Friday, July 28, 2017

Welcome to Peculiar County

Peculiar County's a right hospitable little piece of Kansas. Just be on the look-out for things that fly in the night or creatures that don't sit right in any zoo. Here in Peculiar County, witches rub elbows with murderers and the mortician's daughter just might be about the savviest gal in town. The mail man's a bit off, the telephone operator's way off, and the librarian sisters were never on. Only in Peculiar County can you hear a ghost dog bark up a storm in the local hotel and see a tree--the Judge's Tree--you'd be best off not visiting once the sun goes down.

Peculiar County's my first young adult book for Books We Love publishing. Set in 1965, "old adults" can enjoy the tale as well. It's a ghost story, a nostalgic slice of early sixties small-town life, a misunderstood teen girl's coming-of-age saga, a comedy of Midwest manners, and a murder mystery. A love story, too. I think there might even be a kitchen sink in there somewhere if you look hard enough...

Why did I set the book in the early sixties? Many reasons. It's the decade I was born; technology hadn't yet ramped up to the point where it messes with suspense; it's an interesting era when society was rapidly changing in fascinating and unexpected ways. Most of all, I've always been of an opinion that the best ghost stories have always had a touch of nostalgia to them.

SO... Have I succeeded in my lofty goals? That's up to you, dear reader, to decide.

In the meantime, lay out that road-map of the bizarre and plan your day-trip to Peculiar County ('cause you don't wanna visit at night!). You can't miss it. It's just a hop, skip and jump away from Strange Town. Hang a left at Killer's Gulch. Skedaddle on through the Hellington Hills (make sure you have a full tank of gas) and whatever you do, don't look too hard or pay any matter to the unsettling sounds you might hear.

Peculiar County. Click here for the most peculiar--not to mention, cheapest--road trip you'll take all year. Preorder ebook version now. Official release on July 30.

Or click HERE to get the paperback right spanking NOW!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Proper Etiquette of Meatsicles

Meatsicles are a beautiful thing.
When you're famished, when you wanna get right to it, when you don't want to hassle with such unnecessary utensils as knives, when you're absolutely exhausted, a meatsicle is your best friend.

Just jab a fork into a pork-chop and collapse onto the sofa in front of the TV. An oldie but a classic. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

So, the other night--in an ongoing, concerted effort to get away from the TV while eating--we gathered for dinner at the dining room table. I served pork chops.

My fork stabbed a chop, I hoisted it up. Before I took a bite, my wife shut me down.

"Stuart! What do you think you're doing?"

I looked around, looked at the dog, looked for logic. I kinda thought it was apparent what I was doing. "Um...eating." I gave the meatsicle a hearty shake.

"No. Use a knife."

"But...we always eat meatsicles."

"Not at the table we don't. Act civilized, for God's sake."

I said, "Fine, then let's go sit in front of the TV."

Well. That didn't sit well. 

Still, I couldn't understand where I'd gone wrong. I thought we'd long ago incorporated meatsicles into our culinary regimen. I was mistaken.

My wife went on to explain the rules about when and where meatsicles are properly accepted.

Stunned, I asked, "How come I've never heard of these rules before? Is there a book or something?"

"Just get a knife," she groaned, rolling her eyes into orbit.

This world is confusing enough without new rules being thrown at you left and right, especially when the rule-maker doesn't let you know. It's kinda like Trump tweeting new policy and unless you follow him on Twitter, you're in the dark.
Since the beginning of time, meatsicles have been a perfectly acceptable form of food and eating. Sure, cavemen didn't have forks, but it's a well-documented fact they'd jab meat onto sticks, an early precursor. And it's also a well-documented fact cavemen didn't have TV, so when they sat down at the dinner table, meatsicles were completely acceptable.

The way civilized people ate, not like those uncouth dinosaurs. 


Speaking of peculiar, you ain't seen nothin' yet! My new book, Peculiar County, is up for preorder and out July 31st. More about it next week.

In the meantime, click here to preorder one very peculiar reading experience (seat belts are mandatory).

Friday, July 14, 2017

We went looking for a TV and all we have to show for it is this stupid new house!

Bada-boom. And not really. But almost.
My wife--wise and almighty--told me we should never go shopping while "hangry," a term a candy bar commercial adeptly coined, equating one's hungry physical being with an angry mind-set. Ergo, don't make snap purchases at the grocery store.

Back to pertinent business, recently our TV went blinky, double-vision blue and red. It's fine if you wear those awful 3-D glasses with the impossible to clean and always smudged plastic lenses, but otherwise, unacceptable. 

Sunday afternoon, we set out to ogle new TV's. The modern technology mind-boggled, fossilized me into the prehistoric era. I didn't have a clue, still playing videotapes at home, for Gawd's sake.

Out of desperation, over-whelmed, we quit. Made a promise to research. Just like back in school.

