Can a fly interview a rat? Malay Upadhyay thinks so. Funkhauser doesn’t argue.

It was with great pleasure that I appeared recently on fellow Solstice author Malay Upadhyay’s blog AUTHORZ & CHARACTERZ in support of the upcoming release of HEUER LOST AND FOUND. Photo - Malay UpadhyayYou may recall that Malay was featured here recently to promote his work Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea. Like yours truly, Malay has no problem whatever assigning qualities magical and mystical to humble creatures. In that spirit, he endeavoured to interview me IN CHARACTER; in this case as the incomparable Rat, whose influence in Heuer’s funeral parlor exceeds what one might normally expect. Reproduced today…

Interview with A. B. Funkhauser

Hallo, guyz! Today we are going to teeter around a deathly zone – a fine line between thiz and that world. Az our ezteemed guide, we have A. B. Funkhauser, a funeral director cum wildlife and clazzic car enthuziazt from Ontario, Canada.

Zhe takez uz through her debut novel, Heuer Lost And Found – which combinez Adult, Paranormal and Dark Humor in a fiction – az a rather unexpected creature.

Fly: Welcome, Mz. Funkhauser. I zee you are in a different mold today.

AB: You bet, Fly. Rats have a nasty reputation, but there’s more to me than good looks and an above average competency in Latin. We are clean, clever and very friendly, which is why my life and death in HEUER LOST AND FOUND is celebrated favourably by most of the characters.

Fly: That’z awesome! If it’s any support, flies get a bad rap too. But here we are in a funeral parlor. What’s new?

New Funkhauser ShotRat: Silent. More than usual. The guys – Enid and her manager, Charlie – are trying to make ends meet because deaths have been few and that has robbed them of their payroll! Heuer’s death, while hard on Enid, was the first death call in weeks. He really saves the day.

Fly: I find a zcary zenze of irony in all this! But let’z talk about the novel. Heuer Lost & Found beginz with the death of Jürgen Heuer. How did your alter ego come by that idea?

Rat: It was in the winter of 2010, and after a long day at the funeral home she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out into the parking lot. The back door on the cover is a more than accurate representation of it. It’s from a real funeral home, you know? Anyway, a thought occurred to her at that moment: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains? Freaky, no? But there it is Ad infinitum

Fly: Tell uz about Heuer?

Rat: Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer the lawyer is a very conflicted man. Intensely private, heElevator - Copy craves recognition, but doesn’t want anyone to get too close. When he finds my shattered body on the floor of the Wisteria Slumber Room, he approaches, commenting on the exceptional beauty of my fur. At that moment, he recognizes beauty in an unlikely thing. I found this particularly charming about him. I must confess, however, to being more than a little put out when he confronts my murderer. I had great hopes for moral redress; instead, he takes pity and tries to help her. What can I say? Ecce homo.

Fly: That’z exciting. Where can the readerz get accezz to theze?

Rat: Through Amazon.com .ca .co.uk Bookgoodies and the publisher www.solsticepublishing.com. Here are some buy links:

Buy Link (United States)

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Heuer-Lost-Found-B-Funkhauser-ebook/dp/B00V6KLAMA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1427367625&sr=1-1&keywords=heuer+lost+and+found

Buy Link International (Country specific Amazon sites)

Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00V6KLAMA

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25232328-heuer-lost-and-found?from_search=true

Direct buy presale link (United States): http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=A.B.%20Funkhauser&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank

Also, information will be posted as it becomes available on her website www.abfunkhauser.com and her author page on Facebook www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound. I believe she posted a most excellent profile of your alter ego there, Fly. (laughs)

Fly: Zome inspiration that. What would you zay haz inzpired A.B. Funkhauser in real life?

Rat: She has an amazing support group—her family, her writer’s group The Brooklin 7, and pretty well everyone she comes into contact with, from friends at the grocery store and local coffee house to the lady who helps her with her printing at Staples. She also maintains close connections to friends and work colleagues in funeral service, a business I must say that can easily be misunderstood with little effort. She believes in the work, and through writing has tried to shine a light on it.

Fly: And any author or artizt can vouch for how important thoze things are. Working as a funeral director, what iz Mz. Funkhauser’z take on life?

Rat: Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. She celebrates it daily, from simple chores to writing new chapters. And she loves the outdoors. It’s been a long winter here in Canada. She needs to get outside and roam.

Enid - CopyFly: In the ztory, we have Enid on one zide, who lozez zomeone important to her – Heuer – without a chance to zay a final goodbye. On the other zide, we have Heuer whose ztory, and in zome way, life itself unfoldz after hiz death. In a zingle ztroke, you introduce uz readerz to both our greatezt fear and our greatezt wizh!

Take uz through thiz experience with regardz to getting zecond chancez in life. Which perzpective would you zay you lean more towards in real life?

