Sunday, May 17, 2015

As He Lay Dying

My brother is in hospice care in a VA hospital in Vermont as I write this, and probably only has a few days left on this earth.

Last visit with Thom August 2014
We knew this was coming. He's been suffering from liver failure for quite a while and now has kidney failure. The toxins in his blood are poisoning him and they can't do anything about it at this point. The last time I saw him was August 2014 and he was so sickly I didn't even recognize him at first.

Thom and I have never been that close, at least not since we were young kids. We're very different. Made different life choices. Had different outlooks and priorities. There has been a lot of long-term disagreement and unresolved pain between us. But he's still my brother, and I love him, and I've been grieving for him for a long time, knowing his illness would take him soon.

On my 1st birthday
I've also been grieving for a very long time over the fact that we never made the emotional connection so many siblings enjoy. I have a few male friends who are more like brothers to me than Thom, and while I love them dearly, it reminds me of my own miss-connect with my real brother. Attempts to get closer just never stuck.

Thom is five years older than me. He attended Sierra High School in Whittier, California. He has three children - two sons and one daughter - with whom I am very close. He also has a grandson and three granddaughters, who I adore. I'm not sure how many times Thom was married. I know of three, and while I think that's correct, I'm not positive because he had many relationships over the years and made very little attempt to stay in touch for long stretches of time. His first wife and I are as close as sisters. We often joke that when she and Thom parted, she got me in the divorce.

Thom as young soldier
Thom was also a Viet Nam vet and was on total disability for emotional problems. My undying gratitude goes out the VA Hospital in White River Junction in Vermont. They have taken such good care of him over the years and especially now at the end. The doctors, nurses and staff there have been especially lovely to my niece when she's gone to visit Thom, and to me when I've called for updates. THANK YOU!

I'm almost finished with a digital novella titled THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, which features Viet Nam vet and ex-cop turned P.I. Jeremiah Jones. I had dedicated the book to my brother and was planning on sending him a hard copy as a surprise for Christmas when it is released. Now he will never see it and that saddens me. He was loved, even if he didn't realize it.

I was able to speak with Thom for a few minutes last Saturday. He knew it was me even though his mind sparked in and out with faulty wiring. We chatted briefly before I said goodbye. I am grateful for that.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

If An Erection Lasts Longer Than 4 Hours ... Call An Editor

Recently I was reading YESTERDAY'S ECHO by Matt Coyle when I came across a couple of lines that made me LOL! for real:

In the movies, we would have made love again. 
In real life, I was asleep in five minutes.

I know Matt and I'm sure this line was written a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that's not why I laughed. I laughed because it highlighted an issue I'm facing in my own writing.

As I've disclosed, I'm now writing, under the pen name of Meg Chambers, a steamy romance series about a 50-year-old newly divorced woman named Winnie Wilde who is rediscovering herself emotionally and physically. In the first novella, RUNNING WILDE, she starts off with an affair with a 28-year-old named Ben Church. Winnie's adventures continue in WILDE WOMEN, due out late summer 2015.

Here's an excerpt from WILDE WOMEN:


In the book, Adam kept up the action, but this wasn’t a book.  This was reality and Ben was a real man. He might be a young man, but he still had his limits.

Sexual limitations. That's the issue. In reality, most men cannot keep on humping and pumping, unless they have the help of meds.  In reality, couples, especially men, turn over and fall asleep pretty quickly after making love. I know this because I've been there, done that myself. And it happens more as you get older. Trust me on this. I'm not as old and stuffy as I might appear.

BUT, Winnie Wilde is fiction and in fiction the writer can do whatever he/she wants. Right? Maybe. Maybe not. 


In the Winnie Wilde books I have Winnie and her lovers using condoms. There is no discussion about it. No whining from the man that "it doesn't feel as good." It's just the natural and responsible thing to do. Since it is fiction, I could have them enjoying unprotected sex without the thought of STDs. After all, it's my world and in my world STDs do not have to exists. Right?

No.

Even though I write fiction, most of my fiction is reality based. One might argue that my Ghost of Granny Apples books are fantasy, but can you prove that ghosts don't exist? Or how about my Odelia Grey character stumbling over bodies every six months or so?  No, that isn't reality either, but when it comes to portraying everyday life, I strive for reality. 

When Winnie is about to embark on her affair with Ben, she has a frank discussion with her best friend Kathy:


“Condoms,” groaned Winnie, “there’s another concern.”
“Just stock up,” Kathy advised. “Get a small assortment of sizes, just in case.”
“Condoms come in sizes?” Winnie’s eyes shot open at the news. “You mean like shoes?”

