Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Janesville, a review

A Washington Post reporter’s intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors’ assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin—Paul Ryan’s hometown—and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class--Janesville is on a lot of year-end "Best Books" lists. It's easy to see why. The event that grounds the book is the closing of a GM parts plant just before Christmas in 2008, a move that threw the struggling blue-collar town into financial disarray. Even as town leaders looked to their hometown hero Paul Ryan to help them out, citizens scrambled to find other jobs. And as in the Bruce Springsteen song, "These jobs are going boy, and they ain't coming back."

Now, nearly a decade later, Ryan (who comes from a wealthy family) has offered his own Christmas present to his constituents, and to the rest of America. And just like GM, his decision was based purely on profit with no regard at all for the human cost of his actions.  We expect corporations to be soulless. It's still a surprise when humans are completely without compassion. It's worth noting that in the 2012 election, Romney and Ryan did not carry the vote in Janesville.

Here's my review:

This is a story that plays out much like the star-studded adaptation of Randy Shilts’ AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, bringing together related plot strands and characters in a story that does not have a happy ending. The writing is very good, and one of the surprises is the sympathetic portrait of Congressman Paul Ryan, who grew up in the wealthy part of Janesville (his family was part of the “Irish Mafia” who got rich in construction), but who seems to have worked very hard to save the plant for his neighbors and constituents. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gifts for Feminists

sisterhood is powerful.

This has been a year when women's voices have begun to be heard, from the millions of women who marched in January to the many women of color who voted their values and led the way in last night's historic Alabama vote. 

The future is female.

This is a year to celebrate the achievements of women and look forward to 2018.  Show your solidarity with your Christmas gifts.

Level up your solitaire game with this pack of 54  cards celebrating women. Just $20 and the perfect size for a stocking suffer. 
You can never have too many t-shirts, right? Buy this "I Stand With Planned Parenthood" t (one of those "graphic t-shirts the fashion blogs are always tweeting abuot) and $2 of every $25 sale will be donated to Planned Parenthood, so that's a win/win. 

Show your appreciation for California's junior senator with a Kamala Harris portrait t from's online store. While you're there, get to know where the Senator stands on the issues that are important to you. Even if you're not one of her constituents, she's working hard for you.

The vote on repealing net neutrality is coming up

I know it's hard not to feel overwhelmed right now. Even though Doug Jones won his election in Alabama (yay Doug Jones and yay for the black women who tipped the voting balance), he won't be seated until after the new year. So the next couple of votes are going to have to be another knife fight. Because nothing is coming easily right now.

Net neutrality should not be a partisan issue. Why would one party want people to have limited access to the internet?  That's the kind of question that leads to conspiracy theories, doesn't it? But if you don't want to see higher cable bills because you want to access Facebook and Twitter, you need to make your voice heard. Because at its heart, this is just another action that seems to be nothing more than a reaction to something President Obama wanted.

We deserve better. And it's cynical to pretend there's any reason WHY net neutrality needs to be repealed. Here's the guy you need to call. If you, like me, have kind of a horror of speaking to strangers, this number leads to voicemail so you can leave your message without actually having to interact with Mr. Pai.  The website 5 has a script you can use.

Ajit Pai, FCC Chairman

The Paranormal Gift Guide

Really, nothing says "holiday" like a vampire gift. I remember years ago when the last book of the Twilight saga had been published and my nearest Bookstar couldn't keep the trilogy in stock at Christmas. The sellers knew it was going to be a phenomenon but even they were taken aback (and brought up short) by the demand.

The paranormal book world has moved on since then, but if you have a hardcore vampire fan on your wish list, you might want to stuff their stockings with some old school bloodsucking reads like Les Daniel's awesome Spanish/Aztec The Silver Skull. (It's actually part two of a duology, but it can be read as a stand-alone.) The book is out of print but pretty readily available as a used book on Amazon. (

There's a more expensive hardcover version available on Etsy and if you go on Etsy in search of the book, why not pick up some "Vampire Kisses" bathbombs while you're at it.)

