Thursday, December 31, 2009

And In This Corner ... My Other Self

In 32 days I have to turn in Murder in Vein, the first book in my new vampire mystery series, to my publisher – a book that was just a wisp of an idea four months ago. Upon striking the deal, Midnight Ink decided they needed the book in eight weeks. I agreed. Not because I’m insane, but because it made sense from a marketing standpoint.

So Writer Sue Ann made a contractual promise to deliver an entire book in a whole new series in eight weeks. Problem is, she forgot to discuss the matter with Paralegal Sue Ann. Normally this would not be a problem, but, you see, near the end of the year, Paralegal Sue Ann often works 10+ hour days. This conveniently slipped Writer Sue Ann’s mind.

Here is a sample of a recent conversation at the Jaffarian household:

Writer Sue Ann: Come on now. You can do it. Just a couple of pages.

Paralegal Sue Ann: Grrrrr. I just worked 11-1/2 hours straight without a break. I’m pooped.

Writer Sue Ann: May I remind you that February 1st will be here before you know it.

Paralegal Sue Ann: You can stick February 1st where the sun doesn’t shine.

Writer Sue Ann: Aw, don’t be like that. Just a page. A single page. Then you can go to bed.

Paralegal Sue Ann: My brain is fried. One page might as well be ten. And may I remind you that I have to be in the office by 7 tomorrow morning.

Writer Sue Ann: Tell you what, if you write two pages, you can buy some new shoes with some of the advance money.

Paralegal Sue Ann: Shoes? Did you say shoes?

Writer Sue Ann: Is it a deal?

Paralegal Sue Ann: I’m thinking. I’m thinking. Hmmm, Nordstroms or Payless?

Writer Sue Ann: Macy’s – on sale.

Paralegal Sue Ann: I’d rather have a flat screen TV.

Writer Sue Ann: Wouldn’t we all?

Paralegal Sue Ann: Keep the shoes. I don’t need no stinkin’ shoes. I’m going to bed.

Writer Sue Ann: Okay, then, what’s a flat screen TV worth to you?

Paralegal Sue Ann: I’m thinking. I’m thinking. Okay, two pages and I get the TV and I get to go to bed.

Writer Sue Ann: Not so fast, slick. A TV isn’t a pair of shoes. Five pages a day on weekdays; 10 pages on each Saturday and Sunday until the deadline.

Paralegal Sue Ann: 2 pages a day. Period.

Writer Sue Ann: 4 a day; 15 on the weekend.

Paralegal Sue Ann: 2 a day; 10 total on the weekend.

Writer Sue Ann: 3 a day during the week; 15 over the weekend, plus edits. And that’s my final offer.

Paralegal Sue Ann (sitting down at the computer): That freaking TV had better have a built-in DVD player.

If any of you reading this haven't already figured out that writers are nuts, you haven't been paying attention.

Oil painting: Split Personality II by Santiago Proaño.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

In just a few hours, the long Christmas weekend will be over and I'll be returning to my regular schedule of juggling my career as a busy paralegal with my career as a novelist.

When the law firm closed at noon on Christmas Eve day, I made a trip to the grocery store for cat food and came home, ready to plow through as much of Murder In Vein as I could. As you may recall, my publisher seems to think I can pull this book out of my butt by February 1st, and I agreed to that.

BTW, that's 36 days away.

Since Christmas Eve, I have not left my apartment for even 30 seconds. I haven't unlocked the door or taken the security chain off its hook, not even to go to the laundry room or to take out the trash. I have stayed inside for the past 3-1/2 days, mostly writing. Trust me, I'm not a pretty sight.

But don't feel sorry for me or think my publisher a modern day Scrooge. I had a wonderful Christmas. I had a lovely dinner, complete with leftover turkey sandwiches, called family and friends, opened gifts. I also watched Julie & Julia and The Hangover. Even finished reading a book.

As far as Murder in Vein goes, my goal was to write 60 pages this weekend. The reality was that I wrote and edited close to 40 pages. I even did some further online research. I sent the pages off to my manager and the verdict came back a winner. I may not have written 60 pages, but the 40 I did write were tight and complete.

