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.

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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!

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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

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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!


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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!


Summer of Monsters

I want to open with a wave and a grin to my new friends in Canada. 

Sales of the Markhat Files via Kobo are picking up, and Canadians are leading the pack. I hope you all enjoy the books, and welcome to the blog.

I visited Canada once. It was a brief visit, but I loved the place. 


The new Markhat book is chugging along. So far, I've thrown Rannit into chaos, as the Summer of Monsters sees every kind of supernatural beast imaginable wandering the streets by night. 

Of course, the Rannites are enduring this onslaught in traditional Rannite style by greeting the new arrivals with determined mayhem. Then they go about their business by day, because most of them simply don't have the option to leave. The Churches are in a frenzy, the Watch is outnumbered and close to collapse, and the Army has been assigned to defend the wealthy neighborhoods while the poor are left to stave off werewolves with butter-knives.

All of which may or may not reflect certain situations close to home. But that's irrelevant -- it's going to be a good book.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One. It doesn't contain any spoilers the title doesn't already hint at. Hope you enjoy it!


I sent Slim off with a cab to accompany Darla home. Slim travels these days with a steel club in his furry right hand and a shiny black scattergun strapped across his back. The new arrivals to Rannit’s streets and alleys give an armed Troll wide berth no matter how many teeth or claws they themselves have.

I took another cab back to Cambrit.

The street outside my office was empty, save for a few people hurrying home. Even Mr. Bull was tucked safely inside, though I did see him peek out at me as I arrived. Someone had slipped half a dozen letters under my door. Each was sealed with red wax and the imprint of a fancy ring.

I threw them all out in the street.

Three Leg greeted me with a brief glance and a switch of his crooked tail. There was a note from Gertriss on my desk asking what I’d done to anger so many priests.

I put my hat in easy reach and settled into my chair, curious as to what the masks at Wherthmore might try next. Thunder grumbled, distant but filled with threat.

An hour passed, and full dark fell, before a soft polite knock sounded at my door.

“Mr. Markhat,” said a familiar voice. “Might I have a moment of your time?”

I was so surprised I forgot to put on my hat.

Standing out there in the dark was old Father Wickens, the aging priest who’d married Darla and I when we thought the world was ending.

He was alone. No carriage waited at the curb. No Church bullies loitered at his heels.

“Father Wickens,” I said. I flung open my door. “Come in.”

He did, with the careful gait of the old.

Wickens was the only priest I’d ever known who eschewed the mask of the Church. He needed a walking stick but didn’t carry one of those, either, and I wondered if it was because he didn’t want a stick confused with a church man’s staff.

He’d seen a few years since my wedding. His back was stooped a bit lower, his forehead lined with a few more wrinkles. But his blue eyes were bright and sharp.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling and crossing to my client’s chair. He didn’t sit immediately, instead turning to face me as I latched my door.

“I must first offer my apologies, as a man of peace,” he said. “My brethren were arrogant and rude. I am sorry for that.”

I bade him to sit. It was dawning on me the man had walked the whole way from Wherthmore.

“You aren’t responsible for their actions,” I said, sitting. “I was no model of decorum myself.”

He guffawed. “So I hear. I’ve never liked Father Chide, Mr. Markhat. Goodness, no. So I suppose we have that sin in common.” His eyes twinkled. “Sadly, though, I find myself bent upon completing the very same task as the unfortunate Father Chide.”

I nodded. “You’re here to hire me?”

“I am. On a matter both urgent and dire.” He sighed, slumping in my chair. “I am torn, my son. Ordered by my superiors to engage you in this task. But directed by my conscience to suggest that you refuse it. I believe even hearing my plea may place you in grave peril.”

I’d have laughed at anyone else for saying that. But not the slight old gentleman before me.

“You came a long way to talk to me, Father. You’re the only priest I’ll listen to. If I refuse, they’ll just keep sending you. Spill it.”

He sighed. “I feared as much.” Thunder rolled again, closer this time. I lit a pair of lamps as the storm waded in, bearing who knows what new terrors in its skirts.

“It all began in the catacombs,” said Father Wickens. “The excavations beneath Wherthmore,” he added.

