Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, January 31, 2011

They write urban fantasy in Oz too...

Here's a link to an article that first appeared in the RWA newsletter "Heart's Talk." It's a fairly standard-issue overview of Urban Fantasy but it lists a number of Aussie UF writers I wasn't familiar with. Since I gobble up the genre like chocolate-covered raisins, I was delighted by this. If you are looking for some new books while Jim Butcher writes his next novel, check out the post.


Thanks to Paul Brazill for pointing out the story in Powder Burn Flash was posted by MysteryDawg but written by Jane Hammons. Sorry Jane.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stories for Sunday

A Twist of Noir is back up and running with great new twisted tales here. I have story #668, coming in early February. That's art by Walter Conley, who has provided an illustration for Dark Valentine Magazine's upcoming spring issue.

MysteryDawg has a story up at Powder Burn Flash. Check it out.

If you're looking for something to read and you're not sure what, check out Fresh Fiction, with its lists of new works in all mystery genres, reviews, blogs, interviews and more.

When characters surprise you

The first time a character did something I wasn't suspecting, it kind of scared me. It wasn't quite on a par with a divine message to put on a suit of armor and go save France but it was freaky nonetheless. It's happened enough now that it's not quite a complete surprise but it can still be unnerving.

Take this week's episode of NoHo Noir. In this episode, homophobic cop Ethan's girlfriend gives birth to his baby after she takes a bad fall. I had a story all worked out where Ethan, who is contemptuous of a particular neighbor, finds out that he's gay after he saves the baby and the mother's life. And he may still find that out about the character, who is currently named "Guy from 108." As I was typing, though, Ethan decided to do something different and the story has a very different outcome.

So for the record, if you read the story and HATE what happens, blame Ethan. I was just the one at the keyboard. Read the story here. The illustration is by Mark Satchwill.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Win a copy of The Devotion of Suspect X

Janet Reid, literary agent, query shark and blogger, is holding another of her 100-word stories over the weekend. The prize this time is a copy of the upcoming novel by Keigo Higashino. This book is getting a lot of advance heat, so if you win, you'll be the first on your block to have a chance to read it. See the details at Janet's site here.

Janet's contests--I call her Janet instead of Ms. Reid because we follow each other's tweets--does these contests frequently and they're great micro-fiction challenges. I've never come close to impressing her with my entries but I persevere nevertheless. Her advice on novel queries is not to be missed. (You get 250 words to get her attention.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Decent Man by Keiran Shea

Call it "western noir." New fiction from Keiran Shea is always welcome. Check out his new story at the Flash Fiction Offensive.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A novel novel-writing contest

AuthorStand has just announced their "first annual" novel contest. The contest is free to enter and open to works of more than 50,000 words in any genre. The contest ends July 31st and judging will run until the end of November.

For more information, check out the details here.

Cross My Heart, Hope to Die...

Stick a needle in my eye.

Remember that scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader menaces Princess Leia with the high-tech needle in her eye? If you're like me, you thought, "Okay, I'm brave but I'll tell you pretty much everything to keep you from sticking that needle in my eye."

So imagine my surprise that all thee years later, I'm the willing recipient of monthly eye injections as part of a three-year study to see how well a certain drug performs. (It's a double-blind study but I know I didn't get the placebo because from the first injection, my eyesight was much better.) The first time I was injected I was a wreck. "They're going to stick a needle in my eye!" I announced to everyone who would listen and without exception, everyone responded with a shudder. (I have "eye issues" anyway. To this day I can't look at that eye-slitting scene in Andalusian Dog.)

Now, though, the most stressful thing about my trips to the Retina-Vitreous Clinic is the day-long process. Since my eyes are dilated, I can't read. So mostly I listen. Every person has a story and when you sit next to them while they're waiting for someone to stick a needle in their eye too, you eventually hear their stories. It's a win/win situation. I'm not going blind and I'm getting a lot of "material." And if you ever see a story with needles or eyes, you'll know where I got my inspiration.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New NoHo Noir: The Inheritance

It's Sunday and this episode of NoHo Noir showcases Anna Lee, whose mother died in a car crash in the second episode of the series. For those following the story, Anna and her mother did not get along and now that her mother is dead, she misses her terribly. In this episode, Anna gets news that could change her life.

