Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bouchercon, Here I Come!

This year Bouchercon, the annual World Mystery Conference, is being held in Long Beach, which is just down the 405 freeway from me.  I haven't been to a Bouchercon in a few years, so since it's practically in my backyard, decided to hit it this time around.

Bouchercon is a fan-based conference where mystery writers and mystery readers from all over collide for 4 days of fun, panels, workshops, awards, and the celebration of mystery books.

It's the Comic Con of murder and mayhem, but without the funny costumes! 

I have two panels scheduled, one on Thursday and one on Friday, and so far one signing time besides those after the panels. I'll also be attending the Penguin/Berkley cocktail party and have at least one meal scheduled with friends.

This should be so much fun. These conferences are not only a place for me to connect with readers, but with other writers and friends who are scattered far and wide.

If you're going to Bouchercon, here's my schedule. Come up and say "hi."

November 13 - 9-11 am
Author Speed Dating

November 13 - 1-2 pm
Panel:  Murder Most Ghostly and Paranormal

November 13 - 5:15-5:45 pm
Book Signing at Mystery Mike's booth
 
November 14 - 11:30 am -12:30 pm
Panel: Make 'em Laugh: Balancing the Lows of Loss with Highs of Humor
 
 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Typing As Fast As I Can!

HELL ON WHEELS is now out in both digital and print formats!   This is the 9th book in my long-running Odelia Grey series. 

GET YOUR COPY NOW
FROM YOUR FAVORITE BOOK SELLER!

Currently there are two contests running to win a copy of HELL ON WHEELS.

One can be found at the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook. The entry deadline is 9 pm November 8th, so scoot on over and check out the details for entering, which are pinned to the top of the feed.

The other is a book give-a-way on the Book Babe Blog. I'm guest blogging there today about how I created the character of Greg Stevens, Odelia's paraplegic husband.

Looking back on all the novels I'm written so far, I can see that I've left a pretty long trail of dead bodies in my wake. I guess that makes me a serial killer of sorts.

And there's more blood shed and mystery solving to come!

I just turned in book 10 in the Odelia Grey series, A BODY TO SPARE, and am madly scribbling away on book #11, which has a working title of GUN 'N GEEZERS.

And just so I'm not bored, I'm also working hard on GHOST WRITER, the 6th Ghost of Granny Apples novel and the next novel due to a publisher. It's deadline is March 15th.

And because idle hands are the devil's workshop, I'm also noodling along on the 3rd Granny Apples digital novella, THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, which will be out in time for the holidays in 2015.

I see lots of coffee in my future ...

Friday, October 31, 2014

I'm Ready For My Close Up

I live in Los Angeles, specifically the west side of the city. I work in Century City, which isn't a city at all, but a business district on the west side squeezed between Beverly Hills and Fox Studios.  My apartment is smack between Fox Studios to the north and Sony Studios to the south. It's not uncommon to find my route to work strewn with Star Wagons, equipment trucks and catering vehicles, all sure signs of a film shoot in progress.

When you live in LA you get used to seeing film crews in the streets. Even when you're driving, sometimes you will spot a slow moving truck complete with lights and cameras, filming the car attached behind it.

It's both fun and a nuisance, especially when you're in a rush and traffic is snarled by either the filming and/or the lookie-loos.

For the better part of this week the top of our office parking structure has been used to film an Estee Lauder commercial. It has made getting in and out of the structure difficult for those of us who need to park there. An e-mail just went out notifying us that our office building will be used to film an action scene (complete with helicopter and shootout)  for NCIS: LA, one of my favorite shows. 

According to the e-mail, the filming will be all next week and will involve our main lobby rotunda, a helicopter landing on the roof, simulated gunfire, and a glass window shattering on the 16th floor of the tower right next to the one I'm sitting in on the 17th floor.

Gunfire. Helicopters. Smashed windows.

