Monday, September 26, 2016

Freaders, Yes, That's a Thing

Over the years I've been writing I've amassed a lot of loyal readers. And along the way a lot of those readers have become good friends. I'm not talking Facebook friends, but real friends that I see and spend time with in my personal life whenever possible.

I call them Freaders.

And if that's not a thing, it should be.

This is one of the many upsides of being a writer, if not the best one. Of course, you have to be careful. Sometimes you think you've found a freader and the person turns out to be not so friendly, and can even be dangerous. I've never had a problem with the danger part, but have backed away from some folks eager to be friends that really weren't a good fit.

This past Saturday I had brunch with Heide, Mark and Angelique, all freaders. I met Heide when she came to a couple of my book signings many years ago. The same with Mark, and I met Angelique through Mark. The weekend before that I had brunch with Janet, another freader from North Carolina who I try to see whenever she's in town visiting her son. Shortly before that I met Chris H. for dinner. Chris is another freader who has become a good friend. Sheila came up to me at the LA Times Festival of Books all excited to meet one of her favorite authors. In chatting, we found out that we live just a couple of blocks from each other. We've now met a couple of times for brunch. And I certainly cannot leave out Shirley and Doug. This couple has become so dear and important to me. They live in No. Cal but come to So. Cal for Disney runs often. When they do, Heide, Mark, Angelique, and I meet them at Disney for breakfast after their event. We have all become good friends. Chris even joined us once when he was in town. And I can't forget Lori O., who I've met only once in person, but who has become close to me over the years. Even she now knows Doug, Shirley, Heide, and Mark.

It's an ever growing circle.

Finally, I cannot leave out Cyn. Cyn was the loyal reader who started my fan club. The fun part is she doesn't live far from my family and when I can, I meet up with her when I'm in MA visiting. I now consider her a close friend and adore her husband and kids too.

These are people I would not have known had I not become a writer, and if my books had not become popular enough to reach far and wide. I also would not have been enriched by their friendship had I not been open to it when offered.

I'm a very lucky duck. And while I don't make a ton of money writing, I am rich beyond my dreams because of my growing circle of friends.

I mean FREADERS.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Take A Number

I'm always getting new book ideas. I mean ALL THE TIME. I not complaining. As any writer will tell you, it's a great problem to have. The sticky part comes when a new book idea wants to muscle in on my writing schedule, bumping aside books that have deadlines. Then there's a war for my precious writing time.

What's a writer to do?

Recently a new book idea just wouldn't let me go. It had me by the gray matter, digging in its claws with the tenacity of a cat worried about getting a bath. This new book is a very cool idea and a departure from my other books. It's a thriller and I'm not even sure yet if it will birth a series or be a stand alone.  It will also require a lot of research, which right now I don't have the time to do since I'm working on two other books.  Either way, I finally gave into its demands, sat down at the computer, and hammered out the first chapter.

Oh, did I say that it was around midnight when this happened?

I finished the chapter around 1:30 in the morning. Thankful it was a Friday night and I didn't have to go into the office the next day. I crawled into bed happy with the results: I had the manuscript template in place, the title page, Chapter 1 on the page, and a full first chapter drafted. The next morning I looked it over and, surprisingly, it was a very good chapter!

That doesn't mean this book will take priority. It won't. As mentioned, I'm working on two other books which have to be done sooner than later. One is book 12 in the Odelia Grey series and the last book I have under a publisher's contract. The other is the 3rd Winnie Wilde novella. The deadline for that book's release is the end of February. Even though it will be self-published, it still has a deadline.

After those books are done, I'll be turning my attention to Winnie #4 and finishing up a novel I started years ago called Finding Zelda, which is an expansion of my Holidays From Hell short story series. And after that will come Winnie #5 and #6. Sometime after that will be another Odelia and another Granny Apples, with Betrayed By Blood, the 3rd book in my vampire series, somewhere in the mix.

The new book I started prepping this week will just have to wait its turn. Something tells me I won't get back to it until after I'm in retirement, but you never know. And here's the thing, it's already started. It already has a spot in my heart and in the file cabinet in my brain where I keep book ideas. There are a lot of books in my mental cabinet and a lot of books on my computer that have a chapter or two complete, along with some notes. They are queued up waiting their turn, but when I do get back to them, I won't be starting with a blank page. I do the same with short story ideas.

To all you budding and frustrated writers: When you get a new book idea, start the book, at least a paragraph or two. Don't put it off, saying you'll do it later when you have more time. Nothing is as daunting as staring at a blank page and feeling nothing. It's also time consuming. When you do finally sit down to work on the new book, a paragraph or page, even if it's crap, will at least give you a push toward the good stuff to follow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

You Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

In the 1936 movie Poor Little Rich Girl, Shirley Temple sang You Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby.


