Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nine Ladies Dancing

Cover design by Joanne Renaud
I will be releasing a new collection of stories in the next few weeks, a group of Christmas stories loosely based on "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Joanne Renaud has created the cover for the collection, and I am very pleased with it. You may know Joanne as a writer; or an illustrator; but she is also now designing book covers. Check out her graphic design work here.
Here's a sample story...Nine Ladies Dancing, which originally ran as part of the Dark Valentine "Twelve Days of Christmas" fiction fest last year. 

Nine Ladies Dancing

There were four little cubicles crammed into the basement of Jake Mirzoyan’s club, each with a mirror, a tiny shelf for makeup, a couple of hooks for costumes, and two chairs. On Saturday nights, when all the girls were working, things got a little crowded in the basement. There was only one bathroom down there—the girls weren’t allowed to use the one upstairs, the one the customers used—so if someone ate a bad taco for lunch, everybody knew it.
They all knew about a lot of things—about Reva’s abortion, about Lanelle’s problem with her ex, about Kim’s relapse with the vikes. You get eight women in close quarters and they’re going to be all up in each other’s business. It was kind of like a family that way, a big dysfunctional family with an abusive daddy. The girls knew all about abusive daddies.
Jake was greedy but he wasn’t ambitious and he was bone lazy. He made a lot of money from the club—almost all of it cash, almost all of it untraceable. Girls came and went at the club but there were never more than eight dancers at one time. Eight was enough. Eight was a number he could handle.
And then Suki showed up. Suki with her pale, pale skin and her dark, dark eyes. Suki with the red hair right out of a shampoo commercial. Her real name was probably Susan or something but as far as Jake was concerned, she could call herself Angelina Jolie if she wanted to. She was tall—taller than him—and big-breasted, just the way his customers liked them. And they weren’t fake tits like Jude’s or Kitta’s either.
Even though Jake had a rule about not mixing business with pleasure, he would have chopped off his own dick to dip into Suki’s honey-pot. He wasn’t the only one. Brianna, who’d been dancing at the club since she was an underage runaway, took one look at Suki and fell in love.
Suki was too good for Jake’s little place, but didn’t seem to know it. The girls all knew it, though. They knew Suki could have been working the gentlemen’s clubs in L.A., somewhere she could maybe find a sugar daddy to take care of her. A lot of celebrities go to those clubs for kicks. A lot of money gets thrown around. The girls wondered why Suki would come to a rat-hole like Jake’s club when she had other options. None of the girls who worked for Jake had options. At least, not any more.
Jake let it be known that he would be firing one of the girls to make room for Suki but he didn’t tell them which one and suggested if anyone wanted to discuss the matter privately with him, then he’d be available in his office any time. Jude was the first to climb the stairs to Jake’s office. She had a little one at home that her mother took care of. She supported both of them. She needed the job.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Kat, seriously, what's with the chocolate? Do you want to turn us all into diabetics? Do you have an evil plan to fatten us up like Hansel and Gretl? 
No. I love you too much for that.
What's going on is that I'm not going to do a lot of Christmas baking this year but I will be making this unbelievably rich and satisfying cheesecake.  I'd send you all a slice if I could but since I can't, the next best thing is to give you the recipe so you can make it yourself.
Henry Thoreau once said, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”  Generally, I feel the same way about recipes that require special equipment or fancy pans.  In the case of this recipe, though, I will make an exception.  You absolutely must have a springform pan or you’ll end up with a really delicious dessert you have to scrape out of the pan because it’s sticking to the sides and no amount of Pam is going to unstuck it.
If you don’t have a springform pan, it’s worth buying one just to make this cheesecake.  (Sometimes you’ll see mini-springform pans and they’re great because you make several little cheesecakes and give one of them away.)

Simple and Delicious Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

This is my go-to recipe when I’m asked to bring a dessert to a holiday party. It is really simple to make and quick as well.

