Sunday, October 30, 2016

Yankee To The Bone

You can take the girl out of New England, but you can't take New England out of the girl.

Trust me, this is true.

I was born in Massachusetts, and while we left there when I was about eight or nine, I have returned to live in both Massachusetts and Maine for short periods as an adult. And even though most of my life has been spent in Southern California, with stints in Phoenix, San Francisco, and even South Carolina as a kid, I still call Massachusetts "home."

Recently I got back from a short vacation to New England, specifically Rhode Island and Connecticut. I was camping with my family at Fisherman's Memorial State Park in Rhode Island. It's a lovely campground just a mile from Scarborough Beach. I was there during peak foliage season. The weather was crisp and windy but very sunny. In other words, perfect.

As I mentioned in a prior post, I don't have much family so try to return East every couple of years for a visit. Two years ago I visited in August and rented a lovely cottage on Lake Lashaway that was close to them. Another great trip.

Every time I visit New England, there are several  traditions in which I must indulge:

Moxie - an old New England soft drink that is kind of bitter and earthy.  I can get this in Los Angeles at Bev Mo.

Lobster roll - not an entire lobster, but a big juicy lobster roll. Again, thanks to the Lobsta Truck and Cousins Maine Lobster Truck, I can get these in Los Angeles. I can also get live Maine lobsters in my grocery store.

Fried clams/scallops - preferably from a beach side establishment. Very difficult if not impossible to find in Los Angeles.

Indian Pudding - a molasses corn meal pudding that comes in a can. It's great heated with vanilla ice cream. Must be ordered online if I want to have this in LA. Only thing I missed on this last trip.

As I said, most of the above can be found in LA, but it's not the same as having them in the mother ship of New England.

You'll notice all my favorites must-haves are food-related. I'll bet you expected at least mentions of the Patriots or the Red Sox, but, no, I'm not much of a sports fan. New England sports fans are rabid and that includes those in my family, but somehow I missed that gene.

But what really speaks to my soul isn't the food, but the overwhelming beauty of New England. I've traveled to almost every state in the U.S. and they all have their own special beauty, but when I see miles and miles of woods ablaze with red, orange and gold, as on this recent trip, the sap in my veins warms like maple syrup poured over freshly flipped pancakes.

So it's no accident that I've placed two of my Southern California based novels in New England, specifically Massachusetts.

The fifth Odelia Grey novel, CORPSE ON THE COB, finds California born Odelia coming face-to-face with her long-lost mother in Massachusetts, in a fall corn maze ... over a dead body.

The upcoming 9th Ghost of Granny Apples book, THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW, puts medium Emma Whitecastle, Phil Bowers, and, of course, the ghost of Granny Apples, smack in the middle of a mystery of two Massachusetts children who went missing in the 1800's. THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW will be released December 6, 2016, and is available now for pre-order.

I know without a doubt that once I'm on the road in my RV that I'll be spending much of the fall (my favorite time) in New England visiting family and friends and drinking in my roots, along with a fair amount of Moxie.  At least until cold weather arrives and I scoot to warmer weather.

You see, you may not be able to take New England out of the girl, but after years on the west coast, this girl detests the cold and the maple syrup in my blood is thin and watery.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sorry, Daryl.

I didn't discover The Walking Dead until March of this year. And in spite of my revulsion to all the gore and violence, I hung in there with it, binge watching over several months on the first six seasons.

Why?

Because of the great writing and characters.

Somehow I'd gotten through 6 seasons of blood and squishy disgusting sounds and off the chart violence just to learn more about the characters I'd grown to love.

I didn't see the first episode of season 7. And I never will. I had already been having second thoughts about not continuing with this show because as much as I enjoyed it, it was messing with my mind by way of creepy nightmares. But I was still intrigued, so I Googled the season 7 opener the night it aired and learned who was murdered at that hands of Negen.  I also read about how gory and disturbing the deaths were on the screen on both the Net and Facebook.

Enough, my inner voice said. You don't need to see that. You don't need that imprinted on your brain forever. The real world is harsh enough.

Sorry Daryl, Carol, Rick, Michonne, and all the rest of you zombie fighters I've come to know and love, it's time we break up and see other people. 

There's nothing wrong with you. You've got a great show with fantastic writing, acting, and special effects. It's just that we're not a good fit.

It's not you. It's me.

Trust me, it's for the best.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Nasty" Women Vote!


Four years ago I re-posted the following commentary found elsewhere. The events described below happened 100 years ago, but it’s still an important reminder of why it’s important to vote, especially for women. Especially this election, when we have a better than excellent chance of electing a woman to the presidency - a competent, educated, and experienced woman.

