Friday, March 16, 2018

Good-ol-boy Spam Smack-Down!

As a general rule, I don't answer phone calls from numbers I don't recognize. But, with the passing of our beloved dog, its been getting pretty lonely in the ol' house and I needed a writing break.


"Hey, there! Can I speak to the woman of the house?"
"I'm sorry but she's not here right now," I say. "Can I take a mes--"

"How 'bout the man of the house then?" 

It's weird already, 'cause I'm pretty sure I don't sound like a teenage girl. "This is he."

"Oh, great! Say, who'm I talking to?"

"Um, Stuart."

"Well, Stu, can I call you Stu?"

"Actually, I'd rather--"

"Stu, do ya' like country music? Who doesn't like country music?"

"I don't. Never have. I think it's--"

"I hear ya', buddy, I hear ya'." He chuckles. "I think it's great, too. You like Garth Brooks? How can you not like Garth Brooks?"

"I don't! I really can't stand country music and--"

"That's just fine, just fine. Say, I'm calling on behalf of the Kansas City Police Department and in honor of supportive citizens like you, Garth Brooks is gonna do a concert in conjunction with the Kansas City Police Department. What can I put you down for, Stu? Hundred bucks? How 'bout a hundred bucks? Garth Brooks is worth that and more and you and me both know, buddy, that our local police department is priceless."

I have to be careful now. He's drawn in the local cops, someone you don't want on your bad side. "For the final time, I don't like Garth Brooks. Please stop--"

"Any contribution would be nice, Stu. Don't be one of those people who don't support the community."

Silence. Long pause. I'm considering what an awful citizen I am for loathing country music. "Um, I gotta TV dinner in the--"

"Just a small donation, Stu. What can I put you down for? One hundred? Two hundred?"

Like arguing with a brick wall. Yet, I imagined a police raid in my future if not handled cautiously. 

Quietly--polite as those two gentlemen cartoon chipmunks--I uttered some sorta lame apology and hung up on him.

I showed him. This time, he'd dialed the wrong victim. To let him know I'm no one to be trifled with, I stewed quietly in a mature hissy-fit. Country music. Hmmph.

Usually I shut these guys down quickly, hit 'em with the "I'm on a no-call list and I'm going to report you" spiel. A trick I learned from my wife, an expert at dealing with these spammers.

But this "good ol-boy" guy? I couldn't get my spiel in around his spiel. Non-stop, he rattled on and blind-sided me with his horrific accusation that I actually enjoyed country music.

Turns out he's relentless, too. I get about four calls a year from him. We're buddies now. Or maybe more like casual work acquaintances. Last time he called me, I hit him with, "Yeah, I remember you, you've called me three times already this year. I'm on a no-call list and--"

Then he has the gall--the absolute GALL--to hang up on me! I've NEVER had a spammer hang up on me. Next time I'll show him! I've got his number tagged as "Good Ol' Boy Spammer" and look forward to his future calls! So I can handle it maturely and responsibly and hang up on him before he does it to me first!

Clearly, some spammers were raised in a barn.

Speaking of all things mature, why not check out my first children's book, Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl? (Although written under the name "Wesley Stuart," that's my mug on the back cover.) Give it to your children or the immature man of the house. But it at Amazon or the publisher's website.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Kryptonian Super-Pants!

Okay. Supergirl has super-powers. She has super-breath (I imagine super minty and cool). Back in the day, she even had a super-cat named Streaky. Nobody remembers Streaky, but when I was a kid, I stumbled across an old Legion of Superheroes comic where there was an ENTIRE Legion of Super-pets! Of course the membership included Krypto, Superman's dog. And Streaky, keeping it super-cat real (peace!). There was even a super-horse. Which is all very strange considering there were only two or three humanoid survivors from Krypton's explosion, yet a whole league of super-pets made the splash-down to Earth. But I'm super digressing...)

So while super-fighting super bad guys, you'd think Supergirl would benefit from some super-pants. Alas, it's not the case. In our current, hyper-sensitive Me-Too era (absolutely no thanks to our sub-super-president), Supergirl's still out there battling super bads while wearing a super mini-skirt.

Barely functional. Let alone super. I mean you don't see Superman flying the skies sporting a super banana hammock.

