Thursday, December 31, 2015


Ralph Rates ‘Em
Movie reviews by Ralph Bruin

So here we are at the end of the year and this column’s going out with a bang. Yeah, you guessed it. I’m gonna review Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Me and every other reviewer still upright and sober. But I gotta tell you up front, there won’t be any spoilers. Ziva told me not to ruin the movie for anybody. Hey, c’mon, I know better than that. Just because people started calling me Wreck It Ralph doesn’t mean I like spoiling movies for people. I do that and I’m out of a job, and that’s no way to start the new year.

Besides, it’s been out for two weeks already, so if you don’t know the plot by now, which rock have you been under? But okay, I’ll keep it spoiler-free so Ziva don’t get all pissy. She just had kids. You know how they get.

So anyway. The Force awakens. While it was sleeping somebody must’a hit the reset button because it looks an awful lot like the first one. We got bad guys in ginormous spaceships and stormtroopers out the ass and a droid carrying vital info running around on a desert planet. Sound familiar? I thought Luke and his buddies defeated the evil Empire back in Episode VI. But here we are with the Empire and they still got an army and they’re still blowing up planets and the rebels are in hiding and there’s a dark lord of the whatsis and only one Jedi left and he’s disappeared. So we’re right back at the starting gate and everything the good guys spent three movies fighting for all went down the crapper in one generation. This is what happens when you let amateurs try to set up a government.

The only good thing is that this time around, the lead’s a chick. I can tell you how that happened. Hunger Games is how that happened. Kickass chicks in charge means money in the bank now. She doesn’t have much of a rack but she can hold her own in a fight. You can’t ask for more from a chick in a movie. Well, yeah, okay, you can ask for the rack and usually you get it, but this is Star Wars and kids are gonna wanna see this, so we’ll give the rack a pass this time around.

Anyway, Katniss meets up with both the droid with the secret info and a former stormtrooper who left the Empire. And that’s another thing. When did the stormtroopers learn how to shoot? In the first movie they couldn’t hit the broad side of a bantha. Now alla sudden they got dead aim? Maybe they figured out they should get in some target practice after the Ewoks kicked their asses back in Episode VI. Beat by a bunch of teddy bears. You call that an Empire?

Whatever. Katniss and her new boyfriend take off in—wait for it—the Millennium Falcon! Yeah! We’re hitting all the nostalgia buttons here. I’m telling you, when Harrison Ford came onscreen the whole damn theater went apeshit. Not so much for Carrie Fisher. I think she’s had work done because her face hardly moved the whole time. They don’t have cell phones but they’ve got plastic surgery? What the hell kind of galaxy is this?

Oh, and the bad guy? The bargain-basement Darth Vader? He’s Han and Leia’s kid. Luke was teaching him to be a Jedi and he turned to the dark side instead. Stellar parenting there, you guys. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Vader was Luke’s dad and Luke was bland as vanilla pudding. This new guy has a kid, he’ll probably be Buddha or somebody.

(“Ralph! What did I tell you about spoilers?”)

(“What? The thing about Darth Solo? Everybody knows that by now. It’s not like I told ‘em who gets killed or anything. You want me to?”)

(“Just wrap it up. We’re on deadline. Wait a minute. Did I just see the word ‘rack’ in there?”)

(“No. No, you didn’t. Just gimme a minute, okay? Did the office party start yet? Save me some punch.”)

Okay, bottom line. Should you see this movie? Yeah. It’s Star Wars. It’s got chases and robots and fight scenes and shit blows up. All the stuff kids love. People are gonna ask, “How come Katniss can fly the Falcon and where’d she learn how to use a lightsaber?” Because it’s Star Wars, that’s why. If you’re gonna be like that, you should maybe be watching a movie with Meryl Streep in it. Wuss.

Two things here. Screw you, Ziva, I’m telling people. Mark Hamill’s in this. You have to wait because he’s right at the end, but Luke does show up. He doesn’t say anything, which works for me. I’m a big fan of the ‘90s Batman cartoon, and if I’d heard the Joker’s voice coming out of Luke Skywalker’s mouth I think I would’a lost it.

The other thing is, why wasn’t the Rock in this? I mean, really. Picture the Rock with a lightsaber. You dumping in your shorts right now too? He’d make one badass Jedi. Mace Windu’s kid or something. Maybe in the next movie. Disney owns the franchise, right? Does the Rock work for Disney? I thought everybody works for Disney. I lose track of these things.

(“Ralph! Are you done yet?”)

