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New book: ‘Venetian Springs’

I’ve got a brand new book on Amazon: Venetian Springs!

Two couples—one idealistic, one criminal.

A ruthless Mexican drug kingpin. A fortune in heroin and cash.

They all come together one night at a casino called Venetian Springs, in a high-stakes gamble that only a few of them will survive.

Preview Chapters:

Part I: Tuesday

Chapter 1

Mark Baxter was determined that he and his wife, Gina, were going to crack the nut of their household budget. 

Laid out on the kitchen table before them were a pile of bills, a desktop calculator, and a yellow legal pad.

Mark had drawn a line down the center of the top sheet of the legal pad, dividing it into two vertical columns. In the lefthand column, he had tallied up their monthly take-home pay. They were both second-year teachers at Ambrose E. Burnside High School, a school in the Indianapolis Public Schools district. 

In the righthand column he had listed their expenses: mortgage payments on the house, their college loans, groceries, utilities, and everything else.  

The total on the left was only slightly larger than the total on the right. 

That was a problem.

Gina, moreover, wasn’t paying attention. That was another problem. Her brown eyes kept darting to the open doorway between the kitchen and the rear hallway. She was twirling a length of chestnut brown hair between two fingers.

Gina had been distracted of late—and not just because of their perilous household finances. Mark knew part of the reason for her distraction; but he suspected that there was also something that she was keeping from him.

Why would Gina be looking toward the rear hallway?

The rear hallway of the house terminated at the back door. Gina was probably thinking about the intruder again.  

Mark didn’t believe in the intruder, and Gina did.

That was yet another problem.

In recent weeks, Gina had become convinced that someone was entering their house during the daytime hours, when they were both teaching classes at the high school.

She claimed to notice that some items in the house were slightly awry, as if an outsider had been rifling through them. Closet and cupboard doors were left ajar at unfamiliar angles.

Or so Gina had claimed.

Mark had taken his wife’s concerns seriously—at first. He checked all exterior doors and windows for any sign of a break-in or tampering. 

And he had found nothing. 

Mark also pointed out that the supposed burglar had not taken any of their few possessions that were actually worth stealing: the laptop they used jointly, the antique brooch that Gina had inherited from her Grandma Tortelli, etc. 

Even the cigar box, the most obvious target for a thief, had been left intact. This was the old Dutch Masters box that they kept atop the dresser in their bedroom. It always contained between fifty and a hundred dollars of emergency cash. 

Any self-respecting thief would have taken the cigar box, Mark observed. 

But the thief had not taken the cigar box, nor anything else—so far as either of them could ascertain.

Mark therefore concluded that there was no thief, no intruder. 

“Earth to Gina,” Mark said. He waved his hand from side to side in the air, as if trying to rouse her from a trance. 

“I heard something,” Gina said. “At the back door.”

“Oh, no. Don’t tell me that one of the problem students at Burnside has followed us home again.”

She didn’t laugh at the obvious joke. She flinched, in fact. 

Mark wondered: Was one of the students at the high school in fact bothering her? Was that her problem?

“I’m telling you, Mark, I heard something back there.”

The damn intruder again. Mark rarely spoke a cross word to Gina, but he was getting fed up with talk about the nonexistent burglar. Whatever else was going on, there was no evidence that anyone had been inside their house.

“Gina,” he said gently, “I don’t think—”

And then Mark heard it, too. Continue reading “New book: ‘Venetian Springs’”

Coronavirus, masks, politics…and age

Masks seem to be working to fight the virus, even as some refuse them and US deaths near 100,000

In the context of the culture wars, absolutely anything can become controversial, even the wearing of face masks during a pandemic.

And as is so often the case with these things, I’m observing extremes at both ends of the continuum. Continue reading “Coronavirus, masks, politics…and age”

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (first impressions)

I’ve been watching Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, a new Showtime series in the horror/dark fantasy genre.

In pre-WWII Los Angeles, much is going on: The LAPD is finding mutilated bodies in the dry concrete basin of the Los Angeles River. Dark entities from Mexican folklore are causing mayhem. Corrupt city officials and law enforcement officers are waging war against LA’s chicano population. The chicano population is waging war back, led by zoot-suited gangsters.