Let's super break this super double-standard down. While Supergirl's cruising over the city, she's shooting super-moon. When she gets knocked on her super arse, her ankles are up around her super ears. Sure, her super mini-skirt frees up her legs a bit to super high kick to the joy of teen boys, but still...enough's enough. Even Supergirl's bad gals and guys wear super-slacks, no super wardrobe-challenged fools in the face of danger.

We need to start a petition. It's 2018. Let's give Supergirl the super-slacks she deserves! Power to the pants! Bitches be wearing britches (sorry, couldn't resist)!

Have you checked out my super-fun books?
One super-click away from super-awesome reading pleasure!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Great Cover Artist Jeffrey Kosh Grilled (and Well-Done!)!

Today, on Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, I’m stoked—stoked, I tell you!—to have special guest, Jeffrey Kosh. Who is Jeffrey Kosh, I hear you asking? Only one of the most talented book cover artists I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Just check out his awesome cover for my book, Dread and Breakfast
But, as much as it pains me, enough chit-chat about me. Let’s move onto grilling Jeffrey. (His front side’s nearly done, time to flip him…)

SRW: What’s up, Jeffrey? Thanks for consenting to a thorough grilling.

JK: My pleasure. However, I demand to be served with a side of jacked or roasted potatoes, if you don’t mind. I love potatoes.

SRW: Fair enough. (Adding a lil' seasoning.) Let’s start at the beginning… I see you studied art at Primo Liceo Artistico di Roma, a college in Rome. Tell us a little about that.

JK: I always had a knack for art; I used to spend time drawing even when I shouldn’t. In addition, being born in Rome (Italy), I was surrounded by so much art that it was impossible for my creative mind to not be affected by it. Hence, it was natural for me to join this prestigious art school. But I must be honest, I learned almost next to nothing there. All the techniques I use today in my craft are self-taught. Back in my time, colleges were quite bad in Italy; there was not much passion burning inside poorly-paid teachers and no place for innovation. Nowadays it’s different. That very art college now has computers, graphic software, and excellent teachers. 
SRW: Did your studies prepare you for the dark, macabre extremes your work would lead you to? Or are you a self-taught, disturbed individual?

JK: I have always loved horror. And this put me into trouble often at school. All my craft had a darker tone that was not really appreciated by my mentors. Later, I discovered some great American fantasy artists that really influenced my style: Caldwell, Elmore, Frazetta, Parkinson. Call me sexist, but I love creating images featuring improbable bikini chain-mail wearing babes swinging big swords. Exactly like my idol: Clyde Caldwell.

SRW: Some day I hope to see an actual bikini chain-mail wearing babe. You’re somewhat of a Renaissance Man, Jeffrey. Not only are you an artiste extraordinaire, but you’ve acted, and written several books and a ton of short stories as well! Is this just your way of shirking corporate drudgery?

JK: I consider myself an artist first, and a hobbyist storyteller next. As for being an actor… Well, I was mostly a figurant with very limited speech. I like to experience things. I was a cowboy hand (a really poor one, especially with the lasso; heck, I can’t throw that thing right even today) in Arizona, a receptionist in a timeshare resort in Kissimmee, Florida, and an apprentice in a famous TV show (I did nothing, I was there just to learn and help), and ended up working as a terrible bartender in an English pub. The majority of my life I spent working as a mortician. My first wife was the owner of a funeral parlor. In Thailand I had my first ‘major’ role in a movie (I was a generic modern-day pirate in Far Cry 3: The Experience) and it was at that time that I felt the need to start writing.

SRW: (Hmm...I wonder if I need to see both Far Cry and Far Cry 2 to fully appreciate Far Cry 3... I'm on it!) I’ve read your walking dead/pirate novel, Dead Men Tell No Tales, and highly recommend it. You certainly write with the eye of an artist. I spent a long, long, LONG time as a corporate artist of tedium. It certainly didn’t allow me to express my creative side, but rather sucked it dry. Do you find the two talents complement one another? Do you prefer one over the other?
JK: Honestly, I love writing. My head is full of stories and I like to share them. But that doesn’t bring the food to the cave nowadays. The market is flooded. People are getting used to buying books for 99c. Luckily, after many years of doing many jobs I didn’t like, I decided to try my hand at my own business. A writer friend of mine pushed me into this (Hi, Jaime Johnesee! Yes, I’m talking about you) and she was right. I’m finally doing a job I really enjoy and that has reconnected me with the world of filmmakers (I have done many movie posters in the last two years). I’m finally happy being my own boss. And I am a terrible boss.

