Monday, October 20, 2014

Literary pet peeves

I was thinking the other day of some things that annoy me in fiction. In general, I'm a pretty forgiving reader. Plot coincidences? Sure, as long as they work within the context of the story. Occasionally clunky writing? As long as the storytelling is sincere and I'm engaged with the characters, I'll allow it. But there are a few things that really bug me.

"Because I Said So" Relationships: Character interactions are important to me. As a reader, I need to have an understanding of why characters are friends, enemies, lovers, etc. It doesn't have to be spelled out for me in letters three feet high. All I need is for the character relationships to feel believable and organic. But sometimes there will be interactions that just don't seem to work. For example, one character is deeply fascinated with another and wants to learn more about that person, but the reader doesn't see what makes the person so fascinating. This is the peeve I'm most lenient on — heck, there are people in my own family whose relationships leave me scratching my head.

"Eye of the Hurricane" Characters: Often found in "Because I Said So" Relationships, these characters have interesting things happen around them, and to them. Yet the characters themselves are not interesting. Oftentimes these characters are not so much people in their own right, but catalysts for the other characters' growth and actions. It's especially unfortunate when this not-to-interesting character is the main character — it gives the book a hollow feel.

The Character Arc Loop-De-Loop: This is the peeve I cannot let slide. Few things irritate me more than when a character, who's been established as behaving a certain way, decides to behave a radically different way just to keep the plot moving. This is not to say that characters can't change. They can, and should, but the change has to be organic, and dictated by what has happened to them over the course of the novel. A previously taciturn character should not suddenly become talkative and sassy just because a talkative-and-sassy character would have livened things up. A character who's been established as having strong views on a certain topic should not suddenly change those views in order to take the plot in a given direction. There are some books that I used to enjoy a great deal until on a re-read I realized they had the Character Arc Loop-De-Loop, and my affection for those books has waned a great deal.

Readers, what are some of your literary pet peeves?



Saturday, October 11, 2014

One week left! Enter the giveaway over at The Book Bag

The Book Bag blog is celebrating 1000 posts with a big giveaway. There's a week left to enter for the chance to win a variety of books. What are you waiting for?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ashes ebook on sale for 99 cents!

Looking for a good read at a great price? Ashes, book 1 in my two-book suspense series, is on sale for 99 cents through October 12. It's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords. Why not get yourself a copy, or gift it to a friend?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

1000th post celebration and giveaway at The Book Bag

The ever-awesome Susan at The Book Bag is celebrating her 1000th blog post with a massive giveaway. Be sure to take a look at all the books available (including a copy of The Day After Yesterday) and enter to win!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kindle edition of Undertow available for pre-order

My mystery Undertow will be released on November 18, but if you're a Kindle reader you can pre-order your copy!


There will also be a print edition, and it will be available at release time for Nook, iBook, and Kobo e-readers. More details to come!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

This could be the beginning of something good...

Got in nearly 2,000 words in on a new writing project! More details to come, but I'm feeling very good about this day's work.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kelly's Big Score: Hot Fun in the Summertime Edition

Roadtripped up to (you guessed it) Solvang the other day and visited, among other places, The Book Loft and Martin's Used Books. I came home with:


  • The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander
  • The Hero by Robyn Carr
  • My Sweet Audrina by V. C. Andrews
  • Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant
  • The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
  • The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (I know, I'm the last person to get around to reading this)


Full bookshelves are happy bookshelves!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

In praise of vintage paperbacks

I'm currently reading Murderers' Row by Donald Hamilton, book 5 in his Matt Helm series. The series is, sadly, long out of print, and my copy is a vintage paperback from 1962, complete with cheesy illustrated cover and a retail price of 40 cents.

One of the great joys I experience when I go to a used bookstore is pawing through the vintage paperbacks. Depending on the store, the vintage ones are mixed in with the ordinary used books, but at the store where I bought Murderers' Row, most of the vintage paperbacks were tucked off in a little hallway (the bookstore, Bart's Books in Ojai, is converted from an old house).

