Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fiction Friday: Thoughts on True Crime Books

I have friends who read a lot (a whole lot) of true crime. For them it's relaxing and entertaining and engaging. Certainly they'll never run out of titles to read, from lit fic (Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song) to quickie books churned out in the wake of controversial court cases. (There were no less than 11 books published in the wake of Casey Anthony's trial for the murder of her daughter.)

I don't read that much true crime. Some cases are pretty fascinating--I read two different accounts of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder investigation--but I realized that I mostly prefer fiction to fact. But there have been some books that So for #fictionfriday, I decided to list the true crime books that I found memorable. They were, in no particular order:

1.  Serpentine by Thomas Thompson--Thompson wrote great true crime books, many of them just crying out for the "miniseries" treatment. The killer here was a handsome, enigmatic man named Charles Sobhraj and the tale is a globe-hopping "odyssey of love and evil" that stretches from Paris to Hong Kong, with a stop at Mt. Everest along the way.
2. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson--I have a particular fondness for period murder mysteries that just happen to be true.
3.  The Napoleon of Crime by Ben Macintyre--see above. This is the bio of a fascinating master thief named Adam Worth.
4. Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh--This is an account of a decorated fire firefighter who was secretly an arsonist. I had a personal connection to the case in that one of the stores he burned up was a place I used to shop. It's pretty chilling. This case also attracted the attention of NOVA, which did an episode on it.
5, And the Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson, is probably more famous for Helter Skelter than this book, but I found And the Sea Will Tell a lot more interesting, probably because the Manson story has been told and retold and told to death. It's the story of a double murder of a yachting couple and was made into a television movie.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Another Cover Reveal: Unsanctified, a horror novella

This is the year I finally transcribe all the short stories and half-based novellas and bits of novel-writing and refine them into something I can actually publish. Joy Sillesen, of Indie Author Services, has been incredibly generous in supplying me with fantastic cover art, and I'm using those covers as inspirations.

This is the cover for Unsanctified, due out in October from Dark Valentine Press. It's an old school horror story, my version of a Stephen King kind of tale. The story takes place on Halloween (of course) and I hope it scares people.

When life imitates art

I have a friend who is writing a supernatural fantasy. I've been reading his chapters and it's really good, the kind of story that makes the little hairs on your neck stand up. But here's the weird part. The opening chapter is called "Birth of the Bear Star" and it features two characters witnessing a Ursa Major. In case you're not up on your astronomical events, a star in the Ursa Major constellation went supernova this week. I've told him he'd better be VERY careful about the other events he writes into his tale. Here's an article about the event.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Science Fiction Movie Infographic

I love infographics. Over at Pinterest, one of my most "repinned" and "liked" pins is a Shakespeare infographic. I was steered toward this infographic by a tweet on a completely different subject but as is often the case, I got distracted and started clicking around looking for other bits of information to amuse myself.

This is your brain on Twitter

I love trivia. My father collected it and at his death, I inherited his box full of notes for a planned book on Virginia trivia. (I was the only person in the family who could actually read his handwriting.) There isn't much of a market for trivia in real life, unless you write trivia questions for bar games (which I have done), although you probably rock at Jeopardy. One of the things I really enjoy about Twitter is that you can "follow" all sorts of Tweeps who offer daily tweets filled with interesting factoids. Most of this information is totally useless but it makes me happy to know all this stuff. It enters my imagination and churns around with everything else in there and sometimes it comes out in a story and sometimes it comes out in a conversation and sometimes it's just there for me to know and you to find out.

