Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Call Bullshit!

For the past few years there has been a "game" going around Facebook in which a woman will announce falsely that she is either pregnant, getting married, won money in the lottery, etc. Supposedly, these bogus posts are to catch people's attention and bring about awareness for breast cancer.


Are some of you really that stupid, or just blindly following the herd? Both are equally unattractive, in my opinion.

I have news for all you being sucked into these dumb ass games. They do NOTHING except make your friends feel like duped fools, and make them angry.

I fell for a couple of these false posts back when they first started. Now I bitch slap friends who do them. Sadly, one of my friends did get engaged recently, and it took me awhile before I congratulated her because I was wary of it being a hoax post. Turns out, she really was newly engaged.

See the problem?

These false posts:

1) make you a liar and show you to be a herd-following fool
2) make your friends and followers feel like chumps
3) cause people to get pissed at you

The next time someone wants you to do something for breast cancer awareness in this manner, just say NO, then verbally (and privately) bitch slam them into shame. 

If you want to do something for breast cancer awareness, participate in fund raising by either walking to raise money or by opening your wallet. Money, not lies, will fight breast cancer by providing funds for research.

If you want to raise awareness for breast cancer, post links to sites for research, fund raising and education.

Serious Stuff
Breast cancer is deadly and serious and deserves more respect than your bullshit posts that you're really doing because you're too lazy to fight the tide or to take the time to consider your actions. Hitting "like" and then reposting those lies about yourself is a knee-jerk reaction. So stop jerking your knee and stop jerking people around.

More importantly, those bullshit posts also disrespect breast cancer survivors, those who did not survive, and their families.  I know none of you intended to do that, so let this post be a simple learning experience for you:


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Give Me a Break, Kimmy Schmidt

Over the last several weeks I've worked my way through Season 1 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the comedy written and produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock for Netflix. Because it was written by Tina Fey, I was eager to see this new series. 

Now, with it behind me and time to digest it all, I must say that I have mixed feelings about this show.

Upfront, let me say that: 



I'm a bit appalled that such a subject was played for laughs.

BUT... the series focuses not on what happened to Kimmy and 3 other women, but Kimmy's entry back into "normal" life. Kimmy refuses to be a victim of her past and sets out to start a new life in Manhattan, seldom letting people know that she was one of the "Mole Women" from Indiana.  

Bravo for you, Kimmy!

This show is really of spoof on pretentious behavior, New York, values gone awry, and prejudices. And it does that very, very well. Kimmy is plucky but very naive, almost to the point at times of causing a gag-reflex.

Still, when you push aside what happened to Kimmy and focus on the broad comedy, it's ridiculous laugh-out-loud fun. It reminded me of the very silly but highly entertaining skits of early Saturday Night Live seasons, which is no surprise considering who wrote the script.

The cast is excellent: Carol Kane (who doesn't love her?), Titus Burgess, Jane Krakowski, and Kimmy herself played by Ellie Kemper

What really fell apart for me was the courtroom scenes when Kimmy's abductor is brought to "justice." Again, something that left a very bad taste in my mouth because of the severity of his crime and how it was played, often to the point of nausea, for laughs.

The prosecution in the case is handled by the team of Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, played by Tina Fey and Jeffrey Minor, and is a total spoof of the bumbling of the O.J. Simpson trial, right down to making the defendant put on an ill-fitting glove (give me a break). I thought it was way over written and over played and bored me to tears, and even made me angry at times. Had the court room scenes been earlier in the series instead of at the end, I would have stopped watching the show all together.

Like I said, there are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in this show, but I'm not sure they outweighed the groans and annoyances of everything else.

And I'm still having trouble getting over the fact that kidnapping women was played for laughs...

Ask Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, or any of the young women from Cleveland, OH, how funny their experiences were, or their re-entry into everyday life.

At least that's my opinion, and as the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Gift or Sickness?

Recently I added an app to my iPhone that counts down to special days. I'm using it to countdown to my retirement from my day job as a paralegal. Not to the exact day, but the first day I will be able to retire. The exact day will be determined later.

