Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two Noirs for the Price of One

This past week marked the debut of twice a week NoHo Noir stories. From now on Mark Satchwill and I will be bringing you a double-tap of noir for your reading pleasure.

This week's episodes are all about sin and secrets.

Read Fools Rush In here.

Read Curb Appeal here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Patti Abbott's "Scarry Night" Fiction Challenge

Here's my entry into the fiction challenge posted here.


Ned knew she was sensitive about her appearance. The fire had barely touched her face but it had left her right hand nothing but a fingerless knob, sheathed in taut shiny skin. She still had the nubs of three fingers on her left hand, enough to hold a pen, enough to pull a zipper, enough to handle a fork. She was clumsy with them, though, because she had been right-handed.

Ned admired her for using her hand in public, for defying the stares and the curiosity of strangers. He knew she was self-conscious and applauded her courage. It was just one of the things he loved about her. When he took her to bed, he kissed the fingers of her left hand tenderly and then kissed what remained of her right hand.

As he stroked her from shoulder to hip, she trembled at his touch. She quivered and moaned, making noises in her throat in her rising excitement. Ned liked that. He liked a vocal woman.

He undressed her gently, delicately, peeling back the layers of clothes like the rind of a succulent fruit. The scarred skin on her torso was so textured and tortured it seemed like an alien substance, like the melted remains of some plasticized machine.

He traced his finger down the worst of the wounds, a thick, calloused ribbon of flesh that marked the edge of a graft where some dead stranger’s skin had been used to cover the raw redness left when her epidermis burned away.

“I really don’t mind the scars,” he said as she turned her head away from him as if ashamed. “They mark you as special,” he added, twining his hand into her hair to turn her face back towards him. “They are why I chose you.”

She began to cry then, her tears leaking silently down her cheeks and soaking into the duct tape that gagged her. He had stuffed her underpants into her mouth before sealing it with the tape and so the only sound she could make sounded like a baby mewling. It excited him even more than the scars.

He hadn’t been lying when he told her it was her scars had attracted him to her. Scarification was his thing.

By the time he finished with her, she would be beautiful.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

NoHo Noir #18

The plot thickens...Remember the street kid Helen Parrish kidnapped awhile ago? Her mother has come to town looking for her. And guess who isn't too happy about that?

Read the story here.

You can read all of the stories here.

As always, the artwork is by Mark Satchwill. Swag with his NoHo Noir artwork is now available in Mark's Zazzle store; and you can also buy prints of his illustrations on Etsy and RedBubble. Show him some love. (And seriously, don't you need some NoHo Noir coffee mugs?) Fans of Dark Valentine Magazine will recognize some of his pieces for sale as well.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Good enough to Tweet

I have recently opened a Twitter account to promote NoHo Noir and in the process of looking for twitter-folk who might be interested in random thoughts of a noir nature, I have run across foodie tweets. Yes, bite-size bits of info about food and eating requiring less commitment than watching an episode of Iron Chef America (one of my guilty pleasures).

Here are the ones I like best (bonus points for clever names):

@beyondthepeel (a foodie in Vancouver)

@goddessofbaking (all about the bake)

@myfoodthoughts (philosophy of food)

@lifesafeast (foodie in France)

Friday, February 18, 2011

If you see something, say something

Here's a link to a letter you might want to sign if you agree that calling out the National Guard is the wrong reaction when working people protest.

Workers of the World Unite

There's a class war brewing in America. It's been steeping for awhile and now it's a dark and potent and bitter brew. What has finally caused the pot to boil over is the furor over unions and the virulent, illogical and seemingly personal attacks on working people by the people elected by those working people to represent them.

Cue the chorus of the Black Keys' song, "I got mine."

In Los Angeles, it's easy to see the human carnage that has been left in the wake of the disastrous financial storms of the past decade. People who used to be comfortable are now scraping by. People who used to be scraping by are now in bad shape. I know two people who have been unemployed for more than two years--with college degrees and excellent resumes. I know one woman who lived in an apartment without electricity for a month because an ex- roommate left her with a huge bill she couldn't pay on her income. I know one person who lives in her van. These are not lazy people.

These are not crazy people. These are people who have worked all their lives and worked hard and now find themselves all alone and naked as howling winds scour their flesh. They are terrified. But it should be the politicians quaking in fear.