“I didn’t know we had any,” I said.

“Nor did I, until today,” replied the Father. “They’ve been kept secret for the better part of a thousand years. The digging never ceases.” He shuddered. It wasn’t cold.

“Father, I realize I’ll probably go to ten or twelve Hells just for saying this, but can I pour you a drink?”

“Damned right you can,” replied the Father. Even Three Leg looked up, his slitted yellow eyes suddenly alert. “Not one for a nervous old priest, either. Pour me a man’s drink. A frightened man’s drink.”

I did just that. Whiskey, dark and strong. He gulped it down without blinking, and waited a moment for it to get settled in his gut.

The storm lit up my door’s glass with flashes. Thunder followed, lingering and ominous. Something with hooves ran past in the street, gibbering and hooting. I hoped Slim and Darla were safely aboard Dasher, with Cornbread curled up at their feet.

“You know the Book, do you not?” he asked, in a pause of the storm. “The story of Creation?”

I nodded, took a companionable sip of my own whiskey. “God and the Devil create Heaven, the world, and Hell, then get into a slug-match over who did the best job,” I said. “When the dust settles, God and the Devil are both dead. Only Angels and lesser devils survived.”

“I was never a literalist,” replied Father Wickens. “I maintained, privately of course, that the stories were mere allegory. Told to teach, to reveal wisdom.” He pondered his empty glass. I helped him avoid the sin of asking for more by pouring it unbidden. He didn’t argue, but he did drink it down.

“They’re just that, Father,” I said. “Stories. Maybe there’s wisdom there. I don’t know. But talking snakes? Flaming swords?” I shook my head. “Just stories.”

The old priest regarded me solemnly in the lamplight. “I have seen things today that cause me to wonder,” he said, at last. “Do you know why Wherthmore, and the other four Church mainholds, chose to build where they did?”

I shrugged. Mom had dragged all us Markhats to Wherthmore twice a week, but I’d spent more time pondering what lay beneath lady Angel’s robes than I had listening to the priests drone on. “Cheap land?” I said.

He barked out a single dry snort of laughter. “No, Mr. Markhat. Each site was chosen because each Church was sure they were building directly atop the spot where the final battle of Creation took place.”

Something bumped my door. I hadn’t heard footsteps. Didn’t see anything through the thick glass. But outside, claws began to scratch at the oak, and something began to breathe heavily from its exertions, the sound of it wet and eager.

I put my revolver down on my desk with a thump. Father Wickens offered up a quick prayer.

“That door has stopped Trolls, and worse,” I said. “Whatever is out there isn’t getting in. Go on.”

“The excavations began immediately, of course,” said the Father. “I am told the first finds were discovered by Wherthmore some seven hundred years ago.”

“The first finds,” I said, keeping my voice steady, though I felt the tickle of magic crawl up and down my spine. “Seven hundred years ago.”

He nodded. “Bones. They were not human, Mr. Markhat. Not even remotely. Some were human sized, more or less, oh yes. Some were gargantuan. I saw –”

The thing outside began pounding at my door. It screeched, more birdlike than lupine or canine.

“Beat it,” I yelled. “We’re closed.”

Damned if it didn’t emit a short piercing screech, as if struck, before scrambling quickly away.

The good Father regarded me warily.

“There are rumors you have been soiled with sorcery,” he said.

“There are rumors I’m everything from a vampire to the Regent’s illegitimate son,” I snapped. “I’ve made a lot of enemies. People love to talk. You were talking about bones, of the gargantuan variety.”

He nodded. His hand shook. More whiskey found its way to his glass.

“Today, I saw a skull,” he said, wiping his lips. “I tell you this true, Mr. Markhat. I saw a single skull, three stories high.”

“Whoah there, Father.” I corked the whiskey bottle. “Let’s maybe take a minute to clear our heads.”

That pissed him off. He slammed both his bony hands down on my desk and shot to his feet.

“As the Angel Maria, patron of lovers and fools is my witness, finder, I saw a skull three stories tall,” he shouted. “I know it sounds insane. I would not have believed it either, had I not descended. Had I not seen.” He slumped back down in his chair, his hands on his face. “Oh, would that I had not seen.”

