Friday, December 30, 2011

New Novel Cover Preview

Started on a brand new book last week, i.e. an unplanned book which rudely shoved the other books to the side and flung itself down on the chaise waiting to be catered to. Thriller/Crime/Mystery set in the French Quarter and pretty much complete now inside my head, working it's way into actuality. Here's a first rough of the cover concept:

Hopefully have the blurbage and a preview chapter up next week!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas of the Living Dead and Many Happy Returns

Happy Holidays to all - I hope that everyone enjoyed a minimum of frustration and a maximum of cheer. I have the one-two punch of Christmas and my birthday the next day (on Boxing Day, which I prefer to think of as a day I can make a fort out of a giant box, pull up the drawbridge, and tell people to go away). Despite some bumps in the road, we were very merry.

Christmas Eve, the S/O took the boys to town for his family's celebration, (those who know me well enough know my reasons for not attending) leaving me with the older kids for OUR traditional Christmas Eve, which consists of moving pictures, sammiches, and libations. We spent the evening catching up on the most excellent and newly discovered Justified (somehow appropriately the episodes with the hilariously depressing Furbot and the cringingly, wonderfully awful ball peen hammer) and the most excellent Fright Night reboot and the really most excellent Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. (Yes, it's all horror and shoot-'em-ups for Christmas Eve around here, the better to make an appreciative contrast to Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Man)

In the morning there were happy children and an embarrassment of riches. (Kid #4 got a Kindle Fire, so he can stop jacking mine, and Kid #5 got enough LEGO to build his own full-size LEGO castle).  I myself received everything I could ask for, including enough ginger candy to build my own ginger candy castle, a Doctor Who mug where the Tardis moves through space when the tea is hot enough, a Swedish National Team hockey jersey, a Milan Hejduk hockey figure, and a Walking Dead Daryl Dixon figure (which is actually on back order because, as my son put it, "You can't expect a guy with an ear necklace to show up on time.") I'm easy to shop for.

Of course when it came time to stuff the turkey for Christmas dinner and put it in the oven, the unexpected happened. (And it wasn't my fault -- I have a degree in microbiology and I know damned well how to safely thaw a turkey.) I opened the bag to find the turkey was rotten. Oozing brown and green rotten. It had obviously been unfrozen in it's journey somewhere between Turkey Town and my fridge, commenced to decaying, and then been refrozen. Hence this Christmas will forever be referred to in shorthand as the Zombie Turkey Christmas (to differentiate it from the Christmas I was pregnant with Kid #4 and set the turkey on fire -- filling the kitchen with smoke and, since I was suffering from terrible morning sickness at that point, causing me to vomit for several hours -- which is known as That One Christmas You Set the Turkey On Fire.)

Luckily I had a roast thawing, so all was not lost, and we ended up with a lovely dinner of roast beef, crispy potatoes, butternut squash, asparagus with homemade hollandaise, sweet potatoes, and fresh rolls, with homemade pumpkin pie and a buche de noel for dessert.

That's when the electricity in the as-yet-not-finished-remodeling bathroom went out, leaving us in darkness. Now it's the Zombie Turkey and Poltergeist Christmas. We soldiered on. (Add another project to the to-do list.)

On my birthday we went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, took four hours off the DVR (yay!), and I got to watch the Avalanche decisively wallop Minnesota and the Saints decisively wallop Atlanta, along with Drew Brees (who seems like a genuinely swell guy, especially for a quarterback) getting one last gift to unwrap in the closing minutes of the game. And my lovely S/O provided pizza and the Cocoa Bean's Chocolate Raspberry Cake with Buttercream. (Exchange with Bakery: S/O: "I want a Chocolate Raspberry Cake without the ganache." Cocoa Bean: "So, ganache only on the inside?" S/O: "Only buttercream. No ganache." Cocoa Bean: "So, ganache only on the outside?" S/O: "No ganache, just buttercream." Cocoa Bean: "So where do you want the ganache?" S/O: "If there's ganache on that cake, my wife is going to rain down unholy hell on somebody and it's not going to be me." Cocoa Bean: "You sure you don't want ganache,then?")

So, in spite of the rotting spectre of the turkey and the curse of darkness and lack of electric toothbrushes in the bathroom, a pretty damned good holiday. I recount these events not lightly, and not to hold my happy circumstances over the heads of those not so happy. It's more to cause me to reflect, especially in times of stress and spots of transient frustration and depression, at how lucky I truly am. I live in relative comfort, meaning I have a home and transportation and food and heat, and enough left over. My children have the luxury of being able to say, "I don't really like that for dinner," before I make them eat it anyway, reminding them that other children, children in our own town, are hungry.

I share my life with someone who, in spite of our sometimes glaring religiopolitical differences, loves me, indulges me, and puts up with my sometimes not inconsequential idiosyncrasies and unexpected bouts of frozen terror. (And who is cute and still looks young enough to be asked if he needs help finding his class when he visits our daughter's college campus.) I have a few select friends (as I am not a truly gregarious person) who understand things about me that would terrify other people. I have five children who are healthy, happy, smart, and relatively well-adjusted and, more importantly, who -- when push comes to shove -- are genuinely good people. The kind of people who will take up for those less powerful than them, who will choose kindness over cruelty, and who are outraged at injustice, especially injustice that is not directed at them personally.  And if I don't accomplish anything other than that in my life, having set those children loose in the world means I will leave it a far better place than I found it.

