Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Introducing New Story Lines on NoHo Noir

Illustration by Mark Satchwill
This week's story is about our character Nicole, who is about to get downsized from her job as a postal carrier. (One of the mail processing centers that's going to be closed this spring is the massive one in Van Nuys, so L.A. postal workers are definitely impacted by the closures.)  The story took an unexpected turn, though, and introduced a new character who's got a streak of racism and a chip on his shoulder. We don't find out why this episode, but we will down the road. 
And meanwhile, Mark and I will be releasing a collection of the stories with bonus stories and illustrations some time this spring. So stay tuned for that!  And in the meantime, go catch up with NoHo Noir here.

Review of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

Budo is Max Delaney’s imaginary friend, and in fact, his only friend. Max dreamed him up when he was four and he’s nine now, so Budo worries that the boy will soon forget about him and leave him to fade away to whatever afterlife waits for the discarded. Budo is worried for himself but he’s also worried about Max, a “special” kid who is very smart but often gets emotionally “stuck” and acts out with screams and tantrums.
Budo doesn’t sleep but Max has imagined he can walk through walls, so at night, when the boy sleeps, he roams the city, visiting a corner gas station to watch the interaction among the humans and a hospital where other imaginary friends congregate.
Life isn’t easy for Max, who attends public school and has to cope with bullies like Tommy Swinden, who lives for the opportunity to beat him up. (Budo’s supposed to keep watch when Max is in the bathroom, but he can’t always be there.)
In fact, while Tommy is a threat, the biggest danger to Max is someone a lot closer to home and when he disappears from the school while separated from Budo, his imaginary friend panics.  What happens next is a heroic quest to save the boy, with Budo organizing a posse of imaginary friends to save the day.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tales of the Misbegotten: Discipline Problem

Illustration by Mark Satchwill

Camilla Serra looked at the little boy sitting on the other side of her desk and sighed. She knew Benjy Prefontaine wasn’t a bad kid but she couldn’t allow his behavior to continue to disrupt her classroom. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t fit in, but he should never have been mainstreamed with the normal kids.
Pretending he was just like everyone else was a joke.
Most of the faculty at John Glenn Elementary School felt the same way about the special needs kids but were too afraid of legal backlash to admit it. She’d complained to the principal after the first incident but Wylie Johnson had a soft spot for the special kids and told her she needed to find a way to deal with Benjy.
And now Haley Romano had a broken arm and a bloody nose because she’d tripped and fallen while he was chasing her around the yard at recess.
Her parents were talking about suing the school.
Camilla sighed again.
Benjy was staring at her with his big hazel eyes full of unshed tears.
He really didn’t understand what he’d done wrong and she could tell from her brief phone conversation with the boy’s mother that she didn’t get it either.
“So a little girl fell down and got a skinned knee and now you want to expel my kid?” she’d asked with disbelief.
“It’s not that simple Ms. Prefontaine,” Camilla had said. “He was chasing her around, being a Tyrannosaurus Rex and she was frightened.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.

Brain Food up at Christopher Grant's Eaten Alive site

As you may know, Christopher Grant of A Twist of Noir has a new-ish site devoted completely to zombie stories. There are no zombies in the paranormal Los Angeles where I set most of my stories, but it's fun to write a zombie story every once in awhile just for a change of pace.  You can read "Brain Food" here.  And as long as you're clicking around, you should check out Christine Rains' story "Lady Blood" on ATON. She has perfectly channeled the pulpy voice of a period story. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coming Friday--Interview with Jennifer Parsons of LSQ

This week we're offering a very special Feminist Fiction Friday, an interview with Jennifer Parsons, the founding editor of Luna Station Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine for women writers.  The March issue of the quarterly will be out Thursday, so treat yourself to some excellent entertainment and then come back for a great interview.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Illustration by Mark Satchwill
My friend Alex and I have a couple of projects we're pitching around town and one of them involves an extinction event hitting Los Angeles. Mark Satchwill, my partner in crime at NoHo Noir has provided us a terrific apocalyptic image of downtown being swallowed by darkness.  Forget the project--I want the t-shirt and it WILL be available. I just love this image. It looks like it ought to be on the cover of a graphic novel. Or a collection of short stories.
L.A. is such a perfect town for telling end of the world stories--Miracle Mile, Day of the Locust--almost as perfect as it is a setting for crime fiction.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday: Edna Buchanan

