Thursday, April 26, 2007

COME ON DOWN!

It's the last weekend in April. To an author, especially one living on the West Coast, that can only mean one thing -- The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books!

The LA Times Festival, which is reported to be the largest book festival in the nation, is an annual event that takes place on the UCLA campus the last full weekend of April. This year the dates are Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29. Over the two days, 130,000 plus people will visit booths representing anything and everything to do with the written word, with something of interest for every member of the family. There are discussion panels, good food and special events for the kiddies. Warning: Bring your walking shoes.

Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles is always in attendance at the Festival and this year is no exception. We will be hosting a very large booth in front of Royce Hall (booth #355) and will feature at least 8 authors signing at all times. Drop on by and say hello!

Besides working most of the weekend at the SinC/LA booth, I will also be signing my books from 12-1 pm at the Mystery Book Store Booth (booth #411)

So round up the whole family, dress comfortably, and come on down for a day or two of great entertainment and fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Computers - The Happy Curse


My home computer is sick. It's currently under the care of a competent IT guy and recovery is expected. I have been computerless since last Thursday evening and write this blog from the computer at my day job.

Except for the fact that I'm just 50-60 pages from having the final edits done on Mother Mayhem, it hasn't been that bad being without one. I do have any trusty Alpha Smart to write with and have been producing some new material on it, but that can't help me when it comes to the final edits on Mother Mayhem. But since I'm a bit ahead of my deadline for MM, I'm not too worried.

I always knew I was pretty Internet dependent, but this fact has really been driven home the past few days when I found myself wanting to check bank balances, TV shows, book research or just shoot off an e-mail to someone. I go to my desk and all that's there are a screen, a keyboard and a bunch of wires where my CPU used to be. It's like visiting the backyard dog house after you've put down Rover.

With the absence of my computer, I've been spending more time on the phone, in front of the TV, reading, and doing miscellaneous chores. I try to imagine my life without the home computer and, frankly, just can't.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that computers have changed our lives, both for the good and not so good. The same Internet that helps me and my colleagues research and write entertaining novels, aids the pedophile in finding his next victim. The same search engines that help people find answers to ailments and plan their next vacation, teaches kids to build bombs.

Well, I don't build bombs or prey on children, but I sure do miss my instant connection to the World Wide Web. Sniff...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crying Again



Please do not miss Keith Raffel's blog posting entitled Courage, Some Have It, Some Don't.

Liviu Librescu (August 18, 1930 - April 16, 2007)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another School - Another Horror


Columbine

The Amish School

Virginia Tech


In between, others like them.


How can we stop the madness?

Books, Books and More Books


The highlight of this weekend was picking up several signed books.

Attended the Saturday night launch party for Los Angeles Noir, the new noir anthology published by Akashic Books and edited by pal Denise Hamilton. The bash was held at the ever popular Mystery Book Store in Westwood and was attended by many of the authors featured in the anthology, including my good friend Naomi Hirahara, Christopher Rice, Jim Pascoe and others. Several of the authors read from their individual short stories and there was a lively discussion and great conversation. Picked up Chris Rice's Snow Garden, as well as Los Angeles Noir. Chris consented to an interview on my blog, so look forward to that in the future.

Also paid homage to two of my muses this weekend. Bought a signed first edition of Nose Jobs for Peace by Selma Diamond. Now if she's not whispering in my ear, I can gaze upon her photo on the book jacket for inspiration. And to keep Hazel, my houskeeping muse quiet, I hired a twice a month housekeeper. Carmen starts today and I can't wait to come home to a clean and orderly apartment.

Spent a good deal of time working on the final edits of Mother Mayhem and should have those back to my publisher by next Monday -- a whole 5 weeks early! Should be receiving a draft of the book cover any time now and can't wait!
And YES I did get my taxes done... yea! I drove them to the Post Office yesterday.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Midnight Ink's One and Only Chuck Zito

Below is my interview with Chuck Zito, a fellow Midnight Ink author. If you like fun mystery romps, his books should be on your reading list.

