Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Monday, March 31, 2014

A is for Amazon

Up until a few years ago, if you said the word "Amzon," I'd picture someone like Wonder Woman. But now, it means the megasite where I publish my writing, spend my money, and while away my time browsing. I found myself wondering why Amazon was named "Amazon," and I did a little Googling around to find out. According to Wikipedia, the site was named after the Amazon River, which was named after the Amazon tribe of warrior women. (Under the file "I did not know that" is the factoid that the company was originally created under the name "Cadabra.")

The April A to Z Blogging Challenge

I started out in January with the intention of keeping up with my blogging and what with one thing and another, I've fallen behind. Not that the world is dying for daily updates from my little corner of the blogosphere, but I find that keeping to a regular schedule on the blog helps me meet my other deadlines as well. And since I have a backlog of projects waiting for my attention, I really need some more structure in my writing life. Otherwise, it's much too easy to let the day-to-day bill-paying stuff take over.

 I thought that the A to Z blogging challenge sounded interesting, so I've signed up. My "theme" is going to be writers. I hope you'll find it interesting.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Self-Promotion ... Suicide Blonde

Speaking of frugality, I'm a big proponent of free books.  I get all those newsletters DAILY offering freebie books and I just snap those bargains up.  (You do not even want to know how many books there are in my kindle.)
And every once in a while, I want to do MY part to feed your e-reader. Right now I'm running a free promotion for my collection of short stories called Suicide Blonde. It's been well-received, and I'm pretty proud of the stories.  If you enjoyed True Detective, I think you might like this collection. (And wouldn't it be kind of cool if the producers solicited stories for an anthology, the way the makers of the game L.A. Noire did?)

Anyway, Suicide Blonde is free for the next two days. You can snag it here. And if you enjoy it, I'd love a review.

Waste not, want not

I was raised to be frugal.
Living in Los Angeles sometimes sabotages that intent--I pay nearly $2K a month for an apartment so small, I also rent a storage unit for where some of my furniture lives--but basically I live by my granmother's philosophy, which was "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."
I admit I'll spree-spend on things my grandmother would have considered needless luxuries, but when money is tight, I do what I have to do.
That's a lot easier to do when you work at home. You don't have dry-cleaning bills or commuting costs. You don't have to deal with business lunches or office birthday celebrations. (My sister nearly went broke one year buying birthday presents for colleagues she didn't even like because the corporate culture at her job STRONGLY encouraged people to participate in community events like birthday parties and Christmas gift exchanges.
I abhor waste of any kind and living in an apartment building, I see a lot of waste. Whenever anyone moves out, pieces of perfectly good furniture suddenly appear on the easement between the building and the street. Most of the time, this furniture is snapped up by the urban gleaners who cruise the neighborhood, but if it stays otu there too long (more than a day or two), someone always comes along to wreck it. And what once might have been a perfectly serviceable side table is suddenly just a few pieces of splintered wood; and what used to be a nearly brand-new mattress is suddenly soaked in dog piss. 
That makes me crazy.
It doesn't take that long to call and arrange a pick-up from Goodwill or Out of the Closet or some other charitable organization. And while a lot of places don't take mattresses for sanitary reasons, This Green Life offers some suggestions on how you can donate and recycle them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The best hummus I've ever bought

I love hummus. I never had it until I moved to Los Angeles and I've been making up for lost time ever since.  I have a friend who makes me batches about once a month and in between I've tried a bunch of different brands. This week I stumbled across Fountain of Health's roasted garlic hummus.
It is the pre-made hummus of my dreams.
For one thing, it's really garlicky, which I like.
There are no preservatives in it.  It's light on the salt.
And it hasn't been blended into the consistency of library paste.
I'd say it's actually the best hummus I've ever had, but then, I'm still trying out other brands. Highly recommended.

Free book and More!

I'm running a free promotion on Whipping Boy, so if you'd like to snag a free digital copy, go here.

But this is not just a shameless self-prootion post.  I used to review books for the paranormal romance site Bitten By Books. One of the features that now shows up regularly is a massive "Free Read Friday" list of books in all different genres.  Here's the link to last week's list, which gets updated and augmented weekly.

