Friday, December 31, 2010

Great Expectations for 2011

Did you hear that? Did you? It was the sound of another year whooshing by like a runaway freight train.

I ask you: Where in the hell did this year go? Seems like just yesterday, or at least last month, I was madly writing towards a break neck deadline while wondering what insanity 2010 would bring. Now I’m wondering what craziness is in store in 2011.

2010 Statistics:

I wrote 3 novels: Murder In Vein, Twice as Dead and Baited Blood, and started Ghost on the Gallows.

Murder In Vein launched my new vampire mystery series – my third mystery series.

Twice As Dead was the 6th book in the Odelia Grey mystery series. I have a 12-book contract for that series, so the completion of Twice As Dead put me at the halfway mark. And let's not forget Corpse on the Cob, which was released February 2010.

There was no Granny Apples book released in 2010 because of a release date cha-cha by my publisher, but Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini, the 2nd book in that series, will be out in just a few weeks.

I attended Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles, Malice Domestic in Virginia, Oakmont Authors Festival in Pennsylvania, Book Expo in New York and Bouchercon in San Francisco. Somewhere along in there I managed a trip to Jim Thorpe, PA, for research and a visit with my family in Massachusetts. I also did countless library and fund raising events.

I also completed nearly five years at the law firm and paid off most of my debts.

In spite of the above accomplishments, it was a rocky year, with the writing of three books and all the book promotion draining me physically and emotionally, but I bounced back and am finishing up the year on a high note of expectation for the next twelve months.

2011 plans:

Write Granny #3, Odelia #7, Vampires #3.

I’ll be attending Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu, both in Alabama, and Bouchercon in St. Louis. And, of course, the usual book signings and speaking engagements. I’m looking forward to the little lighter travel schedule this year.

May 15, 2011, will see me lined up with friends and other racers for the 100th Anniversary of the San Francisco Bay-to-Breakers. And in November, I’ll be taking a trip to the Grand Canyon – my first ever.

As for the world in general, most things in the news made me nuts or sad or horrified. But there were stories that brought great hope and joy. Who will ever forget those Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground? Unfortunately, there were fewer of those stories, but the important thing is we are not without hope as long as we have life. Just ask any of those miners and their families.

Okay 2011, let me slap on a little lipstick and I’ll be ready for ya!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Typing - Even On My Birthday!

Today is my birthday and I'm over at Inkspot discussing - whatelse - typing!  Hop on over and join the fun.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Granny Does Hanukkah

The blog question this week over at Criminal Minds was what would your protagonist want to open for each of the eight days of Hanukkah.  Since I have three series, I had to give this some serious thought and asked Madison, Odelia, Emma and Granny who wanted to take the question. I even asked a few of the vampires, but no one stepped forward. It was more like everyone took a step backward, all but Granny, who was wondering why the others fell so quiet all of a sudden.  My characters are usually quite chatty, but not this time. This time they withdrew, leaving Granny standing alone to take the heat.

Granny didn't disappoint. A bit surly at first, she did finally come up with an interesting list.  You can read it over at Criminal Minds today.

And don't forget. Granny and Emma and all their pals will be back in their 2nd adventure, THE GHOST IN THE POLKA DOT BIKINI, in just a few weeks!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas For One

A lot of blog postings around the web are talking about family Christmas traditions. I’m always hesitant to talk about my Christmas traditions. Not because they’re odd or kinky, but because people get the wrong idea and feel sorry for me.

You see, I spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone.

Okay, now just stop it! I can see you glazing over with that “poor Sue, we must do something” look. Trust me, your sadness on my behalf is misguided.

I live alone. I’ve lived alone almost all of my life. I like living alone. More importantly, I am not lonely. I have very little family, and what I have is 3,000 miles away. A few years ago I braved holiday travel to spend Christmas with them. NEVER AGAIN! Hey, I love you guys like it’s nobody’s business, but cancelled flights, bad weather and luggage missing for a week isn’t my idea of a good and relaxing holiday. Plus, I can seldom wrangle time away from work in December.

When I was in my early thirties, there was a small group of us who had Christmas dinner together. Then, as happens, over the years people married or moved away. For several years I accepted invitations to various Christmas dinners. But as gracious as my friends and acquaintances were, I often felt “tacked on” to their traditions, like a good deed they were doing for the holidays rather than truly wanted and included. And there were holidays I spent with the then current significant other.

At some point, I finally looked people in the eye and declared myself a family of one (okay, 3 if you include the cats). And I have my own holiday traditions, just like any other family.

I get together with friends the week or two before Christmas to share dinners and exchange gifts before they take off to visit their families. I decorate my apartment (though my schedule dictates how much). I make myself a lovely meal, usually rack of lamb, and open a nice bottle of wine. For dessert, it’s either ginger bread or pumpkin cheesecake. There’s often a fresh Christmas floral arrangement on my dining table and carols playing in the background. On Christmas morning I open the presents received from family and friends and watch a Christmas movie in my jammies with a carafe of ginger or peppermint tea. I call my family. Invitations to go to the movies with my Jewish friends are turned down. I spend the day in quiet, self-contained, bliss.

And I write. I’ve always had a deadline shortly after the first of the year, so part of Christmas is almost always spent pounding the keyboard for several hours, both before and after dinner.

This is my tradition and I look forward to it every year.

If you know singles without family, don’t naturally assume they are okay alone at Christmas, as I am. Many are not. There’s a reason the suicide rate increases at the holidays. Some folks might be lonely and would love an invitation to dinner, so open your hearts and your home and make them feel welcome. But if they decline, don’t feel bad. Maybe they just want to be with their family of one.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dystopia - Dyswhatsia?

