Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This is what a winner looks like

Photo by Steve Gtanitz

Robin Roberts, glowing on the red carpet at the Oscars!  Fabulous in blue...

Go Danica Go!

This one's for the history books babe! Read the story here. I want the action figure!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When someone really needs help...

I make about half my living editing other people's prose. I enjoy editing and feel a sense of accomplishment when a project's done. Most of my clients are referrals but I pick up clients through Craig's List as well. (One of the books I edited, Debt, by Rachel Carey was recently published and that made me feel terrific. The book is funny and smart and I urge everyone to read it. )
Sometimes, though, you see an ad and you know, you just know that no matter how strong your edit-fu is, you are not going to be able to help the person who's looking for help.  You know that when you see an ad that includes a phrase like this:


I'm not posting this to mock the ad writer but I am bemused that  the ad went on to demand that whoever applied have at least a Master's degree and 10 years of experience. I've worked for clients like that--asking for qualifications way way over the need of the project. I would like to think that they were  compensating for their own shortcomings by looking for the very best in assistance. I'd like to think that but sometimes they were just jerks.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Starcaster--the cpver

Cover by Elsa Kroese
This is the cover for my novel Starcaster, written for the Drifting Isle Chronicles, four novels with the same backdrop. (The other authors are MeiLin Miranda, Charlotte E. English and Joseph Robert Lewis.) The cover is by Elsa Kroese, an illustrator, concept artist and animator who has created many of Charlotte E. English's covers. The entire series of books will be out next month. Making the transition from short story writer to novelist was ... challenging. My natural story-telling length is 1500 to 2500 words so you can imagine. I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

R.I.P. Mindy McReady

Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" and Mindy McReady's "Guys Do It All the Time" are two of my favorite "sisters are doing it for themselves" anthems, songs that made it past my "no country music" filter along with Garth Brooks' "Thunder Rolls" and Alan Jackson's "Midnight in Montgomery" and the Dolly Parton/Brad Paisley duet "When I Get Where I'm Going," which always makes me cry. When I heard about Mindy McReady's death last night, I wanted to cry too. How much pain do you have to be in to leave your little boys without a parent? How much pain do you have to be in to take your own life? Too much.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Food Porn Alert--Decadent Chocolate Desserts

A picture is worth a thousand words and at least that many calories. Check out the drool-worthy picture gallery at Yahoo news. Console yourself with a box of Thin Mints now that Girl Scout Cookie season is in session.

Really, how hard could it be to change the Constitution?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Enjoy Historical Romance? This Contest is for You!

Over at their website The Jewels of Historical Romance, twelve best-selling romance authors are launching the first of many contests for their readers. The prize for this one is an iPad mini. Deadline to enter is March 31.

Haiku for Lovers--the review

Dance of Love” image by Kjunstorm
We are born loving poetry. As children we delight in rhymes and rhythms and repetitions that older people dismiss as "sing-song" or of they're word snoots, "doggerel." But how old were you when you read Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham? I can still quote it

I would not like them
here or there.
I would not like them
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
I do not like them,

I can still quote it and I bet you can too. That's the power of poetry. Once you hear it, it sinks into your synapses and stays there. We are born loving poetry and yet most of us stop reading it when we leave school. And yet poetry is all around us, just waiting to be rediscovered. (In L.A., the metro buses used to carry poetry placards and one weary commute I discovered Pablo Neruda's "Sonnet XVII" with its startling and sexy imagery:

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

Now that is a love poem.  Which brings me to Haiku for Lovers. One of the most elegant forms of poetry, haiku's strictly structured, 17-sylllable shape is infinitely flexible, endlessly versatile and has become the perfect poetic construct for the 21st century.

This Valentine's Day Buttontapper Press published a collection of poems called Haiku for Lovers: An Anthology of Love and Lust that is a beautiful assemblage of words and images that in another era would have made a gorgeous coffee table book. Every poem is paired with a photo, a painting or an illustration. All of the artwork is nicely done and most beautifully complement their poems. One exception for me was the color photograph "The Modern Femme Fatale" b Nicki Varkevissar that accompanied Sue Mayfield Geiger's three-act haiku "Film Noir." 

The model was lovely and the photograph was nicely done but for me, "Film Noir" forever means black and white, not technicolor. I was also disappointed by the photo of the young woman kicking up her flip-flops in the bed of a truck that accompanied Janet McCann's lovely "Because We Are Old." I wanted this romantic poem about love in the autumn of life to feature a mature couple and not a woman in the lush summer of her life. But those are minor quibbles; as a whole, this is a wonderful collection of bite-sized reveries about love and lust and sex and romance and sometimes everything at once. There's sci fi writer Don Webb's frankly phallic rocketship erection; and Richard Scarsbrook's "Intoxication," an elongated erotic reverie. There are phrases that stick in your heart, like h.l. nelson's "Painstaking lacing of emotional corsets." 

