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.