Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday is/was Naomi Day

When I was a kid in Massachusetts, Prince Pasta had a slogan: Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day. Now that I’m grown and living in Southern California, Wednesday is Naomi Day.

Every Wednesday I read Naomi Hirahara’s blog posting on Murderati, one of the best blogs devoted to writing mysteries and the life of a mystery writer. This blog is shared by several wonderful authors, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know personally. But (with no offense meant to the others) Wednesday was always my favorite.

Naomi Hirahara writes the acclaimed Mas Arai series which features mysteries involving an elderly Japanese gardener who lives in Altadena, California. Mas is also a Hiroshima survivor. Her books are packed full of informative glimpses into the Japanese-American culture of Southern California and her characters are memorable. I recently finished her second in the series, Gasa Gasa Girl, and will soon move on to the third book. As with her books, her Murderati postings were always educational and fun. They made us think and introduced us to many folks in the Los Angeles writing community. A few months ago she even interviewed me and I remember how honored I felt when she asked.

But although this is a type of eulogy, Naomi is alive and well and I know I will continue to see her smiling face at book events and Sister In Crime and MWA meetings. She is leaving blogging to pursue growth and changes in her writing career (see Get Ready for the Boar, her last Murderati posting). I wish her continued success in her thriving career. She’s definitely a Gasa Gasa Girl.

Love you, Naomi!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Crime Lab Project Needs Our Help

Jan Burke is one of my favorite writers, and she’s also good folks!

Jan is a big time advocate of the Crime Lab Project which supports better forensic science across the nation. If you’ve never heard Jan speak about this topic, you’re missing out. It’s both fascinating and scary – very scary. Below is a recent posting Jan made to a group and I thought I would spread the word. The Crime Lab Project is very important and needs our help.

I present Jan Burke …

This is a critical time for those of you who support better forensic science funding to contact your Member of Congress. The Senate voted $18 million for Coverdell Forensic Science grants, the House voted zero. The bill is now in conference. Obviously, the Crime Lab Project supports the Senate version! Please call or e-mail your Member of Congress and ask them to make the House recede to the Senate for the Paul Coverdell Act -- and ask everyone you know to do the same. The issue is non-partisan and the funds are not earmarked -- public labs in any state, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have access to these grants. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Newbie's Guide to the Truth

One of the reasons I enjoy reading other people's blogs is to learn about new people with new ideas. Via Keith Raffel's blog, I discovered JA Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. His November 19th entry, Your Daily Motivational, should be memorized by every writer and everyone who wants to be a writer.

And check out the entry just below it entitled Distractions. I was writing for 2-3 hours a day but often found productivity inconsistent. After reading Distractions I found myself shooting for 3,000 words a day plus editing with breaks at about 1,000-1,500. I found the time flew by when I stopped watching the clock and concentrated on the words spilling out onto the page.

Sometimes the other guy does build a better mousetrap.

40 days to ye ole deadline!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Keep Your Mouth Open

More than a dozen years ago I saw a slogan that I have never forgotten. It was printed on the side of a brown paper shopping bag I received when I purchased something at The Body Shop.

It is the duty of every citizen to keep their mouth open.

Often you will hear people say what does it matter? No one listens, why bother? Nothing will change, why should I get involved?

It is my duty, your duty, everyone's duty to vote, to comment, to say no, to say yes, to voice outrage, and to voice support. You may think you are just one voice, but together we are many, and many voices can make a difference.

In the past few weeks we have seen a surprising election and the withdrawal of a highly questionable book and TV program, all based on voices being raised together in one form or another for a common goal. We can make a difference, individually and together.

A personal favorite:

First They Came for the Jews
by Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

And another personal favorite:

"Who now remembers the Armenians?" -- Adolf Hitler

At this Thanksgiving season, let's give thanks for our family, friends, and freedoms.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More on "If I Did It"

One of the attorneys in my office forwarded me this link to an interview with the publisher of Simpson's "If I Did It." Interesting reading.

Another interesting piece forwarded to me is from the NY Daily News and contains comments from other publishers and some book stores.

Would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shame on You Harper Collins/Regan Books

O. J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. That’s a fact and a fact that cannot be disputed no matter if you believe Simpson to have killed these people (as I do) or you do not. The legal system gave us its decision and we must live with it and move on.

