Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Travel Is Never This Easy ... For Me

Okay, something is definitely wrong.

In 24 hrs I will be heading for LAX to grab a flight to Washington DC to begin a 10-day trip. The trip is a combination book conference, book signings, book research and family visit. The last time I took a trip this long was September 2007, when I did another combo book trip concluding with family.

I'm always nervous when leaving home for so long. I worry about the cats, even though I'm leaving them in capable hands. I worry that I haven't packed properly. I worry that I've forgotten something important I needed to do. I make a list and check it twice - like Santa. And I'm ALWAYS scrambling the night before like a crazy woman.

See, that's the problem. I'm not scrambling. Last night I got my clothes ready. This morning I'm packing. Tonight, instead of my usual mad, late night rush of activity, I'll actually have time to give myself a much needed manicure and watch some TV. And get to bed early. Even the projects at the law firm are caught up.

This can't be. I must have forgotten something. Tomorrow morning, while driving to LAX, something is going to bite me on my big fat ass. I just know it.

After the Malice Domestic Conference, I have several book signings that I've listed below. If one of these is in your area, come on down and say hello. I'd love to meet you. You won't be able to miss me. I'll be the woman mumbling to myself, still lost in the insecurity that I've forgotten something back in Los Angeles.

May 3, 2010 - 4:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Greek Orthodox Church
12 Washington St.,Oakmont, PA

May 8, 2010 - 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Book Signing at Millbury Barnes and Noble
The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley
70 Worcester Providence Turnpike #5
Millbury, MA 01527
Phone: 508-865-2801

May 8, 2010 - 2 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Book Signing at Worcester Barnes and Noble
541-D Lincoln Street
Worcester, MA 01605
Phone: 508-853-9478

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Branding That Creeps Me Out

Branding is a big buzz word in the publishing world. Authors, particularly those of us with mystery series, are branded by our publisher. This means they provide identifiable marks, phrases, titles and covers that make an individual author instantly recognizable to readers.

Take my Odelia Grey books, for instance. While the titles differ greatly, the covers all have a very specific look - Odelia, by herself, in some humorous pose that reflects something in the story line. My Granny Apples books will also have specific branding. Although only one (Ghost à la Mode) is currently out, all future Granny Apples mysteries will have titles beginning with the word "ghost." For example, the second book's title is Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini.

That's branding.

All products are branded for marketing, but sometimes branding goes awry. Sometimes the branding misses the mark and turns the public off. This is my beef today - branding that gives me the creeps.

One of my favorite fast food icons is Jack of Jack in the Box. The ads are brilliant and funny and Jack, with his big, round, white head, is cool and even, dare I say it, rather sexy. And let's not forget Ronald McDonald. While not suave and witty like Jack, he's a clown that even people with clown phobias can get behind.

So what in the hell was Burger King thinking?

The King, with his plastic molded mask is downright creepy. Every time I see an ad on TV for Burger King featuring the King, I keep thinking he should be toting a gun and holding up a bank or convenience store instead of pimping burgers. If the King lived in my neighborhood, I'd be warning local children to use the sidewalk on the other side of the street from the King's house.

Another brand icon that gives me the willies is the new Crocs mascot. There's something really icky about a rubbery clog with stumpy arms and legs and no face. In one of the ads, two of these things are massaging a woman's feet after a hard day at work. Okay, I admit it, I wear Crocs. I wear them probably 4 out of 7 days a week. I LOVE Crocs. But if those little creatures came at me when I opened my apartment door, I'd be hitting them with pepper spray or a stun gun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Time Again for the LA Times Festival Of Books!

This Saturday and Sunday the UCLA campus will be alive with everything having to do with... BOOKS!

Yes, it's that time again. Time for the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. This is great fun for the entire family, so come on down and join the fun. The festival hours are 10:00 am - 6:00 pm.

