Friday, December 24, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Best Christmas song? Or best Christmas song ever? It's not a jolly holiday until the Kinks' play "Father Christmas."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Royal Guardsmen.

Now Playing: The Mona Lisa Twins Christmas Album
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, December 20, 2021

Pufferfish ornament giveaway!

pufferfish ornaments
My latest episode of "A Moment of Tiki" is now live, and just like last year with Tiki Bob, I'm having another end of December giveaway! This year I've made pufferfish ornaments, just perfect for a tikified Christmas tree, Festivus aluminum pole or (to be totally honest) hanging year 'round in the the home tiki bar. They're cute. They're economy-sized. They're not cuddly, however.

I've made three different color variants to be given away free of charge, on my various social media platforms. And hey, if you don't win one, I lay out the how-to steps in my video for "A Moment of Tiki," so it's win-win for everyone! Here are the links:

All pages have their own rules for entry clearly stated. Good luck! The puffers need new homes for the holidays!

Now Playing: Frank Hunter White Goddess
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 17, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

As a kid I loved the Royal Guardsmen, in particular their holiday tune, "Snoopy's Christmas." I remember back in college asking Sneaky Pete during one of his sing-alongs at the Flying Tomato if he knew it right after he'd performed "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" and he'd never heard it. I miss those Sneaky Pete sing-alongs. But here's a rare video of the Royal Guardsmen performing the song on TV. Dig that glockenspiel player!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra.

Now Playing: Various artists The Best of Christmas
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


Way back in the early days of my tiki adventure, David invited me to be a guest on his Texas tiki-centric podcast titled (appropriately enough) "Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast." That experience led directly to my launching A Moment of Tiki, so if you were unsure of who to blame before, now you know.

But I digress. After nearly four years, I assume the trauma has faded from David's memory, because he returned to the scene of the crime for another podcast interview with me. I know. I'm baffled as well. Regardless, you can let my rambling soapbox soliloquies get into your ear holes at this link: Here's what David has to say about this outing:

Lagoon of Mystery Home Tiki Bar
Aloha, tikiphiles! Thanks for joining me for another episode of Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast. My guest this episode is long-time friend of the podcast and host of A Moment of Tiki, Jayme Lynn Blaschke.

It's been almost four years since Jayme's first appearance on the podcast and he was long overdue for his return.

To keep up to day with Jayme, you can follow him on Instagram, @lagoonofmystery. To follow A Moment of Tiki, you can join the A Moment of Tiki Facebook Group. To keep up to date with my tiki travels, you can follow me on Instagram, @davidphantomatic. To keep up to date with the podcast and the comings and goings of the tiki world, you can join the Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast Facebook Group. Until next time, okole maluna, y'all!
If you're a glutton for punishment, you may find my original interview from January of 2018 at

Now Playing: Elvis Presley If Every Day Was Like Christmas
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, December 03, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Well, it's December, and that means holiday music. Here's Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra hamming it up with a fluffy version of "Marshmallow World."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bowling for Soup.

Now Playing: Bob Romeo Aphrodesia
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Sailing Venus: Back in the saddle

My last blog entry on Sailing Venus, my perpetually in-progress science fiction novel, came on Feb. 13, 2018. I was struggling with Chapter 14, having just completed Chapter 13. My notoriously slow production had slowed to a crawl, even for me. Over the next few months, I squeezed out Chapter 15 and then 16, which is where the wheels fell off. I'm not sure when I walked away from the book. The summer of 2018 is as good a guess as any, although it could've happened as early as April. Regardless, Chapter 16, while technically a solid piece of writing, was a failure when it came to narrative. My writing group at the time (before it subsequently broke up) sensed it. I sensed it. But I couldn't figure out the problem. In hindsight, there's a lot of what I call "running in place" going on, in which the character talk and act in ways which creates the sense of motion, but doesn't actually advance the plot anywhere. I didn't have writer's block, but writing had become an unpleasant experience. So I decided to set the book aside and get a little distance, in hopes a solution would become clear.

That ""little distance" stretched all the way through 2019, 2020 and into 2021. In that span, I did almost no fiction writing. At the end of 2020 Don Webb approached me with a short story collaboration, which turned out to be a lot of fun and resulted in my first piece of completed fiction since 2011 (yikes!). After that I revisited the first draft of a short story I'd originally written circa 2009-2010 that desperately needed a rewrite. I completed said rewrite in the spring and have to say I'm happy with the final product (now, would that some editor be just as happy with it). Each time, I'd hoped that would be the spark that jump-started my creative juices and prompted me to resume work on Sailing Venus. Alas, that was not to be.

Fast forward to Oct. 22--exactly one month ago, as the crow flies. I'm not sure what the impetus was, but I printed out my manuscript, all 16 chapters, and sat down to read my narrative from start to finish. Some parts were quite good. Other parts were embarassing. Other had a clear "fix this in the second draft" vibe going on. Other parts had abrupt changes that didn't mesh with what had come before, a result of my incorporating insightful feedback from my writers group. But the long and short of it was that I felt I had a still-living, if incomplete novel on my hands.