Rat: The first thing Funkhauser got rid of after her thirtieth birthday was the idea that all she had in front of her was second chances. She decided instead to roll with the idea that it’s all a continuum…good days, bad days, successes and failures. She refuses to see the end. She sees the next day and all the promise that comes with it. On a micro level, if she suffers less than three disappointments in a day, it’s been a pretty amazing day!

The character Heuer in life goes through the motions of working and acquiring “stuff”. His house is literally packed to the ceiling with ‘treasures’ signifying a life in progress. But there is no real human contact. He avoids his neighbors wherever possible, does not have a spouse or significant other, and lives through what he sees on the television and in old photos. After death, being found is prime to him because his objects can’t call for help, and there is no one out there looking for him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Enid. She has done everything her society expects of her: she has a career, a spouse, family, friends and hobbies. But her life is changing. Her eyesight is blurred; her step, less sure footed. “There is unfinished business here,” Heuer says, and it’s to that business that the book turns; so not so much a second chance, but a recognition that the drama and comedy are still continuing.

Fly: That anomaly iz a work of art! I have to bring up a literal one at thiz point, though – The Lamp. Very much living, myzteriouz and absolutely fascinating! Care to introduce uz to it?

The Lamp embodies the spirit of the funeral home matriarch who died decades before. Anchored to the floor by her griffin’s feet, she can travel in the minds of others, but cannot leave her place in the dusty, cramped funeral home basement. There is a parallel here; that her domicile closely resembles Heuer’s and that their predicaments are similar. It was inevitable that the two should become allies, although their relationship is a strained one.

Fly: And you embody one of them?

More Heuer, I think. As I said earlier, rats have a bad rap owing to history and human malfeasance. The same is true for Heuer. He carries with him the sins of his father. Just by being born, he is convinced that he is bad, and rather than try to overcome it, he embraces it in his twenties. The tragedy for him is that his life is a lie and all the angst that ruled him in life was completely without merit.

Fly: Alright, don’t say anymore! I can barely control my urge to flip through the pagez right till the very end. When doez the book come out?

Rat: It hits all the AMAZONS April 23, 2015. Presales began March 26, 2015.

Fly: Time to mark our calendarz then. For now, we make do with the preview. Thank you, dear Rat, for your attendance today.

Rat: You can call me ‘The’. That’s my first name.

Fly: Really?! Mine too! Damn, what are the chances??Rat

Rat: (laughs) That’s my point, dear friend. You and I share the same hang-ups. Of course we’d align. Amicitiae nostrae memoriam spero sempiternam fore.

Fly: The Fly, mind you. It’s time to get out of the funeral parlour! And to all the readerz, enjoy the excerpt from Heuer’z pozthumouz world!

Happy living,

The Fly

It's happening April 23, 2015
It’s happening April 23, 2015

 AN EXCERPT FEATURING “RAT”

Rat should have seen it coming. He was a rat after all and therefore genetically predisposed to a shorter life. As such, he should have taken better care. But tender concern for his friend obscured his view, and this deprived him of a rodent’s perfunctory need to avoid detection.

Mrs. Emmy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E” late of The Springs by way of Baycon Hill had died quietly in her bed in her ninety-sixth year. Owing to her advanced age, her family decided that a little-more-than-this-side-of-nothing was required to get her on her way as quickly as possible. To that, arrangements were concluded between Teddy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E,” her great nephew and heir, and Charles Emerson Forsythe, funeral director extraordinaire.

“I’m very sad to hear of your great aunt’s passing,” Charlie said somberly, for he liked Emmy very much. A wealthy woman, she was a doyen, a neighborhood fixture, raising funds for world wild life, Christian children and Ethiopian famine relief. But she was more than just money. At the heart of her was a genuinely good human being who said what she meant, and acted on her commitments. In the early years, she was a constant fixture at Weibigand’s, resplendent in a magnificent suite of emeralds that Charlie never tired of commenting upon. “I bring in the business, don’t I Charlie?” she would say through cherry lips under a pillbox hat. Indeed she did, and Charlie encouraged her familiarity. Both shared a special bond. Even after her (some said) forced relocation to the nursing home in The Springs, she never failed to fire off emails to her Charlie to make sure he was okay. And Charlie always visited her on her birthday and at Christmas.

Emeralds? Rat was barely two years old and so had never met Emmy Shawson-Cooke. But he knew well enough about gemstones and other things too, and so it was to this that he turned his attention as he repositioned himself inside Charlie’s monk strap Prada slip on. They were in the front office, Rat’s favorite room by far. It faced the street, was pleasantly lit, and with its high coffered ceiling, offered stunning acoustical advantages. Charlie was reminiscing with Teddy about the gemstones: They sparkled blue at their centers, spanning outward only to be confined devilishly in beveled frames of seawater green. Spectacular—like the Bering Strait meeting the Caribbean Sea. Emmy’s late husband Cecil joked that they could shame Tsars and tease laughs from stone.

“I beg your pardon,” Charlie said noticing Rat beneath him. It was Charlie’s habit to remove his shoes in mid-afternoon to promote better circulation, but they were in the way now under the large desk and he took care not to disturb the Weibigand mascot as he moved the shoes off to one side.