* * * * *

It was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

Lucy Burns
The women who fought for this right were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and with their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
Dora Lewis

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

Alice Paul being arrested
For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

 * * * * *

In 2012 Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a tea party activist, said this: "I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should've never turned this over to women. And these women are voting in the wrong people. They’re voting in people who are evil who agrees with them who’re gonna take us down this pathway of destruction."

The Rev. Peterson is African-American and has obviously forgotten his roots and how people fought and died for HIS right to vote.

As I said in 2012, no matter what your political leanings, if you are a woman and you do not vote on November 8th, SHAME ON YOU!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Contest Time Again!

There’s a new Odelia Grey book coming out on November 8th.  

You know what that means? 

It means it’s Contest Time Again!

Three (3) lucky winners will win a signed copy of RHYTHM & CLUES, the 11th Odelia Grey mystery.*

Sound good?

Here are the details:
  • Become a member of the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook.  Come on, you know you want to join. And here's the link so you don't have to hunt for it.
  • Send your name and snail mail address to contest@sueannjaffarian.com. If you skip #1, your entry will be deleted. We do check.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • Deadline for entries is 9 pm pacific time, October 30, 2016. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 31st.

*Note – if you prefer an e-book edition instead of a print edition, please put that in your entry e-mail. Entrants outside of the US are eligible, but winners will only be awarded an e-book. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Training Wheels - Part 2

After the crazy first day of my RV vacation, the rest of my vacation will seem boring to some of you.

Day 2 - My niece and her two daughters were arriving today, so I took my first shower in my rental RV. It might have been difficult to use the toilet in such cramped space, but the shower was roomy with great hot water and water pressure. Although if I wanted to dry off properly I had to move into the main part of the rig. Something tells me this is quite common in RVs. The rental had a separate vanity area, which was nice.

Fantastic Umbrella Factory
After Lindsay and the girls arrived, Lindsay and I went grocery shopping for my provisions and for stuff to feed everyone at Sunday's cookout. There was a large Stop 'N Shop close to the campground. After shopping, Lindsay and I joined Marlaine, Bob and the girls at Scarborough Beach, the place where the family cookout would take place on Sunday. The girls love the beach and the wind and chill in the air didn't bother the 6 and 7 year olds one bit. It wasn't that bad on us adults either as we sat and enjoyed the view and fresh air.

That night the oldest girl decided she wanted to stay in her Grammy's trailer, while the youngest and Lindsay stayed in my rig. Lindsay took the upper bunk and after smacking her head a few times, decided to sleep on the dinette bed the next night.

Day 3 - Today Marlaine had a "mystery day" planned. First we drove to the Fantastic Umbrella Factory, in Charleston, RI, which was a collection of small shops on a farm, complete with chickens, goats, and emus. It had a definite '60s vibe and every shop was playing vintage music and burning incense. I bought a pair of Day of the Dead socks.

Beavertail Point in RI
After, we took our packed lunch to the Burlingame State Park picnic area on Watchaug Pond. This was a beautiful picnic area with tons of tables and we had it pretty much to ourselves. Across the pond from the picnic area is a large campground that I must explore once I have my own RV.

But the day wasn't over yet. Next we drove to Beavertail Point State Park in Jamestown, RI, and plopped ourselves down on the grassy area above the sea in camp chairs. This was a very rocky and beautiful area with crashing waves beneath. Below the grassy flat was a table of rocky cliffs where the girls played and explored.

That night both girls and their mother stayed in my RV with the girls in the loft bed.

Teaching Moment #5: Children are exhausting, especially children recharged after a night's sleep.

Day 4 - After Lindsay and the girls went to Marlaine's trailer for breakfast, I settled in for some quiet time and a bowl of oatmeal (the only thing I cooked in my RV). I sat at the dinette, ate, and gazed out the window at the peaceful camp ground. I was also reminded of a dream I had several months ago when I was first thinking about RVing full-time. In the dream I was seated at a table inside a van RV and writing on my laptop. The door was open and through the wide screen door I could see a clearing in a wooded area. It was raining lightly, but not cold. But the most important thing I remember about that dream was how at home and at peace I felt. Sitting at the dinette eating oatmeal in a rental RV, I felt something similar.

Teaching Moment #6: I'm now sure full-time RVing is for me when I retire from my day job and turn to writing full-time. It feels like home.

