Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fantasy for February--The Silver Summoner's Bell

You may have read my story "The Smallest of the Summoner's Bells," which originally ran on the Dark Valentine website. There are seven of the Summoner's bells and they all have a story and a history and a past. Eventually, I will write all the stories and collect them in one place. Until then, here's the next story.

I felt my brother die.
Two days later a man collecting dung for fuel found Mac’s teeth in a pile of dragon scat. He cleaned and polished them and returned them to me with his condolences.
I sent him away with a fat reward and a knife of my father’s design that was worth much more than the money I’d given him.
No one ever found my brother’s gun.
That was no surprise. A custom-crafted Turnbull gun would be a prize for any collector and trade in such a weapon would have been conducted in the shadows and off the grid. I had passed the word that I would buy it, no questions asked, should it ever come on the market, but so far there had been no nibbles at my bait.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review of iBoy by Kevin Brooks

 This is a really smart take on a modern “origin” story for a 21st century superhero. The model is Spider Man (mentioned more than once) but the hero’s transformation is more like the film Lawnmower Man. It’s somewhat inward (as if he’s internalized the Matrix) but this is the rare story where what’s going on around the “superhero” story is probably stronger than the heroics. The writer does something really cool with point of view and it’s so subtle that it takes awhile to register. Gritty and human and scary, the book has an edge but it also has a heart.

The premise sounds a little … silly … at first. After surviving a brain injury caused by a falling cell phone, an ordinary teenager named Tom discovers he now has the capacity to do anything an iPhone can and more and uses those powers to exact a little vigilante justice. There is nothing silly about how this premise works itself out, or anything candy-coated about iBoy’s mission. He wants justice done and although he doesn’t like the consequences, he can live with the results. (He would fit right into the Watchmen’s pantheon of superheroes with damaged souls.)  

The characters are terrific. Tom is only 16 but as he integrates the iBoy powers, he’s forced to confront concepts like “situational ethics” and deal with criminal dynamics way over his head. Tom’s friend Lucy is equally as strong. She undergoes a horrific ordeal and emerges feeling dead and ruined. By the end, though, she has summoned reserves of courage and grace that will stand her in good stead.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review of Watch You Drown by Chris Rhatigan

Watch You Drown is the first fiction collection from writer Chris Rhatigan, fourteen stories that run the gamut from straight up crime fiction to noir-tinged sci fi.
There are whole novels distilled into some of these stories—hidden histories of loserdom that have brought the characters to one particular moment in time; but we sense that there have been many such moments in their lives and that Rhatigan could have extracted any of those moments and turned it into dark fiction. He has a reporter’s eye for selecting just the right details, and he understands the stresses that have formed and shaped—and in some cases warped—the people he writes about.
These characters are beaten down and fed up and sick to death of being excreted from the world’s asshole. And then one day, despair meets poor impulse control and a bad situation gets worse.
The collection’s opening story, “In the Hard Nowhere” is one such “out of the frying pan into the fire” story and so is “Service With a Smile.” These are stories that seem particularly relevant in today’s economic times, as does “Glug, Glug, Glug,” a tale of a man who did the best he could but failed anyway.
Comfortable writing at length, Rhatigan is equally adept at making a long story short. “Guy with a Barbed Wire Tattoo,” told in kinetic present tense, is a piece of flash fiction as potent as the venom from a cobra bite. “Administrative Segregation” reminds us that even hard men have their limits and the emotion it elicits is not contempt for the protagonist but pity.
Watch You Drown is more than a collection of short stories, it’s a gateway to a world of pulp fiction that Rhatigan rules.
For more about Chris Rhatigan, visit his blog, Death By Killing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feminist Fiction Friday--Janet Evanovich

