Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cover Reveal!! Secrets in the Shadows

A boxed set of shifters, shifters, and more shifters--coming out in May 2018.  Edited by Jena Gregoire, the set includes all-new material by writers Catherine Vale, Gina Wynn, Heather Hildenbrand, Liz Gavin, Nicole Zotack, Madeline Sheehan, Heather Magoon Felder, Brandy Dorsch, Victoria Cleave, and me, Kat Parrish. I'm quite excited!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A review of An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

It's a few years in the future and China's now-discarded "One Child" Policy has created a surplus of middle-aged men who have no hope of marrying. To serve the needs of this demographic, which the State has dubbed, "the Bounty," a new form of marriage has been created--the Advanced Family. Women can marry two men (or even three, although that's a bit frowned on) and in the process, can collect a handsome dowry.

Wei-guo, who owns his own fitness business desperately hopes that Wu May-ling will take him on as a third husband but has no idea of just how complicated her relationships are. She's married to brothers Hann and XX and both men have secrets they've shared with her but which could get them sterilized--or even imprisoned--if the government found out. 

This is a debut novel from author King and it is spectacular. She tells the story from four different viewpoints, and each voice is beautifully crafted. Along the way there's a generous helping of Chinese custom as well as an overlay of the ponderous bureaucracy of the Communist state, and it all works really well. You can read an excerpt here.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

United for Puerto Rico

You've seen the pictures. You've watched the interviews with the mayor of San Juan. This is a crisis. Puerto Ricans are  Americans. Donate here.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A List of Books About Women in Hollywood

I've thought a lot about the role of women in Hollywood. I have worked as a reader, as an executive, as a screenwriter, and even as a set caterer. I've worked for some terrific women--Lauren Shuler Donner, Kathryn Bigelow, Nina Jacobson--and I've seen how male Hollywood is consistently surprised when "women's movies" actually make money. As if, somehow, those execs didn't realize that women went to movies too. I decided to look around and see if there were any books on the topic.  Here's a short list.

1.  A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960 by Jeanine Basinger.

Now, Voyager, Stella Dallas, Leaver Her to Heaven, Imitation of Life, Mildred Pierce, Gilda…these are only a few of the hundreds of “women’s films” that poured out of Hollywood during the thirties, forties, and fifties. The films were widely disparate in subject, sentiment, and technique, they nonetheless shared one dual purpose: to provide the audience (of women, primarily) with temporary liberation into a screen dream—of romance, sexuality, luxury, suffering, or even wickedness—and then send it home reminded of, reassured by, and resigned to the fact that no matter what else she might do, a woman’s most important job was…to be a woman. Now, with boundless knowledge and infectious enthusiasm, Jeanine Basinger illuminates the various surprising and subversive ways in which women’s films delivered their message.

2.  In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney

Over 100 exceptional and influential women describe how they embraced their creative spirit, overcame adversity, and sparked a global movement of entrepreneurship. Media titans and ceramicists, hoteliers and tattoo artists, comedians and architects—taken together, these profiles paint a beautiful picture of what happens when we pursue our passions and dreams.

3.  Unruly Girls, Unrepentant Mothers: Redefining Feminism on Screen by Kathleen Rowe Karlyn.

This is a scholarly book from the University of Texas, and the continued examination of ideas first articulated in Karlyn's book Unruly Women.  I haven't read this book and would love to, but it's hideously expensive--the Kindle version is $30, which is kind of beside the point of making books available in digital editions.

4.  Go West Young Women!  The Rise of Early Hollywood by Mary A. Hallett. 

In the early part of the twentieth century, migrants  made their way from rural homes to cities in record numbers and many traveled west. Los Angeles became a destination. Women flocked to the growing town to join the film industry as workers and spectators, creating a "New Woman." Their efforts transformed filmmaking from a marginal business to a cosmopolitan, glamorous, and bohemian one. By 1920, Los Angeles had become the only western city where women outnumbered men. In Go West, Young Women, Hilary A. Hallett explores these relatively unknown new western women and their role in the development of Los Angeles and the nascent film industry.

Labba Bray's Beauty Queens...a review

Libba Bray’s novel BeautyQueens is a satire that plays out like an all-female Lord of the Rings, a project that is now, contentiously, in development at Warner Brothers. The author has written an essay for Entertainment Weekly about what happened when Hollywood came calling for her project, and it’s definitely worth the read if you’re interested in what people are calling, “Hollywood’s Woman Problem.”