If you write in the genre (or just love it), you really need to check out Bitten By Books.  They're constantly running contests and promotions and author launch parties. It's a great place to hang out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Earthquake Country

We had a small earthquake in Los Angeles yesterday. Well, small compared to the Northridge Quake of 2004, but still the largest quake in the area since 2008.  It was a sharp jolt that registered 4.4 on the Richter Scale. It was centered in the mountains between Westwood (home of UCLA) and Encino, which is in the western part of the San Fernando Valley, a couple of miles west of where I live.

A 4.4 is, in earthquake terms, relatively minor. You might have a knick-knack fall over (a friend posted a picture of one such knick-knack on Facebook) but there were no reports of damage or injury. But throughout the day, people I know who live elsewhere checked in with me to make sure I was all right. I assured them I was but the truth is, I was actually a bit unsettled. Because to live in Los Angeles is to live in denial. The city is criss-crossed by earthquake faults and one day those faults are ging to go off like a bomb. I've seen the movie Earthquake. I've read the script for San Andreas (soon to be a movie near you with Dwayne Johnson). And more to the point, I have a minor in geology. I know EXACTLY what happens when a couple of tectonic plates slide past each other. (Up until the Northridge quake, most of my knowledge was theoretical, but once you've actually heard the sound of the earth grinding against itself, you don't forget it.)

Anyway, the quake reminded me of Lee Goldberg's book The Walk, which begins "one minute after the Big One."  If you haven't read it, you should check it out.  It's a dandy survival story and would make an excellent movie.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pictures that are worth 80,000 words

I did not think ahead when I purchased the images used for the cover of Whipping Boy. I had already planned several sequels, but for some reason, it didn't occur to me that I should buy several images of the same models at the same time so that the covers images would be related. Now I'm going through hundreds and hundreds of photos and it's kind of like looking at books of murder suspects. It was pretty easy to find the female model in a variety of poses that will work. The male model though? He's proving to be a challenge. For one thing, when you type in key words like "handsome, dark-haired man in suit" you get back images of teenage boys in t-shirts twirling red umbrellas like they're auditioning for a remake of Singing in the Rain.

If you type in "handsome businessman," you get pictures of en with bags over their heads (!) as well as pictures of guys contorted in ways that their bodies were never meant to contort. (That's true of the female models as well, but we're kind of conditioned to women in unnatural poses thanks to years of photoshop and Jessica Rabbit-style images of impossible body proportions.)

I used to oversee cover shoots for a magazine I edited, so I'm used to working with photographers and models who turned out fabulous work. A lot of what I'm seeing on these sites reminds me of Derek Zoolander's "looks" in the movie Zoolander. It's like the photographer told all the guys to give their best "Rico Suave smoldering glance.  The results are ... not pretty.  Sigh. But I press on. There are worse ways to spend an hour or so than looking at photographs of good looking men.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Positive and Negative Book Reviews

I read a lot of books and I try to review as many as I can because unless a writer is a brand name and reviews are irrelevant, reviews are important. My reviews are always honest. And when I'm being paid to review a book I don't like, my review will explain why I didn't like it. I don't get snarky and I don't get personal. When I'm reviewing a book "on my own time," it's because I really liked a book and want to share it. That's why I rarely post a negative review on Amazon or GoodReads or here.  If I don't like a book I'm not being paid to read, I stop reading it. I don't feel the need to waste my time writing a review telling  someone how bad the book is because reading taste is subjective. (I'm on the record as really, really liking Moby Dick, so there you go.)

Turns out the new book editor at BuzzFeed has a philosophy similar to mine only a lot bigger readership on his blog. Read about the fuss it caused when he announced he'd only be publishing positive reviews.  The thing is, there are plenty of places a reader can go to find a selection of good and bad reviews. If BuzzFeed just wants to share books their reviewer liked, I'm all for that. That's what I like doing. I've shared books with friends since I was old enough to pass my NancyDrew books around.  (Those books were the gateway to a lifetime of mystery reading.)

The problem with a lot of reviews you see online, especially in individual blogs, is that the reviewers often have an axe to grind. I know one woman who hated, HATED, really, really HATED Hunger Games and wrote a  rambling rant of a review that went on for thousands of words. I wanted to say, "Dude, it's just a book." She didn't just dislike the book, she went after the writer personally to the point where it was kind of ... crazy.

