Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trailer for One for the Money

The first book in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, One for the Money, is one of the funniest books I've ever read.  I loved it. It's been in development as a movie for a looooong time.  And now the trailer is here.  I like Katherine Heigl. I like Daniel Sunjata (although my heart was set on Dwayne Johnson as Ranger). What do you think?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's Banned Book Week--Buy Some Bling

Best banned book quote I've read lately comes courtesy of @Beatitudes on Twitter:  "Books cannot be killed by fire," Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Over on Etsy, an artisan using the handle Pi-Hole has created this banned book bracelet. It's $40 and you can get it here.

On the same site, at Cobweb Corner, you can also get a cool "I read banned books" bracelet for $32.

Carolyn Forsman, who specializes in "conversation piece" jewelry created two different "banned books" bracelets for the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom. Her bracelets cost $24 or two for $40. Be sure to check out her other goodies. Her bug bracelet is just the thing to wear on Halloween; or to pick up for your favorite Goth for Christmas.  (Yes, it's coming.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Toxic Tidbit: Birds of a Feather

Here's another story from Toxic Reality, my upcoming story collection.  Birds of a Feather is my foray into the Lovecraftian world.

Birds of a Feather

Algernon didn’t really understand his wife’s fondness for birds. She had come into their marriage with a parrot that had belonged to her grandmama and it had lived in a cage in the drawing room where it had moulted and shed and screeched and squawked. Algernon had loathed the parrot. One day when his wife was out making calls, Algernon had poured a dose of Godfrey’s Cordial down its feathered throat and that had been the end of the feathered nuisance.
Eleanor had been quite upset but as the bird had no mark on him, she could only accept the explanation that it had died of natural causes. If she had noticed the marks on his hand where the bird had pecked him (pecked him quite hard in fact), she had not mentioned it.
Algernon had suggested that Eleanor have the infernal thing stuffed if she missed it so much but his suggestion had been met with a stony glare and a glacial silence. Algernon had often told Eleanor that sulking did not suit her. Unlike a beautiful woman whose allure was only enhanced by a pout, a sullen expression simply magnified an ugly woman’s unappealing looks.

Toxic Reality...The Cover

Here's the cover. Designed by Joy Sillesen of StonyHill Productions, published by Dark Valentine Press. The core image was a photo of an oil spill taken by photographer Valeriy Kirsanov.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I am angry with my friend

She's not so much my friend as a good friend of several of my friends, but we share an orbit and I care about her. Last week she dropped out of sight. She stopped answering her phone; she stopped answering emails; she stopped posting on Facebook.
She went dark. I wouldn't have thought anything about that because when I'm busy, I don't tweet or update or post either. But here's the thing. The last status update she left on Facebook before pulling the plug was a stark, two-word message:  Goodbye everybody.
A frantic Facebook-fueled search ensued with people sharing information--where they last saw her, where she might have gone, who she might be with. Her sisters were all contacted and it was clear they had no idea where their little sister was.
They posted pleas for their sister to call them. Their kids posted pleas for their aunt to get in touch. No response. Radio silence. And the clock was ticking. People drove up and down streets looking for her car. People contacted a coffee shop where she was known to hang out. There was talk of posters and flyers and news stories on (My over-burdened  NoHoNoir editor was ready to step up with an article, even though he is insanely busy.)

Free Friday Fiction

A mermaid tale that originally appeared in the Anniversary issue of Dark Valentine Magazine.

                                 Siren Song
He was the third generation in his family to follow the sea and young to captain his own ship. The Rebekah Lee was a three-masted barque made of two kinds of oak and two kinds of pine, eighty-seven feet long, and twenty-six feet wide. She wasn’t a large ship as whale-ships went, but she was as sturdy and reliable as her namesake.
When he left New Bedford on the maiden voyage of the Rebekah Lee, Nathaniel Goode had every expectation that he would return in three years with a hold full of whale oil and riches enough to build Rebekah a fine house in the best neighborhood in the city where they had both been born.
Rebekah had told him all she wanted was for him to return home safely, but he’d seen her wistful looks at the mansions whale wealth had built, had seen her lingering glances at the rich clothes the captains’ ladies wore.
Nathanial sailed for South America, leaving behind a father who was proud of him and a woman who loved him and a land-lubber business partner who envied him.
He sailed with a crew of whale-men recruited up and down New England’s coast, plucking them from harbors and taverns and seaman’s halls.  He knew most of them, or their families, even the Portuguese who’d come down from the Azores, looking for a berth.  They were good men and well-seasoned, and Nathaniel was pleased to see how smoothly they worked together.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The First Taste is Free

My new collection of short fiction, Toxic Reality, will be available shortly and as a teaser, I offer this story, "Finders Keepers."  It began life as a 450-word response to one of the Clarity of Night fiction challenges. Hope you enjoy it.