One of the first things I noticed when I started researching for this piece was that there is another Chuck Zito on the web who is a very colorful celebrity. Do you often get confused with this Chuck Zito? Have you met him?

I’ve actually spoken with him by phone. He called me the day after a story about the confusion between the two of us ran in the New York Post. I used to get phone calls for him all the time: requests for interviews, people looking to hire body guards, and once someone from Texas wanting to sell me a Harley. A reporter from the Post who called to talk to the other Chuck Zito found this so amusing, he did an article about it. The next day my phone rings, and the Chuck Zitos are talking to each other. For the record, he’s a nice guy.

I enjoyed A Habit for Death a great deal and am looking forward to Ice in His Veins (due out in June). Can you give us a preview of what to expect in Ice in His Veins?

Nicky is back in at home base in NYC, snug in his studio apartment. In Ice he decides to help out his former theater conservatory classmates with their all-male production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. The show is very high concept – actually too high concept as it turns out. Between the drag queens, the unrequited love and the murder, it’s all Nicky can do to keep the production together.

Is there a third Nicky D’Amico mystery in the works and can you tell us about it and when to expect it? And a fourth? A fifth?

I’m at work on #3 right now. I certainly hope to see it on the bookshelves in 2008. In this one, Nicky, desperate for work, takes on a Christmas themed murder mystery weekend. Even for Nicky, this marks a new artistic low. And, yes, I have ideas for several more Nicky books.

You definitely have a talent for creating fun and interesting characters. In fact, in reading A Habit for Death, I felt that Nicky was the voice of reason among his fun and nutty friends. Does Nicky have any interesting quirks? Roger and Paolo were fabulous. Will they be ongoing characters in the series? Will Nicky find love?

Well thanks for the compliment. Roger and Paolo will definitely be along for the ride in each book. I love those guys – and it seems everyone else does. Who am I to object? As for Nicky, he does stand out as the voice of reason. I wanted to create a mirror image of the contemporary amateur detective, who is so often a brilliant quirky person set lose in the everyday world. Nicky is an everyday guy set lose amongst the crazies of the theater world. Of course, there is his pet fish, Sushi (a name Paolo calls “too passive aggressive..”). [BTW, this author loves the idea of a pet fish named Sushi.]

Love? I’m not certain Paolo would approve of that word. Then again, he has a lover.

Although I’ve read several writers who write hard-boiled mysteries with gay protagonists, this is the first gay man I’ve seen featured as a humorous amateur sleuth. It’s almost a gay cozy, if you will. Are there other writers writing similar books? Or are you a trail blazer?

I’d love to claim to be a trail blazer, but I’m not on this score. Amateur gay detective stories often have elements of humor. Some go all the way into outright camp. The first ones I ever encountered were the Daniel Valentine/Clarisse Lovelace mysteries by the pseudonymous Nathan Aldyne in the 1980s.

In my books, I hope to shine a light on the prejudice faced by large people, particularly women. In A Habit of Death there were many incidents where prejudice against gays was highlighted and commented on. Is it your hope and/or intention that your books will teach tolerance?

If that happens, that’s fine. Mostly, I’m looking to entertain. The thing is, you can’t write about a gay character without writing about how much so many people just hate or fear gay men and lesbians. That’s just the reality of the world. On the other hand, Nicky works in the theater, a place that has less bigotry than most, so he will run into this stuff more often than not with those he meets outside of the theater. Oddly enough, there was actually one reviewer on a gay web site who complained the book wasn’t “gay enough.” mostly because nobody around Nicky made much of him being gay. But that’s the theater at the level Nicky works at. Nobody really does much care.

Your bio talks about a long career in theatre, which you use as a backdrop for Nicky. Are you still active in theatre? Do you have a day job and, if so, what is it?