Continuing the Vampire theme, no collection of vampire horror is complete without the late, great Tanith Lee's Blood 20, which is available from Telos Books, a UK publisher. it's not cheap at almost 15 pounds, but while supplies last, the books come with stickers signed by Lee herself. This one is definitely on MY wish list.

If you're looking for an historical vampire novel for someone who has already read Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night or Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, you might check out Lauren Owen's debut novel The Quick, which is set in Victorian London.

If you're a fan of Game of Thrones, you may not know that before he embarked on that epic book journey, George R. R. Martin wrote a series of one-off horror novels including one called Armageddon Rag (about a rock band that resurrects their lead singer) and Fevre Dream, a dark, sensual nightmare of a vampire novel. It's a vampire novel for people who don't think they like vampire novels and it's a lot of fun. More Vampire-themed stocking stuffers include Black Phoenix Labs' perfume oils inspired by Jim Jarmusch's lush movie Only Lovers left Alive. You'll need to act fast, though. Cut-off for domestic Christmas mailing is today, December 13. Other vampire-themed gifts that aren't books include Dracula t-shirts found on Red Bubble (mostly featuring various Bela Lugosi images) or the super-cute Japanese-inspired "Dracula blood-drive t-shirt that features tiny Draculas. (Find it on Snorg.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fun with Pictures

There was a Facebook challenge going around earlier this month--take one picture a day in black and white and post it without comment. The idea was ... no people and no explanation. It was a lot of fun. and I stumbled across the insanely useful and free website LunaPic, a place that enabled me to convert my color snaps to black and white.  LunaPic is a free online photo editor and it allows you to do all kinds of snazzy things with your photos. They have a filter called "space" that I'm especially fond of. It enabled me to change my fairly boring head shot into this.

Playing around on the site is a most excellent distraction from any unpleasantness that might be going on in your life. I highly recommend it.

The Net Neutrality Vote is Thursday

The chairman of the FCC wants to repeal "net neutrality."

Here's a really good explanation of what that means, put together by ABC news. If you're not sure where your Senator stands on the issue, here's a handy site with that information (and more). At this point, petitions and postcards are not particularly helpful but calling your representatives is. Daily KOS has put together a list of phone numbers. Here it is. (And keep it handy because there's going to be a new vote on the evil tax plan pretty soon as well.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

My favorite dinosaur-themed gift

I have never really had bookends because I usually have so many books stuffed in my bookcases there's no need for them. But if I did need some bookends, I'd buy these.

They're not cheap--$65 from Etsy, but they are unique and playful and they are perfect for the dino-lover/book lover in your life.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Say NO on repealing Net Neutrality

Here's a video that explains what you have to lose if Net Neutrality is repealed.

And here's John Oliver explaining it way better than I could.  There's going to be a vote on Net Neutrality on Wednesday. I'll be posting some tips on how to protest this. But in the's what I'm talking about.

A picture is worth a thousand words

My mother was a commercial artist with a degree in fine art, and so our home was filled with art--paintings she'd done, paintings and prints she picked up  on her travels, pieces of sculpture, objects she prized for their intrinsic beauty (shells and rocks and pretty pieces of crockery). When I first started fournishing my own apartment, I did what every 20-something did and bought posters. (One of which, a stunning 1978 poster for AIDA is now out of print.  YOu can buy it for $1200 on Instadibs.  I sooo wish I still had that poster, which went missing during one of my moves.)

But one day I stumbled across an arts fair in a park near my apartment and discovered I could buy ORIGINAL ART for the same price (or even less) than a copy of the Picasso Don Quixote print (you know the one) or the reproduction of Ansel Adams "Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico (you also know that one, and did you know the bidding started at more than half a million when a print was auctioned by Sotheby's in 2006).
Then eBay came along and suddenly you could buy art from all over the world. It wasn't necessarily cheap--I paid $500 for a painting by a Vermont artist who signed her paintings VERTE--but the works were original and I wasn't going to see them in every corporate waiting room and low-end motel in the city.
Then I discovered Red Bubble. And Etsy. And well, let's just say that I now choose my living quarters by how much available wall space there is.

Art is a great gift to give people but it's so very, very personal that unless you know someone REALLY well, the best thing to do is buy a greeting card that's an art piece you like and then enclose a gift card for a site your friend might enjoy browsing.