“They also come in different colors and styles,” Kathy advised. “Just like shoes.” She winked across the table at Winnie.

Being a responsible adult, Winnie uses condoms. I made sure of that. As for the frequency of sex, I recently edited a portion of WILDE WOMEN to make it more realistic. The original text was much more exciting and involves a new romantic partner for Winnie, Dr. Gabriel Dunn, who is hotter than hot. But Dr. Gabe is pushing forty and he and Winnie need time to bond in other ways besides between the sheets. That's also reality. 

So grown-ups in non-monogamous relationships use condoms and men not on meds don't keep it up for hours. Real sex is messy and often awkward, and if it didn't feel so damn good, we might not bother with it except to procreate.

It's also important to me that my steamy romance novels have a real story line with well-developed characters, and not just be about sex and hunks and heavy breathing. Romance novels are escapism, but that doesn't mean they can't also be good solid reading.

BTW, I am having SO MUCH FUN writing the Winnie books.

And that's all I'm going to say about that...


Monday, May 04, 2015

I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghosts!

I haven't posted much lately because I've been recovering from gall bladder surgery, fighting nasty hives, and am on yet another DEADLINE! Or two.

Yeah, I know, so what else is new? Right?

So my head is down and my fingers are flying along on two Ghost of Granny Apples adventures. The first one is a novella titled THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY featuring Jeremiah Jones, a P.I. and former Viet Nam Vet and LAPD detective introduced in THE GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE. I loved this character when he came to life in Guacamole. Like most interesting characters, he was only supposed to be a minor player, but the quiet boldness of his personality won over not just me, but Emma, Phil and Granny, and everyone wanted him back. Look for Jeremiah in future books, but I'm not telling which ones.




THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY is a story I've had in the back of my head for a long time, and originally thought of it as a plot for an Odelia Grey novel. But as soon as Jeremiah made his presence known, I knew it was his story. It's the tale of a missing prostitute in Skid Row Los Angeles who Jeremiah is asked to find. This is due to my publisher by the end of May and will be released as an e-book novella from Penguin in time for the 2015 holidays.

Also in the works is THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW, the 6th Ghost of Granny Apples novel. That is due to Penguin by the end of July, so I'm also buzzing along on it. In Misty Hollow, Emma and Phil visit Gino Costello, the famous crime novelist and father of Tanisha Costello, Kelly Whitecastle's best friend, in rural Massachusetts. There they are asked by an entire clan of spirits to help find out what happened to two of the family's children who went missing near the end of the 1800's.

Every time I turn in a new Granny Apples book, I laugh remembering how this series wasn't even on my radar. It came about purely by accident during a chat with a former editor. In my mind, it was just a simple short story. Then I thought maybe just a short series - 3 books tops. With the publication of these two new works, the Ghost of Granny Apples series will swell to 6 novels and 3 novellas. And who knows what more will come? I do have ideas for two more novels.

I never thought I'd say this, but I really enjoy writing these paranormal books. It's especially odd since I have read very few paranormal novels. I still don't read them very often. Mostly because I don't want someone else's voice to seep into my soft brain and taint my own voice and ideas.

See you on the other side ... 
of the Deadline, that is!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Turning Point


In a private group I belong to on Facebook, today's question was: "Describe a moment when your life took a turn." I didn't have to think twice about my response.

It was just over 20 years ago. I had just broken off an engagement to a man I fondly refer to as that "asshole-piece-of-shit-bullet-that-I-dodged Jim." I broke off the engagement less than 3 months before the wedding and never regretted my decision. Not. Once. But ending that relationship threw me into a starting-over mode. I got a new job, a new apartment, and even a new city. I hadn't begun my writing career at the time. I was basically doing what a lot of people do: I was working, hanging out with friends, did some charity work, and watched a lot of TV.

The turning point came when I attended a conference. I can't remember the name of the keynote for the life of me, but I remember that he was a paraplegic and that he said something that changed my life forever.

"A goal is a dream that burns in your belly." 

Shortly after that conference, I got out a piece of paper and wrote down all my life's goals. It was a short list, mostly filled with places I wanted to see in the world. But those seemed more like bucket list items than goals. But no matter how many times I drafted the list, only one item kept coming to the top, like cream on fresh milk:  Be a published author.

That was my life's goal. It had always been. When I was a kid, libraries had those huge wooden card catalogs for looking up books. I would take one of the stubby pencils they provided, write my name on a scrap of paper, and insert it into the card catalog where one day I knew it would be. I just knew it! I would also go into book stores, find the place in the fiction section where my books would be shelved alphabetically, and spread the books apart to make room for my future volumes.

