Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time

This morning when I got to the law firm where I’m employed as a paralegal there were 25 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies waiting for me. Count ‘em … 25. And 22 boxes of them were Thin Mints. No, the cookie monster did not have a nervous breakdown in my office. But I’m sure my order made Natalie, the daughter of one of the attorneys, very happy.

Thin Mint cookies are featured in all of my Odelia Grey novels. She’s addicted to them, keeps a stash in her freezer at home, and a box in her bottom desk drawer. So every year at Girl Scout Cookie time I buy boxes and boxes of the things to use in the promotion of my books. Sometimes they are given away in contests; sometimes they are included with a book or two as part of a charity item. But mostly I pass them out at my signings, and readers love them, especially late in the year when I seem to be the only one on the planet who has them.

Are Thin Mints my favorites? Here’s where Odelia and I part ways. I prefer Trefoils and Do-Si-Dos. Although, like Odelia, when I do eat Thin Mints I prefer them frozen. A friend once recommended spreading peanut butter on frozen Thin Mints. I tried it. You might want to try it also, but be warned, it’s yummy and addictive.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The $60 Bacon Cheeseburger

What a dumb ass I am ... but a rather happy dumb ass.

Today I received another e-mail inquiring about option rights to my novels. The e-mail came from a fairly well-known plus size actress (no, not Camryn Manheim or Kirstie Ally). She already knew Too Big To Miss was optioned, but still we chatted by phone and explored other possibilities. We're meeting for dinner on Friday night.

Anyway, tonight I decided to treat myself to dinner, but not just any dinner. What I wanted was a big juicy bacon cheeseburger at Islands. I thought about Burger King, but hey, it's not often I chow down on a big cheeseburger and I've been so good since I've sworn off of biscuits and gravy, so off to Islands I headed after work.

Now, I live on the westside of Los Angeles, a city not known for its plethora of free parking. So when I spied a parking spot on a side street just half a block from Islands on Pico Blvd., I grabbed it, but not before making sure it was a valid parking spot. I read the sign, really I did. It said: "1 hr parking, Monday - Friday, 6 am-8pm." Okay, I was just getting a burger and it was already almost 7:30. Piece 'o cake.

Imagine my surprise when I came out at 8:30 to find a parking ticket tucked ever so nicely into my door handle. According to the ticket, I was parked in a no-parking zone. Huh??? Can't be. Armed with my camera loaded cell phone, I stalked to the parking sign to get a photo of the parking hours. Imagine my surprise, yet again, when I noticed that just above the posted parking hours sign was another separate sign that said "No Parking Except."

Hula Burger with bacon, plus chocolate shake, tax and tip - $15.00

Los Angeles City Parking Ticket - $45.00

Feeling like a dumb ass - Priceless

But an excited and happy dumb ass, mind you.

Agatha Like You Never Knew Her

Last night, like most everyone else, I watched the Oscars. I partook of this ritual at the annual Oscar party thrown by my friends Joe Bays and Sharon Goldstein. It was a grand time, even if I did come out next to last in the awards pool.

But the Oscars aren't my focus this morning. This morning I got my first glance at the Agatha nominations. The Agathas are given out at the Malice Domestic conference held each year in May in Arlington, Virginia. It's a conference dedicated to the traditional mystery as typified by Agatha Christie. The award is a darling black ceramic teapot sporting a skull and crossbones.

This year's list, as always, contains a lot of favorite authors, but the biggest excitement for me is the nomination of Murder on the Rocks by fellow Midnight Ink author Karen MacInereny, for best first novel.

The authors at Midnight Ink are like a closeknit family and when one of us gets nominated for something or wins something, we all clutch hands via the Internet and jump for joy. Midnight Ink hasn't been around very long, only about two years, so when one of us receives recognition, it's good for all of us. And lately, a lot of Midnight Ink books have been getting noticed, including my own.

Popping the champagne for ya, Karen! See you in May!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Making the Scene at Mystery Scene

More excitement this week on the book front. The Curse of the Holy Pail recently received two great reviews.

