Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Not Your Average Post Apocalyptic Novel

The Night Once More: A Wildclown NovelThe Night Once More: A Wildclown Novel by G. Wells Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The world has changed.
Or rather, the world has Changed…and it wasn’t quite the apocalypse anyone was expecting. Certainly not Tommy Wildclown. This novel is a wild acid trip through a rainy landscape peopled by the walking dead, hell beasts and a floating spirit that can’t quite remember who he is or why he’s here. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma and Taylor—author of the Dracula of the Apes trilogy—is having himself a stylish good time as he plays with time and place and point of view. You don’t have to have read the other novels in the series (this is #4) to enjoy this new book, but if you do enjoy it, it’s nice to know there are other books to discover. At the heart of the story is a noir-ish genre-blender of a mystery that transcends just “who done it” and becomes “what’s going on?” The play of personalities is neatly done and fans of transgressive and slipstream fiction will delight in the way the author serves up the surreal.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

12 Nights of Christmas--Shameless Self-Promotion

My collection of dark short stories based on "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is back, just in time for the holiday season. I've been all about the Amazon in the past, but with this release, I'm going wider. The book won't be on Amazon but you can find it at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Tolino (if you happen to live in Germany), and a number of others.

Some of these stories originally appeared in Dark Valentine Magazine or on the website and it's a pretty eclectic batch of tales. I enjoyed writing them. The cover is by the talented Joy Sillsesen of Indie Author Services.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A quickie review: Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE

Laini Taylor's writing is incredibly lush. Her descriptions of Prague make me want to book a flight there tonight. Just gorgeous writing. I also like the inventive and original mythology surrounding the wishes and the teeth. It feels like she's stumbled across an old legend found in a crumbling crypt somewhere. Excellent characters too, and the relationship between Karue and her best friend feels real. I have some quibbles about the plot--it seems like all Karue has to do is "wish" for things and she "levels up," and that cover? Looks like it's a romance set in Venice or something. But still, I liked this book enough to want to track down other books she's read. This was a refreshingly different urban fantasy.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Shakes[eare Silliness for the Season

What says the holidays more than a Shakespeare paper puppet? (Well, probably most anything, but work with me here.) Once again, Etsy does not disappoint. find this great Shakespeare puppet here. It's $3.50 for an instant digital download from raidersofthelostart.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Sometimes it's kind of overwhelming how much need there is. You want to help, but your resources and disposable income just can't keep up. And then there are times when people make it easy for you. You can sign up for Survey Monkey, for example. For every survey you complete, they'll donate 50 cents to a charity of your choice. And not only that, but you get a chance to win an Amazon gift card or other prize. The money starts to add up after a while (you get a running total every time you log on). If you're interested, here's where to sign up.
This Christmas, Penguin Books is sponsoring their second annual book giveaway. For every tweet and Facebook post using the hashtag #giveabook between now and December 24, they'll do just that--up to a total of 35,000 books (which is up 10K from last year's giveaway). How fantastic is that? With just a couple of keystrokes you can have a book donated on your behalf. Go Penguin!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the Book Purse

It's almost time for the fourth annual Kattomic Energy holiday gift guide, but here's a preview. The BOOK PURSE!  Crafted by Etsy artisan Novel Creations, these are whimsical purses upcycled from leather-cound and hardback books. See them here.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


I have friends and clients and colleagues who live in Paris. They're all safe. Or as safe as you can be in a city that's in lockdown mode. By early evening US time last night, social media was already full of ribbons and French flags and hashtags and expressions of horror.
And I couldn't help thinking that the word "terrible" is the same in French as it is in English.
And how terrible is it that there's even a colored ribbon FOR terrorist acts?
Paris is my heart's hometown. The Charlie Hebdo attack hit home for me because I started life as a journalist.
And now, after this latest atrocity, there are conservative journalists already blaming the influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees for fueling the crisis. Classic and cruel "blame the victim" mentality. But I remember what it was like in the days after 9/11. The Indian man murdered by the zealous patriot who decided he was a terrorist because of his skin color.
Today's tears and prayers are for the people of France, but tomorrow they must be for all people who live under the shadow of terror.

