Tuesday, July 31, 2012

OMG! Just Two Months Left!

I'm trying not to panic. I have 62 days left to finish Bidding On Bodies. That's the working title of the 8th Odelia Grey novel and my current Work In Progress.

I've been working steadily on the manuscript, but it's going S-L-O-W, slower than usual. I'm not sure why. I have the story line, the characters gathered, and am moving along, but it's not moving nearly fast enough. Today when I woke up and headed to the computer, panic started to rise, but I beat it down like bubbling stomach acid and went to work.

This past Sunday, I scoured my apartment top to bottom. I don't know if it's just me, but I work much better when my personal space is tidy. With writing novels back-to-back with little time off between them, sometimes my apartment slips into seediness. At some point, I stop writing, take a good look around, and shiver with disgust. That's what happened this past weekend. Unable to keep my mind on my work, I stopped, picked up a mop, dust cloth, and sponge and went to work until the placed shined and I was sweaty and exhausted. I guess you could say it was my own personal Olympic event.

Now it's time to press the pedal to the metal.  I've written whole novels in two months before, so I know I can finish this one on time, but it might involve the intake of a lot of antacids. Something tells me my apartment won't be scrubbed thoroughly again until October 2nd. Until then, it will be more hit and miss maintenance.

Here are the first few paragraphs of Bidding On Bodies:

“Harpie bitch!” the woman with the bad bleach job shouted.

“Excuse me?” Horrified, I leaned back, a hand over my fast beating heart. It wasn’t uncommon for me to piss people off, but usually they knew me first. Without getting too close, I peered at the woman, wondering if we had met, but I’d forgotten. She appeared to be in her late twenties and was dressed in low-slung jeans and a no-longer-white white tank top that showed off her very buffed arms and shoulders, along with a plethora of tattoos. No bells of familiarity went off, though I was sorely tempted to give her some laundry tips.

Ina Bruce put a hand on my shoulder and pushed me aside a few inches. “Relax, Odelia. The nasty skank is talking to me.”
 
My WIP aside, in a few weeks the 7th Odelia Grey novel, Hide and Snoop, will be released.  I am very excited about this book. The early reviews have been great. Publisher's Weekly said of it: "...enormously entertaining ... offers tight plotting, first-class humor, and vivid descriptions."  

Sneak Peak of Hide and Snoop.

So really, I have to get most of Bidding On Bodies done in August because my weekends in September will be spent at book signings for Hide and Snoop. You can see my upcoming schedule in the sidebar to the right of this post.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pull on my big girl panties and get to work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer's Halfway Report Card

So far, Summer 2012 has been a mixed bag of highs and lows, blended together like ingredients that should never be considered complimentary, but somehow work on the tongue.  Scary thing is, it's only half over. Or is it scary because it is half over?

For starters, I'm staring down yet another deadline, which I'm talking about this week at Criminal Minds.  I have two months to write, polish and produce the 8th book in my Odelia Grey series to Midnight Ink.  The book is tentatively titled Bidding On Bodies and in this offering we will get to meet some of Odelia's in-laws. The writing on this manuscript is going well, but slooooooooooooow. But the days will shoot by like bullets from a terrorist's gun, so I have to be diligent on how I spend my time.

Sky Walk over West Rim of Grand Canyon
Speaking of bullets, I still cannot believe that Friday night someone shot up a theatre in Colorado, killing a dozen innocent people and injuring scores of others. It's horrific, something you think you'll only see on an episode of a TV crime drama. But it wasn't on TV, it was real.  I agree wholeheartedly with President Obama's comment that words are inadequate at a time like this. As Jaws did for beach going, this event will have a high impact on folks considering going to movies or to any crowded venue. I already hate crowds and this just makes me want to stay home with my doors locked even more.  I don't even want to know why James Holmes shot up the theatre. That fact that he did is enough for me to want to see him fry. My heart goes out to all the people involved in this unthinkable event - victims, families, and the first responders who have to deal with this tragedy in a personal way.

