Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Feminist (Non-) Fiction Friday--Erma Bombeck


When I was growing up there were a number of women writers whose stories of family life were published in magazines like Ladies Home Journal and McCalls and Good Housekeeping and in newspapers coast to coast.  There was Jean Kerr (wife to theater critic Walter Kerr and author of Please Don't Eat the Daisies), there was Peg Bracken of the I Hate to Cook cookbook. (Great recipe for oatmeal cookies but most of the other recipes are ...let's just say the title is not a joke.)
And then there was Erma Bombeck, whose obituaries described her as a "housewife humorist" when she died in 1996 at the age of 69. 
  Doesn't that sound ... dismissive? The "housewife humorist" had an audience of 30 million readers in 900 newspapers in North America. From 1965 until her death, she wrote more than 4000 newspaper columns. Every once in awhile when I'm looking for a recipe in one of my mother's cookbooks, I'll find a Bombeck column that she cut out and used as a bookmark. They always make me smile. "Housewife humorist?" I guess people need their labels. But she was no hobbyist proto-mommy blogger, the lady could write.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'.--Erma Bombeck (See more quotes here.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Billy Bishop Goes to War--the Movie

One of the best experiences I ever had at the theater was at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. where John Gray and Eric Peterson performed their play, Billy Bishop Goes to War. (It won the L.A. Drama Desk Award.)
Billy Bishop Goes to War is a musical based on the life of Canada's WWI flying ace, Billy Bishop of Owen Sound, Ontario. Peterson, one of Canada's best-known actors, played Bishop and a host of other characters, zipping in and out of the roles with the ease of changing a prop. It was an amazing show.  I've since seen it performed in other venues, by other actors, including, David Ogden Stiers (of M*A*S*H). He was so physically different from Peterson (tall, robust, balding compared to Peterson's slight, wiry frame and red hair) that it was strange at first but it was also an excellent performance.
Gray and Peterson have been performing the play for 30 years and now they've re-imagined it, tailoring the title character to Peterson's real age. They've also filmed it. It was supposed to be released on DVD last November, but if you search for it, all you find is a paperback copy of the play. You can watch the trailer here. You can buy a copy of the play here. I am going to track down the movie.

Richard Godwin interviews me

Richard Godwin, author of Mr. Glamour and Apostle Rising, as well as many, many short stories (including "Getting High on Daisy" in the Drunk on the Moon anthology) has interviewed me on his "Chin-Wag at the Slaughterhouse" blog.  We talk noir, Joseph Conrad, what scares us and more. You can read it here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's Here--Drunk on the Moon!

Drunk on the Moon, the anthology of stories based on the werewolf/private investigator character created by Paul D. Brazill is now available at Amazon and OmniLit. (It'll soon be available in other stores, including B&N, but they take longer to publish.) This is the e-pub version. The print version will be out early in May.
There are 11 stories in all--including a prequel by Brazill, and the stories were gathered from an international group of writers--Julia Madeleine, John Donald Carlucci, Richard Godwin, K.A. Laity, B.R. Stateham, Paul D. Brazill, Jason Michel, Frank Duffry, Allan Leverone, and me!!
My story, "A Fire in the Blood" features Roman facing off against a Persian fire demoness with the help of another wolf and a mysterious freelance pharmacist.
The stories offer a little something for everyone, and shortly there will be blurbs, including a lovely review from Les Edgerton. The book is $2.99 and well worth it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Seriously?

According to Blogger stats, the second biggest source of traffic to this blog is a site called Americans Who Hate Obama. WTH?  Not sure what anyone who is on that site could possibly see on my site that says we'd be kindred spirits.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday

It is Feminist Fiction Friday and I'm fried. I am in week three of the computer changeover from HELLLLLL and last night it took a new and even more annoying turn as we switched over from the Google Cloud to the Microsoft Cloud. Only one of my email addresses works, and it's not the one I use for business. Only one computer (the new one) is linked to the printer but that printer doesn't have word installed at the moment since we were going to try Google Docs.  Grrrr.
So I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself. And then I read about Musine Kokalari.  She was an Albanian writer (the first female Albanian writer) who was persecuted after the Communists took over in her country, imprisoned for 18 years, prohibited from writing after that and died in poverty in 1983 after being forced to work as a street sweeper. According to Wikipedia, when she was terminally ill with cancer, she was refused a hospital bed.It's really hard to find any of her work. Her novel Vepra is available from an amazon affiliate seller for $39.
Resources on Women Writers::
Women Writers Online--the excellent project housed at Brown University. Check it out here.
Emory Women Writers Resource Project. Info is here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Knit Your Own Cat!

