In Print: Collin County Partied at Kids’ Expense

My investigative piece on the mismanagement of Star Children’s Charity in Collin County is online and in your mailboxes.

It was the kind of cool November evening in Frisco that allowed gentlemen to wear tuxedos without perspiring, while the ladies could still go bare shouldered in their Carmen Marc Valvo. As premium brands flowed from the open bar, guests in the Embassy Suites’ Grand Ballroom pored over four- and five-figure silent auction items like diamond rings and a $10,000 Super Bowl ticket package. Dinner, a live auction, a magic show, and casino games would follow.

From all outward appearances, Star Children’s Charity’s annual Winter Ball was a huge success. Guests, who paid a minimum of $250 per ticket, must have assumed that tens of thousands of dollars were raised by Star, which funnels money to other Collin County nonprofits that serve children. But it’s not at all clear whether Star made money that night (expenses ran north of $200,000). And, if it did make money, Star will have to use those funds to dig itself out of a deep red hole created by making pledges in past years to charities that it couldn’t fulfill. Take a look at Star’s books, ask around in Collin County nonprofit circles, and a picture of profound mismanagement begins to emerge.

“Besides hiding their liabilities and not fulfilling their commitments, they are telling people, ‘You don’t need to support this agency. You can support Star, and we will get the money to them,’ ” says a member of one nonprofit that has worked with Star. The source, like several who spoke to D Magazine, asked not to be named. “Star is just getting in the way and eating up donor dollars with their high overhead.

Full story here.

My Book Is Being Shopped Around

My first full-length novel, The Merchant Princes: A Far Ranger Adventure, is being shopped around. I’m closer to getting it published.4460450363_4668c02004_b

It’s a very different 1928. The North American continent is comprised of several rival nations, the Nazis came to power in Germany a decade sooner, and science and the supernatural co-exist.

The Nazis have hatched a plot to raise a legion of undead soldiers. An anti-Nazi faction within-1 the Third Reich recruits a young Prussian doctor, Dr. Kurt von Deitel, to find help in the West to stop this devious plan.auroraheadshot02smalljpeg

Enter Sean Fox Rucker and Jesus D’Anconia Lago, two Great War veterans and freelance pilots who are reluctantly pulled into the quest. They are joined by a brash Greek merchant, a brilliant Jewish cowboy, and the woman who once broke Rucker’s heart.

The heroes race against Nazi clockwork assassins, a charismatic commando, a telekinetic sadist, and transgenic man-beasts known as wehr-wolves.

IMG_1078The quest takes them around the world, with settings both familiar and exotic: Colombia, Austin, dieselpunk_nazithe capital of the Union States in New York City, a floating city over the Caribbean, Rome, and Poenari Castle in Transylvania. Along the way, they encounter well-known historical figures and uncover the shocking truth about the real Spear of Destiny.

german-nazi-airship-color-picture-from-wwii-1The Merchant Princes recaptures the unapologetic adventure, excitement and suspense of the classic pulp fiction of the 1930s and 1940s, along with a healthy dose of steampunk, historical fiction and humor.

LOCKHEED ELECTRA (11)Yet it also alludes to philosophical and moral issues relevant to our world today: the trade-off between security and liberty, the morality of pre-emptive war, and what fundamentally separates good from evil.

3961483861_90e4b233af_bIt’s got Nazis, zombies, cowboys, robots and airships. Isn’t that everything you want in a book?

Me Out There, or I Didn’t Know AOL Was Still Around

Yes, they are still around, and I’m occasionally writing for them. Simple stuff like “Best Places for a Man Date” or “Best Hot Dogs.” (articles unrelated) Basically, it’s stuff like this here.

Anyway, it’s on CitysBest and if you have any ideas for best of lists in the Dallas area — Best Rainy Saturday Options, Best Yoga Studios, Best Cheap Eats, Best Whatever The Hell — please drop me an email and I’ll pitch it to my editor there.

In Print This Month: A Look at Bill McNutt

On your news stand or in your mailbox, the June issue of D Magazine with my feature on Bill McNutt, the alumnus arrested and now under the spotlight.

Here’s a teaser. Follow the link for the full story.

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The details of Bill McNutt’s February arrest—at least the details that have been made public—don’t add up. The prominent SMU alumnus had been banned from campus since November 2008. A university official would later tell the Dallas Morning News that SMU had “heard reports of alleged questionable behavior that caused concern among some students.” McNutt had dinner parties at his house, and he invited students to them. Alcohol was available. So was a masseuse. Several people told the News that the dinners were “creepy,” and girls felt pressured to undress for a private massage in a mirrored back room.

But even if true, none of that was illegal. So why would the university ban a donor and the founding president of the Young Alumni Association from campus? And why, if he was banned, did McNutt continue to receive personal invitations to on-campus functions from members of the administration? The administration was saying one thing; SMU Police Chief Rick Shafer was saying another. He warned McNutt that he was “not welcome on the SMU campus for any reason whatsoever.”

In Print This Month — C’est Moi

My column on the hunt for a new top cop for Dallas is up on the web now.

Read it here.Picture 1

Also, I get some kind words from Rudy Bush at City Hall.

Health Care and Brown, Take 2

An old chum and lawyer has a different take on what’s what for government-run health care now.

So now for something completely different…

My Piece on Judge Dread is in D’s December Issue

There’s always that guy who stays long after the party has ended. Drop all the hints you want. But he’s going through your music collection and checking to see if your couch folds out. Tell him you have an early meeting, and he’ll ask if you have anything to make a sandwich with.

Which brings us to Judge Charles Sandoval, arguably the most ineffective judge working in Dallas County today.

The party that Sandoval won’t let end gracefully started in 1996, when he took over the 380th District Court in Collin County

Read the rest online or in the print product.

UPDATE: Link fixed. Thanks to Joker’s Wild, Max Girth and Dear Amanda for alerting me. I’m leaving the comments — I’ll always edit other people’s comment mistakes on request, but my screw ups stay. Keeps me humble. Which is another of my great qualities. Hell, if there were a Humble Olympics, I’d take the gold.

My Speech Will Be Fabulous. My Shoes, Not So Much

I’m speaking to the Log Cabin Republicans this Monday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. It’s open invite, but please RSVP here so they can have the right size room reserved.

What will I talk about? I may just recite Stan Smith’s speech. And work on my musical number:

Surely I Should Have Been in the Top 50

Lots happening, little time to post. But there’s this: I made #91 on the Hall of Wackos. (Should be higher, in my humble opinion.)

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To which a friend added this comment, though I don’t know if the guy will allow it:

“Only 91#? I know Trey, and believe me, he belongs in the top 5. With
every person he meets for the first time, he puts a handgun and an
American flag in front of them. If you reach for the gun, he shoots
you with his own gun. If you reach for the flag, he stabs your hand
with a fork. Apparently, the correct answer is to pull out your own
gun and your own flag. He married the woman who also had a pocket copy
of the Constitution. Also, that photo is outdated. He has warpaint
permanently tattooed across his face. And he no longer wears clothes.”

Counterpoint: Shawn Williams Makes the Case For

My friend and news entrepreneur Shawn Williams of Dallas South Blog makes his case in support of the Obama speech to schools.

Read it here.