Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Interview with Amelia Mangan

Amelia Mangan is a writer originally from London, currently living in Sydney, Australia. Her writing is featured in many anthologies, including Attic Toys (ed. Jeremy C. Shipp); Blood Type (ed. Robert S. Wilson); Worms, After The Fall, X7 and No Monsters Allowed (ed. Alex Davis); The Bestiarum Vocabulum (ed. Dean M. Drinkel); Carnival of the Damned (ed. Henry Snider); and Mother Goose is Dead (eds. Michele Acker & Kirk Dougal). Her short story, "Blue Highway," won Yen Magazine's first annual short story competition and was featured in its 65th issue. She can be found on Twitter (@AmeliaMangan) and Facebook.

You’re originally from London. What brought you to Sydney and how long have you been there?

My dad went to prison for fraud when I was seven, so my mum and I came over here to stay with my grandmother. I've lived here ever since (in Australia, not with my grandmother), so that makes twenty-six years come August.

You’ve published a number of short stories, was it hard for you to transition to longer work like Release?

Yeah, longer work's tougher, no question. First drafts of short stories usually take me about ten days to complete, which means it's out of my system quicker and I can move on sooner. The thing about longform work is that you really need to be sure you like these characters and this world enough to soldier on with them for months, maybe years at a time, and even if you do like them enough to do that, there's gonna be points where you get thoroughly sick of them and begin to cast longing glances at your notebook full of ideas for other novels. But if the idea is genuinely good - and bad ones will reveal themselves relatively quickly; they're unsustainable and blow over like cardboard - then it's worth pursuing to the end.

Was Release your first novel? How long did it take to write?

It's not the first novel I attempted, but it's the first I ever finished. I'm a little embarrassed to say it took eight years, mainly because I was at university and then did the postgrad thing and, basically, life and physical exhaustion got in the way for a bit. At one point I came dangerously close to just destroying the file and salting the earth behind it, but reason (I won't say sanity) prevailed.

Do you have a “process” for writing? A certain number of pages a day? Or words a day? Do you write on your birthday and holidays? Take weekends off?

I try to do at least five hundred words a day, but if I don't meet that, I don't sweat it (unless I'm on a deadline, of course). My feeling is that, even if you only get one sentence down in a day, you're a sentence ahead of where you were the day before. And I hate that whole "REAL WRITERS WRITE EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THEIR LIVES NO EXCUSES I DON'T CARE IF YOUR WHOLE FAMILY DIED" thing that's become prevalent in writing communities; I see how it can be useful to some who find it difficult to actually sit down and do the work, but too often I see it used as a stick for writers to beat themselves with when they fail to meet that self-imposed standard. And writers don't need any more excuses to hate themselves.

Do you listen to music when you’re writing? What’s most often on your playlist?

Not while I'm writing - I need silence for that - but adjacent to writing, absolutely. Everything I've ever written has a playlist; a few of the ones on Release's (Irma Thomas' "Ruler of My Heart", Wanda Jackson's "Funnel of Love", the folk song "In The Pines", Patsy Cline's "Walking After Midnight") made it into the text. The style and tone of the music on each playlist varies according to the style and tone of, and emotional state I want to evoke with, each individual story, but PJ Harvey seems to show up on all of them eventually - which, seeing as how she's my favorite musician, is not entirely surprising.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Character interview: Yalira of Bride of the Midnight King

Portrait of Yalira by Joanne Renaud
As part of the March Mayhem promotion, artist/rwiter Kat Laurange is hosting a "character interview" with Yalira, the heroine of Bride of the Midnight King. It's a lot of fun to answer questions in the voice of a character you've created, and I hope readers will enjoy it. You can see the interview on Kat's blog here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Interview with Lynne Connolly

  From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

Lynne Connolly writes historical romance, paranormal romance and contemporary romance. She loves the conflicts and complications that come about if someone lives their life to the full.
She has her own blog, but she also blogs for The Good, The Bad and The Unread, the UK Regency/Georgian writers' blog and The Raven Happy Hour.

She lives in the UK with her family and her mews, a cat called Jack. She also enjoys making and decorating dolls' houses. She visits the US at least once a year, attends conferences and has a great time.
Did you read historical novels as a child? If so, do you remember any favorites?

        Yes, I loved them! I loved, and still do, Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Dean’s Watch.” All her historicals are marvellous, but that one especially. I devoured all the books by Georgette Heyer, Norah Lofts, Jean Plaidy, Phillip Lindsay and others. Everything I could get my hands on.

You’ve said you love all eras of history—particularly Tudor and Georgian England. If you could live during any era in any place, where would it be, and what is it about that time/place that attracts you?