Sounds like a routine day in LA, or at least a routine day in LA as imagined by the rest of the country. We're actually pretty tame considering how many people live in LA (almost 4 million on about 500 square miles).

I wonder if I could request Sam Hanna (played by the yummy LL Cool J) to swing by my office window during the helicopter landing? It would certainly jazz up an otherwise dull day at the office, just in case the gunfire doesn't do the trick.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Year's Resolutions? Oh Yeah, Those!

Here we are in the last quarter of 2014. Wow, time has certainly flown by this year! 

Would you believe there are just 65 days left in 2014?!  It's true!

Just so you know I haven't forgotten, here is my 3rd quarter progress report on my 2014 New Year's Resolutions. I would have filed the report sooner but I was on book deadline until last week, but never late than never.

To recap,  my 2014 New Year's Resolutions were:

1) Make my bed every day
2) Balance my check book every month
3) Stick to a workout and eating program
4) Read at least 30 books this year.
And here is how they stand as of today:

1) Ummm, I've probably only made my bed half the time.  BUT I'm making a resolution right this second to finish the year strong and make it every day for the next 65 days!

2) To be honest, I have balanced my checkbook every month except for one, then immediately got back on track with it.

3) I continue to eat healthier and move a lot more. I wear George the FitBit almost every day and it continues to push me to be more active.  I've also started getting on my exercise bike while watching TV several nights a week. In addition, I now eat mostly vegan and have even started up a blog called The Half-Assed Vegan for folks curious about the lifestyle or just how to change little things in their eating habits. I lost weight this year, but not a ton, but what I've lost, I've managed to keep off (allowing for a grudging 3-5 lbs that come and go with regularity).

4) As of today I have read 29 of the 30 book goal I set for myself! And that does not include all the times I've read my own manuscripts over and over before turning them into my publishers. I'm sure between now and the end of the year I will easily complete 2-4 more books.

With only 65 days left in 2014, I have no intention of falling off the resolution wagon, not even with the bed-making.  WATCH ME!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Everyone Loves FREE!


ANNOUNCING A NEW CONTEST!
 
To celebrate the release of HELL ON WHEELS, the 9th Odelia Grey novel, in just over a week, three lucky winners will receive either a signed copy of the book or a digital copy via Amazon.
 
You must be a member of the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club to enter. Details can be found at Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club.
 
Not a member of the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club?
 
Well, that's just WRONG!
 
 
Membership Has Its Benefits

  • Fun book chat with other readers, and not just about my books
  • Guest authors almost every month
  • Interesting questions and conversations about books, authors and reading
  • My contests are usually for members only and I hold several throughout the year
  • No spamming or advertisements allowed
  • It's FREE!
We're just shy of 1,000 members, so come on board and help us hit that magical number and have some fun at the same time!





 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - The End Is Just The Beginning

Yesterday afternoon I turned the manuscript for A BODY TO SPARE into my publisher. This is the 19th completed novel under contract that I have finished. The 21st if you count the two books still unpublished that I've completed.

So what now? I will tell you with confidence that I am not going to Disneyland. Not that a trip to the Magic Kingdom wouldn't be fun and it is fairly close to where I live, but I have other plans.

I am going to take the rest of October off from writing.  I'm sure my muse has other ideas, but I might have to beat her into submission on this. My brain is tired.

First, I'll clean my home top to bottom. I do this after I finish every book. It's like sweeping out the old and preparing for the new.

Clean out the closet that has been waiting for my attention for almost 2 years.

Sort, file and throw away all the mail piled up on the dining table.

Launch HELL ON WHEELS, the 9th Odelia Grey novel due to be released the first of November.

Get ready for Bouchercon, which is coming up very fast in November.

And after that?

Well, starting November 1st, it will be time to saddle up and ride toward the next deadline.

I have three books due to two different publishers in the next 12 months. 

Yeah, you read that right - three.

The 6th Granny Apples book is due mid-March. The 3rd Granny Apples novella is due in April and the next Odelia Grey novel is due next October.

