Friday, January 28, 2011

Not my ankles!

Joe_Boxer_thermals I'm sure most of you have noticed that ... it's been a long, dark, COLD winter.  We keep the house at 70 and even that seems pretty cold most days.  So, a few weeks back, I decided to break out the thermal underwear . . .

. . . only to discover that I had left most of it at our summer cottage.  (It gets mighty cold there in April and in October.)

So, off I went to K-Mart and bought some Joe Boxer women's ANKLE LENGTH thermal pants.

The problem is, they don't reach my ankles.  They only reach mid-calf.
Sadly, I don't fit their typical body size.  I happen to have long legs, which means I can't buy pants in the regular women's section, unless I want to look like a doofus.  I have to buy "tall" items from a catalog.  And my favorite catalog is soon to be no more.  My mother told me that Penney's is going to discontinue their catalog.
My first thought was:  where will I get pants???

I have a feeling I'll be trolling the Internet for pants and hoping when I get them that they actually fit.

How about you--is there something you can't wear because your body doesn't fit some manufacturer's norm?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Timing Everything?

Polar bear stamp Last week my publisher sent me a GIGANTIC box of postcards for A Crafty Killing.  So, I spent most of the weekend putting labels and stamps and stickers on the postcards.

Whew!  I'm pooped!

The postcards for librarians, booksellers, book clubs, and local readers (who I've invited to my book launch on Feb. 5th) have already gone out.  When Mr. L (who volunteered to go to the Post Office) saw the extra big tote he said, "Wow--that's a lot."  When he lifted the tote he said, "WOW, THAT'S HEAVY!"

ACK_postcards_ready_to_mail Now I have just the postcards for everybody else sitting on a chair in my dining room waiting to go out.  All 1,579 of them. I'm just trying to decide if they should go out today or tomorrow.

How crucial is the timing?

The book is officially released on Tuesday.  If I send them out today, they will arrive to most places on Saturday.  What if Rhonda Reader is so excited she makes a trip to her local bookstore only to find the book isn't available until Tuesday?

Do I send them out tomorrow, so that most of them will arrive on Monday?  Or do I send them on Saturday and hope that most of them arrive on Tuesday?

Decisions, decisions.

What would you do?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Everything covered in cheese . . .

Weight watchers Mr. L and I have decided to go on a diet.  Now, the best diet I have ever been on was Weight Watchers.  I lost about 25 and kept 15 of it off for about three years.  And then . . . life happened.

Dieting doesn't work.  We know this.  But we want to lose some weight and need a kick start.  Years ago I was on NutriSystem--three times.  I figured out which of their appalling foods I could eat on a regular basis and lost 40 lbs.  Of course the minute I came off the diet I gained it all back and then some.

Nutrisystem A friend of mine tried NutriSystem last year.  It's different now.  The food comes to you.  And they force you to buy their special package for at least a month BEFORE they let you choose the foods you want.

Bottom line:  My friend lasted a week and then all the very expensive food was tossed out.  It was inedible.  When I was on the diet, I ate the hamburger five out of seven nights and never got tired of it and lost weight.

Everything seems to have pasta in it these days.  Neither my friend nor I particularly like pasta.
Atkins The current Reader's Digest has an article on dieting and explains why the Atkins/South Beach diets actually work.  The idea that cutting calories to the nub and then exercising until you're so hungry you'll eat your foot just doesn't make sense to me.  We know that when you eat protein for a meal, you usually aren't famished three hours later.  Therefore, today is day 3/4s of the diet.

Yup, no typo there.  We were going to start yesterday, but the fridge is full of all the wrong foods, so we're going to ease into it.

We did try Atkins a few years back and were so sick of meat after a week that we gave it up.  (Mr. L lost 8 lbs.  I lost nothing.  But I didn't gain anything, either.  So, we're game to try it or a version of it again.)

DenverOmlette02 First up, an omelet for breakfast--with cheese.  Alas, no bread.  In fact, nothing "white" to eat except cauliflower--but we like cauliflower (especially with cheese).

Meanwhile, I'm going to be looking at menu plans and exploring the South Beach version of the diet.  (My friend Jenn said Atkins only works for men; South Beach works for women.  We'll see.)

