Have Yourself a Very Scary Christmas

Wouldn’t it be great if Barnes and Noble had lines around the corner on Black Friday? What if children couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to deliver their favorite book. Sadly, if the Grinch took away peoples books a lot of children wouldn’t notice.

Yet, this is an amazing time for readers. There are millions of books just waiting for you to read them. Readers are not limited to a few publishing houses. They are not limited to a few authors. The choices are near limitless.

There are fantastic books about anything you can imagine. Give this gift of reading this holiday season. It is as easy as going to Amazon online or driving to your local book store.

Yes, Habitat for Human Remains should be on your list but why stop there? There are millions of choices that are simply a click away. Why not download an audio book on your phone?

You need not return that flat screen television and agree wine and cheese of the month club is the perfect gift. Just don’t forget the food for the imagination found between the pages of a good book.

All Hallows Eve and the Release of Habitat for Human Remains

It is October 31st, Halloween, the time of year when the sky darkens just a bit earlier and the dead wander the earth. What better time to sit with a warm cup of hot cocoa by a roaring fire and a good book. Sure you may be interrupted by the tiny goblins and ghouls begging for candy but such is the nature of the holiday.

I have always questioned the existence of ghosts. After all there are so many dead people and I am yet to see a ghost. At the same time so many others claim to have visions of spirits wandering old hotels and cemeteries. Thus, it is hard to completely dismiss the idea.

Sam has seen a ghost before but perhaps it was a witch’s spell. Sam was never sure if the spirit was a glamour (an illusion created through magic) or not. Yet, in Habitat for Human Remains Sam may be confronted with the real deal, a true spirit of the dead. Yet, his natural cynicism makes it difficult to accept.

In his dreams Sam is more open to speaking with the dead. Habitat for Human Remains is full of nocturnal visits from an insightful group of historical figures. President Lincoln who spent time in Champaign County in his lifetime paid a visit to Sam in his afterlife. Sigmund Freud and the Native American Chief Blackhawk also paid a visit. Yet, perhaps these visits were nothing more than dreams. As Charles Dickens said in a Christmas Carol, “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”. It is easy to dismiss the supernatural.

The idea of communicating with the dead is a part of this novel. Mary Todd Lincoln believed in spiritualism. The seance was popular in the late 1800’s and the Frost House was popular for spiritualism. The house seems like a magnet for supernatural forces. It also seems like a perfect location for murder.

Ghosts would be too easy an explanation for the odd events at this spooky abode. The dark forces at work defy an easy explanation. Something in this house is ancient and cold. Yet, is any monster so nightmarish as to be worse than the evil easily found in the human race.

Sit back with a book and your left over fun size candy bars. Enjoy a fluffy blanket and a fire. Pet your cat or dog. Don’t think about the fleeting nature of life. Don’t think about ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night.

Happy Halloween

The Belief in Justice Creates Injustice

If I have a terrible day I assume I will have a better day in the future. Oddly, anecdotal evidence supports this belief. After all if every day continued to get worse life would be unbearable.To some degree a belief in the fundamental fairness of life and the world is necessary for good mental health.

Most books, television shows and movies follow a pattern. There is a conflict. That conflict results in a grave injustice. That the injustice is discovered and resolved.This is not true of all books. The existentialist movement did not follow this pattern but generally that is how fiction works. The reason why is that it makes readers comfortable. It feeds into our inherent and fundamental belief in justice.

This belief in justice however may make justice harder to obtain. Couldn’t the belief that life is fundamentally fair lead people to conclude that they are rich because justice demands it and other’s are poor for the same reason? To some degree isn’t this belief a reasonable explanation to explain the most tragic parts of history? We justify genocide, slavery and war by dehumanizing others. It is easier to dehumanize others when people believe they are better than others. It could be argued if the world is inherently just and fair than these acts of evil must be justified because they were allowed to take place.

If we believe the world is inherently just and fair than we can be complacent. We do not need to fight for justice if we believe the world is already just. Thus, this mistaken belief in a just world leads to further injustice.

