Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Do You Know This Woman?

I am not a true crime buff. There are crimes that intrigue me--who really killed Jon-Benet Ramsey for instance--but I am not one to purchase thick books by reporters with theories. (For the record, I think Patsy Ramsey took the secret of her daughter's murder to the grave with her.)

I was mugged once, in the city of Brotherly Love. My assailant was a very tall man with a very large knife. His attack took place in full view of an escalator full of people, many of whom watched with avid interest, none of whom notified security.

The guy wanted me to open my purse and hand over just my wallet. I had on bulky gloves--it was January in Philadelphia, it was cold. My fingers kept slipping off the catch on my purse and I remember, distinctly, thinking, "I am going to die because I can't get my purse open." I didn't die, of course, and was fortunate enough to walk away from the encounter with just a bruised knee from where he pushed me to the train station floor.

But I had two friends who were not so lucky. One worked at a nearby mall the summer between high school and college. One night, a man followed her home and stabbed her 27 times. He was later picked up and hanged himself in his cell.

Ten years later, I was living in Richmond, Virginia taking care of my mother when a serial killer who'd done some carpentry at a magazine I worked for tracked down the receptionist and murdered her. It was a notorious crime at the time (It formed the basis for Patricia Cornwell's first Kay Scarpetta novel), and the killer was only caught by accident. The case was the first in Virginia to use DNA evidence.

All to say, I am not fascinated by murder, I don't batten on true stories of pain and death and grief. Which is why I really can't explain the impulse that led me to look through the 180 photos LAPD has released from a stash they found in the possession of the alleged serial killer they have dubbed "the Grim Sleeper."

The owner of these photographs stands accused of the murders of 10 women but the police suspect he is "responsible for" other deaths. They've released the pictures (and they all appear to be live women, although there are two photographs that are a little iffy) in hopes that someone out there knows one of these women.

I do not. But I could. The women range in age from gray-haired to very young. Almost all are African-American. Some are beautiful,some not, but all are vital. Most of the pictures seem to have been taken with the consent of the woman, even the ones where their expressions are wary or hostile or skeptical. In most of the pictures the women are smiling.

It's not completely clear that the accused took the photographs but they were found in his home. How did these women cross paths with this man? Why are so many smiling? How many were lucky enough to walk away with their lives, as I did?

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Publishing Success Story

Yes, there are some out there. Read this interview over at Galley Cat.

Do a Friend a Favor

My friend Sam Park is part of a brand-new comics venture called Comics from the Monsterverse Their very first anthology, Bela Lugosi's Tales From the Grave has been nominated for Best Horror Anthology 2010 over at
This is part of the Horror News Network site, which is a great place to check out horror games, horror toys and, well, their motto says it all--"Coverage of All Things Horror."

So hie yourself hence and register (you know the drill and it doesn't take long) to vote for Bela Lugosi's Tales From the Grave.

And while you're at it, follow them on facebook. Find them at Comics From the Monsterverse.

More Free Fiction

This week's episode of NoHo Noir is a round-up of the characters we've met so far. If you haven't been following the series--now is a good time to catch up. Check out "Blockbuster" here.

Over at Dark Valentine Magazine, the Twelve Days of Christmas fiction series has begun with tales from Andrew Douglas and Kat Parrish. There are more tales to come from Paul David Brazill, Cormac Brown, Nigel Bird, John Donald Carlucci, Christine Pope, Kaye George and more...(and me). Catch up with the stories here.

The 600-700 word challenge continues over at A Twist of Noir. The excitement is building. I have number 668, which will appear some time in mid-January. Monday is going to be a bonanza day for readers so check it out.

Do Some Damage will be running Christmas Noir through the first week in January. The stories will cut through the Christmas calories. Go here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Story

I originally wrote this for the Do Some Damage Christmas Noir Fiction Challenge but it didn't make the cut. (Sniff.) I still like the story though, in a creepy Christmas kind of way. Merry Christmas y'all. See you next year.

Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…

Eddie always gets better stuff than I do because our parents love him best. Last year I really, really, really wanted a Bakugan Brawlers Battle Pack and instead I got a Crayola wonder color light brush with a card saying I should explore my inner artist with it. I guess it was a step up from all the “My Little Pony” crap I’ve been getting for the last four years.

