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 http://www.nanowrimo.org/ .

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.

OH YEAH! WATCH ME!

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!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tom Said It First


"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." -- Thomas Jefferson 1802



Thanks to my friend Stacia for sending this quote along this morning.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Delicate Balance

The new TV season is upon me. Be still my boob tube addicted heart. And I say that without so much as a guilty shiver. While Weeds, my favorite show, is now on sabbatical, several other favorites, such as Dexter, Californication, and Two and a Half Men, have recently started up again. I feel like a kid in a candy shop.

I'm also a big reality TV fan, though I have my standards. Emmy-winning Amazing Race is my favorite and just started its new season. I'd LOVE to go on that show. And I still watch Survivor, the show that started it all, though it has now fallen from "must see" status to "might watch" if I have time. My other favorites are Project Runway and Top Chef, with Biggest Loser completing the list.

As always, I allow myself a hour a day for TV, with the occassional movie time thrown in. I don't have TIVO so I love On Demand and Bravo's habit of rerunning their shows throughout the week. If I didn't keep myself to a tight TV diet, books would never get written or read, correspondence answered, or the house cleaned. But these days my TV time is also doing double duty. While watching these favorite shows, I peddle away on my recumbent bike. Multi-tasking at its best.

As I bury myself in Odelia #5, I will continue do the bulk of my writing in the early mornings with a bit of time spent on it in the evenings, but right now my evening writing time is devoted to the final edits to The Ghost of Granny Apples, and soon it will be spent on reading the final version of Booby Trap before it goes to print.

It's a never-ending cycle, but who's complaining. Not me!