Sunday, October 28, 2007

Welcome to the Cat House

No, not THAT kind of cat house. I run the kind of cat house that caters to felines. Specifically, two very spoiled, loved and pampered cats named B and Raffi.

I have two night lights. Not because I'm afraid of the dark, but because if I need to get up in the middle of the night, I don't want to break my neck on the dozens of cat toys littering the path from the bed to the bathroom. Even walking around my apartment in daylight is life-threatening. There are stuff animals, wands, toy cars, rubber duckies, and the ever-present balls that jingle. There is even an arched bristle-brush scratching thing-a-bob that Raffi likes to muscle around the floor until it is directly in my walking path.

I am convinced that cats aren't truly happy unless they are putting your life in danger.

This weekend I bought my babies a new toy, and it has turned out to be the BEST toy ever. 1) they BOTH love it; 2) they actually play with it together; 3) it doesn't need batteries; and 4) it is SILENT. #4 is the best part! Do they still move it around so it's in my way? Why, yes of course. After all, no toy is fun unless Mommy might step on it and break her neck.

Anyway, this absolutely genius toy is called Cat 'n Mouse and retails for $12.99. And, I'm not kidding... it's QUIET as a mouse. All weekend, one or the other was going nuts with it. Tonight they even shared it, batting the mouse back and forth between themselves while I wrote. At one point, I stopped pounding the keyboard to watch them and I couldn't help but wonder, did my Mom feel this warm and fuzzy when my brother and I played well together?

Yes, I know. I'm a middled-aged woman who lives alone, calls her cats her babies, and refers to herself as "Mommy." Cut me some slack. I'm a writer. I'm entitled to be a little nuts.

Other weekend news:

Attended the monthly Southern California Mystery Writers of America meeting today and heard Gayle Lynds discuss her fabulous career with Melodie Johnson Howe.

Received galleys for the soon to be released Thugs and Kisses. It looks incredible!!

Caught 3 episodes of HBO's Five Days, which I love, and the second installment of The Amazing Mrs. Prichard on Masterpiece Theatre, also enjoyable.

And... completed 2 -1/2 chapters of Epitaph Envy. Only 65 more days till deadline!!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. What am I doing watching TV and playing with the cats with only 65 days left?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Off Visiting Today

I will be the guest blogger today at A Writers Plot.

Please stop on by.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Ode to Librarians

Fellow Midnight Inker, Tom Schreck, has posted his personal ode to librarians on the Inkspot Blog today. It shouldn't be missed.

If you have any librarian friends, make sure they see this!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blogging -- A Not So Private Bitch Session

I am a big supporter of freedom of speech and I am a big fan of blogs. Yesterday, a blog was brought to my attention that drove me nuts and caused my blood to absolutely boil. It was written by someone in the publishing field and though it seemed aimed at one particular author (no, not me), it pretty much tore a new one into every author, especially new authors. Now I will always defend a person's right to express his or her opinion, but come on, folks, let's learn some boundaries!

This blogger made some very valid points about expectations and unreasonable behavior of new authors, yet it was couched in such a vulgar, infantile way it totally demeaned and diluted his position, to say nothing about pissing a lot of people off and hurting others.

About now, I'm sure you're all waiting for me to provide a link to this diatribe so you can see it for yourself. But I'm not going to. I refuse to give this obviously disturbed and angry individual any more of a platform than he has already received.

Blogging is a fun way to make a stand, distribute information and connect with people, but, like alcohol, it should be used responsibly. A blog may be an individual's personal soap box, but it is NOT private. It is in the public forum and the public eye.

This individual's public and irresponsible rant spilled out from his gut into the public arena, doing damage along the way beyond his limited expectations. I know that I, an author and another blogger, will never again give him or his words any value in the future. To quote a favorite phrase of a dear and now deceased friend of mine: He showed us his ass.

Or should that be: He showed us he is an ass?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fire Season!

The Santa Ana winds have arrived in Southern California bringing with them high heat, hurricane force winds, sand paper skin, clogged sinuses, and even poorer air quality. But the biggest and most destructive side effect of the Santa Anas is FIRE. These seasonal hot dry winds parch everything in their path, turning the already dry terrain into a tinder box. One spark, careless cigarette butt, downed power line can mean the difference between home and homelessness, life and death.

Right now fires are ravaging across Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, stripping beautiful areas down to scorched earth and leaving structures in rubble and people without homes. It happens every year and every year we watch in horror and helplessness.