"If they have no bread, let them eat cake." Those words led to a revolution. It's time for a political reality check before the chant of the crowds in American cities becomes, "Eat the rich." The contempt of elected officials for the people they are supposed to serve is unacceptable. It's time to let them know that.

Rachel Maddow nailed it in her phrase "the people who write the paychecks" not caring about the "people who cash the paychecks."

If you haven't seen the segment where Rachel talks about the GOP war on workers, click here.

Here's a thoughtful piece on the matter from David Simkins' McKinley-Whitehall blog.

I am an American. I work for a living. And I vote.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unavailable Witness

"Unavailable Witness" is an evocative phrase, isn't it? I've been reading the latest news stories in the murder case against ex-cop Drew Peterson, who is accused of killing one wife and making another disappear. At the heart of the prosecution's case is testimony from several people Peterson's third wife talked to before she ended up dead in the bathtub. Normally, testimony of people about what people said to them (hearsay) is inadmissable, but in this case, lawyers are arguing that the dead woman is "an unavailable witness" and the hearsay should be admitted. It's an interesting point of law and what the witnesses say is chilling. Here's the story from

I find myself wanting to write a story...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dissecting the Sword of Doom

I have a friend who has a theory that samurai movies were the precursors of slasher movies. He LOVED Sword of Doom. He's clearly not the only one. Watch this video dissecting the movie.

New NoHo Noir for Valentine's Day

Celebrate Valentine's Day with the characters of NoHo Noir. This is a pivotal episode--expect revelations about Ethan (the homophobic cop), James and Amanda Gold (movie mogul and his trophy wife), backstory on Clarence Garrett, Lem Majewski and Shari the bubbly receptionist at Economou, Deeter & Bailey.

Here's the story.

As always, the artwork is by Mark Satchwill. You can see more of his work here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

One True Sentence

Murder and Paris...what could be more perfect? Craig McDonald's fourth mystery featuring a young Ernest Hemingway and his fictitious pal Hector "Lasso" Lassiter is out and it's a lot of fun.

The plot involves "Lost Generation" writers who are being murdered and the survivors's attempts to figure out who the killer is before one of them becomes the next victim. The plot, though, is almost beside the point. If you enjoy period mysteries (this one is set in 1924), then pick up One True Sentence. It will make you glad you were an English major because you'll "get" all the references.

NoHo Noir Swag--Available Now

Create personalized gifts at Zazzle.

Now you can have Mark Satchwill's amazing NoHo Noir art on t-shirts, coffee mugs, badges, and mouse pads. Not only is the creepy series logo available, but you can also get his most requested illustrations--Cosmos, Molecules, and Blockbuster--too.

Go here to browse. Seriously, what kitchen would be complete without a set of NoHo Noir coffee mugs?

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's a 24-hour world

So...I was up last night working, as I often am, when a tweet catches my eye as it goes by on the right side of my monitor. It's from the editor of the Studio City patch site, and he's up at 1:30 in the morning working. And I think, damn, Mike works hard. I know he begins his days early because I see his posts on the site and here he is 19 hours later, still up. And then it hits me that of course, I have been up since 6 after a four-hour night and I'm still working too...And I don't even think it's ... odd.

When did that happen? When I was a kid, I remember reading autobiographies of great men who worked 12-hour days and I thought that sounded hard. Nowadays, a 12-hour day sounds like a vacation. It goes with the territory if you're a freelancer. But have you noticed? Even people with "day jobs" are working really long days too. Used to be you had your job and your family obligations and then, there was time left over just to breathe. Every single person I know works really, really hard. There's the job. There's family. And then there's the second job, whether outside the home or in. Everyone's writing, publishing, trying to get a little traction. Then there's volunteer work. Because things are broken. But mostly it's just work to stay ahead of the bills, or to stay even or to stay not too far behind. My parents would be appalled at the hours my brother and I put in at work. But it's the new normal.

And at least I have a job.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I Love the Internet

Reason 14590---
I was doing some research this morning prepping for a project and I ran across a stunning obituary cartoon by prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mike Peters. There was a link to this site, which shows a number of his "farewells" to people from the extremely famous (Walter Cronkite, Princess Diana, Fred Astaire) to ordinary people who died in extraordinary circumstance (like some West Virginia coal miners). Some of them were so beautiful and apt, they made me cry. Some made me smile. If you're in a mood to waste a little bit of time, it'll be time well spent to scroll through the cartoons. (The one for Barry Goldwater was particularly good.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Free books. Who Knew?