This past weekend a very lively discussion ensued at the holiday party of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The party was fabulous. Get a bunch of crime writers in one place and ply them with drink and great food and you have a recipe for a very interesting evening.

The specific discussion I'm referencing took place between myself, Denise Hamilton and Les Klinger.  Actually, it was more me listening wide-eyed while Denise and Les gushed excitedly about dystopian novels, mostly young adult novels.

I've been hearing the word dystopia a lot lately around the author water cooler.  I kind of, sort of, knew what it meant, and I knew it was the latest craze in YA novels (The Hunger Games, Mockingjay). For those of you as in the shadows as I was, in a nutshell, dystopia novels center around a negative utopia, like a utopia gone wild and ugly.  Think Lord of the Flies or The Time Machine, two of my favorite novels.

The day after the party, I looked up the term dystopia to make sure my understanding was correct, and was pleased to discover it was.  Whew. Nothing like feeling like an author who may be clueless and out of touch. I was also pleased to learn I had been reading dystopian novels most of my life and just didn't know it by that term. I'd always thought of them as science fiction.

While I've never read The Hunger Games or any of the currently popular dystopian novels, I have read quite a few of the classics.  And I bet you have, too.  Here's some of my well-read and well-loved dystopian novels:

Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Time Machine - H. G. Wells
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Animal Farm - George Orwell
1984 - George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Monday, December 06, 2010

Deadlines Be Damned - Oops, Did I Say That?

I have a new book due to my publisher in 8 weeks.  57 days to be exact.  The book's working title is GHOST ON THE GALLOWS.  It's the third installment in my Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series.

So far I have 1 page done.  Yes, you read that correctly.  1. Page 1, chapter 1. 

I should be panicking about now, but I'm not. I am oddly, eerily, calm about it.  Last night at the So Cal MWA holiday party, fellow author and pal Darrell James put a strong, comforting arm around me and said he was "scared for me." I told him not to worry.  His wife, Diana James, is my manager. As the days tick off the calendar, Diana's voice will grow higher each time she calls to check on my progress. And each time I will tell her I'm fine. The book is fine. Not to worry. Chill.

I've written each of my last two books in two months time. It seems I write better under pressure.  It's not like I intentionally put myself into these jams.  I really don't.  It's just I have other stuff on my plate - like a day job and editing 2 books and doing galley proofs on a third, all in the last month.  And it's not like I'm NOT writing. It's just that the writing I'm doing does not entail putting new words on a page.

I know it's time to put the peddle to the metal. To dig deep and get the words and plot lines and characters out of my head and onto the page. Time's ticking. Hear it?

But, you see, I vowed this year, for the first time in many years, I'm taking time to smell the holly and enjoy the Christmas season. I'm going to parties and meeting with friends and not letting it whoosh by me like someone else's life watched in film clips. The book will get done. I'm sure of it. But this year, my present to myself is my life back.

Granny is standing next to me, tapping her booted foot, ready to kick me in the ass. And, trust me, you do not want to rile a cantankerous, pig-headed, pioneer ghost. But Granny needs to understand she shouldn't rile an equally pig-headed author.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Perfect Stay-Cation

Here's an insight into the glamorous life of an author.  Yeah, right!

Last week I took the whole week off from my day job as a paralegal.  I didn't join the multitudes traveling over Thanksgiving, but chose instead to stay home.  I did the same thing in 2009 and have now decided that an annual stay-cation is a must for my sanity.

The plan was to relax, see friends and get things done around the apartment.  Mission accomplished!

It took two days, but I managed to scrub all of the carpets and area rugs in my apartment.  It was WAY overdue and I was both pleased and appalled by the dirt that came out of the wall-to-wall. Not to mention the cat hair, even after I vacuumed twice.  I swear, the carpet is several shades lighter now.  The most difficult part of the whole endeavor was moving furniture out of the way. I swallowed quite a few ibuprofen over the course of the cleaning.

(BTW, I bought this little gem of a carpet cleaner, although don't be fooled by the words "steamer" or "power brush."  The "steam" comes from the fact that you fill it with very hot tap water.  The brush doesn't move. The "power" comes from your own muscles.  But, that said, I think it's the perfect little machine for apartment cleaning.)

When I wasn't cleaning the carpets, I was cleaning out old stuff and tossing it.  I finally got rid of the extra old rag-tag desk chair that my cat Raffi adored.  It was truly an eyesore and he'd torn it to bits. I took it down to the dumpster, then spent three days listening to him whine about it. I'm still waiting for his revenge attack. Just wait until I get rid of my equally ragged desk chair and replace it with one he can't shred.  Boy, then I'll be in for it.

I spent four of my nine days of stay-cation having lunch or brunch with friends.  This was the very best part of my time off.  I started my stay-cation celebrating friend Lori Tillman's birthday at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, where the food and service was fabulous. Lori, BTW, was the inspiration behind the character of Zee Washington in my Odelia Grey novels. Next up was lunch with a former boyfriend at Gulf Stream in Century City, where they have the best tuna burger anywhere. Wednesday found me in Pomona dishing the dirt at the Wood Ranch Grill with author pal Kate Thorton. We also celebrated the release of Kate's new collection of short stories, Inhuman Condition, and what better way to do that than by lunch, girl talk, and shopping! Last up was brunch on Sunday at a French cafe with long-time pal Miles Holliman.

