Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Bucket List

This past week I finally took the time to watch The Bucket List, a movie with two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. In spite of its Make-A-Wish plot foundation - two 60+ cancer patients with less than a year to live fulfilling lifetime dreams - I thought this movie would be a lot funnier. Don't get me wrong, it was funny in many ways, but the humor wasn't the broad humor I expected based on the trailers. It was gallows humor. A type of humor I love and exercise myself on many an occasion.

Jack Nicholson, as usual, delivers one of my favorite lines just after he pukes his guts out from chemo: "Somewhere, some lucky guy's having a heart attack."

Gotta love that line. It's something I might say or think myself.

Bottom line, I loved this movie. Loved it enough to watch it twice within 4 days. Some of the improbable situations aside, I found the movie poignant and thought-provoking.

I've now started my own Bucket List. No, I've not been delivered tragic news. As far as I know, I'm healthy as a horse (one that's overfed and under exercised, at least). I'm all about setting goals for short periods, but this movie got me to thinking about all the things I'd like to do and see before I kick the bucket. So why not make that list and start crossing things off now, before doctors start the egg timer.

The first item on my list has already been accomplished: become a published author. So, you see, I'm already on my way.

I expect the list to be a work in progress, but on it so far are things like:

Own my own home
Travel the British Isles
See Santa Fe, New Mexico
Take an Alaskan Cruise
Publish a non-mystery novel
River raft through the Grand Canyon

Do you have a bucket list?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Call Me Cratchit

For the past 3 days I did something I seldom do this time of year. I took a time out. For the past 3 days I've hardly worked on my Corpse on the Cob manuscript at all, outside of discussing the plot line and scribbling new ideas down on note papers. But when it came to sitting down and putting fingers to the keyboard for any length of time, I was MIA.

Friday, my law firm sent me to an all day mandatory notary class, which was followed by the CA notary exam. The class was actually interesting. I'd been a notary for several years in the past and there have been a lot of new and expanded laws since then. Not sure how I did on the test. I'll know in about 10-15 days. When I finally got home, I was beat, so took the night "off" from writing.

Saturday I ran around town doing last minute holiday errands and getting my hair cut and stuff like that. I even decorated my apartment, which I haven't done for the past few years. Saturday night was the law firm's annual holiday party. This year it was held at the new Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. My friend Miles Holiman went with me again this year and we had a great time. Again, another day without writing. Although, in hindsight, I think I did pound out a few paragraphs.

Today was my birthday. I opened a couple of presents that came in the mail; made and received calls to and from family and friends. Then I met my friend and manager, Diana James, for brunch. Okay, during and after brunch we discussed Corpse on the Cob and other writing topics, but did I put fingers to the keyboard like I should have when I got home? Hell, no! I did some wrapping, reading, opened mail, played with the cats, answered e-mails, and generally goofed off. Except for changing the litter box, I didn't even do a household chore.

So now here I am, 10:30 p.m. on Sunday night, wondering where the weekend went. Wondering how in the hell I'm going to make my deadline with such behavior. And you know what? I'm not sure I care, at least not at this very minute. I know the book will get done on time (btw, I was granted an extension until January 12th.). It's coming along nicely. And, frankly, I needed a breather. It seems that every year the holidays pass me by. Well, not this year. Tomorrow I'm having dinner with my buddy Ashley Baker (aka A.H. Ream) and next weekend my friend Susan is coming up from Newport Beach.

This year, I'm taking time to smell the gingerbread and sing Oh Holy Night. This year, I'm not turning down invitations to brunch, dinner, and parties. Unlike the past few years, this year, I will not sacrifice my holidays and time with friends in pursuit of deadlines. Life is just too damn short.

This year, I will not be Ebenezer Scrooge. I will be Bob Cratchit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Announcement - Contest Deadline Extended

The deadline for the current Odelia Grey contest was supposed to be this coming Sunday, December 21st, which is also my birthday (btw). But I've decided to extend it until December 31st. So you have 10 extra days to get those entries in!

The original plan was to take my web site down the last 10 days of December and re-launch it with a totally new look in the new year. The winners were to be announced on the new site. Well, the new site is being postponed a bit, so now we can extend the contest until the 31st and announce the winners on January 3rd both on the website and here on the blog.

We have lots of entries already, but there is still room and still time for you to get your entry in to win a signed copy of Booby Trap, along with other goodies. Just go to the contest page on my website and follow the instructions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Sea Monkey Birthday!

Today marks the one month birthday of my Sea Monkeys. Actually, it's difficult to say when they hatched and they didn't all hatch at the same time, but about a month ago I started seeing life in my Sea Monkey tank. The little buggers are doing great and some are getting quite large. They seem to love living on the sill of my office window. I have about 12-16 of the little suckers and will probably have more in the future. A couple of the females have very large egg sacks and I've noticed two couples linked together in copulating bliss. Almost every day they get visitors from people in the office. What a life!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chasing Christmas

As with the past four years, Christmas is here and I'm running at full steam. Not in the pursuit of gift giving and holiday cheer, but to finish the latest Odelia Grey manuscript. The book is going well, albeit slowly due to life getting in the way, but overall I'm pleased with it so far.