When my husband and son came home early from a camping trip, hauling a big footlocker in the truck bed and grinning like fools, I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.  For one thing, Deke hadn’t called ahead to tell me they were coming home early so when I saw the 5150 pull into the drive my first thought was that something had happened to Andy. 
I’d been upstairs when the truck pulled in and had practically levitated to the front door.  Andy had launched himself into the house, throwing his arms around my knees and crowing, “We found a treasure mama.”  I looked up at my husband and he nodded excitedly, his expression somewhere between ecstasy and fear.  It was his O-face and I’d never seen it in broad daylight.
Deke brought the tarp into the living room and laid it down on the rug before humping the footlocker into the house.  It was one of those olive-drab ones you see in war movies, rusting at the corners and the latches, the paint peeling off the metal.  With the dirt and mold clinging to it, I couldn’t help but think that it looked a lot like a coffin.
“Open it, darlin’, go on,” my husband urged, and I felt a physical wave of revulsion.  I didn’t want to touch it.  I had the irrational thought that if I never touched it, I could deny the reality of it being in my living room, sitting there halfway between the sofa and the plasma television I’d bought Deke for Father’s Day.
Eager to show me what was inside,  Andy darted forward and sprung the latches.  He couldn’t quite manage the heavy lid, so Deke reached past him and pulled it open.
Inside the box was packed with small boxes and velvet pouches and bags and rolls of silk and satin.  Deke grabbed the first sack and pulled it open, pouring the contents into my hand.  Diamonds.  Each one as big as a walnut.  They were cool, like the earth they’d been buried in, but each one flashed with a fire that scalded me.
“They’re real,” Deke said.  “We tested them.”  He and Andy exchanged a conspiratorial giggle as they reached for more sacks, poured more jewelry onto the floor.  One box held tangles of gold chain heavy enough to anchor a yacht.  Another yielded what looked like a Celtic cloak pin.
“Look Mama,” Andy said, rummaging through the plunder and pulling items out willy-nilly.  “A crown.”  He put a bejeweled golden circlet on his head.  It was so big it slipped down his head and over his eyes.  Deke took it off him and put it on his own head.  “You’re a king, daddy,” Andy said, laughing.  Then he dived back into the sacks and boxes to see what else was there. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Song for my mother

I miss my mother. She would have been 83 last month and I think she would have gotten a kick out of the 21st century. She definitely would have enjoyed YouTube, the closest thing to a time machine yet invented. I like to think she'd be surfing the net, clicking on videos that amused her. She loved this one, which was playing in heavy rotation on MTV in 1986.  Bowie and Jagger... Dancing in the Streets. This one's for my mother.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Writing Alchemy--Spinning Three Words into 100

Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge this week is to take three words out of a list of five (Ivy, Bishop, Lollipop, Blister, Enzyme) and write a 100-word story. I chose LOLLIPOP, BLISTER, and ENZYME.

Amy sucked on the enzyme lollipop and contemplated the holographic game board. She moved a piece and the AI moved three for the win.
“You cheat,” she accused and threw her lollipop through the board image, which popped like a blister.
The maintenance sensors dispatched a robo-scrubber to clean up the sticky mess.
Amy knew she needed the enzymes to thrive, but the candy tasted like ass.
Still, her parents hadn’t gone to all the trouble to therapeutically kill her in 2012 only to have her new doctors label her “non-compliant” in 2042.
Amy sighed and unwrapped another lollipop.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Toxic Reality coming soon!

My second collection of short fiction, Toxic Reality, will be a reality within weeks. Joy Sillesen of StonyHill Productions is currently designing the cover and layout, and I'm going through the final edit and selection process,. killing my children with wild abandon. (Read Sandra Seamans' blog on the process she's going through prepping her as-yet-unnamed collection for Snubnose Press here.)

Late one night a few months ago I'd been toying with the idea of writing a title story for the collection and I came up with the story below. Well, not really a story so much as a splat of words that after a good night's sleep I realized should never, ever see print. But it kind of amused me to collect my anxieties in one big rant, so I'm posting it here.  Complete with the groovy font-playing that seemed such a great idea at one in the morning.

