Monthly Archives: August 2011

“The Gift of El Tio” Trailer–Hollywood Here We Come!

It’s December, 2010.  The Gift of El Tio launches.  The orders rush in.  The books fly off our shelves.  We rush order another printing.  The books are selling like hotcakes.  It was all we could do to keep bookstores stocked and fill amazon packages for eager readers like you.
A few weeks ago, two members of the Fuze team (one of them the multi-talented author Mark Saunders whose book Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak will be released in October!) caught their breath long enough to produce the following trailer for The Gift of El Tio.  So if you still haven’t experienced the amazing journey this book will take you on, here’s a glimpse at the treat in store for you.  And if you have read it, enjoy an expedition down memory lane, with a few priceless photographs to enhance your trip. 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


Make His Nose Bigger

By Mark Saunders

This is the blog in which I admit to being a gag cartoonist.  Because I’ve already admitted to once owning a Yugo, I have nowhere to go but up.

Gag cartoons are known as magazine filler.  That’s pretty much how I started cartooning, too.  As part of a team of U.S. Navy journalists assigned to the Seabees, I was partly responsible for putting out a monthly magazine whenever we were on an overseas deployment.  To fill up copy space, I started drawing cartoons.  A lifelong doodler, I took to cartooning like a hungry shark at a surfing contest.

This was before they had books teaching you how and where to send gag cartoons.  Fortunately, Writer’s Digest Magazine had a weekly column on cartooning and that’s where I received my first lessons.  The process was simple.  Usually, a cartoonist would draw a batch of gags, maybe ten, and send them to an appropriate magazine.  The magazine would buy or hold what they liked and send the rest back.  I sent my first batch of cartoons to Playboy Magazine.  They were, of course, all rejected, but it was the best rejection a newbie cartoonist could hope for: a real letter, signed from the cartoon editor, and carrying the embossed seal of the magazine.

Undeterred, I sent the same batch to a new magazine looking for “Playboy-style” cartoons and they bought three.  I was on clouds nine through fifteen.  Unfortunately, the only person who could find the magazine with my cartoons in it was my grandfather, a retired Western Pacific railroad man.  He located the magazine in a cigar store in Oakland, California, stashed among all the other, ahem, adult magazines.  My grandmother cut my silly cartoons from the magazine and placed them in the family Bible. On one side of each tear sheet was my cartoon, on the other was a story about a man’s throbbing missile or a woman’s heaving breasts.  

Years later, long since out of the military, I partnered with friend and fellow cartoonist, David Boxerman.  Together we created and syndicated three weekly cartoon panels.  The first panel, “The New Epicureans,” ran in several newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News, where it lasted five years.  A month after launching the panel, the food editor asked me to reduce the noses on the drawings, because, as he said, their audience was sophisticated.  Three years later, we ran a caption contest and received more than 500 entries.  After reading most of the entries, the food editor called and told us we could make the noses bigger again.  His audience wasn’t as sophisticated as he had thought.

While working in the Silicon Valley during the early eighties, I joined a San Francisco Bay area group of cartoonists and writers.  A few members were stars of the cartoon universe, such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”), Hank Ketcham (“Dennis the Menace”), and Gus Arriola (“Gordo”).  Most members, however, were like me: no name cartoonists who had been drawing since they were in diapers. 

Our monthly dinner meetings usually featured a guest cartoonist, such as Garry Trudeau (“Donnesbury”) or Sergio Aragonés (MAD Magazine, Groo the Wanderer), to name two.  The special guest would give a “chalk talk” and draw a few ‘toons while delivering a presentation.  After, we’d hold a question and answer period.  A fellow member—his name was Art—would always ask the same question: “What kind of pen do you use?”  I suspect he thought there was magic in a specific pen and if he could find the right Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo pen, his career would be set.

So this is for Art, wherever he may be.  At first, I drew cartoons with a basic black marker pen, sometimes an extra fine Sharpie.  Later, I used a software program called SuperPaint on a Macintosh computer.  When The Saturday Evening Post bought one of my cartoons, they asked for the original.  I told them I had created the cartoon on my computer and I wasn’t sending them my machine.  The editor wrote back to tell me they had a policy of not accepting “computer generated art” but didn’t think my drawing looked as if it came from a computer.  They paid me and ran the cartoon.  No magic involved.    

The Carmen Memoranda sketch accompanying this blog was not the one purchased by the Post; however, I’ve included it as an example of the cartoon style I employed using the computer.  The Retired Realtors gag is an example of my marker pen style.

When my wife and I lived in Mexico the first time, I created a cartoon panel, “Mas o Menos,” for the local bi-lingual weekly newspaper.  Some of the cartoons are included in my book Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak as, dare I say, filler. 

Questions, suggestions, objections?  Feel free to contact me at:

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Where’s Walden?

By Mark Saunders

In the pre-Malcolm Gladwell days, a tipping point was the moment at which you had one too many during happy hour.  As a part-time writer trying to squeeze in my words or pictures before going to work in the morning, late at night after Arlene had gone to bed, or over the weekend in hourly chunks, I reached a tipping point, Gladwell style, after winning a Walden fellowship, which was awarded to three Oregon writers or artists each year. 