Teddy Shawson-Cooke shifted from haunch to haunch, his incredible heft straining the pound for pound capacity of the Faux Toscano Victorian Rococo wing chair he was sitting on. Forsythe, sensing the man’s discomfort, did his best to speed up the meeting. Emmy had prearranged her funeral and Teddy was undoing as much of it as he could because, he said, “there was no one left” and “doing her up for nothing was just plain stupid.” Truth was, Teddy had the power to add the money saved from a cheapo funeral to his aunt’s estate, from which he could pay himself as executor.

Charlie smiled down at Rat who, in an act of implicit trust, dozed off in his shoe.

“Allow me, if you will, to think out loud,” Charlie said, in anticipation of what Teddy wanted to serve up next. If the meeting went on much longer, Emmy’s casket choice would be undone too and no one at Weibigand’s—Charlie most all—could bear to put Emmy into anything less than the mahogany she’d paid for years before. “Your great aunt put her faith in us to carry out her wishes. I understand where you are coming from, but I must insist on the single night of visiting she paid for.”

Shawson-Cooke, in saying nothing, red-flagged Charlie, and he picked up speed. “Now the emerald suite. I trust she will be wearing it, as always?” Teddy replied that it was “long gone” save for the ring which, he hoped, “found its way out of the nursing home before someone else got to it.”

Down on the floor below, Rat dreamed of Carla and, more particularly, her less than utterly no-good spouse Danny Blue—a musician in a band that had, in the space of two years, eroded the family fortune on protracted road trips through northern Canada. Designed to boost the band’s profile and hopefully springboard them into other gigs in Manitoba, the latest tour had bogged down south of Parry Sound and Danny Blue had forgot to come home. The issue at hand was money. Plain and simple. And in dreams, Rat searched for a solution.

Thank you Malay for your kind hospitality. All the best to you and much success for Kalki Evian.

Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Bookgoodies. Check out my review on Goodreads.
Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Bookgoodies. Check out my review on Goodreads.

THENCE COMES THE DARKNESS…AND THE LIGHT

My guest blog at author Rachael Stapleton’s Mysterious Ink Spot. Appropriately dubbed “The Treasured and Tipsy Timeslip” the spot asks writers to detail places real and imagined that they have visited or would like to visit. Congrats to my friend Rachael for a cool idea and a truly off planet experience.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Only The Shadow knows…Bwahahahahaha.”

For many my age and younger, knowing the origin of the above might be a bit of a stretch: yet I do. Corny? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely! The quote, or more correctly, the radio program to which this voice over belongs comes from none other than The Shadow, which got its start in pulp fiction and later ran an incredible seventeen years of American radio from 1937 to 1954.

Featuring lurid tales narrated by a supernatural all-seeing being that always knew better than the affected hapless humans it oversaw, The Shadow spoke to me in reruns throughout the Seventies.

What got me was the voice. What hooked me was the medium. Radio, you see, forced me to conjure up images of just where the plays took place. As a ten year old, it was no mean feat, seeing that my world barely extended past the hydro field in summer and the school yard in winter.

“What evil lurks?” I wondered. And was it always in sinister places?

The answer, I found, lived in dreams, and it was to some of these that I return over and over again years after they first played out. That I have recurring dreams—usually in Technicolor—I think speaks to the impact of radio: if given a choice, I would color my dreams no matter how frightening. Somehow, in color, the sinister seems palatable. Even inviting.

PLANET OF THE BATHROOM STALLS
Apes
I could relate to Cornelius’ sensitivity, but I could not get my head around the human “hunt” scene in PLANET OF THE APES. Gross.

I remember finishing a harrowing week of Grade 12 second term exams. Exhausted, relieved and flat out broke, I had no choice but to celebrate my accomplishment with a long sleep. Waking in dreams, I was confronted by a highly stylized ape man in an orange jump suit. He wasn’t Roddy Mcdowall from Planet of the Apes, but a curious hybrid that co-opted equine features in a high cheek-boned, narrow face that embraced intelligence and a promise. The ape did not speak as he took my hand, ushering me over verdant hills backed by brilliant vistas I instantly recognized from the beats out of Sgt. Pepper’s.

We were barely out of the Seventies at this point, so strawberry fields made perfect sense, even if my companion—a behemoth of eight feet or more—could have easily made Poe’s House of Usher his home. I asked him where he was taking me, but the ape said nothing, pulling me along with kind, if not gentle urgency, until, at last, we arrived at our destination: a row of bathroom stalls as orange and shiny as his coveralls. He wanted me to step inside the first one, yet I could not. It was a pay toilet, and I didn’t have a dime.