But, no matter what your belief regarding Simpson’s involvement in the murders, the bottom line is that a book by Simpson supposedly entitled “If I Did It” is blatantly arrogant on Simpson’s part and unconscionable on the part of Harper Collins/Regan Books.

It's as if they're flipping us the bird.

What's next?

I didn't rape that girl, but if I did ...

I didn't rob that bank, but if I did ...

I didn't beat my wife , but if I did ... (ooops, sorry, I guess that will be covered in Simpson's book).

And don’t get me started on Fox for the upcoming interview with Simpson to be aired during sweeps week … let me just say, I stopped watching Fox a LONG LONG TIME AGO.

In a partial reprise of an earlier blog: JUST SAY NO!



Books and TV shows of this kind are fueled by greed. As individuals, the only weapon we have to fight these sordid assaults on our sensibilities is the closing of our wallets.

According to reports, Harper Collins/Regan Books paid Simpson a crap load of money for this book. This blogger and writer hopes with all her heart that the publishers get stuck eating that big fat advance

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

From the E-Mail Bag

A reader recently sent me this lovely poem that she wrote. It's so wonderful, I wanted to share it. Enjoy!

Sue Ann ... I just wanted you to know that there is an outrageous red headed woman in Alabama rooting for you as you write. -- Marilyn Tarvin


Life is like writing letters,
Where each stroke is pivotal.

I take pen to paper to define myself.
And as the lines flow, connect,
Bend and twist,
So does my life.

From my perspective,
Life seems like a random maze.
But I am really forming letters--
Like a figure skater doing compulsories--
That group together to form the words
That say who I am.

I live my days
Skating on the ball point of life,
Hoping that my soul guides my gliding
Across the seemingly infinite page of time planar.

Yes, Virginia, I am a Paralegal

My friend Patti Newler took this photo of me yesterday at the office – you know, that perfectly good law firm where perfectly good people pay me to be a paralegal.

Seeing this photo got me to remembering a true story I often tell about the first time I was ever interviewed when Too Big to Miss first came out in its original self-published mode. It was for a piece in a small newspaper by a very young journalist and the interview was held face-to-face (this is an important fact).

Journalist: So, whatever inspired you to write about a middle-aged, overweight paralegal?

Me (to myself): That's odd, I didn't think this interview was with someone from the Braille Institute.

Me (to journalist after a slight hesitation): I get my inspiration for my mystery novels from my day-to-day life as a young, thin, tall, blond, who works as an extra on Baywatch.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PATTI! (Patti is a kindred spirt -- a writer being paid by the perfectly nice people in the perfectly nice law firm to be a legal secretary.)

47 days and counting - New rules have not kicked in, but Selma is working overtime.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Rules

Every Friday night if I’m home at 11 pm I watch Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. It’s one of my favorite shows and one of my favorite bits on it is near the end when Bill does “New Rules.”

Well, this morning, after reading an e-mail from my publisher, Selma the Muse and I decided we need New Rules.

Currently my head is deep into Mother Mayhem, the 3rd Odelia Grey novel due to my publisher on January 1, 2007 (or as Keith Raffel recently pointed out to me, January 2nd due to the holiday). But my publisher’s head is deep into The Curse of the Holy Pail, the 2nd Odelia Grey novel being released February 2007. Can you see the conflict here?

Over the past couple of months, while I’ve been slaving away on book #3, I’ve been receiving e-mail requests from my publisher about book #2. Sometimes these require simple and quick responses and sometimes, like final edits on galleys, they require a lot of time and effort. This morning I received an e-mail asking me to review the back cover content for book #2 and, me being me, I spent at least an hour explaining exactly what I liked and what I did not like and providing examples of what I would ultimately like to see on said back cover.

Okay, I do understand that this obsessive behavior is my problem, not Midnight Ink’s problem, but hitting deadlines is MY problem, and since my body type is not one conducive to hurdling over obstacles, I have a tendency to plow through them, which takes more time.

NEW RULE: For every 15 minutes it takes me to fiddle with book #2, I should get one more week to finish book #3.

50 days and counting (under the old rules).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Road Bogeys?