And (of course) the Nazis are maneuvering in the background, doing the sorts of violent and underhanded things that Nazis always do. But they have to compete with out-of-town gangsters. (This is the golden age of the mafia, after all.)

I noticed that this show has very mixed viewer ratings. It’s rated 6.1/10 on IMDb, and 76% favorable on Google. This would give it a grade of “C”. 

***

Overall, I like the show. This series has a fast-moving plot, with lots of twists and turns. Something is always happening. Continue reading “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (first impressions)”

Happy Memorial Day 2020

It will be a quiet day here on the blog. I hope you enjoy Memorial Day with family and friends.

Thanks to all of those who have stood on the ramparts to protect our freedoms, and–of course–those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

As Harry Truman said long ago, they have earned our undying gratitude. 

Finally, may God bless the brave men and women who presently serve in the US Armed Forces.

And perdition to those who would do them harm.

‘The Empire Strikes Back’ +40

The Empire Strikes Back debuted in theaters on May 21, 1980.

I might not have been there on 5/21/80, but I was certainly there no later than mid-June of 1980.

I was part of the original Star Wars generation. I also recall seeing the first one with my dad in the summer of ’77.

In May 1980 I was a little shy of 12 years old. I was starting to become an adolescent, with preteen interests (playing sports, girls). But I was nevertheless captivated for two full hours by The Empire Strikes Back. Continue reading “‘The Empire Strikes Back’ +40”

Porn and COVID-19?

Because…hey, somebody’s got to think about stuff like that, right?

How the coronavirus pandemic is changing the pornography industry

I would speculate that marketable porn with the actors wearing masks (and practicing social distancing) is about as realistic as expecting 5th graders to wear masks and social distance (the current game plan for Ohio schools).

Maybe journalists are overthinking the coronavirus pandemic just a bit(?)

Here are a few thoughts: Continue reading “Porn and COVID-19?”

Amy Klobuchar’s hydroxychloroquine faux pas

CNN still likes to beat the “hydroxychloroquine is a rightwing conspiracy” drum on occasion. 

President Trump could declare that he’s a fan of vitamin C, and then that would become a rightwing conspiracy, too, in the minds of some folks. We hope for a COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end.  A cure for Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is likely beyond the reach of modern medicine, though.

What does all this have to do with Amy Klobuchar? Continue reading “Amy Klobuchar’s hydroxychloroquine faux pas”

Biden’s Klobuchar dilemma

A crisis of Biden’s own making…

In his search for a viable running mate, Joe Biden seems to be leaning toward Amy Klobuchar. This has met with a mixed reaction.

The media continues to beat the drum of Stacey Abrams; but Abrams has few real qualifications to be VPOTUS. Even Biden probably recognizes this.

The Democratic Party’s African American and Latino base, meanwhile, is notably unenthusiastic about Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar is too Midwestern, too bourgeois soccer mom, and (not to put too fine a point on it) too white. As in Wonder Bread. Continue reading “Biden’s Klobuchar dilemma”

Will the government kill public schools?

Every government action, no matter how seemingly high-minded, is burdened by the Law of Unintended Consequences. This is why Ronald Reagan once remarked that the nine scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Between March and the end of May,  government fiats closed millions of businesses throughout the country. (Some businesses in some states remain closed at the time of this writing.)

That, of course, created millions of new unemployment claims, and destroyed the livelihoods of millions of small businesspeople. Thanks, government!

Government bureaucrats and progressives, however, are usually seen as the friends of public school teachers. But when the government screwed the pooch of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the government may have screwed the public schools as well.

Most public schools did not do a good job of implementing remote learning programs during the shutdown. To be fair, they had little time to prepare.

The result, though, is that millions of American parents have started homeschooling, and interest in homeschooling has surged since the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown. Continue reading “Will the government kill public schools?”

The cicadas are coming!

“Millions of cicadas are expected to emerge after 17 years underground because, of course, it’s 2020”

I was here for the Great Cicada Deluge of 1987. In Cincinnati, at least, this was a truly epic event. There have been several minor outbreaks since then, but nothing like ’87.

For a few weeks during that summer, cicadas were everywhere. And then their bodies were everywhere. (They don’t live long—just long enough to breed.) Continue reading “The cicadas are coming!”

Biden tells black people how to be black

You tell ’em, Joe!

