Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's Not Personal ... It's About Space

Like a lot of readers, I like to pickup signed books. And like a lot of readers, I have a tendency to hoard my books until they spill over from most surfaces in my home. In the past couple of years I’ve had to discipline myself by holding the chaos to just one area of my apartment. Still, it gets out of hand.

One of my chores this weekend was to clean up my office area, which includes the growing piles of books. So with great sadness I had to weed them out. If books are read, they are donated to Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles for their monthly raffle, which goes toward deferring the monthly costs of meetings. Signed books are especially welcome.

Shortly after my first book came out, I started noticing used copies showing up on e-bay and Amazon, including personally signed copies. At first, this bothered me. But as I cast an eye over my own growing volumes, I realized it wasn’t personal. In most cases, it’s just a matter of space. Books take up a lot of space and space (especially in my apartment) is not infinite.

I packed up a lot of books this past weekend, and some of them are signed, some even personalized. A few special books from special friends I have kept, but pretty much the rule is, if it’s been read, it out. I’ve seen postings on author’s lists about this and how it bothers some writers, but the reader side of me understands fully. It’s nothing personal toward the authors of these fine books, it’s just about space.

So if any of you are thinking about donating or selling any of my books after you’ve read them, even if they are signed, go for it. In my mind, it simply makes room in your life for more of them.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

3-Days in May

Three day weekends are the best! There's no doubt about it.

I slept in this morning and now ponder all the things I want to get done this weekend. In a few minutes, I'll be out the door with a laundry list of errands and chores, then back home to settle in for many many many hours of writing. Yea!

I'm finishing up the proposal for my new series and just received comments from my agent about it. Later, I will be tying up the first draft of Ho Ho Homicide, a holiday short story coming out this fall. I really need to go down to the mall at which it takes place to get a feel for the place and might do that tomorrow. I was also thinking about going into the day job office for a few hours, but we'll see. If I don't go in, it will mean longer hours next week. I'll have to weigh the pros and cons on that.

It's easy for this weekend's real meaning to get lost among the picnics, bar-b-ques, chores and beach trips, so let's all take time to remember why we have a 3-day weekend in May. And if you need a jog to your memory, just pick up the newspaper or turn on a reliable TV news program.

I make no pretense of being in favor of the war in Iraq. I'm not and never have been. But I am in favor of our troops, each and every one of them, and several times this weekend I intend to remember those for who have died for our country over the decades and to say prayers for the safe return of those who are still abroad serving at the pleasure of a madman and his band of thugs and criminals.

Everyone have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Tuesday This 'n That

Too Big To Miss recently took a bronze IPPY in the Independent Publishers Awards. Complete list of the nominees and winners.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1594. Which leads to my announcement that Midnight Ink and I have decided to change the name of the third Odelia Grey novel from Mother Mayhem to Thugs & Kisses. This new title came to me over the weekend and I was pleased when I e-mailed Midnight about it that they loved it too, and it wasn't too late to make the change. Thugs & Kisses will be out February 2008.

There is a great new review of The Curse of the Holy Pail on Feminist Review. Check it out.

And it's official, Midnight Ink has purchased three more Odelia Grey novels. Books 4, 5 and 6 are scheduled for release February 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively. I just have to get busy and write, write, write!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Unearthing a Los Angeles Gem

Last night I went with friends Patti Newler and her hubby, Ira Clark, to see The Wiz at the Amazing Grace Conservatory. The purpose of this expedition was two-fold. 1) I was continuing to fulfil a promise to myself to get out more socially, especially where the arts are concerned, and 2) the see Paris Montgomery, son of fellow law firm inmate, Khalil Mack, perform in the role of the Wiz.

What a wonderful night it was! The production was rousing, energetic and very professional. All of the kids, from the little Munchins to the top players, were top notch and sang and danced their hearts out. My personal favorite was the lion, played by a young man who brought such personality to the part you wanted to stomp your feet with joy every time he was on stage. But to be fair, I could have watched the Tin Man and the Scarecrow dance all night.

The AGC is only a 10-15 minute drive from my apartment and until now was totally unknown to me. One thing is for sure, it will not remain an unknown. This theatrical training institute provides professional training in dance, theatre and voice to kids ranging in ages 7-21 and many go on to have solid careers in the entertainment business. This year the AGC celebrated its 10th anniversary.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, look into this neighborhood gem and support them in their productions. Word is they are performing Chicago in August. I can't wait!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Yo, Adrian!

I love Rocky movies!

I just have to hear a snippet of the Rocky theme music and adrenaline shoots through my body like a double expresso. And every time I accomplish something big in my life, I imagine running up those Philadelphia steps, raising my arms and dancing in triumph. And I know I'm not alone.

