Free Stuff

ID 87927688 © Ctitze |

ID 87927688 © Ctitze |

Keep reading to the end; I am giving away free books.

Like so many modern authors, I’m being bled dry by ebook pirates.

All my titles are out there, free for the taking, from any number of ‘free’ book sites. And ultimately there’s not a single bloody thing I can do about it.

Most of the sites are merely fronts for thieves. Let’s say they offer an unlimited number of free book downloads for a single flat fee. Sounds good, until a few months later when you notice fraudulent charges applied to whatever credit card you used to pay the one-time membership fee.

What these asshats do is get your financial information and sell it on the black market. Yes, you might get some ebooks, but some guy in Aruba also gets a full set of scuba gear on your card. Not really a bargain.

Other free ebook sites don’t ask for payment, but they send various items of code and spyware along with your free ebooks. The result is the same — they get something of yours, probably money, just by a more circuitous route.

Since most of these free ebook providers are based overseas, they can keep doing this despite complaints by their clients and takedown notices by authors, like me.

It’s a vicious cycle. Income among writers has plummeted in the last few years, and ebook piracy is a major factor.

But that’s not going to change anytime soon. Rather than rail against it all, I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon today, and offer you the entire Markhat series for free, in Kindle, pdf, or epub format.

That way you know you’re getting actual, clean ebooks, and I know the books are going to a good home.

How do you get these free ebooks?

Just ask. That’s it. Email me, tell me what format you prefer, and in a day or two I’ll email the files right to you. It’s as easy as that.

My email address is

I’m doing this not because I’m angry. I’m doing it because I realize there are people squeezed so tight financially that even a few bucks for an ebook is hard to come by. Look, I know we’re told all the time that the economy is booming. And it is, for the people who struggle to decide between the ninety-foot yacht and the second private helicopter. But the rest of us are working two or three jobs and praying that weird mole doesn’t get any bigger because it costs four hundred dollars just to walk past a doctor and the kids expect supper on the table most nights.

Those are the choices we have to make.

So if you’d love to read some new books, hit me up. You won’t be added to a pesky mailing list. I won’t be begging for reviews. This blog is the only place I even talk about my writing. You get the books and I leave you alone.

Now if you want to email me and talk, that’s perfectly fine. I love getting email. I do not love being a pest.

So hit me up! All the Markhat titles, including Knob Hill Haunt, Mama Hog’s story, are up for grabs.

I hope you enjoy them. That’s why I got into this crazy business in the first place. To write books, books that might give someone a smile or a laugh or a brief respite from the chaos and burden of everyday life.

What good, after all, if a book that isn’t being read?

Google Translate Writes


Experts predict that within 25 years, artificial intelligences will be writing novels.

Of course experts have, at times, predicted that vast cities will cover the seafloors and humanity’s technological prowess will usher in a Golden Age of peace and prosperity. Instead, we have plastic trash choking the life out of the seas, and a quick peek out the nearest window will utterly crush any hopes of a Golden Age, so maybe the experts need to polish their crystal balls or abandon them completely.

Still, we have available to us marvelous online language translators that can at least get the meaning of a short text across. Sure, it may not be a perfect translation, but it’s workable, right?

Well, let’s see.

I took one of my favorite openings and ran it through Google translate a few times, going from English to Croatian to Finnish and okay, I lost track of things then. Suffice it to say the text was translated back and forth half a dozen times.

Here’s the opening from my book Hold the Dark in the original English:

Rain fell like an ocean upended. A frigid ice-rimed polar ocean, full of ghostly white whales and blue-veined icebergs; I pulled my raincoat tight at my neck and put my chin down on my chest and offered up a pair of unkind words to the cold gushing sky.

Beyond my narrow trash-strewn alley, out on Regent Street, nothing moved. Or, more precisely, if it moved I couldn’t see it through the whipping sheets of rain. The lone pair of streetlamps had been extinguished by the storm an hour ago, and I’d been reduced to watching the three candlelit street-side windows of Innigot’s Alehouse to see if anyone walked in front of them.

No one had. The halfdead, the Curfew and the Watch combined can’t clear Rannit’s streets after dark, most nights. But let a spring storm blow in from the south and sprout a few tornados and suddenly everyone stays tucked in bed and indoors ’til sunrise.

“Nobody out here but ogres and Markhats,” I muttered.

Thunder grumbled distant reply. I pulled my hat down lower against the spray and the splash, jammed my hands deep in my pockets and pondered just going home. The man I was looking for could stroll past wearing a clown-suit and banging a drum, and I might see him, and I might not.

All you’re doing is getting wet, said a snide little voice in my head. Getting wet for nothing. Darla Tomas, she of the soft brown eyes and jet black hair and the quick easy smile, is laid out on a slab at the crematorium, dead or worse than dead. Martha Hoobin is still missing. And the best you can do, said the voice, is hide in this alley and drip with rain.

In my right-hand raincoat pocket, the huldra stirred, brushed my fingertips. I yanked my hand away, pulled it out of my pocket entirely when the huldra jerked as if to follow.

At that moment, a shape darted past the first of Innigot’s three windows. A single shadow, one hand holding down its hat, tall but hunkered down against the gale.

I froze. Sheets of rain twisted.

The shadow crossed in front of the second window. I started counting. Innigot’s door was between the second and third windows. If the silhouette passed before the third window, I’d merely seen a vampire or a lunatic or any other of a dozen unsavory types, heading for trouble out in the rain. But, if someone went into Innigot’s…

There, in the dark, a door-sized slice of weak yellow light appeared, widened, vanished.

“Got you,” I said. I watched the street for a moment longer. No one moved. No shadow crossed Innigot’s third window. No other shadows followed in his wake. My mystery man had taken the bait, braved the storm and made his entrance.

I stepped out of my hiding place against the alley wall. Rain beat down on me so hard the spray went in my mouth, and I tasted Rannit’s sky—sooty, bitter and foul. I spit it out, shut my mouth and started walking.

At the end of the alley, I stopped, reached into my right-hand raincoat pocket, and found the wax-sealed terrapin shell Mama called a huldra. It was warm in my hand, and it quivered, as if it were packed tight with angry hornets. Crumpled below it was Mama’s hex. I pulled the hex out, took it in both hands and ripped the paper in half.

The paper screamed a tiny scream as it tore.

Now Mama knew I’d found our tall thin man. I had promised Mama Hog I’d wait. I’d promised her I would tear the hex and watch Innigot’s and wait for the lads from the Narrows.

There’d be fifty or more of them, all armed, all ready to back me up when I faced down the man who’d killed Darla, taken Martha, taken who knew how many others. Fifty strong, silent Hoobins and Olafs and Benks and Rowheins. A vengeful, furious army, well fit for the night’s dark work.

I’d promised Mama I would wait. I’d promised Darla I would keep her safe.

Promises. Such fragile things.

I dropped Mama’s spent hex, let the whimpering scraps wash away spinning into a flooded rushing gutter.

I reached again into my pocket and closed my bare hand tight about the huldra and marched out into the empty street. The huldra shook, went hot in my hand. Mama had warned me never, ever to touch the thing with bare skin.

I gripped the huldra tighter, heard mad laughter in the sky.

“Martha Hoobin,” I said. “It’s time to come home.”

Below is what the same text looks like after being carefully parsed by Google’s translation engines:

The rain fell as the sea. The sea is full of drunken whales with green frost. I pulled my muscles into the neck, threw a tail on my chest and sent some bad words in the cold weather.

In addition to my past mistakes on Regent Street, nothing has changed. But if I change, I can not see the rain. The road was disturbed by waves a few hours ago, and I could not see the three lights in Al-Zawahin's Innigot house to see if anyone with toes was ahead of them.

No one. Half shadows and water can not be used along Rannit Road after the darkest night. But when the spring blows from the south, and the plants grow somewhere, they are all on beds and houses in the sun.

"There is no one here, but Ares and Markhats," I said.

Thunder is complaining in a quick response. I pulled the helmet under an explosion and broke it, and I shook the pigs and thought about going home. The person I was looking for could go askew and try to cut and pull puzzles and I saw him.

Everything you do is light and sounds like a little horn in my head. Fill it for no. Dallas, black eyes and black hair and video footage were placed on a floor in a prison that survived. Martha Hoobin is still missing. The best thing you can do is to speak a language in a storm and bother a trout.

In my bag, Holder woke up and my fingers broke. I took my hand and pulled it out of the bag all the time, and Huldra jumped as I walked.

Then there were three soiled windows. The shadow shakes its long hat but floats.

I'm cold. The leaves of the rain are changing.

Front shadow of another window. I started counting. Innigot counts from two to three windows. If the picture is in front of the third window, I find one of twenty-two guitarists or drunkards in the rain. On the other hand, if someone goes to Innigov ...