This year I'll be at the Festival Sunday only, signing books at the following two locations:

Sisters In Crime/Los Angeles Booth - noon-2 pm

Mystery Book Store/MWA Booth - 2-3 pm

Come on by and say hello. You know you want to ...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Been There, Done That - Can't Wait To Do It Again!

Just returned from my weekend of sloth with BFF Susan.

This was my first time at the Glen Ivy Spa in Corona. I must say, I was very impressed with all but one thing. Unfortunately, that one thing was even before we got in the gate, so my first impression was not a good one. Fortunately, the spa itself quickly erased the negative start.

We arrived just as Glen Ivy opened to find two lines waiting to get in: one for special reservations and some club thingy and the other for general admission, which we got into. The line wasn't long at all, yet it took FOR-FREAKING-EVER for it to move along. Seems the Glen Ivy employee taking folk's money had to yak yak yakkity yak with every familiar face he saw in line. People in front of us and behind us were grumbling and asking for the line to please move along. I told Susan if it took much longer, I was leaving. I mean, we were in the same spot for over 15 min. - time we spent watching folks ahead of us frolic with the GI staff. There is nothing relaxing about standing in line for no good reason, especially when paradise is just beyong the gate.

Finally, someone came and took folks ahead of us out of line and directed them someplace else. A few minutes later they came to get us and the couple ahead of us and did the same thing. We ended up being herded through the spa grounds to The Grotto, where we paid the entry fee we should have paid 30 min. earlier. In all, it took nearly 40 min. from the time we got in line until we were free to roam the spa grounds, and we were near the beginning of the line. Shame on you, Glen Ivy!

Now to the good stuff ...

After changing into our bathing suits, we staked out two chaise lounges by the big pool, then wandered over to the mineral baths. We spent about 20 min. soaking in the warm mineral enriched bubbly water before getting out and sprawling on our chaises with books. After about an hour or so of that, we headed into the women's locker room to grab a steam and whirlpool.

Throughout the grounds, Glen Ivy has jugs and jugs and jugs of free fresh cold spring water and cups. The grounds themselves are gorgeous with lots of mature tropical vegetation, shade and sunny places to sit or lounge, and even some semi-private alcoves tucked here and there, which were the first spots taken. The entire place was SPOTLESS, including the bath house/locker room, which also was stocked with lovely amenities like hair dryers, shower gel, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner. Along with the drinking water, towels were also plentiful in the locker room and at the various pools. The staff was attentive, friendly and professional.

Glen Ivy guests came in all shapes, sizes and ages. Although no one under 16 is allowed, we saw many families and groups enjoying the spa together. Uncomfortable about being seen in your bathing suit? A few minutes at the spa and you'll leave that all behind. Trust me. And while there were lots of people there on Saturday, it never felt crowded or cramped.

After the whirlpool, we dried off and slipped into cover ups and headed to the cafe for lunch. The cafe is cafeteria style with tons of wonderful choices. Everything was fresh and yummy. I had soft mini tacos with grilled steak and Susan had a Vietnamese noodle soup. They even had beer, wine and tropical alcoholic drinks. If you bought a fountain drink or iced tea, you received free refills for the rest of the day. My kind of place!

After lunch, we lounged again by the pool with our books. I know I fell asleep a few times. After baking, we visited Club Mud ,a warm shallow pool with a pile of red clay mud on a rock in the middle. After getting into the mud pond, you rubbed the mud all over your body. There was also a spot where you can apply mud without going into the pool. Susan stayed in the pool but I got out, rubbed the stuff all over my legs, arms, face, etc. then let it dry. Then I got back into the pond and rinsed it off in the muddy water, followed by an outside shower to remove the rest. Then it was more sun lounging. (BTW, the weather was in the low 80's and GORGEOUS!)

We ended our day by taking another long steam, during which an attendant came in and spayed the edges of the floor with eucalyptus solution. It was heaven, especially for my recent cold and sinus problems. Then it was to the showers and into our regular clothes.

After spending the night in a nearby hotel and enjoying a leisurely breakfast, we headed home, relaxed from our mini-vacation. And I don't know when my skin has ever felt so soft and healthy.

