Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Precious is a Winner!

Like a lot of folks, I've read Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It's a delightful book, filled with charm and color, as are the other books in the series. When I learned that HBO was doing an original series based on Smith's books, I couldn't wait to see it. The new series premiered this past weekend and I caught it Monday night via On Demand.

The HBO series started off with a bang and captured all the original charm of the books. A big part of this successful launch is due to the wonderful cast, especially Jill Scott, who is absolutely perfect in the role of the intelligent, strong-willed, and optimistic Precious Ramotswe. Every single character in the pilot episode seemed perfectly cast, right down to Charlie, the villain, beautifully and chillingly played by the yummy Idris Elba.

If you're looking for car chases, 4-letter words, and gun battles, this is not for you. But if you're looking for great entertainment and top-notch acting set against the slow, melodic culture of Botswana, then get your popcorn, settle on the sofa, and put your feet up, because you're in for a real treat.

Hmmm, now that Precious has broken the barrier for plus size TV sleuths, maybe Odelia will have a shot at getting her own show. Now, there's a thought!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A New Addiction

Gawd help me, but I have added yet another addiction to my long list of personal compulsions. No, it's not a hot TV show or new cookie or re-released flavor of Ben and Jerry's. I have become obsessed with reading the blog Above the Law. It calls itself a "legal tabloid." Basically, it's a juicy blog stew of news, commentary, and rumors about anything having to do with the law, such as lawyers, law firms, judges, etc.

I was introduced to Above the Law when a co-worker at my law firm sent me the link, giving me the latest news of layoff blood-letting going on in law firms around the nation. Seeing that several of my friends have already been laid off this year, I was eager to keep abreast of the carnage. Thus was I hooked as easily as a fish contemplating a writhing worm.

Another blog of the same ilk is Law Shucks. Law Shucks actually has a Lay Off Tracker, completed with graphs. Here is a taste of their statistics:

As of March 20, 2009, there have been over 9,125 people laid off by major law firms (3,770 lawyers / 5,355 staff) since January 1, 2008. 7,259 (2,874 lawyers, 4,385 staff) in calendar 2009 - 2,937 (1,059 / 1,878) in March.

As for my job, so far so good. My law firm has not yet laid anyone off and they seem to be doing their best to make sure it doesn't happen. I'm actually busier than ever, which should keep my butt in my chair for the long haul. I've been laid off twice before, both times from corporations because my job disappeared after mergers. Trust me, it ain't pretty.

For those of you who have been laid off or those seriously worried about it, my heart and thoughts go out to you. Been there, done that. Wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Getting laid off is a lot like getting laid. Either way, you know you're going to get screwed.

If Found On Ground...

With the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in only 68 days, I kicked my training into high gear this weekend. At least I kicked my fat ass into high gear. Saturday morning I hit the trail at Will Rogers State Park and hiked the loop to Inspiration Point - not once, but TWICE. The loop itself is approximately 2 to 2.5 miles of fairly steep dirt trail. From most sections of the trail, the hiker is treated to spectacular views of Los Angeles and Santa Monica, including the coastline and ocean.

Partway through the 2nd loop, I was pretty sure I was going to die on the trail. At least, I told myself, my final sight on this earth would be one of great beauty. But I didn't die. Armed with determination, a pair of stout but sturdy legs, a bottle of Crystal Light hydration water, and my cell phone in case of emergency, I trudged on, pleased as punch when I finally finished, tired but very much alive. In fact, later that day I was at my book signing at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks with nary a twinge of aches and pains.

I'm convinced that the key to doing the Mud Run is being able to conquer Suicide Hill without dying. Some folks think it's going to be scaling the walls. Some are terrified of the mud pits. Me, it's the two muddy steep hills, especially the big one. So each and every weekend that I'm in town, I intend to scale the heights to Inspiration Point at least twice, bettering my time with each attack. I might even try the Eagle Rock trail at Topanga Canyon in a few weeks. That's an even steeper trail.

Along the trail Saturday, it occurred to me that all this exercise has had many benefits besides the obvious. Before, I would never venture into a state park for a casual hike. Now I look forward to it. The training has definitely gotten me out of my routine and into nature, and expanded my taste for activity. I might even buy an annual pass to the park.

The band of us from the law firm who are doing the Mud Run are getting matching shirts. Shirley, one of my readers, sent me an e-mail with a link to a runner's apparel store called One More Mile. We loved the shirts so much that we're ordering from there. We've chosen to all be dressed in shirts of the "Ocean" color, but have decided we can each chose whatever style and saying we'd like for our shirt. Mine says: "If found on ground, please drag across finish line." Appropriate, don't you think? Thanks, Shirley!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday - Destination, Thousand Oaks

Saturday, March 28, 2009, is my last book signing of the month. For everyone just north of Los Angeles, come on down to Mysteries to Die For at 3:00 and say hello.