On Redbubble, posters begin in the $12 range and go up, depending on size. You can get something like one of Tanyashatseva's dreamy, spacetime inspired glitter-infused acrylic paintings called "Nahdezhda Nebula") as everything from a sticker to a phone case to a t-shirt to a greeting card if you don't have room for a poster.)  You can even get the image on leggings!

Other sites with original art for sale are:


Root Division (a gallery in San Francisco) also has terrific art in the $200-$500 range, but it's only available for local pickup. That's a shame because there's a piece by Eva Enriquez that calls to me.

Life needs to be beautiful. Do your part. (And remember, no matter how awesome Georgia O'Keefe is, friends don't let friends hang posters of her bones and flowers.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Zombie Apocalypse Christmas

first you have the cards. There are so, so many possibilities, from the Game of Thrones-themed cards to a bazillion variants of Walking Dead cards. And really, what says Christmas better than zombies?  (I have a lot of bah humbug types on my Christmas list.)
Here's a minimalist version.  Attach it to a package of classic zombie books for a theme present:

1.  Seanan McGuire's Feed (the first book in her newwflesh series).  She wrote it under the name Mira Grant. If you haven't heard of it, check it out here.

2.  Jennifer Adele's The Bone Gatherer. I know, I haven't read it either, but the point is to give your friends books they haven't already read. (And am I the only one thinks that World War Z was a tad overrated?)

3.  The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell. Almost 250 reviews on Amazon with a rating of 4.5 out of five stars. This is another book (the first in a trilogy, that wasn't on my radar.

When it comes to fantasy zombies, the master is probably George R. r. Martin and you'll be happy to know that you can give all your Game of Thrones fans a suitable card. There are a bunch out there, but this one is my favorite. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Gifts for the slightly skewed...

You can start off with this *tweaked* Christmas card from Etsy. If you order it now, you still have time to mail it or to tuck it into a gift box.

Maybe you know someone who missed out on the velvet skulls Target was selling for Halloween (they were awesome and by the time I heard about them they were completely sold out.

But that same friend might adore a pair of velvet skull leggings, also on Etsy. (Seriously, Etsy is everything and to prove it,  you can get this really cool skull soap that can be customized for color and fragrance).

New for the TBR pile: Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Recommended by my colleague Katy Lim as a "must-read," Sorry to Disrupt the Peace  sounds fascinating.  Here's the sales pitch from the Amazon page:

Helen Moran is thirty-two years old, single, childless, college-educated, and partially employed as a guardian of troubled young people in New York. She’s accepting a delivery from IKEA in her shared studio apartment when her uncle calls to break the news: Helen’s adoptive brother is dead.

According to the internet, there are six possible reasons why her brother might have killed himself. But Helen knows better: she knows that six reasons is only shorthand for the abyss. Helen also knows that she alone is qualified to launch a serious investigation into his death, so she purchases a one-way ticket to Milwaukee. There, as she searches her childhood home and attempts to uncover why someone would choose to die, she will face her estranged family, her brother’s few friends, and the overzealous grief counselor, Chad Lambo; she may also discover what it truly means to be alive.

A bleakly comic tour de force that’s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and viscerally unsettling, this debut novel has shades of Bernhard, Beckett and Bowles—and it announces the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell.

I am always DEEPLY skeptical of books that are described as "bleakly comical"' but I trust Katy, so I'm going to check it out.

Holiday Gift Guide--part one

This has been a year of terrible natural disasters, from the hurricanes to the horrifying fires now burning in California to the deadly 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico. and that's not even counting flooding in various parts of the world. Even a little bit of money (what the politicians call "small dollar donations") can go a long way toward helping people who need help.

And because you work hard for your money, you'll want to make sure your money works hard for you. Avoid scamsters. check in with Be Wise to see how your charity stacks up.

California Wildfires

Here's a list the L.A. TIMES published of places you can send helpHere's a more extensive list. An d because L.A. is my second hometown and I place I dearly love, I will donate 100% of the proceeds for every copy of my short story anthology, Just Another Day in Paradise, that I sell for the next six months.  Not my royalties, the actual purchase price. (It's only 99 cents.)  The cover image is by a firefighter who also takes photographs. The photo was from another of the apocalyptic fires that periodically rage through the area.

