Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mean People Suck

I'm not a saint.
I like snark as much as the next person.
Purposeful negativity is not something I seek out. Apparently though, I am in the minority. Two different people I know are being cyber-bullied. In one case, it has to do with a woman's involvement in the fandom of a minor-league celebrity and it's pretty easy to pinpoint the source of the anger being directed toward my friend. (It's sheer, delusional jealousy.)
In the other case it has to do with expectations not being met and lack of communications. But what's going on is that a woman has been posting to all her friends on something awful.com, ranting about what a terrible person my friend is. It's interesting to me that people who are part of the site call themselves "goons." My friend is understandably freaked out by all this negative attention but what strikes me is that there are actually people--strangers to her--who are getting involved in the whole situation. And all I can think of is the question--Don't they have anything better to do?
It's schadenfreude taken to the nth degree. Somewhere inside all of us is a little dark spot that sparks up when we hear that bad things have happened to people who have wronged us in some way. But honestly--feeling good about somebody you don't even know having troubles?  If you're doing that, you need to get a life.

Smart is Sexy and Science is Smart

The best teacher I ever had used to insist that "math is fun." And he made it fun with puzzles and tricks and shortcuts. I remember magic boxes. (If  you've never done them, check out a site called allmath.com) Most of my teachers weren't that great, and an algebra teacher I had was downright mediocre. I wish I'd had more teachers like Byron Nelson because if I had, I might have been a rocket scientist or an epidemiologist today.  Instead, once I was done with high school, I never took another math class.
I did take science classes though--biology and chemistry and enough geology classes that I ended up getting a minor in it. (And since I graduated, Dr. Jack Horner's discoveries have pretty much negated everything I learned about dinosaurs.)
Which is all to say that I have an appreciation of science and am thrilled to see sites like Science is Awesome and I Fucking Love Science getting the word out that "science" isn't just some abstract concept meant for misfits but something that can be useful and amusing in real life. Oh yes, we have gone way beyond papier mache volcanoes erupting with baking soda and vinegar. (There is a
GREAT t-shirt place called Science TEEcher that provides geeky t-shirt fun. See the "Peace of Pi" shirt on the above.)
There is a series of new websites going up even as I type called City Science Club. There's one in Portland, one in Seattle and a number of others planned for roll-out shortly. I am going to be reporting for the Los Angeles City Science Club. I hope to entertain and inform and I hope to see you there. More details soon.

Friday, September 28, 2012

40 More Days

I'm already starting to get the election brochures and flyers. My mailbox is small and fills up quickly. I can't tell you how much it annoys me to have to sift through a bunch of sharp-edged, stiff pieces of paper to see if I've gotten a check or received a bill. But this is the way it's going to be for the next 40 days. The word "deluge" comes to mind. October is going to be a long month.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Interview with Christine Pope

Christine Pope is a novelist who defies categorization. She's equally at home writing contemporary romance and science fictionized fairy tales. She writes short stories. She blogs. She keeps up with Kindle boards. She is my hero! This year she's been especially prolific and if I didn't like her so much, I'd hate her. If you like well-plotted, character-heavy fiction with a romantic edge, you owe it to yourself to discover Christine's work, if you don't know it already.

Let's talk about the books.
Your new book, All Fall Down, is the first of your "Tales of the Latter Kingdoms." What are the "Latter Kingdoms" and what is the book about?
The "Latter Kingdoms" are a group of countries spread across one continent in a fantasy world that's more Renaissance than medieval in terms of technology, the arts, politics, fashion, and so forth. Since I plan for the series to be set in a variety of these kingdoms, I wanted the series title to reflect all of them. All Fall Down is mainly set in a kingdom named Seldd, a land that's rather backward compared to many of the other countries on the continent. It's about a young woman named Merys Thranion who has been trained as a physician, and how she's captured as a slave and brought to Seldd, at first to heal a nobleman's injured daughter. But she comes up against a far more difficult situation when the plague appears for the first time in hundreds of years. And behind her surface struggles is her growing affection for Lord Shaine, her master. Physicians in her Order are not supposed to form personal attachments, so poor Merys really has to go through the wringer on multiple levels in the book.