Last night I went to my first holiday party. It was thrown by the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. It was a lovely venue and great party and I was able to catch up with a lot of friends and folks I haven't seen in a long time. Next week is the big party thrown by my law firm. It will be at the new Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Wooooooooo Hooooooooo!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Catalina Report

Now that the baby news is old news and the PW review is posted, I can stop and reflect on my trip to Catalina over Thanksgiving. This past weekend, while nursing a cold, doing housework, and writing like a mad woman, Catalina seemed a million miles and a million years away, but the wonderful memories linger.

Susan and I stayed at the Pavilion Lodge. If you go to Catalina, I cannot say enough about staying at the Pavilion. It's clean, charming, nicely kept, and the location can't be beat. It's just steps from the sand and surf and fairly reasonable. Get one of the packages that includes transportation and save some money. Not being good on water, even though I love it, I was worried about the trip over and back on the Catalina Flyer. To be on the safe side, I took Dramamine and was fine. It was spitting rain when we left Newport Beach for Avalon, but the weather the rest of the weekend was great. It was cool on Catalina in the early mornings and evenings and we needed jackets, but during the day it was lovely.

Mornings and mid afternoons, I grabbed my Alpha Smart and settled in at a table in the courtyard of the hotel where I got a lot of writing done. After breakfast, Susan and I would explore the town, the shops, and just sit and enjoy the ocean. It was so relaxing, I felt like Gumby by the second day. Evenings we would have dinner, then settle back in our room to watch movies. There's not a lot of night life on the island, especially in off-season, but then Susan and I aren't big partiers.

On Saturday morning during the continental breakfast at the hotel, we met Alex and Kerry, two girlfriends like us on a weekend getaway. Kerry is an American living in England and Alex is a mother of three living in Orange County, CA, not far from where Susan lives. The four of us hit it off and got together that evening in our room for some girl talk and laughs. They tried to talk us into going out for karaoke, but it was a hard sell and we weren't buying. The next morning was the last for all of us and we met up for breakfast again.

The only tour we took was the Scenic Avalon Tour which consisted of a bus ride throughout the area in, around and above the town of Avalon. Our guide was a 40 year resident of the island and it was very educational and well-worth doing. (I had taken the 3-hr inland island tour before and that really gives you a grand view of the entire island.) We saw the burn areas from last year's fire and it was frightening to see how close it came to roaring through the town. Two tidbits I learned during that tour that I didn't know before: 1) There are only 800 cars allowed on the island and there is a 15-year waiting period to get a permit for one. That's why most everyone uses golf carts to get around. 2) The hospital on the island doesn't do any surgery and serious medical emergencies require being airlifted by helicopter to the mainland to the tune of about $12,000. Susan and I were thinking that Catalina might be a great place to retire until we heard that. Though, I still wouldn't mind spending a chunk of time there in the future. I'll just have to make sure if I get sick, I give myself time to stumble onto the ferry.

The last morning, Susan and I got up and wandered out to the beach by 6 am to watch the sunrise. It was well worth the effort. To our left, the fog rolled over the mountains ringing the town, while the glow of the sun rolled over the hills to our right. It was a hazy morning and the sun didn't shine bright, but it was spectacular just the same.

Even though I'd visited Catalina before, this was my first time staying overnight on the island, and I highly recommend it. There are lots of hotels to suit everyone's taste and style, great food of all kinds, fresh air, and endless ocean views. I can't wait to go back.

By the way, the main purpose for this little jaunt was research. Catalina Island will be featured in the 2nd Ghost of Granny Apples mystery.

Photos: Top - Catalina's famed Casino building. Middle - me, Alex, Kerry and Susan. Bottom - the beach and pier at sunrise.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Just in from my publicist, this great review in Publishers Weekly for Booby Trap (which will be out Feb. 2009):

Booby Trap: An Odelia Grey Mystery Sue Ann Jaffarian. Midnight Ink (, $13.95 paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7387-1350-2

In Jaffarian's bodacious fourth mystery to feature bighearted, plus-sized Odelia Grey (after 2008's Thugs and Kisses), Odelia's distraught friend, Lillian Ramsey, asks the paralegal's help in proving her famous cosmetic surgeon son, Brian Eddy, is not the Blond Bomber, a serial killer who for the past year has been plaguing Southern California. Odelia—with the aid of her wheelchair-bound husband, Greg Stevens, and the cooperation of her attorney boss, Mike Steele—discovers that both Brian and his celebrity interior designer wife, Jane Sharp, appear to be connected to the four female victims, each of whom had the word whore printed on her torso. The neatly constructed plot begins zigzagging around tough guy Gordon Harper, whose ex-wife, ex-stripper Crystal Lee, was one of the Bomber's victims. Leavened with lively humor, the action builds to a wickedly satisfying windup. (Feb.)

Can't get much better than this!

29 days until Corpse on the Cob is due. How in the hell will I ever top "bodacious?!"