Acid rain  
Bees dying
Cancer clusters
Genital mutilation
Hole in the ozone
Icebergs melting
John Galliano
Love Canal
Mercury poisoning
Norwegian extremists
Oceans dying
Radioactive breast milk
Urban blight
Vanishing species
Whale stranding
Yeast infections
Zero-sum mentality
Autism on the rise
BP oil spill
Capital punishment
Ethnic cleansing
Fukishima meltdown
Greenhouse gases
Habitat destruction
Improvised Explosive Devices
Job losses
Kudzu vine
Lyme Disease
Neutron bombs
Q Fever
Road rage
Sun damage
Traffic jams
Upside-down mortgages
Vehicular homicide
Yellow fever
Zombie apocalypse


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Smallest of the Summoner's Bells--in French

The multi-talented Joy Sillesen of StonyHill Productions has done it again. She created this beautiful cover for the French version of my story, "The Smallest of the Summoner's Bells."  The translator is still twiddling with the front matter, but the story should be available by the end of the month.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Zombiefied Gets a Release Date

Cue the shameless self-promotion!
My story "Dead Letter" is included in this Sky Warrior Books anthology. The ebook version will be available on October 1st (more info later); with a print version following. Here's the cover to whet your appetite (for brains!!!)

And since we're talking about zombies, have you been reading the great zombie stories on Eaten Alive?  All zombies, all the time, with stories from Col Bury, Chris Rhatigan, R.S. Bohn, A.J. Hayes, Jimmy Calaway, Richard Godwin, Kenneth James Crist, Michael J. Solender, Michael Moreci, and me...

And of course, you've bought your copy of Peter Mark May's excellent undead anthology Alt-Dead, right?  More zombie stories than you can shake a stick at, from both sides of the Atlantic.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Food. Wine. Mystery. Romance.

I don't know Christina Dodd's books but just stumbled across her fantastic website (thank you Twitter). It's so inviting and so inventive and low-key in the way it introduces a visitor to her world and her cast of characters that I want to go out and buy her books.  I also want to live in her fictitious Bella Valley and drink wine and eat food. Check the site out.

Ready. Steady, Write.

Every time I sit down to work on THE NOVEL, a bunch of really interesting short fiction challenges and contests and calls for submission seem to pop up.  Focus.  I struggle with it.  But in the meantime, here are some people who want to see short stories...some for glory, some for pay.

NPR is back with their three-minute fiction contest. Submissions are open until September 25 for stories no longer than 600 words. The theme this time--leaving town, arriving in town. Full details here

Chuck Wendig of Terrible Minds continues to entice with his weekly flash fiction challenge. (Last week's 100-word "Revenge" challenge scored triple digit numbers of submissions.) This week the challenge comes with a photo prompt. For details on "The Torch" go here

Then there's Paragraph Planet, a site that posts 75-word stories--one paragraph, one micro-story. I sent them a snippet story on a lark and they're publishing it Monday.  (Notice how I slipped in that bit of shameless self-promotion?)  Here's the site..

For Haruki Murakami fans, there's a really interesting fiction challenge being sponsored by his publisher to promote his latest book, 1Q84. The challenge is to use this sentence from the book as the opening line of a story of your own:. Carrying a single bag, the young man is travelling alone at his whim with no particular destination in mind.' Word limit is 1500.  The winning story will be published on Random House and Foyle's websites and a complete cache of the author's backlist.  Here are the details.

And finally, consider submitting to Omnium Gatherum's Detritus anthology. They want stories about your collections--your secret obsessions. Stories up to 5K, deadline is October 15. (The cover is very handsome.) More information here.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chicken Salad for Mayonnaise Haters

I know, that's not the most appetizing headline ever, but that's really the best way to describe this.  My friend and catering partner invented it on the spot one night when nibbles were running low and the cupboard was bare. It's great on crackers or bread, or even topping a salad.  Best of all, the mayonnaise is so minimal that even mayo-averse types like me can chow down.  Both my parents were from the south but split along culinary lines when it came to mayonnaise. My mother and brother ate it with impunity; my father, sister and I refused to touch it. (My sister's aversion was pathological and eating out with her was often a trial.)  And seriously, who invented coleslaw?  Raw cabbage soaked in mayonnaise.  Shudder.  Even Ina Garten's version with bleu cheese doesn't do it for me. But I digress.
Here's the recipe:

1 large can of chicken, drained and shredded with a fork
Lemon pepper to taste (don't be shy--shake it on)
1 forkful of mayonnaise (just enough to make everything sort of stick together)

That's it.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Roasted Tomato Salsa Recipe

It is ungodly hot here in the Southland--triple digit weather on the 7th of September. I was out and about in it and decided to fight fire with fire by heading over to La Salsa for their taco salad. I am a huge fan of their thin avocado salsa and their smoky roasted tomato salsa and usually load up on both to add to the salad fixings. So imagine my disappointment when I turned the corner and found an empty storefront and a sign announcing La Salsa had moved to a mall several miles away.
I came home and immediately started searching for a roasted tomato salsa I could make myself to assuage my disappointment. I found this one at It's pretty delicious but it's not La Salsa.
I was not consulted on this move and I do not approve.  And I really don't want to have to trek over to a mall (I hate malls) to get my salsa on.

Cats are not dogs

My family had cats as pets. My father wasn't a fan of the feline but there were five of us in the family and he was outvoted. (At the time of his death there were three cats in the household and we came home from his funeral to find all three of them lounging on his bed. "That's right," they seemed to be saying. "You're dead and we're still here. Neener, neener, neener.")
I've had roommates with dogs from time to time, mostly silly little dogs--a cockapoo, a Chihuahua--and I really like dog energy, but you don't have to walk cats when it's raining like ... you know what.  I leave dry cat food out overnight so my cats don't wake me up at the crack of dawn, begging to be fed. When I lived with the Chihuahua, she was up every morning at 5 a.m., ready to eat. And since I was the one awake, I was the one who fed and walked her. She got used to that and never bothered her actual owner.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Sisters Brothers

has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The L.A. Times called Patrick De Witt's novel a "bawdy cowboy noir," which just about covers it. I read it in manuscript this January when it was called "The Warm Job." (The titular brothers are Eli and Charlie, hit men for a man they call "the Commodore" who wants a man named Hermann Kermit Warm dead.)

Here's what I said about it at the time:

There is a lot to like here.  The story is episodic and reminiscent in some ways of Little Big Man, only taking place in a more focused context.  Eli and Charlie seem to run across a whole cross-section of Western types (the diligent Chinese house boy, the luckless prospectors, the soiled doves and so forth) that Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) would recognize.  There’s also a tinge of superstition and the paranormal (the weird gypsy) that unsettles us a bit.  What the story mostly reminds us of is a graphic novel, even though this is a fully fleshed tale that doesn’t need illustrations.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A story for Labor Day

I don't write a lot of stories about work. I love what I do for a living and rarely fantasize about killing co-workers or wreaking havoc on my workplace.  I am fascinated by office politics though, and had a good time with this story based on the corporate culture of a now-defunct magazine I used to work for.


When she saw the binders piled on the conference room table Erin’s heart sank.  She could always predict the length of a meeting from the heft of the reference material compiled for everyone’s use.  Binders were not a good sign.
If there were just legal pads and cheap pens lined up at each seat, that meant only one person would be talking and the rest of them could zone out as long as they occasionally scribbled something on the legal pad. 
            Legal pads and manila folders weren’t so bad either.  The folders usually just held an agenda or a list of talking points and that usually meant there’d be some form of interaction, like brainstorming or maybe a Q and A.  Erin didn’t mind question-and- answer sessions. You could learn a lot about your colleagues from the questions they asked.  She usually just sat quietly and listened.  Her s.o.p. was to jot down random words and then underline them with a thoughtful nod in case someone above her pay grade was watching.  Sometimes she would draw a rectangle around a word.  Occasionally she would add an exclamation point to the mix and very occasionally, she would sketch a star in there somewhere. 
            Todd from marketing, who’d replaced Dave from marketing, usually sat next to her and copied her notes right down to the exclamation points and rectangles.  He drew the line at stars though.  He thought they were gay. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The topic is Revenge...

Freelance penmonkey Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge this week is to write a story of revenge in just 100 words. He clearly struck a creative nerve and as of 9:48 PDT today, there were 62 responses and counting. Here's the link to see the stories.

