Friday, October 28, 2016

I'm married to a bonafide Movie Star!

You guys quit fretting about the break-up of Brangelina. "Studney" is doing just fine. And I know you were wondering about us, the alliance of Stuart and Cydney.


Because my wife Cydney's been called a "movie star."
Maybe you've seen her many excellent presentations on the Kansas City news channels, promoting the benefits of quality-sealed herbal supplements and the detriments of knock-off products derived from the stem of the plant rather than the root. Lots of that voodoo.

Lately, though, I've been made painfully aware I walk in my wife's shadow.

My mom called me this week (a first! If I don't call her, she kvetches about it). Said she caught my wife's recent interview on TV. Mom was so bedazzled by her appearance ("I was just beside myself!" What does that even mean? Split personality disorder?), she couldn't pay attention to what my wife was saying. Not that it matters, of course, that I've been telling Mom about my wife's TV spots for over ten years. But Mom's from Missouri, the annoying "Show Me" state.

For crying out loud, even my daughter's boyfriend caught Cydney's latest performance.

I didn't know anything about it. The kicker is neither did Cydney before it happened, a last minute thing. The news rolled into her university where she teaches, said, "hey, you wanna talk stuff?"

No big deal to her, she's there go-to gal.

Had it been me, I'd have been sweating like a crooked lawyer running through a sprinkler.

But the biggest deal...the most awful incident regarding my wife's fame...

I took the dog to the vet this week. I walked in and the receptionist says, "Oh." Her shoulders folded, her smile went south and spread into a sneer. "I was hoping to see the movie star, your wife."
It's time to drum up some of my own fame.


My third and (literally) explosive final Killers Incorporated book, Killer King, is here!

The only serial killer thriller/dark humor trilogy that features serial killer heroes against an evil big business corporation. First book, Secret Society, now available for the introductory price of .99!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Demons ate my mom!

For many years, I had faith in my mom regarding politics. One of the few things we saw eye-to-eye on. We hoo-hahed over the ludicrous notion of Trump even running for president. I mean, seriously, a year ago, did anyone think it was possible? Bad hair, violent temper, quite crazy (real good).

Trump's hat toss was funny for a while. Not so much any more. But I could count on Mom to laugh along with me at his blatant insanity.

Yesterday, I called Mom. She brought up politics. I told her the badly-coiffed buffoon would get us into World War III. Hillary isn't my favorite politician either, but I expect her to at least keep the status quo. Best we can hope for these days.

My mom's response nearly stopped my heart. My pulse pounded in my ears, crying to me in a tiny cartoony-mouse voice, "Mom's tipped over!"

Out of nowhere, she blindsided me with, "You're wrong. Trump is the more religious man."


Well, I kinda flipped out. My mom's holier-than-thou attitude added fuel to the fire.

Facts meant nothing to her. "Mom, this guy wants to start war! He hates everyone who's not white and straight! His haircut is a blatant physical representation of everything he lies about. It's just a juvenile game to him! He'll bring on Armageddon! We do NOT want him talking to foreign leaders, trust me!"

"You're wrong," she says, "he's led by God."

It's hard to argue with the Big Guy, but I tried anyway. "Trump's NOT a good Christian. All he wants is sexual harassment and destruction!"

"Yes, Stuart, but how long ago did those accusations happen?"

"Last week! The guy wants to violate and kill 'real good'! Mom!" I'm shamelessly screaming at this point. "There's a separation of Church and State for a reason!"

"Huh. Shouldn't be."

"Let's see... The sixteenth century had Henry VIII killing people in the name of Christianity so he could sleep with every woman he wanted. Heads were lopped! The Spanish Inquisition! You know how many people were killed because--"

"Huh. Spain. Not America."

"Ohhhh! We all came from immigrants! So many people have been put to death when religion gets in charge of government, it's crazy. And Trump's the worst. He--"

"I know what I know. We'll see who's right."
"Trump reminds me of someone else, someone who called himself a Christian. What was his name...lessee...Adam, no, that's not it...Aidan? No...oh, I got it! Hitler! How'd that work out for everyone?"

Pointless. I simmahed down. Sizzled out. The whole thing was weird. Where'd this suddenly come from? Particularly at a time when most people were bailing on the Trump train?

"Okay, Mom, I'll take you shopping next Tuesday."

"God will prove I'm right."


Friday, October 14, 2016

Radioactive Crotch! (Sexy, yes?)

Not too long ago, I flew down to Portland, Oregon to meet my wife to finish out her vacation (more about that peculiar, fascinating, flawed, wonderful city in the future).

At the airport, I stood in the security line, business as usual. This time I was extra careful to take off my belt, get everything out of my pockets. When I went through the scanning gizmo, an extremely nervous security guard held up an authoritative hand. Stopped me dead.

"Um, Christine?" he called out to his superior. Christine was too busy or chose to ignore the noobie. I glanced at my scan. Within the outline of my body (the kind you'd see drawn in chalk on sidewalks at crime scenes), my crotch was absolutely glowing! On fire! Yow!

Noobie and I were on our own, charting unpleasant landscapes.

Clearly neither the guard or I wanted to be in this uncomfortable situation. Timid, afraid to go to areas the he'd rather not explore, the guard grunted, sighed. At his touch, I jumped, squealed in fright. Hardly the start of a beautiful relationship. It took forever, too. Everyone stopped to watch. Checked out my glowing crotch scan.