If you haven’t read the book, here’s my review:

When a plane full of teenage beauty contestants crashes on a not-quite-deserted island, the young women find themselves fighting for survival with all their pageant skills and determination.

It’s an old show business axiom that “Satire is what closes Saturday night.”  In Beauty Queens, Bray lets loose on a ton of popular culture topics, from reality shows (Amish girls and strippers share a house on Girls Gone Rumpspringa) to beauty pageants to plucky businesswomen running for president.  She hits her targets too, for the most part, although the arch tone of the book’s prologue is a little annoying. 

The result is not unlike the HBO movie about the Texas cheerleader murdering mom, which was played tongue-in-cheek to good effect.  The problem is that this estrogen-soaked version of Lost meets Lord of the Flies meets Survivor is kind of one note and awfully silly and it’s hard to see what demographic it plays to. 

There’s also a part of us that sees the story more like one of those parodies of contemporary movies, like Vampires Suck.  Adding the satire to the comedy is not necessarily a commercial choice.  (Two hilarious satires about politics, Election and Dick were both disastrous at the box office ($15 million and $6 million returns, with no international distribution), and this satire seems to have an even more narrow focus.)  Also, the shows that are the targets here seem like somewhat dated topics—having been done to death in Comedy Central and Mad TV and SNL and … many other places.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Interview with author Carol L. Wright

Carol L. Wright is a former domestic relations attorney and adjunct professor. She is the author of articles and one book on law-related subjects. Now focused on fiction, she has several short stories in literary journals and award-winning anthologies. Death in Glenville Falls is her first novel. 

She is a founder of the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC, is a life member of both Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America, and a member of SinC Guppies, PennWriters, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

She is married to her college sweetheart. They live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with their rescue dog, Mr. Darcy, and a clowder of cats.

Your first Gracie McIntyre mystery is out this summer. Can you give us a sneak preview? Who is Gracie and how does she run into a mystery?

Yes, thanks! I’m so excited to have my first mystery, Death in Glenville Falls, come out August 29.

It’s about former attorney Gracie McIntyre who left the practice of law eighteen years ago, following the death of a client in an apparent murder/suicide. Since then, she’s been a stay-at-home mom and part-time professor at the local college where her husband teaches history. Now that her son is off to college and her daughter has started high school, she is ready for a new challenge. But opening a new-and-used book shop gives her more than she bargains for—especially after a young woman appears, reminding Gracie of the past she’s tried to leave behind.

Days after the grand opening, Gracie’s store comes under attack. What’s worse, she suspects a police officer might be behind it. As violence escalates, she is forced to investigate on her own to save her store—and possibly her life.

How did you transition from your law career to writing fiction?

I’ve always been a writer, and even did a stint as a book editor for a couple of years. But as a lawyer and academic, most of my work was legal or technical writing. It was actually my younger brother who urged me to write fiction. He remembered how I used to invent adventurous bedtime stories for him as he was growing up. (It must have helped to ignite his imagination, too, because he writes fiction as well.) As I began to explore fiction writing, I found it enormously fulfilling. I think he thought I would write children’s fiction, so was a little surprised when I started writing mysteries.  

Your short fiction has been collected in numerous award-winning anthologies. Do you find it hard to “switch gears” when you go from short to long fiction?

Not really. Aside from the obvious difference—the amount of time it takes to write a short story vs. a novel—there are some other significant differences between long- and short-form fiction. In a novel, you can develop your characters more fully, and weave in a more intricate plot, so the rewards of long-form fiction are great. But there’s nothing like the relatively immediate gratification you get from writing a short story that you’re really happy with. You can also explore some characters or genres you might not be willing to spend an entire novel with, so in that way, writing a short story is recreation and a welcome break from the hard work of novel writing. Last year, I even published a middle-grade story. What fun!

Are you a member of a writer’s group? Do you belong to Sisters in Crime? Have you ever been to a writer’s convention?

Writing is such a solitary profession, I can’t imagine doing it without being part of a community. My writers group is the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC 
(http://bethlehemwritersgroup.com). I get great advice and ideas from that group of talented authors in a variety of genres. I am also a member of Sisters in Crime and the SinC Guppies subgroup. They are extremely supportive of their members in every way. I know if I have mystery-specific questions, I can find answers there.

I have been to several writers conferences over the years, from the Iowa Summer Writers Festival to Malice Domestic and many more. It’s a great chance to get together with people who understand what it’s like to be a writer and don’t look at you funny when you ask questions about lethal concoctions or how to get rid of a body.

Who are your favorite writers (not necessarily mystery writers)?