Gotta wrap this up. Go see The Force Awakens. I give it four out of five bear claws. My favorite part was the preview for Captain America: Civil War. Cap and Bucky beat the shit out of Iron Man. Yeah, right. That’ll last until Tony gets his hands up and blasts ‘em with his repulsor rays. Star-spangled splatter all over the walls. See you in the new year, folks!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Festival of Lights

Nobody—make that nobody, not even her own children—was allowed to burst in on Elly McMahon in her kitchen when she was on the job. Only the look of sheer terror on Freddy Turner’s face stopped her from head-butting him into the deep fryer. “You get three seconds,” she said.

“You gotta help me, Miz Elly.” His voice matched his face, drawn and panicky. “I can’t take it any more.”

Elly handed off control of the Bighorn kitchen to Toby Horn and hustled Freddy out the back and into winter’s chill. “Talk.”

Freddy opened his mouth. A belch came out, riding a rainbow. Sounds and festive colors hung in the air for a handful of seconds, then dissipated.

Elly’s brows climbed into the tight curls of her hair. “What the heck?”

“It’s not my fault,” Freddy said quickly. “I was drunk. Fun’s fun, but it can stop any time now.”

She slowly shook her head. “I think this one’s off my menu.”

“But you’re in tight with Marissa. She wouldn’t help me, she just laughed. If you’d put in a good word …”

“Maybe if you’d tell me how this happened.” Elly swiped her hand at a trace of pink still wafting on the breeze. “And what it’s supposed to be.”

“Well, Moon-Moon and I—”

“Ah,” she said. Moon-Moon. There was ninety percent of the explanation right there.

“We wanted to, uh, color our pee so we could write ‘Merry Christmas’ in the snow. Eating red and green foods didn’t work out.”

“Oh yes, I remember now.”

“Uh-huh. So we went to Marissa’s boss, you know, that Lex guy? The one with the mini-brewery? He’s got this rep. Rumors say he brews more than beer in the back of that store, y’know?”

Elly shivered, not from the cold, as everything came rushing back. “And you drank whatever it was he gave you, didn’t you?”

Freddy urped up a little bit of purple with orange on its outskirts. “There has to be an antidote, but he won’t talk to us, and Marissa just laughs, like I said.”

“I’m sure it’ll wear off on its own. Almost all of Lex’s potions do eventually.”

“He said we’d be doing this for ‘eight crazy nights.’ I don’t think I can last that long. I’m not even Jewish.”

“Does it hurt?” Elly asked. “Is there any physical discomfort?”

“Just a lot of gas after I eat, and a funny taste on my tongue. It’s more the embarrassment.” This time when the burp bubbled up, Freddy clapped his hand over his mouth. Tinsel-thin tendrils of green slipped between his fingers. “It’s not the belches so much. Those I can deal with. It’s what comes out the other end.”

“What—oh. Oh my dear lord. He wouldn’t have—”

Yes, he would have. Of course he would have. He was Lex.

“I’ll talk to Marissa,” she promised. “How’s Moon-Moon? Is he all right? Physically, I mean.”

“Oh yeah, he’s fine.” Freddy made a face. “He’s enjoying this. Take a look out in the square. It is kind’a pretty, but I’m afraid somebody’s gonna get hurt. Like me. Naturally, he had to tell everybody I’m infected too.”

Elly had raised two vegetarian sons. She didn’t need a diagram. “You get over to Java Joe’s. I’m calling Marissa right now.” Had she dared, she’d throw in a head-butt for Lex. Not that it would do any good. Freddy thanked her and hotfooted around the diner, while Elly went back inside.

But first, she went out into the dining room and the Bighorn’s tall front windows, to confirm with her own eyes what Freddy had just imparted.

She spotted the crowd first, mostly children. They loosely surrounded a tongue-lolling, tail-wagging wolf. The kids kept clear of his hind end. The older ones had lighters.

The wolf barked and raised his tail. A kid darted in with lighter lit. The rainbow arcing out of Moon-Moon’s butt erupted into streamers and sparkles. More than a few people held their noses, but that didn’t stop them from cheering.

“Only you, Brian,” Elly said on a sigh. “Only you would think this is a good thing.” At least they’d gotten fireworks for Christmas, and nobody’d gotten burned yet. Elly heaved another sigh and headed for the phone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Have A Happy, Happy...

So I can't let the season pass without sharing this holiday ditty...The Hanukkah Song!


Have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's Filler Time

I decided the wrap-up to Moon-Moon’s adventure would play better on Christmas Eve, so you’ll get that next week. Which left me short a post for this week. Fortunately, J. J. Collins has a rough draft WIP, and it’s got shifters in it. We join Roy Tennyson on his Harley, headed home from work, and his daily match race with—well, we’ll see.

