Friday, December 25, 2015

Here's hoping Santa stuffs your banana hammock...wait...WHAT?

Ho, ho, ho! Tis the season to give and in the spirit of the holidays, I'm unleashing my newest book, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock.
Sure, I hear you asking, "But, Stuart, this doesn't sound very holidayesque at all!"

Au contraire, mon fraire!

Bad Day in a Banana Hammock is my first straight-up comedy. All wrapped up for the holidays in a snug banana hammock. No angst, no darkness, no horror. Just (I hope) dumb fun. Perfect for the holidays!

Santa gives and keeps on giving! Like the Energizer Bunny.

Banana Hammock is a cozy mystery. Sorta. Gone are teacups, replaced by male g-strings. A femme fatale using the (false?) name of "Kat" replaces the customary kitties. Comfy chats about food are relegated to spam and fast-food burgers. But it's a cozy, I tell you!

Here, this explains it better:

Zach wakes up with no memory, no phone, and no clothes except his stripper g-string. And oh yeah! There’s that pesky naked dead guy in bed next to him. Problem is Zach's not gay. Or a murderer. At least, he doesn't think so. Only one person can help him, his sister, Zora. Of course Zora's got problems of her own—she has three kids at home and is eight month's pregnant with the fourth. So she’s a bit cranky. But that’s not going to stop her from helping her brother. With kids in tow, the siblings set how to find the true killer, clear Zach's name, and reassure Zach he's not gay.

Full disclosure time: I wrote the book on a dare. A writer friend (looking at you, Meradeth Houston) dared me to pen a book about a vapid male stripper involved in a mystery. I did it. But it's his sister that's proving to be the fan favorite. Zora is a very pregnant, very irritable ex-detective who knows her stuff and ain't afraid to use a gun. Forget about getting her husband dinner on time...the game is afoot!

“An hilarious murder mystery romp. Ride along with Zach and Zora on this most entertaining of mysteries.”
-Heather Brainerd, author of the Jose Picada, P.I. mystery series. 

“A fun, quirky whodunit so full of wild antics, it will keep you guessing...when you're not giggling.”
-Heather Greenis, author of The Natasha Saga. 

“Bad Day in a Banana Hammock will have you wiping up tears of hysterical laughter.”
-Suzanne de Montigney, author of the Shadow of the Unicorn series.

Enjoy! (Um, I hope...yes, yes, yes, I'm absolutely shameless).

Happy holidays!

Buy it here: Bad Day in a Banana Hammock!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Murder, Madness & Love! It can only mean an interview with Yolanda Renee!

Hey, give a warm welcome to Yolanda Renee, author of Murder, Madness & Love, a sublime mystery the title. Yolanda has several other titles outs I haven't yet read, but believe me, they're queued up, ready to go.

SRW: Yolanda, hey, thanks for braving my blog!

YR: You're quite welcome. I love interrogations when done by a master. That light, is it necessary? And I'd love a cup of coffee if you don't mind. Please, ask away.

SRW: (The light's part of the interrogation, Yolanda! Deal with it!) Recently, I finished Murder, Madness & Love. And I really liked it. Tell everyone what it's about.

YR: Murder, Madness & Love is a murder mystery with a romance that creates nothing but problems for a dedicated detective. The tagline says it all: After a gritty detective becomes involved with a beautiful widow suspected of murder, rumor and obsession obstruct his quest for justice.

SRW: One of the things I really loved about the book is the questionable nature of the heroine (anti-heroine?). Masterfully, you kept me guessing until the end whether she truly is a "black widow killer." Very strong Hitchcockian vibe there. Well done! So, did you have in mind, before you wrote the book, her true nature? Or did you, you know, wing it?

YR: Thank you, Stuart. I love that term Hitchcockian! I still enjoy watching his work. I knew when I wrote MML that I wanted Sarah to be suspect number one. I'm glad my efforts worked. Her job was to keep Quaid tangled in barbed wire throughout the story.

SRW: The book's set in Alaska. Brr. But the setting was a blast of fresh arctic air. You know what you write. Are you an Alaskan? (Or is that a politically incorrect terms these days?)