Holiday Food Blog Appreciation

Photo by Vivan of Vivian's Blog-o-rama
Cupcakes shaped like sushi. And like burritos. And like pop culture icons like Firefly (with the Serenity on star-glittered chocolate frosting for her husband Keith). Vivian of Vivian's Blogorama creates amazingly inventive and imaginative cupcakes for every possible occasion (beer cupcakes; Canadian cupcakes for her friend).  The photos are tasty enough, but she also offers hints on how to replicate her creations yourself (jelly beans for the fish eggs, for instance.) Here's the post for the sushi cupcakes.
She does not post very often (only 1 post this year with her Firefly cupcakes) but there are plenty of archive posts and photos to keep you amused.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Noir--Wish List

A slightly different version of this story ran last year as part of the Do Some Damage Christmas Noir Challenge. I pulled it out to get myself into the Christmas as I finish up Twelve Nights of Christmas.

Wish List

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’d 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 wants.  They think it’s cute.  He’s nine and they think he’s a genius because he can navigate Google. 
Photo by Canna W.
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 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 blamed me. She called me a jealous little trouble maker and a liar and she slapped me.  I heard her tell Dad 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.
But I have a plan. If I find the knives under the tree, I'll open up the package and take out the largest knife.
Eddie's always on his best behavior right before Christmas.
He's always super nicey-nice to me.
I can get close enough to give him a hug,


Friday, November 25, 2011

Feminist Fiction Friday--Octavia E. Butler

Science Fiction writer Octavia E. Butler is not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on women in speculative fiction but Samuel R. Delaney is and so is Robert Silverberg. She's not mentioned in an 1982 New York Times Book Review essay on women and science fiction. That's odd because by 1982, Butler had already published her time-travel novel Kindred and the two Earthseed books:  Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. When the Guardian commissioned a poll of readers' favorite science fiction novels, not one of Butler's works was mentioned, though L. Ron Hubbard made the list. (Butler wasn't the only female SF writer who didn't appear--neither did the multi-award-winning Connie Willis or Joan D. Vinge, though her ex-husbamdVernor Vinge made the list multiple times.) In all 500 readers responded and out of 500 books, only 18 were written by women.  I thought women writers were invisible in the crime fiction world. Our sisters in Sci Fi have it even worse.
Reading Butler's books now, particularly the Earthseed books,  is a bit of a shock because they seem so prophetic. They take place in a world dying of environmental pollution, a place where the underclass is educated just enough to provide employees to run the factories owned by the wealthy. Ordinary services, like electricity, are beyond the reach of most people and only the wealthy have refrigerators. The 1 %, one might say.
Class struggle is a major theme in Parable of the Sower, which was nominated for a Nebula Award for best novel but did not win. (The sequel, Parable of the Talents won the award in 1999.) In the Earthseed books (a third, Parable of the Trickster, was planned but never written), government has broken down and what order exists is a harsh and exclusive Christianity that does not accept any other world view. (Sound familiar?)
Race and sexuality are also constant themes. Butler's first novel, Kindred,  a time-travel book she referred to as a "grim fantasy," is a stark portrait of life in bondage and unsentimental in the way its heroine, Dana, is treated. There are beatings and rape and a complex web of inter-dependence between Dana and Rufus, a white man whose existence is keyed to her own. The book was published in 1979.
Her final novel, Fledgling (2005) revolved around Shori, a dark-skinned woman belonging to a benovolent, vampire-like race and touched on race and family and prejudice.
Butler won numerous awards in her lifetime, including the 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award in writing from the PEN American Center. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.
A scholarship in her name was established to create opportunities for writers of color to attend the Clarion writing workshop. Established by the Carl Brandon Society, the fund has awarded scholarships yearly since 2007.
The Octavia E. Butler Scholarship Fund link is here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Thought

I hate the phrase "food insecurity." It's a weaselly way to avoid saying "hunger."  If you say, "More Americans are food insecure than ever before," it sounds like you're talking about people who wonder if guests at a dinner party are going to like their recipe for chicken in wine sauce.
Ten thousand people lined up in Los Angeles this week for turkey dinners given away by E.L. Jackson of Jackson Limousine.  Ten thousand people who would not have had a Thanksgiving dinner without his generosity. (He had help from donors this year, but for many years, Jackson footed the bill himself.) 
I have never experienced food insecurity a day in my life and I am profoundly grateful for that. I hope I never forget how lucky that makes me when so many other people are going hungry today.
And if I ever need to rent a limousine, you can bet I'll get it from Jackson. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Benoit Lelievre's Smooth Criminals challenge

