Archives for posts with tag: Lisa Mason Book Critic

Last week, the city informed us that a construction crew would be working on the street outside our home to install a new sewer device to the existing pipes. (It’s an old street.) The crew would start banging and jack-hammering early in the morning.
That night, before I went to bed, I inserted my ear plugs. I have these soft foam ear plugs. You kind of squish them in your fingers, shove the narrowed point into your ear canal, and allow the foam to expand. Tom uses hard plastic ear plugs (very effective), which I can’t bring myself to insert in my ear.
I hate anything inserted in my ear, especially something hard like a hard plastic ear plug or, maybe some day, a hearing aid.
I’m of the age (over forty) when vendors of products that are supposed to appeal to, or be required by people who are getting on in years send all kinds of advertisements by snail mail or email. One of those products is hearing aids. I also see ads in Via, the magazine published by the AAA Auto Club, which I belong to, and Popular Science, which Tom gets at our library, and even Scientific American, which our neighbor gives us when he’s done reading. Do print magazines assume that their readership is comprised mostly of people who are getting on in years and might consider hearing aids? It would seem so.
Before Christmas of last year, I received one snail mail, a large fancy embossed envelope, which offered me a free Christmas ham if I would come into the conference room of a local hotel, get a free hearing test, and listen to a pitch for their hearing aids.
Aside from the fact that I don’t eat ham, I was not enticed by the prospect of a free hearing test. A test is an ordeal designed to prove you’re inadequate. When I was a child, I always hated hearing tests. You listened to a soft tone and told the tester whether you could hear it. Or not.
Today, my hearing isn’t worse than two or three decades ago. My hearing is just as bad as it always was.
When I was a child, I suffered recurring severe earaches. I have a vivid memory of lying in bed and reaching my forefinger in my ear, finding the canal crusty with the medicinal drops my mother was administering to me. The memory makes me shudder.
When I was a child, I also hated—HATED—milk, butter, cheese, anything dairy. The conventional wisdom was—and it still probably is—that children need to drink milk to build strong bones and teeth. That was the health gospel.
My mother strived mightily to get me to drink milk, flavoring the loathsome greasy liquid with chocolate powder or strawberry powder, pouring it in my cereal, cooking with it. As soon as I was old enough to sneak downstairs to the kitchen before my parents woke up, I rinsed my cereal bowl in milk, deposited a few flakes of cereal in there, and placed the bowl in the sink. Same for my milk glass. My mother was annoyed that I didn’t wash my breakfast dishes, but it was a ploy on my part. A fake-out.
Decades later, I discovered from a book called Mad Cowboy about the cattle-raising industry, that earaches (among other ailments) in young children are a symptom of dairy intolerance.
Today we know that various vegetables, beans, fish, whole grains, and calcium-fortified juices provide more than enough calcium to build strong bones in children and adults without dairy.
When I became a vegetarian in college, I developed a taste for cheese and yogurt. That was before there were the wonderful vegetarian meat- substitutes, like Morningstar Farms products, that we have today. Before I learned to cook vegetables and vegetarian dishes. Cheese, yogurt, and soybeans were all we vegetarians had for protein and calcium. But I never drank milk, not even fat-free milk.
And my hearing? From my twenties on, I’ve always found it difficult to sit across the table from a companion in a café or restaurant and hear what he or she is saying, especially when there’s background noise. In rooms with high ceilings, like cafés and restaurants, grocery stores, and offices, I have to ask, “Say that again?” I have trouble understanding people with heavy accents, any kind of accent. It’s embarrassing. I know I get a blank look on my face and the speaker thinks I’m dense.
Sometimes I have to listen carefully to the dialog in movies, especially when the movie has too-loud background music or noise. But in the quiet of our living room, I have no trouble hearing my husband when we have a conversation. And I have no trouble hearing Athena when she meows, asking me for something to eat.
So if you meet me in a restaurant, café, convention, or party, don’t be shy. Lean close and shout in my ear.
The noise in the street last week from the city construction crew wasn’t bad at all. Or maybe my foam ear plugs worked better than I’d hoped. The crew did a great job of installing a high-tech grate that they can remove for maintenance. Hooray for the city.
