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Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast – A Free Sample Sneak Peek!!! Part 2 November 11, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Here’s Part Two of the sneak peek PDF for my new novel, Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast.

It’ll be available later this week on Amazon, in both paperback and electronic form!

Once it’s up on there, it will surely have a “Look Inside!” button for sneak previews, but in the meantime, these PDFs that will take you into Chapter 3 will suffice. And don’t call me Shirley.

Click Here For “Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast” Sneak Peek Part Two!

and in case you missed it,

Click Here For “Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast” Sneak Peek Part One!!

Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast is the story of a too-smart little girl and her too-clever little brother who have to become time travelers in order to SAVE THE WORLD!

The entire timeline of culinary history has gone wrong, and everyone is eating garbage for breakfast. History must be put right, and Phigg & Clyde are the only ones who can do it, since their Timekeeper Uncle has been kidnapped.

Well, they can do it once they learn how to be Timekeepers. And certainly, the forces of EVIL behind these diabolical changes in the breakfast timeline will surely try to stop them…. or worse.

Historic recipes included so that you can taste along!


Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast: A Free Sample Sneak Peek!!! (Part 1) November 7, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Available very soon on Amazon – here’s part one of a two-part sneak peak at my new book, Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast.

Click on the link below to download a sample 33 page PDF of the Prologue, Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2!

Click Here To Get Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast – Sample Part One!


I’ll post Part 2 of the sneak peek by the weekend!


My Official Author’s Portrait November 4, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, General, Writing.
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I think it captures my essence, don’t you?

This is my bio blurb pic for the interior of Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast, coming very soon from yours truly over on Amazon.

Watch this space during this week for some previews & PDFs of a chapter or two!!

And FYI: That mug will contain tea FAR more often than coffee, and NOT catnip tea either.

Perhaps dressing up the cat in a beat-up old suit and fedora & changing the mug to a half empty whiskey bottle may go well with the Professor Wagstaff series. We’ll see.

Art by Elinor Shapiro.

Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast: The Back Cover November 1, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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You’ve seen the front cover, here’s the back.

Art by Elinor Shapiro, copy by yours truly.

Phigg (short for Iphigenia) and Clyde are sister and brother. She loves to solve puzzles, and he loves to build and fix things. Their Uncle Phineas looks after them while their professor parents are out of town, but…

…. Uncle Phineas vanishes! And then it turns out that he is a Timekeeper – a guardian of history who maintains the historic timelines in case things go wrong.

Clearly whoever kidnapped him must be bent on altering all of time!

They must have done something… because now people eat breakfast at night, and they’re eating fish heads, soup bones and clam juice.


Phigg & Clyde better rescue Uncle Phineas and put things right again….

Coming soon!

And my next Phigg & Clyde posts will have some chapter samples to whet your appetite, as well as more of Elinor’s art from the interior.

Stay tuned!


Announcing A New Book Series! Phigg & Clyde Are On The Way! October 30, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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The first entry in my new young adult (of all ages, really) light adventure scifi series will be available on Amazon and elsewhere in early November!

Phigg & Clyde Save Breakfast is the story of a too-smart little girl and her too-clever little brother who have to become time travelers in order to SAVE THE WORLD!

The entire timeline of culinary history has gone wrong, and everyone is eating garbage for breakfast. History must be put right, and Phigg & Clyde are the only ones who can do it, since their Timekeeper Uncle has been kidnapped.

Well, they can do it once they learn how to be Timekeepers. And certainly, the forces of EVIL behind these diabolical changes in the breakfast timeline will surely try to stop them…. or worse.

Historic recipes included so that you can taste along!

Yes, this is the actual “kid’s book” oft referred to in both Wagstaff mysteries. I wrote it some time ago and unfortunately subjected it to Hollywood Hell™ before doing a revision and getting some new illustrations done for this new 2018 edition.

I’ll add blog entries until its release  – so watch this space for sample chapters, examples of the wonderful illustrations by Elinor Shapiro, recipes and other stuff!

It’ll be both in paperback & an e-book for the Kindle & tablets. Early November is not far away!