Did you originally intend to write a series? Will each story in the series be stand-alone or will there be "cross-pollination" of plots and characters?  Can you tell us a little bit about the second book in the series, Dragon Rose?
You know, I really didn't think about writing a series. I just started writing several different books set in this world, and then I sort of realized partway through that they were a series, although one connected by milieu and not any overarching quest or storyline. All the books in the series are standalones, although events in some books may be mentioned in passing in others. For example, the next book in the series, Dragon Rose, has a brief comment about the plague that dominates the storyline of All Fall Down. Dragon Rose takes place about five years later in a neighboring kingdom called Farendon. It's a very different book, somewhat inspired by the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but with an almost gothic tone.

Your book Blood Will Tell and your novella Breath of Life are both set in the Gaian Consortium world. What do you have planned for other books in that series?
I have two more books planned right now, but I'm sure there will be more than that. The first one is called The Gaia Gambit, and it's another planet-hopping romance/adventure story with an adversaries-to-lovers relationship at the center of it. That one is planned for a spring release, depending on what happens with my other books. The next book after that is called Marooned on Mandala, and it also has a Zhore hero (the same alien race we first meet in Breath of Life), although the heroine is very different. She's a Gaian ambassador who gets flung into a world of hurt when the ship she and the Zhore are on crash-lands on an uninhabited planet. I actually got the idea after a fan commented that she really wanted to see another book with a Zhore hero. Your wish is my command! 

Breath of Life is a lovely sci-fi take on the classic "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale. Do you have any plans to science fictionize other fairy tales?
See my comments on Dragon Rose. I really don't have any plans to do more science fiction fairy tales, although I am going to do some set in the "Latter Kingdoms" world. I have some ideas jotted down for a Red Riding Hood–inspired book called The Wolf of Harrow Hall.

You've published a couple of books this year. Anything else coming out this year? What's in the queue for next year?
Dragon Rose is slated for release in December. It's finished and has gone through its first edit, and I'll be sending it out to beta readers in October. For 2013 I'm planning on releasing The Gaia Gambit, the next Gaian Consortium book; Desert Hearts, a sequel to my paranormal UFO romance Bad Vibrations and the second book in the Sedona trilogy; Binding Spell, another "Latter Kingdoms" book; and possibly Marooned on Mandala and (I hope) Angel Fire, which will complete the Sedona trilogy. In addition to all that, I'll start getting the rights back to my small press–published books in 2013, so I'll be editing and updating them as needed and then releasing them with new covers.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Register to vote...

The deadline to register to vote in the 2012 presidential election is fast approaching. Check here to find out the deadline in your state.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony
I was living in Virginia when I turned 18. Virginia was one of the last states to vote for the 19th Amendment.  The amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920. Virginia finally joined the party in 1952, 32 years later, long after it was ratified.  The last state to vote "yes" for votes for women was Mississippi, which voted "yes" in March of 1984--sixty-four years after it was first put to a vote. 
Is it any wonder that the "Equal Rights Amendment" never passed?  Are you old enough to remember the scare tactics employed by those who didn't want to make "equality" official?  There will be WOMEN IN COMBAT!  We'll have UNISEX BATHROOMS!!  Well, both events have come about and the world didn't end, but women still aren't officially equal. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: Christine Pope's All Fall Down


Illustration by Nadica Boskovska
Writer Christine Pope ventures into fantasy in All Fall Down, a story of pestilence and ignorance and a woman who fights both. This is fantasy in the vein of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels, more of a magic-tinged historical novel than a romp with fairies and elves. The world building is precise and developed with both logic and flair. There are contending kingdoms and the actions of rulers impact the lives of the ruled, sometimes in a benign way but often… not.
These people come off the page, they feel real and rooted with problems and responsibilities and hard, hard choices to make. The political situation that exists in the world Pope has created has an impact on the plot; it's integrated into the narrative on many levels and not just thrown in to create random drama.
Merys, the heroine of the story, is a healer, a woman of science not superstition. Kidnapped by slavers who sell her to a lord whose domain runs on slave labor. Lord Shaine is not a bad man, and it's to Pope's considerable credit that she makes him sympathetic and sexy in a way that makes him more than a standard-issue alpha male.
Merys is enormously appealing as a woman who relies on her wits to better her own situation but who also takes care of those around her. Her intervention in the life of a young stable hand changes his life for the better. Her bond with the daughter of the man who holds her captive is warm and caring, and extends to the young man the girl is destined to marry. Merys has real "people skills" and interacts as easily with the cook as with her master's aristocratic allies.
As always, Pope's prose is a multi-sensory experience, with mouth-watering descriptions of feasts and detailed accounts of courtly dress. At its core, this is a romance novel, with several story strands resonating with romance--from the sweet relationship between the lord's daughter and her beloved to Merys' growing attachment to Lord Shaine despite their difference in philosophy. There's a true maturity to their bonding, which does not come without sacrifice but which is all the sweeter for it.
This book is the first in a series of novels set in "The Latter Kingdoms." I cannot wait to read the next one, which is called Dragon Rose.