Photo by Jim Virga/courtesy of Simon & Schuster
In 1986, when I was a newly minted reporter covering total fluff, Edna Buchanan won a Pulitzer Prize for her general assignment reporting at the Miami Herald. The following year she published one of my all-time favorite true-crime books, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, which was followed in 1992 by Never Let Them See You Cry. Corpse was turned into a television movie in 1994, with Elizabeth Montgomery playing Edna. A terrific reporter, Edna was also a style icon (and still is), rocking big hair and basic black. She covered more than 3,000 murders in her career while looking like the star of her own television series. I wanted to be Edna Buchanan when I grew up. (At the time, the only two women I knew who were writing true-crime were Edna and Ann Rule, also a terrific writer. Other women have since joined the team but the alphabetical list of women true crime writers begins with Ann and Buchanan.)
So I was already a fan of Buchanan's when she published her first novel, Nobody Lives Forever, I was onboard.  And then she created the character many people think is her alter-ego, Cuban-American newspaper reporter Britt Montero who made her debut in Contents Under Pressure.  Britt, with her take no prisoners attitude and deep suspicion of editors, is a terrific character. With Britt, Edna hit her stride as a novelist  The second book in the series, Miami, It's Murder, was nominated for an Edgar Award.
Her most recent book, A Dark and Lonely Place, came out in November of last year. It's based on a true story from Miami's history a century ago and is a change of pace for her, although it is crime fiction.
Edna's official website is here
She is @ednabmiami on Twitter (although she's not terribly active).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

When a mad scientist terrorizes Boston, it’s up to a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to stop him.  Matthew Pearl’s latest novel, The Technologists, returns to the 19th century Boston setting of his novels The Last Dickens and The Dante Club and once again crafts a novel out of scraps of reality in a way that’s so seamless, you’ll swear you’re reading a beautifully written true crime book. (Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City comes to mind.)

The novel’s hero, Marcus Mansfield, is a working class senior at MIT, and much of the subtext of the story involves the “town and gown” tensions between the elitist Harvard students and those enrolled at the city’s newest establishment of higher learning (including a very smart woman who is the sole female member of “The Technologists” and instrumental in solving the mystery).

From the opening chaos of the deadly harbor incident, we’re drawn into a world where science and technology are beginning to emerge as forces that will shape the next century. Very soon after that the class lines between the Harvard students (particularly a snotty Harvard crew team member named Blaike) and the Institute of Technology students are drawn. We know that there’s going to be fierce competition between them in many ways before the story is over.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Drunk on the Moon--werewolf PI Roman Dalton adventures

Last year, Paul D. Brazill, creator of the werewolf PI Roman Dalton, asked a number of writers to participate in a "shared world" project. The idea was that each writer would write a story using his characters, and those "chapters" would be released as ebooks on a monthly basis, then everything would be gathered into one anthology for print and ebook.
The publisher for the project was Trestle Press and you may have heard about what happened next.  If not, you can read the details here. At any rate, Paul pulled the project from Trestle and it has found a new home at Dark Valentine Press.  I'm very pleased about that because I have a story in the mix ("A Fire in the Blood") and being a part of the anthology reunites me with a number of writers who appeared in Dark Valentine Magazine.
It also means that the incredibly talented Joy Sillesen, my co-publisher, has redone the cover through her Indie Author Services.
Drunk on the Moon will be out in spring. Watch for it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday--Quotable Women

I’ve been thinking of women writers and of Virginia Woolf in particular. She of course is the author who famously wrote that women need money and “a room of one’s own” in order to write. And anyone who struggles to balance the demands of a day job against a need to write will say “amen” to that.
But I started wondering what other writers had to say about sexism and found some real gems.  (Who knew Robert Louis Stevenson was a feminist?)
The following quotes are from the Quote Garden, an absolutely fantastic resource for the perfect quote on just about any subject compiled by quotation anthologist Terri Guillemets.
“For it would seem ... that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” --Virginia Woolf, Orlando:  a Biography 
"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman." --Anaïs Nin
“Why is it that only girls stand on the sides of their feet?  As if they're afraid to plant themselves?”--Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams, 1990
“The little rift between the sexes is astonishingly widened by simply teaching one set of catchwords to the girls and another to the boys.”--Robert Louis Stevenson
“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it!”—Toni Morrison

Coming soon on Feminist Fiction Friday...interview with Jennifer Parsons

Jennifer Parsons is the founding editor of Luna Station Quarterly, a magazine focused on speculative fiction written by up and coming women authors. Coming Friday, March 2.