Yeah, I was that focused. But somewhere along the line I lost the focus. Oh, once in a while I would start a novel, and soon after I'd give it up. Like a lot of people, I talked about being a writer, and just like most people who talk about it, I did nothing about it but talk. And we all know that talk is cheap if not accompanied by action.

After identifying my life-long goal, I set about to make it a reality. The first step in doing that, whether it be writing, climbing Mount Everest, winning a gold medal in the Olympics, or taking first place in a local garden show, is commitment. 

Let's all say that together: COMMITMENT.

From that moment on, I made the commitment to becoming a published author and took the necessary steps to make it a reality. I set up a place to write. Set aside time to write. Decided what I wanted to write. Researched the proper formatting of manuscripts. I read a couple of books on writing. I did not take any writing classes or join a writers' group. Although I feel both of those things might help many budding writers, I knew I would not grow or flourish in those environments. I armed myself with the tools I needed and set my eye on the goal of finishing my first novel within 12 months.  It took me 9 - like a baby. 

Soon after, I found my first agent and tackled the next step - getting published.

From the time I made my commitment until the time I was published about five years, three manuscripts, and one fired agent were left in the dust. 

My first published novel was TOO BIG TO MISS and it was self-published through iUniverse. I followed that up by self-publishing the 2nd book in the series, THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL. Both were self-publishing successes in a time when self-publishing was a negative, not like it is now where so many authors are flourishing and respected.  

I landed a new agent, who is still my agent to this day, and TOO BIG TO MISS and THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL went on to be traditionally published by Midnight Ink, which also contracted for ten more Odelia Grey novels, as well as launched my Ghost of Granny Apples and Madison Rose Vampire Mystery series.


Twenty years later, I have written and published 20 novels/novellas and seven short stories, and continue to have a growing relationship and contracts with two publishers, as well as some self-published work.

How did I make that happen? What magic beans do I possess?

None!

I identified my goal and made a COMMITMENT to seeing it through.

And you can too.

Anyone can if they want it bad enough.



Thursday, March 05, 2015

Questions? I've Got Answers!

Can an established cozy/soft boiled mystery author write a steamy romance series?

That's the question.

The answer is YES!

RUNNING WILDE, the first novella in my new erotic romance series, is now live on Amazon and early readers are loving it! YAY!

Buy it here.

What pleases me most in early comments is that people are engaged by the characters, not by the sex scenes. Another big YAY!

"While there are erotic parts, they are the spice not the main sustenance."

"This is a wonderful, fast-paced read that also shows sex can be great at any age."

"Winnie Wilde is another great character that I'm already attached to and can't wait to read more..."

Now to a few questions I'm getting from readers:

Why erotic romance?  I didn't start this series to shock readers, but to add another level of entertainment to my growing body of work. Writers write. All kinds of stuff. Getting into a rut can lead to boredom for both the author and the reader. As much as I LOVE writing about Granny Apples and Odelia Grey, I can't live on that alone. It would be like only eating oatmeal or mashed potatoes for every meal. As for why romance, it's fun to write and it sells well. Adding sexual situations is fun and realistic. Will it ever become 50 Shades of Winnie? No! At least that's not my current plan. But Winnie will be tasting life and expanding herself as the books move along.

Why Winnie, a 50-year-old divorced woman? Because a lot of women of that age find themselves in similar situations with similar challenges and life-changing decisions. The character of Winnie Wilde is very every-woman in most ways. She's smart, educated, and devoted to her family. But she's also re-discovering herself after selflessly raising her kids and ending a loveless marriage.

Why only e-book release?  Romance novels/novellas sell very well in e-book format. Much more so than in print. I could have written one very long novel containing all of Winnie's adventures, but chose instead to write novellas, each containing a major event in Winnie's life, and release them in a series format over time. If the novellas sell well, I may take the first three and compile them into a print trilogy. The same with the next three, and so on. Only time will tell if that is feasible and if there is a market for them. Also, it is much easier for me to write novellas in between my full-length novels under contract with traditional publishers.

The second novella, WILDE WOMEN, is in the works and should be ready this summer. The cover is already designed. The third novella, WILDE THYME, should be out about 6 months after that. My goal is to release each 6 months apart with a continuing story thread and many recurring characters.

Why self-published? Because I wanted to do a novella format and I wanted them out quickly, not mired down in traditional publishing. A publisher did express some interest in seeing these. If I'd gone that route, RUNNING WILDE would not have been released for at least a year from now, more like two years. I wanted them out now with my vision, not someone else's.  Marketing will be tough and time-consuming at first, but you can help by spreading the word!

