Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gone, Baby Gone

I live in a small part of Los Angeles called Valley Village. It's not Beverly Hills, but it's not a slum either. On the east we're bounded by Studio City, home of CBS TV, a number of upscale super markets and a lot of actors and screenwriters. Roddy McDowall was a neighbor when I lived in Studio City; so was Earl Holliman of Police Woman and many Disney movies. (Earl loves animals and knew the name of every dog in the 'hood, including mine, but he couldn't remember a human's name to save his life.)

On the east side of Valley Village is North Hollywood, which is styling itself NoHo these days. It's an area that's coming back, as they say. It's where you'll find Universal Studios and the best Pakistani restaurant in town. It's also where you'll find the police station that handles crime in Valley Village, which is too small to have its own PD.

Three cars are stolen every day in Valley Village, which is one of 29 different cities that make up the patchwork quilt that is Los Angeles County. If your car is stolen, you have to go to the NHPD to make your report; they won't take it over the phone. I know this because my car was stolen in June of last year.

My car was stolen out of a security parking lot accessible with a clicker and through a locked door. After my car was stolen, my landlords installed security cameras, which made everyone feel a bit more ssecure.

Until this morning, when we discovered the car I bought to replace the one that was stolen was itself stolen at 3:42 in the morning. The thieves were caught on camera. A man and a woman. I'd say they were husband and wife or otherwise together because of body language. It was weird watching the security tapes. Their faces were very clear on the tapes. They either didn't know or didn't care that they were being recorded. How many times have we seen that scene on television or in a movie? How many times have I written that scene myself? It's not the same.

What makes it worse is knowing the thieves came in the front door of the apartment building. Where did they get the key? What makes it worse is finding out that another car was stolen from the lot last month but no one told the tenants. What makes it worse is knowing that car is gone, baby gone.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Many Books, So Few Credits

I discovered paperback book swap last year and think it's the best invention since movable type. My original idea was that using pbs would be a way to attain book stasis in my house--for every book purchased, one would be posted on the site and the number of books crowding my shelves would not increase. It was a good idea and it's mostly worked. The problem is that whenever I log on to the site to post new books or to claim a credit for a book I've sent someone else, the welcome page automatically throws up a selection of books I might be interested in.

I am always interested in these books. Old books by authors I know, new books by authors I've never heard of, translations of foreign thrillers...the list is pretty long. So long in fact that I now have 23 books on my "wish" list (one of which hasn't been posted since 2005) and 1525 on my "reminder" list. I have one available credit. Somehow the math does NOT add up.

I highly recommend pbs for anyone who wants to trade books. You get several free credits just for signing up. Yes, you have to pay postage on the books you ship out, but it's almost always less than you'd pay for a used book unless you buy all your books from yard sales. Most of the books I've gotten are in pristine condition--even re-giftable. They also have hardbacks.

They also have the review and social networking features you get on Good Reads. Some of my friends swear by Book Mooch, which is optimized for several different languages.

Right now there are four books on their way to me and five I've sent on their way. I have that one credit. And thousands and thousands of books I can "spend" it on. I feel rich.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How I Know I'm a Real Writer

I am not ashamed to say I have a "Google Alert" set for my name. Not only does that allow me to keep up with the activities of Katherine Tomlinson of Manchester, England (pediatric nurse and music lover) and the Katherine Tomlinson who works in Vermont politics, but it also lets me know when I am mentioned somewhere.

The nature of the Internet being what it is, these mentions are sometimes very far away from their original source and like messages in the kids' game of telephone, sometimes you're surprised at what the final result is.

Tonight an alert showed up that sent me to a site that was offering a free e-book download of my story "Proof of Life," originally published on ThugLit. The story link was in with a bunch of links to articles about bathroom drains. My story had somehow come to their attention because of the phrase "bathroom drain" in my narrative.

Two years after the story appeared in ThugLit and a month after it was reprinted on A Twist of Noir, some unknown entity liked it enough to scoop it up and ... pass it around. They're not charging a fee for the download, so I'm inclined to view it as free publicity.

You're no one 'til somebody steals your work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake Thoughts

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

I live on the edge of apocalypse. Floods. Fires. Plagues. Earthquakes. We get them all in Southern California.