The various stages of love are chronicled here from Fiona Johnson's "New Love" to Dave Wright's emotional "The First Five Months." There's romance here (Kenneth Pobo's sensual "Pink Calla Lily'")  but also doses of practical reality as in Bridget Brewer's "Life Has Taught Me This" and Vuong Pham's "SEX Billboard" in which he talks about what REALLY gets his juices flowing. Then there's Katya anchentseva's "Slept Bad After Sex," which weighs and balances the good and the bad of the night and the morning after.

Editor Laura Roberts'  "outro" (as opposed to an "intro") presents a couple of bonus naughtyhaiku that are offered almost apologetically even though they're both smart and provocative. On sale for less than three dollars at ebook-sellers everywhere, Haiku for Lovers is a perfect non-caloric treat for yourself or a belated VD present for your sweetie. Because everyone needs a little poetry in their lives.

Administrative Assistant Day? Really?

I understand that a lot of holidays were invented by the greeting card industry to sell more cards, but I've always been onboard with Mother's Day and Father's Day. Grandparents' Day never really resonated with me, though. It's somewhere between Arbor Day and Columbus Day (the optional holiday in business) on my personal calendar.
I was blissfully  unaware that there was such a thing as "Administrative Assistant Day" until today though. (I HAD heard of "Secretaries Day" but this appears to be a separate and discrete holiday.)
Here's the thing. I paid my way through college working office jobs. When I moved to Hawaii, I spent several months working as a secretary at the Honolulu Gas Company while I freelanced for the Downtown Honolulu Magazine. I was eventually hired by Aloha Magazine and gratefully left the business world behind. 
I learned a lot from those jobs, skills both useful and practical ranging from the best way to unjam a copy machine to the subtleties of office politics. I also learned some harsh lessons about hierarchy and protocol and the way the world works. We all want to be appreciated for who we are and the contributions we make to our companues. If we're very lucky (and I mostly was), corporate appreciation is expressed in decent paychecks and generous vacation time and good benefits and perks. Perks are nice. The last "real" job I worked as director of development for an independent producer, my boss gave everyone a month's salary as a Christmas bonus. My good friend, who held the same position at a large studio, got (no kidding) a fanny pack emblazoned with the corporate logo and filled with individual serving packages of Oreos and Fig Newtons.
Guess which company had a morale problem?
I'm not someone who wants a gold star just for showing up. I actually think that getting a good day's wage in return for a good day's work is a fine social contract.  What I'm saying is that if you do buy into "Happy Administrative Assistant Day" (which to me always sounds just a bit condescending and if you look at the cards, assumes the AA is female), buy into it in a way that's meaningful for both the employer and the employee. 
Cards are nice.  Who doesn't like cards? But if you really want to show your appreciation for your administrative assistant, the way to do it is to give the AA a paid day off (as Reynolds Aluminum used to do for employees' birthdays) or give them a cash bonus or a multi-purpose gift card. Do something that shows you really DO appreciate your assistant. Because a greeting card just doesn't doesn't really send much of a message these days.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cherry Walnut Cake Recipe

Every year on George Washington's birthday, my mother made a fantastic cherry/walnut cake with cherry syrup. We ate it warm for dinner with the sauce and then the next day, she'd send us off to school with squares of the cold cake for dessert. If that sounds good to you, check out the recipe on my Southern Cooking site at BellaOnline.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Polycystic Kidney Disease--time for a cure

As medical conditions go, PKD is not one of the sexy ones. It doesn't have celebrity spokespeople. It doesn't have a high profile on the charity circuit. The condition is genetic. The condition is incurable, although it often can progress slowly and can be somewhat slowed by low-salt diets, a regimen of diuretics and other treatments, it doe not have a cure. Kidney transplants may not even work because the donor kidney can sometimes become cystic. A cystic kidney is an enlarged kidney and bigger is not better in this case. I'd never heard of PKD until 25 years ago when I met the woman who has become my sister-friend. Her father had just died of it and she and her two older brothers were living in the shadow of the disease. Her oldest brother's health began to fail when he was in his 40s. He was a college professor, a brilliant geneticist, a champion darts player. There were long hospitalizations and stretches of dialysis. He had to resign his job.
A few months ago, he had a massive heart attack and barely survived. Only a few weeks ago one of his feet and part of his calf were amputated. Tonight he's back in the hospital after a surgery meant to save his other foot.
So far so good, but no one knows what will happen next. Or who it will happen to. Because as it happens, David is not the only one I know who has PKD. Chances are someone in your circle of friends and family has it too because PKD affects 1 in 1000 Americans. To give you some perspective, roughly 2-4 people in 1000 have some degree of hearing loss, up to and including profound deafness.
PKD doesn't have a cure but they do have a foundation. If you'd like to learn more, check it out here.