The story introduces a new character, attorney Ryland Bailey, who will be pivotal in the conclusion of the story introduced last week, "The Good Samaritan."

The illustration is by Mark Satchwill and used actor Scott Wilson as a reference. As always, Mark's illustration provide inspiration for me. In this case, he'd finished the illo before I'd actually finished the story (which happens most weeks) and seeing his interpretation of my vague notions really helps me put the story together.

The theme of this story is, "Money Talks, Bullshit Walks" but I couldn't use that title because my column is PG-rated. (And while the title is "The Inheritance," I keep calling it "The Legacy."

Check out the story here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thanks to my good friend Connie Johnson, who just visited from the Windy City where she works for the Queen of All Media, I now have a KINDLE!!! Yes, I can now read ebooks on a DEVICE instead of in PDF copies. I am so jazzed. I'll have to buy a copy of my own book to check it out. (Yes, a shameless self-promotion moment is coming up.) Just Another Day in Paradise is available in the Kindle Store. It's just $3.99.

A new collection of my stories will be published this summer (imaginatively titled Just Another Day in Paradise 2), so you might want to catch up before you fall behind.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Troubling Story for a Troubled Time

The Pacifist

By Katherine Tomlinson

Disclaimer: This story was “inspired” by the Ft. Hood shootings and has been in my “fiction, incomplete” file for some time. In the wake of the mass murder in Arizona, I pulled it out and finished it. I know it’s a disturbing story; it came from a place filled with disquiet and dread. For me, the lesson of the tale is that nothing is as simple or as simplistic as it seems.

In theory, it’s not that easy to gain access to an Army post if you’re not supposed to be there. If you don’t have a DOD decal on your windshield, you’re directed to the Welcome Center and asked to show a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration on the car you’re driving. Then you’re asked to produce some kind of documentation identifying you as someone with a legitimate reason for being at the gates of a military installation. Then, and only then, are you allowed to proceed to your destination.
There was nothing about the visitor that pinged anyone’s radar. He said he was there to cheer up a friend who was in the hospital. He had brought gifts—a stack of paperback novels, mostly thrillers, and a fruit basket heavy on pears. The soldier’s name was in the database, so there was no reason not to let the visitor through. Afterwards, they discovered the guy whose name he’d used was just a guy who’d been in a bar one night, shooting the shit with a stranger one stool away. The ID was fake, the documents forged on a laptop and printed on a cheap Samsung printer.
The visitor had popped the trunk and the glove compartment for one MP while he chatted with the gate guard. Later the guard would be unable to remember any details of the man’s face but he did remember the car was very dirty and the guy had made some banal remark about the weather. Hot enough for ya?
Security cameras tracked him as he made his way to his objective. It was clear he knew where he was going, had either been on the post before or memorized the map that was conveniently available online. Used to be, stuff like that was classified; nowadays anyone with a computer and Google Earth can find all the information they need to cause some serious trouble with just a couple of mouse clicks.
The visitor stopped near a row of barracks where a group of men and women were gathering in preparation for a run. They were forming up, getting into lines when the guy cut through the line and detonated the explosive vest he was wearing beneath his loose-fitting seersucker suit.
The bomber’s legs went one way, his head another and everything in between simply disappeared. Eighteen soldiers died instantly, three later died of their wounds. The blast also killed an Army wife coming out of the PX with a pregnancy test in a bag. Her autopsy would later confirm what she had suspected—she had been two months pregnant.
The guy was identified before the last of the bodies were removed from the killing field. His name was Michael Joel Herndon. He was 46 years old, owned two dry cleaning stores and was divorced. His ex-wife lived out of state and when contacted by the authorities, claimed not to have seen or talked to him in more than three years. When the press descended on her, she fled her house and moved to an undisclosed location.
Most of the dead soldiers were either black or Hispanic and because the bomber was white, it was assumed he been motivated by racism.
His employees at the dry cleaning stores, who were mostly African-American women---disputed this characterization of the late Michael Joel Herndon. One of the women, Eva Lee Robideaux, said she had intimate, personal knowledge that he was not a racist, but admitted that he’d never seemed like a killer either.
Two weeks after the massacre, a Methodist minister named Lawrence Sadler showed up at the gates and asked to see the people in charge of the investigation. He said that he had information that might be helpful to them. But first, he wanted to speak to the Protestant chaplain stationed on the post.
Major Paul McHattie, a Presbyterian by faith, met with the minister and left the meeting ashen and close-lipped. The investigators brought Reverend Sadler into a small room with chairs and a barred window and had him wait while they scrounged up a television so they could watch the video that the minister had brought.
Rev. Sadler had watched the video through three times and he told the investigators that the tape had been made by Herndon, who was one of his parishioners—a deacon in fact—and mailed to him in care of the church.
Sadler told them the tape was both an explanation for his act and his last will and testament. The lead investigator told the minister that they’d judge the content for themselves and pressed play.
On the video, which was made on a camera older than the youngest of the investigators, Herndon is sitting in a chair facing into the lens.