One thing I've discovered since starting this mad dash to February 1st is that no matter how many hours I work on a book in a day, my brain seems only capable of spilling forth 10-12 good pages, plus edits. Anything beyond that and a fuse blows.

I have another long holiday weekend next week. And, yes, the plan is to come home from work the afternoon of New Years Eve, lock myself inside and pound away at the keyboard until the following Monday. I'm hoping to coax 15 pages a day out of my tired brain next weekend.

Even though it will be New Years, I guarantee alcohol will not be involved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

To my family far away and to all my friends, those close and those I've only met on the internet, a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Warmest holiday hugs to you all!

Sue Ann

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mystery on the Menu - Tickets On Sale NOW

Each year The Friends of the Cerritos Library host an annual fund raiser called Mystery on the Menu. This year the event will be held on January 30, 2010, which will also mark the fourth time I've been an invited author to this wonderful event.

At Mystery on the Menu, patrons purchase tickets to a luncheon and then can choose which author they would like to dine with at tables set up for 10. Besides the lunch, there are mystery panels before and after lunch, and plenty of time to purchase books and have them signed. When this event first started, there were only two panels, but in recent years it has expanded to three.

Tickets for the luncheon are $40 per person. If you would like to attend, contact Janice Dawson at (562) 924-2474. And don't delay, every year it sells out quickly.

This year the participating authors include:

Hannah Dennison
Dianne Emley
Joanne Fluke
Wendy Hornsby
Sue Ann Jaffarian
R. T. Jordan
Susan Kandel
Robert S. Levinson
Michael Mallory
Keith Raffel
Nina Revoyr
Stephen Schwartz

Patricia Smiley
April Smith
Eric Stone

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What's Coming Out When

With the addition of my new vampire mystery series, my publisher had to do some shuffling of my book release dates. Since Murder in Vein is scheduled for release September 2010, several folks have asked when Granny Apples #2 is going to be released. After all, it was originally scheduled for September 2010.

So, by popular demand (and thank you all who asked), here is the new schedule for the release of my future books.

In 2010, two books will be released:

February 2010 - Corpse on the Cob, the 5th book in the Odelia Grey mystery series, will be released as originally scheduled. It can be pre-ordered now from Amazon or from Midnight Ink.

September 2010 - Murder in Vein, the 1st book in my new vampire series will be released. In a few months, it will also be available for pre-order.

In 2011, things will really change up. From what I understand, this will now be the release order of my books from Midnight Ink:

February - Ghost of Granny Apples books will be released

June - Odelia Grey books will be released

September - the vampire mystery books will be released.

Sorry for the confusion folks. As always, I will announce the release of each book through my e-mail newsletter - Hotflashes - as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Hotflashes is e-mailed about 3-4 times a year. Anyone who would like to receive Hotflashes and is not already on the mailing list, should e-mail me at and put "add me" in the subject line. The next issue of Hotflashes will be going out in mid-January.

Those of you who are on the list but have changed your e-mail address in the last year, should also notify me of the change.

Thank you, everyone.

You keep reading. I'll keep writing. Deal?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Baby Vampire Gets Its Name

A lot of folks think authors get to choose the titles of their books. Not so. Same goes for the covers. But I've been very lucky on both counts. Usually my publisher considers my titles and asks me if I have suggestions for the cover. There has little trouble or controversy when naming the Odelia Grey books. Except for Booby Trap, all have been my title suggestions.

The Ghost of Granny Apples series has been a different kettle of fish. With the first book, the publisher wanted something different than just The Ghost of Granny Apples. In the end, I came up with Ghost a la Mode, but not until after both the publisher and I turned over dozens of possibilities looking for a winner. We're going through the same problem with Granny Apples #2. They didn't like my original title or my suggestions, and I didn't like their suggestions. Dozens of titles later, we're close but still no cigar. But we are definitely getting closer. Not that it matters any time soon, because the release of Granny Apples #2 has been rescheduled until February 2011 (more on that in a later post).

Okay, so now we have series #3. A vampire series, no less. Since starting the manuscript, I've been calling the first book in the series I Could Bite You Forever. Cute and catchy, but the publisher didn't think it fit with what they've seen so far of the manuscript, and told me so this morning. But they also gave me a suggestion, a great suggestion. Unlike the Granny Apples titles, I doubt we'll be going to the mat on this one.