THE LAKE AND THE DRAGON
Wikimedia Commons 3.0
Wikimedia Commons 3.0

It will be eighteen years this May since my amazing German daddy passed away while on vacation in sunny Florida. His death, completely unexpected, knocked all of us near to him on our collective rear ends. Yet his passing was perfect—at least for him. My dad came from another age, an age currently celebrated on AMC’s Mad Men. Cool, collected and always on top of his game, my pa drank scotch and smoked cigarettes to his end of days: his pockets, when turned out, contained an empty pack of Chesterfields. He smoked his last one. Good on you pa. I missed him in those early days—I still do—yet in the afterburn of the funeral, seeing him again was paramount. It was not long before he visited me in dreams, this time in a lake setting muted with sepia tones save for a cobalt sky and bone bleached trees denuded of their summer leaves. My dad, you see, was renowned for saving the day. And so it came as no surprise when I tipped my fishing boat and fell into the dark water, that he would rescue me from an odd looking creature that reminded me of TV’s H.R. Pufnstuf.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5e9yCB-hiw Confronted by the large yellow beast with his

I didn't mind Puf, but I really dug Witchypoo's ride.
I didn’t mind Puf, but I really dug Witchypoo’s ride.

oversized spots and tousled felt-twist mane, my first impulse was to shoo him away. “Be gone absurd beast with your goggly doll eyes!” Before I could reach him, strong arms overtook me, drawing my close. It was dad in his favorite black and rust hunting jacket, impossibly dry despite the cold water we found ourselves floating in. Pufnstuf, the dragon, opened his soft felt mouth at the sight of dad, as if to frighten him, but my father just laughed, reaching out with one of his short fingers (the rest of it claimed by a band saw in the Fifties) to poke the silly bugger in the eye. Puf retreated beneath the waves. I haven’t been back to the lake lately, nor have I been visited by the large, yellow, felt-mouthed beastie, but I wish it so most terribly. My dad is there, and I’d love to see him again.

THE HOUSE OF USHER AS HOME
maxresdefault.jpg
maxresdefault.jpg

Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the House Usher stayed with me if only for the author’s assertion that the cursed family tree ran vertically and without branch. “How strange,” I thought at the time. Yet, when I woke for the first time in an amazing home—high ceilinged and trimmed with thick mahogany baseboards and crown molds—I knew where I was. Imagine a long hall, the plaster walls stained cerulean blue to compliment large crystal chandeliers to mark a white ceiling honeycombed with bowed crossbeams of black and tar. The hall, never ending, opens every thirty feet or so into rooms beautifully decorated from the Age of Empire; each a different color, each recognizable every time I visit because I’ve had this dream before. And never, ever, is there an intersection along the way. It is Usher’s family tree, but I do not fear it. This is not a family tree cursed, but a home filled with history, its rooms lovingly curated by something I have yet to see.

MISTRESS BISCUIT AND HER SHORTBREADS
www.travelmob.com
http://www.travelmob.com

In a similar vein, I have visited the home of Mistress Biscuit many, many times. Each time, it is the same. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The front door opens into a spectacular foyer, shitake monochrome walls accented with glass and chrome backed by sky high windows capped by a vaulting ceiling twenty feet above our heads. I say “our” because the guests are there, wrapped in looks reminiscent of the disco era, but tasteful to one who was there. “Mistress is busy,” the tall, slightly balding fellow in livery informs me. “Would madam care for a swim before chicken?” Don’t mind if I do. Pocketing a couple of sweeties fetched off a silver tray of shortbreads and arugula, I head to the indoor pool where a friend awaits. He is young, wearing a white terry cloth robe. I have no idea who he is.

Trippy, no?
Thank you, Rachael Stapleton, for taking me back…

Adult, unapologetic, and cognizant, I wish you good day. Let’s stay above it.

ABF

For more Rachael, please visit:

www.rachaelstapleton.com

http://rachaelstapleton.blogspot.ca/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Rachael-Stapleton/137831156290570

https://twitter.com/RaquelleJaxson

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7271862.Rachael_Stapleton

FIRST RADIO INTERVIEW

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway galaxy, I worked in politics. It was an amazing world peopled with amazing speech makers, luminescent scribes, and ambitious policy makers jostling to get the words out.

Which is why there’s a little thing called ‘media training’. Broadly defined, media training encompasses everything from elocution to breathing to physical deportment. Perspiration was a “no, no” — Richard Nixon debating Kennedy back in ’60 cemented that — as was the exclamatory pause “um”. Um was anathema, and as I watched politicians prep from debates, I picked up a thing or two…

Good thing, because it’s my turn now. Last month, I talked up HEUER LOST AND FOUND with Charlene Jones on 102.7 FM Whistle Radio Stoufville. It was a privilege to have been given the opportunity.

“Don’t say “um,” I kept saying to myself, “for cryin’ out loud DON’T.” And I didn’t, thank gawd.

Scheduled to air March 24, I just had to share a “sneak peek”.