I know you won’t understand this, he says, but I have been granted a vision.

“Great,” said the lead investigator, “another nutball on a mission from God.”

I have been shown the book of life and read the names therein.

“Therein?” said the youngest investigator, who was seriously creeped out by the man’s demeanor, which was calm, sane, and ordinary. The youngest investigator was still young enough that he liked things clear cut. He wanted crazy people to act crazy.

“Ssh,” said the lead investigator.

The names of 21 people have been revealed to me and I have seen the dates of their deaths. All of them will die in Afghanistan after being posted there, and their deaths will be recorded and mourned and forgotten. This is unacceptable to me. And so, with God’s blessing, I have taken their destiny into my own hands.

“Oh my God,” the lead investigator said. Rev. Sadler glanced at him but said nothing.

It is time that the country understands the cost of the butcher’s bill. Twenty-one deaths one by one seem to be acceptable. Twenty-one deaths all at once send a message and invites debate and discourse. It is my intention to bring the matter to light.

No doubt I will be called a murderer but that is inaccurate, for these people were going to die anyway. If you must give me a label, call me a “pacifist,” for that is what I am. I ask for your forgiveness but I act in the knowledge that I am doing God’s work here on earth.

There was silence on the tape and the lead investigator reached forward to hit the “stop” button. Reverend Sadler stopped him. “There’s a little bit more,” he said. The investigator withdrew his hand and listened.

I’m sorry about the woman, Herndon says on the tape. She was not meant to die at my hands, but would have suffered a stroke delivering her baby nine months from now.

“Holy fuck,” said the youngest investigator, which would normally have drawn a reprimand from his superior.
The lead investigator punched “eject” and the videocassette slid out into his hands. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention Mr. Sadler,” he said.
“I felt I had to,” the Reverend Sadler said and took his leave.
The moment he was out the door, the lead investigator began pulling the tape out of the cassette, stretching and breaking it as he did. The youngest investigator looked at him in puzzlement.
“The mission in Afghanistan is righteous,” he said. “Herndon was a whackjob,” he added. “This tape,” and here he threw the cassette on the floor and stomped the plastic case until it broke into shards, “never existed.” He shot a look at the youngest investigator.
“Are we clear?”
“Yes sir.”

Two days after Sadler’s visit to the Army post, an IED killed 34 people in Afghanistan, including three civilians. Their deaths coincided with the verdict in a celebrity murder trial and were buried in the news except for stories in the hometown newspapers of each of the deceased. One news cycle later, the deaths were old news.

When even a foodie draws the line...

I'm an omnivore. I eat meat. I really like red meat but mostly eat chicken and fish. I have in my time eaten rattlesnake (tastes like chicken), frog's legs, snails (I lived in France and it was sort of expected), and gator (tastes like chicken cooked in oil you've fried fish in). I have even eaten cuey in Peru.

But a news story about a Tucson restaurant offering lion meat to its patrons set my teeth on edge. I suppose if you're a meat eater, quibbling about which animals are okay to eat makes you a hypocrite. But there's something about pandering to exotic cravings that seems decadent, and not in a good way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pulp Fiction-ary

Whenever you’re faced with a snob who looks down on your plebian pulp tastes, it’s always helpful to throw a little French their way.