Although young Shirley wasn't enamored of the green stuff, I am. It's one of my favorite veggies, hands down! It's also very versatile. I love it raw or cooked. In salads, pasta, casseroles, and simply sauteed with a little garlic as a side dish. I often use it instead of lettuce on sandwiches and as a greens base for other salads.


And Popeye knew what he was doing when he popped a can for strength. This unassuming leafy green is packed with good stuff and super low in calories.

And it's quite tasty too!

I saw those eyes rolls out there! But trust me, spinach is super yummy if made right. I grew up eating canned spinach. I know, YUK! But even then I liked it. But once I got a taste of the fresh stuff, there was no turning back.

For those of you still not convinced, here's a vegan spinach dip recipe from Minimalist Baker that might change your mind.

However, when I make this, I make it as a side dish, like creamed spinach and use less "cream."  I've even spread this on toast and added sliced tomatoes to make a dynamite sandwich. Here's my revised recipe, based on the one from Minimalist Baker:

Sue Ann's Vegan Creamed Spinach

1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight then thoroughly drained
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 cups washed spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an oven-safe serving dish with non-stick spray. 
  • Add soaked and drained cashews to a blender with almond milk and puree into a cream. 
  • Add  nutritional yeast, 1/4 tsp salt and mix once more. Taste and adjust seasonings to your personal taste. Set aside. 
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, saute garlic in olive oil and then add spinach. Season with salt and black pepper and cook until wilted, then remove from heat. 
  • Add cashew cream and toss to combine. Add vegan Parmesan cheese and stir. If cream seems too thick, add a little water. 
  • Add mixture to baking dish and top with a sprinkling of vegan parmesan, if desired. 
  • Bake at 350 degree for 15-20 minutes, or until warmed through and sightly browned on top.



I might have to do a post on yams now.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

MYOB!

My mother used to tell us MYOB whenever she thought we were getting too nosy or intrusive. Which is rich considering the woman kept a police scanner by her bed and spent a lot of her time spying on the neighborhood from behind curtains.

For those who don't know, M.Y.O.B. stands for MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

I bring this up because often I cross paths with a woman who never fails to comment on my size, lack of exercise, or eating. She really knows very little about me, but that doesn't stop her. And, for the record, I know that I eat MUCH healthier than she does, but the fact that she's skinny seems to empower her to make "well-meaning" comments. Including threats to drag my ass into the gym, while totally ignoring that I often follow a pretty good exercise regime (one my doctor approved), which I've told her MANY TIMES. I'm not fanatically faithful to my exercise, but I am stronger and healthier than most women my size and age.

Normally, stuff like this doesn't bother me. I've been subjected to it most of my life since I've been overweight for over 50 years. Over those decades I've done almost every diet imaginable, including starvation. All it did was add more weight later and heap on depression and self-loathing. Now I eat very healthy and get regular exercise. I do not weigh myself very often, trusting my clothing and how I feel to tell me if I'm on track. But the most important thing is, I like myself better now that I'm not trying to be someone else or trying to do what others think I should do.

THE TRUTH:
Most overweight people, including me, are emotional eaters. The more you hound them, the more apt they are to eat bags of cookies in a closet.  
Your intrusive rude behavior does nothing positive. Trust me on this.

When I first started writing the Odelia Grey series about an amateur sleuth who is around 220 pounds, and also attractive, dates/marries, is super smart, and a lot of fun, I received a lot of encouraging e-mails from readers who thanked me for creating a protagonist who is "real" and not apologetic for her size. Only in the first book, TOO BIG TO MISS, do we see a less than confident Odelia. From the end of that book forward, it's game on!  And as a side note, a lot of the ugly prejudice Odelia experiences in TOO BIG TO MISS, I have experienced first hand.  FIRST HAND. Meaning, it's not made up.

Some e-mails I received were from women who said they cried when they realized how close to themselves Odelia was and that Odelia gave them courage to face the prejudice. One was from an overweight woman who said she'd often thought about suicide because of the bullying she endured. (And, BTW, I was bullied horribly as a kid. I know of what she speaks.)

But one e-mail in particular I will never forget. It was from a man who picked up my book because his wife read it and loved it. He confessed that he'd always hated overweight women and dismissed them as lazy and stupid, but that my book had shown them in a different light and as real people. (So were they robots before?) He ended the e-mail promising he'd would work on his prejudice. I hope he followed through on that.

