SHAUN BAINES: FROM SCOTLAND WITH NOIR

It started with a “Hi, whatcha write” on Twitter, and weeks later author Shaun Baines and I were exchanging book spotlight info and a Q & A or two. It’s got to be serendipity, right?

Shaun’s bio reads like a kindred. Who hasn’t had a run-in with a bloke with a “Bad Joe” tattoo? (And if you haven’t, there’s this guy I met in Oshawa with a scorpion on his neck…)

Crime mixed with darkness and a lot of fantastic means BIG CHARACTERS with BIG PROBLEMS and Shaun’s all over this with WOODCUTTER, his debut novel available now as an ebook and then paperback on June 7.

Congrats, Shaun. Damp Scottish cottages yield results.

Read on…

–A.B.

 

1.

Your novel is set in Newcastle Upon Tyne, an English burg a mere stone’s throw from Southdean. To what extent do the two cultures meet?

As coincidence would have it, I live near Southdean, following a move from Newcastle to Scotland. Daniel’s story begins somewhere like Southdean. He is hiding from his criminal family in Hounswood, a village in the Scottish borders where he hopes to make a new home. As you can imagine, places like these are off the map in some respects. They’re quiet and friendly and the cultures of Hounswood and Newcastle don’t meet so much as clash. Newcastle is a busy, sprawling city in real life and the city I depict is also dark and dangerous. There is a certain anonymity to both places, but Newcastle shines so brightly, it’s hard to hide for long.

 

2.

Protagonist Daniel Dayton is in a tough spot—at odds with his family and possibly his own skin. What attracted you to writing a character with such enormous identity dilemmas?

I think we all have identity issues at some points in our life and one of the themes of the book is to look at how identity is shaped. Whether you love or hate your family, they are instrumental in how you are shaped. It’s the Nature versus Nurture debate. You inherit from them genetically and they mould you as you grow. Daniel rejects both these ideas and sets out on his own to discover who he is. His biggest problem is that he is too late. The Daytons have crept into his soul and won’t let go.  He is as much a part of them as they are of him. How can anyone run away from that?

 

3.

I love a good crime/noir/thriller. How would you categorize Woodcutter?

I set out to write a crime novel. It’s what I read and what I enjoy, but it’s a huge canvas with many sub-genres. There are police procedurals, psychological thrillers, serial killers making it personal – the list is endless.

Woodcutter is best labelled as Newcastle Noir. It’s hard-boiled fiction with morally dubious characters and violent action. There is dark humour and a casual style to the writing. Of course, the final judgement rests with the reader. They can decide what it is. Just as long as they think it’s good!

Ed. – Amen! 😀

 

4.

Tell us how you got here? Was the publishing process onerous or a piece of cake? (I say this with tongue firmly in cheek :D)

The whole process has been a dream; painless from start to finish. I say that knowing how lucky I’ve been and some other writers may not have had that experience. The truth is I wrote a book, the best book I could and then submitted it to various agents. I was fortunate to have been chosen by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. Super Dave sent it to publishers and we decided on Thistle Publishing. A contract was signed and the front cover came through, blowing me away. If it doesn’t win any awards, I’ll be amazed. And then Woodcutter was published. It doesn’t make a dramatic story and sounds like I’ve had an easy ride. Maybe I did, but a lot of it was down to the people I surrounded myself with. My agent, my beta-readers and most importantly, my wife, who suffers my writer anxieties on my behalf.

Ed. — The support of family and friends is integral.

 

5.

Thanks to Netflix, a lot of us here in North America are well acquainted with English Scandi Noir—Broadchurch meets Wallander meets Shetland. To what extent does geography figure in your novel? Does it play a part in drawing Daniel home and keeping him there?

I wanted the Newcastle I know to be recognisable to others. I use street names and landmarks readers can identify. Any businesses or specific locations are of my own devising and I had fun naming them. I’m particularly pleased with the naming of a café called Mag’s Pies and Peas. People from the north-east of England will get that one. (The Magpies is the nickname of the Newcastle United football team. I don’t follow football, but I know enough to come up with a pun.)

Actually, it’s the geography of the north-east of England that drew me in. It didn’t occur to me to write something about my town until I moved away from it. I was alone in a different country and it made me feel closer to home.

 

6.

We have now shared our books and views on our respective blogs. What are your promo plans for Woodcutter?

I’ve been both surprised and warmed by how welcoming the writing community is. Support is everywhere. I have several book bloggers working on reviews, other authors tweeting and retweeting about Woodcutter. I have had articles in magazines and in the local newspaper. It’s ongoing. The book will be released as a paperback on 7th June so expect another flurry of marketing around that time. I’ll probably stop short of walking the streets wearing a sandwich board. But then again, maybe not.

 Ed. — Sandwich boards are “in” this year!

 

Thanks for stopping by Shaun and sharing your insights! — A.B.

Woodcutter is available on Amazon. If you read and enjoy it, he welcomes reviews.

You can also reach Shaun at shaunbaines.com or on Twitter as @littlehavenfarm.

 

What it’s about…

CoverOn the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.