Here's my story:

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Los Angeles is a desert, and transplants who want to replicate their lush East Coast-style gardens are frequently frustrated. I tried to explain to Mrs. Weston that in order to grow jack in the pulpits, she would have to transform her yard into a swamp. “Do your job,” she responded. So I have. And to give her garden a real East Coast ambience, I’ve also planted some poison sumac here and there. It normally grows only in very wet soil, so it’s never taken hold here in the southland. I expect it to thrive in Mrs. Weston’s garden.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Day Before My Birthday

There's a scene in the first (and best) season of Denis Leary's series Rescue Me where a firefighter who was a first responder on 9/11 has joined a survivor's group. As the others recount their stories, he gradually realizes that they have no "real" connection to what happened that day and he lashes out angrily, mocking their claim to the pain that has engulfed him. It's a powerful moment and it works for the episode, but it also trivializes the very real emotion that swept the nation on that day.
In the days and weeks and months and years that have followed the events of 9/11, the urge to find a point of connection, a stake in the events, has remained strong. What amazed me at the time, and continues to astonish me, is that in a country of 300 million people, almost no one I've ever talked to didn't have a story to tell, some anecdote to share, some memory that has refused to die. I am a storyteller by trade and yet my own story is not coherent, but made up of fragments of thought and scraps of emotion, and a sense of surreality blanketed with stunned and numbed disbelief.   Here it is.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Social Media is Our Friend

I joined Twitter kicking and screaming. And found I LOVED it. Now I am pretty obnoxious about urging my friends to join the party. I'm still learning my way around, but I have my own personal social media consultant in my long-time friend Janette Kotichas. (Follow her @janettekotichas.) I've read John Locke's book on marketing, and I just ran across Chris Brogan's "An Author's Plan for Social Media." He put it out there a year ago but everything he suggests still makes sense. Writing is a solitary occupation. Get social!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Impersonating a Fairy

Petrillo stuck one of his size 12 shoes into the elevator just as I pushed the “down” button. The closing doors slid open again.
“Got a minute Doc?” he asked.
“Got a minute?” may just be the three scariest words in the English language when your life is measured in appointments and you haven’t eaten lunch or dinner.
“It won’t take long,” he promised. “And I think you’ll find it interesting.”
I sighed and got out of the elevator.
“Thanks,” he said.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” he said and I sighed again.
It wasn’t like Petrillo to play coy so whatever was going on probably was worth my time.
We walked through the squad room and into the hallway overlooking the interrogation room. His partner, LeAnne Jacoby, was questioning a handsome blond man who appeared to be amused by the process. He was practically sprawling in a metal folding chair pulled up to a table, his body language completely relaxed.
“Who is he?” I asked Petrillo.
“That’s a good question,” he said, “but a better one would be, ‘What is he?’”
I raised my right eyebrow, a useful skill when I’m trying to figure out what to say next while waiting for someone to fill in the blanks.
Petrillo obliged.
“He claims he’s a fairy.”
He saw my expression and quickly clarified. “As in one of the fae, not as in the derogatory slang expression for a homosexual.”
LeAnne looked up with relief when I entered the interrogation room. She gave me an eye-roll as she passed me on the way out and whispered, “Good luck.”
I turned toward the prisoner. He was smiling slightly, his expression open and sincere.
“So you broke into the museum to steal a bracelet you think was stolen from the fairies?” I asked. “Haven’t I seen that in a movie somewhere?”
“You’re thinking of Hellboy 2,” he said, “except it was a crown in an auction house and they were elves, not fairies.”
“What’s the difference?” I asked.

A story a day?

Now that I'm putting together my second fiction collection (Toxic Reality, available October 31), I'm looking through my files to make sure I haven't forgotten any stories. What this has shown me is that I'm really pretty bad at organizing--I have four or five files of "completed" and "submitted" and "in progress"--and that I have a ton of stories that are almost but not quite finished. One of the reasons for this half-assed, half-baked, half-finished state of affairs is that I often begin a story in one of the notebooks I carry around in my purse. I hate waiting around, so if I'm at a bus stop or waiting for my monthly shot at the eye clinic, I'll work on a story or play with a stray idea.  The problem is I'm not particularly disciplined about transcribing those pages into my computer. And I have a LOT of notebooks.  So sometimes stories get lost in the process.  I ran across one such story this morning. "Impersonating a Fairy."  It's lighter than my usual fare--I can't be noir girl all the time--and all it needs is an edit. 
My goal today is to finish that story. My goal this month is to track down any other stories in the same condition and finish them.
It's good to have goals.