The sign is posted on the porch I've walked many times this way before through seasons warm and cold but no one appears at the door. An abandoned house that says Welcome must have been somebody's abode— leaves me guessing who might have lived in a happy home in this town where few might wander unless they've lost their way, no highways feed into these streets, just old Chevy trucks parked by stacks of hay. A wind chime blows with wind's moody strokes each time I stroll by, but the windows seem so tightly sealed, no visitors knock to say hi. It must have been a place of joy for some kind-hearted folks who lived and left the signpost still hanging on the porch.
© Neetu Malik
Date Published: April 20th, 2021
Publisher: Zither Studios
A nutty religious cult abducts a herd of prime gazebos (huh?) and it’s up to bumbling P.I. Mars Candiotti to rescue them. Mars, aspiring author, chronicles his quest in Jeffrey Hanlon’s comic mystery Zither.
Guided by his magically prescient IHOP waitress, Mars strives to mitigate the shocking global consequences of the gazebo heist, even though he has no idea what the word mitigate means. Mars has five Important clues with which to solve his confounding mystery: Butterscotch, John Travolta, Trombones Venetian Blinds, and Wind Chimes.
As Zither swallows its own tale, Mars finds it increasingly tricky to distinguish between real people and his rambunctious fictional characters. Zither becomes the romper room where his reality meets fantasy – and get frisky with each other.
Using his (odd) clues, Mars’ international odyssey leads to an explosive conclusion in Panama. TVs around the world tune in to watch live coverage of “Carnage in the Canal”.
Amid the lunatic havoc that is Zither there is (of course!) an epic love story as Mars meets Marian, the brainy librarian he had dreamed of. Marian says his books are “slapstick existentialism with subjective reality couched in parable”. (This is news to Mars). But is Marian real?
Is any of it real?
“Hanlon’s humor shines bright and will leave fans of such madness wanting more.” Publishers Weekly
“This zany, rollicking mystery adventure is as compelling as it is hilarious.” Independent Book Review
Nominated for the prestigious Audie Award, Best Fiction 2021
I was born in a Southern California beach town.
As nightfall approached, we prepared.
Pete disguised himself as management, putting on a nice Men’s Wearhouse suit with a bleeding turnip lapel pin.
I disguised myself as Britney Spears.
At the stroke of midnight, Pete and I left his house and headed for the St. Francis Yacht Club.
As contrived luck would have it, Benny Tisdale had left the cabin on his dumb boat unlocked.
In stealthy fashion, Pete and I went below.
“I’ll shine the flashlight and listen for footprints. You find the varnish,” Pete said.
It took no time at all to find Benny’s Man O’ War. Actually, it took a bit of time, but you know what I mean.
As Pete held the light, I donned my surgical gloves and placed Benny’s Man O’ War in my black op bag.
“Easy as taking candy from a drowning man,” Pete whispered.
Pete said, “It’s dark in here, Mars. If you’re going to nod, warn me so I can shine the flashlight on your head.”
“Okay, Pete. We’ll make that a new rule.”
As we prepared to exit in stealthy fashion, Pete shined his flashlight around the cabin, then said, “Mars, look at this big wooden crate.”
I looked at the wooden crate. It was big enough to hold a Barcalounger.
“I’ll bet it’s filled with ill-gotten booties,” Pete said. “Or a Barcalounger.”
He handed me the flashlight and pried open the crate’s lid with a crowbar.
It was not until some time after dark that we took courage to get up and throw the body overboard. It was then loathsome beyond expression, and so far decayed that, as Peters attempted to lift it, an entire leg came off in his grasp . . .
“Peters?” Pete said. “Do you mean Pete? Me? What body? What leg?”
“Sorry. That’s Edgar Allen Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.“
“What’s Poe doing in this chapter?”
I shined the flashlight on my shoulder and shrugged.
He snatched the light back, looked in the crate, and said, aghast, “We’ve gotta get outta here quick, Mars! This boat could blow any minute!”
I looked inside the big wooden crate.
Here is what was in there: hundreds, probably thousands, of Steven Seagal movies.
We’d be lucky to get out of there alive. Seagal movies have a tendency to bomb.
MIGUEL’s BRAVE KNIGHT: YOUNG CERVANTES and HIS DREAM of Don Quixote
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Raul Colon
Peachtree Publishers, 2017
A REVIEW BY VERONICA JORGE
I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a little good news; a happily-ever-after ending to a long tumultuous never-ending season. It’s not likely I’ll see the dust cloud of a hero riding in, or hear the sound of a trumpet blasting in victory.
Enter the picture book to the rescue to soothe, cheer and calm the heart with its hopeful words and uplifting illustrations. Which reminded me of a book I once reviewed and which I find to be pertinent to our times, all times; Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Raul Colon.
Fairytales make us believe that dreams can and do come true. But it was Don Quixote who dared brave the dragons, (that is windmills and obstacles), that imprison the treasures and beauty of life, in order to set them free.