Monday, December 01, 2008

She's Here! - UPDATE

Megan is here! She's really here! See her above with Daddy Eric. Got the word that both mom and baby are doing just fine!

Baby Watch

This morning I was going to blog about my great trip to Catalina Island, but when I got up and checked e-mail there was a note saying my niece Lindsay was in labor in Massachusetts. Lindsay's official due date isn't until the end of the year, but it looks like baby Megan has her own ideas. Just got a text message saying all is well and Lindsay is at 6 cm. Go, Lindsay!

As for my trip report, it will have to wait. After all, baby trumps trip any day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

26 Miles Across the Sea

Tomorrow morning around 6:00 a.m., instead of beating the concrete along Palms Blvd., I will be speeding my way down the 405 Freeway towards Newport Beach. I'll pick up my dear friend Susan, then head for the Catalina Flyer, the ferry that runs between Newport Beach and Catalina Island. We'll be spending 3 nights, 4 days in Avalon, relaxing, reading, and enjoying the lovely island off season. I've been to Catalina several times but have never stayed there. Should be fun. Not sure yet where we're having Thanksgiving Dinner, but I'm sure we won't starve.

Like most of my "vacations" these days, this trip has a dual purpose. One, it's a time when I can relax and enjoy a fun place in the company of a good friend and, secondly, it will be research for a new book. I've decided to put part of the 2nd Granny Apples novel on Catalina. In fact, the book opens in November on the beach in Avalon.

Tidbits about Catalina - There are buffalo on the island, left there from a movie shoot years ago; ghosts supposedly haunt the Casino building; Natalie Wood drowned while visiting Catalina Thanksgiving Weekend 1981; the Chicago Cubs used the island for spring training 1921-1951;

Everyone have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something That Doesn't Happen Every Day

Two things happened today that excited me.

1 - I was able to fill up my gas tank for $20. The gas station by my house was actually at $2.03/gal. Wow! I can't remember when gas was so low. Which makes me wonder why in the hell it ever got so high in the first place.

2 - I received an e-mail from my wonderful agent, Whitney Lee. Seems that Midnight Ink sold the foreign rights to my first Odelia Grey novel, Too Big To Miss, to Musu Knyga, a publisher in Lithuania.



Monday, November 24, 2008

A Satisfying Weekend

This morning, while stomping up and down Palms Blvd. at 6:30 a.m., I reviewed the weekend in my head and had to say to myself: "Well done!"

This past weekend I edited 150 pages of Corpse on the Cob and wrote a lot of new material. As writing goes, it was extremely productive and satisfying. The book is going well, but being the neurotic that I am, I'm waiting for something to come along and screw up my schedule, making it difficult to meet my deadline on January 5th.

I also got in a lot of good and needed relaxation this weekend. It was one of those weekends I love best. I went nowhere and did nothing much outside of writing, reading, and watching TV. I finished Felicia Donovan's Spun Tales and started Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron. I'm also reading Dead Dancing Women by Elizabeth Buzzelli.

Besides reading and writing, I watched two of my most beloved movies: Lillies of the Field and A League of Their Own. Lillies of the Field never fails to charm and captivate me. I've seen it so many times I can say the dialogue right along with the characters. Who doesn't LOVE this movie?! And it's always fun to catch reruns of A League of Their Own and see Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell and Gina Davis in younger days, along with a great performance by Tom Hanks as their drunken coach. The ending of this movie always makes me cry, as it reminds me of the women who came before us to pave the way for the freedom we gals enjoy now - Rosie the riveter with a baseball glove.

I finished up the weekend watching the season finale of True Blood - wow, what an ending! And Dexter - wow, what an episode!

Both before and after my morning walk, I was at the computer kicking off my week with more solid writing. It's almost too good to be true -- shhhhhh. No one jinx it!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Get Those Entries In!

Folks, you have just one more month to enter the Odelia Grey contest that is currently running. Details can be found on the Contests page of my website. Prizes include a signed copy of Booby Trap, hot off the press, along with other goodies. "Other goodies" this year include copies of other books published by Midnight Ink, and a box of Thin Mints. There's a special surprise for the 1st place winner.

The contest is based on Thugs and Kisses. Deadline to enter is December 21, 2008.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Twist My Words, Please!

With just 43 days left until Corpse on the Cob hits my editor's desk, I've hit a wall. It's not a brick wall, but one made of barbed wire; so while it can be penetrated, it won't be without nasty snags and cuts. It happened last night and I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. stewing about it, finally falling asleep around 2:00 a.m. This isn't new, I hit these glitches in every book. It's that sudden worry that while I'm chugging along merrily on my manuscript, I might have forgotten something important along the way. It's a lot like the cold clammy feeling you get when you're about to step out your front door and suddenly wonder if you've forgotten to put on your bra or brush your teeth, or maybe you still have on furry bunny slippers instead of real shoes.

With the morning (and sleep) came some clarity. Instead of writing, I stayed in bed and ruminated over the plot, subplots, and characters, moving them around in my head like a Rubick's cube until I spotted the problem and came up with a solution. But alas, putting the solution to paper will have to wait. I have a day job to get to.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Houston, We have Sea Monkeys!!!