Currently I’m working on a project for the Peace On War Forum as a playwright. Other than that there isn't a lot of theater in my life except through Nicky. To support my writing habit I work as a word processor in a law firm. I don't have to tell you, paralegal that you are, what fun law firms can be.

Do you have plans for writing anything beyond the Nicky D’Amico series, such as a stand alone mystery or general fiction novel?

I already write plays. Just recently I've developed an interest in literary fiction – reading more of it and writing it. We'll see where that leads.

What inspires you to write? How did you get started?

I actually wrote my first short story when I was eight years old. Mercifully, no copy exits. It was a mystery. The most I can say is that it was in response to having read The Hound of the Baskervilles and being completely enraptured. I’ve always been a voracious reader. I think the two – reading and writing – go together. I know I remember the experience of reading THTB very vividly to this day.

What are your general writing habits and techniques?

When I leave work at 4:30 in the afternoon, after which I go to my favorite Starbucks, settle in and work for several hours. (And just so you know, I cannot get up and write at 5 a.m. People who do that frighten me.) It took me forever to learn to write on the screen in stead of paper first, but that’s the rule now. I still print everything out, read it, edit it by hand and then type those changes in before going on. I don't know if I will ever be able to edit on screen.

Tell us what is your absolute favorite thing about writing? Least favorite thing? Most difficult thing? Easiest thing?

The best thing is to be in that place where the words are just pouring out, where in my mind I am so completely imagining the action that it is as if I have been transported to some other location. It is the most exciting form of travel I know. The worst is when the opposite is happening, when each word seems to take an hour.

Stephen King says in his book On Writing: “If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.” Of all the books you have ever read, which is the one you wish YOU had written and why?

Every once in a while, when doing theater, someone – reviewer, reporter – will ask,” So, what was your favorite show this season?” or “Which actor did you like working with best?” My answer to those questions and yours is to develop severe memory loss. Where am I? Sue Ann? Are you there?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Be Still My Heart - A New Favorite Blog

Yesterday I blogged over at Inkspot and one of the comments to my posting was from author David Terrenoire. Since I wasn't familiar with David, I checked out his website (very funny and original) and his blog, appropriately entitled A Dark Planet. Take the time to visit David on his dark planet. It's chock full of wit and funny political insight.

All I can say is David may be competing with Bill Maher and Jon Stewart for this middle-aged woman's heart. He looks a bit like Stephen King, doesn't he?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's My Turn at Inkspot

Today you can find my ramblings over at Inkspot, the blog by Midnight Ink authors.

Y'all come down now, ya hear?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Procrastination is My Middle Name ...


And you always thought it was Ann.

A lot of writers talk about procrastination; how they are easily led astray from their writing by the Internet, TV, chores, etc. Well, this last week or two, I've been using my writing to put off doing my taxes. Yep, my taxes are due in less than a week and they are NOT done. They have been started, but they are NOT done. However, I'm more than half-way done with the final edits on my 3rd Odelia Grey novel, Mother Mayhem, which aren't even due to my publisher until June 1st. Nice to know taxes are good for something, but who knew they'd be good motivation for writing?

But never fear, just as I never miss a writing deadline, I have never missed a tax filing deadline. If I did miss the filing date, do you think the IRS would buy the excuse: Sorry, but I was busy punching up my dialogue and expanding the motive for murder? Sounds a little like my dog ate my homework, doesn't it?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Right Book For the Right Time

Whenever I appear at a library or bookstore event, one of the questions that always pops up is "what do you read?" And it always surprises people when I say I read very little fiction similar to what I write. That's not to say I don't read humorous fiction involving amateur female sleuths, but I definitely confine my reading of that type of book to specific times during the year.