Friday, November 6, 2015

#HEARTBLAZE--Twilight with a Bite!

If you're looking for something new in paranormal romance, you might want to check out Heartblaze 1: Secret Soul, the debut novel by Shay Roberts. the story mixes a contemporary tale about a troubled college student name Emma Rue with a past life adventure when she was a vampire aristocrat. And just to make things more complicated, there's a vengeful ghost trying to manipulate her, an anti-paranormal organization that's out to kill her, and a conflicted werewolf who can't decide between his duty and his feelings.

There's a real depth of world-building here--an element most paranormal romances skip over--and real stakes at hand. This is Twilight with a bite,  a story with some edge to its emotions.

Heartblaze is a great read, and it's available worldwide.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Clean Living--Flash Fiction for Halloween

Rena Jacobs had been offered the job via email, which wasn’t unusual.
People were often embarrassed to be associated with a hoarder house, even if they weren’t the hoarder responsible, and they liked to put as much distance between them and the house in question as possible.
Rena understood the impulse. Cleaning other people’s houses wasn’t exactly the career she’d envisioned for herself. But an art history degree doesn’t go very far in a small town, and when the owner of the gallery where she worked had died, she’d found herself with few prospects. After maxing out her credit cards, and discovering that any job she was qualified for was already being done by unpaid interns from the local university, she’d narrowed her options to medical transcription or becoming a career barrista.
And then one day as she was channel surfing, she came upon a reality show about hoarders. It was perversely fascinating and Rena found herself sucked in. At the end of the episode, a team of specialty cleaners had been brought in to bring order out of chaos. There’d been a phone number to call for people who needed “help with a “situation,” and when Rena had called, she’d found herself on the phone with John T. Macallan, who was more than happy to talk to her about franchise opportunities with KLEEN LIVING.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are you mysterious?

If you're on Facebook and you're interested in all things mysterious--books, movies, writers, television--consider joining the Bellingham Mysterians group.  We are a book club sponsored by the awesome Village Books in Bellingham, WA but our FB group is open to all. We post articles about books and giveaways and fiction contests and  all sorts of things that might be of interest to the mystery fan. We're looking for suggestions for reading in the next three months. Join the discussion. Make a suggestion. Pimp out your own book!

Find us here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shakespeare's Guide to Parenting

Shakespeare was a parent. And he also was the author of the famous line, "How sharper than a serpent is an ungrateful child." (King Lear). This book looks like a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shakespeare Retold

You may have heard that Hogarth Shakespeare is publishing a series of "Shakespeare Retold" novels in which writers such as Margaret Atwood and Jo Nesbo have been paired with plays. (Nesbo will be doing Macbeth and I cannot wait.) For a full list of writers involved so far, check here.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sean Haldane: The Devil's Making, a review

Darwin and the edge of the Empire

Amateur naturalist Chad Hobbes—the atheist son of a preacher—has come to the colony of British Columbia to learn a bit about life before he settles down to a life as a lawyer. Unfortunately for Chad, he’s just missed the Gold Rush, which means that nobody in Vancouver or nearby Victoria really needs a lawyer. But what they do need is a policeman. The wilderness settlement has several police officers but none with Hobbes’ particular set of skills. The idea of being a “peeler” appeals to Hobbes and he’s soon thrust into the heart of a murder mystery that has racial and colonial implications.

Hobbes is fascinated by his duties and dutifully records everything he observes in a leather-bound journal his mother gave him before he left home. There’s plenty to observe. Elections are pending and one of the questions is whether B.C. will become part of America. Passions run high on both sides of the question but not as high as when an American “alienist” is found dead and the most likely suspect is a medicine man.
Sean Haldane’s novel transcends genre here with its literate (but never ponderously literary) style and the sharp observations on everything from class to vegetation. (Hobbes is fascinated by the quality of blue in the sky, so different from the English sky back home.)
Fans of historical mysteries are in for a treat with this book.

Friday, July 17, 2015

the horror! the horror!