Crime writer Benoit Lelievre is hosting a 2012 reading challenge on his blog, Dead End Follies. Dubbed "Smooth Criminals," the challenge is this--read 8 books (one in each category) and review them between January 1-December 31, 2012.  The categories range from classic noir to Gothic and include categories like "prison novel" and "psychopath protagonist." I'll have to think about what to read but I have a few choices already:

Hardboiled Classic:  Paul Cain's Fast One. Cain was famous for having a man with a gun come through a door whenever action flagged, and this was his only novel. I'm not sure how easy it will be to track it down, but definitely worth the effort.
Noir Classic: Dorothy Hughes' Ride the Pink Horse. I would say, In a Lonely Place, but I've seen the movie, so that feels like cheating.
Prison Book:I'll have to think about this category. One of the best prison memoirs I ever read was You Got Nothing Coming,
Book written by a writer who did time:  If He Hollers Let Him Go--I am a big Chester Himes fan but somehow never read this.
Book with a Psychopath protagonistDexter Darkly Dreaming--I'm not a fan of the television series based on the Dexter novels, but I'm very curious.
Gothic Novel:  Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.One of the classics that somehow slipped through the net of my education.
Classic novel where plot revolves around crime:  Some of the participants in the challenge have picked very interesting choices here. (Thomas Pluck has put down Crime and Punishment)  I'd probably say Beau Geste, except I've already read it.  I'll need to think about this one.
Why the Hell am I doing this to myself? No clue what this will be.  But it means heading to a bookstore or browsing online and that can never be bad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wikipedia--they don't ask for much

Support Wikipedia I used to call my local reference librarian so often, she knew me by name. I sent her candy at Christmas as a token of my appreciation. She was awesome. She's long retired but if she weren't, she wouldn't be hearing from me very often. (I once asked her to help me find out the termperature at which blood froze.  "Why," she asked me after a long pause, "do you want to know?")
Now the first thing I do when I have a question about something is hit Wikipedia.  Sometimes the articles posted there lead me to other articles. Sometimes I get lost in Wikipedia. It's time well spent.
So I sent them some money today. Money well spent. They're making it easy--linking to PayPal for one thing, offering an "other" option if their lowest suggested amount ($10) is too much.
(They even point out that if everyone sent in seven cents, it would be more than enough to fund them.)  So, if you have a spare seven cents, or even seven dollars, why not send it to Wikipedia?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pizza Recipe of Your Dreams

It's a cold day in L.A. so I am making pizza.
Why not just order in, you might say?
Because most order-in pizza is totally disgusting. IMHO.
The first time I tasted a piece of store-bought pizza, I couldn't believe how sweet the tomato sauce was or how doughy the crust was. (And I like thick crust.)
Photo by Alex Fiore
Eleanor Trigg's pizza spoiled me for life.
Eleanor was a friend of my mother's, a fellow Army wife who stayed in touch after their husbands' careers took them in different directions.
She shared a lot of recipes with my mother, not all of them awesome. (The lemon-current cake, as I recall, was not a keeper.) This recipe, though, is the best pizza I ever ate. People have proposed marriage to get this recipe.
I know it's Thanksgiving week and the last thing you probably want to do is spend more time in the kitchen, but trust me. It will be worth it.No need to thank me, it's my pleasure.
As I look over the recipe, by the way, I realize that I annotate recipes the same way my mother did. Like mother/like daughter, I guess.

Eleanor Trigg’s Pizza as interpreted by Mickey Tomlinson as handed down to me…
2 pkgs of bulk pork sausage  (I use Jimmy Dean’s hot.  You can also use turkey sausage)
1 yellow onion, diced
½ cup (or more) dried Parmesan cheese (in the green canister, not fresh)
Garlic to taste
Italian seasoning to taste
2 large cans tomato paste
Lick of olive oil
In a heavy skillet (I use cast iron) with a splash of olive oil, brown the sausage, breaking it up. 
Add the onions and cook until translucent.
Add the garlic and seasonings
Add the parmesan cheese (I usually just shake this out of the canister and use a lot)
The cheese will start melting…
Add the two cans of tomato paste and mix everything together.
Set aside while you roll out your dough.   (If I have time I make it from scratch but there are some pretty good frozen pizza doughs available.)
Use a paper towel to absorb any liquid fat that pools in the sauce.
Spread the sauce on the pizza dough and bake until pizza dough is golden.  At that point if you want to mess up your pizza with pepperoni, peppers, mushrooms, pineapple or other extraneous ingredients, put them on the pie and then cover with mozzarella.
Put the pizza back in the oven for the cheese to melt.
When I make this for parties and people follow me into the kitchen to get pieces fresh from the oven. People have fought over the last piece.  You will never feel the same way about Papa John's again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NoHo Noir is Back!!!