And so, as every year, this is the time when I promise to remember that. When I promise to not be so quick to fill out a page in my carefully maintained book of grievances, when I remind myself to be more generous of spirit, when being generous of spirit is sometimes at real odds with my true nature, not the nature I trot out for show.

Remember what you are lucky to have, even when you don't feel lucky. Give just one person the benefit of the doubt, especially when they don't deserve it.  Be kind. Be generous. End each day having done one thing to make it a better day than it started out.  Be happy and well, and dog bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Love This Video

And I love the Black Keys. Although nothing can really ever top the sheer genius of Howlin' For You, this is wicked awesome. And, yes, that's exactly the way I dance around the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

You Know That Little Voice That Whispers In Your Ear....

...for Pete, it's a tiny, angry red dinosaur.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lend Me Some Sugar, I Am Your Neighbor

Okay, so I've got a favor to ask. And how often does someone ask you a favor where you get something out of it, and you get to help kids too? Probably not that often. There's a little project I'm involved in called Kindle All Stars: Resistance Front. It's an anthology of short stories by 32 fantastic writers, including Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster. (I also have a story and an essay in there.) So what's the favor? It's simple: I need people to read an ARC (advanced reader copy) of the book and write a review. Then on the day the book goes live, I need those people to buy a copy of the book from Amazon (only 99 cents, and every penny of profit goes to the Center For Missing and Exploited Children.). Then you need to post your review of the book (which only needs to be 20 words minimum.)

To do this, you will need two things: a way to read the manuscript and an Amazon account. You don't need a Kindle to read the book, just a kindle app. You can go to Amazon and download (For Free!!) a Kindle app for iPhone/iPad, most smartphones, your PC. I have Kindle for PC on my computer and it works great. The S/O has a Kindle app on his Android-based phone. It's an easy interface and it just take a few minutes to download and set up.

Now you also need an Amazon account, which is likewise free. And you really should have one, because otherwise how are you going to order stuff when the zombies rise? Once you've got an Amazon account, you can review any product. If it's a product you've purchased off of Amazon, you can tag yourself as a verified purchaser.

The reason I'm asking you all to do this is because we really want to make a splash with this anthology. We would like to get a hundred sales and reviews the first day, because reviews and sales are what put you on the best-seller lists, which is what drives the success of a book. The holidays are coming up, and we really want to send a big, fat check to The Center for Missing and Exploited Children. On a more selfish note, we want to prove that a group of people who just met can come together and change the way publishing works.

Being the micro-managing hermit that I am, I don't ask for much, but I would like to get 10 more people to promise me a review. (Think of as it your own Jerry Lewis telethon, with less Jerry Lewis). Do it for the kids, do it for me, do it for yourself. I'll sing if you want me to. (Or for a dollar more, I won't sing.) It's good for your karma. It's penance for that thing you did that one time. It will make you feel good.

So, again, email me at I'll send you a copy of the manuscript in Word. Read it and write a short a review. Make sure you have a Kindle app of some stripe and an Amazon account. On launch day, I'll email you, at which time you go on Amazon, buy a 99 cent copy of the book, and leave your review. Easy-peasy.

Thanks - unlike that thing you did that one time, you wont' regret it!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Your Daily Awesome 11.1.11

I find this unspeakably delightful.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Halloween: 13 More Scary Movies You Might Have Missed

Last Halloween I featured 13 horror movies (well, 15) that might have escaped your attention. This year I've got 13 more to recommend for a chilling evening's diversion. This year's a little top-heavy with zombies (zombies are cool), westerns (surprise!), and at a glance 2008 was a vintage season. But there's still a little something for everyone....

#13   La Horde (France 2009)

This brutal little film opens at a funeral. A band of crooked cops have lost one of their own and are planning revenge on a gang of Nigerian criminals. They enter an abandoned Paris highrise housing project, and after a tense shootout, find themselves in the middle of a zombie acopalypse. The action is gripping and gory and there are some really cool sequences, like when the downstairs guard realizes something has gone horribly wrong, and when the "hero" (Jean-Pierre Martins) realizes he's not getting out. You'll notice the word "hero" is in quotation marks. That's because if there's a quibble I have with this film, it's that it's pretty bleak. You know you're in trouble when the most sympathetic character is a vicious Nigerian warlord (Eriq Abouaney). Still, it's well worth a look. (In French with English subtitles)

#12   Slither (US 2006)

Slither is both cover-your-eyes gross and utterly hilarious. Nathan Fillion is Sheriff Bill Pardy, who's mooning for his lost sweetheart when the local deer hunting festival is overrun with alien slugs, who begin, in the immortal words of the local mayor "driving people around like skincars." I highly recommend buying the DVD for the kick-ass extras. (Hi, I'm Bill Pardy!) This film features one of my favorite movie scenes of all time:

#11   Fido (Canada 2006)

Keeping the humor vein momentarily, Fido is a zombie comedy set in happy 1950's-esque suburbia where, following the Zombie Wars, the Zomcon Corporation has found a way to fit the dead with remote control collars to turn them into servants. With a really good cast (Billy Connelly as Fido, Carrie-Ann Moss and Dylan Baker as a suburban mom and pop, Henry Czerny as the face of Zomcon, and Tim Blake Nelson as the eccentric next door neighbor), this is really a delightful little film. (In Canadian without subtitles.)