1754 London. I’m in love with that era. Really, it’s pure love. The liveliness of the people, the developments in the law and policing, the beautiful houses, the sumptuous clothes, the fact that men still wore swords every day, and weren’t afraid of their feminine sides, the literature - the 18th century was bursting with life.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Interview with Donna Thorland

 From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

Author Donna Thorland earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has been a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow and a WGA Writer's Access Project Honoree, and has written for the TV shows Cupid and Tron: Uprising. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project aired on WNET Channel 13. Her fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Her Revolutionary War novels are published by Penguin NAL and she writers urban fantasy for Pocket under the name D.L. McDermott. Donna is married with two cats and splits her time between Salem and Los Angeles.

Her latest novel, the Dutch Girl, is available here and in bookstores natiowide. It is part of her "Renegades of the American Revolution" series of historical fiction.

You have a degree in classics and art history. Why the American Revolutionary period rather than ancient Greece or Rome?

I wanted to write swashbucklers and it seemed to me that the American Revolution was crying out for stories like that, particularly with a female protagonist.

If you could live during any era in any place, where would it be, and what is it about that time/place that attracts you?

Kitchen Magic and Paranormal Fiction

In The Truth Cookie by Fiona Dunbar., the young heroine falls heir to a very unusual recipe book and hijinks ensue. I write a lot of food-related articles and have written and ghost-written a number of cookbooks in my career. And I have always thought there was something magical about the alchemy that occurs when you put ingredients together in a certain order. (And as any baker knows, if you get certain ingredients out of order, instead of something delicious, you're often left with a mess.)
here's a delightful middle grade book called

Kitchen Witchery. I haven't really seen any paranormals that feature heroines whose power is domestic. there's Annette Blair's "Accidental Witch" trilogy that begins with The Kitchen Witch. And there's ... not much else. At least that I can find. Even GoodReads, which has lists for EVERYTHING wasn't much help on this one. I find myself intrigued by the possibility of writing a paranormal story where the witch's magic is based in herbcraft and plants and ingredients that go into everyday food. What if you had a (literal) magician in the kitchen of your restaurant? What if you ran a catering company and your food could literally work miracles? What if you were the "lunch lady" at a school where kids were committing suicide and you could help them? What if you volunteered at Meals on Wheels and your bag lunches and hot entrees could cure?  And of course there's all kinds of malevolent magic that can be worked through food. There was a reason rulers used to employ food tasters!
Yet another thought to add to the potential plot file.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Artists Who Write/Writers Who Art

Ambrose Bierce by J.H.E. Partington
I actually know a lot of artists who write. In addition to Joanne Renaud and Kat Laurange, I can name friends--John Donald Carlucci, Mark Satchwill, Jefferson Moore--as well as inspirations--Edward Gorey, Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, Janell Cannon (writer/illustrator of the lovely Stellaluna), and misanthropic writer.artist Ambrose Bierce.

I first encountered Bierce as an illustrator. I thought his King Arthur illustrations were fantastic. (To see a portfolio of his illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Salome. go here.)

Beardsley's illustrations were lush and detailed and for me, as much as Alphonse Mucha, defined Art Nouveau.
He had a very distinct style, and even for a kid, instantly recognizable.

I then stumbled across The Devil's Dictionary (formerly known as The Cynic's Word Book), a dark satire that was snarky and satisfying. For example: 
(n.) One skilled in circumvention of the law.

I then read a number of his short story collections, which tended toward the fantastical and speculative. I liked his short fiction a lot--especially his writing on war--and wondered why he was so often eclipsed by Mark Twain in English classes. 

Here's an interesting article on whether Ambrose Bierce was a better writer than Mark Twain. I don't think he was--I took a whole semester of Twain when I was in college and read pretty much everything he wrote, including "War Prayer" and Gilded Age. I think Twain had more range. But if you're stacking up short stories, I'll take Ambrose Pierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" over "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Kurt Vonnegut considered the Bierce story to be the greatest short story ever written.

Friday Freebie: Wild-Born by Adrian Howell

This novel sounds like it's something different in paranormal although it is a little weird that the author of the book has named the protagonist after himself. ("Adrian Howell" is actually the author's pen name and you can learn more about him and his books on his website.) I'm fascinated by "psy war" books ever since I discovered that the now-deceased police officer Pat Price  was a "remote viewer" and used to teach Learning Tree classes in the skill. (I SO wanted to take one of those classes but they were never offered at a good time for me.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Interview with author/artist Kat Laurange

 From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

 Introducing Kat Laurange, author of Somebody Brave, published this week.