Time: 3:00 p.m.
2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks CA 91362

Had a wonderful time last night at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse. Great turn out, too. Thank you everyone!

We had dinner last night at Dish, just a couple of blocks down from the bookstore. Fabulous place! Great food, great service and charming decor. Very reasonable prices.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

See you in Flintridge Tonight

I have a book signing tonight at the fabulous Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

Time: 7:30 pm

964 E Foothill Blvd
La Canada, CA 91011


Beforehand I'm heading to dinner with pals Eric Stone and A.H. Ream. I put Eric in charge of finding the restaurant. He and Ashley are excited that we're going somewhere with a full bar.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Starting To Get a Bit Worried

HELL, YEAH!

Okay, here's the reality: The Camp Pendleton Mud Run is in 73 days. That's 2 months, 12 days exactly. Yesterday on You Tube I found several videos of Mud Runs past. This one, from 2007, was my favorite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lay7JXY_ESE&feature=related

Holy ... Freaking ... Shit!

Oh, did I say that out loud?

In some ways, I found the videos comforting. They gave me a sense of what to expect. On the other hand they scared the pee out of me. I scanned videos for a good hour or more and you know what? I didn't see one middle-aged, fat woman in the bunch. Maybe they can put me in my own category. Maybe they'll extend the time limit from 2 hours, 45 minutes to 4 hours. I could do it in 4 hours, I'm sure. I might even be able to do in in 3 hours, 30 minutes. Currently, I can walk a 10K in 2 hours. That only leaves 45 minutes for Suicide Hill, tire and hay obstacles, fire hoses, 2 5 ft walls, mud pits and rivers. That's not exactly good time management.

One of the attorneys at work thinks we should get tee shirts with personal sayings on them. Hers would be "Very SLOW and Sporadically STEADY." Mine would be "Do it or Die Trying."

Which reminds me, I'd better have all my affairs in order by June 6th.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Rainy Day Review

Been up since 4 am. Wrote for a few hours until it was time to walk my scheduled 6.2 miles. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), it was cold and rainy out so I kept writing. I'm working on the 2nd book in the Granny Apples mystery series and the book is moving along nicely. Hope that trend keeps up! Meanwhile the Mud Run is a short 10 weeks away - YIKES!!! I've been training, but not nearly enough. Gotta really step it up, rain or no rain. Will hit at least part of the trail later today.

Had a great signing Friday night at the Barnes and Noble in Orange. Lots of friends and friends of friends stopped by to say hello and buy books, as well as a lot of new readers. If you live out that way and want a signed copy of Booby Trap, the BN in Orange (791 S. Main Street, Orange, CA) should still have a few.

Tonight is the finale of Big Love. Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! I've been watching this exciting HBO series since its inception and this season they have really ramped up the tension and drama. Tomorrow at the law firm, I know several of us will be gathered around the coffee pot discussing tonight's final episode. If you haven't seen this series, try catching it on On Demand. Tom Hanks is one of the executive producers.

Saw a fun kid's movie yesterday on HBO - Nim's Island. I had it on while I was doing stuff in front of the TV. The movie itself wasn't anything much beyond just cute, but Jodie Foster's portrayal of an agoraphobic adventure novelist who interacts with her protagonist in a very real way was a hoot and made the movie worth watching.

BTW - Tried something different this year. I actually did my taxes ahead of schedule! Yes, that's right. Usually, I'm hunkered down on April 13-14 doing them, but not this year. They are done!!!! Not mailed, but D-O-N-E, as in finished.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Come on Down - Book Signings Coming Up

Below is my schedule of book signings through the end of the month. Come on down and say hello. I won't bite - except by special request.

March 20, 2009 - 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Book Signing
Barnes and Noble - Orange
791 S. Main Street
Orange, CA

March 26, 2009 - 7:30 pm
Book Signing
The Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse
964 E Foothill Blvd
La Canada, CA 91011

March 28, 2009 - 3:00 p.m.
Book Signing
Mysteries to Die For
2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks CA 91362

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Can't Believe I Walked the Whole Thing!

Well, today I did it! I finally walked a 10K. I did it alone - just me, my iPod Shuffle and a bottle of water. The path I took was a combination of rolling hills, sharp inclines, and level patches. My goal was to do it in 2 hours or under. I did it in 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Fast forward a few hours later. See me on the sofa. See me unable to move from the waist down without pain. And that includes my feet. It's now 10 hours later. I'm still stiff but moving around a bit. That will teach me to go from a 5K to a 10K without adding additional distance a bit at a time.

On the bright side, my breathing was even throughout the whole walk, my pulse steady, and I never once clutched my chest and fell down. In fact, except for the aches and pains in my legs and feet and incredible exhaustion, it was rather enjoyable. Add to the mix that it was a beautiful day here on the westside of Los Angeles and you have a nice LONG walk.