For example, right now I am doing final edits on my 3rd Odelia Grey book, Mother Mayhem. The story is set, it's just a matter of tightening it up and incorporating the comments and suggestions of my publisher. And although I've written the first 3 chapters of the 4th Odelia novel, Epitaph Envy, I won't begin in earnest on it until mid-June or early July. So right now I'm embarking upon a gorging of fun mystery novels written by women I know in an effort to stay abreast of my colleagues. Monday I started Murder Passes the Buck by Deb Baker (a hoot!). Lined up after that will be Dressed to Keel by Candy Calvert and Brigadoom by Susan Goodwill. Around June, I will halt the reading of mysteries like these and my reading tastes will shift to more hard-boiled mysteries, general fiction and some non-fiction. Just when everyone else is digging into fun beach reads, I'll be starting my more serious reads.

The reason for this is simply a matter of voice and being wary of someone else's voice drifting into my own work. It's almost like cleansing the palate. When I finally sit down to write the rest of Epitaph Envy, I don't want these other writers whispering to me from inside my brain. If I wanted to be a purist, I wouldn't read them at all. But, let's face it, who'd want to leave all that fun behind?

Book Report: I just finished three books. Death Roll by Marilyn Victor and Michael Mallory and Dying To Be Thin by Kathryn Lilley. I had the honor of receiving advance copies and being asked to provide a publicity blurb for each. Both were great fun and worth checking out. Death Roll is scheduled for release in May with Dying To Be Thin coming out in the fall.

The third book was Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny. It's an action-packed PI thriller set in San Francisco's Chinatown and has one of the best covers I've ever seen. It's available now and you can read my review on Amazon.

The books I'm currently reading, including past books, are listed on my website.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Weekend Wrap-Up

Here it is Tuesday morning and I'm just now tying up my weekend. And it was a great weekend. I didn't get any writing done, but instead dedicated Saturday to doing long ignored special chores around the apartment. You know what I mean, things not in the regular routine but that need to be done eventually, like cleaning up the patio so I can use it now that the weather has turned so nice. I spent quite a bit of time at OSH getting some new plants and do-dads for the apartment and time implementing those do-dads around the place. I'm not particularly fond of where I live, but will stick it out since the rent is fairly reasonable, especially for LA. Visions of having my own condo sometime next year are dancing in my head, so why move and spend the extra money.

Sunday was a fun but tiring day since it was the monthly meeting of Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles, including the monthly board meeting. It started with brunch at Wild Thyme in South Pasadena with author and friend Keith Raffel and his offspring #1 (a charming Harvard-bound young woman), and pals Diana and Darrell James. Keith was the guest reader at the SinC/LA meeting that day and delighted and chilled us with readings from both Dot Dead and his newly completed novel Two Graves. The guest speaker at the meeting was Mark Hardiman, an attorney from the law firm where I work who specializes in fraud. Mark, a former Federal prosecutor, entertained nearly 50 SinC/LAers with his hilarious inside stories involving bank robbers, mail bombers and the like. Who knew I worked with such a funny guy?!

The evening rounded out with a 2-hr presentation of Amazing Race (I'm rooting for Oswald and Danny and the Beauty Queens), laundry, and the satisfaction of looking around my environment and being pleased.

Writing? Oh yes, Monday night was dedicated to writing, as will be most from here on out. After reviewing the comments from the Midnight Ink editorial committee, my agent and a focus group (yes, I use one for upcoming books), I'm working hard on the final edits for Mother Mayhem, the next Odelia Grey novel coming out in February.


Photos:
Top - me with Keith Raffel and Jennifer Colt at SinC/LA meeting.
Bottom: Attorney Mark Hardiman

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Christa Faust - She Ain't No Gidget

I've said it before and I'll say it again... Christa Faust is an original. A delightful, funny, outrageous, hugely talented original. Here is my long promised interview with Christa.

1. Let’s start off with a question I’ve been dying to ask ever since I first met you. Is Faust your real last name or a pen name? Given your love of everything dark and noirish “Faust” seemed too good to be your true name. It would be like me calling myself “Sue Ann Carbohydrate.”