I am in awe of what you get accomplished. I’m connected to you on Good Reads and every time I log on, you have read two or three more books and reviewed them. With a freelance career and a young son, and other commitments—how do you do it? Do you ever sleep? (I am totally onboard with your petition to have the day extended to 72 hours).

Wow, thanks! I've gotten pretty good at wedging things like reading into the interstices of daily life and responsibility--you can get a surprising amount of reading done in little five minute bites.

Do you listen to music as you work and if so, what was in your playlist for this book?

I try to find music that suits the mood of whatever I'm working on. A lot of writers use movie soundtracks, but I can't do that--that music already belongs to a different story, you know? My playlists usually end up a weird mix of Japanese rock (I love Gackt), bluegrass, and indie music.

AP or Chicago Manual of Style?

AP ALL THE WAY. And yes, I deplore the Oxford comma (but I'll still use it if it's truly, absolutely and entirely necessary)!

If you could live during any era in any place, where would it be, and what is it about that time/place that attracts you?

I'd like to be a pioneer: so I guess either back in the 1800s when the American frontier was being explored, or else sometime in the future when we start colonizing other planets. The adventure and the hard work really appeal to me, as well as the idea of both being far away from the parent civilization and starting something new. Interplanetary colonies probably don't need artists, though, so I'll probably have to learn a new skill before they let me go to Mars. :D

Which came first, the pictures or the words? Or did you always write and illustrate your own stories?

Pretty much for as long as I can remember! When I was about 7, my parents gave me a laptop (this was in the mid-80's, so you can imagine this little kid pecking out stories on a huge brick of a machine), and I wrote stories about my stuffed animals and their adventures, and drew pictures to go along. When I get stuck for an idea in my writing, I can usually turn to my sketchbook and knock some things loose from my backbrain--often, things I hadn't even considered in the forefront of my mind! So the drawing informs the writing and vice versa.

Cemetery fiction

Source: Wikipedia
When I was a kid, you could--if for some reason you wanted to--picnic at Arlington National Cemetery. For me, this was not as bizarre a concept as it might have been to some people because in the South, there's a tradition of "visiting relatives" in graveyards, cleaning up around tombstones and memorial markers, and generally "keeping in touch." There are some truly beautiful cemeteries in the South, from the above-ground vaults in New Orleans' Saint Louis No. 1 to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. (If you've seen the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, you've seen one of the cemetery monuments from Bonaventure.)

I'm not alone in my appreciation of a beautiful cemetery. Life's Business Insider once ran a pictorial called "20 of the World's Most Stunning Cemeteries." (Find it here.) Cemeteries from all over the globe were photographed, and the US still had some of the most beautiful. Some of my favorite fantasy books are set in cemeteries. They are:

For the TBR Pile: Teriyaki Samurai

I'm always a bit skeptical of books that are billed as "hilarious" and "zany." (I'm also deeply suspicious of "whimsical. In general, I have found, I am not a fan of whimsy.") But this book caught my eye today as I skimmed through the daily avalanche of emails offering free (and not-so-free) ebooks. I love road trip novels. (Handling Sin is one of my all-time favorite novels) and I'm always willing to give them a try. the Teriyaki Samurai.  Watch this space!

Some Thoughts on Historical Fiction

From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

I've always been an omnivorous reader. I've always read a lot of nonfiction--I loved biographies when I was in elementary school and these days I'm a sucker for books like Bowling Alone, The Collapse and Revival of American Community and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. I also love reading travel memoirs, from Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence to Video Night in Kathmandu. When I worked at Warner Bros. there was a travel bookstore just down the street and I probably bought two books a week there. So many places to visit! And I think my fascination with other places has carried over into my fascination with other times. Fatherland and The Years of Rice and Salt.
And alternate versions of time. (Loved Robert Harris'

Even as a kid when I read fiction, I read widely and without a lot of discrimination. I loved mysteries and they were my go-to books of choice, but I lived in a neighborhood with a small library and after I'd read all the mysteries, I started reading everything else. My library had two sections--fiction and nonfiction, plus a shelf of LARGE PRINT books for the grannies and a little cubby hole of children's books for the little ones. And that was it. You had Agatha Christies novels shelved next to Bernard Cornwell's and Arthur C. Clarke. It was like the literary equivalent of the iPod Shuffle. I'd just pick up books that looked interesting.

