Monday, July 20, 2015

Hitting The Streets

I, Sue Ann Jaffarian, now officially have a street team!

Who'd a thunk it!

For those of you not in the know, street team is a marketing term used to describe a group of people who hit the streets promoting an event or product. You know, those people on the streets trying to shove brochures in your hand as you walk by, head down, trying to ignore them?

But in this case, Street Team SAJ will not be standing on street corners annoying people but spreading the word about my books to their local libraries, books clubs, friends and families, while passing out bookmarks.

It's an updated version of word-of-mouth. Which, as we all know, is the best way to bring attention to a movie, TV show, concert ... or books. If someone likes a book and tells someone else, that person is more likely to read it.

Starting next week, Street Team SAJ, mostly comprised of members of the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club, will be crawling all over the USA, bunches of bookmarks in their hands, talking about my work. It seriously brings tears to my eyes to think of all the help they're willing to give.

One topic authors talk about almost non-stop is marketing. Except for those authors at the very top of the publishing food chain, marketing is a major concern. Our publishers do some, but less and less as time goes on. As Lee Goldberg said yesterday on a panel about publishing, "the mid-list is disappearing." The mid-list in publishing is where most of us reside. It's the middle-class of publishing and like the middle-class, mid-list authors are struggling to stay alive. That doesn't mean we're mediocre authors, just that we're not in the same book sales league as say a James Patterson or Janet Evanovich. More and more mid-listers are leaning toward smaller publishers who give us more attention, or are going indie and self-publishing our work. It's how we're going to survive and be able to continue to give our readers the books they want to read.

As any mid-list author will tell you, book marketing is hit or miss. Some things work. Some things don't. What worked last week may not work this week. It's a crap shoot with your writing career all-in on the Come Line.

So I'm betting on Street Team SAJ to spread the word to new readers around the country.

To find out how to be a member of Street Team SAJ, go to the fan club on Facebook. Details are pinned to the top of the thread.

And may the force be with you ...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

It's Still A Drought.

In my last post, I ranted and raved about rich celebrities thinking they can do whatever the hell they wanted without the same consequences as us little folk.

Well it seems that Tom Selleck didn't steal the water for his ranch. It finally came out that he paid for it but the tanker illegally transported it from one water district into another. Selleck is reimbursing the water district that sued him over $20,000 for the private investigator they hired after Selleck ignored the numerous cease-and-desist letters they sent him over a two-year period.

See story here.

Guess the only way to get a celebrity's attention is to sue them.

Or run through their house naked while holding a gun.

I'm glad Selleck paid for the water, and clearly the water tanker company is at fault for not understanding (or caring) that the water came from one district and was transported into another, which apparently is a no-no. That might sound ridiculous to some, but water here in California is heavily regulated. You'd think a tanker company would know that.

Still, why did it take Selleck two years and a law suit before he handled the matter? I'm sure he has "people" who handle his mail, but two years is a long time for something to be ignored. So I'm not thinking he's exactly off the hook.

Again, we're in a very bad drought here in California. Tom Selleck can afford to buy extra water for his ranch. He can afford to reimburse the water district over $20,000. What about the commercial food growers who cannot do either? What about the people spending money to tear out lawns and replace them with drought-friendly plants? What about the future of our water?

Sometimes having the money and clout to do something, doesn't mean you should.

As much as I've always liked Tom Selleck as an actor, I'm not going to bend on my original stance against rich people behaving badly.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Rich People, Knock It The #$&@ Off!

Yep, it's me again. The fat old gray-haired woman shaking her fist and yelling GET OFF MY LAWN!

I really despise shows that  celebrate stupidity, blatant disrespect for others, social cluelessness, and greed.

I used to watch the Bravo channel, then they started pandering to tasteless celebrity reality shows and I stopped watching, except for Top Chef. Years ago I tagged Bravo with the nickname the "rich people behaving badly" channel. I still feel that way.

Don't get me wrong. I love reality shows, especially competition ones like Top Chef, Chopped, The Amazing Race, America's Got Talent, Project Runway, and even the granddaddy of them all, Survivor. And then there's my all-time fav, American Ninja Warrior.  I do not watch any of the Bachelor or Bachelorette franchises. And I'd take a bat to my TV before watching Big Brother, Duck Dynasty, or the now defunct Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

So what got me on this rant?

Was it Donald Trump beating his gums about rapists and illegal criminals? No.

Was it the government-buying mechanics of the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson? No.

Last night and this morning on the news were two stories that sent me over the edge:

Actor Tom Selleck allegedly stealing water for his avocado trees in drought-stricken California and Ariana Grande licking donuts and claiming she hates America and Americans. 

There's also the allegations against Bill Cosby of rape and using drugs for rape, but that's in a league of its own. That's a very heinous crime and, if true, Cosby, a favorite of mine since childhood, needs to be brought down for it, and brought down hard.