While catching up on the blogs of writer friends today, I learned a new phrase: road bogeys. Although, after reading the very funny explanation, I would have called them road boogers ... or worse. But Ashley Baker (aka A. H. Ream) is much more refined than that. Check it out, it's very cute, like Ashley. Road Bogeys

I also learned that Ashley is one of the funniest writers I know. But don't believe me, check it out for yourself. Go to her website, click on BLOG and then click on the entry called The Funniest Dang Thing I've Ever Seen. It almost made me pee my pants.

This One's for You, Ed

Ed Bradley was a fixture in my home on Sunday nights for nearly half my lifetime. He was my favorite of the 60 Minutes reporters and no matter what else I was doing while 60 Minutes played on my TV in the background, I would stop and watch his stories. Like his journalist colleagues and the rest of the viewing public, I was in awe of his intelligence, easy manner, and grace. In this time of often dirty and questionable journalism, he will be greatly missed, but leaves behind a legacy of integrity and unquestionable professionalism.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Christmas In June?

In spite of the higher than usual temperatures happening here in Los Angeles, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Meaning, both my snail mailbox and my e-mail box are filling up with invitations for parties. There are parties given by every writing association I belong to, by bookstores, by friends and, of course, the year-end blow out by my employer. Except for my birthday and Christmas, my December calendar was almost blank two weeks ago, not so now.

There are no small date books in my tote bag, or Day Timer portfolios being lugged about. Nor have I yet succumbed to the use of an electronic date keeper. I keep a huge “Year-At-A-Glance” calendar on the wall next to my computer with an erasable surface. It’s the only way I can make sure of juggling my time between my day job, writing events, appointments, and dates involving family and friends. Good thing I don’t have children, or else I’d need another pack of color markers just for soccer games and piano lessons.

As everyone who reads this blog knows, I am madly dashing to meet a deadline for my 3rd Odelia Grey novel. The deadline is January 1, 2007. Between now and then is a whole slew of events that I want to attend; a virtual minefield of frivolity and friendship to celebrate the holidays and the end of the year. As I write the latest party date on the calendar, I think: Why can’t some of these fun things be moved to mid-January or even to February? Why is year-end always a rush of frenetic activity that leaves us exhausted and dazed? Can’t I bank some of these events to use later?

Christmas in June … it has a certain ring to it, don’t ya think?

53 and counting.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

More Beautiful Things

Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down and a liberal woman is just two heartbeats away from the presidency. Today I celebrate hope and freedom.

Two of My Beautiful Things

My friend Kate Thornton always posts "beautiful things" on her blog. Following her lead, I want to share a couple of beautiful things that showed up recently in my e-mail -- my great niece and nephew. The cast on my niece's leg hasn't slowed her down one bit.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Still Crazy, But Not Alone

I remember vividly the first time I attended a Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles meeting. Diane Bouchard was the president, and my first mystery novel, Too Big To Miss, was a bunch of gobblygook stored on a computer. The guest speaker was the Ventura County Coroner who brought along a very graphic slide presentation, and I had just had lunch. No matter, by the time the meeting was over I knew I had found my own kind, and that has made all the difference in the world to my writing.

Writers write, plain and simple. If you distill all of the platitudes about writing and writers, the how-tos, the whys, and the wheres, it all comes back to these two very simple words – writers write. It’s a solitary business. Even writers who collaborate must spend much time alone to produce their contribution to the partnership. For me a day without writing might as well be a day without food, water, and air. I must write. I must create. It’s a passion, a disease, a terrible master I loathe and love at the same time.

But writers must also hobnob with other writers. Whether a writer is naturally social, as I am, or shy and quiet, he or she must interact with fellow writers to be a healthy writer. Such interactions keep you grounded and provide relief from the fear that you might be nuts – or at least nuts on your own. Let’s face it, writers are crazy, but we’re crazier together. Just ask anyone who has ever attended a Bouchercon (which my friend and fellow Midnight Ink author, Keith Raffel, refers to as a summer camp for adults). Or better yet, ask anyone who knows Brian Wiprud.

