A.B. Funkhauser's Blog

May 15, 2016

By A.B. Funkhauser

It was my great honor recently to address the Sisters in Crime­ – Toronto Chapter at their monthly meeting this past April. Not only did the experience tease me out of the relative safety of my writing vault, but it also, as a newcomer to the mystery scene, afforded me the opportunity to examine the challenges faced by funeral directors like me who endeavor to write.

It’s an exciting time for funeral directors in Ontario. Legislative changes in force since July 1, 2012 continue to filter through the industry; the most recent realized April 1 with the creation of the new Bereavement Authority of Ontario. What this new body will mean for service providers and the client families they serve can only be determined through anecdotal experience. Let these be positive as the spirit behind the changes intend. What it means for me—a purveyor of gonzo, paranormal, mortuary, fiction—is how important it is to tell the story of the industry in a way that is accessible without compromising my duty to protect the deceased person and family he/she leaves behind.

A lot of what a funeral director sees and, indeed, does remains confidential for obvious reasons. Human beings do not stop being human beings with the cessation of breath. In fact, their humanity is heightened, given that their ability to protect themselves from harm is now taken from them. Dignity, privacy and integrity of the individual falls under the purview of the funeral service professionals charged with their care. This is the funeral director’s oath and the writer’s oath as well.

It is not surprising then that confidentiality as a mainstay of funeral service lends itself to broad artistic interpretation. As I revealed at the April 21 Sisters in Crime meeting, it is easy to lampoon/throw rocks at something that cannot defend itself. And yet, examination from unusual quarters can only strengthen the dialogue. There’s a lot of fine satire out there to drive the discussion; some older, but classic pieces like Evelyn Waugh’s THE LOVED ONE and the newer gothic horror AFTER.LIFE whet the public’s appetite to ‘know’ what really goes on.


Which is why I turned to gonzo as my genre vehicle of choice when I chose to weigh in not as expose—because I love my industry—but as a spotlight to inform and, yes, entertain those who rarely, if ever, set foot inside a funeral establishment.

Gonzo, as I’ve said before in previous articles, is a kind of first person journalism created and perfected by the late great Hunter S. Thompson of ROLLING STONE fame. Taken off road into fiction, it is both a humorous and slightly subversive means of drawing attention to difficult subjects and making them whole.

Later this month, I will attend professional development seminars at my alma mater. There, I will be brought up to date on the latest innovations in an industry undergoing constant change. I’m looking forward to it. Where there is education, there is dialogue; where there is discussion, there is growth.

Such is the stuff of the journey in both life and art.
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Published on May 15, 2016 07:46 • 41 views • Tags: industry-writing, mortuary, writer-responsibility
By A.B. Funkhauser

If you’re like this writer and Twitter is your place to #promote, #network and #share in that glorious thing called #trending, then you’ve probably heard of #2bitTues and #1lineWed. For those who don’t and are asking “What are these?” read on as you race to set up your Twitter account.

In a word or twenty, these are hashtags used on appointed days by writers of all competencies to showcase works in progress (#WIPs). There are multiple benefits in doing this. First, the writer draws tremendous oooomph from celebrating the thing they are hard at work on with others in the same situation. Copping a “like” or a venerable retweet (#RT) from a brother in arms is the proverbial shot in the arm for a writer in isolation. Receiving a #Follow from a sister traveler is even better. You are reinforced, spurred on in the knowledge that you are not alone. Best of all, you are getting your work out there, commanding the attention of like-minded’s. Such is the divine stuff of #networking.

The second benefit of Twitter play is that the writer grows like never before. Nothing says “edit, edit, edit” like the limitations imposed by tweeting. Take your glorious one liners with all their deverbal gerbils, things ending in “ly” and fave repeat actions like ‘nodding’ and ‘glancing’ and the scribe quickly finds how easy it is to slay with impunity the darlings that aren’t really needed when crushing a zinger into 140 characters.

That said, there is a cool trend emerging called “cheats” and it is from these that a third benefit is derived. Let the picture speak:

When used as an attachment to an existing tweet, one is not only able to sneak in sacred cows and darlings, but can also shoehorn in essential details like website addresses and buy links. The need to ‘cheat’ forces new skills, like mastering the art of Blip Ads easily created on your desktop using apps like Paint.

Twitter offers a vast array of hashtags to suit every marketing purpose: #MondayBlogs #TuesdayBookBlog #TeaserTuesday #WW (writer Wednesday) #ThrowBackThursday and my personal favorite #FF (follow Friday), where new book relationships are formed.