Shameless Self Promotion

My story "Pizza Face and the Beauty Queen" is up at A Twist of Noir, along with a slew of other stories. There's something for every taste, so keep reading!

Celebrate Valentine's Day with Zero Dark Valentine

Back when I published a zine called Dark Valentine, I always worried that people would think the title was too "girlie" and that all we were going to publish were stories about virgins and unicorns. As it turned out, I needn't have worried. The website associated with the magazine may have folded, but the magazine archives is still around and you can read all the issues here.
I also never de-activated the Gooogle Alert for the phrase "dark valentine" and today it led me to a funny video in which a guy interrogates his girlfriend to find out what she wants for Valentine's Day It's called Zero Dark Valentine and it's clever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vive La France!

Marriage Equality is about to become the law of the land in France, the country that defined romance. Read about the parliamentary vote here.

Book Review Nobody Walks

I review Dennis Walsh's true crime book Nobody Walks over at Criminal Element  today. Read it here.  Dennis Walsh is an LA attorney whose little brother Christopher was murdered in 2003. Chris was an addict, a petty criminal, someone easily dismissed as a loser. He came to a very bad end. The book is the story of Dennis' investigation into the case, and it's a gripping story.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Mac and Cheese Recipes than you can stick a fork in

So. Macaroni and cheese is, in my opinion, the perfect comfort food. And apparently, the New Hampshire Granite State Dairy Promotion folk agree with me. They sponsored a Mac and Cheese contest and the winning recipes are posted here.  I was alerted to this page of cheesy goodness by a post on Hispanic Kitchen where Sonja Mendez Garcia posted her own version, Queso Fundido Macaroni and Cheese.

Valentine's Day Sale on Fantasy!

From now until February 14, you can get a select group of fantasies (including Christine Pope's Dragon Rose) for just 99 cents. See here for details.

Welcome Year of the Snake!

Or more formally, the Year of the Water Snake. Celebrate by dropping in on The Mysterious China Blog to learn a little Chinese history, legend and lore.
Or pick up a copy of Kelli Stanley's first Miranda Corbie mystery, City of Dragons, which starts out with a murder on Chinese New Year.
Treat yourself to a Chinese movie marathon. (Get some inspiration here at Watch Culture.)
Don't forget to read the predictions for the year ahead. Tradition states that years designated by the Snake are marked by twists and turns.
Wuldn't it be cool to do an anthology with all the stories inspired by a zodiac animal? You could have more than twelve stories because each of the animals has variations on elements--water, fire, earth, etc. Hm.  That's going to have to go up on my possibility shelf, along with the Shakespeare Noir idea.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review All Due Respect

Edited by Chris Rhatigan

I approach anthologies the way I approach the tables at a potluck dinner, wary but hopeful. I know that there will always be someone who brings a retro-ironic Jello salad made with lime gelatine and cottage cheese. (And I didn't like it when my grandmother made it.)
If I'm lucky, there will also be a bowl of my favorite white trash indulgence, Five-Cup Salad. (1 cup mandarin orange slices. 1 cut pineapple chunks. 1 cup minature marshmallows. 1 cup grated coconut. 1 cup sour cream. It's insanely good and full of vitamin C!)
And if I'm really lucky there will be a dish on the table that I've never tasted, a combination of flavors and textures hitherto unknown to me but delicious from the first bite.)
All Due Respect, the new anthology from Christopher Rhatigan's Full Dark City Press, is a groaning board of treats, from the wonderfully named "The Great Whydini" by David Cranmer to "A Drink Named Fred" by Tom Hoisington. (Seriously, who's not going to read those two stories first?) Everything is good here, not a green bean casserole in the lot.
This is an unthemed anthology but the common thread is crime--all kinds of crime and the criminals who commit them, some of them planners and some of them opportunists as in Patricia Abbott's 70s story "Wheels on the Bus."
Some of the stories are about the knife-edge between life and death, like Matthew C. Funk's "His Girl," and Erin Cole's visceral "7 Seconds," one of two stories that seem to have been written in the wake of Sandy Hook. (The other is "Ratchet" by Stephen D. Rogers, a story that just drips menace laced with surprise.)
There are first lines that grab you, like "By the time I got there, they'd already taken three of his fingers" ("Habeus Corpus" by Benedict J. Jones) and "Gilberto's mama was a whore--white chick with more tattoos than teeth, even before skin ink became fashionable." (Gary Clifton, "The Last Ambassador t6o Pushmata." The stories are stuffed full of lines you want to write down so you'll remember, or lines you wish you could forget because they're so good you wish you'd thought of them.
Some of the stories have twist endings, some are on a straight line to a bad place from the first paragraph. And the aforementioned stories by Cranmer and Hoisington? They do not disappoint. In fact, nothing here really disappoints except the lack of women writers. Out of 29 stories, only three were written by women. Ladies--I want to see a better showing next time!
At 175 pages, this anthology is just the right length to while away a Saturday morning if you have the time to gobble it up whole.