Daniel Scherl is an amazing photographer!

Photo by Daniel F. Scherl
I have been holding off getting head shots because I just don't enjoy having my picture taken. But that changed yesterday after a session with Daniel Scherl. (Check out his site here.)  He's a friend of a friend and was having a summer sale and I realized I can't keep using the photo that my best friend took.  (Well, I could, but it's kind of informal and I've needed a more "corporate" head shot about 10 times in the last year.)
The photo session was not just a lot of fun, I can already tell the photos are going to be fantastic. This one hasn't been retouched and it's still, oh, about a BAZILLION times better than the last couple of photos I've had taken.  I cannot wait to see what the retouched photos look like.  I'm going for 40-something...(And isn't 40 the new 30?)
 If you're in Los Angeles and you need a photographer, your first call needs to be to Daniel. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SweeTango Apples

Just as Envy apples are going out of season, there's a new apple in town, something called a SweeTango. It's another red and gold variety that looks like it's been polished even when it's just piled in bins waiting for you to walk by and admire them.
You know it's something special when the produce guy sees you looking at the display and launches into a spontaneous, lyrical endorsement of the fruit,
"Better than an Envy?" I asked skeptically, because as far as I am concerned, the Envy is the perfect apple. I first enjoyed it last year when it was in season for three minutes on August 5. This year it was available for a lot longer--seems like it was around for almost two months--so I could splurge a lot longer. (And "splurge" is definitely the word. At $3.99 a pound, Envy apples aren't cheap.)
"Better than Envy," he said. "Want to taste?" And he whipped out his knife and cut me a couple of slices.
If the apple Eve ate was a SweeTango, the trade off was worth it.
A perfect balance of sweet and acid.
The perfect crispness.
Just the right juiciness.
It is an 11 on a scale of 10.
I was not surprised to find that the SweeTango is a cross between a Honeycrisp (my third favorite apple) and something called a Zestar, which I've never even heard of. 
SweeTangos are also a splurge item. In L.A., they're only carried by one supermarket chain and it would be the upscale Gelson's. (Since Gelson's is handily located half a block from me, my access to the apple goodness is limited only by their hours of operation.)
If you like apples, you really, really, really need to track down this apple.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The hardest working people in show business...

Before I went freelance, the last "real" job I had was working for a high-profile movie and television producer.  He was an exacting boss, and he demanded a high level of work from the people in his company. People whose work was sloppy didn't last long. People who didn't hold themselves to high standards moved on quickly. Since then, I've worked as a consultant to people who make my former employer look like the easiest boss on the planet. I've worked with some of them more than a decade.
I mention this because a lot of people view "show business" as code for "money for nothing."  And you know, when you think of the money, it is stupid money. But I have yet to work with anyone who was lazy.  Everyone I know (and that includes the producers) work hard for their money.
I mention this because I've just gotten back from a trip that was arranged by a corporate travel planner. The firm works as a contractor in a state three time zones away from the company that uses their services. that meant that when i had a problem at 7:30 a.m. PDT, I couldn't contact the travel planner, who didn't come into her office until 12:30 EDT. 
I called anyway, hoping to reach one of her colleagues. There is no direct line.  You have to go through an automated call system that will only direct you to an actual person after four or five tries to override the system.
And if you're disconnected because you're on a cell on a mountain in LA on your way to the airport for a flight you're not going to make, you have to start the process all over again...
I received my itinerary at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, along with confirmations of my flight and a link to print the boarding pass.  I had left for the airport 90 minutes earlier. My traveling companion DID receive his info and was on the 9:15 flight I had been booked for.
I mention this, not to bust the travel agent for being sloppy. (I could have emailed her about the itinerary and didn't,)  I mention it because in my former life as a development executive, any one of about five missteps made by the travel planner would have cost her her job.
A young assistant at an agency once screwed up and sent a character actor to our offices when a meeting had been postponed.  The character actor complained and the assistant lost her job. And on our side, the assistant who'd moved the appointment was grilled as if she'd been caught passing Israeli secrets to the Iranians. "Was she SURE she'd changed that appointment?"  That was kind of ridiculous.
But working at a place like that, working in an industry like entertainment, you learn that half-dash is worse than not done. If you've seen The Devil Wears Prada, you know that the young heroine emerges victorious when she gains confidence and begins to anticipate her boss' irrational demands. Jobs shouldn't be a do or die situation. You shouldn't have to deal with the stress of knowing that ONE MISTAKE can end with your pink slip. But you know...
For me, missing the plane wasn't the end of the world, there are commuter flights leaving every hour and I made my appointment. Stuff happens. I deal with it.
But I've worked on the other side and am used to the way it's done in this businesss we call show.
Next time you want to make fun of someone who talks about how "hard it is" doing what they do in the industry, give them a break. No, it's not rocket science or brain surgery they're doing. But if you're relying on them to get you from one place to another without hassle?  They've got you covered.
And that's a job well-done.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In recipe mode....