I just don't get crazy about books I don't like. I know the writer didn't write the book just to piss me off. Books I like though? I can't wait to tell everyone about them.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Q is for Quincunx

I never quite outgrew the childhood love of silly words that began when my parents first read Dr. Seuss stories to me. I have a particular fondness for words that begin with the letters Q and Z and X. For some reason, they just sound interesting to me. And bonus points for words that use two or more, like EXQUISITE.  That's a word with texture. One of my favorite words of all is QUINCUNX and for a long time, I didn't even know what it meant. (Although it sounded kind of dirty.) turns out a quincunx is a pattern of five arranged with points at four corners and one in the center. IN its simplest form, imagine a quincunx as the five-spot side of a die.But they can also be quite fancy, like this one, which is an ancient alchemical symbol.

The reason I'm thinking of words is that I'm in the planning stages for my novel Zhanghai, which is part of the sci fi series about a planet that's been colonized by a group subsidized by a Chinese trading consortium.  I've been building the world out in notes for about three years now and now that I'm actually sitting down to write, I'm having a good time naming alien species and technologies and artifacts. One of those artifacts has found its way into the hands of Qing, my heroine, and while it looks like a shiny little bauble of no practical purpose, it turns out that it's really quite a valuable thing. I'm calling it the Quincunx because it's a piece that is inserted into a larger piece to ... do something. What that something is, I have no idea, but the whole idea started with a Q.  And a silly word.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Feminist Fiction Friday

I love Sharyn McCrumb. First of all, I love the way she spells her first name, which makes it more interesting without being so quirky it calls attention to itself. I first came to her writing through her "Ballad" series of mysteries in which contemporary crimes are juxtaposed to things that happened in Appalachia a long time ago. (It's basically the same idea behind the Clive Cussler novels.) I've read all the Ballad novels, but The Rosewood Casket is probably my favorite. She has several other series, and has also written some wild sci-fi books.

I am a huge fan of her book St. Dale, which is filled with NASCAR racing lore (McCrumb's a fan) and love for the late, great Dale Earnhardt.  I've been pitching St. Dale to my clients for years because it would make a GREAT movie. But alas, it does not have a giant robot in it.

I love that the "ballad" books have a real sense of place. McCrumb is from North Carolina, so her dialogue is authentic and her love for the area is on every page. The Appalachian Ballad series has a cast of characters that recurs, and you will find yourself falling in love with all of them. If you don't know her work, you should.

Sign of the (L.A.) Times

I grew up in a news junkie's household. When I was a kid, Washington DC had two main papers, the Washington Post and the Evening Star. When I was in high school in Richmond, there were also two daily papers, one in the morning and one in the evening--the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the News-Leader. There was also the Richmond Mercury, and Richmond Style Weekly, a freebie paper I wrote for after college.

In addition to the local papers, my father subscribed to the Wall Street Journal and, off and on, to the Christian Science Monitor. On weekends, he'd made the drive out to a hotel near downtown to buy out of town papers--the NY Times, the L.A. Times, etc.  When I moved to L.A. there were three main daily papers, the Times, the Herald-Examiner and a paper that was then known as the Valley News and Green Sheet.  (Among staffers, the Valley News was often referred to as "the green shit" and if you were overheard saying that, it meant a pink slip.) The Her-Ex folded some years ago but the Times and the Valley News are still around, along with a handful of hyper-local papers.

I grew up reading newspapers in  cities where there were a lot of papers covering the news. And from the time I moved to Los Angeles, I had a subscription to the Times.  But in 2007, with the WGA Times now costs $1 a copy, which used to be what the fat Sunday edition cost. And I realized I couldn't remember the last time I sat down and read an actual newspaper. Probably around the last time I looked a number up in the actual Yellow Pages and dialed it on my land line.
strike looming, that subscription was one of the first things I chopped out of my budget, along with cable and eBay browsing. I would occasionally pick up a single copy from a newspaper vending machine but eventually I transitioned over to online news and I haven't really looked back. Until today when a newspaper headline caught my eye and I looked closer and discovered that the L.A.Times now costs $1 a copy, which is what the fat Sunday edition used to cost. Wow.
I can't remember the last time I sat down and read a newspaper. It was probably around the same time that I looked something up in a paper Yellow Pages and dialed the number on my cordless phone. 


