Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mary Kubica's Don't You Cry

I read for a living and one of the best books I read this year is Mary Kubica's novel, The Good Girl. I LOVED it. And I am delighted that she's written a number of books I haven't read yet. First up on my TBR queue is Don't You Cry, a psychological thriller that critics have (perhaps inevitably) compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I liked Gone Girl well enough but I guessed the twist right away and I really didn't care for any of the characters--didn't think they were sympathetic. On the other hand, I liked the people in The Good Girl.

Way to be presidential (Not)

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!
Seriously--this is the man who's going to be president in three weeks?

Southern-fried fiction

I'm a fan of quirky stories about small Southern towns. I love Clyde Edgerton's work (particularly Floatplane Notebooks) and Eudora Welty's The Ponder Heart. One of my all-time favorite novels is Michael Malone's Handling Sin and another is Rita Mae Brown's Bingo (which I am dying to turn into a movie.)

I'm also a long-time fan of Fannie Flagg, whose book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe was made into the movie with the abbreviated title Fried Green Tomatoes. (And how much did I love Kathy Bates in that movie?) She's got a new book out, The Whole Town is Talking.

Here's the sales pitch:

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening at the cemetery. Still Meadows, as it’s called, is anything but still. Original, profound, The Whole Town’s Talking, a novel in the tradition of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Flagg’s own Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride, Katrina, and their neighbors and descendants as they live, love, die, and carry on in mysterious and surprising ways.

Lordor Nordstrom created, in his wisdom, not only a lively town and a prosperous legacy for himself but also a beautiful final resting place for his family, friends, and neighbors yet to come. “Resting place” turns out to be a bit of a misnomer, however. Odd things begin to happen, and it starts the whole town talking.

With her wild imagination, great storytelling, and deep understanding of folly and the human heart, the beloved Fannie Flagg tells an unforgettable story of life, afterlife, and the remarkable goings-on of ordinary people. In The Whole Town’s Talking, she reminds us that community is vital, life is a gift, and love never dies.

Guest Post from Mark Rogers, author of Koreatown Blues


By Mark Rogers

“As usual, I was the only white guy in the place.”

I had the first line of my crime novel KOREATOWN BLUES. From there the writing flowed; a series of 1,000 word days and a first draft in two months. But it took several steps to get to that first line.

First, there was a solo stint in a one-room sublet in LA’s Koreatown that went on much longer than originally planned. The room had one window that looked out on a brick wall close enough to touch. I could stand it for a couple of nights at a time and then I’d have to escape. I took to going to a Koreatown nightclub a few blocks away. As far as I could tell the club had no name, just a plastic sign out front that said “Wine Beer.”
Inside, the Korean regulars welcomed me and yes, I was the only white guy, which was usually the case the months I frequented the club. They handed me a microphone within minutes of my sitting down at the bar and like that I was singing a karaoke version of “Yesterday.” Much like my protagonist Wes in Koreatown Blues, I began dropping in most nights for a couple of Hite beers and to sing a few songs.
My nights drinking beer and singing karaoke led to a one-sided romance with a Korean barmaid (I held up my side) and lots of glimpses into Korean culture. This served me well when I was writing KOREATOWN BLUES, while research filled in the missing bits.
Some wild things never made it into the novel, like the guy who insisted on playing the drums on my head with his chopsticks, until I raised my fist and called him outside; or the Korean who sang an impassioned version of the love theme from Titanic, “I Will Go On” and then at song’s end pulled out an envelope from inside his shirt: X-rays showing his inoperable lung cancer.

Friday, December 30, 2016

An Interview with Mark Rogers, author of Koreatown Blues

Mark Rogers is a writer and artist whose literary heroes include Charles Bukowski, Willie Vlautin and Charles Portis.  He lives most of the year in Baja California, Mexico with his Sinaloa-born wife, Sophy. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice and other publications and his travel journalism has brought him to 54 countries; these trips have provided plenty of inspiration for his novels and screenplays. His crime novel Koreatown Blues will be published by Brash Books, Feb. 2017; his mystery novel Red Thread is available from Endeavour Press. Drop into his Wordpress blogs Pissing on My Pistols and Mark Rogers – Author for news about upcoming books from him.

You’re a journalist. Did you start off with short stories or dive right in to fiction?

I started writing fiction in the fifth grade, which was the year I discovered the writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the Tarzan series. Reading was probably like a drug for me, a way to shut out the world. I’ve never been drawn to writing short stories, and didn’t write fiction at all for many years, until the 1980s, when I wrote the novella now titled “Night Within Night.” Other unpublished novels followed, as well as unproduced screenplays. Luckily, I found rewards in the process, since I had very little encouragement. This all changed last April, when I had four novels contracted in one month, from four different publishers. Some of these works had been knocking around for decades, while others, like “Koreatown Blues,” were written in the last year or so. That very first novella, “Night Within Night” will be published next year by London-based Endeavour Press. I’m very psyched to have made the transition from “writer” to “author.”

Most writers are readers, who are the writers who influenced you?