Excerpt from DOORS by Joanne Renaud

From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

Artist/illustrator Joanne Renaud's new novel, Doors is a sequel to her 2915 A Question of Time. As the title implies, the story involves a form of time travel, but she has created a new twist on an old trope, playing with the multiverse.  Here's how the publishers at Champagne books describe Doors:

Jackie Karam always knew her friend Orne was a weirdo, even before he enlists her help in opening a door to an alternate dimension. His theory is that if one could find a book one lost, a book one loved but can no longer remember anything about, it might open a door to another world. Jackie just happens to have such a book in her past. A science fiction novel her high school teacher had recommended to her before he died in a car crash.

Jackie loves hanging out with her handsome, charming, eccentric friend, so she agrees on a trip back to her hometown to look for Mr. Forrest's book. She finds it in the White Springs library, and just as Orne hoped, opens a door to another dimension, one altered from the world she knows. Not just altered, but better. Her career is a success, her old teacher is alive and well, and her relationship with Orne is so much more intimate. Her own world is so drab and hopeless by contrast, she's tempted to stay.

But does she truly belong in this other world? What happens to this world's Jackie if she stays? And what will happen to her, if she refuses to go back through that door? 
 Sounds like fun doesn't it? Here's an excerpt:
Ordinarily I would have been afraid of running in heels, but I was so determined to get down to the Village that it didn’t occur to me to trip. I think a guy whistled at me while I sprinted down the street, but I barely noticed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Raggle Taggle Gypsy--a song for St. Patrick's Day

Photo by
"Raggle Taggle Gypsy" is the Celtic equivalent of "Heard It Through the Grapevine." Everyone with even remotely Irish roots has covered it. Celtic Thunder used it as their curtain call song in one of their tours and while you can hear that version on Jango, the video with the great choreography their tours are known for is no longer available on YouTube.

This version, from Mick O'Connor and "Bobbin Along" is actually one of my favorites. It appears and disappears on YouTube, and has reappeared just in time for a little March 17th celebration. It's no wonder that it's the one Irish song everybody knows. the tune is infectious, bouncy and so lively you just want to dance. It was G.K. Chesterton who said,“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” 

I don't agree with the "merry wars part," but Irish songs can be so very sad. And the saddest ones are those that are calls to arms from various sides of the sectarian violence known as "the Troubles." "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" comes from a strain of folk songs that inspired the Appalachian folk songs I learned as a child, songs that really haven't changed  much in the hundreds of years they've been sung, songs that were accompanied by fiddles and hammered dulcimers and autoharps and flutes.

I love the ballad language of the song--"the milk-white steed" has been a trope of ballads since forever. And of course, the story is a tale of love and betrayal--a juicy story in other words. And I love a good story.

Sarra Cannon Cover Reveal

Yet another fabulous cover by Ravven. I feel so lucky to have snagged two of her pre-designed covers and look forward to a time when I can afford to have her redo pretty much all my covers. Not that I don't love my current covers but ... Ravven.

Sarra is combining two of her series--The Peachtree Demonds and Beautiful Demons--and this, Forgotten Darkness, is number eight in what she now calls the "Shadow Demons Saga."

Enter and Win!! Five Authors, Fifteen Days, Lots of Prizes

March Mayhem: Five Writers, Fifteen Days, A Whole Lot of Prizes!!!

Enter to win our swag basket including some incredible and unique prizes from five amazing authors, including Donna Thorland, Lynne Connolly, Kat Parrish (aka Katherine Tomlinson), Joanne Renaud and Kat Laurange!

From AAR-nominated author Donna Thorland, we bring you two (2) autographed trade paperbacks of The Dutch Girl and Mistress Firebrand, the latest books in her acclaimed Renegades of the Revolution series!

From bestselling author Lynne Connolly, we bring you one (1) ebook copy of her latest Georgian historical romance, Dilemma in Yellow Silk, and the one-of-a-kind chance to be a character in her next contemporary romance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Interview with author/artist Joanne Renaud

From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

And now, on to the interview with Joanne Renaud!

Let’s talk about Doors, your latest novel, a time-travel romance.

Do you listen to music as you write and if so, what was in your playlist for this book?

Why yes, I listened to a great deal of music—Doors is partially about people bonding through music, even if they don’t always listen to the same thing. Orne, the hero of Doors, is an ex-raver who loves electronica, both classic and current (including seminal acts like Phuture and Orbital), and Jackie is an ex-punk who loves Rage Against the Machine.  You can listen to the playlist here—there are many songs that I referred to throughout the book, including Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio,” and Phuture’s “Acid Trax.”

Did you watch any television shows or movies to transport you to the period? Any other resources you used?

Well, Doors isn’t really a time travel book where people travel to another period of history—it’s more about how parallel timelines form as a result of time travel.  It’s more along the lines of Sliding Doors or Lathe of Heaven. (Lathe and Ursula LeGuin was a HUGE influence on this book.) It’s very much in the multiverse theory of time travel. It’s set in the present day. (Well, 2010.)

