Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Posting By Proxy

It’s no secret that many celebrities, politicians, and even authors hire people to compose and send out Twitter and Facebook posts under their name. Not too long ago there was even a case where a well-known person fired the employee who was posting his tweets, but forgot to change his account password after, allowing the ex-employee to continue to send out short messages of an unflattering nature.

From time to time I get asked if that’s really me tweeting and posting to Facebook. Even my manager has been asked if she posts those tidbits on my behalf.

Do you really think I pay someone to post about B’s habit of pooping on the bathroom rug? Or have room in my budget for someone else to post about letting my hair go gray? Or to even share my joy over a newly released book or new contract?

Nope that’s all me, all the time.

I don’t want to throw stones at colleagues who do hire PR people to write and send their posts. For some, it’s a matter of saving time while still connecting with their readers. For others, it’s a distaste for social media in general. But social media posting is my way of connecting personally with readers. Those posts only take a few minutes out of my day and through them I get to know a lot of the good folks who read my books. And there is an additional bonus. Several of those “friends” and “followers” have become real friends over time.

I spend a lot of time alone at the computer. My schedule and budget do not allow for me to do many book events outside the Los Angeles area. So without social media, I’d never be able to get up close and personal with my readers. Using someone else to make that connection would short change me of that pleasure.

By the way, I also answer all of my reader mail personally, though that takes more time.

So, yes, Virginia, there really is a Sue Ann Jaffarian. She lives with two cats named B and Raffi in a 3rd floor apartment without AC on the west side of Los Angeles, and works as a paralegal in a LA law firm.

And she spends 15-30 minutes on average a day on Twitter and Facebook trying to keep in touch with everyone.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another Freaking Resolution.


This week over at Criminal Minds, we've been tasked with announcing our New Year's Resolutions. This year I came up with a new one. Considering all my prior ones have not made it very far past January 1st, let's see how this %$#@* one does.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not Your Usual Christmas Greeting

Yesterday was my 59th birthday. For me it’s a milestone. While most people fret about turning 30, or 40 or 50, I always focused on 29, 39, and 49. The last year in a decade is like standing on the precipice of a cliff, wondering if I’ll jump or be pushed into the next chapter of my life.


Let me be frank, this has been a rough year for me, starting with last December. The last 12 months have been fraught with annoying physical ailments, some of which were serious scares, but which, much to my relief, turned out to be of a more minor nature. In February, I had my first bad fall, something all people worry about as they get older. It was my body letting me know it needs better care as it ages.

I know many folks have had a much worse year than I have, and I don’t want to sound like a whine-ass. I’m just saying last year can leave any time now, the sooner , the better.

This last year the IRS and I had a battle royal. They seem to think I make a lot more income than I do and for months they bullied and beleaguered me, even though I was cooperating fully. Finally, I was able to get help from the good folks from Taxpayers Advocate. I won’t go into details, but the IRS seemed determined to either see me living on the street or on a slab in the morgue. We settled for somewhere in between. (When I start screaming and swearing about corporate greed and financial injustice supported by our government, trust me, I mean it!) It took nearly 8 months for me and the IRS to come to an agreement. 8 freaking months of government incompetence and bullying.

As many of you who follow this blog have caught on, I suffer from depression from time to time. Sometimes it’s mild, sometimes it’s severe, but it’s never continuous. It’s more like spots of red wine on a white table cloth.

For the most part, I’m a pretty happy and stable person, and very productive. But for about 5 months in 2011, my depression was so severe, I couldn’t write, could barely work, barely could get out of bed. So severe, I thought seriously about finding a slab on which to rest my head. I was crying all the time – at work, at home, at my computer. I even had to take some time off work because of it. My close friends were horrified by how deep I’d plunged. Much of this long bout was predicated on my IRS problems and the feeling that I was being torn apart by hungry pit bulls. When you see no resolution to a severe problem, depression raises its head like a poked vicious dog.

Not to worry. I came out of the blackness about two months ago, and I look forward to the books and stories I need to write and contracts for new books with great anticipation. And I’m not writing this blog post for sympathy. I’m writing it in the hope of bringing awareness to a serious problem. I’ve suffered from some form of depression since I was a teenager, and I know I’m not alone. And neither are you. And you know if I’m talking to you.

I love Christmas! It’s a time when I come out of myself and celebrate and connect with others. The holidays and the promise of a New Year always bring me out of my doldrums. But statistics tell us that the holidays are the most serious time for depression for most people. That there are more suicides this time of year than at other times. Add to that the current financial climate, unemployment, and increase in alcohol consumption, and it becomes a ticking bomb big enough to take out half a city.

If you suffer from depression, know you are not alone. Get the help you need and keep fighting the good fight. Take it from me, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, even if you're wearing a blindfold.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to gleefully jump into my 60th year! Yeee Haaa!

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Healthy and Bright New Year!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

JAFFARIAN WINS EDGAR!???

No, I didn't really win the most coveted (and ugliest) award in mystery writing. I've never even been nominated, but this week on Criminal Minds, we've been tasked with writing an acceptance speech for one of our favorite authors. At the risk of coming off arrogant, I wrote my acceptance speech.

A gal can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Remembering the Forgotten

1,639 bodies will be laid to rest at 9:00 am in Los Angeles County today. No, they weren’t the victims of a terrorist attack or a massive accident or act of extreme nature. These individuals were the victims of poverty and loneliness and anonymity. They are the forgotten dead of the county in which I live and work.

According to a news article in the Los Angeles Times, every year Los Angeles County buries corpses in a mass grave, if after two to three years of storage the bodies remain unclaimed. Mostly the deceased are homeless people and people without families. Some remain unclaimed because their families are too poor to provide a fitting burial. Considering the dismal economy, I’m sure LA isn’t the only place in the country with this problem.

Today is also Pearl Harbor Day – a day of remembrance for those who died in the Japanese attack on our country seventy years ago. 2,403 people died that day.

In all the hubbub of the holiday season, the race against deadlines, and the headlong thrust to greet a New Year, I intend to pause today to honor the lives of 4,042 souls. Some we remember every year, but this year I’ve added 1,639 more to my list.

No matter how they died or what their status, these individuals deserve a moment of honor and respect, too.

Monday, December 05, 2011

29 and NOT Holding!

Starting today it’s pedal to the metal on my WIP – the 7th Odelia Grey novel. It’s due on January 1st, which means January 3rd , since the 1st is a holiday and the 2nd a day off from the office for me. Believe me I’ll that need extra time on the 2nd! I’m already on an extension from my publisher, so I can’t push the calendar any further.


