Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Django Unchained

Get your bounty-hunting boots on and see my review of Django Unchained, up at Horrorview.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kelly's Big Score: It's a Marshmallow World edition

There's no better gift than books, and this year for Christmas I got:

The last three books I was missing in John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee Series: A Deadly Shade of Gold, The Scarlet Ruse, The Green Ripper

Collection of H. P. Lovecraft tales (Library of America edition)

Two cookbooks: Bake Until Bubbly and the Williams-Sonoma steak and chop cookbook

The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s

David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film

Merry Christmas to me!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Now available at Apple/iBooks: The Day After Yesterday

It's getting harder to say you don't know where to buy my novel - it's now available as an iBook. Just click the iTunes icon and do a search for my name, or get started at Apple's site.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give the gift of reading: The Day After Yesterday on sale!

From now through January 6, the ebook of The Day After Yesterday is available at Smashwords for just 99 cents!

At Smashwords you can download the ebook in nearly every format and platform. And it's just 99 cents when you enter coupon code KD95S.

Books are the gift that keeps giving.  Buy one for yourself, send it to a friend. Santa would approve, and it saves the elves some work!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Next Big Thing

My thanks go out to the ever-awesome Cliff Garstang, who tagged me to participate in The Next Big Thing. It's a self-interview where writers talk about their upcoming projects. Learn what Cliff is working on over at his blog. In addition to what he's working on next, you'll see what writers tagged him, and which ones he's tagged to participate in this blog series.

As for me...

What is your working title of your book (or story)?
Ashes will be published in March of 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
A theme I often visit in my fiction is what happens to ordinary people when they have their lives up-ended. Jennifer, the female protagonist of Ashes, is a very ordinary person – she’s an admin at a federal building that’s bombed in a domestic terrorism attack. Not only is her life in upheaval because of that, but because she escapes at the last minute, she finds herself becoming the icon of the event. I wanted to explore how an ordinary person would struggle not just with living through such an incident, but the attention and expectation placed on her by being seen as a symbol rather than as a person.

This led to my male protagonist: Sean is a former covert ops agent, who’s been in forced retirement for several years at the time the book’s narrative begins. He sees the event and Jennifer’s escape on TV, and wants to return to active duty to find the perpetrators. When that request is denied, he goes rogue. His plan is to not just find those responsible but to bring them to Jennifer so she can take personal revenge; she knows nothing about Sean or his mission until the two characters meet, near the end of the book.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s in the suspense genre, the first in a two-book series.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
For Jennifer, I’d definitely look for a girl-next-door quality. I think Alison Lohman would be a good choice. As for Sean, I’ve toyed with a number of different actors in my mind, including Tommy Lee Jones and Kevin Spacey. But in the end my choice is Gary Oldman. He’s got a chameleonic quality that he shares with the character, whose specialty is deep-cover infiltration. He’s also an actor who can communicate a great deal in very subtle ways, which is also very suitable to the character.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The whole world is watching when Jennifer Thomson escapes at the last minute from a bombed federal building; while she tries to put her life back together, Sean Kincaid, a retired covert ops agent, goes rogue with the intention of finding those responsible, and bringing them to Jennifer so she can mete out justice.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published through my Smite Publications imprint.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took about six months. Because I used a structure of alternating chapters between Jennifer and Sean, I needed to ensure that the events in their respective narrative timelines were in synch. I also worked to make sure that their character arcs were in parallel

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The comparison that springs to mind is that of Sean’s character with that of the Matt Helm character created by Donald Hamilton in the 1960s. Not the Matt Helm from the Dean Martin movies, mind you! Starting with Death of a Citizen, the Matt Helm character was sort of the anti-James Bond. He drove an old truck, many of his missions weren’t in glamorous locations, and he never had any fancy weaponry; he also had doubts and crises of conscience that Bond never seemed to have. It seemed much more realistic, and was a big inspiration to me for Sean Kincaid’s character.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m blessed to have a circle of friends I call my Constant Reader Brigade. They were invaluable to me for their critique of the story, plotting, and characters; they always encourage me when my energy’s flagging or if I’m having any doubts. Every writer should have such a Brigade!