On the way home, we saw a house for sale. "Open House," the sign read, a beguiling treasure trove awaiting we failed hunters. Being no fools, tired, "hangry," disgruntled, we slept-walk inside. And fell in love.

Thankfully, keener senses prevailed. We were in no position yet to buy a new house. (Just thinking about our collection of books and movies throws my back out of whack).

But enlightenment struck that day. Food shopping while hungry is one thing, a minor faux pas. Making major life decisions while your mind belongs elsewhere is another.

"Oblivi-shopping." Remember the word. I'm trademarking it.

Contracts should be enacted while oblivi-shopping. Within a 48 hour time period, buyers of a life-changing purchase should not be held responsible if the following preexisting conditions exist:


I've made remorseful purchasing decisions under the influence of seven of the eight pre-existing conditions.

It's about time someone started looking out for hungry, irritable, stupid, tired, drunk, hemorrhoid-ridden, and sometimes insane people like me!

Caveat Emptor!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Dog Year (and it's only half over)

Pity poor Zak.
Healthy Zak!

Our beloved rescue dog was found as a puppy scavenging through trash, never possessing good taste in food. A mixed breed of indiscriminate nature, obviously Zak was at least part pit bull terrier. Because of that, he's faced a life-time of prejudice. My mom won't even go near him, terrified (even though her bite is much worse than his). People go out of their way to cross the street when we're out on walks. Upon Zak's entry at daycare, other pet-owners slip him wary, highly suspect looks. (Yes, Zak goes to daycare.)

But the thing is, Zak's a lover, not a biter. His licking might scrub your skin raw, but he won't hurt anyone. Unless of course you wear the U.S. Postal Service uniform. Then all bets are off. But for everyone else? He wants to meet you. Become pals. Have you toss a squeaky toy around, one he can tear apart in seven seconds.

Then Zak's world went grey. Six months ago he developed a limp. Of course, it didn't seem to hold him back. He powered through it, the way he doe everything. Problem is Zak's as stoic as Humphrey Bogart with paws.

We took him to his vet, who sent us to the animal hospital. Zak'd completely blown out his knee ligament. We faced several choices, none of them ideal. We settled on an expensive surgery, one where the doc would basically cut Zak's knee bones apart and reattach them in a new fashion, screws and a metal plate keeping everything in place until the bone healed.
Zak in first post-surgery Cone of Honor
Afterward, we found out just how much work was involved on our end. At least four months of keeping Zak quiet and calm in a small room. (Good luck with that, especially during mail delivery). Short walks, four times a day. Drugs, hot and cold compresses, massages, leg exercises...King for many, many days of sovereignty.

Alas, Zak couldn't climb steps. I volunteered to sleep downstairs with him in the guest bedroom on a lumpy twin bed, apparently built with masochistic, diminutive people in mind. Four months of sleepless discomfort and back aches.

Nothing mattered, though, not really. Zak was our dog, dammit. Besides, the neighborhood's rabbit population had grown out of control without his watch-dogging. Seriously. He needed to come back and rein in the terror.

When it came time for a check-up, bad news smacked us like a two by four to the head. Two screws had broken with the third bent. Somewhere along the line--a fall Zak had, too much exercise, something--things went haywire. But all was not lost. His bone had partly healed. Still, it was back to surgery for the dog, the metal parts had to come out.

After this new operation, Zak's incision started draining, then bleeding a lot. Several Sundays were spent at the animal hospital as the staff tried to diagnose it. At first, it'd been tagged as a seroma, nothing to worry about. But Zak's limp persisted, grew worse. The doc was concerned. For good reason.
Zak showing off, posing for Midwest Dogs Gone Wild. The final night before the BIG operation.
Zak went back under the knife for exploratory surgery. All day long, we waited. Silence. Finally, the doc called.

The news completely blindsided me. Zak's leg bone had developed a deep infection, rendered into mush. The doctor said we could put Zak through another iffy surgery, involving pins, pain, and many months, and the outcome didn't look rosy. Or we could amputate his leg, the doc's recommendation.

We chose amputation. It hit us hard, surprisingly so. Much more than it bothered Zak himself, I'm sure. But it felt like a deep loss. Mostly because Zak lived life hard, played like a hurricane, ran to beat the band and outrace all the other dogs in daycare. Frankly, he isn't food driven. Play is his ruling motivator. 

SO. Five months, four surgeries later, Zak's making a comeback. Eventually we hope to get him back into daycare, something he misses dearly. (My wife says I'm anthropomorphizing. The eternal debate in our household continues...).

My wife said it best..."It's better to have a healthy three-legged dog, than not have our dog back."
Ready for his first off-leash, three-legged rabbit hunt!
Hurry up, Zak! Those damn bunnies are multiplying like...well, bunnies!