Margaret Winifred Chambers
Why the pen name of "Meg Chambers?"  My Granny Apples and Odelia Grey books are a definite brand and I wanted readers to have a sense of difference and division between those books and the Winnie Wilde books. I am going to great pains to make sure readers understand that the Winnie books are rated R, not G or PG like Odelia and Granny. When I wrote my Madison Rose vampire series, even though those books were traditionally published, a lot of my Granny and Odelia readers were upset by some of the more adult content and violence. I wanted to make sure they were forewarned with these books. However, I also need to capitalize for marketing purposes on the large foundation of readers who follow "Sue Ann Jaffarian" books. My compromise is that "Meg Chambers" is the author on the cover, but I'm not hiding the fact at all that I write the Winnie books.

Meg Chambers has her own website: www.megchambers.com, along with a Facebook page. Come say hello.

Where did the name "Meg Chambers" come from?  My mother's name was Margaret Winifred Chambers. You might say that this whole series is dedicated to her. Meg Chambers is the author and Winifred Wilde is the main character. Mom loved reading romance magazines and "trashy" novels. I have no doubt she would have loved this series.

Are you going to write other self-published books?  Yes! Eventually. I am a firm believer that these days an author needs to keep a foot in both traditional and independent publishing. My various short stories have done quite well as e-book independent releases and now we'll see how the Winnie novellas do. I will continue writing for my traditional publishers as long as they want the books, and bring out my indie books at the same time.  Even though years have passed since my last Madison Rose vampire mystery, I am still receiving a lot of requests for them.  I do plan on writing and releasing BETRAYED BY BLOOD, the 3rd book in the series, as an indie author, but right now I can't give a release date as my writing plate is quite full.

I hope you will try the Winnie Wilde novellas, along with my other stories and novels.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Folding vs. Holding


Last week Jon Stewart announced that he was leaving The Daily Show. I heard it first on Facebook, confirmed it through news reports, and followed that up by donning sack cloth and ashes.

I've been watching The Daily Show for years. YEARS! Now that I have a DVR, I record them and watch a week's worth of shows - all four - in one sitting on the weekend. It's a love fest! Yesterday I caught up with this past week, including the episode where he made the public announcement of his departure (see video above).

SOB!

Stewart made his reasons for leaving quite clear: spending more time with his family, topping the list. He also made a statement that really resonated with me as a writer. "This show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host."

This comment immediately made me think of those of us with long-running book series, whether it be mystery or otherwise. After a while, our creative minds get restless. No matter how much we love what we do. No matter how good we are at doing it. The creative side of people needs room to grow and expand or it stagnates,like a plant growing in too small of a pot.  We've all read book series that should have ended several books earlier. We've all watched TV shows that jumped the shark seasons ago. We've all seen movie franchises that should have stopped while they were ahead.

I'm not saying Jon Stewart has lost his edge - far from it. But I respect and applaud that he's recognizing that he needs new stimulation to nurture his creativity.

I have two books left under contract in the Odelia Grey series - making it an even dozen books. So, do I continue with Odelia and move forward on book 13? I'm leaning that way, but it won't be without major changes to the franchise to keep it fresh for both readers and myself.

I'm currently writing the 6th Ghost of Granny Apples mystery and after that have no more under contract. That doesn't mean there won't be more, just that my publisher has not made that decision. And if they do want more, do I want to write them or give the series and me a rest? And if they do not want more, do I go indie with the series, as I probably will do with Odelia after book 12? I have a couple more plot ideas for Granny books, so that is not an issue. The issue is, do I want to do more? I've always said that the last thing I want as a series writer is to hear that readers are bored with my work.


As Kenny Rodgers sings in The Gambler
You've got to know when to hold 'em; 
know when to fold 'em; 
know when to walk away; 
and know when to run.


Decisions. Decisions.

As anyone who follows me anywhere on the web knows, I'm about to launch a new erotic romance series - The Winnie Wilde series - under the pen name of Meg Chambers. This new series is me stretching the legs of my creativity. It won't take the place of my mystery books, but it will allow me to grow in other directions and help my talent to blossom even more. I also have other projects waiting in the wings, so I know I'll be writing for years to come on something. Think of it as me re-potting my writing career so that my roots won't be cramped and wither.

I hope whatever happens in my career over the next few years, my readers will understand any changes that I make or paths that I take, just as I understand Stewart's. After all, don't my readers deserve better than an even slightly restless author?