This poor book has been beset by so many problems, you’d think it had been visited by the seven Biblical plagues. It’s no wonder it’s behind schedule. But it’s not the book itself that has issues, but the author. This year has been a humdinger, and I can’t wait for it to be done with.

I started book #7 ages ago, but one thing after another kept interfering with its progress. For starters, my work schedule at the office was heavier than usual and I put in longer hours. It also seems I had one ailment after another, starting with last December, and even now am fighting a tooth abscess and waiting to schedule a root canal. Thankfully, nothing turned out to be major, but all set me back time wise, especially a bad fall I took in February in Atlanta. Top that off with some other personal issues and you have writing schedule disaster. First Gem of a Ghost was turned in late, now Odelia #7 is tardy. I’ve pretty much spent all of 2011 limping after the calendar. And this year I only had 2 books due, instead of my usual 3.  (Whew!)

It happens to all writers. I know authors who have turned in books 6-12 months late. I’m not sure how their publishers deal with that since schedules for catalogues and marketing are set far in advance, but I’m doing my very best to hit my publisher’s extended January deadline.

The problem with a book getting interrupted by bumps in the author’s life is that you can lose focus of the story. That happened to me with this Odelia book, something I realized this weekend as I was slogging away on it. I use the term “slogging” specifically because that’s what it felt like each time I sat down at the computer. Usually my writing flies, but these past few weeks it has dragged like a dead body caught under a mob car.

So what’s a harried author to do?

On Saturday afternoon I stopped working on the manuscript and went back to page 1, paragraph 1, word 1. I started from the beginning, editing and reading and taking notes along the way. And it’s a good thing. Seems what I was writing later in the novel was in conflict with the beginning of the book. I also noticed that the beginning, while still needing editing, was tighter and much more focused and more fun to read. The chapters I had been working on seem rushed and scattered in comparison.

As of this morning, I’ve edited everything I have to date and it’s flowing well and is consistent. I’m back on track.

I’m still not settled on a title for this book. I have a couple in mind, but nothing that jumps out at me. I’m sure between my publisher and I, we will come up with something fun.

So please excuse me now, I have to get a book done in … um … 29 days.

GULP!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Excess Baggage

We've all heard the phrase "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." The problem with my trip to Las Vegas last week was that what happens in Los Angeles, didn't stay in Los Angeles.

On the Midnight Ink blog, Under Cover of Midnight, I give a peek into just who, or what, haunted me on my trip to Sin City. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vacation Hangover

Everyone should see Bodies
Today is Monday, November 28th. I've been off work a week - well only 3 work days since Thanksgiving was included my week off. But today, in about 2 hours, I'll be heading out the door to the office to be a paralegal again. I had a great time this past week, but it went by way too quickly.

Last Monday I took off for Las Vegas to do research for a new Granny Apples mystery and to get a little R&R.  It's a 4-1/2 hr drive from my house and I spent the time going and coming listening to A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.  It's hysterical and the hours flew by.


KA - Took my breath away
I stayed at the Luxor because they were offering a screaming deal, complete with a choice of shows. The Luxor was the only disappointment in the entire trip. I had to move rooms because of a plumbing problem and the service throughout the hotel was inconsistent. Not sure I'd stay there again, unless it was another great deal.  For more money, I'd rather go elsewhere. Although, I did have a terrific time in their spa and took advantage of their massage/facial special.

As I said, my trip was also to do research for a new book. One day I got in my car and traveled throughout the area, taking in the communities around Las Vegas that could be taken for any suburb any where. I also visited the Venetian Hotel (my favorite to hang out at), which will be included in the book, and traversed Las Vegas Blvd. from the strip to downtown looking for sites to place certain scenes.  I found them!

Inside the Atomic Museum


I took in the Atomic Museum (will also be in the book), Bodies Exhibition and Titanic Exhibit (both fabulous).  And what's Vegas without shows?!  I saw Cirque du Soleil's KA and Menopause - the Musical (again, both great).

Thanksgiving night I was back home. The rest of the week, I relaxed, did some housework and wrote and wrote and wrote.  All in all, it was a very successful vacation.

Oh, and while I was gone, my new Kindle Touch arrived!  I'm so excited! I got it all set up and am loving it.  It was my birthday present to myself.

Now it's back to business.

Speaking of business, today I'm up at Criminal Minds talking about the risks I took to be a writer. And there were plenty of them.  Check it out.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Coming Out As A Writer

Yesterday GHOST IN THE POLKA DOT BIKINI topped the best seller chart for Kindle books, beating out John Grisham, Stephen King and the Steve Jobs biography. Oh, yes, it did!  And as I write this blog, it's still #1.  It's like a magical dream.

With all the excitement, it seems appropriate that today on Criminal Minds I'm discussing coming out as a writer to my family. Drop on by and leave a comment.

I also want to send a special shout out this morning to one of my devoted blog readers, Gregory Shipman, a gentleman who works in Alaska. Greg tells me he reads my blog while having his morning coffee.

THANKS, GREG!  Keep reading and leaving your wonderful comments!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Celebrating the 4th in February?

A lot of folks have recently asked if I've stopped writing my Holidays From Hell short stories. It's only natural since the last story, Where's Your Daddy, appeared almost 2 months ago. 

So here's the scoop...

No, I haven't stopped writing my Holidays From Hell short stories.  I have at 5-6 more planned and the next one, Rockets Red Glare, is partially written.

Why the delay? I'm glad you asked!

My short stories are not under contract.  My Odelia books are.  Right now I'm hurtling through the calendar trying to finish up Odelia #7 by the end of the year.  This sounds like a simple thing, right?  But it's not. You see, life gets in the way of all good plans and deadlines. In the past few weeks I've been given a major project at the law firm. One that has demanded at least 10-hr days, every day.  That leaves precious time for writing. I'm still moving forward on Odelia #7, and I'm also reading the proofs for Granny Apples #3, Gem of a Ghost, but Zelda Bowen and her clan will have to celebrate their dysfunctional holidays a little late.

This past Sunday I asked several followers of the Holidays From Hell series if they minded reading about the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving several months after the actual holiday. All assured me they did not. They were more concerned about the series continuing. (YAY!)  I'm hoping that's the general consensus.

I'm not sure when Rockets Red Glare will be finished and released, but it will not happen in 2011.