In between all the carpet cleaning and food, I managed to do the final edits on two novels: Twice As Dead and Baited BloodTwice As Dead had already been edited, but I wasn't totally happy with it.  I asked my editor at Midnight Ink for another shot at it and she said sure, as long as I got it done before December 1st.  Now I'm very happy with the book. Baited Blood is the 2nd in my vampire mystery series and that absolutely hummed off the page and required very few edits.

I also did a lot of shopping during the week.  I needed a lot of stuff for the apartment and with the great sales going on, managed to get most everything.  Besides clothing, I bought a new alarm clock, a portable GPS (mine was stolen out of my car last month!) and a new computer.  Not to mention a carpet cleaner. See, a glamorous life.  And on top of this, I got my Christmas shopping done!  Yes, D-O-N-E!

Now it's back to the swing of things. I've just started work on Ghost on the Gallows, the 3rd book in my Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series.  The book is due February 1st, so I'm going to need to haul my heiny to get it done on time, but with all the editing of other books out of the way, it should be clear sailing. Outside of an occasional blog or two, my only writing mission is this book.

Oh yeah, and my paralegal job.  Not that I could forget about that.  It was tough yesterday getting back into the groove, but the dozens of e-mails and stacks of files on my desk let me know I was needed and missed.  It's going to be a very busy December at the firm. Glad I got my stay-cation in!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mince Pie For Breakfast - Hell, Yeah!

Even people who live alone have Thanksgiving traditions. Mine is eating mince pie and ice cream for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. It doesn’t matter if I’m staying home for Thanksgiving, going to friends, or meeting folks at a restaurant for the main meal, breakfast is always warm mince pie with vanilla ice cream while watching the Macy’s Parade. If I travel for the holiday, I will still trek to Marie Callendars either before or after turkey day to get my mince fix.

It all started when I was a kid. My mother always made a half dozen pies – pumpkin, chocolate cream, apple, lemon meringue, and mince. The sixth pie was either banana cream or something she called danish delight, which was a raspberry, red gel-like filling similar to the lemon filling and covered with meringue. My mother and I were the only ones in the family who liked mince pie. Early on, my mother made it by mixing boxes of dried Nonesuch filling into water and cooking it on the stove before pouring it into the pie shell. Often she would chop up extra apple to add to the box filling. Later Nonesuch put ready-made filling into jars, making it much easier.

On Thanksgiving morning, while Mom was busy cooking the turkey and making the other fixings, my brother and I would eat pie for breakfast. It was quick and a special treat and something we could do for ourselves. There were no microwave ovens back then. Except for the cream pies, we would eat it at room temperature with no ice cream. Over the years I’ve changed the tradition to include warming it up and adding ice cream. My own touch to a family tradition.

Hey – mince pie is full of raisins and apples and ice cream is a dairy product. Fruit and milk – sounds like breakfast to me.

Every year, 2010 being no different, I munch on pie and ice cream shortly after I get up and remember back to my childhood. I think about my brother, Thom, and I, still in our jammies, devouring pie in front of the old black and white TV, while the house filled with the smells of cooking. Soon after, we’d head outside to play until dinner time.

Our family was pretty dysfunctional, even more than most, but once a year warm mince pie conjures up one of the warm and fuzzy memories I hope I’ll never forget.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too Much Information?

I'm over at Inkspot today posing the question to authors: when is it too much information?  Do readers really want to know the person behind the books?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giving You a Piece of My Criminal Mind

Andy Warhol - Self Portrait
Today I begin my tour of duty with the fine writers over at the Criminal Mind blog.  I will be blogging there every other Sunday, in addition to my monthly blogging at Inkspot (look for me there on Tuesday, Nov. 23rd) and occasional blog posts here.

I was very excited when Kelli Stanley invited me to join Criminal Minds, voted one of the top mystery blogs for 2010. I love the premise of this blog.  Every week they pose a question to the group and beginning on Monday, the bloggers for that week each give the topic their individual spin.  Once a month they have a Grand Master, a  top mystery writer who gets grilled by each blogger with questions. Stop by this entertaining and informative blog to say hello.  I think you'll be glad you did.

This week's question was if you could choose any artist, living or dead, to do your book covers, who would it be?  I conjured up Andy Warhol to help me out.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Saturday with the Soroptimists

This coming Saturday, November 13th, I am very honored and excited about joining several author colleagues, including my good friend Naomi Hirahara, at the 6th Annual Authors' Brunch sponsored by the Brea/La Habra chapter of Soroptimist International.  It should be a fun and interesting time.

Friday, November 05, 2010

To Maura Kelly and Marie Claire: I'm Fat. Deal With It!

Sculpture by Cindy Koh
As usual, I am late to the party – 12 days late to be exact. But that tends to happen when I’m hustling to finish edits on a book and have my nose stuck deep into due diligence at the office.

Just today I learned about Maura Kelly’s inflammatory blog at Marie Claire about fat people. Seems she was asked by her editor to comment about whether or not seeing fat people make-out on TV made people in general feel uncomfortable, and was given the new TV show Mike and Molly as her example. What followed was a hateful, shockingly ignorant and poorly written diatribe against fat people, even though Ms. Kelly had never seen the show in question.

I’ve been bullied most of my life about my weight, which started climbing when I was around 8 years old. I remember being followed home from school by classmates while they taunted me with “fatty, fatty, two by four” and “Chubby Checker,” all the while kicking me in the back of my legs. My mother went to the school to try and stop it, but it only made it worse.