Finally, why I'll miss Jon Stewart:

He's eye candy. What can I say? I have a thing for sexy, middle-aged Jewish men, and I think Stewart has gotten yummier over the years.
He's intelligent.
He's informed.
He's funny.
He's not afraid to speak out for what he believes.

I wish Stewart well in whatever endeavors lie ahead for him and I sincerely hope we see him on TV often.  I'd love to see him do a weekly news discussion show like Bill Maher's. Or something along the lines of Meet The Press, etc. At least that's on my wish list!

In the meantime, I'll be watching The Daily Show until Stewart walks off the set for the last time.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Going Wilde!

I'm obsessed. Plain and simple.

I'm obsessed with my new indie publishing project and it's difficult to think of anything else ... so excuse me while I indulge myself once again.

My last post was about my Kickstarter campaign for my new Winnie Wilde series, specifically for RUNNING WILDE, the first novella in the series.

As of now, that campaign is almost 140% funded and it still has a few days to go! 

And ... as I write this, the Winnie Wilde campaign is one of the most popular fiction projects on Kickstarter according to Kickspy! Who knew?!!!

It's not too late to be a part of this exciting new adventure. To pledge, GO HERE!

Extra monies will be used to fund the 2nd book in the series, WILDE WOMEN.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!


Now available
for pre-order through Amazon
In addition, RUNNING WILDE is now available on Amazon for pre-order.  To pre-order RUNNING WILDE, GO HERE.

Next I need to finish up the edits and have it professionally proofread and formatted.

After that it will be ready to upload to Amazon for launching. The projected release date is April 13, 2015.

Also on the checklist are ordering PR materials like bookmarks (yes, even for a digital book), arranging PR assistance, reviews, blog tours, etc.

The website for Meg Chambers (my pen name for this new series) is also almost done.

It takes a lot of work to bring out a book, even a digital novella, on your own.

BUT I'M SO EXCITED!!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Kick Me! Please!

A few days ago, I set up a Kickstarter Campaign to help defray some of the costs in self-publishing my new Winnie Wilde erotic romance series under the pen name of Meg Chambers.  I didn't set a large goal, just $1,000, which will cover the bare bones of self-publishing RUNNING WILDE, my first Winnie Wilde novella.

As of the writing of this blog, the campaign is 80% funded - in just a couple of days! And I have no doubt that the project will fund completely over the next week or so of the campaign.

THANK YOU!

If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, it's a crowd funding website that helps people with projects fund them and turn them into reality. Several of my writing colleagues have used it successfully.

Generally, when you pledge to a Kickstarter campaign you receive rewards when the project is completed. In my case, it involves receiving copies of RUNNING WILDE and even the next book, WILDE WOMEN. The largest reward is having your name or any name you choose in one of the Winnie Wilde books. That reward level has been very popular!  If a donor does not want a reward, they can opt out and still pledge - and a few have done that.  It has been quite fun and exciting to watch.

Just because I'm close to my funding goal, it doesn't mean the campaign is done. Any funds over the initial $1,000 will go to other publishing expenses and toward the next book or books in the series.

It's not to late to be a part of this exciting new adventure. To pledge, GO HERE!

So where does the money go... glad you asked.

As anyone who has ever self-published a book professionally knows, it costs money.  I'm not talking about slapping a manuscript together and throwing it up on Amazon, as so many novice writers have done, thereby flooding the market with really bad books, but taking the time and going through the process to do it professionally, as any traditional publisher would.

Step 1 - Write a good book.  RUNNING WILDE my first Winnie Wilde novella has been written and read by a small arm of Beta or sample readers who I trust to critique it with eagle eyes.

Step 2 - Do final edits. This is currently in process, but is taking a back seat to a book I have under contract with a looming deadline.

Step 3 - Order professional cover. Done and I couldn't be happier with it. Everyone has "oohed" and "ahhhed" over the cover designed by Kim Killion of the Killion Group for RUNNING WILDE.

Step 4 - Have book professionally edited, proofed and formatted. This will probably be done by the end of February or early March and costs the most money.

Step 5 - Launch book on online retailer. This will be sometime in early April.

Step 6 - Market the hell out of it and hold breath. Expect RUNNING WILDE to be released by mid April.

Steps 3, 4 and 6 takes funding, especially steps 3 and 4.

Again, thank you to all who have supported me and Winnie.

Game On! 
Because I didn't come to play. 
I came to win.
 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Yoda Was Right ...