True to his word, George Atamian, President of Transcience, the company that owns the Sea-Monkeys brand, sent me a goodie package containing all things Sea-Monkey. Following the directions carefully, I set up the tank last week in my office at the law firm. I was so excited this morning when I came in to work to find Sea-Monkeys, alive and kicking, in the tank. And the little buggers were big enough for me to see them without a magnifying glass.

The photo is of the Sea-Monkey tank in my office. Although you can't see them in the photo, you can see that they have a killer view of Century Park East.

A Roly Poly Weekend

I did something Saturday evening that I haven't done in YEARS - I went bowling. Yep, bowling, complete with rented shoes, heavy balls, and pins defying gravity and my feeble attempts to knock them down. My dear friend Lori Tillman (who, by the way, is the person I've modeled the character of Zee Washington after in my Odelia Grey novels) threw herself a birthday party Saturday at Strike, a new bowling alley in Tustin.

Let me tell you folks, this ain't your mother and father's bowling alley! High tech, neon, and loud, I felt like I was in a bowling alley right out of the Jetsons. Flat screens the size of cars were everywhere displaying movies, sports and graphics. Vintage, pounding rock music blared. Excellent food was catered to our lane by cheerful waitresses. I haven't had so much fun in ages. Of course, I woke up on Sunday with an aching back, thighs and hips from all the bending and tossing of balls (the shoulder was spared, thankfully). And while I'm not a great bowler, I don't entirely suck. I'm proud to say a few of my frames on each game sported a strike or spare.

Actually, Saturday was a great time from beginning to end. After getting up and writing for a couple of hours, I headed to the Barnes and Noble in Glendora where I was on a panel sponsored by the American Association of University Women. On the panel with me were two very accomplished and fascinating women, Judith Freeman and Karen Stabiner. I enjoyed hearing these authors speak as much as I enjoyed being on the panel. The panel was certainly diverse in topics and the attendees lively and engaging.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Vant To Drink Your Blood

I love to watch TV – probably as much as I love to read. To me the perfect day of relaxation is to read, write, and watch the tube/movies – all in my jammies. One thing I don’t enjoy, though, is being scared spitless. I don’t like horror movies or horror books. It took me years to finally sit down and watch The Shining and have only seen it the one time. Poltergeist and Interview with a Vampire were also movies that finally got viewed at home on the small screen … with all the lights on … in broad daylight. I also confess to having never read a Dean Koontz or Stephen King novel.

Yeah, I know, I write a ghost mystery series. But Granny Apples is not a scary ghost. She’s not exactly Casper the goody-two-shoes ghost either, but she’s not the type who will keep you awake at night with eerie calls and rattling chains. Granny Apples is more like George and Marion Kerby, the ghosts from Topper.

Recently, I started watching True Blood. The HBO original series based on the Southern Vampire books by the extremely talented Charlaine Harris. For those of you not in the know, True Blood is about vampires living among humans, trying in some cases to go main stream. The heroine is Sookie Stackhouse, a spunky young waitress who falls in love with Bill Compton, a vampire circa The Civil War.

I was a big fan of the Highlander series in which certain mortals, when they died, were resurrected as immortals. They walked amongst us mostly undetected, occasionally lopping off each other’s heads, waiting until there was only one of them left. I love the fictional plot line of immortality. It’s interesting to ponder the idea that certain individuals could live forever, experiencing all phases of history, while trying to balance a somewhat normal life. The downside being that they outlive the people they love, experiencing loss over and over again. The thing about the immortals in Highlander is that they were relatively harmless to humans. Vampires, on the other hand, feed off of humans, and in True Blood it is not uncommon for the vampires to refer to human as “pets.” (Excuse me!)

True Blood is campy, thought provoking, and extremely graphic in both sex and violence. In every episode there are scenes in which I have to turn my head and wait for the gore to be over. Some days I'm not even sure I like it, but like a horrific car accident, I can’t help myself. I have to look. It has me hooked.

I have never read any of Charlaine Harris’ vampire books, but I’m thinking I might have to now that I’ve seen this series. Though I doubt I’ll be reading them right before bed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

You Never Know

You just never know who is reading or discovering your blog. You really don't. Sometimes that's a bad thing and sometimes it's a good thing.

Yesterday, a man stumbled upon my blog entry wherein I likened all the books swimming around in my head to sea monkeys and sent me an e-mail about it. And that was a good thing. You see, the man was George C. Atamian, a fellow Armenian and President of Transcience Corporation, the company that created and owns the rights to sea monkeys. Ummm, I mean Sea-Monkeys®.

No, George didn't scold me for using the name of his product without it being properly capitalized or for leaving off the trademark registration symbol. Instead, he was thrilled that I mentioned the little buggers and offered to send me a kit to start my very own Sea-Monkey colony. Of course, I said yes! I remember having Sea-Monkeys as a kid, but haven't seen them since. It will be like a stroll down memory lane.