So how about you? Do you have a hearing impediment? Do you wear hearing aids? How do you like (or dislike) them?
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CHROME.MED.295.KB

Here’s Steve Fahnestalk (with 19,000 subscribers):
“Next month, January 2020, will be my seventh consecutive year of writing for Amazing Stories® online! I hope you’ve enjoyed my writing as much as I have enjoyed being a part of Steve Davidson’s reboot of this famous magazine, and I hope to be able to do this for a long time to come. For my last column of the 2010s (and 2019 in particular), I’ve chosen to review two very good genre works, one an excellent magazine, and the other an excellent semi-noir full-on SF work by a terrific author I’ve reviewed before, and (as the cover above says, a New York Times notable author). I’m talking about Lisa Mason’s new novel Chrome, first.
I hesitate to characterize it, because it’s so much more than a short description can convey, but in my mind it stands out as a science-fiction homage, in part, to the noir books and movies of the forties and fifties, only brought forth into a future time a quarter-millennium from now. There’s no world-weary Robert Mitchum-type ‘tec as a protagonist; rather, our hero is a beautiful half-human, half puma thief named Luna Lightfoot, who makes her main living as what we might call a video star. Millions of people back on Earth pay for the privilege of watching her at home while she eats, sleeps, and carries out her home life for their voyeuristic pleasure. She also hangs out with the rich and famous.
Luna lives on an artificial planetoid, called Chrome, at one of Earth’s LaGrange points, put there 250 years ago by one of Earth’s wealthiest and greediest corporations, the Emirk group. (If you want to know where Emirk came from, the name refers to a tributary of one of Earth’s big rivers, according to the author. When you get to that part, you’ll understand.) Back in our time (and this is true), a Chinese scientist claims to have gene-edited a couple of children using the CRISPR method, which is sort of like gene cut-and-pasting. Scientists around the world—and, finally, this own government—decried the use of CRISPR on humans. However, in this book, Emirk started experimenting (at first, openly, but then, thanks to public and governmental outcries, covertly) with “improving” the human genome by adding genes from practically every oxygen-breathing species of animal on the planet. Spending billions to build Chrome, Emirk’s experiments were moved there and continued. Human subjects were given or sold by outlaw governments and factions to Emirk’s scientists; and now there exists a whole society of human/animal interbreeds, called “blends,” on Chrome. Humans can not live there anymore, thanks to a plague that killed off (and continues to kill off) any unmodified humans, yet Emirk still owns Chrome, and figures it owns all the inhabitants too.
Luna attends a party given by Bunny Hedgway, one of Chrome’s glitterati in order to steal an artifact from Bunny’s treasure room, but while she was engaged in this theft, witnessed the murder of Chrome’s prima ballerina, an ostrich Blend named Zena Kinski, by an unidentified Blend who was wearing a wolf costume, but who may not have been a wolf. Because she was witnessed on the roof of Bunny’s place at the time of the murder, Luna needs to clear herself and find out who the Blend is who actually killed Zena. In the process, Luna finds herself becoming familiar with Chrome’s criminal underworld, and gains enemies as well as new friends and allies. One of those is the tortoise Blend Terralina Rustabrin, who is about to be bond-mated to a Prince of tortoise Blends. (Blends are not legally humans; therefore, cannot marry, according to Emirk Corporation. So “bond-mating” is their substitute.) Although Terralina’s eyesight is poor, she happens to be close to several significant happenings related to the murder, and actually saw Luna come down off Bunny’s roof.
In this book, Lisa has created a world and a society that mirrors our own in many respects; although we have no (to the best of my knowledge) actual Blends on Earth, corporations and governments on this planet are actively trying to (and in some cases have succeeded) treat humans as if they were Blends, or property. And you can just bet that these kinds of experiments will happen somewhere on Earth if they aren’t already happening. Like what happens to most enslaved people everywhere, many Blends are rich or getting rich by actively helping Emirk subjugate their fellow blends. There are Blend geniuses, one of whom created the “Tatts,” a type of tattoo that acts as a communications device, archival device, amanuensis (a blend of Alexa and Google in some ways) and other things. It’s a fully-realized society that takes some of the attributes of the animal parts of Blends and applies what those traits might mean to humans who have them.