It took maybe a week, off and on, to read through the manuscript. Then it took a couple of days to come to grips with the fact that Chapter 16 had to be axed and rewritten completely. But there was a section of Chapter 16 that I could see actually belonged in Chapter 15, so there was a rewrite there to get things started. And then I turned my attention to the new Chapter 16. I don't know why I've started writing again. Maybe it was just time. Maybe it was shame due to the fact that several friends have written and published several novels over the past three years whereas I have produced zilch. Maybe it the impending sense of my own mortality. I dunno. The important thing is that I'm writing again.

Don't get the idea that it's coming easily this time around. Oh, no. Writing to me has become akin to trying to wade upstream in a river of molasses. The only thing more unpleasant are the stories in my head clamoring to get out. The only way I can quiet them is to purge them onto the page. Lovely image, that.

Chapter 16 came in fits and starts. I believe the most I managed to write on it any one day was 400 words. Some days I barely managed 200. But progress, no matter how incremental, is still progress. I wrote a pivotal scene in the book, one that I've had the idea for dating back more than a decade. It was emotionally difficult, as well as technically difficult from a writing standpoint. I'm not sure if it works. I'm not sure I pulled it off. Maybe that's why the book withered on me way back when--I just wasn't ready to deal with this scene. That sounds like a cop-out to me, though. Pop psychology claptrap to provide a convenient excuse. More likely my subconcious knew the scene needed to come now, whereas I thought it still lay several chapters into the future. I'll probably never know. Writing is messy that way.

But here I am now, with Chapter 16--almost 4,000 words--completed exactly one month after I dusted off the old manuscript and announced the resumption of writing. That's not great, but it's better than I had been managing. The uncharted territory of Chapter 17 lies before me. At my current chapter-a-month production rate, by this time next year I may have the damn book finished. Here's a taste of tonight's work:


Erica looked up at Sigfried, who'd returned to his perch on the console. He watched her, ears drooping, concern in his eyes.

"I, um, I'm not good with ambiguity," he said. "I prefer the obvious. Obvious I can roll with. 'Read the room,' they say. I can do that, sure. That's why I've been quiet for so long. I'm not stupid, you know. But there's something you should know, even if the timing's bad. I think I'd know what to do if the Aye hadn't deleted all of my memories, but I can't be sure. I'm afraid I'll make the wrong decision, whatever I do."

"Sigfried," Erica said wearily, "just spit it out already."

"The clock just ticked over to 12:01. That's A.M. It's now tomorrow. Your birthday." Sigfried sat up with a strained smile, waving his forelegs in the air. "Happy birthday!"

Erica bowed her head and sobbed.
Now Playing: Timothy Drake Symphonies of the Planets
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Bowling for Soup is a band I've really tried to get into. Their videos are wildly entertaining and the lyrics of their songs are clever and insightful. The trouble is--and I say this with no malice--almost all their songs (with the exception of "1985") sound the same to me. Maybe it's me. I dunno. My youngest brother lived with me in the early 2000s and was a big fan, so I listened to his CDs of the group, and it sounded like one long extended jam session with brief breaks of silence scattered throughout. Does that make me tragically unhip? Probably. So here's "Girl All the Bad Guys Want," which has a wildly entertaining video and lyrics that are clever and insightful, but sounds to me like almost ever other Bowling for Soup song out there.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Wolf.

Now Playing: Timothy Drake Symphonies of the Planets
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Eulogy for Claudia

Our friend Claudia Cabrera has died. This comes as an unexpected shock, and I'm still processing it. The last time anyone spoke with her was sometime on Friday, Nov. 5. By Monday, friends and co-workers had become concerned, and she was found Monday evening. Her next of kin have been notified, and her cats are being taken care of until they can be placed in a new home. Beyond that I have no further information on her passing.

I met Claudia on Facebook the summer of 2019. She was a German chef who'd just arrived in San Antonio fro San Francisco to work for Whole Foods. In San Francisco, she'd supplied cocktail syrups to a number of tiki bars in the Bay Area, notably Zombie Village. I invited her to a tiki party we were hosting that September. She responded by gifting me an assortment of her custom, scratch-made cocktail syrups:

  1. Saigon Shrub (cilantro, jalapeño, cucumber, vinegar)
  2. Five Spice - Szechuan pepper, cloves, fennel, cinnamon, star anise
  3. Fassionola - Yellow peach, rambutan, fresh passionfruit
  4. Grapefruit / Smoked Pepper
  5. Finger Lime / Calamondin
Do they look good? Because they were. All had a flavorful pop and distinctive profiles that can't be found in off-the-shelf products. She was also a skilled jeweler and made some stylish, mid-century-style glass swizzles. She was a woman of many talents.

After that, she became a regular guest at our tiki parties and dive-in movies. She was friendly and open and very, very opinionated. She didn't drive, so arranging rides to and from San Antonio was always a bit of a challenge, but we almost always had someone from there driving in and they were invariably happy to spend a little extra time with Claudia.

When she found out Hugman's Oasis was in the works on the River Walk, she was over the moon. She applied to work there as a chef, making syrups and garnishes. I think she was the only person in the state who wasn't confident she'd get the job. She fretted over her interview. (Spoiler alert: She got the job). Then COVID hit, resetting the clock on everything. Having departed Whole Foods, she launched a business as a private chef and delighted by how quickly she was in demand. And she kept a hand in Hugman's development--literally. Claudia hand-tied the netting on every single glass fish float in that tiki bar. I seem to recall her saying she expected it to take about three weeks, and in the end it took three months. She invested a lot of herself into that bar. And every time I go I can't help but look at those floats and see a little bit of Claudia still there.