#10 Dance of the Dead (US 2008)

Yet more zombies, as high school outcasts prepare for the school prom and find that there's been a mishap in the local graveyard and the dead have risen. This indie film looks a million times better than it's budget should probably indicate. The acting is really good (I'm partial to Jared Kuznitz, who looks so like one of my best high school friends) and the writing is sharp and funny. Shows that indie films can outdo mainstream films, especially when it comes to keeping a genre fresh and entertaining.

#9   The Midnight Meat Train (US 2008)

An adaptation of the Clive Barker story of the same name, The Midnight Meat Train is about a photographer (Bradley Cooper) who find himself on the trail of a subway serial killer. He's really not going to like what he finds at the end of it. One of the few adaptations that does justice to the bloody, unsettling dread in Barker's work, this is the kind of movie that makes you turn the lights on.  Top notch supporting cast, including Vinnie Jones as a creepy butcher, and really fine directing make this an instant classic that WILL give you nightmares.

#8   Romasanta (Spain 2004)

With lyrical cinematography and understated performances, Romasanta is loosely based on the mid-19th century Werewolf of Allariz case, in which a series of murders, mutilations, and disappearances were blamed on Manuel Blanco Romasanta (portrayed by Julian Sands), who admitted to the murders but claimed he was a victim of lycanthropy. It's an interesting treatise on the intersection of myth and murder, and the understanding of the modern serial killer. (In English)

#7   The Valley of Gwangi (US 1969)

When we were kids, my brother and I were quite the little cinephiles. And, boy, did we love the fantastic and the frightening. One of our early favorites was The Valley of Gwangi. We must have watched it scores of times. Starring James Franciscus as a cowboy stuntman and Gila Golan as his feisty ex -- an equestrienne and owner of a failing circus -- the movie featured everything a kid could want: an dusty old archeologist wandering the desert, a gypsy brimming with curses, cowboys roping dinosaurs, and a spectacular ending when the monster finally gets loose and goes on a rampage. This still ranks as one of my childhood favorites.

#6   Tremors (US 1990)

Speaking of favorites, Tremors is an almost perfectly crafted monster movie and a deserving cult classic. Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon are spot-on as Earl and Val, itinerite handymen in the tiny desert town of Perfection, who band together with the townspeople against giant subterranean prehistoric worms, dubbed "Graboids" by the local general store owner (Victor Wong). Funny, scary, and thrilling, while it was a box-office disappointment, it exploded on DVD and spawned numerous (inferior) sequels. It's one of those movies I never get tired of watching.

#5   Frailty (US 2001)

The directorial debut of Bill "Game Over, Man" Paxton, this psychological thriller will keep you off-balance to the very end. With great performances by Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Booth, this is the story of an apparently psychotic father who drafts his two young sons into his mission to rid the world of "demons," but nothing is ever as it seems. Tense and well-crafted, this will have you thinking about it long after it's over.

#4   Shiver aka Eskalofrio (Spain 2008)

Suffering from a rare case of photophobia, a young boy (Junio Valverde) and his mother must move from the city to small village in the mountains of Spain that is almost always in shadow. Once there, a series of murders place suspicion on the boy, so he and some newfound friends attempt to unravel the facts behind the crimes. While the film begins slowly, it builds to a terrifically suspenseful conclusion and a dandy little mystery.(In Spanish with English subtitles.)

#3   Dead Birds (US 2004)

This is a truly creepy indie film, starring Henry Thomas as a leader of a group of Confederate soldiers who rob a bank and hole up in an abandoned house in the midst of an abandoned cornfield. Bad things ensue. Really bad things. While it borrows a lot of the conventions of both horror films and westerns, it puts everything together so well, it doesn't matter.  The film is dark and lovingly shot, building up to understated ending.

#2    Night Visions (US 2001)

This isn't a movie, but an anthology series that lasted one season (13 two-story episodes) on Fox. Narrated by Henry Rollins, the show features top-tier talent on both the acting and directing sides, and great scripts, many from excellent short stories. The problem with TV anthologies is you've often got a lot of clunkers: pieces that just didn't work, or relied on cheap twists, or were dumbed down from the source material. This is the rare exception in that every story works, and some work really stupendously. While it's not on DVD, it's well-worth trying to catch repeats on SyFy or Chiller. My three favorites: "A View Through a Window" starring Bill Pullman and taken from the superb and terrifying short story by Robert Leman; "Harmony" starring Timothy Olyphant as a guy who stumbles onto a town where music is outlawed (think "Footloose" gone terribly wrong); and "Patterns" with Malcolm McDowell as a psychiatrist that tries to cure a patient (Miguel Ferrer) of his obsessive compulsions with disastrous results.

#1   The Burrowers (US 2008)

The Burrowers is a great little film that works both as strait horror and as a pretty swell western. The premise is simple: a pioneer family has disappeared and a posse, thinking they've been abducted by a local Indian tribe,  is put together to go find them.  The cast is excellent (Clancy Brown, William Mapother, Laura Leighton, Karl Geary, Sean Patrick Scott) and while the film unfolds slowly, it allows for a real investment in the characters and the building of an internal logic that really makes the film feel authentic. The movie also explores racism, genocide, and ecological disaster in a way that most horror films would just gloss over. The creatures, when you finally see them, are superbly awful and the ending is real punch in the gut.

Have a scary movie to recommend? Leave a comment. And until next year - leave the lights on.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Your Daily Awesome 10.28.11

I'm moving to San Francisco, just so I can vote for Ed Lee. (Well, there are other reasons I would move there, but, still.) This is the most awesome campaign video EVER.

And in news on the home front: Kid #2 (the Marine) has just announced that he's going to be stationed in New Orleans. YAY!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love October. I would love it more this year if it was not a) fraught with mini-disasters and b) not so damn jam-packed. Before the week is out I hope to have the annual Scary Movies You Might Have Missed feature, and a short expose on the dangers of home improvement. Till then, enjoy Kid #4 (eaten by Mr. Halloween), Kid #5 (saving the galaxy) and Pete & Wilson, who would take their show on the road if they weren't so busy sleeping.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

14 Blissful Years

And three additional kids.... I dunno, does he still look somewhat skeptical?

Yes, we are smooching in the Wal-Mart to embarrass the children.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NSFW Wednesday

I always tell my kids there are no bad words, only words used badly. (Swiped from George Carlin.) So, a salute to the most useful word in the English language. All you delicate flowers may turn your head.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Come Into My Parlor

Meet Argiope aurantia, commonly known as the "writer spider" or the black and yellow garden spider. She's on the neighbor's fence waiting for a passerby. Hopefully she's been more productive this weekend than I have.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Daily Awesome - Nicolas Cage is the Undead Edition

I can't prove this isn't true.

A Seattle based man was asking $1 million for what he says is a photo taken in 1870 of a Tennessee man that shows "a man who looks exactly like Nick Cage. Personally, I believe it's him and that he is some sort of walking undead / vampire, et cetera, who quickens / reinvents himself once every 75 years or so. 150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a talk show host."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let The Wild Rumpus Begin - New TV

One week+ into the fall TV season and it’s like opening a box of Monty Python’s Whizzo Quality Assortment, some crunchy frogs and painful metal springs and a teaspoon of lark’s vomit, and only the occasional raspberry gel.

First, old business, as some of my favorite shows premiered. Some shows made a successful transition from last season’s cliffhangers and denouements, some did not. Fringe, Community, Sons of Anarchy, and Castle did not disappoint. Hawaii 5-0 was uneven, but still delivered on the action, which is its strong suit. (That and Scott Caan. You can’t go wrong with Scott Caan.) Glee has, I think, worn out its jazz hands. The first episode felt like treading water and sometimes slipping under. The biggest disappointment, however, was The Mentalist.

I really enjoy The Mentalist, but I see in it something I think a lot of viewers (especially its older, CBS-centric, oatmeal-and-fuzzy-slippers audience) don’t see. To me, Patrick Jane is not a very nice person. At all. He’s deeply flawed and always has been. He’s a man of totally unreliable loyalty who cares not a whit for what is “legal” but for whatever he thinks is “fair.” (Last season he locked a loan manager in a vault without telling anyone because he felt the man mistreated an employee. He doesn’t mind being sadistic if he thinks it’s warranted.) He does not suffer fools gladly and is willing to mete out punishment to those he thinks deserve it. He’s basically a sociopath who passes very well for someone who is not, and having lost the one thing that made him “normal,” his only reason d’etre is revenge upon whomever left him with only himself. There will never be a happy ending for him, only an ending.

After last season’s really kicking finale, when he shot the man he thought was Red John, I wondered how the writers were going to deal with the aftermath. Apparently so did the writers. And, short of a “Dallas” style shower scene, they did what they could to punt. Long story short: brief incarceration, a death penalty trial that was over within days of the crime, where he acted as his own lawyer and the jury found him not guilty. I call shenanigans. Dear writers, if I had a sharp stick and you were within poking distance, I would poke you. Repeatedly. There is fair play and then there is flipping the game board over and declaring you won. While I give the last season’s final episode an A, I give this first episode a D-. It is saved only from an F by Simon Baker’s delivery of the line, “You’re under arrest, you loony bitch,” which was AWESOME.  

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on to new shows.  

The New Girl from FOX is the best of the bunch. Of course your opinion depends on if you find Zooey Deschanel tiresome or not. She has the kind of personality that can either drag you happily into her orbit or leave you standing on the outside, looking for a hatchet. The S/O, myself, Kid #1 and Kid #1’s fiancĂ© all found it to be pretty delightful. It was smart, quick, and quirky in a good way.

The Ringer was middling. Sarah Michelle Geller is really selling the concept, but some of the execution was so-so. Especially annoying are the afternoon soap opera special effects, like when they’re supposed be speeding along in a motorboat and they’re obviously on a soundstage jumping up and down while three guys hold up a bad painting that looks somewhat like a seascape. Extra points for being partially set in Rock Springs, Wyoming. (I’ve been there!) Still watching, and hopefully things will even out.

Person of Interest is a show I have high hopes for, but the first episode was disappointing. The action wasn’t disappointing. There was plenty of suspense and gunplay and running and explosions. (And LOTS of shooting in the knee. At my house whenever the protagonist pulls a gun we yell, “Shoot him in the knee!” in honor of that one time on 24 when Kiefer Sutherland shot JoBeth Williams in the knee. Well, Jim Caviezel seems to like nothing better than shooting people in the knee. Lots of people limping around New York this week.) What was disappointing was the motivation. You’ve got an ex-Ranger who obviously worked in some type of Special Ops for the government, but is now a homeless bum trying to drink himself to death. So far so good. You’ve got a nerdy, twitchy, genius billionaire who made a secret algorithm/program to generate intel for the government, but left himself a back door. Again, still with you. But for reasons that are never satisfactorily explained, or even really hinted at, commando bum jumps right in to working with twitchy genius, with no real questions asked. There was no gain or threat or implied redemption or blackmail or, well, any motivating factor that made me believe this would occur. You’ve got A and C, but no B. There was no satisfying “snap” as the pieces came together. I ain’t buying it. Maybe it’ll become clearer. We’ll see. Jury’s out until next week.

And now we come to the big disappointment. While Terra Nova wasn’t as maddening as, say, Body of Proof, it was mind-numbingly dumb. It literally lost me in the first 10 minutes, when Dad comes home to the tiny cubicle apartment he shares with Teenage Boy, Teenage Girl, Cute Moppet, and Doe-Eyed Mom. See, he’s got a mysterious paper bag. And when he opens it, what’s inside? C’mon, I bet you can guess. It was an orange. A single orange. Because the world’s all polluted and we’ve destroyed the environment and we can’t grow oranges anymore. So oranges are like gold, or the polio vaccine, or something. Get it? Trust me, that image was tired in 1950.  

And then the Secret Kid Police come, because it turns out Cute Moppet is illegal. There’s a strict 2-kid rule in place. So they tear up the sad cubicle until they find Cute Moppet in an air duct and drag her and her little orange out. There will be hell to pay, no? Well, no. Turns out Dad goes to jail for six years, but Cute Moppet is not executed or cryo-frozen or given to childless strangers. What kind of dystopia is this?  (And later on when the question is posed to Dad about why he and his wife willfully broke the 2-kid rule, he replies, “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” The hell? No birth control failure or needed-bone-marrow-transplant-to-save-sibling-life or any number of at least imaginable explanations? No. Two educated people decided to put the welfare of their other two kids in jeopardy and have a child they’d have to keep hidden in an air duct for 18 years because it sounded like a good idea at the time. Now, of course, you feel sorry for Cute Moppet because she’s saddled with these dumbass parents who don’t seem responsible enough to care for a mutant government-sanctioned goldfish.)

Anyway. Fast-forward and Dad is in a dingy dungeon prison cell breathing unfiltered poison air, when Doe-Eyed Mom visits and explains she’s been recruited to go through a portal to Terra Nova, because she’s this brilliant, sought-after doctor. The catch is, she can’t take Cute Moppet, because that would be like “rewarding her for breaking the rules.” What, now they care? And if you were Doe-Eyed Mom, wouldn’t you just say, “Hey, if you want my magical doctor knowledge, let me take my kid, or I’ll just point and laugh while your colonists die of dinosaur fungus.”  But no, instead an unexplained plan is hatched to break Dad out of the dungeon and get him and Cute Moppet through the portal. And when I say “unexplained,” I mean totally unexplained. Next thing you know, we’re at Grand Portal Station and after some barely interesting hijinks, our whole boring family – including Convict Dad and his mysterious backpack -- is through the portal on the other side. When Convict Dad is discovered with his mysterious backpack a ruckus ensues and someone screams “Check that backpack for weapons!” At which point someone pulls out a huge knife and prepares to repeatedly stab said backpack. Because that’s certainly an efficient way to search for weapons. Repeatedly stabbing a backpack is so much easier, say, than UNZIPPING IT. Because, wouldn’t you know, Cute Moppet is in the mysterious backpack, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief when she is not repeatedly stabbed. 

After all this, you would imagine there would be hell to pay this time. I mean, last time it was just a slap on the wrist, but now there’s going to be consequences, right? Not so much. So in the end, the entire freaking backstory was useless. We gained NOTHING from it. Nothing. They could have just won a lottery and gone through the portal and it would have been more interesting and less idiotic than the ridiculous, overwrought, fifth-grader-written, hole-filled pantomime we were subjected to. And by the way, WHERE ARE THE FREAKING DINOSAURS?

Ahem. Well, now it gets exciting, right? Er, no. Because there’s more idiocy to be had. There’s the manufactured fight between Teenage Son and Dad over how he walked out on them and now Teenage Son doesn’t have to listen to Dad. Er, anybody remember the dungeon? There’s the fact that even though Dad spent three years in a dank, poisonous dungeon, he seems none the worse for wear. Why, he’s whacking vines (not a euphemism) and running around all willy-nilly after shiftless characters with nary a cough or a stumble. In fact, he seems in excellent shape. (Must have been the spa and the state-of-the-art gym portion of the dungeon that ended up on the cutting room floor.) Then there’s Teenage Girl giving us some muddled backstory about altered timelines or parallel realities or blahdy-blahdy-blah so that we don’t get distracted by the fact that recolonizing the earth in prehistoric times would mean that Hitler won the war and we’re all wearing kilts now, or whatever conventionally happens when you step on a butterfly after hopping out of your time machine. I’m not sure, because at this point, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE.  P.S. Convict Dad is now Head of Security Dad because….shut up, that’s why.

And Doe-Eyed Mom is now Super Doctor Mom and she’s in the infirmary, where some nurse tells her to check on a patient. Said patient asks Super Doctor Mom to “unhook him already.” She remarks that she can’t see an IV. But when the patient turns around, he’s got a 5-pound prehistoric leech attached to his back. Apparently that’s a popular treatment for hyperoxygenation of the blood. Of course no one briefed Super Doctor Mom on the newest medical treatments or apparently prepped her in any way as to what to expect. And the nurse didn’t say, “Hey, check on that patient, but be warned, he’s got a GIANT FREAKING LEECH on his back.” No. So Super Doctor Mom, instead of asking any questions about procedure, just yanks the giant leech off the patient’s back and sets it on the bed with a hearty, “There you go.” Lucky she didn’t pull out his spinal cord or inadvertently cause him to bleed to death.  Why, that would have been almost as irresponsible as keeping your Contraband Cute Moppet in an air duct for 18 years.

Oh, and eventually there were some dinosaurs and they were pretty cool. But they didn’t eat nearly enough people.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Short Story Cover Extravaganza

Spent today working, working on covers for the  coming short stories. Way more fun than cleaning my closet. You've got vampires, zombies in two flavors, and a contract killer trying to do a good deed. Just shows what you can do with $12 worth of artwork and seven hours of free time. Yay! Please let me know what looks good and what sucks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Can Stop Watching TV Whenever I Want...

My name is Keri and I am addict. In fact, I have a complex rule book that dictates what I am compelled to watch on television. You know, because I might miss something. Really, it’s out of my hands.

Last night marked the official start to my fall TV season. (Remember when we used to have only the fall TV season? Before people just premiered TV shows all willy-nilly on billions of channels so that you were forced to watch TV YEAR ROUND?)  Here’s a list of my must-see fall and midseason premiers, with a few helpful links if you're feeling clippy.

Ringer -- CW 
Why do I care? Buffy, Buffy, Buffy.

The New Girl – FOX
Why do I care? I still find Zoey Deschanel winsome. Sue me. And I like the word “winsome.”

Person of Interest – CBS

Pan Am – ABC
Why do I care? I don’t. But the S/O was born in the wrong era and thinks everything should be a variation of Mad Men.

Terra Nova – FOX
Why do I care? Dinosaurs! Portals! Dinosaurs!

Suburgatory – FOX
Why do I care? Alan Tudyk and Cheryl Hines.

How to Be A Gentleman – CBS
Why do I care? Dave Foley. (I have it on good account that this is supposed to be godawful. But still. Dave Foley.)

American Horror Story – FX

Man Up - ABC

Grimm – NBC
Why do I care? Homicide detective fighting sinister storybook creatures. (Bonus: Silas Weir Mitchell, which causes this to fall under the Prison Break Clause in my rule book. Besides Silas Weir Mitchell’s Wikipedia description? “Silas Weir Mitchell is an American character actor known for playing disturbing or unstable characters.” Someday when I have a Wikipedia page, I would  like the words “disturbing” and “unstable” to appear liberally.)

I Hate My Teenage Daughter – FOX
Why do I care? Katie Finneran. Which causes this to fall under the Tim Minear Clause in the rule book. See Wonderfalls and The Inside.

Bedlam – BBC America

The River – ABC Midseason
Why do I care? Shows promise. Plus Paul Blackthorne.

Alcatraz – FOX Midseason
Why do I care? The clips look awesome.  Plus Jorge Garcia and Robert Forster. Plus Bad Robot. This is the show I'm looking the most forward too.

The Finder – Fox Midseason
Why do I care? The spin-off setup episode on Bones was cool. Plus Michael Clarke Duncan.

The Fades – BBC America

If You Go Into the Woods...

I think it's wrong how much I love Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

While I Was Away

Got a new book out:

For a limited time it's yours for the price of a candy bar, so click here now. 

Later on I plan to expound at some length about how it came to be finally published.

I'm also working on a spiffy new author site that will eventually be really cool, but is currently only lukewarm because days are currently 14 hours too short to do what I need to do.  You can see the grinning skull of it here.

Everybody's back in school: Kid #3 got a new job (thank dog it's near the college and not in the wilds of outer Mongolia like the last one). Kid #4 is going for both Honor's Choir and student council and will be singing the Gregory House creepy cabaret version of "Get Happy" for his drama audition. (YES, MY KIDS ARE WEIRD.) Kid #5 has been selected for gifted and talented -- although his current talent as evidenced at home seems to be flinging himself on the floor and wailing hysterically when asked to clean his room. Pete has gotten so fat that he no longer fits in the camera viewfinder. (When he sits around the desk, he really sits around the desk.)

Suits is an awesome show and I love it sooo much. Breaking In has been miraculously uncanceled by Fox, thus breaking the Slater curse. I've become addicted to Sons of Anarchy, but I have to watch it in the middle of the night because it's too violent for all the delicate little flowers around here. It's a constant battle between me, the laws of time and physics, and the DVR.

I'm currently working on three novels and four short stories concurrently to see if that quiets the voices in my head. Details as they emerge.

And that, as they say, is that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the Words of The Continental, Wowee-Wow-Wow

I've been invited to publish a story in an upcoming charity anthology edited by a really swell writer, Bernard Schaffer. It was Bernard's idea of do anthology of the best up-and-coming genre writers in the Kindle arena in the spirit of Harlan Ellison's seminal Dangerous Visions and donate the proceeds to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Needless to say, I was very excited to be able to participate from both a creative and a community standpoint.

Well, today Bernard received word from the Man himself, and Ellison has expressed his delight with the project and written a blurb for the book.

Harlan Fucking Ellison.

You'll have to excuse me, I'm a little emotional right now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I'm going to burn this manuscript, I swear. I've leapt over the writer's block and run headlong into rewriter's block. I've fallen into the narrative hole on page 380 and I can't get up.  In the meantime, Pete and I are going to rework a classic: instead of The Man In the Iron Mask, it will be The Cat in the Plastic Laundry Basket.

And for your daily dose of cute, the small child shows that "anime face" can attack at any time.

He can also do a killer Buddy Hackett impression. Or Lou Costello. He's versatile.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh, The Humanity

Well, it's been a horrid last couple of days here at Chez Hades. There was one real disaster, that in retrospect was not as big a disaster as it seemed at the moment, but nevertheless demoralizing, and one barely avoided disaster that could have killed someone but didn't, but still freaked out everyone but me. I figure you should be thankful about barely avoided disasters and not focus on what would have happened had they actually occurred. In short, no one is dead.

I was supposed to have Running Red done before Sunday, and was actually on track to have it done Friday evening. At some point midday Friday, Word freaked out. It did so quietly and without fanfare. When I opened up my manuscript file, it had somehow reverted back to an unchanged file. A file sans revisions. Even though I had saved the file and double-checked it, 300+ pages of revisions were just gone. The file didn't disappear, it somehow REVERTED. And it didn't just erase the changes from the last time I had opened the file, it reverted back to the original file from a week ago. A file that I had opened and closed multiple times. Apparently from my research this is an impossibility. It can't happen. There is no mechanism by which this can occur. So I am left with either a supernatural explanation or Secret Window, Secret Garden scenario in which I did this in a fugue state to sabotage myself.  I'll leave it up to you to choose which is more likely.

So we backed up all the Word files on an external drive (680 of them!) and uninstalled the apparently possessed version of Word and replaced it with Word 2010. Things seem to be normal now, but I'm taking no chances. I back up everything hourly to the cloud and a flash drive.

I started over because there was nothing else to do, but that means most of the revising I'm doing I'd already done multiple times over the past several weeks and I have now looked at the manuscript so much that it's starting to make no sense. It's Groundhog Day, but directed by Frederico Fellini after a meal of hallucinogenic toads and absinthe. I'm back up to chapter 31 out of 55, and it's going sloooooowly. And after I do the revisions, I've to proof it again. (I do have a second proofer going over it too, but I have trouble releasing control.)

Hopefully the next time I take a break to post, it will be to talk about the new project, the one that was supposed to start yesterday, and Running Red will have gone to the big formatting barn in the sky. In the meantime, there is this, which I found delightful. (Warning: if you are easily offended DO NOT PUSH PLAY. And don't say I did not warn you. Because I did. ).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Still a Pathetic Fangirl

This morning Lawrence Block followed me on Twitter. For those of you who do not know Lawrence Block, shame on you. He's a crime writer par excellence, and rather than go through the litany of accomplishments I'll direct you to his Wikipedia page and also to his blog.And his Amazon page for good measure.

Besides being a fantastic writer, he's an all-around swell guy, and he's been an invaluable resource to writers over the years.

And, yeah, I know it's just a follow-back on Twitter, it's not like he's dropping by for cocktails or a barbecue, but still LAWRENCE BLOCK! Squee!

And in a weird coincidence, I was rummaging through used books at a thrift store the other day (five for a dollar!) and was thrilled to come across Block's Keller novella Keller's Adjustment as part of the Transgressions series edited by Ed McBain. AND I'm actually working on a short story about a hitman who grasps at his last chance at redemption. So, yeah, it all makes sense inside my head.

Also, too, if you're not following me on Twitter, why not? It's not the Stone Age, people!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Doctor is In

Doctor Who returns August 27.

Yeah, you're getting nothing but fangrrl videos until this *$)#@&%$  novel is out of my hands.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Your Daily Awesome - 7.25.11

Can't talk, got work, need to edit. This is awesome. 

Don't hold back, just push things forward from Ithaca Audio on Vimeo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Now That's More Like It

Well now I feel bad for whining about the teaser for the new season of The Walking Dead, after seeing the trailer that premiered at Comic Con. Yowza.


Keeping the laundry from escaping since 2009.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Makes A Great Review?

[cross-posted at Publishing Yourself]

Last night we got the best review ever for Darker By Degree. Well, maybe not the best review ever, but a damned satisfying one, the kind that makes a smile pop out on your face throughout the day and gives you the warm fuzzies, the kind that lets you know you did what you meant to do. More about that in a moment.

Reviews are important, especially for those of us who've taken the self-pub route, and they're important for a number of reasons. First, most readers are reluctant to take a blind jump. If they've never heard of you, they may be reluctant to give you a try, even if you've got a nifty cover and a catchy blurb. But if they see other people dipping a toe in the water, and then caring enough to describe that experience, they're more likely to take the plunge. Second, well-done reviews give a little more information, and information from a reader's perspective as opposed to the author's perspective. We as writers sometimes miss what's best (or worst) or most compelling about our own works. Reviewers can point that out, especially to other potential readers who might be of a like mind. Third, reviews help you get noticed. They move you up in searches, they help you get linked, they drive people to your books.

So, yes, we want reviews. We need reviews. But we want good reviews. And by good reviews, I don't mean, "Oooh, that was the best book I ever read!" reviews. I mean thoughtful, meaningful reviews. Yes, we hope they're flattering and complimentary, but we also hope they add something to the conversation, that they pique someone's interest, that they illuminate.