I love so many of my fellow mystery writers that I wouldn’t try to list them all for fear of leaving someone out. As for other writers, I love Jane Austen (and am a Life Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America), and enjoy other classics as well. For more contemporary fiction writers, though, I like those who make us see life, history, or literature from a different perspective, such as Connie Willis, Jasper Fforde, Hilary Mantel, Alice Walker, Michael Crichton, Anthony Doerr . . . I could go on and on. I also love the work of many nonfiction writers, both for research and for pleasure.

How would you describe your story (“The Dark Side of the Light”) in the Day of the Dark collection?

My story is about the darkness and light of the eclipse occurring at the same time that a husband and wife, who had each kept the other "in the dark" about some life-altering information, reveal their secrets to one another. But it does not necessarily follow that being "enlightened" results in happiness. In fact, there can be a “dark side of the light.”

Have you ever seen a total eclipse? Will you be able to see this one?
I’ve seen a partial eclipse, but never a total eclipse. (It’s very accommodating of the cosmos to bring one so close to so many Americans this year, don’t you think?) I would have to travel to get to the path of totality this year, since I live in Pennsylvania where we’re only expected to see about 75% coverage. Still, I have my eclipse glasses. It ought to be a good show!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This is not America

Monday, August 7, 2017

Twelve Books That Made Me Happy

Good Housekeeping published a list today of 60 Books That Will Make You Happier and I found it a kind of strange list, full of books like Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and the ever-annoying Eat, Pray, Love. But that got me thinking about the books I've read that made me happy.  Not necessarily happy I'd read them--almost any book does that--but a book that made me laugh or gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I read a lot of noir and horror; sometimes I need a warm, fuzzy feeling from my fiction. Here's a list I made:

1.  Michael Malone's Handling Sin. This is a road trip book about a man chasing down his rascal of a father and discovering he has half-siblings. His full-of-life best friend comes along and it's all set in the south. And gets it totally right. Malone also writes wonderful mysteries.

2.  Eudora Welty, The Ponder Heart. This is a novella and it's also very southern. Seems Uncle Daniel POnder, a confirmed bachelor, has married a young woman who spends all her time reading magazines and making "the kind of fudge anybody can make." This is a lovely take on small towns and families and will make you smile.

3.  Cyde Edgerton, Walking Across Egypt. The first book of Clyde's I read was The Floatplane Notebooks, which is a family saga told from multiple points of view, including that of the kudzu vine wrpping the house. This is a quick read, a book about an independent old lady and her dog and a young boy in need of love.

4.  Sharyn McCrumb, St. Dale. I am a huge fan of McCrumb's Appalachian Ballad es with their dual timelines. This stand-alone book is not a mystery at all, but an ensemble piece about a tour group visiting NASCAR sites as a summer vacation. It comes across like one of those multi-plot movies the late, great Garry Marshall used to make--New Year's Day or Valentine's Day, or a summer version of Love, Actually.

5.  Joe Keeena, Blue Heaven (not to be confused with the 1990 Steve Martin movie My Blue Heaven). This is a rollicking novel about two dead broke best friends in New York who decide to marry for the wedding presents and other loot and the hijinks that ensue. There's a running bit about a character  who fancies herself a designer coming up with the wedding dress that's hilarious.

6.  Rita Mae Brown, Bingo.  Again, a character-heavy novel set in the south.  My grandmother lived with me when I was a child and the old ladies in this book remind me so much of her, especially in a scene where two woomen get so competitive in a game of bingo that they start attacking each other with their dab-a-dot markers. (They're apparently called Do-A-Dots these days, but if you ever went to a bingo hall with your grandparents, you know what I mean.) there are sequels!  I love this book but hate Brown's super-sweet cozy mysteries.

7. Beverly Cleary, Beezus and Ramona.  Actually, I loved all the books that Beverly Cleary wrote. She was the first "author" I followed. I remember going to the library to get her books. she's 101 years old!!!  I loved the books because I had a little sister I loved and we had neighbors and the book seemed like the even-better version of my own childhood.

