24 in 24


So, Raconteur will be releasing 24 anthologies in 2024 — one every two weeks or so.

A .pdf file with dates is here: Raconteur Press 2024 Open Calls

I would take it as a kindness if you’d let any and all of your writer acquaintances know about this, and feel free to distribute that video and that .pdf file anywhere you think it would do some good.

Ok. We got this.


The Chronicles of Andrew Spurgle …

… start with a single stumble.

We had scheduled ‘Your Honor, I Can Explain’ to be launched today, but yesterday I got to hear the dulcet tones of our Production Manager, “What do you mean we’ve already sold a copy of ‘Your Honor'” It’s not … live … yet.”

Long pause. “Huh.”

It seems that Amazon — in a habit shared by District Attorney’s offices — decided that their schedule was the only one that mattered, and launched ‘Your Honor, I Can Explain’ a day early.

Sort of. Both the Kindle version and the dead tree edition were live, but … they weren’t connected. And if you were looking at one version, you couldn’t see the other version, at all.

Well, things is sorted out, and I’m proud to introduce “Your Honor, I Can Explain”, book #1 in The Chronicles of Andrew Spurgle:

Direct link to Amazon here.

For those who may not yet be in on the joke, “Andrew Spurgle” is something we made up to introduce some whimsy, levity, and/or chaos into a subject that tends to run fairly dry.

The rules are that “Andrew Spurgle” must be:
1) Incompetent, inept, bungling and/or cack-handed; and
2) Otherwise a creation of the individual author’s fiendish little minds.

He can be the main character; or a supporting one; or even just a brief walk-through a scene, but he must be in each story.

Our authors took this concept, and ran with it. Boy, howdy, did they run with it.

(Note: I should probably be worried that a couple of lawyers, and one retired judge, heard about this and promptly yelped, “I know the exact story I’m going to write!” Yeesh.)

We received enough stories that this first volume in The Spurgle Chronicles will be a two-parter, with #2 (‘What, You Again?’) to be published in Q1 of 2024.

Meanwhile, The Spurgle Chronicles will continue with ‘You See What Happened Was’ later this year, and will be a collection of stories where someone has to explain An Unfortunate Event Which Has Just Occurred. Andrew, of course, must appear somewhere.

This will be followed by the 3rd book in The Chronicles, which is titled ‘He Was Dead When I Got Here’, and will be stories set in a  hotel/ motel/ BnB/ et al. With the now-famous Spurgle making some kind of appearance, of course.

Mr Spurgle is becoming somewhat famous among writers, a bit like Baen’s poor Joe Buckley. As a for instance, listen to the mid-show advert here.

Here. We. GO!


Slow Cooker Chicken Spaghetti


1 Rotisserie Chicken (Lemon-Pepper)
1 16oz block of Velveeta
1 stick of Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 stick of butter
2 cans cream of chicken and mushroom soup
1 can mild Rotel
4 oz chicken stock
Champagne’s seasoning
Mediterranean seasoning
16 oz Pasta

Go by your big-box chain store and snag a rotisserie from the deli.  When you get home, fire up your crock-pot on ‘High’, strip every bit of meat off the chicken, and toss into the pot. If you don’t fancy the Lemon-Pepper version, grab any other option except for BBQ.

Cut the block of Velveeta into easy-to-melt chunks, along with the cream cheese, and they go in there, too.

Go ahead and just pitch the butter in there, no need to chunk it up, followed by both cans of soup and the Rotel. Don’t drain the Rotel.

In goes the chicken stock, followed by a good shake of Champagne’s, and about that much Mediterranean spice.

Cover, and let it go for an hour, stirring occasionally, until it’s all nice and creamy.

Cook your choice of pasta according to directions, drain, and stir it into the goodness in the crock-pot.

Voila! Slow Cooker Chicken Spaghetti.


A Message from ConSec

Cedar’s notes: at the very beginning of the madness, when Lockdown Fever started to set in, there was an online convention. Our very own Lawdog, aided and abetted by Old NFO, became the con security detail. What follows are some of the more, ah, memorable messages and memos they had to issue for the multi-dimensional convention of geeks from around the galaxy and even further. While compiling this for posterity, I’ve also illustrated some of them, with the assistance of my loyal AI, Midge. 

Message from Con Security (Lawdog): Please stay off the mezzanine for a bit. The alpacas and the sheep raided the armory of the 501st, and are currently reenacting ‘Romeo and Juliet’ up there.

Jonna Hayden and Rita Smith, please stop providing ‘Period Correct’ costumes — it’s not helping.