For this writer, Twitter conjures images of the wild west of old: fast, loose, dusty, loud and gritty. But it’s also a place of tremendous #spotlight and #promotion(al) potential. Recently, I launched a hashtag of my own. #Thurds, a play on “Thursday” and “Words” offers Self-pub, ePub, and Trade Pub authors of poetry and prose a place to highlight their work and advertise BUY LINKS too.

I’m pleased to be a part of the Twitterverse. In the fourteen months I’ve actively ‘played’ on it, I’ve grown my base from 74 followers to over 4,300. In doing so, I have forged friendships, kept the fires burning, and continue to foster new words at home and on the desktops of others. For those not yet there, Twitter beckons. #Follow.
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Published on May 15, 2016 07:42 • 12 views • Tags: branding, promotion, twittergames

April 6, 2016

A funny thing happened after I finished the first draft of my first novel: colleagues told me I had to edit it and that editing was hard. Hmmm. I suppose anything can be made tough if you’re told often enough, but how about surprising everyone and making that alleged dreaded thing a zesty thought provoking experience instead?

Editing for me is not something that’s endured, but rather something that’s explored with curiosity backed by a genuine desire to learn more. Who are these characters and what’s all the fuss about anyway? After months of workshopping with the critique group, it is very tempting to tuck in and make changes right away. I resist the temptation. The notes I receive—good and bad—are given because I ask for them, and it’s only after a proscribed period of time that they become truly useful. I like to let notes percolate in a corner for a while before looking at them. I need distance to achieve clarity. It is only after a ‘cooling off’ period where the difference between what I thought was “great” and what the reviewer thought was “not so much” can be made sense of and I’m able to take the feedback for what it is: a resource rich tool that will 9 times out of 10 make my manuscript better.

Focus, like the cooling off period, is critical in editing. I never work on an existing manuscript alongside a bustling, sparkling new work in progress. Multitasking will turn edits into a mean old stepsister faster than you can say “ARGH!!!!!” and it will cost your princess plenty. I take the summer months to work on edits and only edits. Submitting the polished gem for publication is the reward at the end as well as the sparkling WIP waiting for attention at the finish line.

Organization is also key. We all have different methods that assist us along the way. Charts, diagrams, editing apps, Post It notes all over the kitchen cupboards all have merit. What I’ve embraced—what I’ll never let go of—is the practice of summarizing each chapter in a paragraph or two as I complete them. This does two things: 1) provides a seemingly instant synopsis at the end of round 1 that—yes—will need editing; and, 2) a faster way of getting to the crux of what the book is about so that it can be edited without the stress of a shaky ‘what happened next?’

So sweat not the process, dear writer. You have accomplished a great thing shepherding an idea onto a collection of pages in preparation for a waiting world. Editing will make this incredible accomplishment even more incredible as long as you give it the proper attention. You deserve it and so does your work.
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Published on April 06, 2016 06:52 • 39 views
This thing we call writing, like any calling, might well be defined as a “need” servicing competing interests. Speaking strictly for myself, this means that the act is more than the sum of hours spent over a sticky keyboard; more like a cycle that never ends…like laundry.

My journey began with a basket full of interests and observations thrown together in a heap without a cupboard large enough to house them. Cocktail party chit chat, a glib observation over a newspaper article, or an off the cuff toast to the bride and groom sometimes led to choice comments like “is that yours?” or “that would be funny on T.V.” or most super elegantly “you should write that down.” “Why, thank you,” was the happy reply every time. But where? And how should I put this down?

Maybe I just had to put in a few more years, because the answer came fast and unexpectedly with a gaggle of badly behaved characters and a crumbling funeral parlor to stuff them in. “Write what you know,” the sages whispered. And so I did. The first novel, HEUER LOST AND FOUND, is hardly a memoir: it is a fiction consisting of composites spewing forth all the cocktail chat from ghosts of parties past. The glib comments, the sparkling jewels of language that had no place to go suddenly hung themselves up on this beautiful thing called The Novel. One year later, I did it again with SCOOTER NATION and a year after that with SHELL GAME, POOR UNDERTAKER and THE HEUER EFFECT.

The needs served here are readily identified: at last my thoughts were tidy; at last my thoughts were free. How fast I can get them down; how many people read them; and how many more will take something away with them depends on how fast I can work and how relevant and fresh I can be. No time to worry. There is much laundry to do. Pass the soap.
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Published on April 06, 2016 06:49 • 43 views • Tags: writing-inspiration-process
An infamous twentieth century political figure was once asked to comment on the effects of the Industrial Revolution. His reply was fast and revealing. Paraphrased, the leader of one of the largest countries in the world remarked that he couldn’t really say, because the world (circa 1950s) was still feeling the impacts of that seminal event.