8.  Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game. I love, love, love this book. It's a puzzle about a wealthy man who intends to leave his fortune to whoever can solve a puzzle. It involves multiple characters in various families and it's a wonderful story about friendship and families and expectations and dreams. Raskin wrote other, similar books (The Disappearance of Leon, I mean Noel) but this one is her best.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

I'll be reviewing this upcoming novel for Criminal Element in a few weeks, but here's a mini-review. I liked the book a lot:

Bluebird, BluebirdBluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful book about race relations that does an excellent job of hiding the real secret of its mystery. Locke's mastery of character and dialogue is topnotch and she's pitch-perfect in creating this small Texas town. I've enjoyed her past books (BLACKWATER RISING particularly), but I think this is her best one yet.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 4, 2017

Weekend SF and Fantasy Promotion

For only ninety-nine cents more than nothing, you can buy a whole slew of fantasy and science fiction books this weekend--all your favorite genres in one big, beautiful promo here.  You know those savings accounts that "match" and "round up" your spare change? I like to use my spare change for books. I WILL be buying a few books this weekend.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wesley Snipes' new Urban Fantasy

Actor Wesley Snipes and co-author Ray Norman have a new urban fantasy novel out from Harper Collins. Talon of God got a nice review from USA Today and it's currently available in all formats. Here's the blurb:

Imagine that everyone you have ever known or loved was forced against their will into a state of demonic possession and spiritual slavery. Imagine an unholy cabal of the world’s richest and most powerful men directing this sinister plan in order to cement their unbridled control of the planet.
Imagine two heroes emerging from that darkness to do battle with the forces of evil.
Set in the mean streets of Chicago, Talon of God is the action-packed adventure centered around the Lauryn Jefferson, a beautiful young doctor who is dragged into a seemingly impossible battle against the invisible forces of Satan’s army and their human agents that are bent on enslaving humanity in a mission to establish the kingdom of hell on Earth.
But Lauryn is a skeptic, and it’s only as she sees a diabolical drug sweep her city and begins to train in the ways of a spirit warrior by the legendary man of God, Talon Hunter, that she discovers her true nature and inner strength. Facing dangerous trials and tests, it’s a true baptism by fire. And if they fail, millions could die. And rivers of blood would flow throughout the land.
Imagine such horror. Such pain. And imagine what it would take to fight against it. For only the strongest and most faithful will survive?
Get ready. Armageddon approaches quickly.

Sounds like the beginning of a great new series to me!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books about books--a great list of suggestions

One of the things that's happened in the last few years is that publishers are starting to repurpose thier websites as content hubs. thus you have Macmillan's crime fiction site Criminal Element, which features numerous bloggers contributing articles and reviews, along with excerpts and contests and sweepstakes.Penguin/Random House is no exception. They have exceptionally engaging content, including their READ DOWN feature. One of the offerings today is a list of books about books. It's an eclectic list (Ink and Bone, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars) and even if it is heavy on Penguin books, that doesn't take away from the suggestions.

Free books for the First of August

It's Tuesday. Want some free books for your favorite ebook reader? Of course you do. Here's an instafreebie giveaway sponsored by writer Erik Carter.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Freebie Fiction!!!

It's Friday and there are freebies all over the place.
Like Dystopian? Here you go. Fancy something more steampunky? Check these out. Books with kick-ass heroines across a variety of genres? There's a giveaway for that.

Here's a thriller and mystery deal that will end soon--as in today, Friday the 28th. So don't wait.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Twenty -three writers, one boxed set

Venom and Vampires, a boxed set of novels and novellas themed to paranormal creatures, went live last night on Apple, Kobo, Nook, and Amazon.  It's a double-dozen tales, with a little something for everyone, from straight up urban fantasy to historic fantasy to Kory Shrum's rural noir-tinged tale. This is a limited edition and the material is all original, so it's not one of those boxed sets where the editor gathered a bunch of stuff that's already out there. If you love the genre, you really owe it to yourself to pick it up. (Just 99 cents plus tax where applicable.)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Author Interview...KB Inglee

KB Inglee writes historical short stories. Her collection, The Case Book of Emily Lawrence is available from Wildside Press. She works as an historical interpreter at a 1704 water powered grist mill. She lives in Delaware with her family and too many pets.

When you research your fiction you really get into it. Are you part of an organized group of history re-enactors? I work at Newlin Grist Mill where I present the 1704 grist mill and the 1739 miller’s house, spin on a great wheel, and wrangle any animals I can. I am not part of an independent group of re-enactors.

What is your favorite era, and why? Early colonial. My grandfather was the pastor of the Pilgrim Church in Plymouth and the Adams church in Quincy, so I was pretty much brainwashed as a kid. I haven’t figured out how I ended up writing late 19th century, probably my least favorite time period.

In the spirit of your historical fiction, have you ever written a story longhand? When I started writing, I wrote in longhand a lot, but as I aged it got more illegible, so if I want to read it, it has to be on the computer.