Wanna see my driver’s license? I only use a pseudonym for some of my fetish videos, but honestly, it’s not like I’m fooling anyone with all these tattoos. I’m pretty recognizable.

I must say I do like the idea of naming myself after something I really like. How about Christa Chubby Girls Trying On Tight Vintage Girdles? That has a nice sort of “Dances with Wolves” ring to it
.

2. I LOVED LOVED LOVED Hoodtown. How did you come up with the idea of basing a novel on the Mexican wrestling world of Lucha Libre? What came first, your interest in Lucha Libre or the idea for the novel?

I’ve been obsessed with Lucha Libre in general and wrestling masks in particular since the first time I saw Las Momias de Guanajuato with Mil Mascaras in his pimpin’ black leather suit and matching black and silver hood. I got sucked into the actual sport during that amazing early to mid nineties Lucha boom when Peña’s AAA was really on fire and high flying cruiserweight Rey Misterio Jr first came on the scene. The idea for Hoodtown came out of my obsession with both the sport and the hoods. It originally started off as a comic, since it had such a strong visual component. I had a complete script written up and everything, but then I decided I wanted to do something a little more complex. I was reading a ton of vintage hardboiled novels and figured that kind of short, punchy pulp format would be perfect for Hoodtown.

3. Hoodtown is an allegorical novel. What was your reason behind creating a dark fantasy world for your story instead of setting it in the real world of Luche Libre?

I don’t really know. It just kind of came out the way it came out. There didn’t seem to be much choice at the time. I do think a lot about plot, and the anatomy of the actual mystery, but the rest just kind of happens. I’d probably make a lousy teacher because I really don’t have any idea what I’m doing most of the time. I’m still amazed that people are willing to give me money for this.

4. X was a fascinating protagonist. Was she based or drawn from anyone you know personally?

I suppose there is a lot of me in X, but she is also very much her own woman. At the risk of sounding ready for the rubber room, my characters all seem very real to me. Especially the ones that I write about in the first person. They are who they are and I just follow them around with a pen.

I will say this. I’m always glad to see strong female characters in books or movies, but I also hate this new trend for creating unrealistic sex-fantasy superheroines who weigh 98 pounds but can still fight ten 200 pound guys at once. In high heels, no less. I have trained in wrestling, boxing and jujitsu and I consider myself to be pretty strong for my size, but I weigh 114 at my heaviest. I know for a hard fact that I would not stand a chance in a fair fight against a single 200 pound man. Period. When I created X, I wanted to create a realistic and genuinely tough woman, a strong woman who you believe might actually stand a chance in a fair fight against a man. She’s no Milla Jovovich, I’ll tell you that!

5. Your next novel, Money Shot, is being published by Hard Case Crime for an early 2008 release. How does it feel to be the first woman to be published by Hard Case? Have they contracted with you for any other books?

It feels amazing. To be honest, I was pretty shocked when I was contacted by Hard Case editor Charles Ardai and asked for a submission. I‘ve been in awe of Hard Case since the first time I laid eyes on the cover for Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid. I’m hardly what you would call modest, but I still can’t quite wrap my brain around the idea of being on the shelf right alongside big guns like Richard S. Prather, Lawrence Bloch, Day Keene and Donald Westlake/Richard Stark. It’s a hell of an honor to be published by Hard Case at all, and being the first dame to crack that market makes it even better.

As for a contract, no. I guess maybe I have commitment issues. But if Ardai wanted something else from me, I’d be hard pressed to turn him down.

6. Please tell us a bit about Money Shot and your inspiration behind it.

Money Shot is a straight up two-fisted pulp revenge story about a former porn star, a briefcase full of cash, and the international sex slave racket. It’s modern, not period, set primarily in the smut-production capitol of the world, the San Fernando Valley.