It was exactly two months ago that I attended Bouchercon, the World Mystery Conference, in Long Beach. When I arrived, I was pretty close to being burned out on my writing career and almost cancelled out of the event. Frankly, I had been feeling like a hamster in a wheel, cranking out book after book after book for many years, without feeling like I was getting ahead.

It's true, I had built up a nice, large following of readers, and a very impressive body of work, but financially there was little evidence of all my hard labor. And while many authors will tell you they don't write for the money, I say bullshit to that. Writing is not a hobby to me. It's a profession. A profession I love and am fairly good at, but still a profession.

After three days of talking to many of my colleagues at Bouchercon, I came away with a renewed spirit and vigor - not to continue my writing career but to CHANGE it!

Once home, I sat down and made a list of the projects I had started and wanted to finish, together with a list of the projects I wanted to continue, including those still under contract. Then I wrote down the most important items - the projects I thought might lift me out of my doldrums and expand my career at the same time. Then I sent my new game plan to my lovely and supportive agent, followed by a 90 minute conference call with her to smooth out the rough edges of my strategy.

The one new project I was determined to do first was to develop a new erotic romance series, which I would self-publish. Two months ago, this was not even on my radar. Today, it's almost a reality.  The manuscript for RUNNING WILDE, the first book in my Winnie Wilde erotic romance series, is done but needs final edits, proofing and formatting. But it's done and has been reviewed very favorably by Beta readers. And yesterday I received the gorgeous cover I commissioned from The Killion Group.  The release is planned for early April.

This morning my friend and colleague, Karen MacInerney, said to me:  "...do you realize you made this dream a reality in about 45 days?"

 
Huh?
Um...
OMG!
That's right, I did!
 
I didn't try to do it, I did it!

You'll notice that the Winnie Wilde books are being written by "Meg Chambers." That's my pen name for books that fall outside my well-known "cozy" or "soft-boiled" brand set by the Odelia Grey and Ghost of Granny Apples series.  If you see me launch a book under the name of Meg Chambers, know that it will contain "adult" themes, scenes, and topics.

Dear gentle readers: Warning!
Meg Chambers books are "R" rated.
Please purchase and read accordingly, or not.
Thank you.

I'm still working a day job. I'm still writing like a crazy, obsessed lunatic. But now I have renewed purpose and focus. More importantly, I have a plan. Only time will tell if this change will also fulfill my desire and need for more tangible rewards.

If you are discontent with something in your life, change your situation. Because only YOU can make that change, and if you look around, there will be a lot of people willing to cheer you on to the finish line.


Sunday, January 04, 2015

2015 - Chapter One

It's the 4th of January 2015, which means it's resolution time again!

 And here is how 2104 ended up:

 1) Make my bed every day - Ummm, I've probably only made my bed half the time!

 2) Balance my check book every month - I have balanced my checkbook every month except for a couple. It's currently balanced. YAY!

 3) Stick to a workout and eating program -  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 discovered earlier in the year that I was allergic to dairy. By cutting it out, my skin and a few other things got a lot better. When I backslide, it's not pretty.  I started a blog called The Half-Assed Vegan for folks curious about the plant-based lifestyle or just how to change little things in their eating habits to be healthier. I lost weight this year, but not a ton.

 4) Read at least 30 books in 2014.  I actually read 36 this past year.  And that does not include all the times I've read my own manuscripts over and over before turning them into my publishers.

2015 RESOLUTIONS

1) Continue exercise and healthy eating and focus on losing at least 50 lbs in 2015.

2) Read at least 32 books in 2015.

3) And here's the BIGGIE:  Start a new book series which I will self-publish under the pen name of Meg Chambers. The first book in the series, RUNNING WILDE, should be ready for release this summer.  This is along with continuing to keep my current book contract obligations.

You'll notice the bed making and check book balancing didn't make the 2015 list. I've given up on the bed thing and will be happy with 50%. As for the checkbook balancing, I think that's under control.

I got this.
Really.
I do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

FREE is NOT Free!

I'm sure someone, somewhere is going to bitch-slap me for this post, but here goes...

We all like getting stuff for free, don't we? Personally, I love the swag I get in conference bags or two for one buys at the grocery store.

But why do a lot of readers think books should be FREE? Like they should be handed out like Halloween candy?

There, I've said it. The angry cat is out of the bag.

Today someone posted on Facebook asking authors where she could get FREE copies of their latest books. And several authors responded by saying they would be happy to send her their books. She did ask nicely, but it's my opinion she should not have asked at all.

Frankly, I'm just as upset with the authors forking over their books so easily. They make the rest of us look like money-grubbing, soulless Scrooges. They are also setting a dangerous precedent.

