Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Noir Bling from Red Hot Kitten

It's no secret that I am all about the Etsy. This year I discovered a shop called Red Hot Kitten run by artisan/jewelry maker Michelle Tichota, whose motto is, "Takin' over the world, one bad-ass Bettie at a time."
I love her store. She creates great jewelry out of images of pulp novels (noir, sci fi, fantasy) and sells it for a very nice price.
I am particularly fond of the stretch bracelet I bought myself made out of old mystery novel covers for $8. (See picture.) Seriously, if you have a love for pop culture, whether atomic-era design or bad-ass noir, you need to check this woman's shop out here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Coming Soon...the Frontier Trilogy of YA Science Fiction

some people get books for Christmas, I get book covers.
Thanks to Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services, I now have covers for my upcoming YA science fiction trilogy, tentatively titled Frontier. Set in a future where a Chinese corporation (The Double Fortune Trading Company) has colonized the known universe, the books follow the adventures of a young colonist who takes on the corporation on behalf of the colonists. I'd love to reach the readers of the Hunger Games books, of course, but I had the original idea almost a decade ago when I was developing television series for my then-boss at Warner Bros.
The books are: Frontier, Beixing, and Zhanghai. Frontier sets up the conflict and takes place on the planet of the same name, which was named by the colonists. Beixing is the planet that houses the corporation's political power
for the galaxy, as well as the most prestigious university in the sextor. Zhanghai is a planet-sized trading post of sorts, a place that sits at the crossroads of intergalactic travel and attracts human and alien traders.
The first book is nearly complete and I hope to finish the sequels and have both out by the end of the year. I'm writing them under my "Kat Parrish" pseudonym to keep them separate from the mysteries I write under my own name. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

An unsolicited testimonial for the Kindle paperwhite

A few years ago my best friend gave me a Kindle and it changed my reading habits forever. I was just starting to cope with some vision problems that made it harder for me to read print books. For someone who reads as much as I do--for business as well as pleasure--the idea of not being able to read was horrifying. The Kindle, with its ability to bump up the font (and I don't need it huge, just bigger than the average font in a book), made all the difference in the world.

I got a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. I'm already in love with it. It's so bright and easy to read. It's so intuitive to use. It's just the ereader of my dreams.

An infographic for the unierse!

Sizes of the Universe
Source: Number Sleuth

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

My brother took this picture of a red and white cardinal a couple of years ago. I didn't even know that cardinals came in red and white. One of the things I miss about living on the east coast is cardinals. We don't have them in Los Angeles.  And we don't have snow. (We have 70+ temps today.) I like the weather, but I do miss the cardinals.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The View From My Window

I have a Japanese Magnolia tree outsie my office window. In spring, it is full of the gorgeous purple blossons, but they don't last very long. It was so warm here last week that the tree was fooled into putting forth one perfect bloom.

R.I.P. Ned Vizzini

I was saddened to hear that Ned Vizzini killed himself this week after living with depression for more than half his life. He was the author of, among other books, a novel about his struggle with darkness. It's a book that promised a great career as a writer. But in the end his darkness swallowed him whole. Here's the review I wrote at the time.

In Ned Vizzini’s quasi-autobiographical novel, It's Kind of a Funny Story, ateenage boy struggles with clinical depression and finally realizes he might be able to conquer it one day at a time. 

The trouble starts when CRAIG GILNER applies to a tough private school in Brooklyn.  He spends most of a year studying for the entrance exam and taking private lessons and undergoing prep exams.  When he isn’t studying, he’s hanging with his friend AARON, who also wants to get into EXECUTIVE PRE-PROFESSIONAL HIGH SCHOOL.  Aaron is a lot more laid back than Craig about the whole thing.  He spends most of his time smoking pot and having sex with his girlfriend NIA.  (Craig covets Nia in the worst way and when Aaron tells him about feeling the inside of her “pussy” and tells him it feels like the inside of a cheek, Craig nearly goes wild.)

Always sensitive, Craig gets clinically depressed after he gets into the school.  His parents (mom designs postcards, dad’s in health insurance) are very concerned and send him off to a psycho-pharmacologist named DR. BARNEY.  He puts Craig on Zoloft and refers him to a psychotherapist.  It takes a few sessions to find a good fit for him, but Craig really likes DR. MINERVA. And that’s when Craig’s problems really begin.

There’s an urgency and a freshness to this novel that marks the author as a real talent.  This is not the usual coming of age story.  It is, instead, a character study.  Craig is just a normal kid until his depression and anxiety spin out of control and he succumbs to the pain of it all.  Every step along the downward spiral feels completely real and plausible, as does the ambiguous ending.  (Craig is all right, for the time being, and hopeful that he will only get better with time.)