Even summer TV has had it's ups and downs. I have been watching True Blood since its beginning. Some seasons I've loved. Others not so much. This season has been my least favorite. While I love that the Russell Edgington (played to campy perfection by Denis O'Hare) is back, the entire plot with the warring factions of vampires is really getting on my last nerve. So much so that this past Sunday's episode may reduce the series from "must watch TV" to "I'll catch it on On Demand if I remember and have some time to waste."

On the other hand, HBO just released Newsroom, which has quickly become my favorite Sunday night show with its stellar ensemble cast headed by Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston. The writing is sharp and intelligent and a joy to watch. And Suits, another beautifully written show, and Covert Affairs are back on USA. YAY!

I did sneak in a combination vacation/research trip the first week of July. I headed to Las Vegas, where the 4th Granny Apples novel will take place, and stayed at the Venetian, a hotel I've always wanted to stay in and thanks to a summer special finally had the pleasure. Plus, I got to scratch an item off my bucket list - The Grand Canyon! I took the West Rim Tour from Pink Jeep, and had a great time, which included taking a stroll on the Sky Walk. It was my first trip to Las Vegas during which I did not see a single show. I did take in the new Da Vinci exhibit at the Venetian and spent a half day at the Canyon Ranch Spa and, instead of my usual budget meals, ate at the restaurants of some of the world's most famous chefs: Mario Batali, Emeril Legasse, and Thomas Keller.  And I'm happy to say the hype about their food isn't hype at all, but deserved raves.

New and Improved B
This was also the summer of the shaved cat. I didn't personally do the shaving, but The Best Little Cat House in Los Angeles changed my B from a long hair mess into a happier and cleaner cat. Now that B has acclimated to the change, she seems perkier without all that hair, which she hated having groomed, and is strolling around the apartment with her tail aloft and her head held high. I don't think B's going back to being a long haired cat, at least not if I have anything to say about it.

A big milestone was reached this weekend - the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook shot past 500 members! I can't thank Cyn Rielley enough for starting this club, and also my niece, Lindsay Jaffarian Holm, who administers it with Cyn. When it started a few years back, it never occurred to me we'd have so many members or that it would become such a lively place for book discussions. If you haven't joined yet, you should. In August, I'm running a contest just for members.

Coming up - no more vacation time until the end of the year, but in a few weeks HIDE AND SNOOP, my 7th Odelia Grey novel will be released, and I'll be spending most September weekends making the rounds of book stores and speaking engagements. Unfortunately, one of my favorite book stores, Mysteries To Die For in Thousand Oaks, CA, is closing at the end of July. That store was always one of my main stops whenever a new book was released. MTDF will be sorely missed as the family of mystery book stores continued to shrink. For a list of upcoming events, see the side bar to the right of this post.

Recently, the first review of HIDE AND SNOOP came out and I did a happy dance.  Publisher's Weekly called it: "...enormously entertaining ... offers tight plotting, first-class humor, and vivid descriptions."  Read chapter 1 of HIDE AND SNOOP.

Circling back to writing, this weekend I realized that in the next 14 months I have three novels and one novella due to two different publishers, and I'd like to add to my Holidays From Hell short story series.  It's a very tall order, but I'm optimistic that it will all get done. I'm not so optimistic about the condition of my apartment during the next year, but it's a small sacrifice to make for doing what I love. So if I seem scarce in the next few months, you'll know I'm hard at work knocking manuscripts off of my to do list.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Lost Fan - What's an Author to Do?

I received an e-mail yesterday from a woman who signed her e-mail "Lost Fan." She had fallen in love with my Odelia Grey character after reading Too Big To Miss, the first book in the series, and went on to buy several more books. She wasn't as pleased with the rest of them and has vowed to read no more.

Was her vow to be a Lost Fan due to uneven plotting or weak characters? No.

Because she didn't like humor mixed with her mystery? No.

Or because the main character is fat and middle-aged? Certainly not.