It's not that I dislike my day job. I don't. I really enjoy it and the people I work with. It's a nice place and they treat us well and pay us well.

It's just that I'd rather be WRITING ALL DAY ALL THE TIME!

At a time when most people are thinking about spending leisurely days puttering, traveling, and spending more time with grandchildren, I want to be spending my days hunched in front of a computer writing like zombies are breathing down my neck.

I'd rather be no where else in the world!

Except maybe doing it at the beach or in the mountains instead of in a corner of my apartment.

It is no secret that I am a very prolific author. Even with a full-time job, I generally crank out two novels/novellas a year, with the odd short story thrown in. This is an unusual year for me. By the end of 2015, I will have completed two full-length novels and one novella for two different traditional publishers, and two novellas in my indie Winnie Wilde romance series.

That's 5 books, folks. In one year. With a day job.

And according to both professional and reader reviews, I'm doing a pretty good job at it.

I'm not saying this to brag. Really, I'm not. I'm pointing out what can be done when you hunger for something and apply yourself. If I exercised as much as I write, I'd be stick thin.

To be fair to my writing colleagues, some of the most important reasons I can produce so much is that I don't have a family to care for except for two cats, so my home obligations are minimal. My books are also contemporary and require very little deep research. My friends and family are incredibly understanding and supportive.

I'm also very jealous of my writing time, guarding it like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell. And I write pretty "clean." Meaning that I don't need to do much editing at the end, and  I don't do multiple drafts. The words flow from my brain and out my fingers as if I'm merely transcribing a movie I'm watching on the underside of my eyelids. I also work with rolling edits. I write several chapters, then go back and edit those until I'm happy with them, then move forward again. By the time I get to the end, I really only need to do one more slow pass-through editing sweep before it goes to my editors.

My apartment should be so clean, but that's another blog for another time.

There will come a day when I will not be able to keep up this pace. It's inevitable. This past long weekend I finished a manuscript and by the time I typed THE END, my hands were swollen. Not painful, but achy with arthritis. I can still type over 100 wpm with decent accuracy, but it comes at a price. I also have to do regular stretching to avoid pain in my shoulders, neck, chest, and upper back.

I often wonder when such a slow down will happen to my mind. Right now my gray matter has no trouble juggling several plot ideas and multiple characters at the same time. (BTW, I also keep good notes on my characters, time lines and series flow, which helps. But I believe that's just good housekeeping for authors.)

Next year I will only have one book under a contract deadline. The other books I write will be under my personal deadlines, which can be flexible according to my needs. I'm doing this on purpose, knowing I need to be more fluid with my time as I get older. My goal for 2016 is to complete two novels  and two novellas, but if I need to, all but one can be rescheduled.

Other authors are always asking how I do what I do. How can I be so prolific and crank out book after book without lowering the quality?

Frankly, I don't know. Really, I don't.

It's a gift, of that I'm sure. Or maybe it's a sickness? Maybe it's both. But as long as the gift keeps on giving and/or the illness goes unchecked, I'm along for the ride.

I hope all of you are too.

Okay, gotta run. I have two more novels to complete before the end of the year, and then there's that pesky day job. At least for the next 1,210 days ... but who's counting?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blasting My Cozy Label

Cozy, yes
A lot of authors who write traditional softer mysteries don't mind being labeled a "cozy" author. Others dislike the label intensely.  I've always said I didn't care what people called me as long as they bought my books. Worked for me.

Now, more than a dozen years into my writing career, I'm finding I dislike the cozy label. Not because I have a dislike for the word (which I don't), but because it fits like a pair of size 6 shoes on size 9 feet.

In other words, it's cramping my style!

Let's review the evidence, shall we?

Out November 2016!
A cozy novel is one in which the violence and sex are not displayed on the page. There is no gore, profanity, or highly charged adult themes. Most take place in a small geographic area with an amateur sleuth playing the lead. Often they are humorous.  My Ghost of Granny Apples series fits this bill perfectly, except for maybe the geographic thing.

My Odelia Grey books are more "soft boiled," meaning that they often do contain violence, some profanity, and adult themes on the page, but not very often graphically described.