I just landed another food-writing gig and am feverishly converting recipes from my slap-dash personal style ("Cut up as many tomatoes as you want to eat) to something that's a little more useful to someone who isn't standing right next to me at the stove. (What is the difference between a dollop of olive oil and a splash? I pretty much just free-style it.
I never realized how much I rely on variations of curry in my daily meal repertoire.
And if garlic somehow vanished from the earth, I'm not sure I could put a meal together.
Yes, let's just say that come the vampire apocalypse, I am safe.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Interview with Heath Lowrance

I'm a fan of Heath Lowrance (in a non-stalker kind of way). I like the way he writes--clean, hard-hitting prose that paints a picture but without laying it on so thick with a palette knife that you have to scrape away a few layers before you get to the good stuff.

I like the way he thinks--I follow him on Twitter and on FB andPinterest where among other images,  he posts cool "noir" photos.

If you check out his Amazon author page, you'll see ten books listed, and I suspect that's not everything.

His most recent releases are the movel City of Heretics, a crime novel set in Memphis, and the novella "Bluff City Brawler," which is part of the "Fight Card' series. Earlier in the summer his short story "My Life With the Butcher Girl" appeared in Pulp Ink 2, an anthology edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan.

I am delighted that Heath found the time to stop by Kattomic Energy on his blog tour.



Let's talk about the new book.

How different was it writing a novel than writing a short story? Was it difficult to work on a broader  canvas or did it seem natural?

Writing City of Heretics in particular was very much like the experience of writing a short story, except, you know, more of it. I tried to approach it the same way I'd approach a short story-- that is, cutting to the chase, leaving out everything extemporaneous, and just moving from scene-to-scene. I wanted it to feel like a long short story, so that even though the plot is a bit complex, it never feels weighed down. That was the idea, anyway.

You’ve said you prefer character-driven stories to plot-driven stories. In the case of the book, what came first? The idea or the image of your protagonist?

In this particular case, the character of Crowe came first. I had in mind an older man, coming out of a bad time and about to enter into an even worse time. I knew he was carrying around some anger, letting it simmer in his guts, and I knew he planned on doing something he could never take back. The novel came out of working out what exactly Crowe was angry about. 

The gritty backdrop of the story seems real enough you could navigate the streets by your landmarks. Have you lived in Memphis? Why did you set your story in Memphis?

I lived in Memphis for about five years, back in the late '90's. Something about that city, it just sparked for me. It was seedy and run-down, very modern in all the worst ways-- and at the same time, its history was apparent on every corner. It had stories to tell everywhere you looked and it felt like a living, breathing thing to me. It was an old, sick Southern lady and if you looked really hard you could see vestiges of the beauty it used to be. Memphis made me melancholy, and I thought it was the perfect setting for a novel. Or multiple novels

Do you “cast” your stories when you write them? And if someone made a movie out of COH, who would you like to play Crowe?

I've found myself casting imaginary movies after the fact, but not usually while writing. For instance, I got into a discussion about who would play the roles of Charlie and the Reverend if The Bastard Hand ever became a movie, and I still think Casey Affleck and Daniel Day-Lewis would be great. As for Crowe, I haven't given it any real thought yet, but I'll go again with Daniel Day-Lewis, I think.
  