I am in the process of planning out the rest of the year's writing. I have a couple of short stories I want to finish, one for Gerri Leen's anthology of dark goddess stories, a couple that have been in the works for a year or so. I will also finish up a bunch of the novella-length stories in preparation for finally (FINALLY!!!) getting Misbegotten done. but as the seasons turn and i start looking toward autumn, i start thinking about horror. (See post below)
I used to read a LOT of horror. When I first started writing I wrote a lot of horror. I haven't gotten a lot of traction with that genre though, and I find myself wondering if it's simply not commercial any more. Most of the time I write what I want to write and devil take the consequences, but as a full-time freelancer, I don't just write to amuse myself. So I need to figure out if there's some fiction/fusion formula that will work. Horror/spuspense maybe? Haven't seen that for a while. Maybe something with voodoo? I havne't read a good voodoo story in a long time.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Ppicture is Worth a Thousand Words

I like writing short horror stories. I have a couple available on Amazon and I have a couple of others ready to go. To be honest, no one really buys my horror shorts--I don't know if it's that the genre isn't as commercial as the fantasy romance fairy tales I write or if I'm just not writing what horror fans want to read. I write a lot of stories about spiders...I'm not sure why. I do know that in my household I am the designated spider killer. Yes, to spiders, I am as deadly as Furiosa.
One of the things I've noticed about writing horror is that I'm inspired by visuals more than anything else. And while trolling through Bigstock this month, looking for images to illustrate two proposals I was creating, I found this image.
And it spoke to me. I think it's genuinely creepy. The black stone somehow makes it even creepier than it might be in white marble. It's the texture. It almost looks volcanic to me. Expect a short story to go with this picture soon. I'm still thinking about what it might be but in the meantime...ponder the picture.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

the Warrior's Wife

This book caught my attention because the book blurb mentioned ROMEO & JULIET and I'm always on the lookout for things Shakespearean. It doesn't really have that much of a connection, but one of the things the reviewers really liked is that the writer got the details of the medieval world right. Since writers who fake it make me crazy, I look forward to reading this. If you're interested too, it's free today for the Kindle.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Durable Fairy Tales--Beauty and the Beast

I don't know when I first read Beauty and the Beast, but the first filmed version I saw was Jean Cocteau's dreamy, surreal version of the fairy tale. I remember the disembodied candelabra lighting the Beaast's home. And I remember thinking that the Beast was much more interesting than the bland man he transformed into.
Since then I've read a lot of variations on the theme, and seen a lot of the movies too--from Disney's rollicking musical version to Beastly, with Mary-Kate Olsen as the witch who curses pretty-boy Alex Pettyfer. 

Today, when I got my daily slew of newsletters offering free and almost free books for the kindle, I noticed one called The Beast of Bath, a Regency Fairytale. I thought it looked interesting and I started thinking about how many versions of the B&B I've read in the last few years, wtih their widely diverse settings. Christine Pope, for example, kicked off her popular Gaia Consortium series with a novella called Breath of Life, her version of the story.
Why is Beauty and the Beast so popular?
I think one of the reasons is that the heroine is really likable in any of the versions you read. Unlike her sisters, she isn't selfish and vain or greedy.
She is not a shallow person. One of the things I remember most about Robin McKinley's lovely version of the story (Beauty) is that she delights in the Beast's library, which has all the books ever written, as well as those that have yet to be written.  I thought that was a most wonderful thing the first time I read it and I still do.
But the Beauty is also someone who makes a moral choice. I'm not a fairy tale scholar, but I remember when I read the tale of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady" that it was a Beauty and the Beast story with a gender change. My favorite moment in the story comes when the Lady asks the Knight which he would prefer--being able to see her as the beauty she is at night, when it's just them, or during the day, when the court can see he didn't marry a "beast." And he tells her to choose for herself, thus breaking the spell. This story is one of the subplots of a truly godawful movie called Merlin and the Sword (Candice Bergen as Morgan le Fay, Rupert Everett as Lancelot and a young Liam Neeson playing a character called Grak), and Patrick Ryecart (currently in Poldark) as Gawain. Ryecart was terrific (you might have seen him in the BBC Romeo & Juliet), and I wish the movie as a whole had been even a little better because who doesn't like King Arthur movies?
But I digress.
I was trolling through looking for other Beauty and the Beast stories and I found a ton of tales that looked interesting. The one that intrigued me most of all was Depravity by M.J. Haag.
It's the first in a trilogy, and it's got a 4.8 rating. It sounds like it's got a darker edge to it and that works completely because at its heart, B&B is a psychologically complex tale. I can't wait to read it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Steampunk fairy tales