Some of the accounts I particularly enjoy are:
@TheWeirdWorld (weird hacks and facts)
@Factsionary (hidden facts)

and the great thing is that once you follow one of these Twitter accounts, the AI will suggest even more. I will NEVER again be without a supply of utterly useless facts at my fingertips.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bad Wolf by Nele Neuhaus

Best-selling German crime writer Nele Neuhaus has a new book out today, Bad Wolf. It's the second in her series about a couple of detectives who have messy personal lives they need to balance as they go about solving murders. I reviewed the first book in the series, Snow White Must Die at Criminal Element last year, and my first look at the Bad Wolf is up on the site now. Read it here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

And yet another free ebook source

So many books!
This site is called Ebooks Grow On Trees, and is updated daily. Subscribe here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lady of the Harbor by Brother Sun

A little social commentary delivered in the sweet harmonies of Brother Sun, Greg Greenway, Joe Jencks, and Pat Wictor. From their CD "Some Part of the Truth," available here.

Sizzurp--who comes up with these things?

I once knew a guy who was addicted to cough syrup. He was a nurse and knew that his addiction could cost him his job, so he got help and got on with his life. When I first started hearing about "Sizzurp," i figured that was just edgoer slang for the same codeine-laced cough syrup that my friend had favored. But now, thanks to TMZ (yes, I read TMZ. Regularly.), I now know that it's typically codeine and promethazine mixed with Sprite and a Jolly Rancher."
And I have to wonder, who first concocted that particular cocktail of ingredients and decided to try it out?
When I was in college, a favorite party ption was Southern Comfort and 7-Up, which sounds disgusting now, but it was sweet and sparkly and the next step up from wine coolers. It would never have occurred to me to drop a Jolly Rancher into my glass.  (And what flavor is favored?)
These days, I don't drink anything harder than Diet Snapple Half 'n Half,which isn't all that good for me, but at least it's not going to trigger anti-social behavior. Or my gag reflex. Sprite and Jolly Rancher? Yuck.

A Deer of a Different Color

There's a surprising amount of wildlife in urban L.A. I've seen coyotes skulking about on canyon roads, and we have falcons in my neighborhood. But I have friends who live closer to nature and one of them sent me this picture of a deer that wandered into her yard this morning.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Times, They are a'changing

Yesterday, while registering for a website, I was asked to provide some basic demographic info. I was given three choices for sex:  Male, Female, and Transgendered.I'd never seen that option before and my first thought was actually--Seriously? The option just seemed so earnestly PC, almost as if the website was trying too hard.
It And then I thought of Bob Dylan's song, "Don't criticize what you don't understand."
We live in a world that can no longer be defined by either/or. First there was LGBT and now there is QUILTBAG, and maybe soon, labels like these will be totally irrelevant.  It's time, in the words of the classic Apple Computer slogan, to "think different." And maybe that paradigm shift begins with a third choice on a website registry.

The worst Craig's List ad ever

You know I love Craig's List but I've ranted before about the scammers and the schemers and the just plain clueless who post in the writer's jobs and gigs sections. This ad was posted today and I can't decide if it's meant to be a joke or what. I particularly like the location--Santa MANICA.  Yeah, this is an ad I'm going to rush to answer.

BOOOKs, MUNUSCRIPTZ,a nd scipts wasnted (Santa mainica)

Can you tell your story in one sentese. Comitted riters wanted for I can sell yur book. Mustr be willing to do what it takes. I have deals with big companiesaz and know people in Hollywood. I ca make it happen. send yor infro and lets make a sail,
  • Location: Santa mainica
  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers
  • Compensation: $5,000 to $1,000,00.00 depenz on quallitee of righting.

Friday, January 17, 2014

More free books!

i've always been vaguely aware that there are lots of sites that offer free books, but lately I keep stumbling across them everywhere I go. Here's a new one:  Book Gorilla.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Best Book Promo Item Ever!

I'm always looking for items I can use as promotional tools for my fiction and for the release of Whipping Boy (due out in February from my alter-ego Kat Parrish), I snagged this fantastic Police Line Do Not Cross scarf from Barbara Perelman of "Blazing Needles" on Etsy. (Find her shop here.) I like this scarf so much that I really, really wish it got cold here. (It's been in the 80s this week and if I started wearing a scarf I'd look like one of those eccentric old ladies who wears three layers of sweaters in the middle of the summer.

