Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, December 31, 2012

Because geeks will continue to rule in 2013

Happy New Year to all...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Piers Morgan has a point

I'm not a big fan of Piers Morgan but this ridiculous call for his deportation in the wake of his statements about gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings makes me want to deport myself to somewhere where people can talk about the subject without going non-linear. Read his piece on the subject on the Daily Mail site.

Not everything is online.

Every day of last year, I went looking for a new short story to post on the 365 Short Story a Day challenge. I had decided that I would only post one story per writer and that I would not post a story that another participant had posted. Two of us posted Evan Hunter's "The Last Spin" and I think there was an overlap on one of Thomas Pluck's stories, but the only time I broke my self-imposed rule on purpose was the day Ray Bradbury died. I had already posted his "Small Assassin" story but on that day I posted "A Sound of Thunder," which is one of my all-time favorite time travel stories. Jimmy Callaway's "Night Train to Mondo Fine," is probably second on the list, with Brian Trent's "Down Memory Line" third.
But I digress.
One of the stories that was posted early on was Lord Dunsany's "Two Bottles of Relish" and visitors to the 365 site were consistently lured there by the story post. I've been looking at those posts for a year and saying to myself, "I must read that story."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maybe next year....

This time last year I enthusiastically signed on to Benoit Lelievre's Smoth Criminals fiction challenge.  The idea was to read seven books in various genres--a hardboiled classic, for instance, and a book with a psychopath at the center. (I was going to read Dexter Darkly Dreaming, the first in a series of novels on which the cable series is based.) Alas, I did not complete even one of the books I'd planned to read. But having been presented with the challenge, I now have my reading cut out for me next year.

I did however, take part in Brian Lindenmuth's 365 short story a day challenge. Four more days...I've actually read ahead, so I only have two more to read and write up. I made a decision to only feature one story per writer, which forced me out of my comfort zone. (I could have posted 365 stories just by Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.) I read some tremendous stories. The two that stood out for me were W.D. County's "Plastic Soldiers" and Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie." Both stories are about children and they couldn't be more different.

Call yourself a reader? Publisher's Weekly picks the "10 Most Difficult Books"

Of course James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is on the list. smack dab in the middle as it happens. I've read it, but all I really remember is Molly Bloom's soliloquy and the only reason I remember that is I saw Fionnula Flanagan's fabulous one-woman show, James Joyce's Women. Also  on the list--Virginia Woolf's To a Lighthouse, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen, and Women and Men by Joseph McElroy, a book I've never heard of that PW dubs "a post-modern meganovel." You can see the whole list here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Alice Rivlin is my heroine

Sometimes in Hollywood it seems like women become irrelevant the moment they hit 40. By 50, they are invisible, with the exception of Meryl Streep. In Washington, though, a woman is just hitting her stride in her 50s. And they don't have a mandatory sell-by date. A smart woman can work forever and be taken seriously, and be listened to. Alice Rivlin will be 82 in March and there she is on MSNBC explaining her take on the fiscal cliff. Once an advisor to President Clinton, she's now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of President Obama's debt commission. In another generation, Ms. Rivlin would have been sitting on a front porch somewhere crocheting a comforter. Now she's trying to fix the economy. I love living in the 21st century. I look forward to being 82 and still having a voice. 

Help Dennis Lehane find his dog...

And he'll name a character after you.
Get the 411  here on TMZ.

Ellen Datlow needs your help!

She's raising money for her next anthology, Fearful Symmetries, via a Kickstarter campaign. She wants to raise $25,000 and she's a little over a third of the way done with 13 days remaining. She's offering terrific rewards at all levels of the campaign, and you can support this project for as little as $5.
If you read short stories--particularly in the speculative fiction/science fiction/fantasy/horror genres--you have read  one or more of the anthologies edited by Datlow. Her birthday is next Monday (New Year's Eve), so why not give her an early birthday preesent and pledge a little cash?
Watch Datlow talk about the project here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

No More Mr. Bad Cat--an Orange Julius Adventure

Photo by Vavoom 09
I've been thinking about writing a series of children's stories about a bullied kid and the stray cat he adopts. I really don't know what I'm going to do with the stories, but here's the first one.

No More Mr. Bad Cat
An Orange Julius Adventure

By Katherine Tomlinson

Brian was sitting outside the principal's office when his mom got to the school. She gave him a worried look and a quick kiss on the head before Mrs. Shimura opened the door and said, "Won't you come in Ms. Oakley?" which is what she called Brian's mom instead of "mom."