SRW: Okay, let’s get specific. You’ve told me you work in 3-D modeling. In layman’s terms (i.e. without being boring), walk us through this process. And you will lose points if you’re boring.

JK: I started this job with photo manipulation. But I didn’t like it. You were limited with what you could find online and what the commissioner supplied (not much, because exclusive stock photos can be expensive and many of my clients were struggling indie writers). I discovered that there are certain programs — once only used by CGI artists for movies, but now commercially available to the general public — that allows you to create your own models, dress them the way you want, and finally put them in the right pose. The programs themselves are not expensive, but the content… Well, to have a big library of models, props, scenery, and clothes you’ll need to shell out some of your hard-earned dough. In addition, you’ll need a computer with a lot of RAM, a powerful graphic card, and computing power. I put money aside and finally turned my job into what I always wanted: a virtual movie studio where I can set everything like a director. See? I didn’t go too technical.

SRW: I love that your cover work looks like paintings and includes details particular to the actual novels. I know this may sound like a no-brainer statement, but after having been force fed stock photography on 18 of my novels’ covers, your work is a refreshing change of pace. I don’t like seeing fashion models on my covers. Do you consider yourself on the cutting edge of cover artistry?  Can we look forward to more of this in the future and fewer Chippendale dancers on covers?

JK: I wish the trend would change. Honestly, like you I’m fed up with all those ‘headless torso’ book covers. I’m old style; I’m in love with those ‘80s paperbacks that featured unique images from great artists. I love movie posters that show you just one mysterious and intriguing image (The Silence of the Lambs, for example). Mind you, I’m forced to create a lot of stuff I don’t like in my job, and I do it gladly because that brings the bread to the table, so to speak. I don’t think this trend will change. Actually, I’m quite pessimistic; it will get worse.

SRW: I think your art’s spectacular, Jeffrey. Clearly so do the smarty-pants guys of Grinning Skull Press, as they’ve hired you for a slew of excellent covers. Let’s look at some of them…

Natch, there’s Dread and Breakfast. It blew me away. Not only was it evocative and fit my tale, but it reminded me of the classic horror covers Tor Publications put out in the ‘80’s by Robert Bloch, Charles L. Grant, and other writing greats. Were those covers an inspiration?

JK: Of course they were. As I said, I love old style. To me those were covers that lured me to buy great (and even not so great) fiction. For Dread and Breakfast, I immediately had the idea of the house and the skull. But I had not read the book, so I mistakenly plunged the whole scenario under a rainstorm. Michael Evans, Grinning Skull’s acquisition editor, told me that the story was set during a snowstorm, so I had to redo it. I read the back blurb and got intrigued; it made me think about Motel Hell, an ‘80s slasher flick. So, I thought, ‘I’m gonna buy this one once the paperback goes out.’ I did it. And I was pleasantly surprised: it wasn’t at all like Motel Hell. It was one million times better. I loved all the characters and the way the story unfolds.

SRW: Ah, thanks for that, Jeffrey. Let's just take a moment and bask in Dread and Breakfast love... Sigh. Moving on... Here we have Substratum. Channeling your inner H.R. Giger?
JK: This was a difficult one. It was described to me as something like the Alien Queen in Cameron’s Aliens, but set on Earth in the Roaring Twenties. I had no idea what to invent, and I had no time to read the book. So, yes, I took inspiration from one of my favorite sculptors, Mr. Giger.

SRW: I’ve noticed you’re also very good at how you handle cover fonts. How important do you think fonts are to a good cover? Any trade secrets you’re willing to let us in on?

JK: Fonts are extremely important. I've seen wonderful fonts being wasted on the wrong cover, or beautiful covers with unreadable fonts. Sadly, there's no secret trick; it's just a question of composition. There is only one way to learn: climb on someone's else shoulders, look at what other artists do for successful and striking images.