Definitely Not!
The Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries are more "medium boiled" maybe even leaning a bit beyond that. There is quite a bit of profanity, sex and violence on the page, and the books are very dark in feel and setting. Far from cozy, as this review of MURDER IN VEIN on Amazon will assure you:

I have enjoyed Jaffarian's other books and thought I'd give it a try. Mistake. Please don't think you're going to get anything like what you have gotten from her other series. Bloody, nasty, and totally unlikeable. I only gave the one star because there isn't apparently a way to give a book ZERO stars.

 Frankly, I don't understand why the cover of this book or the back copy didn't give this reader a clue. It is about VAMPIRES after all!  Even though it had my name on the cover, she should have been smart enough to see that it was not a cozy.  Although I beg to differ about the "totally unlikeable" comment. Other folks have loved this book, and even several years later, I continue almost daily to get requests  to continue the series. (BTW, expect to see the 3rd book in the series, BETRAYED BY BLOOD, in the next 12-18 months.)

Warning: BETRAYED BY BLOOD will NOT be a cozy or even soft-boiled. Trust me on this!

Cozy? Duh, what do you think?
My new Winnie Wilde series, written under the pen name of Meg Chambers, is definitely not cozy. It's a steamy, often erotic romance series.  In fact, one of the covers recently got me bumped from being included in an interview!   (BTW, I've recently moved the release of the 2nd book in this series, WILDE WOMEN, to early 2016, since I have a couple of other books coming out between now and the end of 2015.)

My short stories are a mixed bag, both in genre and level of adult themes. Although not hard-core, they run the gamut of mild to thrilling, often with sex, profanity and even some drug use.

Now here's a twist. As I've said above, my Ghost of Granny Apples books are cozy, BUT in December Penguin is releasing THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, a novella that is definitely not a cozy, unless hookers and the homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles are you definition of "cozy." It's not full of profanity, but there's definitely violence and very tough topics on the page. Not to mention, the protagonist is a professional P.I., not an amateur sleuth.
Out December 2016, but
not a cozy Christmas story

And wait until you see the new projects I have planned for the future!

I never set out to be a "cozy" author. I didn't even know what the term meant when I first became published, and was rather surprised to see it stick to me like a gummy booger to an index finger.

I write.


I write the stories and characters that present themselves to the writing side of my brain. Sometimes they are soft in nature. Sometimes not. If there is a common thread running through any of these books and stories, I'd like to think it's good character development, a well-thought out plot, and humor ranging from mild to bust-a-gut. I can't seem to write a book without including humor of some sort, but a lot of writers write humor and are NOT labeled cozy. (Oh, but those are mostly men ... just saying. )

While I won't assault anyone who calls me a "cozy author," based on the above evidence, I'd like to be referred to in the future simply as "Sue Ann Jaffarian, author." I am not only a cozy author. I also don't write only mysteries. I'm an author who writes many things, including some cozies, so it's not fair to me, or to readers, to stick me in a small box and stick a label on that box.

You're not mailing me. You're reading me.

My favorite professional review ever came from Kirkus and referred to MURDER IN VEIN, but more importantly, I feel the reviewer got me and my writing:

 Like Stuart Kaminsky, 
Jaffarian juggles her franchises deftly, 
giving each a unique voice and appeal. – Kirkus 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cracked Me Up!

Last Saturday I did a phone interview as part of an article being written about pursing dreams while holding down an office job.  The interview went great and it was fun.

So this past week, the interviewer informed me that the company behind the article is cutting me from the piece, even though they told her they "LOVED" my part in it.


I'm glad you asked.

[Drum roll please]

Because one of my book covers shows the top of a woman's butt crack.

Yep, that's the reason. If I'm lying, I'm dying.

I'm was cut from the piece because the cover of RUNNING WILDE, the first novella in my Winnie Wilde romance series published under the pen name of Meg Chambers, shows the top of a woman's butt crack. (BTW, it's available now on Amazon. Sorry, couldn't resist the shameless plug.)

And guess what? RUNNING WILDE wasn't even mentioned in the article. Apparently their legal team, in vetting the article, looked up my books and took issue with this one cover.

