Monday 24 June 2013

Introducing...Morticia's Massage Parlour and Free Advice Academy...Again!

Introducing...Morticia's Massage Parlour and Free Advice Academy

Back in the bad ole days, I had a gig writing a wacky advice column for a resto/bar trade mag.  On the urging of a few friends who have absolutely no taste, I am bringing Morticia back to life <sic> on these pages.  Reprinted with permission...

Dear Morticia:
This guy I really like has finally asked me out.  Thing is, I met him at a beach and he doesn't know I wear glasses.  Should I wear them on our first date?
Signed:  Short sighted

Dear Short:
That depends.  What does he look like?

Dear Morticia:
I've been sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under my pillow since last April and it isn't doing a thing.  What do you suggest?
Signed:  Always a Bridesmaid

Dear Always:
Personally, I've never seen the point of sharing your pillow with wedding cake.  Why don't your try a man instead?  Lots more fun and not near as messy.

Dear Morticia:
All I want is a man who doesn't play golf all weekend long.  Is that too much to ask?
Signed Weekend Widow

Dear Weak:
Really?  That's ALL you want from a man?  Must get pretty boring at night....

Dear Morticia:
I like your style.  How about a date, Sugar?
Signed: Swinger

Dear Swing:
Sure!  January 27th?  August 18th?  11/04/21?  MCXXII?

To be continued....

Sunday 16 June 2013

Introducing Fantasy author Tracy Falbe!

It is my great pleasure to introduce Tracy Falbe, author of Judgement Rising, and other epic tales.  The beautiful cover of Judgement Rising is a particular favourite of mine.

How Humor Can Help Readers Care About Characters

By Tracy Falbe

My novels tend to be pretty serious, like most epic fantasies, but I believe in letting characters have good times too. I rarely send someone into battle without throwing him a good party or letting him have a final night with his lover.

Sometimes the mood is lightened with a few jokes among comrades. I don’t do this specifically for the sake of comic relief. Although I love comedy and consider it a high art form, I often dislike how comic relief is used. Tossing some dopey antics into the middle of something very serious is just plain annoying. When I use humor, I do it to make characters feel real. Letting sarcastic comments slip and drinking too much at dinner are things that real people might do when under stress. These lighter scenes tend to happen between the big dramatic events. I try to let characters shine through during the quieter moments because isn’t this when you really get to know people?

Most novels rush characters from one big event to the next without much room to breathe. I know we writers are supposed to keep readers hooked, but I believe in pacing my fiction. I like to balance intensity with moments of genuine living. My hope is that it will deepen the reader’s emotional ties with the characters. When the reader remembers the good times, it will make the hard times even more meaningful.

A splendid example of a good time leading to dire events comes from the mighty J.R.R. Tolkien. He started the modern tradition of a good party in fantasy novels when the Fellowship of the Ring opened with Bilbo’s birthday bash. Throughout my own novels I’ve presented everything from a royal banquet to a bachelor party to wild revels in the forest to that most dangerous of affairs: the family gathering.

One memorable gathering from Judgment Rising has several amusing scenes when Miranda meets her brother-in-law Atarek for the first time. Atarek has crossed the Wilderness in search of his missing brother Dreibrand. Miranda is quite excited to meet him, but her husband knows that her encounter with Atarek will be alarming at best.

From Judgment Rising:

Politely, Dreibrand worked his way through the crowd, tugging Atarek who wanted to say hello to everyone. As people smiled to Dreibrand, he noted how their eyes bounced between Atarek and himself, making a conspicuous comparison. Jolted by juvenile insecurity, Dreibrand hustled his brother along.
The dawdling resistance from his debutant brother suddenly let go and Dreibrand was trundled forward by his brother’s bulk.
Draping an arm around his shoulder, Atarek pulled him close and whispered, “Hey Dreiby, introduce me to those women. That curly-haired one looks fun.”
Dreibrand spun in his brother’s embrace and knocked the arm away.
Interpreting the intense flash of jealousy as only an older brother could, Atarek laughed and wagged a finger at his brother. “You had her,” he surmised, delighted to have blundered upon a sensitive nerve.
“Think harder, Brother,” Dreibrand growled.
“Still working on it then?” Atarek teased. Puffing out his chest, he headed straight for the attentive group of women and children.
Before Atarek said something inappropriate, which was likely, Dreibrand intervened. “Atarek, this is Miranda, my wife,” he said.
Miranda stepped forward with an inviting smile. “How do you do—” she began, employing her best Atrophaney accent, but Atarek interrupted.
“Wife!” He laughed and flung his arms wide like barn doors flapping in a heavy wind. “Sister!” he sang and scooped Miranda off the ground. Atarek helped himself to a lusty handful of her left buttock and kissed her on the lips. When he put her down, she was wide-eyed and speechless. The pressure of his hand was still fading from her well-toned rear, and she was confused by her inability to react.
Dreibrand separated them and took possession of Miranda’s nearest hand. He reproached his brother with a stormy look, which amused Atarek mightily.

As you might imagine, Atarek gets well into his cups at the ensuing banquet. Once he’s intoxicated enough, he’ll even question the paternity of his brother’s sons.

Atarek is one of my favorite creations. He’s funny, flawed, and full of heart. He taught me that it was all right to goof off even in an epic fantasy. He’ll swing a sword when he has too, but someone better get him a drink when he’s done. My novels aren’t comedies, but some of my characters have a sense of humor. There’s no sense if fighting for your life if there’s nothing to smile about.

If you’d like to get to know Atarek, you can find Judgment Rising at your favorite ebook retailer. Don’t worry that it’s the third novel of The Rys Chronicles. I wrote it as a new point of entry into the saga. 

