Tuesday, November 24, 2015

To Raffi With Love

I did something today that I've never had to do before. I had to put a pet down. A beloved pet that had been a part of my life for many years. He was a common white and gray short haired little devil with boundless energy and a stubborn disposition. He took crap off no one, including me, and definitely not my other cat, B.

A few months ago Raffi started vomiting and lost a little weight. I took him to the vet and the exam and all his blood work came back normal. The vet believed it was simply a sour tummy. I tried all kinds of pet food, some he kept down better than others. Once the vomiting stopped, he rallied, and seemed more like his old self. For the past few months it was like that. Good days and bad. I worked hard to get his weight back up, but it kept dropping and at a rapid rate. Four months ago he weighed 14.5 lbs. Today he weighed 8.7 lbs. I took him back to the vet today because of the weight loss and because Raffi developed diarrhea and was having difficulty walking from weakness.

He was actually asleep on top of my head.
This morning the vet found a large mass in Raffi's abdomen - cancer. It wasn't there a few months ago, so it was very fast growing and now the size of an orange.  I felt it myself today. There was nothing to do except try to keep him comfortable for the little time he had left, and the vet said he had very little time left. I made the decision to put him down. It wouldn't be fair to him to try to keep him alive. His quality of life was gone and he was miserable.  Raffi was 13 years old.

About 12 years ago, I adopted Raffi and B from a young couple who had just graduated from UCLA and were going their separate ways to different grad schools. When they got here, B went immediately under the bed and stayed there for a month, coming out only at night or when I was gone for food, water and the litter box. Raffi, on the other hand, hopped out of the carrier and investigated every inch of my apartment, finally deciding he liked his new digs. I remember the first morning after B and Raffi arrived because Raffi scared the crap out of me by waking me up with a wet nose in my face. It would be the first of many mornings he would wake me up that way.

I think he used the exercise bike more than I did.
Raffi was a big cat. He was tall and long and carried his 14.5 lbs like a prowling jungle cat. He loved to race through the house, bouncing off furniture, even up to just a few months ago. He also loved to torment B and he'd get angry with her if she didn't want to play. All the destroyed furniture in my apt. is because of him. He was a pistol, pure and simple. He was also incredibly loving and cuddly to both B and me. He was our protector. Some nights I'd wake up to find B snoring next to me and Raffi at the end of the bed alert and standing guard over his two girls.

He was also very social. He didn't mind strangers one bit and loved it when I had company.  He made friends with everyone who came through my door, including repair men, and would flop on his back and invite them to rub his tummy. Unlike B, who hides even when I Skype.

Thank you, Raffi. 

There wasn't a single day you didn't make me smile or laugh. You brought me comfort when I was blue and kept me company during my long hours of writing. You loved both B and me unconditionally. Who's going to keep us in line now?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Love Me Some Trevor!

I'm one of those people who believe change is good. Change is healthy. Change is invigorating. Then Jon Stewart announced his retirement from The Daily Show and I attired myself in sack cloth and ashes and moaned audibly.

Now, several months into The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, I gotta say,

Damn, that fellow's good!

Really good!

Trevor Noah has brought a freshness to the show. It has a more youthful spin that even my 60+ years appreciates. It's like an old solid house getting new paint and landscaping. My only concern at the beginning was that South African Noah would not be able to present US politics and cultural craziness with the same heart and laser hot sarcasm as an American-born host.

I was wrong.  Dead wrong.

Yes, you heard me. I was wrong. Noah's news stories, whether they be about the presidential race, gun control, racism (who better than a South African to talk about that, huh?), or health care, are point on, and his stories on international news are just as biting.

Although sad to see some of my favorite Daily Show correspondents leave the show along with Stewart, I love the new correspondents who joined the remaining cast. It's a great mix.

Bottom line: Trevor Noah is funny, intelligent, congenial and cute as a button!

I always had the hots for Stewart. Not so much for Noah. You see, he's 30 years my junior. Instead of getting nasty with him, I want to pinch his cheeks and cheer him on like a proud auntie.

You got this, Trevor! 

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Heavy on the Glam, Light on the Bullshit

Ashley Nell Tipton
Even though I consider Crocs a fashion accessory and seldom wear makeup, I'm a girlie-girl at heart. People who have only known me over the past several years don't know that there was a time when I wore stockings and heels and silk dresses, even cocktail dresses. I never went without makeup, especially mascara and lipstick, and had acrylic nails painted blood red. Even my bras and panties matched. It's true.