I'm used to the sideways head-tilt needed to scan the shelves, but these books were at the end of a hallway so narrow and dim that I had to pull the books off the shelf to get a look at them. The protective plastic they were wrapped in made a quick scan of titles impossible, and some shelves were so high that I had to ask a bookstore employee for a stepladder. Then came the task of going through all the paperbacks, looking for hidden treasure. Had to take it one by one, my hands getting dustier and dustier, because the order of the books was only somewhat alphabetical.

(Not to be a book snob, but I think was a"men from the boys" level of effort.)

You find all sorts of oddities in vintage paperbacks. Everything from delightfully (and probably deservedly) obscure trash to classics marketed in strange ways. I was on a quest specifically for Matt Helm books, as I adore the series (do not be misled by the Dean Martin movie adaptations; the books are gritty, grim secret agent fare), and the books are not easy to find.

Perseverance paid off. I was dusty and filthy-handed, and had a copy of Murderers' Row. Yes, I could  have gotten it online, for less effort and possibly less money. But there's something about the vintage paperback treasure hunt that's so sweet.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today in Nerditry: 40th Anniversary showing of Phantom of the Paradise



Last night at the Cinerama Dome was a 40th-Anniversary showing of Phantom of the Paradise, and yours truly was there. In addition to seeing the movie with a full house of enthusiasts and even a few cosplayers, I got a nice limited-edition lithograph and a t-shirt. After the movie was a Q&A hosted by Edgar Wright, with Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, two members of the "Juicy Fruits" band, and the movie's editor. And to top it all off, at the end I managed to get my issue of Cinefantastique that has Phantom on the cover signed by Paul Williams. This evening has special resonance for me, as Phantom was one of the key films that warped my psyche at a young age and made me into the nerd I am today. It's significant that Phantom was the first film I reviewed for Horrorview, and that review will be included in my upcoming A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Comic-Con 2014 report: Making the most of one day

This year I had actually planned to give the con a miss, as I wanted to save the money for various reasons. 
But fortune favors the nerdy, and I managed to luck into a badge for Sunday. Granted, it was one  day only, but a day of Comic-Con is better than no Comic-Con at all.
The only downside was having to get up at zero-dark-thirty on Sunday morning to catch the Gold Line Metrolink from Pasadena down to Union Station, and from there catch the 6:15 Amtrak to San Diego, and from there take the trolley to the Convention Center. (I know this sounds complicated, but I'll take this over trying to find a parking spot by Comic-Con any day.) Upon arriving at the Convention Center with all its banners and signs for various nerd shows and movies, and seeing the crowds of nerds, I felt that peculiar sense of homecoming that I get at the Con. I'm where I belong. I'm with my people. Here, I don't have to explain myself. Everyone gets it.
I acquired my pass and made a beeline for room 29A. The best part of this impromptu trip was that I would get to attend "The Cross-Generational Appeal of Doctor Who" - I'm not that into Doctor Who myself (mostly I just can't spare the time to get hooked on the show) but one of my best friends, E. Gerry Hoard, was on the panel (basically to prove that Doctor Who isn't just for the Tumblr crowd).
I wanted to get a good seat, so I camped out in the panel that had the room before the Doctor Who one. Sitting through panels that you're not that interested in is inevitable at the con, and not always a bad thing. Sometimes you learn about something new and interesting; on the other hand, over the years I've sat through the Bones panel about three times and still have no desire to watch the show. This panel, something about Nintendo, was very boring, but I'm glad I camped out as the line for the Doctor Who one was huge (the show had no official panel this year and the Whovians were starved for anything Who related). The panel my friend was on made the time well worth it. It was great to see the enthusiasm for the show span such a large age range (the youngest panelist was 11, my friend is in his early 70s). Gerry was thrilled; he's been going to the Con for a long while and this was his first time on a panel.
My friend Gerry at the Doctor Who fan panel.
After the panel I zipped down to the exhibitor floor for some shopping. My first stop was William Wu Books, which specializes in pulp sci-fi/fantasy/horror books, movie-related books, and signed works by authors like Bradbury, Ellison, etc.. I was inordinately thrilled that Bill recognized and remembered me from  my previous visits. We had a nice chat and I ended up getting Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone: 13 New Stories From the Supernatural Especially Written for Young People and The Stunt Man by Paul Brodeur, source material for the Richard Rush film.  I then headed over to the Fantagraphics booth, where I picked up one of their EC artists books, Judgment Day and Other Stories by Joe Orlando. 
After those two stops I prowled the floor, fighting my way through the crowds (Sunday is traditionally the most crowded day on the exhibitor floor as there are fewer panels to attend and the vendors often have good deals to reduce their inventory). I got a couple things for my son but other than that didn't do much more shopping, as I wanted to stay on a budget. 
Action figure army

