Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spiders on My Mind

I grew up in a house where spiders also lived. We were outnumbered by the eight-legged inhabitants, but mostly we adhered to a “don’t bite, don’t kill” policy in and everyone coexisted in the way humankind has been co-existing with house spiders since at least the time of the Roman empire. If a spider drifted across no man’s land and ended up in the bathtub well, then, the spider had to suffer the consequences and was quickly washed down the drain, or scooped up in a wad of toilet tissue and flushed. I learned early you had to sort of pinch the wad of tissue if you didn’t want the spider crawling out of its paper prison and looking up at you with its eight beady eyes. I don’t remember who was the designated spider-killer in my house. My father was a combat veteran who’d grown up on a farm, my mother was the product of a Depression childhood. Both were tough, unsentimental, and fearless. We also had a cat that saw bugs as wonderfully interactive toys. With my parents and the cat on the case, an errant spider didn’t have much of a chance. But despite everything, some spiders still skittered their way into my little sister’s room. She was irrationally afraid of spiders, phobic in a way that was easy to exploit—Stay out of my closet, there are spiders in there—but hard to soothe. The spider’s dead. I killed it. Really. Somehow when there was a spider in my sister’s room, I was always the only other person who was home, so if there was spider killing to be done, it was my job. I didn’t embrace the role of spider-bane but I didn’t shrink from it either. I discovered that a spider’s blood is blue. I thought that was fascinating. I found myself wishing we could dissect a spider in biology. I’d read that spiders have hearts, things that look like tubes that only push the blood one way. I imagined something like those little pliable tubes you use to remove the skins from garlic cloves. I thought eviscerating a spider would be much more interesting than dissecting the cow’s eye we were given in freshman biology. And a lot less icky. (And don’t get me started on the fetal cat corpse we were presented with later in the year.) But spiders…I am fascinated by spiders. In the short story I’m publishing on Halloween, “Unsanctified,” I have created a group called “The Sisterhood of the Red Spider.” As you can imagine, they are a group to be reckoned with. And to lend the story some paranormal plausibility, I did a fair amount of research on spiders. I knew that in some cultures—Native American and African, for instance—revere the spider as a symbol of wisdom but I was curious to see how other cultures had viewed the spider throughout history. But I kept getting distracted by articles like this one on Three ways to draw a spider web from WikiHhow,

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sexism dies hard....

I saw this on Twitter today and you know, at first I thought it was kind of funny. But then I saw the comment by the person who posted it and it was something along the lines of, "Seems legit." And that hit me wrong. It just seemed so last century somehow, this idea that women are just about the shoes. I prefer to see Dorothy in a different light. So on further consideration, this kind of makes me cranky. Shoes...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I don't like spiders and snakes

I am putting the final touches on UNSANCTIFIED, the long story I'm posting for Halloween, and doing some research on spiders. Spiders don't actually freak me out as they do many people, but my sister was once bitten by a brown recluse and the results weren't pretty. (Literally. Turns out there are a lot of photographs of spider bites on the Internet and they're graphic enough to make you want to don HazMat gear every time you go into your back yard.) For my story I invented a group called "the Sisterhood of the Red Spider" and I spent a fair amount of time looking for a photo of a red spider.
The first time I looked, I mostly got manga images and spiders that were sort of reddish if you squinted and looked at them out of the corner of your eye. And then I ran across this bad boy. It looks like the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker. It looks like a creature you want to stay far, far away from. It's exactly what I was looking for.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Another for the TBR pile: Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars

I really
like Kay's work and I'm behind several books. This cover sucked me in. I think it's gorgeous.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

S. Craig Zahler's MEAN BUSINESS ON NORTH GANSON STREET--a review

I really liked Zahler's debut wester, A CONGREGATION OF JACKALS, even though I don't read that many westerns. His new book, though, is right up my alley. In fact the action begins in a dark alley where a derelict named Doggie is about to get beat down. In S. Craig Zahler’s new book, a good detective’s bad judgment earns him exile to the heartland where his investigation into a murder opens up a very nasty can of worms. MEAN BUSINESS is a great example of "heartland noir" where we know something is rotten in Missouri even before disgraced detective Jules Bettinger arrives. Bettinger is a well-rounded character who comes across as a good man in a bad, bad job. He's cynical, but there's a reason for it, and what we see of his private life--his relationship with his family members--tells us he sees them as a refuge and a respite. The writer also does a good job of making stone sociopaths understandable. They're still chilling characters but we understand what motivates them. The plot is twisty and complicated but never quite gets … convoluted. It does get kind of random a bit, though. We know some of the pieces of the puzzle up front (and that means we know more than Bettinger does at first) and we may suspect we know what else is going on, but there are a number of surprises here. The resolution of the mystery is a bit ambiguous, though. We genuinely don't know how it's all going to end, and that's something that rarely happens in this kind of book.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

sisters in Crime anthology--Great Saturday reading

Secrets and lies… The seven stories contained in Deadly Debut are united by three factors—the sex of their authors, their general location (New York) and the presence of secrets at the heart of the crimes. There’s one other commonality as well—all the stories are very good even when the crimes are very bad. Secrets and lies lurk in the depths of these stories—secret lovers, secret lifestyles, secret sins. (At least two of the stories feature secrets hidden in closets. Be advised—nothing good is ever behind a locked closet door.) Sense of place is strong here, whether the story unfolds in the dressing room of a club frequented by belly dance aficionados (Lina Zeldovich’s “Murder in the Aladdin’s Cave”) or in a pocket park smack dab in the middle of gang territory (“Strike Zone” by Terrie Farley Moran). These aren’t stories that could take place just anywhere, and in Elizabeth Zelvin’s Agatha Award-nominated story, “Death Will Clean Your Closet,” it’s perfectly plausible that her protagonist never associated the slight stink in his bedroom with the dead body in the aforementioned closet. This collection, edited by Clare Toohey, is a showcase for the art of the short story and each one included is a gem and each one shows a writer at the top of her game. “Imagine if Maurice Villency and Victoria’s Secret had a one-night stand and spawned a line of furnishings destined for a Poconos honeymoon suite,” suggests Dierdre Verne in “None of the Above.” What else do you need to know about the d├ęcor of the room she’s describing? Stories by Triss Stein, Peggy Ehrhart, and Anita Page round out the collection and again, each of these stories has a secret or a lie at its center, a hard, cold kernel that has been transformed into a pearl. Crime fiction collections are notorious for ignoring women writers; this anthology shows what readers have been missing. Find it here.

Shameless Saturday Self-Promoton--Bride of the Midnight King is Free

In between the crime fiction I write, I dabble in fantasy and speculative fiction. A couple of months ago I got the iddea too set fairy tales in a world of vampires and I wrote a novella called Bride of the Midnight King under my nom de fantasy Kat Parrish. The book has turned out to be a lot more popular than anything else I've published and I'm now in the middle of writing the sequel, which will be published later this year. The cover was done by Joy Sillesen over at Indie Author Services, one of the last she created before going on a hiatus to concentrate on her own work. Friday was my birthday and to celebrate, I've put Bride of the Midnight King on a freebie promotion. From now through monday morning, you can snag the novella free. I hope you enjoy it.