Yes, the long wait is over. NoHo Noir is now live with the first of the new stories, "Bum's Rush." Check it out and note Mark Satchwill's illustration, done Manga style. 
Pictured at left is Christopher Robin Nolan (Rob), a 17-year-old student at North Hollywood High. He and his friend Marcus (nicknamed "Poo") have found a homeless man beaten to death on their way home from school.
Det. Esme Morales is not impressed by their story but then, she's not impressed by much--and that includes her partner, the uniformed cop who was first on the scene, and her ex-boyfriend (but more about him later).
Check out the story here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Clown is Coming Back--the return of NoHo Noir

The first of a new cycle of stories will go up tomorrow on the new NoHo Noir site. Mark and I are tremendously excited about continuing the project. The first story, "Boys will be boys," has a more manga illustration style Mark's trying out. We're still fiddling with the website, adding bits and pieces, but my favorite thing about it is that Mark did portraits of us to run in the "About Katherine" and "About Mark" sections. I always wanted to be a comic book character.  Mark did a more "evil queen" version that I liked too. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feminist Fiction Friday--Miss Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1973 novel, The Optimist's Daughter. Ten years after her death and almost 40 years after it was published, you can buy a digital copy of The Optimist's Daughter with one click. I hope she'd be pleased. She was a woman ahead of her times in so many ways, I'd like to think she would have embraced the ebook revolution.
The Optimist's Daughter was my introduction to the writer. My mother was reading it at the same time her father's long and painful final illness was coming to an end, and she found it almost unbearable to read.
I didn't have the same personal, viscderal connection to the material, so my reading was an entirely different experience.
It's not a novel with a lot of plot but her characters...her characters were so real and rich and right, that I knew her work was going to set the bar for me in my first fumbling attempts at writing my own stories.
Miss Welty (and such was the force of her personality, that even her most ferocious fans felt self-conscious about first-naming her) began, as so many novelists do, writing short stories.
Two of those stories, "Death of a Traveling Salesman" and "Why I Live at the P.O." should be required reading for anyone who wants to practice short fiction.
Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, The Robber Bridegroom came to the city on its way to Broadway.  An adaptation of Miss Welty's novella of the same name, a romantic fable based on real-life stories of robbers who used to ply their trade along the Natchez Trace. (Miss Welty was from Mississippi.), it was a musical with book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music by Robert Waldman.
I saw the play five times, which probably had more to do with my appreciation of Barry Bostwick, who played the title role, than my love for Southern literature, but the play was charming. (And if you know Bostwick only as the bombastic mayor in Spin City or as Brad in Rocky Horror Picture Show, here's a clip of him performing "Fathers and Sons"  in the Studs Terkel musical Working.)


Last night I went to the opera and at intermission, my companion was chatting with a couple while I sucked down a bucket-sized iced tea in hopes the caffeine would counteract the effects of the all-nighter I'd pulled finishing up a project. They were discussing Wagner and suddenly, the woman went off on a rant about Armenians, Social Security checks and Lexuses.  (Lexi?) 
There was no segue for the rant, she just started spewing nonsense. It was odd and unsettling and we quickly retreated into the auditorium.
I was no longer sleepy.
Encounters with whack jobs tend to wake me up.
This afternoon I blogged about a friend of a friend's Kickstarter program and apropos of nothing, a guy calling himself John Rambo (completely without irony) posted a comment that had absolutely nothing to do with the post and everything to do with pathology.  (You can read it below, under the Empower an Entrepreneur heading.)
John doesn't like American women. As a group. As a class. As a concept.
He takes special issue with women who are educated and/or in the workplace.
He doesn't think American women want to get married.
He has apparently written a book and posting his anti-woman screed on blogs is his idea of a really great marketing ploy.
Here's a sample of his reasoned discourse:
Over 50 percent of American women are single, without a boyfriend or husband; so the fact is most American men no longer want to marry American women. Let these worthless American women grow old living alone with their 10 cats.