Mexico Earthquake

The most powerful earthquake I ever experienced was the Northridge quake of 1994, which had an official magnitude of 6.7, although I've seen estimtes that it was at least a 6.9.  The earthquake that hit central Mexico earlier this year was a 7.1.  Let that roll around in your head.  At 6.7, you actually hear the freight train roar of the earth grinding together. I can't imagine how much more terrifying that sound would be if it were magnified. L.A. was relatively lucky with that quake. A lot of us lost power and water,. There was structural damage all over the city. (A brick building a block from my apartment building SHOOK ITSELF APART.  It was pretty scary looking. But Mexico?  Not that lucky and they are still in dire need of help.

Here's the New York Times' list of places to send your help. Here's a special GoFundMe page, which has raised 17K (of an admittedly modest $15K goal)


It's been nearly three months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the people there are still pretty much on their own. Local agencies have taken up the slack and they desperately need help. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is an organization that's leading the way. Here's Save the Children's Hurricane Maria Relief Fund.  Here's an extensive list put together by PBS last month.

Shemless Self-Promotion...MISBEGOTTEN

Years ago, when I published Dark Valentine Magazine, I wrote a story called "Tired Blood" that featured a vampire so old he'd contracted dementia. I fell in love with the characters and the world, which was set in a UF version of Los Angeles. I've been playing in that world, off and on, for a decade now. (I wrote enough short stories in the world that I have a whole collection, LA. Nocturne.)

I've been working on the novel-length story in the world for nearly that long and next month--yes, next month--it's finally coming out. It's on preorder for 99 cents and if you like vampires and werewolves who aren't sparkly or tattooed, you might like it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

I was troubled by this book, a story set in the near future where a Joan of Arc-like figure has been martyred and an older woman has decided to die during a performance of a new kind of entertainment known as "grafting." She intends her graft to be a song of this new Joan  and an epic defiance of the fascist regime in which she lives.

The author is clearly talented and this book has garnered lavish praise and it's easy to see why. She has created an elaborate construct for her near-future story with its overtly political message--the villain is a "rage-mouthed" former lifestyle guru-turned unlikely celebrity-turned billionaire-turned politician. Who could that possibly remind us of? The book's prose is quite consciously incendiary--the novel's first words are, "Burning is an art," and much of what comes in the next pages has to do with the delicate art of "grafting," a form of scarification carried out as a medium of communication. (The details are not for the squeamish.)

Such a Sensitive Boy...flash fiction for a cold November day

SUCH A SENSITIVE BOY by Katherine Tomlinson

I wish Devin wasn’t such a sensitive boy, Marla thought as she watched her son happily chow down on a plate of store-bought chocolate chip cookies and a glass of skim milk. The cookies were a rare indulgence, a reward for the good grades he’d brought home on his report card. Marla didn’t want Devin to end up squishy fat like some character on a redneck reality show. (Like his daddy)
They didn’t have the money to eat organic, but she kept junk food out of the house as much as she could, trying to steer the boy away from the greasy fried pork rinds his father favored and toward apple chips and veggies with humus. Not that she called it “humus” around Lee, lest it set off a rant about “Ay-rab food.”
Her mother-in-law thought she was being mean denying Devin sweets, so whenever the boy went over to his nana’s, Marla felt like she had to search his backpack for contraband when he came home.
It annoyed her that Barbara wouldn’t respect her wishes. “It’s my job to spoil my grandbaby,” her mother-in-law always said. “A little love never hurt anyone.” Then she’d give Marla a significant look. “It’s no wonder he such a sensitive boy.”
Marla’s husband wasn’t much help. Lee still ate breakfast at his momma’s nearly every morning because she’d make him sausage gravy and biscuits like he liked while Marla and Devin ate yogurt and fruit.
Lee had voted for the president who’d won and ever since election night, he’d doubled down on being an asshole, like he was sure any minute a Mexican Muslim was going to show up in Huntsville and take his job as produce manager at the Winn-Dixie.
Not that it was much of a job any more. The store had cut his hours last spring and he still wasn’t bringing in a full paycheck.
Marla had been an inventory clerk at Redstone Arsenal before she got married, but Lee didn’t want her working “outside the home,” even though they could have used the extra income now that Devin was in middle school and didn’t need so much supervision.
“No wife of mine is going to work,” Lee had declared even as he sold off their washer and dryer to cover the rent one especially lean month.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cover Reveal!! Secrets in the Shadows