If you haven't been to Glen Ivy, go. It costs about $50 for admission (a little less if you're an old fart like me). This is the base price without massages and other special spa services. Expect to pay around $20 for lunch. I can't wait to go back and am already checking my calendar for July or early August.

Hmmm, maybe as a reward for turning in Odelia #6?

Next time, though, we're just going for the day and skipping the hotel stay over.

SIGH, back to the grind ...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Weekend: Just Call Me Sid The Sloth

This weekend I'm doing something I almost NEVER get to do - I'm being a lazy bum. And I'm not gonna feel one bit guilty about it. So there!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I'm swinging by Newport Beach to pick up my BFF Susan. Then we're heading to Corona and the Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa. Yeeeeeeeeeeee ha!

All day Saturday, I'm going to soak in hot tubs, mineral pools, mud baths, saunas and lay in the sun like the fat and sassy sloth I truly am. According to the weather man, it's going to be in the low 80's. Yes, I'm packing my sun block. I'm also packing two books of writer pals: Smasher by Keith Raffel, which I'm almost done with, and City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley, which I'm dying to crack open. I was going to bring my Alpha Smart and write while at the spa. Talking to Susan last night, I was waffling about it. She made it easy for me. "Don't bring it," she said, trying to be helpful. "You need a break."

Is she a pal, or what?

We're staying overnight in Corona, then on Sunday checking out Tom's Farm and other local places of interest before heading home. By the time I get back to Los Angeles, I should be a rested and sloppy noodle. Not to mention I intend to bake the remainder of the creeping crud out of my body. Yay!

After this weekend, I don't get a break from travel, book events, or even from big looming deadlines at the law firm until June. And I have a book due the beginning of July. So this weekend is very special and needed to recharge my batteries for what's ahead.

Geez, it's gonna be a tough Friday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy (and Haunted) Trails to Me

Hop on over to Inkspot and see where I'm off to next, and what I'm researching.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Put Down the Bat, Odelia

I’ve been having a tough time with my manuscript for my next Odelia Grey (book #6). I wasn’t sure why. I knew what the story was about. I had a great opening. Plotted the ending. But between the beginning and ending, it was like slogging through mud wearing concrete overshoes. Okay, I thought, I’ll let it rest and work on the manuscript for book #2 in my vampire series, which, I am thrilled to say, is moving along at the speed of light.

Odelia would speak to me when she was ready. She just damn well better be ready soon as the clock in ticking on my next deadline and she’s up next.

Yesterday, as I driving home from the grocery store, I was thinking about a blog topic for my next turn on Inkspot on April 15th. Stopped at a red light, I was going over information in my head, mentally arranging it into a suitable and, hopefully, interesting blog posting, when the light turned green. Not the traffic light, but the light in my head concerning Odelia. And there, at the intersection of Olympic Blvd. and Overland Ave., I saw what the story line should be for Odelia #6, and it wasn’t what I was currently plugging away at.

Sometimes our brains need to take a break from the problem at hand. The same is true from personal problems, work problems, and family problems. Often, if we allow our brain and emotions to focus on something other than what is plaguing us, a light shines on the wobbly issue. Solutions, like age lines, tend to show up when you're not looking. So it was with Odelia #6.

Fortunately, I won’t need to do much rewriting. The original plot line stands, just with some major new twists. And I may have to can an idea I was dying to use. In the biz, we call that killing off our darlings. Yes, a darling idea for this book may have to go in the trash or, at the very least, be shelved for a future book. We’ll see as this new story track continues. But the important thing is, now that she's gotten my attention, Odelia is ready to come back to work. And it’s about time.

Stubborn characters can be a pain in the patootie to a writer. But they are also a blessing. If we listen closely, they tell us when we’re going down the wrong path with a manuscript. And they tell us when something is a good idea.

Okay, Odelia, you have my attention. Put down the bat. You won't have to hit me twice.