The Ugly One--the finished story

Have you ever done this? I managed to send out a working draft of a story to two different editors AND post it here before finding the final version deep in the wrong folder.  Ack.
Here's the real version:

by Katherine Tomlinson

Liia was very young when she first realized she was different.
Her mother had suckled her but not nurtured her in any other way and Liia knew that if it had not been for the intervention of her father, she would have been abandoned when her family and the school they swam with moved on to warmer waters.
Liia’s difference was not her fault. Her mother had swum through a current dense with toxic waste and when she gave birth to 23 fry, all of them but Liia were born dead. Liia’s mother tried to eat her dead offspring but their flesh was poisonous to her.
Her mother hated her, but her father had named her "Liia," which means "miracle” and had protected her from predators until she was old enough to fend for herself.

Just a suggestion....

Nathan Fillion
James REad
Every once in a while, the writers on Castle will tease viewers with the topic of Castle's unnamed/unknown father. The show's now in its fifth season and I think it's time they address it. (I mean, they ran that over-the-top conspiracy subplot involving Kate's mother through four seasons but it looks like it's finally been put to bed.) The actor I nominate to play Castle's dad:  James Read.  Doesn't he look like Nathan Fillion? They even have the same smirk/smile.

Looking for Jobs on CL

I saw this "Looking for a freelance writer" ad on CraigsList today. I don't know about you, but I think they're setting the bar too high:  Looking for a writer who can perform simple writing tasks. Must be able to read/write in English, have a keyboard and an internet connection.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review Debt by Rachel Carey

by Rachel Carey

In Rachel Carey's debut novel, Debt, money (or lack thereof) and class hold roughly the same importance they do in a 19th century novel of manners. She has taken the conventions of chic lit (all the fancy restaurants and mindless consumption you see in books like Bergdorf Blondes) and mixed them with a subtly snarky style that evokes a 21st century Jane Austen.

She is keenly observant, pricking her characters' pretensions with subtle gibes that are so sharp you almost don't notice them until they draw blood.

The characters--and there are a lot of them--are all fully realized. There's the entitled Nadya--it's her world, you just live in it--and the totally adorable Clyde. Our narrator is would-be novelist Lillian whose work in progress is so downbeat it even depresses her and who is beginning to regret the way her student debt is piling up without her having much to show for it. That would depress anyone.

But this is a comedy, a multi-layered farce that treats money the way Sex and the City treated sex. Carey has a good time tweaking pop culture--there's a hilarious running gag involving a blog called "shopacovery"--and everything about Lillian's pretentious writing teachers will resonate with anyone who's ever taken a writing class.

This book is subversive and sly and extremely entertaining. If you liked books like Confessions of a Shopaholic and The Devil Wears Prada, you will love Debt.

Foodie Friday Blogs to Look Out For

I discovered Big Girls/Small Kitchen through a link on a newsletter I get every day. The article that caught my eye was "Homemade Fixes for French Fry Cravings."   As someone who has never met a French Fry (or even a potato dish) I didn't like (except for scalloped potatoes), I was all over that article.  The roasted chickpeas looked especially yummy.
You can never  have too many food blogs bookmarked.

Jan Perry for Mayor of Los Angeles

Jan Perry is a woman who gets it. The daughter of Civil Rights pioneers, she's for jobs and affordable housing. She's not playing catch up with the new financial realities, she's already been working that game, working for her constituents, working for Los Angeles.
I think she's what the city needs. Check out her website. Decide for yourself.
Election Day is March 5.
Get out and vote!!