Barbara provides customized knits, crochet cacti and novelty knits.
And in case you were wondering what a crocheted cactus looks like--here's one. (There are several varieties.) Isn't it adorable?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Free book listings from More or Less Online

I'm enjoying getting my daily notifications from Book Bub, but now I'm also signed up for More or Less Online, which also lists free and almost free ebooks. You can register free here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hasbro Adds Windblade to their Transformers line

And she's a bad-ass who transforms into a VTOL jet. Here are some more details.

Word Lists as story prompts

One of the ongoing gigs I have is preparing targeted word lists for a marketing firm. The topics range from "manga" to "medical devices" and researching the lists often leads me to weird terms that suggest stories to me. For example, did you know there's something called "bipolar forceps?" Doesn't that sound like some futuristic medical machine that's gone haywire? The picture makes them look pretty sinister.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Outlander comes to Starz

I am not a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, but I love the idea that it's being brought to life by STARZ. It looks like a lot of fun. You can find the trailer here on Deadline Hollywood.

Seriously Sherlick?

I enjoy Elementary, the modern-day CBS Sherlock Holmes show. I have always liked Lucy Liu and since seeing Jonny Lee Miller in the Danny Boyle-directed stage play Frankenstein, I am a big fan. (He alternated the role of the doctor and the creature with fellow Sherlock Holmes Benedict Cumberbatch, and although I am a fan of BC also, I have to say, JLM owned both parts.) I also covet that brownstone. I know it's just a set, but I want to move in. that's a cook's kitchen they have and the study, with its fire and comfy chairs is the study of my dreams.
But there are two things that drive me crazy about Elementary.  One is that the writers don't seem to know the difference between "I" and "me" and constantly give Sherlock dialogue using the wrong one. As a word snoot, I expect Sherlock to know better and it always takes me out of the episode.
The other thing that will take me out of the moment is that whenever the doorbell at the brownstone rings, either Sherlock or Watson will open it without bothering to look through the peephole to see who's on the other side.
Usually it's someone like their colleague Marcus Bell or some random guy Joan's dating. (One of whom tracked her down to see if she was "okay" after their encounter, which was kind of disconcerting to me). But they live in New York. It's like those movies and television shows (Friends, I'm looking at you) where no one bothers to lock thier doors. In New York. Seriously?
Does that bother anyone else?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dead Cows Washing Up on Beaches in Sweden and Denmark

There are so many things wrong with that headline that I don't even know where to start, but the story is one that starts my creative juices flowing. There's a short, speculative fiction story brewing here. Something apocalyptic, I think. (And this is why I will never stop checking Drudge Report every day. CNN just does NOT cover news like this.) You can read the story here. Talk about your Nordic Noir.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kodiak Island Space Port--the Future is Now!

They don't use it very often, but doesn't it look really cool? You can find out more about it here.

Feminist Friday Fiction returns!

And speaking of women writers--do you know Betty Webb's Lena Jones mysteries? A woman writing crime about a woman who solves crime--my favorite kind of mystery. Check it out here; and look for it when it's published early next month.

In the Deomain of the Winter King

Isn't this a fantastic picture?
It's a lighthouse on Lake Michigan that's been encased in ice as a polar vortex causes temperatures of -50 below.
But it is one of those pictures that's worth a thousand words.

Friday Fiction Feed from Twitter--Blood Street

I enjoy social media. As someone who works at home, it helps me feel connected to a wider world. One f the things I really like is when a tweet points me in the direction of a book I might like to read. (Even though my TBR pile now has its second bookcase, my motto is "no book left behind."

Today I ran across Carl Alves' novel Blood Street, which is currently on sale at for 99 cents.  You can sample Alves' fiction for free on his website, which I did, and now I'm about to click over to Amazon and spend a whopping dollar sampling his book. (It actually doesn't look like he updates his website very often but all the links still work.)  Ah--did some digging around and he has a new site here.