The strange thing is, Lisa and I didn't know her that well. Certainly not well enough to account for this outsized hole she's left in our lives. I have a suspicion that we're not alone in those feelings.

Now Playing: Various artists Technicolor Paradise
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, November 01, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: Kon-Tiki, Tucson

A Moment of Tiki
November is here, bringing with it the all-new Episode 34 of A Moment of Tiki, in which we visit the historic Kon-Tiki in Tucson, Arizona! Established in 1963, the Kon-Tiki is a throwback to the Polynesian pop palaces of tiki's heyday. It's a fantastic immersive experience with the largest collection of Milan Guanko tikis in the world (in case you're wondering, Guanko was a Filipino carver who developed a reputation as one of the top carvers of the era, so his work is kind of a big deal).

There were a couple of things about our visit I didn't get to share in the video, so I'll do so here. First, I was surprised that the Kon-Tiki wasn't a stand-alone building. It's semi-detached in a strip mall area, and had we not been on the lookout for it, we might've just driven straight past. It looks as if it may have been stand-alone at one point, but somewhere along the line (I'm looking at you, 1970s) other stuff went up around it, some of which just happened to be built onto the restaurant. Odd, but the important thing is that the Kon-Tiki remains with us to this day. The other thing I noticed was the fact there are multiple flat screen TVs in there, presumably to draw in the sports crowds. That's unfortunate, and a bit of dissonance in an otherwise immersive tiki environment, but if those TVs are responsible for keeping the Kon-Tiki with us for decades to come, then I shall happily tolerate them.

And because I failed to share these here back when their first aired, I have a couple of bonus episodes for you as well. First is Episode 27: Podcasts A-Go-Go! in which I share some of the great podcasts that taught me much of what I know about tiki culture, rum, cocktails, music and woodworking. It's a diverse bunch.

And finally, Episode 26: Krypton Bar which involved a small tiki bar dating to the early 2000s I rescued from CraigsList and am in the process of refurbishing. Some day we'll have a restoration episode dedicated to it, but I'm only doing a bit here and a bit there on it, so progress is slow.

Now Playing: Various artist Technicolor Paradise
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 29, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Peter Wolf hit it big with "Come As You Are" in 1987. I remember an article in Rolling Stone or somesuch that covered how Wolf compiled his album out of songs originally rejected by the J.Geils Band, which I found fascinating. Not so fascinating was his video, which featured Wolf bizarrely hopping around a 1950s town. It wasn't necessarily a bad video, but the era of MTV (or Friday Night Videos, because I didn't get MTV in my small Texas town) it was just baffling. It wasn't until decades later that I realized this video is almost a jump-for-jump homage to Bobby Van's 1953 performance of "Take Me To Broadway" From the film "Small Town Girl." After comparing the two, I'm much more impressed by Wolf's video.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Men At Work.

Now Playing: Martin Denny Forbidden Island
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Sheriff T.J. Flournoy (1902-1982)

On this date in 1982, Fayette County Sheriff T.J. "Jim" Flournoy died at the age of 80. Big Jim, as he was known, was the longest-serving sheriff in Fayette County history, had a two-year run as a Texas Ranger during World War II and several stints as a deputy in various jurisdictions. He shot to fame, of course, by defending the Chicken Ranch brothel when KTRK-TV newsman Marvin Zindler campaigned to shut it down. Zindler returned to La Grange on December 30, 1974 to do a follow-up story, and that's where he encountered Sheriff Flournoy. The altercation ended with the Sheriff stomping on Zindler's toupée in the middle of the street, and Zindler heading back to Houston with several cracked ribs. Lawsuits flew back and forth for years, before the two eventually settled out of court.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Gene Rains Far Away Lands
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

In which Jayme rages at the machine

In my Armadillocon 43 report, I mentioned that I came home from the convention enthused and inspired to write, but all that positive energy had a downside to that. This is the post in which I lay into that, pissing and moaning whilst I wallow in self-pity. I normally try to keep my personal angst pretty close to the vest, but I feel the need for an unfettered vent, professionalism be damned. If this is the kind of self-flagellation you like, read on. If public tantrums make you queasy, then you'd best avert your eyes. If overly-long navel-gazing grates on your nerves, then I recommend fleeing to distant corners of the interwebz, post haste.

I've made no secret that I haven't written much fiction in the past two years. I'd managed good progress on my Sailing Venus novel through most of 2018, but that petered out around the 2/3 mark. Writer's block wasn't the problem, antipathy was. I developed an aversion to writing. I went into Armadillocon hoping to get my creative juices flowing again, and by golly, it worked. I returned home ready to jump right into it. My first order of business was to submit a couple of stories to market.