As a lawyer sometimes people will come in to my office charged with a crime. They safe and unconcerned because they did not commit that crime. Obviously, innocent people are not uncommon residents in the penitentiaries and jails of the United States. This injustice is made clear based on the newspapers that provide stories of innocent people being released after years in prison. If not for DNA testing or previously undiscovered evidence we might never know. Yet, it is not uncommon for people to have a firm belief in the illusory concept of justice. Jurors who believe life is fundamentally fair should be avoided. They tend to believe an innocent person would never be charged with a crime.

The belief in fundamental justice can also be racist. The vast majority of American millionaires and billionaires are Caucasian. Most of the ultra rich obtained their money from inheritance. If they are rich because justice demands it than justice much demand that poor people are poor for the same reason. The logical conclusion would be that Caucasians are more deserving of wealth.

The ugly truth is life can be and often is unfair. Justice is hard to get and comes at a price. I am not saying justice does not exist. I am just saying to obtain justice is a long and difficult fight and it is not an inherent gift. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe Is long, but It bends toward justice.”. Perhaps he is right but we have a moral obligation to get off the sidelines and fight for justice in what ever small way we can.


Characters Matter

Habitat for Human Remains has an unusual cast of characters. Unlike the previous novels Sam is visited by historical characters in his dreams. This creates some new challenges for me as the author. I step into the shoes of my characters when I try to give them life. Yet, characters based on historic people have a life of their own prior to my influence. I want them to have their own character but at the same time they are not so tethered to their world as to be unaffected by the influence of time. They are from their time and ours.

One such character is Abraham Lincoln. A man I certainly admire. Yet what would he be like in person. Surly he would be self assured, after all he was elected president. Yet, I would assume not to the point of arrogance. His language would be more formal but perhaps not completely old fashioned given his understanding of the passage of time. I tried to capture his voice as well as his appearance.

As for Lincoln’s appearance I assumed the images he would wish to maintain would be closer to his time of death. Images by Alexander Gardner (a photographer from Springfield, Illinois) and Victor David Brenner (the designer of the penny) best reflect my mental image of the 16th president. I assumed his voice was slightly higher than most people’s understanding. This opinions is based on what I have read as well as on Daniel-Day Lewis’ performance in the movie Lincoln.

Dr. Sigmund Freud was another character I tried to bring to life through a dream. If any historical character should haunt one’s dreams it should be Freud, given the time he spent with dream interpretation.  I think of Freud as perceptive but at the same time some what silly. His psycho dynamic theory (Id, Ego, Superego) may be the basis of much of modern psychology yet it nevertheless seems old fashion to me. Freud’s ideas in his time compared to modern psychology was an important comparison for the book. The novel addresses mental health issues in the courtroom and in the treatment facilities and I wanted to compare modern and old fashion ideas as they relate to mental health. This goes back to Cocaine Zombies and The Fraternity of the Soul Eater that take a critical look at psychotropic medication and pharmaceutical companies.

There are other historic characters in this book but I don’t wont to spoil them all. This is a book of fiction. Obviously the Frost House is not real and thus the characters have never been there. At the same time I believe they add a realism to the fictional brick and mortar of the home.

The Frost House is as much of a character as any other in the book. The house is born of another era but is still impacted by the passage of time. It is old fashioned but is not trapped in time like a museum. The wall scones and chandeliers are electric not gas. The house contains televisions, modern appliances and air conditioning. The house is ancient, antique, old fashioned, vintage and modern all at the same time.

I would like to formally invited my readers an opportunity to visit this old haunted house. It is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. I just hope you will not be trapped there forever.

Habitat for Human Remains

I am excited that the new novel is moving towards a Halloween release. Sam and Bob return for another adventure fighting against the forces of darkness. Sam is hired as an attorney to represent a client with agoraphobia charged with murder. The centerpiece for this tale is a haunted mansion with a dark history. Yet, this is not your typical haunted house mystery or horror story. Yes there are ghosts and black magic but  there is far more than that.

I write books primarily for the purpose of entertaining my readers. At the same time sometimes I have to dig beneath the surface of society. Habitat for Human Remains is about the history of Illinois and the United States as a whole.