SRW: Hey, here’s Reunion. Look out! I believe this book is one of Grinning Skull’s top sellers with your cover acting as "gotcha" bait for readers. (I know I’m reading it now.) Scarier than the infamous Jaws poster, what inspired this work?
JK: You said it. Jaws inspired me. But I went more close, I wanted to see only the teeth of that creature. After all, it’s not really a shark…

SRW: Your covers for the charity-driven, holiday short story Deathlehem series, are a bunch of mini-masterpieces. Lined up together, they form a nice triptych (yeah, okay, I know there’re four in the series now, but I’ve always wanted to use that word), ready for wall-hanging. Did you envision this as a series? And how much leeway do the Grinning Skulls give you on cover ideas?
JK: O’ Little Town of Deathlehem was my first commissioned work from Grinning Skull. It was a pain in the side to realize. At that time I had no 3D program to help me and all was made by cutting and pasting different images. The second one was much easier to do. The third had to be the final one, so we opted for an image that contained the first cover in it (I was inspired by The Grinch movie poster for this). My favorite one is the last: TheShadow Over Deathlehem. Here I had free reign. The title made me think about the cover of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game’s supplement Escape from Innsmouth. There was this guy hiding behind a wall, his face contracted in horror as he watched the shadows of some Deep Ones growing inside an alley. I wanted to pay homage to John T. Snyder. Here we have Vicky – one of my recurring polygonal models – hiding behind the wall. She looks more battered than the original guy, as if she had just come out of a bad encounter with the Krampus that is stalking her. And we see the beast’s shadow growing in the alley. Except, this monster knows where its prey is hiding.
SRW: Finally, here’s one of your more disturbing pieces (and that’s saying a lot), the just released The Goat Parade. Yow! I alternately want to read this book and keep it at arm’s bay due to that twisted cover. What kind of damaged childhood did you have, Jeffrey? Explain yourself.
JK: A good childhood, actually. That’s how Caravaggio would do this cover (a real painter, unlike me); holy and profane, light and shadow. There is no other cover that can fit the story in this book. I don’t want to spoil it, so read it and you will understand.

SRW: I’ve only tapped the keg on your cover work. Are there any you’re particularly fond of that I didn’t mention?

JK: Oh, there are so many. I’m particularly proud of the movie poster I did for Fragile Storm, a short feature that won many awards around the globe. Then there’s Lost Girl of the Lake, my own The Haunter of theMoor, and so many I can’t remember. Each one is unique.
SRW: Okay, before we wrap this up, I’ve got to ask… What’s the deal with the acting? What’s the most embarrassing acting you’ve done (I’d have to go back to junior high school for mine)?

JK: It was on the set of Far Cry 3. I had to simulate being killed by an explosion. I acted really bad and was not selected for that scene. Not a big deal because in the end the whole sequence was cut off.

SRW: Anything you’re working on at the moment, art or writing?

JK: I’m finishing my first novel in a trilogy. I’m taking my time with this one because is something totally different from my usual fare. It’s a fantasy comedy based on tabletop role-playing games. It’s a work of love dedicated to all those old geeks that used to spend hours around a table fighting dragons and stealing treasure from dungeons. Comedy is a very complex thing.

SRW: Don't I know it. Where can people find more about you? Maybe give you a hire. And, hey, folks! Jeffrey admits he’s cheap, too!

JK: You can see my portfolio here:
Or you can visit my Facebook page:
I also have an author website:
But you can just look for my name in your preferred search engine and you’ll find all the places I’m featured (including Imdb).

SRW: Thanks for being a good sport, Jeffrey. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do for my upcoming horror short story collection from Grinning Skull Press, entitled (uncannily enough) Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley!

JK: It has been a pleasure. Now, can I have some potatoes?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Night of the Living Pretentious Guy

Once a year in Kansas City--always during the coldest week in January, it seems--the annual tradition of "Restaurant Week" occurs. A great deal of hoity-toity restaurants conspire to offer fancy-schmancy dinners for $30 and lunches for $15. It's a great way to try joints we've only read about, always mean to try, and then forget about them. And if you like bisque, you're in luck. (But you've gotta really like bisque; lots and lots and lots of bisque).

At one of these upper-scale joints (so upper-scale, I had to actually iron khakis!), we found ourselves enjoying some excellent food. However, the place was dark and murky, full of interior bubble windows, adorned with odd, swooping walls, and splashed with dour and shimmering aquas and teals: the ambiance of an aquarium. Worse, the tables were so close to one another, I became extremely familiar with the waiter's butt.

And then THEY sat down next to us. 

At first, they seemed harmless enough: an older couple and a younger couple (I envied the guy because HE got to wear jeans). That's where my envy stopped. Desperate to impress the older couple (I kinda assumed they were the younger gal's parents), the young guy wouldn't--couldn't--shut up. When he wasn't bragging about himself, he let the world know about his seemingly endless array of impressive best friends who'd done everything from curing cancer to revolutionizing the world of cuisine.