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
What I wanted to focus on was that it’s people who are affected by events like these. And not just the victims – those hunting down the perpetrators and even the perpetrators themselves aren’t ciphers. They’re human beings, and the fun for me – and, I hope, for the readers – is getting into the characters’ heads and seeing the world through their eyes.

Once again, thanks to Cliff Garstang for giving me the chance to participate!

Who's got the Next Big Thing?

On December 24, Steve Ryfle will  tell you about his upcoming biography of director Ishiro Honda.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nerd alert: King Moonracer vs. Voltron

Which lion-based character is more awesome?

 King Moonracer?
Or Voltron?

I'm going with King Moonracer myself. Not only does he look awesome, but he gets to rule over the Island of Misfit Toys and has a spotted elephant for a footman.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Join in the "Next Big Thing" meme!

If you want to participate in the Next Big Theme meme, now's your chance. If you haven't been tagged but would like to participate, let me know.

It's a way to promote your writing and promote your fellow writers too! To see an example of this in action, take a look at Cliff Garstang's blog (he's the good person who invited me to participate in this). 

If you're interested, post a comment!

Flurries of Words reviews The Day After Yesterday

The book blog Flurries of Words has a review of The Day After Yesterday!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kelly's Big Score - Santa Baby Edition

This past weekend we made our annual visit to Solvang for the Christmas parade and to do some shopping and eating and more shopping and eating.

I paid a visit to the ever-awesome The Book Loft and to Martin's Used Books. Came home with:

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

The Passage - Justin Cronin

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane

Bitter Sweet - LaVyrle Spencer

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Those ought to keep me occupied for a bit!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Day After Yesterday - now for the Kobo e-reader

No e-reader platform or device can escape me! The Day After Yesterday is now available for the Kobo e-reader.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Over at Addicted to Ebooks...

A promotion for The Day After Yesterday is up at Addicted to Ebooks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Writing craft: There's something about the holidays

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I really get into the holiday season. I'm indifferent to Halloween (I hate dressing up and really don't need more candy in my life) but I love Thanksgiving and - most of all - Christmas.

Because I'm so partial to those holidays, I often "check in" with my characters to see how the holidays are treating them. This may also be an influence of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a book I've read so many times I've got it nearly memorized. Have you noticed how much happens in that book around Christmastime? I realize that it serves the story, but everyone, from Marley in the past to Scrooge and Tiny Tim in the future, seems to die around Christmas. Something to think about!

Readers of The Day After Yesterday will have noticed that I show the characters and how well (or not) their Christmas is going. These range from the first Christmas we see in the book, a dark time for all concerned, to the epilogue, which takes place at a Christmas concert and ends the novel on a note of grace and hope. And my Constant Readers who've read my suspense novel Ashes know about two chapters that take place on New Year's, and which are notable not just because the day and its events are turning points in those characters' lives, but because the events include tawdry sex and horrible ways to die. (If this piques your interest, remember that Ashes will be available in print and ebook in March of 2013.)

So whatever your plans are this holiday season, I hope it is a healthy, happy, and joyous time for you. Take a moment to think of how you'd portray it in a book or short story.

Review: Pact With the Devil

My review of Pact With the Devil, a particularly inept Picture of Dorian Gray adaptation, is up at Horrorview.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Asking a favor from my readers

I have a favor to ask of my readers.

If you have read and enjoyed my novel The Day After Yesterday, could you take a few moments to post a review on its Amazon page? If I can get the number of reviews to a high enough number, it will open up some good advertising and marketing opportunities for me.

It doesn't have to be lengthy. Just a star rating and an honest opinion is all I ask.

Thank you so much. When one of you enjoys my work, that makes all the hours of writing and editing and getting the book out there worthwhile.

Friday, November 23, 2012

White meat, dark meat... all will be carved

Well, it was another fabulous Thanksgiving house at Casa del Cozy. I'm in too much of a food coma to go into much detail, so i'll let these pictures do the talking.

Good food, good company, good times. I love the holidays!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Day After Yesterday: Now available at Smashwords!

My novel The Day After Yesterday is now available at Smashwords, in a variety of ebook formats. If lack of a Kindle or Nook has been keeping you from reading, go check it out! Same great price of $2.99!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

My review of the disappointing adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper is up at Horrorview.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writing craft: No such thing as flawless

One of the trickier things in fiction is creating characters who are likable and sympathetic, but still believably flawed. The worst thing you can do with a hero is make him or her perfect. Perfect people don't exist in real life; perfect people in fiction are unbelievable, obnoxious, and boring.