Let's talk marketing:


You have an impressive  number of reviews posted on your books. How important do you think reviews are in selling books?

If all the talk about algorithms and the rating system and all that confusing stuff about Amazon is true, then reviews are HUGELY important. I have to admit, I can hardly get my head around the fine points of the way Amazon works. But every review, every click of the “like” button, helps. And I’ve noticed that the more reviews I get, the more copies move. It’s bizarre and inexplicable to me.

 For Cityof Heretics, you're doing a blog tour, promotion on your site and social media. What else?  Any readings? Events like Bouchercon? Book store appearances?

I’d love to make it to Bouchercon or Noircon, but it ain’t in the cards. Mostly what I’m doing to promote City of Heretics and Bluff City Brawler (my new Fight Card novella) is the blog tour. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted anything like this on this big a scale, so it’s daunting enough, I think.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday: Witch Rhymes with Bitch

I was Googling around and put in the search terms "feminist mysteries," expecting to get back a list of books by women writers or books featuring female protagonists. Instead, what I got were links to a series of books about the neo-pagan movement, some of which I've read (Drawing Down the Moon) and some of which I haven't (The Holy Book of women's Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft,Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts).
That search led me to this excerpt from a paper on occult crime and law enforcement by a writer named Isaac Bonewits. (The website is holysmoke.orghttp://www.holysmoke.org/  which turns out to be a Scientology site.)
And that sent my train of thought derailing into the whole subject of witches. Some of the greatest villains in pop culture and English literature were memorable witches--Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Narnia's White Witch and the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz (and also her kinder/gentler self in Wicked). There is the wicked queen/witch of Snow White and the witches in The Golden Compass. In The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, a contemporary woman discovers she's heiress to a tradition of healing that goes back to the Salem Witch Trials and an ancestress accused of witchcraft.  The book is a historical novel first and last, but it has a theme that you see over and over in witch books--a woman inherits a supernatural destiny. And in all of these books, the heroine is a strong woman, powerful and in command. (And usually beautiful, which is in itself a sort of power.) The only exception I've seen is Anne Rice's "Mayfair Witches" books, which have, to me, an unpleasant undertone of victimization and sexual politics.

A Book to Look Out For: Penny Marshall's My Mother Was Nuts

Garry Marshall, Penny's older brother, wrote one of the best show biz memoirs I ever read, Wake Me When It's Funny. The book is full of really smart advice for writers, among other things, and although it's a bit dated, I always recommend it to people who want to know what writing for television is really like. Penny's book, My Mother Was Nuts comes out next week and it sounds like it's going to be a good one too. Among other things, it promotes her four rules of life: "try hard, help your friends, don’t get too crazy, and have fun.”  I can't wait to read it.  Penny Marshall directed two of my favorite movies, Big and A League of Their Own.

Keith Rawson sounds off on gender and noir

You may know Keith Rawson from his blog, Bloody Knuckles, Calloused Fingers, or as author of the short fiction collection The Chaos We Know. He is also the co-editor of Crime Factory: The First Shift. He's got a column over at Lit Reactor today that touches on a subject dear to my heart--gender and noir. Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Women Gone Wild--You have been warned!

Courtesy of Just For Grins

It's my birthday and I'll laugh if I want to!

I'm not really a birthday kind of gal. I prefer Christmas and Halloween, holidays where food and family are important and people give you things and you can dress up if you want to. (I work at home in casual attire, so putting on grown-up clothes is actually dressing up for me.) and people give you candy! I never did like Mary Janes though--and as far as I can tell, you only got Mary Janes at Halloween.
So, Christmas and Halloween are my holidays. And Thanksgiving too.
This year, I have hit one of the "big 0" birthdays and it's come at a time when I'm going through family pictures and scanning the ones I want to keep and letting go of the rest. I ran across this picture of myself and it gave me pause. I'm probably around two in the picture with a haircut that has my mother's hand all over it. (To this day I don't wear bangs because she traumatized me!)
But what strikes me is that in the picture,  I have a skinned knee and I'm laughing.
I was a happy kid. And I got a lot of skinned knees.  And I laughed them off.
And that's a lesson I want to take with me into the next decades of my life.
Life is full of skinned knees and birthdays and sometimes, you just have to laugh it off.
And I cannot WAIT to see what happens next.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New from the Dashing Dish