# # #

He mounted up and rode out of town, careful to keep to the speed limit. Once he hit the town line he opened up, and made it to the crossroads in record time.

Sure enough, the horse was waiting.

Roy grinned and gunned his engine. The horse pawed the ground. Roy swung onto the road, and they were off.

The horse kept pace all the way up the road to the narrow gravel drive that led to Roy’s place. Roy slowed, both for the turn and to wait for the pickup coming from the other direction. As Roy’s speed diminished the horse pulled ahead. It even found wind for a whinny.

All at once the truck swung toward him, right over the center line. Roy, with his eyes on the horse, almost didn’t see it. He frantically swerved to the berm. The truck sideswiped him, close enough its side brushed the denim on his leg. The driver’s face snarled at him, a twisted blur. One of O’Casey’s buddies. “Watch where you’re driving, you goddamn faggot!”

The Harley skidded, bucked and slid. Roy’s brain did the same. He heard loud noises but couldn’t attach them to anything. Except for one shrill scream he was pretty sure wasn’t him. It must have been the horse. Awareness left him on his own for a while

 Next thing he knew, something warm and stubbly was nudging at his face. He opened his eyes to four long legs and scuffed black hooves. He licked his lips and tasted dirt. The horse nosed his face again and murmured its concern.

His first coherent thought was, Where’s my bike?

Carefully, Roy elbowed himself up. His heart crashed against his ribs, nearly through his jacket. That proved he was still alive. He could still feel his legs, and they moved when he thought at them. Another good sign. He reached up and found blood in his hair, but no bumps. His helmet lay a few feet away. That, his gloves and jacket, and the fact he must have rolled when he landed had probably saved him from serious injury.

Had he lost consciousness? He was pretty sure he hadn’t, but couldn’t be certain. The truck and its murderous driver, of course, were long gone.

Then he spotted the Harley, lying on its side on the grassy edge of the berm. Even at a distance he saw the kink in the handlebar, the tailpipe hanging loose. There was probably more, maybe worse, waiting for a hands-on search.

 A groan ripped out of him. He tried to scramble upright. Sharp jabs of pain in his left ankle and knee put a stop to that. “Son of a bitch,” he cursed the truck.

He made a second attempt. This time the horse helped out. When his left leg crumpled under him the horse caught his jacket sleeve in its teeth and kept him semi-standing. Roy grabbed at its mane and dragged himself onto his still-functioning right leg. He hooked an arm across the horse’s neck and leaned hard on the solid support of its shoulder. The horse did not move or complain. It whickered at him, perhaps in sympathy.

 Roy patted its neck. “Good Noche. Good boy. Good—” He stopped, both words and patting.

The horse had blue eyes.

Now that was flat-out weird. Back in Oklahoma he’d seen blue-eyed horses, even one with one blue eye and the other regular brown. But those had all been pintos. He’d been told that was normal for them. Any horse that wasn’t a pinto tended to have brown eyes. Except for his racing buddy here.

And damned if those eyes, even the way the horse cocked its head, didn’t look familiar.

Then he put too much weight on his left foot and the pain shot up his leg again. Roy cried out. Now he was getting alarms from his lower chest and his elbow. He had to get off the road, get home, maybe call somebody.

He and the horse must have been on the same page, because Noche folded his forelegs and got down on his knees and presented his back to Roy. Somebody’s pet for sure, and excellently trained. He hauled himself onto the horse’s back and gripped its mane as hard as his aching hands would let him. One hard fall was bad enough. He didn’t need another.

The horse set off at a slow, careful walk, toward the road and the gravel drive. Roy didn’t even have to steer him. It was like he knew right where to go.

He couldn’t resist a squint at his bike as they shuffled past it. That looked like a dent in the fuel tank. Was the engine okay? Roy groaned with a pain divorced from his physical injuries. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered again.

Even with the horse’s easy pace, Roy still jounced enough to spark snaps of pain in various parts of his body. Motorcycles he could straddle. Men too, in the right circumstances. Horses, not so much. He gritted his teeth and hung on while Noche made his tedious, torturous way up the drive to Roy’s cozy rancher. The barn, where the Harley should be sitting safe and secure and undamaged right now, seemed to mock him with its placidity.

The horse knelt again, positioned so Roy could slide off onto the porch and not have to climb the front steps. He tried to land to protect his ankle and barked his knee on the porch rail instead. Tears started to his eyes. I won’t faint, he told himself. It’s just a twisted ankle. An Army vet doesn’t faint over a twisted ankle.

Noche nuzzled his hair. Roy patted his nose. “Not that I’m ungrateful,” he said, “but as an ambulance, you’re not the smoothest.”