Hello, I’m 11, not five.

Eddie always makes lists of what he wants and then types it up on the computer with links to where mom and dad can get the stuff he requested. They think it’s cute. He’s nine and they think he’s a genius because he can navigate Google.

Please. I hacked into mom’s eBay account when I was nine and messed up all her auctions.

She lost out on a vintage 60s dress she really, really, really wanted even though it was a size six and the only size six she wears are her shoes.

Eddie even gets better stuff from grandma than I do because he sucks up to her when she comes over and I don’t. He doesn’t wrinkle his nose when she kisses him and he pretends that he doesn’t mind her old lady smell.

Excuse me, but if I smelled like pee and dead roses, I wouldn’t go around kissing on people.

Mom says I’m an ungrateful brat and don’t deserve presents at all if I’m going to complain about what I get. Dad, whose idea of a really great present is a book, doesn’t say anything. But he doesn’t really like kissing grandma either.

Mom picks out books for us to give him; he gives us new copies of books he read and loved as a kid which was like a million years ago. They always have little messages in them.

Robert Francis Weatherbee, the Boy Who Would Not Go to School. Guess what that one’s about.

Eddie’s been making his Christmas list since Halloween, adding to it and subtracting from it. This year he’s drawing pictures of the things he wants, just in case Mom and Dad haven’t seen the ads on television.

A lot of the things he’s asking for sound like totally good things, things that will help him do better in school. Mom and Dad love that. Remember, they think he’s a genius. They don’t know that he used the chemistry set they got him last year to poison the neighbor’s dog.

No, their little genius wouldn’t do something like that.

They don’t know that the Lincoln Logs Red River Express Building Set they paid $60 for got turned into a log prison for a kitten he found. It was too little and weak to break out, so it starved to death. And then he buried it in our mom’s garden.

I told mom about the kitten but she didn’t believe me, not even when I showed her the tiny grave in her garden. When she finally dug it up and found the dead kitten, she called me a jealous little trouble maker and a liar and she slapped me. I heard her tell Dad later that she thought I was sick and probably needed some help.

Eddie thought that was funny. Eddie thinks a lot of things are funny.

One of the things on Eddie’s Christmas list this year is a set of big cooking knives. Our parents think that’s adorable and probably figure he just wants to be like the Iron Chefs Mom watches on the food channel.

Seriously. They’re that clueless.

They might just buy him that set of cooking knives.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Books of 2010

You've got some reading to do!
This is the time of year when critics and magazines and ordinary readers make their lists. If you're looking for a good book to take your mind off the weather, here are some places to start:

California Literary Review.

January Magazine

Publisher's Weekly has a roundup of other peoples' picks here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Noir at Do Some Damage

So--you're coming down from a sugar rush or just generally feeling Grinchy? What you need is some Christmas noir and fast. So head over to Do Some Damage for a dose of holiday flash fiction that celebrates the season without giving you cavities.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New at NoHo Noir--After Party

Read the new story in my series NoHo Noir. This features a return of homophobic cop Ethan, who tries really hard to be a good guy here but learns that his efforts are wasted on "Christo," the self-involved wannabe screenwriter:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gift Guides for the Gift Challenged

You're running out of time. Christmas is a week away. The pressure is on. But before you resort to a stocking full of gift cards, check out these two excellent guides to gift giving:

Mystery Scene Magazine. Where it's a "Fisticup" Brass Knuckle-handled mug ($18) or a set of three brass "bullet pens," ($13), there's bound to be an original gift that fulfills all your buying needs. We're particularly tickled by the "blackmail postcards" that come with blank cards and colorful letters. ($8).

Dark Valentine Magazine has posted a three-part gift guide that includes books, art, charity gifts and more. Check it out here and here and here.

And the rest of the stories!

Here are the stories from this session of Icarus' Flight to Perfection fiction prompts. Stories from Cormac Brown, David Barber, Carolina Beach Bum, and Nicole Hirschi. Enjoy a quick infusion of fiction before heading out to face the Christmas shopping crowds.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Situation Ethics

This story was inspired by "the starter sentence" on Cormac and Nicole' blog Icarus' Flight to Perfection.
I hope you like it.

Sometimes promises are made to be broken.

That’s my first thought when I see the man they’ve wheeled into the operating room.