He goes on at some length to explain why foreign-born women are just better.
I say...good luck with those mail-order brides, John.
I think I can also safely say, on behalf of American women everywhere, "Not if you were the last heterosexual on earth, honey."
But you knew that already.

Empower an Entrepreneur

Writer/Artist Joanne Renaud sends word that Caoimhe Ora Snow's Kickstarter Campaign to fund a startup of her RPG fantasy game Wandering Monsters High School has stalled. She needs $200 more to reach her goal of $1000 before her time runs out in two weeks. Donations are as little as $1, so if you can help a sister out, go here.

Mincemeat Cake Recipe for Thanskgiving

In the Beginning Was the Recipe…
I was looking for my mother’s recipe for Mincemeat Cake.  It was not in the yellow binder where I keep the family recipes copied out by my sister in her meticulous art school handwriting and decorated with whimsical drawings. 
The recipe wasn’t in the manila folder where I keep the loose recipe cards and the torn magazine pages and the newspaper clippings and the scribbled instructions on the backs of envelopes, school notebook paper and old invoice forms from my grandfather’s general store.  (There’s even a recipe copied out on a soft paper napkin worn to the consistency of Kleenex.) 
My mother had a recipe box like all good mid-century housewives and she kept many recipes in that box, but the ones she cherished the most and used the most often were in an old school binder with a coarse cloth cover that was rubbed through to the cardboard beneath.  By the time I inherited the binder,  it was falling apart and I transferred the contents over to the aforementioned yellow binder.
A lot of the loose recipes in the folder are starting to fade with age.  Some of the oldest date back to the early 50s and the paper has browned and the ink lightened until you almost need to be a forensic documents examiner to piece together the instructions.  My mother’s recipes are written out the way she talked and almost seem interactive with their asterisks and inserted comments.  “I usually use twice the amount of ginger,” she notes on a recipe for ginger snaps, making me wonder why she didn’t just write out her version of the recipe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#OWS Fiction--The Black Card

This is a story that's been percolating for awhile.


Peter Loftus prided himself on his street smarts.
He wasn’t too worried when he saw the roving gang of teens ghosting toward him.
Gangs of percenters were always roaming the area, looking for stray onesies they could prey upon, and Peter had taken pains to disguise himself as one of the 99.
Clocking their movements was just a matter of situational awareness, not paranoia and Peter didn’t even break his stride.
Peter was sure the wildlings would pass him by. There was nothing about his demeanor or dress that broadcast his wealth or status.
Still, Peter was glad he was wearing the money belt with the slotted buckle that was large enough to hide his American Express Centurion card. He normally didn’t carry it, but he’d been unable to complete his business online and had had to take the risk of going out on the street with the black card in his possession.
He’d learned from experience that taking the armor-plated Mercedes into the city only invited unwelcome attention. After two attempted carjackings, one that had resulted in the death of his driver, Peter began doing things the old-fashioned way, keeping his head down and going undercover as one of the rabble.
His disguise was flawless, a filthy raincoat over a faded t-shirt worn with jeans that were faded white at the seams and worn thin in the knees. His shoes were unpolished, their heels worn down, the toes scuffed and the leather sides thin and discolored. He’d bought the shoes online from a local Goodwill store and then had them specially sanitized.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Interesting People I Don't Know

I am a reader who always reads the "author's note" and the "postscripts" and the "why I wrote this story" headers. I read the "about me" in blogs and the "profiles" on Twitter. I like knowing about the writers whose books and stories I read. "Knowing about" is not the same thing as "knowing," of course, but in the era of social media, the lines get blurred.
I was a huge fan of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. I follow her on Twitter and have been extremely entertained by her Tweets. I started reading Dakota Cassidy's hilarious books because she was so damn funny on Facebook. (A former beauty queen, she live-tweeted the Miss America pageant and had me in stitches. If Billy Crystal hadn't stepped up to host the Oscars, she would have been a good choice.)
Last month I read Lauren Oliver's lovely book Liesl and Po and two days later one of her comments showed up in my Twitter stream. I immediately tweeted my love for the book and she thanked me and it felt like an authentic book-geek moment.
Keeping up with social media takes work, and it takes time. Time spent on Twitter is time spent away from the WIP. But as someone who spends most of my life in my home office interacting with my cats and the other human who shares their space, I love the sense of connection.