Dark in the dark is clear to the weak, the bad and the lost.

I said, "When you come." I'm looking for a short trip. Nobody moves. The shadow of the third window of Innigot does not appear. There is no wet shadow over his help. My hidden person was caught in a mouse, he encouraged waves and confessed.

I left my hideout on rocky mountains. The water hit me until the ashes poured into my mouth and tested the sky and the bad. As I write, I close my mouth and dance.

At the end of the betting, I stopped and entered the bag, and the boss found his mother full, calling her a prostitute. It was warm in my hand, and it ended as if it was covered with horror. The icon below is hexadecimal. I broke the hexadecimal, kissed both my hands, poked half the paper.

Paper asked for a little shouting when he was broken.

Now, Mom, I know I found a permanent man. I promised Morocco I would wait. I talked to her when I rented a rectangle and looked at Innigot and waited for the children from Narrows.

At least fifty or more, carrying a weapon, could return me when the man who killed him took me, took it and brought her to market. Fifty-five, Hoobins, Olafs, and Peninsula and Hauer live. The army is angry and angry at night.

I talked to my mom when I was waiting. I talked to Dallei and kept it safe.

Of. Simple things.

When I put my mom on a hexagometer, the engine wheel was a dragon washed.

When I returned to my suitcase, I held my hand and went in the wrong direction. Hula was washed and walked in my arms. Mom warned me she was not skinny.

When I took Huldra, I heard how laughing in the sky.

I said, "Martha Hinkin." It's time to get back. "

I’m sure some might argue that the latter text is the most entertaining. I admit I fell instantly in love with two phrases — ‘If the picture is in front of the third window, I find one of twenty-two guitarists or drunkards in the rain,’ and ‘I talked to her when I rented a rectangle ‘ suggest some deep world-building is taking place. Why are there only twenty-two guitarists out wandering in the rain? How much does one pay to rent a rectangle?

These are provocative questions that will plunge the reader deeper into the story. Thanks, Google. That’s a trick I’m going to use.

So am I worried that AIs will soon take over the business of writing?

Yes I am. Not because they’ll be particularly good at it, but because publishers won’t need to pay them. And the AI authors won’t need to be that good, really — when they can draw from the great plots, steal the best story arcs, recreate the great characters of literature and do it all in a few microseconds, for free.

When that technology is perfected, Amazon’s bookshelves will be flooded with the works of #ChroBOTaa5 and //NEMPA77g.

Certainly, refinements are required. But that’s just a matter of tweaking and time.

So enjoy the myriad of flawed human works while you can. Couple the relentless precision of machines with the psychologically addictive algorithms already being used by game designers, and I predict a future filled with ‘books’ that you, quite literally, can’t put down.

For more fun with Google Translate, please check out this brilliant series of videos called ‘Google Translate Sings. Here’s an example…

Google Translate Sings ‘This is Halloween.’

Bad Advice

I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days.


That statement probably explains my mental decline, at least in part. Twitter is the modern equivalent of the scribblings on seedy bus station toilet stall walls, if most of the patrons were of a political bent. And drunk. Possibly also concussed.

But not everything is centered on the dumpster fire that consumes us in the US.

Last week, an author offered up some advice to aspiring authors. This of course was met with furious opposition, as is everything else posted on Twitter.

At the center of the advice was this — writers should give up their day jobs and be prepared to suffer for their art.

The implication being that you aren’t a ‘true’ artist if you’re not also suffering, with bonus points being awarded for malnutrition and, possibly, having scurvy and rickets.

Now there may be some merit to this advice. Had I, for instance, quit my job twenty years ago, I would probably not tip the scales at 230 pounds today. Of course I might also be dead, but nothing drives sales like being dead.

Or I might have been catapulted into fame and riches, in which case I’d still weigh 230 pounds, but be a lot better dressed. I could also claim to weigh 190 and people would nod and agree, because rich people can get away with anything. They might even pick up the bar tab.

Thus it is proven that Frank is gonna be fat no matter which road he traveled, probably because both roads are lined with restaurants and I’ve never met a steak I didn’t fall in love with.

But would quitting and doing nothing but writing have made me more successful as an author, and thus happier?

There’s simply no way to say yes or no to that question. I might have burned out, gone mad, and been arrested for staging a one-man takeover of a donut shop. Or I might have pitched something to AMC, and people would be complaining about how unwatchable The Markhat Files has become instead of bashing The Walking Dead.

That’s the trouble with big sweeping statements such as ‘All you people, quit work and become scribbling hermits.’ A couple of scribbling hermits might emerge as literary powerhouses. Or they might become that sketchy hairy dude asking for donations outside the Starbucks.

As far as suffering contributing to art — well, just being in the publishing industry right now provides plenty of suffering. Maybe I’m not a genuine artist, because in addition to my failure to own a black beret, I haven’t noticed any improvement in my writing due to abysmal sales, the constant jacking around of authors by Amazon, or having publishers collapse beneath me.

Now, it’s possible that my books just aren’t that good. I’m perfectly willing to entertain that idea, because I recognize the nearly infinite human capacity for self-delusion. If that’s the case, fine. I did my best.

But it’s also possible that a lot of very good books languish in the silent, dark depths because there are so many books now. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve read that were exciting, entertaining, fun, and thought-provoking but were also ranked down in the Marinas Trench of Amazon’s vast list of offerings.

P.N. Elrod. Maria Schneider. Elyse Salpeter. And so many others, just waiting to be ‘discovered.’

It’s largely a matter of wild caprice and the whims of luck, I’ve decided. You can quit your day job. You can keep it. You can paint yourself blue and climb to the top of the local courthouse to write. You can blog and pay for ads and pester bookstores for space or signings.

But your efforts can be derailed by some daft butterfly flapping its wings the wrong way somewhere in the tropics, while some other author gets a sweet movie deal because somebody sneezed on a subway at just the right moment.

So I won’t offer any advice, except this — keep writing. It’s advice I struggle to heed lately. But it’s the only advice that might ultimately prove beneficial.

It might also help if you were born on September 21, 1947 as Stephen King. But that is hard advice to follow. My time machines keep exploding.

Blogging in The Apocalypse

A lovely day, circa 2020.

A lovely day, circa 2020.

I haven’t posted a blog lately.

I skipped a few weeks mainly out of consideration for you.

I try to stay apolitical in these things. Not because I’m afraid of losing readers — Amazon has handled that nicely for me. No, I figure you’re subjected to the same endless stream of doom and gloom that I find myself wallowing in. Didn’t think you needed another brief tour of the Weimar Republic V 2.0.

It’s painfully obvious to me that Bad Things are just around the corner. And by Bad Things, I mean Old Testament-style calamity — famine, plague, war, cities buried under rubble, bears running rampant, rains of frogs singing show tunes while wearing top hats. That sort of thing.

Look back at history. Humanity seems to just go nuts every fifty years or so. We’re about to enter another such phase, and since we’re armed to the teeth and living on a world that’s headed toward the Venusian style of climate-as-a-bakery-oven things don’t look promising.

See what I mean? And I’m in a good mood today.

But instead of trying to prop up everything I just said with the same arguments you’ve read a few dozen times, I’ll be self-indulgent and talk about how it’s affected me.

I’ve been caught in a slow burn of rage since a certain day in 2016. As the US and the world spiral down into fascism, I’ve been overwhelmed with a pernicious blend of apathy and lethargy. Why write books? Burning them will soon be a televised national sport. Why put so much time and effort into an art form that people (not you, I’m talking about the others) won’t buy because ‘it ought to be free’ ?

I know, I know, we need books and music and art now more than we’ve ever needed them before. I know that, but — a small mean-spirited part of me just wants to play the fiddle while Rome burns. Wants to enjoy the internet before it becomes an Arm of the State. Wants to eat drink and be merry, before everything comes down to lines and food ration cards and loyalty oaths.

Hey, I’m a writer, and yes, I’m nuts. Goes with the territory.

I hope things will self-correct. I hope we will emerge from this detour towards horror relatively unscathed. But then I see some grinning little bastard in a red cap screaming abuse at a Viet Nam war vet who just happened to be Native American and I realize how tenuous and fragile that hope truly is.

I grew up on Star Trek and Apollo and the unspoken assumption that things would only get better. Better, faster, sleeker. We should be out there among the planets by now. Nobody should be going to bed hungry. Black folks and brown folks shouldn’t be terrified they’re going to get shot for having a taillight out, or arrested for talking on a cell phone in a hotel lobby. Women shouldn’t be hounded off the net because they said they deserve equal pay, or because they like to game without getting threatened with rape.

Instead, we have — this. Regression. De-evolution. A headlong charge backwards, with flags and banners leading the way.

So I’m pissed. I guess that sums it all up in a tidy little package.

I’ve tried to channel that frustrated energy into my writing, but I’ve learned something else.