I am not one for devices. It's not that I'm a Luddite--you'll have to peel my computer from my cold dead hand--but I don't see the point of phones that double as NASA flight control, you know? (I'll probably have a Droid this time next year and people will snicker and point at me, but right now, I'm content with just being able to text.)

But then there's the Kindle. I don't know when I would have bought one for myself. Probably not for awhile as it seems kind of a frivolous item for a person who works at home. But my friend Connie, who is an early adopter of everything techno, gave me one and well, I will probably never look back. After I bought a copy of my friend Geoff Taylor's new OFFICIAL VARIANT EFFECT COLLECTOR PACK (and you should too)I started looking around to see what else was on offer at Kindle. And imagine my surprise when I found a whole lot of neat books for FREE.

Free books. Two words that gladden my heart as almost none other can, except perhaps for the words "Gerard Butler." It is true that these are books in the public domain that I could find and download at any time. Still, when you search a name like, say, Wilkie Collins, and get back dozens of titles that you've never heard of, it's like Christmas. (And speaking of Christmas, did you know Wilkie wrote a couple of books with Charles Dickens? Definitely worth a look-see.)

So I started clicking away and the next thing I knew, there were 134 books stored in my Kindle. (I kind of went into a fugue state.) I can't wait to start reading...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sample a Story

New fiction up at Dark Valentine Magazine's site. The Sin Eater.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Girl Talk on NoHo Noir

The plot thickens in NoHo Noir as Lyla Fox and her new beau, dentist Rob Cervantes, double-date with his business partner Tim McIlhenny and Tim's pregnant girlfriend Erika.

Erika left her husband, James Garrett for Tim and is now pregnant with his child. She's recently moved in with Tim, which annoys James. It's also created anxiety for her son Ty, a smart kid who loves astronomy and animals and his dad.

The illustration is by Mark Satchwill. Here's the opening of the story:

When Lyla Fox saw Rob’s business partner enter the restaurant with his pregnant girlfriend, her first thought was, What’s wrong with this picture? Tim McIlhenny—like the people who make Tabasco he said when they were introduced—was a beefy redhead with skin the color of uncooked tilapia. It wasn’t that he was ugly, exactly, he was just utterly, completely …
A word surfaced in her memory, schnorbelie. It was a word her college roommate Connie had used to describe people like Tim and even though it was a nonsense word, you knew exactly what it meant.
Tim McIlhenny was schnorbelie. Erika Garret, on the other hand, was gorgeous. If Tim had been a movie producer, Lyla wouldn’t have thought twice but a dentist? How’d that happen?

Ca’Del Sole
4100 Cahuenga Blvd.
Toluca Lake, CA 91602
9:20 p.m.

It was clear Tim couldn’t quite believe his luck either. He established his claim on Erika every chance he got. He couldn’t keep his meaty hands off her and nuzzled her all through dinner. He was solicitous to the point of annoyance. I wonder if he’s going to cut her meat for her, Lyla thought as the entrees were served.
Lyla had gotten the mezzalune, which is what she always ordered. Rob had selected the gnocchi with duck ragout. They toasted each other with their forks before they started eating. Erika dug into her meal with the ravenous relish Lyla remembered from her own pregnancies. Tim inhaled his fish and continued the monologue that had begun the moment he sat down. She found herself staring at him with horrified fascination as he talked with his mouth full.

When Rob had first suggested a double-date with Tim and his girlfriend, Lyla had gotten a little giddy. It wasn’t exactly “I want you to meet my family,” but after a month of dating, it was a good sign that their relationship was more than an elongated one-night stand. Now, after listening to him pontificate on everything from the revolution in Egypt to the nuances of the pricey bottle of wine he’d insisted on buying for the table, Lyla was starting to get a headache. When he started talking about a restaurant he wanted to invest in, Rob suggested Tim consult with Lyla on the financials. Tim had smirked. “I’ve got my own money guy,” he said. “No offense Lyla.”
She’d smirked back. “None taken.”
Why do they always want to invest in restaurants? Lyla wondered. Not a week went by that one of her customers didn’t tell her about some great place on Melrose they wanted to buy, dazzled by the notion of being a restaurateur and completely oblivious to the reality.
Even her ex-husband hadn’t been immune to the fantasy. When his first series blew up, the first thing he wanted to do—after buying the Ferrari—was put some of his money into a French bistro in a strip mall in Eagle Rock. She’d told him he’d be better off buying a couple of Subway franchises in Hollywood but back then, she was just his cute little wife who was good with numbers.
“If you cook it they will come,” he’d said, a riff on the famous Field of Dreams line. He’d been an extra in the film, playing one of the ghostly ball-players, and Burt Lancaster had encouraged him to follow his dream to Hollywood.
Her ex had lost a fortune on the restaurant. He’d consoled himself by having an affair with the restaurant’s pastry chef, a sloe-eyed beauty named Laure.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I (Heart) Writing Contests