Friday night I attended a dinner for writers and today I’ll attend the monthly meeting of SinC/Los Angeles. At the dinner I saw a lot of old friends, met a lot of writers I hadn’t met before, and reacquainted myself with writers I only get to see from time to time at conferences. I even had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Anne Perry. It was a fabulous evening and the exchange of ideas at each and every table was electric. Instead of coming home grumpy because I felt I had wasted several hours socializing when I should have been home writing, I returned to my computer refreshed and revitalized, and, more importantly, productive

57 Days and Counting

Friday, November 03, 2006

Selma Wins By A TKO

Apparantly Selma the muse was jealous about the time I spent cleaning today instead of writing. After cleaning for almost a solid hour, all the while with Selma whispering plot lines in my ears, I finally gave up, sat down at the computer and wrote. After an hour of good solid work I intended to give housework another go. Fair is fair.

And this is a true story...

While I was on my next installment of housework, I hear a frantic knock at my door. It's our maintenance man. He was working on the plumbing of the apartment directly below mine and every time I ran my water it came out into the lower apartment. No one told me, he said, because they thought I'd be at work (day job).

So back to writing I went.

I swear I could hear Selma cackling in the background.

Selma vs. Hazel

I took today off from my day job as a paralegal. There is a dinner tonight hosted by SinC/LA for the SinC/National Hollywood Conference and I didn't want to be rushed attending to last minute details. I also thought it would be fun to play a bit of hooky. Having a day off when most other people are working is such a treat.

The agenda: get up my usual time; check e-mail; then buckle down to write for a few hours; get a manicure and pedicure; have a leisurely lunch with friend (who also thought playing hooky for a few hours would be fun); write some more; finish dinner details and get ready for dinner. Sounds like a plan doesn't it?

So here's the problem. When I woke this morning, Selma the muse was not here. Instead, my other muse, Hazel, appeared. And herein lies the conflict.

I love a clean home. I used to have a cleaning lady, but that was when I lived in a much larger apartment. Since moving to Los Angeles, my digs are about half the size and I can't see the point when I can do it easily myself. But when I'm in my writing zone, cleanliness of my surroundings is the last thing I think about. However, there comes a point when instead of writing all I think about is how grungy everything looks. When my need for tidiness conflicts with my need to write, something has to give.

Gotta go -- Hazel's standing by with a sponge and mop looking at her watch and the cats are clamoring for a fresh litter box. And then there's the manicure appointment deadline-- every woman knows you clean your house before you get your nails done.

59 days and counting -- Doesn't Hazel know that?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

That's all I have to say about that.

A lot of my friends and collegues have expressed how sorry they are about the vile words being said about me over my comments about the Opie & Anthony Show and the Fatty Pig Fatty contest.

Thank you for your kind thoughts, but please don't feel sorry for me. I haven't taken one word of it seriously or been injured in the least, even before my books took a huge sales jump, which they did yesterday after Opie and Anthony aired their show and discussed my blog and the comments.

If I've experienced anything because of this it has been surprise (gee people ARE reading my blog!), shock (I knew ignorance was alive and well but I didn't realize how healthy it was -- an ignorance on my part), dismay (I really had hoped people had evolved more than this), and happiness (I'm thrilled that I've touched a nerve and made some people think about tolerance.)

Tolerance is the reason I posted the blog entry Just Say No! in the first place, and it's the reason I have allowed the comments to remain posted (except for a few exceptionally vile ones and those past my closing of the comments). By letting people see the ugliness, especially that lurking under the cover of anonymity, I hope they are realizing the depth of prejudice and hatred still out there; not just for large women, but for anyone who thinks differently or is different.

I do not promote obesity in my blog or in my books; I promote tolerance.

It's obvious that many people will fight to the death for the right to speak freely, as along as you say what they want you to say. That's not how I interpret my right (or your right) to speech. I believe in the saying: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Opie and Anthony have every right to publicly conduct a Fatty Pig Fatty contest, and I have every right to publicly oppose it.

So continue to read my blog and others, knowing that you are experiencing first hand our right to speak and share our opinions, and never feel sorry for any of us. The simple truth is, if you stick your chin out there, don't be surprised when someone throws a punch at it. This is even true when writing novels. If you cannot take criticism and comments about what you write, you shouldn't be writing except for your own eyes.

This topic is now finished and I have a book to complete. 61 days and counting!

In the words of Forrest Gump: That's all I have to say about that.

A note about posting comments to this blog post: You are welcome to submit your comments, but please know that NO comments slinging slurs or with excess or vile profanity will be allowed. You have every right to your opinion, but if you cannot express it without hatefulness and prostituting the English language, you will have to post it somewhere else. - saj