I've seen people tweet about "Another 5-star Review!" But I've also learned that the vaunted 5-star review is not all it's cracked up to be. It's common knowledge that reviews can be gamed, and are gamed quite regularly. Many people don't "trust" a 5-star review, figuring that it's either friends of the author or the authors themselves salting the mine. I've read time and time again in comments hither and yon that potential readers are really interested in the 3- and 4-star reviews, because they tend to be better balanced, reasoned, thought-out, and explained.

There was an interesting post on Konrath's blog earlier this week where he sort of trashes the notion of 1-star reviews. I can see his point -- which was that a lot of 1-star reviews (hell, a lot of reviews, period) are nonsense because they're not really reviews, but instead knee-jerk reactions to what may or may not even be legitimate critical points, like the price of the book or the genre. As someone who often writes in the horror genre, I would like to personally pound anyone who gives a horror novel an automatic 1-star because they "don't like horror." But I do think Konrath kind of wanders off his main point just a tad by twisting things to say in effect there are "no 1-star books." In his defense, he did start off my stating something about "assuming a certain level of competence," but still, there are some pretty atrocious books out there. As always, nice debate in the comments section.

There's also mixed feeling in readers about soliciting reviews, mostly because many don't understand that's how any traditionally published book gets reviews: you send out arcs or free copies and hope that reviewers will read and review them. It's really no different than, say, using a service like the new BookRooster, which for a reasonable fee will give free copies to their readers (in your genre) until you've received a minimum of 10 Amazon reviews. The part that makes people feel squidgy about it is that each review has to start out with a disclaimer that the reviewer received a free copy to review. For readers who understand the process, this should be no problem, but more casual readers may think, "Hey, why do they have to GIVE the book away...." Hopefully, that kind of attitude will be dispelled over time as the practice becomes more common. After all, you're not guaranteed a "good" review, so it's not like an old payola scam.

And there are increasingly people and sites, like Red Adept, that will review self-pubbed books for free. Also joining groups like GoodReads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing can link you up to readers who are more likely to review your books.

But sometimes the best review is the one you haven't sought out, the reader who found your book, who enjoyed it, and who took the time to tell everybody why. Which brings me back to the most excellent review that we got last night for Darker By Degree. Yeah, it wasn't a "5-star," and it wasn't all gushy, but it was better than that.  First of all, it was by someone who does lots of reviews (over 600!), and they're thoughtful reviews, not drive-bys or love fests. And in looking over those reviews, the reader is not afraid to point out what's good and bad in a book. They didn't give away too much of the plot, but they hit they high points that they found compelling. And then at the end, they gave the best compliment a self-pubbed author could hope to receive:

"Maddie Pryce has a career as an actor, but not a lot of work. In fact her day to day bills are paid by her job as an usher in an elegant but crumbling old art deco theatre showing vintage movies.

One night after a triple bill of 30's and 40's classic horror, she finds one of her coworkers murdered. Another coworker makes himself scarce when the cops try to interview him about the homicide. One detective in particular, Kyle Oberman, takes a more than casual interest in Maddie, as it seems that she has managed to become the object of a stalker who is looking for a missing porn actress and thinks Maddie might know something about the missing woman.

With a dose of action, some good dialogue and Maddie's entertaining views on Hollywood, this mystery is well worth reading. I read it on my iphone and didn't notice any major formatting problems. In fact I would not have been surprised to pull this one off a library shelf in hard cover.


Yep, the best thing about that review, the thing that warmed the cockles of my cynical little heart? "I would not have been surprised to pull this one off a library shelf in hardcover." Wow. I will say, Susan and Harold and I worked our collective butts off to not only put together an engrossing read, but to present is as professionally as a traditionally published novel from a major house. For at least one reader, we accomplished that, and that is a fine, fine thing.

So much Stuff, So Little Time

In the grips of the dog days -- it's godawful hot, there are eleventy-billion kid-centric activities, the house is currently trashed, still editing, still working (not that I'm not grateful for the boundless work I've had lately), and things just seem to spun completely from my control. I owe emails, I owe blog posts, I may have forgotten how to use the Twitter, and I can't get into my closet anymore. In short - AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


In the Department of You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone: In response to Netflix changing it's pricing structure, we've dropped the DVD option and are going for just streaming. We did this because we had the DVD of The Hangover out for roughly six months and never found time to watch it. (Our DVR is too full because we are mesmerised by all the shiny TV shows.) But it doesn't go into affect till mid-September, so now it's a race to see how many movies we can watch before the DVDs dry up. I'm betting on 21. I'm sure there's a recognizable pathology to this whole episode.

Brief New TV Update: Outcasts on BBC America is awful. The characters have the memory capacity of goldfish. I can see why the earth blew up, because apparently it was filled with IDIOTS. Quite enjoying Suits on USA, Falling Skies on TNT, and Alphas on SyFy. 

Most Boring Zombie Teaser Ever - Season Two of The Walking Dead is set for October, but the trailer is, um, lackluster.

More later - after I've dug out from under the laundry.....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pete Explains How to Buy My Books

First of all, realize that you are bored.

You need entertainment! Wherever will you look? Your usual pastimes just don't bring that joie de vivre.

Transport yourself to the Interwebs and go to Amazon, where you will find Darker By Degree and Director's Cut.  While you're there you can "like" it, download a sample, or take the plunge, and for less than a Starbuck's latte enjoy a thrilling adventure.

And don't worry, even if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle App for PC or Smartphone free and in no time you'll be knee-deep in adventure!  Then tonight, you can sleep well, knowing you've made the world a happier place.