Such bullying continued all through elementary, junior high and high school. I remember for awhile in high school, boys used to lay in wait for me at the top of the staircase and as I walked up would hock up big wads of spit and rain it down on me. When I went to the school office to complain, the adults helped me get the gobs of mucus out of my long hair and told me to go to class a different way. The creeps found me and continued until they got bored or found someone else to torment.

Looking back, I wasn’t even very large at that time in my life. Certainly plump, but by no means morbidly obese. (Truth is, I’d kill to weigh now what I weighed then.) But it was the 60’s and the Twiggy waif-pre-pubescent boy look was in, along with hip-huggers and the birth of the mini-skirt. It didn’t help that I was a loner, from a broken home (which wasn’t the norm in those days) and from a lower economic level. But it was my size that initiated the attacks and name-calling.

When I was around 15, I was taken to a weight specialist and put on diet pills. I quickly lost 20-25 lbs and for a short while was thin enough that you could cut yourself on my collar bone. Unfortunately, the pills turned out to be prescription speed. I was so hyped up, the doctor had to give me sedatives to counteract the diet pills. I ended up in the hospital emergency room and remember the doctor lecturing my mother soundly for turning me into a junkie. Fortunately, I wasn’t addicted to the pills and as soon as they were out of my system I was healthy again … and gaining my weight back.

Is it any wonder my first suicide attempt was at 16 years of age. Trust me, teen suicides over bullying are nothing new.

The remarks, the bullying, the looks of disgust have continued throughout the years and I have memorialized some of them in my Odelia Grey novels. As I got older, they lessened. Seems when you become middle-aged, the bullies decide you aren’t worth their time. Or maybe you become so toughened up, they sense you might take them out if they say anything.

When I read the Maura Kelly fat-rant blog the first time, my head nearly exploded. Then I felt sad for Ms. Kelly. She admits to having her own body issues and anorexia and it obviously taints her judgment. Her own self-loathing has turned her into a nasty bitch with no sense of decency and a bad case of projecting her personal issues onto others. She did “apologize” kind of, sort of, but it was obvious she didn’t feel one bit sorry for her hateful words. If anything, the “apology” seemed like continued arrogance, just wrapped in different words.

If Ms. Kelly had posted her ugly words on a personal blog, I would have written it off as her personal opinion, which she has a right to, and formed my own opinion of her – that she’s an unhappy asshole. But the fact that she put it on the blog of Marie Claire, a national magazine for women, which claims to embrace ALL women, is the real hate crime here, and that crime was perpetrated by that magazine.

Don’t for one minute, Marie Claire, tell me no one saw that blog entry before it was posted. And don’t for one minute try to peddle your fair and equal handling of all women/all people. That ship has sailed and it sailed with a steel drum band and streamers.

My name is Sue Ann Jaffarian. I am fat. I kiss men and have sex, and that makes me Maura Kelly’s and Marie Claire’s worst fears come to life.

I rather enjoy that...

11/6/10 - Last night when I wrote the above blog, I felt I'd gotten a lot off my chest.  But a funny thing happened this morning when I woke up. I felt free and empowered, like I had taken back my life.  I live a very busy life and sometimes all the activity, deadlines and demands bring about a kind of robotic malaise. Reading the bullshit Marie Claire and Maura Kelly are shoveling brought me out of that, and so I must thank them for shaking me up and awakening the warrior in me - the beautiful, sexy, intelligent warrior queen. - saj

Monday, November 01, 2010

Get Off Your Ass And Vote!

On November 2nd, sometime between 7 am and 8 am, I will be waiting in line at Palms Elementary School to vote.  The school is two blocks from my apartment building. No need to drive. Just walk on over, do the deed and walk back. Then I'll climb into my car and head into work.  No muss. No fuss. Very little inconvenience. 

You can even vote by mail if you send it in on time.  I prefer going to the polls.  There is something about standing in the voting booth next to my neighbors and punching out my choices that makes me feel very American in a positive way.

Because this is not a presidential election year, they expect lower turnouts at the polls.  Guess some folks figure if they aren't casting their vote for the top job, it doesn't matter.

Well, it does!

Here in California we have the Governor's seat up for grabs, along with an important US Senatorial seat.  There are also many important measures on the ballot.  I won't go into details about which candidates or measures I support, but you can bet that tonight, when I get home from work, I'll be going over my sample ballot one last time to make sure I'm confident about my choices.

Voting is not just our right, it's our privilege and duty.

So tomorrow, get off your ass and go do it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm over at Inkspot today discussing the mise en place of writing. Come on by and bring your apron.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How I Ate and Drank My Way Through Bouchercon

I’ve been to several Bouchercons in the past several years and I must say the one in San Francisco last week was the best I’ve attended so far. It was very well planned and organized and even with approximately 1,400 people attending, you never felt overwhelmed.

By the time I got to San Francisco on Thursday morning, I was exhausted. I’d already put in three very long days at the office and now was facing four days of conference. After an uneventful flight and a smooth ride on BART from the airport directly to the Hyatt, I was pleased to run into my editor, Terri Bischoff, at the registration desk at the hotel. Since it was early and my room not ready, I visited with folks like Christa Faust, Julia Spencer Fleming, and Aileen Baron before taking off for a brief visit to the San Francisco office of my law firm. I’d never been there before and wanted to see the digs and say hello to many of the folks I work with via phone and e-mail. From there it was a nice walk back to the Hyatt with a stop at a tiny café for a quiet lunch.