L.A. Nocturne II is coming!

My new collection of stories from the Misbegotten universe will be available next month and Joy Sillsesen has designed a really "hot" cover for it.  Joy's "Indie Author Services" is about to offer a steal of a deal on indie book covers so if you're looking for something eye-catching and elegant, check out her site here

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tales of the Misbegotten: Customer Service

As I inch toward completion of my novel Misbegotten, I keep fleshing out the paranormal version of Los Angeles where the story takes place. My main character, paracrimes reporter Kira Simkins, does not appear in this story, but she shares the same basic outlook as the protagonist. Neither is especially fond of the vampires who now run their city.


Even before the recession hit, I was struggling. My part of L.A. there’s a dry cleaners on every corner, all of them bigger than me, all of them offering coupons and discounts and while-u-wait service. You need a gimmick to compete and even with a gimmick, you have to keep the price down. It was my daughter who came up with the idea of targeting the needs of the paranormal newcomers who arrived in droves after the city went bankrupt.
Illustration by Mark Satchwill
She put up big signs that said “Stain removal a specialty” and “Discreet and Professional Service.”
We bought ads on Voogle, the vampire-centric search engine, and offered downloadable coupons and two-for-one deals and deep discounts to bring the customers in. We stayed open late.
Business picked up.
We never had to deal with the vampires direct, of course, they always sent their renfields. Most of them were pleasant enough, and usually a bit embarrassed to be dealing with their employers’ dirty laundry.
I made it easy for them by being matter-of-fact, but there were times when even I was taken aback by how badly stained the clothes were.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday--A Celebration of Women Writers

One of the best websites I've seen for celebrating women writers is called A Celebration of Women Writers. Among their many resources are special collections tagged to various themes. Right now the featured Special collection is for pre-1923 Utopias and Science Fiction by women. The online reading guide includes offerings by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673), African-American writer Pauline Hopkins (1859-1930), and Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935).  Browse their extensive list of authors to meet more writers, many of whom have been forgotten or ignored.

                   ANONYMOUS WAS A WOMAN

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I am disappointed in Harry Knowles

I have been a fan of Ain't It Cool News since the site first went up. I check it out several times a day. I tend to cringe at the writers' cheerful disregard for grammar, spelling, and boundaries but Harry Knowles is a force of nature, a man who took his love of all things pop culture and turned it into an institution as influential as Comic-Con.
And yet today, when the death of Don Cornelius is being mourned across all media, there's no mention of him anywhere on the site. At least not as of 8:41 PST. Not even an RIP DON CORNELIUS.
There's a link to the upcoming HBO movie about Sarah Palin. There's a news story about yet another attempt to reboot Robocop. There's a quick note about Kevin Bacon signing to do a pilot for Fox. All interesting bits of news and infotainment.
But no mention of Don Cornelius.  Really? I wondered if something had run earlier in the day and I missed it when new stories (a link to a movie called Red Lights, a promo for G.I. Joe:  Retaliation) hit the queue, so I checked.
As it turned out, no.  No mention of Cornelius and his signature sign off, "Wishing you love, peace and soul."  No mention of his place in pop culture. But there is a great photo of Karl Urban in his Judge Dredd costume.
Maybe it's a generational thing. Harry was born in 1971, the same year that Soul Train appeared on the air. Or maybe it's an oversight. There is a lot of news on the site today--a story about a Jackie Brown prequel happening, a preview of Volkswagen's new Super Bowl spot, an interview with Sara Paxton about her new horror movie. So maybe there just wasn't room on the site to mention his passing.
Too bad.
If you ever saw the show, then you know what I mean when I say it was "a stone gas honey."
Don Cornelius has left the building.