So let's get back to Tom and Ariana ... the new kids in my on-going rich-people-behaving-badly rant.

May I call you Tom and Ariana? Seems fitting since you've been in my living room so much lately.

So, Tom, let's begin with you.  Like you, I live in Southern California. In fact, I live approximately 40 miles from your ranch in Hidden Valley.  However, in steps to help reduce water usage, the water pressure in my shower has been reduced to a trickle. I don't run my water when brushing my teeth. I don't do my dishes or laundry unless I have a full load. I don't even flush my toilet when I only pee. Something tells me you and your family are not being held to such strict water measures.

STEALING water in a drought is serious business, Tom! But stealing it for your personal avocado trees while California farmers, who feed us all, are undergoing rationing and are worried about their commercial crops, is really rotten and selfish. A lot of people, including many of California's rich and famous, have taken out or reduced their lawns, replacing them with low-water vegetation, in a move to help with the drought. Then again, a lot of them, like you, Tom, are thumbing their noses at the rest of us because you can afford to pay the fines and penalties.

Here is a link to some of the most wasteful celebrity landscapes in So. Cal, and a few that are taking steps to minimize their water usage. Is it any surprise that a couple of the Kardashians made the wasteful list? Wasteful celebrities.

Water isn't like getting the best seats at a sold-out concert, or a private table at an over-booked restaurant. We all use and need water. When you steal, Tom, you steal from ALL OF US. Or let me put it in terms you might better understand: you steal from your fans, the people who have the power to turn off their TVs and drop your ratings. But, then again, I'm being silly. You probably have enough money that you'd even thumb your nose at that.

Ariana. Ariana. Ariana. Girl, what are we going to do with you? I realize you're only 22 years old. And I realize that you are rich, spoiled and obviously selfish, but it's time to grow up, baby girl.  You were born in Boca Raton, Florida. You are an American, born in America. Or didn't your parents tell you that?  Americans made you famous. And the American public can take that away from you. Or hasn't your manager told you that?  Don't throw stones at the people who pay for your designer clothes and private jets. Don't become the next Justin Bieber joke. Pace yourself or you'll be washed up and a nobody by the time you're 30. I understand that being a pop star is hard work, so throw yourself into your work and build a lasting career, not a flash-in-the pan one.

As for the donut licking, well that's just plain bad manners and disgusting, and again, a blatant display of disrespect for others. Your family must have been so proud watching that video on the evening news. The next time you get the urge to lick or spit on commercial food, how about buying it all instead and giving it to the homeless? That would benefit both the owners of the donut shop and people in need, and might get you some good press instead of negative press.

Being rich and famous doesn't give anyone the right to ignore others or to step on the rights of others, or to make stupid public comments, or to behave badly without consequences. If anything, it brings greater responsibility. It's almost as if money and fame plugs people's ears, covers their eyes, and dulls social sensibilities.

So to all you rich, self-centered, and even criminally bent one-percenters, GET OFF MY FUCKING LAWN!

Oh, that's right. I don't have a lawn.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fan Clubs - Not Just a Bunch of Hot Air

Recently the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook reached a major milestone, we hit over 1,000 members!

By the way, this is not my Facebook author page or my Facebook personal page. This is a group in which members post and discuss books (and not always my books) among themselves.

The Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club was started several years ago by Cyn Rielley, an avid reader and fan of my original series, the Odelia Grey mystery series. It was originally called The Odelia Grey Fan Club. From there it morphed into the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club as I started writing additional series. Now it is administered by Cyn and my niece Lindsay, both of whom live in Massachusetts.

I am so very proud of this fan club! And I don't say that because it has my name on it. Although not all 1000+ members are active in it, there is a lot of lively discussion about books and writers. There are even quite a few other writers among the membership, as well as library professionals, book retailers, and a few reviewers. The membership also spans the globe. While most members are from the US and Canada, the club also contains members from Australia, the UK, Greece, Japan and France. Don't you just love the internet?!

But the most important thing is, these people are READERS. Many voracious. And while many probably only read the softer side of mystery fiction, most read a wide spectrum of books, both fiction and non-fiction, adult and YA.

One of the features of the club is our monthly guest authors. Each month, we invite another author to showcase his/her books and writing life. Again, the style of books varies from cozy to hard boil, with most falling somewhere in between.

Except for the occasional give-a-ways when I guest blog, the club is also the only place I hold contests to win copies of my books, or other fun items.

As an author, this club has been a remarkable tool in promoting my books. And as an author, this club has been the wind beneath my wings when I'm spending long lonely hours in front of the computer.