YR: I'm a former resident of Alaska. I traveled there on vacation when I was twenty, and extended my stay by 4 years. I hiked the Brooks and Alaskan Range, and left to finish my education. I'm not there now, because my husband doesn't like the cold. We compromised and spent 17 years in Washington State. He's a Florida man, but right now, we reside in Pennsylvania.

As far you being politically incorrect – who decides what is or isn't?
SRW: (Apparently not Donald Trump! Ahem...) I see your next book is a sequel. In name only, at least. Revolving around detective Steven Quaid. Can we talk a little bit about this guy?

YR: I'd love to; Quaid is part Tlingit Indian and Irish. He's a dedicated detective with no black marks in his file – until Sarah's case. He's unusual as a detective in that he wants the white picket fence, but he's unlucky in love. Then he meets Sarah, and his luck really sours, but like most guys, his job defines him and when that goes sour, he overreacts. In Memories of Murder, he's trying to correct the errors he made during Murder, Madness & Love, but his foe, Lucifer, knows his weakness.

SRW: Yikes...Lucifer?

YR:  Yep. The antagonist in Memories of Murder was raised to believe he's the son of Satan. Lucifer taunts detective Quaid with notes written in blood.

SRW: All right. Honestly, Quaid was kinda ticking me off. First, he falls in love with his main suspect. Uncool. Then he makes some major blunders. Finally the killer is unveiled. thanks to detective Quaid. Not really. He sorta falls into the resolution. So, tell me, Yolanda...should detective Quaid be busted back to school crossing guard? 

YR: You should have heard the remark an agent gave me when I told her the ending. I'm also sure it's the reason she's not representing me. But I was tired of the usual detective story. Quaid is almost too perfect, he needed a monkey wrench thrown into his life and Sarah is it. He falls in love with her before he's aware of her background. Then when he realizes who she is, he goes too far in the opposite direction. His brain believes he's being suckered, his heart isn't listening.

As far as going back to school, he does. In book 2, Memories of Murder he goes to Quantico for training. The bad press that follows this case is damaging the department, and he's determined to win back his stellar reputation. His ego takes a real hit, but aren't these the cases that turn a good decent detective into a hard drinking, shortcut taking master of the game? Quaid has a long, long journey yet.

SRW: I consider myself a pro at sussing out the killer in murder mysteries. When my wife and I watch Castle, Major Crimes, etc., no problem. First seven minutes, I point to the actor, arrogantly proclaim, "He/she's the killer." Makes my wife mad. But I have a 91% accuracy profile. Yet your book completely bamboozled me on the identity of the killer. Comment please (while complimenting me in the same sentence; my blog).

YR: Every mystery writer wants to fool the reader, so thank you for being sweet enough to say that I was able to fool you, especially with your accuracy rate. (Does that fit your requirement as a compliment?) I did work hard to bamboozle the readers. Setting up the red herrings was and is always super important in any mystery. Your question tells me I achieved my goal, thanks.

SRW: I'm not a romance fan. And a good part of your book deals with romance (don't worry, non-romance folks! There's great stuff between the mushy stuff!). Maybe it's because I'm a novice at reading romance books, but, um, some of the dialogue struck me as super bodice-ripping, Harlequin time. Tell me, Yolanda, does anyone in a burning, passionate romance honestly call one another "angel" or "warrior?" Keep in mind, I'm a stoopid guy. Enlighten us stoopid guys, Yolanda!

YR: First, there is no bodice ripping!

My first love was the mystery, and my second was a good romance. I wanted the love story to be part of the finished product. If I could do it over, I'd probably handle it a bit different, but as to 'angel' and 'warrior,' I took that from real life. My husband and I do have pet names for each other (although not angel or warrior) and yes, we are a bit of a Harlequin tale. We eloped on Valentine's Day and kept it secret. We then had a ceremony for our families. I wrote what I knew, but as I said, next time, less will be more. 
My husband is a man's man with a very romantic soul! I have a feeling you are too, something your wife might admit too, but not you. No man does. I'm just thrilled that men are reading my books, and lately I've seen more and more male authors adding romance to their books – in all the genres. When you're fighting evil, what better monkey wrench than love to frustrate the situation. Even Batman has his Catwoman. If I remember correctly, romance plays a huge part in your book Zombie Rapture.