But his family have problems of their own.  Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.

Betrayed by his parents.  Despised by his brother.  In love with his sister-in-law.  Home has become a dangerous place to be.

Daniel wants his daughter safe.  And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.

 

Chapter One

Charles Bronson woke with a start. He was five foot five, thick set with wavy blonde hair. Like his namesake, he sported a handlebar moustache, but it wasn’t so he looked more like the movie star or that lunatic in prison. It was to detract from the nervous tick in his cheek coming alive from the moment he rose to the moment he fell asleep.

He rubbed his eyes and gulped. “Are you still up there?”

The room was a bedsit in an abandoned block of flats known as the Devil’s Playground, home to junkies and rat faced dealers. The tatty furniture was pushed against the walls, clearing a space for a tin bath filled with slurry. He’d obtained it from a farmer in Crawcrook who was paid enough not to ask questions. Above it was a naked man called Enoch, suspended by his ankles to a beam in the ceiling. His arms were either side of the bath, braced against the floor. Enoch’s skin was slick with sweat as he struggled to stop his head dipping into the slurry.

Bronson checked his watch. “That’s almost two hours. Sorry I nodded off, but if you’re not going to talk, then there’s nothing for me to do, is there?”

“I don’t know anything,” Enoch said, squeezing the words through gritted teeth.

“I wish I could believe that. You know, I’ve drowned two people in that tub so far and they all keep telling me the same thing. They don’t know anything.”

Bronson approached, smoothing out his moustache. His nostrils had become accustomed to the smell of the slurry, but he was annoyed about his clothes. This kind of stink couldn’t be washed out and he’d binned two suits already. He lived on a budget and the organisation he worked for weren’t the type of people to dish out clothing allowance.

“Enoch, I’m going home for a shower. Don’t worry. I’ll come back, but I live a fair distance away and I love long showers. Do you think you can hang around for me?”

He smiled at his own joke, though he’d used it before.

“Please, Bronson. Let me down. I don’t know anything,” Enoch said.

Who had scared these people so badly they would rather drown in cow shit than spill the beans? This was going to go wrong again, Bronson thought. His boss wanted answers, but no-one was talking. He’d be left with another dead body to dispose of and an awkward conversation to be had with his superiors.

“You pay the Daytons one hundred pounds a week, right?” Bronson asked.

Enoch nodded.

“What’s it called? Your restaurant?”

“The Peking Lantern.”

“Oh, I’ve been there. It’s nice. Anyway, you pay money so your lovely restaurant doesn’t get burned down with you in it, right?”

Enoch nodded again.

“Why would you stop paying?” Bronson asked.

“I don’t know.”

Bronson grabbed Enoch by his hair and stared into his frightened eyes. “You do know, but you’re being very rude by keeping it a secret.” He yanked downwards, forcing Enoch’s head under the slurry. Enoch fought against him, but he was too weak to offer much resistance. Counting down the seconds on his watch, Bronson finally released him.

Enoch coughed and spluttered, choking on the slurry in his mouth. When he was able to breathe, his breaths came as whimpers.

“I. Don’t. Know. Anything.”

“Jesus Christ,” Bronson said, wiping his dirtied hand down the side of his trousers. “That’s bad for you and bad for me, isn’t it?”

This was supposed to be his breakthrough. He figured Enoch would crack the minute he saw the bath full of shit, but he’d turned out to be a hard bastard. He would have admired that except his own head was on the line too. Someone was choking the money supply to the Daytons. If he didn’t figure out who, Bronson’s name was as much shit as the slurry Enoch was about to drown in.

A knock came at the door. The authorities gave the Devil’s Playground a wide berth, refusing to pour resources into an unwinnable fight. They allowed the tower block to police itself. Knowing he was safe, Bronson opened the door and smiled.

Peter Pan Hands shook his coat from his shoulders as he entered. He was in his forties with tumbling locks of ginger hair. His green eyes sparkled with mischief no matter what he was doing at the time. The Irish lilt of his voice charmed women and gangsters alike.

“If it ain’t the Magnificent One,” Peter said. “I gather I’ve got a collection.”

Bronson closed the door. Peter wrinkled his nose, but seemed unfazed by the scene in front of him. “Why do you always take their clothes off?”

“It’s something Daniel taught me,” Bronson said. “People feel more vulnerable when they’re starkers.”

Peter considered the idea until he was distracted by something. “I thought you said this guy was Jewish. Aren’t all Jews circumcised?”

“Enoch runs a Chinese restaurant. How orthodox do you think he is?”

“Orthodox or not, it’s obviously pretty cold in here, if you know what I mean?”

Bronson laughed, slapping Peter on the back, but Peter’s face grew serious. “Listen mate, I only dump these bodies out at sea as a favour to you. I’m not dropping a live one in for anyone.”

“I understand. I didn’t think he’d last this long.”

“I’m freelance and I need the money, but…”

“It’s okay, honestly. I’ll take care of it.” Bronson pulled out a knife and waved it in front of Enoch’s face. “This is my friend Peter. He’s an arms dealer, but he also has a boat. He’s going to drop your dead body in the North Sea if you don’t give me the answers I’m after.”