Save 25 percent on an ebook copy of Judgment Rising at my website Brave Luck Books. Checkout with promo code JRinJune. Discount valid through July 1st.

See all of my novels at or:

Wednesday 5 June 2013

The Stand-up Routine that started it all....CHARIOTS OF THE GUYS

One thing I hate even more than high school reunions is buying a new car.  It’s not that I don’t like cars.  I am really quite fond of them. Especially in winter.  What I don’t like is the buying process.  There is something inherently different about men and women when they go looking at cars in a dealership.  You even have to wonder if they are members of the same species.

Husband (reverently caressing cold metal with both hands):  “Look at this beauty!  4.0 litre, five speed, Recarro seats, mag wheels, racing suspension, electric moon roof, power mulcher, moog synthesizer, ballistic missile launcher…”

Wife:  “It’s red.  I hate red.”

This basic lack of communication goes right back to the way men and women look at ‘things’.  Amazingly, they can be looking at the same thing and see something entirely different.  Men, for instance, will look at a car as if it something beyond a box with four wheels that moves forward and backward.  To them, it is not merely a car.  Nope.  It is the culmination of adolescent dreams, the elusive mistress of middle age, the Ben Hur of all chariots.  Me, I’m more concerned with whether it will get me to the shopping mall and back without falling into a million pieces.  Which is why we had this misunderstanding at the dealership last weekend:

Me:  “This car has two seats.”

He (enthusiastically checking the interior):  “Yes!  Aren’t they great?”

Me:  “I’m not denying they are very nice seats.  Beautiful, in fact.  But there are four of us.”

He (looking irritably at the kids):  “They’re young.  They’ve got legs.”

Kid One:  “But Dad…where are we all going to sit when we have to drive someplace?”

He (aghast):  Good Gad, you’re not actually expect me to drive this car on the road?  The paint might get chipped.”

Then he did what all men have been programmed to do from the beginning of time.  He kicked the tire.  I’ve often wondered about this practice.  And I expect Ben Hur’s wife pondered the very same thing two thousand year ago, when good ole Ben whacked the wheel of that Roman chariot with his leather sandal.  Exactly what purpose does this serve?

I’ll never understand it.  But as far as I can see, all of this started about forty thousand years ago when Urgh the slightly-brighter-than-normal Neanderthal invented the wheel.  Irma, his loyal wife, stood on the sidelines shaking her head, while Urgh enthusiastically painted on racing stripes.  “Argh urf org grunt bfff bfff,” she said (loosely translated to, “Oh dinosaur droppings, not another blasted toy.  When will this ever end.”)  And of course, it hasn’t yet.

Saturday 1 June 2013

A special welcome to my guest, James DiBenedetto, author of Dream Student

What would you do if you could see other people's dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets...without them ever knowing?
Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who's got a crush on her.
But when she starts seeing dreams that aren't hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates...and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed.
"Dream Student" is the thrilling first installment of the Dreams series.
Excerpt from Dream Student

I have to admit, it feels very strange to be drinking wine, like an actual adult, with my parents.  When I’m at school, obviously, I don’t have these thoughts.  I’m twenty one years old.  I’m in charge of my life, making real, important choices.  I’m working hard, making serious progress on as adult a goal as I can think of.  I’m in a real, serious relationship with a man I love.  Then of course there are the damned nightmares, and the fact that I’m still even close to being in one piece after several weeks of them qualifies me as a functioning grown-up for sure.

Still, something happens to me when I come home from school, even now, even though rationally I should know better.  It’s not that Mom and Dad do anything, really, to make me feel that way – it’s pretty much all in my head. 

I realize that partly it’s just the fact of sleeping in the same bed I’ve slept in since I was in kindergarten, and looking at the picture of Kermit the Frog that’s been on my wall since 1977 or so as I fall asleep.  Everywhere I look in my bedroom there’s a reminder of my childhood.  Especially the poor ratty, dog-chewed stuffed rabbit that’s sitting on my bed right now.  Good old Mister Pennington.

But right now, my father is looking at me very differently.  He’s been ever since lunch and I just now realized that’s why.  I guess he was right, when he said I’m slow on the uptake.  What it is, is he’s seeing me as really and truly an adult for the first time.  Well, if he thinks I am, I certainly ought to be able to believe it myself.

I get more proof when we get home.  Mom and Dad don’t know it, but I learned years ago, when the conditions are just right and the heating vents in their room and my room are both open but the heat isn’t actually blowing in either room, I can hear them quite clearly. 

What I hear tonight, as they’re getting ready for bed, is Dad telling Mom about his day with me.   

Then he tells her that he’s thinking about putting off the big kitchen renovation they’ve been planning for the last year.  He wants to save the money for something much more important that he thinks might be coming a lot sooner than he expected.

My wedding.   

I don’t know what to say to that.

I’m willing to bet that Mom and I have exactly the same expression on our faces right now, and that we both just went precisely the same shade of white.  I don’t know how I keep from fainting at the shock of hearing those words. 

There’s only one reasonable thing to do then.  I jump out of bed and over to the thermostat, crank the heat as high as it will go and with the blast of hot air out of the vent, the voices of my parents are gone.  I lay back down on my bed, grab Mister Pennington to me in a death grip, and try to put my father’s crazy words out of my mind and fall asleep. 


Two hours later I’m still clutching Mister Pennington, and Lumpy is snoring at the foot of the bed.  I’m finally just now drifting off to sleep.  The last thing that goes through my mind before I’m out is that, maybe, my father’s crazy words might not be quite so crazy after all.

J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.

Links: (my website) (direct link on my website for a 10 minute sample of the audiobook)
Read about my writing:
Buy my books: or smashwords