So, what was your most successful diet?  And are you a yo-yo dieter?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Week From Today

Crafty Killing.bn One week from today, A Crafty Killing will be "officially" released.  I say officially because I've already heard from one reader that she bought a copy in her local Barnes & Noble.

I've spent the weekend (and another chunk of yesterday) putting address  labels and stamps on postcards.  They're going in the mail TODAY!

I'm getting really nervous because there's a lot riding on this book.  Maybe not so much for my publisher--they already seem to have a lot of confidence in the book.  They upped the print run by 5500 copes MORE than the original print run for Chapter & Hearse (which has already been reprinted).  But it's that difference of names that's dogging me.
I know, I know--I've been complaining about it for over a year.  And I've worked really hard to try to get the name out.

Dead fish I'll find out on February 9th if all that hard work will have paid off.  Will the book hit the New York Times bestsellers list--even at in an extended spot, or will it just lie there like a gasping fish?

It's going to be a LONG two weeks.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  Still working on Booktown #6, thinking about starting the synopsis for #7 (I already have a good idea where that's going to go) and jumping into Victoria Square #3 once March rolls around.
Agatha teapot Will Chapter & Hearse follow Bookplate Special and be nominated for an Agatha Award, or will it be ignored.  (I have to believe the latter.  I've seen a bunch of "Best Of 2010" lists and Chapter & Hearse wasn't on any.  *Sob*)

Getting geared up for Malice Domestic 2011.  It'll be at a new (to me) hotel.  Exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.  Then it'll be off to the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA.  What a fun week.  I'll get to see my editor, my agent, and a whole bunch of my friends.

Getting psyched for spring.  What shall I plant in my veggie garden this year?

Calendar pages Getting ready for the summer!  NO SNOW--for months and months on end!!!  What a concept!

Lots to think about.  Lots to ponder.

But the next two weeks are still going to take forever.

What's penciled in on your calendar for the next six months?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nothing to worry about . . . NOT!

CheckbookThis blog post is late today because  . . . I spent a good chunk of this morning on a hunt for the missing checkbook.

It should have been in my purse.

It is not.

The I last time I saw it was almost a week ago when I did the grocery shopping -- and when I wrote the last check.

The grocery store says they didn't find it.


It's not in my car.

It's not in my coat pocket.

It's lost.

Again.

You see, I did the same thing about two years ago.

So far, Mr. L has not yelled at me.  (And he probably won't.)

I feel awful.  And it means a trip to the bank to cancel the checking account and open a new one.  (So far no one else has found it and forged a check.)

As my character Katie Bonner would say:  "Swell."

Have you ever lost something this important?

Friday, January 21, 2011

When the author breaks loose ....

Gordon_ramsay_road-sign Today is the second errand day of the week.  Wednesday's errands started off with turmoil because it was snowing.  Supposed to be sleeting.  I didn't want to go, but Mr. L said the weather might get worse.

Grrrr.

Left the house with a cloud of blue above me (um...my language was a tad salty.  Hey, I worked production in a machine shop for 18 months.  I earned every one of those blue words).  But I still had a Christmas CD on in my car so by the time I hit the high school (about a minute into my grocery store commute), I had cheered up considerably.  The fact that the roads had been heavily salted and were merely wet made my joy complete.

Yukon Cornelius Still, I thought I deserved a treat for braving the winter chill and stocking up on supplies in case we were snowed in for a month.  Important stuff like cat treats, cat litter, gummy orange slices, ham hocks and guitar strings.

I wasn't about to treat myself to a package of Vienna Fingers or Nutter Butter cookies.  One of the hazards of authordom is a widening buttox, from which I already suffer greatly.  So, I stayed right out of the cookie aisle.  But still, I deserved a treat for mushing to the store to keep my tiny family (two people and four cats) from starvation.

Celantro seeds And then I saw it (actually THEM):  Two twirly racks of SEEDS
.
Seeds!!!!!

Seeds mean spring is coming.  Seeds mean life returns to the once-frozen earth.  Seeds mean veggies fresh from the garden.

Only . . . I couldn't decide what to get, and it's really far too early to start plants for outside. So I settled on a package of cilantro.  Weee, I'm planting cilantro that can live happily on my kitchen window sill!  When I have leaves, I can cut them and put it on my Aloo Matar!  I could toss it on a taco!  Weeee!