Fiction derives from conflict, and whether your story is a mainstream coming-of-age novel or an edge-of-your-seat zombie apocalypse thriller, the conflict has to derive at least in part from your characters' flaws. Their insecurities, foibles, and issues must help drive their actions.

A few things to think about when creating good-but-flawed characters:

1. Flaws must be large enough to affect the story and the characters' interactions with each other, but not so great that they tip the character over into villain territory. A good-but-flawed character can have problems communicating with his wife about their relationship. A villain beats his wife.

2. Flaws must not be so minor as to have no effect whatsoever on the story. It does nothing for the story if a character's flakiness about finances has no greater consequence than being unable to join coworkers for Friday lunch at the tapas restaurant. It's another matter if the character's financial flakiness means she couldn't get a flight to Omaha and see her father on his deathbed. I tend to allow my characters one Colossal Mistake per book - two at the most. More than that, and people will start to lose sympathy. But one is all you should need, provided it's in the right time and place for the character. And as long as it's in character, which leads us to...

3. Flaws must be organic to the characters. If a character has always been conscientious about his schoolwork, it makes no sense for him to suddenly skip a semester's worth of classes and miss out on graduation.

One way to create flawed-but-sympathetic characters is to look at your friends and family. What are their tics and foibles? Use those for inspiration.

And of course, you can look to see how other writers do it. For a quick and excellent example, watch the movie It's a Wonderful Life (it's about that time of year anyway). Pay attention to George Bailey, and you'll notice he's far from perfect. He's a hero in a quiet sort of way, but he's also bitter and resentful at times. He's focused on the missed opportunities of his life, so much so that he doesn't see the good he's done until it's almost too late. Director Frank Capra and actor Jimmy Stewart aren't afraid to let George Bailey be flawed, even to the point of unloading his anger on his family. But because we understand George and why he has his flaws, and because we understand he's a good man driven to the  breaking point, he never loses our sympathy. And that's why we are on board with the friends and family who do everything to help him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ashes publication pushed to Spring 2013

Can't recall if I'd mentioned it here, but my original plan was to publish Ashes, the first in my two-part suspense series, this fall.

However, the edits have taken a bit longer than I'd planned, so rather than rush things into production for the Christmas buying season, I am going to be prudent and target release for the spring. Most likely March, but an exact date is still to be determined.

Delay aside, I am very much looking forward to publishing Ashes. Together with its sequel Reckoning,  it's probably the story with the most satisfying story and character arcs of all my fiction. Ashes focuses on two characters: Jennifer Thomson, an admin in a government building who survives an Oklahoma City-type terrorist attack and tries to rebuild her life; and Sean Kincaid, a retired black ops agent who goes rogue to find the people behind the attack.

More details about publication to come. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Watch this now: Tom Waits/Cookie Monster

I knew I wasn't the first to make the Tom Waits/Cookie Monster connection (it's mentioned in The Day After Yesterday). But there's a video showing Cookie Monster singing to Tom Waits' "God's Away on Business." Brilliant, and very well done! I can't stop watching this!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yet still more editing

Good news! I am officially halfway done inputting the edits for my two-book suspense series (edits are done for Ashes, now I just have to input the Reckoning markups). Amazing what you can get done when you don't answer the door for trick-or-treaters.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kelly's Big Score (Crab Cake Edition)

Recently went back east to see my sister and my parents. I also ate a lot of nummy New England seafood. While there we went to Rehoboth Beach and the ever-awesome Browseabout Books (see the right column for link), where I picked up the following:

Very Good, Jeeves - P. G. Wodehouse

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores - Jen Campbell

Fobbit - David Abrams

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John Le Carre (trade paperback edition to replace my mass-market with the teeny weeny typeface)

And the latest issue of Geek magazine, because of reasons.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: This Book Is Full Of Spiders - Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It

My review of David Wong's sequel to John Dies At The End, the aptly titled This Book Is Full Of Spiders - Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It is now up at Horrorview.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Editing, editing, editing

The plans to publish my two-book suspense series are well underway. I'm giving the two novels one last edit to make minor changes and to catch any errors that have slipped through earlier edits. Although I'm going to publish the books separately - Ashes this fall/winter and Reckoning in the second half of next year, I'm editing them together. I've been told that director John Cassavetes said, "Continuity is for pussies," but he could get away with that, because he was John Cassavetes. I am not, and I feel compelled to make sure everything synchs up.