Wikipedia has a great write-up on the creatures.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Damn Sea Monkeys

Hannah Dennison wrote me this past week. Hannah is another Los Angeles-based mystery author. We’ve met several times and keep in touch by e-mail. She writes the delightful Vicky Hill mystery series. Like me, Hannah works a day job and is on a nutty year-end deadline and, like me, is currently working her heiny off to meet that deadline. It was so lovely that she took the time to write and say hello.

One of the things Hannah asked me in her e-mail made me laugh: “How many books are you writing at the moment?”

Let’s see … Corpse on the Cob and doing the final edits on The Ghost of Granny Apples would be the correct answer.

But what made me laugh is the answer that is closer to the truth: I’m writing about 5-6 books at the moment.

You see, this past week Odelia #6 raised its head and wouldn’t leave me alone. It begged for attention much as my cat Raffi does when he scratches the back of my desk chair (which is shredded, by the way). I kept pushing it aside, but finally had to give in. Stopping work on Corpse on the Cob, I wrote the first page to Odelia #6. I had to if I wanted any peace while I worked on the book due in just 54 days. Once the book came to life on the page, it left me alone. It just wanted a little attention. But then, don’t we all?

Book 6 is due January 1, 2010. You’re probably thinking that next year at this time, Odelia #7 will be begging for attention, impatient to be worked on. Well, you’re wrong. Odelia #7 has already slapped me around mentally until I gave it its due and I have written the first page and final chapter of that book. It’s deadline is January 1, 2011.

And just so you don’t get the idea that Odelia Grey is a bully, I’ll have you know that I have other books in various stages of completion, which also, from time to time, demand attention like 2 year-olds needing naps. Two of them have nothing to do with either Granny or Odelia and one of them screamed my name two weeks ago. All these books float around in my skull like a bunch of damn sea monkeys.

Writing isn’t an occupation, a passion, or an addiction, it’s a disease. A disease I’m happy to live with.

Okay, back to work!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

He Had Me At "Change."

Have You Voted Yet?

I just returned from voting. Four years ago the line was very long when I got there around 9 a.m., so this morning I arrived at my polling place, the Palms Elementary School auditorium, at 6:45 a.m. I counted at least 60 people in line ahead of me. When I left the polls at about 7:30, a line of at least 200 people snaked its way from the entrance, down the sidewalk on Motor Ave., and turned the corner at Palms Blvd. And every second I watched while waiting for the light to change, new voters joined the line. I can only imagine what it will look like by 9 a.m.

The overall mood of the voters was one of expectation and excitement, even though the morning was cool and damp from early morning rain. Many people brought folding chairs, a lot brought books, and a quite a few hovered over tall paper cups and travel mugs of coffee. There were even several clusters of friends and families grouped together chatting and laughing. I didn't see a cranky person in the bunch.

No matter who wins (although I'll be glued to my TV tonight rooting for my guy), one of the most important byproducts of this election has been the way the public has rediscovered the joy, privilege, and importance of voting. I've been doing this a long time, and remember many elections with reports of "record low" turnouts. This year they are predicting record high turnouts.

What an exciting day for all of us!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Legal Secretaries Rock!

You bet they do!

They even interviewed me for the blog
Legal Secretaries Rock. Check it out.

Mama Does New York

Fellow Midnight Ink author and all-round great gal, Deborah Sharp, can be seen on NBC's Today Show on Tuesday, November 4th. I understand she'll be on sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. If you're not stuck in voting lines, check her out. She'll be gabbing about her very funny book, Mama Does Time. Should be a real treat!

Also, today is November 3rd, the deadline for my bet with my manager, Diana James. As you may recall, Diana bet me I couldn't get the first 100 pages of Corpse on the Cob to my editor by today. Well, I just sent off 109 pages to Midnight Ink. It would have been more, but I've been up and down since Friday with a nasty stomach bug and headaches.

Next stop, the finish line with the finished manuscript. Just 59 days! Yikes!

And don't forget to vote tomorrow! I'll be at the polls when they open at 7 a.m. See you there!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Love/Hate Affair With Target

Today I made a pilgrimage to Target. I do this every other month to stock up on staples such as health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, tissue, and misc. items for the house. Their prices are lower than the stores near where I live and the choices seemingly endless, and unlike Costco and Sam's Club(which are located no where near me) doesn't package things only useful to families of 10). Basically, I go there to save money. For example, I needed a couple of halogen bulbs for my desk lamp. At the local market they are $10.95 each. At Target $4.95 each - the same bulb. Need I say more?

But my love of Target is far from perfect. The parking is horrendous, even considering they have a huge lot. But they share that lot with Bed, Bath and Beyond, another major shopping destination. It is not uncommon to see cars blocking aisles, blinkers on, waiting for someone to vacate a space. Never mind that the people are taking their sweet time loading their purchases into the trunk, strapping in kids, checking their voice mail, or arguing with their spouse. The waiting car will simply wait, no matter how long it takes, because parking is as rare as an honest politician. People will even wait for a space when there are many open spaces on the far end of the lot. Heaven forbid someone should be made to walk a few hundred yards! Me, I don't mind the spaces in the back forty. By the time I park and walk to the store, the other fools are still waiting, burning fuel, and the patience of every driver backed up behind them.

