Saturday, December 23, 2023

Witty's Year End Book Review 2023

Time flies when you're trying to get two books put together while juggling full-time librarian work. Ahh, but here we are at the end of 2023 and it's time to promote the books I've read this year that I'd like to share with you.

As a reminder, this list is not the best books that came out this year, but the best of what I've read this year. This means the book could be published five-ten years ago and I've just gotten around to it. The book should well be available in your local library (or you can always purchase online).

Best Fiction

Gator A-Go-Go, Tim Dorsey

A sad reason for re-reading this book due to the passing of author Tim Dorsey, writer of the Serge Storms series of wacky violent Florida-themed crime thrillers.

I decided to reach back to some of the better books in that series, and this story - an unusually dark tale even for Dorsey - stood out. If you've read one Serge book, you'll notice how most of the others will go: Serge and his drug-addled Sancho Panza figure (Coleman here) will get involved in a zany scheme to revel in a particular Floridian trend, in this story the annual Spring Break craziness of college students partying at the popular beaches. There will be a parallel story involving relative innocent characters - this time a college student getting hunted by a violent drug cartel seeking retribution - that Serge will intercept and then drag along to protect those characters all the while driving across the Sunshine State and driving everybody else mad.

Gator A-Go-Go is notable for throwing in a large number of side characters that Dorsey introduced over the years, including the Davenport family and the likes of "City" and "Country" (college girls fleeing from a crime they didn't commit). Coleman - drug abuser extraordinaire - gets to shine teaching the college kids how to handle their highs, and even teams up with his mirror character Lenny to complete the circle. It's also one of the books where Serge's skill set - highly inventive ways to kill bad guys or bad tourists - goes into some of his craziest kills yet, including a painfully simple-yet-effective "death by toilet" along with the reinvention of the ballista. But where Serge's violence is wacky fun, the narrative arc for the innocent character Andy - coming to terms with what the drug cartel did to hurt his family - gets deadly serious. It makes for one of Dorsey's most complex and plot-heavy books in the series.

I may be tempted to do a review of all the Serge books next year.

Best Non-Fiction

Revolutionary Roads: Searching for the War That Made America Independent, and All the Places It Could Have Gone Terribly Wrong, Bob Thompson

One of the more interesting historical reads I've seen, where Thompson takes a literal field trip to all the important places across the United States where the foundling nation fighting the British for independence, and does it in chronological order racing from the battlefields of Massachusetts and New York down to the swamps of South Carolina leading to Yorktown. In-between, he visits the smaller yet pivotal flashpoints where bad luck or a bad military order could have ended the fight and the new nation. 

Making this a delight - for an amateur historian like meself - are the interviews Thompson makes with fellow local historians who are well-versed in both the legends and the facts of what happened on those battlefields. One of the highlights in the book is when Thompson arrives at Saratoga, the victory for the Americans that convinced France and other European nations to support the rebellion, and where controversy over Benedict Arnold's role - the hero of Saratoga who ended up as America's greatest betrayer - questioned if he was as big a hero - and as tragic a figure - as common knowledge makes him. Talking with the local historians like Jim Hughto and Eric Schnitzer, Thompson weaves together the complex events of the Battle of Saratoga to give as much insight to the reader as possible... and I'd rather let you read the conclusions on p. 176 of the hardcover for yourself so I can encourage you to check this out.

Best Graphic Novel (or On-Going Series)

Wonder Woman (Dawn of DC series), Tom King writer and Daniel Sampere artist

With all of the in-universe Crises and crossover storylines that have consumed the DC Universe the past 20 years, I tend to be wary of any new reboot of the 'verse that follows all the other confusing reboots that have gone before.

This new Dawn of DC event meant to rebirth the major characters alongside a shared narrative of an Earth - and universe - now hostile to the superheroes that had been brought back from the dead (again) has a base storyline of Amanda Waller - wary of metahumans like never before - working with her government-controlled metahumans and super-powered agencies to remove the Justice League level superheroes along with the supervillains. As part of her plot, she's gotten the United States government - with a puppet President - to outlaw the Amazonian culture and their warriors - meaning Wonder Woman herself - to the point where outright war with the Amazons will be the only result.