Other writers often ask me about the club. They want to know how to get one of their own up and running. So here are some tips:
  • Be patient. It took years for us to reach 1,000 members. It was a much slower process than gathering friends on my personal page.
  • Even though many will ask to join, vet the membership requests. There are a lot of FB people who join groups just to spam or advertise. We don't accept everyone and members must be approved/added by one of the administrators.
  • If someone spams the group, don't be shy about immediately deleting them from the group. Too much spam/advertising will turn off the members who want to be there for the right reasons. If you don't police the group, the good members will leave.
  • Be very jealous and protective of the group. In the SAJ fan club we do not allow other writers or their friends to promote their work, unless they are the guest author of the month. As snotty as it sounds: this is my fan club, get your own. I also don't allow other authors to promote on my personal page. People who cross this line are spoken to privately by Cyn and asked to stop the activities and their post is deleted. If they fuss, as several have, they are deleted from the group. 
  • In spite of the above, be generous with your club. Meaning, promote other authors, especially if they have once been a guest author. When we find out that a former guest author has a new book or are running a special, we often highlight it in the group. The difference is, the administrators of the group are the ones to post other authors' promos. We also allow members to make book suggestions, and encourage it, as long as it's not a commercial promo.
  • Do not bombard the group with promos on your own books. Yeah, I know this might not make sense on your own fan page, but in the long run it does. Let them know when your books come out or when there are specials running, about your upcoming events, about contests, reviews, etc. But no one likes a non-stop commercial.
  • Share your writing progress and process. Once of the things I do is occasionally post bits of the manuscript I am currently working on. Members love to see a book in progress. Just don't post spoilers!
  • Keep the fan club page free of your personal opinions. That's what your personal page is for.  Many of the members do not share my opinions on politics, social issues, etc. and should not have to wade through that to find out about books or contribute to discussions.
  • Remember that the members are individuals, not inanimate objects on a shelf. All discussions must be conducted with respect toward one another, even if in disagreement.  If a member cannot do that, delete them. Pronto.
  • Spend time in your fan club. I post something there almost every day. The first year or two, I didn't except once in a while. Once I started being active in it, the membership increased quickly. Remember, the members are there because they read your books. Be a part of their experience.
  • Readers are your foot soldiers in the chaotic book world. Happy readers go out and spread the word about your books. And they can do it more effectively than any high-priced ad. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. So cherish them. Respect them.
When Cyn first started the club, I remember being somewhat embarrassed by it. I mean, a fan club, with my name on it. Geeeezzzz! Now it is one of the things of which I am most proud and thankful for.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

But It Is My Circus

One of my favorite funny, yet often appropriate, sayings is "Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys." For those who need an explanation, it basically means:  this does not concern me; none of my business; I don't have a dog in this hunt.

But I do have a dog in this hunt. And by hunt, I mean what happened this past week in Charleston. I am not African-American. I am not a church-goer. I don't live in Charleston or anywhere on the East Coast.

But this is definitely my circus. And all of mankind are my "monkeys," even the sick bastard who shot those lovely people gathered together for a Bible study.

I am a human being. I have a great love for all living things, no matter their species, race, gender, sexual preferences, and beliefs. When I first heard about the shooting in Charleston, I couldn't wrap my head around what had happened, it was so horrific. The same thing happened when I first heard about the bombing of the Boston Marathon. My initial response was: This can't be true.

Sadly, it was true, both the bombings and the shooting at Mother Emmanuel Church. Just as Sandy Hook was true and the shooting at Fort Hood and the movie theater in Colorado, to name just a few. More and more I am called upon to wrap my head around senseless violence, both overseas and here at home. Both pain my heart and bring me to tears, but especially the horrors inflicted here at home by our own.

My monkeys are killing other monkeys in my barrel. 
And I feel helpless to stop it. 
I weep for my helplessness as much as I weep for those killed.

Hatred is learned. The young man who took those lives in Charleston did not come out of the womb ready to shoot African-Americans and with a desire to start a race war. This isn't like me hating okra. Dylann Roof had to learn hate of that magnitude. Someone indoctrinated him into such vile beliefs and emotions. Either at home, or through groups who prey on disenfranchised young people, radicalizing them and filling their heads and hearts with pus and gangrene for their fellow mankind.

We hear about radicalization a lot on the news with regard to ISIS promoting across the internet to recruit young adults into their cause. But what about hate groups here at home? They are doing the same thing. In a time when we should all be embracing unity, these various groups are going after our young and turning them into a homegrown army of suicide bombers.

Roof may have confessed to the killings at Mother Emmanuel, but I sure hope the investigators continue to dig deep into his background and ferret out the sick evil bastards who filled his head with such hateful propaganda in the first place, and maybe even gave him his marching orders to take out the charismatic and forward thinking Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Yeah, I said it. I personally do not believe this 21-year-old cracker decided on his own to drive for 2 hours to that particular church to take out random people. Not for a minute. The head of the snake is still out there and we owe it to ourselves and our future to investigate that to the fullest.