And as for the noir mystery part; whether Luna solves her own problem (of being a suspect and a fugitive from the killer(s)), you’ll just have to read the book to find out. I really appreciate the fact that the ending is not a “pat ending. I suspect Lisa may someday turn out a sequel to Chrome. Anyway, I liked this book and recommend it; it’s available in Kindle format in most countries.”
Here’s the Amazing Stories link so you can see the beauteous photo of me holding an issue of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy in which I’d published a story a little while ago. Not the F&SF issue in the Amazing Stories review, though Steve Fahnestalk compared a theme in one of the stories in the November-December issue to my theme in CHROME. https://www.amazingstories.com/2019/12/my-last-column-lisa-masons-chrome-and-fsf-nov-dec-2019/
The CHROME cover, by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, is comprised of a dozen different elements which Tom carefully researched. We think the imagery looks kind of mid-century. I love the color scheme.
And yes! A Brand-new Reader Review of Chrome, You’ll find it on Amazon:
So Walter Mosley reread Animal Farm and The Island of Dr Moreau and says to himself, “Oh, yes indeed, I’ve got a terrific idea for my next best seller.” But! Lisa says, “Hold on, hot stuff. You’re too late. Chrome is already on the streets. Haha!”
Wow! I just tore through Chrome. So much fun. Oh, I guess I should take a time-out to say that it was very well-written too, but I was enjoying the characters and the story so much that the superb writing simply did its job and I had to consciously reflect to notice the excellent and clever construction and reveals. Uh, isn’t that the definition of good writing?
I’m not usually a fan of sequels, but could we please have at least one more romp with Ms Lightfoot and her sidekick Terralina?”

Yes, I’m working next on a second CHROME book and a third book to round out a trilogy, plus a prequel novella. LIBERATION DAY, which will explore the mysteries of the events leading up to freeing of the Blends from their cages.
CHROME is in U.S. print as a beautiful trade paperback. Also in U.K. print, in German print, in French print, in Spanish print, in Italian print, and in Japanese print.
The ebook is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, India Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, and Mexico Kindle.

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My 9,000-word story, “Arachne”, my FIRST story, got published in OMNI Magazine, then the premiere genre fiction venue. I’ll have much more to say about how that came about later.
This post, however, is about how to turn a shorter work into a longer one.
First off, I don’t recommend it.
You can easily take a little piece of a book and turn it into a coherent, self-contained story. I don’t make a practice of that, either, but have done so in “Crawl Space”, a Garden of Abracadabra spin-off story that’s very charming. And I have plans to write more spin-off stories in the Abracadabra universe, as well as a YA series featuring Becky Budd, a wonderful teenage character who is just finding her way in Real Magic, with the help of Abby Teller.
I also have plans for stories linked in the same universe that, when they’re all written, could be knit together and become a book. Or at least a story collection that feels like a book. I published a story, “Teardrop”, in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, that got good reviews. This takes place in the Bakdoor universe. I have plans to write more Bakdoor stories. A lot of writers do this, to make good use of a fully developed world and characters.
But what about taking a short story and turning it into a novel? Why do I not recommend the practice?
Because you’re immediately faced with the problem of “padding.” If your story feels self-contained, complete in and of itself, satisfying in and of itself, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, your attempt to expand it will slow the pace to a crawl with useless words, endless descriptions, and silly subplots.
But if you can identify issues in the story that seem “compressed”—as many readers and critics did of the story “Arachne”—then you’ve got a chance for expansion into a good, saleable novel.
For the rest of what I recommend for expanding your story into a novel and the service I’m offering, please join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206 and support me while I recover from the Attack. I’ve got lots of goodies for you—four delightful stories, movie reviews, recipes, book excerpts, and more.
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9-16-16-athena-in-sun-2

Getting ready to bake Athena’s ground turkey thigh. Thigh has more fat than turkey breast and cats, as obligate carnivores, need even more fat in their diets than dogs. Three-quarters of a pound lasts her, sealed up the Japanese clear container at left, five or six days.