Despite his exhaustion, Enoch swung away from the blade and started to cry. “Okay. Cut me down and I’ll tell you.”

Bronson looked to the knife in surprise. Why hadn’t he thought of this earlier? He’d carried that tub of shit up three flights of stairs for nothing.

He placed the knife under Enoch’s penis. “Get talking or maybe you’ll get circumcised after all. I ain’t no doctor and this place ain’t sterile. You don’t want little Enoch to go green and drop off, do you?”

With his face purple and his eyes wide, Enoch spoke to the knife. “Someone sent a photo to my phone. It was of my wife. She was tied to a chair. She had a blindfold on. Her face was bloody, but she was alive. Then they sent a text.”

“What did it say?” Bronson asked.

“No more money to the Daytons. Next time she dies. Tell no-one.”

“That was it?”

Enoch nodded. “They released her. She didn’t see anything, I swear.”

“And you never saw anyone either, I suppose?”

“No, but when she came home, she had five hundred pounds with her.”

“Jesus,” said Peter to no-one in particular.

Bronson looked at him. “They’re paying people to not pay us? That’s crazy.”

“Or really smart,” Peter said. “Who’s going to give you money when it pays more to keep it in their pockets?”

“And if they do pay, their loved ones die. Who are these guys?” Bronson rubbed his chin, hoping the answer might come in a blinding flash of brilliance.

Enoch snuffled back a sob. “That’s all I know. Please cut me down.”

The twitch in Bronson’s cheek took on a staccato rhythm. It sometimes happened when he was worried. Enoch had told him all he knew, but it wasn’t much. Aside from a text, Enoch had no contact with this new, mysterious gang. Bronson could check his phone, find the caller ID, but it was probably a throwaway and already smashed into several pieces. No-one this careful would be that stupid.

After hours of interrogation and buckets of cow shit, Bronson still knew nothing.

“Okay, Enoch, time to go home,” he said, working his knife through the rope.

Bronson shivered as the temperature dropped and a voice spoke behind them. “What did you find out?”

Bronson and Peter turned to see Scott Dayton walk into the room. He was as tall as Daniel, but with none of his warmth. Scott’s eyes were icy blue and his skin was white. He dressed in dark suits, tailored to limbs as thin as icicles. Sometimes he looked like a funeral director, sometimes like the corpse about to be buried.

He adjusted the knot on his silken tie. “I asked you a question.”

Clearing his throat, Bronson recounted the little he knew and tried not to stutter. When he finished, Scott studied him for an uncomfortable amount of time before turning his attention to Peter.

“It looked like Bronson was letting Enoch go.”

Peter shrugged. “He can do what he likes.”

“No, he can’t. Neither can you.”

Peter pulled on his coat, evidently feeling a chill. In all the years Bronson had known him, he never backed down from a fight. He admired that in Peter, but hoped today might mark a change and if it didn’t, Bronson was powerless to intervene.

“I don’t work for the Daytons,” Peter said, buttoning his coat, “and I’m not scared of you, either.”

Scott gestured to Bronson. “Give me your knife.”

“He didn’t mean anything by it, Scott. There was no disrespect.” Bronson looked at Scott’s extended hand and turned to Peter. “Tell him you didn’t mean anything.”

Peter’s mouth clamped shut. His eyes narrowed as Bronson presented the knife to Scott, who held it aloft like a trophy.

“It’s time you learned who has the power here.” Scott span on his heel, driving the blade into Enoch’s chest. There was no escaping the strike and Enoch didn’t scream. His strength had long been spent. He gulped in surprise and his arms gave way, his head sloshing beneath the shit. The body convulsed, spilling slurry over the floor and spattering Bronson’s shoes.

“It’s like that freaky cheek of yours,” Scott said with a grin. “All that jerking around for no reason.”

“You didn’t need to do that, Dayton,” Peter said, his big hands rising from his side.

“You came for a dead body, right?”

Bronson slipped between the two men. His back was to Peter, but his eyes were locked onto Scott.

“He didn’t pay his debts, Peter,” Bronson said. “He was protecting the gang trying to take us down. He deserved it.”

“You Daytons are butchers.” Peter placed a hand on Bronson’s shoulder. “You’re on your own with this one, pal. Give me a call if you need anything else.”

They watched the Irishman leave. Bronson sensed the coldness emanating from Scott in waves. “He won’t say anything,” he said.

Scott punched Bronson in the stomach. He doubled over and Scott forced him to his knees. He held Bronson’s face over the bath of slurry. The oily stain of Enoch’s blood rested on the surface.

“You better start getting me some answers or you’ll be the one hanging up there next time. Who’s out there? Who’s trying to take us down?”

“I don’t know,” Bronson said, immediately recalling Enoch’s fateful words.

Scott pushed his face into the slurry. It was cold and drew itself up his nose. It’s just water, he told himself as disgust clawed at the back of his mind. Just water. Not cow shit.