A boxed set of shifters, shifters, and more shifters--coming out in May 2018.  Edited by Jena Gregoire, the set includes all-new material by writers Catherine Vale, Gina Wynn, Heather Hildenbrand, Liz Gavin, Nicole Zotack, Madeline Sheehan, Heather Magoon Felder, Brandy Dorsch, Victoria Cleave, and me, Kat Parrish. I'm quite excited!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A review of An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

It's a few years in the future and China's now-discarded "One Child" Policy has created a surplus of middle-aged men who have no hope of marrying. To serve the needs of this demographic, which the State has dubbed, "the Bounty," a new form of marriage has been created--the Advanced Family. Women can marry two men (or even three, although that's a bit frowned on) and in the process, can collect a handsome dowry.

Wei-guo, who owns his own fitness business desperately hopes that Wu May-ling will take him on as a third husband but has no idea of just how complicated her relationships are. She's married to brothers Hann and XX and both men have secrets they've shared with her but which could get them sterilized--or even imprisoned--if the government found out. 

This is a debut novel from author King and it is spectacular. She tells the story from four different viewpoints, and each voice is beautifully crafted. Along the way there's a generous helping of Chinese custom as well as an overlay of the ponderous bureaucracy of the Communist state, and it all works really well. You can read an excerpt here.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

United for Puerto Rico

You've seen the pictures. You've watched the interviews with the mayor of San Juan. This is a crisis. Puerto Ricans are  Americans. Donate here.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A List of Books About Women in Hollywood

I've thought a lot about the role of women in Hollywood. I have worked as a reader, as an executive, as a screenwriter, and even as a set caterer. I've worked for some terrific women--Lauren Shuler Donner, Kathryn Bigelow, Nina Jacobson--and I've seen how male Hollywood is consistently surprised when "women's movies" actually make money. As if, somehow, those execs didn't realize that women went to movies too. I decided to look around and see if there were any books on the topic.  Here's a short list.

1.  A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960 by Jeanine Basinger.

Now, Voyager, Stella Dallas, Leaver Her to Heaven, Imitation of Life, Mildred Pierce, Gilda…these are only a few of the hundreds of “women’s films” that poured out of Hollywood during the thirties, forties, and fifties. The films were widely disparate in subject, sentiment, and technique, they nonetheless shared one dual purpose: to provide the audience (of women, primarily) with temporary liberation into a screen dream—of romance, sexuality, luxury, suffering, or even wickedness—and then send it home reminded of, reassured by, and resigned to the fact that no matter what else she might do, a woman’s most important job was…to be a woman. Now, with boundless knowledge and infectious enthusiasm, Jeanine Basinger illuminates the various surprising and subversive ways in which women’s films delivered their message.

2.  In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney

Over 100 exceptional and influential women describe how they embraced their creative spirit, overcame adversity, and sparked a global movement of entrepreneurship. Media titans and ceramicists, hoteliers and tattoo artists, comedians and architects—taken together, these profiles paint a beautiful picture of what happens when we pursue our passions and dreams.

3.  Unruly Girls, Unrepentant Mothers: Redefining Feminism on Screen by Kathleen Rowe Karlyn.

This is a scholarly book from the University of Texas, and the continued examination of ideas first articulated in Karlyn's book Unruly Women.  I haven't read this book and would love to, but it's hideously expensive--the Kindle version is $30, which is kind of beside the point of making books available in digital editions.