Your first book, A Question of Time, was also a time-travel romance, but Doors is not a direct sequel. Will there be a third time-travel book to “round out” the series?

Yup! There’s going to be a third book, set in 1966—it’s called Out of Time.  It gets into the origin event of what causes the ‘time bubble’ phenomenon in the first place, plus Cold War spying shenanigans and mod culture and music and lots of awesome swinging ‘60s stuff. It’s set in New York, again, but it’s such a fascinating city to me.

It's Going to be a Long Wait Until May!

Joe Hill has a new book out. The Fireman. It publishes in May and if the reading gods are with me, I'll be lucky enough to read it in manuscript for one of my clients, a film company developing the film version of Hill's novel Heart-Shaped Box. They know I love the man's work--yes, even Horns, which was an interesting idea even though iI didn't think it worked as a movie. (Through no fault of Daniel Radcliffe, who was great in it. And there's one scene he has where the character's mother tells him what she really thinks of him that will break your heart.)

Neon Noir and returning to my roots

My name is Katherine Tomlinson and I'm a short story writer.
There, I've said it.
Yes, I write longer stuff.
Yes, I still write non-fiction.
Yes, I write scripts and teleplays and web series episodes.
But in my heart, I am a short story writer. I say this knowing that even masters of the short story form don't really make much money from their work. Paying markets for short stories are few and far between, although the mystery, science fiction, and fantasy genres are putting up a valiant fight to keep the short story form alive.
I've been concentrating on longer work of late, trying to ignore the siren call of the short story. I'm writing something for Gerri Leen's "Dark Goddess" anthology, and every time the new "Dark Markets" comes out, I see one or two "calls for submission" that pique my interest. Most of the time I ignore that little tingle of electricity and go back to working on my novel. But every so often, I see an opportunity that I cannot ignore. Like the one for a crime fiction story that's "Neon Noir."  Inspired by the 80s with all the fashion and music and awesomeness that decade possessed.
I lived through the 80s.
I got this.

Beauty and the Beast retold in Christine Pope's Wolf of Harrow Hall

"Beauty and the Beast" is one of the most beloved fairy tales ever told. Right now there are two different film versions being developed. Christophe Gans' gorgeous French language version is available on YouTube. And if you go on GoodReads looking for a retelling of the tale, you're directed to a list with 1006 results, one of them my own novelette The Summer Garden. (There are 2611 retellings of "Cinderella" so that's even more popular as source material.)

Christine Pope likes "Beauty and the Beast." She retold it in her novella Breath of Life, which kickstarted her Gaia Consortium Series. And now she's used the story as a basis for a lush, snow-bound love story called The Wolf of Harrow Hall. Part of her Tales of the Latter Kingdoms series--all stand-alone fairy tales--Wolf has a gorgeous cover by Ravven, and an original new mythos that explains the nature of the beast. Buy it now at Amazon and on other publishing platforms.

Drunk on the Moon--Werewolf PI Roman Dalton is back

Roman Dalton, the werewolf PI created by Paul D. Brazill, first appeared on the pages of Dark Valentine Magazine, a orint and digital publication I published. We ran a second adventure of Roman's and soon after that, Paul invited me to join him and a group of other writers (Kate Laity, John Donald Carlucci, Allan Leverone) to contribute a story to his anthology of Roman Dalton stories, Drunk on the Moon.
It was a lot of fun playing in Paul's sandbox and I enjoyed writing my story, which included Persian fire demons, albanian gangster werewolves and a whole lot of weirdness.
There's a new eidtion of the anthology out now with a deliberately retro cover, and newly slicked up stories. Right now it's free on Kindle, so if you like urban fantasy and hard-boiled noir, you should check it out.

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon, a review

In Joseph Kanon’s book, Leaving Berlin, an American Communist writer returns to Berlin as a spy and discovers that the woman he once loved is now a Russian spy. This is a nicely atmospheric, character-driven spy thriller set roughly the same time as Kanon’s previous book TThe Good German. We’re immediately dropped into the complex political and ideological situation that was postwar Berlin, and Kanon does an excellent job of introducing us to the various characters with a minimum of fuss. The city (as much a character as any of the humans) is haunted for Alex, and a series of flashbacks fills in his complicated relationship with his former lover . (All of Kanon’s books have a woman like Irene, even Los Alamos, and we’re reminded of the line from The Good German, “You should never have come back to Berlin.”)