The horse backed a step. His body blurred. Thinking his eyes had got knocked askew too, Roy blinked hard. It wasn’t his eyes after all. It was the horse. The horse had somehow reshaped itself into a human being.

“That makes us even,” Dale Evanista said. “’Cause you can’t ride for shit.”

Roy fainted.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday (Christmas) Funny

So, I love silly holiday songs, especially when the radio stations start playing Christmas music so far before the holiday.  Here's a little ditty to give you a Friday smile.

It also got me thinking about our fine folks in Talbot's Peak...what exactly would be on their 12 days of Christmas lists?  I might have to start quizzing them for next weeks post...


Have a great weekend!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mellow Yellow

Elly McMahon left the Bighorn Diner around 4:30—late, but this time of year she stayed open a little later in the afternoon to accommodate holiday shoppers. Her lambs were inside, cleaning up so she could head home and catch some rest. She considered dropping in on her loving husband, but a glance through the Grease ‘n’ Grill’s windows showed Vern was doing a healthy business too, and his customers were pure carnivore. Better if she didn’t walk into that feeding frenzy. She’d see Vern tonight.

She’d rounded the corner by City Hall when she heard snickering, followed by an “Awwww!” and some half-hearted swearing. “Wait. Lemme try again.”

Elly frowned. That was Moon-Moon’s voice. She’d better check this out. When Moon-Moon did, or even tried, anything, disaster usually followed.

She spotted Moon-Moon hunched before a towering snow bank. He wasn’t alone. A lanky male in a leather coat and a visored cap stood beside him, in the same hunched position. The smell of urine was everywhere.

Not hard to guess what they were up to. What surprised her was that the other male’s steaming stream had a veggie aroma. Wolves were addicted to pissing contests, but not with herbivores. This bore looking into.

Elly stepped off the sidewalk and called out, “You know City Hall has public restrooms, right?”

Both males jerked around and hastily stuffed their hoses back behind their flies. Moon-Moon flushed bright scarlet. “Afternoon, Miz Elly,” he stammered out.

She nodded to him and turned to his companion. “Freddy Turner? Is that you?”

“Miz Elly.” Freddy touched the visor of his John Deere cap. “You didn’t see anything, did you?”

“Not a thing,” she said truthfully, with a silent thank-you added to the forest spirits. She peered a bit more closely at the lines branded into the snowbank and had to fight a laugh. “Signing autographs, are you?”

“It’s supposed to say ‘Merry Christmas,’” Freddy said, “except—”

“Except it’s not coming out right,” Moon-Moon said. “Well, it’s coming out good enough, we’ve been drinking all afternoon—”

“Yes, I gathered that.”

“But it’s not the right color. Y’see, we wanted it to be festive, dress up the town a bit, so I ate red meat this morning, and Freddy here had a ton of greens, so that—”

“If I did the Merry and Moons did the Christmas, then—”

“But it keeps coming out yellow,” Moon-Moon finished. “I can’t figure out what we did wrong.”

Elly shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way, boys. Pee only has one color. Anything other than yellow and you should be seeing a vet. It’s like feeding Hershey bars to a cow. You won’t get chocolate milk.”

“You don’t?” Freddy looked shocked. “So if you freeze the udder you don’t get ice cream either?”

“No. Take my word for it. Don’t you dare go around experimenting.”

“Hell, no,” Moon-Moon said fervently. “I’m not making that mistake again. Simon Batista damn near broke my nose when I suggested we try it.”

“That’s because Simon’s a bull, honey.”

“Oh. So when I said I wanted to milk him, that’s why he—” Moon-Moon’s eyes got wider. “Ooooohhhh.”

“Well, hell.” Freddy kicked at a clump of frozen snow. “Wait. Wait. I know what happened. It was the egg nog. We were drinking egg nog. That’s why it came out yellow.”

“I dunno, man. Last time I got hung over I took Pepto-Bismol, and nothing came out pink. In fact, it was kind’a—”

“And that’s my cue,” Elly muttered, edging back to the sidewalk. “I suggest you boys go home and sleep it off. And when you’re sober, go to the library and check out a couple of health books.”

Too late. Moon-Moon had had a revelation. “I got it! My buddy Mooney’s wife’s a witch who works for this cat who brews potions. I’ll bet he could make us something to get the colors right.”

“Yeah, I know the guy,” Freddy said. “If he was any good, you’d think he would’a brewed himself a potion for hair growth by now.”

“Maybe he shaves it.” Moon-Moon adjusted his pants. “Never hurts to ask.”

