Friday, May 26, 2017

President Rock

Or should that be President THE Rock?
Yep, Duane Johnson (aka "The Rock"), rassler, actor, and guy who likes to disturbingly dress in drag (a lot!) for comedic purposes, has expressed interest in running for president of the United States. (When he dresses in drag, he can be his own First Lady.)

Sure, why not? Let's do this. These days the idea of President Rock doesn't even sound all that crazy. Donald Trump threw the floodgates wide open, making it acceptable for any sorta celebrity to become POTUS. Qualifications and experience absolutely don't matter.

I'm looking forward to many interesting upcoming political campaigns. President Nicholas Cage? You betcha. He could emote his way through foreign policy. Wait, how about Liam Neeson? He's already recreated himself into an action hero, why can't he become president? He'll strong-arm his way through the Russians. God help anyone who takes hostages captive. Charlie Sheen's gonna want a piece of the action, of course. He'll run a campaign fueled by tiger blood and can solve political hot topics with the power of his brain. President Sheen is WINNING!

Kim Kardashian would make a stunning president. And to keep her in line, to keep an even keel over world events, I elect Kanye as vice-president. Based on the new TV show, Designated Survivor, I imagine Kiefer Sutherland will get quite a few write-in votes.

It's an exciting time for politics! A glorious new Camelot, filled with celebrities and stars!

When The Rock becomes president, I envision him roping off congress, taking the dissenters and annoying bill blockers to the mat! He'll piledrive the Tea Party into a corner, then chokeslam them into submission! Any pesky filibusters? Not an issue with President The Rock! He'll dropkick the stall tactic, launch into a flying moonsault, and brainbuster the filibuster into a nelson hold!

Hulk Hogan will make an excellent vice president! Why there was even (a little) talk of his running alongside Trump as his VP! 

Honestly, I can't think of any better qualifications for running for president of the US than professional wrestling!

Powerslam POTUS!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thin Walls, Big Heart

I've mentioned the hard times my dog's had lately. (Even harder on me, as I've been relegated to sub-human status, having to sleep in the guest bedroom on the lower level. But I digress. Contrary to my blog, the world isn't all about me).
After two major leg surgeries, Zak's incision started to bleed. Furthermore, he pulled the leg up high and limped.


Once again we carted him off to the emergency vet hospital. Nerves frayed, my wife and I sat in a small room, waiting for a frazzling long time.

Around us, animal pandemonium rose. Cries, squeals, yips, barks, growls, the works.

But the worst--the absolutely, heart-rending worst--was the man facing the reality he had to put his dog to sleep.

I don't know what the man looked like. Couldn't really tell you what his actual voice sounded like. But his words, strangled with sobs, tore through the thin walls like an emotional torpedo.

"I guess I was lucky to've known him. I saved him twice before... He'd always been there. My pal. It'd be selfish of me...not to put him to rest.  Oh...God... Oh, my God... I'm sure gonna' miss him. Whatever you can do to make him more comfortable. This is the hardest day..."

He went on. The doctor stayed respectfully quiet, listening to the man working through his anguish.  By the time he was done, both my wife and I were soap-opera-sodden messes, eyes bleary with tears. And we gave Zak a little bit of extra loving.

The good news is Zak just had issues with fluid or something. I dunno. I was still too distraught over the man in the hallway's angst.

I've put down dogs before. Each time it takes while to get over it. It's sad, yet I know it's the best thing to do. But like Sad Hallway Man, you can't help but be torn up over it. It takes effort to work your way through the steps, internally argue and debate. Cry a bit.

After I put my twin cocker spaniels to sleep, I vowed not to get another dog. Time passed. So did my vow. But I still wonder if pet ownership's worth the awful sadness experienced at the end of a beloved dog's life.

Kinda like how I felt after my divorce some years ago. Should I even risk putting myself through such trauma again? Is the clearly never been in love and broken idiot who said "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all" right? 

Eat it, Lord Tennyson. 

But the answer, of course, is yes.

I love my wife.

I love my dog.

I don't so much love sleeping in a tiny bed in the guest room, but whatever. Tis better to sleep than not sleep at all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The "Cool" Dad

Ain't that an oxymoron-and-a-half?
When my daughter was younger, when I hosted sleep-overs (and parents, I'm warning you, always, ALWAYS invite an equal number of girls...never, EVER host just three. You're asking for trouble.), I always stuck my stupid self in the mix of things.

I never let the girls drink or smoke, but I kinda' think they were doing that on their own anyway. Yet there I was, using buzzy words and phrases ("I'd be so way down with that, home-fry, if it wasn't so cray-cray!"), acting kinda' dumb but believing I was cool.