To serve: I put a couple of chunks in one of her little Japanese crackle bowls, at upper left, then a couple of chucks of canned Whole Paws Turkey & Giblets. The latter has no corn, soy, wheat, rice, meat byproducts, blood meal, or preservatives. Plus real turkey, chicken hearts, chicken livers, peas, carrots, and all the vitamins and minerals cats need. Plus taurine.
Decades ago pet food companies discovered that cats require taurine, a substance found in muscles, nerve tissue, and bile. In the wild, cats eat a whole prey creature. The whole thing, especially the organ meat.
(Grotesque alert: A teenage boy, an athlete, was found dead behind a high school in Boulder, Colorado. At first the police were puzzled. His eyes, heart and liver had been neatly removed, almost surgically removed. Then they realized it was the work of a hungry mountain lion. Human eyes apparently have a lot of fat, too. End grotesque alert)
When I was researching cat nutrition four years ago when we adopted Athena, I found a company that will send you a whole frozen rabbit. You’re supposed to put the rabbit in a food processor (presumably a food processor dedicated to this sole purpose) and grind it up. Then spoon into containers and refrigerate.
No thanks. I’m THAT fanatic about preparing cat food.
Note: I don’t feed Athena kibbles. Like the little predator she is, she eats her antelope-kill substitute at night and digests all day. She doesn’t need to snack all day. Also, kibbles have grain—brown rice, which is supposed to make you think they’re healthy. Nope. Athena had a UTI when she first came to live here four years ago. I took the kibbles away back then. Also, from everything I’ve read, it’s not true that kibbles help clean the cat’s teeth. They don’t.
Invest in a dental sponge and brush your cat’s teeth with dental fluid at least once a week.
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The September 2019 Movie Review
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
This film was justifiably nominated for the Oscar in several categories and won the Golden Globe. Melissa McCarthy, in a heartfelt and acerbic performance, plays Lee Isreal, a one-time best-selling biographer down on her luck who stumbles on how to earn income to keep her New York City apartment and treat her beloved sick cat after she loses her job. (BTW, I’ve seen the NYC apartments of successful employed people; in the film, Isreal has a nice apartment.)
But story starts out following her humiliation, all too real, as a failed writer.
She goes to a posh party held at her literary agent’s very fancy apartment, overhears a successful author pontificating to a crowd of admirers, helps herself to the deluxe food, and steals a coat from the cloakroom.
Later, she goes to the agent’s very fancy office and pleads for a $10,000 spec sale of a new biography she’s researching. She says in a strangled voice, “I mean, I was on the New York Times Bestseller list once. Doesn’t that count for something?”
The literary agent replies, “I can’t get ten dollars for you.”
Ouch. Meanwhile, she owes the veterinarian money, so he won’t see her sick cat, let alone prescribe needed medicine.
Melissa McCarthy isn’t afraid of appearing fat and ugly. And desperate.
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The September 2019 Recipe
Lisa Mason’s Spicy California Rice
This is another recipe particularly satisfying for dinner on a chilly winter night, but the dish is good anytime of the year when you want to serve you and your family a nutritious dish with a Mexican flair. I used to call the dish “Mexican Rice,” but Mexican-inspired dishes have, I think, evolved into California cuisine. At our excellent local Mexican restaurant, for example, the menu makes a point that they don’t use lard—long a staple of Mexican cooking. And our veggie-centric dishes would be a novelty in traditional Mexican cuisine, which depends heavily on meat and corn tortillas.
By the way, as always, you can add a tablespoon more of olive oil to the recipe, if you want added fat (fat enhances taste, as all cooks know), or add ground turkey or even ground beef—already cooked, please—if you want meat.
But why would you want to?
In her landmark 1973 book, Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé presents a meticulous argument that meat doesn’t actually contain as much “usable protein” or “complete protein” as people suppose and that bean, vegetable and grain (and sometimes dairy) combinations do the job equally well. Your body does need protein (less protein as you grow older) and usable protein is what your body can metabolize to fuel you.
Think of the classic peanut butter on bread (I hope you’ll transition to whole wheat bread and skip the sugary jelly). The reason this simple meal is satisfying and nourishing is that peanuts and wheat form a complete protein. Eat your sandwich with milk (fat-free milk, if you don’t have a lactose intolerance) and you’re good to go.