2 nephews, 1 niece,
1 great nephew and 3 great nieces
Today would be a busy day. My nephew Derek showed up with his son and daughter, both teenagers. We packed up tons of food and took off once again for Scarborough Beach. There we met up with my nephew Tom and other members of our extended family for a cookout. It was windy, but sunny and warm. The girls flew their kite and played in the sand while the adults chatted and caught up. After, everyone departed for home while Marlaine, Bob and I headed back to the campground. Later that night we headed out for a yummy New England seafood dinner. I also hooked up my sewer hose without incident - yay, me!

Teaching Moment #7: Family is very important. While I have tons of cousins, I don't have much in the way of immediate family and have lived 3,000 miles from them for decades. About every two years I journey back for a visit and come home wishing I had more time with them. Once I retire, I plan on doing just that.

My last night in the RV, I listened to music, packed and cleaned. I was ready to go home but sad to leave. In spite of loving my time with my family, it would have been nice to have a few days alone in the campground, but that will come soon enough.

Day 5 - After another restful morning of oatmeal and reflection, I took my last shower in the rig, touched up the bathroom, dumped the black and gray tanks (again without incident!), unplugged the power and water, and gave goodbye hugs to Marlaine and Bob.

Unlike the drive to the campground, the drive back to Cruise America was uneventful and even relaxing, thanks to a fully charged phone/GPS. I wish I could say the same about the flights home, but air travel is anything but relaxing these days.

Teaching Moment #8 and last thoughts: I cannot wait until I retire, have my own RV, and hit the road to explore this beautiful country. Renting an RV was a great way to confirm my path. In spite of the initial ups and downs, it was a wonderful vacation.

As I write this, I have 590 days until retirement.  But who's counting?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Training Wheels - Part 1

Yeah, but some of us wanderers are really lost!

Every fall my family camps at the Fishermen's Memorial State Park at Point Judith, Rhode Island. This year I decided to join them. At first the plan was to stay in a motel close by. As most of you now know, my retirement dream is to buy an RV and travel the US, so my motel plan quickly morphed into renting an RV and camping with them. As luck would have it, I managed to snag the space next to them.  This would be the first time I've ever stayed in an RV, except for when I was a young teen and camped with a friend's family in their camper. And I've certainly never driven one.

Let the adventure begin!

Day 1 - A cancelled connecting flight in Philadelphia to Hartford, CT spelled disaster, but I was lucky enough to get on the next flight as a standby. Still it put me several hours behind schedule. I got to the Cruise America rental place just outside Hartford, went through the thorough orientation, and hit the road.

Teaching Moment #1:  I didn't like driving the big Class C RV. It was hulking and rattled liked nobody's business. It drove fine and after about 15 minutes I was comfortable with driving with the side mirrors. I was 95% sure I wanted a Class B van when I bought an RV. Now I was 100% sure.

I was using my phone's GPS for guidance for the 2 hr drive to the campsite and things were going well until my phone alerted me to a low battery. Can't be! I was plugged into the RV's 12 volt outlet on the dash! A quick check showed me there was no juice charging my phone. YIKES! All I could hope for was it lasting for the duration of the trip.  It didn't. Nor were there any other 12 volt or USB outlets in this basic coach.

About 40 minutes in my phone died and I was left with no driving instructions. I stopped at a convenience store and asked to buy a map. They didn't sell maps. Nor did they sell battery packs for cell phones, although they did carry a very large assortment of chargers and earbuds. Nor did the attendant have any clue how to get to Point Judith.  The second store was about the same.

I wandered around, stopping now and then to ask people for directions. I found two men at another store who gave me some general directions and I wrote them down. By now it was getting dark. I was back on track until I tried to read more of the instructions and realized the cab overhead light was also not working. I couldn't read a word of my directions. I pulled off the road and into a McDonalds to look for a spot to charge my dead phone (something I should have done sooner, stupid me!) and let the family know I wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere, since by now it had been several hours since I'd left the RV place. Alas, there were no public outlets in the Mickey D's I visited.  Then an idea hit me.

Teaching Moment #2:  RVs are self contained. They have generators that provide electricity! Duh! Parked in the back of Mickey D's, I fired up the generator to recharge my phone and call the family. However, I was asked to move along after it was only 10% charged.

Okay, but now we're cooking.  Following the GPS I got really close to my destination but then ran out of juice again.  I pulled over into the parking lot of a closed business and hit the generator again for a several minutes. This time I had enough to get me to the RV park. YAY!

The RV park check-in was closed for the night, but I knew my space number. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. This RV park is a warren of sections and winding roads. After 15 minutes of wandering, I stopped and asked some folks sitting around a campfire where my spot might be. They graciously said they would walk on over there with flashlights and lead the way, but first I had to circle around again because I was on a one way road.

Okay, getting closer. As I wound my way around to get on the right road a man with a flashlight flagged me down. When I stopped he asked, "We've been watching you go around and around. Are you lost?"