Then there's the traffic jam inside the store. Have you ever noticed that the aisles of a Target are not wide enough for two of their carts to travel side-by-side? They either need smaller carts or bigger aisles. Seemed like half the aisles I traveled today where gridlocked. Customers often find themselves facing off, cart to cart, with other shoppers until one gives in and backs up to allow the other cart to pass so both can continue shopping. And forget about stopping in the middle of an aisle to read a label. I think I saw a lady today being ticketed by the discount store police for that.

So you get pass the parking and crowded aisles, complete your shopping and make your way to the checkout. At my local Target they have 20+ check out stations, but I've never seen more than a few open at one time, with the exception of during the month of December. So we wait again. At the checkout you have to be diligent (my checker missed a 2 for 1 deal and I had to point it out to her). Once checked, she bagged the stuff and moved on to the next customer before I even had my change in my wallet and my bags in my cart. Once, I even walked out with a bag belonging to the customer behind me. Talk about getting the bum's rush.

Shopping at Target, or any of the big discount stores, is like being a cow shopping with the rest of the herd for hay. But with 2 for 1 deals and bulbs at 50% less, all I can say is Moooooo.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Mystery Community Mourns Two of Their Own

This past week the mystery community lost two wonderful authors, Tony Hillerman and Elaine Flinn. Hillerman was a multi-award-winning author best known for the Chee and Leaphorn series featuring Navajo police officers by the same names. He was a master of his craft and beloved by readers. He brought New Mexico to life and into our hearts through his wonderful books.

While I didn't know Mr. Hillerman, I did know Elaine Flinn. I'd seen her at conferences and in the past year or so we'd enjoyed some fun and witty banter via e-mails. She was a kick and loved by many. Elaine penned the award-winning Molly Doyle series set in Carmel, California, and was one of the founders of the Murderati blog, one of my favorites. There's a beautiful farewell to Elaine posted there.

It's always difficult to lose friends and colleagues, but when an author dies, we can still visit with them every time we open one of their books.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Child Sent Into the World ... Sniff

This morning I turned in my changes to the author review copy of Booby Trap. This is the final hurrah in the author's process before a book goes to print. My production editor sends me the proofs with her comments in the margin. I read them, agree or not with her suggestions, add my own edits, and away it goes. The next time I see Booby Trap it will be a real, live book. Another offspring sent off into the world.

But there are still children at home. I'm currently doing the final edits to The Ghost of Granny Apples, incorporating suggestions made by my publisher, and am in the throes of birthing Odelia #5, Corpse on the Cob. A mother's work is never done, although once you get the rhythm down, it does seem to flow easier.

And, yes, I will make the Corpse on the Cob 100-page challenge. And I will do it with many pages to spare.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Next Season On Dancing With the Stars

If you don't find this hilarious, you've broken your funny bone.

Courtesy of my friend Stacia.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Attention Aspiring Novelists!

Thanks to a posting by Susan Goodwill at Inkspot today, I discovered that November is National Novel Writing Month. And ... did you know ... that there is a program fledgling novelists can participate in during November to get them moving on their manuscripts? Read all about it at Inkspot or go to .

Being that I always have a manuscript due on January 1st, November is always National Novel Writing Month for me. So, while I toil away on Odelia #5, why don't you sign up at Nanowrimo and work alongside me. I could use the virtual company. And it could be the boot in the butt you need to get your writing career jump started.

Just 71 days left until my deadline. But have no fear, I'm chugging along daily and my fingers are smokin'.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Funny Man, Serious Message

This past Saturday I attended the Los Angeles Paralegal Association Fall Conference. It was held at the Omni Hotel in downtown LA. I didn't attend as a speaker, but as a paralegal looking to fulfill continuing education requirements.

I took two corporate classes - one on securities law, the other on global corporate organization (sounds exciting, doesn't it?) The third and final class was a mandatory class on ethics. The entire conference was beneficial and very well organized.

The highlight, however, was the the key note speaker, Kenny Kahn, a prominent Los Angeles criminal defense attorney turned author. Kahn, who handled many high-profile cases during his colorful career, started his talk with a large block of jokes, some funny, some not-so-much. At first I thought: Groan, are we going to be listening to this for 30 minutes? But Khan, in true trial lawyer fashion, was setting his audience up, getting them to put down their guards so he could go for the jugular. Or in this case, their hearts and sense of responsibility.

The meat of Kahn's message was education, and as soon as the joke set-up had done its job (all of which were based on his own unbelievable life), he nailed us with the importance of education and how it changed not only his life but how it can change lives across the board. But Kenny Kahn doesn't just talk about eduction, he walks the walk by personally sponsoring Word Power Essay Contests for students and by teaching communications to kids from all walks of life.

I bought Kahn's book, The Carney Kid. I haven't had time to read it yet, but I look forward to it.