SRW: Um, moving on...

Another thing I really loved about your book, Yolanda, is just when I thought we were settling into "cozy territory," you pull out some very vivid, excellently written, Argentoesque (look it up, folks) murder scenes. I cheered! I liked the juxtaposition quite a bit. So...Yolanda, where does your writing heart beat? Murder? Mystery? Romance? All of the above?

YR: Thank you for the comparison. I cut my teeth on Stephen King, so horror is a big part of my background. Honestly, I've yet to read a book that doesn't have some romance in it. As far the genres I prefer, it's all of the above, and recently I added science fiction. I don't limit my imagination.

SRW: Casting couch time. Detective Quaid is easy: Nick Nolte. (Hey! He was once voted sexiest man of the year by People magazine {you believe that? It's true!}).  Sarah? Hm. Let's go with Meryl Streep. Only we'll need to kinda "photoshop" her into the part via younger roles. My picks. What're yours, Yolanda?

YR: I don't like Nick; they're constantly showing his hideous mug shot. Plus he's a blonde, definitely not my detective. I actually saw the Rock, Dwayne Johnson, as Steven, and Sarah Michelle Geller as Sarah. I was hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now own the series. While the Rock might be bald, he can rock the long hair! The Scorpion King comes to mind.

SRW: (Psst...don't tell anyone, but I own the Buffy series, too). Do I understand correctly you're involved in a zombie project (gasping for air and way overly excited; where're my meds???)? Anything else new on the keyboard we can look forward to?

YR: Thank you for asking. The third in the series is Murder & Obsession. This time Quaid is framed for murder and escapes into the Brooks Range where he not only has the cops on his trail but a grizzly's picked up his scent. Murder & Obsession is scheduled for release in March 2016. I'm currently working on a prequel to the series called The Snowman. It's a novella about Quaid's first case. "The Snowman" is mentioned in Murder, Madness & Love. 

And yes, I just released a book of short stories called When Zombies Attack: Tales of Horror and Romance. After all, where there's love there's always a little horror, isn't there? When Zombies Attack is titled after a zombie story that I wrote on a dare. Zombies, of all the monsters scare me more than any other, and haunt my nightmares. Which just happens to be where I find all my antagonists. My warrior husband is always rescuing me from them (waking me when I scream and sleeping with the lights on when necessary).

Oh God, did I just confess that I call my husband warrior. (Wiping the sweat from her brow, Yolanda reaches up and switches off the light.)

SRW: Ah HA! Gotcha!

YR: Yes, okay, I do call him warrior, but you'll never get his pet name for me. That's it. I'm done! Interview over! Got anything stronger than coffee?
SRW: (Hands her a shot of Jack.) Thanks for putting up with me, Yolanda. Now, readers, go out and get Ms. Renee's book! It's very good!

YR: Thanks Stuart. You weren't lying about this being a grilling, but quid pro quo; I have a few questions for you!

SRW: Uh-oh...but, hey, that's where you'll find me on our epic two-part grilling:

And here's where you can find Yolanda and her books:

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Little Krampus for the Holidays!

Okay, what is it exactly with the Germans? First, they idolize David Hasselhoff. Then they celebrate Christmas with the legend of Krampus.

Not heard of Krampus? (And, no, he's not the advertising cartoon spokesman for Midol). Krampus is a truly nightmarish legend, a demon who punishes bad children at Christmas-time. Merry Christmas everybody! Have a gander:
Gives you that cheery Christmas spirit, right? Krampus is furry, has horns (some say phallic in origin; best not to go there), cloven hooves like a goat. And sometimes he carries a bathtub or sack on his back to stuff bad children into it and drown them. Happy holidays! He also carries chains and bundles of birch branches to beat the children with. I know right? Gives you that fuzzy holiday warm feeling.

Curious, I researched ol' Krampus's origins. Well, apparently Krampus's back-story has historians stumped. They could only trace it back so far. But anthropologists agree, Krampus predates Christian theology, reaching back to ancient Pagan beliefs. Some believe Krampus is the Horned God of the Witches; other anthropologists postulate that over time Krampus has transformed into a representation of the Christian devil. But he was there first.