I also want to thank all of you who have purchased and supported Holidays From Hell.  The three stories continue to sell well on both BN.com and Amazon.com.  THANK YOU!!!

Once the Holidays From Hell series is complete, I'm going to be writing and publishing another short story e-book series. This one will be completely different and paranormal.  The plan is for it to debut in early summer of 2012.  Or maybe late summer 2012.  Or maybe fall of 2012.  Hard to say, given life gets in the way.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Have You Hugged Your Favorite Author Today?

Today, November 1st, is National Author's Day. No, really. We have our own special day.  And since you asked, here is a bit of historical background on it:

Nov 1. This observance was adopted by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1929 and in 1949 was given a place on the list of special days, weeks and months prepared by the US Department of Commerce. The resolution states in part: “By celebrating an Authors’ Day as a nation, we would not only show patriotism, loyalty, and appreciation of the men and women who have made American literature possible, but would also encourage and inspire others to give of themselves in making a better America.” It was also resolved “that we commemorate an Authors’ Day to be observed on November First each year.”

While I'd like to think I'd make a few readers' lists of favorite authors, I have my own:  Walter Mosley, Charles Dickens, Naomi Hirahara, Kelli Stanley, Megan Abbott, Terry McMillan, John Irving, Upton Sinclair, Lisa Scottoline. This list is by no means complete. It's just a start. If I listed all my favs, I'd never make it out the door this morning.

Today is also the kickoff of NaNoWriMo, the annual novel writing marathon. For the entire month of November, participants push to complete 50,000 words on a novel. By the way, there is no time off for Thanksgiving. Writing while stirring the turkey gravy or peeling potatoes is all part of the process.

I don't participate personally in NaNoWriMo, but every November finds me on a crushing deadline to finish a book by the end of the year. 2011 is no different.  While NaNoWriMo participants are struggling to complete their 50,000 words, I'll have my sorry ass glued to my chair to finish Odelia #7. It's my own personal NaNoWriMo competition. I figure if I write 50,000 words this month, the book will be beyond done and I'll have a little breathing room for editing.

On my mark. Get Set. GO!

But don't forget to give me my hug. I'll need it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Don't Be Mad, Granny...

In honor of Halloween, at Criminal Minds this week we're naming our favorite ghost. You might be surprised at mine (the photo to the left is a big hint).

Granny Apples got her nose a little bent out of shape over my post.

Don't be mad, Granny, you're still the ghost of my heart.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wonk It To Me!

This year is the 40th anniversary of the movie Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. I'm not talking about the creepy Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version (at least I found it creepy), but the wonderful 1971 movie starring Gene Wilder. 

Today Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory was playing on the Family Channel on TV, and even though I had a To Do List as long as Shaq's leg, I stopped what I was doing and watched it. Of course, I'd seen it before, several times, but there's something special about turning 40, especially if you are a beloved movie starring one of my favorite comic actors.


Wonka's kids now - "Charlie Bucket"
 is next to Gail Simmons
A few weeks ago I was watching Top Chef Just Desserts and the actors who played the children in the 1971 movie were guests. The challenge for the chefs was to create an edible and fanciful environment in honor of the movie's 40th birthday. The chefs knocked themselves out with great success. You can catch that episode in rerun if you have On Demand.

Okay, time to get back to tackling housework and the several writing projects crowding my plate. But for 2 hours, it was great to get lost in the world of pure imagination.  Not that I don't do that with my books, but my novels don't have chocolate waterfalls and edible wallpaper. Trust me, I've checked.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willie Wonka

Monday, October 17, 2011

Haunted By Books

On Criminal Minds today, I'm listing books that haunt me. For better or for worse, no matter how many years go by, I just can't get something about them out of my mind.

Are you haunted by something you've read?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Things That Go Bump In The Night - In My Bathroom

Today I'm guest blogging at Mystery Fanfare's Frightful Fridays, talking about the creepy, cool things that go on in my bathroom.

Come on by and leave a comment to enter to win a copy of BAITED BLOOD - just in time for Halloween!



Seems I'm not the only one with spooks in the powder room.  This photo is of a bathroom in Alabama.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Doctor, I'm Up To My Ass In Alligators Again

I woke up this morning thinking about fear. I didn't wake up fearful or following a bad dream, but as I lounged a few extra minutes in bed cuddling with Raffi (that's a cat, for those of you not in the know), my mind started contemplating the manifestation of fear.

Clowns are a big fear image for some folks. Not for me. Personally, I'm rather ambivalent about clowns. Some are cute, some are creepy. I've been a clown for Halloween in the past and I've clowned around. No problems with either.

If there is one thing that scares the pee out of me it's alligators and crocodiles. Snakes, too. Hmm, guess you could say I'm not too keen on reptiles in general. Years ago, after reading Where Serpents Lie by the very talented T. Jefferson Parker, I had nightmares for weeks. Just mentioning that book's title still sends shivers up my spine. Last week on Dexter, tiny black snakes crawled out of dead body and I nearly latched my fingernails to the ceiling.

My serious fear of snakes aside, it's alligators that cause me to curl into the fetal position and whimper. Even watching them on TV will make me break into a cold sweat. Much as clowns do to other folks. You'd never find me living in Florida. Period. Even if I was guaranteed the creatures were hundreds of miles away and I lived in the concrete heart of a city. I'd have the same issues with Louisiana.

When I'm fearful about something in my life, whether it be a physical threat or an emotional one, those fears manifest themselves into dreams about alligators. In dreams they have chased me across docks, through woods, and once even around a kitchen. When I have a dream about an alligator, I know to stop and examine what is scaring me and why, and I try to work out a way to make the fear go away through resolution. I guess, in a strange way, the dreams do me a big favor. The fear of having more of them, forces me to address my issues head on and quickly.

My Mom had a purse identical to this.
I don't know where this fear came from or when it started, but my first remembrance of dreams involving maniacal alligators is from my late twenties. As a kid, I went to the old alligator farm that used to be next door to Knott's Berry Farm, and I was fine. No one had to put me down with a tranquilizer gun because I started screaming hysterically. But even then I was suspicious of the creatures. I remember my mother having a shoulder bag when I was very little.  It was made from the skin of a small alligator, complete with the head, claws and teeth. I don't recall that bothering me.  

One of my favorite phrases is "up to my ass in alligators."  I use it all the time, especially when I have a writing deadline nipping at me, like now.  I can easily picture my short, chunky legs churning up the pavement as an ancient reptile gives chase, its 10" razor teeth inches from my fat behind. Does it make me write faster? Probably.