When I was in college at the University of Wisconsin they were filming the movie Back to School (The movie is hilarious). I was with a group of people who walked over to meet the great comedian Rodney Dangerfield. He was asked how he liked Madison. His response, “Nice place to fly over”. Of course he was a comedian making a joke. Yet, the Midwest is often ignored in the world of literature and film.

Habitat for Human Remains discusses some of the history of Champaign County and the State of Illinois. Abraham Lincoln and the civil war play a role in the history of the mansion known as the Frost Home. In addition the book talks about Native American Chief Black Hawk and the westward expansion of the country.

The issue of mental health is also explored. Why has the court system failed to evolve over time? Why are we incarcerating the mentally ill rather than treating the accused for the underlying illness? Are people using drugs, legal or otherwise to treat un-diagnosed illness?

The role of magic vs. science is another debate captured within the pages of this novel. Can magic be used to alter the rules of nature? Do we mistake science for magic. Do we ignore magic because it lacks a scientific explanation. Are the rules of physics absolute? What would Newton or Einstein think of magic, and witches on broomsticks?

Sam is just an ordinary guy once again thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Sam is cast into the world of the paranormal and asked to fight the forces of evil without superpowers or special training. In this book Sam is asked to unravel a mystery that goes back to the beginning of time. He must discover how the remains of a human body found a resting place on the floor of a locked room on the second floor of a haunted mansion.

The characters living in the mansion are as strange as the house itself. There is a mute butler, a blind woman, an angry maid and an agoraphobic man accused of the murder. Could anyone of them be the killer? One thing is clear this case is a lot bigger than murder.

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Get Out – Review

I must live under a rock since I was not aware of the pre-movie hype for this one. I had heard of Jordan Peele, the writer and director of this film. Yet, all I knew about him was that he was funny. Hardly outstanding credentials for a horror movie director.

In addition I saw this on the night of its release. Thus, guaranteeing the audience would be filled with annoying teenagers willing to talk during the film. I know that makes me seem old and crotchety but hell I am getting old and was crotchety before my time.

My expectations for horror movies are not that high. I am not looking to be educated or to be mentally challenged I simply want to be entertained. This movie surpassed my expectations. I don’t think it will be walking away with an Oscar next year but if there was a category for horror it should at least be nominated.

Although, this film was not preachy it certainly made a statement about racism and cultural norms. I should note that I will do my best to avoid any major spoilers but there will still be a discussion of the movie so if you have not seen it you might wish to stop reading. Rose Armitage a white twenty something woman who is dating Chris Washington a black twenty something man. The couple is going to meet her rich, white, parents for the first time. Her father is a brain surgeon and her mother is a hypnotist. Their occupations are important to the film but I am trying to avoid major spoilers.

It is clear that Chris Washington has some reservations about the trip. He is concerned that her parents will be bothered by the fact he is African American. At the same time she seems to ignore this concern pointing out, “My father would have voted for Obama to have a third term”. Chris Washington has enough insight to understand that people may be more liberal when it comes to politics than when it comes to someone dating their daughter.

One the way to the home the couple are detained by the police when their car strikes a deer. The officer’s focus is on Mr. Washington rather than the white driver. This sets the stage for the issues of race within the movie. The director’s focus on the dying deer and the confrontation with the police makes this scene intentionally uncomfortable.

At the house Rose’s parents seem overly enthusiastic to meet Chris. Her father reminded me of Mr. Keaton in Family Ties. Yet, despite the warm welcome there is something sinister about the household. Most disturbing are the black maid and gardener. They each at times appear to have a flat affect but at others times seem to be holding back their emotions.

It is hard to continue with the specifics without giving too much away. I will say that for a comedian Mr. Peele provided some jump out of your seat scares. Yet, more importantly he was able to produce a spooky vibe and growing sense tension.He also threw in enough comedy to break up the discomfort. Milton “Lil Rel” Howery provided some much needed comic relief and deserves credit for his performance.