It’s a miracle he’s still breathing. He’s got multiple stab wounds in his torso and neck and slash wounds on his arms. Whatever happened to him, he fought back hard.

I run through a mental checklist of the pathophysiology of “penetrating trauma,” thinking, as always, that medical jargon is worse than legalese for obscuring pain and suffering behind big words.

This guy’s got it all—hypoxia, partial paralysis, unequal pupils, and active major bleeding. Whoever attacked him got his lungs, his spinal cord and who knows what all else. I count 12 different entry wounds and then, over the hot copper scent of his blood, I catch a whiff of shit, which means his bowel has been pierced too.

Everybody’s moving fast and with purpose. The nurse monitoring his vitals looks stressed.

I am not stressed at all. I issue orders. A nurse cuts off the patient’s blood-stained clothing and drops it on the floor, kicking it out from under our feet. Someone else starts a second I.V. line. We’re pouring fluids into him as fast as he’s bleeding out. Everyone’s looking at me, waiting for me to do my thing.

Looking down at the man on the operating table, I think, if this man dies on my operating table, no one will miss him. No one will mourn him. And more importantly, no one will ever question his death.

When I became a doctor, I swore the Hippocratic oath. I said, “I will practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients, and to try to avoid harming them.” I meant every word of that promise at the time.

But that was before I met the man on the table. His name, he had told me, was Cory and that was the first of his lies, but not the last. He stole my car. He emptied my bank account and he broke my heart. That last betrayal is the one I can’t forgive.

The men he owed money to came to my door and when they didn’t find him, they took out their anger on me. The cops who were looking for him came to my door and when they didn’t find him, they let me know they thought I was worse than scum. And then the other women came to my door looking for him and when they didn’t find him they told me their stories.

I look down at the man on the table whose karma has finally caught up with him. The words of the oath I swore go through my mind and…I let them go.

Sometimes promises are made to be broken.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Tis the Season: NoHo Noir, Chapter 8

In this week's episode a wannabe screenwriter whose former partner has been wildly successful attends a Christmas party at his old friend's house. He leaves feeling very unfestive.
As always, Mark Satchwill has contributed a terrific illustration.

Here's a short excerpt from the story:

Christopher "Christo" Garland had gotten lost on the way to Eric and Celia's house. He had Mapquested it but he'd ended up in the wrong lane at that crazy intersection near the Iliad Bookshop and somehow he'd ended up on Burbank Boulevard going east. When he passed Circus Liquor, it reminded him that he hadn't bought a gift, so he parked and ran in to see what was cheap.

Circus Liquor
5600 Vineland Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91601
8:15 p.m.

He grabbed a black bottle of Freixinet and brought it to the counter. He swiped his credit card as casually as possible, mentally crossing his fingers the transaction would go through. It didn't.

He tried again as the clerk eyed him sympathetically. When the verification failed a second time, Christo made a show of examining the card. "Expired last month," he said. "I forgot to put the new one in my wallet."

The clerk, who knew all about expired credit cards, just nodded as Christo pulled the last bill from his wallet, a twenty.

And just to show the clerk he didn't need his pity; Christo stuffed the change into one of the charity jars set up by the cash register. He probably makes what? Minimum wage? And he feels sorry for me?

By the time Christo finally arrived at his destination, there didn't seem to be a vacant parking space left in all of Toluca Lake. In front of Eric and Celia's house, there were uniformed valets hiking cars back and forth.

Eric and Celia hired valets for their party? I wonder how much that cost?

Read the rest of the story here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best Gift for a Christmas Geek Ever

So you know that person in your office who loves Christmas and identifies with the Geek tribe? This present is for that person. (Or for yourself--I ordered the tree and star for my own tree.) You can buy the ornaments here, at $5.95 for each set of two, and part of the money goes to feed the hungry.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cranberry Chutney Recipe

I was at La Salsa today and was delighted to see that for the holiday season, they've added a cranberry salsa. It's pretty tasty and it reminded me that I haven't made cranberry chutney in a long time. If you like chutney and you like cranberries, you might like this recipe. Th recipe originally appeared in a now-defunct food blog.


This spicy cranberry chutney is a tangy alternative to the usual cranberry sauce side dish. Adapted from a recipe shared by a New Orleans chef, it not only works well with turkey (and leftover turkey sandwiches), it pairs well with juicy roast pork or prime rib.