4.  Go West Young Women!  The Rise of Early Hollywood by Mary A. Hallett. 

In the early part of the twentieth century, migrants  made their way from rural homes to cities in record numbers and many traveled west. Los Angeles became a destination. Women flocked to the growing town to join the film industry as workers and spectators, creating a "New Woman." Their efforts transformed filmmaking from a marginal business to a cosmopolitan, glamorous, and bohemian one. By 1920, Los Angeles had become the only western city where women outnumbered men. In Go West, Young Women, Hilary A. Hallett explores these relatively unknown new western women and their role in the development of Los Angeles and the nascent film industry.

Labba Bray's Beauty Queens...a review

Libba Bray’s novel BeautyQueens is a satire that plays out like an all-female Lord of the Rings, a project that is now, contentiously, in development at Warner Brothers. The author has written an essay for Entertainment Weekly about what happened when Hollywood came calling for her project, and it’s definitely worth the read if you’re interested in what people are calling, “Hollywood’s Woman Problem.”

If you haven’t read the book, here’s my review:

When a plane full of teenage beauty contestants crashes on a not-quite-deserted island, the young women find themselves fighting for survival with all their pageant skills and determination.

It’s an old show business axiom that “Satire is what closes Saturday night.”  In Beauty Queens, Bray lets loose on a ton of popular culture topics, from reality shows (Amish girls and strippers share a house on Girls Gone Rumpspringa) to beauty pageants to plucky businesswomen running for president.  She hits her targets too, for the most part, although the arch tone of the book’s prologue is a little annoying. 

The result is not unlike the HBO movie about the Texas cheerleader murdering mom, which was played tongue-in-cheek to good effect.  The problem is that this estrogen-soaked version of Lost meets Lord of the Flies meets Survivor is kind of one note and awfully silly and it’s hard to see what demographic it plays to. 

There’s also a part of us that sees the story more like one of those parodies of contemporary movies, like Vampires Suck.  Adding the satire to the comedy is not necessarily a commercial choice.  (Two hilarious satires about politics, Election and Dick were both disastrous at the box office ($15 million and $6 million returns, with no international distribution), and this satire seems to have an even more narrow focus.)  Also, the shows that are the targets here seem like somewhat dated topics—having been done to death in Comedy Central and Mad TV and SNL and … many other places.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Interview with author Carol L. Wright

Carol L. Wright is a former domestic relations attorney and adjunct professor. She is the author of articles and one book on law-related subjects. Now focused on fiction, she has several short stories in literary journals and award-winning anthologies. Death in Glenville Falls is her first novel. 

She is a founder of the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC, is a life member of both Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America, and a member of SinC Guppies, PennWriters, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

She is married to her college sweetheart. They live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with their rescue dog, Mr. Darcy, and a clowder of cats.

Your first Gracie McIntyre mystery is out this summer. Can you give us a sneak preview? Who is Gracie and how does she run into a mystery?

Yes, thanks! I’m so excited to have my first mystery, Death in Glenville Falls, come out August 29.

It’s about former attorney Gracie McIntyre who left the practice of law eighteen years ago, following the death of a client in an apparent murder/suicide. Since then, she’s been a stay-at-home mom and part-time professor at the local college where her husband teaches history. Now that her son is off to college and her daughter has started high school, she is ready for a new challenge. But opening a new-and-used book shop gives her more than she bargains for—especially after a young woman appears, reminding Gracie of the past she’s tried to leave behind.

Days after the grand opening, Gracie’s store comes under attack. What’s worse, she suspects a police officer might be behind it. As violence escalates, she is forced to investigate on her own to save her store—and possibly her life.

How did you transition from your law career to writing fiction?

I’ve always been a writer, and even did a stint as a book editor for a couple of years. But as a lawyer and academic, most of my work was legal or technical writing. It was actually my younger brother who urged me to write fiction. He remembered how I used to invent adventurous bedtime stories for him as he was growing up. (It must have helped to ignite his imagination, too, because he writes fiction as well.) As I began to explore fiction writing, I found it enormously fulfilling. I think he thought I would write children’s fiction, so was a little surprised when I started writing mysteries.  

Your short fiction has been collected in numerous award-winning anthologies. Do you find it hard to “switch gears” when you go from short to long fiction?