Now I prefer comfort over fashion. Call it age. Call it laziness. It works for me at this stage in my life when most of my free time is spent hammering away at a keyboard writing books, dressed in yoga pants and t-shirts, without shoes and a bra. This is also true.

I've been heavy most of my life, so finding nice clothing has always been a chore, especially when I was younger. I hate to sew, but I used to make a lot of my clothes because I couldn't find any to fit except matronly tents with big-ass prints. I even made a fully-lined trench coat once that came out pretty good.

Now it's not that difficult to find fashionable clothing in plus sizes, at least if you shop online. There are tons of great plus-size retailers on the Internet, but few physical stores that carry plus sizes. Which is surprising since most American women are a size 14 or greater. I guess they don't want our money. And, even if a chain store CLAIMS to carry plus sizes in their stores, they won't carry them in all of their stores, just in a couple, and the stores that don't have plus size departments get very snooty and bitchy if you asked a sales rep where it is (*cough* Macy's *cough*). And even if department stores DO have a plus size department, generally it is located next to housewares or somewhere in a corner away from the "cool stuff."

I have a plethora of real-life shopping experiences that have happened to me over the years that would curl your hair, some of which have made it into my Odelia Grey books. Most of my clothing is bought online because I don't have the patience for brain dead sales people and stores that don't respect me and my time.

This last week Project Runway (which I've watched from its beginning because I am a girlie-girl at heart), crowned its first ever plus-size designer, Ashley Nell Tipton. And for the first time ever, Project Runway featured a plus-size collection on the runway during Fashion Week.  Ashley's collection was fun, colorful, and very feminine. It even showed skin. If I were younger, I'd be saving my pennies and lining up for her clothing ... um minus the headgear.

Part of Ashley's winning collection.
Sadly, Ashley's win came with a lot of criticism from haters and critics. Many online attacks claimed that Project Runway chose Ashley over the other designers simply to make history instead of picking the best designer.

I call Bullshit! 

I watched the entire season. My favorites were Ashley and Edmond Newton. In the end, after the fashion show, it was clear to most watching that the two best designers in the show were Ashley and Kelly Dempsey. The judges said Ashley's collection was feminine, wearable and cohesive, and could be worn by women of any size. Ashley Tipton may have sent plus-size models down the runway, but the designs could be worn by women of any size. Not so of the other 3 finalists.

Over the 14 seasons of Project Runway, they've had several challenges that involved designing for the "everyday woman" which included some that were plus-size. I would sit on my sofa and growl as the snippier and less mature of the designers complained that they hated the challenge because it wasn't "their thing" or it grossed them out.  During those shows, I'm sure my neighbors heard me shouting, "Oh grow the fuck up!"  They probably thought I was screaming at a boyfriend or kid, of which I have neither.

One of Ashley's non-plus size designs. She can design for anyone!
Early in this season's competition (Episode 5), with Ashley fresh off not one but two challenge wins, many of the other women in the competition ostracized Ashley and tried to throw her under the bus and get her kicked off. I'm not sure why. Throughout the competition, Ashley was helpful, pleasant, a good sport, and charming. Maybe these other women sensed she was a talent to be reckoned with, or maybe it was just the age-old prejudice against weight, or thinking that bigger women are easy prey. Heidi Klum made a comment about it and even one of the judges referred to it as a "bitchfest." Ashley was hurt and crying and I cried right along with her, remembering similar incidences in my life. Some things never change.

Ashley Nell Tipton, my dear girl, you have a very successful career ahead of you, and women of all sizes are going to be clamoring for your clothes. Just do me a favor: make the skinny chicks wait in the back of the line.

Oh, and I LOVE your purple hair!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

2015 - The Fast and Furious

Holy Crap!

Where did the year go!

In less that two weeks we will be in full-blown commercial holiday mode. I have yet to see my first Christmas ad on TV, and I'm hoping to hold out until at least Halloween on that.

2015 was not a good year for me. It wasn't horrible with a capital H, but not one I'd like to remember with fondness. Still, I trudge on.

I have a lot going on during the last two months of 2015:

2 books due to publishers ASAP
2 books being released

Somewhere in there, there are a couple of major holidays, my birthday, holiday parties, and an assortment of duties for So Cal MWA, of which I am the current Vice President.

What's a gal to do, besides burrow like a groundhog and not come out until February?

Instead, I'll be meeting all this head on in my usual pig-headed, bull-in-a-china-shop manner.