The characters here are not always developed to their fullest, but the author has a knack for giving us the detail that will make them come alive.  Craig’s mom shows up at the hospital toting the family dog, much to everyone’s dismay.  When she hugs Craig, the dog is in between them and growls.  (It does not go unnoticed by Craig that the dog began barking at him when he his depression began to take hold.)

Nia, the girl of Craig’s dreams, proves to be a superficial sort long before Craig realizes it.  She’s a tease and not really worth all the energy he pours into loving her.  (His friend Noelle speaks for most readers when she tells Craig that Nia is a slut.) 

The various patients on the adult ward are a mixed bag.  The writer does a good job of making these damaged people come alive.  It is perhaps too on the nose that Noelle is a survivor of a suicide attempt brought on by sexual abuse.  Bobby and Tommy and Humble are actually pretty funny in their roles as drug burn-outs (what Bobby calls being a “garbage-head”) and they’re as close to the voice of reason as he’s going to find.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Christmas Story

I  like Christmas. I like the lights and the trees and the carols. (The real carols. I'd be happy never to hear "It's a holly, jolly Christmas" ever again.)  But since 2007, when my little sister died, Christmas has always been just a little bit melancholy. I wrote this essay in 2008 and the emotions I felt then are still present, especially when I go into a certain shop where I pass the displays of salt caramels and candy canes she enjoyed so much. i don't really talk about why I tend to get "internal" during the holidays because they're so stressful for everyone and  burdening friends with my baggage is selfish. 
And by Christmas Day, I've usually snapped out of my funk. But in case you wondered...this is my christmas story.

y sister Mary loved Christmas. You think it’s rushing the season when the yuletide decorations appear the day after Halloween?She kept little white Christmas tree lights strewn around her apartment year round, surrounding the space with a dotted line of luminosity that defied the darkness that often threatened to engulf her.
She started her Christmas wish list in January, appending directions and diagrams for the hopping-impaired, and revising it weekly throughout the year.
Christmas was what she called “a candy holiday,” a time she gave herself permission to eat all the wrong things … all the time.Meals were made of eggnog and sugar cookies.Dessert would be dates stuffed with cream cheese frosting.There would be candy canes.She was picky about her peppermint, would only deign to eat one particular brand.She’d stock up during the half-price sales after the holiday and mourn when her supply ran out.(And by stock up, I’m not talking about purchasing a couple of boxes; I mean she stocked up.She’d buy enough to last till February.)
She’d had her Christmas stocking since she was a girl.It was made by our mother out of red velvet, with her name stitched in white around the top, framed by a constellation of embroidered stars.She liked that stocking filled with Hershey’s kisses, packets of dried figs, and one of those Lifesavers’ Sweet Story Book collections with the butter rum and pep-o-mint flavors.
These were treats from our childhood, items that showed up year after year, along with a dozen pencils with our names on them (mail-ordered from a catalogue in the days before the Internet) and the hard, black rubber comb that seemed inevitably to lodge in the toe of our stockings.The Lifesavers’ assortment was the candy equivalent of the Crayola box with the built-in crayon sharpener—we usually got one of those as well.In recent years, the crayons and comb were optional, but the kisses were not.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ian Fleming and J.R.R. Tolkien save the world!

Geektastic fun for both fans of both Tolkien AND James Bond

No Dawn for Men by James Lepore and Carlos Davis is an historical action/thriller with romance and paranormal elements, which makes it sound like kind of a mess, but it's not.

Ian Fleming and J.R.R. Tolkien team up to prevent an object of dark power from falling into the hands of Nazis. It is 1938 and Hitler has risen to power in Germany and is poised to unleash his “Final Solution.” In Nazi circles, J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Hobbit” is highly valued as a propaganda tool. (“It’s a children’s book,” Tolkien insists, baffled by the Nazi interest.) The scholarly writer—his expertise is Norse legends—is a veteran of WWI, so he has seen evil up close and what he’s seen has shaken him to his core. When a former student enlists his aid in fighting a magical menace, he eagerly signs on and in the process frames the story that will become his greatest epic.

Fleming, for his part, is a dashing spy posing as a journalist and living forever in the shadow of his heroic, war-hero father Valentine, who met Tolkien in a trench during “the Great War.” He and Tolkien make a very odd couple, but that could be said of the ragtag assortment of men, elves and dwarves who banded together in the “Fellowship of the Ring.” You don’t have to know anything about either Tolkien or Fleming to enjoy this book but if you are a fan of hobbits and womanizing British agents, you will enjoy the book even more.