Not really. Aside from the obvious difference—the amount of time it takes to write a short story vs. a novel—there are some other significant differences between long- and short-form fiction. In a novel, you can develop your characters more fully, and weave in a more intricate plot, so the rewards of long-form fiction are great. But there’s nothing like the relatively immediate gratification you get from writing a short story that you’re really happy with. You can also explore some characters or genres you might not be willing to spend an entire novel with, so in that way, writing a short story is recreation and a welcome break from the hard work of novel writing. Last year, I even published a middle-grade story. What fun!

Are you a member of a writer’s group? Do you belong to Sisters in Crime? Have you ever been to a writer’s convention?

Writing is such a solitary profession, I can’t imagine doing it without being part of a community. My writers group is the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC 
( I get great advice and ideas from that group of talented authors in a variety of genres. I am also a member of Sisters in Crime and the SinC Guppies subgroup. They are extremely supportive of their members in every way. I know if I have mystery-specific questions, I can find answers there.

I have been to several writers conferences over the years, from the Iowa Summer Writers Festival to Malice Domestic and many more. It’s a great chance to get together with people who understand what it’s like to be a writer and don’t look at you funny when you ask questions about lethal concoctions or how to get rid of a body.

Who are your favorite writers (not necessarily mystery writers)?

I love so many of my fellow mystery writers that I wouldn’t try to list them all for fear of leaving someone out. As for other writers, I love Jane Austen (and am a Life Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America), and enjoy other classics as well. For more contemporary fiction writers, though, I like those who make us see life, history, or literature from a different perspective, such as Connie Willis, Jasper Fforde, Hilary Mantel, Alice Walker, Michael Crichton, Anthony Doerr . . . I could go on and on. I also love the work of many nonfiction writers, both for research and for pleasure.

How would you describe your story (“The Dark Side of the Light”) in the Day of the Dark collection?

My story is about the darkness and light of the eclipse occurring at the same time that a husband and wife, who had each kept the other "in the dark" about some life-altering information, reveal their secrets to one another. But it does not necessarily follow that being "enlightened" results in happiness. In fact, there can be a “dark side of the light.”

Have you ever seen a total eclipse? Will you be able to see this one?
I’ve seen a partial eclipse, but never a total eclipse. (It’s very accommodating of the cosmos to bring one so close to so many Americans this year, don’t you think?) I would have to travel to get to the path of totality this year, since I live in Pennsylvania where we’re only expected to see about 75% coverage. Still, I have my eclipse glasses. It ought to be a good show!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This is not America

Monday, August 7, 2017

Twelve Books That Made Me Happy

Good Housekeeping published a list today of 60 Books That Will Make You Happier and I found it a kind of strange list, full of books like Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and the ever-annoying Eat, Pray, Love. But that got me thinking about the books I've read that made me happy.  Not necessarily happy I'd read them--almost any book does that--but a book that made me laugh or gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I read a lot of noir and horror; sometimes I need a warm, fuzzy feeling from my fiction. Here's a list I made:

1.  Michael Malone's Handling Sin. This is a road trip book about a man chasing down his rascal of a father and discovering he has half-siblings. His full-of-life best friend comes along and it's all set in the south. And gets it totally right. Malone also writes wonderful mysteries.

2.  Eudora Welty, The Ponder Heart. This is a novella and it's also very southern. Seems Uncle Daniel POnder, a confirmed bachelor, has married a young woman who spends all her time reading magazines and making "the kind of fudge anybody can make." This is a lovely take on small towns and families and will make you smile.

3.  Cyde Edgerton, Walking Across Egypt. The first book of Clyde's I read was The Floatplane Notebooks, which is a family saga told from multiple points of view, including that of the kudzu vine wrpping the house. This is a quick read, a book about an independent old lady and her dog and a young boy in need of love.

4.  Sharyn McCrumb, St. Dale. I am a huge fan of McCrumb's Appalachian Ballad es with their dual timelines. This stand-alone book is not a mystery at all, but an ensemble piece about a tour group visiting NASCAR sites as a summer vacation. It comes across like one of those multi-plot movies the late, great Garry Marshall used to make--New Year's Day or Valentine's Day, or a summer version of Love, Actually.