My writing sucks when I’m pissed. It’s preachy, heavy-handed, despairing. Unreadable.

So that’s where I am now. Churning out turgid, hackish nonsense while the world beats its plows into swords and grins at the prospect of laying open a few hundred million innocent throats.

I will keep at it. Maybe a few good pages will emerge, here and there, and I can find balance. I haven’t yet. Frankly I’m tired of trying.

Thanks for sticking with me. I hope we’ll get through this together.

Opening image © Adam121 |

The Obligatory Holiday Blog


People do strange things during the holidays. Drink eggnog while not under duress. Listen to that infernal barking dogs Christmas song. Willingly sit through long elaborate meals with Uncle Eggbert, who won't drink tap water or eat anything cooked with it because that's how the secret Communists deliver the mind-control drugs.

But among the more inexplicable habits of Christmas is, to me, the urge to wrap seemingly random objects in tinsel and simulated fir tree needles.

Streetlights? Wrapped and lit, because apparently they weren't already sufficiently lit. Storefronts, business signs, random shrubs, the Courthouse clock. All of it festooned with decor I assume to be festive. Some of it does indeed seem festive. Some of it, not so much.

A wreath of the front grille of a fire truck? Okay. That way, when panicked drivers look up from their texting and realize a fire truck is two inches off their bumper, they get a little holiday cheer along with enough adrenaline to induce a myocardial infarction. But that's important, because it's Christmas.

But where do you draw the line? Do we add wreaths to the gun cameras of our F-18s? Should we rush the launch of an orbit-ready Christmas tree to the ISS?

To provoke thought and discussion around this topic, let's play a little game I call "Festive or Not?"

Holly and ornaments strung along police tape at an active crime scene. Antlers added to chalk outline of decedent on pavement.

Tinsel and garlands strung from motion detector to motion detector around Area 51. Black wreaths on the front of the unmarked security vehicles that appear from nowhere to whisk you away to a place decidedly less jolly than the North Pole. Sprigs of mistletoe sent anonymously to your next of kin.

Elaborate lighting displays around each settling pool at all municipal sewage treatment plants.
It's a lot more nuanced that it looks, folks.

What to Buy a Writer, or, Look, There's a Liquor Store

Is there a writer in your life? Are you struggling to come up with that perfect Christmas gift for him or her?

If so, my condolences, because I'm a writer and I know full well what a morose bunch of budding alcoholics we writers usually are.  I'm constantly staring off into space, oblivious to the world around me until the front bumper strikes something solid and the air bags deploy.

Every year, it's the same dilemma.  What to give for Christmas?  What will make your writer's eyes light up, or at least open halfway?

As usual, I'm here to help.  My list of suggestions follows, in order of descending utility.

1) BOOZE.  HOOCH. ROTGUT.  That's right, kids, the Demon Rum himself.  Why?  Simple.

A writer's job is to plumb the depths of the human condition, or at least convince a harried editor that he or she is plumbing said depths long enough for the ink to dry on a contract. The first thing you'll learn when you start taking a really close look at the much-vaunted human condition is that doing so induces a sudden, powerful urge to have a drink.  Or three.  Or maybe just leave the whole bottle and start running a tab, because right after the urge to drink comes the realization that it's going to be a long bad night.

2) A THESAURUS. Because nothing works better as a coaster for the drinks mentioned above than a really thick book.  I'd counsel against actually using a thesaurus for writing, because no one wants to read sentences in which characters advance, meander, promenade, traipse, or wend one's way across the room.

3) A CAT.  Hemingway had a cat, right?  He had a cat because a cat is the only creature on Earth more vain and self-centered than the average author.  While other more social animals might feel neglected or ignored by an author, who is probably staring off into space or rummaging in the cabinets for more liquor, a cat is perfectly comfortable being ignored because it doesn't know anyone else is in the room anyway.  The cat's 'I don't care if you exist or not' attitude is perfectly suited to the author's mindset of 'What? Huh? Who?'

4) AN ELEGANT LEATHER-BOUND JOURNAL.  We all know that writers, and I mean serious professional writers with book contracts and everything, are always prepared to whip out a convincing character or a heart-wrenching plot at the drop of a dangling participle. So give your author the most expensive, ornate leather journal you can find, wait a year, drag it out from under the whiskey-stained thesaurus, and give it to the writer again.  They won't ever know, because each and every page will be as blank as it was the day you bought it.  Seriously, people.  I tried the whole notebook by the bed schtick for years, and I recorded exactly two notes in it, which read:

"Char. A sees the thing, intro. other scene w/char B, str. exc. Plot hole & 9 days."
"Why G. not cld/not E?"

Which explains why Hemingway's cat had six toes, for all I know.  But leatherbound notebooks make pretty good coasters too, and if the glasses sweat on them, you can tell people the stains are from a solo hike through Guatemala which you took to 'reconnect to your muse.'

I don't have a Number 5.  You should probably stop at Number 1, because gift-wrapping a cat is nearly impossible and writers can spot a gift wrapped thesaurus from across a crowded room anyway.

The Every Wind of Change audiobook is on sale!


The audiobook is live!

By following the links below you can grab nearly 10 hours of Mug and Meralda, narrated by the talented Nila Hagood.

Link to Every Wind of Change on Audible

It’s all available from iTunes as an audiobook; just search for Frank Tuttle in the iTunes store and you’ll find it.

Nila did a marvelous job of giving the characters voices. And we finally meet Meralda’s lost-estranged mother, who is probably the scariest person of all in a book filled with ravenous giant bugs.

Yes, audiobooks are a bit steeper in price than ebooks. But for nine hours and fifty-seven minutes of listening, it’s really not a bad price. Too, the Amazon version is Whispersync-enabled which means you can start reading on your Kindle and pick up at the place you stopped with the Audible version, which is nice.

I have plans to release the other two books in the series as audiobooks too. I’ll also be putting out audiobook versions of the Markhat files next year.

Please let me know what you think of the audio versions. They’re perfect for long drives or flights or just kicking back at home on a rainy day.

My List of Successful Author Habits and Practices


A renowned author (meaning he doesn’t have a day job and he wears an authoritative corduroy jacket) released a list of ten things successful authors do and don’t do last week.

Predictably, a lot of other authors took issue with the list. Tweets were posted. Blogs were hammered out and published. The argument is probably still raging in some quiet corner of the net.


I don’t really care. If the tips he posted work for him, great. Maybe some of them would even apply to other writers. Most probably wouldn’t. We writers are an odd lot, and it would be dangerous to assert any generality concerning us that’s more specific than ‘Authors should breathe every minute or so.”

It is in this spirit I offer my own list of practices that have catapulted me to my own lofty acclaim and dazzling success. I earned enough in the last two months to make the down payment on an authoritative corduroy blazer, after all.

The Writer’s List

1) Write. Write good stuff. Write bad stuff (you will). Write while the world burns down around you (it is). Otherwise, you might as well be an umbrella. Write.

2) Write. Write the first draft as fast as you can. Go back and fix the places where you stumbled or fell headlong. Keep plowing ahead. Bob and weave. Keep fixing. Avoid the temptation to look out the window, because yes, the world is still on fire. Look away. Write.

3) Write. Write as if this might be the last thing you ever write. I’m not saying it is, and I wish you a long and happy life. But none of us are promised that. Pour everything you’ve got into the words. Write.

4) Write. It’s easy to succumb to the creeping paralysis that intrudes each time you glance out that window. Easy to nod in solemn agreement to the nagging little voice that whispers ‘Why bother? It’s all coming apart, minute by minute, day by day.” Refuse. Resist. Art is protest. Protest is defiance. Writing is an act of rebellion. Write.

5) Write. Write about vampires or robots or love or loss. It doesn’t matter. Write the words only you can write. Take us to the places only you can invent. Write as if your voice, your words, matter. Because they do. Write.

That’s my list. It isn’t a list of ten, and it doesn’t address the use of the Internet or tips on how to approach publishers.

For too many of us, the mechanics of the process have been overshadowed by the chilling realization that the world we see emerging is a world where art itself is viewed with disdain and even hostility.

The only sane response to this is to create more art. More books. More music. More of whatever it is that you call creation.

Don’t let the fire-mongers rob you of your voice.

Audiobook News

The audiobook version of Every Wind of Change is nearly done. And by ‘nearly done,’ I mean I expect to see a release in the next two weeks.

So you’ll know what to look for, here’s the audiobook cover, which is just a bit different from the text cover.


The completed audio book comes in at just under nine hours of narration. The narrator, Nila Hagood, did a fantastic job of giving the characters voices. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Work on the next Markhat audiobook will start with the new year. Hold the Dark will be the next in that series, naturally. But if you haven’t gotten Three Mean Streets yet, it’s on sale from the links below:

Three Mean Streets from Audible

Three Mean Streets from iTunes

And of course there’s plain old text!