Brian got up to follow his mom into the office but Mrs. Shimura looked down at him and said, "I need to talk to your mom alone just a moment," she said. "Why don't you wait out here?"

Brian looked at his mom. She mother nodded at him to let him know it was okay. "I'll be right back," she said and then closed the door behind her.

When the door opened again, Brian's mother looked upset. "Let's go home," she said to Brian, so he got up from where he was sitting.

"I'll see you tomorrow Brian," Mrs. Shimura said and Brian mumbled "Okay," even though his mom always told him not to mumble.

John Milton: On the Morning of Christ's Nativity

Photo by Magic Marie
Possibly the best course I took in college was a seminar on John Milton taught by the late poet/novelist Reynolds Price. One of the first things we read was Milton's Christmas poem, "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity." It was written in 1629 when Milton was 21.

My favorite verse of the poem (love the rhyme of "whist" and "kissed")  is below.You can read it in its entirety here on Bartleby.

But peaceful was the night
    Wherein the Prince of Light
  His reign of peace upon the earth began.
    The winds, with wonder whist,
    Smoothly the waters kissed,        65
  Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.

Craig's List--Setting the bar high (not)

My recent experience with a celebrity chef who hasn't paid me notwithstanding, I remain in love with Craig's List as a source of gigs. I was, however, bemused by a listing today that included these requirements:  Must be able to read/write in English, have a keyboard and an internet connection.  Good thing I have a keyboard and I know how to use it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's the little things that mean a lot!

Imagine how excited I was to get a royalty statement for my contribution to an anthology published last year. I'm accustomed to looking up my own stats but this book was published through a "legacy" publisher and the statement was sent in the mail with the postage franked on the envelope. I use Forever stamps so I had to look up the current postage rate for first class mail. (It's 45 cents, in case you didn't know.) My share of royalties?  A whopping 66 cents!  Woo hoo!  I am booking that Caribbean cruise now.

Christmas in Paris

If you can't be in the City of Lights for the holidays, you can always log on to Christmas in Paris and look at the pretty pictures of the places where you could be staying.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Paris is calling!

Banana Bread Recipe

Photo by Romek Kowalski
It's been a busy week here at Kattomic Energy and I haven't done much baking for the holidays. (My mother used to whip herself into a cookie-making frenzy but I take a more conservative approach to prepping for Christmas, which is a lot less stressful.)  Last night, though, I whipped up a batch of banana bread and this morning, I notice, it's mostly gone.  The elves must have gotten into the fridge.

My loaf pans are on loan to a friend who's got a big catering gig so I made this in a square pan. It came out delicious.


1 1/2 cups of flour (sometimes I make the 1/2 cup flour whole wheat flour)
1 cup granulated sugar (if bananas are very ripe, I usually use just 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mashed bananas (about two medium bananas)
1 stick butter (unsalted)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla.
Combine flour and baking soda.
Add to wet ingredients.
Add mashed bananas and sour cream.

OPTIONAL:   1/2 cup chopped walnuts--add with bananas and sour cream

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. (Because I used a square baking pan this took less time than usual.)

Also optional--you can make a glaze of confectioner's sugar and milk to drizzle over the bread if you want.

This bread is yummy right out of the oven and is also lovely cold for breakfast. (And apparently also for midnight snacks.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

My sentiments exactly

Of all the things I've seen posted in the wake of the shooting in Newton, CT, this pithy comment made the most sense to me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kattomic Energy Holiday Gift Guide--part 3

This one's for the foodies...
The best thing about giving gifts to your favorite foodies is that the range of options is wide. One of the best gifts I ever got was from my best friend's mother, who gave me one of those little cylinders you roll garlic cloves in to remove their skins easily. I use that practical, low-tech little gadget almost every time I cook. (Yes, I use a lot of garlic. Not only is it good for you, it keeps vampires at bay.)

Stocking Stuffers--You can get little gadgets at any grocery store or drug store, and that's a good place to start--a jar of some exotic spice mix; color-coordinated citrus squeezers--but don't stop there. San Francisco chef Ranjan Dey has developed a whole line of spice mixes for sale through his New World Spices company.  The authentic Indian blends include a variety of heats (I am in love with their Madras Tamarind Hot Curry blend), packaged in attractive canisters. Individual spices are priced at $3.99 (which is cheaper than those large containers of chrome yellow, generic curry) and sets are available.