The good news is that I am done with the read-through and markups for Ashes. Now have to get started on read-through and markups for Reckoning (I am old-fashioned and do everything on hard copy). Even better news is that the books still hold up for me, so far, and that means you'll probably like them.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nerd alert

Tell me, what is the point of  having a blond kid if you cannot convince him to dress as Draco Malfoy or Joffrey Baratheon for Halloween?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Readers! What do YOU think?

Thinking of having a shirt made up to promote Smite Publications at next year's Comic-Con. What do you think of the Smite logo and the words DIE PROTAGONIST DIE ?

Not that it's relevant to any of my books...

Or should I go with the ever-popular KILL YOUR DARLINGS ?

Suggestions are welcome.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nerd alert

The other day I found myself worrying about Eowyn and Faramir. Sure, it's a nice pairing and it will be good for the stability of Rohan and Gondor. But really, she's still rebounding from Aragorn telling her she's in the Friend Zone, and sooner or later he's going to be told that his father tried to burn him alive while he was comatose and that's bound to give him some trauma. I hope it works out. Do they have couples therapy in Middle Earth?

At least I'm not worrying about Castle and Beckett any more (thank you, Season 4 finale!).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Status update

Chapters edited in two-book suspense series: 10

Reviews added to Cinema Guide book: Cannibal Ferox, Long Weekend, Scanners, Sideways, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and War of the Gargantuas

Books bought on recent jaunt to Solvang: Pincher Martin by William Golding, The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, and Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Donald imagined things"

I know how Donald feels.

Illustration by the late, great Edward Gorey.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What kind of reader are you?

Over at the Atlantic Wire, there's an article about the different types of book readers. Check out part 1 and part 2.

I actually fit two types: The Book Basher (my books get dinged up a lot, not least because I read while eating and carry lots of books around in my bag) and the All-the-timer/Compulsive/Voracious/Anything-Goes Reader (for reasons which are evident to anyone who knows me).

What kind are you?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Watch this now: 163 horror movies in 2 1/2 minutes

Check it out - a fantastic tribute to horror films, not just for its quality in presentation but the range of the films showcased. Excellent work!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Take one down, pass it around

I'm doing an edit of my two-part suspense series, Ashes and Reckoning, for publication. 4 chapters down. 70 to go. Oy vey. Better load up on caffeinated beverages.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: War of the Gargantuas

My review of the kaiju classic War of the Gargantuas is up at Horrorview.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The NerdGirl's Guide to Cinema - The list so far

Don't believe I've mentioned it yet, but my next project is one I've been considering for a while.

As most of you know, it's a toss-up as to what I get nerdier about: books or movies. Well, now there's a way to combine those loves into one project: a book of movie reviews, tentatively titled The NerdGirl's Guide to Cinema.

I've always loved movie review books, most notably Danny Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic (which I read so many times it's falling to pieces) and his Cult Movies books. While I didn't always agree with his opinions, I respected his writing and his love for all movies, regardless of genre.

What I'm hoping to do with this book is give my thoughts on various movies, from the early influences that warped my psyche in my formative years and made me what I am today, to things I watched out of curiosity, fandom, or just plain geekiness. It will encompass nearly every genre, from horror and sci-fi to dramas and beyond, with even a musical or a romantic comedy thrown in here or there. My nerditry is broad but not deep, and likewise I want this book to reflect the many movies and genres that have piqued my interest over the years.

There are still many, many reviews to come, but here are the reviews I have in the can so far:

  • 300
  • 42nd Street Forever Volume 2: The Deuce
  • 42nd Street Forever Volume 3: Exploitation Explosion
  • 42nd Street Forever Part 4: Cooled by Refrigeration
  • 42nd Street Forever Volume 5: The Alamo Drafthouse Edition
  • Altered States
  • American History X
  • A*P*E
  • The Arena
  • The Avengers
  • The Bad Seed
  • Bad Taste
  • Beyond the Door
  • The Big Red One
  • The Black Dahlia
  • Black Sheep
  • The Blob (1988)
  • A Boy and His Dog
  • Burn After Reading
  • Carrie
  • Casino Royale (2006)
  • A Christmas Carol (1984)
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover
  • Countess Dracula
  • Damien: Omen 2
  • Day of the Animals
  • Daybreakers
  • Death Bed: The Bed That Eats
  • Death Race 2000
  • Deception
  • Demoniacs
  • Devil’s Advocate
  • The Devils
  • District B13
  • Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  • Edison Force
  • Equinox
  • Event Horizon
  • Fair Game (1988)
  • Fight Club
  • The Final Conflict
  • Firefly: The Complete Series
  • Flesh + Blood
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet
  • Freaks
  • Frogs
  • Galaxy of Terror
  • The Gates of Hell
  • Godzilla Vs. Hedorah
  • Gothic
  • Grindhouse
  • Gymkata
  • The Hand
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
  • Hell of the Living Dead
  • High Anxiety
  • The Hills Have Eyes
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Ironclad
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Jaws
  • Kill the Irishman
  • King Kong (2005)
  • Kingdom of the Spiders
  • L. A. Confidential
  • Lair of the White Worm
  • Laserblast
  • The Legacy
  • Lost Highway
  • Macbeth
  • Mad Monster Party
  • Marathon Man
  • Marnie
  • Massacre in Dinosaur Valley
  • Matango
  • Meet the Feebles
  • Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus
  • Mortal Kombat
  • National Lampoon’s Animal House
  • The Naked Prey
  • The Negotiator
  • Night of the Lepus
  • Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Ninth Configuration
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Nude for Satan
  • The Omen
  • Performance
  • Phantom of the Paradise
  • Phase IV
  • Pink Floyd The Wall
  • Piranha 3D
  • Poseidon
  • Possession
  • Prophecy
  • Psychomania
  • Rain of Fire
  • The Reaping
  • Red Sonja
  • The Reflecting Skin
  • Repulsion
  • Requiem for a Vampire
  • Romeo is Bleeding
  • Seconds
  • The Sentinel
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow
  • Shark Attack 3: Megalodon
  • Shoot 'Em Up
  • The Silent Scream
  • Slugs
  • Snakes on a Plane
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Sorcerer
  • Stanley
  • Street Kings
  • Suddenly, Last Summer
  • Super
  • Superman Returns
  • Surviving the Game
  • Suspiria
  • Tales from the Crypt
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
  • Tideland
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Tron
  • Tron: Legacy
  • Under Siege
  • The Unseen
  • Valhalla Rising
  • The Valley of Gwangi
  • WALL-E
  • What Have You Done to Solange?
  • Whisper
  • White Noise 2: The Light
  • Wizards
  • Wolfen
  • Zabriskie Point

Feel free to offer any suggestions for movies to watch and review!

Monday, August 13, 2012

This says it all

A quote I found that sums up perfectly my approach to stories and characters:

"Drop a stone in the still pool of your character’s life and watch the ripples." - Jeff Gerke

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I can't decide...

Which is more awesome: The Lego Serenity or the Lego Barad-Dur?

I'm in awe here. I'm lucky if I can build a car out of Legos, let alone these amazing things.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Writing craft: Waiting to let the penny drop

One of the trickiest things in fiction is finding just the right moment for a plot twist or other good bit of information to make itself known. Give things away too early, and you can lose the element of surprise, or deny your readers a really good sucker punch. Delay things too long, and it becomes obvious that you're delaying, and the reader will resent you.

Waiting to let the penny drop is a good technique, and it can be used for comedic and dramatic purposes. It's a little easier to do with comedy, for if the laugh is good enough the audience will be more than willing to accept any delays revealing the twist. For an example, here's Monty Python's "The Pope and Michelangelo" sketch*:

Now, logically the Pope would be more upset by the three Christs than anything else. But it's funnier for the three Christs to be revealed after we've heard about the Jell-o, kangaroo, and twenty-eight disciples. It doesn't make sense, but no one cares because the comedic effect is so good.

It's a bit trickier with drama, but it can be done. A stellar example is Ray Bradbury's short story "The Aqueduct." I'm unable to find an online version of it, but do yourself a favor and go read it right now. I'll wait.

You're back? Good. Wasn't that a doozy? Though it's a very short story, it does so many things so well. First of all, that revelation. The first time I read the story, I actually screeched, something I rarely do. I hadn't seen it coming, and the implications of that revelation are so terrible that I was truly sucker punched. Furthermore, when you go back and re-read the story, it's clear that Bradbury did not cheat when writing that story. You might think he did, but go back and read it again. Pay close attention to the word choices. He does not cheat. Furthermore, he drops that penny and trusts his reader to know what that penny means.

How do you know when it's time to let the penny drop? Use your instincts on the first draft or two, then let your first readers tell you. If they laugh, or screech as the case may be, you've done it right.

* Yes, I am well aware that Leonardo Da Vinci painted "The Last Supper."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Watch this now: Trailer Park Heroes

Not ready to let go of Comic-Con yet? Then watch this 3-part video put on by the Nerd Machine crowd: Trailer Park Heroes.

Comic-Con 2012 Day 4: Last dance at the Nerd Prom

For the last day of the con, we more or less slept in (trust me, after getting up at 6 one day and 5 the next, sleeping in til 7 feels great).

This just sums up Comic-Con very nicely, methinks.

Then we got up, packed our bags (which included no small amount of pushing and shoving things into my luggage) and headed downstairs to check out. After leaving most of our stuff with the bell captain, we headed over to the Nerd HQ panel.

On our way to the Nerd HQ panel, we saw Jabba on his sail barge.

Nerd HQ is the second annual series of panels put on by Zachary Levi and Nerd Machine. These "Conversations for a Cause" let you join an intimate (for Comic-con) group to see various people. As I mentioned on the Day 0 entry, we had bought tickets for Friday's Nathan Fillion panel, but due to a system overload and crash we had been charged for tickets after they'd been sold out. Thankfull the fine folks at Nerd Machine and the ever-awesome and ruggedly handsome Mr. Fillion agreed to another panel, on Sunday at 10 a.m.

We arrived around 9:20, and let me say how nice it was to not have to line up for hours and hours. The Nerd HQ folks didn't even bother checking our tickets, presumably because this panel was only even mentioned to the "overflow" crowd from the original one. At any rate, we were soon in seats 197 and 198, and soon Zachary Levi came out to introduce Nathan Fillion. (Poor Zachary - his voice kept giving out on him and he admitted he was running on adrenaline and Red Bull at this point.)

Fillion hit the stage and was his usual funny and charming self, alternating between answering questions from the guests and auctioning off various items that ranged from Justice League DVDs to a package of Sharpie markers to a Razr type scooter (proceeds went to Operation Smile, the same charity that all Conversations for a Cause donations go to). I didn't get to ask a question (I'd planned to ask who his favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire is) and didn't bid (because I have more sense than money), but the panel was worth every cent of the $20 cost, and made all the more fun because Fillion's Castle co-star Molly Quinn showed up to say hi and be adorable.

Nathan Fillion at the Nerd HQ. Sorry for the poor photo quality.

More of Nathan at Nerd HQ. Hope to have some less blurry pix soon.

Nathan Fillion and Molly Quinn at Nerd HQ.

After the panel, Karen and I went over to the convention center for one last round of shopping. Our plan was to meet at 1:15 for the Max Brooks (author of World War Z) panel, but I wandered up there about 12:45 because I was tired, and lucky I did so. The line was surprisingly substantial, so I called Karen and we got into line. We made it in, and I'm glad we did because the panel was lots of fun. Brooks was very engaging and hilarious, keeping us all laughing as he talked about the World War Z movie (he has nothing to do with it) and the new audiobook set for release in Spring 2013. In a nice bit of geek crossover and synchronicity, Brooks revealed that one of the readers for the new audiobook will be Nathan Fillion, and talked a bit about Nathan's reading and his process for getting into character. I'm not a fan of audiobooks generally, but even without Fillion's participation I'd probably get this, as the setup of the book (an oral history) lends itself very well to the audiobook format, and it sounds like Brooks is getting some very good people on board.

Clones on the vendor floor.

Willy Wonka's coat on display.

Prop Wonka bars on display.

The prop Everlasting Gobstopper. My inner six-year-old is totally geeking out over this.