And fortunately for you, there’s a phrase that’s apropos. (You get extra points if you use the word apropos.) That phrase is: Série noire. (Not to be confused with the band of the same name, although it’s pronounced the same.)

Série noire literally means “black series,” but in standard conversation, it is an elegant way of describing a particular sub-genre of tough, hard-boiled mysteries, the precursors to what are nowadays called “policiers.” You know the kind of thing—crooks and cops and guns and blood. The French, it seems, take their pulp seriously. As it should be.

So tell your snobby friend to take his copy of L’Homme Qui Aimait les Femmes and put it where the sun don’t shine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Some People Hate Craig's List

I have written of my love for Craig's List ads before. I've had good luck finding really interesting jobs through CL, including my current gig as fictionista at NoHo Noir. It's gotten to the point where major, national media outlets advertise there for writers, and most of the jobs I've seen listed are legit. Even the people who post jobs that pay very little are mostly apologetic. And as for the freebie jobs, a writer can choose to submit or not and there's no need to be a hater about it. I've certainly been happy to have my work displayed on sites that didn't pay.

And then there are jobs like this one:

Need a collaborator/ghost-writer to help write a science fiction novel. I have already published one non-fiction book. I need someone who is educated in creative story writing and creating memorable characters. There is no immediate compensation, but if you are willing to invest together, in a short time, our collaboration can achieve something very powerful and beyond a single imagination. Once the novel is created, you will receive 25% profit share. I have eventual plans of bringing the story to the screen. If you are interested, please send a photograph of yourself along with fiction writing samples or a resume with contact information.

Where to begin? With the poster's assurance that "in a short time, our collaboration can achieve somthing very powerful?" Okay, the poster has ambition. I'm for that. Go big or go home. Is it the writer's boast that he has "eventual plans of bringing the story to the screen?" Well, don't we all? Unless he means he's going to fork over the production budget for that movie, though, the boast is pretty meaningless.

Is it the offer to pay the person creating memorable characters and the creative story (that yould be you, not the person writing the ad) 25 percent of the profits? True, writers often tend to know more about words than numbers but half of a project is 50 percent not 25 percent.

And finally--send a picture. Really? Seriously? Are you kidding me?

Well, good luck with that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Two New Stories for Sunday

Yes, I've been busy. (Love the long weekends.) Over at Dark Valentine Magazine, I've posted my story, "The Smallest of the Summoner's Bells." It's a story set in the urban fantasy world of my novel, Misbegotten.
The story takes place in Los Angeles, city of the angels and the occasioal demon, vampire and fairy. You can read it here.

Also, there's a new entry in the NoHo Noir series, featuring new character Helen Parrish. This story is a short, transitional one that will take us into some new twists and turns. As always, my partner in crime Mark Satchwill provided the illustration. Read the story here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Janet Reid Writing Contest

Agent Janet Reid runs periodic writing challenges on her site--offering lists of words you must incorporate into stories of fewer than 100 words. There are prizes (this one is an ARC of Divergent) and she always offers feedback on the top contenders (some of it snarky). There's a contest on today, so if you feel like you need a little poke to get your juices flowing, head on over to her site.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The in-flight drink of choice

As I read this news story about a French smoker whose drunken behavior disrupted his flight from Nice to New York, I couldn't help but be struck by one thing. The man in question had apparently downed a full liter of Bailey's Irish Cream. I have two questions. One, how did he get a bottle of Baileys on the plane when most people can't get a full bottle of shampoo? And two, Bailey's Irish Cream. Really? Not a liter of wine?

Dark Valentine reviews Sympathy for the Devil

Friend of Dark Valentine Christine Pope's book Sympathy for the Devil came out just before Christmas, and was a great Christmas present for fans of paranormal romance. Joanne Renaud, DV art director and noted connoisseur of romance, has reviewed it. Check out the review and click on the Pink Petal Books link to read a tantalizing excerpt.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free Sample!

Head over to Dark Valentine Magazine where Derek Muk's story Asylum has just been posted. This is a story from his collection, The Occult Files of Albert Taylor, the adventures of an anthropology professor who investigates supernatural cases in his spare time. Very X-Files. If you like what you see, the book is available on and the author's own website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No one ever has enough cookie cutters!