The original Rocky was released in 1976 and won the Oscar for Best Picture. Just today I caught the final chapter in the series, Rocky Balboa, on On Demand. It is the first Rocky movie ever that I haven't caught in the theatre. Unfortunately, it was released right as I was madly dashing towards a deadline. But even on the small screen, I wasn't disappointed. What was intended to be a little movie viewing while eating lunch turned out to be a two hour Rocky love-fest.

Well, my extended lunch time is over and I must get back to my writing ... with these inspiring words from the original Rocky playing in my head:

"You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!"

A special shout-out today to all the good folks at Joseph-Beth Booksellers!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Come On Down ... for The Last Time

Last night I watched the very last show of The Price Is Right ... I had to. To not have watched would have been like not attending the funeral of a favorite uncle.

Bob Barker has been on TV for 50 years. I am 54 years old. I cannot remember when Bob Barker wasn't a part of my TV viewing life. I wrote this past weekend about my mother. Well, Bob Barker was one of her favorite TV personalities and she watched The Price is Right right up until the end, even when she was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. She never missed him if possible. When I was a young child, Truth or Consequences was a ritual in our home. And Beulah the Buzzer always made me giggle.

Have a happy and healthy retirement, Bob! You deserve it. And thanks for the memories ... oh, that's right, that was a different "Bob."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Great Post On Inkspot

There is a very good post on Inkspot today by Mark Terry. It discusses the New York Times Bestseller List and the time and patience it takes to get on it. Hop on over and check it out.

No, Virginia, it doesn't happen overnight.

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Bad!

I do research for my Odelia Grey mystery series. I really do. In fact, I enjoy looking up the odd and end information needed to give my books a sense of realism and accuracy. For Too Big To Miss I researched online web cams and the folks who operated them. For The Curse of the Holy Pail I investigated the world of lunchbox collecting. Currently, I'm reading a book on serial killers for background information for book 4, Epitaph Envy. It's all part of the writing process.

So imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from a reader named Joyce who, after telling me how much she enjoyed The Curse of the Holy Pail, added a post script informing me that Dale Evans' horse was named Buttermilk not Buttercup, as indicated in the book.

Yikes... to my horror and embarrassment, Joyce was 100% correct. I was so sure that Buttercup was the correct name for the blasted horse, I never checked my reference to make sure I had it correct. A bad and lazy move for a writer.

Thanks, Joyce, for keeping this wayward writer in line.

Embarrassed Chimp photo by Tim Davis.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This Babble's For You, Ma

My mother was born Margaret Winifred Chambers. She died of heart disease when I was 25 years old. I wish I could say she was like the mothers on Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best, but the truth is, she wasn't. She was a beer drinking, chain smoking woman who equally loved Lawrence Welk and Roller Derby. She was also troubled, unhappy and, as I realized much later, very fearful. She was as reticent as I am outgoing and we seldom, if ever, saw eye to eye. To be blunt, she was a bully to me and my brother from beginning to end. But she was my mother. And one thing I know for sure, she'd be proud of my accomplishments as a writer.

Ma was a voracious reader, especially of trashy and romantic magazines. But when I was older and made weekly trips to the local public library, several of the books I carried home were for her and she became a lover of novels. I remember once when I was in high school, I brought home for her a copy of The Yearling. I had read it and thought she'd enjoy it. She got mad, said it was a kid's book and did I think she was stupid. But she read it. And later said it was one of her favorite books. After that she didn't question the books I chose for her, which included classics such as Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as Tropic of Cancer and Valley of the Dolls.

Whenever I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer, she would say: "That's for rich people's children. " That may sound like a put down, but considering Ma was a factory worker all her life and never finished high school, I'm sure it was her way of protecting me and telling me to wake up and smell the coffee of my station in life. Yet, when she died, we found the notices of my scholarship awards and college acceptance letters among her personal papers. By the way, my going to college was something else she warned me against. And, as usual, I didn't listen.

I'm sure Ma would have enjoyed my Odelia Grey mystery series, and I know she would have been very proud of my modest accomplishments in the writing world. There's not a word I write or story I draft that doesn't have her hand in it somehow, someway. Ma may not have been a pillar of encouragement, but she sure did provide me with a lot of material.

Who knows, in the end, maybe I became a writer just to spite her and prove her wrong. It would be so typical of our relationship.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Diana and Sue Ann's Excellent Adventure

A week ago I was in Arlington, VA, attending Malice Domestic, a conference celebrating traditional mystery books. I was travelling with my friend and manager, Diana James. It was a load of fun and, as with all book conferences, it was a great opportunity to catch up with author friends from around the nation, including many of my fellow Midnight Ink authors. And, as with all conferences involving a great number of authors, the bar was a very active place, a virtual watering hole of who's who in the "cozy" and almost cozy mystery world.