You know, my sister knew how to knit and crochet but that gene just skipped a generation with me. On the rare occasions I sit down to watch television, I don't feel the need to keep my fingers occupied with knitting needles because they're usually busy conveying food to my mouth.
I'm also not really a whimsical person. Yes, I once bought a cement Statue of Liberty for the garden in back of the house I was living in (it was taller than I was and awesome), but it's not like I inflicted my whimsy on passersby, the way I would have if I'd put out a pair of pink flamingos for example.
And yet, when I saw this book, i found myself wishing that I could actually knit because this is the kind of whimsy that tickles my fancy.  (I actually thought it was going to turn out to be a self-help book or something, like the screenwriting manual Save the Cat.)
Knit Your Own Cat. Own the whimsy.

What I'll Be Reading Next: I Am an Executioner

I ran across an interview with writer Rajesh Parameswaran here, and found myself wishing I could have been at the release party for his collection of short stories, I Am an Executioner.  It's one of those books where the publisher has priced the Kindle edition ($12.99) at just four dollars less than the hard cover ($16.99), but from what I've read, the book is clearly the harbinger of a brilliant new talent. I can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I will make wine of your blood

Photograph by Roger Kirby
Sometimes, short stories insinuate themselves into my work hours, even when I'm completely engaged in an activity (in this case, reading Paul Tobin's fantastic novel Prepare to Die (it'll be out June 5 and if you love great writing, superheroes, love stories or any combination thereof, you will want to buy it).

I kept thinking of Zora Neale Hurston's quote about gods and their worship. Here's the quote:

“All gods who receive homage are cruel. All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshipped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.”


And then I started thinking about a goblin character I've been playing with, a bad-ass gangster goblin who vows vengeance on a rival. And then I started thinking about the ridiculous but oh so quotable movie line, "I will drink your milkshake."


And then I came up with the line, "I will make wine of your blood." I am not sure what I'm going to do with it, but I know there's a story there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Saturday Self-Promotion: Four Birds Calling

Photo by Dave Di Biase
I have a ton of deadlines coming down the road in the next two weeks--the release of the Drunk on the Moon anthology, the 5K short story "Broken Angel" for Italian publisher Lorenzo Mazzoni, a couple of book reviews, my submission to Pulp Ink 2.  And the annual deluge of scripts to prep clients for the Cannes film festival is just around the corner too. And in there I'm working on Misbegotten and my shared world project Starcaster.  And while all this is going on, I'm putting together the sequel to my Christmas collection, tentatively entitled 12 More Nights of Christmas. The original collection came out right before the holidays last year and although I think it's a strong bunch of stories, it hasn't really sold well. So all new stories themed to the dark side of the Christmas song--stories of leaping lords and bioengineered partridges and tainted milk sold by a soulless agribusiness company.
Here's a story from the original collection:

Four Birds Calling
 Reg could see the two birds out of the corner of his eye. They were looking at him and giggling, being none too subtle about it.
He knew what they were thinking.
Is it him?
Could it be?
The resemblance really was quite striking. He had the same blond mop-top, the same bedroom eyes, the same succulent lower lip.
He even styled his wardrobe after Thomas, the photographer his doppelganger had played in Blow-Up. The white pants and powder-blue shirt rolled up to the elbows. It was a good look for him.
The shirt matched his eyes.
And eyes are the windows of the soul.
Reg never looked birds in the eye though; he always focused on their lips. Eventually they’d notice and ask, “What?”
He’d always say, “You have the most beautiful lips.”
It worked a treat, that line.

Free books--offer good just for today!

There's a kindle promotion going on for today, Friday the 13th.  A hundred books in genres from cookbooks to supernatural romance.  A little something for everyone.  And free:

100 FREE BOOKS - April 13th #Kindle #Book Bonanza - All Genres - All FREE - http://bitly.com/Ii3hjO

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Friday Fantasy Fiction--Review of Brent Weeks' Way of Shadows

I used to read a LOT of fantasy in my teens and twenties and I hoovered through all the multi-book sagas and story cycles out there. I was a big fan of Susan Cooper's books, and Guy Gavriel Kay and the Deryni Chronicles. I especially loved Robin McKinley's Beauty and Patricia McKillip's novels. And Anne McCaffrey--loved the Dragonriders series. Somewhere along the way, though, all the books started to feel the same. Maybe it was because a client hired me to read all five thousand Dragonlance books and synopsize them.  Whatever it was, I pretty much stopped reading the genre for years.  And then I read Brent Weeks' Night Angel: The Way of  Shadows.  The timing was perfect. I'd just geeked out on the first season of Game of Thrones and was ready for something complex and compelling to get me through to the second season.  (I made the decision not to read the books because I don't want to know what's coming.  If I'd known what was going to happen to Ned Stark, I'm not sure I could have watched.)
I thought Night Angel was fantastic and was very happy to discover that ... there are more books in the series. In fact, the complete trilogy is now available.  If you love densely plotted stories of fantasy, you will love this series. Here's my review:
Night Angel:  Way of the Shadows is a richly textured, multi-layered fantasy crowded with characters who have substance and cast shadows. It is a coming of age story played out against a backdrop of politics and magic, The first of Brent Weeks’ epic story cycle, it compares favorably to George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” books in terms of complexity and world-building.
The relationship between an orphan “guild rat” and a master assassin named Durzo Blint is at the heart of the story, but both Durzo and the boy have lives that connect to a web of other people.  Durzo warns his apprentice that “love is a noose,” but by the time they meet, it’s already too late for the boy to heed the warning.
This is an epic story filled with darkness and cruelty but also stuffed with terrific characters, great friendships, large themes and genuine emotion. The early chapters are especially grim, and almost unbearable at times, but also familiar to us—the fantastical extension of Dickens’ version of poverty.  This world is not sentimental and those who escape the pull of the Warrens are grateful for their reprieve.
The world-building here is outstanding, on a par with Frank Herbert’s Dune or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or the afore-mentioned George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms.  There is very real magic here, with “talents” that range across many different disciplines and mages that must hide their magic. There are places where a fan of the genre can almost identify the author’s influences (because they’re the classic books every fan has read) and he hits all the tropes and memes out there.  Which is not a bad thing. 
This is a “Chosen One” story, filled with humble beginnings and magical artifacts, and impossible loves, and politics both personal and grand. The chance for betrayal is everywhere and not necessarily because those doing the betraying are traitors.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gender Analyzer--via K. A. Laity

