Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Astonishing Adventures Magazine #8 is here

The special anniversary double issue of Astonishing Adventures Magazine is now available at Mediafire and issuu. The print version will be available from early in January.

The issue is packed with goodies. Cormac Brown, one of the magazine's regular contributors and staunchest supporters offers up an interview with Kelli Stanley as well as a noir nod to Hammett's San Francisco in "The Tsar's Treasure." We have several debut stories--one from brothers V.J. and Justin Boyd and one from my good friend Berkeley Hunt.

The issue is our most international one featuring artists from Greece and writers from the US, the UK, Canada and Tenerife. (Our contributor Tony Thorne, whose wacky "Teething Pains" is a great example of pulp writing, is a Member in The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire so we call him "Sir Tony."

Christine Pope contributed a hilarious take on the vampire world, "High Noon at Hot Topic," illustrated by Jennifer Caro, a talented American artist now living in England.

There's seriously something for everyone in this issue--a dark take on Peter Pan, an even darker take on politics, a couple of fractured fairy tales, adventure stories from Brian Trent, Michael Patrick Sullivan, Mark Caldwell and Peter Mark May, a Black Spectre story from Roger Alford, and so on and so forth.

I am particularly proud of a story I wrote under my 'sudo Kat Parrish. Called "The Unclaimed," it was inspired by a news story about the plight of Detroit's citizens who are too poor to pay for the cremation of their loved ones and are simply abandoning them at the morgue. The news story haunted me.

Please check out the magazine and enjoy.

And Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

He who has ears to hear, let him hear

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to watch Queen for a Day, that reality show forerunner where four women vied to become "Queen for a Day" by telling their tragic stories. These tales would always make me cry, but the next time it was on, I'd be snuggled in my grandmother's lap watching with her. She never seemed to get upset, but her enjoyment of the show was always tinged with something a little more avid, more personal. It wasn't schadenfreude--it was more like a sense of sisterhood. My grandmother had a hard life, outlived her husband, her siblings, all three of her daughters and all three of her sons-in-law too. And she never complained. Never. Life was hard and well, life was hard. There was no real use whining about it.

I think she got a kick out of knowing that these poor women got something for their troubles. She didn't dwell on her problems but she was happy to discuss anyone else's. My mother (her youngest daughter) used to say that my grandmother enjoyed the role of "Job's comforter." But the point is that when her friends reached out, there was someone there to listen.

Now that I'm older, I'm inclined to think the fix was probably in at QFAD, and the winners were probably pre-determined.

I was thinking about Queen for a Day today as I read about the woman who tweeted as her little boy was dying in a hospital E.R. A lot of the comments are of the "Maybe he wouldn't have drowned if you hadn't been on the Internet" variety. They are what my grandmother would have called "hateful." (And actually, so would I. There's a lot of my grandmother in me.)

Sometimes you read stories online that stop your heart. (I make it a practice not to read news stories about babies on the Internet, they're rarely good news but I couldn't escape this one.) My heart goes out to this woman because I remember the long night of my mother's dying. We were alone in her hospital room and she did not know I was there. I would have given anything to have been able to reach out and connect with someone.

There are those who say that that the Internet has isolated people. I don't agree. No one should go through something as terrible as losing a child alone. I hope that she received some solace from reaching out like that. My grandmother did not believe in vulgar language but she would have summed the whole issue up with "Mean people suck."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Never Drive Anything Taller Than You Are

I'm not a cranky person. The holidays don't stress me out because I like cooking and Christmas shopping. (I do it all online, so I cheat.) But today I found myself getting uncharacteristically annoyed by people driving rhino-sized cars. Who, even if they're driven by people so above the rest of traffic they might as well be in a tank, can't seem to see pedestrians four feet in front of them.

For me, the 10 commandments can be boiled down into three (I am an editor after all):
Don't be mean. Don't be greedy. Don't kill anyone. I think driving big honking cars violates all three...

Winners of NY Magazine Political Fictions Contest

I love a good short story, as I've mentioned before. The New York Magazine political fictions (it's their plural on the fiction) caught my eye, especially since it came with a couple of provocative samples they'd commissioned.

The winners are wonderful. And you can read them here.

I'm about to start reading Elegy Beach, which sounds like my kind of book. It's a sequel to a book I haven't read, Ariel. The genre is post-apocalyptic fantasy.

