Notes for first draft of my next novel, “The Squeamish Thunder Lords":


Most of the Squeamish Thunder Lords are nieces and nephews of Vanna White. Not the Wheel of Fortune Vanna White. This Vanna is the owner of Sweet Puffs, the marshmallow factory on Route 6 across from the Wal-mart on Houston’s west side.

This Vanna is also CEO of the Thunder Lords’ criminal empire. Sweet Puffies makes a perfect front for the Thunder Lords’ activities, which include:

  • White slavery (also black, brown, and various other primary and secondary tints and shades).

  • Bootlegging (including Paris Hilton’s gospel CDs, and that hard-to-find sex video of Pope Benedict and the Vienna Boys’ Choir).

  • Influence peddling (nuclear weaponry, biological warfare, unsavory Tweets), and last but not least, their cash cow....

  • Crossing Route 6 and heartlessly switching price tags.


How did they get the name Thunder Lords? As Vanna explained at her trial (taken verbatim from the court transcript, which was written in West Texan), it’s all about brand placement:


PROSECUTOR: Now, darlin’, how did y’all git the name Thunder Lords?


VW: It’s all about brand placement. We talked about playin’ off the ‘Hell’s Angels’ label with ‘Heaven’s Demons,’ but it lacked presents, and y’all’ve heard of the Outlaws biker gang? So who’re we supposed to be, the In-laws? Puh-leeze. So we went with Thunder Lords.


And howdid Squeamish get added to their name?


PROSECUTOR: And how did Squeemish git added to y'all's name?


VW: Let me tell you somethin’ raht now—we des-pahz that word. Bless their hearts, we done killed dozens of people without battin’ an eye . . . . . oops. . . . . can I take that back?


Houston has its share of Thunder Lord wannabes, but only a handful are the real deal:



Identifying feature: Unlike the others, refuses to get the forehead tattoo of a spread-winged thunderbird clutching human corpses in bloody talons.

Talents: Leadership, brains (Candyland champion in grades 4 through 6, and not just that—much, much more).

Memberships: West Harris County Junior League (treasurer), Stonewall Jackson Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (treasurer), Houston Chamber of Commerce (treasurer), Emily’s List (treasurer).

Weakness: Irrational fear of poisonous snakes.

Secret code name: Puff Mommy.



Identifying feature: At age 18 weighs 399 pounds.

Talent: Can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. Not just sometimes. Every time.

Memberships: Galveston Bay Rock Climbers.

Secret code name: More.



Identifying feature: At age 18 weighs 99 pounds.

Talent: Muscle. The group’s primary enforcer.

Memberships: Mensa, Texas Chess Militia.

Secret code name: Less.

Although Arcangelo and Marcangelo are often mistaken for twins, they are not related. Arcangelo’s family’s roots are in Oaxaca, Mexico. Marcangelo’s are in the Ukraine. The similarity of their names is a genuinely interesting coincidence.



Identifying feature: Spitting image of Abraham Lincoln.

Talent: Winning Abraham Lincoln Look Alike contests.

Membership: Abraham Lincoln Look-alike Consortium.

Secret code name: Honest Ave.



Identifying features: Named after her mother.

Talent: Causing straight men and lesbian women to swoon over her dark good looks, enabling her to seduce outsiders into doing the bidding of the Thunder Lords.

Memberships: Houston Switch Hitters. Houston Metro Pitchers and Catchers.

Weakness: Irrational fear of men named Bruce.

Secret code name: Bruce.



Identifying feature: Has partially-developed third arm.

Talent: Can draw with third arm better than most people can with regular arms.

Memberships: Partially-developed-third-arm Artists Support Group (PASG, pronounced pass-guh). Chair and sole member of PASG’s partially-developed political action arm—er, wing.

Weakness: Struggles with being man trapped in woman’s body. Wishes had third leg instead of arm.

Secret code name: The Other Bruce.


The saga of how the Thunder Lords became the Squeamish Thunder Lords is a knuckle-whitening tale of a glorious rise and agonizing fall. It starts the way all the best thunderous sagas begin: with the word “The.”