He was released, but didn’t dare breath. He blew the slurry from his nose, wiping his face clean before gasping for air. He’d rather suffocate than have that stuff inside him. When his head stopped spinning and the gagging passed, he looked around the room to find Scott was gone. He was on his own.

“Bollocks,” he said.

 

About the author

 

IMG_4612 (2)Shaun didn’t always live in a damp cottage in Scotland.  He once unwittingly lived in a flat beneath a white supremacist. He wasn’t always a writer, either. He worked in a factory, a government institution, as a manager in a purchasing department and later as a gardener.

He has had a gun levelled at him and been threatened by a man with ‘Bad Joe’ tattooed on his neck. He doesn’t knowingly associate with criminals.

Shaun comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. His short stories combine dark fantasy with contemporary crime. They can be found online, in magazines and in anthologies, including Eclectic Mix Vol 5 and Metamorphose Vol 3.

Woodcutter is his debut novel published by Thistle Publishing. It is based on the criminal underworld of his native home, available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback will be published 7th June 2018.

These days, he keeps chickens and bees, grows his own fruit and vegetables and wonders where it all went so right.

 

 

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THE YAMMER MOURNS THE DEATH OF SUDAN THE WHITE RHINO

As much I’d like to blame the end of the white rhino species on Walter Palmer, idiot dentist and lion killer, I cannot. Other idiots are to blame.

Sudan
Sudan was 45 years old

Sudan was the last of his kind. Schlepped from northern Africa to a Czech zoo, he eventually made his way back to a conservancy that cared for him until his death yesterday from the effects of old age. He is survived by a daughter and granddaughter.

 

 

assholes
Unidentified a*sholes hoping to join The Club

Scientists hope to keep his species alive through in vitro, and kudos to science for trying. But the point that should not be lost in all of this is that there are still hoomans out there who think that powdered rhino horn will stiffen their softer parts, keep bad jube jube away, and buy their way into an exalted secret club that mere mortals like we are neither impressed with nor give a shit about.

 

walter with lion
Walt and man friend bond over carcass

Walter Palmer goes down in history as one of the larger tools in the shed. It wasn’t enough to pay 50 large to the tour operator, he also sanctioned the use of an elephant carcass (another protected species) to lure a tagged and tamed beast to its death.

Mea culpa, Walter hooted under questioning “I didn’t know.”

Walter went on to shoot Cecil the lion from the comfort and safety of a tree stand leaving

walter getting hunted
Walt, unsmiling, avoids fans

us at The Yammer to wonder how he endured the flies and stink brought about by the dead elephant.

Walt missed the kill spot, and 12 hours later, his crew managed to finish the beast off.

 

I guess Walter missed the lesson on First Nation’s lore about how every animal taken is taken with reverence and one true shot.

Does it matter if Sudan’s relatives were taken with one true shot?

Nope.

What’s gone is gone. If there’s good to come out of this travesty it’s that the idiots who rely on powdered rhino horn will eventually be gone too. How can a bunch of flaccid clubbies survive otherwise?

Shit. I forgot. There are still black rhinos out there.

For The Daily Yammer, I am pissed off

A.B. Funkhauser

(Watch Netflix’ ZOO and feel better)

the rhino

March 21, 2018

Read:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-rhino/worlds-last-male-northern-white-rhino-dies-idUSKBN1GW0IT

See:

zoo

https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/80011206

The scribe’s links:

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

ON THE FLOOR AT A KUMBAYA

It’s been years since I attended a large gathering of the faithful, and like any outsider I IMG_20180319_194139walked through the doors of the Toronto Congress Centre with a wobbly uncertainty. I felt goddamned ashamed. After decades of self-improvement, I still felt like that kid on the playground, the one that doesn’t look right and probably never will.

Maybe it was my blue suede high-heeled cowboy boots that held me back. Somewhere in my feckless psyche, I had decided on my birthday that half-century feet sautéing in Uggs could be teased back.

IMG_20180319_195047I mopped my sloppy brow. Now measuring in at 5’11,” I remembered that I’d forgotten to take my hormone pill before I left the house. I dreaded the shvitz that would surely come.

A Doug Ford campaign staffer with fabulous accessories and terrific elocution skills approached with a tablet to steer me in the direction of Registration. There, my name, email address, postal code and degree of commitment was recorded digitally.

Fantastic! With what would amount to a crowd of anywhere between 1500 to 2000 IMG_20180319_191908depending on who you asked, this campaign would lead off strong with busy hands in every sphere.

I remember when we did this on paper and by rotary dial telephone alone!

To say that Doug Ford’s candidacy for Premier of Ontario is well-organized is not to gloss it. I saw it with my own eyes. From the jammed media riser to the wet bars in every corner, everything and everyone was in its proper place waiting for the man of the hour.

IMG_20180319_194744For American readers, let me tell you that Doug Ford is not new to the scene. He has had his fingers in politics and business for years, not unlike his predecessor, who was very ceremoniously dumped for social and possible financial wrong-doing just weeks ago.

That Doug’s team hit the ground, boots on, just days after his election as party leader speaks volumes to how badly they want it. But who was there to give it to them?