This is where things went sideways for me. For reasons convoluted and boring, I'd ended up with a whole bunch of files corrupted a year or so back, including my story submission record dating back to 1996. I've not done a thorough housecleaning and reconstruction of the mess that are my fiction files, so that's on me. But to submit a story, I have to double check all my emails to ensure I hadn't already subbed a particular story to a particular market (an imperfect science, at best) and then review said story to ensure, say, the text doesn't suddenly reverse direction halfway through. Realize that I haven't looked at most of my writings for several years, and while I have broad feelings of fondness for my works, I do not retain detailed memories of my writings. As I'm skimming over the words, there is an unfamiliarity to them. Whilst I recall the narrative in a general manner, the characters, scenes and details are wholly new to me. It's as if I'm reading something written by someone else's hand. The novelty doesn't wear off, but rather intensifies the deeper I get into each story. I start out thinking, "Heh. This isn't bad," rapidly progress to, "This is actually rather good," to, "Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, this kicks all kinds of ass!"*

Please understand I share this with no intent of hubris. Having published a bit of fiction in professional markets over the years, plus 30 years or so as a continuously working journalist, my writing skills on a technical level are a given. It's my storytelling ability that comes into question. Over the years I've served as an instructor in numerous writers workshops, worked as a fiction editor for RevolutionSF where stories I published earned multiple Year's Best honorable mentions from various quarters, and survived multiple Turkey City Writers Workshops as a participant. Objectively, I can recognize when a story works and when it doesn't. Objectively speaking, these stories of mine that barely remembered didn't just work, they sang with the angels. The startled me, surprised me, made me laugh, made me weep. Again, it was as if I was reading the work of somebody else. When I could not fathom how a particular conundrum would resolve, I was wowed by my past self's elegant solution. Just to be sure I wasn't wholly deluding myself, I dug out another older work of mine, one I remembered as a valiant effort but ultimately a failure, and read it. I experienced much the same as with the previous stories, but instead of growing delight, I experienced increasing unease. Flaws unremembered and unexpected crept into view. The central idea, which I once thought clever, revealed itself to be merely pedestrian. I'd long held the notion that I would return to this story and fix it once sufficient time had passed to give me perspective, but revisiting it now laid those thoughts to rest. It was not a good story. It was not terrible, either, but rather firmly mediocre. I may well be deluding myself, but this sufficiently confirmed a level of objectivity toward my own works, given sufficient distance from their initial creation.

It was at this point I became angry. It started as a mere flickering ember but soon erupted into a Krakatoa-esque geyser of molten rage and explosive victimhood. There was nothing wrong with these stories. On the contrary, they were as good as anything published in the past 20 years, and a damn sight better than most. I am a fucking good writer! I've lost sight of that fact over the past few years, but it's true. I haven't alwasys been, to be sure, and there's no guarantee that I always will be, but right now at this particular point in time that is a statement of fact. And it enrages me that these stories have not been published. That every single one of them have multiple rejections weighing them down, making me question their worth.

It's galling. I look at one story, the first unequivocally excellent story I ever wrote (I had professional publications by this time, oh yes) and remember how a veteran SF author read it and told me it could very well win the Nebula Award. Another SF author, even more veteran than the first, opined that they thought the ending went on maybe a page too long, but other than that it was very good and would sell quickly. I look at another story that one well-known editor dismissed out of hand because of an "error" on page 2. It wasn't an error at all, of course, but it stung that a professional with whom I was well acquainted with didn't trust me more as a writer. Another couple stories were rejected by another editor because they didn't have happy endings. There are more, of course, excuses not to buy my work, not reasons. The worst of all is the dreaded "Not what we're looking for at this time."

And that's the crux: Anyone in this game long enough knows that editors aren't ever looking for manuscripts to publish. They get far too many submissions for that kind of luxury. No, they're looking for reasons to reject submissions. I, along with every other competent writer out there, we're not competing with the 90% of submissions that are mediocre. Those submitted with sans-serif fonts and ALL CAPS reject themselves. No, the good writers are all competing against each other... but even that's not entirely true. We're competing for the editor's attention, yes, but it ultimately comes down to personal taste. An editor can recognize two stories as equal in quality, but choose one over the other because the cadence of the sentence structure, or the evocative descriptions, or even something as mundane as the character names appealing to them more in one than the other. Writers who break out often have the good fortune of finding an editor who groks their style and looks forward to the next submission. They become a literary advocate, as it were. One editor publishes an author regularly, and others take notice. Readers take notice. The uncertainty of public taste still comes into play, and it is incumbent upon the author to continue an output of quality fiction, but all things being equal, finding an editor on your same wavelength is what every author hopes for, if they ever give such things a thought.

I, for one, am sick and tired of being second runner-up.

The fact that my writing career is perpetually stuck in neutral is as much my own fault as anything, mind you. I am clear-eyed about that. As a writer, I am not prolific. I'm not disciplined enough to produce the volume of work I am capable of. I have too many novels abandoned before reaching the halfway mark. In the late 2000s, the one time in my life where I had multiple short fiction sales in succession and was producing new short stories on a regular basis, I feel I was approaching the fabled "critical mass" where productivity and sales would begin to feed into each other, resulting in a self-sustaining literary cold fusion of sorts. It was at that point I put my fiction career on hold and spent the next six years researching and writing a non-fiction history of the La Grange Chicken Ranch--a book nobody asked for and one most publishers and all literary agents viewed as a quixotic folly at best. The fact that certain populations I'd looked to for support dismissed the book as meaningless or turned their collective backs on me en mass stung. I've got to be honest here, I'm still a little bitter. I got great support from many folks hither and yon, some of whom cheered me on from day one, but people in positions to make a difference in its success or failure washed their hands of me. I'm proud of Inside the Chicken Ranch, but also feel it was form of career suicide. Hell, even my interview collection, Voices of Vision, was completely kneecapped by the most nightmare-inducing cover ever inflicted upon a book by my well-meaning but utterly clueless publisher. More people came up to me and said they'd like to buy the book but wouldn't because the cover art disturbed them than actually bought the book. No lie--I've got the publishing reports to back it up.

