Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dark Valentine is Here!

You can download it free here.

Comments welcome, suggestions and constructive criticism as well. And most of all--we want your submissions! Remember, DV also serializes stories on the site so if you have something that's more than 5000 words, we'd still like to talk to you about it. (We've got Scott Laurange's gothic take on the Canterbury Tales coming up in serial form as well as a dark, French take on Arthurian legend, The Chanson of Dagonet.)

Please QUERY about serializing.

Also, we'll be having more THROUGH A LENS DARKLY story prompts, so I hope you'll consider submitting something for one of those.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dark Valentine is coming

The premiere issue of Dark Valentine Magazine publishes tomorrow. A quarterly magazine of dark fiction, the project is a collaboration born over a meal of pear cider and Cornish pasties at an Irish pub in Pasadena. Editor Joy Sillesen and Art Director Joanne Renaud and I liked working with each other at Astonishing Adventures Magazine so much that we decided we didn't want the fun to end.

The first issue is stuffed with dark tales and wicked words, all illustrated by artists like Joanne, Pamela Jaworska, Larry Nadolsky, Rena Ez, Jane Burson, Eleni Trigatz, Michael Lauritano, Jennifer Caro and Molly Brewer and more.... The cover image, created by Joanne Renaud, was inspired by Stephanie Dray's story, "The Threshing Floor."

The table of contents is stuffed with goodies--flash fiction from Cormac Brown, Sandra Seamans, Carol Kilgore, and Blue Jackson. There's a paranormal noir from Agatha-nominated novelist Elizabeth Zelvin and Paul D. Brazill's innovative twist on an old monster. (Paul:s "Drunk on the Moon" is one of two stories from Poland-based writers in this issue, with Frank Duffy's evocative "The Fog House" being the other.)

There's a definite international feel to the fiction which comes from the UK (Peter Mark May's "Lurkers"), Canada (Julia Madeine's "Smashed")and points west. The artists hail from all over--Poland, Thailand, Greece, the UK.

And last but certainly not least, the premiere issue contains stories by Chad Rohrbacher, C.M. Saunders, Christine Pope, Sidney Harrison, James Hartley, Gerry Johnson and me. There's something for everyone in the first issue. (And if there's not, we'll be back in the fall with issue #2.)

Available on Friday, June 11 at Dark Valentine.


Check out the foodspotting link if you find yourself craving a particular dish. It's like Yelp, only focused.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vote and then Go Buy a Book!

If you're like me, you have a "to buy" wish list that's at least as long as your "to be read" pile. Here are two books you really need to check out. Alexandra Sokoloff's Book of Shadows and Lori Handeland's Shakespeare Undead.
I read Book of Shadows for a client some time ago and loved it. It's a really smart take on a genre that's often kind of dumbed down and a really fast read. (Sokoloff is a screenwriter as well as a novelist, so as you might expect, her books have a cinematic pace.)

The other book is one I haven't read yet myself. I'm a longtime fan of Lori Handeland and her new book Shakespeare Undead just sounds like a lot of fun. She's over at bittenbybooks today and tomorrow and the q and a makes her sound like someone you'd love to take to lunch. I do judge a book by its cover and Shakespeare Undead has a great one.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thaumatrope--Bite-Size Fiction for Hungry Readers

For those times when flash fiction just takes too long to read, check out Thaumatrope, which features Twitter fiction (140 characters or less) for readers of sf, fantasy and horror. The stories are like potato chips--you really can't sample just one.

The site publishes serial fiction too, and it's even fun reading the bios of the writers and seeing what they have in the pipeline. My favorite is Robert T. Jeschonek, whose upcoming Clarion YA novel is called My Favorite Band Does Not Exist.

Thaumatrope is now one of my favorite sites for dropping in for a few minutes of entertainment (along with Fark).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's not just about the sales

This is Memorial Day weekend and as usual, CNN is running lots of stories about the men and women who have fallen n the service of our country. This video of soldiers decorating the graves at Arlington with small American flags--as is done several times a year--really got to me.

The video shows what a beautiful and peaceful place Arlington Cemetery is. It overlooks the Potomac. It is covered in green. Trees grow among the graves. When I was little, people could picnic there and ride bikes along its broad boulevards. That was before the Viet Nam war started filling up the "Garden of Stone" and forced the opening of new sections to accommodate the newly dead.