So goes it with true tales and their relationship to art.

Well before I ever took to a keyboard, I was enthralled by the stories conveyed to me by the grandparents of my industry. Their eyewitness accounts of funeral service, stressing more a way of being than a means of doing business, focused on constant evolution in response to economic and socio political pressures. Neither dry dissertation nor heartfelt laments about a life gone by, these reminiscences were a direct commentary on a way of life that had not only changed, but was still changing, and will likely continue to do so as long as there’s life on planet E.

History called and I blinked.

“Time was when we didn’t leave the building without our stripes,” one elder statesman said. “Back then, we were held in higher esteem, but then, so was everybody else.”

“Some of us had been driving since our twelfth birthday. That’s why we never crashed the coach.”

“People actually smoked in the building back then. Can you believe that?”

FD’s don’t smoke in the building anymore, and the snappy black and gray livery of an era gone by appears less and less inside North American funeral establishments. But the way an FD sees to the directions of the living in order to honor the wishes of the dead remain constant. How directors got there and how they continue to achieve that balance is the stuff of my art.

Many times, fiction writers are asked if their scenes and characters are based on actual events. I can only hope that the answer will always be ‘yes,’ for what better way to shine a light on a subject than through plumbing it’s antecedents to draw a line right up to the present. The people and events we hear about or—even better—are lucky enough to witness with our own eyes beget the words that feed a continuum…history making news.

As the famous unattributed quote goes: “How can we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been.”

Such is the role of history in the creative process. Such is the role of great plots.
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Published on April 06, 2016 06:46 • 14 views

January 25, 2016

LET IT BURN

In the run up to this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’d half expected to struggle, owing to the tedium of a couple of broken bones that limited my ability to roam free range, and the fine line I’d drawn between completion of the sophomore novel and starting another manuscript. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry. Somewhere between draft six, aluminum crutches that skid, and a much anticipated finish line, I locked on to the key ingredient for a successful writing experience—the inciting incident.

For many of us, the grocery store can be a harrowing experience. Years ago my ‘baby on board’ and I were nearly taken out by a grocery cart piloted by a veddy veddy important looking hooman on a cell phone too busy to notice us. When I protested the T-bone collision, its ensuing effect resulting in a twenty degree kant that toppled the produce from my cart and freaked out my heir, the important telephone person suggested that I “bite [her].”

Bite her?

I didn’t want to do that. I had standards and I didn’t care much for pork. What I did have were my big girl words, and it was to these that I turned in the face of profound absurdity. A speech made by the late Sir John Gielglud’s character to Liza Minnelli in the film Arthur (1981) seemed apropos, so I paraphrased, suggesting to the reckless grocery cart operator that one “didn’t often meet such quality in another person outside a holding cell or drunk tank.”

The line—spectacular in its arrogance—had the desired effect, silencing the ‘bite me’ hooman in a way that I hoped would ruin the rest of her very important day. A shining moment to be sure, its effect sparked something remarkable. Getting slammed was leveling, but taking it out on the page? Elevating. I could not do to the offending human what I might have wanted to, but a character certainly could. In that pursuit, I’ve built my philosophy for creating at NaNo Time:

What good is fiction, if fiction cannot roam freely? What better a character than one that can do what we cannot?

Scooter Blurb

“Seltenheit manager Kevin Gustavson had kept the sale secret, such that the transition from heritage building to hole in the ground happened without a single heart attack or lawsuit. For his subservience, Kevin got a timeshare. The others got a payout indexed to inflation. The old embalmer, unimpressed, hanged himself in the garage.”

“Symbols of the old regime, the suit of the undertaker was forbidden to them, as if looking like a mortician was some kind of intolerable offense in the house that Jocasta built. Yet Scooter took no heed of the boss’s orders, tossing his pomegranate colored blazer into the dumpster with a finality that impressed Carla Moretto Salinger Blue. The morning suit he wore, like the cigarette he smoked, was a clear act of defiance as was, she supposed, the firearm he was holding.”

“Anybody who ever worked at B.H. Hoage, Funeral Directors, where Clayton managed in the late Eighties and early Nineties, never forgot him. Whether inflicting time management strategies on the lowliest earthworm or back breaking lady heels on the feminist wedge ‘steam rollering this fine business of ours,’ Clayton left his mark, much like a cat spraying its territory.”