I’ve always thought that Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels were Nancy Drew adventures for big girls. Stephanie is smart, pretty and always solves her mysteries. Instead of just one boyfriend, she has two, and instead of chums like “George,” she hangs around with a former hooker, but she’s
I’m not sure when or why I picked up Janet Evanovich’s first Stephanie Plum novel, One for the Money, but I laughed all the way through it. It was a mystery but it had large dollops of humor and romance, and Stephanie was a Jersey girl with money problems and curly hair that never seemed to want to stay in a pony tail.  I liked the character and I loved the book and from then on, I was hooked on the series. 
In fact, I always thought the books would make a great television series because Evanovich surrounded Stephanie with a great cast of characters. There are the people at the bail bonds office (including her cousin). Her parents (particularly her long-suffering dad) are always around to offer sympathy and pot roast. And then there’s her Grandma Mazur, whose idea of entertainment is heading over to the local funeral home for viewings. (That funeral home figures prominently in a couple of the books.) And then there are the two men who are both pursuing our heroine.
These are people we could actually know.
And while some of the hijinks in the stories get a little out there, her brand of contemporary romantic suspense set the bar for writers who followed.
She started out writing romance novels, turning to fiction in her 30s and publishing her first book in 1987 when she was 44 years old. One for the Money came out in 1994 and kickstarted a series that includes 18 “by the numbers” books and a couple “between the numbers” novels as well.
And in between she’s written a slew of other books, both alone and with other writers a la James Patterson. (According to Wikipedia, she and the late Stephen J. Cannell were supposed to have written a book together. That would have been one lively romp.) And Castle fans who remember Cannell from the poker playing scenes, wouldn't it be fun to see Rick Castle playing poker with Janet?
You can follow her on Twitter @janetevanovich; like her on Facebook; and sign up for the newsletter on her site.
And you can go to see the movie version of One for the Money today, with Katherine Heigl as Stephanie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Excerpt Exchange--James Kellogg's E-Force

There's a dark conspiracy lurking beneath the facade of an eco-terrorist group. The fate of the world is in the balance!  
Thriller writer James Kellogg and I are doing an excerpt exchange this month thanks to the social networking on Facebook. The following is from chapter five of his book E-Force.  (One of the five-star reviews on Amazon states: The tension in the book builds from chapter to chapter. Kellogg does a wonderful job of developing the characters, holding your attention and delivering a delightful read that once you start you can't put it down.) Check it out for yourself:

      Tempers were flaring at the manager’s meeting. Colt was certain that the Salem Witch Trials couldn’t have been more chilling. With the suddenness of an ocean squall, the forum had degenerated into a hostile volley of accusations and defenses. The handwriting on the wall was plain for Colt to see. The days of EcoFriends were numbered.
      A female manager turned on the other five women. “I’m not paying the price for the bitch that ratted on us! Everybody knows I’ve put my heart and soul into this organization.”
      “You’d sell us out in a heartbeat if you could profit!”One fiery vixen charged at the haughty accuser. “How much is the FBI paying you?”
      “That’s right. Fight it out!” A man pumped his fist.
      “Let’s make them all take polygraph tests.” One board member stepped between the two potential combatants.
      “There’re better ways to get a confession than that,” another person said.
      “Enough of this!” Howard Anderson finally took control. “We’re tearing ourselves apart because of one traitor. If we’re going to survive, we’ve got to stick together. The truth is going to come out. Whoever is guilty has one last chance for redemption. I’ll give you until the end of the week to come to me and confess. Then we’ll figure out how to make things right again.”
      Adjournment was an armistice in an escalating war. At the reprieve, people scattered. Colt looked for Deb, but she was gone. The air in the building seemed poisoned. He hurried outside where he could breathe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kattomic Fiction!! New stories

Over at A Twist of Noir, there's a story from my Misbegotten universe called "Sex Crime." Read it here.
I also have a story up at Shotgun Honey called "Dark-Adapted Eye." It is part of my upcoming Poisoned Teat collection of shorts, due out this summer.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Friday Feminist Fiction--Connie Willis

Photo by Kyle Cassidy from
The first time I attended San Diego Comic Con (2008), Connie Willis was one of the guests. She showed up for her seminar looking like a statuesque suburban granny and totally rocked the hour to a packed house of admirers. She told a story about how she met her husband (a retired physicist and how she might not have in response to a question about faith and fate. She talked about her unsentimental treatment of death and how her mother's death when she was a child shaped her world view.
She had brought along her lovely, equally statuesque, daughter and everyone in the room went away feeling like they'd shared some quality time with the woman who has just been named a "Grand Master" (for lifetime achiement) by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
I (heart) Connie Willis.
She has won 11 Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards and a ton of other awards too. She has won for both novels and short stories. Connie Willis can write anything!
Lincoln's Dreams was the first of Connie's novels I read, a wonderful love story that slipped gracefully between genres. I followed that up with To Say Nothing of the Dog, which delighted me in the way it looped back and forth over itself and is one of her Hugo Award-winning works.
She has talked about the long spaces between books (and pointed to her friend George R. R. Martin as another writer who teastes his fans this way), but while we're waiting for the next novel, there are plenty of her short stories to keep us reading.
Her official website is here.
You can "like" Connie Willis on Facebook.