I’ve worked in the adult film industry for years doing fetish oriented videos both in front of and behind the camera. I also have many friends who do the more standard “vanilla” gigs as well as the pervy stuff. It’s a really fascinating industry, full of sleaze and drama and wonderfully noirish potential, but so many of the novels and films that deal with the world of XXX paint the industry in a totally negative light. Like it’s this terrible insatiable machine that sucks in innocent virgins from the Heartland of America and spits out used up meth hags with prolapsed rectums, surgical addictions and Hep C. There is that dark side to it, of course, but there is also so much more. I wanted to write something from an insider’s perspective. Someone who sees both the bad and the good, someone who knows how to work the angles and make the machine work for her. A strong, unapologetic woman who goes after what she wants but is also flawed and very human.

7. Tell us about Choke Hold. When do you expect to have that novel completed? Has it been purchased yet by a publisher?

I really wanted to be done with Choke Hold by now, but paying gigs have been getting in the way of the deadline. Those darn bills, always interfering with my genius.

To be honest, Choke Hold isn’t really strong enough to live outside the womb just yet, so I’d rather not talk too much about it. I will say that it takes place in the world of MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, a type of combat sport made popular here in America by the UFC. Of course, who knows what the book will be by the time I’m through with it. Or should I say, by the time it’s through with me.


No, it doesn’t have a publisher yet. I guess we’ll see…

8. You have done quite a few film novelizations and film tie-ins, including one for Snakes on a Plane. How did you get started in that field? Do you have any recommendations for writers wanting to break into it?

So many of the breaks I’ve gotten in my writing career have been happy accidents that can’t really be replicated by following advice. I started doing tie-ins because Black Flame editor Jay Slater asked me to. I think he had approached some other, far better writers and they turned him down, but sent him my way. “Hey, try that Christa Faust, she’ll do anything for a dollar!”

9. I was fascinated to read on your blog that you recently had a walk-on part in a gay porn version of Superman. How did you get that role and have you done others like it?

As I said, I know a lot of people in the adult and fetish video industry. I’ve done a ton of fetish related videos but that was my first and so far only foray into Boytown. (Needless to say, there isn’t a large demand for females in gay porn) One of the people I’ve worked with in the past knew I had a large vintage clothing collection and a sense of adventure and thought I’d make a great Lois Lane. Since it’s a gay title, I didn’t have any kind of sex or even get naked. My job was just to be shocked to find “Superguy” engaged in gay sex and then deliver a few campy lines.

10. Please tell us which writers, both current and deceased, inspire you or you admire and why.

I have a real fondness for Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott series. Those books are comfort reading to me. I’ve been on a Day Keene kick lately, currently rereading My Flesh is Sweet. I also love Charles Willeford. Stark’s Parker novels. Modern, I’d say Ray Banks. Allan Guthrie. Michael Marshall (Smith.) Gee that’s a lot of UK influence, huh? How about Megan Abbott. She’s so good it hurts.

11. Give us an idea of a typical Christa Faust day.

Get up. Coffee. Write. Walk dogs. Work out. Write. Read. Get laid if I’m lucky. Sleep. Repeat.

12. What book do you wish you had written?

This is a funny question, because I never really think that way. When a book knocks my socks off, I never think “I wish I had written that.” I might think, “I wish I was that good.” After all, if I had written that book, it probably wouldn’t be as good.

13. Finally, tell us what’s in store for Christa Faust in the next few years in the way of projects.

Well, the big adventure on the horizon will be my first real book tour, for Money Shot. My first Bouchercon. I’m kind of a mid term transfer student here in mystery/crime fic so it’s like I’m starting over in a lot of ways. This year and next are going to be extremely interesting.

I wish I had some clever 20 year plan like a Japanese corporation, but I must admit I have absolutely no idea what’s in store for Christa Faust in the next few years. All I know is I’ll still be writing. If all goes well, then you guys’ll still be reading me.



Well this reader plans on reading you for a long time.

Christa Faust will be one of the writers presenting a workshop at the Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles No Crime Unpublished Conference on June 10, 2007.