This year the guest of honor was home girl Rochelle Krich. Rochelle's moving and eloquent speech at the Saturday night banquet brought tears to almost everyone's eyes. I hosted a table at the banquet and got to dine with many of my readers, as well as friend and author Rita Lakin.

Following Malice, Diana, Patricia Smiley and I headed to Annapolis, MD, where Patty and I signed at a Barnes and Noble store along with Marcia Talley (who coordinated the trip), Denise Swanson, Sharon Short and Kate Flora. From there it was on the Cantler's for great Maryland seafood.

The next day found us all in Oakmont, PA, and the Festival of Mystery sponsored by the Mystery Lovers Bookshop and warm and wonderful hosts Mary Alice and Richard Goldman. After a tea at the library we all headed to the local Greek church where about 500 mystery readers were waiting to meet us and buy books... LOTS OF BOOKS. I met and talked with so many people, my voice was hoarse the next day. One of the many highlights of the day was meeting Bob Burke from Twinsburg, OH. Bob is a big supporter of my Odelia Grey books and it was so much fun to meet him in person.

Other Highlights:

Finding out the morning I left for Malice that Midnight Ink was picking up books 4, 5 & 6 of my Odelia Grey series and had already schedule a publication date for a new series we are discussing.

Diana's hubby, Darrell James, calling and telling us Too Big To Miss had been named a semi-finalist for an IPPY award.

Diana calling out "Yo, Dude" to a guy in a parking lot to ask him where we could buy a bottle of wine at 10:00 pm on Sunday night in Annapolis, MD. And the realization that we were no longer in wicked and sinful Los Angeles.

Photos: Diana and me at Malice; Midnight Ink authors; banquet table; signing at Annapolis; Bob Burke at Festival of Mystery

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Putting Words Into Action

Selling Murder With Reservations by Elaine Vietz at the Reagan International Airport on Friday, May 4th, with the lovely Kathryn Lilley.

Kathryn, who has penned several Nancy Drew novels, has a book due for release in October 2007 called Dying to Be Thin.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


On the evening of April 10th, author Elaine Viets suffered a stroke. Elaine writes two wonderfully funny series, the Mystery Shopper series and the Dead-End Job series, she is also a delightful person and a huge part of the mystery community. After surgery, she began the long road to recovery and it is reported that her progress so far has been amazing.

If you would like to drop Elaine a card or word of encouragement, you can do it through two means: by e‑mail at 4elaineviets@gmail.com, or by snail mail to: Elaine Viets, c/o Sarah Strohmeyer, 45 State Street, Suite 210, Montpelier, Vermont 05602.

But wait, there’s more you can do.

Elaine’s latest novel, Murder With Reservations, is scheduled for release on May 1st -- TODAY! Obviously, Elaine will not be up to launching her latest book, so a movement has been started to launch Elaine’s book for her. For more details you can visit either Jan Burke’s blog or the Lipstick Chronicles. Spread the word for people to buy Elaine’s new book, Murder With Reservations, and visit the above links to find out even more ways to get the word out.

So let’s all get behind Elaine Viets and her book and ease her way down the road to a full recovery. Let’s murder Elaine with love and kindness.


Okay, it's been two days since the LA Times Festival of Books and I think I'm recovered. The 2-day festival is exhausting for any author, but for me and the board of Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles and Crime Time Books it means two days of non-stop work, preceded by weeks of preparation.

This year was a huge success. The weather was beautiful, the crowds big and eager to hear about and buy books, and the authors were geared up and pitching. I've been working the SinC/LA booth for seven years and can honestly say that this was one of the best years yet. We had lots of new faces at our tables this year and many dear friends.

During the weekend we got to pat Naomi Hirahara on the back for her recent Edgar win for her novel Snakeskin Shamisen, and celebrate with Jeff Sherratt over his new publishing contract with Echelon Press.

But even as I has thrilled to see the end of the 2007 festival and get my weary body home and into a hot shower, I experienced a bit of sadness. For the past 4 years, as president of SinC/LA, I have been in charge of the group's booth and the overall coordinator. And while I will eagerly hand the reins over to my successor and take on the roll of author-only at future festivals, it was sad to see this chapter of my life come to a close.

Thank you festival goers and authors for making the 2007 SinC/LA booth such a success. And THANK YOU SinC/LA and Crime Time Books for your dedication and hard work each and every year at the Festival.