Drum roll, please ...

Coming in September 2010 to a bookstore near you :

Murder in Vein by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Monday, December 14, 2009

Best Laid Schemes o' Mice an' Scribes

The plan was to come home on Friday night and write nearly non-stop until I had to go to work Monday morning.

What was it that Robert Burns penned? Oh yeah.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men...

There are now 49 days until I Could Bite You Forever, the first book in my new vampire series is due to my publisher.

49 - eeek! I think I just saw a mouse.

Friday was our holiday party at the law firm. At 1 pm the firm closed down and we all went off in the rain to Spago for lunch, work or no work. Spago in Beverly Hills is Wolfgang Puck's flagship restaurant. The food was divine and Wolfgang Puck himself came out to say hello. I could have dined solely on the miniature crab cakes and pizza slices they passed around as appetizers, but glad I didn't. My striped bass entree was so wonderful I wanted to lick the plate clean, and nearly did. The champagne and wine flowed like, well, champagne and wine.

After lunch I returned to the office to pack up some binders for delivery to an attorneys home. That's all I had to do - throw them in a box and send them off with a messenger - then I could go home and start my madcap writing weekend. But even through my slight alcoholic buzz I was able to spot that something wasn't right with the documents I'd prepared for an out-of-town deposition on Monday morning. Crap. Crap. Crap.

After calling the attorney on his cell, who was ever so nice and on his way home after the party, I went home with plans to return to the office on Saturday. Once at home, I discovered I was too fuzzy to write anything coherent for a couple of hours so relaxed (aka dozed) before hitting the keyboard.

Saturday morning I was at the office by 7:30 am, ready to right my wrong. I managed it, but it wasn't easy with copiers that broke down and supplies that were almost depleted. I personally drove the 2 boxes of binders to the attorney's house, then went home where I crashed on the sofa. That was 2 pm.

4 pm found me at the Mystery Book Store at Westwood for the launch party of Exposé!, Hannah Dennison's latest book. Even with pouring rain, the place was packed and we feasted on tiny mince pies, cheese and mulled wine. Hannah was her usual lovely and funny self. I also managed to pick up the last of my family's Christmas presents. After, it was back home where I was still too tired to bang on the keys. The amount of writing done on Saturday - a big fat zero!

Sunday was a writing day. FINALLY! And a very productive one. I Could Bite You Forever is over 25% done and is on track for timely completion. Early readers have loved it so far. The finished chapters still need a lot of tweaking, but the story and characters are behaving and helping me charge through the manuscript.

Later in the day I took a break and wrapped presents and did some chores. At dinner time I watched the finale of Dexter. WOW! WOW! WOW! I won't say more because so many of my friends wait and watch it on DVD, so I won't spoil it for them. But I will say this: John Lithgow should get an Emmy!

Now it's off to the law firm again. Writing again tonight and tomorrow morning, and every day after that until the book is done - unless the mouse in my life has other plans. In that case, I will call in the cats to keep him in line, at least for the next 49 days.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Three What?

I'm talking about the whys and why-nots of writing a 3rd series over at Inkspot.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

An Early Bird With Second Thoughts

Does the early bird really catch the worm, or does the early bird just yawn and wonder why in the hell she's not still in her warm bed? The cats are still in bed. But then they're a lot smarter than I am. I know that. I accept that.

I am an early riser. My usual morning routine is 1) bathroom, 2) feed cats, 3) read e-mail, 4) starting writing. A couple times a week exercise is thrown into the mix.

I've been doing this for years. Generally, the writing time is about 2 hours long, followed by getting ready to go to my job at the law firm. On weekends, the initial writing time is a 3-4 hour block before I get dressed - IF I get dressed. But lately it's been tough getting up and hitting the keyboard. And forget going outside to walk.

You see, it's cold! Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I live in Southern California. Boo hoo hoo.

But it has been very cold here, at least by our standards. My apartment has heat, but it's a small wall unit that is only of any use if you're in the living room. I write in my bedroom and since I don't use a laptop, I stay in my bedroom. This morning the thermostat in the living room says it's 64 degrees. I'm sure my bedroom is a degree or two colder. I'm writing bundled up in an oversized chenille rob that could easily kick a Snuggie's ass.