Forgiveness is not just a Christian principle. The inability to forgive causes emotional cancer, no matter your beliefs. I join the families of those slain in forgiveness for what was done.  They showed great strength of character addressing Roof as they did.  But forgiveness does not mean forgetting. And it does not mean we move on without change or without looking deep into the root of such carnage and excavating those roots.

Well, dammit, it is our circus and our monkeys!

Even those of us not involved personally in this tragedy need to become activists in spreading tolerance and love and acceptance and in stamping out ignorance. We need to raise our voices to fight the cancers plaguing our country. Only then do we stand a chance of beating the growing hate and violence. By remaining silent, we give passive consent. We are essentially saying: not my circus, not my monkeys. And that is unacceptable.

Let's honor the memory of these people,
who died because of hate,
by living in love and tolerance for one another.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ode To My Jammies

Today I said goodbye to a very dear and old friend - a cotton nightshirt that I've had for at least 20 years and which has seen me through many a book manuscript.

Most of the time, I write in jammies and my preferred jammies are knee-length cotton t-shirt style nightshirts with a v-neck. I prefer plain solid colors like gray or blue or pink, no cutesy designs need apply, not even kitties. And I prefer them very baggy. If I'm not wearing one of these long t-shirts while at the keyboard, I'm wearing capri-length yoga pants or cotton knit shorts and a regular t-shirt. But you see the pattern here: t-shirts and soft natural cotton material.  Oh, and no bra, that's the most important thing here. No. Bra.

Now you know why I don't take my laptop and write in public places like libraries and coffee shops like a lot of my colleagues. I can't concentrate in those places. One of the reasons I can crank out so many books in such a short time is my ability to concentrate for long periods of time with the focus of a laser beam. I can't do that in public. The second reason I don't write in public is that I'd have to get dressed. Even in the middle of a heat-wave, I will not abandon my hellish 3rd floor apt. and trek to a public place with AC. I'd rather aim the fan at me and the computer and keep plugging away.

The jammies hitting the skids today are (or were) purple. They've been washed over the years until they are now a dull lavender. There is a star over the chest with the words Make A Wish under the star. I've made a lot of wishes in those jammies. The front of the shirt is dotted with spots from splashed bleach and bathroom cleaners. There's even a few permanent food stains here and there. The three-quarter sleeves are threadbare at the elbows and torn at the shoulders. There are even tiny holes in the fabric from the cats laying on the shirt and kneading with their claws out. This poor item of clothing is even too beat up for me to wear anymore while home alone.

The purple night shirt has served me well, keeping me comfy during hours of writing and hours of TV and hours of sleep. I feel I should put it on an ice floe and set it out to sea with great ceremony. But we don't have ice floes in Los Angeles. I could burn it and scatter the ashes somewhere significant, but that might be considering littering.

No, in the end it will go on to live yet another chapter in its very useful life. I will wash it and use it to line B's bed.  She's probably the one who made the tiny claw marks in it anyway.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

In Search Of A Theme Song

Every time I turn a novel or novella into one of my publishers, I post the video of Queen performing Another One Bites The Dust.  Today was one of those days. I turned in THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, my 3rd Ghost of Granny Apples e-novella due out this holiday season from Penguin.

I can't remember when I started posting this video to mark the finish of books, but it's been going on for several years.

First of all, I love the music of Queen and I happen to like this song. I've been in a hamster wheel of book production for about ten years now and every time I finish a novel, I can cross that contract off as fulfilled and move on to the next book, so the song, Another One Bites The Dust, seemed appropriate.

The few times though, I wondered if maybe I was sending the wrong message by using this song. It almost sounds as if I'm checking chores off of a To Do List.

Laundry done - check
Bathroom cleaned - check
Legs shaved - check

Another chore bites the dust...

See what I mean?

Trust me, I think a lot more highly of my writing than I do of shaving my legs. If you don't believe me, just check for yourself the next time you see me in person.

Then again, maybe I should be seeing Another One Bites The Dust as the signal of another piece of fiction being added to my growing body of work. Kind of like adding another candle to a cake to signal the advance of age.

When I was a kid, Sheriff John would sing Put Another Candle On My Birthday Cake. Maybe my new end of book song should be that tune but with the words:

Put another book in my bibliography... 
I finished another today!

Of course, there's always the old time favorite 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall. But instead of taking away the bottles, you add books.
19 manuscripts are done, 19 manuscripts;
Send one on and start another
20 manuscripts are done!
Okay. Okay. It needs work.

So for now Queen will have to do the job.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thank You for Your Kindness

My brother, Thomas A. Jaffarian, passed away on May 20, 2014. He'd been ill for quite a while and for the past few weeks had been declining rapidly at the VA Hospital in White River Junction, Vermont.