What's your fear manifestation: white bread, okra, turtles, kitties? Everyone has them, but not everyone recognizes them.

I just hope one day I don't dream of an alligator coming after me with a clown on its back.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Dead Nudes in My Future?

Yes! At least if I have anything to say about it. 

DEAD NUDES is the working title of a novel I've been wanting to write for several years now. Next year I don't have quite as many deadlines as I've had in years past, so maybe, just maybe, I'll finally be able to carve out some time to write this story.  You can read an excerpt of it at Criminal Minds.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Read Banned Books - It's Your Civic Duty!

Today kicks off BANNED BOOK WEEK! I love this annual event. It reminds me of two things: 1) of all the great books I haven't yet read; 2) how stupid people can be.

Let's address #2 first because in the great tradition of #2, it shits.  Books should not be banned. What is vulgar or inflammatory to some,  might be the perfect cup of tea to others.  While I do understand that parents have a right to monitor what their child reads, to place a book on the challenged or banned list simply because it affronts your personal tastes does not mean everyone should be deprived of the wonder found between its pages.

When I read through the list of challenged and banned books, I am stunned. Most of them are books that teach great lessons about life, especially about tolerance. I am proud to say I have read a large number of them over the years, most during my school years. From an early age, I was allowed to read most anything I could get my hands on and could understand. And I am the better for it.

If you don't want your child to read a particular book, tell the teacher and together find an alternative, but don't try to deprive everyone of a wonderful and mind expanding experience because of your narrow view of the world.  That's simply selfish. And, frankly, you're not the boss of me and everyone else.

Every year on Banned Book Week, I check the lists for a book I haven't yet read. This year's pick is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I'm actually ashamed I haven't read this book. But this week that error will be corrected.

Won't you join me by picking and reading a banned book this week, and maybe even several others during the next year?  I consider it my civic duty.

To help you along, here are some links to books that have been banned or challenged.

Classics

Banned Books in the US

ABFFE's List of Banned Books

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 12, 2011

GEM OF A GIVE-A-WAY

WIN a signed copy of the unedited manuscript of GEM OF A GHOST, the 3rd Granny Apples mystery. This book is not due out until February 2012, but one lucky winner will receive this prize the first week in October!

This contest is only open to members of the Facebook Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club. If you're not a member, there's time to join.

Contest details can be found on the Special Events Page of my web site.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Stars In The Eyes Causes Blindness

Yesterday, a friend who has written for years but has never been published announced she and another friend were going to write something and self-publish it. She didn’t even have a strong idea of what they were going to write, just that they were going to go full steam ahead. When I cautioned her about understanding all the cons, as well as the pros, of self-publishing, she accused me of trying to knock the stars out of her eyes and steal away her hope.

That was partially true. Being a big fan of hope, I’d never dash anyone’s hope, but I was trying to knock the stars out of her eyes. At least just enough for her to see the reality of self-publishing more clearly.

This stars-in-the-eyes attitude is typical of a lot of people who think self-publishing is the road to instant success. While it is a viable path, for every Amanda Hocking there are thousands of broken dreams and bodies strewn along the roadside.  That's the reality. That doesn't mean my friend will become one of those dead bodies, just that the odds are against her becoming the next Amanda Hocking. It takes a shit load of work just to fall somewhere in between.  Even seasoned, traditionally published authors who are now doing the self-publishing route will tell you that.

My friend accused me of trying to discourage her.

Not so. I strongly encouraged her to go for it, but not before she did some homework on the process and the costs involved such as editing, cover art, formatting, ISBNs, pricing structure, marketing, etc.

“What’s an ISBN?” she asked.

My point exactly.

This gets said somewhere on the web at least a thousand times a day, but it bears repeating:

If you are thinking about self-publishing your work, be it a novel, short story, or non-fiction, do it with hope, but don't do it blindly.  Know what it's going to take, in addition to the actual writing, to get the job done professionally.  Learn the business. Learn the process. Understand you're bucking the odds.  Then go forth, knowing that with that knowledge you're at least wearing a mouth guard and jock strap.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Hilly Holbrook Syndrome

This weekend I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Well, actually, I didn’t “read’ the book. I listened to it on audio book. I sometimes find certain books are even more enjoyable to listen to than read. Take On Writing by Stephen King. I started reading this book years ago and a friend told me to listen to it instead. While the book was very enjoyable, it was no match for the audio format, which Mr. King reads himself. It was like sitting at the feet of the master while he imparted his personal story and writing words of wisdom.

The Help was like that. The chapters of the three main characters – Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny – were read by wonderfully talented actresses. In fact, the Minny chapters were read by Octavia Spencer, the actress who plays Minny in the movie. For hours I was transported into their lives as if I were a fly on the wall.

I loved this book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me angry. I was around 11-12 years old during the timeline of the story and I remember most of the historical events woven into the novel. At the time and given my age, I’m sure I didn’t realize the importance of the news stories, but I do remember police turning fire hoses and dogs on civil rights protesters, and the integration of schools, the church bombings, and certainly the assassinations of both Medgar Evers and JFK.

When I was in the 3rd grade my family travelled to South Carolina from Massachusetts. We were actually en route to California but stopped in South Carolina where one of my aunts lived. For a short while my parents considered settling there. I don’t remember how long we lived there, but it was long enough for my mother to enroll us kids in school and for both my father and mother to seek work.

My mother had to fight to get my brother and me into the all-white schools. My father was 100% Armenian and we had olive skin. It was the first time I’d ever heard the word “passing” and realized what it meant. School was miserable. In spite of good school records, I was dumped into the slow class where many of the students were older because they had been held back, some several times. No one would speak to me or play with me at recess. I was picked on by both students and teachers. I wasn’t just dark skinned. I was also a “Yankee.” A double whammy of horror.  My brother and father had their problems, too, and it wasn’t long before we packed the station wagon and headed for California, where I finished out the school year.

But something else about The Help also struck a chord in me. I call it the Hilly Holbrook syndrome.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from or the color of your skin or what your generation, we have all known Hilly Holbrooks throughout our lives. These are the girls who exercised power and control over other girls at a very early age right into adulthood. They decided if your time on the playground or between classes would be fun or hell on earth. Other girls worshipped them, some out of blind wannabe devotion and need for acceptance. Others out of fear. One kind word from “Hilly” and your life among your peers could be tolerable, even happy. One nasty word, and a school year could be a sentence to hell. They wielded their power with capricious irresponsibility. Sometimes wearing an old dress or having the wrong shoes could trigger the attack. Other times it stemmed from jealousy over a boy or attention received from others. Or simply because the target is deemed different.