This is Alex’s story and he’s an intriguing protagonist. He’s a man being manipulated, but he doesn’t come off as weak or passive. His friends—like the playwright Bertolt Brecht—and his admirers—almost everyone—respect his work, which is passionate and anti-Fascist and brave. But it’s not simple—nothing is simple in Berlin.

City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley

I have been a fan of Kelli Stanley's wonderful historical mysteries since my friend Cormac Brown gave me a copy of her "Roman noir" Nox Dormienda. When Kelli came to Los Angeles to sign the first book of her San Francisco-based historical mysteries, City of Dragons, I bought a copy and had it autographed. I loved the book and have since read two of the three sequels. The heroine is Miranda Corbie, a private eye with a past and a passion for justice.

I recommended City of Dragons to the book club I belong to in Bellingham--the Bellingham Mysterians--join us on Facebook--and it looks like this one is a winner. (We don't always agree on the books we read.) If you love historical mysteries with social issues wrapped up in the plot, you will LOVE these books. And if you love elegant book covers, the whole series has wonderful covers.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Angel Artifact

Sometimes you get a story bunny that just will not leave you alone, no matter how often you push it aside. The last time that happened to me was when the "Vampire Cinderella" idea pushed me to write Bride of the Midnight King.  I know where this one came from--hours spent refining my entry into the "Be James Patterson's co-author" contest, along with thinking about under-used supernatural beings in paranormal books.
The idea is that a little kid, a girl, I think, finds an angel feather in the woods. It's big--bigger than she is, anyway, and looks like a piece of brushed steal sculpture until you touch it. She brings the angel back home and takes it upstairs to show it to her little brother, a kid with some congenital and fatal disease who is bed-bound. And when he touches it,he's healed.
And consequences ensue.
I figure there are several of these angel feather artifacts scattered all over the world and some have been used for harming as well as healing.
How do you destroy such an artifact? It's not like you can throw it into the fires of Mt. Doom.
And of course, word of this object would get out.
And the government would probably get involved.
Maybe now that I've written this much down, the idea will be happy to sit in the back of my unconscious.
i know there's something there, but not sure what to do with it.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Shakespeare Goodness--Helen Mirren's TEMPEST for free

I've seen a lot of productions of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I've seen a Comnedia dell'arte production iperformed solely n Italian during the a cultural "Olympics" that accompanied the 1984 L.A. Summer Olympics, I've seen a production in San Diego with three oversized seashells as the only set (Ellis Rabb played Prospero) and I've seen two more traditional versions, one with Anthony Hopkins and Stephanie Zimbalist and one with Christopher Plummer as the vengeful mage.

When I found out Helen Mirren was going to do a female version of the play with Julie (The Lion King) Taymor directing, I was intrigued but somehow I never managed to catch the 2010 production. But now, thanks to YouTube, I can see the whole movie for free! It was worth the wait. Djimon Hounsou plays Caliban, who has the best line in the play (and one of my favorite lines in all of Shakespeare) when he says, "You taught me language and my profit on't is I know how to curse." 
This was Shakespeare's last play, the culmination of a career, a master at the top of his game.
Enjoy it here.

Finding Clarity, Setting Goals

Yet another book for the TBR pile. I'm always looking for ways to map out the path of my life because there have been long stretches where it feels like I've been wandering down random paths in search of something. This book has been recommended to me by a number of people, so my first goal is to sit down and read it.

Nuclear sun over Bellingham

Photo by Shay Y. Roberts
Most of the time, Bellingham is silver and green. But sometimes, when the light is just right, the city is bathed in molton gold.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Henry Rollins has something to say and it's worth listening to

One of my favorite Henry Thoreau quotes has to do with not wasting time--"as if you could waste time without injuring eternity." Who knew that Henry Rollins and Henry Thoreau were brothers under the skin? Wonder what kind of a tattoo Thoreau would have gotten if he was the kind of guy who got inked?

Angelfall by Susan Ee--a review

In a post-apocalyptic world, a human joins forces with an angel to rescue her little sister as a resistance movement launches its first mission against the supernatural creatures.
Definitely in the dystopian tradition of Hunger Games, this story of a world in which paranormal creatures rule the night has a fine, feisty heroine, an intriguing anti-hero angel without wings and a quest. It’s well-written but derivative (especially for readers of the genre in general and Hunger Games in particular).
PENRYN YOUNG is 17 and basically in charge of her family—her mentally ill mother and her disabled sister PAIGE—in the wake of world-wide apocalypse involving angel attacks. Everyone on earth saw GABRIEL, the Messenger of God, killed in Jerusalem and since then, angels have hunted and killed humans for their own uses.
            Penryn is uniquely suited to protect her family since her paranoid mother signed her up for a series of self-defense classes. That’s good because her mother is off her meds and unpredictable and her sister is useless. The family has been hiding out on the top floor of an apartment building, but the bands of roving gangs have been scavenging closer and closer for days. Penryn realizes it’s time to move and despite her mother’s terror of the night (when the streets are empty of humans but filled with all kinds of predators), she wants to move at night. With her mother pushing a shopping cart and Penryn pushing her baby sister in a wheelchair, the trio sets out.