In a world full of sequels and unoriginal horror movies this stands out as a winner. It  makes a statement about racism and our society. It addresses the idea that racism is not always overt but can be subtle and hide beneath the surface. At the same time the movie does not hit the viewer over the head. I could spend more time giving my interpretation of the underlying meaning of the film but I will leave that to the audience. Even if you take nothing from the film as to its meaning you will certainly enjoy the ride.

This is a must see for horror buffs. It is certainly the best horror movie to come out this year. Also, the idea of a horror movie Oscar seems like a good one. Maybe if we all called the Academy of Motion Pictures they might consider it. Then again if the Oscar people can’t get their envelopes straight perhaps they have enough on their plates.

If you can answer this question correctly than you are kind of boring.

One of the worst questions asked during an interview is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. If you see yourself doing the same thing you are doing now, in five years, provided your not Batman or Beyoncé you need to get out more. There is a world of opportunities in this world. Life is short.

I may wind up doing the same thing in five years I am doing now. Yet, my hope is that I will be an astronaut or a rock star. Perhaps, I will be a movie star. As was said in The Big Lebowski, “If you will it, dude, it is no dream”.  Although some credit should go to Theodore Herzl.

When winter begins to turn to spring possibilities begin to fill your mind. It is time to explore. You don’t need to travel far to see something new. I live in a small town but there are still museums, libraries and gardens.

There are forests and parks to explore. I could see deer, rabbits and eagles. Yet, who has the time. Than again I have the time to sit here and write this. I’m outta here.



Conspiracy Theories, Trump & Voter Fraud

Conspiracy theories can be fun so here is one to think about. Why would Trump in the third debate not agree to accept the results of the election?

Trump had to realize this would make him look bad. America prides itself on having a peaceful transfer of power. If Trump wants to make America great our democracy is one of our countries finest attributes. The idea that the people (or our delegates) elect a president is a central tenant of democracy.

Besides why not wait until the voting results come in. Trump could at that time disavow his comments at the debate. He could say he didn’t have all the information at the time of the debate. He could point out that he discovered new information. In truth who cares if he accepts or does not accept the results of the election.

All of the Republican candidates agreed to support the eventual GOP nominee. Trump had no problem rescinding this promise, well until he became the nominee. Kasich and Cruz also rescinded the pledge. Until Cruz changed his mind again and supported Trump. Going back on their pledge did not appear to hurt any of the candidates.

So why would Trump make a point of saying he might not accept the results of the election? Now for my conspiracy theory. If illegal aliens, dead people and felons vote it will be unlikely to have any real impact on the result of the election. Yet, if our electronic voting machines and computer tabulators are hacked it could have an impact.

Various states and counties leave no paper trail and could in theory be hacked. Other electronic voting machines are susceptible to hacking.





The issue of the hacking of the DNC emails and Hillary Clinton emails have been one sided. Russia is believed to be behind the hacking of the emails.Did WikiLeaks get their information from Russia? Trump has indicated on a number of occasions his support of Putin. On the other hand Putin appears not to like Hilary Clinton.


Now for the conspiracy theory part of the blog. What if Trump believes Russian will try and hack the computers and voting machines to his benefit. If Trump were to win the election It would look bad for Clinton to claim the election was rigged after attacking Trump for such a claim. It would look bad to claim the computers and/or voting machines were hacked.



Ouija Origin of Evil – Review

The  few weeks before Halloween should be filled with scary movies but Ouija Origin of Evil was the only one in the theater this weekend. It was a prequel to the 2014 movie Ouija. The 2014 movie was watchable but unremarkable. Thus, my expectations for the prequel were not very high.

I was pleasantly surprised. It is hard for me to write movie reviews because I try to avoid spoilers. That being said I will have to provide some information I learned from watching the film. As such I won’t be offended if you stop reading this blog until after you have seen the movie.

Some of the characters have become clique over the years. An innocent child possessed by evil. A single mother trying to get by after the death of her husband. A teenage girl struggling with moving towards adulthood. A kind priest trying to fight his own internal demons.Yet, this does not bother me. All characters are cliques at a point. We are surrounded by entertainment. We have seen so many television shows, movies and books it is rare for anything to be truly unique.