Once you go beyond vanilla and almond extracts, it's almost impossible to get pure flavor essences in even the best-stocked grocery store. If you want coconut, for example, you have to make do with artificial coconut flavoring. Unless... you know about a site called Avanti Savoia. This is a place where good foodies go when they die.  Their goal is to provide "the world's best food from the world's smallest producers" and the items available are one of a kind and all of them sound droolingly delicious. (Low Country Sweet Potato Butter? I am SOOO there, at less than $8 for a jar.) But they also carry a full line of natural extracts including coconut, cherry and peach (all available for $10.50 a bottle, which is about what Madagascar vanilla costs.)

The riddle of steel--the worst cuts I ever got while cooking weren't from sharp knives but from dull ones (and one incredibly sharp tuna fish can lid). Most of the knives in my drawer are the kind you buy at supermarkets, which is to say, pretty low quality.  Any serious cook would be thrilled to get a really good knife--the kind of knife you register for when you get married. You've got your choice of German or Japanese here, and one place where you'll find pretty much anything you want is at Cutlery & More.

From: Frankencutter
For the baker-- Years ago, Martha Stewart Magazine ran a cover with a series of fabulous oversized cookies--glittery crescent moons and a penguin. You could buy all the cookie cutters (she had a full range of cutters that were gorgeous but  hideously expensive) EXCEPT for the penguin. I coveted that penguin cookie cutter. Now, if I want one, I can have it. (This is why I love Etsy.)  Ashley Wehrman will custom-make a cookie cutter from any design you send her, for only $18. You can also order custom cutters from Frankencutter in Michigan. As you might expect from a business located in Michigan, they do cutters shaped like cars as well along with more traditional designs. They already have a full line of Greek Letter Cutters (ranging in price from $18 to $28 depending on how elaborate they are). My favorite though--and I can see these cookies at a Valentine's Day party--is the broken heart cutter.

Gourmet Bacon Assortment from Nueskes
For the love of bacon--I did not know that there was a site called Bacon Today that is "all about the world of bacon." It features bacon news, bacon recipes (today's is "Bacon eggnog" but one of their favorites is bacon cinnamon rolls) and a bacon shop where you can buy Maple Bacon lollipops (which sound kind of tasty and priced for impulse buys at five for $3.75) to bacon-flavored soda (urk). For the hard-core bacon lover, consider a gift from Nueske's. You can sometimes find their bacon in high-end grocery stores (with a price tag to match), and it's worth sampling. A gourmet assortment of bacon will run you about $28.  If you love the taste of bacon, but can't eat it, check out Bacon Salt, a vegetarian, zero calorie product that the sellers claim "makes everything taste like bacon."

Food of the Month Clubs--Back in the day, before every little town had a farmer's market and grocery stores stocked a bewildering variety of fruits and vegetables year round, companies like Harry and David  were great options for sending festive fruit gifts to friends and clients. (My parents always got pears from one far-flung relative.) These days, though, food of the month clubs have gone way, way beyond fruit. There's even a gateway site, Amazing Clubs, that has links to a bazillion "gift of the month" clubs that include cigar of the month, dog treat of the month, and beer of the month. There's the Jam and Jelly Club ($19.95 a month) and Ice Cream Club of the Month; Hot Sauce of the Month Club ($18.95 a month).

Cooking by the book--I basically just use a couple of cookbooks (including my mother's favorite, Joy of Cooking), but I love reading cookbooks and they always make terrific gifts for cooks because they're often kind of expensive and these days, when every dime has to stretch to a dollar, it's hard for cooks to justify the indulgence of yet another cookbook purchase. So maybe instead of buying a lot of little stuff, buy a book like Julie Richardson's Vintage Cakes (one of Epicurious' best cookbooks for 2012 and available on their site for only $115.11. Diane Morgan's Roots made a number of "best cookbook" lists this year, and while not cheap (around $27) it is billed as "the definitive

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Nuyorican Noir writer Richie Narvaez tapped me for The Next Big Thing (read what he had to say about HIS next big thing here). If you haven't read his outstanding short story collection Roachkiller and Other stories, do yourself a favor and buy it for Christmas. Or you can sample his story "Hurricane" for 99 cents.

The idea is that everyone on the blog tour answers the same questions, then taps another five writers to move it forward. Here are my answers:

1) What is the working title of your current/next book?  Misbegotten.

2) Where did the idea come from?  Several years ago I wrote a story about a vampire with senile dementia for John Donald Carlucci's Astonishing Adventures Magazine. The protagonist of the story was a crime reporter named Kira Simkins and I really enjoyed the world of the story (a not-so-normal Los Angeles), so much so that I've written around 20 or so stories set in the world since then, some with Kira and some without, but all about supernatural crime.  I decided I wanted to write a larger story for Kira, who is a "misbegotten," a not-quite-human born of a mother who was bitten by a vampire while pregnant with her. That's where the title came from. 