Even when I break through the breaks still seem to go against me (yes, I'm whining here. It's my blog. Roll with it). A decade ago I sold "The Makeover Men" to HelixSF. This was the most provocative story I'd ever written, an envelope-pushing examination of toxic masculinity and misogyny that took me to some insanely dark places. I recognized that it would be an easy story to misinterpret, so braced myslef for potentially nasty blowback... that never came. Nothing came, actually. A near as I can tell, nobody ever read that story. Nobody commented. No reaction whatsoever. It vanished without a trace. Not too long after that, I was fortunate enough to have "The Final Voyage of La Riaza" published in Interzone. It was intended to be the cover story--which would've been my first! Art was commissioned, gorgeous artwork, but then at the last minute I was bumped from the cover. I was sorely disappointed, but happy for the publication. Some time after the fact, I learned that Gardner Dosois had read it and been impressed enough to include it in his annual Best SF volume for that year... except that my story was almost 12,000 words long, so in the end he talked himself into bumping my story and instead running three other, much shorter stories by other authors instead. But hey, all was not lost! Another annual best-of anthology also read my story and was impressed with it. Impressed enough to not bump it in favor multiple shorter stories. Yes, my story was all set to be featured in this volume... except that the publisher had fallen behind schedule, and in order to get back on track made the executive decision to cancel that year's best of volume outright and just skip ahead to the next years. There's more where that came from, a parade of examples where the universe went out of its way to screw with me.

Fuck that shit.

I've got half a dozen stories that should've seen publication years ago, yet still languish, homeless, like some literary Island of Misfit Stories. In the decades since I made my first professional sale, the markets have contracted significantly. There are fewer places to sell short fiction today than there was back then, and there will be still fewer tomorrow. To make matters worse, most markets have gone to an electronic submissions format. In general, this is good--I spent a shit ton on postage back in the day, single-handedly keeping the U.S. Postal Service solvent, so my bank account appreciates the relief. But electronic submissions allows markets to permanently record and archive all submissions, and I've run into some that absolutely refuse to allow resubmissions even after an editorial change. I'm sorry, but my story is pre-rejected because an editor three years prior with entirely different tastes from the current one didn't buy it? That's some serious bullshit there. Compounding matters is the fact that my seemingly natural storytelling length falls within the 10,000-12,000 word range, which vanishingly few markets will even consider. Hell, there's one market that explicitly states it will consider works shorter than 6,000 words and longer than 17,000 words, but nothing in between. I feel personally attacked. How can I not?

The punch line, of course, is that every professional writer out there feels the same way. These demons are universal--only the details change. There are aspiring writers who would desperately love to attain my level of success. There are full-time pro writers who are prolific, sell practically everything they write and live in borderline poverty, envious of my stable income afforded by my day job. The grass is always greener, right? I don't begrudge any writer their success. I've known authors far more talented than I whose promising careers went into a steep nose dive because of the publisher's miscalculations. Some miraculously recovered and are now enjoying unprecedented poularity. Others were unable to arrest that death spiral and, sadly, are no longer with us. I celebrate all of their works.

When I look at my works, I see the three best things I've ever written languishing and gathering dust, while other stories I've written since then that are objectively lesser works find homes in various markets... there is no reason in this world. Deserve's got nothing to do with it. I'm nothing special, and the universe--much less the publishing universe--doesn't owe me any special treatment.

But that doesn't mean I won't stoke my anger like an overclocked boiler on a runaway steam locomotive, fueling my creative fires until I am finally, completely creatively spent or the world's editors pull their collective heads out of their collective butts and finally recognize my prose for its inherent brilliance. Whichever comes first.

*To answer the unacknowledged elephant in the room, yes, I made new submissions that very night. Less than 24 hours later I received my first "does not suit our needs" rejection, which did wonders for my disposition, I can assure you.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Unplugged
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

That was the Armadillocon that was (2021 edition)

I am clearly getting old. How else to explain my intent to write this post-con report up on Sunday evening, and here it is Tuesday with the relatively brief recap still in progress? Bah!

Anyway, here's my Cliff's Notes version: I attended Armadillocon 43 this past weekend. It was a pleasant, yet odd experience. I attended no conventions in 2020 because of the pandemic, obviously. In 2019 I was only able to attend Armadillocon one day, and participated in no programming, so being back in the thick of things was not unlike trying to relearn atrophied muscle memory. Other factors contributed to the slightly out-of-sync vibe of the weekend: Because of COVID (naturally) attendance was depressed. There were fewer attendees this year, and many long-time program participants chose to not attend. For a convention that thrives in no small part on annual reunions of friends and acquaintances who don't see each other for the remainder of the year, this was a significant absence. Fortunately, Armadillocon partially made up for this with an aggressive outreach effort to authors who'd never attended before, so I got to see a bunch of fresh new faces that were as insightful and clever as they were talented.