 Lost Fan was leaving Odelia in the dust because I married Odelia off to Greg Stevens at the end of book #3, Thugs and Kisses. In her own words, Greg is "[N]ot a good match." She cited that Greg Stevens is too young for Odelia and wants children. Lost Fan wanted Odelia to hook up with Dev Frye, the homicide detective who met Odelia about the same time Greg met her, and boldly stated that she "will more than likely not read any more Odelia Grey unless I find out that Greg is out of the picture for some reason or the other."

Really?!

First of all, I don't like being threatened or goaded into releasing information about future books, or into making changes not in my master plan for a series for the purpose of keeping a reader. And I do operate with master plans. As I stated to Lost Fan in my reply e-mail, I am under contract for 12 books in the Odelia series and have plotted Odelia's life throughout those books. Those plans include changes in her relationships, family, job, etc. Some of those changes have already taken place, with a major one happening in Hide and Snoop, book #7 due out in just a few weeks. 

It always surprises me how invested people become in my characters. Then again, why am I surprised when that is exactly my goal when writing. I want my readers to embrace Odelia, as well as Emma Whitecastle and Granny from the Ghost of Granny Apples series, and Madison and her vampire friends. I even want readers to become part of the dysfunctional Bowen family in my Holidays From Hell series. My books are character driven, and Lost Fan's emotional turmoil over Odelia's marriage is evidence I'm doing my job.

If there is one thing I've noticed during my writing career, it's how very personal readers take the romances of characters they love.  When Odelia married Greg in Thugs and Kisses, I did receive several e-mails from readers saying they had been rooting for Dev Frye. Even before that book came out, I received notes declaring preferences of one suitor over the other. Maybe some of those readers did stop reading, but none wrote to declare their stand.  Most, I'm sure, trusted my writing judgment and kept moving forward with the series.

The biggest outcry I've received so far about romantic turmoil did not come from the Odelia series. (Most readers love Greg Stevens and he has become a favorite character.) The biggest cry of foul play received to date was triggered by the end of Gem of a Ghost, the 3rd Ghost of Granny Apples book, when Emma Whitecastle kisses someone who is not Phil Bowers. Wow! Did I ever receive comments about that!  One Amazon reviewer even went so far as to call Emma a "tramp." Again, my readers will just have to trust me.

I don't expect all of my readers to love everything I write or to embrace all decisions I make as I journey through each series. But in the end, those are my decisions, and most readers understand that. As a reader myself, I really enjoy when a favorite author turns me on my head and gives me something to gnaw on while I wait for the next book in the series. It's all part of them doing their job.

I'm glad Lost Fan wrote to air her opinion. Readers should feel free to write authors and tell them what they like and don't like. I receive quite a few e-mails from readers on a daily basis, and some of those do contain criticism of one kind or another, as well as praise.  But readers, please don't end your e-mails with ultimatums. It never works.

If Lost Fan can't bear to read any more books because Greg is married to Odelia, then perhaps that is best.

UPDATE:  I just heard from Lost Fan who, based on my e-mail reply to her, has decided not to abandon Odelia. Great news!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

RIP, Andy & Ernie!

A few minutes ago, while I was working on my 8th Odelia Grey novel, the Twitter feed from the Los Angles affiliate of NBC flashed across my computer screen. The news: Ernest Borgnine had died. Less than a week ago, while I was on vacation, Andy Griffith passed away. Both were icons from my childhood.

Long before he was Matlock, Andy Griffith was everyone's favorite TV sheriff and single dad. Be honest, didn't most of us want to grow up barefoot and fishing with Andy Taylor? I know I sure did. 

And how many nights of laughter did Borgnine bring us in the improbable but highly entertaining McHale's Navy? Although my absolute favorite work by Ernest Borgnine was his role as the title character in Marty, the film that brought him an Oscar. I've seen that movie at least a dozen times and it never fails to move me.

Every few months I'm mourning the passing of part of my personal culture, reminding me that I'm getting pretty long in the tooth myself.

Thanks, guys, for letting us share your long and successful careers. You will be missed, but never far from our memories.