Bloggers and op edders agree that Doug is a menace. He’s privileged. He’s wealthy. He’s IMG_20180319_194803pale-faced. And he’s a dude. Who in their right mind outside of the faithful would vote for him? And wouldn’t the faithful look exactly like him?

Breaking a sweat under the bright lights, I retreated with aching feet to the shadows to get a better look.

Seems the Ford people don’t all look like him. In fact, I noted as many Benz and Audi in the parking lot as half-ton pick-ups. Nobody wore fur, and nobody carried truncheons. And nobody seemed to be overly concerned about my lack of Ford decoration, as if they knew that everyone there, press included, would behave, and would give the man of the hour a chance to speak.

The platform party was pleasingly representative of Ontario’s diversity—people with youth, people with age, people with history, people with enthusiasm.  More like them filled the hall. They are believers.

As the candidate mounted the platform, he was taken up in embrace by the three female candidates he defeated at the convention. Swearing solidarity, they are also promising to stick around, stick their necks out and actually run. I can’t fault anybody for having the courage to do that.

Mr. Ford spoke for about ten minutes and about the only thing I can remember is that “we are in a mess” and he will “clean up the mess.” If that’s what his communications director wanted to get across, congrats. It worked.

IMG_20180319_191849I’m on the floor now, my heels telling me that it is time. From this vantage, I can only see shoes—Dockers, Skechers, Vans, Steve Madden, Nine West—and some stroller wheels. What I don’t see are a rush of youthful feet, what we used to call (and what is probably still called) the Wedge, young Progressive Conservative Youth rushing the stage enthusiastically with lollipop signs. About the youngest I see here are late twenties but mostly early thirties, the new twenty. They cheer, they clap, but they are also composed and earnest.

I also do not see or, more correctly from the floor, “hear” the hecklers. Not even one. Do throne speechthey only appear on-line or do they reserve their right to free speech for those in power? I guess I’ll find out when I visit the Preem, who’s currently busy answering questions about the Throne Speech.

The party is over, and Doug has left the stage. I’m still on the ground with my sore feet. I’m in a terrible mess. What shall I do?

I don’t have to wait long. A nice chap from Ford Nation offers a hand. He picks me up.

For The Daily Yammer, I am

A.B. Funkhauser

Conscientious Observer

campaign hat

March 20, 2018

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

CHANNELING HUNTER S., I MAKE READY FOR A POLITICAL RALLY

hunter with gunBack in 1972, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson penned a collection of intentionally hilarious articles for Rolling Stone magazine. Drug addled, boozy and preternaturally gun-happy, he heroically skewered jingoism, nepotism, scare-the-hell-out-of-you ism and out-right hippocrisyism (not a real word) while covering the presidential campaign.

Dr. Thompson seems an unlikely chronicler in hunter with smoketoday’s political and social climate. His steadfast commitment to not falling into line would infuriate many and drive supporters underground. Yet, I cannot help but feel an extraneous kinship with journalism’s most unity rally posterfamous 20th Century lunatic.

As I put a toe out the door later today, I will steel myself bravely. I am about to experience Doug Ford’s Come One Come All Unity Rally. Armed only with an ancient Blackberry Passport, I will carry with me that lightness that comes with ignorance, fascination and a feline curiosity.

Since his political party famously dumped its leader for allegedly having sex, forcing sex,patrick brown threatening sex or not having sex but trolling for it in a hopeful way, Doug Ford has been labeled a bombast, buffoon, drug dealer and idiot.

The kind of dude Hunter would have loved to cover.

I’m going in today with eyes blank and brain empty, all without aid of booze or drugs. What I’m seeking is truth. The kind of truth that you get first hand.

Stay tuned.

From the campaign trail,

I am,

A.B. Funkhauser, conscientious observer

campaign hat

March 19, 2018

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

SATC DIDN’T AGE WELL, AND I DON’T MIND

SATC posterONE OF THE JOYS of Winter Break is that I get to holiday too! While the kids hang out, I order take out and rewatch one of my favorite guilty pleasures, the now out-dated and outrageously politically incorrect Sex and the City.

SATC turned me on to sky high heels back in the day. They shoes and sockswere great fun and I could actually run in them! But life intervened and Uggs moved in.

My trek down memory lane brought it all back, and as I struggled to retrain my feet back into these beauties, I wondered what the show’s principals were up to now.

Turns out they’re up to a lot–new shows, clothing lines, charitable works–and all no thanks to the mountains of criticism heaped against them. Who can know for sure if they snipe at one another behind the scenes. The only impact a feud could have would be on future SATC project development, and those who saw and cared about the re-boot of Gilmore Girls knows that digging up the bones and reanimating the body isn’t always a great idea.

Which brings me to the stuff being hurtled at the actors. Apparently, they got–shiver me timbers–O-L-D, an unforgivable offense given that wrinkle creams, Juviderm, Botox and microlifts are supposed to work.

satc BANNER

I can relate. I have, on occasion, used the #FloorSelfieFaceLift with great results, but it doesn’t prevent another birthday.