—SCOOTER NATION (WIP completed October 21, 2015)





Rude, inane, maybe even profane, free ranging characters can drive a story farther and faster than their creator ever dreamed possible, especially when the rigorous demands of NaNoWriMo come up from behind.

Generally, I like to mull a NaNo story for a good year in advance of November 1st. Character names like “Zoltan” “Bronaugh” “Poonam” “Gus” and “Carlos the Wunder Katz” are scratched down and stored in a file along with pop scenes as they make themselves known. But what gets the beauty started is that moment THE MOMENT when you know:


On October 6, 2015, a letter was received. In it were a set of instructions and a veiled threat. “Dear Home Owner: It has come to our attention that residents have not been cleaning up after their pets. This is particularly true of Saffron Drive where cats have been roaming freely without proper banding and/or licensing.”

The homeowner frowned.

“City bylaws are explicit. Failure to comply shall result in seizure and a fine of up to and including $5,000. All pets seized by the municipality shall be considered forfeit, property to be retained pending appeal or adoption by an appropriate third party.”

Bronaugh Caley scowled. It was barely past sunrise, the morning air still carrying on it that vaporous layer of moisture from a cool night and above average day time high’s for that time of year. The missive in her hand wrinkled with the wet of it. Plain stock, Helvetica lettered and baring the stamp of the nascent city’s newly minted coat of arms, it was not francked, but hand delivered. Her tax dollars at work.

She crumpled the paper in disgust. The assessors would be out soon to see if they could raise the levy on her addition. Meantime, she could recycle the plain stock paper. What else could she do with it? She didn’t own a goddamned cat.”

—SHELL GAME (WIP NaNoWriMo 2015)

On October 6, 2015, a letter was delivered to my door from municipal animal control. Chilling and vague, the inference contained within was clear: our beloved neighborhood visitor, a black cat of exceptional beauty, had been singled out by city 5-O. A complaint from a single resident has forced this beauty indoors against his nature, forcing his owner and legions of fans to find a proper home for him in the country where cats can be cats.

A story here? I think so. It incited the above paragraphs. I’ll see if it takes me through to the end of November.

What is your inciting incident? Find it and let it burn bright.

Adult, Unapologetic and Cognizant, I am

A.B. Funkhauser

NaNoWriMo 2015

GOOD LUCK ONE AND ALL!
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Published on January 25, 2016 11:50 • 209 views • Tags: nanowrimo2015-shell-game-muses
It is with tremendous joy that I announce my second novel SCOOTER NATION has been picked up by SUMMER SOLSTICE for release very, very soon. The second in my UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SCOOTER picks up two years after HEUER LOST AND FOUND. This time, quirky undertakers Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take center stage in a two front battle to take back their street from a marauding gang of scooter bound civil activists and a self absorbed fitness guru. I'd like to thank my amazing EIC KC Sprayberry​ and Solstice CEO Melissa Miller​ for taking me on for another round. With this kind of validation, I can, quite possibly, write forever. Publishing love from this gonzo writer to one and to all. Happy Day!!!!!

http://abfunkhauser.com/wip-scooter-n...

http://solsticepublishing.com/
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Published on January 25, 2016 11:46 • 18 views
It was with unparalleled delight that I met some chapter members at the WCDR Bookapalooza event on November 21st. I say unparalleled for two reasons: one; the engaging ladies I refer to could not stop grinning at me, which told me I was doing something very right; and two: they somehow saw through my gonzo humor enough to invite me to join the most excellent Sisters in Crime, Toronto Chapter.

What is gonzo and what does that have to do with crime? I’ll tell you. Gonzo is a kind of subversive social commentary created and promoted by the late Hunter S. Thompson (He of ROLLING STONE fame). Geared at shining a light on things we hold dear (and don’t), gonzo’s operate under a basic tenet: characters can say and do things we cannot do in a civilized society AND get away with it!

I am the author of two published works, both of which touch on the things I know best: funeral directing and sausage making. As a funeral director that both embalms the dead and assists the living in funeral planning, I have been honored to glimpse a world that very few ever see. Thanks to my immigrant background, I am imbued with a sense of irony that I fiercely hold on to as it is the wellspring for my fiction. I grew up in a household that made bratwurst FROM SCRATCH and favored long ARMED walks in the woods, not because we sought protection from animals, but rather from the hoomans that aspire to behave like animals when not under the watchful eyes of others.