One last dip into the vendor floor, and then Karen and I called it quits and headed across the street to Lou and Mickey's for a celebratory late lunch/early dinner. She had a burger, I had fish and chips, and we both had complicated alcoholic beverages. It was a lovely meal.

My complicated drink at Lou and Mickey's

Karen and her complicated drink at Lou and Mickey's.

After cappucinos we walked back to the hotel, where we grabbed the bags and hailed a cab, then schlepped our stuff onto the train - thank God for business class! The general boarding line was hideous!

Then it was goodbye San Diego and goodbye Comic-con. On the train ride home I finished the book I'd brought with me (Heat Rises by Richard Castle). From Union Station we hopped the Gold Line and made it home safe to Pasadena, where my husband picked us up and took us home.

Some random thoughts and observations:

  • Comic-Con is getting way too huge. I'm no veteran - my first year was '08 - but it has gotten a lot more crowded and unwieldy. This was obviously true in the line situation, and also in the vendor floor, which was much more crowded than I remember it being. Something has got to give.

  • Despite all this, the people were reasonably cheerful and polite. The lone sour note for me was a vendor on Sunday who, when I asked if a book was available on Amazon, said I shouldn't support the "evil empire." Well! I said nothing much at the time, but in true l'esprit de l'escalier fashion I'd like to say, "That evil empire is the reason I'm now a published author, bitch."

  • I'm pretty sure I saw director John Landis walking about the vendor floor.

  • Best costume: Mrs. Darth Vader. She had the Vader helmet, along with a Betty Draper-type Fifties dress and apron, that also looked like a Vader outfit. Very nice.

  • Best T-shirt: A red one with "Shawarma" in the Avengers font.

  • There seem to be fewer cosplayers this year. I thought this was my imagination, but my friend Jeremy said he noticed this, too. We're not sure of the reasons.

  • This was the first time I'd spent much time in downtown San Diego, what with our hotel being 7 blocks from the Convention Center. It was fun! We never really needed the shuttle, and we got to eat at some really nifty restaurants. (Still dreaming about that pizza we had...)

  • I felt like this year we had a good range of experiences. Smaller panels, a good focus on books, big things like Firefly and Django, cruising the vendor floor, and the fabulous off-site Nerd HQ. Of course, there are always things you miss out on (such as James Marsters at the Buffy panel, not that I'm upset about this). But you do what you can, hope for the best, and have as good a time as possible.

Can't wait for next year!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Comic-Con 2012 Day 3: Phantom of the Comic-Con

Day 3 of the con dawned way too bright and early, as we got up at 5, hoping to get into the Hall H line by 6 so we could catch the Django Unchained panel. We met up with Mary and Jeremy and began the long wait.

Jeremy, Karen, me, and Mary have fun while waiting for Hall H.

I admit I was pretty pessimistic at the start, as the line wound down and around and out to the marina. However, around 8 a.m. the line was "compressed" as people who'd been lined up in ones-and-twos were herded into a more orderly fashion. This brought us all the way up to the grassy tented area where we waited some more. We ended up getting into the panel with room to spare (much nicer than the awful suspense of the previous day's line!).

The Django Unchained panel featured Quentin Tarantino of course, who was his usual nerdy, spazzy, babbling self. He was joined by cast members Jamie Foxx, Don Johnson, Walter Goggins, Christoph Waltz (sigh), and Kerry Washington. An 8-minute "sizzle reel" with clips that have not been seen in any of the trailers was shown to much enthusiastic applause, and Tarantino revealed that there's just one week of shooting left. The cast was close-mouthed about much of the plot and characterization, which suits me fine, as I want the movie to be a nice gift for me this Christmas.

Quentin Tarantino at the Django Unchained panel.

Christoph Waltz at the Django Unchained panel.

Don Johnson, saying his Django Unchained accent was based on Foghorn Leghorn.

Kerry Washington at the Django Unchained panel.

After the panel we said goodbye to Mary and Jeremy, who were staying in Hall H for the day. Karen went to join some other friends, and I headed over to the Django Unchained promotion area to score a free poster. Then I grabbed some lunch, and went to the hotel to change into my much-improved (thanks to a new cape) Phantom of the Paradise costume.

The Phantom of the Paradise visits San Diego.