Kim Kardashian shows her ass crack EVERYWHERE and makes millions. I have one on a book cover and get censored from a small article. What a world!

Or, more to the point, what is wrong with this world?

You can't walk down the street without seeing butt cracks on teens with sagging pants. You can't hire a plumber without being in danger of being flashed. Some are prettier than others. Some are funny. Some ridiculous. A slight butt crack is innocent and anyone thinking otherwise is really uptight. I don't think this cover is any more scandalous than a Victoria Secret commercial, or the nudity you see on TV.  If I had written a romance book with a half naked man in a dangerously low-slung kilt on the cover,would they have also taken issue?

On my next Winnie Wilde novella, WILDE WOMEN, which will be released this fall, there is a pair of nude legs. No butt crack, but the cover is still sexually provocative. It's supposed to be. It's an adult steamy romance novella. And I stand by both covers 150%.

Am I angry over being cut from this piece? No, not at all. Really. I'm just shocked and a bit surprised, especially since the article had nothing to do with that book and I have over 20 other covers displaying not a single butt crack. If that company found  my innocent cover as crossing the line, then I'm not for them or them for me. Not because of this cover, but because I prefer being associated with more open-minded people.

Ass cracks, we all have them. And, sigh, sometimes they're not even on our bottom but in the middle of our face.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Hard Decisions, New Challenges

Sometimes an author has to make difficult decisions to further his or her career. Sometimes they have to make those decisions to keep themselves sane. This past week I made a decision for both reasons. And now that I've told my publisher about my decision, I can share it here.

THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW, the ninth book in my very popular Ghost of Granny Apples series, will be my last for a while. This full-length novel will be released by Penguin/Berkeley in summer of 2016 in both print and e-book formats.

I know I'm going to get a load of flack for this decision, but it was one that had to be made.

Over the next few years I have obligated myself to some heavy commitments in the writing community that will take up a lot of my time, so I needed to remove the stress of hard deadlines.

Since moving Granny from its original publisher to Penguin three years ago, I have written 3 novels and 3 novellas for them. That's a lot of writing, and they were very understanding about my decision.

I still have two more Odelia Grey novels to deliver to Midnight Ink, one in progress and due in a few months, and one next year, for a full dozen books contracted in that series.

If you're doing the math, consider this:  In the past 11 years, I've penned 11 Odelia Grey books, 9 Granny Apples books, and 2 Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries. That's 22 novels/novellas, all under contract deadlines. And that doesn't include the first Winnie Wilde romance novella and assorted short stories that I've done on my own.

And remember, I still work a full time day job, and I'm not a youngster.

Frankly, I'm pooped.

I'm also very humbled and grateful that during all this time publishers and readers alike have wanted those books. I have been very fortunate in my writing career. I know it and don't take it for granted.

I don't know at this point if Granny Apples is done or merely going on hiatus. I won't make that decision for about two years. As for Odelia Grey, I have made the decision not to contract for any more books. Odelia books that come out after #12 will probably be released as independents and with a little different focus.

Over the next few years, I will be doing more independent projects, like expanding the Winnie Wilde series, and focusing on some half completed novels that I've been biting at the bit to finish but didn't have the time. I will also be writing and releasing BETRAYED BY BLOOD, the 3rd book in my Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries.

In other words, all of my writing in the next few years will be done on my schedule without contractual deadlines, so that I can juggle my other obligations with my writing with less stress.

For those of you who love Granny, Emma and Phil, I know you'll be disappointed with this news, but I trust you to understand.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Blatant Self Poisoning - Revisited

Four years ago I wrote a blog for Inkspot called Blatant Self Poisoning. It was a commentary on BSP, which in the writing world stands for blatant self promotion.

As authors we all need to do our share of BSP. It's a necessary evil. Without BSP readers would not know about our books. Some authors hate doing it, others love tooting their own horns. Personally, I fall somewhere in between.

In the past year I've noticed BSP running rampant on social media, much more so than when I wrote that blog in 2011. Twitter is horribly filled with it, and I've unfollowed a lot of authors on Twitter because my feed was filled with their constant shouting about their books.