Here is his formal obituary.

I want to thank everyone for their support, kindness, and condolences during the past difficult few weeks. There were simply too many to thank you all individually. My family and I were blessed with hundreds of online support comments, dozens of cards, private messages, and phone calls. And each and every one touched us.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

As He Lay Dying

My brother is in hospice care in a VA hospital in Vermont as I write this, and probably only has a few days left on this earth.

Last visit with Thom August 2014
We knew this was coming. He's been suffering from liver failure for quite a while and now has kidney failure. The toxins in his blood are poisoning him and they can't do anything about it at this point. The last time I saw him was August 2014 and he was so sickly I didn't even recognize him at first.

Thom and I have never been that close, at least not since we were young kids. We're very different. Made different life choices. Had different outlooks and priorities. There has been a lot of long-term disagreement and unresolved pain between us. But he's still my brother, and I love him, and I've been grieving for him for a long time, knowing his illness would take him soon.

On my 1st birthday
I've also been grieving for a very long time over the fact that we never made the emotional connection so many siblings enjoy. I have a few male friends who are more like brothers to me than Thom, and while I love them dearly, it reminds me of my own miss-connect with my real brother. Attempts to get closer just never stuck.

Thom is five years older than me. He attended Sierra High School in Whittier, California. He has three children - two sons and one daughter - with whom I am very close. He also has a grandson and three granddaughters, who I adore. I'm not sure how many times Thom was married. I know of three, and while I think that's correct, I'm not positive because he had many relationships over the years and made very little attempt to stay in touch for long stretches of time. His first wife and I are as close as sisters. We often joke that when she and Thom parted, she got me in the divorce.

Thom as young soldier
Thom was also a Viet Nam vet and was on total disability for emotional problems. My undying gratitude goes out the VA Hospital in White River Junction in Vermont. They have taken such good care of him over the years and especially now at the end. The doctors, nurses and staff there have been especially lovely to my niece when she's gone to visit Thom, and to me when I've called for updates. THANK YOU!

I'm almost finished with a digital novella titled THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, which features Viet Nam vet and ex-cop turned P.I. Jeremiah Jones. I had dedicated the book to my brother and was planning on sending him a hard copy as a surprise for Christmas when it is released. Now he will never see it and that saddens me. He was loved, even if he didn't realize it.

I was able to speak with Thom for a few minutes last Saturday. He knew it was me even though his mind sparked in and out with faulty wiring. We chatted briefly before I said goodbye. I am grateful for that.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

If An Erection Lasts Longer Than 4 Hours ... Call An Editor

Recently I was reading YESTERDAY'S ECHO by Matt Coyle when I came across a couple of lines that made me LOL! for real:

In the movies, we would have made love again. 
In real life, I was asleep in five minutes.

I know Matt and I'm sure this line was written a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that's not why I laughed. I laughed because it highlighted an issue I'm facing in my own writing.

As I've disclosed, I'm now writing, under the pen name of Meg Chambers, a steamy romance series about a 50-year-old newly divorced woman named Winnie Wilde who is rediscovering herself emotionally and physically. In the first novella, RUNNING WILDE, she starts off with an affair with a 28-year-old named Ben Church. Winnie's adventures continue in WILDE WOMEN, due out late summer 2015.

Here's an excerpt from WILDE WOMEN:

In the book, Adam kept up the action, but this wasn’t a book.  This was reality and Ben was a real man. He might be a young man, but he still had his limits.

Sexual limitations. That's the issue. In reality, most men cannot keep on humping and pumping, unless they have the help of meds.  In reality, couples, especially men, turn over and fall asleep pretty quickly after making love. I know this because I've been there, done that myself. And it happens more as you get older. Trust me on this. I'm not as old and stuffy as I might appear.

BUT, Winnie Wilde is fiction and in fiction the writer can do whatever he/she wants. Right? Maybe. Maybe not. 

In the Winnie Wilde books I have Winnie and her lovers using condoms. There is no discussion about it. No whining from the man that "it doesn't feel as good." It's just the natural and responsible thing to do. Since it is fiction, I could have them enjoying unprotected sex without the thought of STDs. After all, it's my world and in my world STDs do not have to exists. Right?


Even though I write fiction, most of my fiction is reality based. One might argue that my Ghost of Granny Apples books are fantasy, but can you prove that ghosts don't exist? Or how about my Odelia Grey character stumbling over bodies every six months or so?  No, that isn't reality either, but when it comes to portraying everyday life, I strive for reality. 

When Winnie is about to embark on her affair with Ben, she has a frank discussion with her best friend Kathy:

“Condoms,” groaned Winnie, “there’s another concern.”
“Just stock up,” Kathy advised. “Get a small assortment of sizes, just in case.”
“Condoms come in sizes?” Winnie’s eyes shot open at the news. “You mean like shoes?”