Critics be damned. I love SATC the second time around. It’s good, stupid fun. And that’s what holidays are all about.

Happy Winter Break, everyone!

Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,

I am,

A. B. Funkhauser

cheek puffing.jpg

 

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

From Humor to Horror: The Mortician and Her Charge

A. B. Funkhauser, Author

A fellow scribbler recently asked if I’d thought about working in other genres, and I had to take a moment before answering. After a couple of slugs of coffee, here’s what I said: Anything’s possible, but do YOU consciously sit down and say “I’m going to write a romance today?”

It’s true that we have an idea about what we want on the page after a few false starts and a meme or two. But if you’re like me, you give your characters a wide berth and let them do the driving.

The tale of halting mortician Enid Krause and her charge, the badly decomposed Jurgen Heuer (read “Heuer” as in “lawyer”) for me was a platform from which to launch some stories about what it’s like to be a funeral director in the space of a few precious days. The minutae, the stuff we as directors take for granted…

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HEUER LOST AND FOUND, The Second Edition, FREE TODAY thru February 26th

JPEG NEW COVER 2018I am thrilled to share HEUER LOST AND FOUND, The Second Edition. Out now as a #FREE #DOWNLOAD on Amazon, Heuer traces the day to day goings on at a ramshackle family-run funeral parlor.

Equal parts #paranormal #romance #horror and #humor, this novel has enough freak for the living and the dead.

Giveaway runs February 22 thru 26, 2018. Get yours today!

https://www.amazon.com/Heuer-Lost-Found-B-Funkhauser-ebook/dp/B00V6KLAMA/

WHAT I DID ON HOLIDAY

My holidays are over despite efforts to hang on to every second. I had a great time. Between double turkey dinners and a crummy virus that wouldn’t leave me the hell alone, I had plenty of time to hang out with family, friends and the semper fi feline, oftentimes with a fine glass of Crown Royal over ice in my hand.

Now I understand how much fun retirement can be.

I didn’t write much. I was lucky to jump into a hashtag game or two, but with Book Three out in the world finding its audience, I was content to take a pause.

I watched a lot of T.V. and was surprised by the quality of the content.

 

JOE’S PALACE & CAPTURING MARY (Movie Network, Canada)

capturing maryI have seen CAPTURING MARY before, so I was delighted to joe's palacefind its companion film, JOE’S PALACE, on the roster in December. Set in contemporary London, both films flash between now and “back then.” With a vacant and very smart London townhouse as the anchor, both films show how an inanimate object—the house—can be as vital and real as its carbon-based companions. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, especially when the tortured Mary (played by the intense Ruth Wilson) and her nemesis Greville took the stage to mount a cat and mouse game that left this viewer chilled.

JoeEnter Joe, a young man who works in the now vacant palace as a concierge and keeper of the building’s secrets. Joe appears innocent and unfettered, yet it’s his absence of baggage that enables him to cut through his tormented visitors and get to the truth of their pasts. The truth is ugly, but the resolution is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

 

 

A GHOST STORY (Netflix)

a ghost storyImagine Casey Affleck mute and under a sheet with only two eye holes through which to communicate. (I checked. It was him.) A GHOST STORY is a “watching film” in that you can’t look away for a second or you might miss something. The hook of course is the notion that something silent and unseen could be wandering through your house as you sit and write or eat or sleep, and that—let’s face it—is both compelling and creepy. Affleck’s taken some personal hits over missteps settled privately, but I couldn’t let it get in the way. I couldn’t stay away. His is a stunning, soundless performance that elicited rave reviews to go with kudos for the film all around. Something different.

 

PLANETARIUM (Netflix)

planetariumA “reading picture” if you cannot speak French, this production is luxe and takes place just before the out break of World War II in France. Natalie Portman’s “Laura” plays sister to Lily-Rose Depp’s “Kate” who is a sought-after medium in elite circles. Both sisters rely on the gift to get ahead in life, but things take a tragic turn when they become enmeshed with their patron Korben. Korben has a past that he very much wants to unlock with Kate’s help, but the results of their experiments have the unforeseen effect of releasing the full weight of Parisian society in the negative’s column. Here’s a case where the spirit world may be preferred. Visually gorgeous and somewhat long-running, it is “art house” and moody and worthy of a boo if “different” is for you.

 

I’M THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE (Netflix)

I'm the pretty thingActor Ruth Wilson again (See her in Showtime’s The Affair if you haven’t already) in a joint Canadian-American production that’s classy psych-thriller from start to finish. Throw in some Bob Balaban (right up there with Buck Henry) in a limited, but pivotal role, and you’ve got something that will freak you out with minimal effort. The scare is in Wilson’s eyes. She is aruth wilson nurse hospice nurse called in to care for dying horror author Iris Blum in a remote and gorgeous century home (trope-I don’t care) that has a lot of supernatural activity going on. Dialogue is sparse, and the scenes are CGI free with ghostly specters using more traditional (old-fashioned) tricks that blend well with this type of bare bones presentation. Just wait for the phone to fly out of Wilson’s hand.