In its February issue, which recently hit the stands, Mystery Scene Magazine not only published a wonderful review of the book, but also my photo. They had asked for a publicity photo several weeks ago, but I didn't hold my breath knowing how often things end up on the editing chopping block in such cases. But there it is on page 73!

Reviewing the Evidence, one of my favorite online mystery sites, also reviewed The Curse of the Holy Pail. A few years ago they reviewed the book in its self-published edition, but this time around the Midnight Ink edition got the treatment with a different reviewer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Will the Real Michael Steele Please Stand Up

As anyone who reads my Odelia Grey mystery series knows, Odelia is a paralegal working under the supervision of Michael Steele, an obnoxious, womanizing, self-centered, but brilliant attorney.

And, as most of my friends know, I love the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher. So imagine my surprise when I plunked myself down on the sofa tonight to catch a rerun of the first show of Maher's new season only to find out that one of his guests is ... drum roll, if you please ... Michael Steele!

No, really! And he's also a lawyer!

The REAL Michael Steele appeared distinguished, articulate, stable and intelligent, without even a hint of the cockiness and sarcasm of his fictitious counterpart. The former Lt. Governor of Maryland, the REAL Michael Steele is now the director of GOPAC, a national organization dedicated exclusively to electing Republicans to state and local offices.

Okay, so no one is perfect.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Nominations - This time mine!

Another 3-day weekend and another weekend spent catching up on daily chores that went by the wayside because of writing and book promotion. On top of that, this week a nasty head cold hit me, knocking me down and out for most of Saturday and Sunday, leaving most of today for said catch-up chores, including the buying of 4 much needed new tires.

I returned home from the tire buying expedition, poorer but safer, to an e-mail from my publicist at Midnight Ink announcing that my book, Too Big To Miss, was a semi-finalist for the 2006 Literary Award from Readers Views in the mystery category.

Making this nomination even sweeter was the fact that my dear friend Darrell James was also nominated for his book, Body Count: A Killer Collection, and fellow Midnight Inker, Candy Calvert was nominated for her novel, Dressed to Keel.

Entire list of semi-finalists.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

If It's Sunday, It Must Be Wetumpka

Wow, just a week ago I was in Wetumpka, Alabama, enjoying legendary Southern Hospitality, which is not, by the way, a myth. After spending 5 days traveling between Atlanta and Birmingham, I can honestly say I don't know when I've heard the phrases "bless your heart" or "yes m'am" so much. Nor can I remember the last time I ate so much fried food, all scrumptious. I came home and renamed my left buttock "biscuits" and the right one "gravy." Since coming home my breakfasts have been low fat granola bars and black coffee ... sigh.

So here's the rundown of my trip for those interested...

After landing in Atlanta I picked up my rental car, had the first of what would end up being many “southern” breakfasts and started down the list of bookstores my manager had contacted for drive-by signings. Even with traffic delays and getting lost several times, I managed to hit close to 10 bookstores before calling it a night around 6 pm. I checked into my hotel exhausted and starved, but in time to watch the opening episode of Survivor while munching on a terrific room service burger. The drive-bys were fair to middling in success. Most had my books but not many of them. Two stores had not a one in spite of my manager calling weeks in advance. One store had ordered 10 copies of each but had only received 2 of each from the distributor. My favorite store was the Barnes & Noble in Alpharetta. I spent a lot of time there schmoozing with the staff and the manager, a transplanted Californian, and bought a copy of the Kosher Southern-Style Cookbook for my friend Patti who was cat sitting for me back in LA.

I slept 11 hours that night, got up and spent the day writing on my new AlphaSmart. Had a great lunch at Joe’s on Sullivan – fries and fried tilapia. The fish melted in my mouth and the fries were the BEST I had ever tasted. When asked about them, manager Larry disclosed that the fries were first dipped in a beer batter and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. No Wonder! If you're staying near the airport in Atlanta, go by Joe's. The fries alone are worth the trip.