Bryana and "Odelia"
When I returned to the hotel my room was ready and I moved in and rested a bit before getting ready for my evening gig. Thursday night I was scheduled to speak to the Alameda County Legal Secretaries Association at the law offices of Nixon Peabody, which was almost across from the Hyatt. I’d spoken to this crowd before and they are always a delight. It was so nice to catch up with familiar faces and catch them up on my adventures in publishing. Terri went with me, as well as Diane Kudisch, the owner of the San Francisco Mystery Book Store, who brought books to sell.  And we sold a lot of books!

At the end of the dinner and program, Bryana Schroder, President of the Association, presented me with a very special gift: a crochet Odelia Grey doll she made herself! I was absolutely overwhelmed. The doll is quite large and has a tote bag filled with miniature editions of my books. How cool is that? Then it was back to the Hyatt and the bar, where I spent a lot of time laughing with pal Holly West, her hubby Mick and friends Julie and Rich.

In the morning, I had breakfast with a group of ladies from the Mystery Babes Yahoo group. What a fun time! At breakfast, I discovered Dana Cameron and I were born in the same town in Massachusetts. Even in the same hospital!

I had a very special treat in the early afternoon when I joined friends Rita Lakin and Steve Stienbock in the hospitality room.  Sitting with them was the legendary William Link and his lovely wife Marjory.  Later in the day I was scheduled to appear in the Midnight Ink booth to meet and greet folks. Steven Pomije, Director of Publicity at Midnight Ink, did a great job on the booth and we had lots of folks stopping by to check out our books.

When I lived in San Francisco years ago, my favorite restaurant was Tadich Grill. Determined to visit the historic restaurant this trip, I gathered up Joni Langevroot and Nikki Bonanni and took off for a bowl of the best cioppino anywhere. After, it was back to the Hyatt and the Jack Reacher party hosted by Lee Child.

At Midnight Ink booth with Joanna Slan and Kathleen Ernst
 Saturday was more of the same: chatting with old friends, making new ones and soaking in the wonderful atmosphere of San Francisco. Thursday night I met up with my long time friend Leila Sarkissian, who lives in The City, and she introduced me to a restaurant called Kokkari, which was across the street from the apartment complex where I used to live. Kokkari is a Greek restaurant with fabulous ambiance, food and service. We had lemon soup, split entrees of goat stew and lamb chops, and rice pudding with honey braised pear. WOW! is all I can say about dinner.

After, Leila and I walked back to the Hyatt and bumped into Holly, Mick, Julie and Rich. We grabbed a table in the bar, and spent the next few hours swapping stories while friends dropped by to join us for a bit or to say hello. The bar was hopping on Saturday night, which is not unusual at a mystery conference, and folks wandered from table to table in one big party atmosphere.

Sunday morning, after packing and checking out of the hotel, I went to my panel: Clown of Death. Panel mates included Sebastian Stuart, Mary Jane Maffini and Lenny Kleinfeld. The panel was moderated by Terri Bischoff. I was concerned about a panel on humor scheduled for 8:30 am but was surprised to find it a full house. The panel was lively and fun and no one seemed hung over from the previous night’s festivities; not the panel or the audience! After the panel,we signed books and then took off for the Anthony banquet. I was so very pleased that pals Sophie Littlefield and Hank Phillipi Ryan both won Anthony awards.

My trip to Bouchercon ended with lunch on Sunday with another dear old friend, Paula Boghossian. We had wonderful kabobs at Shalizaar in Belmont, then Paula dropped me off at M is for Mystery where I had a book talk and signing with Sebastian Stuart. After that, friends Doug and Shirley Pearson scooted me off to the airport for my flight home.

Okay, based on the above, can you see how much fun Bouchercon was? I mean, I ate, drank and chatted my way through four days of mystery books, writers, readers and friends.

Doesn’t get much better than that!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Here I Come, San Francisco! And I'm Bringing My Heart!

October is not quite halfway over and I'm pooped.  On October 4th I turned in my second vampire novel. My publisher loved it and it looks like its published title might be BAITED BLOOD, which I love.

I had planned on taking a few days off from writing, then plunge back in with the final edits on TWICE AS DEAD, the 6th Odelia Grey adventure.  However, life had other plans.  Or I should say, my day job had other plans.  Ever since turning in BAITED BLOOD, I've been working like a dog at the law firm, chalking up several 10+ hr days, including one that was nearly 15 hrs long. Good bye writing until that's over!  But I don't mind.  I like my job and they are very flexible when it comes to my writing schedule - quid pro quo.

Now that life at the office is quieting down, I'm heading off to San Francisco, one of my absolute all time favorite cities, for Bouchercon 2010.  That's the world mystery conference to you non-mystery loving folks; the annual gathering of mystery writers, agents, editors and fans from all over the world.  Every year it's in a different city.  The last time I attended was several years ago and it was held in Madison, Wisconsin.  Next year it's in St. Louis.

I leave for San Francisco on Thursday morning and my first event is not a Bouchercon event but a speaking gig at the Alameda County Legal Secretaries Association dinner meeting that night.  I love speaking at legal events.  What can I say?  They're my peeps.

The rest of my weekend in SF is as follows:

Friday - 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm - The Midnight Ink Booth in the Bouchercon book room.  If you're at B'Con, please drop by and say hello.  I'm told the booksellers will have the limited hard cover edition of MURDER IN VEIN.

Sunday - 8:30 am - Panel - Clown of Death, a discussion of mysteries on the lighter side, with fellow panelists Sebastian StuartMary Jane Maffini, Lenny Kleinfeld. The panel will be moderated by my Midnight Ink editor, Terri Bischoff.

Sunday - 5:00 pm -  Book discussion and signing at M is For Mystery with Sebastian Stuart; 86 East Third Avenue, San Mateo, CA.