5.  Joe Keeena, Blue Heaven (not to be confused with the 1990 Steve Martin movie My Blue Heaven). This is a rollicking novel about two dead broke best friends in New York who decide to marry for the wedding presents and other loot and the hijinks that ensue. There's a running bit about a character  who fancies herself a designer coming up with the wedding dress that's hilarious.

6.  Rita Mae Brown, Bingo.  Again, a character-heavy novel set in the south.  My grandmother lived with me when I was a child and the old ladies in this book remind me so much of her, especially in a scene where two woomen get so competitive in a game of bingo that they start attacking each other with their dab-a-dot markers. (They're apparently called Do-A-Dots these days, but if you ever went to a bingo hall with your grandparents, you know what I mean.) there are sequels!  I love this book but hate Brown's super-sweet cozy mysteries.

7. Beverly Cleary, Beezus and Ramona.  Actually, I loved all the books that Beverly Cleary wrote. She was the first "author" I followed. I remember going to the library to get her books. she's 101 years old!!!  I loved the books because I had a little sister I loved and we had neighbors and the book seemed like the even-better version of my own childhood.

8.  Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game. I love, love, love this book. It's a puzzle about a wealthy man who intends to leave his fortune to whoever can solve a puzzle. It involves multiple characters in various families and it's a wonderful story about friendship and families and expectations and dreams. Raskin wrote other, similar books (The Disappearance of Leon, I mean Noel) but this one is her best.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

I'll be reviewing this upcoming novel for Criminal Element in a few weeks, but here's a mini-review. I liked the book a lot:

Bluebird, BluebirdBluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful book about race relations that does an excellent job of hiding the real secret of its mystery. Locke's mastery of character and dialogue is topnotch and she's pitch-perfect in creating this small Texas town. I've enjoyed her past books (BLACKWATER RISING particularly), but I think this is her best one yet.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 4, 2017

Weekend SF and Fantasy Promotion

For only ninety-nine cents more than nothing, you can buy a whole slew of fantasy and science fiction books this weekend--all your favorite genres in one big, beautiful promo here.  You know those savings accounts that "match" and "round up" your spare change? I like to use my spare change for books. I WILL be buying a few books this weekend.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wesley Snipes' new Urban Fantasy

Actor Wesley Snipes and co-author Ray Norman have a new urban fantasy novel out from Harper Collins. Talon of God got a nice review from USA Today and it's currently available in all formats. Here's the blurb:

Imagine that everyone you have ever known or loved was forced against their will into a state of demonic possession and spiritual slavery. Imagine an unholy cabal of the world’s richest and most powerful men directing this sinister plan in order to cement their unbridled control of the planet.
Imagine two heroes emerging from that darkness to do battle with the forces of evil.
Set in the mean streets of Chicago, Talon of God is the action-packed adventure centered around the Lauryn Jefferson, a beautiful young doctor who is dragged into a seemingly impossible battle against the invisible forces of Satan’s army and their human agents that are bent on enslaving humanity in a mission to establish the kingdom of hell on Earth.
But Lauryn is a skeptic, and it’s only as she sees a diabolical drug sweep her city and begins to train in the ways of a spirit warrior by the legendary man of God, Talon Hunter, that she discovers her true nature and inner strength. Facing dangerous trials and tests, it’s a true baptism by fire. And if they fail, millions could die. And rivers of blood would flow throughout the land.
Imagine such horror. Such pain. And imagine what it would take to fight against it. For only the strongest and most faithful will survive?
Get ready. Armageddon approaches quickly.

Sounds like the beginning of a great new series to me!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books about books--a great list of suggestions

One of the things that's happened in the last few years is that publishers are starting to repurpose thier websites as content hubs. thus you have Macmillan's crime fiction site Criminal Element, which features numerous bloggers contributing articles and reviews, along with excerpts and contests and sweepstakes.Penguin/Random House is no exception. They have exceptionally engaging content, including their READ DOWN feature. One of the offerings today is a list of books about books. It's an eclectic list (Ink and Bone, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars) and even if it is heavy on Penguin books, that doesn't take away from the suggestions.