I'm going to be one busy puppy.

144 days until the next deadline.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Get 'er Done Time



Counting today, I have 4 days until the deadline on my manuscript for A BODY TO SPARE, my 10th Odelia Grey novel. 

The book is done and I'm doing my final edits. I should be excited and nearly celebratory, shouldn't it?

But nooooooooooooooooo.

You see, I've hit a bit of a glitch. 

Last night the voices in my head told me I need to do some major revisions in a few of the chapters. Those voices are correct. I do need to do some rewrites here and there. In fact, that's what I'll be doing today.  Fortunately, it's later in the book and the first 2/3 of the manuscript are tight and edited.  

The book would be fine without those re-writes. Really, it would. Everything is moving along nicely and the parts all fit together.

I'm at a junction. I can settle for the book as it is for the sake of time. The manuscript is okay and even good. BUT, am I shooting for just okay or for the best I can do?

Tip of the Day
Let your writing be ruled by your inner voice,
not the calendar.
Your book will be the better for it.

This does not mean to blow off your deadline to rewrite. My book is due to my publisher this week and I promised it would be done. And it will be! What will be sacrificed will be the plans I had for today.  Gone! Kaput! Instead, I'll be reworking those couple of chapters with glitches, then moving forward to finish the edits.

That's what a professional writer would do.
 
And there will be no whining about it.

So here I am. It's 8:30 on a beautiful Sunday morning. The cats have been fed and I'm armed with hot coffee. I'm prepared to show no mercy to those "nice" chapters for the next several hours. If I stay focused, I might get it all done today, maybe even in time for dinner and watching a little Sunday night TV.


 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Blogging Fool

NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
 
THE HALF-ASSED VEGAN BLOG!

Recently I started a new blog called The Half-Assed Vegan to chronicle my experiences in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.  New topics will usually be posted on Friday or Saturday every week or so.

On the new blog, I plan on sharing food tips, information, recipes, missteps, and, hopefully, I can convince some noted vegan and vegetarian bloggers to drop by and chat.

Not to worry, I'll still be blogging on Babble 'n Blog about my writing and other topics that come to my addled mind. 

When I mentioned doing The Half-Assed Vegan Blog to some friends, most were very supportive. One made the following comment: "Like you don't have enough to do?"

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know. 

In the next twelve months I have two novels and one novella due to two different publishers. But this is important to me and I think it will be useful to a lot of people like me who are sticking a toe into the plant-based eating pool.  Besides, it's only once in a while. I'll sandwich it in somewhere ... along as the sandwich is vegan.

You can find the new blog HERE.  Or just click on the link for it in the right hand column under my profile.  And please feel free to leave comments!



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Just Go To Bed!


I am just PAGES from finishing my current WIP. PAGES... I tell you!

For the past several nights I've been burning the midnight oil, in spite of needing to get up and go to work the next day. I have the entire rest of the book all laid out in my head. I just need to get it on the page.

The spirit's willing, but the flesh is weak.

Last night I was determined to get the words on the page, or at least finish the scene I was working on, but I was starting to nod off with my fingers still on the keyboard. I kid you not. This has happened before. In fact, it happens at the end of every book. I try to push forward even though my brain is fried.
 
Tip of the Day
When you're exhausted, go to bed.
Because tired writing is crap writing.

This is so true. If your brain is too tired to keep moving, pack it up and get some sleep because you're just going to have to heavily edit or even delete what you put on the page at this point. Coffee may help keep you awake, but it will not sharpen your brain.

Sleep is not underrated. I repeat, sleep is not underrated.

This is why I schedule most of my writing early in the morning when my gray matter is fresh and revived. Instead of burning the midnight oil, try going to bed and setting the alarm to get up earlier. It's amazing how much more I can get accomplished doing this.  The words that were playing hide and seek the night before will usually come out of hiding in the daylight.