Given my history and the imagination it feeds, it came as a logical step that my characters would, at times, do strange things, including engaging in criminal acts, all in the name of what they saw as ‘righteous’ or ‘fitting’.

Can anyone really get away with murder anymore? I don’t think so. The scope of forensics being what it is makes it impossible for even the craftiest humans to dispose of evidence completely. The second and most compelling reason, I think, is human nature and its fundamental frailty in the need to confide. We absolutely cannot keep our mouths shut; believing that sharing will somehow justify or at least ameliorate the consequences of our actions.

Which is why crime fiction is so much fun! Pair suspension of disbelief with the author’s own commitment to the character on the page and a murder undetected becomes wholly possible.

Can a funeral director get away with murder? They’ve tried, and they always get caught. When I meet everyone at the next meeting, I’ll tell you why…

Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,

I am A.B. Funkhauser

Member, Sisters in Crime, Toronto Chapter
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Published on January 25, 2016 11:42 • 15 views
A fellow scribbler recently asked if I’d thought about working in other genres and I had to take a moment before answering. After a couple of slugs of coffee, here’s what I said: Anything’s possible, but do YOU consciously sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a romance today’?

It’s true that we have an idea what we are about on the page after a few false starts and a meme or two. But if you’re like me, you give your characters a wide berth and let them do the driving.

The tale of halting mortician Enid Krause and her charge, the badly decomposed Jurgen Heuer (read ‘Heuer’ as in ‘lawyer’) for me was a platform from which to launch some stories about what it’s like to be a funeral director in the space of a few precious days. The minutae, the stuff we as directors take for granted, like getting the flowers from visitation suite to church to grave without the family and mourners seeing us do it, became a subject of intense interest for some readers. The fact that the work was so physical, along with the long hours often spent waiting for something to happen seemed to be a jump point for discussion as well.

That HEUER went from conversation piece about an atypical job to an award winner under the HORROR category in this year’s PREDITORS & EDITORS reader poll did not surprise readers, but it did surprise me in the best possible way.

HEUER LOST AND FOUND is many things to me: it is a platform from which to rhapsodize about things near and dear, but it’s also a staging point for exploring complicated grief, guilt, addiction, false love, false starts, and, yes, embalming while under the influence of all of the above. Most exciting to me, was that I was able to present difficult and often horrific subjects under the umbrella of gonzo fiction; that is to say: by making the tough accessible through humor.

I like to thank my publisher Summer Solstice, a line division of Solstice Publishing, for believing in what I was trying to do. Solstice gave me the courage to press on through the hard slog that is editing and promoting. Most importantly, they gave me what I needed to keep creating NEW WORK. Thank you Melissa Miller, Kate M. Collins and K.C. Sprayberry for keeping me on task.

The PREDITORS & EDITORS Reader’s Poll is my first award and as such my most precious, not just for the validation it gives me personally (shades of Sally Field at the Oscars back in 1985 dogged me, but only for a moment) but for the acknowledgement that the book and characters are MORE than they appear. What seemed incredibly funny to some, mortified others and vice versa. Tissue boxes, I’m told, were reached for in the closing chapters, while others cheered for Heuer, a “strange and complicated” character, to succeed in spite of his sometimes odious behavior.

Will I try another genre? Most probably, but only if the characters allow me to do so. If HEUER LOST AND FOUND has taught me anything, it’s that everything is subjective at all times.

Thank you one and all for your tremendous support on the journey. I am incredibly grateful.

Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,
I am

A.B. FUNKHAUSER

NEXT UP: SCOOTER NATION Releasing March 13, 2016 through Solstice Publishing

Biography
A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. Her debut novel HEUER LOST AND FOUND, released in April 2015 after five years of studious effort, has inspired four other full length works and over a dozen short stories. SCOOTER NATION, her sophomore effort, is part of her UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series. Funkhauser is currently working on POOR UNDERTAKER begun during NaNoWriMo 2014.

HEUER LOST AND FOUND
Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against God, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.
At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/heuerlostandfound
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-C5q...