Hey, the girls wanted to watch horror movies? No prob! As long as the flicks weren't too chock full of gratuitous nudity or  violence (kinda narrowed down our viewing choices). Pizza, you bet! Music? Man, I was up on all the alternative rock, could chat with the girls for hours. 

Problem was alt rock sorta became passe. So did I. And no one bothered to tell me.

When I used the word "hip" on my daughter, I kinda think that was the turning point.

"Dad, no one says 'hip' any more. If they ever did."

Now, the only "hip" around here is the one I'll break when I fall.

I sat back in my hoodie, scratched my soul patch, moved aside my beanie, made sure my tats were prominent, massaged my arthritic knee...and wondered when I got old.

Sometimes, you have to admit defeat. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Wild West just got a little weirder with Jeff Chapman's The Black Blade!

SRW: Give a big ol’ Tornado Alley howdy-do to talented fantasy and horror writer Jeff Chapman. Today we’re yonderin’ back into the Wild West to discuss cowpoke Chapman’s chaps and new novel, The Black Blade. And it’s a hoot and a holler, folks. Traditionally a short story writer, Jeff has spread his wings and written some kind of novel that’ll have the folks at Gulch Holler cryin’ in their beers and spit-takin’ their sarsaparilla.

Welcome Jeff! Tell everyone about your new book, The Black Blade.

JC: Thanks for talking with me, Stuart. The Black Blade Is the first novel in The Huckster Tales series. Other works in the series include a short story and a novelette. In The Black Blade, Orville and Jimmy again find themselves over their heads in supernatural trouble. They have a habit of finding trouble. Marzby, an old man with evil intent and magical powers, imprisons Orville and a farmer’s wife and then sends Jimmy and the farmer on a quest to retrieve an enchanted knife from inside Skull Hill. But there’s an evil catch to this quest. The one who hands the blade over to Marzby selects which prisoner to release. One knife for one prisoner. It’s not long before the farmer aims his shotgun at Jimmy. But the trigger-happy farmer may be the least of Jimmy’s worries. The sun is on the move and there’s a host of strange creatures between Jimmy and the final showdown with Marzby.

SRW: Where’d the term “huckster” come from? What exactly does it mean? And where can readers find other tales of your huckster duo, Orville and Jimmy?

JC: A huckster is someone who travels around the country selling stuff. Usually the value of the “stuff” is questionable. Think snake-oil salesmen. Orville hasn’t sold snake-oil in any of the stories yet, but if he finds he can make money from it, he most likely will. Orville’s primary gig is operating as the turbaned soothsayer Orville the Oracular. Jimmy provides behind-the-curtain support and looks after Maggie, their horse. Jimmy also operates the moral compass which Orville ignores to their peril.

So far, there are three stories in The Huckster Tales series. “The Wand” is a short story you can have for free with a newsletter signup. “The Flaming Emerald” is a novelette available in the anthology Ghosts of Fire. And then there’s the novel, The Black Blade. I have more novels percolating, including an origin story explaining how Jimmy and Orville met and a sequel to The Black Blade.

SRW: I’ve been a fan of your colorful prose for some time, Jeff. No one can turn a purtier metaphor. But I always thought your writing sprang forth from the past, a "Weird Tales" vibe if not older. A writer out of time. I think you’ve hit your stride with the Huckster series set in the old West. The perfect synthesis of place and prose. Why did you choose the old West as your background?

JC: I didn’t intend to write a western when I wrote “The Wand.” I thought of it as fantasy, but the characters pulled me in the western direction. That’s where they wanted to be, so I went with it. The characters are always right.

SRW: We’ve gotta’ talk about research. Everything about the book, from the dialect, the dialogue, the setting, the props rings true. Jeff, did you base this off of years watching sage dramas on the TV? Or did you actually, you know, open a book and dig into true research (ew…what’s that?)? Come on, just between us, there’s nobody else around…spill.

JC: I grew up watching reruns of The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. My parents loved westerns, so I saw a lot of them: the classic films and the B-grade ones. We watched Gunsmoke. We watched F-Troop. The films and TV shows give you a sense of the myths and feel of the genre. For the details of daily life, I researched online and read some books. For example, I learned that the ubiquitous cowboy hat was not the primary headgear in the Old West. Many men wore bowlers (like Bat Masterson) or straw hats. Orville wears a bowler while Jimmy makes do with a well-worn straw hat. I also discovered that saloon owners sold or gave away cheap snack foods. The saltier the better. In The Black Blade, Isobel brings food for her uncle to sell at his saloon and claims her uncle spices it with extra salt.