My mother, who knew a thing or two about making cookies (she had a McCoy Pineapple Cookie jar that's now a collectible and it was always filled with cookies) made do with just a handful of cutters--and they were mostly holiday-themed. Not me. If a cookie is worth cutting, I think it should be cut into something more interesting than a crescent moon or a bat. I have dinosaur cookie cutters. I have an entire aquarium full of fish shapes. (Three different kinds of sharks, y'all.) So imagine my delight when I heard about SWEET, a fantastic baking supplies company that has cookie cutters even I never heard of. There's a fleur de lis (because I'm all about the French) and mini-giraffes and so forth. There's a rocket ship and a castle.

Even better than their cookie cutters, though, is is their selection of baking cups. They're just so jolly. I love browsing in cookware stores anyway, so finding this place online (it's physically in Topeka, KS) is a treat. The website features recipes of divine deliciousness and they also offer freebies. Check it out.

Dear Lucky Agent--8th contest for writers of lit fic

Usually these contests are all about genre, but the Guide to Literary Agents is offering a contest just for the "literary fiction" niche. It's free and the only thing the sponsors ask is that you mention the contest on your social media sites. (Note, I don't write anything remotely resembling lit fic, so this is a freebie for them.) Here's where to get all the details.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I tremble for my country

when I read news stories like the one here. In a nutshell, sales of guns jumped in the days after the mass shooting in Arizona. The most popular model? The same Glock the alleged shooter used. Here's a quote from the story, which ran on the Bloomberg site:

One-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent to 263 on Jan. 10 compared with 164 the corresponding Monday a year ago, the second-biggest increase of any state in the country, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.

Handgun sales rose 65 percent to 395 in Ohio; 16 percent to 672 in California; 38 percent to 348 in Illinois; and 33 percent to 206 in New York, the FBI data show. Sales increased nationally about 5 percent, to 7,906 guns.

Think about it. Those are just the LEGAL gun sales.

I am an Army brat. I grew up in a house with a gun in it. My uncles hunted for the table. (In fact, one uncle was such a dead shot that he was asked to excuse himself from a community turkey shoot.) I know that there are legitimate reasons for owning a gun, which is a tool as well as a weapon. I've shot guns at a local range because I write fiction in which people shoot guns and I don't want to make it up. I'm a pretty good shot, as it happens.

But I am also the daughter and niece of people who went to Virginia Tech, so when the mass shooting happened there, it hit home. And in that case, as with the Arizona shooter, there were warning signs that the individuals involved were dangerously unbalanced. And yet, they got guns.

I've heard all of the slogans--"If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" and "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." I am not impressed. It's a lot easier for people to kill people when they have guns. In California if you want to buy pepper spray there's a whole process that includes watching a video. Maybe it's time to make it a little tougher to get a gun.

This is Wrong on So Many Levels

So, like the rest of you, I get weekly letters from a nice solicitor in Nigeria who would like me to assist him in his financial endeavors here in the states. Does this ever actually work? I think, and then delete it. (And there's also a part of me that thinks, Wouldn't it be nice if this was legit? I could make a couple of million dollars!) But alas...

Now I'm getting spam emails from some penpal site. Today's was particularly amusing:

Hello My Dear,
Am Juliet,i saw your mail today in a site and www.penpals.p i became interested in you.I want to know if this your email is correct so that i will send my photos to you.From there we will know eachother very well for a sincere relationship.Hope to hearing from you soonest.


I almost want to write "her" back to see what would happen. But then I think, Why am I not getting these emails from James Purefoy? Are they stuck in my spam filter? I'd be happy to send him my pictures for a "sincere relationship." And I could even answer in proper English. (Seriously, what's up with the bad grammar? We outsource to Indian-based techies all the time. You'd think this pen pal site would hire someone away from a call center.)

Parties interested in contacting Juliet, please email me. She provided her address.

NPR Three-Minute Fiction Contest is Back!

NPR asks, "How long does it take to tell a good story?" The sixth round of their "3-Minute Fiction" contest will open this weekend. The premise is simple--send them a story of 1000 words or fewer. Winners get read on the air, plus other goodies. Details here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Artists listen up--Zero2illo has a deal for you!

