Friday, March 30, 2018

Bombastic Bird Droppings!

Holy Hitchcock Hell!

I've lived in my house for nearly 30 years and I've never seen nature attack this badly.

Three times--count 'em, three!--birds have done a fly-by over my house and car and let their bowels loose with a vengeance. My car looked like a Jackson Pollock painting on wheels. Or maybe my wife's favored painter pants, a hardware store badge of honor.

I don't get embarrassed often. But I couldn't even take my auto out to the car wash. Not in public. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I took a hose to the car. Didn't help.  Next, I donned plastic gloves (hmm...kinda snug...smelled funny), grabbed a towel (which I marked for non-washable; sorry, favorite rag!) and put on a ball-cap (I still have nightmares recalling when a bird pooped on my head in downtown Kansas City).

Man, the results were a mess. Still better than it was and at least presentable for public viewing.

Same thing happened two days later. Noooooo! And this time, the birds came back with a vengeance. Not only did my car look like a polka-dotted hybrid, but the entire front-side of our house was Dr. Seuss's worst nightmare: large hoopa-paloopa-sploopa splotches of bird crap.

Again the hose didn't work. These particular birds sported some fine intestinal fortitude. To my neighbors' amusement, I put on gloves and took the rag to the house. I grinned (more like grimaced), muttered, "heh, spring cleaning."

During this grotesque procedure, I also discovered I was allergic to bird poop. The first go-round I thought it was the sissy plastic gloves. This time I went hand nekkid and still had the same reaction. My hands turned raw and red.

Above, birds cawed and mocked me, laughing their hideous bird-song of hilarity.

In the dead of night, off I trawled to Fast Eddie's Car Wash ("Open 24-7, every day of the year, no holiday too lonely to get it clean!").

The next morning, my screams filled the house.

This time the damned birds meant business. As a frightening calling card, they left a dead squirrel inches from my car. Really. I couldn't figure out any other way to explain why the squirrel was frozen in a state of shock, eyes wide open and glaring at nuts of eternity. No sign of foul play. No indications of struggle. No blood. Just....horrible, final, sadistic, vengeful death.

So now, like a mad man, I'm holed up in my house. The few times I venture out, I run. Fully covered in a hazmat suit.

And the birds tweet on...

Let me drop a plug for my book, Peculiar County, here. No birds. But there is something mighty peculiar flying the skies...

Friday, March 23, 2018

Interview with the fine artist, Sirac (by the extraordinary SIR WESLEY STUART)!

WS: Sir Wesley Stuart here, brilliant author of such noteworthy children's classics as “Blimey, the Teacher’s On Fire,” “Cake, Pie or Pigeons?” and “Let’s Fill Our Drawers…with Fun!” While the world has been abuzz—absolutely abuzz, I tell you—over my latest tour de force, Don’t Put Gum in the Fish Bowl, I’m afraid my talented artistic partner, Sirac, has been overshadowed by my (quite naturally) looming super-presence.

To right matters, I’ve allowed Sirac the pleasure of being interviewed by yours truly.
Welcome, Sirac.

S: Hey Wesley, how are you doing?
WS: (Youth uncouth). Let’s begin with your name, “Sirac.” I notice your moniker includes the designation, “Sir.” Now I, of course, am a true “Sir,” knighted by the Queen (rather, her lackey) herself. You, on the other hand, I think are not a royal knight. Defend yourself.

S: Well, not “royal” in the traditional sense but certainly someone YOU would want to kneel to.
WS: Harrumph... So, you see yourself rather like “Cher,” then. Possibly “Sting?”

Moving on, no time for pish posh… You’ve done an extraordinary job bringing my brilliant characters to life in Fish Bowl. Truly, you make them sing, nearly flying off the pages of my literary magnum opus. Besides myself, who or what are some of your artistic influences?
S: Well, I have to say that Norman Rockwell is one that is at the very top. His work has always fascinated me, even as a little boy. The other is a comic book artist by the name of Jim Lee. His comic work is just amazing.
WS: Actually, I detect animated cartoon sensibilities in your work on Fish Bowl. Of course, I would never view such a lowly art form myself, never would I stoop that low. The very idea of Sir Wesley Stuart watching cartoons is preposterous! I scoff! Be that as it may, have *sniff* cartoons influenced you?
S: That’s funny that you say that since we’ve just worked on a children’s book together…But anyway. Yes, cartoons have certainly influenced me. Most normal people grow up watching cartoons, but I didn’t stop there, I was also heavily influenced by Japanese animation.
WS: Yes. Well… Thank you for implying I'm above and beyond normal. But let's not make this all about me, shall we?