Joe Biden gave white America yet another message in racial sensitivity the other day. He told African American interviewer Charlemagne tha God that African American voters torn between him and President Trump “ain’t black”. (So it turned out to be a grammar lesson, too, I guess.) The implication here clearly being that as a hack for the bottomlessly corrupt Democratic Party, Biden should be the African American voter’s hands-down choice. Continue reading “Biden tells black people how to be black”

The coronavirus recession and the election

As Bill Clinton famously said while campaigning for the White House for the first time: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

That was in 1992—but what about 2020?

The US economy is in bad shape as it reopens after a 2.5-month shutdown. This is an election year. The pundits are therefore speculating: Which party will win—and lose—at the polls in November?

Will the “coronavirus recession” harm Trump? Will it benefit Biden? Continue reading “The coronavirus recession and the election”

Stacey Abrams, Trump, and supermodel politicians

As if our politics couldn’t get any sillier: there is a new war of ideas brewing of late in the mainstream media and on social media: Who is more obese, the Democrats or the Republicans? Which group of politicians should be barred from the snack machines on Capitol Hill?

This all started a few weeks ago, when Nancy Pelosi referred to President Trump as “morbidly obese”. A backlash followed, as some Trump fans on social media asserted that the president is rather svelte. Continue reading “Stacey Abrams, Trump, and supermodel politicians”

The Maze: an i-sekai novel

The Maze is an i-sekai web novel that I originally conceived and wrote in 2013. A new version of the book will be released soon.

Let me tell you a little about The Maze (and i-sekai novels in general).

I-sekai(異世界)is a Japanese compound word that means “other world”.

As a genre of fiction, i-sekai is also called “portal fantasy”. The basic setup is this: A character (or characters) from our everyday reality enters a parallel world through a magical portal. On the other side they have various adventures—often of the deadly kind.

The Maze is the story of three corporate salespeople–Amanda, Hugh, and Evan—who enter another world through the portal of a seemingly normal office complex called Lakeview Towers.

But, of course, Lakeview Towers is anything but normal. Lakeview Towers hides an interdimensional realm of killer robots, man-wolves, and other creatures.

Oh, and some interesting and deadly people, too.

The Maze is a dark portal fantasy for fans of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

Stay tuned for more updates.

The rebel yell was a real thing

I’ve been reading a lot about the American Civl War of late. Any narrative of the Civil War worth its salt contains a description of the Confederate “rebel yell”. (And no—I am not talking about the Billy Idol song from the 1980s.)

But what exactly did the rebel yell sound like? There were, of course, no audio recording devices in Civil War times.  Continue reading “The rebel yell was a real thing”

Politics, Big Tech, and defining monopoly power

Trump claims the ‘radical left’ is ‘in total command and control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google’ and vows administration is ‘working to remedy this illegal situation’

But the president isn’t just attacking the tech giants over their politics:

Trump’s tweet came after it emerged that federal and state regulators in the U.S. are preparing to file antitrust lawsuits alleging Google has abused its dominance of online search and advertising to stifle competition and and boost its profits.

There are two issues here: a.) Do the tech giants exercise monopoly power (achieved through anti-competitive practices), and b.) Are they guilty of political bias? Continue reading “Politics, Big Tech, and defining monopoly power”

The Gary Hart scandal, 1987

It was May 1987, and the USA was gearing up for a presidential election.

Trump wasn’t running. Donald Trump was still a real estate developer in New York City, and still married to his first wife, Ivana Trump. 

Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his second term. George H.W. Bush, his vice president, was Reagan’s heir-apparent. 

The Democrats, out of office for two presidential terms, were looking for a new standard-bearer. The likely favorite was Gary Hart, a 51-year-old Senator from Colorado. Continue reading “The Gary Hart scandal, 1987”

COVID-19 modeling wars

There seems to be no real consensus among experts regarding the COVID-19 models that were used to justify nationwide lockdowns in the United States and Britain:

Imperial College model Britain used to justify lockdown a ‘buggy mess’, ‘total unreliable’, experts claim

I repeat: This doesn’t make the coronavirus a “hoax”. COVID-19 is a very real virus that is harmless, moderately serious, or fatal, depending on the individual.  Continue reading “COVID-19 modeling wars”

Biden’s AOC blunder

Biden Taps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Craft Climate-Change Policy

From David Harsanyi of National Review:

In an effort to repair the frayed relationship among Democratic Party factions, Joe Biden has created something of a Menshevik–Bolshevik “campaign unity task force” to explore policy initiatives on issues like climate change.