I'm not an artist but my mother and sister were and some of my best friends are and I know how tough it is in the freelance art world. Zero2Illo is a site/blog that was started by a graphic artist to chart his own work/success and has grown into a supportive social network. Their current mission statement is: to enable and empower more creative entrepreneurs and illustrators to earn a living from their creative skills.

Right now (and through Wednesday, Zero2Illo is offering an amazing sale on tools for artists who want to expand their freelance careers. They're offering a bunch of books bundled for only $47. Check out the sale. And consider joining the community. We're all in this together, right?

Care for a Monday serving of dark fiction?

Head on over to Dark Valentine Magazine and your craving will be satisfied. There's a new story up called "Mother Mine" that is just chilling. April Grey is a new contributor to the magazine but I hope to see a lot more of her. Laura Neubert did the evocative illustration. She contributed several illustrations for our Fall Fiction Frenzy. Here's the link. And hey--be careful out there.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh Canada

Yes, it's another Canadian writing contest. This one is sponsored by above&beyond, Canada's Arctic Journal. Enter with 1000 words about life in Canada's Yukon, Northern Territories, Nunavut, or Nunavik. Words can be fiction or non-fiction. Check out the details on the Circumpolar Blog.

Bring on the Zombie Apocalypse--in French

This is a bad-ass zombie film from France, where they know how to do bad-ass.

You probably didn't get a chance to see this in the theater--I don't think it even played here--but it's now out on dvd. Here's the review from Bloody Disgusting. Here's the review from FEARnet. (They didn't like it as much as I did.)

NoHo Noir--And it's really Noir this week

This week's adventures of the residents of North Hollywood and Toluca Lake, California continue with "Lucky Lady." Here our luckless wannabe screenwriter Christo and his roommate Ash stumble into the path of a crazy homeless woman and veer into disaster.

The illustration is by Mark Satchwill, who as always, manages to capture the characters and the heart of the story. Here's the beginning of the story:

Vardan hated the homeless people who used his gas station as a rest stop. If they bought something, he couldn’t refuse them the right to use the bathroom, but if he saw one coming, he could usually head them off by hanging an “out of order” sign he kept under the counter just for that purpose.

The old lady, though, she was sly. She’d approach from his blind side, slipping through the entrance behind someone coming in to pay for gas. She always seemed to have enough pennies to buy a pack of gum or a roll of mints, and then she would ask for the bathroom key. She’d usually ask in front of someone, as if daring him to deny her permission in front of witnesses.

She’d snatch the key with her filthy hands and then disappear for a long time. When she emerged, the whole interior of the station smelled like a stable for hours, no matter how much Lysol he sprayed.

Vardan’s Unocal

10xxx Magnolia Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601

4:53 p.m.

Today the old lady had been in the crapper so long Vardan thought she might have died in there. He was thinking about banging on the door to roust her when the two boys came in.

They weren’t really boys he saw as the shorter one started foraging for junk food. They just had that formless look that so many Americans had. What was the expression? Half-cooked? Half-baked. They looked half-baked, doughy and soft.

The nerd headed for the lottery ticket machine in the back of the store. He took a long time deciding which game to choose. Vardan didn’t understand gambling. He worked too hard for his money to throw any of it away. But that was Americans for you, he thought. Always looking for the easy way.

Vardan had come to California with a stolen Visa card, the address of his cousin in Glendale and ten words of English, all but one of them profane. He was big and strong and mean and his cousin always needed guys like him. Vardan had done okay for himself but nothing had been handed to him.

The guy with the junk food piled it all on the counter and then did a last recon of the candy display to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. Over by the lotto machine, the nerd was staring at the ticket it had just spit out.

“Oh my God, Christo,” he said. “I won …”

He held out the ticket for his friend to see and that’s when the old lady finally came out of the bathroom, trailed by a stench so potent Vardan could taste it. She took one look at the nerd with the lottery ticket in his hand and went off.

“Give me that,” she yelled, grabbing for it. The nerd recoiled and put up his arms to defend himself. “I put money in the machine and that’s my ticket,” the old lady screeched. She flailed at the nerd with her small, bony fists.