While November 8th is the official release date of A BODY TO SPARE, on November 1st at 2:00 pm at the Mystery Ink Book Store, 8907 Warner Ave., #135, Huntington Beach, CA, I'll be talking about and signing the book. Come on down! This event is the LA Midnight Ink Author Day and will also feature pal Linda O. Johnston. This will also be my ONLY book signing event for A BODY TO SPARE due to an already full schedule and the impending holidays.

On December 1st get ready to download THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, my 3rd Ghost of Granny Apples digital novella and 8th Granny adventure overall. This story is a particular favorite of mine and features P.I. Jeremiah Johnson from Ghost in the Guacamole.

(Note: The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary will ONLY be available digitally, so please don't ask about print copies, which happens every time. Digital means digital.)

And ... heading into the 2016, WILDE WOMEN, the 2nd digital novella in the Winnie Wilde series under my pen name of Meg Chambers, will be released on February 2nd.  This poor book has had its release date moved so much it has whiplash, but February 2nd is the date!!! Expect it to go up for pre-order in November.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Writing In The Raw

I'll bet you think that this is about me writing in my birthday suit because of the never-ending heat wave in So. Cal.

Fooled ya!

Nope, this is me writing about me and about some thoughts I had recently when I was really down.

Writing in the raw in this instance means writing about the rawness inside. The red bloody core of our inner selves. Something we writers all strive to do in our fiction, but seldom do as people.

I'm going through a difficult patch right now. Patch might even be an understatement.  It feels like I'm in the middle of a perfect storm of bullshit, some of it with serious potential consequences. Some of it is personal. Some physical. Some of it has to do with my writing. Some of it is at the office and out of my control.  It's all thundering down on me like a tidal wave while I dog paddle as fast as my stumpy arms and legs will go.

I'm not writing this to garner pity or sadness or to get attention, but to remind you, the readers, that behind every book you read (mine and others) is a person with a life, a family, likes, dislikes, ups and downs, frailties, and tragedies. We lose loved ones. We get sick or injured. We do incredibly stupid things. We suffer lost and despair. We have a past. Just like our thousands of readers.

This morning while brushing my teeth, I had the thought that my life would be much easier had I married when I had the chance.

But would it be? There are no guarantees.

In my life so far, I've been proposed to three times. I accepted one and the bastard broke my heart with no sense of guilt or regret. I left him three months before the wedding and never looked back. I know, without a doubt, that had I gone through with that marriage I might be better off financially, but not emotionally. He would have destroyed me.

The other two came when I was younger. I didn't love them, so turned them down. Had I accepted either of those proposals, I would have had a nice traditional life, but probably would never have become a writer. My dream was always to be a writer. Maybe I would have still pursued it, but I doubt it. I've never regretted turning them down either.

I do date on occasion, though those occasions and opportunities are more rare with each passing year. But I can say honestly that while I am alone, I am seldom lonely. Nor am I a crazy old cat lady who talks to herself. Really. I'm not.  (here, kitty, kitty)

But this post isn't about marriage or being single. Not at all. This post is about being honest with ourselves and with others about who we are. We live the life dictated by our heart and desires, but also by our choices, both good and bad. Our lives are an accumulation and canvas of our experiences.

Throughout my life I've heard:

You're too fat.
You're too loud.
You're too abrasive.
You're not pretty enough.
You don't dress nice.
You swear too much.
You don't believe enough.
You're too old. (recent addition to the list)

And sometimes the negative voice comes from within:

I'm not talented.
I'm fat.
I'm lazy.
I'm old.

I've spent decades trying to fit in, hoping to be more accepted and loved. I've wasted years doing what was expected of me instead of what I wanted to do. I always thought if I was normal, my life would be better. Then several years ago I decided, fuck it. This isn't working for me. Instead of being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, I need to find my own personal square hole.

Now I say,


And I own it.

Straight or gay, we all need to come out of the closet, whatever that closet might be.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can throw social responsibility out the window. If you're an asshole, own your assholeness, but don't hurt others in the process. If you're not happy being an asshole, then change. Just know that being who you are doesn't mean walking through life taking verbal and physical swings at your fellow citizens just because you feel like it or you're in a bad mood.  That's acting out like a spoiled brat and the world does not need any more spoiled brats.

With regard to that tidal wave I mentioned above, I have no doubt that I'll weather it eventually. I may be dog paddling, but my head is still above water and my friends and family have my back.

As for my writing, I hope that even though I'm in my 60s, I can infuse my characters, current and future, with rawness and truth.

Monday, October 12, 2015


It's hard to believe, but A BODY TO SPARE, the 10th Odelia Grey novel, will be released in just a few weeks. 

To celebrate, I'm giving away 4 signed copies.