My writing time today will be cut short because I have to be to work early. For a change, I'm not unhappy about that. Although it means I will have to work longer tonight to stay on track to meet my February 1st deadline. But that's okay. It's a lot warmer in my apartment in the evenings. But even my office at the law firm is chilly. We're all freezing there, too. We haven't decided if the building is still running the air conditioning or not running any heat, but we're all bundled up in our offices. Some are even wearing their jackets inside and many are wearing heavy scarfs.

What can I say? We're Californians. We're nuts on so many levels and not as hardy as people in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Our blood has been thinned by organic this and legally prescribed that.

I wonder if anyone would notice if I wore my robe today at work? It could be the first "Bring Your Robe To Work Day."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hey Folks, Watch Me Pull A Book Out of My Butt

You’re hearing it here first.

My current publisher, Midnight Ink, has given me a 3-book deal for my Doug and Dodie Dedham mystery series. The Dedhams are your normal, retired, active couple. They love to dance, play bridge, and enjoy tennis. Attractive and vibrant, they could be the poster children for AARP . Dodie is nurturing and loves to bake. Doug is the kind of guy who might ask you to pull his finger. They also stick their noses where they don’t belong and help solve local crimes.

Oh, by the way, did I mention they’re vampires?

Oh, yes, they are!

Now I know you’re used to seeing vampires who are hot and sexy and brooding. Vampires who create heart-throbbing havoc amongst young hormonal women. Vampires who all seemingly entered the realm of the undead while under 35 years of age.

The Dedhams and I are asking you to think outside the coffin.

The first book in the Dedham mystery series is entitled I Could Bite You Forever and is scheduled for release September 2010.

Yes, you read that right – 2010.

Yesterday, the book was scheduled for release in September 2011. But this morning around 7ish, I received a call from my editor asking if I could get them the finished manuscript by February 1st because they wanted to launch it in 2010. They had their reasons and they were all valid and understandable.

With my editor on the phone, I pulled up my manuscript-in-progress and noted that I had 6 chapters written on I Could Bite You Forever. After thinking it over for about 30 seconds, I said, No problem.

Neither alcohol nor crack were involved in my decision.

Okay, so there goes my birthday and Christmas and New Years. I’ve scratched 3 holiday parties off my list and alerted my close friends that they may not see me until sometime in February.

I’m thinking of this as the Mud Run but with my fingers instead of my feet.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sleep Writing

A couple of days ago I posted about how I was not happy with all the work I'd recently put into my manuscript for Odelia #6, due very soon. Yesterday morning and last night I fudged with it, deciding about 1/2 - 2/3 of it is salvageable, but I still did not have a clear picture on the new direction for the plot. Usually this is not a problem for me at all. Usually my problem is I have too many ideas. But in this case, as I wrote deeper into the manuscript, I realized my original plot was boring and dull. If it bores me, I can just imagine how my readers would feel. Can't have that!

Last night I went to bed at 12:30, rather late for me for a work night. As I drifted off to sleep, possibilities for Odelia #6 hopped around like sheep jumping a fence. It helped me get to sleep, but didn't present any brilliant solutions.

I went to bed thinking about Odelia #6 and woke a few hours later thinking about book #1 in my vampire series. Not sure how that transpired, but being someone who does not get up to jot down nocturnal ideas, I took mental notes on the vampires, thanked my muse, and drifted back to sleep.

Fast forward to 6:30 am. Late for me to rise during the week, but I was tired. Instead of getting up, I stayed in bed and let my mind drift. Low and behold, it drifted smack dab into a great idea for Odelia #6. An idea that blends beautifully with most of what I've already written. I stayed in bed until 7:30, kneading the new idea like a lump of bread dough until I was satisfied and very excited. Sometime during the night my brain had done a little housekeeping and sorted out out the junk in my head, leaving a clean and clear path to the manuscript. Yeeeeeeee ha!

Unfortunately, I have to go to work early every day this week, so this new idea will have to wait until I get home tonight to be folded into the manuscript.

Houston, we now have lift off!

Painting - Counting Sheep by Karen Aune.