Your art absolutely flows and soars (literally) throughout Fish Bowl. The dear wee ones in the book—so breathtakingly delineated through my stellar prose—absolutely come to life. Did you use real children as the basis for their images? If so, how much did you pay the little ragamuffins?

S: Nope, I imagined all how they would look according to how you wrote them. As I read, all of a sudden, their images popped into my head and I went with it.
WS: Please enlighten my fans of your other accomplishments. Is it true you’ve participated in the rather vulgar field of “funny books?” Superheroes, I dare ask? “Handkerchief Lad” or “Manners Man,” perhaps?

S: Yeah, you mean the one of 5 Original American art forms? Yes, comic books alongside with Jazz, also the source of some of the most money making cinematic franchises in the past 20 years. That’s where I started, drawing them since I was in the 2nd grade until now. Proud to say I started publishing my own a few years ago. But I’m also a fine artist and have been awarded many times for my pieces.
WS: Hmmph. I suppose there is a place for that and what not. I will say that your artwork, as always, is quite stellar, though. How does one acquire such funny-book periodicals?
S: All someone has to do is message me at and we’ll take it from there.

WS: It’s come to my rather short attention span that you’re a commercial artist for hire. A rogue agent, if you will. What kind of art is your forte? Let us ponder a few choice examples.

S: Well, we’ve already discussed Comic Book art, I also specialize in Painting Portraits, Logo Design and Murals.
WS: Bravo, Sirac, bravo! Extremely versatile, an artiste of many hats. I’m particularly taken by your painting, “The Devil’s Court.” It’s quite reminiscent of a night of mine involving several snakes, copious amounts of rum, a vacuum cleaner, the bobbies, and my dear Auntie Cheroot. (A pity I can’t remember much of it.) What is the medium of choice you’ve indulged within said painting?
S: Yeah, it’s actually the “Desert’s Court”, with that said I prefer acrylic paint when airbrushing.
WS: Now I’m looking at what appears to be a self-portrait of yourself and your quite lovely wife. But I declare skullduggery! Are you, sir, attempting to pull the wool over our eyes by passing off a photograph as art? How dare you? And if this isn’t a photograph, how did you achieve such photo-realistic means?
S: Yup, it’s a painting all right. I used three of them as a matter of fact to get the desired composition. How did I achieve it? Lots and lots of patience. Yes, that best won me a Best of Show award. I’m a very thorough guy and I ‘shoot for photorealism’, get it, any chance I get.
WS: Let’s do not get a big head over matters, shall we, Sirac? You seem to be a man of many brushes. What are your favorite tools of the trade?

S: My favorite tools of the trade are a .5 mechanical pencil, a ballpoint pen, my airbrush and some of the rattiest brushes that I have. They paint the nicest hair believe it or not.
WS: Ye gads, man. Ratty brushes indeed.

What are you working on now? And what would you like to work on in the future?

S: I’m working on a partial nude commission, and a Batman/Dark Knight Trilogy collage in preparation for the local comic con in April. For the future I’d like to certainly do more of what I just listed as well as more books with you, if you’re up for it.
WS: Indeed I am up for it, sir! (And did you mention a partial nude? I...see. I may have to visit your studio to complete this interview). 

Quite, quite. Where can patrons of the arts hire you out, my dear fellow? Please make it easy on our readers and list your links (tacky as it may be).

S: Everyone can find me on or can email me at as well as
WS: Mm-hm. Mm-hm. Fine and jolly. Finally, I’d like to ask you something weighing heavily on my readers’ minds… What do you like most about me?

S: Ooh, that’s a tough one, well if I had to find something... (Crickets)...(More time passes)...(Any day now)...Well I guess it would be your writing!
WS: Well, there you have the remarkable artiste, Sirac, dear readers. Please do pick up a copy of the extraordinary work of art, Don’tPut Gum in the Fish Bowl, by myself (and Sirac). It can be purchased at Barnes& Noble and the publisher’s website. Of course, if you don’t mind waiting, the laggards at Amazon offer it as well.

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?