Yes. Yes, it does. Elly determinedly turned on her heel and trotted briskly in the other direction, mumbling, “Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved,” under her breath for at least a block.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Witch's Moon Rapid Rerwite

Ok, guys, I'm resurfacing from the land of rapid rewrites. the story has been tweaked and it's being beta read at the moment. Chances of getting it released by Christmas are excellent! I am currently reworking the cover for it, so I don't have that one ready to show. I should have it by next Wednesday's post.

About two years ago, I released a teeny tiny little book called "Quick-Fix Wedding." It's free on Smashwords and $0.99 on Amazon, because Amazon wouldn't let me offer it for free. It's now going to be something of a prequal to "Witch's Moon," though both the novelette and the full length novel stand alone.

That's about it for now. Have a great day!


Thursday, December 3, 2015


“Well well,” Donny said upon entering his cousin’s apartment and finding Axel wrapped in a quilt on the couch. “Getting a jump on the season, are we?”

“Not—blechhhewww!—not this time. Not like last year. This time it’s legit. I’ve got a cold. Can’t you tell?”

“So the red nose isn’t a Christmas thing?”

“No,” Axel snarled, “it isn’t a Christmas thing. It’s because you brought me a box of cheap tissues. I told you to get the kind with lotion. I have a delicate snout.”

“And you’re not going to climb up on the roof and claim you can fly?”

“That was last year. Last year was the cider talking. This is a virus, for cripe’s sake. Did you at least get me honey? Tea’s about all I can keep down.”

“Axel, the red-nosed mule deer … ”

Axel tried to swear and ended up coughing instead. “So tell me, Donny,” he finally got out, “how are the antler implants working?”

Don cut himself off in mid-verse. “They’re not implants. They’re extensions.”

“Uh-huh. Because Carli doesn’t want to be seen in public with a button buck. Y’know, if you’re going to get implants, you should do her a favor and go for the—”

Extensions. They weren’t permanent. They were just for rut.”

“Must not have worked. I heard she’s been prancing around with Evan Lang. Talk about your natural—waaachewww!” He blew his bright red honker.

And Donny blew his stack. “Lang? That steroidal elk? Talk about faking it. If his rack’s real, I’ll eat those Kleenex.”

“Don’t—” Axel clapped his hand over his mouth. He grabbed the waste can beside the couch and made dry retching noises.

But Don was off and galloping. “You’re making it up. Carli wouldn’t do that. Not with an elk, that’s for damn sure.”

Axel wiped his mouth with a tissue. “She’s a doe, man. All they look at are the horns. She probably couldn’t even describe your face to the cops, but I’ll bet she knows your rack circumference down to the millimeter.” He aimed a disdainful snort at Don’s pants. “Nothing else on you worth measuring.”

“I’ve never had to get up on a roof and pretend to fly to get a doe’s attention.”

“I told you, that was the cider. Man, could I go for one of those right now. Could you bring me one? When you go get me those tissues with the lotion in them like I asked you for in the first place?”

“Get ‘em yourself, Rudolph. I’ll bet you’re not even sick. You’re sure off base about Carli. I’ll bet you—”

Behind him, someone knocked on the apartment door. A cute young sheep with curly hair dyed a charming pink squeezed past him. She had nice squeezable bits. Don swallowed hard. All of a sudden, “hard” had become the word of the day.

“Excuse me,” she said, without even looking at him. “How are you doing, Axel?”

Axel went from indignant to death’s door in zero to sixty. “Bobbi?” he quavered. “Is that you?”

“Oh, you poor thing.” She scurried over to the couch and started removing supplies from her fabric grocery bag. “Here. I brought some herbal broth. This should get you back on your feet in no time. And this will help you relax.” She withdrew a bottle of cider. “Can I get you anything else? Do you need more tissues? The kind with the lotion?”

He wiped his hand on the quilt before he tenderly touched her cheek. “Artemis bless you, Bobbi. You’re a lifesaver.”

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours, after my shift. We can mull that cider.” Finally, she took notice of Don. “Will you be staying with him? Can we trust you?”

“That’s Don,” Axel said on a cough. “My cousin. He’s okay. But if he sticks around, you’ll need to bring more cider.”

“Oh. Don.” She said it like she’d heard stories. “Make sure he stays warm, and don’t you dare tire him out.” She marched past him and into the hallway, with a final wave at Axel. “See you later, honey.”

Don stared after her and her swaying lamb chops. “Who?”

“Bobbi. My downstairs neighbor. She’s a nurse.” Axel grinned. “And can she ever play doctor.”

Don darted into the hallway, just in time to see the sheep and her muttonous backside disappearing down the stairs. “Uh,” he said. “Ahchoo?”