Jim Aepilot, please drop by Con Security regarding someone switching out the 501st replica blasters for the real thing.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (LD): The situation in the “Ethics and Cloning” panel has been resolved. As soon as Housekeeping cleans up, it will reconvene.

We’d like to recognize Kevin the Intern for his brilliant, yet unorthodox tactic of “Shrieking Incoherently and Throwing Baby Shoggoths”. Took care of things rather quickly.

On an unrelated note: there is a variable number of baby shoggoths loose on the Gallery. If you see one, try to trap it under an overturned trash bin, and call Kevin the Intern.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (LD):  whoever is setting off the fire alarm, please stop. Apparently it sounds just like a dragon’s mating call.

Fluffy has humped two TARDIS’ and an elevator. So far.

In an unrelated announcement, if you require elevator-related counseling, stop by room 269.

Thank you.

Memo from Con Security (Old NFO, hereafter JL for his first initials. (Cedar: why should this be any less confusing?)): The live fire demonstration for USS New Jersey and Bun-Bun will be conducted at 1600 today. However, it will NOT be on our range. The US Navy has graciously allowed us to use the OPAREA off San Diego. You can take Portal 3 for the close up viewing of target engagement (waiver required), or Portal 6 for viewing of the units firing. Due to the EPA requirements, no thermonuclear rounds will be fired, however HE rounds are allowed. A derelict Dodecahedron will be the towed target.


 Message from Con Security (JL): The military pass in review will take place at 1800 in the main parking lot. All units are requested to be in place NLT 1745. UNLOADED weapons are permitted. Lineup will be Manticore, Romulans, 4HU and their aliens, Ewoks?, Marines, Klingons, Army, Rebels, Navy, 501st, and the various air units last since none of them know how to march and they will probably get lost since they won’t have their navaids…

The reviewing stand will be set up in front of the main entrance, so please access the building via other doors. Waving of flags is permitted, waving ‘other’ things is not…

Message from Con Security (LD):  whoever is trying to summon Cthulu, he’s currently a panelist on the “Apocalypse: What To Expect” panel, and you’re interrupting him.

He’ll be signing autographs afterwards, be patient.

Thank you.


Message from Con Security (LD): Whoever opened “Harga’s House of Ribs” in the food court, the Health Department would like to have a word with you about the “All You Can Gobble For A Dollar Special”.

Apparently the Burnt Brown Crunchy Bits(tm) don’t qualify as a food group in any of the realities currently intersecting the hotel.

Thank you.


Message from Con Security (LD): everyone who reported a Vogon in the Karaoke Room, that was Will Shatner.

We gave him to the llama and sent them both to the pool on the 3rd floor, so the Singalong is safe once more.

Thank you.


Message from Con Security (JL):  Whomever placed the thirty orders from Acme supply for delivery to the hotel, please report to the security office. We’d like to have a little chat with you.


Message from Con Security (LD): No, you cannot borrow the purple octopus for room parties. No, you can’t “rent” him, either.

Kevin the Intern, on the other hand, that’s negotiable.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (LD):  the shoggoth in the red velour sash is part of Security. Please don’t zorch! him.

The other shoggoth isn’t. Zorch! away. Please try not to hit Kevin the Intern when you open fire.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL):  Welcome to Monday. All panels scheduled in A124 have been moved to D201 until further notice. Maintenance is working on repairs now.

Note 1- The My Army is Better Than Yours panel is cancelled PERMANENTLY! The Romulans, 501st, Rebels, and the Klingons couldn’t agree on who would sit where at the table.

Note 2- Would the Marine NCOIC please report to Con Security. We need to have a ‘chat’ about your definition of ‘securing the room’… Bring a Form 7, you’re being charged for the damages incurred.


Message from Con Security (LD): Please stop zorching, zapping, fwooshing, and/or feeding the Dolores Umbridge cosplayers to Fluffy.

The ashes are getting into the chili in the ConSuite.

If you happen to spot the real Dolores, on the other hand, ConSec didn’t see a thing.

Thank you.


Message from Con Security (LD):  We’d like to thank the 501st Legion for their assist in the Alpaca Incident, however, the only thing that fusillade hit was Kevin the Intern.

Y’all got him in the butt. Two floors above the fray and on the other side of the hotel. In a hot tub with two cat-girls and the wrong shoggoth.