 

CRIMSON PEAK (Netflix)

crimson peakThe antithesis of the film above, this beauty is a good old timey gothic horror with freaky ghosts set in an even freakier house in 19th Century England. Here, Tom Hiddleston and excellent Jessica Chastain pair up as a larcenous brother and sister seeking to bilk heiress Mia Wasikowska of her fortune and her life. As if! The heiress kicks butt without aid of 50 caliber fully automatic machine weapons or hunter killer satellites. Shot in gorgeous “Triadic” color (a go-to for director Guillermo del Toro), CRIMSON PEAK reminds me of the Technicolor films of yesterday, with frames that look more like paintings only to move like Harry Potter’s newspaper.

 

And finally,

GERALD’S GAME (Netflix)

Gerald's GameThe plot description read like a BDSM cheesefest, but when I cracked into it I found it was anything but. Based on what book reviewers have called “one of Stephen King’s lesser works,” this psych horror thriller will freak you out as a viewer and have you wishing you could think that way as a writer. What’s up with the dog? Perfect for late night with the lights out, all I’ll say is that I’ve never seen actor Carla Gugino like this. (I used to watch her in Spy Kids 1,2 and 3 with the kids). This one is not for kids.

 

 

What’s next?

GlitchWell, if I had any sense I’d get back to researching Book Four, but I still have a house to paint from top to bottom and there’s this little Australian series called GLITCH that keeps calling out. It’s on Netflix, of course.

 

 

 

 

Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,

I am,

A.B. Funkhauser

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January 16, 2018

MARK ILES ROARS WITH BOOK 3 IN SCIFI SERIES ‘DARKENING STARS’

Blog favorite Mark Iles is back with a new release ROAR OF LIONS that’s currently ranking in the top 10 on Amazon in several categories. As you would expect, he has a lot to say about that!

Hello, Mark.

Congrats on the new release. Is it true that you’re already at work on something new?

A bit. I’m a firm believer in not giving away your story, as when you do so the train of thought tends to drain away with the words. I will say that the new book is a mixture of science fiction, fantasy and horror – done in a new way for me. I like to think about what really scares people, why, and how to put that into a tale.

 

Let’s talk DARKENING STARS

To what extent do you think your own military experiences influenced the series?

To be honest, a surprising amount. For instance, the bit where my character shoves her rifle towards a non-commissioned officer’s mouth and pulls the trigger. I was attached to the commandos for a while back in the early 80’s, and was training with them on Dartmoor one dark and snowy night. I was asleep, totally exhausted when, simulating an attack, this guy who’d been picking on me threw a thunder flash in my direction, quite deliberately I’m sure. Damned thing went off right next to my head. I leapt up, cocked my rifle, thrust it towards his face and before I realised what I’d done pulled the trigger. All I’ll say it went off exceptionally close. It pure reflex believe me and luckily my magazine was full of blanks.

That was a long time ago and luckily the guy concerned took it remarkedly well. He even bought me a pint the next time we were ashore but he never picked on me again. You don’t forget stuff like that and it makes kinda interesting reading. Guess you’d get in all sorts of trouble for that sort of thing now.

 

Armchair enthusiasts spend a lot of time musing over first contact with aliens. Personally, I think they’re already here and have been for eons. What do you think would happen if contact was made?

I think first contact with an alien species is open to misinterpretation on so many levels. I was told once that one of the first English people to talk to Bedouins was shown a sheep’s eyeball to show it was freshly killed. Thinking it was some kind of ritual or honour the chap ate it. Consequently, for many years we believed it was tradition while they thought it was something we did. Whether it’s true or not, it still gives an indication of how things can so easily be misconstrued.

In J. Michael Straczynski’s marvellous Babylon 5, the Minbari approach humans for the first time with their gun ports open as a sign of respect. The humans took it as a sign they were preparing to fire and engaged them, and so the first war began.

In answer to your question the answer is yes, first contact has the potential for disaster.

ROAR OF LIONS is the third book in the series. Is a fourth coming up next? 

I would like to return to Selena’s journey, and have left openings for such. But in ‘Roar of Lions’ her story comes full circle. Due to illness it took me a long time to write, and I now have another project demanding to be written – one I’m truly excited about. The new book has already been started and there are so many avenues to explore. As Bilbo Baggins might say, I’m going on an adventure…

ROAR OF LIONS IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AS A FREE DOWNLOAD THROUGH NOVEMBER 3

GET IT HERE

SELENA DILLON IS BACK AND HER CRACK TEAM OF COMMANDOS ARE BEHIND HER

ROAR OF LIONS_eBook_optThe ForeRunners have destroyed one of Capulet’s cities, and the joint Lenar-Human search teams are needed to root out the enemy. But when the empathic Lenars refuse to work without Selena Dillon and her team of commandos, they soon find themselves back on Capulet in an uneasy alliance with the planetary administration and in a race against time to stop the enemy from destroying other cities.

Throughout the galaxy billions are dying as the war spreads. Despite her fear that the alien Manta and their allies will turn against them, Selena needs to truly unite the Alliance of Worlds and find a way to destroy the ForeRunners before it’s too late.

