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So I’ve been tagged in this kind of group question-asking recommendation chain called THE NEXT BIG THING. Authors answer questions about their work and then “tag” other writers to do the same. I got sucked into it by Alex Sokoloff, who tagged me along with Wallace Stroby, Michelle Gagnon and Zoe Sharp. (Click their names to read each of their entries.)

Here are my answers:

1) What’s the title or working title of your new/next book?

I’ve got several media tie-in projects in the works right now, none of which I’m able to post about yet, but my most recent book is the first of my lesbian private eye series Butch Fatale: Dyke Dick.  It’s called Double D Double Cross. There’s a second Butch Fatale book in the works as well.

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?

I’ve had this idea in my pocket for years. I’m a avid fan of vintage hardboiled pulp and I’ve always wanted take that traditionally hypermasculine genre and give it my own modern spin. So I created a classic, old-school private dick who just happens to have a vagina. That’s how Butch Fatale was born.

3) What genre is your book?

Pure hardboiled pulp. With a generous helping of erotica on the side.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?  Or TV series?

Hollywood doesn’t really have much room for females who identify as masculine of center, so it would be pretty hard to cast a well known actress as Butch Fatale. However, I was thrilled with this video put together for my book trailer contest by a young LA actor named Max.

As far as I’m concerned, the part is hers!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Butch Fatale is a fast-talking, skirt-chasing, two-fisted lesbian private investigator with an insatiable appetite for two things — women and trouble.

That pretty much says it all.

6) Is/will your book be self-published or traditionally published?

This series is really a labor of love without much in the way of blockbuster, mainstream appeal. Since I’ve already published more than ten novels the old-fashion way, publishing the series myself in eBook form seemed like the ideal option for this project. I also did a successful kickstarter campaign to raise money for a special, limited paper edition of the first and second books bound back-to-back in the old “Ace Double” style. I like to call it the 69 edition. Of course, work on the series has been slow going, due to all the tie-in work I’ve had to take on in order to pay the bills. But I tinker with it whenever I can, as a way to relax and have a bit of fun on the side.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first book, about six or eight weeks. This second one is going slower, due to my current heavy workload, but I really want these books to reflect that quick and dirty pulp aesthetic. I don’t want to be polishing each sentence for years and years. That’s part of what makes it fun.

8) What other books within the genre would you compare this story to?

You can see the clear influence of Richard Prather in the series, particularly the comedic elements. Like Prather’s famous dick Shell Scott, Butch is tough and smooth with the ladies, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See #8 for the who. For the what I’d say that I was tired of reading hardboiled crime novels in which LGBT characters are either comic relief or villains. I wanted to create a queer hero.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

Did I mention the sex? It’s dirty. Real dirty.

I'm not going to tag anyone else with this, but I will ask you readers to share your own recommendations of favorite vintage hardboiled detective novels. I'll start with one of mine: STRIP FOR MURDER by Richard Prather.

The Last Word

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the ongoing conversation about the NoirCon painting of me. That was my intention from the beginning, to encourage dialog about the default sexual stereotypes in our genre and ask people to think before perpetuating them, ironically or otherwise.

Yes, it made me angry, and I encourage women everywhere to speak up when you are angry. Don't let pressure to be polite or fear of being branded as a bitchy cunt who's probably on her period or something stop you from speaking up when something makes you mad.

But understand that it was never my intention to vilify organizer Lou Boxer or nuke NoirCon, which remains one of my favorite crime-related events in the US. 

I will not be driven out of the boys club by this. I plan to attend the next NoirCon and keep the dialog going. I hope to see you all there.


Mad Woman

Before you all tell me how sexy I am in this painting created for this year’s NoirCon, give me a chance to explain how I feel about it.


Here’s the email I sent to Lou Boxer, the organizer.

I just saw the cover of the NoirCon catalog posted on twitter and am really upset. While I’m a huge fan of vintage pulp art and totally understand what you were going for in that painting, I’m hurt and offended to be portrayed as a half-naked damsel in distress. I try so hard to be taken seriously as a writer and to break out of the sexist mindset in which women are viewed as nothing but vixens and victims. I feel like that cover undermines everything I represent as a writer and a person.

To Lou’s credit, he got on the phone and called me right away, with the artist on the line. They apologized to me and told me that they never meant to offend me. The artist then went on to explain his intention, that it was meant to be ironic and that portraying me tied up and helpless was funny because it’s the opposite of how I really am.