I don't know the writer either--Steven R. Boyett--but look forward to discovering someone new to me. Here's his website.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Books and Chocolate

One of my ongoing gigs is reviewing books for sites like California Literary Review, where I'm the go-to-gal for genre. We were just asked to pick our favorite book of 2009 and my pick was Thomas Pynchon's hilarious and accessible Inherent Vice. It's going to be a gateway book for readers who've always wanted to check him out but have been intimidated by the length of his work. Set in 70s L.A., it's a neo-noir, Pynchon's version of Chinatown. He provided his own narration for the book trailer and it's hilarious. Watch it to the very end.

I'm also recommending Bent Steeple by my friend Geoff (G. Wells Taylor to you). It is a very different kind of vampire book set in the far north of Canada. If you like King or Dean Koontz' character-driven books, you will love Bent Steeple. Geoff's making it easy for you to check it out, offering sample chapter downloads in a variety of formats. The whole book is only $1.99 in e-book format. Well, well, worth it.

It's raining here in L.A. which means it was a soup and chocolate chip cookie kind of day. Savoring a freshly baked cookie, I suddenly remembered I had to post a new recipe over at If you like making candy and you don't have time to futz with candy thermometers, check out my easy chocolate truffle recipes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Do It Yourself Chanukah Post at

My weekly post at biermagazine is up. I'd love to hear from anyone who has a recipe for cooking with beer, or if you have recommendations for the "Five Beers You'd Take to a desert island" and why. (This is actually for an article I'm doing for one of my other foodie sites.)

I give full attribution for recipe sourcing!! For example, I have published Cormac's San Francisco Chili to raves.

All I can say is God bless Craig's List. Every single food writing job I have came about as a result of cruising CL. Yes, there are a lot of people out there who really think people want to "get experience" instead of actual money, but some of the gigs are actually fun and there are paid jobs out there too. These gigs have really helped fill in the gaps as work has shrunk this year.

Pulp Christmas on the Radio

Synchronicity--Within two hours of "Pulp Christmas" being posted on A Twist of Noir, I got an email from James Kerr, who runs a radio drama department for Trent Radio in Canada, telling me he'd just recorded "Pulp Christmas" and would be broadcasting it soon. Interestingly, he assumed the narrator was a woman, so a woman will be reading it. Puts a whole new, Diabolique kind of spin on it. I can't wait to hear it.

But meanwhile, James is looking for more stories, and he gave me some more insight into what he wants. Here's what he had to say:

I recorded Pulp Christmas today. When all is said and done it will wind up being about 7 to 10 minutes in length. You'll notice from the mathamatics at work here that a "short" written piece equals a medium-length radio piece, medium to long etc., &c.. Pulp Christmas is short enough to make a fun single-voice narrative piece that does not require too much work on anyone's part. However, then we get into the issue of dialogue vs. narrative.

I can't do anything with 8 pages of narrative. It would be a half-hour radio drama of one person's voice, which is firstly hard on the actor, and secondly (unless the actor and content are brilliant) hard on the listener. Something along the lines of "Speak No Evil" is more ideal for generating dialogue, but even that is broken up between heavy narrative sections, all of which meaning it would have to go through a fairly good overhaul in order to be a radio script.

Here is an example. We'll take Mike Hughes "Speak No Evil". Here it is as it was written:

“Well, ahem, excuse me Sheriff?” Lanny Watts asked, politely interrupting Sheriff Dale Cummins as Dale finished speaking to a representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Looks like that thar blood all over the walls, that ain’t no human blood, sir. According to our man from the county lab,” Lanny said.

“Huh?” Dale’s verbal grunt in the form of a question was all he could muster.

“It’s goat’s blood, sir,” Lanny said.

Dale squinted at the walls and took this in. The fact that it was not human blood did not diminish the reality that two cold corpses occupied the bed in the middle of the room. One of the dead was his best friend; the other was his best friend’s girlfriend.

Here it is as it would be as a radio script:

SFX: Flipping of notebook open

SFX: Large-bulb camera crime scene photographs shooting

Lanny: Well, ahem, excuse me Sheriff?

Dale: Yes, Lanny? What is it, what have you got?

Lanny: Looks like that thar blood all over the walls, that ain’t no human blood, sir. According to our man from the county lab...

SFX: Large-bulb camera crime scene photographs shooting, acting as a bridge to silence.

Dale: [surprise/grunt]...Huh?

Lanny: It’s goat’s blood, sir.