Melancholy Monday Fiction--Pink Gift

Who doesn't love freebie fiction? Luna Station Quarterly, a magazine that focuses on speculative fiction by women writers, publishes stories on their site in between issues.
This week's story is Pink Gift by Lindsey Walker . Read it here. Mark your calendar for their annual drabble issue, coming soon and featuring (shameless self-promotion alert) my story "Courtly Love."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Contest Winners

Several months ago, NPR announced the return of their "Three-Minute Fiction" contest for flash fiction that could be read in three minutes (around 600 words). The theme for round 7 was "Arriving and Leaving."  The winners were announced tonight and you can read them here.
Here is my entry for the contest:

Exit Strategy

Toby saw the man stumble as he came out of baggage claim hauling a rolling suitcase and hefting a laptop bag over his shoulder.
He looked like he’d slept in his clothes, a white dress shirt that gapped over his belly and black suit pants that badly needed a press.
His face was sickly pale and he moved like he was drunk but Toby couldn’t smell booze on his breath or in his sweat as he walked past him.
That guy looks like a heart attack waiting to happen, Toby thought and then, as if his thought had summoned the action, the guy stumbled again, this time falling heavily against Toby.
“Sorry,” the guy mumbled, and dropped the handle of his suitcase to clutch at his left arm, which had suddenly gone rigid with pain.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Feminist Fiction Friday

I'm not much for labels. Defining a person by religious beliefs, political affiliation, sexual orientation or age has always seemed much too simplistic for me. One of the most liberating things about writing for the internet is that you can define yourself, circumventing any artificial limitations that might be placed on you in real life. Which brings me to gender.
I've occasionally written fiction under a male pseudonym, not to hide my gender in specific but to cloak my identity in general. I did it on the Dark Valentine site, for example, so that it didn't look like I was writing every other story in one of our flash fiction challenges.  I never really gave it that much thought, frankly. My writing is pretty gender-neutral and I write equal-opportunity criminals and victims.
Laurell K. Hamilton
Lately, though, I've been thinking about gender a lot. I think about it every time I read a script that refers to a flight attendant as a "stewardess" or worse, as a "stew," and every time a female college student is described as a "coed."
I think about it every time someone says "male nurse," as if the job description is gender-exclusive, like "mommy." I think about it when a woman refers--without irony--to her gender as the "fair sex." And I think about it every time I read a story that's set in a future where women apparently don't exist and if they do, it's in a role that has been outdated for at least 60 years. I think about gender when I see news stories about couples about to spawn their 20th child; stories about celebutants famous for their sex tapes; stories about a movement to outlaw abortion for any reason--including rape and incest. (I can't help but think of the famous feminist quote by Ti-Grace Atkinson--"If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.")
I know this is a cranky-pants rant but bear with me...I'm getting to the point.
Yesterday Sandra Seamans posted a link to a blog entry by Kat Howard about the invisibility of female  heroines in speculative fiction. (Read it here.) I commented on it and Sandra commented back and the next thing I knew, I was scribbling lists of women writers whose books are driven by female protagonists. And I decided that today was a good day to kick off Feminist Fiction Fridays--mini-celebrations of women who write women.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A New Home for NoHo Noir!!

Yes, the evil clown is back!  Beginning Sunday, November 20, Mark Satchwill and I will be bringing you Volume II of NoHo Noir. And we'lll be bringing the noir as never before. New characters. New plots. Sex, violence, and dirty words without the asterisks.
The story starts off with a bang as a homeless man is found beaten to death just steps away from the campus of North Hollywood High. The detective investigating the case has her suspicions about who the killer might be but she needs hard evidence. Still, investigating the case gives her a good excuse to leave her family's Thanksgiving dinner early. North Hollywood, California--they don't call it "NoHo nice."
Please check out our new site here to follow us, and  follow us @nohonoir while you're at it. 