Arlene encouraged me to accept the fellowship.  My manager at work also told me to accept it and said my job would be waiting for me.  I did and it was.

In 2002, the fellowship gave me six weeks in a small cabin in the Southern Oregon woods, where I was to do nothing but write, eat when hungry, look for Bigfoot, and walk the dog several times a day.

The experience was liberating.  For the first time in my life, my job, the entire point of my day, if you will, was to write whatever I wanted to write. How cool was that?  . 

Post-college my resume read like a good-grief of odd jobs: military journalist, medical librarian, college instructor, book packer, mill worker, business owner, technical writer, software documentation manager, marketing manager.  If I could have thrown in gold prospector and hobo, I would have been Jack London, except the only fire I can build in the great outdoors involves a Weber grill and propane tank.  Between and during those jobs, I always worked on creative projects, mostly writing and cartooning.

I even tried standup comedy for a couple of years to get over my shyness and really sucked at it—the standup part, not the shyness.  Bits about working in hi-tech and lines like, “What do you say we go up to my place and exchange bilabial fricatives?” did not exactly kill in biker bars.

So I began writing plays, short plays befitting my height and attention span.  I soon discovered writing plays to be far more rewarding than doing standup.  At least I didn’t sprint to the bathroom and flash the hash every time I worked on the opening scene of a play.  I left that to the actors.

As a movie nut, it was only natural for me to start writing screenplays next.  So I did.  One of my scripts, “Poodle Call,” was optioned by Hollywood but never filmed.  It’s a story about a divorced dad who teams up with his son to coach a bunch of poodles in a dog sled race.  I had a short script filmed once (please don’t ask about the movie) and I once owned a Yugo (please don’t ask about the car).    

Then Arlene and I moved to Mexico and I wrote a book about our experiences as inept expats.  It’s titled Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak and is scheduled for publication by FUZE in October.  I’ll talk more about the book in future blogs.  Mostly in my blog entries, though, I want to dangle the occasional modifier, split an infinitive or two, mix a batch of metaphors, and chat.  I hope you’ll stick around.  Vaya con nachos!  

Questions, suggestions, objections?  Feel free to contact me at:


Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


What, Me Worry?

My name is Mark Saunders and I’ve written a book.  FUZE Publishing, against the advice of several economists and a butcher, agreed to publish it, and it’s scheduled to be released this October. 

The book is a humorous memoir about what happened when my wife, Arlene, and I, well into our fifties and facing the loss of both our jobs at about the same time, decided to drop out, sell everything (well, almost everything), and move to the middle of Mexico, where we didn’t know a soul and could barely speak the language. 

Appropriately enough—as well as sad to say—the title of my book is Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak

In our fish-out-of-water story, we don’t get car-jacked, kidnapped, mistakenly shot at, or ripped off by a shady contractor hoping to live in Panama on our life savings.  But we do have plenty of mishaps, make some dreadful mistakes, get in and out of trouble, and learn a thing or two about life and each other.

Even though the book reenacts no homicides or rescue attempts, my story covers plenty of interesting ground, landscaped with prickly pear cactus, scorpions, mammoth speed bumps, and lung-choking dust. Get the inside story on yoga, disco, firecrackers, car repair, and survival on the highway in Mexico.  And don’t forget to enjoy my silly cartoons and Arlene’s killer recipe for guacamole.

Before I forget, I should mention two other brave travelers who participated, albeit unwillingly, in our adventure.  Cassie, a black female standard poodle, a girlie-girl who always stood—never sat—in the car and who ran side-saddle.  Our cat, Sadie, nicknamed Scratchie or the Devil Cat, a part-Siamese who believed her reach should never exceed her claws.  Oddsmakers had the cat down as the one most likely to survive.

For those who don’t know or who know but are trying to forget, the title phrase for my blog this week was made famous by the fictional spiritual leader of MAD Magazine, Alfred E. Neuman.  The short answer to his question is, well, yes, I do worry.  I’m what’s known in the self-improvement trade as a worry wart–as you’ll learn, if you read my blogs or, better still, buy my book. 

What if nobody buys it?  Hmm.  Now I have something else to worry about.

Questions, suggestions, objections?  Feel free to contact me at:


Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


“The Mother-Daughter Show” by Natalie Wexler, Coming December 2011

Natalie Wexler

Natalie Wexler’s new book, “The Mother-Daughter Show,” debuts December 2011.  Her former, award-winning novel, “A More Obedient Wife,” received the following praise:

“It’s always a pleasure to discover a new award-winning writer with a decided gift for storytelling. Natalie Wexler is just such an author … A deftly written and complex novel [and] a riveting read … Highly recommended.”
– Midwest Book Review

“A book capable of gripping the hearts and minds of its readers … a memorable tale of love and friendship.”
– The Bethlehem Press

“Natalie Wexler bakes up a surprisingly spicy novel from the high court’s early days. Wexler knows her material and conjures up a convincing picture of a little-known era.”
– Wilmington, N.C., Star-News

“Compelling … What makes the story memorable is the lives and relationships of the two very different ladies. There is a deep understanding and compassion for their situations.”
– Historical Novels Review Online

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized