Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reconnoitering the Local Marijuana Emporium

Reconnoitering the Local Marijuana Emporium
Jim Satterfield

I just returned to Colorado after working in Montana for the last twenty years. It didn’t take me long to figure a lot has changed since I left back in the 90s. There are a lot more people here than before. A guy by the name of Manning replaced a guy by the name of Elway at quarterback for the Broncos. Politics have gone from red to blue. And, oh yeah, Marijuana is now legal in the Centennial State.
Of course, I knew this before I moved. Hell, if I had a buck for every clown back in Montana who asked me to mail them a “care package” when I got here, I could probably afford a gram or two. And yes, you heard me right…they sell that shit by the gram, just like they sold coke in the 70s. Whatever happened to a good old fashion lid of Columbian, Acapulco Gold, or even a cheap bag of Mexican or Nebraska No-High?
All that stuff has been replaced by genetically engineered, hydrophonically grown, high octane strains of Cannabis with names like Buddha’s Sister, Moonshine Haze, and Island Sweet Skunk. Shit, the stuff doesn’t even have seeds…Now, that’s fuckin’ un-American; weed with no seeds. (Note to myself: can I get a nice, juicy watermelon without all those goddamned seeds? Check Safeway.)
            You can chalk these observations up to a misspent youth. I gave up booze and other intoxicants decades ago when I realized I just didn’t have enough brain cells to imbibe and make it through a doctoral program in biology at a big state university. Not to mention screwing up all my relationships.
Yet, I remain curious to see how they’re managing a new enterprise that was once secret and illegal. So, I decided to take a visit to one of the many local emporiums presently popping up along the Front Range like Morels in the high county after a summer rain.
The Colorado stores are marked by a BIG green cross. Some only cater to those with medical cards, which reminds of the great W. C. Fields commenting on his drinking, “For medicinal purposes, only.” (Insert your own crummy W. C. imitation.) These folks avoid substantial taxes. I know a guy who saw this old-school, old-fart MD to get his card. The doctor rolled his eyes when my pal described his “symptoms” like he was full of shit. But the cranky sawbones still signed the card.

On the other hand, many stores sell to recreational users. So I went to one of those places. When I entered the establishment, A huge man dressed in black checked my driver’s license and told me to take a seat. One side of the joint was for card-holders, the other for miscreants with no excuse but the need for a good buzz. After a few minutes, they escorted me into the shop, a narrow, rectangular room with a long glass counter storing paraphernalia, edible treats and other sundries. An old guy I took to be the manager came up to me, grinning like a possum eating bumblebees.
You know how a lot of folks who run bakeries look like they’re eating all their profits? Well, this guy appeared to be smoking all of his. He looked every day of 65 or 70, long grey hair in a tight ponytail and his eyes resembled two piss holes in the snow.
            “Hey, man, I’m Frank. I’ll be your budtender today.”
            Frank ignored my snicker. Peering through John Lennon-esque wire framed glasses, he asked, “What kind of high are you looking for?”
            “I don’t know…what’s good?”
            “Well, right now, I’m kinda into Sativa.”
            “Check it out.” Frank hoisted a gallon-sized glass jar that stores once used for selling cookies and jaw breakers. Only this one was full of golf ball-sized buds. He opened the lid, releasing that unmistakable pungent odor. With my hay fever, I fought a sneeze.
            “Pretty good shit?” I asked.
            “It’ll blow your hat in the creek.”
            I laughed.
            “Real good about an hour before a barbeque,” Frank said.
            “Munchies, huh?”
            “Make yah bite the bark off a tree, that’s for certain.”
            This old pothead reminded me of a fucked-up Will Rodgers with all his folksy b.s. I couldn’t help but think my 18 year old son would kill to be 21 and have the run of this place. I also couldn’t help looking over my shoulder, even though I didn’t know a soul in town. Although this was all legal, it still felt naughty to be there. A second later, Frank left me to look around while he helped another customer. I slipped outside, curiosity satisfied. 
            They may be slowly decriminalizing weed, but I think they’ve taken a lot of the fun out of it, making it legal and all. When we were kids, half the fun was not getting caught…whether the crime was drinking, smoking or fooling around. I guess the state is making a shitload of money off the taxes. Be interesting to see how a Republican administration in the White House would feel about ignoring federal law.
I’m no politician, thank god, and I’m no consumer, but I am a parent…and a hypocrite. “Don’t do what I did, learn from my mistakes.” Change is bad and change is good. Sometimes it just takes a while to find out what the real results are.
Colorado is now looking into rasinos; a combination racing track and casino. Here we go again…


Jim Satterfield is the award winning author of The River’s Song and Saving Laura.  Go to to learn more about his writing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


When writing my novel The Riviera Contract I searched for a deadly disease or virus that would scare the hell out of the reader. I came up with Ebola, the same virus that today is killing hundreds of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Having traveled to all three of these countries, I can only imagine the fear and panic that is spreading throughout the towns and villages.
No known cure for the plague exists and the medical services in these three countries is woefully inadequate. The death rate after contraction is estimated to be 90 percent. The band of medical professional and volunteers face not only insurmountable obstacles, but also contagion and death. An American doctor serving in the region just died. They are heroes.
Now, the fear of Ebola has bred a terror of physicians. Members of the international aid group Doctors Without Borders have been attacked in some villages in Guinea. They are blamed by some villagers for spreading the illness throughout the countryside. An ironic twist. Once again reality outdoes fiction. Would only the Ebola virus stayed on the pages of my novel.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Good Summer Reads

by Holly West

As much as I love it, I'm a slow reader. That means my "To Be Read" pile is about 100 times longer than I'll ever have the time to get to. Nevertheless, I've read a few good books this summer that I want to bring to your attention.

1) The Black Hour by Lori-Rader Day

I learned about this book at Left Coast Crime, when Lori moderated a panel I was on. The concept intrigued me: Chicago sociology professor Amelia Emmett is shot by a student she's never met; he then turns the gun on himself. She returns to campus ten months later with a cane and a determination to find out why this happened to her, even if the search for truth prevents her from the return to normalcy she so desperately wants.

This is just the sort of crime novel I like most. It's well-plotted and a fascinating character study of a survivor of a violent crime and its aftermath. Amelia Emmett is not always likable, but it's impossible not to sympathize with her. As her body is working to heal itself, she's working to come to terms with what she's lost. It was, truthfully, a hard book to put down and I look forward to reading Lori's future books.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Your Funny Life

I teach a humorous memoir class every summer. My students tend to range in age from 65-90 because they have time for a mid-day class, they have lots of stories to write about, and a few forget they took my class last summer. Ha! I jest. Unless, of course, I forgot they took my class last summer, which is just as likely.

Who Are You As A Writer?

Last week at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in Seattle, Bob Dugoni (NY Times best-selling author) gave an extraordinary address in which he asked attendees to consider who they are as writers. He suggested we identify 5 things that define us as individuals. Knowing who you are helps you to understand the stories you write and the reasons you write them. The first item on my list was the grenade that blew up in my father's hand during his basic training at Ft. Jackson Army base during World War II. I have always realized that grenade blew up in the lives of his unborn children as well, but I was unaware of how much it influenced my writing. The photo below was taken three weeks before the grenade exploded. In it, I see a boy--in love with my mother and totally unaware of what awaits him. This event has inserted itself into my fiction and my poetry many times. I believed I was finished with it, but to my surprise this poem found me only a couple weeks ago.


On that July day in nineteen forty-four
you are eighteen, a country boy,
crawling through combat training at Ft. Jackson.
You see the piece of mud-caked metal
nuzzled beside a Hickory stump.
Too innocent to know there are things
in life we can reach for but shouldn’t,
you dig it out with your bare hands,
dust the treasure off on your khaki sleeve,
then toss it across the narrow field
of high grasses and bright yellow
dandelions to your best friend.

He turns it over, sniffs for a clue.
The smell takes him home….
Rich earth and shell-shaped blossoms
in his wife’s summer garden.
Baffled, he runs toward you,
pitches it back, an impromptu
baseball game between battle maneuvers.
When you reach up to catch it,
the pin dislodges and the grenade,
leftover from another war, explodes.
The boom reverberates for miles,
lifts your friend into a faultless sky,
a hero’s grave in Arlington.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pulling the Plug

When you think of an author, what is the picture that comes to mind? I’ve asked that of a few folks, and what I hear about is the hard work—the slaving over a notebook, or typewriter, or a keyboard. So it gives us a picture of a solitary individual, and as we all know, the more tortured they are the better the writing is! (Sarcasm is hard to hear over the interweb). But is that really true?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

6 Things to do when Attacked or Abducted

There are a lot of benefits to being a writer. One of the most important ones for me, is the ability to  place knowledge in another mind.
My character, Sapphire Dubois--Beverly Hills heiress/Martial Arts fighting vigilante--may seem like the epitome of fiction at first glance. However, I always try to implement real life self-defense techniques, along with other useful information, in each of the Sapphire books.

If you ever find yourself being attacked or abducted, here are a few tips and techniques that could help save your life. (Some are from Stalking Sapphire, Silencing Sapphire, and the upcoming third book in the series.)

6 Things to do when Attacked or Abducted

1. Do Not Panic.

To not panic and to think rationally feels impossible when someone is grabbing or attacking you, possibly with a weapon. However, to breathe deeply and to stay calm so that you can strategize and take in the event and its information, could actually give you an advantage over your opponent.
If you are being taken by someone who is intending to kill you, their actions are often based on emotion which clouds the logical mind.
If you need to create a ultra capable alter-ego, or pretend that you are your favorite hero/heroine to calm yourself, then do so.

2. Throat Punch.

For females dealing with a bigger, stronger, male offender, know he has weaknesses too. The throat, especially the trachea, is extremely sensitive.

If you are ever in severe danger a hard punch to the trachea can stop your opponents breath and even cause him to choke to death. Never do this to anyone if you aren't absolutely certain your life is in danger.

3. Head-butts.

You can head-butt your opponent from the from or the back. If he is behind you, holding your arms, or chest, launch your head backwards as fast and hard as you can.
If the opponents is in front of you, aim your forehead to the bridge of their nose as hard as possible. Not only can this cause a broken nose, but also cause their eyes to tear up, giving you the advantage.

4. Escape the Trunk

If you are taken and placed in the trunk of a car, know that all cars manufactured after 2002 have a trunk release lever inside the trunk.
If the car you are placed is an older than 2002, look for what you can use inside the trunk. Jacks, screwdrivers, and tool kits tucked with the spare tire can be used as weapons.

5. Anything is a Weapon.

Whether you're being taken, or have already been abducted, know that even the most mundane room can have weapons in it. You could use something as small as a pen to defend yourself. Look around for things that are sharp or hard, then use your imagination and the element of surprise against your opponent. Example: if you're held by chains, you can use the chains to wrap them around your opponents neck. Do not be afraid to hurt them, odds are they're already planning on hurting you.

6. Survival

We, humans, are genetically engineered to survive. The Fight or Flight response from our ancestors, who lived in much more perilous times, is still inside us.
You are stronger and smarter than you think!

Mia Thompson is the author of an internationally bestselling New Adult Thriller series.  Her first two novels, STALKING SAPPHIRE and SILENCING SAPPHIRE, were published by Diversion Books in 2013.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flotsam and Jetsam: Finding High-Quality Free Spec-Fic Ebooks and MacMillan USA released
a handful of Hugo Award finalists for
free, including this wondrous novelette
from Mary Robinette Kowal.
The rise of the Internet and e-reading tablets has led to a revolution in how books and magazines are sold and disseminated. It’s a complex issue that has led to battles between Amazon and giant publishing houses to control list prices; it has made millionaires of a few savvy self-published authors; and at the same time, it has gutted the monetary value in the work of many professional writers. As a member of the National Writers Union, I’m a big proponent of authors getting paid fair value for their work. This is why I boycott The Huffington Post, a $100 million news website that refuses to pay its writers.

At the same time, as an author myself, I do see the marketing value in getting exposure to new readers by offering cheap or free reads, and, thankfully, authors don’t need to sell their soul to exploitative media giants to get their work out there, particularly when it comes to speculative fiction. Like with anything on the Internet, though, there’s a lot of garbage for readers to sort through to get to the good stuff, so here’s a list of places where you can find some great free spec-fiction with a clean conscience. Just remember, if you like something you read for free, make sure to keep the good karma flowing and go buy the author’s book.