Thrift Store Triumph & Tragedy September 22, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, General, Writing.
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Been blog-absent for some time now, sorry. Finishing up a new book that y’all can watch this space for in a few weeks – not the new Wagstaff novel, but the first entry in a NEW series, this one a young adult scifi adventure tale that I’m sure adults can enjoy as well – and I’ve also devoted much time to work, an interesting investment exercise, and sports sports sports.

But in the meantime, a tale I’m inspired by today’s events to tell.

About a week ago while rummaging through yet another thrift store, I came across a pristine jet black 100% cashmere sport coat which I took as a sign from God to buy since it fit me PERFECTLY. The price tag was a tad steep for the thrift store universe since it had a Dior label, but between knowing the money would go to charity and a surprise $25 refund from my eye doctor the very same day, I figured I could simply average it with the other 100% cashmere blazer I found in a thrift store some months ago for a mere $3 and call it a day.

So today, I’m out running some errands and figure that I may as well hit the Goodwill to see what’s turned up in the book bin mostly, and lo and behold… another beautiful jet black blazer, only this time, 100% camels hair. I got a gray and a navy blue camels hair jacket, why not another black one? Evan-Piccone for Macy’s, too, a decent make. And this one was tagged at only ten bucks AND it was the discount color of the week making it only FIVE BUCKS!!!! This thing new would have been at least $150 or more.


A 43 large, as it turned out. If I was 2 inches taller and 15 pounds heavier I might have gotten away with it, but that wasn’t happening. I’m a 40 regular and can get away with a 39, but that’s about it.

What a bummer. It deeply hurt me to have to put such an amazing bargain back on the rack even when I’ve already got a nice black jacket.

Actually, I have three. One is regular wool, and the other a velvety cotton number that I like to think of as my Dracula-as-pimp jacket. But the camels hair would have been a nice addition to the upper-end of the Wagstaff wardrobe.

AND the book selection at Goodwill was meager. Bah.


Was this payback for my dream the other night where Fred “Rerun” Berry from What’s Happening? followed me to my car and asked me to drive him to Pasadena because there’d be “a few beers in it” for me and I turned him down, breaking HIS heart?

Yes, I really have dreams like that. Either the shrimp marinara for dinner that night, or my own insanity.

So, I’m only batting .500 for nice jackets this September.

But soon…. watch this space…. I think my batting average for novels worth reading will remain at 1.000 with the new YA entry. Stay tuned!



RIP, Harlan Ellison June 28, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Movies, Television, Writing.
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Died in his sleep, according to a family announcement today. He was 84.

As he said, “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

Ellison is one my favorites. I wrote this about him many years ago, so I’ll link it here.

A Decent Haul May 19, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books.
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Today’s gleanings from a big annual library sale I make a point of hitting every year.

Not too bad… two books on Hollywood. One all about government files on various Hollywood personalities (the cover blurb on Lou Costello’s giant porn collection made it an instant into-the-box decision), and another “Cut!” which is basically the encyclopedia of celebrity death and murder. Now THAT’S entertainment.

Also a very extensive academic study of the origins of bible stories, which seems more a candidate for looking up a particular bible episode and reading about it rather than a cover-to-cover read.

Frank Kermode’s “Shakespeare’s Language,” another one to add to my never-ending Shakespeare kick, this one analyzing how the language evolved & changed from Titus Andronicus to The Tempest.

Also what looks like a very interesting book on Victorian-era forensic science applied to Sherlock Holmes stories, or the real-life history behind the inspirational material for The Murdoch Mysteries, I guess.

Another book on technical analysis trading to add to my shelf load – and much like my filtering for adding cookbooks (since I already have too many of those, too), I skimmed through parts of it and what she has to say about specific trading indicators and signals looked intriguing enough to spend A WHOLE DOLLAR on it.

