News & Blog

Library Journal Raves About DIE AND STAY DEAD!

Library Journal has a great advance review of Die and Stay Dead in the September 15 issue. Like the glowing review in Publishers Weekly (which I’m still beaming over), this one is a rave, too! I can’t find it anywhere on the Library Journal website yet — there’s likely a deliberate delay between when something runs in the magazine and when it gets archived online in an effort to keep the print magazine relevant — but I discovered it on the Barnes & Noble page for the book, of all places! Here it is in full because I love it so much:

Library Journal
Ever since Trent joined up with the Five-Pointed Star (in 2013’s Dying Is My Business), helping that group collect dangerous magical artifacts in New York City, he finally feels like he has a family. The job could frequently be fatal, but Trent’s inexplicable habit of coming back from the dead each time he is killed proves handy when he and his team are on the trail of Erickson Arkwright, the leader of a doomsday cult intent on releasing demons on the city. Arkwright might also be the key to revealing Trent’s forgotten past. VERDICT Extremely fast paced, this noir-influenced urban fantasy has more than a touch of horror as Trent and his likable team face a demonic invasion. New York is almost a character in the series. The interactions among the teammates are full of clever bantering as Trent learns he can count on them no matter what, although with the revelations in this volume it’s hard to see where Kaufmann will take the story next.

They’re correct, by the way. There is a doozy of a revelation about Trent’s past at the end of Die and Stay Dead, and anyone who thinks they’ve already figured out who he was before he lost his memories is in for a big surprise. Of course this revelation changes everything, but I know where the story will go next. I’m working on the third and ostensibly final novel in the trilogy, Only the Dead Sleep, as we speak.

Did I mention Die and Stay Dead is coming out in less than a week? Look for it on bookstore shelves on Tuesday, September 30! Or you can preorder it from Amazon, B&N, Powell’s, IndieBound, or your favorite bookstore! And don’t forget, I’ll be reading and signing around the NYC area this fall!

The Scariest Part: Margo Kelly Talks About WHO R U REALLY?

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Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, please review the guidelines here.)

My guest is Margo Kelly, whose debut novel is Who R U Really? I’m especially proud to have her on the blog today because the plot of her thriller is based on terrifying true events that happened to her own family. It’s scary stuff, and there are important lessons to be learned from this guest blog, as well as from the novel itself. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Thea’s overprotective parents are about to drive her nuts. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so much that Thea feels she can’t do any of the things her friends do. She barely has time to answer her emails! When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. Soon, she’s living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends. Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really “gets” her. Is he frightening or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of her control.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Margo Kelly:

The scariest part of this novel is the truth inside, because much of the story happened in real life. The good news is: my daughter is fine and thriving. But the bad news is: there are too many teenagers across the nation who go missing every single day because they were beguiled by an online predator. I know it sounds like yesterday’s news, and in some sense it has become boring to adults. But that only makes it easier for the guy trying to lure your child away. And today, there are new avenues to do just that.

My daughter participated in an innocent online role playing game where she met a guy. He seemed nice. He seemed to need a friend. He seemed safe. But in fact, he was none of these things.

Over a year’s time, while I thought she was playing a simple game, this guy manipulated her and had her convinced they were in love. Not only had they exchanged cell phone numbers, but they had also arranged a time and place to meet . . . after school and before sports practice. That meant he would have had her for hours before I ever even went to pick her up from practice. Luckily, I discovered texts on her phone before anything came to fruition. But one of the scariest things was that she chose to believe a complete stranger over her own mother. He’d swayed her so well. He was an expert at what he did.

The plot of Who R U Really? offers up several fictional characters for readers to suspect as the online predator, and I won’t give away the details of that story here. But I will tell you that in real life, the predator had convinced my daughter (who was eleven going on twelve at the time) that he was a nineteen-year-old boy who needed a friend. In fact he was about three decades older. And because he lived in another state and because I stopped the process before he harmed her, there was nothing the police could do about it. Of course they investigated, but he had not yet broken any laws when it came to my daughter. Even though the police knew exactly who he was and where he lived, they could only watch him. I hope they still are, because as far as I know, he is still online playing games with young kids and trying to lure them away from their parents. He’s even fished around and tried to reconnect with my daughter over the years.

A local police detective said to my daughter, “It is your job to tell others — your real everyday friends that you go to school with — tell them what happened to you, so nothing like this can happen to them.” My daughter agreed. This novel was born with the hopes of helping others spot and unmask internet predators.