Washington's Spies!

I had never heard of TURN, AMC's new historical series, until yesterday when I saw a billboard for it.  It's based on the book Washington's Spies and it looks like it could be a lot of fun. The Brit villains aren't very subtle unlike the Jason Isaacs' character in The Patriot) but they're VILLAINS.  Here's the trailer for it:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Criminal Element runs a promotion for Whipping Boy!

I've been working as a "Fresh Meat" reviewer for Criminal Element," the crime fiction blog hosted by Macmillan publishing for a little over a year now. (And I learned about the paid gig via Twitter, which is something I tell my clients who see no value in social media because they don't think "anyone wants to know what I ate for breakfast.")

I am a proud indie author but it's still kind of fun to drop the phrase, "My editor at Macmillan," into casual conversation.  The editor in question is Clare Toohey, and she is awesome. She set up a great promotion to celebrate the publication of my debut mystery novella, Whipping Boy, and is running it in conjunction with an excerpt on Criminal Element today.  She's also helped me hone in on a description of the book that fits my brand of crime fiction, which is not that easily defined. Did I mention she's awesome?  Here's how she describes Whipping Boy:

Whipping Boy by Katherine Tomlinson is a California cop mystery novella, the debut of a female criminalist whose strange existence swings from the darkest crime scenes to life among Hollywood royalty--no wonder she has such a bad attitude (available March 12, 2014). 

If you love crime fiction in all its varieties, you should be checking out Criminal Element. And you should definitely stop by today because if you leave a comment about the excerpt, you can win excellent swag! Here's a link to the excerpt.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I do not think that word means what you think it means...

I love The Princess Bride for so many reasons, but the title of this post is probably my favorite quote among many quotable lines. I always think of the line when I'm surfing CraigsList looking for gigs because I often find lines like this:

We need someone to write the story and share the profit 50/50 with the author. 

I'm a ghostwriter by trade and have absolutely no problem being the writer behind the name, but it does seem a little delusional when the person hiring the ghostwriter is unclear on the concept of what's actually happening.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Judging a Book by Its (Pre-made) Cover

I love the covers that Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services does for me. I've also bought a number of IAS pre-made covers over the years. But I also like looking at other sites offering pre-made covers and today I hooked up with the UK-based Cover Collection via Twitter. Their covers are very affordable (they seem to be in the 30 pounds and up range with sale covers offered at 20 poumds) and they offer covers for many different genres. More than a couple caught my eye. Maybe you'll find something there for your next project.

City of Darkness and LIght--Paris & Mystery

My favorite city and my favorite genre are combined in City of Darkness and Light. Check the book out on today's Criminal Element.  The book is one of a series by Rhys Bowen, and series are always good news for mystery readers.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cover reveal: Christine Pope's Darkangel

Cover by Indie Author Services
My friend Christine Pope--aka the hardest working writer in romance fiction--has a new book coming out this month and I can't wait. It's called Darkangel, and it's the first in a new series for her.
Here are the details:

Finding the man of your dreams can be a real nightmare….

As the future prima, or head witch of her clan, Angela McAllister is expected to bond with her consort during her twenty-first year, thus ensuring that she will come into her full powers at the appointed time. The clock is ticking down, and her consort has yet to make an appearance. Instead, her dreams are haunted by a man she’s never seen, the one she believes must be her intended match.

But with time running out, and dark forces attempting to seize her powers for their own, Angela is faced with a terrible choice: give up her dreams of the man she may never meet and take the safer path, or risk leaving her clan and everyone in it at the mercy of those who seek their ruin.

Darkangel is the first book in the Witches of Cleopatra Hill, a paranormal romance trilogy set in the haunted town of Jerome, Arizona. 

If you've read Pope's Sedona Trilogy, you know she has mad love for the area, and the setting here is Jerome, the funky little town that neighbors Sedona. For more about Christine Pope and her books, go here. The latest book in her Gaia Consortium series is now available here.