To enter, simply send an e-mail before 9 pm PT, October 25th, to contest@sueannjaffarian.com with BODY in the subject line. Please include your SNAIL MAIL address. Winners will be drawn at random and posted in The Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Face Book

This contest is open to US and CANADA residents only and you must be a member of the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club to enter

Why join the Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club?

I'm glad you asked.

Membership Has Its Benefits

  • Fun book chat with other readers, and not just about my books
  • Guest authors every month
  • Interesting questions and conversations about books, authors and reading
  • My contests are usually for members only and I hold several throughout the year
  • No spamming or advertisements allowed
  • We have 1,100 members
  • It's FREE!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Story Ideas - Drought or Flood?

Exploding Head by Keith Haring
I am always baffled when I hear another writer say they have no ideas for their next book or a new series.


Other writers will say they have tons of ideas but not enough time to get them down on paper.

Okay, now I've found my tribe.

This second category can be divided into two camps: those who prioritize their multiple ideas and those who have a melt down by the shear weight of all the creative goodness in their heads. I stand between these two groups, a foot in each camp, depending on what's going on in my life at the moment.

I don't want to complain about having too many ideas out of fear that one day the Idea Gods might build a dam upstream and stop the flow. For now they are constantly raining down on my brain while I run around with a bucket trying to catch the best ones.

For those of you who are having trouble coming up with new ideas, I have a few pointers:

* Relax. A relaxed mind opens up like a flower to the sun. When I'm writing and hit a road block, I do something physical like a household chore, go for a walk, run an errand, or even take a shower. Or even listen to relaxing music. I find when ideas or words are stuck in my head like woolly mammoths struggling in a tar pit, I need to direct my thoughts elsewhere for a bit. Most of the time, those words break free when I stop clawing for them, unlike the unfortunate woolly mammoths.

* Look for story ideas in the most unlikely places and don't pooh-pooh crazy ones. There are gems in them thar nuts. Trust me. I got the idea for A BODY TO SPARE while sitting at the car wash waiting for my car to be finished. The opening of BOOBY TRAP came to me while eating a veal parmigiana sandwich in New Jersey. The opening of TOO BIG TO MISS came from a billboard on a highway. Get my drift. Nothing is out of bounds or too crazy.

* Follow the news, watch TV, observe situations going on around you. You never know when a story happening half-way around the globe, or in Washington, or even up the street, will spark an idea for you. Our minds work in the most wondrous ways. Things that seem totally unrelated just might be the catalyst for a new plot or even a whole new series. I find I'm my most creative when I come out of myself. I'm not that interesting, but the world and people around me are. Pay attention. Be observant. Your next protagonist or villain or the quirky best friend might be inspired by the person standing in front of you at the grocery store or having dinner at the table next to you.

*Pay attention to the void. The idea for my Winnie Wilde steamy romance series came to me out of the blue. I knew I wanted to write a romance series, but it wasn't until I read several that I realized I wanted to write one that followed a different path from those I'd read. I saw something missing and decided to fill it with my own take on the genre. The next time you think "someone should really write about that," change it to "I should really write about that."

*Write your ideas down as soon as you have them, even if they are just a few words or a sentence. Keep them in a notebook, a file, on your computer. Anywhere as long as you can refer back to them later. (And back your crap up!) I tend to start books or stories as soon as I have an idea for one. My computer is filled with manuscripts, some only one or two pages, along with a paragraph or two of notes.

I just counted. Not including works in progress that are under contract, I have manuscripts for 4 novels, two short stories, and one novella already started and in various degrees of progress just waiting for me to have time to get back to them. Every now and then, when I find I have a bit of time, I open one up and add a page or two. Eventually, I'll turn my full attention back to one of them and knock it out.

*Don't panic, prioritize. Recently, I woke up burning to work on a short story I have in progress. I'd been stuck on it for a bit and now it's full blown in my head. The problem is I'm on deadline for two novels that are under contract to publishers. What's an author to do? I jotted down the notes in my brain so not to lose them and will circle back to that story as soon as my deadlines are met. At that point, it should be an easy ride to the finish.

*Don't worry, it will keep. Recently I got an idea for a whole new paranormal series. The first thing I did was groan. Loudly. When in the hell was I going to get to this idea with all my other projects stacked up like lemmings standing in line to jump into the abyss? You know what? I'll get to it when the time is right. That's what. Unless your idea is extremely time sensitive (and few are), it will still be there when you get around to focusing on it. Let it simmer in the back of your creative mind while the front of your brain takes care of your works-in-progress. Both you and the new idea will be the better for it.

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