So the debate about whether women can write crime fiction has flared up again with interesting posts from Sandra Seamans, Heath Lowrance, and Cat Valente. In response to Heath's post, "Chicks Can't Write Crime Fiction"(which is NOT his position at all),  K.A. Laity, who writes crime, horror and romance, shared a link to the site Gender Analyzer, which uses AI to determine if a woman or man wrote the home page of a site. I ran this blog through it and GA suggests, with 77 percent certainty, that a woman wrote it.  They're also 88 percent sure that a man writes NoHo Noir. (And I guess, to be fair, they'd be right about 50 percent of the time since I share posting duties with Mark Satchwill.)  Running material through the analyzer is addictive and, may I add, a most excellent way of procrastinating.
If you're still on the fence about whether women can bring the hard-boiled, you need to do some reading. Heath's post and the comments will give you a reading list.

Le French Book--Resource for International Crime Writers and Readers

Don't you love Google Alerts?  I have one set for "French crime" (because you know, keeping up with American crime just does not keep me busy enough).  This morning I received a link for this site:  Le French Book. The site includes mini essays on French police procedure, interviews with authors like Frederique Molay. and sample chapters and short stories. If I knew the idiom, I'd say "Go check them out" in French. The best I can do is... Allez voir les!

Straight but not Narrow

I'm a sucker for organizations with clever names, particularly when they do good work.  I just heard about "Straight but not Narrow," which is, as you might expect, a group that advocates tolerance and support for lgbt youth.. It's specifically aimed at straight males, but they're inclusive. Check them out. 
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book review: Jo Nesbo's Nemesis

In Nemesis (now out in paperback) Jo Nesbo’s melancholy, alcoholic detective Harry Hole looks into the murder of his partner while solving a bank robbery that’s actually more complex than it looks. 
Bank manager Stine Grette has been gunned down by a robber, even though he got away with millions of kroner.  Harry teams up with nondescript detective Beate L√łnn, who spots numerous little details he’s missed, and the two of them are convinced that there’s a larger crime behind the crime they’ve witnessed.
Harry, though, is somewhat distracted. His ongoing obsession with the murder of his partner (beaten to death by a baseball bat) continues to affect his work, and a woman from his past has shown up just as Rakel, his current girlfriend, flies to Moscow to deal with her young son Oleg’s father, a Russian who wants custody of the boy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

New fiction: Book of Knowledge


Book of Knowledge

By Katherine Tomlinson

Usually Yael hated shelf-reading, walking along the rows of library books making sure that none were out of order. It was tedious work and ultimately pointless because the books would only get disarranged the next day unless they were shelved in sections where the public was not allowed, like the gated foreign-language reference area or the priceless collection of sacred texts that were so ancient they were kept locked in environment-proof drawers.
Back in the stacks it was dusty and the dust played hell with her allergies. It was hard to keep focused on the numbers in the dim light, and much too easy to give way to day-dreaming. There were times when Yael felt shelf-reading was a metaphor for her life—lots of aimless movement without ever actually going anywhere.
Yael hated shelf-reading but working in the library was a condition of her scholarship and as a scholarship student, she got stuck with all the mindless chores.  Still, shelf-reading wasn’t as bad as working reference retrieval.  Whoever ended up with that job was kept running ragged from the time the library opened until it closed, with students requesting books and bound periodicals one at a time, as if there was a penalty for using too many books at one time.
Today, though, Yael didn’t really mind the work. It gave her a chance to think. She needed to think. She needed to make some choices. And there was no one she could talk to. Her father, a Talmudic scholar, didn’t approve of anything about Yael’s life—not her choice of college major, not her choice of boyfriend.
There was no way she could tell him she was pregnant.
She didn’t know what to do.