The Interview

HEUER LOST AND FOUND available April 23, 2015. Advance orders begin March 26 at Amazon.com.

solstice publishing

LIGHT BULB NOT INCLUDED

Where I come from, Hydro electric power is at a premium. That’s because environmentally conscious legislators stick handled some ballyhoo through our august house of parliament mandating the use of high cost mercury filled light bulbs. These, said to last forever,—(they don’t)—force tremendous savings, resulting in surpluses that the aforementioned legislators give away to our neighbors so that the status quo is maintained and we can enjoy higher prices.

Bully for us. There’s always a silver lining.

While others bitch and moan over the obvious injustice—my Sensy Burner™ for example has been without tiny bulb since the kibosh on luminescents—good hearted optimists like me embrace the darkness. And a good thing too: Darkness, like paint stripper, takes away everything cracked and peeling.

Every year around my birthday, I meet up with my old friend The Muse for a little vin rouge and a lie or two. I love these meetings, especially since they date back some thirty odd years.

Muse and I have had our fair share of triumphs and failures that include, but are not limited to, expanding waistlines and thinning hair. None of these matter, because in the afterglow of what is time, space and many, many vintages, neither he nor I change.

If anything, we travel backward.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” one of us says each year, usually after the first bottle.

“I know, eh? Funny how that is.”

Sometimes, after rehashing an old tale with plenty of add-on embellishments compensating for faltering memories, one of us will start eating out of the other’s plate without any thought to the patrons sitting next to us. We can do this, we tell ourselves, because the grey hair and lined faces that announce us on arrival gradually fade as the hours wear on.

Youth, you see, has a way of getting away with things that time and sober thought cancel out. It’s true every time; this year was no exception:

“Madame? Monsieur?” the concerned wait staff interjects once the peas start rolling onto the floor. “I must give you a caution. We here at M**ton’s take the utmost pride in the atmosphere we present and we rely on our patrons to do the same.”

Muse clears his throat before blowing the pretty little table candle out. “There,” he says, affecting invisibility. “No one can catch us now.”

It’s not until the next morning when I wake up safe and sound in my own bed that I realize that I’ve time traveled backward. “How did I get here?” I ask my husband while trying to blot out the natural light that recuts all kinds of crevices into my wise old face.

“The train,” he replies. “Muse piled you on the first one going east.”

“That’s bold,” I comment, before realizing that there could be no other conclusion: neither The Muse nor I could make sense of the e-schedule as posted despite the tinkly lights showing the way.

“Where are you going?” I query my husband who, with keys in hand, makes a bee line for the door. “It’s not even noon yet.”

“Light bulbs,” he says pointedly. “Two out in the family room.”

I laugh as I wave him off.

For as much as I curse the light and the hydro that brings it, there is no escaping the reality of a new day and the bright things it possesses.

THANK YOU, O MUSE. UNTIL NEXT YEAR… AND TO OTHERS: HAPPY ST. PADDY’S DAY!

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good day! Let’s stay above it.

ABF

ALL ROADS LEAD TO RAY’S CAFE

Long ago, before dinosaurs roamed the planet, a young woman sat down at her desk to write. Situated in the darkest corner of the Ontario Legislature and hidden beneath the main staircase in the north wing, the woman, attached to the research unit of the third party, had every prospect before her. They were in third place; they could only go up. Years later, they did. But that’s for another blog. Lady writer-in-waiting had miles to go and a mountain of human experience to conquer before she could get anything near an arc or inciting incident.

Which brings me to Ray’s Cafe in PICKERING, ONTARIO, CANADA. Intimate, homey and tucked away,

As good as it looks.
As good as it looks.

it is a gem in the early stages of pre-discovery. Monochromed with tons of natural light, it sports a large centre fireplace, plenty of comfy seats and croissants to live on to the end of days. I am well acquainted with Ray’s.

How many miles must Ray’s go before an inciting incident of its own brings Toronto and region to its doors? I wondered over a frothy cup of late winter hot chocolate.

I for one rue the day. Ray’s Cafe is MY place; its plush banquettes upholstered in a way such that a writer with laptop can stay all day and not accumulate bottom feeder sores.

Ah, but I’m selfish.

Ray and Melissa welcome me and let me stay. Heck, I can set myself up and read out loud on a stool if I want to. Melissa even let me park my newly printed postcards with book deets and flattering photo of the author on the sideboard near the recyclers. And there are plenty of other business cards to keep mine company.

Thanks Melissa. Thanks Ray.

The secret’s out now. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/rayscafeespresso

http://rayscafe.ca/about/

WHY I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THE MCMILLAN TAC 50

Ever had a guilty pleasure? Sure you have. For me, it’s the documentary. Grainy, gritty and often featuring hand held footage that makes the brain slosh against the walls of the cranial vault, they are exciting because they represent things I know relatively little about. Because of this requisite lack of knowledge, I’m drawn in, wanting more, abandoning the Netflix et al to dig out particulars from Wiki and Google after the show ends.