The Mud Run is under 3 months way. That is a 10K with obstacles, mud and streams. I'm gonna have to improve my time and stamina a great deal before now and then. They have a time limit on the course, so I might get pulled off before I finish.

But this I vow: If I don't finish the Mud Run this time, I'll be back every year until I do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The 4-1-1 on Hawaii and Left Coast Crime

Ah, Hawaii. Was it real or was it a dream? Considering I hit the ground back in LA at 5 am on Thursday and was sitting at my desk in the law firm by 11 am the same morning, it was easy for me to start wondering about 2ish if it was all a hallucination and not a real trip. But it was real and all in all a fabulous time.

Let’s get the downside out of the way early. The flights, both going and coming, were ugly. It was raining the day I arrived and cloudy the next two days. The day I left it was postcard perfect. But the weather didn’t dampen my good time. Also, I didn’t win the Lefty award. However, my good friend Tim Maleeny did bring the coveted award home for his latest book Greasing the Pinata.

Now the upside, and there was lots of that. One of the best things about these book conferences is catching up with old friends from around the nation, even the world, and making new friends. And I made lots of new friends this trip. I roomed with gal pal Sophie Littlefield and spent time in the airport on both legs of the trip with Jeri Westerson. By the way, check out Jeri’s book, Veil of Lies. Sophie’s book, A Bad For Sorry, will be released in August.

Even in Hawaii, I continued my morning walks, but instead of traffic and street lights, I encountered feral cats, mongeese, and sea turtles and turned in concrete and pavement for lava, sand and coral under my feet. One day I took a long early morning hike with budding author Diane Hemme. We walked from our hotel to the Hilton along a winding, narrow, and uneven lava and coral path in the dark to catch a beautiful sunrise. Sitting at the top of one of the Hilton’s cliffs, we watched whales frolicking in the ocean before hiking back to our hotel and breakfast.

All the panels I attended or participated in at Left Coast Crime were wonderful and lively. I was exposed to new authors and met favorites, both old and new. I finally met fellow Midnight Ink author GM Malliet and her hubby and look forward to seeing them at Malice Domestic in a few weeks.

Some of the best times centered around meals. Not the actual food, but the camaraderie around the tables. I found myself sitting down to dine with an eclectic assortment of people at every turn. One evening I dined with pals Sophie and Tim, book reviewer Cameron Hughes, and authors Jonathan Hayes and Barry Eisler. And, yes ladies, Barry Eisler is just as cute in person! And I should know since he sat across from me the entire meal. He’s also funny, passionate, and charming. Not to be left out of the funny and charming department is Jonathan Hayes, a senior Medical Examiner from New York City, food critic, and author. I enjoyed several meals with Jonathan. Trust me, his biting wit and melting English accent can make any mediocre, overpriced meal a treasure. I’m currently reading Jonathan’s edgy novel Precious Blood.

Photos, you ask? Well, hmmm, it seems my camera was on the blink while in Hawaii. Sorry.

Sigh – now it’s back to reality, Mud Run training and my own writing.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

It's Hawaii Time!

Vacation clothes - check.

Sunblock - check.

Alpha Smart - check.

Tickets - check.

Bathing suit - Yikes! I mean, check.

My bags are packed and in about 2 hours I'll be off for the airport and my flight to Hawaii. The cat food and cat box are filled, and Patti is standing by to look in on the animals. There's nothing left to do but to shower, dress, and head on out.

I'm excited about the Lefty award, which will be announced on Wednesday morning at an awards brunch, but more excited about re-connecting with my writing buddies from around the nation. These conferences are often the only times we get to see each other.

Sigh - I could use with more sleep, especially since the the clock was moved ahead last night, cutting my snooze time by an hour. But what the hell, I can always sleep on the plane.

I'll see you all on Thursday with a full report on Left Coast Crime.

ALOHA!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Reviewing the Loss

This past weekend the mystery community lost another great and valuable member - Barbara Franchi. Barbara was the founder and life force behind the website Reviewing the Evidence, a fabulous site dedicated to bringing reviews and news about everything in the mystery/thriller genre to the public. Barbara passed away on Saturday after a long fight with cancer.

Barbara, along with her husband Rudy and daughter Regina, attended my book launch parties regularly, and I sorely missed them at the recent party for Booby Trap. Barbara started off reviewing my Odelia Grey series and over time became a friend. Because we'd become friends, she had to pass off the reviewing duties for my books to her partners at RTE. The friendship was the better end of that deal. Barbara Franchi was a tough cookie with an acerbic wit and no nonsense attitude that kept me on my toes. I was honored to consider her a friend and that she enjoyed my books so much.

Originally, Barbara was on the list of attendees for Left Coast Crime in Hawaii this next week. I'm sure in the days to come many tropical drinks will be hoisted in her honor, and many stories shared about her dedication to our beloved corner of the writing world.

Mahalo, Barbara. You will be missed by us all.