Friday night I gave a short speech at the American Beauties Plus Pageant, then scooted out the door for the 2-1/2 hr drive to Birmingham. About an hour outside of Birmingham my guy pal called my cell phone and laughed out loud when I told him I had just finished pumping gas in 32 degrees. The original weather forecast for that night was rain and possibly sleet, but my road was dry and the trip, thankfully, uneventful. In other parts of Alabama, roads were iced over that night.

I had 3 events planned in and around Birmingham and all were very successful. First thing on Saturday morning I gave a workshop at the Alabama Association of Paralegals Winter Conference. The workshop was on goal setting. After, with the help of Crosshaven Books, I signed books, lots of books! Then I jumped into my rental car and raced up the road to attend Murder in the Magic City at the Homewood Library. This event boasted 20 authors in an all-day conference of panels, lunch, and fun. I got to see a lot of friends from LA, reacquaint myself with authors I’d met at other conferences, and meet authors for the first time, including one of my personal favs, Laura Lippman. But the best part was meeting the wonderful readers who attended the conference. Because the conference format was so informal, authors and readers got to spend a lot of time visiting with each other throughout the day. Margaret Fenton is the organizer of this event and she does a bang-up job, along with Crosshaven Books.

The next morning, the same bunch of authors piled into cars and headed for Wetumpka, Alabama, where our last event, Murder on the Menu, was held. Wetumpka is a lovely country town about 2 hours outside of Birmingham. The event was held in their beautiful new Civic Center and was organized by the Friends of the Library and Tammy of Tammy’s Book Basket. Wetumpka rolled out the red carpet and treated us like visiting dignitaries. About 150 people were in attendance and once again we had an opportunity to introduce ourselves and our books to eager readers.

After leaving Wetumpka, I headed solo back to Atlanta via a very convoluted route … meaning, I got lost. However, along the way I stopped at one Barnes & Noble and two Books A Million and signed a couple of books. My plan was to head for Columbus, GA but it seemed I was no where near Columbus, GA, but instead just 90 minutes from the Atlanta airport. Since it was late, I found a hotel, some dinner and snuggled up with one of the three books I’m now reading. The next day I tried to get on an earlier flight back to Los Angeles but with no luck. I spent 3 hours in the airport typing away on my 4th Odlelia book, so the time was not wasted. I also wrote during most of the flight back. LOVE ALPHASMART!

Other Authors at Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu - check them out, you'll be glad you did:

Mark Arsenault, Charles Benoit, Tony Burton, Joanna Carl/Eve Sandstrom, Bruce Cook, Thomas H. Cook, Troy Cook, Mary Anna Evans, Robert Fate, Laura Lippman, Julia Spencer Fleming, Chris Grabenstein, Denise Hamilton, Tim Maleeny, Patricia Smiley, Patricia Sprinkle, Denise Swanson, Heather Webber, Patricia Wynn. Authors John Floyd, and Carl T. Smith joined us for Murder on the Menu only.


Murder in the Magic City

Murder on the Menu in Wetumpka

Friday, February 16, 2007

It's Always Sumthin'

Two days ago I was told by a mechanic that I needed new tires. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I looked at them, kicked them, and decided: Hell, these are good for another 5,000 miles or at least another 2,000!

Last night on my way home from work I blew a tire. Sigh...

The good news: It happened around 7:30 pm, not in the middle of rush hour traffic; it happened in front of Fox Studios and I pulled over in Cheviot Hills - a very safe neighborhood; the roadside service arrived within 10 minutes.

The bad news: The mechanic told me I need new tires.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Guilty Pleasure Revealed

I love the show Beauty and the Geek. Yes, it's true, I watch it. And since our Valentine's Day celebration was postponed until next week, last night I curled up on the sofa with the two cats and watched this season's finale.