While I appreciate the apology and the effort to communicate instead of hiding from conflict, I just don’t think that an image like this, ironic or not, is the kind of thing we need any more of in our genre.

So, Faustketeers, what’s your take? Do you think this painting is funny and ironic? Or does it reinforce the sexist stereotypes female writers have been up against for years? 

Edited to add: This image is on a program book that has already been distributed to con attendees for an event this weekend, so there's no way to nix, pull or change it. In fact I didn't even know about it until an attendee posted a photo on twitter, which is a major part of my beef as well.

Edited again to add: In the interest of fairness, I have been asked to post the back cover of the book. (Sorry for the blurry photo quality.) It depicts other women, so I'm not the only female, but I am the only one who is overtly sexualized and portrayed as a victim. That's Megan Abbott and a female DJ behind Reed Coleman and SJ Rozan holding the arm of Nazi Ken Bruen. And, as far as Reed and some of the other men being nearly naked too, as I stated in the comments, a straight man portraying another straight man half naked and/or victimized as a joke is not as creepy as a straight man portraying a woman half naked and victimized as a joke. Especially when the woman in question is not in on the joke.

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Future of Publishing

Hey Angelenos, come listen to me and a bunch of other local writers talk smack about the future of publishing:


Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, So Cal chapter

Saturday, November 3
1-2:30 pm
Sherman Oaks Branch Library
14245 Moorpark Street
Sherman Oaks, 91423
Please join this intriguing and engaging cross-section of writers and book
people who have experience doing e-books, self-publishing physical units,
have done successful Kickstarter campaigns, done print on demand, marketed
small press books and more.
James Scott Bell (traditional & e-books)
Christa Faust (traditional, e-books & Kickstarter)
William Goldstein, marketing, Red Hen Press
Diane Vallere, Polyester Press
Moderator: Gary Phillips
(traditional, e-books & Kickstarter)
Free and Open to All


Deadlines: RIP Chef Damon

As a full time writer without a day job, I work my ass off. I spend the majority of my time here at this desk, banging out the word count to hit one tight deadline after another. I'm a bad friend, often failing to return phone calls or emails and losing touch with people because I was too busy.

Today, I woke up to the news that my old friend Chef Damon Bruner had been found dead in his San Francisco apartment. Details are still sketchy, but the police are apparently regarding it as a "suspicious death." He was 44.
Screen shot 2012-10-22 at 10.01.41 AM
Damon was an amazing cook. His Thai squid salad is what I always said I would want as my death row meal. He used to rag me about my sorry-ass knife skills, and joked that everything I prepped for him during the fetish dinners at the Ivy Manor would have to be presented as "rustic." He was charming and funny and gifted. And I haven't seen or talked to him since 2009.

Because I was busy.

When he moved to San Francisco after his wife Edith's suicide, we made the usual promises to stay in touch, but my deadlines got in the way. Like they always do. I thoughtlessly assumed that it was no big deal. That a few years down the road, I'd be up in the Bay Area with a little time on my hands and I'd swing by the latest restaurant where he would be cooking. We could always catch up later. But now there is no more later, and I feel like shit about that.

You see, this is a lesson that I've failed to learn over and over again. That life is what happens while you're on deadline. That if you put everything and everyone on the back burner in order to pay the bills, then you miss out on the things that really matter.

So, even though I'm on the tightest deadline of my life right now, I'm gonna take the day off. Call my friends and listen to what they are up to, not be in a rush to hang up and get back to work. Spend some time with my Pop and Charles. Take my dog for a long walk. Take the time to cook a nice meal for myself and not just eat cereal for dinner at my desk. Be alive. 

Not later. Now.

Girls School?

This article annoys me for a variety of reasons. Check it out. I’ll wait.

I’m not denying that female only (or male only) space can be a good thing in certain contexts, but this suggestion that we’d all be better off if we go back to gender segregated education is just plain wrong.

For starters, there’s the underlying heterocentric pretense that completely negates the experiences of gay and lesbian students. A gender segregated school system would increase the possibility of sexual and romantic distraction for them, rather than eliminating it as the author suggests.

Second, it puts even more unfair pressure on young transgendered people, who have enough battles to fight on a daily basis and don’t need yet another opportunity be catastrophically misgendered.

Then, here we go again with the pervasive idea that all men are slavering rape monkeys who just can’t be trusted. And according to this article, the answer isn’t to teach our sons not to rape people, it’s to send our daughters to what the author apparently imagines would be a peaceful, penis-free utopia where nothing bad, scary or mean will ever happen to them.