If any of you need an inspirational speaker for an event, this is your guy! Just don't hold it against him that he's a lawyer. And make sure you check out his website. His personal story is the stuff movies are made of.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday Night Loser

Like most folks who dislike Sarah Palin and her politics, I couldn't wait to see her on Saturday Night Live last night. I didn't watch the whole show because I was very tired. I'm finally getting my needed sleep and yesterday was a long and busy day. I also figured that she was probably only on the opening bit. (Did I miss anything by going to bed 30 min. into the show?)

I thought the bit funny, especially when Alex Baldwin whispered into Tina Fey's ear that the "real" Palin was there. But even though I enjoyed it, my overall opinion was that Sarah Palin looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there. To me, she looked like she'd been forced to eat bugs by playground bullies, or was worried she'd get cooties if she touched anything. I'll bet her publicist and McCain's "people" told her that by appearing on the legendary liberal comedy show she'd increase her profile and affect the polls in a positive way.

Fat Chance!

Sarah, the truth is, it's going to take more than appearing to lose that stick out of your ass to change the polls at this late day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh Ye of Little Faith

Yesterday I was talking on the phone with my manager, Diana James. We were going over the usual stuff: the upcoming launch of Booby Trap, final edits to The Ghost of Granny Apples, ads and future signings, etc. Conspicuously missing from my half of the conversation was my progress on Corpse on the Cob, Odelia #5. I was avoiding the topic because I'm moving slowly on it (see last blog). When I announced that I'd be spending all day Saturday attending a paralegal conference in downtown LA (remember, I'm still a working paralegal who must maintain required continuing education), and part of Sunday at pal Eric Stone's book launch, Diana hit the roof.

It seems Diana read yesterday's blog about my not getting enough sleep and being thrown off track by it. She also took note of the big-ass 77 days until deadline (now 76, by the way). Anyway, the more she spoke about the deadline, the higher and more strained her voice became. You see, it makes her nervous when she sees the calender moving quickly and me not so much. We go through this with every book I write.

I've assured her that Corpse on the Cob will be done on time. My books always are. But she insisted on nagging me (in a friendly, concerned way) about how much work I have to do on it in such a short time. I also assured her that the book's plot is in my head and all the research has been done and several chapters are finished. I just have to put the rest of it down on paper ... and I'm a fast typist/writer. Nothing would budge the hysteria from her voice. I finally announced that I planned on having the first 100 pages done and polished and to Midnight Ink by November 3rd. She said she didn't think it possible, and told me so in a blunt manner.


We put a wager on it. If the first 100 pages are sent to Midnight Ink on or before November 3rd she buys me dinner. If not, I foot the bill. Of course, in a heroic effort not to upset my writing schedule, she'll probably insist on bringing me take out when I WIN.

As for the January 1st deadline, you'll be happy to know that yesterday I put in a request for a week off at the end of the year from my job at the law firm ... just in case.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

You Are Getting Very Sleepy

I woke up this morning thinking it was Monday. Silly me. I took yesterday off from the law firm, so I guess the mistake was reasonable. So imagine my surprise when I stepped out of the shower with the revelation that it was Thursday instead and, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, “I haven’t missed it.”

I took an unscheduled vacation day yesterday to catch up with a friend who was in town briefly, and to catch up at home on some things. I didn’t get everything done that I wanted, but it was a nice day, capped off by dinner with my friend A.H. Ream. (If you haven’t visited Ashley’s blog yet, you simply must. It’s always a hoot.) Ashley has a knack for finding dumps and dives with excellent food. Last night we tried Baby Blues BBQ in Venice. We both had the pulled pork, topped off with key lime pie. Excellent! At the table next to ours was fellow author Joan Del Monte.

I wanted to get a lot of writing done yesterday but didn’t. I got some accomplished, but not as much as I wanted. The problem is, I’m tired. Not because of all the writing projects on my plate, but because I’m not getting the sleep I need to tackle my full plate of activities. And it’s not sleep itself that eludes me, the problem is I cannot get my fat ass into bed at a reasonable hour.

I wake up at 5:30 a.m. I don’t set an alarm, it just happens. But lately I’ve started not going to bed until midnight or later. I wake up half dead, both in body and mind. I try to go to bed earlier. I really do, but somehow my intentions go by the wayside almost every night. Last night I was determined to hit the sack at 10 pm., right after the Project Runway finale. The plan was to read for 30 minutes, then beddy-bye for a good solid 7 hours, which is all I need to be refreshed. But no! Once again, I started doing stuff on the computer (not writing, mind you) and before I knew it, it was 12:30 a.m. And that’s an early night compared to some of my recent 1:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. bedtimes. Do the math and it adds up to major sleep deprivation.

Okay, tonight, the goal is 10 p.m., not a minute later. A few more 4-5 hour nights and I’ll be shooting people from my balcony.

Just 77 days until Corpse on the Cob is due to my publisher. Yikes! I gotta get some sleep so I can writer faster! That’s all there is to it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ma Would Love This!