You see, this happens more than you might think. With books so cheap on places like Amazon, especially e-books, consumers have gotten used to those bargain basement prices,  including free, which are not the norm. Once a reviewer on Amazon posted that she really liked one of my books and noted that she'd gotten it as a Kindle Daily Deal. Then she tacked on that she was pissed because she'd had to pay full price for the next book in the series.  [insert an eye roll and groan here, along with a certain hand gesture]

Time for a little education.

Unless an author is at the top of the food chain, most authors make very little money off of the sale of their books, especially if they are traditionally published through a small publisher. Yet we toil for months and even years to bring them to our readers. When you do the math, a child working in a Calcutta sweat shop makes a higher hourly rate.

Authors also have a lot of expenses. We go to conferences to meet our readers. We drive to signings and library events. We travel for research. We pay for promotional materials, computers, Internet service, booze and happy pills. None of which is covered by our publisher. We sacrifice time with our family and friends and put ourselves under a lot of stress, all to bring some of happiness and entertainment to readers.

When's the last time you got in free to an Adele concert? Or a Tom Hanks movie? Do you go into a bakery, point to a pretty cake and ask if you can have it for free?

Of course not!  It's the same with books. Trust me, we don't pull book manuscripts out of our ass. We work long hard hours on each one.

Now don't you think we should get paid for that, just like the neighborhood baker and his cake?  To say no to this question is to disrespect the author, plain and simple.

I'm really not a bitch - Argument 1: Just so you don't think I'm a total bitch, let me say that every year I give away dozens of FREE books. I get a box of them from my publisher right before the book is released. These books are used for contests, charity baskets, library events, sent to reviewers not covered by my publisher, and even given as gifts to people who helped me with my research.  I've given books to hospitals and hospices, shelters, sick people, and even the armed forces. When the books the publisher sends me are gone, I have to PAY FOR MY OWN BOOKS to continue this giving.

The person on Facebook today never said she wanted these books for a non-profit entity. She was very clear that she wanted them for her own pleasure reading.

Well, honey, I pay for almost all the books I read,
so join the party!

I'm really not a bitch - Argument 2: I understand completely that some people are strapped for cash and cannot buy books. To those folks I say: Go to your local library. Authors get paid for the books you borrow from your library, whether in book, digital, or audio formats. And, like I said, I give a lot of books to libraries.  If your library doesn't have a certain book, ask them to order it for you. Most can and will.

Want a free copy of GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE?

Currently in the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook, there is a contest running. I'll be giving away 3 copies.

And I'm very happy to do it because I want to do it. It's my gift to my readers.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Short on Pages, Long on Fun!

As a kid, I loved reading short stories. Whenever I'm asked about my favorite short stories, two immediately pop into my mind: The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. No matter how many years have passed since I've read them, they stay with me - one for its humor, the other for its creepiness.

Other unforgettable favorites:

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

I still read short stories and there are a lot of good ones out there, both in anthologies and as individual shorts for e-readers.

One of the things I promised myself when I returned from Bouchercon last month was to finish two short stories I'd started. They are very different, yet both contain humor. One is more slapstick, the other subtle and sly. Both take place in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is why I wanted to finish and release them now.

Years ago I wrote a short story called Ho Ho Homicide featuring the amateur sleuth from my Odelia Grey mystery series.  With the rights to that story returned to me, I decided to independently publish it on Amazon, like I'd done with several other short stories. But since many of my readers had already read it, I turned it into a two-fer. coupling Ho Ho Homicide with a new short story, Ho Ho Hell.  Both short stories take place in the frenzy and hysteria of Christmas shopping at the same mall but several years apart.  The two stories were released together under the title Ho Ho Humbug and so far the reviews have been great!

Many, many years ago, I wrote a short story titled Early Retirement for submission to an anthology. My short story was not chosen so I tucked it away and forgot about it. This past month I took it out, dusted it off, and gave it a much-needed overhaul. It was released yesterday.  And I must say, I'm very glad that short story was not chosen for the anthology. It was a wreck and now with many years of writing under my belt, I was able to give it the attention it needed to become a very good story.



Ho Ho Humbug and Early Retirement are both digital only and can be found on Amazon for the short price of 99 Cents!



Buy HO HO HUMBUG here.

Buy EARLY RETIREMENT here.

And check out my other short stories on Amazon.

I have another short story started with a working title of Something to Kill For, but that will be shelved for a while due to having a full-length novel and a novella both due to a publisher in mid-spring. Also in the works is a new series of e-book romance novellas scheduled for late summer, early fall.  So stay tuned!



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Got Rubbers?