Tonight I'll be packing and getting ready for my flight in the morning.  I'm too tired right now to be very excited about the trip.  Mostly, I just want a day to sleep, but I'm sure I'll get into the swing of things once I'm surrounded by all the hubbub of the mystery world.  After all, they are also my peeps.

Monday, October 04, 2010

It's Finished, But I'm Not

Last night, or technically this morning, at 12:30 am, I hit the send button on my keyboard and delivered the 2nd book in my new vampire mystery series off to my publisher. The working title is THE BLOOD THAT BINDS, but I'm not sure that title will stick.  We'll just have to wait and see.  I'm also excited to see what Midnight Ink comes up with for a cover since I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE all of their covers.  The 2nd vampire book will be out next September, so stay tuned for announcements about it in the next year.

One thing I must say about this 2nd vampire book - it nearly wrote itself!  It's almost as if the characters whispered each and every scene into my ear and I merely typed it all out like dictation. It's was magic!

The first book in the series, MURDER IN VEIN, is doing well.  Thanks, everyone!  It's brought in a lot of new readers to my work and most of my Odelia Grey and Granny Apples readers have also loved it. 

Please note, dear readers, that MURDER IN VEIN is much darker and edgier than my other series. It is definitely not a cozy or cozy-ish, so if vampires or harder fiction are not your thing, please do not feel you must read it.  I certainly will understand.

Copies of the limited edition hard cover of MURDER IN VEIN are still available, but only from independent mystery book stores.  Most of the book stores where I have had or will have signings will have them, so check my calendar for upcoming signings.

Next up:

October 9, 2010 - 1:00 p.m.
Book Signing and Discussion on Murder In Vein
Mysteries to Die For
2940 Thousand Oaks Boulevard
Thousand Oaks, California 91362
(805) 374-0084

So what's next on the horizon?  Well, next I must do the final edits on TWICE DEAD, the 6th Odelia Grey novel, followed by the galley proofs for GHOST IN THE POLKA DOT BIKINI, the 2nd Granny Apples mystery. On November 1st I begin work on the 3rd Granny Apples book.  My working title is GHOST ON THE GALLOWS and much of it takes place in the small town of Jim Thorpe, PA.  GHOST ON THE GALLOWS will be my 11th novel for Midnight Ink.  Wow, does time fly or what?

As for now, I'm hanging up my writer hat for a couple of days, but just a couple. I'll get my home in order and take care of things like my website, catch up correspondence and other chores that have fallen by the wayside.  In a little over a week I'll be heading to San Francisco for Bouchercon.

As for now, I need a nap.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Breaking Out of My Box

I'm over at Inkspot today talking about breaking out of my box.  Please drop by and add your comments.

Friday, September 24, 2010

That Thumb Drive Goes Where???

I am 10 days from my deadline to deliver the 2nd book in my vampire mystery series to my publisher. The book is going very well and is surprising even me with its exciting twists and turns. I never knew vampires could be such fun.

More than once in the past two days I've said to someone that the ending is in my head playing like a movie. All I have to do is get it out through my fingers and onto the page.  The problem is, between now and the finish of the book are thousands of words, big and small, that lay it all out for the reader. With just 10 days left, I don't want to be bothered with all the verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Oh, and let's not forget all those pesky quotation marks in the dialogue.

I just want to cut the last few scenes out of my head and paste them to the page. Cut 'n paste - is that asking too much?

Then how about a thumb drive I can stick into my ear, upload the book's ending, then stick the thumb drive into my computer. Ta Da!  Book finished!

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates - Are you listening?  Forget fancy phones and new operating systems, just make me a flash drive that works with my brain.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two Rare Friday Events and One Launch Party - Come Join In The Fun!

This weekend I have lots of fun planned for everyone.

Friday, September 17th, I will be taking off my paralegal hat for the entire day and slipping into my author togs for two lovely events.

The first event begins at 11:30 am. It's a luncheon sponsored by the Friends of the Huntington Beach Library.  The other is an evening event with the Signal Hill Library.

First up is the Friends of the Huntington Beach Library Luncheon which begins at 11:30 am, 711 Talbert Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA.  The cost is $18.  I'm not sure if walk-ins or late reservations are allowed, but if you are interested in attending, call 714-375-8429 for more information.

The Signal Hill Library event is from 7-9 pm and will be held at the Signal Hill Community Center, 1780 E. Hill Street, Signal Hill, CA.  For folks not familiar with Signal Hill, it's a small community next to Long Beach.

And last, but definitely not least, this Saturday, September 18th, 5:00 pm, is the LAUNCH PARTY FOR MURDER IN VEIN!  This should be a great time.

Count Duckula will be there, will you?
And remember, this is the first place that hard cover copies of MURDER IN VEIN will be available.

The festivities, which will include red velvet cake and champagne, start at 5:00 pm at the Mystery Book Store, 1036-C Broxton, Los Angeles, CA (Westwood/UCLA area).  Be one of the first 50 people to arrive and receive a vampire rubber duckie that will also put you in the drawing for another special prize.

Prior to 6 pm, the parking structure next to the book store offers 3 hrs of free parking - a real treat in parking-challenged Westwood.  The small lot across the street is a flat rate of $5 or $6.

Friday, September 10, 2010

No Cabana Boys, But Still Lots Of Fun

While there will be no cabana boys present this weekend, there will be lots of fun things happening in my life.  One is a book event and the other a cultural event. Both are open to the public, and it's not too late for you to plan on attending either.

