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.