Now the cemetery is stressed not only by the casualties of Iraq and Afghanistan (they're buried in "Section 60") but also by the deaths of World War II veterans who are now in their ninth decade. It won't be long efore burial in Arlington, the nation's most famous military cemetery, will be a matter of "by invitation only."

John F. Kennedy is buried in Arlington Cemetery, where an eternal flame flickers in his memory. Nearby is the grave of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the premature son born to the Kennedys and rarely mentioned. Also nearby is the grave of the stillborn Kennedy girl who never even had a name and whose existence is still a secret to all but the most avid Kennedy-philes.

Robert Kennedy is buried there too; as is Ted Kennedy and surprisingly, perhaps, so is Jacqueline Onassis. The Kennedys were known for their compound in New England, in Arlington they have claimed their own corner of national real estate. The area is one of the "must-see" spots on a tour of the cemetery, along with the statue that replicates the famous photo of the flag-raising over Iwo Jima, the Tomb of the Unknowns (Formerly the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and Custis-Lee Mansion, where the cemetery began during the Civil War when Union soldiers buried their dead in what had been the front yard of a gracious Southern mansion.

There is a cairn of 270 stones to commemorate the 270 souls aboard the plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. There are memorials to the Challenger and Columbus space shuttle crews. Many famous military men and women are buried there, as you might expect, but so are Dashiell Hammett,writer Charles Willeford and actor Lee Marvin. Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French engineer who designed the city of Washington DC, is also there along with a mission's worth of astronauts, including Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.

The second most-visited grave (after JFK) is that of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WWII. (Define irony: Murphy was killed in a plane crash on Memorial Day weekend nearly 40 years ago.)

Here's a sobering fact: More than 100 graveside ceremonies are conducted each week at Arlington. Each week. There are more than 300,000 people buried there already, including my parents. They're just up the hill from the Kennedy memorial.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fitzgerald was wrong...

Back in the day, my sister hung with a wannabe rocker who would occasionally loan equipment to the band Poison when they had a local gig. The wannabe didn't have much good to say about Bret Michaels, but then, he didn't have much good to say about anyone, really, being the poster boy for schadenfreude.

I knew of the band, of course, you couldn't escape them unless your radio was permanently tuned to NPR or your subscription to People had run out. (He was going out with Pamela Anderson at the time, so they were a couple made in paparazzi heaven.) Michaels was handsome--actually beautiful--with his sky-blue eyes and his long blond hair. If urban fiction had been a genre back then, he'd have been the model for many a cover. If I thought about him at all, it was mostly in terms of being a second-string Van Halen's David Lee Roth whose athletic stage moves he seemed to have borrowed. (The self-styled "Diamond Dave" is one of the smartest guys ever to sling a microphone and his interviews were always a delight to read.) But that was 20 years ago.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, here's Bret Michaels back in the spotlight. One minute he's in the hospital fighting for his life and the next week he's on American Idol, sporting a hat that would make Dwight Yoakam jealous and doing his guitar slinger thing. And he won Celebrity Apprentice. Without watching an hour of reality TV, it's been possible to chart his amazing renaissance and it's been hard not to get caught up in it.

When you live in Los Angeles, you really have to fight the onslaught of celebrity culture or drown in it. When you overhear women at the grocery store discussing Sandra Bullock's love life like they're next-door neighbors or a guy in line at the bank bagging on some movie like he is a disappointed investor, you just want to buy a farm in Nebraska and hide out. Part of the problem is that so much of celebrity culture is about the bad things--Lindsay Lohan's downward spiral, the break-up of a marriage, the replacement of an actor. In a time when a lot of people are struggling, it's clearly comforting to know that the rich and famous and beautiful have problems too. Big problems.

And then there's a story like the one Bret Michaels is living out. And even the most jaded Angeleno has to sit back and go "whoah." When an Idol-loving friend called to tell me I had to turn on the TV, I had something else to do so I didn't. But then I went to YouTube to check out the clip of Bret doing a duet of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with contestant Casey James. And I found myself getting caught up in the whole thing. Michaels was clearly having a great time. He's not the beautiful boy he was and the voice has weathered too, but cheesy as the song is (I've always liked it, sue me), it rocked.

See it for yourself here.

Rock on Bret. Enjoy your second act.