We read all the time about kids snapping over bullying. Some lash out, as with Columbine. Others get dragged into bad decisions. And some even take their own lives. Yet, the Hilly Holbrooks of the world survive to terrorize the next kid unfortunate enough to fall within their path.

Years later these same warped people (men and women) hold court within clubs, charities, churches, associations and the workplace. Even Congress. People seldom outgrow a bullying nature developed and reinforced at a young age. Over the years, they learn to develop it, becoming more astute and stealthy at wielding their power and poison.

The Hilly Holbrook character in The Help was as real and disturbing as the central topic of prejudice. While most readers might have found her ridiculous and laughable, and entertaining, she could and did ruin lives because no one stepped in to defy her early on. She did it because she could. Just as real life bullies continue because they can. Bullies only stop when no one gives them a platform and a spotlight.

The tag line for the movie The Help is:  Change begins with a whisper.

Personally, I think there's been enough whispering. I think it's time for shouting.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding My Inner Kraken

There are 33 days left before my deadline to turn in Odelia #7 to my publisher.  Yep, 33 days... count 'em.

So guess what I did last night?

Go ahead, guess.

Give up?

I dumped almost everything I'd written so far on the manuscript.

Oh, yes, I did... I slaughtered and butchered it. Ran it through with a sword. Spit on it and ground it up in the garbage disposal. It was a major blood bath.

Why? Because I hated it.  And because I hated it, I knew my readers would either hate it or be disappointed in it. And I can't have that.

Since late April, early May, I've been going through a lot of issues.  Some things have been merely needed changes (see my post on changes in my writing direction), others have been more serious and personal in nature.  It seems that the only somewhat stable ground I've had for the past few months has been my job at the law firm, and for that I'm very thankful.  There are still problems, but I'm working through them, making needed adjustments, and finally seeing the light.

But sometime during these past few months, I also lost my mojo. My writing spark. My creativity.  I lost what makes my work tick.  But I was on deadline, so what's a gal to do?  Well, this gal plodded along, dutifully putting words to the page.  Problem was, my heart wasn't in it and so the words were flat and dull.  And Odelia is never flat or dull.

Sometime in the past week, something snapped. I'm not sure what brought it about, but suddenly something inside me reawakened. I was Rip Van Winkle opening my eyes and shaking off a very long snooze.  I looked at my various works in progress and thought, "Who wrote this shit?"

It started with my 3rd Holidays From Hell short story, Where's Your Daddy?  I'd been stumbling along on it for quite some time. Usually I work on the short stories during lunch at the office, so not to interfere with my novels. They are about 20-22 pages in length, but I had 16 pages of pure poop when the scales finally fell off my eyes.  Crap! Crap! Crap!

I rolled up my sleeves and started rewriting, totally restructuring and remolding the plot. It didn't take long, just a couple of days of focused determination. When it was finished and sent off to my early readers and proofers, they came back saying it was the best story yet.  They wouldn't have said that about the manuscript a week ago.  Where's Your Daddy? will be available on Nook and Kindle in the next few days.

Next, I took an honest look at Odelia #7.  First off, you know there's a problem when I don't even have a working title for a work in progress. Hell, I already have a working title for Odelia #8!  Anyway, I read what I'd put down so far and cried. It was simply awful.

So last night I tucked away my 1st draft of Odelia #7 and tonight I'll start on the second draft.  It starts with the same first paragraph - that was definitely a keeper - and it will still contain the same characters and plot idea. But the rest goes! Yes, all of it but the first paragraph.  Gone!

So, everyone get out of my way!  I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak!  And I've got 33 days to kick ass on the page.

Unleash the Kraken!

(I've always wanted to say that.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gray Matter


My last color job 8/13/11
My last post was about changes to my writing career.  But why stop there? Once on a roll, I believe in letting the momentum continue.  So stay tuned for changes in me.  Specifically, changes in my hair.

I started coloring my hair with permanent color in my early 40's. I had some gray, but not a lot. Just enough to make me cringe. Before that I got the occasional highlights or rinse, but not a full color job.  Since I started dyeing my hair in earnest, I've done it every 5-6 weeks, sometimes at home but mostly at a salon.

A few weeks ago I posted this photo on Facebook.  I took it myself with my iPhone while waiting at my salon for the color to set.  Take a good look at it, because it's the last time you'll see anything like that from me.

You see, I've decided to go au naturel.  I've made the decision to let my gray streak fly and to do it proudly. I've wanted to do this for some time, but I've finally worked up the courage to go for it.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm turning 60 next year, or maybe it's because so many women I know have done it in the past few years.  No matter the reason, it's time.

My stylist says he has a rinse that will help the transition, but I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go that route or simply go "skunk" for the next six months or so.  I'm luckier than many women. My hair grows very fast and I wear it short, so the transition time should be less for me.

One of my readers and Facebook friends, Lori Olsen, recently sent me a link to a website called Going Gray Looking Great.  It's full of helpful advice and before and after and in between shots of women who've made the change.  You can see the full change in Lori on Going Gray's "Graduate" page. I think she looks GREAT!

So if you see me at a book signing in the next few months and my hair looks... um ... well, very odd, you'll know why.  Go ahead and laugh because I'll find it funny, too.  Just don't point. Okay?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not THE CHANGE, but Changes.

I've been through THE CHANGE, but now I'm going through a few more, especially in my writing career.

I think it's safe to say, a writing career isn't over until the author is dead... and even then it's not. Just ask the ghosts of Mark Twain and Stieg Larsson.

There's a change in the wind in my writing career, and I'm talking about it over at Inkspot today.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sometimes We Just Gotta Giggle

I love Anderson Cooper. I watch him on CNN. I follow him on Twitter. Of all the newscasters on TV, he's my true go-to-guy to get the scoop on news at home and around the world.  I especially love following him into the field. He's seen and reported on some of the most horrific and astounding things. I trust him. And that's one of the most basic things a viewer needs to feel when watching a journalist - trust.  Anderson (May I call you Anderson?) is my eyes and ears in places I would and could never go, and don't really want to go in person.