Of course there have been a few readers who have encouraged me to put Odelia on a diet, saying a diet mystery would be fun. REALLY? FUN FOR WHOM?  Then there was the e-mail that came from a female doctor who accused me of encouraging and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.  And I know she wasn't referring to Odelia's penchant for getting into trouble and danger.

Would any of you clowns like to buy a clue?

So to all of you who feel it's your business to make remarks to me or to others about their weight ... or anything really, remember:

MYOB:

MIND YOUR OWN (fucking) BUSINESS.

I got this far in life without you, and I'm sure I'll get along just fine from here on out without you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hot Flashes My Post Menopausal Ass!

Okay, guys, fair warning, this post is about hot flashes, so you can stop reading right now if you choose. I won't be offended.

I started going through menopause in my late forties and was done with the nonsense just past fifty. My menopause had its ups and downs but for the most part it wasn't near as bad as most of my friends experienced. I didn't even use any drugs. I told my doctor at the time that I wanted to get through it naturally and she agreed with my wishes, citing that going drug free avoids all the side-effects of the drugs but can be rough.

So drug-free I tackled the big M and got through it without too many horror stories or hot flashes. I must say, these past ten years have been paradise.

Recently though I've had several hot flashes. Yes, THOSE hot flashes. Mostly they've occurred in the middle of the night, leaving me bathed in sweat and my pillow soaked. They don't last long and I feel fine otherwise. I've also had a couple during the day.

So I Googled it... come on, don't we all do that long before we consult our doctor?

It seems some women can and do experience hot flashes into their sixties. (If you're wondering, I'm almost 64.) It's also not a big deal. I have my annual physical in a couple of months and will tell the doctor if they continue. Until then, I'll make sure I keep plenty of water and clean sheets on hand just in case they continue.

But here's the thing ... I'm rather pissed off. I thought this nonsense was over when my menstrual cycle ended. I thought I was finally in the clear, as long as my annual checkups were good and healthy.

 I feel robbed!

I also read that postmenopausal hot flashes, while hormonal in nature, can be triggered by stress, caffeine, and smoking.  Okay, I have two out of three since I'm not a smoker. Another reason to reduce the stress in my life. And that a healthy diet and regular exercise can help diminish and stop them.  Ummm, yeah about that exercise thing, guess I'd better get back on track.

In the end, it seems that stress, too much caffeine, and smoking cause a lot of negative things in our bodies, and eating right and exercise does good things to our bodies.

Where have I heard that before??? 

It sounds so familiar.

Speaking of other hot flashes - my newsletter HOT FLASHES went out in the past few days after a two year hiatus.  You can CLICK HERE to read it. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Another Party I'm Missing - For Now

I love going to book conferences. Really, I do. But the sad truth is that I attend very few.

There are a lot of discussions on whether they are worth the time and money they suck up, especially considering that there are 3-4 major ones a year and a bushel of lesser ones scattered about the country.

If an author attends just the major cons, it can cost in the neighborhood of $7,000-10,000 a year. And that's not counting time away from a day job and writing. My honest opinion is that the benefits aren't enough to justify the cost, especially since few authors make any decent money off their books.

Then again, how do you put a price on face time with readers and camaraderie with other writers? You really can't, and this is the part I miss most.

The last two conferences I attended took place here in Southern California. It was an easy schlep and the cost could be kept to a minimum. I also didn't have to take much time away from the office and my writing. A win-win.  Next year I'll be attending the California Crime Writers Conference here in California. Then again, I'm a co-chair of the event, so I kind of have to attend.

CCWC is not a fan-based conference, meaning it's a two-day conference for writers, no matter what their level of experience. If you fit into that category, please consider attending.  It's a great conference! You can find information about it HERE.

In a few days the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention will convene. This time in New Orleans. This is the largest fan-based mystery con in the country - the grand daddy of cons for crime writers. I've been to several and always have a good time.

Reading the Facebook posts of friends preparing for the event is kind of like standing on a porch looking through a window at a fun birthday party. But soon I'll be attending those parties again.  I've promised myself that once I retire and hit the road, my RV and I will be putting many conferences on our must-see list. I can drive to wherever the conference is, as long as it's not in Hawaii, and I won't have that pesky limit on my vacation time. Sounds great to me!

In the meantime, I'll sit on my sofa, rub B's belly, and sob into my Two Buck Chuck.

Yes, that's pathetic, but that's the image I was going for.

No Hurricanes or fried alligator for me this week.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pate Over Peanut Butter

First female winner of Master Chef Junior and youngest
I grew up with a simple palate, reinforced by simple parents with a taste for simple food and simple cooking skills. We ate things like beans and hotdogs, meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, and fried chicken. Sundays there was usually a ham or roast of some sort, along with mashed potatoes and whatever canned vegetable my mother didn't find repulsive. To my young taste buds, a fluffer-nutter was high eating.