When I was young, it was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that turned my crank, documenting week after week, the exploits of things furred and feathered on the Savannah, Serengeti and in the Amazon to name a few heavy hitters. A few shows come to mind when looking back. Time lapse photography

Beautiful and deadly.
Beautiful and deadly.

charted the life and death of blossoms in one instance and funky caterpillers that napped under thick ice in another. Watching the little beasty reborn one spring after another was a lot to believe and yet, there it was. Likewise, the remarkable Cheetah, topping 93 miles per hour—but only to a maximum of two minutes—culminating in a killing, combining grace, elegance and gore in one fluid motion.

That I love animals (except arachnids; these freak me out) regardless of genus and species is given; that the comely Cheetah’s exploits drove me to the fridge to sate my hunger each and every time was the sum total of the guilty pleasure heretofore mentioned in paragraph one.

Which brings me to the McMillan Tac 50, a tapered long barrel of a .50 calibre sniper rifle so powerful as to be able to punch through concrete walls and take out three targets at once and at a distance of one mile or more. I had no idea.

“Come on,” my husband yelled from the top floor bedroom. “It’s sniper night on (the watchamacallit discovery-type channel, but not Discovery, I do not think *scratching head)”

Now before I’m lumped in with Michael Moore, who has every right to express his opinion, I want to tell you that I, too, have firearms experience. Although I haven’t seen American Sniper to which which my friend Gilda, a.k.a The Smartest Woman in the World (more on her later), gave a five star endorsement, I can appreciate the swirl of excitement both positive and negative that surrounds the film. Handling a firearm is overwhelming. Powerful, dangerous, it is also a precision instrument requiring careful cleaning and tending lest it jam and explode in the operator’s face.

Like many kids of my generation, it was not uncommon to take hold of Grandpa’s .22 calibre rim fire varmint rifle and shoot up spent pop cans off a rotted old log out back of the cottage. Though we’d never taken a firearms course and had never heard of things like PROOF and SAFE, the idea that we not point the thing at one another was kinda inherent. Likewise, the natural bracing that came with the squeeze of the trigger. To big shots, a .22’s recoil is laughable, but to a 12 year old it was real enough.

Which brings me back to the McMillan Tac 50. While I’ve never seen .50 calibre ammunition up close and for real, I could easily infer from the doc that these are mighty big buggers. As is the recoil. One user in the doc basically said that it’s not a weapon you enjoy being behind after 10 or 12 shots. I get that. I felt the same way after two weeks of night shifts at the funeral home. But it’s a job, and those who do it, do it because they want to. And so I was really surprised to learn that a Canadian sniper holds the record for long distance shoot to target: one and a half miles. I dont’ know what to make of such information other than to say that I’m intrigued.

Who invents weapons? Chemists? Genies? Engineers? Alchemists? Rocket scientists? Professor Snape? I’ll let you know, once I pry myself away from Wikipedia.

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good day. Let’s stay above it.

ABF

Photo Credits:

Tac 50 and Cheetah: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 Unported

SIX DEGREES OF LEONARD NIMOY

Photo: Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

I woke this morning to the news that Leonard Nimoy passed away and immediately began a traipse back twenty eight years and thirty pounds. Back then—in 1987—I was completing a political science degree at the University of Toronto while pondering job opportunities at various receptionist desks across the city. Like any young person, I curried ideas that included changing the world by pioneering a great idea or assisting a key decision maker in the public policy realm. *insert laugh track*

But before I could do any of that, I had to answer a call for warm bodies at a down town hotel.

SAY WHAT?

Unlike the rest of us from the hood, my friend Steve rose above we mere mortals by landing a really cool job as a casting director for *gasp* HOLLYWOOD MOVIES. With just a phone call, Steve could invalidate the Cold War and nuclear disarmament because he had the power to place whomever he wanted within arm’s length of the bold and beautiful.

WARNING: NAME DROPPING HERE

Whether playing lawyer #3 to Sophia Loren’s crime fighting heroine in Courage, or a dance hall girl in a room that included Sam Neill and the late and talented Robert Urich in Amerika, that girl who used to be me became someone else completely. Sometimes I was a face in the crowd; at another time I was “woman at table” next to Canada’s own Wendy Crewson. For these experiences I claimed extensive bragging rights. But none of these, awesome as they were, came close to touching my brush with off planet greatness.

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

As a fan of the man from Vulcan, I knew that Leonard Nimoy did more than act and make public appearances. He also directed films and in 1987 that task brought him to Toronto to helm a little bit of froth called Three Men and A Baby.

It didn’t take long for me to ditch class when the call from Steve invariably came. That the film offered three male leads who on their own pulled a 10 out of 10 every time was enough to send any girl half way across town on a cumulonimbus cloud of her own making.

“Wear something upscale,” Steve advised, “and report to the main ballroom at the Sutton Place Hotel.

I’M DOING WHAT?

My reverie was short lived as I entered the ballroom.

“Here’s your line,” said the woman with the clipboard. “I need you to say it in three distinct ways.”

Young me. Starstruck with shiny forehead.
Young me. Starstruck with shiny forehead.

With ‘crazy,’ ‘heartbroken’ and ‘ironic’ as my only directives to go on, it did not yet sink in that this was something over and above an ordinary casting call.