Three Mean Streets from Amazon

Three Mean Streets from Kobo

I’ll keep you posted here.

Things That Go Bump: The Phantom of the Yocona River

When asked, I usually tell people that I've never seen anything I can point to and say 'I believe that was a ghost.'  And that's true.  Try as I might, I just can't sneak up on a Class IV Free-Floating Vapor, or catch a poltergeist lounging in front of a TV.

I have recorded a number of sounds, some of them words, that I can’t explain. But apparations, shadow people, anything visible that might have been a ghost? Nope, despite having spent hours tramping around in cemeteries or staying in locations reputed to be haunted.

Which is not to say I've never seen anything I can't explain.  I have, and since this is October it's time to spill the beans.  Maybe some of you will have insights into the matter, because after pondering this for some 41 years I still don't have a clue.

I was, I believe, 15.  And let me preface this entire recounting by noting that no alcohol or other recreational substances were at all involved.  Honest.  I know that may sound unlikely, but it's the truth. Rural Mississippi at that time was a relatively innocent place, where pot or even under-age liquor was concerned.

So, I was 15, and the snake-infested banks of the Yocona River beckoned.  The Yocona is a slow, muddy river which winds its way through the hilly woods of north Mississippi, and as a wild and dangerous place it was a natural magnet for all the kids who lived near it.

One fine August evening my good friend John Redmond and I decided to camp out on the River.  We spent a lot of time on the River, and knew its perils well.  So we loaded his pickup with supplies and an aluminum boat and set out.

We pitched camp on a sand bar not far from what everyone simply called the Structure.  The Structure was actually a concrete waterfall built by the Corps of Engineers to halt the Yocona's erosion of the fields on its borders.  I can hear the roar of the water rushing over it even today, on still nights. 

But on that night, John  Redmond and I saw something neither of us can explain.

It started sometime after midnight.  We both saw a light of sorts playing among the boughs of an enormous old water oak about a hundred yards upstream.  It towered up above the outline of the Structure and was silhouetted against the night sky.

We sat and watched, considering the source of the light.  Our first thought was a flashlight. We quickly rejected that, as it became obvious that what we were watching wasn't merely a projected beam of light being played amid the branches, but a glowing, moving mass that spun about the tree as though tethered somehow to the trunk.

Swamp gas, we decided.  Even though the oak stood on high, dry ground.  But as we kept watching, we rejected that too, because the light, whatever it was, grew brighter and began to change shape and color.

This is where it gets weird.

And let me remind you again that no drugs or alcohol were involved.

The glowing thing began to morph into recognizable shapes.  Faces.  Outlines.  Now a perfect yellow sphere.  Then a scowling red face.  A half-moon.  A flying man, arms outstretched.

No noise.  Just the light, changing, moving, orbiting that oak for purposes unknown.

Were we frightened?

Um, yes.  We're on a sand bar miles from anywhere.  It's far too dark to risk a panicked flight through the water moccasins and the copperheads and the tangles and the snags.  We're observing an inexplicable light show which, for all we know, is both being presented for us and is the preamble to something more sinister. 

So we do what any reasonable pair of fifteen year olds would do -- we turn the boat on its side as a shield, arm ourselves with clubs and knives, and hunker down until sunrise.

That glowing thing, whatever it was, danced and flew all night. 

We darted out briefly, now and then, to replenish our campfire with driftwood.  And we watched the clouds sail past while the lazy sun took his time in rising.

When the skies did finally begin to lighten, our visitor dimmed, made a final blurred circuit from the bottom of the tree to the top, and then simply shot up into the sky, where it vanished.

We stamped out our fire as soon as it was light and made haste in getting out of there and we never ever camped on the Yocona again.

As far as I know, nothing like what we saw was seen before or since.  There's nothing particularly sinister about the spot.  No old murders, no hangings, no drama of any kind.  It was just an oak tree. 

So, what did I see, that night more than four decades ago?

I have no idea. 

As I said, I can still hear the River pouring over the lip of the Structure on still nights. Sometimes I listen to the dull distant roar and wonder if a certain old oak tree is being lit by a whirling, changing light, or if what we saw was meant only for John Redmond and I, and only appeared that night.

If so, what did it mean?  What did it want?  What were we supposed to take away from there, aside from mosquito bites and sand in our britches?

Still don't know.  Probably never will.

So that's my tale of the Yocona River, and the flying light. 

What's your story? 

Email me at

Things That Go Bump: The Voynich Manuscript

As you may have noticed, lots of things in this tired old world don't make much sense.

Some of these incongruities are obvious -- the fame of singer Ke$sha, the second-season renewal of TV series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and fruitcake.

But some mysteries manage to fly under the radar, despite the inherent oddness of the subject. Whether it's a perfectly-machined metal sphere discovered miles underground or an apparent bucket handle encased in ancient quartz, every now and then things turn up which defy both explanation and the kind of easy pigeon-holing historians enjoy attaching to artifacts.

One such object is the Voynich Manuscript.


The Voynich Manuscript is so called because it came to light shortly after it was purchased by an antique book dealer named Wilfrid Voynich in 1912. The book itself was written and illustrated in the 15th century, probably in northern Italy. Carbon dating performed in 2009 puts the manuscript's paper as being made sometime between 1404 and 1438. The name of the artist/author is unknown, as well as the actual title of the book, and that's as good a place as any to start describing the book's mysteries, because despite a century of determined effort, no one (including expert cryptographers and powerful computers) has ever been able to decipher so much as a single word in all the book's two-hundred-odd pages.

The text does appear, at least to linguists, to represent an actual alphabet and language, though one not seen before or since. The Manuscript is composed of about 170,000 glyphs, and the base alphabet is probably between 20 and 30 characters long. Still, it has defied each and every effort to decipher so much as a single sentence.

But the text is hardly the most intriguing aspect of the Manuscript. The book is also heavily illustrated, much in the manner of a Medieval field guide to medicinal plants. It starts out with large drawings of plants, each accompanied by notes penned in a careful if utterly unreadable hand. There are even little text bullets, probably denoting special attributes of each illustration.

In fact, if I were to have encountered the Voynich Manuscript in a used bookstore somewhere, I might have put it back on the shelf after perusing the first half a dozen pages. Here we have a plant. Here we have notes, presumably about the drawing of the plant, even though it's in a language I don't know.

I class plants into three distinct classes -- Plants On The Salad Bar, Plants I Should Never Ever Eat Because They Will Kill Me, and Who Cares, It's A Freaking Plant.

But people who know their flora realize one thing immediately, upon viewing the Manuscript.

These plants simply don't exist, at least on Earth. Not now, not in the 15th century.

And the further you go into the Manuscript, the stranger it gets. The plants become less daisy-like and more Geiger-esque. Pretty soon you've got whole pages of what appear to be brand new astrological charts combined with images of little people being swallowed up by toothed vegetable monstrosities, complete with careful if indecipherable footnotes which probably read 'Don't get too near the one with the purple flowers' or 'Man, these mushrooms are groovy.'

So is it a naturalist's guide to flora and fauna from somewhere else? An alchemical encyclopedia from another world?

Is it some mead-sotted monk's long, laborious practical joke?

The fun part of the Voynich Manuscript mystery is that, thanks to the Internet, you can pull it off its virtual shelf and have a look, page by page, for yourself, right this moment.

I highly recommend you do so. Whatever the Manuscript was, it's trippy. Put on some Pink Floyd and click the link below. It's a good fast connection, right to the Yale University archives, and how can you pass up perusing a book that has kept scholars and cryptographers scratching their heads for all these years?

The Voynich Manuscript Online

Like I said, trippy, huh?

What do I think the Manuscript represents?

Look, it's the year 1415, or thereabouts. Your choices for entertainment are pretty much limited to crapping in a bucket, dying of boils, or being burned at the stake for, well, darned near anything. There won't be anything resembling decent music played for another couple of hundred years. You'll have fleas and worms and lice until another three or four hundred years have passed. Frankly, the world is a miserable place to live, even if you're lucky enough to to be a monk with a passable roof and the aforementioned bucket at your disposal.

I think a very clever monk was born way too early and found himself in a place and time that put creativity in the same box as 'Worship of, Satan, see also Execution.'  I think the Voynich Manuscrip is this clever monk's way of thumbing his nose at his bosses, who displayed the same interest in yet another Field Guide to Boring Weeds of Italythat I did earlier.

Think about it. Our monk -- we'll call him Scooter, because I'm writing this, so there -- Scooter knows he's destined to spend his next miserable year hunched over a blank manuscript copying page after page of religious texts until the boils kill him or his eyesight fails, whichever comes first.

But instead of coping the book he was assigned, Scooter writes the world's first science fiction novel instead.