In Miguel’s Brave Knight, the reader meets the boy Miguel de Cervantes. Born in 1547, and a contemporary of the English playwright William Shakespeare, Cervantes would become one of Spain and Latin America’s most important literary figures. Today the world knows him best as the creator of the idealistic, and sometimes foolish, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha. His character’s name has even become part of the English language; quixotic, which Webster’s dictionary defines as: foolishly impractical, especially in the pursuit of ideals.
Well-known for her strong and descriptive verses, Margarita Engle, winner of numerous awards, enchants the reader with a series of poems that reveal the personal sorrows, as well as the social and political events of the day, that shaped Miguel’s life and formed his thoughts. “Hunger”, “Waiting”, “Daydreams”, “Disaster”, “Learning to Write” and, “Imagination”, are some of the poem titles that portray the young author in the making. (Also sounds like a day in the life of a writer).
Full-page pen and ink watercolor illustrations by Raul Colon, an award-winning illustrator of more than thirty books for children, complement Engle’s moving verses. The muted brown, grey, and blue tones create dream-like visions that help the reader experience Miguel’s life.
The end pages include interesting author and illustrator notes, and important historical and biographical information.
A book that awakens dormant aspirations and provokes action, Miguel’s Brave Knight is a timeless tale of the power of the imagination to create hope out of despair, turn dreams into reality, and bring into existence the light from within that dispels the darkness. In this way one can, as Miguel says, “right all the wrongs of this wonderful but terribly mixed-up world.” (From the last line of Engle’s poem, Imagination).
Which proves what we as readers and writers already know: words have power. So let’s saddle up, pen, or laptop, in hand and join our brave and idealistic knight in his marvelous quest for that unreachable star.
(My Review Originally published by the Christian Library Journal; used with permission.)
See you next time on October 22nd!
H.O. Charles is an Amazon Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy author of The Fireblade Array – a #2 best-selling series across Kindle, iBooks and B&N Nook in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy categories (#1 would just be showing off, right?) Okay, it did hit #1 in Epic Fantasy in all those places . . . BUT DON’T TELL ANYONE because no one likes a bragger.
Though born in Northern England, Charles now resides in a white house in Sussex and sounds like a southerner. Charles has spent many years at various academic institutions, and cut short writing a PhD in favour of writing about swords and sorcery instead. Hobbies include being in the sea, being by the sea and eating things that come out of the sea. Walks with a very naughty rough collie puppy also take up much of Charles’ time.
We’re so lucky. The English language is like play dough.
Oh yes, we have strict rules of grammar, tense, POV, all the way to the minutia of intransitive verbs. We can choose from a number of eminent grammar and style guides to ensure conformity. We have stalwart English teachers to drill those rules into our heads so that we are all on the same page. (And bless them all – there is nothing better than order over chaos). But despite those rules a writer has so much freedom to shape our mother tongue into forms wry, brittle, silly, heartbreaking, snarky or just plain mad.
I don’t have much command of any other language; a smatter of German, a soupçon of French, about a third cup of Latin and a healthy plateful of Spanish. But I do know that the rules of those languages are not as forgiving as English — not as much room to roam before you run afoul of the language police. English allows us to mangle all the rules of spelling, meaning, and sentence structure to reflect dialect, or character traits, add color, shift perceptions or mood and anyone with a good command of English can understand — and only pedants ever complain. Of course, you have to use the rules of punctuation. Gotta have those traffic signs.
Anthony Burgess used bits and pieces of Russian mixed with Shakespearian English and other tongues to give us Nadsat, the terrifyingly unique argot of his dark characters in A Clockwork Orange. The reader may have had to work at it a bit, but it was intelligible and colored the story with an unforgettable feel. Fantasy and Sci Fi from J.K. Rowling to Ursula K. Le Guin play with all sorts of mixed up language that become magical words and when you’re reading in those worlds you understand.
Dialect and special vocabulary enrich a tale on many levels and I’m in awe of those writers who do them well, but my favorite form of play dough English is the portmanteau. Anybody can create one of these inventive combinations, and everybody does — usually with something faintly deprecating or ironically funny in mind. And with just one word a portmanteau can ooze with meaning. Frenemy speaks volumes — we’ve all had one and it’s exhilarating to give ‘em a proper name. Craptacular very neatly wraps up the verdict on so much of our over-hyped media. And then there’s pompidity, my own invention from University days when I struggled to describe the quality of politicians.
All writers love words. Words are paint, chisel, fabric, and clay for our creativity. If you can’t find that one word that perfectly reflects your intent, try cobbling a new one together — no one will take points away. Blog is a portmanteau (web log) so if you’re lucky enough to have your portmanteau go viral, you might wind up in the OED.
An innocent naiad. A wounded boy. An adventure that will change their lives forever.More info →
And then there were three . . .
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