SF Signal’s Free Fiction Guru, Regan Wolfrom
SF Signal is a great blog site that covers all things sci-fi, fantasy, and horror related. Contributor Regan Wolfrom has a weekly column where he compiles a list of new and noteworthy free e-books. Most of these free e-books are temporary freebies through Amazon for the Kindle, so make sure you download them ASAP.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Interview with Crime Author Joe Clifford

We are shaking things up again on Prose & Cons. Two of our own, Sue Coletta and Joe Clifford, sat down for an in-depth interview.

As an artist, Joe explores the dark places, the uncomfortable places, the dingy bricks and concrete cracks of a cold uncaring city. He writes about the criminals and dope fiends, the dealers and the dreamers, the cops with their heels on the throat, closing in on the kill. He knows this scene well, because he once moved among them. His books, Junkie Love, Choice Cuts, and Wake The Undertaker can be found in local bookstores and online. His new thriller, Lamentation comes out October, this year.  

After all the rave reviews of early released copies I just had to read the sneak peek, and I was instantly hooked! I consider Joe a friend, as well as one of my favorite authors. He’s a talented writer and a great storyteller.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Facebook Emotional Manipulators: 5 Steps to Remove Them From Your Life

Whether it's for sport or for compensation, false representation on Facebook is mostly harmless, but when sport becomes malicious behavior people can end up being hurt or traumatized. Take Jackie, for example:

I believed I had found the man of my dreams in Seattle. According to his profile, Justin was professionally successful, believed in long-term commitment, and wanted to have a wife and children one day. I began communicating with Justin when he friended me through a mutual friend. I instantly fell in love and even posted on my wall that I was very happy and was considering moving to Seattle. I bought a ticket to Seattle, but I decided to ask some mutual friends more about him. I discovered that Justin had two children with different women, did not provide child support to either of them and never even graduated college. I felt completely betrayed and heart-broken. I was so depressed that I couldn’t even get out of bed. Just thinking about it made me have panic attacks. It got so bad I had to go to therapy. When I finally unfriend him, he proceeded to publicly slander me on his own wall. - Jackie, 29, San Francisco, California

Thursday, July 17, 2014

OCHO Jim Satterfield

This is the third installment of my serialized novella, Ocho. See June 19th for second scene.


Los Montanas Solitarios (The Lonely Mountains)

The trail wound in a series of switchbacks, from the valley floor to a plateau resting above the last stony wall of the Front. Zefarino labored up the steep slope, the snowy path packed firm the day before by the two ranch hands’ mounts. The old man had strapped the rifle across the back of his rucksack at the trailhead, leaving both hands free to grip the walking staff and tree limbs sweeping across his way. After climbing for over an hour, he paused to survey the surrounding country.
            The sun cleared the eastern horizon, chasing away morning shadows as its slanting rays spread up the mountainside. Ice crystals suspended in thin air glistened like tinsel in the golden light. Overhead, a dazzling sky of blue promised a fine day. Zefarino looked up the rocky draw, figuring he was nearly halfway to the notch in the great reef. There, the grade would lessen, and he could pick up his pace. For now, he resisted the urge to rush, saving his strength for the miles ahead.
            Pushing on, he found his rhythm, leaning against the staff every few steps to catch his breath and rest his bad knee. He had learned a determined man could cover much ground, traveling slow but never stopping…never quitting. The old man knew he was going deep into the wilderness. Ocho would not have retreated from his stronghold of cold and snow. To find him, the hands must have ridden well above timberline, a land of wind-swept basins sprinkled with boulders and stunted evergreens the Americanos called “shin-tangle.”
            Zefarino steadily climbed, his only task to follow the trail broken by others. Soon, he left behind tall firs and passed through stands of stubborn limber pine, their trunks twisted and deformed by wind. He always marveled at their hardiness, their resolve to take root in limestone and rock bereft of nurturing soil. If a tree can sprout from stone, perhaps an old man can scale a mountain, he thought. Grabbing an overhanging limb, he startled himself by saying aloud, “We are not that different, you and I.” He laughed, “You are nearly as bent and crooked as me…but we endure.”
            By late morning, Zefarino neared the gap in the mountain. Tired but elated to approach the summit,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Mother's Pride

I'm very happy to be able to feature Susan Howe as the ReadWave Writer of the Month. Sue is a brilliant up-and-coming writer of short literary fiction, whose stories are often tinted by a wonderfully dark kind of comedy. She runs the literary fiction theme on ReadWave (all you writers out there, feel free to submit some of your stories). Here's a piece of flash fiction written by Sue that won the Flash500 competition. I also recommend that you check out some of her longer stories as well. Enjoy!