Food Porn! The season of butter and sugar returns

Most of the year, the food prepared in my kitchen is extremely healthy. The only fat is olive oil; the only grain is quinoa; the only bread-like item is wasa light rye crackers.
I's enough to send you to the nearest store to buy a package of cookies.
Once we hit the autumn solstice, though, all bets are off.
It's not that I go into a food frenzy, but from Thanksgiving on, I cook like my mother did--with butter and cream and the occasional pound of bacon.
Emphasis on the pound.
It's not like I go hog-wild--and I make sure to eat plenty of salad--but when I start putting out side dishes on Thanksgiving, anyone who thinks mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato pudding, and macaroni and cheese add up to too much starch can just leave my table and head over to Denny's for the Turkey Day special.
The food might go to waist but it's not going to waste. I have aluminum foil and I'm not afraid to use it. Guests always go home with enough food to carry them through the weekend.
That's how my mother did it.
That's how my grandmother's did it.
And that's how I do it.
At least twice a year.
And I do it without olive oil.

Olive oil is a wonderful, magical elixir but I've made mashed potatoes with olive oil and it's just not the same.
Ditto for macaroni and cheese.
I shudder to think what sweet potato pudding would be like with olive oil instead of butter.
Here's a recipe for a holiday breakfast treat introduced to the family by my sister's girlfriend. Not that it uses butter and sugar.
Serve it with bacon on the side for the perfect trifecta of treats:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This post is not about Lindsay Lohan

I once saw a magazine poll that posted pictures of several male celebrities--Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, and one other guy I can't remember. The question was, "Would you sleep with this guy if he wasn't a celebrity?" The only guy for whom the answer was an unqualified YES was Will Smith.
I thought of that poll today as I read Brett Ratner's ever-so-classy remarks about the women he's "banged" and how he sends them to his doctor to be tested before he goes all the way with them.
One of the women lucky enough to have shared his affections was (according to him) a very young Lindsay Lohan. (Ratner, who is a decade and a half older than Lohan, apparently snagged her on the rebound from Wilmer Walderrama.) 
Readers of Vanity Fair may remember the cover interview in which Lohan discussed how betrayed she felt when the aforementioned Wilmer (who actually bears a slight resemblance to Ratner) trashed her sexual performance in print.  She was 18.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The End is Near--The 5th Horseman has arrived!

As you may know, I have been a huge fan of horror writer G. Wells Taylor ever since running the first instalment of his serial The Variant Effect in Astonishing Adventures Magazine. His novel Bent Steeple, a character-driven vampire novel, is one of my favorite sanguinary tales. He's got a new book out and it's a humdinger. 

I'll be reviewing The Fifth Horseman soon but in the meantime, here's the official press release to whet your appetite. (It's already got one five-star review.)

The Apocalypse Trilogy Goes Out with a Bang, Scream and Massacre.

The Apocalypse Trilogy by G. Wells Taylor gallops to its horrifying conclusion in The Fifth Horseman now available for download at online booksellers. This explosive mix of classic western storytelling and gothic horror delivers a terrifying and bloodstained final act to Taylor’s doomsday epic.

Pandora City sits on the cattle trail north to Babylon. One day a wounded rider arrives with death stalking hard on his heels. The legends say that four horsemen will come to burn the earth and one will come to save it. So who is this rider? Over two centuries have passed since events chronicled in The Forsaken. Survivors have climbed out of the ruins and struggle to build a new life on the frontier of a dying world.

Download the Apocalypse Trilogy Book Three: The Fifth Horseman for $3.99 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony eBookstore, iBookstore and Smashwords where you can get Book One: When Graveyards Yawn for FREE and Book Two: The Forsaken for $3.99. Visit for links.

The Apocalypse Trilogy is a tale spanning centuries that weaves hard-boiled detectives, immortal children, zombie gangsters, angels, demons, and western gunslingers into a terrifying narrative of divine and human weakness set against a backdrop of decaying cities and radioactive wastelands.