All those alien plants? All those weird astrological or alchemical charts?

Scooter made them up. I think the guy built a whole imaginary world in his poor 15th century head, and I think he did so out of sheer crushing boredom, because Scooter knew in his flea-bitten heart of hearts that life wasn't going to be anything worth living until the advent of Pink Floyd, the net, and the introduction of the cheeseburger.

And he was right. A world where one cannot go online, order a cheeseburger, and pick it up at a drive-thru to the accompaniment of Pink Floyd is a savage, desolate wasteland, unworthy of time or effort.

I'd still love to read Scooter's notes. I figure they're ninety-percent hard SF, and 10 percent slams against his bosses.

Take Pages 16 and 17 of the Manuscript, shown below. We're still in the relatively tame portion of the book, before the plants grow teeth and start chowing down on little naked people (hey, like I said, it was deadly dull in the 15th century):


My own loose translation of the notes on the left hand page reads thusly:

"Yea, this be the Snookered Blue & Red Stinkroot, which can be Used in ye Treatment of Flatulence, bad Breathe, and the Issue of Boiles upon the Buttockes, which Brother Isaac doth have, yea and in Spades, because he is a Wankere and a Close Talker besides, get a thee a Clue about Personale Space, willya, or I Feare I shalt open upon thy Pate a Roman-Empire sized Canne of Whoope-Ass, and how, I really Hate thatte Guy, Finis."

And the reason for the elaborate cypher?

Safety, of course. That way no one could claim heresy or blasphemy or even mild insult. Scooter was nothing if not careful.

I think our clever monk created his own alphabet entirely from scratch. Most of the glyphs are simple, and can be written with just a few pen-strokes. Which is exactly the kind of alphabet a hard-working monk would invent.

And the words?

Probably loose on-the-fly substitutions penned by Scooter using his own custom alphabet. Since he kept all this in his head, and wrote the Manuscript with the knowledge that no one would ever be able to read it, I doubt he bothered with corrections.

No, I think he was far more concerned with how the words looked, rather than how the text read.

Which is why I don't think the Voynich Manuscript will be be deciphered. 

But that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed. In fact, I lift my metaphorical glass to the unnamed author of the Manuscript, who like many of us was born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Too bad he wasn't around to become a graphic artist or a SF author today, because he certainly had the work ethic and the drive.


I'm pretty sure this is the first draft of the script for Prometheus.

So here's to you, long-dead author of the world's most mysterious hand-drawn botanical manuscript. People are still talking about your book despite the fact that no one has a clue what it's about. That's got to be worth a crooked, gap-toothed 15th century grin.

And hey, if it's any consolation, at least you never had to beg for book reviews on Amazon, or watch your rankings plummet like a paralyzed falcon.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to turn my music up really loud and surf the ever-living crap out of the internet...

Things That Go Bump

It’s October, and that can only mean two things. One, Walmart is already putting out Christmas trees. And two, it’s time for another month-long series of special blog entries entitled Things That Go Bump!

Tonight, we'll take a trip to the grave of Nobel Peace Prize winning author William Faulkner, and we'll pester him with impertinent questions while drawing curious stares from passers-by. I actually made all these photos and recordings back in 2012, but some of them are so strange I’ve decided to pull them out of the spooky box, shake off the cobwebs, and give them another airing.


I live, reside, and/or dwell in Oxford, Mississippi, which is where Faulkner lived, wrote, and was eventually buried, although I'm sure he died first. We're pretty careful about the whole die-first-then-bury thing these days.

Faulkner's grave is located in a genteel old cemetery not far from Oxford's town square. It's a peaceful place, especially when the Rebels are playing Vanderbilt on the far side of town, which is why I chose a game day Saturday night for my EVP session with Mr. Faulkner. 


I armed myself with my trusty Olympus voice recorder, my new Zoom H1 digital recorder, my video and still cameras, and my Ball Microphone housing, which I designed and constructed myself. It’s a simple sphere, with a microphone fixed at the interior center. (For a brief explanation of why I built this, click here).

Also along was my iOvilus device, which prattled merrily on but did actually startle me once with a single insightful exchange (you'll see it later).

I arrived at Mr. Faulkner's grave at dusk, and was greeted the usual small assortment of empty liquor bottles, which students and fans are prone to leave as hi-octane offerings to the shade of old Bill. 


My methodology was simple. I placed the Zoom and the Olympus atop the headstone, put the video camera to the side, aimed at the mics. I held a brief EVP session in which I introduced myself and blathered inanities for about four minutes.

I'm posting the audio and the video links below. Note that the Zoom's audio was rendered useless by the faint breeze for the few moments it was outside the Ball Mic housing; I deleted that portion of the audio track, since it was nothing but a deafening roar. Note to self -- the Zoom needs a wind filter anytime it's outside, even in mild breeze conditions. 

The Olympus carried on nonplussed, as did the video camera's audio. Below are links to the full audio and video files, in case you'd like to see and hear everything for yourself without any commentary. Or, if you want, skip down and I'll post the relevant portions to save you some time.



Full Faulkner session video

So, you ask, what did I find?


Well, first of all, The Ball Mic is crazy sensitive. I heard a weird buzz-thump sound at about 9 minutes, and couldn't place it, until I reviewed the video and realized a fly landed on the granite grave-slab next to the Ball Mic. Not on the mic. Just close to it. Here, have a listen to it, looped:

You can even hear his little fly feet hitting the granite. If that's not a stirring tribute to the awesome power of salsa bowls and duct tape, I don't know what is.

That kind of sensitivity is a double-edged sword, though. Traffic noise, inaudible to the other recorders or my delicate ears, was a non-stop cacophony  in the Ball Mic. As excited as I was to use it on the Faulkner run, I think the Ball Mic is best suited for remote locations as far away from traffic as is possible.

Aside from the fly-landing, I'm afraid my Ball Mic didn't return a single apparent EVP occurrence. I've been through the audio twice now, and I never heard a thing out of place. 


Again, nothing out of the ordinary. A few dogs barked. A few cars passed. At no time do any phantom voices admonish me to GET OUT. Camera-shy ghosts? Could be, I suppose. But the audio track is clean, and no visible spectres were observed waving from amid the headstones.


The iOvilus device managed to raise my eyebrows tonight, and I caught the whole exchange on all the recorders and the video camera. I was talking, asking questions, trying to engage something, anything, in conversation.

At one point, I said "Mr. Faulkner," beginning to address my host. Immediately, the iOvilus piped up with my name, Frank.

Here's a video excerpt of the exchange. This is an old link, and the original video file is gone. the link still works, even though it looks like it doesn’t. Just hit the play symbol in the middle of the box and wait a few seconds. It will fire up.

Device Says My Name

Now, is that evidence of something paranormal, or merely a statistically insignificant bit of random coincidence?

I lean toward the latter. The iOvilus has a thousand word vocabulary to draw from. Frank is one of those thousand words. It is odd that it chose to speak that word at that time, but until and unless it happens a lot more often than once every session, I'm going to call this happenstance. Although when you're sitting in a cemetery at nightfall and you hear your name called out of the blue it is a genuine hair-raising experience.


Of all the night's instruments, once again my humble Olympus returned the most amazing evidence.

I did not hear either of the voices I am about to present during recording. Neither voice was captured on any other piece of gear, though all were operating within a few feet of each other at all times.

The first piece of audio is a female voice speaking as I speak. I can't quite make out the words -- maybe you'll have better luck.

First you'll hear me speaking. I'm joking about my failure to drink the Faulkners any liquor, and I say "maybe I should have brought a case." Then a female voice says...something.

Here's the female voice, looped:

Hip hop? Hey pop? No clue, but something is there. Not the iOvilus, either -- it has a distinct male voice.

I get an even better voice as I'm leaving. By this point in the recording, I've left the Faulkner gravesite, and I've taken a short stroll through the headstones. I comment that I'm about to leave, and a bit later, I caught this:

It sounds like the very same voice, but this time it's clearly saying 'Go ahead.'

That takes place at 22:32 in the full Olympus file. The wind was calm. The iOvilus was off and my phone was in my pocket. It doesn't have any speaking apps, and none of my gear talks.

So what the heck was that?

I don't have a clear answer for you. Two full words. Not a trick of the wind. Not a snatch of nearby conversation (check the video -- no one was there but me). Not a passing vehicle (again, check the video). I even checked the iOvilus log (it keeps a log of every word spoken, with a time stamp) for the words 'go ahead,' and it never said them.

I suppose some could argue that what we've just heard is an audio artifact created by the Olympus itself. After all, nothing else picked it up.

I really can't say. Do audio artifacts usually tend to present not only clear enunciation, but gender?

Very, very strange.

I do find it intriguing that the female voice presented after I invited Mrs. Faulkner to speak. Again, coincidence?

Could be.