Brown rice and beans (kidney, pinto, or black beans) in particular provide a complete protein which is just as good as meat without the bad saturated fat and with the good fiber and vitamins.
I was a teenager when Lappé’s book was published but I quickly discovered it when I went off to college and got out of my mother’s meat-centric kitchen. There weren’t a lot of good vegetarian options then—except cheese and whole wheat bread—and I was skeptical of, and didn’t know how to cook, beans. Like a lot of people who have long eaten meat and haven’t transitioned to beans, legumes at first can cause digestive distress. Trust me, when you ease the meat out of your diet and eat more beans, your system will adjust and you can eat beans freely without embarrassing social consequences (you know what I mean).
On that happy note, let’s begin with Lisa Mason’s Spicy California Rice.
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7.9.19.YOSHIO.VASE_NEW

“Yoshio Kobayashi (1951-2019)
Translator, editor, and fan Yoshio Kobayashi, 68, died June 13, 2019 of an ischemic heart attack. Under his pen name Takashi Ogawa he was one of the leading SF translators in Japan, tirelessly promoting SF and bringing works by Greg Bear, Bruce Sterling, Lucius Shepherd, Lewis Shiner, Michael Swanwick, and other major writers to the Japanese audience. He translated for Japanese publishers including Shueisha and Hayakawa, and for the magazine Hayakawa SF. He taught translation for many years in Tokyo and Sapporo, inspiring generations to share his passion, and founded award-winning Japanese fanzine Palantir in 1981.
Kobayashi was also the longtime Japanese agent for Locus, and a devoted friend to the magazine. Born 1951 in Tokyo, he suffered from neurological problems last year, and while he underwent brain surgery in November, his health continued to decline this year. He is survived by wife Mika Kobayashi and their daughter.”
Locus Magazine, The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field
* * *
I hope you’ll notice in the above official obituary that Locus Magazine neglected to mention the many women SFF writers whose work Yoshio also translated. Including me.
I first met Yoshio in 1991, after my first novel ARACHNE sold to Hayakawa and my Asimov stories, “The Oniomancer” and “Guardian” sold to the magazine Hayakawa SF.
He was a pleasant-looking, diminutive Japanese man with genuine warmth, congeniality, and humor. I think Locus Magazine sent him over to my home since Yoshio was an agent for the magazine, visited Charles Brown (the founder of the magazine) often and Charles had gotten news of my sales to the Japanese market.
Yoshio walked into my home, looking curiously around as he always did and carrying a large box made of bamboo.
This he presented to me. I opened the box and found the gorgeous Japanese vase you see above.
Then we sat down at my dining room table and went over the translation questions he had for me. Yoshio loved American slang, especially surfer slang and 1960s hip slang, and earnestly wanted to translate these strange words and their strange meanings into Japanese.
The next time I saw Yoshio, he was doing business at Locus Magazine in the Oakland Hills. Charles Brown called me: Could I drive him and Yoshio on a tour of the hills and then to dinner?
Of course I could.
Tom sat in the passenger seat, Yoshio and Charles sat in the back and we drove up Summit Drive where you can see the whole spectacular panorama of San Francisco Bay, East Bay, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, and out to the Pacific Ocean. Charles said, “I have been everywhere in the world, but I still come back to the Bay Area and am amazed.”
Then I drove everybody across the San Rafael Bridge to Larkspur Landing in Marin County where we dined at the Marin Brewing Company. I don’t know if the restaurant is still there, but it was a burgers and fries and onion rings kind of place, with an impressive display of the brass beer brewing machinery in the front.
I didn’t like to touch my food with my fingers (still don’t), so I ate my burger and onion rings with a knife and fork. Yoshio observed me doing that, and emulated me. Charles’ memorable quote? “I know how to make onion rings, but if someone else cooks them, I’ll spare myself the work.” A good time was had by all, including Yoshio and me cutting up our burgers and buns with a knife and fork.
The next time I saw Yoshio, he was back in the Bay Area and asking if I could pick up he and a couple of friends and drive them up to the Locus house for a meeting.
Of course I could.
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