Friday, June 29, 2007

Road Trip

Today my soon-to-be ex-guy pal and I are heading to Julian, CA for the weekend. The trip has a two-fold purpose: 1) it's our last hurrah as a couple; and 2) I'm researching my new mystery series. I've been to Julian before and found it very charming, so when I came up with the idea for my new series, I thought it would be fun to place it partially in this historical mountain town known for its delicious apples and apple pie.

The working title of the first book in the series is The Ghost of Granny Apples. Notice I used the word "proposed." The Ghost of Granny Apples and subsequent books in the series have been proposed to my publisher and I should know in a few weeks if the idea will fly, but seeing that I'm not one to leave research to the last minute, it seemed natural to do a combination trip now.

It will be interesting to see how I juggle writing two mystery series, but there is something about this new series that is just nagging at me to write it. Of course, the Odelia Grey series will never be far from the center of my heart, but it will be a fun challenge to write something else that is so very different.

So now, besides the ghost of Selma Diamond guiding me as my muse, I'll have the ghost of Granny Apples looking over my shoulder. Talk about seeing dead people!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summer Mystery Reading Challenge

Today my Odelia Grey series is being highlighted on the Summer Mystery Reading Challenge. Each day this summer, this web site is introducing books and authors to its readers. Drop by and read up. It's a great place to learn about new authors.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Raising the Bar

It’s a done deal. Just this weekend I put my name to contracts for three more Odelia Grey novels, specifically, books 4, 5 & 6, indenturing myself through 2010. Midnight Ink’s plan is to release a book every February. Tentatively, the novels are entitled: Epitaph Envy, Fifty Can Be Fatal and The Goodbye Graves, but, of course, titles can change along the way.

It’s exciting and frightening at the same time.

Exciting, because I’m living my dream of being a published author. Frightening, because I must dig into my gut over and over and produce new and entertaining stories of equal or increasing quality. The plots of the three new books are already planned and I’m four chapters into Epitaph Envy. But with each book I worry. Will it be as good as my last? Will it be better? Will readers like it? Love it? Hate it? As I write, I have no idea. I pound on the keyboard, lost in my fictional world, hoping and striving for the best. Not even when the book is complete do I have a sense of how I did. It’s only after it has sat a little bit and I revisit it with fresh eyes can I judge the true content and quality of my labor.

People often ask me how I can I come up with new story lines over and over. Stories are not the problem. I have more book ideas than Paris Hilton has doggie accessories. The real trick is raising the bar and hurdling it with each subsequent book.

I have a 12-book story arc planned for Odelia Grey. Right now 2 books have been released, 1 is coming out in February and 3 more are under contract. Whether or not the remaining 6 books will be published depends solely on my ability to keep raising the bar so that readers will continue to buy and enjoy the books, and a publisher will continue to want to publish them.

I wonder – have the Wheaties people have ever thought about putting an author on one of their boxes?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fat, Funny, Middle-Aged Woman ISO Soul Mate -- Must Love Cats

My guy pal and I are in the process of going our separate ways. It’s my decision and it was a tough one. He and I have been seeing each other for three years. No, he didn’t do anything wrong. No, I haven’t found anyone else.

We care deeply for each other – still do – but while I love him, I’m not in love with him. Perhaps I’m being silly, but the romantic in me says there’s a difference and it’s that difference that I’m driven to seek. Kind of like Frodo and the Ring – complete the mission or die trying.

I’ve had many relationships over the years, was even engaged once. The past few and I have parted and remained friends and I have no doubt this gentleman and I will also. We have become very close and I’ve respected and cared about none of the others as much as I have this man, but it still doesn’t quite feel like the best fit.

At first I thought: Great, I’ll have more time to write and promote my books. But the truth of it is, I know I will mourn the emptiness until I get used to it. And I know that I will want to meet someone else.

Awkkkkk! Back into the pit of dating hell! And at my age! I must be out of my freaking mind!

Yes, I am …

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dad's Turn

Often I am asked which of the characters in my books are based on people I know. While all have foundations in people or types of people I have come across in my life, several are drawn directly from real people. Zenobia Washington, Odelia's best friend, for instance, is drawn from one of my dearest friends, Lori Tillman. Mike Steele, though not based on any one real personality, is a compilation of several attorneys I have had the pleasure and displeasure of working with over the years. But the character of Horton Grey, Odelia's father, is spot on when compared to my father, the late Arakel (Art) Jaffarian, or "Jeff" as he was known to many of his friends.

Like Odelia's dad, my father was nearly deaf in his later years and wore a hearing aid which he turned on and off at will. Mostly it was off. He was a sweet man, good with his hands, very mechanical and creative, loved movies, and was smart though he never went past 6th grade. He was the 13th and last child of Armenian immigrants from Turkey. He met and married my mother shortly after returning home from WWII. She was 18/19 and he was 32. He literally married the babysitter ... of his brother's children. Shortly after he and my mother divorced, he married into a family very much like Odelia's stepfamily (yes, payback's a bitch). He was very easy going unless pushed too far, then the swear words and yelling would commence, but once he got it out of his system, he was backto being his good natured self.

Unlike Odelia and her father, I didn't live close to my Dad and we were estranged for many years during my teens and twenties. But later we became close and I would visit him every Father's Day weekend in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he'd moved so his wife could be close to her family. My father loved lamb and Armenian food and there wasn't a lot of either in Iowa. Every year I'd buy a whole leg of lamb, freeze it, and take it on the plane to him, along with other goodies I'd picked up at local Armenian markets.