Last night I watched Sunday night's CSI and it really disturbed me. It was the episode called "Rubbery Homicide."

If you didn't catch it, it was about men who bought and wore head to toe rubber doll suits. 

Yeah, you heard me.

Curious, I Googled that today and sure enough, it's a thing. The suits are quite expensive and incredibly life-like and there is a whole sub-culture built around it. (Not that I didn't believe you, CSI!)  Like I said, this really disturbed me, as in gave me the willies like an army of ants were stampeding my body. Here's an interesting article about some people that makes the suits.

I'm a pretty live-and-let-live kind of gal. Always have been. Transgender - no problem! Transvestite - who cares! Drag queen - start the show! Living in Los Angeles, I've seen it all. Or so I thought. We all have our secrets, our weird little fetishes, and fantasies.

Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

So why did the idea of men wearing rubber doll suits freak me out?

It was the masks.

It's all cool if a man wants to put on heels and Spanx and too much make-up and go out in public. Knock yourself out.  Just because it's not my thing and I AM a woman, doesn't mean it bothers me.  Same goes for women who buzz cut their hair and dress in men's wear. It's an expression of who they are.

But those masks really bothered me.

It didn't just strike me as creepy, but tragically sad. Voluntarily hiding your face like that is such a denial of who you are as a person. I can't say that these men don't like themselves, because I don't know them, but clearly they are not happy with the way they look as nature made them.

When wearing these suits, do they see themselves as women or as rubber doll fantasies? I'd love to know, because no woman I know, organic or transgender, looks like these dolls.

Equally disturbing was finding out that there are a whole lot of men who want to have sex with these rubber dolls. Not with the men in the suits, but with the dolls they become when wearing the suits. I found that even creepier.

Ok. Ok. It's their thing and they're not hurting anyone. And who knows, I might even know a few men who are dressing this way secretly. I'm just stunned, especially since I can barely put on panty hose.

And, NO, you will not be finding this as a plot topic in one of my books. Trust me on this. I've already done a book with drag queens and transgender individuals (TWICE AS DEAD) and that was fun ... except for the people I bumped off in the book.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Stay-Cations Rock!

Today I go back to work at ye old day job. I took Thanksgiving week off. Not to go anywhere, but to stay home and get some stuff done around the house. I did this a couple of years ago and loved every minute of it.

Boy, I'm scratching my head. It hardly seems possible that the past nine days have flown by so fast. Where did the time go? It seems like it just started and here I am about to get showered and dressed for work.

Here in Los Angeles we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather for the entire week with it being in the 80s, and I had wanted to get to the beach at least one day to sit and enjoy it without summer crowds.  I ended up not getting around to that, or a few other things, but that's okay.  Here's my report card for the things I had on my Stay-cation To Do List:

Go to beach  - Nope
Clean out closets - Started on kitchen closets
Organize old mail and papers and file them away - Done
Get rid of piled up recycling - Done
Clean apartment thoroughly - Half done
Meet Lori Tillman for our joint birthday lunch - postponed a week due to my screw-up
Participated in Vroman's Indies First Event on November 29th - Done and so much fun!
Organize old knickknacks around the house and put most away in curio cabinet - Done
Finish all 3 books I was reading - Done
Start Christmas shopping - Yes
Plot out new direction for writing career - Yes. See that here.
Work on first Winnie Wilde novella - Yes
Work on 3rd Madison Rose novel - Yes
Work on 11th Odelia Grey novel - Yes
Complete and publish Odelia Grey Holiday short story HO HO HUMBUG - Yes. Buy here.
Make my first vegan Thanksgiving - Yes, with mixed results
Catch up on all the stuff stored on my DVR - Almost
Get a good night's rest every night - YES! YES! YES!
Go see a movie - Nope
Write upcoming guest blog - Started
Get exercise every day and hit my 100 mi in November goal - DONE!
Work on new short story EARLY RETIREMENT - Yes
Set up some guest authors for 2015 for the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club - Yes
Clean out fridge - Yes

I'm disappointed that I didn't finish my cleaning or my closets, but I'm heading back to the office to feeling refreshed and satisfied and ready to take on December.

Starting today, I'm also back on my usual routine of writing each morning on the books next up for deadline.  I had set those aside for this past week and only worked on my indie projects.  But I must get back to GHOST WRITER, the 6th Ghost of Granny Apples novel that is due in less than 4 months and THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, the 3rd Granny Apples novella due in 5 months.

As much as I love to travel, I do so LOVE stay-cations!  Maybe I can get in another short one in soon!  I hope. I hope. I hope!