Teaching Moment #3: RV people are super nice, kind and helpful. I already knew this, but now I had living proof.

After thanking that man, I headed around and met up with the man who was guiding me to my site. We found it with no trouble and he guided me in as my sister-in-law Marlaine came out of her trailer concerned. Her husband Bob was off in their truck at the entrance waiting for me! We'd probably just missed each other. He returned a minute later.

The two men insisted on hooking me up since it was pitch black out. I didn't argue since I was exhausted, but told them to leave the sewer hose. I didn't need it right then and I really wanted to tackle it myself. So powered up and with water, I was ready to go ... and fully charge my phone.

Marlaine and Bob and I were supposed to go to dinner, but it was too late, so we retreated to their large trailer where I gobbled down a PB&J. Soon after I climbed into my rental rig, got settled and ready for bed.

Teaching Moment #4: I detested the dry bath in the rental rig. The shower took up too much room to use the toilet properly. Seriously, there was probably only 4-5 inches between the end of the commode and the wall. The shower was a nice size but took up way too much room. The only way to effectively use the toilet was to sit with your feet on the rim of the shower. Many times I longed for the big wet bath in the Travato 59K, my rig of choice,

BTW, the hot water heater, the fridge, and the furnace on my rental rig worked great! The bed was big and comfortable the first night and I dropped off to sleep quickly, but after a few nights the thick hard foam wasn't that comfortable. And Cruise America was lovely about the serious problem their faulty 12v outlet caused me. They didn't charge me for the generator use, or my propane (which was minimal), and even knocked off my late fee for returning the rig 2 hours late. They couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating over the issue.

At the end of my first day RVing, I fell asleep wishing I was in my very own rig.

Soon.

Very soon.



Sunday, October 09, 2016

From The E-Mail Bag - A Racist Line?

Today I received an e-mail from a woman who is a big reader of my work. She wrote to tell me how disappointed she was that I included in A BODY TO SPARE what she considered a "racist" line.

Here is an excerpt from her very polite and obviously heart-felt e-mail:

I was shocked and disappointed with what I consider a racist line in your book, A Body to Spare where Odelia is talking about people trusting a middle aged overweight woman and says, "if I was a big guy of color," it would be different. Even if in our society sometimes that's true, I found it very offensive and inappropriate - and unnecessary. I'm sorry to complain but I felt strongly enough about it to have to write to you.

Here is the part in the book, in context, that offended the reader:


“Excuse me?” she said, taking out one earbud. “Did you speak to me?” She took a trusting step closer. I’m sure if I’d been a guy, especially a big guy of color, she would not have been so curious and polite. Sometimes it pays to be a squat, white middle-aged woman. I’m surprised more crimes aren’t committed by women like me considering how harmless people consider us. If my hair had been gray, she probably would have also given me a concerned smile.

And here is my response to her:

I am very sorry you were offended by that line, but I stand by it 100% and by my decision to include it in my book. While my books are humorous, I also endeavor to include real truths about life. I am a large white woman and people just naturally assume I am not a threat, but men of color, especially young men of color, often raise red flags immediately in people, even if they are non-threatening.  We see it on the news all the time.

I am the creator of those books, and I go where the story, the characters, and my heart lead me. That comment is a part of Odelia's life in Southern California, just as much as weight prejudice and horrific traffic is, and it's something she (and I) think about. 

I do, however, thank you for voicing your opinion.

Sue Ann

Now, blog readers, pay attention. I am not writing this blog so you all can feast on the bones of this lovely woman, and some of you tend to do just that when someone disagrees with you. And you know it. I'm writing it to show a side of writing many of you might not understand.

Authors receive all kinds of e-mail, even snail-mail, voicing both disappointment and praise for their work. I get both all the time. Happily most of it is praise.  But over the years I've had my ears boxed for using the words Christ, fuck, damn, and even fat, just to name a few, and I use those words sparingly. I've also been lectured on Odelia living an "unhealthy" lifestyle and encouraging my readers to do the same.

Even my Granny Apples books are not safe. I've received comments about those novels being too silly and unrealistic, and for containing pre-marital sex. And when Emma in GEM OF A GHOST kissed Dr. Quinn, many readers went ballistic and one even called poor Emma a tramp.

I've also been dressed down soundly for things totally out of my control; things that are decided by the publisher.

I love hearing from readers, including the criticism. Really. I do.

But here's the thing. If authors sat down to write a book that they felt would not offend or upset or disappoint anyone, then NO books would ever get written. Including mine.