There went Biden’s claim to the moderate vote, the swing vote, and the “disaffected Republican” vote.

But then, Biden, a centrist Democrat for most of his career, has been steadily moving to the left since he tied up the nomination. Continue reading “Biden’s AOC blunder”

Audiobooks while you mow

Or podcasts, for that matter. Or music.

I’ve been writing recently in this space about audiobooks. The other day I described how I enjoyed re-experiencing Watership Down via audio

Here’s the problem, though: ordinary earbuds don’t provide sufficient hearing protection while you’re mowing the lawn. Nor are you likely to hear much of what you’re listening to, unless you only want to listen to KISS and AC/DC. Continue reading “Audiobooks while you mow”

Mistresses, language wars, and the Associated Press

Associated Press mocked for declaring term ‘mistress’ is archaic, sexist

Notice, of course, that there has never been a term for “a man in a long-term sexual relationship with, and financially supported by, a woman who is married to someone else.”

This is no slam on women—or men, for that matter. There are certainly some married women who could afford to financially support male lovers on the side.  And heaven knows that there would be no shortage of heterosexual men willing to accept money for such a paid relationship. Men are dogs, after all. 

There is no male equivalent to the word “mistress” for the simple reason that everyone of junior high age or older already knows: Male and female sexuality are different. Men and women respond to different motivations in sexual relationships, and they face different supply-and-demand conditions. (Hint: Men are in supply, and women are in demand.) Continue reading “Mistresses, language wars, and the Associated Press”

‘The Consultant’: a lone American trapped in North Korea!

This book was partially serialized here on the site.

Now you can get it on Amazon.

I’ve enrolled The Consultant in Kindle Unlimited for 90 days… so those of you who are members can read it for free. 

Paperback also available. Audiobook version coming soon!

The most oppressive regime on earth has taken you prisoner. And they have a mission for you!

Barry Lawson is an American marketing consultant traveling on business to Osaka, Japan. After striking up a conversation with a woman in a bar, he agrees to accompany her back to her apartment.

But the mystery woman is not who she seems. Days later, Barry wakes up in a cell in North Korea.

He discovers that the North Korean government has abducted him for a specific purpose. The North Koreans don’t plan to ransom him. They want him to work for them.

But Barry is determined to escape—whatever the cost.

His allies are a Japanese abductee, and a beautiful American woman who understands the North Koreans, and speaks their language.

With a U.S.-North Korean summit fast approaching, a coup plot shakes the very foundation of the Pyongyang regime. Barry chooses this moment to make a desperate dash for freedom. But he and his fellow escapees risk death at every turn.

The Consultant is a thriller ripped from real-life headlines, with unforgettable characters and nonstop action!

Get The Consultant on Amazon.com!

‘Bosch’ season 4: what I’m binge-watching

As I’ve written here before, I am a long-time fan of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch LAPD detective series. I’ve been reading the novels since 2004, more or less.

Since last month, I’ve been binge-watching Bosch on Amazon Prime Video, starting from season 1.

I’m now most of the way through Season 4. I’m still enjoying this original series immensely. Very, very good stuff.  

***

Season 4 is based on the Bosch novels Nine Dragons and Angels Flight

Or should I say, “inspired by” these two novels? Continue reading “‘Bosch’ season 4: what I’m binge-watching”

‘Greyhound’: Tom Hanks’s next WWII movie

I grew up on stories of World War II–real ones. My maternal grandfather served in the US Navy, mostly in the North Atlantic. He made numerous runs between the US and the United Kingdom. And he told me many tales of dodging Messerschmidts and “wolf pack” U-boats. 

There was never really a modern movie done about his war, though. There have been lots of movies about combat in the South Pacific and in the Middle East. There have been many, many films about D-Day. Not so many about the perilous North Atlantic runs between the United States and England.

That’s why I’m especially looking forward to seeing the next World War II movie from Tom Hanks, Greyhound, which is all about my grandfather’s war—naval combat in the North Atlantic. Continue reading “‘Greyhound’: Tom Hanks’s next WWII movie”