I regret, of course, that Mr. Faulkner didn't bestow upon me a rambling 40-minute EVP which analysis revealed to be a single run-on sentence. A ghostly image in a photo, perhaps of Mr. Faulkner posing with one of my books, would have also been quite the coup.

But I am proud of the pair of EVPs I captured. I cannot explain either one in rational terms, which is precisely the kind of phenomena I'm after.

I’ll post more ghostly goings-on next week. But here’s your Wild Wild Web link for today, so enjoy!


New Release By Elyse Salpeter

My friend and fellow fantasy author Elyse Salpeter is releasing the 5th book in her Kelsey Porter series today! The new book is entitled The Search For Starlight, and it ties up the series with a bang.

To celebrate the release, I conducted a Skype interview with Elyse. You can listen via the link below:

YouTube interview with author Elyse Salpeter

Here’s what Elyse herself has to say about the release:


Today is the day! THE SEARCH FOR STARLIGHT, Book #5 in the Kelsey Porter series, launches today! You can grab it here!

She just needed to complete a simple errand... how hard could that be?

As soon as Kelsey embarks on the Emperor and Empress's request to locate a mysterious object and return it to them, her entire world is plunged into chaos.

Someone is following her, someone else has broken into her home, and now she believes the people she trusted most have all been lying to her.

As Kelsey unravels the truth, she learns that her journey to this moment has never been entirely her own. Until now.

This has been a culmination of a five-year journey where I set out to write a series of novels that would be different than anything I've seen out there before. They're steeped in true Buddhist lore and I did a tremendous amount of research to make everything as believable as possible. I hope you enjoy!


UK Amazon:




UK Amazon:

Elyse is active on Facebook, Twitter, and of course her webpage. They’re great books, so check them out!

A Touch of Steampunk

I’m a huge fan of author Gail Carriger. She writes the most amazing books, filled with humor, wit, more humor, more wit, and truly engaging characters.

So when I read an illustrated hardback edition of Soulless was due out, and I could get a signed edition if I pre-ordered, I did.

The book is here, and it’s beautiful. The cover and interior illustrations are by artist Jensine Eckwall. This is the first book of the Parasol Protectorate series, and it’s an absolute blast.

The hero is Miss Alexia Tarabotti. She was born without a soul, which grants her the unique ability to neutralize supernatural abilities with the slightest touch. Vampires, for instance, are left fangless for the duration of any physical contact with Miss Tarabotti.

Set in a very Steampunkish London, the books are filled with action, intrigue, and of course the dry wit of Alexis Tarabotti.

soulless for blog.jpg

If you haven’t read the series, do yourself a favor and start. They’re great books.

And now I have an autographed copy of the first book!

autograph for blog.jpg

I don’t have many autographed novels. There’s Making Money by Terry Pratchett, Rhialto The Marvellous by Jack Vance, The Incompleat Enchanter signed by L. Sprague De Camp, and now Soulless by Gail Carriger.

It’s a shelf of books I’m proud to own.

Special Blog Tomorrow

Tomorrow, early, I’ll be posting a special Monday blog. A good friend of mine is releasing a new book, but you can read all about it tomorrow morning. There’s also a audio interview, and I’ll be posting a link to that tomorrow as well.

Did Someone Say Audiobook?

I don’t like to harp on my own releases, but the first Markhat title, Three Mean Steets, is out in audiobook format. Of course it’s also available as an ebook, and links to both are below.

Three Mean Streets, the Kindle version

Three Mean Streets, the audiobook

Wild Wild Web

In last week’s Wild Wild Web entry, I posted a video to a British chap hop artist, Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. Chap Hop is a musical genre that blends rap with steampunk sensibilities, and I love the result.

Well, Mr. B and another chap hop artist, Professor Elemental, came to loggerheads after Mr. B mentioned the Professor in less than glowing terms in a tweet. The Professor retaliated with a song of his own, Fighting Trousers.

Here are links to both artists, in case you’d enjoy watching the standoff unfold.

Mr. B in No Character to Clear

Professor Elemental: Fighting Trousers

Finally, here’s a mystery link. Enjoy!

Wild Wild Web Mystery Link

A Bit of Music

War of the Worlds: Classic Album Remake

One of my favorite books, the classic H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds, was adapted as a musical prog-rock album in 1978 by Jeff Wayne.


I’ve listened to Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds hundreds of times. Richard Burton narrated. A dedicated ensemble of string and other musicians gave the score a very steampunkish rock-orchestra sound.

Two of the tracks became minor classics after the album’s release. Forever Autumn and Thunder Child still receive some airplay, and deservedly so. The album still sells, to this day, and there is even a stage production.

Weeks ago, I learned the War of the Worlds album had been remade with ‘The New Generation’ added to the title. This time, Liam Neeson performs as the narrator, and the music has been rescored.


I ordered the new album — but not without some trepidation.

Remakes are a tricky business. If you retain most of the original work’s character and detail, making only minor tweaks, well, what’s the point? From a technical standpoint, the audio quality of the original Jeff Wayne version can’t really be improved on. If anything, technical standards for music reproduction today are far inferior than they were in the 1970s. The market has shifted to emphasize casual listening — i.e., ear-buds and Bluetooth speakers with the dynamic range of half-thawed trout.

On the other hand, anyone daring to take significant liberties with an established classic is sure to face the irrational wrath of, um, me. I love the original, and I’m well aware my knee-jerk reaction to change is likely to be a mixture of ‘Hey, that’s not the way I remember it’ and ‘How DARE YOU DESECRATE THIS TIMELESS CLASSIC YOU RUFFIAN!’

Thus, before the new work even sounds a note, it’s got baggage to contend with.

Prior to sitting down for my first listen, I had a long talk with myself about the value of remaining objective About being open to a fresh interpretation of a beloved old standard.

Unfortunately, I wandered off while I was talking and grabbed a beer, so I missed most of that lecture.

Before I dive into the music and narration itself, a word about how I listened. I bought a CD, because the vinyl version isn’t out yet (and may never be). I don’t use downloads for serious listening, because I’m old and I have actual hair in my ears and music deserves a physical medium of some sort you whipper-snappers.

I have a 5-speaker setup with a Yamaha amp. I like it loud. I set the soundstage for Hall, with minimal echoes and reflections, and I pressed play.

Liam Neeson opened with the familiar monologue, which goes like this:

No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched by intelligences which inhabited the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.

The music swells, and off we go.

The big question — does Neeson fit the role as Wells’s un-named journalist?

My reply? Yes. Yes he does. Of course Liam Neeson is not Richard Burton. But Richard Burton is no Liam Neeson, either, and I found Neeson’s performance just as engaging and convincing.

The words lost none of their power. For me, this new journalist’s recounting of mankind being pushed to the brink of extinction by the merciless Martians is every bit as chilling as was Burton’s.

So, if the narration was as good or better than the original, what about the music?

My biggest fear was that the majestic, sweeping orchestral feel of the original would be replaced by some wretched attempt at ‘updating’ the score by transforming it into something contemporary. I do not want a metal version of War of the Worlds. I do not want a countrified twang included, or hip-hop, or pop. One of the things I loved best about the original was the album’s clever ruse of using 19th century musical sensibilities to create a prog-rock sound. It was akin to listening to Nicola Tesla use the instruments of his day to throw down with some Pink Floyd.

Did the new album maintain this practice?

Yes. I loved the music, which honored the original, but incorporated some new elements. There is some great guitar work. A faster pace. The grand sweeps are still there, but with just enough funk added to make it fresh and exciting all over again.

Now, anyone out there reading this who is also a fanatic about the original work has one question at this point — what does the new version do with the Martian’s exultant battle cry, the much-maligned ‘ulla?’

I know people who truly hated the ‘ulla’ sound the Martians made during a battle. I liked it, myself. They were Martians. It sounded alien. But hey, art is subjective.

I waited for the first battle cry on the new album with curiosity. The moment came and went, and there was no ‘ulla.’

I can’t argue with the decision to shelve the battle cry. The lack of it doesn’t hurt the new work, and keeping the original wouldn’t have fit this new sound anyway. Creating a new one would have been risky too. And maybe the cry was a flaw in the original, so highlighting that flaw just isn’t a good idea.

The next pair of touchstones arrives with Forever Autumn, which is followed immediately by Thunder Child.

In Forever Autumn, our heroic journalist makes his way to London in search of his fiancee. He fights his way through the packed crowds fleeing the besieged city, only to find Carrie’s house empty. She is gone, perhaps dead, and all hope seems lost. That is the part of the story carried by Forever Autumn.

Thunder Child finds the journalist amid a panicked mob trying to board the last steamships departing England. He doesn’t make it onto a boat — but he does see Carrie on the packed deck, just as three Martian walking machines stride out to sea, cutting off the steamboat’s only path to safety.