Do you find it hard to “switch gears” when you go from short to long fiction? I don’t have a problem since nowadays write only short fiction.

Are you a member of a writer’s group? Do you belong to Sisters in Crime? Have you ever been to a writer’s convention? Yes, yes, and yes. I would not be where I am now if I hadn’t found Sisters in Crime. I belong to two SinC chapters, and a critique group. I also belong to Pennwriters, and I am part of a group of Delaware writers. I try to attend two writer’s conferences a year. Favorites are Malice Domestic, New England Crimebake and Pennwriters.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Author Interview...Debra H. Goldstein

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star -2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have appeared in periodicals and anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Birmingham Arts Journal, Mardi Gras Murder and The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem. In addition to being the Sisters in Crime Guppy President, Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime board, numerous civic boards in Birmingham, Alabama and is an MWA member.

I love the title of your website, “It’s Not Always a Mystery.” Your first two books—including the IPPY Award-winning Maze in Blue—were mysteries. Do you have an alter-ego who’s writing in another genre?

For years, my alter-ego could be found in the decisions I issued as Judge Debra H. Goldstein (much more boring than my mysteries).  I called my blog “It’s Not Always a Mystery” because, under my own name, I write both mystery and literary short stories and non-fiction essays, as well as my novels. 

You grew up in New Jersey and Michigan and worked in New York before moving to Atlanta to attend law school. Now you live in Birmingham, Alabama. Was it an adjustment, a culture shock when you first moved to the South?

For me, moving to the South was a charming experience.  I embraced it although I came South by accident. I was working in New York and had been accepted to several law schools.  I got on a plane to tour some of the ones offering me scholarship money.  It was snowing when I left New Jersey, snowing harder in Pennsylvania, snowing even harder at my next stop, but when the plane broke through the clouds in Atlanta, I saw the red clay Margaret Mitchell described in Gone With the Wind and this English major was hooked.  I didn’t know it was the day after one of our terrible rainstorms when the air is clear, the pollen washed away. At that point, I thought I would be here for three years, but when I took my first job out of law school, it was in Michigan during a winter which had thirty-four inches of snow.  I moved back to the South the following year.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Author Interview...Kristin Kisska

Kristin Kisska used to be a finance geek, complete with MBA and Wall Street pedigree. A member of the International Thriller Writers, James River Writers, and Sisters in Crime, Kristin is now a self-proclaimed fictionista.

Her short mystery story, “The Sevens” was included in the Anthony Award-winning anthology, MURDER UNDER THE OAKS (2015). “A Colonial Grave,” which is a murder mystery set in Colonial Williamsburg, was included in Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II (2016). She was excited that her jewelry heist short story, “Wine and Prejudice” set in Savannah was included in Fifty Shades of Cabernet (2017). And, she contributed her psychological suspense short story, “To the Moon and Back” to the eclipse-themed anthology, Day of the Dark (2017).

When not writing suspense novels and historical thrillers or blogging for Lethal Ladies Write, she can be found on her website~ www.KristinKisska.com, on Facebook @KristinKisskaAuthor, and Tweeting @KKMHOO. Kristin lives in Virginia with her husband and three children.

On your website, you describe yourself as a “finance geek” complete with an MBA and a Wall Street pedigree. Does that background figure into your fiction?

            Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Katherine! It’s truly an honor.
No, I haven’t written any finance stories yet; perhaps I overdosed on corporate financial statements and stock prices when I wore my investment banker hat. That said, someday I hope my muse will inspire me with a chilling MBA-themed suspense or mystery plot.
So far my published stories have involved a secret society (“The Sevens”), a cold case murder (A Colonial Grave), a jewelry heist (“Wine and Prejudice”), and with Day of the Dark, a mother-daughter bond (“To the Moon and Back”).

I had to laugh when I saw you had a story in an anthology called Virginia is for Mysteries. I used to work for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and had the original “Virginia is for Lovers” t-shirt. (And yes, many people asked me if my name was Virginia.) What took you from Virginia to Prague?

I’m a first generation American from then-Czechoslovakia.  A few years after the Iron Curtain fell, I decided it was finally time to explore the country of my dad’s birth and meet my family members. I bought a one-way ticket to Prague—my parents thought I was nuts.  After three years living in the *Paris of the East*, I returned to the States, but Prague is still the city of my heart (it’s the setting of both a new short story and the novel I’m currently writing).

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bride of the Midnight King is free!