An old book on how to approach publishers and agents, something I’m planning on making another go at after getting the next two books out there by year’s end. I’m sick of doing all my own marketing and publicity and the like. It’s very exhausting. And while I’ve read and am cynical about much of the how-to-get-published material out there, this guy’s in-your-face attitude and advice seems like it would be worth looking at, since much of what he’s talking about really hasn’t changed in the publishing biz since he put this book out over 30 (eek!) years ago. His advice on the psychology of pitch & sell looked totally applicable to today.

And finally, rounding things out (pun intended), Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat. I never read this one, only read summaries of Taubes’ theories online, and since his principles helped me drop some weight and keep it off while not sacrificing my gourmet inclinations, I figured it’d be worth a read.

The next big book sale & safari comes up in about a month. <Cut to Rocky-esque training montage…>


Saturday Roundup: Patriots Draft Picks, Cat Petting And A Book Safari April 28, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Books, Cats, Football.
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Today I went on a quest for cheap furniture – combing through a bunch of thrift stores in search of a replacement comfy corner chair for my classroom, as the old one is on its last legs, literally. Came up empty there, but found a couple of good books as long as I was there.

One looks like a nice true narrative of a major art forgery scandal called Provenance, about a forger & conman who managed to get the forgeries into collections and museums all over Europe where they remain to this day.

If forgeries sell tickets, they’ll say on the walls. It’s not like the public can ever tell the difference.

I read a lot of books on art forgery and theft rings while working out story elements for Wagstaff & Meatballs, and I continue to enjoy reading about the topic.

I also picked up a copy of The Truth Will Out: Unmasking The Real Shakespeare, a 2005 book that put forth a Shakesperean authorship theory I’m not as familiar with, making the case for Sir Henry Neville as the actual author of the plays & poems. CONFESSION: I am a confirmed skeptic as to the accepted idea that the Stratford actor Shakepeare wrote all that material, and I lean towards the Oxfordian theories. I think there’s a much stronger case to be made against Shakespeare than any positive case can be made for the different supposed authors, but I’m open to reading anything as well researched as this thing seems to be from my first skims. And it was only a buck!

And a brief Wagstaffesque synchronicity moment: As I browsed the racks of books coming up empty, some old dude who looked WAY too much like Scott Adams of “Dilbert” fame browsed the shelves over my shoulder, and he carried a couple of big volumes he’d scooped up. One of ’em was some enormous compendium all about Shakespeare performances in America. I always get annoyed every time I see other people holding onto books I didn’t get a crack at whenever I’m at some thrift store or library sale or whatever, and I thought to myself how it’d be cool if I found another Shakespeare book, especially on the author conspiracy theory.

Before I left the store, I figured I’d check the unsorted new-old-junk racks they’d just wheeled out…. and that’s where I found The Truth Will Out book.

On top of that? The Shakespeare authorship mischigoss is one of the elements in the third Wagstaff book I’m currently writing.

So I guess it immediately goes to the top of my reading list.

I got rewarded for visiting the thrift store in the same shopping center as a pet supply place with a big black store cat who I like to visit and pet whenever I’m jonesin’ for kitty. He’s easily found napping on one of his many dedicated cat trees around the store. Today I learned his name – Carlos the cat. I already knew he preferred chin rubs to damn near everything else. I didn’t disappoint him.

Then I came home and reviewed the rest of the Patriots draft picks in the final rounds today. It looks like they plugged all the position holes left by departing players. They scored a couple of cornerbacks who might replace Malcolm Butler. They got a wide receiver whose physicality and stats suggest a replacement for Danny Amendola, both in the slot and in punt returns. They picked up a couple of linebackers who will hopefully make good pass rushers, something they need badly. And, they did indeed draft a quarterback, Danny Etling out of LSU, a kid who doesn’t turn the ball over but clearly needs a lot of work. Can THE SYSTEM that made Cassell and Garroppolo into NFL quarterbacks work its magic on this kid? I certainly hope so, but who knows?