Here are a few tips for young adults to stay safe online:

  • Only accept friend requests on FB (and other social media) from people you know in your everyday life.
  • Be transparent with the people in your real life who love you.
  • Trust your parents. You don’t have to always agree with them, but trust that they have your best interests in mind.
  • Keep your actual birthdate, phone number, email, street address, even city private. No one online needs to have that personal information about you.
  • Most importantly, remember that there is strength in numbers. Use the buddy system, and do not ever meet an online acquaintance by yourself. Not ever. Just don’t even play with the idea.

While my daughter did the opposite of several of these above items, she is now my hero for being willing to share her personal choices, conversations, and feelings, regardless of the negative judgment she might receive as a result.

Who R U Really? is primarily a work of fiction, but the essence of the plot is what happened when my daughter was nearly abducted. And that’s the scariest part.

Margo Kelly: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Who R U Really?: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Merit Press

Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margo welcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.

Doctor Who: “Time Heist”

After the more cerebral and atmospheric episode “Listen,” Doctor Who treats us to the kind of fun adventure episode I really wish they would make more of, “Time Heist.” It’s enjoyable, the supporting characters are interesting and well rounded, and the plot makes sense, mostly, despite getting up its own ass at the end with some timey-wimeyness. (Show runner and head writer Steven Moffat seems to love using time travel as a plot point instead of simply as a method to bring the Doctor from one adventure to the next. It can get to be a bit much.) As much as I liked it, though, I felt the direction could have been better. Some scenes and events were not clearly related to the viewers. For instance, Clara has a note she says came from the case the Architect left for them, but we don’t see her find or take the note. Additionally, many transition scenes are missing, so we don’t always know how characters get places or how much time has passed.

But it’s a fun heist story with a cool, weird monster and a mystery at its heart, so how could I not like it? Peter Capaldi continues to elevate the material beyond its pulp roots. Jenna Coleman’s Clara continues to be believably torn between her evolving personal life and the Doctor’s increasingly annoying demands on her time. Personally, I wish Clara’s issues were about something a little less conventional than a man — maybe she could have a big career choice ahead of her, or maybe there could be somebody in her life who depends on her to the point where her travels with the Doctor are interfering? I mean, it’s not that hard to come up with ideas that don’t revolve around dating — but at least she finally has a life outside of her relationship with the Doctor. (All that “I was born to save the Doctor” shit last season made me cringe.)


Unfortunately, “Time Heist” features a few glaring plot holes that are detrimental the story. For example, when the Doctor and the others think the atomic shredders are weapons (“exit strategies” to kill themselves before they fall prey to the Teller), why don’t any of them think to use them on the Teller instead of on themselves? If Karabraxos has regrets about her past, particularly with regard to the Teller, why set up something as ridiculously convoluted as a fake bank heist when she could just as easily have given the Doctor the information to go back in time and rescue the Teller’s mate? Or convince a younger Karabraxos to simply release them? Or go even further back and prevent the capture of the Teller’s mate in the first place? And of course, I don’t need to tell anyone that skulls are not water balloons. When the brains inside them are turned to “soup,” the skull itself does not deflate. I’m still rolling my eyes over that one.

The mysterious “woman in the shop” who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number is mentioned again, but I have a very hard time believing that in all this time neither of them has thought to go visit that shop and try to find out who she is. Especially when the Doctor obviously has no other pressing business, what with always asking Clara where she wants to go next as if they’re on a permanent vacation.

Lastly, we once again get, just like in “The Rings of Akhaten,” a creature that devours memories and the Doctor tries to overwhelm it by feeding it the entirety of his massive lifetime. It plays out differently here — the Doctor wants the Teller to read his mind and tell him the memories he’s missing — but the scenes are almost identical in concept and structure. Last week, I mentioned that Moffat, who co-wrote this episode, likes to return to the well of his own making and draw out the same tropes, and this scene is yet another example of it.

And now for some Doctor Who neepery! When Psi is scanning through the bank’s most-wanted files on a computer screen, mixed in with the pictures are a Sensorite, a Terileptil, an Ice Warrior, and a Slitheen. There are, intriguingly, also two pictures from Torchwood: a Weevil and James Marsters’s Captain John Hart. But perhaps most interesting of all is a picture of Abslom Daak right out of the Doctor Who comics. Apparently Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, is now canon on the TV show, too! Also, the Doctor mentions his scarf again, and (rightfully, in my opinion) calls the bow tie he wore as the Eleventh Doctor “a bit embarrassing.”

World Fantasy, Here I Come!

After being trapped on the wait list for a bit, I am now officially attending the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC this November! Woohoo! I can’t wait to see everyone! Big thanks to Simon Strantzas for agreeing to let me be his roommie, too.

I’ll update as soon as I know if and when I’m on programming, doing a reading, etc.