September 11, 2010 - 2:00-4:00 p.m. - Free 
The Pros and Cons of Self Publishing with Sue Ann Jaffarian, Pamela Samuels Young and Gay Degani
Burbank Library - Buena Vista Library
300 N Buena Vista St
Burbank, CA 91505-3607
(818) 238-5620

On Sunday, September 12, 2010, I will be attending the following dance production.  All ticket proceeds for Dhoom Dham are going to benefit the American Diabetes Association.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

America's Got Mega Talent

Last night the 4 finalists for this season's America's Got Talent were announced.  WOW! I would pay to see any one of these four super talents perform. At the beginning of the season, I was Jackie Evancho all the way, but now I don't know which way to vote.  What a happy dilemma to have.

On Tuesday night when the 10 semi-finalists performed, I was sick and sacked out on the sofa. It was a 2-hour show and I barely saw anything past the first hour.  Yesterday I went online and watched the performances I missed, which included all four of the finalists. All 10 of the acts were fantastic. As Piers Morgan kept saying, it was the best semi-finals yet in the program's history.  When the 4 finalists were chosen, they were the same 4 I had on my list.  That's never happened in the time I've been watching the show. But all four were definitely a notch above the other 6, who were also incredible.

Jackie Evancho - what can you say about this charming, extraordinarily gifted girl that hasn't already been said. We'll be listening to her for years and years and years.

Michael Grimm- I want to buy a CD of his songs RIGHT NOW.

Prince Poppycock - I can't wait to sit in a theatre and watch a full stage production by this campy, talented and fun entertainer.

Fighting Gravity - How original and exciting are they?  Boys, whether or not you win AGT, you will ROCK Vegas! Mark my words.

Wild horses, or even a looming deadline, won't keep me from my TV next Tuesday night.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Million Blogging Vampires? YIKES!

Today I'm a guest blogger over at A Million Blogging Monkeys, the blog owned by my good pal and fellow Midnight Ink author Alan Orloff.  Drop on buy and say hello.  And while you're at it, bookmark this delightful blog site and visit it often in the future.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Oh, Cabana Boy!

I just returned home from one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a very long time. I’m so relaxed, next to me, Gumby is wound tight.

My BFF Susan and I spent the day at the Glen Ivy Spa in Corona where we enjoyed mineral soaks, steam baths, mud baths and a special moisturizing treatment (my skin feels like a baby's backside). In between, we lallygagged about in our own private cabana. That’s right, a cabana. And it was all ours.

Glen Ivy has these really nifty cabanas for rent for the day. They are located on an upper terrace with a gorgeous view of the surrounding hillside. There are four cabanas in all which look like rooms with the front wall missing. Each is outfitted with various configurations of sofas, chaises, tables and chairs according to its size. They are semi private with each divided from the next by a high wall and greenery. Three of the cabanas are suitable for parties of 10 or more. One is set up for a party of two. That’s the one we rented. Directly in front of our cabana were two cushioned lounges with pillows just for our use. Dividing the lounges from the inside section were three airy curtains that we could pull across the front of our space for more privacy or to block the sun. Beyond our private lounges were more regular chaises and tables and chairs solely for the use of cabana patrons. The terrace also had a private whirlpool.

Our day started by depositing my car in a reserved parking spot, then jumping to the head of the line to be greeted by Ryan, a handsome, young concierge who escorted us up to our cabana and settled us in. Waiting for us was a large tub of ice filled with bottles of water. A few minutes later another young man arrived with a bowl of fresh fruit for our enjoyment. He also left lunch menus and asked if we wanted any thing else. Susan and I both ordered iced teas. In a jiff, two iced teas appeared along with a carafe of more iced tea for refills. Another concierge booked us a slot in the Grotto, which is a special moisturizing treatment, and asked if he could book other services for us. Throughout the day, more iced tea magically appeared. The ice in our water bottle tub was also replenished throughout the day. And the young men stopped by frequently to make sure we had everything we needed. Susan commented several times that she felt like Cleopatra with all the special attention.

Along about noon, one of the young men (there were three serving the cabana area – James, Josh and Ryan) asked if we were ready for lunch. Sounded good to us. We ordered a nacho plate that was big enough to feed us both with leftovers. The last time we went to Glen Ivy we had to order our food at the on site café, which is cafeteria style and quite yummy. It wasn’t a problem at all, but I have to admit, it was a lot of fun having the food ordered and delivered to us without lifting a finger. After lunch we read, chatted and took in more soaks. I wanted to live there. At least for another day or so. For the entire day, the service was impeccable.

The cabanas aren’t cheap, and you still have to pay the entry fee into the spa, and for any extra services like massages, pedicures, facials, the Grotto, etc. Although they do provide cabana patrons with a slight discount. Cabanas also have to be reserved in advance.  I have to admit, the cabana rental was worth every penny as a special treat. We decided to do it because we’ve both been under so much stress lately. 

Sigh - Stress? What stress?

Susan summed it up perfectly as the delightful Ryan escorted us from the entry to our cabana:  “A cabana boy?! Well, I can cross that off my bucket list.”

Saturday, September 04, 2010

You're Never Too Old To Play In The Mud

Mud Pool Area at Glen Ivy
This past April my friend Susan and I spent the day relaxing at the Glen Ivy Spa in Corona.  It was so wonderful that we promised ourselves we would do this once a quarter.  Even though it's late into the 3rd quarter of the year, tomorrow we stick to that promise.  We'll be spending the entire day immersed in sun, mineral pools and mud. CAN'T WAIT!