"My best friend's the head chef at The Drunken Antler," he bragged. "I guarantee it'll change the way you see beef."

An actual quote! (The only way I ever see beef is on a plate; definitely NOT the cute barnyard animals. But now that this has been imprinted on my brain, I just might have to go vegetarian.)

"When you go," Mr. Hotcha continued, "I need to be the one to take you. I want to study the look of satisfaction on your face."

Noooooooo! Trapped, nowhere to go, uncomfortable in my khakis, I was held captive to the relentless pontificating.

"My other best friend is a world-class mixologist in Portland. He's created some top-of-the-line tastes and drinks, the best anywhere."

Make it stop! Please!

But the younger guy didn't. I don't think he could. Like a Hyde persona, the driving force of pretentiousness swept him away. He monopolized our waiter (although to be fair, I got a lotta butt-face time with him), and soon Mr. Too-Cool-For-School somehow roped the bartender into his growing cult. 

This time the older guy (run, potential father-in-law, run fast and hard!) reiterated all of Mr. Young Pretentious Guy's brags to the bartender.

The bartender, squirmy and ill-at-ease, jut out a stand-up comic's hand, and said, "You know, I just mix drinks, and sometimes, you know, I add stuff to 'em. You know." With a perpetual grimace on his face and a finger working loose his collar, the bartender couldn't wait to escape back to the safety of his bar. We felt his pain.

Having run out of best friends to yak about, Mr. Pompous decided the time had come for him to wax on about himself. And wax on he did. "The other day, I gave a presentation (snootily pronounced "PREE-san-tation"), and made sure to run long, carrying over into our lunch break. I've found that's the most efficient way to present my case and keep the nay-sayers' questions at bay. Quite an effective tool."

Only tool I saw was sporting trendy and perfectly manicured 5:00 shadow.

We gobbled and got out before the pretentiousness rubbed off on us.

Beware the pretentious, ladies and gents. They're out there. Waiting. Lurking. Pontificating.

There's not an ounce of pretentiousness in Nightmare of Nannies. Just good ol' fashioned mystery and stoopid comedy.
One click away keeps the pretension at bay!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Missing: Hipster Refrigerator Fix-It Guy

Oh, Daniel, I hardly knew ye...
Have you seen me?
Last Tuesday, Daniel the hipster fix-it guy, ambled into my home and heart. Backpack slung over his shoulder, he carried with him a sense of confidence rarely found in the appliance trade. I admired his carefully nurtured facial fuzz. I envied his clunky, yet trendy dark-framed glasses (the kind that people used to make fun of you for wearing), while he rambled on about frig gizmos and sensor what's-its and electrical doo-dads. All very technical, all very boring.

But Daniel was far from boring! Bromance was in the air! (Or maybe that was the musty smell coming from the refrigerator.)

After Daniel'd finished his examination, he casually leaned over our kitchen counter and explained how messed up our refrigerator was.

"But...but, Daniel," I said, "the refrigerator shouldn't be freezing food, right? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but freezing food is the freezer's job."

With a sigh, Daniel explained more technical bla, bla, bla and other excruciating nonsense. I nodded as if I understood him, because I didn't want to appear dumb in Danny's eyes. (By this time, I'd advanced to calling him "Danny," such is the power of male bonding over appliances). 

Bottom line was our refrigerator had been hit by a faulty sensor. Or something close to that.

"Huh," I said. "Does that explain why the light goes off when we open the doors, then turns on again when we shut them? Like in Bizarro World?"

Through narrowed eyes, he glowered at me. Extremely unamused. Somewhere our burgeoning bromance had taken a wrong turn. Finally, he pitched up bony hipster shoulders and broke the agonizing silence. "Can't really tell you what's causing the light thing, man."

His answer didn't exactly instill confidence. But his coolness certainly did.

"I guess we need to put that sensor in," I said.

Danny typed in some numbers on his phone, handed it to me, and said, "$180 bucks. I don't have the part on me so I'll need to order it. But you gotta pay first, dude."

"Okay." I paid. "Um, can I get a receipt?"

"Sorry, dude, everything's electronic now. See you next Tuesday."

"Ah... But--"

Too late. Danny rushed out of the house and out of my life.

For good as it later turned out.