3) What genre does your book fall under? Urban fantasy melded with mystery with a dash of noir.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?  Liv Tyler or Selma Blair for Kira. The vampire in charge of L.A. in my story is a folksy, avuncular guy who hides his evil under a bland exterior so that you only get glimpses of what he's really like. Scott Wilson or Beau Bridges would be perfect. For Michael Etebari, the head of a security company and the alpha wolf of a local werewolf pack, I'd love Oded Fehr. Kira is older than she looks (a benefit of her "Misbegotten blood" that means she's slow to age), so her on-again/off-again love interest, John Dannon (head of LAPD's paranormal crime unit) is the same age but looks older. Idris Elba would be wonderful.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  A paranormal crime reporter is caught up in a power struggle when war between vampire factions breaks out in Los Angeles.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I've had a nibble of interest from an agent but the book will be published under the Dark Valentine imprint that I run jointly with Joy Sillesen. (Dark Valentine's latest books are the Nightfalls anthology and Christine Pope's fantasy romance Dragon Rose.)

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?  I've been working on it off and on since forever, it seems like, but once I got started in earnest, about six months. I hope to have it done by January 15 at the latest.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series; Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series; Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville books.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Well, isn't everyone writing a novel? Basically I wanted to stretch my boundaries. I'm  pretty comfortable writing short stories, but I really wanted to explore my supernatural city and my characters. I also wanted to write a paranormal book that made these creatures seem real and not just fantasy objects with tattooed shoulders and shimmering skin. That was how the first story about the senile vampire (called "Tired Blood") came about. I wondered how a really old vampire's mind would hold out.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?  I think I've created a spin on the tired old tropes, offering an Urban Fantasy about characters that have a ring of reality about them whether they're human or not. There are no tramp stamps here and no emo longings for forbidden love. Kira has a very practical attitude toward the paranormals in her circle (who include shape-shifters and were-bears and goblins and fire demons, not just the usual vamps and weres)--they're all monsters. Sleeping with monsters never ends well, in her opinion. You either end up a monster yourself, or you end up dead. 

The writers I'm tagging are:  Canadian horror writer G. Wells Taylor, whose vanpire novel Bent Steeple is one of my favorite books.

Christine Pope, whose lush fantasy romances and zippy contemporary novels are entertaining and smart. Check out her latest, Dragon Rose.

Kat Laurange who's a double menace--a writer and an illustrator who balances a career, a life as a wife and mother, and half a dozen other responsibilities. I'm a hard worker but she makes me look like a slacker. 

Steven Luna, a friend of a friend whose story for the Nightfalls anthology ("Last Shift") was just superb. Check out his Joe Vampire stories.

Joanne Renaud, also a writer and illustrator whose romance novella, Question of Time, has just been published by Champagne Press.

I can never spell graffiti right the first time...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Freebies--the Kattomic Energy Edition

I will be participating in my colleague Dale T. Phillips' holiday book give-away. I'm offering three different books--Toxic Reality, The Poisoned Teat, and 12 Nights of Christmas. All you have to do is post a comment, letting me know which book you'd like and I'll pick winners on December 20!  Be sure to leave me a valid email address.
And bop over to Dale's site to see who else is participating and what else you could win! Tis the season and how better to celebrate it than with some dark fiction?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chocolate Bread Pudding Recipe--You're welcome!

Every holiday,the upscale grocery store I live near adds a couple of seasonal  items to their already much-too-tempting take-out offerings. For about six weeks you can get a pumpkin trifle, a pumpkin pudding, noodle kugel, and my favorite, chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce. Yes, it tastes just as decadent as it sounds.

Every time I buy a chunk of this deliciousness, I feel guilty though.  Because I make an incredible chocolate bread pudding.  If you want to dress it up, you can hit it with some whipped cream, but adding sauce would just be gilding the lily.  Here's the recipe.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Enough bread to fill a baking dish—torn into small pieces
2 cups milk
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup chocolate chips
2 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan, stirring until the butter is melted.  Cool slightly.

Beat the sugar and spices into the eggs until frothy.  Add the vanilla extract.

Combine the egg mixture and the milk mixture slowly.  (Make sure the milk isn’t too hot or the raw eggs will curdle.)

Mix in the bread and turn everything into a baking dish that has been greased or treated with non-stick spray.

Don’t pack the bread down too tightly or the “pudding” will compact and get really dense instead of staying moist and fluffy with those delicious buttery, crunchy bits.
Bake for 45-55 minutes until the “pudding” is set.