What will I be this time? I wondered. Woman with cigarette? Lady at bar? I didn’t care. I was just glad to be there. And with thoughts of Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg, and TOM SELLECK swirling through my grey matter, it didn’t take long for me to suspect.

“I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch,” was not only the line I was given to rehearse, but it reflected perfectly, my sentiment at that moment toward my dear friend Steve.

“Are you a model?” the gorgeous Toronto print model asked from her seat opposite me. She along with a clutch of other blondes like me occupied the one corner of the room that didn’t belong to the brunettes and redheads occupying the others.

“No,” I stammered, as I wiped my slopping forehead that refused to stop shining despite copious amounts of pressed powder. “I’m hoping for a career in politics.”

The stunning lass was impressed by my answer even more so after filling in the blanks I had walked into the room with. Steve hadn’t sent me to Sutton Place to help fill a room—he had sent me on an AUDITION to fill one of three “girlfriend” roles in the picture.

“I’ll take any one of them,” my friend giggled. “But I really hope I get Selleck.”

“I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch,” I muttered.

KIRK TO ENTERPRISE

What followed were three rounds of “walk” “talk” and pirouettes before a sea of eyes that included the great man himself.

“I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch.”

“I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch.”

“I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch.”

I said it so many times that I failed to notice the room thinning. For what was once a space of about 150 women was now reduced to a mere 10, and I was one of them.

Holy hell, I cursed inwardly. I might get this job.

I’d be lucky if I pulled a walk on, never mind a talky part.

Leonard Nimoy walked towards me slowly, deliberately, elegantly.

My heart rose up into my throat.

“What color are your eyes?” he asked

“Green,” Like Vulcan.

“Walk for me, please.”

He’s shorter and slighter than I imagined.

“Say the line.”

Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

“Did you get it?” the Disney executive seated in the lobby of the Sutton Place asked.

It was over and I was glowing.

“No,” I said, undoubtedly flashing one of my signature toothy grins.

“But you’re so happy.”

You bet I was.

You see, I was never for Kirk, just like I was never for John or Paul. I adored George Harrison. And I adored Mr. Spock too. On that day, twenty eight years ago, I was given an opportunity to meet someone I grew up in front of watching countless reruns of Star Trek. It was a moment in time I shall never forget.

And when I think about it, what better way to honor someone who had an impact on me than to remember him?

Rest in peace, Mr Spock. The galaxy awaits.

Funkhauser, out.

SINGIN’ PRAISES FOR THE TRAILER MAN

I owe a lot to Rich Helms, author, software guru and creative cheerleader, because it’s Rich who dragged me kicking and screaming into the amazing world of Hands-On-On-The-Ground Book Trailer creation.

Did I leave anything out Rich?

BIOGRAPHY

 Rich Helms Painting

Rich Helms has spent decades creating bleeding edge innovations, including groundbreaking course Book Trailer 101. A seasoned software developer with over 30 years of experience in computer Research and Development, his credentials range from deep technical work (five patents in hardware and software) to running multi-national R&D shops. Rich has been developing multi-media technology since the 1980’s including CARES (Computer Assisted Recovery Enhancement System) for the Metropolitan Toronto Police. CARES was the first computer system in the world for locating aging missing children. He also served as a board member for the Writer’s Community of Durham Region (WCDR) for eight years.

I 2010 he co-authored, Amazon Simple DB Developer Guide for Packt Publishing.

WITH GRATITUDE

I met Rich a few years back at a Writer’s Community of Durham Region breakfast where his spouse, the inimitable Dorothea Helms was espousing the virtues of comedy and poetry slams. At press time, I have yet to summon the nerve to get up on stage and become a slammy, but I sure took Rich’s advice and got myself together a book trailer.

After just five weeks under Rich’s tutelage, my classmates and I now dabble in sound editing, animation and movie making. Not bad for a clutch of novelists, poets and diarists.

Something this good had to be shared. Presenting Rich Helms, Trailer Guru and father of Book Trailer 101:

Oh,Rich…

The Q and A

You live in Durham Region but sound suspiciously American. Care to explain your provenance?

I was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Pittsburgh. My wife and I met at Clarion University, then moved to Canada for my graduate study. We intended to stay for only two years, but it quickly became home.  I joined IBM and we lived around the country, for as many know, IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved.”

How different is a book trailer from the book itself in terms of the subtext that governs it? Is it more about marketing than telling a story?

A book trailer is a video commercial. It is all about marketing, but it is soft sell. Hard sell doesn’t work for books. Most people read a book for entertainment or to learn. The trailer needs to communicate that their desire will be met. With the Internet offering so much content for free, the trailer has to capture their attention and convince them the reward will be worth the cost both in money and time.

The trailer may tell a story, such as the Miriam Black trailer by Chuck Wendig (http://bt101.info/bm), but more often it is a tease. The story involves an intriguing set-up, but then you are left wanting. A good book trailer taunts, tantalizes and seduces, but reveals little.