Mother's Pride

She strolls in as cool as you like and says, “Hello, Joan” as if we’re old friends. She hands me a bunch of flowers. I hate lilies. So funereal. 
Daniel’s bobbing about behind her. I see she’s already got him where she wants him.
“Come through,” I say. “Dinner’s waiting.”
I can’t imagine what’s made them so late. They obviously haven’t spent any time deciding what to wear. Shorts and open sandals on a Sunday!

Monday, July 14, 2014

An Interview with Fiction Crime Writer Susan Coletta

Today's post features a Q & A between two Prose & Cons writers, Susan Coletta and Eliza Cross.

Our genres couldn't be more different. Susan Coletta writes crime novels and short stories, while I write women's fiction and cookbooks. I was curious about Sue's books and writing process, and she generously agreed to answer some questions. I think you'll enjoy hearing about her greatest influences, how she captures her ideas, and why she wrote her first novel by candlelight. - Eliza Cross

Eliza:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?  Did you have any early encouragers?  What writers influence you today?

Sue:  I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was about twenty years old.  But, I have always expressed myself through the written word.  Even as a young child I wrote my parents notes to tell them how I was feeling.  Words, to me, were friends.  They didn’t judge, and I could say what was really on my mind.  I wasn’t much of a reader until my late teens to early twenties, even though I grew up in a household of readers.  The authors that have influenced my writing are Katia Lief, Sandra Brown, Iris and Roy Johansen, Lisa Gardner, and of course, James Patterson.  Especially when I switched from mysteries to thrillers, James Patterson was a huge influence.

Eliza: Tell us a little about your novels.

Sue:  TIMBER POINT is about a prolific, street-smart, loner cat burglar, Shawny Daniels, who prowls into the wrong house.  As she scrambles to escape unnoticed, a hidden camera captures her image.  Now a killer is taunting her with midnight phone calls and deadly packages left at her front door, and Shawny has no idea what to do with the information she possesses.  If she goes to the police, she risks arrest.  If she doesn’t, more people will die.

In the second book, SILENT BETRAYAL, Shawny has tried many times to quit prowling but the

The More Things Change

by Holly West

...the more they stay the same.

I'm an author with two novels written. One was published in February 2014 and the other will come out in September. Yes, two books published in one year. It's not typical, but in the time it took me to get a book deal for my first novel, I had the bones of a sequel written and wrote a proposal for a second book when I got the offer on the first. Things moved quickly after that, and boom, I have two books coming out in one year.

Having a novel published is a thrill--the fulfillment of a life-long dream. But I also find that I'm chronically overwhelmed and spend a lot of time looking like this:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Look, Ma, I'm a Successful Writer

If you are a writer and someone asks what you do for a living and you decide that instead of making up something more interesting such as "peace mediator for the a secret government agency," you answer, "I'm an author," prepare for an onslaught of further questions.

Flash Critiquing


As writers, we lock ourselves in rooms, behave like the neurotic recluses many of us are, but there comes a time we need input of what we've written.  Writing in a vacuum rarely works.  The first test of a scene is to bring it to your critique group. In most critique groups, the writer reads the scene and the other members of the group offer critique almost immediately after hearing it. There are literally hundreds of things to look for in a scene and we rarely have time to consider them all. 

For years I've been studying under James N. Frey (probably best known for his craft books, How To Write a Damn Good Novel, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, How to Write a Damn Good Thriller, the Key). In my opinion his craft books are some of the best and most accessible available today. Over the years, he's become my mentor and my story coach.

Whenever possible, I attend his intensive workshops.  They are limited to 8-10 participants. We read a scene out loud and each person around the table offers his critique.  It's not easy to listen to 10-12 pages, retain them, and almost instantly be able to offer something of value to the writer. But Jim Frey sees the problems immediately and sums them up in a concise and clear manner. For as long as I've known him, more than 20 years, I've been awed by his ability to size up a story and know exactly what it wrong or what it needs.  I, like most of us, do a better job at critique if I can read the manuscript ahead of time, reread it, think about it, and then offer my criticism.  Unfortunately, most critique groups don't work that way and we are required to offer instant criticism. At a recent workshop with Jim, after much begging on my part, he shared some of his secrets. 