It’s a bit like an archeological dig, with the deepest layer being Edgar Rice Burroughs, up to Knut Hamsun and Henry Miller in my late teens, to Charles Bukowski, Charles Portis, Charles Willeford, and Willy Vlautin. I’ve come to enjoy a crisp, clean line, which is what I try to do in my own work.  Kaurismäki.
On the crime novel side, I’m a big fan of John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, and Raymond Chandler. There are other one-offs that I cherish, like “The Hustler” by Walter Tevis, and “Fat City” by Leonard Gardner. I think I’m also influenced by film, especially the movies by Finnish director Aki

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Koreatown Blues by Mark Rogers ... a review

A man walks into a Korean karaoke bar and …
It sounds like the beginning of a joke but it’s not, and by the time the first chapter of Mark Rogers’ outstanding Koreatown Blues concludes with a bang, you’ll realize it’s just the opening riff of a mystery that revitalizes the L.A. noir tradition from the inside out. Readers who know Los Angeles will be delighted by the specificity of the local color. (I lived in Koreatown when I first moved to L.A., and Rogers nails it.)
The story is tight, the prose is taut, and the pacing is cinematic as Rogers unspools his plot, a fantastic thing involving blood feuds and murdered husbands and what the proprietor of the bar refers to (with grim understatement) as “bad business.”
All that would be pleasure enough, but Rogers also knows how to flesh out a character so that everyone from his Latino employees to a flirtatious gypsy cab driver have their moments to shine on the page. Rogers’ L.A. is people with hard-working immigrants who give the lie to stereotypes, racist cops who couldn’t care less how people see them, wannabe actors, and cranky old guys like Jules, Wes’ former boss, who used to tell him that you can outsource a lot of things in America but you still have to go local to get a haircut, your sink fixed, or your car washed.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Two of my favorite things--cats and science

If you're on Facebook, you might want to check out the remarkably silly page, "Cats in Space Quoting Scientists." Because some very funny people have WAY too much time on their hands.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A picture is worth a thousand words

The new president-elect is all about image so he knows exactly what kind of message he's sending with this Christmas tweet pic. Scares the bejezus out of me. Because really, nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a raised fist. And I love (not) that he felt compelled to add "President-elect" to his name, as if we don't know who he is.

Water Taxi in a River of Vampire Fish

I love it when I'm looking for something particular and then something completely unexpected pops up on my radar. I was following a link to a set of sci-fi romantic adventures and on a whim decided to see what was on offer in the freebie Kindle store today. (Because it's never too late to get myself a Christmas present.) I saw this book and went, "squee." A drowned New York. A sinister plot. And two bonus stories. My kind of read. You can find it free yourself here. And if you do download it, let me know what you think of it!

Poetry inspired by Shakespeare

Destination Shakespeare is a book of 24 poems published by Vancouver-based Misfit Press. You can see an animation of one of the poems here (just click on the book cover). I wish I'd known about this book before Christmas because I know a few people who would have loved to find it in their stocking (including ME).

Friday, December 23, 2016

I'm old enough to remember the last arms race

I was just a little girl when the US and Russia went eye to eye and toe to toe in Cuba. I remember sitting on our living room couch next to my mother as she watched John F. Kennedy's speech to the nation during those terrible days in October. (My father wasn't home. A career Army officer, he was "on alert" and getting ready, if need be, to be deployed.)

I didn't really understand what was going on so I asked my mother. "The president's telling us we're going to war," my mother said. I was terrified. The word "war" was still pretty abstract to me but I understood that if we went to war, it meant my father would be fighting it. In this Strangelovian world Americans now find ourselves in, I am more frightened now than I have been in decades.
Donald Trump is going to kill us all. It is no consolation at all knowing that Trump Tower and the White House are both at Ground Zero and no matter what nuclear horror follows the apocalypse he is threatening to unleash, he won't be around to profit by it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stephen King...

I couldn't have said it better myself. But then, I can rarely say anything better than Stephen King.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cory Booker's Book Club

This is what he has to stay about it:

This past summer we read Just Mercy, a powerful memoir about our criminal justice system written by human rights attorney—and one of my heroes—Bryan Stevenson. It was an honor having Bryan join us for a live video chat to discuss his book and answer many of your questions. I look forward to having many similar discussions this year.

To kick off our 2017 Book Club, we’ve chosen a must-read book that takes a hard look at the human impact on our environment. Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-prize winner, The Sixth Extinction, has been recommended to me by so many people I’ve lost count. And as we head into a year when we’ll need to fight even harder for a more sustainable future, it’s an especially important read—I hope you’ll join me and open this book right away.

Here's where you can sign up for it.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A new series for a new year

Thanks to cover designer Daniel Weiss of the Book Cover Designer, I have a shiny new cover for my new series of SF books that will be coming out next year. I have another book already planned, Data Witch, and the two covers look like a set. (My designer is still working on Data Witch.)

The two covers were my Christmas present to me and thanks to a holiday sale, I snagged both for less than $100. I have about thirty on my "wish list," so I suspect that a little more of my Christmas cash will go to the site. (I have been a remarkably good girl this year, although I didn't write nearly as much as I wanted to.) Daniel gave me three different options on where to put my by-line but I think I like this one best.

Advent Ghosts 2016

Photo by Sally Columni/Pixabay

This year I am participating in Loren (I Saw Lightning Fall) Eaton's writing challenge--a spooky little drabble (a story of exactly 100 words). You can go to his site for links to all the other stories. Check them out here. My story is below.

                                                      COLD COMFORT

It was snowing when Ella reached the cemetery. She didn’t really mind the wet smack of snowflakes on her bare skin; icy kisses that melted into her hair and trickled down her neck. Although the cemetery would not close for another hour, Ella was alone as she made her way to a grave heaped with blood-red roses that had faded and freeze-dried in the frigid air. 

She looked down, trying to imagine her husband sleeping beneath her feet. She supposed he was with Jesus now but she wouldn’t know. Neither murderers nor suicides go to heaven and she was both.