Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kelly's Big Score: More Gelato, Please Edition

As if the L.A. Times Festival of Books wasn't awesome enough on its own, now they've added food trucks! The gelato truck was a particular favorite.

I also attended a romance novel panel that featured Tessa Dare, author of A Week to be Wicked and Any Duchess Will Do, both very enjoyable reads.

And of course I did a bit of book shopping. Had to limit myself as I'm on a budget, but came home with:

The Chaperone - Laura Moriarty

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone - Will Storr

Zero Hour and other stories - Illustrated by Jack Kamen

Hope everyone who goes to the festival has a good time!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: The Visitor

My review of The Visitor, a 1979 Italian film that's half horror, half sci-fi, and all kinds of crazy, is up at Horrorview. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kelly's Big Score: Pancakes and Wine Edition

Made a dash up to Solvang this past weekend, and in between wine tasting and pancake consumption I found time to buy some books from The Book Loft and Martin's Used Books. Came home with:

Wayne of Gotham - Tracy Hickman

The Painted Girls - Cathy Marie Buchanan

Freedomland - Richard Price

Twice Loved - LaVyrle Spencer

Petals on the Wind - V. C. Andrews

OK, that last one is a little iffy but the The Complete V. C. Andrews Blog-o-Rama's recent recap of Petals got me interested in re-reading it. I somehow suspect it won't hold up well…

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Day After Yesterday ebook on sale through end of March!

If you're looking for a character-driven contemporary novel, why not give The Day After Yesterday a read? It's on sale for 99 cents through the end of March (for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Watch this now: Trailer for Under The Skin

I admit I was skeptical when I heard that Michel Faber's amazing novel Under The Skin was being adapted. And while it looks like the movie may make some significant departures from the source material (primarily in Isserley's appearance), at the same time the trailer has such a hypnotic, otherworldly vibe that I am on board.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Writing craft: Tear it down, build it up

All writers have asked the question: "Well, what do you think?"

It's a question that doesn't get much easier to ask over time. We hope that it will. We may even have a hunch what the answer will be. We want it to be a positive answer, but must accept that it may not be.

The first time I asked that question (asked it of someone who wasn't my Mom and therefore obligated to say nice things about my writing) is seared into my memory. The time: my college days. The place: University of Missouri at Columbia. The occasion: a creative writing course, and I had just finished reading a selection from a very, very early version of my debut novel, The Day After Yesterday. What did the instructor and my classmates think?

They tore it to shreds. They were right to do so.

Because it wasn't good. It was the only serious writing I'd done, and I'd had no critique whatsoever on it. I was full of myself in the way that only a college student can be; I recall thinking that I was sure to wow everyone, not least because I was writing a novel (one of many stupid ideas I had in those days was that short stories were somehow inferior to novels). 

I can't imagine what the look on my face must have been as the criticisms piled up. Too many adjectives, too much melodrama, characters didn't behave realistically, and so on. I don't know if it went on for a very long time or if it just felt that way. By the time it was over, my ego had deflated considerably.

And yet, the instructor and my fellow students had just enough positive things to say to make me think that the story wasn't a complete loss. The critiques were harsh, but after I stopped crying I realized that they were accurate. The final project for the course was to revise the work based on the critique. I was astounded that I got an A. At first I didn't understand, as I was pretty sure that I had a long way to go to make the book truly good. But the instructor explained that what determined the grade was our ability to not give up, and to do our best to improve the work based on the feedback we'd received. This didn't mean slavishly making every change suggested. But it also didn't mean sticking our fingers in our ears and singing, "La la la la, I don't hear your criticisms of my book!"

It took a lot more writing, a lot more reading, a lot more learning about the writing craft, and writing the book twice before I got it right. But that first critique was when I learned the most valuable lesson any writer can: no one starts out good, and only by listening to others and using their feedback to improve your manuscript can you be a better writer.