Here is the beginning of my previous blog on the subject. I feel it bears repeating:

Recently I was having a meal with a friend – another author. As always, our conversation turned to discussing books we’d read, those we were reading and those added to our To Be Read Pile. When I mentioned a book I’d recently picked up, she groaned. “I wanted to read that book,” she said, “but if I see one more word about it or even the cover again, I’ll vomit.”

Yeah, isn't turning people's stomachs the goal of every author when they're pushing a new book?

Yet, it continues. And continues. And continues. More so than ever.

Listen, I well understand that with the thousands of books out there you need to be heard above the shouting. Really, I do. I have books I need to promote too.

Be nice, no matter what. Hostility and general ass-holiness will result in lost sales and your name put on a shit list.

This past week an author sent me a promo bomb via a Facebook private message. I didn't know this author personally. He was one of the nearly 3,000 friends I have on my personal page. I unfriended him and then posted something to my page about how I hate it when authors do that. A discussion, as always, ensued, and even spilled onto another author's FB page since it seemed a lot of us received the same PR bomb.

One author posted a comment about how maybe that author was a newbie and we should gently advise him how not to do BSP.  Okay, I agree. In fact, over the years I would take the time to nicely tell an author who employed such annoying habits that it wasn't a good practice and would end up with them losing support instead of gaining it.  My niceness was met with mixed results. Some thanked me, saying they were new to the process and were just learning. But many countered with hostility and a smugness that made me want to smack them into next week.  The negative reactions ranged from them calling me a bitch, to claiming I was jealous of their books, to telling me to fuck off. (Yeah, one guy did say that.)

Hijacking other people's pages will only get you unfriended and your name put on a shit list.

Another DO NOT DO THIS approach is posting your PR to another author's Facebook page. Some blatantly do this. Others think they are being coy by tagging a list of authors in the post, thereby spamming many pages in one blow.

And please do not friend another author and when they say thank you, counter by placing a link to your webpage or author page on their FB page. Really???!!!  Quit being so lazy by piggybacking onto another author's friends lists. Build your own.

Again, as with the PR bombs, I started out by speaking to the offenders, saying this was a no-no. Again, I was met with some nice responses, but the majority were ugly or argumentative.

Now when someone PR bombs me, I simply unfriend with no further interaction. If they tag me unnecessarily, the tag is immediately removed and the post deleted. If it continues, that author is unfriended.

I love helping other authors promote their books, and do it often by posting PR for other authors on my FB page, but I do it. That's the key. It's my page. I place the PR I want on it. Sometimes I do it on my own. Sometimes an author will write and ask if I will help them promote their new book. Whether I do or not depends on my relationship with that author and if I think my followers will enjoy their book.

BSP Tip:
From the mouths of readers. Remember them?
(aka I couldn't say it any better myself)

When I wrote that first blog about Blatant Self Poisoning a lot of great comments and opinions were posted by readers. Readers, remember, that's who you're trying to reach. You can't reach them by hitting them with a stick. Here are just a few of the comments from readers re BSP:

For me, the promotion becomes off-putting when an author is on every list, every day, sometimes more than once.

If you're on social networks be there consistently and interact with people whether you have a book coming out or now. And when I say interact, I mean interact, not shove your writing at everyone constantly. Care about what your followers are saying, respond when they ask you a question, be involved in fun conversations.

...when your book comes out, mention it is out. You can mention it multiple times, you can link and show where others have talked about it - miminally. Don't link to every review and don't let your conversations ONLY be about your books.

 If the only time I hear from a writer "friend" is when s/he is self-promoting -- no good.

The author who turns every single topic into a reference to his/her book...SO offputting!

There are authors whose future books I have little or no interest in because they pounded their followers on Twitter and Blogger so hard the first time around.

BSP is over the line, for me, when that author gives nothing back to the community of writers that supported and nurtured them. There are authors who never comment on other's blogs, or talk about others books, or respond to a post unless they can give BSP about their own blog, book, website etc. Very noticeable and off-putting.

BSP Tip:
Remember, a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. If you burn your bridges early on, how are you going to get across the river and build a solid, long-lasting readership

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.