Which brings me to the last and most deeply personal reason why this pissed me off. Because I was never date-raped or sexually harassed in school, but I was relentlessly physically and psychologically tortured by other students. Female students. So you’ll forgive me if I find the idea of being sent to an all girl school to be less than fucking idyllic.

Instead of sending your daughter to Barbie’s Malibu Dream School, how about teaching her to handle herself in the real world, where there are male people, good, bad and indifferent. Where things aren’t always going to be easy and she will need to be strong and focused and confident enough to handle whatever comes her way. Where not everyone she meets will fit into the standard pink and blue cliché of what “girls” and “boys” are supposed to be.

But that would require actual parenting.

Hello Cleveland!

Despite the fact that my novel CHOKE HOLD is nominated for an Anthony Award, I was pretty sure I was not going to be able to make it to Bouchercon. This last year has been a tough one for everyone I know, and I'm no exception. I just couldn't afford the trip.

You guys all know that Pop Faust has been having a lot of health problems recently, and that I had to take on a tremendous amount of care-taking, shopping, driving and other responsibilities in order to help him out.

Well, as a thank you for taking care of him, my awesome family has gotten together and chipped in to pay for my airfare and hotel at B-con! So a zillion thanks to the far-flung Faust clan. Couldn't have done it without you guys.

Anyway, I won't be on any panels but I'll be in the bar, so feel free to come on over and say hello.

On an interesting side note, I'm on a skin-tight deadline for my current tie-in project (soon to be announced) so I'll be working in the mornings and doing the B-con thing in the afternoon and evenings. This will be my first time trying to rack up a serious word count while traveling, and I'm very curious to see how it goes. I don't have a laptop, so I'll be using Pages on my iPad with a keyboard dock. Wish me luck.

Writers: Have you ever be able to write on the road? Any tips or tricks to share?


The Lost Future

You’ve probably all seen this by now, but if not, go check it out. I’ll wait.

Misogynistic politician is misogynistic!

I was born in 1969, brought up by idealistic, intellectual hippie parents who fought for  women’s rights and thought they’d won. They taught me that girls and boys are equal and I could grow up to be anything I wanted. That I had the right to do whatever I wanted with my body and my mind. That I could love anyone I chose, or be alone if I chose. That I was born free, just like the sappy song my dad used to play for me on his guitar.

As a kid, I was an avid reader of science fiction and imagined the future would be this wondrous, enlightened utopia of science and reason. We all would wear togas and Lucite sandals. We’d zip around in our flying cars and meet up with our brainy friends to discuss complex and exciting new scientific concepts over protein pill lunches. Equality for all would be a given and we would laugh and shake our enlightened heads over how silly our caveman ancestors used to be about things like genitals, skin color or sexual orientation.

Obviously, that’s not what happened.

How is it that, decades later, long past the iconic year 2000, a basic human right like a woman’s control over her own body is still up for debate? How is it that the most irrational and hateful branches of religion are still alive and kicking while science is increasingly under funded and marginalized? And where’s my fucking flying car?

All jokes aside, I can’t help but feel a kind of hate fatigue, wading through the deluge of misogyny and willful ignorance that seems to fill the interwebs these days. I want to be angry, but most of the time I just feel numb and disgusted. I feel like the Marching Morons are winning.

What do you think? Will we as a society ever move past this superstitious pussy-hatin’ ass-backwards kind of thinking or are rational, compassionate people the ones that will end up loaded into boxcars on the old Dodo Express?


And the winner is...

I gave the Butch Fatale video contest a few extra days just to see if any other entries would come in at the last minute, but no such luck. Don't know if people were too shy, or reluctant to do the work required to shoot and upload a video, or maybe just intimidated by Max's awesomeness. Regardless, that makes Max the undisputed champion and the official face of Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick.

By happy accident, I ran into Max and her partner last night at OutFest 2012.

She's even more dapper and charming in real life.

I'll be working with Max to come up with a final book trailer for the Butch Fatale series. My original plan was to shoot something from scratch with the winner and edit it myself, but Max did such an outstanding job of nailing the flavor and feel of the series that I may just end up using a slightly modified version of her video.

Where My Butches At?

Time is running out on my Butch Fatale video contest, and we only have one entry so far. If you think you've got what it takes to give Max a run for her money, submit your own entry before July 15th. Full details on the contest here.

If more than one entry is received by the cut off date, then readers will be invited to vote for who should play Butch Fatale in the new book trailer. May the best butch win!