In honor of the release of Midnight Queen next week, I have put Bride of the Midnight King on freebie for five days. It's been my best-seller since it was published and has a nice smattering of 5-star reviews.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A timely Shakespeare quote

"Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss."  The line comes from one of Shakespeare's lesser plays, Pericles. (Most scholars believe that Shakespeare had a co-author for this one and that he only wrote about half of it. It is commonly lumped in with the :"Jacobean plays.") Whoever wrote it, it's a great line.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Free mysteries

Free mysteries and thrillers to download from InstaFreebie.
Who doesn't like #FreeBooks?

From Russia with Love

Grigori Kozintsev's Hamlet
Every once in a while I get a huge spike in views of this blog in Russia. While I'd love to think that I've suddenly picked up a lot of fans in Moscow and Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg, the reality is that some Russian bot is probing Kattomic Energy for weak spots. The bots hang out for about a week, sending my view count sky high, and then they slink back to wherever they came from.

I found myself wondering what Shakespeare thought of Russia, if he thought of Russia at all. Shakespeare's life spanned the 16th and 17th centuries and by then, Moscow was a huge cultural center. It was a principality known to the English as "Muscovy." That land pops up a couple of times in Shakespeare's plays, most notably in Act V, Scene III of Love's Labour's Lost when Rosaline asks another character why he looks so  under the weather: 

Why look you pale?
Sea-sick, I think, coming from Muscovy. 

In searching for Shakespeare/Muscovy links, I ran across this article about the way Soviet Russia viewed Ophelia. Poor Ophelia.  Using Grigori Kozintsev's film version of Hamlet as a source, the article deconstructs her "corruption." It's interesting reading.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shakespeare's balls

19th century lawn tennis
Tennis balls, that is.

One of the best scenes in Shakespeare's Henry V is the one where he receives a gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin. (This actually happened. See the account here.) Henry is not happy with the gift, which is an insult to him and the resulting speech, which begins, "We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us," is a masterpiece. taht scene takes place in the 15th century, and by then, the game was already three centuries old. Think about that as you watch Wimbledon.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Baby it's Cold Outside.

Temperatures hit 24 Celsius in London this weekend, which is a rather balmy 75 Fahrenheit.  That's much cooler than almost anywhere in the United States right now, including the Pacific Northwest where overnight temps are still dipping into the 50s even though daytime temps are in the mid-80s.
June would not have been particularly warm in Shakespeare's time. He was born in 1564, right in the middle of the Little Ice Age and only a decade after major glacial expansion began.  There's a reason why they wore so many layers of clothes back then.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Essex Serpent should be on your TBR pile

I've always loved historical fiction but I don't read that much of it any more, unless it's for work. In the past year I've read some wornderful books, including Karen Essex's Kleopatra and its sequel. This weekend I read The Essex Serpent, a debut novel from UK author Sarah Perry and it was the best couple of hours I've spent in some time. Not only is the period well-researched, right down to little details like mention of a game of "Chinese whispers," but her writing is lush and layered and downright beautiful without getting in the way of the story.

In The Essex Serpent, a widowed woman with a scientific mind becomes intrigued by a local legend and with her companion and odd young son in tow, she begins looking into things, much to the dismay of her London friends, some of whom are aware her rich, controlling husband was an abusive bastard and some who are not. (Cora has a scar on her neck in the exact shape of an ornate leaf decorating a candlestick that her husband once pressed into her flesh lhard enough to wound.)
The "mystery" of the serpent is eventually solved, but that particular plot thread is not the only one that holds our attention.

This is a character-driven book and the characters are fantastic. Cora is an extremely sympathetic character. For all her flaws (and her companion Martha freely points those out), she's also a generous woman with a prodigious intellect, a woman born a century too soon. (There are scenes where ehs has to endure "mansplaining" and has to bite her tongue and readers will bond with her over the experience.) But then there's Cora's complex relationship with her 11-year-old son Francis. She doesn't really like him and though she'd say she loves him, we sense it's only out of duty. He IS very odd, and nowadays would likely be diagnosed as being somewhere along the autism spectrum. But Francis is not just a gimmick of a character; he's fully realized and when he unexpectedly bonds with a sick woman, it is a touching and believable event.
Cora meets a kindred spirit in the most unlikely place--the local rectory. She's a Darwinist and an atheist and she's delighted that the local minister is open-minded and quick-witted, and more than happy to challenge her to debates on a subject both find fascinating. And meanwhile, there's mass hysteria at the village school, a missing girl, a Socialist who awakens the social conscience of a wealthy man, and more.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Because a good meme is timeless!