My food tastes and my cooking talents are far more sophisticated now, but as a kid my cooking rarely went beyond making said fluffer-nutters or heating a can of Campbell's chicken soup.

So when did all these kids start cooking?!

I love watching cooking competition shows, but I especially love the ones featuring kids. Among my favorites are:

Chopped Junior (Teens, etc)
Kids Baking Championship
Master Chef Junior
Rachael and Guy's Kids Cook Off

These kids can not only cook, but often put the adults to shame. And they certain bury me.

Of the above shows, my absolute favorite is Master Chef Junior. These kids have SERIOUS SKILLS in a major way. Not to mention it's fun to watch Gordon Ramsay tone it down and be civil and caring.

But SKILLS, I tell you! The young people featured not only know what foie gras is, but how to cook it.  And some of the competitors are so small they need step stools to reach the counters and stoves. But small in stature does not mean small on cooking talent by any means. They know what flavors to blend, substitutions that work, recipes from memory, and how to wield a knife.

I remember one kid who said his idol was Julia Child. Julia Child? Julia Child died about the time this kid was born.

But kids and competition also mean there are tears. But there are also big cheers, for all of them, even when they are ousted. My favorite winner so far was spunky 9-year-old Addison, who out cooked her competition on season 4. She not only became the first female winner of the show, but the youngest. You go, girl!

Sigh. Guess I'll go back to my slo cooker vegan chili now.

Friday, September 09, 2016

$18 Entitles Me To A Rant!

Yesterday I bought plane tickets to fly from Los Angeles, CA to Hartford, CT in preparation of my upcoming vacation with my family.  Every fall my family camps at Fisherman's Memorial State Park  at Point Judith, RI. This year I'm joining them. YAY!

But wait, there's more!

I rented the campground next to my family and yesterday I also leased an RV for the occasion!  Double YAY!

As most of you know, I'm planning on living in an RV when I retire in about 2 years. The RV I rented is bigger than the one I plan on buying, but it was the smallest they had for a short-term lease.  This will be a very short trial run and my first encounter with hooking up a black water tank. (That's a sewer tank for those of you not familiar with RV speak.) Should be fun and interesting. Pics to come, unless I'm covered in shit.

Speaking of shitty, lets talk about the plane tickets I booked.

I got a decent price. Not a yowsa great price, but it was under what I'd budgeted. The flying times were pretty much normal for flying coast to coast. I got them through Travelocity and the transaction was smooth as silk, right down to picking my seats.

So what's my beef? 

$18.00.

The problem came when I was picking my seats. I like aisle seats. I only book aisle seats. And on three of the 4 legs of my round trip, I got said seats with no problem. The issue came with one leg of the journey (and the shortest one).  They had plenty of aisle seats left in economy, but all the "freebies" were taken. All the other aisle seats were tagged as "premium" and came with an additional fee from $18-$40.

I kid you not. Seat 17D cost me an additional $18, while a few aisles back a similar seat would have been included in the price, had it been available.

Seat 17D does NOT come with extra leg room or extra ass room, a meal, more overhead storage, or free checked luggage. It's only claim to fame is that it's a few more rows forward in the cabin. That's it!  17D gets to the destination at the same time as seat 20D. If the plane falls out of the sky, I don't have a better chance of survival because of that $18. There is no upside to 17D to make it worth any upgrade at all. NONE. NADA. But unless I want to be squeezed into an aisle seat, I gotta pay the $18.

Really American Airlines???!! Really???!!! Isn't it bad enough that you gouge us on baggage and change fees? But I shouldn't pick on American Airlines. All the airlines are pulling this greedy stunt. And I've paid premium before, but it was for extra room. This charge got me nothing.

That $18 could have bought me a nice seafood lunch in Rhode Island!

I guess I should be happy 17D was available. A few rows up, the price would have doubled for the same freaking seat in a different aisle!

If I had more time, I'd rent an RV here in Los Angeles and drive the damn thing across country. But, alas, there's no time for that ... yet.

Okay, Sue Ann, you're going on vacation and you're visiting your family. Forget about the $18, take a deep breath, and repeat after me:

Vacation.
Vacation.
Vacation.

But it's still
BULLSHIT!
BULLSHIT!
BULLSHIT!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Taking Back My Name

Buy Now
I'm committing murder and I'm letting you know right up front. By the time you read this blog, I will have killed Meg Chambers and disposed of her body. Cuff me, book me, and convict me. I confess. I did it.