Every year or so when I have a little discretionary income, I like to download images for use on my covers and in my blog and for personal projects that need to be jazzed up with graphics and illustrations and photos. I use various different places, but this month I'm taking advantage of a sale on Bigstock. One of the projects on my "to do" list is to put together a collection of fairy tales filtered through a steampunk aesthetic. I've never really written in steampunk but I enjoy it when I run across a well-done story in the genre.
Bigstock has a selection of great steampunk fonts and I'm slowly downloading them 10 images per day. I still don't make my own covers--Joy Sillesen of Indie Author Services does that--but I really like playing around with images and font and typefaces and graphics. And I love having these images to play with.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Are SEALS the new Vikings?

I don't write contemporary romance, so I'm only vaguely aware of the elements that are trending these days. (I didn't know New Adult was an actual thing until a client asked me to edit her NA novel.) I am aware that shifters of all shapes and sizes (particularly BEARS, particularly with BBW) seem to be dominating (some would say "cluttering up") the best-seller lists in paranormal romance, and I've recently been made aware of hot alien tentacle sex. (There are some things that can never be UNREAD.) There are also about a bazillion "billionaire bondage" knockoffs of E.L. James' books. Lately though, I've noticed that the go-to alpha male figure is not the cowboy or the cop or the biker bad boy but a Navy SEAL.
I get it. When I think of Navy SEALs, the picture that comes to mind is that scene from Top Gun where all the young, hot, shirtless naval aviators play volleyball. What's not to like? But the new SEAL love is interestung to me for two reasons. One, I've read a ton of thrillers with SEALS at the center, including those by Richard Marcinko, one of the original membes of Seal Team Six. And in those books, there usually isn't even a woman character, much less a romance.  So it's interesting to see the difference in how a male writer and a female writer view the characters.
When a female writers uses a "Highlander' as her protagonist, the result is Outlander; when a male does, it's more likely to be Rob Roy or Braveheart. Love versus war. (And I am not saying here that I don't think a woman can write war stories or that a man can't write romances--I'm talking gender generalities.)
But the other reason I find the SEAL heroes intriguing is that I actually know a SEAL. And he's an impressive guy. But if you lined him up against a wall with say, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Chris Hemsworth and said, "pick the Navy SEAL, he'd be the one you picked last.
Which is, I guess, why they call it fiction and not fact.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's been a long time coming...

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FUBAR by Weston Ochse--a review

A Warrior’s Words

I am a soldier’s daughter. My father served in three wars, two of them popular, one of them not. The only stories he ever told about those times in his life were carefully edited, G-rated anecdotes like one about running over a python when he was in Burma building Bailey-Bailey bridges.
He bore his burden alone because that’s what men of his generation did. He died with his stories untold. And maybe that’s one reason why he died so young.
I wish my father—who loved to read—could have read this collection of essays and fiction.
Weston Ochse is a warrior. He is a humanist. And he is a damn fine writer.
I’ve read some fantastic collections of war stories in the past and this one is now in my top five, along with Michael Herr’s DISPATCHES and Anthony Swofford’s JARHEAD.
Every single story in this collection has been curated with care and all of them will go through you like the ball bearings spit out by a Claymore mine when someone not paying attention steps on it.
“Why is it so hard to be a man?” the protagonist of “Family Man” asks and then he offers up a sacrifice to his family that is simply…heart-stopping. “Family Man” is one of those stories, like “Plastic Soldiers” by WD County, that can never be unread.
The essays are just as strong as the fiction, with “Every War Has a Signature Sound” being one of my favorites. Ochse ends the collection with a piece called “Finishing School” that is inspirational and confessional and altogether insightful and a story about warring with your self when it just seems so much easier to quit.
But warriors don’t quit.