Over at the Novel Novice, one of my favorite blogs, they're having a Literary Lovers Mash-Up Contest that ends Monday, Valentine's Day. The idea is that you take two lovers from different books and write a love scene between them in 500 words or less. (Edward Cullen meets Jane Eyre?) Everybody who enters gets a little prize and the best stories will be published on the site. Here are the details.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Want Candy

Speaking of fudge, as we were a few minutes ago (see below), check out Kat Parrish's story "Sweet Tooth" over at Dark Valentine Magazine.

Oh Fudge....

So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's nearly Valentine's Day (plan ahead people) and this year you don't want to get just ordinary candy. You want to give a gift of deep, delicious fudge. But not just any fudge. (Which reminds us of Miss Eudora Welty's wonderful novel The Ponder Heart in which a character sniffily dismisses a trifling character as "eating the kind of fudge anyone can make." But I digress.)

I am an honorary member of "Michiganders in L.A." which has a memorable Memorial Day picnic every year. A highlight of the picnic is a trivia contest and the prizes always include a box of fudge from Mackinac Island Fudge Shop. (Mackinac Island is where they filmed the movie Somewhere in Time.) I have never won this fudge (though it is worth boning up on Michigan trivia for) but I have sampled it. And it's that good...

Deadline for Valentine's Day shipping is February 9th. (I told you to plan ahead.) Details here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The time has come ...

Speculative fiction has been a literary orphan since the genre first sprang from the fertile brains of writers like H.G. Wells. This thoughtful article from the Guardian analyzes the chances this year will be the year the prestigious Booker Prize will go to a novel in that genre.

Soul Food Done Soulfully

My roots are in the south, culinarily speaking, and I get all the newsletters out there purporting to celebrate Southern food. Some of them take a very (extremely) broad view of what constitutes "Southern" but to each his own. One newsletter that never ever disappoints is Willie Crawford's Soulful recipes, which comes once a day (sometimes more). You can sign up for the newsletter at his site. You can thank me later, when you're full of collard greens with neckbones, red velvet cake and macaroni and cheese that has nothing to do with Velveeta.

A lot of the recipes show up pretty regularly (like a pound cake made with 7-Up) but this is the real deal y'all.

Tigerbone Wine

In honor of the Year of the Rabbit, I've posted my story "Tigerbone Wine" over at Dark Valentine Magazine. Here's the link.

Here's a sample:

When Bailey returned to camp he saw the monkeys had been at the food caches again. Supplies were flung helter-skelter across the clearing where he’d set up his tent. The shiny sealed packages of freeze-dried stew and soup and pasta had been ripped open and shredded, strewn around the area like ticker tape after a parade. The canned goods had been looted but left behind. It was a good thing he liked fruit cocktail. He wondered how it would taste with barbecued monkey meat. He looked forward to finding out … soon.
Bailey freaking hated monkeys. He loathed their wrinkled little faces.
He despised their spidery little hands. He abhorred the whole simian reality of their existence.
The last time they’d been on a trip together, Lina had made a pet of a golden-furred macaque, cooing over it like a child. She’d named it “Bobo,” and told Bailey he was good company when she was left alone while he was out hunting. He let her keep the thing as a pet because it kept her from nagging him about having a baby. As if they could afford another mouth to feed. And besides, Bailey hadn’t had much of a father and he sure as hell didn’t have the father gene in him. Lina hadn’t understood, had kept after him, the way women will, and sometimes he had to get mean to shut her up. Bailey loved Lina, so if keeping the damn thing made her happy, he was happy enough to live and let live.

Read the rest at Dark Valentine Maqazine.

The tiger photo is by Israeli photographer Slavik Gormah.