I live in the City of Los Angeles on a busy street surrounded by concrete and minimal vegetation. The fires have expensive tastes. They prefer the lovely and expensive canyon areas and upscale homes. But then, don't we all.

Whenever and wherever I travel, people ask me about California earthquakes. I don't mean to minimize the destruction of a very large earthquake, but they don't happen very often. The fires, however, are annual. People say California doesn't have seasons. Not true, fall is fire season.

I've e-mailed many friends this morning who live in this season's fire areas, hoping I get a response and knowledge that they are safe.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Our First Newsletter

Yesterday, I posted that Tim Maleeny and I were sending out 5,000 newsletters and some folks wrote and asked if they were getting one. If we already know who you are, probably not. We are sending these out to 5,000 potential new readers, aka strangers who we hope will not be strangers for long.

So, I'm posting the newsletter here. If you click on the page you want to read, it should open to full size. Enjoy!

By the way, the newsletter was designed by my manager, Diana James, who does PR for several authors.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coming to Your Mailbox Soon!

One of the most prominent things on the top of the worry list for authors is promotion. It's right up there with deadlines and plot structure and we discuss it amongst ourselves constantly. A lot of readers think an author simply writes the book and walks away after the publisher releases it. Not so! Promotional help varies from publisher to publisher and even from author to author within the same publishing house. Most publishers provide some, many provide very little. Most of the marketing and promoting of a book falls squarely on the shoulders of the authors themselves, including the investment of money and time.

If there is one thing I've learned from being a published author, it's to balance blatant self-promotion with some restraint and modesty. Bottom line, I have to promote my books, otherwise people won't know they're there, but I can't shove them down people's throats.

So, how does one become the next Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton? By hitting the road and meeting readers, attending conferences, and by talking non-stop about your books and why people should read them. It's speed dating for bookophiles.

Pal Tim Maleeny and I are hitting America's mailboxes this week with a 5,000 piece direct mailing. Both Tim and I are very good at getting out and promoting our books and both of us are published by Midnight Ink, so we joined forces to reach 5,000 new readers in the next few weeks. Sounds like a lot, right? But in the big picture, it's really just a drop in the bucket.

Still, the best way to promote a book is by word of mouth, by one reader telling another. Nothing can beat that!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

I'm still not feeling well from last weekend's bout with the flu. I did make it to my day job all this week and I did get in some good writing time on Epitaph Envy, but I'm far from 100% healthy. I slept 9 hours last night and woke up today with the intent of writing and then heading out to book signings for several friends. I did get in some writing this morning, but as for the other, let's just say I showered then decided the health of my friends was better served with me staying home. About 40 minutes ago I woke up from a 2+ hour nap -- this on top of a 9 hour night's sleep. When I sleep like that, I know I'm under the weather. However, it was a very useful snooze.

I dream a lot when I sleep and I have a knack for remembering most of my dreams. Most of the time they are just nutty scraps of events and people with roots in my daily life. Sometimes they are like watching full-length movies with plots, players, and special effects. Today during my nap, my brain was very active and I found myself in a theme-park that was only open on weekends because during the week it served as a law firm. The different departments of the law firm were housed in cute little separate buildings throughout the large park and we scooted from one to the other in golf cart type vehicles. You could only access the law firm through a special door in a parking garage that looked like an emergency exit.

What can I say? I'm still taking cold/flu medicine.

But what was really useful about today's nap was the end of my dream time, when my mind was resurfacing back to reality. It was during this just under the surface sleep that I saw scenes from Epitaph Envy play out, including the very last chapter. Yes, the entire whole last chapter, complete with characters, plots and dialogue. I already know the climax of the book and wrote that a long time ago, but this is the final chapter, what I call the clean-up or loose-ends chapter that ends the book on a polished note.

I can't tell you how the book ends. For that, you'll have to read it (Epitaph Envy will be out February 2009). But I can tell you the final few sentences: Steele winked at me. "Of course, a woman's involved."

Book events I missed today:

Kathryn Lilley's signing of Dying to be Thin. I also missed Kathryn's book launch party last Friday because of illness. Sorry, Kathryn!

Joanne Fluke and Laura Levine's launch party for Candy Cane Murder.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Think I'll Go Eat Worms

I found out yesterday afternoon that even though there was a lot of excitement at Fox about my books, they turned down the idea of making them into a TV series. Sigh. Josef Anderson, the veteran TV writer who holds the option on Too Big To Miss, and who has been working his heiny off trying to find a home for Odelia on the small screen, broke the news to me. But being the professional he is, he still has lots of options up his sleeve. Thank you, Josef!