I let him catch his breath. It took a few minutes. One thing I’ve learned, from watching people relive horrors while seated in in my chair.

You don’t push. You don’t rush.

“The excavation has cleared approximately four hundred acres of battleground,” he said, at last. “Some three thousand sets of skeletal remains have been revealed.”

“Devils?” I asked, softly. “Angels?”

He shook his head. “Both, they believe. Alongside creatures we cannot begin to name. It’s all true, Markhat. The battle. The Fall. God slain, the Adversary dead. Creation left adrift. All of it.”

He cried then.

I sipped whiskey.

The storm raged on, unperturbed by gods or devils or sad old priests.

“I’m still not clear on what all this has to do with hiring a finder,” I said, after a time. “Sounds like the Church, at least the high levels, has known about this since the rise of the Old Kingdom. Even if it is news to you and me.”

“Oh, it was news to me, Mr. Markhat. I’ve spent my life in the Church. I had no idea. None at all.” He blinked, trying to clear his head, I guessed. “They told me only because they believed you might speak to me.”

“I’m sorry for that,” I said. “So. You believe the Church has located the buried remains of the Creation Battle. The Church wants to hire me – to do what? Go down there and come trotting back up with God’s Own Sword? What?”

He shook his head. “Twenty years ago, Mr. Markhat, archeologists began work on revealing the occupant of parcel nine-ninety-four,” he said. He bit his lip for a moment. “Heaven help me, Mr. Markhat, but they unearthed the remains of the Devil himself. Not a devil. The devil. The Horned One. The Adversary.”

I bit back whatever I was about to say.

“I know it sounds incredible. Especially to man outside the faith. But Mr. Markhat, I have reason to believe it is fact. The Devil’s remains were discovered.”

“Horns and pitchfork and barbed tail too?”

“The fork was reduced to a molten puddle.”

I leaned back.

“I know full well the struggle to believe a word I’ve said, Mr. Markhat. I didn’t believe it either, when I was summoned to the Primate’s chambers.” He shook his head. “I didn’t begin to believe until I saw it all for myself, just a few hours ago. Which is why I’ve come to fetch you. To accompany you, into the deep chambers. Show you the excavations. The remains. All of it.”

“So far you’ve told me what you’ve found,” I said. “Now quit stalling, Father. Tell me what you’ve lost.”

“The Devil’s horn,” he said, without hesitation. The words came spilling out. “The left was missing, just as the Book said, crushed by God with his final blow. The right horn was intact, when the remains were discovered. It has been removed, by parties unknown.” Thunder blasted, and the old man jumped.

“So. The Church found what appears to be the actual site of some battle from the Book. Including Old Scratch’s bones. And now one of them is missing.”

“This is no mere bone, Mr. Markhat. The horn retained a shadow – perhaps more – of the power of Hell. The Church was preparing to move it to a place of safety, where its influence would never be felt in our world, where it would never be rediscovered, or fall into the wrong hands.”

I whistled, imagining the scuffle that would result if any of our nut-case sorcerers from the arcane side of town got wind of a devil’s horn for the taking.

“Someone stole it?”

Father Wickens nodded a yes. “Stole it. Slaughtered the entire company of soldiers and priests guarding it. Murdered forty-six excavators and an equal number of scholars, all in the space of a single hour. All our divine protections negated. Every physical and magical safeguard circumvented or destroyed. Whomever stole the horn commanded resources that rival, or perhaps exceed, those of the Church itself.”

That shiver made another circuit up and down my spine.

“Another Church, then.”

“No. I do not believe so. Our misguided brethren of the other Churches would not act with such wanton disregard for life.”

I snorted. Father Wickens scowled. “We are not all of us Father Chide,” he retorted.

“Sorry, Father. You’re right. But tell me this – why would anyone outside the Churches or a sorcerer want the horn? You said it retained some power. What kind of power?”

“The power to command the infernal. Finder, you know the story, do you not? That the chief minions of Hell fell beside their stricken master, with the survivors being entombed far below the surface?”

“I know it. You telling me that part is real too?”