Please report to Jim Curtis for a blaster refresher course.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (LD):: no matter how much he begs, please don’t give tequila to the llama. We just spent 20 minutes talking him out of the ConSuite.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): The Social Distancing Panel has been moved from Ballroom A to the Mojave Desert. Portals one, three, and five will take you there. Swag includes: 1 pkg toilet paper, I case water, 1 bottle hand sanitizer, and 1 cattle prod (42″) provided by the Texas Contingent…


Message from Con Security (LD): The 5:00 Laser Tag contest on the Mezzanine between the 501st Legion and the Star Trek Red Shirts has been cancelled.

Also, any physicists attending the Con, please respond to the Category 3 Paradox Storm on the Mezzanine.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (LD): the 3:00 panel “Animal Husbandry For Amateurs” has been canceled.

In a completely unrelated topic, if anyone sees a wombat in rubber pants wandering around, please contact Con Security.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): Whomever translocated the pink elephant and unicorn to A 143 please remove them. That is the Eldritch Horror panel and the moderator is NOT happy. The Alternate Reality is What you Make It panel is in A 134.

Message from Con Security (JL): If you see a brindle Longhorn, please notify Con Security. We seem to have ‘misplaced’ our BBQ donor. And the 70 inch horns are already taken. Cthulhu wants them for a ‘headdress’ of some type… OBTW, the longhorn responds to the name Brisket…

Message from Con Security (JL): Contrary to rumors, the restaurants and coffee bar have NOT run out of coffee, nor will they… There is also an adequate supply of various ‘other’ libations available… Beware of the fruity purple drink at the roof bar though… Also, the bars on the other side of portal 1 are NOT sanctioned by the Con, you’re on your own over there. 4HU and others can be contracted on recovery missions if required to ‘recover’ your SOs.

Message from Con Security (LD): Has anyone seen Kevin the Intern? He mistook the purple octopus (with lipstick kisses) for his bagpipes, and was last seen sprinting naked down the East stairwell, screaming about the walls melting.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): The hot tub in the swimming pool area is NOT to be used to boil lobsters. Stop it…

If you need a big pot, contact housekeeping. Boiling/cooking ‘things’ may be accomplished back to the left of the loading dock. Look for the Texans BBQing the entire steer, they can point you in the right direction.

Note 1- Whomever ordered the ten bushels of corn on the cob and five pounds of potatoes, please report to the front desk to take your delivery.

Message from Con Security (JL): If anyone in the tower sees Mary Shelly, please tell her shade to report to ballroom A for the Ghost of Honor panel. Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, and Edgar Rice Burroughs are already there and we have a 2 hour limit on the translocation.

Message from Con Security (LD):  Panels on Non-Euclidean Space should only be held in the pre-designated areas. Fluffy is inside-out and perturbed about it.

Housekeeping, please check Ballroom A. Wear nomex and bring shovels, please.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): The flight demonstration teams will perform at 1600 over the south parking lot as soon as the stray star cruiser moves to Lot D… Star cruiser parking is lot D… However, the Blues will be using a slightly different diamond due to social distancing…

Update- The Red Arrows and Snowbirds will also be participating!

Message from Con Security (LD): Does anyone have eyes on Kevin the Intern? A basket full of baby shoggoths was just dropped off at the Security Desk with a note addressed to him.

I’d really like to have a talk with that boy.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (LD): if anyone sees a medium-sized octopus, generally purple, and covered in lipstick kisses, stick him in quarantine, with a quickness.

But don’t, you know, touch him. We know where he’s been.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): Would whatever is cosplaying Santa Claus please report to the main lobby. Your partridge is about to get zorched by the Ewoks. They have claimed all the trees in the main lobby and are NOT happy with your partridge being in their trees.

Message from Con Security (JL):  Famine would appreciate it if whomever ‘borrowed’ his scales would please return them. Oh, and also stop feeding Blackie cookies. He’s SUPPOSED to be thin. Also, Death would like to ‘talk’ to the little blonde lady that taught Greenie the four-beat running-walk. He’s complaining about his rear end hurting now.

Message from Con Security (LD): If you brought penguins to the Con, please come get them at the Con Office. They keep trying to convert the floor buffers into gun turrets, and Housekeeping is running out of buffers.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): If you see a red fire breathing horse, please notify us. War seems to have lost his steed. Answers to the name Snookums…

Message from Con Security (LD): If you brought pink flamingos to the Con, they’re currently trying to get into the Jurassic Park panel, and Security is running out of ammo.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL):  Pestilence is requesting that y’all stop feeding Fluffy. He’s getting too fat to fly. And War requests that parents stop letting kids ride Snookums, he won’t breathe fire on the kids and he ‘needs’ to vent out of one end or the other.