Tuesday rolled around again. No sign of Danny. I called the fix-it, what's-it company.

"Where's Danny?" I asked.

"I wish I knew," said the woman. Hardly an encouraging sign.


"Daniel's gone missing. We haven't seen or heard from him in several days."

Stunned, I opened the refrigerator and stared wistfully at all of the frozen food. " he missing or, you know, missing-missing? Like vanished?"

"Missing-missing. Sorry for the inconvenience."

Immediately the smell of skullduggery stunk up the place. A mystery of epic, Encyclopedia Brown proportions! Clearly, Danny was either dead or had absconded to Mexico with our 180 bucks.

If you'd like to read about an entire bread and breakfast's worth of skullduggery, check into the Dandy Drop Inn! An acclaimed horror thriller to warm up your cold, winter nights: Click here for Dread and Breakfast!


Guess who comes knocking at the door the next day? Yep, Daniel (He's back to being regular "Daniel" now as he never calls, never texts, never shows up...). He mutters some lame excuses about how his phone stopped working, then he got sick. Hmph. He called it a "communication malfunction (kinda like a "wardrobe malfunction," I assume, only with words instead of bared flesh)." I didn't buy it. Too little, too late. I officially declared the bromance OVER!

(I realize this was hardly an exciting endto my tale of suspense and bromance, but sometimes truth is, um, more boring than fiction. Don't judge Dread and Breakfast by the pedestrian conclusion here!)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Jury Doody!

My wife got the mail that fateful day, said "uh-oh," as she tossed the inexplicably foreboding government letter toward me. Surprise! I'd been chosen for jury duty! (Cue the wah-wah-wah-wahhhh mocking trombone).

Noooo! (Rendering it an even larger injustice, for years my wife has actually longed to pull jury duty. It's a cruel world).

Well, I'd managed to dodge the jury duty bullet twice before in my life time. (Years ago, I'd written the Government that my dad was in a wheelchair {true!} and that I was needed to take care of him {kinda true, but not really!}. It'd worked twice.) Feeling invulnerable, I figured I could dodge the bullet a third time. I wrote that my mother was ailing (true and constantly!) and that I was "on-call" at all times to take care of her (sorta' true if you kinda smudge the boundaries of what's "true" and whatever). This time, the cold-hearted judge didn't take pity on me.

So, on a recent cold, snow-storm threatening Monday morning, I hauled myself through gridlocked highway traffic to Olathe (and why in the world they'd put the Big Courts clear out there was beyond me). Like lemmings driven to their death, tons of people grumpily shuffled toward the courthouse. As it was Monday morning, I'd never seen quite a collection of bleary-eyed, clearly hung-over, grumpier people together at once.

At the security check, I de-shoed, unbelted, emptied my valuables into a bucket, got beeped at, then was sent through the puzzling labyrinth of the courthouse. Worse than a rat in a maze, I had to go down a flight of stairs to a room, up another flight, down the hall, down another flight, then up another flight. Finally, I entered the courtroom.

A woman who made Fran Drescher sound absolutely dulcet directed us toward where we were expected to sit. She looked at my paperwork and laughed. Actually laughed! "You're juror number one," she managed between sadistic guffaws. 

This didn't bode well. So much for a fast exit. All week long, I'd been working on a strategy to be dismissed during the "voir dire" process (oral and visual examination of the potential jurors). I figured I might try a surly and mean "hang 'em all and hang 'em high" attitude. But all now seemed lost as I settled into chair number ONE.

And there I sat for an hour. By my estimation, over a hundred potential jurors crammed into the courtroom. A lot to choose from, I thought as I looked at my non-existent wristwatch. An older man sat down in front of me, flying his flannel and sporting a mess of Grizzly Adams beard and hair. My peer. Breathing like a pneumatic nail gun, his face redder than a fire hydrant, he turned around and angrily huffed at me like some kind of out-of-control Lifetime movie husband, the only guy grumpier than me in the courtroom. At that point I figured it was gonna be a long trial.

Not Fran Drescher did her best to entertain us, answer questions, and warn of the oncoming snow storm. While she couldn't get into the specifics, she did say this was a criminal trial--a big one!--and could take up to several weeks. My Spidey Senses started tingling. Even though I didn't want to be there, the trial might provide some excellent writing research and ideas.