Cosplaying the Phantom of the Paradise is a bit like self-publishing my book. There isn't a huge amount of recognition, but what I did get was very appreciative. One man dressed as Captain Hammer got his picture taken with me and told me it was the highlight of his day. Those who appreciate my costume seem to be 75% middle-aged men, 25% goth chicks.

While still garbed as the Phantom I went to the autograph area. Sandahl Bergman, who appeared in All That Jazz and Conan the Barbarian, both awesome movies, was signing. (I will tactfully ignore her less-than-stellar turn in Red Sonja). Sandahl looks fantastic and was very outgoing and sweet, spending lots of time with each person and not minding my weird appearance. I got a still from All That Jazz signed by her, and another still signed for my friend Gerry, who couldn't make it to con this year.

After that I met up with Karen and friends JJ, John, Alan, and Kent. We hung out for a bit, then I went to make one last round of parading around in my costume before heading back to the hotel for a much-needed shower (the costume makes you sweat buckets). Then Karen, JJ, John and I had dinner (some rather mediocre Mexican) and then it was back to the hotel for some packing, planning, and our last night at the Westgate.

Tomorrow: Oh Captain, my Captain

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comic-Con 2012 Day 2: Can't take the sky from me

We got up bright and early to get in line for the Firefly reunion panel. Just barely early enough. The line ended up being massive, and we were all the way outside the convention center down by the marina. Then it was "hurry up and wait" as it was still a couple hours before the first panel even started. We had snacks and books and cool people nearby us in line, so we waited.

While we waited, I took pictures of some of the costumed attendees.

King Renly Baratheon, about to get offed by Melisandre's shadow monster

Kaylee ready to go to the ball.

Doctor Who as you've never seen him before.

His and hers Halo cosplayers.

A more conventional Doctor Who.

As much as I tried to maintain a Zen state of mind and accept that we might not get in, things were looking pretty grim. The first panel, for Community, let out but hardly anyone exited. Things were a little better for the next panel, Legend of Korra. It was clear that most of the people in Ballroom 20 were there for the Firefly reunion. Things were really looking grim when we were very close to the entrance of the Ballroom, but the Con employees were asking for people to come in allotments of 5, or even 2. I think this was the point when my leg started jittering uncontrollably, which Karen noticed but was kind enough not to comment on.

But wonder of wonders! We got in! And the panel was wonderful. On hand were Joss Whedon, Jose Molina, Tim Minear, Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, and Adam Baldwin. It was wonderful to see the creators and cast together, share memories of the show, and appreciate the considerable respect and affection they have for each other and their appreciation of our fandom.

UPDATE: Karen's photos turned out better than mine did, so here's a few!

Nathan Fillion, happy to be there.

Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion, happy to be there.

Joss Whedon, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, and Adam Baldwin at the Firefly panel.

Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Joss Whedon, and Summer Glau at the Firefly panel.

Afterward, we had planned to see if we could get into the Game of Thrones panel but from what we'd seen of the line we knew there was no way in hell we'd get in. So we skipped that, ate some lunch, and then hit the vendor floor. I bought a few things for friends and family that I won't describe here as I don't want to spoil the surprises. For myself I got:

  • A bootleg DVD of the bizarre horror film Possession (NOT an adaptation of the A. S. Byatt novel - this has Isabelle Adjani losing her shit and having sex with an octopus creature).
  • A poster of Westeros.
  • A plush Blue Meanie from Yellow Submarine.
  • The book Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery, which I remember from my childhood. The bookseller, William Wu of William Wu Books, even knocked 5 bucks off the price for helping me reclaim a childhood memory.

I also snapped a few pictures of costumed attendees.

Princess Leia in disguise to rescue Han Solo from Jabba's Palace.

A Tusken Raider out and about on the vendor floor.

After shopping Karen and I headed up 4th street and had dinner at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza. She had the vegetarian pizza (which she describes as "damn good" with caramelized vegetables). I had the brie and truffle oil pizza, which was utter bliss for my taste buds. (We've found that a good dinner at Con makes up for living off power bars and whatnot during the day.)

Then it was back to the hotel for some much-needed relaxation. We're both pretty stiff from sitting on cement so much, and also ooching our way through the vendor floor crowds.

Tomorrow: Another early rising, this time for Django Unchained. And then: COSTUME!