PRAISE
"Funny, quirky, and sooooo different."
—Jo Michaels, Jo Michaels Blog
“Eccentric and Funny. You have never read anything like this book. It demands respect for the outrageous capacity of its author to describe in detail human behavior around death."
—Charlene Jones, author THE STAIN
“The macabre black comedy Heuer Lost And Found, written by A.B. Funkhauser, is definitely a different sort of book! You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour.”
—Diana Harrison, Author ALWAYS AND FOREVER
“This beautifully written, quirky, sad, but also often humorous story of Heuer and Enid gives us a glimpse into the fascinating, closed world of the funeral director.”
—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7
“The book runs the gamut of emotions. One minute you want to cry for the characters, the next you are uncontrollably laughing out loud, and your husband is looking at you like you lost your mind, at least mine did.”
http://teresanoel.blogspot.ca/2015/05...
“The writing style is racy with no words wasted.”
—David K. Bryant, Author TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA
“For a story centered around death, it is full of life.”
—Rocky Rochford, Author RISE OF ELOHIM CHRONICLES
“Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Heuer is not a likeable man, but I somehow found myself rooting for him. A strange, complicated character.”
—Kasey Balko, Pickering, Ontario
Raw, clever, organic, intriguing and morbid at the same time … breathing life and laughter into a world of death.
—Josie Montano, Author VEILED SECRETS
LINKS
Website: www.abfunkhauser.com
Scooter Page: http://abfunkhauser.com/wip-scooter-n...
Podcast: http://mhefferman.ca/author/podcasts/...
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser
Facebook: www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound
Publisher: http://solsticepublishing.com/
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1FPJXcO
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/abfunkhauser
Email: a.b.funkhauser@rogers.com
Audio Interview:
Interview Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2yha...
Interview Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoPth...
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Published on January 25, 2016 11:38 • 22 views

April 16, 2015

Many years ago, I hooked into a public television series that brought to life the detective novels of Dorothy L. Sayers. WHOSE BODY? CLOUDS OF WITNESS and UNNATURAL DEATH to name a few brought we, the devotees of Masterpiece Theatre and MYSTERY!, face to face with an immaculately dressed, preternaturally wealthy English nit named Lord Peter Wimsey. Fussy, feckless and a bit grating in his dedication to detail, he was the ideal sleuth, rambling freely against a background of country houses, ornate gardens and immaculately tended lawns. Fans couldn’t get enough of him and neither could his creator Sayers, whom aficionados said was actually in love with her creation.
Lord Peter might not be my type, but I certainly get the notion of a writer getting more out of the character than mere words on the page.
A lot of people have asked me where Jürgen Heuer comes from, and my answers vary, depending on my mood. Yes, he’s a work of fiction, but every fiction, to paraphrase Ian Fleming, “is precedent on some kind of fact.”
Heuer, like Sayers’ Wimsey, is incredibly real, although I doubt very much either she or I would make it through a meal with him without an outburst or two. Maybe it’s a condition of what inspires. The bad, the badder, the really, really broken. Good guys—perfect guys—just don’t pack the same punch. Heck, even Rhett Butler hung out at Belle Watling’s house of extraordinary extra circular activities, and NOBODY held that against him.
I did not set out to warp Heuer as much as I did. In fact, he plays rather nicely in the opening chapters of THE HEUER EFFECT which traces his early life. But there was something about the later man, the mature man, that courted the darkness. He’s been through the wars and has been affected by them, such that he screamed “go darker” and so I did.
The idea that the bad side of a character is more compelling than the good follows me to this day: The anit-appeal generated by the real life figure of Capt. John Graves Simcoe on AMC’s excellent TURN: Washington’s Spies, is a case in point. Excellently portrayed by actor Samuel Roukin, Simcoe wreaks havoc among Republican forces in Setauket Long Island, hangs innocents without a blink, and composes creepy love sonnets to a winsome lass who’d shoot him herself if she could. And all the while, the lanky red coat finds time to prep for higher office north of the border as the First Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. (True stuff and crikey, we even named a lake and a civic holiday after him.)
It’s not the rich sets, protagonists and dialogue that brings me back. It’s Simcoe, and it pains me to say so.
Likewise, there’s the affable, ne’er do well Saul Goodman from BETTER CALL SAUL, another AMC offering on hiatus after just ten episodes. Unlike Simcoe and Heuer, Saul is sweet, rubber faced and apologetically dishonest. With every bad deed, Saul struggles to do good and we love him for it. But each time he backslides into the old life—that of Slippin’ Jimmy from Cicero, Illinois—we’re on our feet, cheering. Shame we know how it ends: Saul is a prequel to BREAKING BAD. But the end’s not the point. It’s the “how” of the getting there that does it.
Heuer’s story isn’t over yet. The third book in the series “Unapologetic Lives” offers hope. But given this writer’s penchant for her creation, redemption is highly unlikely.
Salut, D.L. Sayers
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Published on April 16, 2015 11:28 • 48 views • Tags: fiction, gonzo-adult, mortuary, paranormal