Last night, like many others, I was eating dinner while watching the show 360°.  It was what I expected: news about Rick Perry's run for President, the situation in Libya, etc. Then came a report on people who beat children because they believe God commands it. We're not talking about a little spanking and a time out here, but extensive beatings with objects, often lasting hours.  It made me sick, to say the least. But so does most evening news in general.

Then came the RidicuList - Anderson's end of show editorial about, well, ridiculous news and people. Last night it featured the story about Gérard Depardieu, the French actor who peed on a plane without the privacy of a bathroom. Another disgusting story about celebrity bad behavior and sense of entitlement.

Then came the fun...

Anderson's monologue was studded with both clever and juvenile potty puns.  After an hour of horrible and scary stories, it was a moment of entertainment, even if some of the puns made me and most of America groan.  But good-natured groaning, as we would when a favorite friend treats us to bad jokes at happy hour.  Then something happened. The usually stoic Anderson started falling apart right on camera.

It started with a few smiles and grins, then expanded to chuckles, ending with Anderson captured and hog-tied by the giggle monster.  GIGGLES, I tell ya.  High pitched, contagious and uncontrollable giggles. As the seconds ticked by, he tried to get control of himself, but that ship had sailed. I watched with open mouth as my favorite journalist morphed before my eyes into a giggling girl being tickled at a slumber party.

Considering all the horrible things that man has witnessed in the world - there's nothing wrong with a good, cleansing belly laugh.

Thanks, Anderson, for all that you do and for last night's needed pillow fight. It certainly made my night.

(Note: If you missed it, you can see it here.)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Planning Ahead - With Fingers Crossed

Not this year, but next year I will turn 60.  Yep, 60, if God's willing and the creek don't rise. And I'm making plans for that auspicious day.


My mother died when she was 52 years old, and her early death has always spooked me as I've gotten older. The year I turned 52, I suffered from mild paranoia.  I was sure I was going to kick the bucket 6 months in either direction of my 52nd birthday.  I know. I know. That's silly.  Although Mom wasn't as heavy as I am, she smoked liked a chimney and suffered from emphysema and heart disease. Me, I'm healthy as a middle-aged horse and active.  I also kept pointing out to myself that Dad died just shy of his 80th birthday. So if you average those two ages, I should live until I'm at least 66.  Right? That gives me plenty of time to finish up the 6 books remaining on my Odelia contracts and produce many others. 

So based on my expectations that I will not be kicking the bucket anytime soon, I'm making grand plans now for my 60th birthday on December 21, 2012.

The idea struck me while I was doing a little research for Gem of a Ghost, the 3rd Granny Apples mystery coming out in February 2012.  In that book, I mention Stonehenge.  While reading online information about the ancient landmark, I learned that the Winter Solstice is the biggest day of the year at Stonehenge - a day when Druids, Pagans and Wiccens celebrate big time at the circle of stones, along with curious tourists. 

The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st - my birthday!

The Wiccens, Pagans and Druids don't know it yet, but they will be throwing me, one of the many curious tourists in attendance, a big 60th birthday party in 2012. That's right, in December 2012 I'm heading to England to PAR-TAY!

But wait, there's more!

Seems 12/21/12 is a big day for the world in general. And while I'd like to think it's because it's my 60th birthday, I'm not that self-centered. Really, I'm not.

December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar.  Because of that, some believe that specific date will trigger apocalyptic events, a major shift in the earth, or even the end of the world.  December 21, 2012 also marks the date the sun will align with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years, setting off a major disruption in the earth's energy.

Even Nostradamus is muscling in on my 60th birthday.  Apparently, he prophesied a comet will hit the Earth on that date.

Really, folks, you shouldn't have. A simple cake, a bottle of wine, or even a card from the drug store will do.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Little Crazy Goes a Long Way

"Okay, is it my turn now?" Odelia Grey snaps at me with impatience.
 
"Whatever do you mean?" I ask, trying to appear innocent and clueless as I keep my fingers pressed to the keyboard.
 
"Haven't you had enough of ghosts and vampires?" Odelia continues her rant, hands on her bulky hips. "And what's with the farting dog and bunny suit? Geez, Sue Ann, you're a novelist, not a short story writer. If you want to write about stinkin' holidays, do it on your own time, not mine!"
 
"Okay, Odelia, okay. I hear ya. Sheesh, could you tone it down, you're upsetting B and Raffi."
 
"Oh pleeeeese... Raffi is comatose on the chair and B's under the bed, as usual."
 
"Point taken. But don't worry, I'm working on your next adventure. Honest." I take a swig of water from a nearby bottle, wishing it was vodka.
 
Odelia looks over the words on the computer screen in front of me. "That's it? That's all you have so far?"  She shakes her head. "At this rate, we'll both be retired paralegals before you finish."
 
"I have it under control." I try my best to ignore her and keep working.
 
She checks the calendar hanging over my desk. "Isn't this book due to the publisher on October 1st? That's just," her voice trails off as she counts the days, her stubby fingers jabbing at each calendar block. She lifts the flap for August and keeps counting. "That's just 58 days away!"
 
"October 1st is a Saturday," I reply. "That gives me until October 3rd. You know, like with taxes when April 15th falls on a weekend. So I really have 60 days and there's a long weekend in the mix somewhere. Plenty of time." I can feel my voice shake a bit as her point hits home.
 
Odelia is now jabbing her finger into my left shoulder. "I don't like it one bit when you cut it so close. It's bad enough you have me babysitting a kid in this book, now I have to worry about YOUR deadline."

"Be nice," I warn, "or in this book I'll put you on a diet."

Odelia's mouth drops open with indignation. "You wouldn't dare!"

"Just a few keystrokes and you're eating celery instead of cheesecake."

"Kiss my big fat heiny."

"Okay, but that little remark just traded your morning donut for a rice cake. Go ahead," I tell her, a finger poised over the delete key, "keep running your mouth and the Ben and Jerry's will vanish next."
 
She taps her foot while pondering her options. "Hmmm, maybe 60 days is plenty of time to finish a book." As she disappears, Odelia's final words hang in the air like a benediction.
 
Sometimes, you just gotta show your characters who's boss.
 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Baited Blood is Seeing Stars - 4-1/2 of Them!

Drum roll please!  Baited Blood, the 2nd book in my Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries is in the house! I received a few copies this week from my publisher, which means the book should be showing up at your favorite online and brick and mortar store in the next week or two.
Dead vampires are being left in the Dedham swimming pool.  And by "dead" I mean really DEAD.  Is someone setting the Dedhams up or sending a message? Madison and her undead pals are eager to get to the bottom of it before they are all exposed or before more vampires fall victim to someone's sick idea of a joke.