"Um, sir, I'm going to have to pat down your buttocks and investigate your genital area. Do you require a private room?"

"What? No! But why--"

"I'm going to use the back of my hand on sensitive areas like this..." He wiped the back of his gloved hand on my shoulder. "Will that be all right?"

"I guess! But why is my crotch glowing with radiation! Am I dying? What's hap--"

"Here we go, sir."

Finally, the (very long) humiliation ended, both of us relieved. "You can go, sir."

I had to clear my throat several times to be heard, but good sport that I am, I wanted the audience to know I wasn't a terrorist. "Ah...why'd the scan show that?" I pointed, refusing to mention "crotch," "groin," "genitals," amidst the crowd.

Noobie shrugged, said, "You probably moved. Or something." He didn't look sold on the theory.

Purple-faced, I skedaddled on board.

Once I landed in Portland, I told my wife about my misadventure. And warned her to beware my radioactive crotch.

She said, "Wait. Did you use that steroid cream?"

Let's back up a minute (and I probably should've led with that, but it woulda' been a worse tale)... Lately I've had sort of a heat rash on my thighs. Doc said to get this steroid cream, put it on there twice daily. "Jock itch," she said, although I'm not a jock and it didn't itch. But I applied the ointment nonetheless.

"Yeah, I did," I answered her.

"Sometimes," my wife explained, ever the professor, "the tiniest trace of elements in creams can show up."

AH! Maybe I'm not radioactive down yonder after all.

But recently I read a news story about a man who smuggled a monkey on board a plane. In his shirt. Sure, the machine picks up my crotch cream, but not a monkey?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tips from a Confessed Pantser by Joan Curtis

I recently interviewed a writer who told me with certainty that she was not a pantser. “What is that?” I asked.

She explained that a pantser was a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. She explained that pantsers do not use outlines or other tools to organize their plots or characters. I listened patiently as she spoke because the more she said, the more I realized I might very well be a “pantser.”

For years I’ve described myself as an evolutionary writer. Usually I launch a story with a germ of an idea and then things start happening all around me that I didn’t expect. New characters walk on stage or a shocking, important event happens that shoots my original plan out of the water.

No one told me there was such a thing as a pantser writer. In the early days of my fiction writing, I attended a workshop where a well-know mystery writer explained how she constructed her books—with a plot outline and a chapter-by-chapter plan. I decided to give it a go.

After writing one chapter, suddenly a very interesting character popped on the scene. He was not one of the characters I had planned to introduce. But, there he was. His name is Quentin and he became one of my most important secondary characters in the Jenna Scali mystery series.

So, you may wonder if I don’t use an outline how in the world do I plan my books?

To answer that question, let me take you back in time when I began work on my award-winning mystery, The Clock Strikes Midnight. In the early stages, the story began with Marlene and was supposed to be a story about a woman going through a mid-life crisis. Marlene, however, had other ideas. She took me down an entirely different path.

As I worked with Marlene, other characters emerged. The first being her husband, Peter. But, it wasn't long before Peter took a backseat to Marlene's sister, Janie, who later became the protagonist for my book. Was the final story about a mid-life crisis? No way. It didn't take me long to realize I couldn't plan. My characters had their own ideas.
 You’ll find many writers sharing tips on how to construct a novel using outlines. Here are some tips on how to construct a novel if you happen to be a pantser.

Tip Number 1: Listen to your characters. When a character tells you they want to do something, let them do it. See where it takes you and the storyline. Allow yourself to be surprised.

Tip Number 2: Allow new characters to emerge even if it happens on your very last page. Okay, you’ll have to do some major editing, but let that character in. He or she had probably been tapping you on the shoulder for a long time and you ignored him. Now, look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself in! You should have listened to that character in the first place. Shame, shame, shame.

Tip Number 3: When in the middle of a scene, go deep inside yourself to create what might happen. Allow your brain to flow like a stream as your fingers dance across the keyboard. What you write will probably read like crap the next day. But, then again, maybe it won’t.

Tip Number 4: Don’t worry about editing from the beginning. Wait to edit. I say this unless your story does a complete about face. In that case, just start over from that point. Usually what happens, however, is the story moves forward, and you can go back and make the necessary changes once you have it all on paper.

Tip Number 5: Don’t let the outliners intimidate you! Creativity is messy. Many an artist begins a canvas with one idea in mind and suddenly everything changes. Sometimes, they have to paint over what they’ve painted or they destroy the original canvas. I can imagine Van Gogh painting that way. Can’t you?

Tip Number 6: You must be a ruthless editor. The one advantage the outliner has over the pantser is in the editing process. For me (as a confessed pantser), editing is a nightmare. Imagine for a moment that you thought you were writing a book about one thing and then it takes off in a different direction. That means the early scenes you created become meaningless. Pantsers must be ruthless editors. We cannot get too attached to our scenes. It if doesn’t move the story along, let it go.

Here’s the rub. Writers who outline think of us pantsers as lazy. We simply don’t have what it takes to map out a big long piece like a novel. Writers who are pantsers think outliners aren’t creative. They write like robots.

In truth wonderful works of fiction are produced by both outliners and pantsers. Just like Van Gogh and Van Meer are two of my favorite artists. The styles are different, neither better than the other.

Okay, I confess, I’m a pantser and proud of it. What about you?

Joan C. Curtis is the award-winning, multi-published author of The Clock Strikes Midnight and e-Murderer and her most recent release, Murder on Moonshine Hill. Her website which includes her blog is