Some woman asked Fran Drescher's twin how they picked potential jurors. "Driving and voting records and bad luck," she said. The woman's question was two-fold, however. "But this is the fourth time I've been here this year," the woman implored. "What's up with that?"

Pseudo Fran Drescher responded, "That sucks." (A truly governmental response if I've ever heard one.)

Suddenly a yuppie--flashy in Friday casual wear--took the podium. He said he was our judge (No robe, no liver spots, no tremors while rattling a gavel. Feh. Not my kinda judge.) and apologized for keeping us waiting. Apparently they'd reached a plea agreement and we were free to go.


Just as I'd resigned myself to a long drawn-out affair, almost excited about the sordid adventure awaiting me, then POOF, we were ushered out of the courtroom (and up stairs, then down stairs, then up again, and...).

Oddly disappointed, I trawled home. But at least I wouldn't be called again for another year. Then again...that "rule" didn't hold true for the poor four-time lottery loser in the courtroom.

To paraphrase Almost Fran Drescher, "That sucked!"

A jury of peers has declared Bad Day in a Banana Hammock a very funny mystery with a finding of a 4.2 rating. 22 jurors surely can't ALL be wrong.
Hear ye, hear ye, click here to read the book in session!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sir Wesley Stuart's Cultural Kiddie Corner

Oh, hello there. I'm Sir Wesley Stuart, author extraordinaire of fine and exquisite children's literature. Perhaps you remember my mystery chapter book classic, Oh, Dear, What's Happened to Miss Billyew's Glove? How could you possibly forget my riveting masterpiece of childhood trauma, Hurry, Toddie, Which Way to the Loo? Alas, these classics are long out of print (which is a travesty, I tell you. A travesty!).

Today, however, I'm guest-posting on Stuart R. West's blog  (a rather nice chap, I believe, if a little rough around the edges; he IS, after all, from *sniff* Kansas) to bring you extraordinary news. Announcing my first children's book in decades, Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl! Huzzah.
(Yes, yes, I know you're all as ecstatic as I am over this momentous occasion, but kindly maintain a decorum of dignity. We're not savages, after all.)

Now, I know you're all asking where I've been in the intervening years between books. Therein lies a long story (not a particularly good one) involving my persecution by the local constable and his boobie-headed bobbies regarding a public display involving ice cream, a broom and a box of toads. Total balderdash (or as you yanks are fond of saying, "fake news"). Needless to say, genius is never appreciated during one's lifetime.

Harumph. Now where was I?... Ah, yes!

Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl is a cheeky tale, full of irreverent humor certain to put the red in your little ones' cheeks.  It puts me in mind of my past children's comedy masterwork, Someone's Knicked Me Knickers!

Fish Bowl is the timeless tale of Peggy, a young girl who feels fit to babysit her younger siblings. Mother entrusts the exacting job to Peggy and--oh no, oh my!--she encounters giant floating goldfish, chatty birds, and demanding bees along the way! (Why, I'm absolutely bowled over--bowled over, I say!--with laughter merely recalling my brilliant tale!)

My extraordinary co-creator is a young artist who goes by the one-named (similar to Cher) moniker of Sirac. Sirac is an excellent illustrator and *sniff* funny-book artist who has brought my characters to vivid life. And believe me, ladies and gentlemen, I wouldn't entrust such larger-than-life characters to any mere funny-book artist. If you harbor any doubts, you won't after surveying the glorious art of Sirac. Behold!
For more examples of Sirac's stellar artwork, visit his Facebook page at:

But enough about Sirac. Let's get back to a topic first and foremost on everyone's minds: me.

Our outstanding pièce de résistance, Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl, is recommended for children ages 3 to 8 (although, honestly, I tend to believe any cultured adult would enjoy the extraordinary world Sirac and I have created as well). It can be ordered at Amazon: Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl (Although honestly those Amazonians befuddle me at times; the book is listed as temporarily out of stock, but it's merely more persecution. All orders will be fulfilled soon enough, brutes they can be.).

If you'd rather not wait, you can receive more immediate satisfaction through my publisher's--Guardian Angel Books--website: Don't Put Gum in the Fish Bowl.

Order now and thank me later. While on the matter of acknowledgements, I suppose I should thank Stuart R. West for hosting me. (But, honestly, it's somewhat dank and dingy here at "Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley." Would it hurt the barbarian to crack a window on occasion? I swan.) So tea-cup lifted, pinky finger extended. "Cheers."