Oddly enough, Krampus works in tandem with Saint Christoper, the patron of children. They're pals. Unlike Krampus, though, St. Chris bestows gifts upon the nice children. But, I have to wonder, what if they accidentally got their lists messed up? For example, what if Little Cyndy Loo-Who pays for what ornery Kevin did to his classmates? A simple bureaucratic, Christmas-time slip-up can result in unwarranted death! Terrifying! Ho, ho, HORROR!

In the '50's, German government pushed to do away with Krampus. Pamphlets were distributed, proclaiming "Krampus is an Evil Man!" (That'll show 'em!) But you can't keep a good demon down. Krampus has resurged in popularity again in recent years (you know, like Donald Trump). The night before The Feast of Saint Nicholas in certain parts of Europe is dedicated to Krampus. Called Krampusnacht, people (or ARE they?) dressed in Krampus costumes run through the streets, causing havoc and bugging people, giving coal to children and who knows what else. A Krampuslauf is a run of Krampus costumed people. Tradition has it you offer them schapps for their efforts. Some gig.
And, of course there's a new horror film out now celebrating Krampus (um, I kinda want to see it).

But honestly, what kind of parent would push this tale onto their children? Only the most sadistic kind, of course!

"Wilhelm, you've been very naughty this year. Krampus is going to come and drown you tonight."


The father sits back in his lounge chair, grinning around his pipe, another year of fine parenting.

Happy holidays everyone! Don't let Krampus get you!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Thanksgiving Post Show

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Maybe a semblance of normality can return to our lives now. Until Christmas.
Don't get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving. The true meaning of the holiday is to gorge on food until you pass out. And, yeah, yeah, yeah, all that stuff about giving thanks and being with family and what have you.

Since downsizing from a house to an apartment, my mom still insists on hosting the holiday at her residence. Makes for some mighty crowded eating. And there's no escape, not in such confined quarters. Back at her house, I could always wander off upstairs and nap the day away. But at the apartment, everyone's trapped. 

After dinner, we sat in a circle in the living room, no exit, no relief. 

Hard of hearing, Mom cranked up some Christmas music. Rod Stewart, for God's sake. We didn't even think she knew who he was.
"Mom," I shouted, "can you turn that down?"

"What?" I think she believes her hearing is normal, so her standard is the one everyone should go by.

Santa Claus is coming to towwwwwwnnnnn (you better believe it, baby! Yow!)....

"I said, 'can you turn that down?'"

"I'm sorry..." Mom shook her head, a hand up by her ear. Pantomiming. Sitting right in front of the boom box. "...I can't hear you."

You better look out (look out, look out, look out, AYEAHah!)... 
Frustrated, I got up, turned it down. One song later, she  turned it up again.

Finally, the CD ended. Mercifully, Mom forgot about it. And the family conversations began. For me, the most interesting (not necessarily the best!) part of Thanksgiving.

One of my nieces had her socks and shoes off. "Why're you barefoot?" I asked. "It's, like, Winter outside."

Her mother interjected. "Don't look at her toenails. I haven't had time to cut them. I mean, I don't mind cutting her nails. But I won't do his." With a wrinkled nose, she pointed at her husband (my brother). I felt her pain and immediately wondered just how bad his toenails were, imagining all kinds of greens and purples.

Defending his toenails, my brother said, "I can't even reach my toenails. It's not worth slipping a disc in my back to cut my stupid toenails."

"So you're gonna go Howard Hughes style?" I asked. "Grow 'em out?"

"Yep, Howard Hughes style." 
I thought about it. Turned to my wife and said, "Would you cut my toenails?"

Pretty much she just stared at me. But the toenail conversation went on for a while after that.

Finally, the newest member of our group (another niece's husband), offered, "Um...I can't believe we're talking about toenails on Thanksgiving."

While I felt a little empathy for him, I just shook my head. Rookie.

Can't wait to do it all over again in three more weeks.

Speaking of being trapped...Leon Garber's trapped. Trapped between a homicidal maniac, the police and a mysterious evil organization set to take him down. And, really, all Leon wants to do is continue his hobby: ridding the world of abusers.
Secret Society available here. (But don't tell anybody...otherwise it won't be such a secret society any longer).