Selena knows there’s no more running, and that sooner or later there will be a final reckoning between herself and the queen. But even if they survive that long she needs to discover who will stand with her, and who against her, in this final confrontation with the tyrannical monarch.

 

Excerpt

Collecting Singh and Shadow, Selena found Baron waiting for them when they arrived. To her surprise, he was wearing the uniform of the Royal Bodyguard.

“Nice to meet you at last, Commander,” Baron said, saluting as he led the way. “A shame it’s under such circumstances. Like many here, I’ve followed your exploits. Tell me, is it true you once fed an enemy their own pets and didn’t tell them until they’d finished their meal?”

Selena gave him the once over. “No, but it’s an idea. Why, do you have any pets?”

He gave a half smile. “Ah, we’re far from enemies Commander, despite my uniform. I want this killer caught as much as you do. And no, I don’t have any pets, thankfully.”

Baron was a tall but slim man, his gray hair crewcut with a large balding area on his crown. He looked wrinkled and haggard, tired beyond belief. Yet his green eyes were kind and his voice soft.

She eyed his uniform. “You’re a member of the Royal Bodyguard. How come the colonel put you forward for this?”

“I believe that Her Majesty thought it a good idea and had a word. I can advise on protocol and other such matters.”

Putting her distrust to one side, they followed him, and passed through the military cordon and under the high white-stone arch into an alleyway that was so narrow daylight struggled against the gloom. The rough concrete buildings around them were obviously some of the first made by the colonists when they arrived, their ancient machines churning out concrete from native material to quickly provide the housing and protective walls needed for the settlers.

Shadowy doorways beckoned, boxes were piled against the walls, amidst occasional pools of water. Cats and rodents slipped through the gloom while rubbish scampered over the flagstones, driven by the soft breeze tainted with the stench of refuse.

“You look familiar somehow,” Selena said to Baron, after a while. “Do we know each other?”

His bottle-green eyes remained on hers. “No, but I was born on this world so we could easily have bumped into one another. We may even have mutual friends. You never know. I pop up in all kinds of places and work all hours, but when working exclusively for the queen I mostly do nights. I like the way the moons dance.”

Selena froze as he uttered the last phrase, recognising it as a rebel recognition code. Knowing the others will have noticed the phrase was slightly out of place, she just gave a slight nod of acknowledgement. At that moment, they stopped at a doorway and her eyes slid over the blood splattered wall and passageway. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“A citizen came through here late last night and found them. They’ve been eviscerated—gutted if you will. There’s not a single organ remaining, not even their brains or eyes.”

“There was just their bodies?”

“Aye Ma’am. They’ve been taken to the morgue. We’ve never had anything like this before, I think we’re a bit out of our depth.”

 

FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS CLICK HERE 

Cull Cover

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Portrait optMark’s short stories have been published in Back Brain Recluse, Dream, New Moon, Haunts, Kalkion, Screaming Dreams, and the anthologies Write to Fight, Escape Velocity, Auguries and Monk Punk. With over forty years’ experience in the martial arts and a 9th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, he’s written features for the magazines Combat, Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts, Fighters, Junk, Martial Arts Illustrated, profwritingacademy.com and calmzone.net. He also runs a writer’s group for the British Science Fiction Association, along with The Scribe for Veterans with the help of The Royal British Legion.

His first full length work ‘Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo’, was published in Hong Kong, while he was based there with the Royal Navy for three years in 1985. His debut novel ‘A Pride of Lions’, Book I in The Darkening Stars, was published byA Pride of Lions Solstice in September 2013. Book II, ‘The Cull of Lions’, was published a year later. ‘Roar of Lions’ is the third book in the series.

Solstice have also published four novellas: ‘A Connoisseur of the Bizarre’, ‘Sally Jane’, ‘Nightshade’ and ‘Santa Claws is Coming’ – along with the short story compilation ‘Falling From Grace & Others’.

 

Buy Links

A Pride of Lions: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pride-Lions-Darkening-Stars/dp/149425445X/

The Cull of Lions: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cull-Lions-Darkening-Stars/dp/162526089X/

Roar of Lions:

Falling from Grace & Others: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Grace-Others-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00OYV3CHE/

 

Media Links

Amazon authors page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Iles/e/B004YZBP3I/

 

 

 

 

THE DAILY YAMMER: IF YOU DON’T KNOW TOM, YOU SHOULD

It happened again—a signpost to my life and the lives of so many others has gone off toTom Petty wherever it is signposts go to. I’m miserable. Tom Petty not only wrote things you could drive your car really fast to, but he had a style that goofy kids like me could take on back in the mid-70s, early-80’s.

Those of you who weren’t there, dayam. I wish you could have been. But given the spike in 70s-themed shows and fashion lately, you’ll likely get a taste.

Tom Petty was cool, man, and if you don’t know who he is, I suggest you make a point of finding out tout suite.

Safe passage, brother. Hope you’re with George and Roy.

Adult, unapologetic and travellin’,

I am,

A.B. Funkhauser

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