Courtesy of the Dashing Dish
HOW GOOD DOES THIS LOOK?
I love food blogs. I regularly check in with PunchFork, a site that picks the best of the best. Today this recipe for Crispy Baked Parmesan Green Bean fries for the Dashing Dish caught my eye.
I am a reformed junk food junkie but like any recovering addict the taste is still there. This looks like a recipe that will curb my cravings but won't leave me feeling guilty.
Dashing Dish was created by Katie Farrell  for the sole purpose of finding healthier alternatives to unhealthy food choices. The recipes sound incredibly yummy and I can't wait to try out some of them. (Almond Joy pancakes anyone?)
Katie sells memberships to her site so not all recipes are accessible, but what you can see for free is pretty great.

Coming Soon--Interviews with Lowrance, Laity and more

Heath Lowrance is blog-hopping this week to talk about his new book, City of Heretics. He'll be here on Saturday.
Kate Laity, who is currently editing her anthology Weird Noir, will be here soon.
Kattomic Energy interviews with writers Christine Pope and G. Wells Taylor are in the offing as well, and the multi-talented Julie Robitaille, writer and artist, will drop by soon too.

Monday, September 10, 2012

READ is a four-letter word

I grew up in a house of readers. My mother read mysteries; my father popular history with an emphasis on Civil War biographies. My sister preferred non-fiction as well, especially social histories and examinations of culture; my brother is a more eclectic reader who bounces back and forth and often recommends books to me. I read everything and have turned my love of reading into a career. Who knew?
Unlike a lot of people I know, I am a big proponent of phonics because that's how I was taught to read. I didn't know how to read when I entered school but I could recognize some words because one or the other of my parents read to me every night. (And more often than not it was my father, who loved, loved, loved words.  He knew that kids like the sound of silly words and he was a lawyer, so he taught us all phrases like posse comitatus and delighted in hearing us parrot them back. He also taught us the meaning. How many eight year olds can define the term? Which may explain why my brother became a lawyer, so he'd have a chance to use all those ornate Latin phrases.)
I was thinking about reading today as I read about the Teacher's Strike in  Chicago.
Education begins with reading  and reading needs to begin in childhood.  There are some great organizations out there to help encourage childhood reading and all of them are hurting for money in these difficult (understatement of the year) economic times. If you have a little spare change, consider donating it to Reading is Fundamental or Kids Need to Read.
For me, supporting causes like that is enlightened self-interest. Kids who read turn into people who buy books. I think of it as job security.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cat and Snark--Internet goodness


Noir at the Bar--LA

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday Sample Story--Boundaries

Photo by Dani Simmonds
I am re-editing the stories in my Twelve Nights of Christmas collection, which I had in the Kindle Prime program. As soon as the term runs out (two weeks from now), I am going to republish it with a new cover, re-branded as the 12 Nights of Christmas.  It'll be interesting to see how it does. I've been asking people how they liked their Kindle Prime experience and the answers have been amixed bag. Dani at Blog Book Tours (on FB) pointed me toward some people who were very, very happy with their results, but among my friends and colleagues, there hasn't been that much enthusiasm. I think for me, it comes down to the old, "Why leave money on the table?"  It's not that I sell large numbers of books at Barnes and Noble and Kobo, I don't. But I do sell some. And I just don't see "borrowing" translating to "sales." Thoughts?
Anyway, this is one of the stories from that collection, my version of "A Partridge in a Pear Tree." Enjoy.



Boundaries

Five families came west to Kansas, searching for a better life than the lives that had been shattered by the war. To begin with there were 16 adults and 14 children, three dogs, six goats, two cows, a small flock of chickens, three pigs and a stray kitten one of the children had picked up when the group passed through St. Louis.
The families arrived in summer and built their sod houses and planted small gardens for the kitchen and plowed their land to make it ready for the coming year.
They’d all been farmers back in Maryland, so they knew how harsh farming life could be.
At least they thought they knew until their first winter on their new land when the temperature reached minus 34 degrees and nearly one hundred inches of snow fell between October and March.
The flock of chickens didn’t survive, and one of the cows died too—even though the family that owned her kept her inside with them to keep her warm.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Feminist Friday: Equal Opportunity Political Iconography