My mother has been dead now for over 30 years. She was only 52 when she died from heart disease and emphysema – 3 years younger than I am now. Even though we didn’t have the best of relationships, I often think of her, especially when I’m doing something I know she would have enjoyed had she lived to see it.

For example, if my mother were still alive today, I have no doubt she’d be a devoted fan of the TV show American Gladiators. In fact, she would probably be nagging me to get tickets and take her to see it in person. You see, growing up we watched Roller Derby and Championship Wrestling every week. And Lawrence Welk. My mother LOVED Roller Derby and pro-wrestling. I think she watched Lawrence Welk for a bit of cultural balance. I hated all three, the result of which, I became a big reader. (Remember, those were the days when folks only had one TV in the house.) She was also an avid reader of the tabloids and true romance magazines. Later, after I moved out, she had a police scanner going 24/7.

The first time I saw American Gladiators on TV I was channel surfing during dinner, trying to find something suitable to watch for 30 minutes while I ate my meal. A few minutes into it, all I could think was: “Wow, Ma would have loved this!”

She also would’ve loved the Internet. Dollars to donuts, if Margaret Chambers Jaffarian were alive today, she’d be glued to the Net for hours a day. The drama of the chat rooms would just be too much for her to ignore, and she’d know everyone’s name, location and business in no time. My mother also LOVED to play cards, particularly hearts, almost as much as she loved Roller Derby. I often play hearts online when taking a break, and every time I think: “Ma would have loved this.”

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about ghosts and the plot of my next Granny Apples mystery. During that time I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if my mother’s ghost appeared and chatted me up. Would we still have a rocky relationship? Would death have mellowed her any? Would my being older than her now make a difference? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

As usually happens, this type of thinking led me to putting together a plot for a book. I don’t know yet if it will be Granny Apples #2 or Granny Apples #3, but thinking about my mother’s ghost gave me the idea for The Ghost Who Said I Told You So.

Thanks, Ma. I know you’re gonna love it!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Game On!

I did something yesterday that is going to totally change my life. No, I didn't have lap-band surgery (which I am dead-set against, by the way). I didn't get married or even meet the man of my dreams. And I certainly didn't win the lottery.

Yesterday, I met with my agent and put my Jane Hancock to those 6 additional contracts for Odelia Grey novels. You know, those 6 that now make Odelia committed, along with me, for 12 books total? Signing 18 contracts (3 originals x 6) makes a gal think. Wow, now I have to put my brain and my fingers where my mouth is and produce these suckers! But truthfully, I'm not worried about that. I know I can do it. I don't think about the daunting task of having to write 8 more Odelia's (I'm working on #5 now). I think about it as being able to go forward without the worry of whether or not someone is going to pick up any more Odelia books. But as I've discussed here before, publishing is a fickle mistress. While I have these long-term contracts, it doesn't mean my publisher will publish them all. A change in the market or in my reader base could cause my publisher to cut me loose down the line. As I've said before, it's all about the sales numbers.

But with great optimism, I met with my manager last night at the food court at the Century City Mall (elegant, huh?). We toasted the signing of the contracts over Mediterranean food, shared a chocolate eclair for desert, and plotted my career, both long term and short term.

You see, it's not enough to sign contracts and write the books. Serious writers must also have a game plan, a play book of strategies to ensure those books get to the marketplace. Some strategies will work. Some will not. But, bottom line, you have to have a plan. Any writer who writes a book, has it published, then sits around going "what's next" is never going to see the bone-rattling tackle that leaves him face down in the mud. Like a good quarterback, you have to keep moving and planning. You always have to be thinking ahead while you write that current book. That's one of the big differences between a writing career and writing as a hobby.

So I'm suiting up and putting on my helmet, readying myself for the Big Game.

Go Team Odelia!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Must Read Blog Posting

Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, blogged today at The Huffington Post. It's entitled "Drill, Drill, Drill" and is a MUST read.

Pulling Graveyard Shift

I'm guest blogging today over at Lee Lofland's blog The Graveyard Shift. Drop on by and say hello.

By the way, Lee's blog is a great source of information on police procedures and crime solving equipment, as is his book Police Procedure & Investigations, a Guide for Writers. The book is from the Writer's Digest useful Howdunit series. It's a must for crime and mystery writers. I own it!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Keep Me Laughing ... Please!

Wow, what a news morning! The first thing I read about was the Dow falling below 10,000. That was followed by news that O. J. Simpson was convicted last week in Las Vegas on kidnapping charges. Talk about your ups and downs. Or is that downs and ups?

One of the things I'm enjoying most about this election is the feeding frenzy by top comedians. Chris Rock just released his latest HBO special, Chris Rock: Shoot the Messenger. It's hilarious, especially the first half hour when he focuses on politics. And for Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, it's their birthday everyday. They don't even need to write this stuff, it writes itself. I even stayed up later than usual to catch Saturday Night Live this weekend. Tina Fey deserves an Emmy for her portrayal of Sarah Palin. If you didn't catch her in this role yet, search for it on You Tube. Everything's on You Tube!