The con itself had excellent health and safety protocols. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test was necessary for admission, and masking in social situations was required. The downside to this was that very few mass gatherings of authors and fans for round-robin conversations in the bar and lobby area just didn't seem to happen. Conversations were smaller affairs, limited to small handfuls of folks, many of which migrated to hotel rooms and therefore not readily accessible if one didn't get in on the ground floor, so to speak. The result was an unusually subdued convention that appeared to close up shop rather earlier than usual.

I don't frame this as a complaint, but rather an impartial observation. For my part, I was up exceptionally late Thursday before the convention and therefore arrived in a state of sleep deprivation. Insomnia decided to pay me a visit Friday and Saturday nights, so I was punchy by sundown and in no condition for late night con shenanigans. Curse this aging body! Despite that, Armadillocon did exactly what I'd hoped it would do: Infuse me with energy and enthusiasm for my fiction and get those creative juices flowing. Because here's the thing: I've barely written any fiction in the past two years. Apart from a nifty collaboration with Don Webb and my finally getting around to completing a short story I started writing nine years ago, the cupboard had been bare. Which explains why my Venus novel remains in a perpetual state of incompletion. It's not that I had writer's block, writer's indifference is more like it. Or maybe writer's aversion. I just had no interest or desire to write. Armadillocon remedied that, for the time being at least. I came home brimming with ideas and concepts and Jonesing to dive back into fiction, so yay! There's an unfortunate downside that stemmed from that, but I'll save that for another blog post.

Friday's Writers Workshop proved a great experience. I'd not participated as an instructor for maybe six years, and I missed it. I was partnered with Britta Jensen who was a soothing, encouraging yin to my demonstrative, prescriptive yang. The submissions in our group were intriguing and broadly competent, which isn't something that can always be said about writers workshop manuscripts. One was damn near publishable already, another was maybe a draft or two away from the same status, and the other two manuscripts had some problems to overcome but excellent worldbuilding and lots of potential. Curiously, all the submissions I critiqued were first novel chapters, no short fiction at all. I moderated the "Building Your Brand" panel for the workshop, which could've been more accurately called the guerilla marketing panel, but I think we muddled through okay and, as usual, smarter people on the panel pulled us over the finish line.

There's a saying I've heard in the past: If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. The idea is that the way to improve oneself is to learn from those who are more intelligent, more skilled, more talented. In that context, I was never in the wrong room the entire weekend. I'll wager I got something of an unexpected tan, so much basking I did in reflected creative genius.

I attended two readings, one by Mark Finn and the other by the afore-mentioned Don Webb. Both were entertaining, and if you know either of them, exactly the kind of story one would expect to hear from such fonts of creative fiction-making.

My panels went swimmingly: Conventions from a Con-Runner's and Participant's POV with David Chang, Rhonda Eudaly, Brad Foster and Sarah Felix; Cli-Fi with Chris Brown, Sim Kern and Alexis Glynn Latner; and Writing YA Fiction with Kathleen Baldwin, David Anthony Dunham (who I bought a copy of Pride of Carthage from, but inexplicably forgot to have him sign it) and S.G. Wilson.

Aside from the panels, I had varying great conversations with Scott Cupp, Rick Klaw (who I kinda sorta agreed with on the King Kong vs. Godzilla panel), Jessica Reisman, Mikal Trimm, Jess Nevins, Jeremy Brett, Lawrence Person and my sworn arch-enemy, Stina Leicht. Apologies to everyone I left out--the slight is unintentional. I also came home with a carnivorous sundew plant from Texas Triffid Ranch, so that's something. Until next year!

Now Playing: The Surfaris Gone With the Wave
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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Armadillocon off the port bow!

Heh. I never get tired of that blog post title.

Armadillocon returns to in-person festivities for the 2021 after the COVID disruption of 2020, and I will be in attendence. They have a rigorous health and safety protocol in place, so I feel comfortable that it won't be a breeding ground for COVID infections. I'm quite looking forward to seeing folks who've been absent from my radar for quite some time.

On Friday I'll be one of the instructors in the writers workshop. I haven't been an instructor for several years and am jazzed to get back into the saddle. I feel I can often see the potential in others' fiction where my own work just leaves me stymied. Hopefully I'll impart some good advice this weekend. My other panels include:

  • Saturday 1-2 p.m. Conventions from a Con-Runner’s and Participant’s POV
    J. L. Blaschke, D. Chang, R. Eudaly*, B. Foster, S. Felix
    What does it take to run a good convention? What are the con-runners hoping to achieve? What do the participants want out of a convention? How to we get these two perspectives to line up to make the perfect con?
  • Saturday 7-8 p.m. Cli-Fi
    C. Brown, J. L. Blaschke, S. Kern, A. Latner*
    Climate fiction, or cli-fi, features a changed or changing climate as a major plot element. We dicuss pioneering and current writers and works, along with suggestions on writing in the genre.
  • Sunday 11 a.m.-noon Writing YA Fiction
    K. Baldwin, J. L. Blaschke*, D. A. Durham
    How to craft stories that capture the interest of tweens and teens.
  • Sunday 2-3 p.m. Autographing
    J. L. Blaschke, S. Leicht, A. Royer

Drop in and say hi if you're in the area. Hope to see you there!

