Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

So Many Books, so Little Time: More for the TBR Pile

I've been compiling a list of good and great biographies for a new site that's about to go up, and have been bookmarking books as if I just learned how to read.  I expected that.  What I didn't expect is how many books I'd stumble over in the course of posting my daily story story blog entry over at 365 Short Stories.  Today's entry was by Jack Scalzi and in reading his blog, Whatever, I was introduced to Jo Walton's alternate earth history/mystery Farthing.  I LOVE alternate history and mysteries, so this book (about an alternate 1949 in which the Brits made peace with Hitler) is right up my alley.  And there are apparently more.  (Of course there are.) Here's a list of her books with a picture of her rocking a fedora like Kelli Stanley's Welsh cousin.
By the way, the story of the day is Scalzi's HILARIOUS, Hugo-nominated fantasy parody "The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue." Here's a link to it.

Separated at birth--Aaron Sorkin and Peter Dinklage

Ever since I saw Station Agent, I've had the nagging suspicion that Peter Dinklage  looks like somebody I' know and today when I saw this picture of Aaron Sorkin on the Deadline Hollywood site, it finally came to me.  Peter Dinklage and Aaron Sorkin look alike. I have worked for John Wells' Productions, the company that made West Wing, and have seen Sorkin a couple of times.  He's got real charisma.
He's also a fantastic writer as everyone who saw Social Network knows.  (He also wrote Moneyball, a movie that was full of fine acting and great moments.)
Like everyone else, I could watch Dinklage play Tyrion Lannister the rest of his life. (Only one more episode of Game of Thrones this year?  Noooooooo.) But the project I really hope is still alive is the one based on George Chesbro's books about Robert "Mongo the Magnificent" Frederickson. The book optioned was the third in the series, Affair of the Sorcerers, and Dinklage was attached to play Frederickson.
It's a great role. Frederickson is a criminologist who moonlights as a private investigator, often helped by his brother Garth, who's a cop. "Mongo" was his stage name when Frederickson worked as an acrobat in the circus and his best friends still call him that.
The books started out very real-world, but as the series went on, they got more and more out there.  The last of the books, called Lord of Ice and Loneliness (all the books have really poetic titles) is only available in a French translation; it has never been published in the U.S.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sandra Seamans on Sale!

Sandra Seamans' debut collection Cold Rifts is now available from Snubnose Press. And when I say it's "on sale," I mean right now it's FREE.  I snagged my copy around 12:01 a.m. and I can't wait to start reading it. Get your own copy here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

There Can Never Be Too Many Book Blogs

New Yorker Magazine enters the fray. Their blog is called Page Turner. Check it out here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday: The Dystopian YA Edition

I am not a huge fan of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games. I prefer her wonderful Underland Chronicles, the first of which, Gregor the Overlander, is particularly good. But one thing Hunger Games did, and did really well, is open up the market for books about young heroines who aren't torn between two lovers. Katniss Everdeen is a kick-ass character, and thanks to Collins, she's not the only one out there.
Illustration by Jason Chan
Hugh Howey's Wool (originally self-published as five separate books) features reluctant heroine Juliette who discovers the terrible secret kept by those in charge and ends up the unlikely leader of a growing rebellion. The world of Wool, an arcology that determines status by the floor, with the higher regions reserved for the politicians and those who run things, is worked out neatly. There are a lot of great characters and romance and treachery and political shenanigans. Juliette is thrown into a difficult situation and it only gets worse. it's a very satisfying read and there are clearly a lot more stories to come.
Then there's 16-year-old Yukiko, the heroine of Jay Kristoff's dystopian Japanese steampunk novel Stormdancer due out in September (in the US). It's the first book in a planned series called The Lotus War. check out this site for more information on the book and the world.
If you love that Stormdancer cover (I do), check out the interview with the writer and the artist on showing the evolution of the image.
Lauren Oliver, whose lovely Liesl & Po is one of my favorite books, has a series featuring 17-year-old Lena, who has defied the law against love in her Portland, ME community. The first book is called Delirium; the second, Pandemonium, was published in February.
Sixteen-year-old Tris Prior is the heroine of Veronica Roth's Divergent. (The cover art shamelessly evokes the "Mockingjay" logo of Hunger Games, just in case readers don't immediately identify the book's genre.)  Book 2 of the series Insurgent, was published this month.
Graceling actually came out the year before Hunger Games (2009) but its intrepid teenage heroine Katsa is a bold woman whose particular skill is killing. Written by Kristen Cashore, who has written a "companion volume" called Fire.
YA has changed a lot since I was a YA. I love that young women have their own action heroines now. Romance is fine, but give us sword fights too!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Update to Less is More

The new winner of the longest title for a biography goes to Dr. Thomas Noguchi for:

Coroner; America's Most Controversial Medical Examiner explores the unanswered questions surrounding the deaths of Marilyn Monroe, Robert F. Kennedy, Sharon Tate, Janis Joplin, William Holden, Natalie Wood, John Belushi and many other of his important cases


Knock Knock. Who's There?

It's Mark Satchwill who has written and illustrated the first NoHo comic strip story "Knock Knock," "Knock, Knock" will be published tomorrow and will be available for download as a pdf. Stop by the NoHo site tomorrow to check it out. And please leave a comment.