But what I remember most about my visits were the long hours he and I would spend playing cribbage after my stepmother would go to bed. (And Dad's hand carved cribbage board still has an honored place in my home.) We'd play and talk long past midnight and he'd tell me stories about his life and his brothers and sisters and mother and father (who both died long before I came along). It's how I learned what little I know about that side of my roots.

Last month, I wrote about how my mother would have been proud of my writing accomplishments, and I have no doubt my father would have been also. He was always proud of me, no matter what.

So this weekend is for you, Dad.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thanks for the Memories

Sunday’s 2007 No Crime Unpublished Conference – SinC Into a Good Mystery was a huge success. The workshops, faculty, speakers, location and food were all tops. I have attended four of these conferences and all have been excellent, but the 2007 conference out shined them all. We also had more first-time attendees than ever before. We were saddened when keynote speaker Jacqueline Winspear had to bow out due to a serious shoulder injury, but scheduled morning speaker, SinC National President Rochelle Krich rose to the occasion and wowed us with her moving and inspirational keynote speech.Kudos to conference co-chairs Diana James and Jane DiLucchio for heading up such a spectacular event, and to the entire conference committee for all of their hard work and devotion of time. Special shout-out to Gayle Bartos-Pool for her to-die-for raffle baskets, which raised over $1,000 for The Crime Lab Project sponsored by Jan Burke.

This conference was also a bitter sweet moment for me. It was my swan song as president of Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles. Because of my growing commitments and success as a writer and my growing duties at my day job as a paralegal, I made the difficult decision to step down a bit early from my position as president of the chapter. After serving on the chapter’s board for over 8 years, nearly 4 as president, it was time to move on and leave my duties in the capable hands of VP Diana James. As Diana moves into the prez position, publicity director, Susan Kosar Beery moves into the VP position. Due to the cohesiveness of the current board, the transition will be nearly seamless.

I want to thank Sisters In Crime, and particularly the Los Angeles Chapter, for a fun and at times wild ride for the past 8 years. We have accomplished much and have a lot to be proud of and thankful for, including a growing and diverse membership. I know the chapter will continue to grow and develop under the guidance of Diana and Susan. I also want to thank the board and chapter for the great parting gift: a Garmin GPS! Now when I'm riding around from book store to book store, I won't endanger myself and others trying to drive while squinting at printed Internet directions.

Pictured above is the 2006-2007 Board of Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles – my friends, comrades, and boon companions. Pictured left to right, back row: Gayle Bartos-Pool, Lori Wolf, Sharon Goldstein, Sybil Johnson, Susan Kosar Beery, me, A. H. Ream. Front row: Celeste Covas, Diana James, Darrell James and Jane DiLucchio. Not pictured: Linda Bivens

Thank you, dear friends. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Throw the Bitch Back in Jail ... OR ...

Send me instead. I will gladly serve out the remaining days of Paris Hilton's jail time if I can do it banging around in her Hollywood mansion. Just make sure you order me a size large monitoring bracelet. It doesn't even have to be Gucci. Hell, I'll even do the time locked up in the celebrity wing of the Lynwood jail where she was until earlier this week. Twenty-one days of solitude. No day job. No demanding, shedding cats. No 3rd floor apartment without air and a cranky elevator and even crankier hot water. Twenty-one days of just me and time. Give me a stash of pens and legal pads and leave me alone. Better yet, let me take my AlphaSmart. It runs 700 hours on batteries. Even if I write 24 hrs a day, I won't run out of power before they turn me loose.

So please pick me... please... please... please, pretty please with light foam and cinnamon on top.

I promise I won't even complain about the food.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

No Crime Unpublished - It's Not Too Late

For those of you who want to attend a one-day jam-packed fun-filled writers conference, don't miss No Crime Unpublished, sponsored by Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles. The conference will be held this Sunday, June 10th, at the Embassy Suites in Arcadia, CA, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. There are still a few spots available for walk-in registrations.

This year's conference theme is SinC Into a Good Mystery and will continue the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Sisters in Crime. The 2007 conference will feature three informative tracks of workshops and panels on the craft of writing, the business of writing, and forensics, presented by established authors and experts. In addition, there will be sessions featuring agents and editors and opportunities to meet one-on-one with attending agents.

Scheduled to appear: Rochelle Kirch, Jan Burke, Lee Lofland, D.P. Lyle, Naomi Hirahara, Christa Faust, Gary Phillips, Denise Hamilton, Harley Jane Kozak, Patricia Smiley, Kate Thornton.

Not a mystery writer? Not to worry, No Crime Unpublished is suitable for writers of all genres.

Walk-in registration rate is $150 and includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Free parking!

See you there!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Blogging Elsewhere Today

Today I'm blogging at Inkspot. Pop on over.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My Big Laugh For The Day

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I cannot accept...

What can I say? I'm easily amused.

Friday, June 01, 2007

El Segundo Loves Books

This Sunday, June 3rd, I will be at El Segundo Loves Books, a Book and Author fair sponsored by the El Segundo Library. The event is from 12:45 pm - 4:30 pm at the El Segundo Library, 111 West Mariposa Avenue (at Main) in El Segundo. The fair offers something for every member of the family, including an all-day program for young people. I will be on a panel entitled The Wide World of Fiction with authors Lisa Fugard, Lisa Jones Johnson, Mary Anderson Parks, and Eduardo Santiago. The panel will be held 1:10 pm-2:10, with book sales and signing following.

Gather up the family and come on down to El Segundo. Should be a great day.