In the midst of that, Diana is trying to bridge the gap between the forces and maintain a positive public persona while the media and US government openly attack her and her sisters... and failing, as Wonder Woman's allies in the US find themselves ostracized and as the leaders on Themyscira prepare for a fight.

King has been one of the more reliable writers in the DC 'verse over the years, able to deliver decent plotting and dialog, and I have high hopes he'll do this series well as the Dawn plotline progresses. I'm not familiar with Sampere's work as an artist although he's done previous work on various Superman titles. His work on this series is noticeably beautiful.

As for the whole Dawn of DC narrative... we'll see.

Best Work By Someone I Email, Tweet, or Chat With On a Regular Basis

Starter Villain, John Scalzi

I should be changing this requirement from Twitter to Bluesky as Elon Musk is killing Twitter (no I will NOT call it X), but anyway Scalzi is keeping up with new twisted tales in the science fiction / fantasy genres with this latest novel. A divorced, unhappy guy stuck as a substitute teacher and stuck in a house he inherited from his recently-passed dad finds himself stuck inheriting his uncle's parking garage empire... except that the parking garage empire is a cover for a supervillain empire. The guy Charlie suddenly finds himself competing against fellow supervillains while figuring out the rules of the game: The villainy isn't for blowing up stuff for world domination, it's selling the stuff that can blow up (that's where the real money is). He has to cope with being an evildoer and also coming to terms with the possibility his pet cats might be smarter at this than he is.

Done in a breezy, almost tongue-in-cheek style, with an eye towards deconstructing the James Bond vs. Spectre / GI Joe vs. Cobra narratives that Scalzi's generation (he's a fellow Xer) grew up enjoying, Starter Villain is a good read to get into once you're tired of binge-watching the Marvel shows on Disney-Plus. Get to it, people!

Best Work Including Stuff I Wrote

Funny Locations: Collected Stories, Paul Wartenberg

Finally, I got around to putting together a flash-drive full of short stories I've written since my college years, and piling up since my last collection of stories in the now-out-of-print Last of the Grapefruit Wars from almost 20 years earlier.

Bound around a theme of stories happening in different locales, with a hopefully humorous bent, this is something I hope appeals well to others. It's got a number of stories that I know have gone over well - "Fifth Annual Office Golf Showdown" is an award winner, and "Road Trip To Vegas" made semifinalist for the Royal Palms a few years back - and I mostly hope this self-published effort has all the speeling and grammah eroors all figured oot.

(pause) Goddarnnit...

Okay, all kidding aside. PLEASE do me the honor of buying my book and leaving good reviews anywhere and everywhere, thank you!

Sunday, December 17, 2023

If You Can Do Me a Favor this December 2023

To any of the readers out there who get a copy of my latest work Funny Locations and enjoy even a portion of the stories I offer to you: 

Please leave good reviews of that title both at the Amazon store page and also on the Goodreads website.

My book has its own page already (I didn't even have to edit it in!) at 

It's now # 8,288th on the Amazon bestsellers list
for Fiction Satire!!!


Monday, December 11, 2023

New Release: Funny Locations

Apologies for my distractions, but trying to get this uploaded to Amazon Publishing for both paperback and ebook release:

I hope you can see the UFO.
Book cover by M. A. Rehman
a cover artist available on Fiverr

I'll have the official publication date announced once it's confirmed, but the Kindle release is usually within a day.

Update: It's officially published! Amazon has the paperback and the Kindle ebook available for market!

This is a collection of stories ranging from revised / repaired versions released earlier in Last of the Grapefruit Wars (2004) alongside stories I've written and tried submitting in the years since. I have a personal favorite "Road Trip To Vegas" as the opening story - and the inspiration for the cover - all coming from the stories I consider "humor" and based on a diverse map of locales - from Las Vegas to Florida to Florida and Florida and also the Pacific Northwest and a little more Florida and Hong Kong and New Jersey and maybe a spot in Florida and New York City - to justify the book title. /grin

It doesn't include a particular ghost story which does have a road trip theme, because I'm still hoping to find another publication to see interest in it.

So this is how my year works out, people. Hopefully the readership out there will like the stories I tell.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

NaNoWriMo 2023 Success

Success in that I got to 50,000 words or more towards a nonfiction book!