1.  Respond emotionally to the reading.  Are you bored? Wowed? Gripped? Does it feel as if the scene is too long? Ask yourself why.  If you are bored or feel the scene is too long, it is most likely because the piece lacks conflict. Conflict (opposition of characters' wills) holds a reader's interest and as each character works hard to get what they want (trying different methods) the layers strip away and their true self is revealed.

4 lessons from a great teacher.

I have been in school nearly my whole life (of course, repeating the first grade three times didn't help much) beginning in kindergarten and going right on through last week, when I took a Continuing Medical Education course on mosquito-borne illnesses (sounds fascinating, right?) Along the way, I have had the pleasure of having many excellent teachers, and I dedicate this post to Dr. Bob Rohner, who taught human pathology at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY for 40+ years (and he did it with panache!)


Robert Rohner MD

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Pitchapalooza Taught Me About The Art of the Pitch


For one whole minute, I felt like Kelly Clarkson.

A few years ago at the Mountain & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Conference, I participated in Pitchapalooza—a competition where twenty writers have exactly sixty breathless seconds to describe and sell their book concepts to a panel of industry experts. It’s been called “the American Idol for authors,” and although the judges were much kinder than Simon Cowell the competition was intense; many Pitchapalooza winners have gone on to be highly successful published authors.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Amazing Author, Horrible Person

Walter Breen wrote under the pen name
J.Z. Eglinton in his book defending pedophilia.
Despite being dead now for fifteen years, Marion Zimmer Bradley caused quite a stir on the Internet this last month. It all started with a tribute piece on Bradley, in honor of her birthday on June 3. The piece lauded her many books and contributions to the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) field, and while it seemed innocent enough, the SFF community had good reason to remember the darker side of Bradley. In short, Bradley not only married a man, Walter Breen, who molested children at SFF conventions, but she also helped cover up his crimes, and apparently even edited his writings on pederasty.

This has all been long known, ever since the mid-80’s when Breen was tried and sent to prison. You can find Bradley’s own admittance to knowing about her husband’s crimes from her depositions at the same time, found here. So it wasn’t surprising that when ran its tribute piece that a few bloggers would run counterpoint pieces, most notably, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, who sparked a fierce debate in the comments section of her post. It was there that new details emerged. Bradley’s own daughter posted in the comment section, calling her mother the true villain in her life, not Breen. “I do not think she loved anything or anyone,” her daughter stated, and then in a subsequent blog post, Moen quoted the daughter’s biggest shocker: Bradley herself had molested her and many others.

Frida Kahlo: A Life of Savage Beauty and Defiance

A crippling road accident, polio, her husband’s countless affairs, a miscarriage, childlessness, a foot amputation, alcohol abuse and a lifetime of incapacitating chronic pain: Frida Kahlo transformed her pain into awe-inspiring art. 

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon, as her name appears on her birth certificate, was born on July 6, 1907 in the house of her parents, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacan, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Self Portrait with Monkeys (1943)  

Even at a young age, Frida Kahlo challenged the status quo: As a girl, she participated in boxing and other sports. She joined a gang at school and fell in love with the leader, Alejandro Gomez Arias. She often dressed as a sophisticated young man and later took women lovers as well as men (including Trotsky). Raised during the time of the Mexican Revolution, Frida’s lifestyle pushed social and gender boundaries.

In her adult years, Frida had a mischievous streak. She was described as scandalous by good society, and as funny, witty and vulgar by her closest friends. She often stayed out late at night and won tequila-drinking challenges with the burliest of men. She partied hard, but took her art and political views very seriously. She was a fervent Communist and activist. Her political views, along with her physical and emotional pain, were channeled through her art.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Top 20 Movies Based on Historical Fiction

For my last couple of posts I discussed the relevance of Historical Fiction (Faking it…the Importance of Historical Fiction) and (5 Steps to NailHistorical Fiction—Faking it Right). But after reading Garret Calcaterra’s recent post (On the Originof Zombies: 7 Must-See Zombie Films), it got me a little jealous. I love the Walking Dead, and I love me some zombie movies, but what could I possibly offer up for all us Historical Fiction aficionados to compete with that? Then Holly West came along in her last post (Book, Movie, Both) and inspired me to dig deeper. Holly writes, "As a story lover, I'm also enamored of movies. They entertain and inspire me differently, but no less so than books."

