place to hang them on.
2)      Besides being an author, you’re a funeral director. Do you find that helping others deal with their grief emotionally stressful? Is writing a way to deal with that?
I’m human so I felt it from time to time. But I never forgot what I learned in mortuary school: that the primary goal of the director is to be empathetic above all else, and to not bring the work home with me at the end of the day. A director is many things—artist, planner, communicator, and, most importantly, listener. When I was at work, the grieving family always came first. But when I went home, my own family took precedence. It’s a balancing act that I worked very hard at maintaining. And it worked. That’s how I did the job for so many years.
Writing, like funeral directing, was another calling that I had to follow. I carry stories from my life growing up in Scarborough (Ontario), from working in youth politics and later at the Legislature, and then four years with the auto lobby. Good times, rich with all kinds of mirthful fiction. I saw novel writing as a way of preserving some of this history. I’ve had a ball revisiting those times!
3)      So, “Scooter Nation” is said to be book two in the “Unapologetic Lives” series. Tell us more about that. Will the same characters be featured?
Unapologetic lives and all that they imply came from two sources: some of the amazing people I’ve met over the years and the off planet writing of Hunter S. Thompson. Both sources keyed me in to the idea that messaging in novel writing can be strengthened if the characters operate without filters. That is, they are not governed by a societal rulebook of any kind. In reality, such a model would be disastrous—we’d be barricaded behind our locked doors if everyone said and did what they pleased. But in a world where this does not happen, where the sun rises the next day and our skins remain intact, the unapologetic get heard, often with comic results.
I’m working on my fifth manuscript now, so I can tell you that some characters come back either as living breathing people, or as memories to chew over in conversation. Others live on in portraits; one loses her earthly body to the grave, but lives on in essence inside a floor lamp. The joy of this series is that each book is stand alone, giving me the freedom to write non-sequentially. So a character that dies in 2017 at the end of book two is born in 1947 in chapter one of book four. This works for me because it keeps me interested, and it also allows me to comb over 20th century history, which is a favorite of mine.
4)      Do you have any plans of writing something in another genre?
Anything can happen. I never sit down with an idea that I’m going to consciously write a romance or a paranormal or a horror/thriller. The characters decide that as the story unfolds. I love being surprised by what they do.
5)      What are your overall writing goals? Would you like to see your books on the big screen?
I have a muse and that muse is incredibly strong. I’ve long believed that such a thing can’t last forever, that I might wake up one morning and it will be gone. So my goal is to get the stories down as fast as I can. Once I’ve said all that I need to say, then I can luxuriate over the edits and make the stories richer, fuller. That’s the real joy for me.  Whatever becomes of my stories I’ll leave to history. But you know what? In getting them out there I know they’ll be there forever. We have the digital age to thank for that. I thank it every day!

About the Author
A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. Her debut novel HEUER LOST AND FOUND, released in April 2015 after five years of studious effort, has inspired four other full length works and over a dozen short stories. SCOOTER NATION, her sophomore effort, is part of her UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series. Funkhauser is currently working on POOR UNDERTAKER begun during NaNoWriMo 2014.


Other Solstice Books By A.B. Funkhauser


Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against God, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.

At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.



"Funny, quirky, and sooooo different."

—Jo Michaels, Jo Michaels Blog

“Eccentric and Funny. You have never read anything like this book. It demands respect for the outrageous capacity of its author to describe in detail human behavior around death."

—Charlene Jones, author THE STAIN

“The macabre black comedy Heuer Lost And Found, written by A.B. Funkhauser, is definitely a different sort of book!  You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour.”

—Diana Harrison, Author ALWAYS AND FOREVER

“This beautifully written, quirky, sad, but also often humorous story of Heuer and Enid gives us a glimpse into the fascinating, closed world of the funeral director.”

—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7

“The book runs the gamut of emotions. One minute you want to cry for the characters, the next you are uncontrollably laughing out loud, and your husband is looking at you like you lost your mind, at least mine did.”

“The writing style is racy with no words wasted.”


“For a story centered around death, it is full of life.”


“Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Heuer is not a likeable man, but I somehow found myself rooting for him. A strange, complicated character.”

—Kasey Balko, Pickering, Ontario

Raw, clever, organic, intriguing and morbid at the same time … breathing life and laughter into a world of death.

—Josie Montano, Author VEILED SECRETS

Audio Interview:


[1] For a detailed history of the Weibigand-Seltenheit Wars, please see Poor Undertaker.