The guy at the counter looked at Vardan. “Aren’t you going to do anything?”

Read the rest of it here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

For Cormac and Nicole--

This is a story inspired by Cormac and Nicole's "Icarus Flight to Perfection" fiction challenge. Hope you like it:

Up Close and Personal

They always get sloppy. Always.

It’s just not possible to be vigilant all the time, to remain hyper-aware, to sleep with one eye open. There’s always a place where even the most paranoid feel safe. If they go there, I will find them. And if I find them, there will be blood.

I will kill them quietly and efficiently. I will use a knife and I will leave the weapon behind. It is the way I sign my masterpieces. Yes, I consider myself an artist. Where Rembrandt painted with oils and pigments, I paint in blood and pain.

When my prey is frightened, his aura changes color. Rage changes the color too, and so does despair. By the time I am finished with my work, I will have seen the whole spectrum of human emotion spilled out onto my canvas. Pain is a sunset color, an amalgam of orange and pink seldom seen in the physical world, except perhaps in the petals of a perfect rose.

The pain is important, but so is the blood. When it first flows, it is shockingly hot, spilling across my flesh with the heat of a summer sun. As it chills and thickens, I rub it into my skin as it if were some exotic lotion. As it dries, it leaves pigment behind, the stain of life ended. Blood. I revel in it. I wallow in it. I immerse myself in it.

The only way to get that quantity of blood is to use a knife. And that’s why I don’t own a gun.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Author Page Up at Night Owl Reviews

Night Owl Reviews is offering a terrific link exchange for authors who want to promote their books and who doesn't? Check out my author page here. The link goes straight to the Kindle store where you can purchase Just Another Day in Paradise for $3.99.

As long as you're over there, check out their free reads.

Spinetingler's List of Top Crime/Mystery Fiction for 2010

This is a fantastic list that includes Don Winslow's Savages. I pretty much love everything Winslow writes, so that's a big thumbs up from me, too.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Canada's Largest Short Story Contest

If you live in the province of Ontario, you'll want to check out this contest, sponsored by the Toronto Star and the Toronto Public Library.

Wrting Contest Info

I love writing contests. Check out this site for up to date info on contests of all kinds, including poetry.

And don't just sit there... write something.

Win Every 2011 Dark Horse Digital Title!

All you have to do is sign up for their newsletter. How easy is that? Details here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

No Self-Promotion but a Recipe Anyway

It's been raining in Los Angeles for what seems like a month. (It took a day off on New Year's by special arrangement with the Rose Bowl Parade committee.) And I was working at one of my least-favorite editing gigs and craving chocolate. So you know that recipe that keeps showing up in your in-box like the million-dollar cookie from Neiman-Marcus? The five-minute chocolate cake in a mug? I made it.

Right out of the mug, the cake is pretty tasty. Don't let it get cold, though because it gets kind of dense and tastes like a chocolate tire.

Five-Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons chocolate chips ( optional )
3 tablespoons oil or melted butter
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add a dash of salt.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug into the microwave for three minutes at 1000 watts (vary the time just a little either way according the the wattage of your microwave). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed. Allow to cool and tip out onto a plate if desired. EAT! (This can serve 2 if you want to feel sightly more virtuous).

I have to say, this is hard to beat for instant gratification. And I did attack the afternoon's editing with a whole new attitude.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm 5'1" and you're not. Nyah. Nyah. Nyah.

I've been a working writer since I was 16. I've studied and practiced and written thousands of words. And yet, I've still never finished a novel. Perhaps I should have taken a different route to mastering my craft. Who knew that all I had to do was star in a reality show and get arrested for disorderly conduct?

I present to you a first look at A Shore Thing, the first novel from Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi. Complete with quotes taken from various chapters.

Console yourself with the knowledge that although she published a novel before you did, you're probably taller than she is. That's what I'm doing.

Yeah, that's right bitch, I've got four inches on you!! (Sorry, my inner Jersey Girl slipped out for a moment.)

More shameless self promotion and another recipe

I figure if you're kind enough to stop by and check out my latest work, you deserve something for your trouble. January is National Soup Month (you know these things when you write about food) so here's another soup recipe. It's a great transition recipe for going vegetarian full or part-time because it's very hearty.