My realistic & cynical heart tells me that the Pats will be in a bad place psychologically next year. Losing the Superbowl despite what the offense accomplished and the controversy around the benching of Butler will hang over the psyche of the team akin to how the Seahawks were dogged by “Why didn’t we just run it into the end zone?” and how the Falcons were dogged by “Why didn’t we run down the clock and kick a field goal?” when they respectively blew both of their Superbowls against the Pats. Now it’s the Pats turn, I fear, and some of the stuff said by departing players about the overall not-fun and overly-regimented atmosphere within the team culture only bolsters my feelings. It all has that win-the-division-by-default but then go out in the first round as the third seed vibe. You heard it here first, sports fans. And I hope I’m wrong.

Now I’m throwing a soup & potstickers light dinner together and watching the Yankees pounding the Angels, at least so far. THIS IS THE YEAR!

New theory: Aaron Judge wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays. I’ll get back to you on my research.


Journeying Through Some Old Mystery/Horror Comics, Part 1 April 8, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Books, Cats.
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I recently bought a boatload of old 1960s-1970s Gold Key horror/mystery comic book scans from this guy’s online store, and have been plowing through them.

It’s been a lot of childhood nostalgia, as well as a lot of memory-poking of old stories and the actual old comic books I’ve got boxed up & totally unorganized (perhaps a summer project might be going through them all & fixing that). The actual copies of these things are pretty tough to find and aren’t too cheap, so the digitized deal is quite the good one, if you enjoy this sort of crap.

And I certainly do!

I started out reading the complete run of the Dark Shadows series, all 35 of ’em. I have one actual issue of the thing, bought by my mom since we were both fans of the actual show at the time, and it disappointed both of us.

And in reading the rest, the reasons for that disappointment so many years ago still stand – while the Gold Key DS series reproduces a few of the characters from the show & utilizes vampire/werewolf/witchcraft plotlines, it doesn’t have the tone of the show at all. The art is also poor – the only character who looks like her TV counterpart is Joan Bennett’s Elizabeth. Barnabas the vampire is the main character & hero of the thing, but Julia’s role from the TV show is reduced to nothing, and Angelique only turns up a few times to torment him as a ghost. And they don’t look anything like Grayson Hall and Lara Parker, nor does Barnabas look like Jonathan Frid.

Later comic book versions of the thing I perused on Amazon are far truer to the look & feel of the 1966 TV series, and anything beats the forced campiness of the Tim Burton movie. I trudged through them, a couple of the stories weren’t too bad, but overall, weak tea.

Then I started on two different comics I had a few issues of back in the day – The Twilight Zone and Ripley’s True Ghost Stories. Both of these titles began in the early 1960s and ended around 1980 or so.

The T-Zones have a wider range of stories, from offbeat scifi to eerie revenge tales, similar to the TV show. A comic Rod Serling serves as narrator, and while the art is generic, there are clear attempts by the artists to crib the look of some characters from familiar faces of TV actors who you’d expect to turn up on the show. While many of the stories are formulaic and hit a real dead spot in the mid 1970s before recovering somewhat before the title ended, a lot of them are pretty good. Much like the show, you can categorize the stories into various sub-genres: someone changes identity (either via clothes, bodies, faces, masks, etc) and things go right or more often wrong; someone gets wishes granted and things go wrong; someone enters the past/alternate dimension/reality and must escape;weird unreal stuff happens to someone ordinary and then we find out we’re not in an ordinary world, a la “Eye of the Beholder,” etc.

The Ripley’s stories are all along similar lines – someone in the present or the past comes across some place that’s haunted, some local or creepy caretaker tells them the sad story of some wrongful death that resulted in the ghost, and they either GTFO or find a way to put the spirit to rest. The best of these are either the creepiest, such as one tale of a voodoo shaman with a sugar cane harvesting zombie army who try to dig their way back into their own graves, or ones where the “believe it or not” aspect is most likely true – like the story of two graverobbers who accidentally revive the “corpse” whose jewels they try to steal – a young woman who then returns home after being mistaken for dead and several years later gives birth to Sir Walter Scott.

I’m moving through the Grimm’s Ghost Stories series and the Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery ones now, more on those later. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite stories from the collection so far… read it & you’ll see why I’ve always liked it.  It’s written (uncredited) by the legendary comic writer Len Wein. Link to PDF: A Thing About Cats