But the steamboats aren’t the only craft in the harbor. A single ironclad warship, the Thunder Child, confronts the Martians, and in a moment of good fortune the Thunder Child’s cannon manage to bring down a Martian war machine.

That moment in the song is powerful. There’s been so much loss, so much destruction — but finally, a victory. Cheers and shouting rise up from the mob still assembled at the dock. For a moment, there is hope. Humanity has hit back, and hit back hard.

Then the remaining Martians turn their heat rays on the valiant ironclad and send the glowing remains to the bottom. The steamboat escapes, and Carrie with it, but as the last warship sinks, it’s obvious humanity has lost not just the battle, but the war.

That is the song Thunder Child.

I’m happy to report that the new versions are every bit as powerful as the Jeff Wayne originals.

Once that moment passed, I was able to settle back and simply enjoy the new album.

There are a couple of chances taken by the producers that may emerge as the new ‘ulla’ cry. For example, at one point, the narrator dives into a stream to hide from the rampaging Martians and their heat rays. As he plunges in, the music becomes muffled, distorted precisely as it would be if the listener were suddenly submerged. My initial reaction was ‘sheesh, what’s wrong with my amp?’ but I’ve actually liked the moment on subsequent listenings.

If you’re a fan of the 1978 version, the new one is a worthy successor. If you’ve never heard of either, they’re both well worth the time.

Here are links to both versions:

The original 1978 War of the Worlds

The updated War of the Worlds: The New Generation


Here’s tonight’s Wild Wild Web link. Enjoy!

Wild Wild Web

Introducing Three Mean Streets, the audiobook!

It’s out!

Three Mean Streets, the first title in the Markhat Files series, is now on sale in audiobook format.

You can get a copy from Audible or iTunes. The links are below, because I’m a helpful sort.

Three Mean Streets from Audible

Three Mean Streets from iTunes

The book comes in just shy of six hours. The narrator, Conner Goff, did a fantastic job reading as Markhat. I really believe you’ll enjoy it.

And here’s the cover, so you’ll know what to look for.

Three Mean Streets blog cover.jpg

Finally, as a gift for everyone who comes here and listens to me rant every Sunday, I’m going to post yet another link below. The publisher made 25 copies of the audiobook available for free — so if you get to the link in time, you can pay nothing for Three Mean Streets.

Free copies of Three Mean Streets

Oh, and if you do get a copy, and like the book? Please consider leaving a review. Books live or die by reviews.

Thanks to Conner Goff and Archieboy studios for giving Markhat and the gang voices!


Here’s your Wild Wild Web link for the week. Enjoy!

Wild Wild Web link

Audiobook News and Darla First Look

TMS Audible got blog.jpg

The audiobook version of Three Mean Streets will go live any day now.

I'll post a special blog when I get word it's on sale. It'll be on Amazon's Audible and iTunes. I don't know the retail price yet, but I do know you'll be getting a solid six and a half hours of narration with this title.

Editing an audiobook is a lot like doing the final proof of a text book. I listened to each chapter as it was completed, and there was some back-and-forth concerning pronunciations and the like. Since the book's text was also edited (and edited, and edited) this process wasn't nearly as painful as the written version. 

Connor, the voice actor, did a marvelous job of capturing Markhat's dry, cynical wit. The supporting characters came across just as well. I honestly believe you're going to have a blast listening to this.

So stay tuned for the big announcement, which I guess will be forthcoming early this week.

Work is also coming along on the audio version of Every Wind of Change. It's a much longer book, with quite a few supporting characters, so that's going to take some time -- but it is in progress, and the voices are incredible.


At last, I have a couple of very rough images of Darla from the Markhat Files. These are preliminary, and will change -- but here's her basic look, which yes, needs a lot of tweaking. She's all dressed up for a night of dancing on the Brown River Queen. Markhat is taking the picture, so he's not shown yet.


Wild Wild Web

Here's your Wild Wild Web link for the week. It's a favorite of mine, and I hope you find it both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Wild Wild Web


Living With The Living Dead

I was a huge fan of The Walking Dead when the show started.

It had zombies. My first exposure to zombies occurred when one of the two TV channels we got showed the original Romero classic Night of The Living Dead one rainy Saturday afternoon. I was way too young to be watching such a thing, and it scared the absolute crap out of me.

The walking dead, or Walmart shoppers? Hard to tell, some days...

The walking dead, or Walmart shoppers? Hard to tell, some days...

So naturally, decades later, I was an instant fan of The Walking Dead.

I still watch, even though I've sworn off the show twice in the last couple of years. The episode in which Carol was shot multiple times and savagely beaten -- that was over the line for me. Never again, quoth I.

But next week, there I was.

When the zombies swarmed over King Ezekiel's loyal tiger -- no more, I said. What a cheap way to sneak in an emotional punch. One minute the tiger is an unstoppable killing machine, and the next a dozen withered, stumbling corpses manage to pin down a thousand pounds of claws and fangs.

But I came back. 

And I'll be there in October, when Rick and crew make their next appearance. But my enthusiasm for the show is dimmed considerably, in part because of the inconsistency of the underlying science and technical aspects of the show.

Here are the flaws that bother me the most. I give the walking corpses a pass, because I'm willing to suspend disbelief on one point, and that's it, impossible though it is.

1) Cars, trucks, and other vehicles that still run. We're years into the apocalypse. The show made it plain that civilization lasted about a month once the rise of the dead began. But somehow, our grimy heroes manage to start cars that have been sitting idle for the whole time. 

I've got two issues with this.

Batteries, for one. 

Go leave a car outside for two or three years. Then hop in and turn the key. You'll be lucky if you get a few faint clicks. That battery is long gone, and without it, you're not going to just throw it in drive and speed away from the ravening horde.

But let's say you know how to drive a stick, and you've roll-started a car before. If you're skilled, and the car has a manual transmission and is facing a downward incline, you can put it in first, stand on the clutch, and let the car roll till it builds up speed. Then you pop the clutch at just the right moment.

If you're lucky, the car will start, sans battery. You won't have headlights and it's going to die the moment you stop, but you could maybe get away from a few dozen shuffling corpses.

But you won't, because gasoline is a volatile chemical compound, and if it's been sitting in a tank for a couple of years it might be good for starting campfires but it isn't going to power a vehicle anymore. Too, everything in the fuel lines is gummed. The jets won't spray. Pistons won't budge.

You're going to be a zombie's lunch. Forget cars, and helicopters? Please.

2) There's been so much gunplay in the series that everyone would be deaf, or nearly so, by now. Nobody wears ear protection. They often have running gun battles in tiny confined spaces.

Here's what actual dialog after all that shooting should look like:

RICK: We've got a herd of walkers closing in.

MICHONNE: We've bought a head of Faulkners dozing sin?


MICHONNE: I've never heard of cousin Walter selling tin!

3) Walkie-talkies have magical 500 mile ranges, and everyone is always on the same frequency and listening at the same time when someone else wants to talk. Why do we even bother with cell phones? 

4) Our heroes spend half their time walking around covered in zombie goo and the other half rolling around on rocks and broken glass, but nobody ever gets an infection from it. Look. In a world without antibiotics or even much in the way of first aid, all those dramatic looking flesh wounds are going to kill you. Dead. Quickly. Take a bath, people! Soap would be nearly as valuable as food, in that setting.

5) Nobody rides bicycles. Seriously, if you need to get around quietly and quickly in a world without cars, the bike is the way to go. It's faster than the zombie shuffle. It's quiet. You can pick it up and walk around the ever-present downed trees or collapsed bridges. No fuel needed. Grab a manual air pump and a tiny tire patch kit and a bike will last for years -- but not once has anyone realized this. I know Daryl's chopper motorcycle is cool, but anything that loud would draw walkers for miles. 

6) Zombie skulls. Apparently, zombie bones undergo some strange metamorphosis into softness as they age. Morgan carries a long stick. One end of it is pointed, sort of, in a blunt kind of way -- but when he pokes a walker in the head, the blunt wooden tip slides through bone like it was warm butter. That's not how bones work. Even dead bones retain their hardness for quite a few years. Other characters use knives for the head-stabs, and the knives slide in easily and never get stuck. 

If I did that in a book, I'd hope an editor would say 'Frank, you have seen a bone, right?"

7) Everyone is out to slaughter everyone else and take their stuff. Okay. That's great for dramatic tension, but historically, people have tended to pull together during vast natural disasters. There's far more benefit in trading with other bands of survivors, even helping them out to combine assets. Going to war just means casualties and depletion of existing resources, with no guarantee of success. Sure, there will be looters and thugs and opportunists -- but I think they'd be in the minority, rather than being everyone you run into. 

But I'll keep watching anyway, because Romero put the fear into me all those years ago.

