Howe did they bury her?

Halloween Week continues, because I ain't done scarin' ya yet.

The only thing scary about our first entry may be the poor quality, but hey: any port in a storm. Tiff is involved in a once-a-month project where bloggers all over the fruited plane write 500 word stories on a given picture. Since it's her I said I'd be a part.

Here is the picture:

My story, which is only a story in the loosest sense of the word, can be found at Hyperion After Dark: They Buried Her There


For the first time in 30,000 years the Soapbox is back! And, since it dovetails so perfectly into my feature Author review, I thought I'd share it with you here:

There is a certain kind of Entertainment that goes far beyond the now-cliche “Guilty Pleasure.” I'm tentatively calling it “Zima Art” or “Z-Mart.”

Back when I worked at Delta airlines Zima was real big on the scene. Yet, everyone I worked with—to a man—trashed the drink as unpalatable, and more than a few implications that quaffing said beverage could possibly start a journey down the Trans-Gender highway. Not being a drinking man myself I had no knowledge of such things, but it seemed impossible that Zima could be so popular when everyone seemed to loathe it so.

Finally, in a week moment, my friend Adam admitted to me that Zima actually tasted pretty good. “The thing is,” Adam confided, “no man can willingly go into a liquor store to buy a six pack of Zima. So, what you have to do is something along the lines of, 'Yeah, I'll take a bottle of Vodka, some J-D, a 40 of 8-Ball, and uh, a six pack of Zima, for the wife, ya know!'”

I realized that for many, Zima fit into that class of art that people needed to make excuses to enjoy, because they felt ashamed to admit they liked it. At various times such items in the Z-Mart shopping cart have included: NSYNC, Sex and the City (for men), Harry Potter (before blew up and became okay for adults to admit they loved), Michael Bolton, Jerry Springer, Reader's Digest and The Olive Garden.

Can you think of others?


And now, I am more than proud to present:

James Howe

There's a massive genre of “scary” book series out there, everyone from crippled Lincoln Rimes to the insufferably cheesy Anita Blake. This category is every bit as large in the Kids' Section, ranging from the pedestrian Goosebumps and R.L. Stine to even throwback Hardy Boys and their Title IX equivalent, young Nancy Drew.

You read the kids' books when you were younger. Maybe now you sneak a favorite from the adult section; maybe you don't even sneak, but wait breathlessly for Sue Grafton to get to “Z is for Zippo.” But have you ever thought about heading back to the Kids' section?

I recommend you do.

If you need an excuse, you should get these books for your nieces and nephews (reading them first, to make sure they are appropriate, of course). Or, just tell the teller or the library check out girl that's what you're doing. (This is especially good trick with the more beautiful library check girls, as it makes it seem like you take an interest in your younger family members, which of course makes you a more suitable mate for her, which might make her sleep with you. And you thought reading would never pay off...)

And just who is worthy of all this cloak and dagger? One James Howe, that's who. Perhaps—nay—without a doubt the best “scary” series you can find.

The first book (and all subsequent stories), “Bunnicula,” take place in the Monroe household, complete with mom, dad, two boys, a cat and a dog. In fact, before we even get to the story James Howe relates that while he is the listed author, the actual storyteller is Harold the dog.

Harold relates life in the Monroe house, which if fairly normal except for an extremely intelligent if rather paranoid cat (Chester), and of course a dog who can write a book. (Note: this is not a cutsie case of animals talking and such. These animals exist within their world the way all animals do, but are intelligent enough to talk to each other, write books, and most importantly, solve mysteries.

The very first mystery happens when the Monroes bring home a bunny from a bundle they find abandoned at a movie theatre. The movie? DRACULA. Add to that the bunny's strange markings, which look like a cape on the back of his neck, and rather pointed incisors, and the family names the rabbit “Bunnicula.”

Of course, Chester is convinced this is nor ordinary rabbit, and when vegetables start appearing in the crisper drained of all juice and with two strange puncture marks in each, Chester is convinced Bunnicula is actually that most fearsome of animals: a vampire-rabbit, or vamabbit.. (I just made that last term up, but you get the idea.)

Right now you're doing one of two things. You're either sitting there, chuckling to yourself, thinking, “I'd like to read these books, or um, er, get them for my cousin...” or you're dead to me. It's one or the other.

But it gets better!

“Bunnicula” is followed by “Howliday Inn,” when Chester and Harold are put in a kennel for the weekend. A Kennel where...there may be MURDER! Once again Chester is on the case, convinced there is a killer among them, and drags a protesting Harold to uncover the crime. The two make a great pair, with Chester a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bucky Katt, while Harold is a most unwilling Dr. Watson. I'm not kidding when I say I have read this book at least 200 times.

Part Three gives us “The Celery Stalks at Midnight,” while the fourth book is “Nighty Nightmare,” two titles that may be familiar to those of you who showed up last week. (And for those who asked, Howe does not make up the catchy phrase “The Celery Stalks at Midnight,” but borrows it from this song.) These two installments ratchet up the crazy but are no less entertaining.

And, I just found out there are 13 more books in the series I didn't even know about! I can't speak to their awesomeness, but I am stoked like a Franklin Stove to get my hands on them.

What I do know is that James Howe's series is major fun. Sure, it's written for kids, but there are plenty of jokes that would go right over their heads, and if you're the kind of person who doesn't enjoy a good story about a neurotic cat and his faithful friend, then I don't want to know you.

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