“They also come in different colors and styles,” Kathy advised. “Just like shoes.” She winked across the table at Winnie.

Being a responsible adult, Winnie uses condoms. I made sure of that. As for the frequency of sex, I recently edited a portion of WILDE WOMEN to make it more realistic. The original text was much more exciting and involves a new romantic partner for Winnie, Dr. Gabriel Dunn, who is hotter than hot. But Dr. Gabe is pushing forty and he and Winnie need time to bond in other ways besides between the sheets. That's also reality. 

So grown-ups in non-monogamous relationships use condoms and men not on meds don't keep it up for hours. Real sex is messy and often awkward, and if it didn't feel so damn good, we might not bother with it except to procreate.

It's also important to me that my steamy romance novels have a real story line with well-developed characters, and not just be about sex and hunks and heavy breathing. Romance novels are escapism, but that doesn't mean they can't also be good solid reading.

BTW, I am having SO MUCH FUN writing the Winnie books.

And that's all I'm going to say about that...

Monday, May 04, 2015

I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghosts!

I haven't posted much lately because I've been recovering from gall bladder surgery, fighting nasty hives, and am on yet another DEADLINE! Or two.

Yeah, I know, so what else is new? Right?

So my head is down and my fingers are flying along on two Ghost of Granny Apples adventures. The first one is a novella titled THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY featuring Jeremiah Jones, a P.I. and former Viet Nam Vet and LAPD detective introduced in THE GHOST IN THE GUACAMOLE. I loved this character when he came to life in Guacamole. Like most interesting characters, he was only supposed to be a minor player, but the quiet boldness of his personality won over not just me, but Emma, Phil and Granny, and everyone wanted him back. Look for Jeremiah in future books, but I'm not telling which ones.

THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY is a story I've had in the back of my head for a long time, and originally thought of it as a plot for an Odelia Grey novel. But as soon as Jeremiah made his presence known, I knew it was his story. It's the tale of a missing prostitute in Skid Row Los Angeles who Jeremiah is asked to find. This is due to my publisher by the end of May and will be released as an e-book novella from Penguin in time for the 2015 holidays.

Also in the works is THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW, the 6th Ghost of Granny Apples novel. That is due to Penguin by the end of July, so I'm also buzzing along on it. In Misty Hollow, Emma and Phil visit Gino Costello, the famous crime novelist and father of Tanisha Costello, Kelly Whitecastle's best friend, in rural Massachusetts. There they are asked by an entire clan of spirits to help find out what happened to two of the family's children who went missing near the end of the 1800's.

Every time I turn in a new Granny Apples book, I laugh remembering how this series wasn't even on my radar. It came about purely by accident during a chat with a former editor. In my mind, it was just a simple short story. Then I thought maybe just a short series - 3 books tops. With the publication of these two new works, the Ghost of Granny Apples series will swell to 6 novels and 3 novellas. And who knows what more will come? I do have ideas for two more novels.

I never thought I'd say this, but I really enjoy writing these paranormal books. It's especially odd since I have read very few paranormal novels. I still don't read them very often. Mostly because I don't want someone else's voice to seep into my soft brain and taint my own voice and ideas.

See you on the other side ... 
of the Deadline, that is!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Turning Point

In a private group I belong to on Facebook, today's question was: "Describe a moment when your life took a turn." I didn't have to think twice about my response.

It was just over 20 years ago. I had just broken off an engagement to a man I fondly refer to as that "asshole-piece-of-shit-bullet-that-I-dodged Jim." I broke off the engagement less than 3 months before the wedding and never regretted my decision. Not. Once. But ending that relationship threw me into a starting-over mode. I got a new job, a new apartment, and even a new city. I hadn't begun my writing career at the time. I was basically doing what a lot of people do: I was working, hanging out with friends, did some charity work, and watched a lot of TV.

The turning point came when I attended a conference. I can't remember the name of the keynote for the life of me, but I remember that he was a paraplegic and that he said something that changed my life forever.

"A goal is a dream that burns in your belly." 

Shortly after that conference, I got out a piece of paper and wrote down all my life's goals. It was a short list, mostly filled with places I wanted to see in the world. But those seemed more like bucket list items than goals. But no matter how many times I drafted the list, only one item kept coming to the top, like cream on fresh milk:  Be a published author.

That was my life's goal. It had always been. When I was a kid, libraries had those huge wooden card catalogs for looking up books. I would take one of the stubby pencils they provided, write my name on a scrap of paper, and insert it into the card catalog where one day I knew it would be. I just knew it! I would also go into book stores, find the place in the fiction section where my books would be shelved alphabetically, and spread the books apart to make room for my future volumes.