When the "Nevertheless, she persisted" meme first showed up, it was in honor of Elizabeth Warren. But as it turns out, there have been a number of times when it is applicable. Ansaldo Design Group has taken the phrase and adapted it to a series of graphic totes featuring feminist icons ranging from Joan of Arc to Queen Elizabeth I to Harriet Tubman to Junko Tabei (a Japanese mountaineer and the first woman to summit Everest). Some designs are also available on t-shirts. Check them all out here.

Venom and Vampires Boxed Set--for Apple

This terrific boxed set is going wide. Sure, you can get it on Kindle and Barnes & Noble, but it's also available for your iDevices. Click here. This is a limited edition--a bundle of paranormal novels)  deal. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Julius Caesar, then and now

My first encounter with Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar was watching the star-studded 1953 film in my 9th grade English class. James Mason was Brutus, Marlon Brando played Mark Antony, and John Gielgud played Cassius, he of the "lean and hungry look." I have to say, I was not particularly impressed then, and upon looking at Antony's famous "I come to bury Caesar not to praise him" speech (see it here on Youtube), I haven't really changed my mind although looking at the black and white clip, it's eerie how Marlon Brando seems a sculpture come to life, so faded is the whitee of the film. And oddly, too, he reminds me of James Purefoy as Antony in Rome. (If you're interested, you can compare it to Charlton Heston's version from the 1970 adaptation here.)

I never really liked the play. A couple of female characters make cameo appearances, but there's no one like Coriolanus' mother in my favorite of Shakespeare's political plays. Vanessa Redgrave played her in the Ralph Fiennes version, and she was in her full Vanessa glory in a meaty part. For some reason, almost every high school English program uses Julius Caesar to introduce the bard to their students. (Sometimes it's Romeo and Juliet but in four of the five high schools I attended, Julius Caesar was the first play offered. And it's a wonder anyone ever went on to another play.)
That's why I'm so interested in the controversy the Public Theater has generated with their politically charged interpretation depicting Caesar as looking like Donald Trump.

What to read by Margaret Atwood after you've reread A Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood is one of the authors who is rewriting Shakespeare's plays for the "Hogarth Shakespeare'" collection. Her novel, Hag-Seed, is a r-imagining of Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest. Unlike some of the plays in the series so far (I'm thinking of Jeanette Winterson's luminous retelling of The Winter's Tale, Gap of Time), The Tempest is a play that's been re-imagined mamy, many times, most recently in Julie (The Lion King) Taymor's version with Helen Mirren as "Prospera." 

All of Shakespeare's plays are full of quotable lines, but my very favorite exchange in all of Shakespeare is a conversation between Prospero and Caliban. "You taught me language," Caliban says to Prospero, "and my profit on't is I know how to curse." I've seen about half a dozen performances of the play, including one stunning version mounted by Ellis Rabb and another starring Anthony Hopkins as Prospero. (Stephanie Zimbalist played Miranda.) 

I'm looking forward to reading Atwood's "take" on the tale because the books I've read so far have been terrific.  I'm especially looking forward to Nesbo's Macbeth, which is one of my favorite plays, despite its reputation for being a cursed piece of work.

Other books will be published over the next four years, including Jo Nesbo's version of Macbeth and Gillian Flynn's Hamlet. Tracy Chevalier's Othello re-do will be out this fall. I already have Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) and Howard Jacobson's Shylock is My Name (The Merchant of Venice).

i'm surious how much of a feminist take on the play Hag-Seed will have. One of the things that has always bothered me about The Tempest is the way Prospero stole the island from Caliban's mother, the witch Sycorax.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Saints and Misfits...a book fro the TBR pile

This has been a good year for coming-of-age stories by debut authors and Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali is another one.  Just read the sales copy and you'll want to read this book, which came out yesterday.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer of Shakespeare is Coming!!

Summer of Shakespeare took the summer off last year, but this year it'll be back, commenting on all things Shakespearean for three solid months. (Along with other items of interest and bookish things.) Get in the mood by wearing your "upstart crow" t-shirt, available on Etsy. The phrase "upstart crow" is attributed to Robert Greene, one of Shakespeare's contemporaries, who was throwing shade on the bard in his own work, A Groats-Worth of Wit. Greene died young (he was only 34), so maybe it's not fair to judge him on his body of work but honestly--just on titles alone, how memorable is A Groats- Worth of Wit, bought with a Million in Repentance? It sounds like required reading from a particularly humorless Sunday School teacher.

