Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Author Panel: The Joys and Trials of Self-Publishing

Save the date: Saturday, December 13 at 3 p.m., I'll be on the panel of The Joys and Trials of Self-Publishing (along with fellow authors Sam Culotta and Bradley Kim). We'll be talking about the importance of self-promotion, our writing processes, the role of ebooks, and much more.

Join us at the Charter Oak Library in Covina, CA (20540 "K" Arrow Highway). Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Update: A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema

For those of you who know me more for my movie reviews, there's good news. My book of reviews, titled A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema, will hit the shelves in early 2015. I'll post the release date here as soon as that's nailed down.

The book will have reviews of 200 cult classics, interesting failures, and overlooked gems. And to get your appetite whetted, here's a sample of some of the movies reviewed:

  • All That Jazz
  • The Big Red One
  • Caligula
  • The Devils
  • Excalibur
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet
  • Gymkata
  • Henry and June
  • Ice Castles
  • Jaws
  • King of New York
  • The Last Wave
  • Miami Connection
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Omen
  • Phantom of the Paradise
  • The Reflecting Skin
  • Sideways
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  • Under the Skin
  • Valhalla Rising
  • Watership Down
  • Xtro
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Zabriskie Point

The full list will be posted here closer to publication date. I'm hoping to have a cover reveal before the end of this year. Keep on the lookout!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Undertow paperback now on sale!

Good news for the print loyalists! The paperback edition of Undertow is now available (ebook readers need to wait til Tuesday). Take a look and buy yourself a copy if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One from the vaults: Reflections on Pink Floyd's The Final Cut

My favorite band, Pink Floyd, have just released The Endless River, their first album since 1994. I won't be hearing it until most likely Christmas (big hint: it's on my Amazon wish list). But the combination of overcast weather and Veterans' Day created the appropriate mood for one of their unjustly overlooked albums: The Final Cut.

The Final Cut was doomed to be a failure (though most artists should be so lucky as to have such a failure on their resumes). To understand why, a little history is in order: It was originally intended to be an add-on to the film adaptation of The Wall, giving a vinyl home to songs that were either substantially revised for or entirely new to the film. In fact, the 45 release of "When the Tigers Broke Free" shows stills from The Wall movie and says it's from the upcoming album The Final Cut. But chief songwriter Roger Waters, angered by the Falkland Islands War and what he saw as a betrayal of what World War II soldiers (including his father) fought and died for, created an entirely new album. This turn of events was complicated by the fact that the band itself was in nearly complete disarray, with its internal power struggles and personality conflicts having reached their peak. The result is a somewhat awkward and uneven but emotionally powerful song cycle about the price of war and what happens when we fail to honor the sacrifices of the fallen.

The album gets off to an uneven start with "The Post-War Dream" and "Your Possible Pasts." The former opens with some classic use of sound effects: passing cars, news radio reports, and the strangely ominous sound of someone slowly counting out coins. The lyrics are less successful than they might be, when Waters' impassioned plea to know if the current state of affairs in England is really what soldiers fought and died for is marred by a bizarre tangent about shipbuilding getting outsourced to Japan. The issues with the second song, "Your Possible Pasts," are different - the lyrics are interesting and point toward squandered opportunities, but the muddled imagery muffles the effect. Fortunately, the song features some excellent Hammond organ work (its "church-y" sound is perfect for the album's elegiac tone) and the first of several scorching guitar solos by Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

The album hits a powerful stride with its next few songs. "One of the Few" presents us with the character of an unnamed World War II veteran who, traumatized by his war experience, finds a living as a teacher and starts shaping the next generation. This, of course, is a take on the famous abusive schoolteacher from The Wall, and in the next few songs Waters gives a surprising amount of characterization and empathy to the character. "The Hero's Return" takes us back into Wall territory not only in its study of the veteran/teacher but in its driving, angry music; in "The Gunner's Dream" we learn one reason for the veteran/teacher's trauma - hearing a soldier's dying words, said words being a wish for his death not to have been in vain, and for a better society to have come from this war.Of course, this wish hasn't come true.

If the album's first half ends on a somewhat anticlimactic note with "Paranoid Eyes" - a nice study of isolation but nothing too essential - the second half literally starts with a bang. Featuring one of the band's most memorable song titles (no mean feat from a group that gave us "Careful With that Axe, Eugene" and "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave and Grooving With a Pict"), "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert" opens with a very distant voice screeching the title words. The screecher's only answer is a disinterested "What'd he say?" followed by the whoosh and explosion of a missile. A deliciously satirical violin section leads us into a vignette about the present-day (of 1983) conflicts, taking to task current world leaders. This theme continues into the next song, "The Fletcher Memorial Home." Furious yet elegiac, the song proposes that bloodthirsty politicians and leaders be put in a special home (named for Waters' father) "for incurable wasters of life and limb." Past sacrifice and present futility are present in "Southampton Dock," which juxtaposes soldiers' return from World War II with a pledge "to sheathe the sacrificial knives" with Margaret Thatcher sending a new generation to die in the Falklands, not out of necessity but to hold on to the "slippery reins" of power.

It's a curious contradiction of the album that its next song, "The Final Cut," is something of a misstep, yet it's not just my favorite song on the album, it's one of my favorite Floyd songs of all time. The song doesn't really fit in with the overall themes of the album, and it's here (and with the next song, "Not Now John") that the album's origins as an add-on to The Wall become apparent. The music for the song "The Final Cut" is a direct ripoff of/homage to The Wall's "Comfortably Numb," complete with string section and achingly beautiful guitar solo; its lyrics tell of depression, isolation, and a desperate need for love (not so much for its own sake but to keep the demons at bay). The album then takes a sharp right turn into the raucous, belligerent "Not Now John," which dismisses all the issues raised by the album so far with a curt "Fuck all that." After all, there's no time for worrying about the failure of the post-war dream when there's the need to "bring the Russian bear to his knees...Make us feel tough and wouldn't Maggie be pleased." There's something curiously cathartic about the song, not so much for its own merits (it's a bit of a muddle and Gilmour, in his sole vocal role on the album, doesn't sound very enthusiastic) but for its sheer aggression and volume. 

But reflections and rage alike may well mean nothing, if the album's last song holds true. "Two Suns in the Sunset" is one of the more mellow takes on nuclear apocalypse, painting it with the simple yet horrifying imagery of a "sun" appearing where no sun has any right to be. Perhaps the song's quiet take on Armageddon is one of resignation, a "can't stop what's coming" tone that perfectly captures the mood of that era - the feeling that we were all just one international crisis away from world destruction. Waters seems to reflect this also in returning to the same sounds of news reports and passing cars that opened the album - not only a typical Floydian "isn't this where we came in" moment but also a reflection of the (at the time) feeling that such an end was inevitable. 

Though the album overall is slightly confused in its themes (one gets the feeling that it was written in a great burst of emotional catharsis), and hampered by the music not quite jelling at times (due no doubt to the extremely fractured state of the band - at times it's practically a Waters solo album), there's no denying the raw emotional power it often wields. Surprisingly, one of its strongest points is Waters' vocals; if you're on board with his vocal style (and you'd be well forgiven if you weren't as they're definitely an acquired taste) you'll find he's at his peak, with his obvious sincerity and passion for the material outweighing his limitations as a singer. I'm particularly fond of his enunciation: No one can work every syllable of a word like Waters when he's on a roll, as in the way he says the word "hallucination."  Likewise the lyrics, for the most part, are quite good. The political insights won't be much beyond what you can find in the Sunday editorial page, but there's excellent imagery throughout, and a depth of characterization that hadn't been seen in Waters' lyrics since his portrayal of the ruthless businessman in "Dogs" from the Animals album. And though the music does have its issues, the album is blessed with some lovely keyboard and piano work, and several great guitar solos, one of which (the one for the title track) is a personal all-time favorite.

It's a flawed album, without question. Yet it captures a moment in time that's worth revisiting, and it taps into powerful feelings of loss and of earning the sacrifice that those who've protected us have offered. It's not an album I revisit often, as it is quite possibly the most depressing album in the Floyd canon (which is saying quite a bit). But when the circumstances are right, it offers an emotional experience unlike any other album in the band's repertoire.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Interview at The Cult of Me blog

Care to know a little bit more about me and my books? No? Well, there is an interview with me over at The Cult Of Me, for your reading enjoyment.

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


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!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Indie bookstores for ebooks

Good news. Indie bookstores aren't just for print books any more.

Take a moment to check out Libiro and YouHeartBooks - these indie ebook stores offer a variety of genres in the formats you need for your ereader. (Full disclosure: my books are available at both stores.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


My apologies for being so scarce on the blog. Buried, swamped, inundated - you name it.

That's been my state for the last few weeks and will continue to be for the near future. It's all (well, mostly) good, though.

In the meantime, I'm planning a nice blog entry called "Postcards" about the characters I really would like to hear from. Just a postcard to let me know they're OK is all I need.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Today's mood

Because spring break is over.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kelly's Really Big Score: Take It Out In Trade edition

Road-tripped up to Ojai and to Bart's Books. I must say that it was the perfect day for such a trip. Sunny day, mid-seventies, and the hills of Ojai were still spring-green and the wild mustard was in bloom.

I took a bunch of books in to trade, and with the store credit I was able to get:

  • Louis Bayard - The Black Tower
  • Kate Atkinson - Case Histories
  • Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina
  • Bruce Felton and Mark Fowler - The Best, Worst, and Most Unusual
  • Colleen McCullough - The First Man in Rome
  • T. C. Boyle - The Road to Wellville
  • Marilyn French - The Women's Room
  • Tim O'Brien - The Things They Carried
  • Alexandra LaPierre - Artemisia
  • Christina Stead - The Man Who Loved Children
  • Joe R. Lansdale - Lost Echoes
  • Jose Saramago - Blindness
  • Thomas Tryon - The Other
  • Clive Barker - Cabal
  • Robert Stone - Dog Soldiers
  • Donald Hamilton - Murderers' Row
  • William Howard - "Gore Vidal's Caligula"

I am particularly happy with the Best, Worst, and Most Unusual and the Murderers' Row finds. The former is a trivia book that's from the late 1970s, and I still remember checking it out of the local library when I was a kid and learning about everything from how awful a durian is to some examples of really off-the-wall architecture. The latter is from Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series, which are long out of print but which are great reading, and a heavy influence on my Ashes series.

I make no apologies for the last book on the list - it's a novelization of the terrible movie made from Gore Vidal's screenplay for Caligula. I'm sure it's no good but I must have it on my shelf and it was only $2. So there.

Review: Under the Skin

My review of the sublimely creepy Under The Skin is up at Horrorview.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

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

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book BagLady reviews Ashes and Reckoning!

The Book BagLady has just finished reading both books in my Ashes series, and is sharing her thoughts over at her blog. Read the reviews of Ashes and Reckoning.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's up my sleeve for 2014

The good news is that I've got a lot of irons in the fire for 2014.

The bad news is that most of them are not in a state where I can talk about them right now.

Let's just say that I'm going to be a busy girl this year. Considering setting up a caffeine IV drip.

But one thing I can talk about is my first nonfiction book: A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema.

Inspired by my stint as reviewer at Horrorview, I'm putting together a book of 200 movie reviews. My thinking is that you don't need me to tell you to see Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, but maybe you do want my opinions on some of the more oddball movies that might pop up when you're browsing Hulu or Netflix. There will be cult classics, interesting failures, direct-to-video oddities, and much more. There'll be a heavy dose of the horror, sci-fi, and thriller genres, but also a little bit of everything: martial arts, anime, film noir, European art-house, silent films, and so on.

I'm currently into the home stretch for writing reviews, and an illustrator is at work on the cover (I've seen the roughs, and this is going to look fantastic). I'm aiming for a release this autumn - further details as and when!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Appearances on some 2013 lists

It's the time of year when readers and reviewers start posting their year-in-review lists of books. I am pleased and honored to say that I've made a couple lists:

The Day After Yesterday is on the list of best books of the year at Mom In Love With Fiction

Ashes is the Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book at Ciska's Book Chest

That's a nice way to end the year!

99-cent ebook sale til January 6!

2013 is gone but my holiday 99-cent sale of all my ebooks is still on! From now until January 6, all my novels are on sale for 99 cents. It's a great way to fill up that new Kindle or Nook you got for the holidays.

Visit my Amazon page to learn more. All three books are also available at Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.