He gestured toward my door. “What everyone is calling the Summer of Monsters began a few days after the theft of the horn,” he said. “You tell me, finder. Has not Hell been loosed upon us? Does not evil walk now, in numbers that swell each night?”

“Can’t argue with that.” I could, of course. My knowledge of the magical seasons told me the rise of wild magic was no more related to devils or horns than was the weather. But revealing that would also reveal my tainting by sorcery, and I decided the good Father had endured enough surprises for one stormy evening.

“We must locate the horn, finder. Our own efforts have failed. The Church spent months pouring every resource at its disposal into the search. We have learned nothing. Now, Hell is opening beneath us, only a crack now, but soon a chasm. We fear a flood of devils, one that will wash across the lands and leave nothing living in its wake.”

“So tell all this to the Regent. If you’re right, he might be the only creature alive capable of actually laying hands on the horn. I’m just a man, Father Wickens. I’ve got an impressive collection of hats and I can hit what I shoot at about half the time, but if the Church can’t throw enough money and people at finding this old bone, what makes you think I can?”

He froze.

I’ve seen that look before. It’s the look people get when I ask them that one question they simply aren’t willing to answer with anything except a bald-faced lie.

Bless dear old Father Wickens, though. He was so unskilled at deceit he didn’t know what to do or say next.

“Father. Last I heard, lying is a sin. As is lying by omission,” I said. “So whatever it is you’re trying to avoid telling me is probably the very thing you ought to tell. Spill it. Let’s not ruin a wonderful friendship.”

“We went to the Regent,” he said, his voice pitched so low I could barely hear him over the storm. “Yes. The Church is just that desperate.”

“And the Regent turned you down?”

“I am told he had only two words to offer the Primate,” replied the Father.

“I can guess what they were,” I said.

The old priest shook his head. “No. You can’t. Because what he said was ‘Hire Markhat.’”

It was my turn to freeze.


I will get this book out by Fall. I'm typing as fast as I can...


Here are a few more improved book covers for your amusement. People seem to like these, so I'll keep desecrating timeless works of literature. 


And now for the customary Wild Wild Web closing link. Crank up your speakers and enjoy!




First of all, a heartfelt thanks to everyone who bought Every Wind of Change. A special thanks also goes out to everyone who left a review on Amazon. Reviews are a major factor in determining how well a book sells, so on behalf of Meralda, Mug, Donchen, and the whole crew, thanks!

I'm also happy to report the Markhat Files books are once again picking up steam. I'm offering them on Kobo now, and so far I've seen sales in India, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Italy, Portugal, and a host of other far-flung nations that I never reached via Amazon. 

If anyone is reading this blog after purchasing a Kobo edition, welcome aboard! And thank you too.

I got involved in working on the new Markhat book and let creating a print edition of Every Wind of Change slide. I will resume work on that this week -- and then I need to do the same work nine more times to get the Markhat Files out in print as well.

That's a bit of a complicated process, but it needs to be done. 

Which means I've spent a couple of hours improving some old pulp covers. I hope you get a chuckle out of these too. 


I doubt the image above needs much explanation, especially for my lady readers. 


Those old Man's Life covers crack me up. Apparently, the sum of the male experience in the 1950s consisted of fatal encounters with every fanged, clawed, or venomous creature on Earth. 

These violent confrontations usually occurred in the company of a woman who for reasons unknown chose a wildly inappropriate wardrobe for the day's activities. I know these choices were made by the cover artist, and I'm also dead sure not a single woman was consulted during the drafting of the rough image. 


I did very little to this cover. I just added the title and a single line of text. I still have no idea what Vitamin E might have to do with a crazed man surrounded by buzzards, and upon further reflection I have no wish to know.

Time for me to get back to work. I leave you with this week's installment of Wild Wild Web. Link below!


Click here for your WWW of the week!




Wild Wild Web

It's been a rough week. 

I thought some of you, like me, could use a laugh. So I improved a few old pulp-era book covers. I hope you enjoy them.

First up we have a classic from 1954!


This book had everything. Murder. Mystery. Wardrobe malfunctions. Heated exchanges with Louis, the guy working the paint section that fateful Sunday. Banned in 1956 for its bold use of the term 'torso.' 