The book combines vampires and Mafiosi and I can't wait to read it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cath Staincliffe's Blog

I review for Criminal Element and one of the real pleasures of the gig is discovering writers who are new to me. I just finished reading Cath Staincliffe's new book Dead to Me and enjoyed it so much that I tracked down her website to learn more about her.

Her blog is a lot of fun. In addition to interesting posts about topics such as point of view and how to write tense scens, she lists books that she's recently read and enjoyed. All of her recommendations sound interesting. Check her site out here. And watch for my "Fresh Meat" about Dead to Me on Tuesday.

Christine Pope's Sympathy for the Devil

Romance writer Christine Pope is a friend of mine and I really enjoyed her latest book, which is an update of a book she originally published through Pink Petal Press. She updated it, gave it a slick new cover and has now sent it out into the world. It's a paranormal romance that's devoid of vampires, but it does have a hilarious set of supporting characters who disrupt the romance for their own devilish ends. Check it out here.

What Craig's List posters really think of writers

You never know what you're going to find when you click around CL. I've found jobs that were both lucrative and satisfying, like the gig I landed curating biographies for a new website. I've found jobs that were fun but didn't pay much at all. I've been stiffed by clients I found there--and in one case, I'm still pursuing the scofflaw--and I've been offered ongoing work by others. I love Craig'sList.
But every once in a while, there's a listing that gives me pause. Today, under "Writing and Editing," I found this listing headlined "House Cleaning."

House cleaning service offers...we are two ladies very responsible and honest.... We've been working at cleaning services for 8 years...independent job, good references, free estimates.
-clean bathroom
-kitchen, cabinets
-vacuum, mop floors, change , wash and fold the sheets
- baseboards, windows, cob webs
-dust, organize
-summer projects
-extra services can be charged.
Every day, every week, every other week, once in a month.... It's up to you:) 

Sigh.  It's hard enough explaining my choice to remain a freelancer in a dicey economy without seeing ads like this posted in the forum where I go to find paying writing work. Is the universe trying to tell me something?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy Birthday Zora!

Google honored Zora Neale Hurston on the occasion of her birthday. (Never mind how old she would be--you never ask a lady her birthdate.) Hurston is famous for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (one of four novels and countless short stories she wrote). I had not read the novel when I ran across this quote from it:Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.  I thought those two sentences were just stunning and they drove me to the novel. Plus, I thought she had the coolest name ever.  And the lady knew how to wear a hat.Anthropoligist, folklorist, author--she was a (Harlem) Renaissance woman.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Oh Snap!!

I work a lot with baby boomers who are leery of social media. Many of them are having a hard time transitioning into the digital age. Some of them have a distinctly, "You kids get off my lawn" attitude toward all things new and shiny and even faintly techno. Today one of my clients asked me what Instagram was. And I explained it. And I was feeling pretty on top of it because I know about Flickr and Photobucket and Photorocket and even SmugMug.  And then one of my clients mentioned SnapChat. I missed the memo on that one.
You have to keep up or you fall behind.
Ready or not, here comes tomorrow.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Bub and Me

one of the things I really like about having a Kindle (and the Kindle app on my phone and my desktop) is that I have access to a HUGE library pretty much any time I have a minute to read. And the number of volumes on my virtual shelf increases pretty much every day, thanks to Book Bub. Book Bub is a service for both writers and readers, sending out daily emails (I even got one on Christmas) offering free and discount deals on ebooks in a variety of genres. When you sign up, you choose your genre(s) and the email you get is customized for you. I almost always click on the freebie, but I often buy the books available for 99 cent. Today's horror selection sounded particularly intriguing, an Exorcist-ish mystery called Gates of the Dead. It has more than 30 five-star reviews and knowing how hard it is to get even a quarter of that, I figured it was worth checking out.
If you haven't signed up for Book Bub (it's free), you can do so here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Horror! the Horror!--a new blog for scary film

And it's called, appropriately enough, Scary Film.  They also cover scary books and TV, which is where I come in. I'll be writing for Scary Film occasionally. Come check it out.