So let me give a much-belated and long-overdue thank you to instructor Speer Morgan, and to all the fellow writers in that creative writing course. Thank you for getting me out of my bubble, and for your critiques.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nerd alert: History shows again and again how trailers point out the folly of fans


The title of the post aside, this really does look promising. However, I still remember the giant iguana vs. Matthew Broderick atrocity, so I am cautious. Time will tell.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Back to the beach

Needed inspiration and a re-set of my mental equilibrium, so the other day I headed to the beach. I'm grateful that I live in California, where a trip to the beach is possible even in the middle of February (though I didn't go into the water higher than my knees, and spent much of that time exclaiming, "Oh, that's cold!"). I built sand castles with my kid, and we found an amazing conch in the tide pools. A very good day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

In a perfect world...

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to bits with my new covers, which turned out better than I had ever dreamed. And I can say nothing but good about James at GoOnWrite for his wonderful designs.

But even though I selected the photo myself, on occasion I look at the new cover of The Day After Yesterday, and I get a little glitch in my brain of, "But that's not what Daniel really looks like!" I know, I'm as bad as those people who complained about the casting in the Harry Potter movies.

Suffice to say, the cover would be 100% perfect instead of 99.9% if the gentleman on the cover looked like this guy:

Or this guy:

Or this guy (Ewan of course, not the guy in the fez):

I have just realized that this post unveils an aspect of my creative process that you probably didn't want to know about (and explains all that time on IMDB and Tumblr). Sorry about that!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Musical inspiration: Kate Bush

I am so happy that the weather has finally turned cooler (we've even had this weird thing where water falls from the sky - I think they call it "rain"). One reason I'm happy is because it means I can change up the music on my iPod. It's weird, but some music lends itself to cool, rainy weather. I can only play k. d. lang's Drag when it's overcast; by contrast, anything by Electric Light Orchestra is reserved for a bright, sunny day (with the exception of "Can't Get it Out of My Head" and maybe "Telephone Line").

It gets complicated, and one album that exemplifies this is Kate Bush's Hounds of Love. Made back when albums had sides, the first half of the album is the "sunny" side. The songs are about love, from the sensual yearning of "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" to the possibly unhealthy relationship in "Mother Stands For Comfort" to the bond between father and son in "Cloudbusting."

But it's the album's second side that calls to me when the weather turns chill, and that has been an inspiration to my writing. This side is a mini-suite called The Ninth Wave (the title comes from a Tennyson poem), and it tells a story of a person alone in the sea, fighting for life. The suite follows its protagonist from struggles with exhaustion and despair, through the terror of facing mortality, reconciliation with knowing that life will go on without them, ending on a note of hope and joy that's nicely ambiguous (it's not necessarily clear if the person is rescued or if it's a transition into a pleasant afterlife).

I listened to this album for the first time in a long while, and I was struck by how often I had been trying to capture the feelings and sensations of the songs in my own fiction. I honestly don't know if I could have written scenes like the fight on the frozen lake in Ashes or Daniel's narrow escape from drowning in The Day After Yesterday if I hadn't had the moods of Bush's music in my subconscious.

Writers are advised to read a lot and read widely if they want to learn how to write. That's absolutely true, but writers can also find inspiration in other arts. Start by listening to The Ninth Wave. If Bush's (admittedly idiosyncratic) style clicks with you, I think you'll find it captivating.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Today's mood

Monday, February 3, 2014

No apologies

Short but excellent piece over at Book Riot, urging us all to never apologize for our taste in books.

This hits home for me, as I spent the first 40 years of my life apologizing for my taste in not just books but movies and music as well. Even now, I still find myself apologizing, though it's changed a bit. In the past I apologized for liking weird, geeky things. Oftentimes now I find myself apologizing for "normal" things like romance novels or TV procedurals.

But life is too short and there's only so much time to enjoy all the arts available to us. So enjoy what you enjoy, and never apologize.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New covers!

I've started off the new year by having new covers commissioned for all my books.

The ever-awesome James at GoOnWrite has come through with these fantastic covers.

For those of you who prefer print copies, those still need to be sorted out. In a couple weeks the print versions will be available with new covers.

Very excited about the new covers, and looking forward to seeing them on the virtual shelves.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Today's mood

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ashes review at Under the Boardwalk!

The blog Under the Boardwalk has a review of Ashes. Find out more here!

Thursday, January 16, 2014