It's still going to take a lot of work to turn it into an actual printed work.


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Going Back to My Old School in 2023

I am in the midst of my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project. This year, instead of writing a work of fiction, I've decided to work on a nonfiction project focusing on the political ideologies - the Isms - that define the American worldview.

In order to do it, I need decent research, and the best place for nonfiction research is an academic library.

So, I took a vacation day from work to drive up to Gainesville FL and visit the University of Florida libraries - arguably atop the public university system in the state - to find what I could for references for my writing.

This was also a homecoming of sorts for me. Since this is where I went to college to study for my journalism degree from 1988 to 1992. And it was a special homecoming because the library was where I spent most of my college life.

When did they add palm trees to the Plaza of the Americas???

During my journalism classwork I worked part-time, getting employment at the library itself in their cataloging department handling the book spine labels getting printed and applied. I enjoyed working the library more than working towards that degree (it didn't help that my grades were middling, I had to take Basic Reporting twice which was not a good sign). So it shouldn't be too surprising I ended up a librarian instead of a reporter.

While I've spent most of my career as a public librarian - working at the county/city level - my dream had been to work as an academic librarian in a university system, where the research demands were more intense and challenging. And the library I wanted to work at was at UF.

And in 2003 - twenty years ago - I got my wish. I was hired on to work at Library West - the main business / humanities / political science / general academia branch - as their Evening (tech support) Librarian.

And... it didn't last. Part of it was because the building itself went into a massive expansion / renovation to improve the floor space, which sent the West staff to work in a wing of Library East where almost none of the students visited - other than to check out DVDs - and it quickly jaded my experience. Another part was that I just didn't fit in, and I ran into a personal conflict or two with fellow staffers that led the HR department to hint that I should go find work elsewhere. By the time Library West reopened, I was looking for employment back closer to my parents and friends in the Tampa area, and I left in 2006.

I'd been back up to Gainesville from time to time: Whenever brother Phil (a fellow alum) went up to see football games with his sons, I would tag along to some of them; I had visited pre-pandemic to a SwampCon and walked the campus from Reitz Union to the library and back; and had driven by on recent swing-bys when I went to Tallahassee to advocate with the Florida Library Association's lobbying every year for funds.

But this would be the first time to visit the library and campus during a school day, and it was going to be - unavoidable - a nostalgic trip back to when I was in my early 20s, and a reminder of half the regrets I carry with me.

This video was in the early Tuesday morning, which is not often the busiest class day - class cycles were Mondays-Wednesdays-maybe Fridays, or Tuesdays-Thursdays - and relatively early enough that not every student was heading to class ("Never before 11!"). This was in the Turlington Hall plaza, between the main campus buildings for Turlington (where most of the humanities/social sciences were taught) and Marston (where some sciences - especially computer tech). The Century Tower is across the street. This plaza at midday is one of the centers of student life, where odds favor you bumping into half of your friends between sessions (the Plaza of the Americas in front of the main library is next, and then Reitz Union).

You had two main methods of getting across campus back in my day: By foot or by bike. Maybe skateboarding if you were cool enough. This visit I spotted a reasonably high number of scooters, apparently the technology - and collapsible steering rods - has improved.

The library itself hadn't changed much since the 2005 renovations, although they've moved equipment rooms around, and instead of copier machines they now use scanner trays which can email PDF copies to you (no more cash or student debit cards!).

Never try to walk and use a smartphone camera while turning a corner...

The welcome desk for the staff floor. You'll still get students asking "where can I study?" while standing in front of that sign.

When they renovated, it was to install the closing - accordion-style - shelves
to expand shelving in a limited space. Even then, UF libraries has so many books
they had to split branches by subject - Arts, Music, Education, Science, Journalism - just to give the main library room for history/literature/humanities/business/social sciences.
Even with this, UF has to maintain an off-campus storage for all the other books they need to keep.

Ahh, there I am.