Every single page of this historical novel is chock full of geekery and goodness, whether it’s a description of a torture that shows up in an early Bond novel or a description of a particularly lurid sunset that gives Tolkien the idea of the “Eye of Sauron” for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Aside from the storylines that follow Tolkien and Fleming—stories filled with action, romance, courage, and betrayal—there’s an ongoing power play behind the scenes of the Nazi inner circle as Himmler, Goebbels, and Heydrich jockey for position. It’s all very “Game of Thrones” and the stakes are very, very high. As Indiana Jones once said, “Nazis. I hate those guys.” Well, who doesn’t? And framing them as dark lords in search of an unspeakable power makes a lot of sense.

This book is a LOT of fun.

It's time to take back the American brand

I have been thinking about marketing a lot lately. what constitutes a "brand" and what makes that brand worthwhile.
So when this whole "free speech" flap blew up over theA&E reality star's homophobic rant, I looked at it from a marketing perspective. First of all, I wondered how it has come to pass that a cable channel branding itself the "Arts & Entertainment" channel even has a series like Duck Dynasty. It doesn't seem to go with their brand.  I guess "art" wasn't paying the bills and like everyone else, A&E has to keep the lights on.
Then I thought about the way people are trying to "brand" this as a matter of free speech. As Inigo Montoya says to Fezzini--the phrase does not mean what they think it means. When we learn about "free speech" in civics class, the first thing we learn is that "free speech" does not mean you can yell "fire" in a crowded theater. Because that would be dangerous and irresponsible and could get people killed. Those who support the patriarch--and as of this morning, there were more than 100,000 people who'd signed a petition to have him reinstated--argue that A&E is stifling the man's God-given right to express his opinion. And apparently some of those supporters are willing to back up their support with death threats. Because by God, nothing expresses commitment to free speech like a death threat.
This is not about free speech; it's about hate speech. This is not about political correctness, it's about basic human decency. There have always been haters.
There will always be haters.
But that doesn't mean that a company that employs a hater has to give that person a public forum to continue to spread a message of hate.
Look what happened to Paula Deen when she uttered "the n-word" in what she thought was a private, protected legal setting, a word she would never have uttered in a more public way because it's shameful.
And yet, not so long ago, it was accepted.
Do we have to elect a gay president before it's clear that gay-bashing is just as shameful?
Being a hater runs counter to the American brand.
I'm an American.
And I'm tired of yahoos hijacking my brand.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nerds Giving Back--Patrick Rothfuss' World Builders charity

I caught an interview with writer Patrick Rothfuss on NerdNighters recently and he was talking about his charity WorldBuilders. I went to the sight and found his blog and a store with all sorts of goodies for sale, from autographed copies of his books (what fantasy lover wouldn't like an autographed copy of The Name of the Wind?) Rothfuss supports Heifer International, one of the best organizations out there for empowering individuals and communities.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Best Overheard Comment Ever!

I eavesdrop.
I do.
I'm not just talking about listening in to the phone conversation someone's having while in line at the bank/supermarket/drug store/ movie theater. I mean I will unabashedly and unapologetically listen in on conversations while I'm riding the bus, or eating lunch by myself, or grabbing a quick caffeine fix at Starbucks. I get some great ideas from overheard conversations.
Today while shopping at Trader Joe's I heard a 20-something guy comment to his friend, "I don't like water. It tastes like mouth." I'm not sure how. I'm not sure when. But one of these days I'm going to work that line into a story.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Free fiction--L.A. Nocturne II

I'll be publishing MISBEGOTTEN early in the new year and I'm giving away my collection of short stories, L.A. NOCTURNE II to get in the mood. You can get it here. There are ten stories of urban fiction inside, some of them first published on A Twist of Noir and Eaten Alive. Cover by the talented Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow on the Sphinx

I love this photograph.

Going Beyond Etsy

Yes, it's getting down to the wire on ordering Christmas gifts online, but I just stumbled across a couple of great sites where artists are marketing their wares directly to buyers. I found the sites through Artsy Shark, and this handy listing of more than a hundred places where artists are selling their work worldwide.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Who doesn't like some fantasy fiction freebies?  Now's your chance to explore new books, meet new uthors and fill your need for read.

Among the participants is friend of the blog Christine Pope, who'll be giving away a copy of Ashes of Roses, her newest book in her "Tales of the Latter Kingdoms" series. 

You can join the blog tour here.

And don't forget to sign up for the rafflecopter giveaway.  You can win some books and an Amazon or B&N gift card (your choice).  Sign up here.