That doesn't mean you should use sleep as an escape from your deadline. But when it's getting to be past  twelve at night and you're fighting to find those elusive words, consider that it might be time for a long power nap.

I have just over a week to get this book done, and barring death or a major disaster,  it will be done, including the editing. 

By the way, the 10th Odelia Grey novel is no longer titled Junk in the Trunk. As of yesterday, it became A BODY TO SPARE. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - So Close I Can Smell It


9 days. That's all the time I have left until my extended deadline is up. But I'm not worried. The book is almost done. So done I can almost smell the finish.  Seriously, as I write this I have maybe 20-25 pages left. Then I'll do one final deep edit and it's done! YAY!

What then? A vacation? A shopping excursion? Lose myself in a bubble bath and a bottle of champagne? All are good ideas, but right now the plan is to take the rest of October off from writing and clean out a closet that has been waiting for my attention for a very long time, get more exercise and catch up with all the shows on my DVR and, most importantly, catch up with friends - my very understanding friends. Okay, and maybe a full body massage.

But I digress, losing myself in the treats ahead instead of plowing on toward the finish. It's easy to do so close to the end. It's easy to lose focus and meander, thinking you have all the time in the world, that the final push will be easy-peasy. But it's not.

Tip of the Day
Keep your focus until the fat lady sings.

Those final chapters tie up the entire book. If they're sloppy and phoned in, either because you're exhausted, sick of the book, or ready to par-tay, it leaves your readers with a bad, unsatisfying taste.  Like biting into a fine chocolate and finding it's filled with okra instead of a rich ganache.

And even if that's not your intent, it can happen. Push toward the finish like a spent marathoner trying to beat the clock, not like you're on a Sunday drive after church. Writing a book is a marathon. It's not a sprint.

I'm keeping this blog short because, guess what, I'm near the finish and determined to get across that line!


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - In the Zone


Not wanting to squander my editor's generous gift of a three week extension, I've been diligently marching toward the finish of JUNK IN THE TRUNK, which is due in 15 days.  And I'm close... very, very close to the finish. So close I can smell it like an vacation ocean breeze. In fact, I'll probably have the book done by this weekend and then take the last week of my extension to do a final tight edit.

This past weekend I locked myself up in my apartment and worked on the manuscript. I had planned on getting the car washed, a pedicure and buying some groceries. Instead, the car never moved and I didn't even take the chain lock off the front door to go out and empty trash. 

I was in THE ZONE.

All you writers out there know what I'm talking about.

THE ZONE.

That bittersweet place where writers go where nothing else exists or matters but the words in front of them. It's a perfect place where sentences flow like Niagara Falls, characters fall in line like children following the Pied Piper, and page after page of manuscript comes to life.
 
Tip of the Day:
You don't screw with THE ZONE.
It's magical and can disappear in an instant.

I had things to do this weekend. One thing was even important, but could be rescheduled, which it was. You see, I make it a rule never to mess with THE ZONE unless absolutely necessary. I've cancelled dates and sent my regrets at the last minute for parties when I've found myself in THE ZONE. 

THE ZONE trumps all.

At least most of the time. There are times when some commitments must take precedent, like book events on the calendar, medical emergencies, day jobs, and your significant other's birthday. But most can wait until the creative fog clears.  Loved ones need to be educated on THE ZONE if they aren't already. My close friends know and understand about it. My last boyfriend understood when I cancelled dates. The one before that, not so much. He didn't last long.

THE ZONE is also fickle. You'll never know when it will hit or how long it will last, and you can't conjure it up like Beetlejuice. It also doesn't confine itself to deadlines. THE ZONE can honor you with its presence at any time. I wrote almost all of THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL under the influence of THE ZONE.  It was like stars shooting from my fingers every time I touched the keyboard.