Curried Lentil Soup

2 fat carrots, peeled
3 leeks, cleaned
1 large brown onion
½ package green lentils, picked over
Handful kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 Tbsp. crushed garlic from jar)
3 Tbsp. curry powder

Prepare the lentils:

If you have one of those colanders meant to rinse rice, use that. Otherwise, pour the lentils into a bowl, making sure there aren’t any rocks mixed in.

Run cold water over the lentils until the rinse off water is clear. Leave the wet lentils soaking up moisture will you prepare the rest of the soup.

Prepare the broth:

Fill a large soup pot two-thirds full of water and put on the stove to boil.
Add the salt, pepper and garlic to the water. You can add a dash of olive oil if you like (but not butter).

Chop the carrots into coins. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Chop the white part of the leeks into disks. Note: leeks are sneaky vegetables. They tend to hold silt in their tightly packed layers. You might want to peel back the first layer to make sure they’re free of grit.)

Add the vegetables to the broth. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes, then add the lentils and the curry powder. Cover the pot and reduce heat. Simmer until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.


And now the self-promotion part. My story, "Nine Ladies Dancing" is now up at Dark Valentine Magazine's "Twelve Days of Christmas."

My next story out there will be "Corazon," number 668 at A Twist of Noir. It's going out to Christopher this week. Stay tuned for promo on that and who knows? Another recipe.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion with a recipe

The holidays are over. If you're thinking of something a little healthier than your recent dietof eggnog and cookies, start with this soup. It's easy to make and extremely healthy. Substitute vegetable broth if you want.


4 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin "coins"
3 green onions, diced
2 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp ginger (or 1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated)
20 smallish spinach leaves
Small square firm tofu
1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
Dash crushed red pepper flakes


1 small leek, white part only
enoki mushrooms
shiitake mushrooms
snow pea pods

Open cans of broth and put in soup pot. If you can’t find low-sodium broth, just use two cans of broth and dilute with two soup cans of water. Add ginger and soy sauce.

Add carrot coins and green onions.

When soup is boiling, add spinach leaves, which will wilt.

Cut up tofu into little chunks and add.

Stir in sesame oil and red pepper flakes at this point.

Enjoy. This is a richly perfumed soup that keeps well (it can even be frozen)

Now, on to the self promotion.

Here it is Sunday and that means another NoHo Noir episode. My editor, Craig Clough, did a nice update article on the series featuring quotes from me and also from Mark Satchwill, the artist. Check it out.

Check out "The Hook-Up."

In this episode you'll meet two people who will be pivotal in the stories to come...Lyla is an accountant who does pretty much everyone in the series' taxes and turns out to have connections to everyone. (And as we all know, when you want to know what's going on, you follow the money.) Keep reading!

And while you're at it, admire the fabulous detail in the illustration. Fingerless lace gloves? Check. Billy Idol photo on the wall? Check. Wilting flower petals? You got it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Let the Year of the Rabbit Begin

1/1/11--2011 is here. An not a minute too soon, I might add. I can't really complain about the year just passed, it was great creatively: the launch of Dark Valentine Magazine with my friends and colleagues Joy Sillesen and Joanne Renaud; the launch of the NoHo Noir series with Mark Satchwill; the publication of my collection of fiction, Just Another Day in Paradise; a personal best in the number of short stories written and published. Still, like the mother in the Prince song, I'm never satisfied.

I don't make resolutions but I do set goals and this year is going to be my year of saying "no" to projects that don't advance those goals. I have been unfocused. Last year I was fortunate enough to sustain a full-time freelance career. As you know, freelancers can't always be choosy but I took on some projects I really shouldn't have. I'm not going to do that any more. And to solidify my commitment to that goal, I sent off an email to a potential client and turned a lucrative job down. The client was lovely, the money was great but I just wasn't seeing a good outcome. And I couldn't help but think that the hours I would spend trying to wrestle the project into shape could be better spent working on one of the two novels I nearly finished this year, or the two screenplays languishing in their neglected files on my computer.

I'm making lists. I'm getting motivated. And next year at this time...I'm going to have something to show for it.

Thanks for all your support throughout the year. Happy New Year and Happy Writing to you all.