Yeah, I was that focused. But somewhere along the line I lost the focus. Oh, once in a while I would start a novel, and soon after I'd give it up. Like a lot of people, I talked about being a writer, and just like most people who talk about it, I did nothing about it but talk. And we all know that talk is cheap if not accompanied by action.

After identifying my life-long goal, I set about to make it a reality. The first step in doing that, whether it be writing, climbing Mount Everest, winning a gold medal in the Olympics, or taking first place in a local garden show, is commitment. 

Let's all say that together: COMMITMENT.

From that moment on, I made the commitment to becoming a published author and took the necessary steps to make it a reality. I set up a place to write. Set aside time to write. Decided what I wanted to write. Researched the proper formatting of manuscripts. I read a couple of books on writing. I did not take any writing classes or join a writers' group. Although I feel both of those things might help many budding writers, I knew I would not grow or flourish in those environments. I armed myself with the tools I needed and set my eye on the goal of finishing my first novel within 12 months.  It took me 9 - like a baby. 

Soon after, I found my first agent and tackled the next step - getting published.

From the time I made my commitment until the time I was published about five years, three manuscripts, and one fired agent were left in the dust. 

My first published novel was TOO BIG TO MISS and it was self-published through iUniverse. I followed that up by self-publishing the 2nd book in the series, THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL. Both were self-publishing successes in a time when self-publishing was a negative, not like it is now where so many authors are flourishing and respected.  

I landed a new agent, who is still my agent to this day, and TOO BIG TO MISS and THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL went on to be traditionally published by Midnight Ink, which also contracted for ten more Odelia Grey novels, as well as launched my Ghost of Granny Apples and Madison Rose Vampire Mystery series.

Twenty years later, I have written and published 20 novels/novellas and seven short stories, and continue to have a growing relationship and contracts with two publishers, as well as some self-published work.

How did I make that happen? What magic beans do I possess?


I identified my goal and made a COMMITMENT to seeing it through.

And you can too.

Anyone can if they want it bad enough.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Questions? I've Got Answers!

Can an established cozy/soft boiled mystery author write a steamy romance series?

That's the question.

The answer is YES!

RUNNING WILDE, the first novella in my new erotic romance series, is now live on Amazon and early readers are loving it! YAY!

Buy it here.

What pleases me most in early comments is that people are engaged by the characters, not by the sex scenes. Another big YAY!

"While there are erotic parts, they are the spice not the main sustenance."

"This is a wonderful, fast-paced read that also shows sex can be great at any age."

"Winnie Wilde is another great character that I'm already attached to and can't wait to read more..."

Now to a few questions I'm getting from readers:

Why erotic romance?  I didn't start this series to shock readers, but to add another level of entertainment to my growing body of work. Writers write. All kinds of stuff. Getting into a rut can lead to boredom for both the author and the reader. As much as I LOVE writing about Granny Apples and Odelia Grey, I can't live on that alone. It would be like only eating oatmeal or mashed potatoes for every meal. As for why romance, it's fun to write and it sells well. Adding sexual situations is fun and realistic. Will it ever become 50 Shades of Winnie? No! At least that's not my current plan. But Winnie will be tasting life and expanding herself as the books move along.

Why Winnie, a 50-year-old divorced woman? Because a lot of women of that age find themselves in similar situations with similar challenges and life-changing decisions. The character of Winnie Wilde is very every-woman in most ways. She's smart, educated, and devoted to her family. But she's also re-discovering herself after selflessly raising her kids and ending a loveless marriage.

Why only e-book release?  Romance novels/novellas sell very well in e-book format. Much more so than in print. I could have written one very long novel containing all of Winnie's adventures, but chose instead to write novellas, each containing a major event in Winnie's life, and release them in a series format over time. If the novellas sell well, I may take the first three and compile them into a print trilogy. The same with the next three, and so on. Only time will tell if that is feasible and if there is a market for them. Also, it is much easier for me to write novellas in between my full-length novels under contract with traditional publishers.

The second novella, WILDE WOMEN, is in the works and should be ready this summer. The cover is already designed. The third novella, WILDE THYME, should be out about 6 months after that. My goal is to release each 6 months apart with a continuing story thread and many recurring characters.

Why self-published? Because I wanted to do a novella format and I wanted them out quickly, not mired down in traditional publishing. A publisher did express some interest in seeing these. If I'd gone that route, RUNNING WILDE would not have been released for at least a year from now, more like two years. I wanted them out now with my vision, not someone else's.  Marketing will be tough and time-consuming at first, but you can help by spreading the word!