G. Wells Taylor
(519) 372-1157

If you’d like more information about this book, review copies or to schedule an interview with G. Wells Taylor, author of The Variant Effect, Bent Steeple and Wildclown’s World of Change books please call 519-372-1157 or email

Saturday, November 5, 2011

R.I.P Andy Rooney--the last of a dying breed

I always thought Andy Rooney looked sort of alike a muppet. It was the eyebrows, I think. And I always kind of got a kick out of his cranky-pants rants, even when I disagreed with him. I hadn't seen many of his broadcasts lately but I always knew he was there, like the irascible uncle at the family reunion who knows all the best stories if only he can be coaxed into focusing on them and not on the shortcomings of the rest of the relatives.
And now Andy Rooney is dead at 92.
I used to be a reporter and  I came of age at a time when "reporter" meant people who reported the news for print and broadcast, not people who chronicle celebrity gossip, keep track of movie box office figures, and indulge in public speculation about the sex lives of strangers while creating a cult of personality around their own "brand."
Yes, I know. I sound cranky-pants too. But I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially in terms of Arianna Huffington's stance on freelance writers. 
I have, as they say, "skin in the game."
HuffPost grew into the media power house it became through freelancers, a number of them reporters. Last year, Huffington sold HuffPost to aol for a cool $315 million and was given oversight of aol, including their micro-news sites, collectively known as Almost immediately after the sale, Huffington moved to eliminate the few paid writers on HuffPost and began relying on the contributions of freelancers who were free. A month ago, she turned her attention to the patch sites.
Her logic seems to be:
All reporters are writers.
All bloggers are writers.
Therefore, all bloggers are reporters.
But you know what? All bloggers are not reporters and some bloggers aren't even writers. (And seriously, every blogging template out there has a spell-check function. Would it be too much to ask that bloggers use it?)
What does this have to do with me? In October, Mark Satchwill and I were told that freelancers would no longer be paid for their work on That meant we wouldn't be paid for our NoHo Noir stories and illos on the North Hollywood/Toluca Lake site.  (And believe me when I tell you we weren't being paid much.)
We were invited to continue the stories for free but although we love our editor, we have chosen to break out on our own with the material.
\We'll be setting up a NoHo Noir blog soon to host the new stories and we'll also (pending approval from America Online's lawyers who have been sitting on the matter for four months) be bundling the first volume into an illustrated novel.
And what does this have to do with Andy Rooney? 
Nothing much except that it feels like his death marks the end of an era when reporters were valued for their work and paid for it and respected; when stories were researched and objective and fact-checked and edited for spelling and clarity. And most of all, the end of a time when "news" meant what was going on in the nation and the world at large and not which Kardashian spent how much on her wedding.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Mary

Shay is playing "the toe game" with Orange Cat, an activity both find endlessly amusing. The object is for the cat to nip one of his toes before he can pull it back and OC often wins. It's his kind of game.
He's a very social cat but not a lap cat. He'll let me pick him up and nuzzle him for a bit but he only tolerates it for awhile before he starts squirming to get down.
What he really loves is lying at my feet when I'm on the computer with his big head wedged into the toe of my sneakers. Being around feet seems to soothe him. And oddly enough, he seems to understand that my toes are not playing. Even though they're dangling there in tooth reach, he leaves them alone.
I inherited Orange Cat from my sister. I wasn't looking to add another animal to my menagerie. I live in an apartment where there's a $500 deposit for each animal, and I already had one illegal cat because moving into the place exhausted my resources and I didn't have an extra $500 to put into a black hole. (I've been here almost 7 years now. In Virginia, landlords have to pay interest on money deposited as deposits. Not so in California.)
I had every intention of finding OC a home as I'd found homes for my sister's tortoise and iguana and snakes and other five cats.
But you know what they say about making plans.
Today is my sister's birthday.
If she were still around, I'd make her a cake with brown-sugar and coconut broiled icing.  (She and I shared a love of coconut that no one else in my circle seems to have.)
Instead, I'll celebrate her birthday by loving her cat and giving him one (or two) of the special tuna treats you can buy at PetCo. They're like kitty crack.  (Yes, I'm an enabler.)  And I'll smile when I see him playing the toe game.