Today I'm writing my heiny off on vampire book #2.  It's going very well.  I was about two weeks ahead of schedule, then work turned very demanding and I had a slight cold/allergy situation and I lost my lead, but it's still on track to be completed by its due date of October 1st - just 27 days away.  Usually around this time before a due date I'm a nut job. I'm not with vampire book #2.  Not sure why. Maybe I've cranked out so many books by now I'm not as crazed by looming deadlines.  Or maybe it's because the book is really humming along smoothly.  It's almost as if it's writing itself.  I wish they all went this well.  And I'm really enjoying it, both the writing and the story.

On Monday it's back to the keyboard and the vampires. Tuesday it's back to the law firm.  But for tomorrow, not a single word will be written, not a single plot line considered, not a single piece of promotion done or thought about.  Tomorrow it's all about R&R and spending time with a dear old friend.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pssssst! Do You Hear The Voices, Too?

I'm over at Inkspot today talking about the voices in my head. Drop on by and visit us.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Come On Down to Julian!

Next weekend I will be speaking at the Julian Library.  This is a very exciting and important event for me. You see, Ghost à la Mode, the first Ghost of Granny Apples mystery, takes place in Julian. In fact, Granny herself hails from the small historical town in the mountains north of San Diego.

If you live in Southern California, Julian is a fun place for a relaxing weekend or even a day trip. So why not come on down Saturday, August 21, and visit me at the Julian Library. I'll be on deck at 1:00 pm. And you'll be able to visit all of the sites mentioned in Ghost à la Mode. I might even be talked into giving an impromptu walking tour. Just let me slip on my comfy shoes.

What's more, this will be the very first public outing of MURDER IN VEIN, my new vampire mystery. The library and I have been assured by my publisher that copies of the book will be available for next Saturday's event (sorry - trade paper edition only, hard cover edition isn't out yet).

Ghosts AND vampires - How fun is that gonna be!

For more photos of  Julian, check out my Julian photo album on my Facebook page.

Click on poster to enlarge it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big Voice, Little Girl - WOW!

As you all know, I love TV. But of all the shows I watch, my guilty pleasure is America’s Got Talent. Really. I watch it. Every sappy, scary, embarrassing moment.

I wallow in joy watching people following their dream, whatever it may be, just as I follow mine of being a novelist. I don’t watch American Idol at all. I prefer America’s Got Talent. Yes, it’s cheesier and more bizarre in its range of contestants, but it also has more variety in acts and ages. It’s not just about young people trying to be the next big singing sensation. It’s personifies what I believe and preach: That dreams can be pursued at any age and from any circumstance.

Last night was You Tube night. All twelve acts came from video entries on You Tube rather than through the normal audition process. Four of them will move on to the finals with the other traditionally chosen finalists. For these four acts, it’s like finding the Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar. Of the twelve acts, one stood out – way out – for me: Jackie Evancho.


Jackie Evancho is a ten-year-old opera singer. Yes – 10! And she sounds like a thirty-year-old seasoned Met performer. She has to be heard to be believed. At the end of her performance I was a teary mess. She’s THAT good.

Every season I am blown away by several acts and cheer them on, hoping they make it to the end. I loved all of the finalist last season, but my favorites, Barbara Padilla and Lawrence Beeman, didn’t bring home the prize. Some of my favs for this year are Prince Poppycock, Arc Attack, Murray, and Haspop. There are some great pop signers in the finalist line up, too.

But after last night, I’m Jackie Evancho all the way to the end.

Jackie Evancho isn't a star in the making - she's already a star.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Murder in Vein, the first book in my new Fang-In-Cheek mystery series, is now LIVE on Amazon and – nearly 4 weeks early! This means it should reach brick and mortar stores in the next few weeks.

Hard Cover Edition Update - Murder In Vein is also coming out in a limited hard cover edition! A first for me and for Midnight Ink! For those of you who would like the hard cover edition, it will be out sometime in September and will cost about $24.95. There will only be 500 printed, and for starters it will only be available through mystery book stores and some other independent book stores, so you may have to order it to make sure you get your copy. Because of the limited amount of copies, we cannot guarantee that hard cover copies will be available at all of my signings.

Signed Copies - If you would like a signed copy of the hard cover edition of Murder In Vein, you might try The Mystery Book Store in Los Angeles. Since they will be hosting the launch of Murder In Vein on September 18th at 5:00 p.m., I am sure they would be happy to take orders for signed copies of the hard cover edition, or signed copies of the trade paper edition.

WOW! What a ride!
For those of you who don’t know the story behind this book, just a short year ago Murder in Vein was just an idea in the back of my brain. Something I hadn’t even discussed with my agent yet. And now look … it’s a book! My initial contracts are for 3 books in this darkly funny mystery series. I am currently half way through book 2 in the series.

A big shout out to my agent, Whitney Lee, who recognized the potential of my different spin on the vampire genre, to Terri Bischoff, who was determined to obtain this series for Midnight Ink, and to Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide for fast-tracking production.

Shortly after the ink was dry on the contracts, Terri called me and asked if I could deliver the manuscript in two months, instead of the nine months stated in the contract. I nearly had a heart attack. After all, I have a day job! She outlined Llewellyn’s reasons for the change and let me digest it for about 30 seconds. It made sense from a marketing and sales standpoint, but could I do it? Not one to back down from a challenge, I took a deep breath and said YES. In the words of the elegant Tim Gunn, I would just have to “make it work.” And I did, working like a mad woman every minute I wasn’t at my office, giving up holidays, parties and relaxation to get Murder In Vein on the page.

And now it’s an undead book!