I had published my short story collection in 2005, and donated copies
to the library for inclusion. The natural lifespan of a book by an unknown author
in a public library could be 5-10 years. An academic library by its nature
has to hold onto books as long as possible for research needs. In 20 years, depending on the circulation, this will likely go to Off-Campus Storage... say, 2025... /sigh 

I ventured back over to Library East, which is the Special Collections building.
Used to be the Cataloging department I worked in was on the third floor. That's been taken over by the Latin American collection that used to be on fourth (it was pretty cramped up there when I left in 2006). There was an elevator for East I had to use getting work as a student labeler, but it was sooooo slow I would take that stairwell (of which I took that photo). When I was 20, I could run those stairs to third floor without a problem. At 53, old and fat, there is no fucking way
I can run those stairs again.

I wore a Nirvana shirt to signal my Gen Xness in case the graying beard and aged eyes didn't give me away.

There is a spot between Librarys West and East where a fellow could sit, either before the library opened for work, or during the day on a snack break, and it was at this spot I would rest.
If it was early enough in the morning, some of the squirrels would be brave enough to approach me and beg for the candy M&Ms I would eat. I did share, but I worry now that I gave those squirrels diabetes.

The walkway between the business classrooms that take up the original (northeast) corner of the university, going through the Plaza en route to Turlington. This was in the mid-afternoon between the final round of the day's classes. I didn't want to take pictures of it being too busy because I wanted to avoid close-ups of people who wouldn't want to get photographed by a stranger.
You might notice there's one older brick path in-between two newer paths. There were SO MANY people biking and walking this path between the major parts of campus that the grassy areas along that original path wore down into dirt. The campus HAD to expand the brick pathway to accommodate
that traffic. The benches are super-new, though (I noticed memorial nameplates on several, so it's apparently a new fund-raising gimmick for alumni).

The Plaza of the Americas is the "official" spot to hold protests and political gatherings, and they seem to have an ongoing protest by the local Jewish student groups about the kidnapped hostages in the current Hamas-Israel Gaza War. It was quiet for now, no counter-protests by the sizable Middle-Eastern / Muslim student groups that are also on-campus.
My previous experience as a student - and library staffer - was that the on-campus Jewish and Muslim groups behaved themselves (because they shared a common enemy with the frats). I dunno how they're both handling the nightmare of war in Gaza right now...

On my way back from Library West to the Visitor Garage at Reitz, back through Turlington, one last look at the infamous rock statue locally known as "The Potato" (no lie, the Pokemon Go gym spot labels itself that).
I know it looks lumpy like a potato, but c'mon people, do you notice that large bump on that one side of the rock formation? I swear that's a thumb, and the statue is really a lumpy glove. IT'S A GLOVE, PEOPLE. Why am I the only one who sees it...?

Going back to where I had been 30 - even 20 - years ago brought back a lot of quiet memories, and a lot of the regret I know I carry with me. Above all, the regret that I did myself poorly not being more social and active while a college student. I didn't do much other than be with a science fiction club that struggled to reach more students, I did nothing to find a dating life among the young women that populated half the campus, I made few friends from that time and haven't kept up much with the ones I did.

A lot of physical changes had happened to the UF Campus - and to the businesses and eateries across the street, ye Gods the Pita Pit was gone??? - but there was still a lot that reminded me of how it was when I was a young man with his whole life still ahead of him. It's just... I wish that young man enjoyed his time in that moment a lot more...

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

It's Been 10 Years With a Wiggle Cat

On Halloween Night in 2013, a brave little tuxedo kitten began meowing for food and love and I offered both to her.

This is Wiggle Cat. I named her Ocean because the vet nurses
felt Wiggles was too silly for her.


This was in 2021 when I ordered a couple of cat posts during
the pandemic. Ocean prefers napping in this one, but the tall one
at the window is great for morning suntans.

And today October 31 2023 is our tenth anniversary together, you wiggler.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

I Survived Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Awards Dinner 2023

Well, this year for some reason the Florida Writers Association was not selling a Day-Only attendance for me to attend on Saturday, they were offering the full weekend which cut into my work schedule (and honestly I cannot afford). So I missed the conference presentations and discussion groups.

I did pay to attend the Royal Palm Awards banquet as I was a Finalist this year in the Nonfiction - Published Blog or Article category and I had high hopes for my submission "All Which Wicked Designs" this year.

Checking in before the dinner.

It seemed to be a smaller crowd than last year's, but well attended.
Only a handful were finalists, the rest were there for the good food
and the friendships.