In 1994 when the Northridge Quake struck, I was living on the third floor of an apartment facing west toward the Pacific Ocean. My living room had a floor-to-ceiling window that took up most of the wall. In the evening, I could watch the pollution-fueled sunsets and revel in the beauty.

The quake struck at 4:31 a.m. California time. I sleep like the dead, but at 4:29 that morning, I'd suddenly sat up in my bed, awakened by my two cats who were racing around my bedroom in what I thought was an unusually exuberant example of normal nocturnal cat craziness.

It was cold in my bedroom. I always sleep with the window open, even in chill January.

The quake struck the blink of a sleepy eye later. It lasted 20 seconds. You have no idea how long 20 seconds can be until you've counted it off in the dark in a room with the floor shaking under you. And if my window hadn't been open, the stress of the building flexing in a 6.7 quake would have shattered it.

In the kitchen, cabinets were shaking open and cans of dried spices were launching themselves across the room. A cut-glass vase that had belonged to my great-aunt shattered as it hit the floor. So did a ruby red punch bowl I'd inherited from my mother.

My roommate, a native Californian, freaked out and came running out of her room in her bare feet, just as a heavy framed poster swung free of the wall. It clipped her on the forehead. There was a LOT of blood. I didn't hear her scream, though, because of the thundering roar that drowned out everything. I'd been through earthquakes before but I had never heard the grinding noise the earth makes as it shears on a fault. It's been described as sounding like a massive freight train roaring down a track. That description does not do it justice.

The Northridge quake was 6.7. It lasted for 20 seconds. Seventy-two people died, nine thousand were injured. Damages ran into the double-digit billions. There was no water for several days. There was no electricity for a couple of hours. My phone never stopped working. When the lights came back on, my roommate washed her face and bandaged the small cuts. We found blood spatter on the walls for months, along with chunks of red glass embedded inthe floor from the destroyed red punch bowl. A friend who didn't want to sleep alone came over and stayed on our couch for almost a month. It got so we could predict the magnitude of aftershocks with precision. What people forget is that if you have an earthquake that massive, the aftershocks are huge too.

The closest I've ever been to Haiti was editing a cookbook for Haitian caterer Nadege Fleurimond. It hit bookstores late last month. She's in the middle of a celebratory round of reviews and interviews. I have not talked to her yet. I do not know if her people are safe. So many are not. The death toll is being projected in the hundreds of thousands.

Yesterday's quake in Haiti was a 7.0. Port au Prince has been flattened. The magnitude of the disaster is off the human scale. The American Red Cross is already running out of supplies to send to the victims. There's a donation program in place that makes it easy and quick to help. Text "Haiti" to 90999. The $10 donation to the American Red Cross will appear on your next phone bill.

Or click on the button above to donate to Doctors Without Borders.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Well, the first Kattomic Energy podcast isn't here. Stay tuned.

Audible Pulp Available

The first Kattomic Energy Podcast is here!

This is Canadian actress Nika Farahani reading my story "Pulp Christmas." It was recorded by Trent Radio CFFF 92.7 in Peterborough, Ontario. It was scheduled for broadcast on Christmas Day but program director James Kerr decided it didn't really fit in with Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." He is however, planning on recording a companion piece with the story being read in a male voice. It'll be fun to compare.

I'm thrilled because it's always exciting to hear your words come alive off the page. Listen and tell me what you think.

Thanks to G. Wells Taylor who fiddled around with the file for me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Sin Eater is Live!

What a fantastic way to start the new decade. I woke up to an email message from the editors of Dark Fire telling me that the new issue was online and that my story "The Sin Eater" was up.

This is a dark story that was inspired by something that really happened. When I was a little girl I was out grocery shopping with my mother. We were in line and a woman behind me just leaned over and blurted out, "My son is gay." My mother, who had gone to art school and known gay men before it was cool, just looked at her and said, "Do you love him?" And the woman nodded and my mother said, "Then that's all right then."

I thought it was weird that a total stranger would just say something like that but my mother said it happened to her all the time. People tell me things.

And here's the weird thing. People tell me things too. They'll confess to things they won't tell thier priest. They'll share secrets they've kept close for years. It's unsettling and can be disturbing. And it's always strangers. My brother has people tell him things too but he's an attorney and they're paying him to listen.
I showed my brother this story and he shook his head and asked me if I ever wrote stories about people who aren't crazy. I think he worries about me.