SRW: Jimmy’s grandmother--although I assume long dead--is almost a Greek Chorus character throughout the book, constantly spouting wise adages, maxims, proverbs, down home remedies, you name it.  Where in the world did you come up with all of Grandma’s sayings? Did you just wing it? Watch a lot of Oprah? Or is Grandma based on a relative of yours?

JC: I made them up as I wrote. Grandma provides comic relief and an entertaining way to get at Jimmy’s thoughts. She’s not based on anyone in particular. Whenever I needed something from Grandma, I tried to imagine what an opinionated, old farm woman would say. I suppose my rural Kansas upbringing is paying off here. I hope readers get a good laugh out of her sayings. I had fun writing them.

SRW: I was a little disappointed Orville dropped out relatively early in the book as he and Jimmy make a cute comical team, right up there with Martin and Lewis, Starsky and Hutch, and Trump and Pence. A lot of the humor derives from their prickly relationship and Orville’s less than scrupulous moral code. I’m curious, did you set out to instill humor in the Huckster series? Or did it organically rise from Orville and Jimmy’s characters?

JC: I didn’t set out to write humorous stories, but when you have two characters trying to move events in opposite directions, humor is often the result. The Huckster Tales are all written in the first person, from Jimmy’s perspective. His voice has much to do with the humorous tone.

SRW: There are enough fantastical critters and varmints running through The Black Blade to give Ray Harryhausen nightmares. List a few. Then ‘fess up to inspirations…

JC: The first strange critter is Marzby’s pindigo. Marzby claims he forced the spirit of a wendigo into a pig. The result is a ferocious half-pig half-human monstrosity. A wendigo is a cannibalistic horror from Native American folklore. Jimmy also comes across a shape-shifting opossum and a shape-shifting coyote. Coyotes are common in Native American folklore, especially as tricksters. I don’t think many people give opossum’s much thought. I added the opossum as something unexpected.

In the final chapters, we meet Marzby’s servants, a pair of oafish but incredibly strong men, at least they appear to be men. Their skeletons are a mixture of human and cattle bones. 

SRW: The tone of The Black Blade is a little schizophrenic, but I mean that in a good way! On the one hand, it’s a weird western. On the other hand, it’s a fantasy adventure. On yet another hand (where are all these hands coming from?), there’s humor, yet some violent and gruesome incidents. How would you categorize the book?

JC: What you say in your question. I had no idea how hard it would be to categorize the book until I finished it. I followed the story where it led. How about a weird western fantasy adventure salted with humor?

SRW: Jeff, I’ve been after you for a long time to write a full-length novel. You’ve written many fine novellas and short stories, but haven’t taken the big plunge. Until now. Why? And how was your experience as opposed to writing shorter fiction?

JC: I’ve started many novels but always bogged down in the middle of them. With The Blake Blade, I determined to keep moving forward and not stop. The strategy worked. Eventually I reached the end. Now that I’ve written one novel, I’m anxious to finish another one. I see now that a novel is like any other story, only longer, and to finish, you have to focus on scenes, knocking off one after another.

SRW: Truth time. I’ve given this a lot of thought, Jeff… Seems to me it’s more than coincidence. Okay, your name’s Jeff Chapman. You write about horse-riding cowboys in the weird west. Do you wear chaps? The readers want the truth. And photos.

JC: Good one. No, I’ve never worn chaps, though I remember there was a cologne called Chaps that I may have used when I was in high school. I don’t even wear cowboy boots.

SRW: What’s up next for Jeff? (And I hope the Hucksters?)

JC: I’m writing a couple fantasy stories for anthologies. The stories are linked by their protagonist, a cat inhabited by a human spirit. I like cats. After I finish those stories, I’m going to finish another novel, a fantasy story about a mermaid and a fisherman’s daughter. The cat from the stories figures in the novel, too. After the mermaid novel, I’m hoping to be ready for another Huckster novel.

SRW: Alright, time to rustle up the cattle and toss some steaks on the open-fire and zip up for the night, padnuhs. Jeff, why don’t you sing us out—Roy Rogers style—by tellin’ the good folk on the prairie where they might find yore pistol-packin’ work.

JC: To find store links for The Huckster Tales, go to For my other titles, go to To join my mailing list, go to A paperback version of The Black Blade is in the final stages of development (waiting for the proof copy to do the final review). I will be offering some Goodreads giveaways for signed copies. Add The Black Blade to your to-read list ( ) to receive a notice for the giveaways.

SRW: Read Jeff Chapman’s The Black Blade, folks. Highly recommended and more fun than a pistol-packin’ bandolero.