1 bag cranberries, washed and sorted
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
Dash salt
I tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Sauté the chopped onions in the butter until soft and translucent
Add everything else but the optional crushed red pepper.

Cook over medium heat until the mixture is reduced and syrupy.
Stir in the crushed red peppers if desired. Or you can substitute a pinch of cayenne pepper for a little more heat.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Speaking of Baghdad

Chances are you have not even heard of this movie, much less seen it, but it's worth seeking out. It is only 28 minutes long and features stories written by modern Iraqi writers about what life is like there now, voiced by American actors. (The tagline of the movie is "Their words. Our voices.") It's a lot like the acclaimed documentary Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam. Here's a link to the trailer on IMDB.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New NoHo Noir--Cosmos

The story continues over at NoHo Noir with this flash fiction about a father and a son contemplating the mysteries of life. You'll see these characters again when the father is accused of murdering his ex-wife's new boyfriend. (The title of the series is NoHo NOIR after all.) The illustration by Mark Satchwill features my favorite building in the world, L.A.'s Griffith Observatory.

Here's an excerpt: The L.A. Observatory was Ty Garrett’s favorite place in the world so when the boy asked him to take him there, James was happy to oblige. Ty had been moody and restless all weekend, unwilling to open up about what was bothering him. James hoped a little star-gazing would make Ty feel better.

James hated that he didn’t know what was going on with his son all the time. He was 11 now, more little man than little boy, and it seemed like every time he saw him, Ty had changed in some subtle way. At least Erika had been good about the custody thing. But still, he hated her for breaking up the family, hated her for leaving him for the whitest man in Encino, a dentist who had billboards in three languages polluting the landscape all over the Valley.

It wasn’t the money. James was a good provider. He had parlayed a stint working in an Army motor pool into a business servicing temperamental foreign cars and their equally temperamental owners, people who pronounced “Jaguar” as three syllables like they’d been born in London, England and not London, Kentucky. In a good year, James pulled down six figures. Erika had no cause to complain there.

“Tooth guy wants me to call him ‘Uncle Tim’,” Ty blurted out, as if in answer to his father’s thoughts. Erika didn’t like it when Ty called Tim that and asked James not to encourage the disrespect. Most of the time he respected her wishes but now didn’t seem to be the moment for a lecture.

James glanced at his son’s anxious face. “Must be getting serious with your mother,” he replied neutrally.

Ty nodded. “We’re going to move in with him at Christmas,” he said.

READ the rest of the story here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christine Pope's Sympathy for the Devil

Looking for a little romance to spice up your holiday? Christine Pope has a Christmas/Chanukah gift for you. Her 105,000 paranormal romance Sympathy for the Devil is now available from Pink Petal Press in all digital formats for just $5.99.
Christine is, as you may recall, a "friend of Dark Valentine Magazine." That's her cover story in the Winter issue, available (free) on the Dark Valentine Magazine site now.
If you missed her hilarious mad scientist in love serial Welcome to Skullcrusher Mountain don't waste another minute--click on the link and catch up.
If you like what you read (and you will), Pink Petal Press has more Christine Pope available, including "Mistletoe Magic," a contemporary romance short story.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kelli Stanley Has a New Website

Writer Kelli Stanley has a new website up, swing by and say hello and register for her newsletter. You can win copies of her upcoming books and get news about her appearances. Post in the forum or just give Kelli a shout-out. She's good company.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter is Coming!

The winter issue of Dark Valentine Magazine that is. This issue has 15 tales that are guaranteed to chill you to the bones and freeze your blood. The illustration here is by Natasha Killeen, an 18-year-old Aussie artist who was up for the challenge of illustrating Eric Dimbleby's incredibly dark story "Baby on Board." He seems like a nice fellow but after reading the story--I'm not sure I want to run into him in a dark alley. Other stories include Patti Abbott's "Too Beautiful," Edward A. Grainger's "Justice Served," Brian Trent's take on a Poe classic, "Down Memory Line" and much, much more. The cover story is Christine Pope's inspired twist on the classic "Snow Queen" fairy tale. In other words, there's a little something for everyone. The winter issue of Dark Valentine Magazine will be available on the site tomorrow, December 3.