Someone in publishing recently told me that a cover font has nothing to do with what’s inside. The same would apply to a level-one trailer if this were true. Do you agree or disagree with either of these statements? And  I guess you better explain what a level-one trailer is.

I don’t see the correlation. A level-one trailer has a lot more to do with the book than the font on the cover. A level-one book trailer communicates with titles, i.e. words, rather than a voice-over or live video sound. Titles are limiting, as you can present only about 60 words in 60 seconds. Reading sentences of text in a video is challenging, so you are limited to short phrases. Now comes the big challenge – exciting the viewer with so few words. It is like writing poetry, where every word is precious and has purpose.

The images, font and music set a tone, but the work is done with the words. They sell the story.

The key to an effective DIY trailer is doing your homework. A lot of people want to jump on Animoto, spend a couple hours and produce a trailer, which is fine. So is writing a book in a weekend. Problem is, will either of these be any good? I doubt it. As with writing a book, creating a book trailer takes a lot of thought work to awaken moments of inspiration. It also takes some trial and error, along with an honest look at what the book is about.

That is why I wrote my Book Trailer 101 site and upcoming book – to walk the DIY author through the process to create an effective book trailer. 

You have analyzed many book trailers. I hear the comment that a lot of book trailers lack the zip their creators hoped for. Why is this?

It takes time and effort to learn what makes an effective book trailer and when you see the result it becomes clear they didn’t invest the time. Fancy music, pretty images and amazing video transitions do not make a good trailer. Writing does.

The most common problems:

  1. Too long
  2. Too much detail
  3. Overly dramatic including the music
  4. Music is all one level – loud and pounding
  5. No grab up front or hook at the end
  6. Cliché lines used – “Will he survive?”
  7. The lines could apply to any book
  8. Too much praise

A great trailer like a great movie starts with a great script.

And you have a book trailer of your own?

Of course (laughs) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4ReQnbvL2E

 

Thanks for the snapshot Rich. I hear you’re teaching a Master Class at the Ontario Writer’s Conference in April?

That’s right. Three-hours on April 24, 2015. Last year I did a one hour teaser. This one will cover the 7 steps needed to create an effective trailer. And I’ll be making the point again that whether you are working on a first draft or your book is already published, the prep work for trailer creation can help you focus on what your book is actually about.

With some hands on?

Yes! Participants will actually create a trailer for Terry Fallis’ first novel, The Best Laid Plans, during the three-hour session. http://bt101.info/owc

 

Thanks for your time, Rich. I’m this close to posting my trailer to YouTube.

Good to hear, AB. And great to be here. Post that trailer. Cheers.

Links to Rich Helms and Book Trailer 101

Click for a Summary Resume in PDF format
Click for LinkedIn Profile

http://bt101.info/rich

http://bt101.info/owc

BookTrailer101.info

Twitter @BookTrailer101

Facebook BookTrailer101

Rich@RichHelms.com

SLAY THAT DRAGON: SANS SERIF AND MONSTERPAUSE

Let’s be clear: I don’t want new clothes, I just want to fit into the ones I’ve got. But this will be a greater challenge than claiming the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. For unlike the mother of dragons, I am the arbiter of monsterpause, a dark and hideous critter that wreaks havoc on the minds, waist lines, and interpersonal communications of its victims.

Like a Rottweiler gone bad, monsterpause is a nasty beasty, flexed, on guard and poised to strike at a moment’s notice. When it does, sufferers get grouchy, miserable and pugilistic. Ask those nearest me: they know.

My editor recommends black cohosh, an all natural herbal remedy widely used by First Nations. I’ll give it a try, but not just yet. Because as I work and slave over a hot keyboard, I’ve noticed a neat little side effect whenever the big dog comes scratching. Like Viagra and the really great side benefits that result from it, monsterpause seems to generate terrific scene sets and character blow ups in this writer.

Is there such a thing as a method writer? If so, then I think I’m one of them, albeit Method Lite (like Coors). Instead of taking to the winter forest for a cool walk in shorts, I write man characters when my thermostat climbs. In their visceral, florid, furiosity (not a real word) my make believe guys soar and to great effect. My male muses who vet my stuff for authenticity offer praise for my creations, not knowing the subtext behind them. It’s gratifying and a tad sneaky: the lads must never know.

For such a result, I can suffer the monster. if it was a type face, it would be sans serif: meaty, moody and unrelenting in its abject disdain for curves or sentimentality…like Helvetica!

What I can’t rationalize away–yet–is a life in stretchy jeans, and so it must be conquered. My wardrobe, like a finished novel, is snappy, tailored and waiting to be discovered. I shall try to be worthy of both.

Or I could launder my sweat pants and remain at my keyboard.

Grrrrrrrrr.

Unapologetic, adult and cognizant, I wish you good Tuesday. Let’s stay above it.

ABF

#menomadness #writing #amwriting #wardrobemalfunctions