Romantic Times Magazine gave Baited Blood 4-1/2 stars!  "This is good, cheeky fun with a solid mystery, loads of possible villains and a genuinely sexy romp on the fang side."

And check out Criminal Minds today where I'm discussing the moral codes of each of my protagonists. Do they have one? Do they need one? Come on by.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

No Waterboarding, Please!

I'm over at Criminal Minds today chatting about how Madison, Emma and Odelia squeeze information out of people.  Each has their own distinct was of handling people and situations.  Drop on by and say hello.

I'm happy to announce Pull My Paw, the 2nd story in my Holidays From Hell short story series for e-readers, is now up on Amazon.  It's available for just $0.99, so download it today to see how the nutty Bowen family handles Mother's Day festivities. 

Coming soon - Where's Your Daddy? What's a family to do about Father's Day when Dad's gone missing?


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You're a Notary? Really?

Today at lunch I munched on a Lean Cuisine while reading my latest copy of The National Notary.  Specifically, what grabbed my attention was an article entitled "A Celebration of the American Notary." 

Did you know that Judge Roy Bean, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), and even Jennifer Lopez all served as notaries?  Me neither! 

Reading that reminded me of a blog post I did almost two years ago on Inkspot about how my writing world and my paralegal/notary worlds often collide, so below is an update of that blog post.

As most of you know, by day I work as a paralegal in a law firm in Los Angeles. Mornings, evenings, and weekends, I don my author cape and crank out mysteries. Sometime my two careers overlap.

It’s wonderful in a weird sort of way. Like the time I called the California Secretary of State’s corporate division and identified myself as Sue Ann Jaffarian, paralegal with XYZ. The woman on the other end paused, then said, “Did you know there’s a writer by that name? Are you related?” When I told her I was both the paralegal and the writer, she told me how a friend had turned her on to my books. She also asked why I was still working as a paralegal.

Um, maybe because I'm adicted to food, shelter and healthcare?

Then there was the time our attorney service, the company that files our corporate documents all over the nation, called me and said when one of them ordered a book from Amazon, one of my books popped up as a recommended purchase. “Is that you?” they asked.

Yep.

Or the day I called another paralegal at another firm to discuss some documents. I identified myself as I usually do and was met with the usual pause, followed by a skeptical, “You are not.”

Yeah, I am.  (She also asked why I'm still working in law - see answer above.)

Please know that situations like these don’t happen every day, but they do happen often enough to give me the warm and fuzzies and inform me that people are, indeed, reading my books. At least people involved with the California paralegal community.

In addition to being a paralegal, I am also a California commissioned Notary, and I must have mentioned that fact somewhere in my travels because once I received an e-mail asking me to perform a notarization. Since I don’t offer notary services to the general public, the request stymied me. The woman turned out to be an avid reader of my books and really did need a notary. Remembering I was one, she thought it would be cool to have me perform the service and have my signature on her document, complete with my official seal. I politely declined, informing her that I only provided notary services in the course of my job with the law firm. She was disappointed, but graciously understood.

By the way, my signature is not the same as my autograph. Just thought I'd clear that up.

Seems ole Sam Clemens and I aren't the only writers who were or are notaries. According to the article, Dave Berry is one, too.

Who'd a thunk it?

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Blame It All On The Pizza!

Last night I had the most bizarre dream. I tend to dream a lot and often I dream about the book I’m currently writing. Last night, though, was truly bizarre and had nothing to do with any of my current works in progress.

It started with me going to Sookie Stackhouse (yes, that Sookie Stackhouse) and telling her I needed a place to stay for the night. Instead of letting me into her house (WTH, she lets vampires inside!), she took me to this contraption in the yard that looked like one of those kiddie beds where the bed is up top, reachable by a ladder, and a play area or desk is built in below the bed. You know the kind I mean, a bunk bed with only the top bunk.

Anyway, the bed Sookie showed me was like that, but it was king size instead of a twin. After climbing the wooden ladder, I discovered a large cabinet at the end of the bed. Sookie opened it and this huge, creepy thing that was a mass of blue, slimy tentacles started coming at me. She beat it back, slammed the door to the cabinet shut and told me I’d be safe if I didn’t open the door. Yeah, right. There was no way I was going to sleep in that bed, so I decided to sleep in my car.

In real life, I drive a white Ford Focus sedan, but when I climbed down from the bed, said Focus was being towed away. (And, no, that isn’t a subconscious reference to any outstanding tickets.) That’s when Jason Stackhouse arrived on the scene and offered me this beat up convertible junk heap that billowed exhaust. It was getting late and the back seat was bigger than the one in my car, so why not?

I was almost asleep when Sookie rushed up and told me to get out of there. As I watched, she climbed up on the high wooden bed, opened the cabinet and lit the creature inside on fire, then set fire to the bed. As I drove off in the clunker, I saw her set fire to the house, too.

Oddly, there were no vampires, witches, werewolves, werepanthers, shapeshifters or demon babies in my dream. Nor did Eric Northman show up (sigh...), but I did learn a valuable lesson.

Never, ever eat pepperoni and fresh tomato pizza while watching True Blood shortly before going to bed.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Kibbles and Bits on the 4th of July Weekend!

Getting a lot done over this welcomed long weekend, including rest, fun stuff and time with friends.

Yesterday, after a 7:30 am hair appointment and several errands, I caught up with some favorite TV shows via On Demand.  There are so many great new shows on the USA network this summer.  Along with my return of the fun adventures of Annie Walker on Covert Affairs, USA released Suits and Necessary Roughness.  Suits was very good but I loved Necessary Roughness, a show about a therapist starting over after parting from her philandering husband.  Keep up the great work, USA!

I also watched the 2nd episode of this season's True Blood.  It was on On Demand ahead of time. Good grief! There's so much going on, I feel like my head's going to explode, though I could seriously do without the demon baby subplot.

Today, I'm over at Criminal Minds discussing how Emma Whitecastle became a ghost whisperer in my Ghost of Granny Apples books.

Now off to brunch with pal, Miles. We're hitting the famous Cantor's Deli over on Fairfax.  I haven't been there in ages.  Then it's back to the computer to work on my 2nd Holidays From Hell short story and work on edits for Gem of a Ghost, the 3rd book in the Granny Apples series.  There might even be some housework in the mix considering yesterday I sat on my butt watching TV, when I wasn't in a coma-style nap.  And who knows what Monday will bring?