Book Titles: Less is More

I freely admit--I'm terrible with titles. They either occur to me right away or I end up agonizing over them for way too long and go with something lame. However, after compiling a list of biographies and memoirs for a new site (details soon), I don't feel so bad. You would not believe the number of authors who couldn't let well enough alone after coming up with a catchy title and saddled the book cover with the longest subtitles they could think of.
For instance: We Bought a Zoo.  Not the greatest title in the world but it tells you what you need to know about the story, But just in case a reader has reading comprehension problems, the author added this subtitle: The Amazing True Story of a Broken-Down Zoo, and the 200 Animals That Changed a Family Forever. Then, when the movie tie-in audio book edition was published, it got an even loner subtitle:  the Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever.  That's a total of 26 words. A couple of other book titles matched that total but so far, I haven't found any that surpassed it. There were a lot of titles in the 20-word range though.
Makes me even more appreciative of one-word mystery titles. And here's a  link to a column by Bill Morris about the Appeals and Perils of the One-Word book title.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pulp Ink 2 is coming!

I just signed off on Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan's edit of my story "Thicker than Water." And what graceful edits they were! I am thrilled to be in the company of so many great writers and cannot wait to read their stories. You can see the lineup here. Check out the great cover art.

Review: BLOOD WILL TELL by Christine Pope

A woman searching for her father’s killer.
A man looking for his next score.
Miala has nothing in common with inter-galactic adventurer Eryk Thorn, but when fate throws them together, they discover they have more in common than an instinct for survival. 
Author Christine Pope returns to the sci fi world of Breath of Life in this sexy, savvy space opera. 
Blood Will Tell begins with  Miala undercover in the compound of Arlen Mast, the  criminal mastermind who had her father killed. She's determined to take her vengeance and clean out his treasury while she's at it and she's got the hacker skills to do just that.
When fate intervenes and she finds herself in a position to claim Mast's booty, she also finds herself partnered up with the notorious Eryk Thorn, who hides his face under wrappings and keeps his past a secret.
But he's not the only one with secrets, and the longer Miala is around Thorn, the more complicated it gets. And just when we think we know how it's going to end, Pope surprises us by raising the stakes, raising the temperature and raising our expectations. The book is Pope's best yet. Not only that, but this book reads like the first in a series. I can't wait.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feminist Fiction (Film) Friday

I played hooky earlier this week and went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I didn't really have the time to spare but I knew if I didn't go to see it this week, it would be gone by this week. And I was right. Marigold is not a particularly good movie. Every single plot twist in the film is telegraphed before hand. And yet...messy as it is, predictable as it is, the movie is totally enjoyable. Not the least of the pleasures is watching the actors. Judi Dench. Bill Nighy. Maggie Smith. Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire). It's kind of like watching an actor's master class.
Nighy and Dench have worked together before in Notes on a Scandal, and although that is a very different movie it has something in common with Marigold--it has a couple of terrific parts for women who are no longer young; who are in fact ... old. Both Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are 78. (Tom Wilkinson is 64; Nighy is not yet 63.) Both Smith and Dench have resumes that go back to the middle of the last century. Dench's first credit on IMDB is 1959; Smith's first listing is 1955.  That's 1955 people--pre-Space Age.
In Marigold, both actresses play women who have been betrayed by the people they love. They're victims who ultimately refuse to be victimized and on their own terms, find happiness. They are not glamorous women. The camera zooms in on their fragile, wrinkled skin and it's a cruel contrast to the lovely, smooth-skinned ingenue who plays Dev's girlfriend in the film. And yet, the stories the audience want to see belong to the older actresses. (Nighy and Wilkinson are terrific in their roles too, but we are talking of women here.)
A day after I saw the movie, I started seeing the stills from the next James Bond movie, Skyfall. and there was a photo of Dench as "M" looking...stunning. Judi Dench and I are the same height (5'1") and believe me when I tell you how short that is. And yet...she looks like she could face down a couple of dictators before breakfast and still have time to whip out an economics treaty. In the movies that have always defined a very particular male fantasy, she is the woman in charge. I love that.
Then there's Maggie Smith.  Her role as the Dowager Countess is the reason everyone is so addicted to Downton Abbey. She is playing a powerful woman whose power has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with intelligence and cunning.
I love that these women are still getting terrific roles. As with Helen Mirren (67) and Meryl Streep (63), they are defining what it means to be a woman of une certain age on screen They play women of substance.
Just as I was the oldest person in the audience when I went to see Twilight, I was by far the youngest person in the audience at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I sat behind a row of women in their 80s who loved every single moment of the movie. A lot of movies coming out of Hollywood these days marginalize women, make them into sex dolls and cartoons. But there is hope. Women like movies too--even women old enough to be great-grandmothers. It's nice to see a movie that celebrates life even in the "golden years."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday

One of my clients is looking for books featuring women cops who are partnered with other women a la Cagney & Lacey.  The book he had was really not good, so he challenged me to find one better. There's the Rizzoli & Isles books of course, but that's already been turned into a series. I realized that I couldn't think of any other books off the top of my head except for C.J. Lyons' books and her sleuths aren't cops, they're doctors and nurses.  Anyone have any ideas?

Friday, May 4, 2012


My alarm radio went off this a.m. and I woke to the voices of various people urging me to come see them on the Gulf Coast. Men and women with heavy Southern accents were saying their names and their home towns (Biloxi, Mississippi is the only one I can remember) and urging me to come on down. The sponsor for this travel commercial?  BP.  That's right. The people responsible for despoiling said Gulf Coast. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mother's Day Reading: "Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu

Mother's Day is coming and I have been reading stories about mothers for the 365 Short Story Challenge I've been involved in. I ran across this story by Ken Liu, which is in the archives of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. (You can read it online here.)
"Paper Menagerie" is a beautiful story, nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award and I don't know what won instead but this is a story that will haunt you. Check it out and then go to Liu's site to read his other stories, which have similarly been picked out for honors. He's a tremendously good writer.