Good writers write from their heart. We write the stories in our heart and try our best to make them realistic. If I wrote the Granny and Odelia books without any diversity, shame on me since Southern California is totally diverse in race and culture. If someone wrote a hard-core police procedural without swearing and violence, readers would call foul.  We might consider our audiences for a particular book when it comes to some content. For example, I'm not going to put as much sex or swearing in the Odelia or Granny books as I might in my Winnie Wilde novels. Or as much violence in those books as I would in my Madison Rose novels.

A good author considers their audience but does not allow the audience to dictate the work. If an author does that, they might as well unplug their computer.

In the end, these books are my words, from my heart, and chosen carefully. I stand behind them 100%. You don't have to agree with me, but know you aren't going to change me.

Kind of like my stand on politics...

Friday, October 07, 2016

Potty Mouth

There are several businesses I frequent that have signs posted that warn if you are on your cell phone when it's your turn for service, they will not help you, talk to you, take your food order, etc. I think this is a dynamite idea. Cell phones are ubiquitous. Yes, they are useful and convenient, and even I carry mine almost everywhere.

Almost everywhere. Emphasis on the word almost.

In my day job, I work in a high rise building with nearly 25 floors. On my floor there are several women who bring their cell phones into the women's room and make calls while in stalls. I don't know if they are using the facilities during these calls or just pretending the stall is a phone booth, but it annoys the freaking hell out of me. It's bad enough I have to listen to everyone's calls in the elevator or in line to get food, but this takes the Charmin. And it's not just in the bathroom at my office. I've witnessed this in many public restrooms.

So ... the next time you are tempted to make a call in a public or near public restroom, Buttercup, consider this:

1. Your call is NOT private. I, and the other women in the bathroom, can hear every word you are saying, and some of the calls I've heard should be private. Just yesterday I heard someone talking to an obvious client. Really? A client? In the toilet? Last week someone was checking back on a job interview from the stall next to me. Over time, I've overhead fights with significant others and scolding of children.  And I've heard gooey love talk, some of it rather graphic. If you need privacy, walk to the parking garage and get in your car, or go outside to make your call.

2. I don't want to use the toilet or even flush the toilet within hearing of the other person on your phone. It's true they don't know who I am, but it's icky and embarrassing. I don't want them hearing my "business" anymore than I want to hear yours. It's an invasion of MY privacy.

3. It's just freaking nasty. I don't even talk on the phone when using my bathroom at home. Where are your manners? Your call can wait five minutes while you take care of bodily functions.

Yesterday I flushed the toilet about six times in a row. A waste of water, yes, but I was trying to make a point. Didn't seem to bother Ms. Nasty Phone at all. She went right on talking, just louder. Her client must have thought she was calling from Niagara Falls.

I'm really tempted to put a NO PHONES ALLOWED sign on the door, but I know it will only be ignored, laughed at, or defaced.

Maybe next time I should wait and when the caller emerges from the stall, grab the phone and flush it. Do you think she'll get the message? Or maybe she'll call security ... from the phone in her office.

Am I the lone voice in the desert on this issue? Or do others hate this too?

Or maybe I'm just a crabby old lady ... with outdated bathroom manners?

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Instant Love

I have fallen in love with only a few appliances in my life. Very few.

Four years ago I bought a Keurig coffee maker. LOVE

A couple of years ago I purchased a Ninja Kitchen Center. LOVE

I also purchased another appliance that shall remain nameless, but is no less loved.

Both the Keurig and Ninja sit proudly on my kitchen counter and are still going strong and get used almost daily.

Last week I added another appliance to my bevy of beauties - an Instant Pot!

Unlike the Keurig and Ninja, who are both fairly svelte and decked out in glossy red, Pottie, as I like to call her, is rotund and wears basic black and silver . If she thinks it's slimming, she's delusional.

I was warned before I bought her that she was big and bulky and heavy, and may not be a good fit for my future scaled-down life in an RV. All that is true. In the world of kitchen appliances, she is the "big girl" in the room.

But like a lot of us big girls, she can she work it!

I've made three of my favorite vegan dishes in Pottie so far, and she's rocked each and every one. She's easy to use, works quickly and efficiently, and doesn't heat up my kitchen. And she's super easy to clean.  Pottie can make healthy dinners in 15-20 minutes from chopping to serving!

WINNER. WINNER. TOFU DINNER!

In fact, I'm trying tofu in her this weekend.

As for fitting in the RV, big or not,Pottie is definitely going. So is Ninja. Keurig will probably be left behind. I will find a place to secure Pottie so that she travels safely and is easily accessible. Her size will not be an issue. Unlike a certain nameless politician, big girls are welcome in my home, whether it be fixed or on wheels.