Now Playing: Aerosmith Nine Lives
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Friday, October 08, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

It's a shame Men At Work didn't enjoy more success than they did, because they were a fun band and Colin Hay was (is) a talented performer. I quite like his solo work, although that never enjoyed a fraction of the success Men At Work did. They always had a healthy sense of humor in their music, which often took a skewed view of society. Case in point: "Who Can It Be Now? which is infectious and probably the group's second-most popular song.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Whitehorse.

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Melissa Etheridge
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Monday, October 04, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: Witco Rescue and Oceanic Arts

A Moment of Tiki Episode 33: Witco Rescue
Once again, I'm cramming two months' worth of A Moment of Tiki into one blog post. Earlier this summer, Secrets By Miss Lisa and I embarked on a road trip out west to take in as much tiki as humanly possible. These two episodes are a direct result of that trip. First up is Episode 33: Witco Rescue, my October installment which is now live on the YouTubes! Whilst killing time in Tuscon as we waited for the venerable Kon-Tiki to open, we stopped into a Goodwill. There, on the shelves, was a pile of lumber marked "carved wood" for an insanely low price. I've heard stories of folks happening upon vintage Witco pieces at garage sales and thrift stores before, but never has such a thing happened to me. Until now. Spoiler alert: I take it home, restore it and make it a centerpiece in our home.

The other video I have for you is my installment for September, Episode 32: Oceanic Arts, in which I pay a visit to the No. 1 supplier of all things tiki worldwide. Located in Whittier, California, Oceanic Arts was founded in 1956 by LeRoy Schmaltz and Bob Van Oosting and has had a hand in pretty much every major tropical build that has happened since that time. They supplied materials to Walt Disney for the construction of the Enchanted Tiki Room, as well as to the Thornton family for the build-out of the famed Mai Kai. Oceanic Arts is everywhere, and a visit there is an experience in sensory overload.

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo III
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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Chicken Ranch Anniversary: Happy birthday Sheriff Flournoy!

On this date in 1902, Thomas James Flournoy was born to Tom and Etta Flournoy on a ranch near Rock Island. He would grow up to work as a ranch hand on the famous King Ranch, a Texas Ranger patrolling the Big Bend region during World War II and--most famously--as the long-serving sheriff of Fayette County. Sheriff Jim famously defied political and media pressure to close down the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel outside of La Grange in 1973 before acquiescing to a direct order from Governor Dolph Briscoe. A year later, Sheriff Flournoy confronted Marvin Zindler on the town square, ripping off the reporter's hairpiece and throwing it in the street. The resulting lawsuits and counter suits were eventually settled out of court with a large donation to the Shriner's Children's Hospital.

Sheriff Flournoy died on October 27, 1982, from heart problems. He would've been 119 years old today.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Frank Hunter White Goddess
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Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Whitehorse is back with a new album, and that's always a reason to celebrate. Here's their video for "Sometimes Amy," which emulates the late 80s/early 90s pop/rock radio sounds I listened to so much back in the day to near perfection.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... MonaLisa Twins.

Now Playing: Arthur Lyman Bwana A
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Friday, September 10, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The MonaLisa Twins have a new song and video out, "I Bought Myself a Politician." If you're familiar with these talented ladies, you'll already know they're heavily influenced by the Beatles. There's some of that in this song, but there's also the wry satire and English music hall influences that were prevalent in Ray Davies' late 60s work with the Kinks. So that's cool. Also, the song is apropos for our times.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Tessa Violet.

Now Playing: Arthur Lyman The Leis of Jazz
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Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Until about 5 mintues ago I'd never heard of Tessa Violet, and I still don't know much about her, but I stumbled across her video for "I Like (the Idea of) You" and kinda fell in love with its retro, Nancy Sinatra vibes. More like this, please.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Cyndi Lauper.

Now Playing: Martin Denny Forbidden Island
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Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

As I've grown older, I've come to appreciate a number of musical artists I didn't care for in my youth. Cyndi Lauper is one of them. Couldn't stand her back in the 80s, but my stance softened in the 90s and now I like most of her stuff. Odd, then, that my absolute favorite song of hers is a cover of Roy Orbison's "I Drove All Night." As a rule, I prefer originals over covers, but damn, I like this one more than Roy's version, and I adore Roy Orbison. I could've sworn I'd posted this one before, and apparently I thought that about eight years ago as well, but extensive searches of my blog turn up nothing. Which is weird. This video is fantastic. Stylish and sexy and filled with intense longing. Cyndi really brings her A game to this, so I find it odd that her music career was fading during what should've been a high water mark. What can I say? The public's tastes are fickle. Yours truly is a case in point.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.

Now Playing: Stan Getz The Complete Roost Recordings
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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Chicken Ranch Centennial: Happy birthday Marvin Zindler!

On this date in 1921, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler was born.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. Marvin clashed with his father (who owned the well-regarded Zindler's clothing store in Houston) growing up and went on to try his hand at a host of different career options. He was a drum major (briefly) at Tarleton State, served in the Marines (again, briefly) before being discharged as 4F, was a radio reporter for defunct Houston radio station KATL, was a reporter for the defunct Houston Press, ran for mayor of Bellaire, was fired by one TV station because he was "too ugly for television" and was a Harris County deputy sheriff for years, where he worked in civil fraud and fugitive extradition before setting up the consumer fraud division.