For those of you who don't watch this reality show, in a nutshell it teams up beautiful young women (models, cheerleaders, even playboy bunnies) with awkward and socially immature young men with skyrocket IQ's. The beauty/geek teams then live in a mansion for several weeks and compete in projects that take them out of their individual comfort zones. The teams who fail are eliminated until there are just two teams left for the finale. The point of the show being that hopefully these two polar camps will learn something along the way and make positive changes in their lives based on their experiences.

Last night's finale floored me, but in a good way. The two teams left were Megan/Scooter (right), two charming young people, and Cecille/Nate (left). Nate was easily the most popular of the young men among both the women and men (and even fell for one of the beauties!), but Cecille was the least popular woman due to her backbiting, nasty and self-centered ways. (Think - I don't need no stinkin' changes - and you have the picture.)

Anyway, the judges (the eliminated contestants) were to award the $250,000 prize to the team who had changed the most from their experiences. Their dilemma: Nate had changed the most of the men, but Cecille the least of the women. In the end, the $250,000 prize went to Megan/Scooter. But the surprize was how it got there.

Nate, after determining that his partner, Cecille, did not change and didn't deserve to win, campaigned among the judges to NOT award his team the prize! Pointing out to the judges that if Cecille won it would be a mockery of the show and she would never learn her much needed life's lessons, he convinced all but two to vote for his competition, sacrificing $125,000 that would have easily fallen into his hands.

Nate, you're a class act!

My Thoughtful Valentine

Valentine's Day was yesterday and I hope you all had a wonderful time with your respective honeys. Due to my guy pal being up to his backend in alligators and my having just returned home from a book tour bushed and dazed, I thought our Valentine celebration was on hold until next week. At least that was our plan, to have a lovely Valentine's Day a week after the fact when we weren't so rushed or tired.

So imagine my surprise when I received a Fed Ex yesterday at the law firm and inside was a darling Brighton watch.

As some of you will recall, at Christmas my guy pal gave me the choice of jewelry or an AlphaSmart, and me being first and foremost a writer chose the AlphaSmart. So I was rather floored to receive jewelry for Valentine's Day.

My guy pal says I'm never boring, but I must say he is always full of sweet and thoughtful surprises and that is much more exciting than any watch or flowers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Home Sweet Home

No matter where I travel to, it's always good to return home. Arrived back late last night and spent almost two hours digging through piled up e-mails and assuring the cats I was home to stay... at least for a month. This was the first trip I've taken in years where I didn't check my e-mail once! It was quite liberating. The AlphaSmart performed like a champ and I got lots of writing done. Will report more on my journey south tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back at the law firm ... it's cloudy and chilly here in LA with a smattering of rain, but we were rewarded with not one but two rainbows this afternoon. The photo above was taken with my cell phone from my very own office window.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Atlanta or Bust!

Okay, NOW my bag is packed and NOW I’m ready to go. My friend Patti has been enlisted to care for B and Raffi and my office at the law firm is pretty well organized. You'd think I was leaving for a month.

In about 1 hour I’ll head to LAX to board a red-eye flight bound non-stop to Atlanta. Gosh I hope it’s not a full flight! My plan is to take Airborne and Tylenol PM and crash for the whole flight and land in the morning in only a partial daze. In my tote bag, along with my new handy-dandy AlphaSmart, is Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny. Can’t wait to dig into it.

Everyone have fun. Read, read, read! I’ll report from the road if I can.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Leaving On A Jet Plane

My bags are packed (not!). I’m ready to go (not!).

At 12:55 a.m. on Thursday, February 8th, I will be leaving Los Angeles on a red-eye flight to Atlanta. As the party a few weeks ago kicked off the release of The Curse of the Holy Pail, this trip signals the lift off of my book touring for 2007. Unlike many authors who take off for several weeks at a time, because of my day job, I do my book tour in a series of long weekends, targeting specific events and geographic areas.