Message from Con Security (JL): The Monster Mashup was not supposed to be literal… Would whomever from 4HU left your CASPERS unlocked please report to Security. We’d like to ‘chat’ with you. Also Room A 666 will be off limits UFN. Whatever the yellowish slime is, is melting the flooring.

Message from Con Security (JL):  Would the cosplayers playing Little Bo Peep and Little Red Riding Hood please report to A 102. The sheep have the wolf cornered in the maintenance closet in the back of the room and we need to get them out of there for the next panel.

Message from Con Security (JL):  Would the cosplayer doing Tron please come to the freight elevator. Your motorcycle has trapped itself and keeps hitting the walls, exploding, and reincarnating.

Message from Con Security (LD): The olive-drab blob is not a shoggoth; that’s Sergeant Schlock.

Housekeeping would be happy if y’all’d quit trying to bag him up.

Thank you.

Message from Con Security (JL): The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse panel has been moved to the garden at 1600. Please stay UPWIND of the horses. Fluffy is ‘still’ having issues…

Message from Con Security (JL):  Would whom/whatever brought the pink/purple/green poofy ‘thing’ report to A 154. It currently has a German Shepard with a monocle, Red Riding Hood’s wolf, and Mary’s little lamb cornered. The Ewoks are jabbering something about zorching it and recipes…

Zero Lot Homes

A little while ago, Herself and I were driving past one of those obnoxious housing developments which are springing up all over North Texas like particularly oiksome fungi, saw an “Open House” sign, and decided, “Oh, what the hell. Why not?” And took a look around.

They were something called “Zero Lot Homes”, and I’m here to tell you — I’m not impressed.

The interior design is not all that bad, matter of fact there were a couple of ideas that I like, but the exterior …

I’m not a big fan of being in the hip pocket of the neighbors on either side. Both of them were way too close for my personal comfort. And where the hell are you supposed to put a kitchen garden? The standard plan had no room out front, and barely enough room out back for a tomato plant if you wanted your dog to have running room.

The model with the pool was worse.

And why are modern homes allergic to front porches? I mean — I don’t mind having a long, narrow chokepoint leading to my front door, (other people might get twitchy the first time it’s used), but front porches are infinitely handy things. We sit on ours, use it for short-term storage, entertain guests (especially the ones who smoke), and hand out candy on Hallowe’en. It’s a great place to stage before going out into a rain- or snow-storm; and a good place to shake off your umbrella or wellingtons.

If people are getting so anti-social that front porches aren’t a good idea, I’m thinking putting the houses so close together isn’t a good idea, either.

Oh, and as someone who’s slightly familiar with land — someone needs to teach these California developers exactly how much land a “1/2 acre” is.  Those might have been quarter-acre lots, but I wouldn’t bet the lunch money on that.

Sigh. This is why I’ll never be a “trend-setter”.


The Senate

One of the things that is really starting to annoy me is the whinging from the children that the Senate “Doesn’t represent the population”, “Gives outsize control to smaller States”, and the like.

Statements like this, and others, display an appalling lack of knowledge of what the Senate of the United States was created to do. Or it displays a contempt in that the speaker actually does know the purpose of the Senate and is lying through his, or her, snaggle teeth in a bold-faced attempt to subvert the Constitution.

The Senate is not, and has never been, designed to “proportionally represent the People”. The purpose of the Senate is to represent the individual States — those entities that the kiddies desperately wish would go away in favour of an over-reaching, all-powerful Federal government.

The purpose of the Senate is that the State of Wyoming, and the State of Delaware, and of Texas, and each of the other States has a say in the Federal government. Senators were not meant to represent the people of the States — that is the job of the Representatives. Senators were directly selected by, and responsible to, the State legislature, and voted according to the best interest of their State.

Of course, that started to change with the advent of the never-sufficiently-cursed 17th Amendment. And I stand firmly convinced that the idiots who did so should probably roast in hell, because they ushered in this modern era of an over-reaching Federal government.

The second — and these days more important — function of the Senate is to “cool the passions and control the urges of democratic masses”. In this era of the 15-second attention span, and instant gratification, this braking effect has never been more vital.

Should the Senate of the United States be reformed? Oh, indubitably. The start of reformation should be the repeal of the 17th Amendment, to be replaced by an amendment setting deadlines and procedures for the State legislatures to choose their Senators smoothly and on-time — which was the alleged reason that we “needed” the 17th Amendment.

Put the Senators back to being beholden to the State legislatures, not the people, as the Founders intended. Put them back to being the brakes on impulsive legislative idiocy; not along for the ride.

Let’s have a Senate which gets the Federal government under by-God control for once; and start getting power back to the States where it belongs.