People at my table wondered why the dessert was out first.
I suggested the possibility the cheesecakes were frozen served,
and the servers put it out early to warm up to room temp.

Nice mix of zucchini, mashed potatoes, and a chicken/steak combo.

I have to admit this photo is 7 years old, I may need a new
Author headshot.

And... well...


I received GOLD in the Blogging category!!! 

As I already planned to include the article in the collected essays book I'm currently putting together, I will need to include the update for it.

I did not receive printed stickers this year, because someone must have realized as an online article I had nothing physical to place stickers upon. I should get an image file shortly.


Sunday, October 15, 2023

Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2023

Once again into the deep dive of National Novel Writing Month!

This year, instead of stressing over a fiction novel idea that I quickly look narrative control over, I'm going to focus on a non-fiction work: Going with my background in journalism and my political interests, I've decided on writing about about American socio-political ideologies.

I've even got a title: American Isms.

I've done some preliminary research on the primary Isms - Liberalism and Conservatism, naturally - but also looking to include the less-common Isms - I'm finding there's no moderate/centrist Ism on record so I've got more research to fill that gap, arguing to give Pragmatism some due - to give it more depth.

We shall see how it goes.

In the meantime, if you're in the Lakeland / Polk County FL area needing a NaNo group to join for Write-Ins and inspiration, and if you've got a Facebook account, check here for the Facebook updates! Otherwise, sign up FREE with NaNo at their official site (link above) and join the US>FLorida>Lakeland Region for updates there!

Good luck, fellow writers!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Artwork for the Author, and Looking Ahead

Looking to spice up my authorship website(s) with some artwork, I commissioned an artist a friend recommended to me. Stephanie Folse worked with the suggestions I had - me going through a mystic library seeking that Book With the Blue Cover - and she came up with this.

It looks fantastic.

If you need someone for fantasy / science fiction book covers, I highly recommend Folse to you! She's at 

Also, I need to let people know that National Novel Writing Month is barely two more months away! I hope my fellow Lakeland area writers are gearing up for their novel projects!

Sunday, May 21, 2023

I Survived Bartow's Writers Block. Oh Boy, Did I Survive...

So yesterday was the inaugural street fair in Bartow FL for local authors to promote their works and help fundraise for Bartow's Community Service Center.

And, hoooooo boy, when I say "I survived," I am not kidding.

 The event organizers - as part of Main Street Bartow promoting street fairs on weekends to encourage local business and community events - had hoped for a large turnout of customers and costumers, as they had promised a costume contest and pet-friendly activities.

And for the first couple of hours, it wasn't TOO bad, considering how hot and humid the weather can get in central Florida in the middle of May. 

By noontime... One big NOPE about being outdoors without air conditioning or even fans/blowers to help cool the tent areas. Even in the tents, covered from the sun, you couldn't get away from the fact the street you were on was turning into an open-air oven. The humidity turned into a brick wall. You couldn't get up to move except for the fact that it was too hot to sit still.

Smarter people than I brought portable or rechargeable cooling fans, only to have their batteries run out. That's how hot it got.

I started plans on designing tent covers with sewn-in solar panels charging up ceiling fans you could mount inside the tent frame. (I've been informed someone may have beaten me to that)

We didn't get the big crowds I've seen for their annual SyFy street conventions in mid-Februarys (and THOSE could get relatively hot and bothersome, but tolerable). Almost no one showed up in costumes, except for one author promoting a fiction work about a zombie war in 19th Century Europe, dressed up in the woolen uniforms of that era. I was amazed that guy didn't collapse from heat stroke.

We did our best to raise money for the community center, but there was little else we could do. Finally, before 3:00PM, the organizers okay'ed an early end to the street fair to let us pack up and flee for air conditioning by 3:30PM.

To Sean and Lori, thank you for hosting, and I am sorry the climate was against us. This would be a fun thing to do for local authors, except we gotta consider better times of the year. Some of the attendees were offering suggestions - my personal one is to build everything in downtown Bartow up to five stories high and install street cover roofs with solar panels to charge up massive F-16 sized blowers mounted at ground level to keep everything air conditioned during these street fairs, but we'll need federal aid for all that - and some of the more practical ones deserve some thought.

With that, sharing a few more photos of people I met at the event and pics from other attendees I'm stealing off Facebook...