We've all seen the iconic image of "Rosie the Riveter" rolling up her sleeves and proclaiming, "We Can Do It."  The image we know was created by Pittsburgh artist Howard Miller. the model was Geraldine Hoff Doyle, a 17-year-old working as a metal stamping machine operator in Ann Arbor.
It's such a powerful  image that even though Norman Rockwell later painted a "Rosie the Riveter" cover for Saturday Evening Post, the Miller poster is the one we remember.
And it's also the one that has been used ever since as a symbol of female empowerment by candidates and others on both sides of the political spectrum. During the 2008 campaign, there were several versions using GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The visual fit the candidate's roots and persona as a "can do" kinda gal, and you saw a lot of it.
In 2012, there being no women in the running, Michelle Obama has inherited the "We Can Do It"  image, which is sometimes captioned "Yes We Can," to echo the motto of her husband's 2008 campaign.
This campaign season, in one way or another, it has been all about the women. Both the Republicans and the Democrats showcased an amazing parade of smart women who represent the best their parties have to offer. It was thrilling to see all of them.
In the immortal words of Dirty Dancing--"Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Women voters will mostly likely decide who will be President come 2013. We can do it. Yes we can.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quick Cuisine--Curried Brown Rice with Veggies

Photo by Vassilis Dourdounis
Things have been incredibly hectic this week at Chez Kattomic, and meals have been a rather haphazard affair. That's always a problem because you can only order pizza or make microwave nachos so many nights before you start running a nutrition deficit. Here's my go-to recipe for busy nights.

CURRIED BROWN RICE
WITH VEGETABLES AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (corn/peas/carrots/green beans)
Several ounces unsalted sunflower seeds (to taste, really. I like a lot of crunch)
2 TBSP. olive oil
salt to taste (I don't add salt if I'm making this just for myself, but will add it if sharing) 
Curry powder to taste (I like a lot, and I use a Madras curry blend) 

Prepare the brown rice as usual, but dump in everything else.  It will take a little while for the water to come back to a boil because of the frozen veggies but then just turn off and cover as usual.

This will serve two people heartily as a main dish and you only have to spend about five minutes at the stove.  It's kind of like fried rice without the egg and the olive oil makes it particularly satisfying.

Little Brother

Four years ago I wrote this story for a contest that challenged writers to come up with a tale about the newly elected president.  The winning story was terrific, an interior monologue the President had while smoking a cigarette bummed from a Secret Service Agent. I dug up this story after watching a night full of great speeches given by women at the DNC. Such amazing diversity--and I don't mean  ethnicity and race and creed. Sister Simone Campbell and Cecile Richards. (I remember Governor Ann Richards and think she would be very proud of her daughter.) And I thought of the women who broke the ground for the women who were at the podium tonight. The narrator in this story is one of those women who came before--a woman who once gave a keynote speech at the DNC herself.
This is the only piece of political fiction I've ever written. 




Little Brother

 
President Barack Obama came to Austin today.  Austin loves him.  When he and Joe Biden came through on the Obama-Rama campaign stop last year, the whole town went crazy.  This year the welcome is a bit more subdued, but still enthusiastic. 

He is here to make a speech and as he passed through the main terminal of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, there were some who expected he would stop for a photo opportunity and maybe mention me.  Instead he joked with reporters about football and kept moving.  Well he was preaching to the choir there.  The reporters were all local boys and Texas is football country after all.  We’re known for it.  That and birthing beauty queens. 

I don’t begrudge the slight. He’s a man in a hurry, that Obama and if talking foolishness with a couple of good ol’ boys is what it takes to play the game, then so be it.  The game was different in my time but I still played to win, even when I knew the odds were stacked against me.  When I was mentioned as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter in 1976, I knew that was never going to happen and just accepted it.  Although it would have been nice to be asked.

I didn’t go to Harvard Law school like the President, although Harvard started accepting my kind back in 1950.  Instead I got my degree from Boston University Law School and then went home to Texas before getting involved in politics.  John Connally was governor then.  He was a man I could work with.  Not like Dolph Briscoe who was a Democrat too but acted more like a Republican sometimes. 

We butted heads over the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  You remember, that was the one that extended the rights of language minorities.  Dolph didn’t really see the point.  Well, he wouldn’t, would he?  I didn’t find much to admire about the second president from Texas but I’ll say this.  He spoke Spanish like a native and could communicate with all his constituents back when he was governor.