I have 4 major events planned this coming weekend. I kick off with a short speech at the American Beauties Plus Pageant in Atlanta on Friday evening, then drive that night to Birmingham. Saturday at 8:30 a.m. I am giving a workshop at the Alabama Association of Paralegals Winter Conference, then scoot on over to Murder in the Magic City where I join 19 other authors for a mystery conference. At Murder in the Magic City I will be moderating a panel made up of pals Denise Hamilton, Patricia Smiley and fellow Midnight Inker Tim Maleeny. Sunday will find all the same 20 authors at Murder on the Menu at the Wetumpka Library. Monday I drive back to Atlanta for a flight home that evening.

In between all this activity I will be doing “drive-bys.” A cozy California phrase used to describe book store signings where the author literally “drives-by,” hops out of the car and spends a few minutes signing stock and schmoozing with the bookstore manager and employees. I begin my drive-bys as soon as I land in Atlanta on Thursday morning. My manager has been calling ahead to the stores to let them know I’m coming and yesterday she provided me with a detailed spread sheet, complete with maps, for all of the drive-bys.

Evenings I'll be holed up in whatever hotel room I find myself writing feverishly. After all, the 4th book still must be written.

My tours are like butchering a hog, nothing is wasted, except for the tail and the oink.

Tuesday will find me back at my day job.

I’m tired already.

Friday, February 02, 2007

And So It Begins ... Again

On January 1st I hit the send button on my desk top launching my 3rd Odelia Grey Mystery into cyberspace to my editor at Midnight Ink. On January 2nd I started my well-deserved vacation from writing. Or at least from the part where I put words to paper. You never stop the business of writing, the promotion, marketing and brainstorming. That aspect of writing seems to be on a 24/7 schedule.

But alas, the mental vacation is over and I must once again call forth the spirit of my muse, Selma Diamond, and put her and my fingers back to work. This time, though, on my brand new, handy-dandy AlphaSmart Neo, which is sitting ready, willing and very able to be pressed into service wherever I go.

I'm shooting for 1,000 words a day or 7,000 a week until the first draft is completed. The new project is called Epitaph Envy, the 4th book in the Odelia Grey mystery series. Originally this book was entitled Fifty Can Be Fatal, but when I thought about the plot line, the title didn't fit. I like Epitaph Envy. It has a certain ring to it.

For those curious about the 3rd Odelia book, Mother Mayhem, I recently posted a sampling of the first couple of pages on my website. Mother Mayhem is scheduled for a February 2008 release.

The Landlord Giveth and the Landlord Taketh Away

Brrrrrrrrrrrr. I just got out of a cold shower. And not because of any desire to stem sexual desire.

As some of you know, the elevator in my apartment building has been on the fritz and I live on the third floor. Well, two days ago, after 4-1/2 to 5 months of being shut down for repair and 2 years of only intermittent service prior to that, the elevator was finally put back into operation with all new working innards. I just discovered it worked yesterday, quite by accident, as no notice was given to the tenants.

Last night after work, while sprucing up to go out with my guy pal, I discovered there was no hot water … in the entire building. Again, no notice was given to any of the tenants of this even though the manager was fully aware of it. He only disclosed it when my new neighbor across the hall went down and banged on the manager’s door at 11pm looking for answers. This same new neighbor (the very cute Aaron and Jennifer) was also told a month ago when they rented the third floor apartment that the elevator had only been on the fritz a few weeks and would be fixed within days. It didn’t take long for several of us on the 3rd floor to give them the lowdown.

Meanwhile, I think I have this cold shower thing down. After turning the shower on low and pointing the nozzle downward, I stand at the far end of the tub and quickly soap up. Then I do a demented and speedy tribal dance under the frigid spray. The operative word here is speedy. Also, the hair will have to wait in hope that tomorrow the water in the building is warmer than 40 degrees. I keep telling myself that the early settlers in California managed to bathe in icy streams, so one cold shower won’t kill me. Then I remembered that the early Californians only bathed intermittently … like our elevator used to work.

I think I’m shivering too much to write that rent check.
The image to the right is called Ducha Fria (Cold Shower) by the very talented Maria Helena Spector.