Had he not died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, Zindler would've been 100 today.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Edmundo Ros The Very Best of Edmundo Ros and His Orchestra
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Friday, August 06, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

One of my children intends to enter the Armadillocon Writer's Workshop this year (a great program to get into if you're a new writer interested in writing science fiction or fantasy). The problem, though, is that said child complained all their ideas spiralled out into epic sagas comprising tens of thousands of words, if not more. They simply didn't know how to write a self-contained story under the 5,000 word limit. So I sat down with them and watched, through the magic of YouTube, the vintage video of "Sylvia's Mother" by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. This song, written by the legendary Shel Silverstein, is a masterclass in telling a complete story in three minutes. There is so much information that is implied rather than spoken. My goodness, more information is conveyed by what is unsaid that all the lyrics combined. Of course, Dennis Locorriere's mourful delivery lifts the emotional impact into the stratosphere, but it's Silverstein's lyrics that give him so much to work with (interesting note: The song is autobiographical, about Silverstein's lost love, Sylvia Pandolfi. This song's like a puzzle box). I can't write that spare, or emotionally, or precisely, although I often strive for this level of mastery. I remain in awe of this song to this day, even if Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show is quite possibly the scruffiest, most disreputable-looking band in history.

When the song was over, my child and I talked for a bit, and they said that it sparked a story idea as we watched. Mission accomplished.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... ZZ Top.

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake & Palmer Return of the Manticore
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Monday, August 02, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: Lighting & Clairin Vaval

I'm catching up with two episodes today. First up is Episode 31 of A Moment of Tiki, my August installment which is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through two different approaches to home tiki bar lighting. One is decidedly low-tech, and the other is not quite as low-tech, but still involves off-the-shelf components. When someone starts working on a home tiki bar, the natural inclination is to focus mainly on the wall coverings--I know I did! But the lighting you choose has as much, if not more, impact on the environment. An 80s ceiling fixture or a bare bulb does nothing to further the illusion of a tropical getaway. Fortunately, there are many avenues available for the homeowner to tikify the available lighting. A little bit of basic electrical knowledge doesn't hurt, either.

The other video I have for you is my installment for July, Episode 30, which I didn't get around to posting here when it went live because I was in the middle of a Southwest/West Coast road trip. On this episode of A Moment of Tiki I offer my thoughts on Clairin Vaval, an unaged spirit distilled from the fermented juice of Madame Meuze sugar cane. It is sold by La Maison & Velier. I don't do a lot of straight rum tastings because I don't feel my palate is developed enough to offer insightful commentary most of the time, but this one's special. Here are a few stats to get you started: Clairin Vaval is a 2018 vintage sugar cane juice rhum, produced by Distillery Arawaks in Cavaillon, Haiti. Bottled at 48.7% ABV (pot still proof). Wild yeast fermentation. My biggest tasting note is that it is not unlike licking a 9-volt battery. For reals.

Now Playing: Henry Mancini Instrumental Favorites
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Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

ZZ Top's Dusty Hill has died. He'd been sidelined from the band's recent shows with a reported "hip issue" but obviously his health problems were far worse than let on. Despite the "Little Ole Band From Texas" being a staple of live shows around here, and their close association with the Chicken Ranch, I never saw them live. That always seems like something I'd get around to in the future. That's looking iffy at this point. ZZ Top fans know that guitarist Billy Gibbons was the lead vocalist on most of the band's songs, but Hill occasionally got behind the mic as well. Probably their best-known song with Hill on lead vocals is "Tush." Here's a live version dating back to 1975, when the band was growing in popularity, but was nowhere near the stratospheric fame that awaited in the 80s. Oh, to have taken in some of these classic shows!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Laura Brannigan.

Now Playing: Istanpitta Exiled
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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Marvin Zindler (1921-2007)

On this date in 2007, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler died of pancreatic cancer.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. And for that reason, many people (mostly men) who are old enough to remember curse his name. Despite being a self-admitted egomaniac, he was a powerful champion of the downtrodden in his lifetime, and did a tremendous amount of good. Where the Chicken Ranch was concerned, he let his lust for fame and the spotlight get the better of him, and this allowed people with a vendetta against the Chicken Ranch to manipulate him from a distance. Zindler was a person who firmly believed in his own righteous infallibility, and once it became clear the vast organized crime conspiracy behind the Chicken Ranch's operation did not exist, well, Zindler doubled down on the conspiracy angle rather than admitting he'd been duped. He went to his grave insisting on criminal conspiracy and corruption, although he was never able to prove any of his claims.

Despite this, nobody could argue Zindler wasn't committed to his job. He accomplished a tremendous amount of good throughout his career, championing the downtrodden and exposing slum lords, unscrupulous car salesmen and all manner of predators exploiting people who had neither the money nor power to fight back. But they had Zindler on their side. Despite constant pain from the cancer destroying him, Zindler insisted on delivering his famed restaurant report from his hospital bed on July 20. It proved to be his final report. Just over a week later, he was dead. His passing in 2007 directly inspired me to seek out information on the "true" story of what happened with the Chicken Ranch, and when I learned that no such history book existed, I researched and wrote Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse. So in truth, Marvin Zindler is responsible for my book.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both and It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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