A picture is worth 1000 words #2


I don't often get political. It says right on my blog header that I identify as a feminist, and so I don't feel the need to hit people over the head with it. And I'm pretty passionate about a couple of things--free speech, sane gun laws--and have posted about those issues a few times. I don't think that political beliefs are ever simple. I was brought up by an Eisenhower Republican and a die-hard Democrat who once voted for John Anderson and I would have to be stranded on another planet before I skipped voting.  My father died three days short of an election day in 1985 but it didn't matter beause he had voted by absentee ballot the week before. Yes, my father voted on his death bed. He would have been appalled at the political circus we now call presidential politics.
I am appalled.
I am old enough to remember George Wallace's hate-mongering campaign.
I saw the infamous anti-Barry Goldwater "daisy/nukes" ad in a political science class in college. (This ad was so memorable and potent it practically won LBJ's election single-handedly. And it's now available on YouTube. But it only ran ONCE.  That's how powerful it was.) 

So this election cycle is not my first. I was 19 the first time I voted, one of the first of a generation that was allowed to vote before we reached our "majority" of 21.  That was during the Vietnam War when the rallying cry for lowering the age to vote was, "Old enough to die? Old enough to vote."
Western Illinois University, which has successfully predicted the winner of the presidential election for the last 40 years has released their prediction for 2016. They think it's going to be Bernie Sanders. Which means they think it is NOT going to be Donald Trump. And that is good news to me. Because this country does not need the fear-mongering, hate-filled, "I got mine "message Trump is preaching.

I never understood the Adolf Hitler cult of personality or how anyone could have voted him into office. But now, when I look at Trump speaking (and watch with the sound turned off) and the cynical way he manipulates crowds--I sudddenly see just how easy it was. It's all fun and games until a demagogue gets elected. And if Donald Trump wins, he will take this country down a very dark path.
I now return you to our regularly scheduled blog about food, fiction, and France. 

Dragon Rose by Christine Pope is FREE!

Isn't this a beautiful cover? It's by Ravven, who also designed the covers for my novelette Hunter's Kiss and the first of my Time Flood novels (see sidebar). Dragon Rose is one of the books in Christine Pope's series "Tales of the Latter Kingdoms," which are stand-alone retellings of various fairy tales. Dragon Rose is inspired by Beauty and the Beast, and it's a lovely version. You can find Dragon Rose here.

Aixa and the Scorpion--an excerpt and a freebie

I'll be giving away part one of my three-part urban fantasy series  (La Bruja Roja) for the next five days.  I originally wrote the series under the pseudonym Delia Fontana and over the year or so it's been available, Joy Sillesen has played with the covers, trying out everything from a neat grunnge graphic to the current trio of very paranormal covers. I've loved all the covers and wish I could use them all. This excerpt is from the opening of Aixa and the Scorpion. If you'd like to read more, go grab the freebie on Amazon. And I would LOVE a review if you like it.


When you live in a place called Sangre de Cristo, it almost goes without saying that sometimes not-so-ordinary things are going to happen. In the years I was growing up here, Sangre was mostly just a sleepy little border town straddling the line between Texas and Mexico.
Americans crossed the border in search of cheap drugs and cheap booze and donkey sex shows and Mexicans traveled in the other direction looking for jobs and opportunities and green cards.
We didn’t get many tourists in Sangre de Cristo, so while we weren’t entirely immune to the problems faced by people in Matamoros or El Paso, we were mostly insulated from the bad stuff.
At least we were until 2006 when the drug wars exploded and the fallout left towns on both sides of the border radioactive with cocaine and machismo.
By then I was already living in Austin, taking classes at UT, and trying to figure out my place in the world.
I am a modern woman, but I am heir to an old, old tradition. And the power that I have skips generations. It’s why my mother, who was born in Brownsville, fled the U.S. in the final weeks of her pregnancy, determined that I should be born in Mexico so that I’d be a citizen of both nations. Both nations and two worlds.
She died giving birth to me, which is like something out of a 19th century novel. My father, who had loved her very much, never forgave her for leaving him and basically abandoned me in Sangre de Cristo to grow up in my abuela’s house.
For my 14th birthday my father sent me a present—a Bratz doll—and then two weeks later showed up in Sangre de Cristo knocking on my grandmother’s door with more presents and a sheepish smile.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Freebie--Hyde by Lauren Stewart