There might not be no such thing as a free lunch, but for a limited time my publisher is giving away FREE Kindle downloads of The Curse of the Holy Pail, the 2nd book in the Odelia Grey mystery series.  And check out the reduced price on the e-book edition of Too Big To Miss, the 1st Odelia Grey book.

And don't forget, The Rabbit Died, the 1st story in my new Holidays from Hell short story series, is available for 99 cents over at Amazon.  Such a deal ... a freebie, a discount, and a 99 cent story! 

Don't have a Kindle?  You can download a FREE Kindle app for your smart phone, iPhone or computer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spider Solitaire - The Writer's Friend or Foe?

My name is Sue Ann and I’m addicted to playing Spider Solitaire. If you own a computer (and you do if you’re reading this), you know that Spider Solitaire is one of the free games that comes with almost every computer on the planet.

I once read an article about a business that removed the game from all the computers in the company because so many employees were playing during office hours it was interfering with productivity. I don’t play the game on my computer at work except on occasion during lunchtime (really, boss, I don’t) because I have no need for it there. Nor do I play it on my iphone. I have other addictions for that device.

Spider Solitaire is my go-to place when I’m stuck in my writing. It’s my Magic 8 Ball when dialogue stiffens or a plot is slogging through mud. Not that Spider Solitaire gives me any specific answers. I don’t pick up my laptop, shake it, and turn it upside down hoping for just the right turn of phrase to appear that will get my work in progress moving again. Rather, the game works like Drano.

If I’m working away on something and hit a road block, and the usual methods don’t work in getting over or around that block, I bring up Spider Solitaire and play a few games. It diverts my focus away from the book, giving my brain something else to do. Working on the puzzle of Spider Solitaire provides my brain with a break from the frustration of the temporary writing block. Usually, I’m in the middle of my second or third game when a light goes on in my head and I know exactly what I need to do to get my manuscript going again. It’s like pulling the plug when hitting the off button is useless in stopping a runaway appliance.

My male cat Raffi is like a dog with a bone (and I hope he’ll forgive me that particular phrase). Often when he gets an idea in his head, whether it be bullying my other cat, or scratching a piece of furniture, or treating my feet like his favorite toy, he will obsess until he drives everyone mad, including himself. When he’s like that, I have to pick him up and physically move him into another room. Snapping at him. Telling him NO! will not work. His brain is stuck in a particular groove and come hell or high water he is going to pursue that path. Only breaking his focus will get his brain out of the deep mud and put a new and less annoying idea in his head. If I could, I’d turn him on to Spider Solitaire.

And what if playing Spider Solitaire doesn’t free-up my creative juices? Well, that’s what cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming the house are for. Usually, after a couple of games, if my brain is still like setting cement, I will get up from the computer and start working on a physical household chore. It’s amazing how many great ideas can occur when scrubbing shower tile. Really. 

Then there are the days I play game after game, lost in a fog, my brain unable to form a decent sentence or beat the stupid game. Those are the days I wish Raffi could pick me up and move me to another room.

A former boyfriend used to say he could always tell how well my writing was going by the cleanliness of my apartment. The more messy it was, the better the progress on my writing. When my place was sparkling clean, he knew I was in the weeds.

I'm so glad he never kept track of how many Spider Solitaire games I played.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sticking My Toe Into E-Publishing

This past week I released a short story titled THE RABBIT DIED.  It's the first in a series of short stories I plan to write for my new Holidays from Hell short story series. These short stories will be in e-book format only for the pittance of $0.99 each.  Right now THE RABBIT DIED is available for Kindle only, but soon it will be uploaded for you Nook readers. 

The Holidays From Hell series will follow protagonist Zelda Bowen, a 30 year old single woman living in the suburbs of Los Angeles, from one holiday to another with her dysfunctional family. 

I first conceived the idea for the Holidays From Hell series on a plane ride back from Birmingham, AL in February.  I had gone to Birmingham to attend two back-to-back events - Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu.  While there, I got to know author CJ West, who has self-published his books.   I had been following all the hoopla about e-publishing for a while, but CJ really lit my interest in it.  With several series already under contract to a publisher, I didn't have time to write a novel for e-publishing, but I did have time to write a short story here and there.  I also didn't want the story to be disconnected, just words thrown on a page standing all alone in the world. Thus, the Holidays From Hell series was born.

As with my novels, I had lots of help.  Several friends read the story, gave comments and found the typos. It went through several drafts, just like a novel, before I handed it off to my manager, Diana James. Diana formatted it and got it up on Amazon.  She and I collaborated on the cover design, but she did all the graphics.  I love the cover.  I had wanted something simple and clean, whimsical and a clear brand for the series.  I think we succeeded.

One of the biggest problems with self-publishing of any kind is the lack of quality control. It's the old garbage in, garbage out syndrome. Would-be authors get excited over the idea of doing it themselves, write something in a flurry and upload it without giving much thought to the finished product. In the end, those stories and books are full of typos, grammatical errors and poor story construction. The author just killed their first chance at making a great first impression. Even worse are those who attack reviewers for honest opinions on the work in question.  They not only killed the work, they have now killed their career.  All because they didn't take the time to put out a professional product and behave professionally when it came under scrutiny.

I was self-published years ago and I took great pains then to have my work as perfect as possible before I published it.  It was one of the reasons it sold well and grabbed the attention of a traditional publisher.  I did no less with this first e-book short story.

E-books and e-publishing are here to stay.  Many authors are leaving their traditional publishers and heading into it almost daily. It offers authors more control and a lot more income than they enjoyed before. But these authors are professionals. They know what works and what doesn't.  They aren't sending their work willy-nilly into the black hole of self-publishing.  They are hiring editors, formatters, cover artists and proof readers.  Although putting a book up on Amazon is free, doing it properly is not.  Just a word to the wise, folks.

For a great view into the world of e-publishing check out Lee Goldberg's blog.  I spent quite a bit of time chatting with Lee this spring about this topic.  Lee used to throw mud on anyone self-published. He's now self-publishing his out-of-print books with glee and sharing the information with everyone. 

So far THE RABBIT DIED has enjoyed steady sales.  I hope that continues, setting the stage for the 2nd story in the series, MOTHER MAYHEM. View and buy THE RABBIT DIED

For now I will continue to e-publish my short stories, but in the future I plan on bringing out a novel in this format.  It won't happen this year, but maybe in late 2012. I will keep you all posted.