I was still in THE ZONE when I had to go to work yesterday morning. And I was in THE ZONE for most of this morning.  I hope it comes back again tonight or tomorrow, even though the book is almost done. THE ZONE is like heroin or good chocolate. Once you get a taste for it, you'll long and whimper for it over and over. It turns a normal writer into a zombie lusting for brains.

Repeat after me: 
 
THE ZONE IS MY FRIEND.

THE ZONE IS MY FRIEND.




Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - More Please

Today I went to my editor at Midnight Ink, gruel bowl in hand like Oliver Twist, and asked for more time to get my manuscript for Odelia #10 done.  Being the understanding person she is, she gave me a couple of more weeks.

In spite of my diligence, the book is not ready. It's close, but you can't turn in close.  Truth is, I could probably get it done by my deadline next week, but I know it would not be up to my usual standards. The manuscript will be done, but the kinks will not be ironed out.

My plan is to turn it in earlier than October 22nd, my new deadline date. You see, I have another book lined up behind it and that book is tapping its foot with impatience.  It's the 6th book in my Ghost of Granny Apples series and it has a working title of GHOST WRITER. It's due in mid-March. So, extension or not, I cannot lollygag.

Tip of the Day:
If you legitimately need an extension, ask for it,
but don't take advantage of it.
 
I often ask for extensions on initial manuscripts, usually to do a last minute polish. Only once do I recall needing a long or second extension and that was due to illness. Usually all I need is just a week or so more. When it comes to other deadlines, like turning in copy edits, I always hit the mark, sometimes even early.

Often new authors wonder why a publisher needs a manuscript 9-12 months ahead of a book's release date.  Never forget that publishers have deadlines on their end too. They have covers to work up and catalogues to prepare and PR campaigns to plan, all done nearly a year before the book is printed. Getting a book out has many moving parts and involves a lot of people, and if you, the author, don't hold up your end, it throws everything out of kilter for many.

An author once bragged to me that she was four months past her deadline on one of her books. She didn't seem concerned at all. The last time I spoke with her, her publisher had canned her. Get the drift.

There are authors who can drag out deadlines for a long time and survive. Those are usually the top sellers. Those authors at the very top of the food chain who bring in millions for their publishers, but even then I'll bet they don't do it often. Those of us who are mid-listers or those just starting out do not have that luxury.

It's also extremely unprofessional.

So I now have a reset on the time clock for JUNK IN THE TRUNK!

YAY!

That doesn't mean I'll be goofing off this weekend.  I have some personal stuff that came up that needs my attention. After that, it will be all Odelia all the time, or damn close to it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Make It Work Time

I have 7 days left until my deadline for Odelia book #10. 7 days. One week.

It was going well until this weekend. At the end of last week, while I was doing my usual U-turn edit of the book, a new character popped up on my radar. I could have ignored him but he was just too much fun and did enhance the story. So I went back and introduced him into the plot line. That used up a lot of time and now he's not cooperating. At least he's not cooperating with my story line for him.

So, do I force the issue and make him do what I want or do I let him do what he wants and see where it takes me.  Normally, I would choose the latter but with only one week left, it's a tough call. And I can't take time off from my day job to bury myself in my manuscript until it's done because we're super busy right now at the office.
 
What to do? What to do?

I know what I'm going to do. What I always do. I'm going to let the character take me where he wants, because that will be the better book.  And if I get near the end of the week and it's not looking good to finish on time, I will humbly ask for a short extension. I won't need much. The book is going well otherwise.

I worked all weekend on this manuscript and I'd love to work on it again all day today, but that's not an option. So I will continue to plow ahead mornings and evenings and lunchtimes on it.

It happens every damn time. 

And every time I say I will get the next book in ahead of schedule.

And every damn time I find myself on the ropes.

The thing is, as a writer, I don't think I'm alone on this.

Am I?

Tip of the Day:
Even in panic mode, keep your head.
A clear head will get you to the finish every time.
 