Big hello back to Bill Hatfield, whos been at many of these
statewide authors events over the years! He's still recovering
from major health issues, best wishes and healthy hugs to him!

These photos were from earlier in the day, when the heat and humidity wasn't wilting everybody in sight.

That fan was the biggest reason why these authors were smiling on-stage.
That bottle of water was there in case any of them burst in flames.

These were the other local authors invited to the event. Several of them did dress up as part of the scheduled events - there was a Jane Austen-themed tea party - and the author who dressed up as Anne Rice was kind of the default winner of the "Dress As A Famous Author" contest.

We did our best to print out a big check to the Bartow Community Center!

Big shout out to Marie, my neighbor at that Fountain Lakes apartments so long ago, who was there at the event volunteering for the food vendors and providing overall moral support. You can tell the humidity was getting to me at that point.

So that being all said and done... oh man I need another nap ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oh right, uh, until the next writers event... KEEP ON TYPING, YOU FIENDS. ZzzzzZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 

Sunday, May 14, 2023


Oh, I should have mentioned this sooner.

I will be one of many local authors at the Bartow Writers' Block Party and Street Fair happening this Saturday May 20th from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Lemme get the details here:

All types of activities including, painting with a friend, kids coloring with a Klingon, a Jane Austen panel, guest speakers, music & so much more.

We are inviting people or their pets, to dress up as characters from books. This also includes your favorite author like Herman Melville, HG Wells, Mary Shelly, Edgar Rice Burroughs. The skies are the limit on who you want to be. It could be from a movie that was adapted from a novel or a character from the book itself, including the author.

It's a pet-friendly event, but make sure your alligator is emotionally prepared to attend.

There will be painting activities for kids and teens, I believe.

Food vendors will be in the area, so lunches and refreshments are available (bring moneys for books and food, don't eat the books eat the food).

I may have drink mugs and mousepad giveaways. I need to check supplies.

To the nine people I think follow me, hope you can make it to Bartow this Saturday!

Friday, May 5, 2023


Which is also considered Revenge of the Sixth for tomorrow, because May 5th conflicts with Cinco De Mayo...

Lemme get you some Sith:


Nickelback just called, Megan, they need you for the next tour.

This whole transition thing is a thing on TikTok and YouTube...

But how long have the geeks been making lightsaber video clips???

This was maybe 17 years ago (!):

FINISH HIM! Wait, wrong franchise...

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Kicking Myself

It was more than a year ago, but I'm still kicking myself over losing a USB Flash drive that contained the most current stories and writing projects I had on file.

I forgot a cardinal rule of working with computer files: BACK IT UP. Some of the stuff had earlier versions of stories on file on a hard drive between my desktop computer and my laptop, but I had foolishly kept the major stuff - especially a gathering of short stories I was planning to put into a new anthology - onto that one USB stick... and then I couldn't find it.

If I'm lucky, it just fell behind some furniture that's too heavy to lift up at the moment. I'm not desperate enough to re-arrange the entire townhouse to find it. However, it's frustrating me enough to curse my very existence.

If I had to, I could recover some of the works and edit them back up to where I'm sure I had my finished drafts, but I am definitely missing several key stories I would love to include in that planned anthology to make it all tie together in a nice theme.




Friday, March 17, 2023

If You're Wearing Green Today, You Won't Get Pinched (Also More Quiet Man clips)!

 Happy St. Patrick's Day ye Irish devils ye. Have some shenanigans from Inisfree!

The drinks are on the house! (every spit-takes) Well, they ARE!

The whole movie is like this. Impetuous! Homeric!!!

Erin Go Bragh!!!

Friday, January 13, 2023

Friday the 13th Black Cat Sighting for 2023

Almost wrote "For 2022" but yeah it's a new year, ya moran.

ANYWHO, Who wants to say hello to a krazy kat on a Friday the 13th!!!!

This giant Feline of Ferociousness was only willing to pose with a bowl of dry food over his head, heading the yearning eyes, the quick meowing insisting on FEED ME, etc etc. 

Mal the Krazy Kat will also be rooting for the Seattle Seahawks this playoff weekend because he was born during their Super Bowl win 9 years ago (has it been that long already?).