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!