To my surprise, it’s actually quite easy to research exactly which movies were made from Historical Fiction novels. And it was even easier to find out how much money each had earned at the box-office! I hate to make money the sole means to rank these movies, but in at least some sense, that’s important, too. The more Historical Fiction rakes in at the box office as novels are converted to screen plays, the more readers we may pull into our shared love of books. In addition, it shows the entire publishing industry, and the movie executives, just how important Historical Fiction can be. So using the total World-Wide Box office haul as our sole discriminator, here are the top 20 grossing movies based on Historical Fiction!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


By Arthur Kerns

Fellow authors tell me all the time that once their novel is in print they never go back and read it. I suppose we’ve written, read, edited, corrected the story so often that some can’t bear to look at the words again.
This may explain why sometimes when authors on book tours are asked a question about a novel’s character, plot line, or scene they become flustered. They can’t remember. The novel that so occupied their existence for so long has been mentally shelved. They’re on to a new manuscript, a new story, new characters.
I can understand, but have found I can still connect with that old novel by listening to it. In the car or working out at the gym I’ve listened to THE RIVIERA CONTRACT, which is available on Evan Greenberg does a great narration, and good audio book narrations are hard to find.

Listening to a novel you’ve written a while back is an interesting experience. From the beginning as the narrator recites your words it’s as if you’ve heard them before. Of course, you haven’t, unless you read passages to book clubs. No, it’s your inner ear of consciousness that listened, saw, experienced those words and phrases time and time again.
In the gym, while on the treadmill or at the weight machines, a particular scene, say at a fishing village on the Mediterranean Sea will come up and I’ll remember where I was when I wrote down the words. The writing group session that tackled that scene will be recalled and what some members liked, disliked about it.
Now and then I’ll hear a particular word. Where did that come from? I may not use it in daily speech. Did it just pop out of the ether or did a fellow group member suggest it? What prompted me to use it? Of course, there are those romance scenes—I definitely had a lot of help from members on those. They’re good for a chuckle. Oh, and how about the different fish needed for the bouillabaisse?

One disconcerting thought reoccurs as I listen to my past words. Will I again be able to come up with original thoughts and language? Will I enjoy listening to my next novel?

Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. In March 2013 Diversion Books, Inc. published his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract and in May 2014 the sequel, The African Contract.

You can visit him on

Of Mice and Cats

Any decent thriller lets some blood, but I prefer not to wade in it.  Give me a startling spot of red on a white collar, thieves who rob their targets with a keyboard. But I can’t revel in violence or luridness for entertainment. That’s why I write technothrillers. Unlike my learned colleague, Sue Collett, I’ll take a decisive hollow-point bullet into the temple over a patient serial killer and his toolkit.

photo by Robert Sheie

Any. Day. 

Serial killers are an enormously popular subgenre, but toying with life for the thrill makes me cringe. And not in way that makes me want more. Ask anyone. I routinely rescue snakes and rodents and wolf spiders out of my swimming pool. Once, I liberated a pair of randy frogs who were unconcerned that their tryst was conducted under four feet of water. 

photo by Nigel Wilson

Someday, I expect them all to return the favor.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Improving Your Odds of Acceptance in Literary Journals

I was hanging around the office the other day (Facebook), doing what writers do best (avoiding writing) when I stumbled upon one of the the 2,000 people I call friends, and whom I couldn't pick out of a lineup at the local Taco Bell. Her status update was something, like, "Worst Writing Advice Ever: Read literary magazines to see what editors like, and then write like that." Of course, the thread was then filled with the requisite, "Fuck that! Have to be yourself!" "Noooo! Don't give in, be you." Only it was probably spelled in text, y'know, "gots 2 b u" or some shit. And I didn't chime in because I hate confrontation, but I really wanted to. Not because I was geared up for some Internet arguing, but because that is actually the best writing advice I've ever gotten, and it's advice I continue to give. Reading literary magazines to see what editors want is how I have 60+ short stories published and four books out. It was a game changer.