Still ...

This is not the first time we've been so close to a TV nod on Odelia, and it won't be the last. The book biz is fraught with ups and downs and Hollywood biz is no different, if not more so. Both publishing and Hollywood is a life of almosts and maybes, of getting to the edge of an exciting breakthrough only to have cold water thrown in your face. "We love it, but it's not exactly what we're looking for" seems to be the standard catch-phrase for both. Maybe all the executives have it embroidered on throw pillows.

The news definitely brought me down, then I remembered ... I don't write for Hollywood. That's Josef's job. I write novels and published ones at that. So no matter what happens in LA LA Land, I still have a publisher expecting and buying my work and readers who are waiting to read the next book and the book after that.

Still ...

Any production companies, actresses, directors, studios out there looking for a not-so-young kick ass heroine with a quirky view of the world? Any of you looking for the next long-running, up-dated "Murder She Wrote?" Any one interested in thinking outside of the Hollywood young, hip, beautiful and boring box?

Let me know. I have Josef's number on speed dial.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

86 Days and Counting - Yikes!

When I woke up this morning, a stark reality hit me between my runny eyes and stuffy nose … there are only 86 days (aka 12 weeks and 2 days) until Epitaph Envy, the fourth Odelia Grey novel, is due to my publisher. I started the week feeling a bit under the weather and ended up with some gawd awful flu that kept me out of work a few days and away from writing the entire week. I’m still a yucky mess but today the plan is to work as much as I can between naps and hacking up a lung. Don’t these germs know I have a deadline to keep?

So, where am I in the manuscript? A lot further along than I was last year at this time with Thugs and Kisses, so that’s progress. Still, I’m starting to feel the crunch, and that translates into kicking other things aside, like some social events and leisure time. I only have 2-3 book events in the next few months and will not be adding any more.

My self-imposed goal is to have the entire manuscript done by Thanksgiving and turn the final and proof-read manuscript into my editor by the time I leave on my birthday cruise on December 21st, a whole 10 days early. It’ll be tight, but goals like this seem to fire me up.

Another reality is the looming deadline of August 1, 2008 for The Ghost of Granny Apples. I’ve never had to do a book every six months before, so this will be a great test of my organization and sheer will. I already have a couple of chapters completed for Granny Apples and will be adding to it while I complete Epitaph Envy.

So, please excuse me while I take another dose of drugs and hit the keyboard.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Odelia Grey Lends a Hand to Toys for Tots!

Ho Ho Homicide, an Odelia Grey short story, can be found in the recently released Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters, an anthology of holiday-themed short stories.

But wait, there's more! All profits from Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters will be donated by Wolfmont Publishing to Toys for Tots! That's right! Fifteen authors donated their time and talent so that the sales of this anthology could benefit children during the 2007 holiday season.

This anthology is the perfect gift for the crime fiction lovers on your list, and with each copy you purchase know that you are helping to make children smile, and that's a feeling even the Grinch couldn't pass up.

Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters can be purchased from or directly from Wolfmont Publishing. And remember, every book sold translates into a toy for a tot.

Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters is a deliciously wicked book unlike any other you’re likely to see on the Christmas aisles this year ... - p.m.terrell, critically acclaimed author of RICOCHET, THE CHINA CONSPIRACY and KICKBACK

The anthology is a terrific collection of tales of heists, scams, and killings that cover a wide range of emotions from poignant to terrifying, hilarious to surprising from some of the most talented crime fiction writers of today. You’ve never seen the holiday season skewered so viciously and with so much fun, and it’s all for a good cause since the anthology benefits Toys for Tots.--
Beth Groundwater, author of A REAL BASKET CASE

A wide range of holiday treats to enjoy year-round. From Chris Grabenstein's decoration-obsessed Dad, reminiscent of the best of Jean Shepherd, to Margaret Fenton's anti-Christmas thief, this is a delightful collection for all types of mystery fans. --
Mary Saums, author of THISTLE & TWIGG

A fantastic lineup of stories—from short to long, from lighthearted to gritty, these holiday tales will keep you awake until long after Santa shows up. If your Christmas list includes a mystery reader, this book makes a great gift! --
John Floyd, award-winning author of Rainbow’s End

Monday, October 01, 2007

Simon Sez... I won!

Just found out that this past weekend at Bouchercon '07, friend and fellow SinC/LA'er Simon Wood took home an Anthony for best short story for "My Father's Secret."

Way to go, Simon!