N: Sheriff Dale Cummins squinted at the walls and took this in. The fact that it was not human blood did not diminish the reality that two cold corpses occupied the bed in the middle of the room. One of the dead was his best friend; the other was his best friend’s girlfriend.

*Dramatic music rises, insert title crawl *

N: A dramatic tale of blah blah blah blah blah goats blood blab-lab. Mike Hughe's "Speak No Evil"! &c., &c., &c....

There are other ways of doing radio drama scripts, all equally effective so long as the directions are clear. You'll notice I changed a few things - inserted reference lines for characters, for instance. In radio a listener cannot know when Larry has entered the room until someone says "Hi Larry", otherwise they just hear a door open, which is why in radio scripts you hear an over-use of character names in dialogue, but when listening it seems perfectly natural. Also, sound effects and ambiance are used to create the mood, in large part, instead of narration.

Writing for radio and writing for paper are different things, although the experiences are often transferable - but only in so much as a book can be made into a film. I'm happy to use the material that I can, submitted from writers from Astonishing Adventures Magazine, and contribute it back to the magazine community. There are some interesting things you could do with it from a presentation perspective to promote the magazine, I'm sure, and I would encourage you to do so.

I'm always accepting submissions, and if anyone has anything they think might fit better, I am open to receive it. I apologise that it has taken me some time to get back to you. Radio Drama is one of the projects of the station, but the day to day running of it takes priority, and this has been a busier season than some.


James Kerr
Programme Director
Trent Radio CFFF 92.7 FM
Peterborough, ON

Check it out. There's no pay's always a kick to hear actors reading your words, so if you already have a story, what can you lose?

Pulp Christmas up at A Twist of Noir

I am very happy to announce that my story "Pulp Christmas" has been posted on A Twist of Noir. This story was originally printed in the Winter 2007 issue of Astonishing Adventures Magazine. (By the Way, the new issue--Issue #8--of Astonishing Adventures Magazine will be available by the end of the month. Details soon.)

Thanks again to Chris at A Twist of Noir and to Cormac, who originally introduced me to the site. And speaking of Cormac, he'll have two stories in AAM Issue #8, an interview with Kelli Stanley and a pulptastic tale that channels Dashiell Hammet, "The Tsar's Treasure."

Here's the link to "Pulp Christmas." I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What's the French word for Faster?

Bonjour mes amis--

Here is a video of the world's fastest train doing the bullet thing through France. There's one moment where you'll swear it's about to break the sound barrier. My brother sent me the video and it is in fact going over 500 mph, so that's did the math and figures it's traveling about 350 mph or roughly 2/3rs the speed of sound (761 mph).

I like riding the train. I take the one from LA to San Diego quite a bit and also out to the desert to see my friend Julie. One day I'd like to do the trip cross-country. Sit in the observation car at night and watch the universe whiz by.

My brother lives in DC where it's snowing at the moment, so when a client was delayed by traffic, he found a productive use of his time, as you can see.

Once again, I realize I need to "read the manual" in order to make my links clickable. I've gotten lazy using wordpress.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Soul of a Kitchen is back

My blog Soul of a Kitchen is back on the Gourmet Food Garden site. The site is undergoing renovation and will soon have a lot more content. I'm quite pleased with the current pos if I do say so myselft. Hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

MedGadget--redefining what's bleeding edge

I entered the MedGadget sci fi story contest and now I'm hooked on the site. You would not believe what's out there. Yes, they had a couple of the prosthetic-arm-powered-by-the-brain videos on but this site will have you coming up with ideas before you even click away.

Here's the link:

Well worth adding to your bookmarks.

Michael Crichton's last book

I just finished reading Pirate Latitudes and it made me sad because no matter how much his publisher wants to sell the idea that the manuscript is complete, it feels very much like a rough draft.

One of the things I always enjoyed about his books was the way he stuffed them full of details that had nothing to do with the story but were just bits of cool information he wanted to share with his readers. That was, I think, the reason he always included his research reading list. So if you wanted to know more about any of the topics, you had a college-level course laid out for you. It was always humbling to read those lists because you knew that he was not just taller than you, he was also a whole lot smarter.

The first chapter of this book is chock full of great period ... stuff. But that falls off as the story continues and you just know he would have gotten back to it if he'd had the chance. The book is entertaining, but it feels like there was so much left undone. And there won't be any other stories from him. Crichton wasn't always the most graceful writer but he was a damn good storyteller. And there is really nobody out there like him. Maybe James Rollins.