Fiction in a minute: Superstition

My wristwatch was stuck at half past two, even though the morning sun indicated otherwise. Most people would get a battery, reset the time and move on with their day. But I had old superstitions rattling around in my head, a legacy of my Nana’s myriad household warnings and omens–like if your right palm itched you were going to get money, if you got your stomach wet while you washed dishes you’d marry a drunk, or if you sang at the table you’d marry a crazy person. And if a clock stopped, someone was going to die. “Just put a new battery in it, for crissakes,” my boyfriend Stuart said, […]

Homelessness in LA | Let’s Not Look Away

There are more homeless people in Los Angeles in 2015 than there have been since the homeless census in 2007. The biennial homeless count, released in mid-May, reported a 16% increase in the number of men, women and children living on the streets or in shelters. And the most notable change? A huge bump of 85% in the number of people living in tents, cars and recreational vehicles. My North Hollywood neighborhood is proof of this. A virtual tent city has cropped up around the 170 freeway near Magnolia Blvd. Personally, I’ve noticed an uptick in panhandling around the freeway exits and the Metro stations, and I’ve been trying not […]

When women were astronomical computers

Being a computer used to be one of the few women’s jobs in astronomy. Today, the word computer evokes plastic cases, microchips and power cords, but the term “computer” was actually first used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe people who solved mathematical equations using their brains and a pencil and paper. Rooms of these human computers, or clerks, sat at desks, crunching through large amounts of data for weeks that today can be done in a millisecond. This was not glamorous work. But it was one of the few jobs available to women in the fields of math and science at the time. So if […]

Fiction: Opportunity Knocks, Part 3

Robin slid limply down the side of the turbine until she could feel the cold tile floor through the seat of her pants. His fall played on repeat in her head. He was just a man, blood and flesh and bones like all of us, the power he held completely vanished — dispensed into the air like humidity. She’d had entertained a few fantasies about killing him, or at least having him disappear, but now, incredulously, someone had actually taken that ultimate step. A small smile found its way to her face. She waited as the group filed down the stairs, shoes clanging on metal. Ladonna’s knees went wobbly on […]

Fiction: Opportunity Knocks, Part 2

You can read Part 1 here. The bus carrying the VIP entourage of commissioners was king of the parking lot, tall enough to let its passengers look down their noses at lowly cars and trucks driving alongside. It pulled up outside the power plant with a low rumble followed by a squeal of brakes. The hydraulic door sighed and a stream of community leaders disembarked, wearing somber business suits and faces to match. The first woman to approach Robin’s check-in table was a tall black woman with a poof of blond hair. Her name was Ladonna Jackson, and she was the newest commissioner. A few seconds later, she was replaced […]

Fiction: Opportunity Knocks, Part 1

The first time it happened she was at the laundromat. Then there was another occasion, a few weeks later, while pushing her cart at the supermarket. Initially it was terrifying, but now it happened nearly every day and Robin was starting to like it. It was certainly more gratifying than the long stints of yoga and meditation she’d been trying in order to replace resentment and powerlessness with peace and acceptance. Yes, she did feel just the tiniest bit lonely, but loneliness was a tolerable price to pay for this seductive new power. The things she learned! Just today, she’d discovered that Alesha and her husband hadn’t had sex in […]

Fiction in a Minute: Dude, Part 5

Editor’s note: you can read Part 4 here. He knew as he walked to the waiting room with Melly that he couldn’t leave. He texted Ray that he was tied up, then slumped into a chair like a man knocked down by a haymaker punch he never saw coming. His mind played back Linus’s request like an audio loop. The image of a baby formed before his eyes against the blank waiting room wall, its innocence and potential as pure as sunlight. His genes, and those of his father and mother (now gone), living on through this sparkling baby. And what an offer — to procreate without responsibility, a donor […]

Fiction in a Minute: Dude, Part 4

Editor’s note: you can read Part 3 here. The smell of diesel fuel and exhaust hit Neil’s nose, then gave way to the disinfectant and alcohol smell of the emergency room. Last time Neil was in an emergency room, his mother was still alive, a cut on her head needing stitches on Christmas Day. They weren’t at this particular emergency room, but something about these waiting rooms made them all the same. Slow, tense places serving as holding pens for the big show behind closed doors.  About thirty people sat in clusters of two and three, in straight-backed chairs designed with cheapness not aesthetics in mind. Fear and worry thickened […]

Fiction in a Minute: Dude, Part 3

Editor’s note: You can read part 2 here. Still in shock, Neil found himself walking ten blocks back to his car, a dark green Toyota mini-pickup, not sure how it had come to be that he would to take Melly to the hospital. There’d been some confusion after Linus was shot, during which the ambulance left without her, sirens screaming.  And she’d stood there, in the middle of the bar, arms folded over her chest and her face puffy and wet from crying. “I’m too upset to drive,” she said. It also turned out that she and Linus didn’t have a car. The sun was too bright, and the others on the […]

Fiction in a minute: Dude, Part 2

[Editor’s note: you can read part 1 here.] Feeling some trepidation at following a stranger to an unknown location, Neil trailed behind Linus, his guitar case banging against his thigh. The other man carried Neil’s mini-amp in one hand, the extension cord draped around his neck like a thin, black snake.  They crossed the street and headed north on Main. They walked for blocks in silence, until gluten-free pie bakeries and forty-dollar T-shirt stores gave way to liquor stores and apartment buildings begging for fresh paint. Neil cleared his throat. “So, are we almost there yet?” “Almost there,” Linus said without turning to face him. “Longer walk than I expected,” Neil said, and when Linus […]

Why I’ll Likely Self-Publish

I’ve been struggling to find a literary agent for one of my two fiction novels for more than a year now. I’ve pitched the story at conferences and via email, and received a steady trickle of rejections. Mostly formulaic responses, some nicer than others, one or two with encouraging words, but all the same rejection in the end. People tell me to take heart. Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before finding someone to accept her debut novel, The Help. Others tell me to self-publish. After all, the greatest thing about the Internet and the print-on-demand technology is that I don’t have to rely on someone else to “give me […]