Margaret Winifred Chambers
Why the pen name of "Meg Chambers?"  My Granny Apples and Odelia Grey books are a definite brand and I wanted readers to have a sense of difference and division between those books and the Winnie Wilde books. I am going to great pains to make sure readers understand that the Winnie books are rated R, not G or PG like Odelia and Granny. When I wrote my Madison Rose vampire series, even though those books were traditionally published, a lot of my Granny and Odelia readers were upset by some of the more adult content and violence. I wanted to make sure they were forewarned with these books. However, I also need to capitalize for marketing purposes on the large foundation of readers who follow "Sue Ann Jaffarian" books. My compromise is that "Meg Chambers" is the author on the cover, but I'm not hiding the fact at all that I write the Winnie books.

Meg Chambers has her own website:, along with a Facebook page. Come say hello.

Where did the name "Meg Chambers" come from?  My mother's name was Margaret Winifred Chambers. You might say that this whole series is dedicated to her. Meg Chambers is the author and Winifred Wilde is the main character. Mom loved reading romance magazines and "trashy" novels. I have no doubt she would have loved this series.

Are you going to write other self-published books?  Yes! Eventually. I am a firm believer that these days an author needs to keep a foot in both traditional and independent publishing. My various short stories have done quite well as e-book independent releases and now we'll see how the Winnie novellas do. I will continue writing for my traditional publishers as long as they want the books, and bring out my indie books at the same time.  Even though years have passed since my last Madison Rose vampire mystery, I am still receiving a lot of requests for them.  I do plan on writing and releasing BETRAYED BY BLOOD, the 3rd book in the series, as an indie author, but right now I can't give a release date as my writing plate is quite full.

I hope you will try the Winnie Wilde novellas, along with my other stories and novels.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Folding vs. Holding

Last week Jon Stewart announced that he was leaving The Daily Show. I heard it first on Facebook, confirmed it through news reports, and followed that up by donning sack cloth and ashes.

I've been watching The Daily Show for years. YEARS! Now that I have a DVR, I record them and watch a week's worth of shows - all four - in one sitting on the weekend. It's a love fest! Yesterday I caught up with this past week, including the episode where he made the public announcement of his departure (see video above).


Stewart made his reasons for leaving quite clear: spending more time with his family, topping the list. He also made a statement that really resonated with me as a writer. "This show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host."

This comment immediately made me think of those of us with long-running book series, whether it be mystery or otherwise. After a while, our creative minds get restless. No matter how much we love what we do. No matter how good we are at doing it. The creative side of people needs room to grow and expand or it stagnates,like a plant growing in too small of a pot.  We've all read book series that should have ended several books earlier. We've all watched TV shows that jumped the shark seasons ago. We've all seen movie franchises that should have stopped while they were ahead.

I'm not saying Jon Stewart has lost his edge - far from it. But I respect and applaud that he's recognizing that he needs new stimulation to nurture his creativity.

I have two books left under contract in the Odelia Grey series - making it an even dozen books. So, do I continue with Odelia and move forward on book 13? I'm leaning that way, but it won't be without major changes to the franchise to keep it fresh for both readers and myself.

I'm currently writing the 6th Ghost of Granny Apples mystery and after that have no more under contract. That doesn't mean there won't be more, just that my publisher has not made that decision. And if they do want more, do I want to write them or give the series and me a rest? And if they do not want more, do I go indie with the series, as I probably will do with Odelia after book 12? I have a couple more plot ideas for Granny books, so that is not an issue. The issue is, do I want to do more? I've always said that the last thing I want as a series writer is to hear that readers are bored with my work.

As Kenny Rodgers sings in The Gambler
You've got to know when to hold 'em; 
know when to fold 'em; 
know when to walk away; 
and know when to run.

Decisions. Decisions.

As anyone who follows me anywhere on the web knows, I'm about to launch a new erotic romance series - The Winnie Wilde series - under the pen name of Meg Chambers. This new series is me stretching the legs of my creativity. It won't take the place of my mystery books, but it will allow me to grow in other directions and help my talent to blossom even more. I also have other projects waiting in the wings, so I know I'll be writing for years to come on something. Think of it as me re-potting my writing career so that my roots won't be cramped and wither.

I hope whatever happens in my career over the next few years, my readers will understand any changes that I make or paths that I take, just as I understand Stewart's. After all, don't my readers deserve better than an even slightly restless author?

Finally, why I'll miss Jon Stewart:

He's eye candy. What can I say? I have a thing for sexy, middle-aged Jewish men, and I think Stewart has gotten yummier over the years.
He's intelligent.
He's informed.
He's funny.
He's not afraid to speak out for what he believes.

I wish Stewart well in whatever endeavors lie ahead for him and I sincerely hope we see him on TV often.  I'd love to see him do a weekly news discussion show like Bill Maher's. Or something along the lines of Meet The Press, etc. At least that's on my wish list!

In the meantime, I'll be watching The Daily Show until Stewart walks off the set for the last time.