I do like the phrase, "Upstart Crow," though.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Coming Soon...Day of the Dark anthology

Kaye George has edited this very cool anthology of crime stories themed to the upcoming eclipse this summer. The book will be out next month from Wildside Press and I'm thrilled that my story, "The Path of Totality" is included. I like the cover a lot.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

New from M.J. Rose

M.J. Rose was the first really successful indie published writer I was aware of. (I hadn't yet heard of John Locke or Amanda Hocking.) I even had a book she'd written about self-publishing and selling the books herself. Then she got a traditional publishing contract. I liked her books and I liked that she was willing to share her tips. So I've been a fan for five years or so.
M.J. Rose writes lush prose.

I started out reading her Morgan Snow books, and they were a lot of fun. Her more work reminds me of the late, great Tanith Lee, and this new book (available in July) has pretty much everything I love in a book, plus Paris. 

Here's the blurb:

In this riveting and richly drawn novel from “one of the master storytellers of historical fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams), a talented young artist flees New York for the South of France after one of her scandalous drawings reveals a dark secret—and triggers a terrible tragedy.

In the wake of a dark and brutal World War, the glitz and glamour of 1925 Manhattan shine like a beacon for the high society set, desperate to keep their gaze firmly fixed to the future. But Delphine Duplessi sees more than most. At a time in her career when she could easily be unknown and penniless, like so many of her classmates from L’École des Beaux Arts, in America she has gained notoriety for her stunning “shadow portraits” that frequently expose her subjects’ most scandalous secrets. Most nights Delphine doesn’t mind that her gift has become mere entertainment—a party trick—for the fashionable crowd.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Something new in urban fantasy ... Heartblaze 4I lo

I love urban fantasy and it's getting harder and harder to find something that spins the tropes in a new way. Something like Brotherhood of the Wheel doesn't come along every day. This book, though, the first in a new series, is something different in a good way. The author blends an authentic depiction of Viking  civilization with a dark Gothic dream of a supernatural world and the result is fantastastic. Yes, there are werewolves but so much more. (And that "more" includes a heroine is strong and tough and a villain who is as memorable as she is original.) Check it out here.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A picture is worth a thousand words

It's been a while since I bought a poster. (Yes, back in the day I had that Picasso Don Quixote poster that everyone had, along with Ansel Adams' Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico.) But I saw this one today and thought about a space I could put it. You can buy it here.

Freebies...urban fantasy box set

I love boxed sets. They're a cheap (often free) way to sample new authors in whatever genre I'm currently interested in reading. And I always love Urban Fantasy. I've read Christine Pope's hosen, from her Djinn series, and I'm a fan of Pippa DaCosta, so I'm looking forward to reading Hidden Blade, as well as Stacy Clafin's Lost Wolf. All the selections in this set are full-length novels, and the myths seem to span everything from Norse to Egyptian gods and everything in between. (I'm a sucker for Egyptian mythology.) You can get this boxed set free right now.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Judging a book by its cover-- Oscar de Murial’s A Fever of the Blood

Jacket design by Derek Thornton/Faceout Studio
Imagery: Arcangel and Shutterstock
Pegasus Books

A Fever of the Blood is the second book in the historical Frey & McGray crime series. Set in Edinburgh in 1889, the novel blends mystery, horror, and history in a story about two mismatched detectives. The original cover, which can be seen on a version published under Penguin’s Michael Joseph imprint, had a very different feel and has the retro feel of a steampunk-themed Tarot card deck.

Faceout Studio designer Derek Thornton went for a very different feel for his wonderfully tactile cover.

“This cover was deeply inspired by scenes and elements in the story. When I started designing we decided we wanted this cover to be dramatic, atmospheric and elegant. Even though this cover seems to be made of one dramatic image, it’s actually a composite of multiple images: a handmade snow texture, an image of highlands, the circle art that interacts with the figure, and the hooded figure of course. The final book was finished with a rounded emboss on the type, and pearlescent shimmering stock creating a beautiful final printed package.”

Faceout Studio has designed numerous covers across genres, producing striking jackets for everything from cookbooks to lit fic as well as genre covers including the 50th anniversary edition of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, Sebastian Fitzek’s The Nightwalker, Gard Ven’s Hell is Open, Matt Goldman’s Gone to Dust, Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars, Adam Mitzner’s Dead Certain, and Luca Veste’s Dead Gone.
Outside of design Derek loves spending time with his wife and three kids, playing sub-genres of metal on his seven-string guitar, and dreaming of future tattoo endeavors.