Next, a comic book from 1935, in which a world-weary homicide detective asks the tough questions.


They don't write them like that anymore. 

Here's a little-known gem of men's fiction. 


Dancin' Randy went on to appear in the 1939 RKO Pictures adventure epic Dancin' Randy and the Amazon Women Have A Nice Afternoon Without All Your Displays of Machismo, Steve. 

Here's another comic entry, from the classic Turok series.


This issue debuted Turok's now-famous catch-phrase, "Cluck cluck, mother*****."

Crime noir has always been a favorite of mine. 


Okay, so half the book's text consists of "Bang! bang bang bang, bang!" but it's a quick read. Universal picked up the film rights, releasing My Gun Is Quick And I Have Significant Hearing Loss in 1941.

Finally, I offer you the salacious 'adult' title Swamp Nymph. Published by the notorious Kozy Books, this title skirted 1940s decency laws by focusing on the mating habits of Anaxyrus americanus, the American Toad. Reader response was lackluster at best; one reviewer famously wrote 'Can we please go back to badgers on shore leave?'


Hope you liked the covers!

Here's a new installment I'll be closing with each week from now on. I'm going to call it "Wild Wild Web,' and it will feature a short video which conforms to the following rules:

1) Is funny.

2) Is apolitical.

3) Contains no violence, sad animals, or anything that might be a bummer.

So click without apprehension. I won't pick anything longer than 2 or three minutes. 

Here's the first one!


Oh, by the way -- buy a book




Martians Again, With Music

Every now and then, you run across something amazing on the web. 

Today I'm linking to a 3-minute video clip taken from a Canadian/BBC mocumentary called 'The Great Martian War, 1913-1917.' It's a film that takes the HG Wells classic 'War of the Worlds' and moves it to World War 1. 

Still image from the mockumentary

The images are grim but stunning. Set just before the actual war broke out, Germany joins the Allies, and everyone comes together to stave off the merciless Martian war machines. 

The effects are beautiful. If you've got three minutes to spare, please give this a watch. 


Thanks, Mr. Wells, for the books.

 HG Wells, courtesy of Wikipedia, of course.

HG Wells, courtesy of Wikipedia, of course.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds

No mention of derivative works based on War of the Worlds would be complete without praise for the 1978 album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds


I cannot begin to estimate the number of times I replayed both discs. Richard Burton narrates while the music is performed by a massive orchestra. The style retains its Edwardian roots, but there are hints of prog-rock there. If I had to choose one work to take to a deserted island this might well be it.

Despite being released in 1978, it's still popular today. You can stream it, you can buy it, you can get it pretty much anywhere music is sold. If you've never heard this, give it a try. You won't be sorry.

I just stumbled across good news while writing this blog -- there is a NEW version available now, with Liam Neeson as the narrator! The music has also been remastered, and additional sounds effects have been added. I clicked the order button before I finished reading the description. That is the power of this work. 

Here's a link to the new version, for my friends who are also fans:

Jeff Wayne's War of the World New Version

I can't stream this -- my home internet service is composed of two elderly hamsters and a roll of aluminum foil -- but I will be hearing it soon!


A few of my other favorite fantasy/horror/SF musical works are these:

1) Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the Alan Parsons Project

2) I Robot, The Alan Parsons Project

3) The Mission, Styx

4) Anything by Abney Park (a steampunk band)

If you've never heard any Abney Park, well, let me introduce you. Here's one of my favorites, 'The Casbah.'

Here's another one, 'Airship Pirates.'

And why not a third, which is my favorite of all -- 'Tribal Nomad.'

Finally, there's 'I'm Fine,' performed by the brilliant Whitney Avalon. Based on the Rick and Morty cartoon series. Rick is the most intelligent being in the multiverse -- but he's also an alcoholic sociopath who maintains a strained relationship with his daughter Beth. You don't have to be a fan of the show to like the song, although it's full of in-jokes and references. 

Hope you enjoyed them! If you have any favorite fantasy/SF/horror bands or albums, please share them in the comments. I'm always looking for something new.