I'm always up for a re-imagining of the old horror classics--I've watched more bad Frankenstein reboots than you can imagine--so this book caught my eye. It's the first of a three-book series (isn't everything a trilogy these days?) and it comes with a 4.3 rating on Amazon (from 318 readers). I like the cover of Hyde, and think the trio of covers work well together. the author makes it clear this is a sexy book with dark themes and I'm okay with that. It's described as an urban fantasy and that's still one of my all-time fravorite genres. I can't wait to see what Stewart has done with the Robert Lewis Stevenson classic.

Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

I've always liked actress Mary-Louise Parker. She's done so many different kinds of parts and has always been relatable. (I found her adorable in Red.) But it wasn't until a year or so ago that I discovered she's also a writer, and a very good one.

Dear Mr. You is a collection of "letters" Parker has written to the men who entered and departed from her life with varying degrees of damage and joy. It's a book any woman will relate to. By turns funny and bittersweet--she is REALLY hard on herself sometimes--Dear Mr. You might be a great present to give your mother for Mother's Day--especially if she's a fan of Weeds.

For a sense of her personality, check out this interview from the Washington Post. It also deserves shelf-space next to Carrie Fisher's memoir Wishful Drinking.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Apocalypse Sky

Years ago, I submitted a story called "Monochrome" to an anthology with the premise that suddenly all the color was leached out of the world and writers were asked to explore how that would affect them. "Monochrome" wasn't a great story and it didn't make the cut but I think of that story often when I see the apocalyptic chiaroscuro sunsets we get here in the Pacific Northwest.

Say what you will about the pollution in Los Angeles, it made for some extraordinary, Technicolor sunsets. Here we get sunsets in black and white--gorgeous dark blacks and whites like some heavenly cinematographer was shooting the world in black and white. It's another kind of beauty but it's taken some getting used to.

And I want to write a story about it.

Next for the TBR pile: The Merchant by V.R. McCoy

I actually heard about this #SupernaturalThriller on Twitter. (Yay for social media.) It's got gangsters and vampires and crooked politicians and the Big Easy. What's not to like. I don't know this author but at 99 cents, what do I have to lose?  Can't wait to read it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ghost Storm Giveaway

I love finding new writers by reading "gateway" books being offered as cheese for signing up on thier mailing lists. This cover caught my eye today and looking around at Jessie Costin's site, I'm pretty sure I'm going to love her YA paranormal books. What I  liked about this cover was the colors. Bonus--it's the two Pantone colors of the year!  But the colors drew me in because this is not the same old/same old book cover. You can buy Ghost Storm for 99 cents on Kindle or you can get it free by signing up for the newsletter.Go here to sign up.

The blurb sounded interesting too, sort of a YA version of Haven. I like that the stakes for the heroine go beyond her love life. Another thing I like about Jessie Costin is that she promotes other writers on her site. That's how I heard about D.S. Murphy and her mermaid fantasy Shearwater. (It's been very, very well reviewed and only been out for three months, so it's on the ever-expanding TBR bookcase.)

The next best thing to being in Paris

Is paging through this gorgeous book by Girls Guide to Paris founder Doni Belau. I love the beautiful graphic cover of Paris Cocktails, and the photographs are gorgeous. If you buy the book directly from the author's site, you get bonuses plus a discount, so go here.

In praise of Kinuko Y. Craft

Artwork: © Kinuko. Y. Craft, All Rights Reserved,
The first piece of Kinuko Y. Craft's work I ever saw was this beautiful, strange illustration of a leopard woman drinking from a pool. Or at least that's what it seems to be to me. I wish I knew more. (The painting is called "The Transformation of Angarred" and I don't know anything about the story it's based on.) It immediately spoke to me, taking me to a place beyond reality and I wanted to write a story to match it. Craft calls herself a "storyteller," and it's true. Even if you don't know the story that she's given life in her art, A story suggets itself to you.

Kinuko Y. Craft's beautifully illustrated hardcover retelling of Beauty and the Beast (written by Mahlon F. Craft, Kinuko's husband, an artist/photographer) arrives from Harper Collins this July. You can pre-order it here and you should, because it looks exquisite. And while you're there, you should pick up a copy of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, their previous collaboration,  as well.On her site, you can buy signed posters she created for the Dallas Opera House. They're a bargain for their beauty and this one is going to be my birthday present to myself:
Artwork: © Kinuko. Y. Craft, All Rights Reserved,