Panic mode will only give you hives and breeds self doubt. Trust me, I know. So even when you're pressed for time, take a deep breath. Do a few minutes of  yoga, go for a short walk, get on your exercise bike, or scrub a floor. I find a few minutes of something physical helps to clear my head and push back the panic of the looming deadline. 

  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Do not eat a bag of doughnuts
  • Do not watch the NCIS marathon on TV
  • Do not curl up into the fetal position

Put on your big girl panties (or big boy pants)
and deal with it.

That's what I'm doing. It's what I do every time.





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Time To Do It Right

I don't know about other writers, but when I get to the point in a manuscript where I know the finish is just around the bend at the top of the next small hill, I stop and take a breather. That doesn't mean I stop working on my WIP, but that I change gears and go back to the beginning and start editing, even though I'm not done with the book.

Why?

Because I want to make sure the story flows well and the facts fit before I head towards the finish line and tie everything up. This is where I make sure red herrings are in place, facts are presented but not too obvious, the timeline is practical, and the characters are behaving as they should, so that when I get to the finish it all makes sense and is satisfying to my readers.

And that's where I am right now in JUNK IN THE TRUNK.

I do it for every book.

And this is not the final edit before I turn the manuscript in. This is just my usual U-turn to retrace my steps. When I've finished editing the book and return to the place where I stopped adding new material, I'll continue on to the finish, then go back and edit AGAIN before hitting the send button to my editor. This final edit is where I check for typos, grammatical errors and clumsy sentences.

Once, when I was talking to a writers' group, I mentioned this process and another writer quipped, "That's what editors are for."

No. No. No. A thousand times NO!
 
An editor is not your maid or your mother.
It's not their job to pick up after you.

Editors are professionals who buy your books, then work with you to make them the best they can be before they get into the hands of the public. Before submitting a manuscript, every author should make sure it's the best it can be. Sure, you'll miss a few typos, and there might be some rough patches in the story. A good editor will catch those and give you suggestions on how to smooth them out, but editors are not there to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Tip of the Day:
Turning in slipshod manuscripts can end your career.

That's right. I'm working on my 10th Odelia Grey novel (my 19th contracted novel overall), yet I take the same, if not BETTER, care to turn in the best manuscript I can. I will do the same with the next book, and the next. No matter which book, series or publisher, I offer up the best I can. It makes for less work for all of us during the publishing process. 

Consider this: with publishing as chaotic as it is and with so many authors vying for so few spots, unless you are raking in buckaroonies for your publisher, why would they keep a lazy, sloppy author?  If your manuscripts take a lot of handholding, you might find yourself without future contract offers.  It's really that simple. Publishers want professional writers ... period. So be as professional in your writing as you can be.

One of my favorite quotes.
And this is also true if you are self-published or independently published. You may not have to answer to a publisher or editor, but you do have to answer to your reading public.  I have read a lot of great self-published books. Books that are well written, well edited and produced professionally. Yet, I have read more self-published books that felt slapped together. Continue doing that and it won't be a publisher pulling the plug on your writing career, it will be your readers.

Another thing to consider is time.  I'm under contract to write two books a year for two different publishers.  People are always asking me how I manage to do this and hold down a full-time job. Well, by turning in a very clean and well structured manuscript the first time, there is no need to go back and forth with editors except for the usual editing process, which tends to be minor. There are no time-sucking rewrites if  you do your best the first time around.

Every writer self-edits differently. I tend to do rolling edits. I write about ten to twenty pages or a chapter or two, then edit them before moving forward. Then near the end of the book I do this U-turn editing routine. When I finish the book, it's well edited, except for the final check for typos. Other writers finish a book totally before going back to edit. They might do several full drafts before they turn it in, saving each draft as a different version. Some authors even hire free-lance editors to check their work.  All are valid methods because we all have the same goal - to produce the best manuscript possible before it's published. Try a couple of methods and find what works best for you.

I should finish this editing U-turn by the Friday morning, then I'll be pushing to the end and the final chapters. I can't wait!