The Great Gonzo
At 3 p.m. I popped upstairs again, this time to attend the Browncoats Meet-Up, a gathering of Firefly/Serenity fans. Unfortunately there were no surprise celebrity guests (there have been in the past, so hope springs eternal) but the panel was still enjoyable, with interesting news about the upcoming Firefly online game. After that it was one last trip to the floor, and then I said goodbye to the Con until next year, and headed for the train station so I could make sure I got a spot on the 6:45 (the line for the train back home is always terrible). The one downside of this trip was that I didn't get a chance for a nice dinner in San Diego - I ended up grabbing a bento box at the Ralph's market and eating that in line for the train. And the cherry on the sundae of the day was on the train ride home. I struck up conversation with my seat mate, mentioned that I was a writer, and he went ahead and right then and there, bought one of my books on his smartphone.  
It was a long day, but worth it. I credit my first attendance at Comic-Con in 2008 with a change in how I feel about the things I enjoy. Up until then, I spent most of my life apologizing for my tastes in books, movies, music, and TV. But after that first visit and the feeling of welcome I felt there, I've stopped apologizing. That alone makes it worth the long trip, the crowds, and so on. Fortune willing, I'll be back next year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today's mood - UPDATED WITH 100% MORE AWESOME

Never give up, never surrender! I will be going to Comic-Con this year, albeit for one day only (Sunday).



Am very excited because one of my best friends, E. Gerry Hoard, will be on the panel "The Cross-Generational Appeal of Doctor Who" at 11 a.m. in room 29A. Won't you join us?


Review: Video Nasties - The Definitive Guide

Find out how horror videotapes caused a nationwide furor and moral panic in early 80s UK; start with my review of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide over at Horrorview.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July Summer/Winter Sale at Smashwords

Good news for Smashwords fans. Their July Summer/Winter Sale (making sure the bargains go to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres!) is on, with many books available at substantial savings.

All three of my books - The Day After Yesterday, Ashes, and Reckoning - are on sale at Smashwords for 50% off! Just enter SSW50 at checkout to save 50%, and get a fine book for less than you'd pay for a latte (the latte tastes better but the book lasts longer).

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cover Wars!

My novel Reckoning is a participant in this month's Cover Wars over at the The Masquerade Crew. Cast your ballot for which of the month's covers is your favorite. Vote early, vote often!


Monday, June 30, 2014

A birthday gift to my readers: Join my email list for a chance to win a gift card!

Greetings everyone!

July is nigh, and that means my birthday is as well. I'm going to celebrate by giving back to the people who've made the last couple years so enjoyable - my readers.

At the end of July, I will randomly choose a reader and send him or her a $30 gift card/coupon to the ebook retailer of their choice: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, or Smashwords.

All you have to do is join my email newsletter by the end of July. It's quick, simple, and free. You'll receive news and updates about my books (including a sneak preview of my forthcoming mystery Undertow), and of course be in the running for the gift card. The drawing will be held on August 3, 2014.

You've nothing to lose and $30 in free books to gain!