Meg Chambers is the pen name under which I've been writing my Winnie Wilde romance novels. In the future, all Winnie Wilde novels will be published under my real name of Sue Ann Jaffarian.

A woman taking back her real name isn't something new. It happens all the time. Well, I'm taking back my name, my brand, and my power.

For two years I've been publishing my Winnie Wilde romance series under the pen name of Meg Chambers. I did this under the advisement of my agent because at the time I began the series, I was under contract to two traditional publishers and they tend to frown upon authors writing in new genres under the name/brand they feel they control. The worry is that another style of book might interfere with those they sell. At least that's what I'm told.

Buy Now
I've never been totally on board with using a pen name but now that I'm planting my flag firmly into the indie publishing soil, part of that process is rebranding the Winnie Wilde series with my real name. I've tried my best to let the public know that the Winnie books are written by me, but the message was lost since I couldn't put my name on the covers.

Until now.

Here they are, the new covers for RUNNING WILDE and WILDE WOMEN. When the third book comes out shortly after the new year, it will only be known as a Sue Ann Jaffarian book. All books written by me in the future will only have my real name on them. This is MY brand and one I am very proud of.

I'm trusting the reading public to understand that while The Ghost of Granny Apples books are cozy and the Odelia Grey novels are amateur sleuth, one look at the covers of the Winnie books will make it clear that these are steamy romance novels, and adjust their purchases accordingly.

I'm not a cozy writer, or a mystery writer. 
I am a writer. 
Period. 

That means I write a lot of different stuff. And warning, there's a lot of new and different stuff on the horizon, both within and outside of the mystery genre. I have so many ideas for new books and series, my head is about to explode. And only Sue Ann Jaffarian can write those books. And only that name should be on those books.

So buckle up, buttercup. It's going to be a wild and fun ride! That I promise.

Go, me!

Friday, September 02, 2016

One and Done

I just finished reading Michael Connelly's THE CROSSING. I loved it, as I usually do his books. But near the end, Harry Bosch replies to a question with the comment: "One and done." He meant that he was no longer going to do any more defense investigations, but the phrase "one and done" got me to thinking about writing.

Some authors do one and done when it comes to writing. In other words, they write one book and never write another. Even published authors. There are several reasons for this:
  • They finished writing their first book, couldn't get it published, so lost heart and gave up.
  • They got it published, it didn't sell well, got cut by their publisher, so gave up.
  • They self-published and sales were dismal, so gave up.
  • They found writing tedious and not really how they wanted to spend their time.
  • They only had one book in them.
Let's address the last two bullet points first:

If you think you want to be an author, give it a good solid try, and find it's not for you, just move along with no regrets. It's simply not your cup of tea. Writing can be difficult, tedious, lonely, and it's time consuming. For those of us who love it, it's a painful pleasure and what makes us tick. Better you move on and find something you can be truly passionate about. Life's too short to spend time on something you don't enjoy.

If you only had one book in you, got it out, and can honestly say your well is dry, again, move along with no regrets or guilt. It happens. I know several authors that has happened to, and it's no reflection on them or their writing. 

If you fall under one of the first three bullet points, let me ask you this: Do you enjoy writing? I mean REALLY enjoy it? Does the passion to write still burn in your gut, even though you've put it aside and labeled yourself a failure? If so, then pull up your big girl/boy pants and get writing again.

Let me repeat: Writing can be difficult, tedious, lonely, and time consuming. And that's the fun part! 

The business of writing can be brutal. That's the no so fun part.

What do Dr. Seuss, John Grisham, Alex Haley, J. K. Rowling, Rudyard Kipling, and James Patterson all have in common, besides being world famous authors? All of them, and many more in their league, all suffered many rejections by the publishing world.  Check out this list of 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected

If you want something bad enough, you will continue to push, fall, get up, and continue to push, refusing to give up. Passion does that to us. It fuels our actions toward a goal, even when we think we have nothing more to give.

TOO BIG TO MISS was my first published novel. I wrote two others before that which were rejected by publishers. Even TOO BIG TO MISS met with numerous rejections before finally being picked up. Had I given up, there would be no Odelia Grey series, which at this point is 12 books long, no Ghost of Granny Apples series, no Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries, and no Winnie Wilde romance series. My refusal to give up gave birth to all the books that came after TOO BIG TO MISS, and will give birth to all the books I've still to write.

So if you believe you have more than one book in you, get back to the computer and get those fingers flying! 

Remember, only you can fulfill your dreams. Others can cheer you on, but ONLY YOU have the power to make it happen.

One and done is not an option for someone who is consumed by the fire to write.