I found the characters believable. Lulu Wilson who played Doris and Annalise Basso who played Lina were both up to the task and convincing in their rolls. I also found the special effects to be creepy and not overused. When Doris contorts her body in unnatural ways it is subtle but also truly disturbing.

I liked the juxtaposition of 1965 and the innocence of that time against the evil of the spirits. Ouija boards have been around forever but in 1966 Parker Brothers bought the rights to the name Ouija (Hasbro purchased it from Parker Brothers in 1991) I assume this is the beginning the movie is referencing. 1965 was prior to the summer of love and was a quite and conservative time compared to the world today. The innocence of the girls and of the time period compared to the darkness and evil of the spirits made for a good contrast.

In addition the house itself became a character. Hiding secrets of it’s prior owners. The Priest was trying to help without being judgmental. The mother was doing her best to get by. I felt  her willingness to scam her customers and her justification of the dishonesty made her more relate-able.

This movie is not going to win the Oscar for Best Film but I suspect it will be a winner at the box office from now to Halloween. It was fun, spooky and a good time. I would recommend seeing it.



Killer Clowns, Sexy Outfits, Politics & What Not to Wear – Halloween Costume Advice

Sexy – Who doesn’t love sexy in a costume? Sure there is the naughty nurse or sexy french maid. Other classics include the playboy bunny or slinky feline. These days any costume can be sexy. The results can be down right creepy. From food to children’s cartoon characters.  I have seen sexy costumes such as the following: sexy carrot, sexy corn, sexy banana and sexyTeletubbie. More disturbing are the sexy politicians. If you felt like ripping your eyes out of your head after opening the bedroom door and seeing your parents snuggling  wait until you see the sexy Trump and sexy Bernie Sanders costumes. http://time.com/4041671/sexy-donald-trump-costume/  My advice be sexy but use good judgement.

Killer Clowns – Yes, like most Americans clowns give me the creeps. Stephen King’s: IT certainly has not put clowns in the best of light and a remake does not bode well for people with coulrophobia. Movies such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space and characters like Captain Spalding from The Devils Rejects add to the negative image of clowns. Not to mention clown spokes persons for restaurants have been known to cause people with phobias distress.

With all the recent clown sightings I suspect there will be a lot of people dressing as clowns this year. I should warn people it might be dangerous. There was a news story out of Chicago of a woman being attacked for wearing too much make up. This year I would encourage people not to go out dressed as a clown.

Politicians – Sure it may seem like a great idea to dress as Trump given his skin color is similar to a pumpkin and a trump wig is easy to find. Hillary also may seem like a great costume. All you need is a pant suit. Cat costumes may seem seem like a good idea as well in light of certain comments by the Republican candidate but I would suggest taking a more tasteful approach. This year politics is scary enough. Why overly scare the little demons and goblins in your neighborhood. I guess you could go as Gary Johnson or Jill Stein but who would recognize you.

Superheros – Superheros are always a good choice. You can be as sexy or as heroic as you like. Remember children look up to superheros so don’t let them down. Super villains are a whole other matter. The Joker is a little too close to a clown costume and Harley Quinn might be a bit disturbing.

Classic Costumes – You can’t go wrong with classic creatures of the night. Penny Dreadful has brought Frankenstein, The Wolf-man and Dracula back in vogue. These creatures of the night never go out of Halloween vogue. Ghosts are also a good costume idea. All you need is a sheet and scissors. You can’t go wrong by going back to the classics. This includes many of the characters in my books. Demons, witches, mummies and voodoo spirits are good options.

Why dress up?  Remember costumes serve two purposes. The first is it is fun to pretend to be someone or something else. Even if it is just for the night costumes are freeing in some ways. The second is wearing a costume hides your true identity from the real creatures of the night who might to and steal your soul. Once a creature of the night determines  you are human and actually have one it can be unsafe*. So have fun this Halloween season.

  • The author makes no real or implied warranty that all humans have souls. As of late there is substantial support that some people may be lacking in that department.