If you have other gripes to add, or another show that you feel the same about, let me know in the comments!




Here Be Dragons

As a kid, I was attracted to strange books.

I still have most of my favorites. Among them is In The Wake of The Sea-Serpents by Bernard Heuvelmans. Mine is a Hill and Wang edition, published in 1969.

The dust jacket is long gone, which is a pity, because the book is considered rare now. Even so, I wouldn't sell it because it holds too many memories and it's still a great source for building fictional sea monsters.

For a kid, this book was a treasure trove of sea monster stories. Heuvelmans took entries from old sailing ship logs, from eyewitness testimony and accounts, from newspaper articles the world over. It's a matter-of-fact, scholarly presentation of written evidence for sea monsters, and as such it's a dry read. But kid me reveled in every detailed description, in every black-and-white drawing contained within the pages.

It still makes for fascinating reading. I'm sure that many of the sightings were mis-identification of perfectly ordinary creatures, but -- hey, the oceans are deep and vast. 

One thing nine-year-old me didn't have was the internet. But if I'd had it, I'd certainly have been watching a YouTube series called Bedtime Stories.

My friend Terry emailed me and suggested I take a look at Bedtime Stories. I did, and now I'm passing the link on to you. If you share my fascination for the strange, the unexplained, and the Fortean, I think you'll enjoy BedTime Stories too.

Each episode presents an incident, phenomena, or subject with a mysterious or paranormal bent. What sets Bedtime Stories apart from other similar sites is the inclusion of skepticism. They don't shy away from debunking their own stories. 

I'm sure you've probably heard of 'the Bloop.' If not, the Bloop is the loud undersea sound recorded by NOAA a while back. At first, people -- some scientists included -- suggested the Bloop was created by some enormous but unknown sea creature. The volume of the Bloop, which was recorded by microphones 3000 miles from the source, suggested a creature of truly monstrous size.

Subsequent research into the Bloop later determined that the sound was made by melting methane ice, deep in the ocean. The ice shifted and hit the bottom and the scraping, with the gas release, made the sound. No kraken were involved.

Most of the 'paranormal' sites list the Bloop, to this day, as evidence of some gargantuan sea creature. Bedtime Stories is the first I've seen to accurately correct that assertion.

If you're interested, click the link below to head to Bedtime Stories. I suggest you start with the episode on sea monsters. It's a fascinating presentation. I knew about the German U-boat incident and several of the others from my old book -- but kid me would have loved this web series. Adult me certainly does.



Just this week, I've nearly completed the audio review for Three Mean Streets, and have also reviewed the first four chapters of Every Wind of Change. 

Both sound amazing. I've never really appreciated the extent of a voice actor's work until now. They're not just reading the books while a microphone records. They're doing different voices. Adding anger or terror or sadness to the words. I suppose I've sat at a keyboard and watched words crawl across a screen for so long I've forgotten that words are more than letters and the spaces that separate them. 

So they're not 'merely' narrating. They're acting. It's a dimension I've just not seen associated with my books.

Three Mean Streets will be released first. Every Wind of Change, which weighs in nearly twice the length of Mean Streets, will take longer, but it's coming!


Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image (1).jpg


I've got something a bit different for this week's Wild Wild Web entry. 

This gentleman, Patrick A Bartmess, makes musical instruments and devices. They're unique and creative, and here's one of them playing with an accompaniment of cicadas. Enjoy!

Wild Wild Web


Meralda in Motion

I had hoped to open this weeks's blog with a short animation of Meralda waving hello.

Sadly, that's not going to happen. My career as a 3D animator is off to a rocky start. So far, her animated movements resemble those of a crash-test dummy dropped into an industrial shredding machine. 

I believe Meralda herself has emerged from the multiverse -- I did get her to take a few steps, but her right hand formed a certain rude gesture involving a raised middle finger. I can neither explain nor remove the gesture. I do believe it was her comment on my skills as an animator.

Work on the audiobooks is progressing nicely. The voice actor for Three Mean Streets has a great Markhat voice, and his Mama Hog is wonderful. Mug and the gang from Every Wind of Change are a delight, and I really believe both sets of books will be a genuine pleasure to listen to.

Meanwhile, I ran into a snag with the new Markhat, The Devil's Horn. I was cruising along at speed until I realized I'd missed a major plot hole. I'm sure you've heard it asked why Gandalf didn't just ask Gwaihir and the eagles to fly Frodo to Mount Doom so he could destroy the Ring without traipsing all the way into the heart of Mordor? 

Yeah, I had a moment like that. So a chapter or two needs to be re-written, because I can't expect Tolkien's luck in having my version of that little problem remain undiscussed for fifty years.

Improved Pulp Covers

Here are a few altered pulp covers, for your amusement...





Wild Wild Web

Finally, here's this week's Wild Wild Web link. Fans of Ghostbusters and Supernatural should love this one. Enjoy!

Wild Wild Web

Big news for The Markhat Files and The Paths of Light series

It's official -- both The Markhat Files and Mug and Meralda's adventures are coming to audiobook format.

The first book in the Markhat Files, Three Mean Streets, will be appearing on both Audible and iTunes in September. The new Paths of Light book, Every Wind of Change, will be released to the same markets shortly thereafter.

The rest of the titles will follow. 

And to answer the first most obvious question -- no, none of them will be narrated by me. Three Mean Streets is being produced by Archieboy Studios. I've heard and signed off on the first 15 minutes. It's amazing what a talented voice actor with the right audio equipment can create. Connor, the voice actor, nailed Markhat's sardonic with, and brought Mama Hog to grumpy life as well.

The Paths of Light books are being narrated and produced by another gifted voice actor, Nila Hagood. I loved her Mug on the audition tape, and her Meralda captures just that hint of perpetual exasperation I was looking for. 

I never thought I'd hear an audiobook of my own titles. But fortune smiled -- by mistake, I assume -- and contracts have been signed. Work is underway. 

I'm a grey-headed dinosaur, so I still do my reading by text. But after hearing someone read a book aloud, I understand the appeal of an audiobook. You can just close your eyes and relax, free from every distraction as you focus on the book. Unless you're driving. Then you need to watch the road. The Mississippi Highway Patrol was most emphatic on this point. Sorry about those gas pumps, guys.

If you're an author (my deepest sympathy) and you'd like to know more about how all this came about, email me at franktuttle at It's an option I should have explored a long time ago. Keep in mind I have the usual author's production budget of three corroded pennies and an old Bic pen filled with ink that dried in 1992. That doesn't matter; I'm not paying for this gig. 

So that's my big news. I am of course still working on the new Markhat, The Devil's Horn, and Darla keeps telling me to hurry so I can get back to work on her book. 

And now for something completely different.


My paternal grandparents, Henry and Beatrice Tuttle, moved from Chicago to this plot of land in Mississippi in 1939. They started farming cotton in the same fields that surround my house. I grew up on a cotton farm, which meant working the farm every summer.

We chopped the cotton fields by hand. Chopping cotton involves taking a hoe and cutting down anything that isn't cotton. Morning glories, cockleburs, Johnson grass -- those were the adversaries of my childhood. It's hot work, and it never really ends. Oh, you've finished chopping all the fields? Time to start over, because everything you cut down came back, with friends.

Did I mention it was hot? There's no shade in a cotton field. The sun blazes down, relentless and untiring. 

We stopped growing cotton in the late 1970s. The fields have laid fallow since then, until the last couple of years. We lease the land to a neighbor, who has this year planted cotton in this dirt for the first time in 40 years.

Here's a photo of the front field:


It's chest-high on me and already starting to bloom. You can see a rain building to the south, and that will suit the thirsty cotton just fine.

If you've ever wondered what the first stages of cotton look like, here is a new bloom, just showing the first hint of the fiber most of us are wearing now.


That bright white clump in the center is an embryonic tuft of cotton fiber. Soon, the plant will be covered in blooms, and soon after that the cotton will fill them. 

No one chopped this cotton. Chemicals control (mostly) other plant growth. A machine will pick the cotton, roll it into enormous round bales. Human hands won't touch it. 

I, for one, am relieved I won't be involved. That was hard work.

Dogs! I promised you dogs, and here are two of our resident canine staff. First up is Lou Ann, our elder shepherd mix.


Lou had a rough start. She was a stray in Memphis who wound up at a shelter in Southaven. A friend of ours who fosters dogs told us about her, and we got her. She's enjoyed the country life ever since.

Lou's been a good watchdog. She's currently napping a few feet away, her feet moving as she runs in some doggy dream. I hope it's a good one.

And here is Daimos, our (relatively) new dog. We've had him since last summer, and he hasn't stopped moving since. According to the DNA test, he's a mix of Dachsund, border collie, and a few other breeds too. He's with me too, destroying a plastic water bottle and emitting potent odors. 



Time for this week's Wild Wild Web link!