Free Fiction Friday The Ugly One

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I took myself to Disneyland to see what all the fuss was about. I rode all the rides except for "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." In the middle of  "It's a Small World," something went wrong and the little boats stopped dead in the water. It took about half an hour to fix and the whole time "It's a Small World After All" played around us.  Forget water boarding, playing that song more than a couple times in a row would qualifiy as an "enhanced interrogation" method. But the kids were delighted. You know how really little kids like to repeat things?  To this day even a few bars of "It's a Small World" will make me shudder.
And oddly, because there was no trauma associated with seeing Disney's The Little Mermaid, I feel the same way about Sebastian's sprightly "Under the Sea."  I read the original "Little Mermaid" when I was a kid and have always preferred the tragic version. When reading fairy tales I always knew when some bowdlerizing hand had been at work--forced happy endings, unexpected upturns in the hero or heroine's fortunes, a birth instead of a death. (I also noticed that blondes had more fun in fairy tales and that Snow White was the only princess with dark hair like mine. Years later, when I first encountered the literary criticism of Leslie Fiedler, I discovered that wasn't an accident.  Blondes are of the light, the human equivalent of "the shining ones." And then there are the others, those less favored. And those were the ones I was interested in.
(Fiedler is famous for his book Love and Death in the American Novel and  infamous for his commentary on homoeroticism in Huckleberry Finn--the essay is called something like "Come Back to the Raft Ag'in Huck Honey." He was a lit crit with all the right creds, but he was also a champion of genre fiction. Thank you Dr. Buford Jones for introducing me to him!  But I digress.)
It seemed to me, reading fairy tales that the ugly ones got a raw deal. Cinderella's stepsisters weren't just mean, they were ugly and not in the sense my grandmother meant when she would say, "Now don't be ugly."
Yes, they got to wear the pretty dresses and eat the good food but maybe they were mean because they were ugly and then, as now, "pretty" is often the only currency a woman has to spend. And then one day the idea for this story swam into my mind and I knew I had to write it.

                                   THE UGLY ONE
                                                   By Katherine Tomlinson

Liia was very young when she first realized she was different.
Her mother had suckled her but not nurtured her in any way and she found out that if it had not been for the intervention of her father, she would have been abandoned when her family and the school they swam with, moved on to warmer waters.
Liia’s difference was not her fault. Her mother had been exposed to toxic waste in the water and when she gave birth to 23 fry, all of them but Liia were dead. Liia’s mother tried to eat the dead fry but they were too toxic.
Her father had named her Liia, which means “miracle” and had protected her from predators until she was old enough to fend for herself.
Some months later, there was another batch of fry and from that came Liia’s seven sisters.
Seven lovely sisters with silver hair like their mother and beautiful, silver-blue tails.
Lia’s hair was moss-green and patchy. It had no luster, even in the sun, and her tail was the color of the boats they found on the bottom of the north sea before the rust took them. A dull, gun-metal gray that was often cloudy with “ick.”
She had lumpy tumors on her tail as well, tumors that disfigured.
She was a strong swimmer.

Then her father died, in a battle with the monster dog fish and after that her mother and sisters ignored her.

 She began reaching out to the lesser fishes, the ones that her kind dominated and fed on and used as slaves.
She gathered an army of electric eels and sea-going snakes and sharks. The sharks especially were on board with her plans and agenda.
Unlike many of her kind, she had taken pains to learn the language of the lesser fishes and so she could communicate with them and let them know that she would share the spoils with them.
Most of her school were pleasure-loving swim-abouts who weren’t really ready to defend themselves against a coordinated attack.
For there had never been such a coordinated attack in the history of the sea.
Liia’s school lived in the abandoned and coral-calcified remains of what had once been a Spanish galleon plying the lucrative route between spain and the new world, filled with looted Incan/Aztec gold. As a child, Liia had enjoyed playing with the golden fruits that had been plucked from a palace treasure garden and carried away, only to bloom on in the salty earth of the sea bed. She had loved the jewelry too, the pretty necklaces but her mother had taken them from her and told her she was so ugly she took the shine away.
And that was when Liia began to hate.

She planned her campaign on the treasure ship with military precision. She had the fishes scavenge whalebone and shark cartilage and she constructed massive cages.
She would lead the charge on a marlin, its spiny fin fully elongated.

First she would take a treasure bath.
Then she would supervise the executions. Her sisters and mother would be last, but they would be made to watch as the sharks and the ate the others.
Liia had no illusion about the loyalty of her allies. They were what they were and at some point they would likely fall upon her.
She would taste bitter she knew.
Bitter and ugly.
But her final thoughts would be of sweet revenge. And that would be enough.