Today my mother has a doctor's appointment and she was told it would take at least 90 minutes.  As designated daughter, it's my duty to take her there.  But I have errands to run.  I'm heading to K-Mart for long underwear (if they still have any).  Got a post office run to make.  And, the craft store has stickers on sale for a buck!

Heart stickers Yes, you know your life is boring when $1 stickers can actually entice you.

And when I get back, I'll jump back into the book.  There's a teensy problem with . . . oops--can't say it.  Spoiler alert!

What tiny thing in your life brings you joy that can compare to $1 stickers?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just part of the job . . .

When I was a little kid, I watched Captain Kangaroo.  So sue me!  It seemed like they had a lot of features that played over and over again.  They did things live (or almost) in those B&W days of television, so who knows.  It got really boring, even if you're only four or five.

Spinning platesOne of the regular features I always found tedious was some guy spinning plates on a stick.

I mean REALLY, spinning plates on sticks!  This guy got a regular paycheck from the Captain for this boring, boring act.  I watched because in those days there was nothing else on for a kid to watch until late afternoon when reruns of the Mickey Mouse club came on.  That was boring, too, but it was better than soap operas.  (At least if you're five.)

These days my life feels like I'm spinning plates (or as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, running in on a hamster wheel).  I've come to the conclusion that I'm never going to catch up.  I'll always be a day late and a dollar short.  I won't be able to keep the plates spinning and they'll all crash and break and there'll be a big mess to clean up. 

The book has been going well, but slow, and suddenly I'm running out of days to finish it, and then must immediately jump into the next book.  Except that I'm deep into promoting A Crafty Killing, too.  (Thousands of postcards are about to arrive.  I've got address labels and stamps to put on them.  Oy!  Where is the time going to come from to do it and have it done by next week when they MUST go out??)

I have come to the conclusion that I must step up production on the book.  That's okay today, because I mapped out about six more scenes before I got up this morning.  (Yeah, at 4 a.m.)  But what happens when I finish writing those scenes?

Vent
Okay, I'm complaining and I'm not complaining.  I love this job.  I love just about every aspect of it. I just wish I had time to enjoy some of it.

End of venting.

How about you.  What is it about your job that you love and hate at the same time?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"And don't forget to brush your teeth!"

Redrosebud You might think that mystery authors are as unemotional about death as their characters might seem to be.  In a cozy mystery the women sleuths (and some men) need to find a body (and sometimes more) in every book.  They have to be brave and touch the corpse (well, to find out if they're indeed dead or alive--and it's usually a stranger or someone they didn't like to begin with).  And then they push and push until justice is served.

Yup.  That's how a character has to be.

In real life, I am no such character.  I take real death pretty hard, probably because I have had so few close friends and family die on me.  Until lately.
I lost my Dad last year and it was devastating to me.  We were very close.
Over the summer, two friends died.  Granted, I hadn't seen then in nearly 20 years, but they were my peers and the first of our group to die.  (One was older than me by four years, but the other was younger by five.  That's scary.)

Since my Dad died, I've taken to reading the obits.  There's so much of the story the casual reader doesn't know, although lately the paid-for obits have been getting pretty lengthy.  I tend to read the ones with pictures more than the ones without, just because they're a little more personal.

So imagine my shock when I opened to the obits last night and there was my friend Judy staring me in the face.  "OMG--Not Judy!" I cried to my husband.  (She was the same age as him, which hit me doubly hard.)

Judy and I met when we were both vendors at a local antiques arcade.  I was a cashier and Judy was often my wrapper.  A first glance at Judy was rather startling, because the entire side of her face was slack.

 All these years later, I can't remember if she had a stroke or if she had an accident.  You see, it didn't matter.  Judy was one of the funniest ladies I ever met.  The evenings were worked were Colgate_Whitening_Toothpaste a delight.  That woman knew how to laugh! She was a retired dental hygienist and was famous for giving out toothpaste for Halloween.  She bought the little sample sized stuff by the case and she always had leftovers after October 31st so she'd press a tube in your hand and say, "Don't forget to brush your teeth!"

After she left the business, we kept in touch.  She was a voracious reader and would sell me her old paperbacks.  (I had a section of my booth dedicated to used books.  And you wondered why I knew so much about the business that I could write about it in the Booktown Mysteries.)  One time I even came to her house. She decided to downsize and still had a lot of stuff left from her vendor days.  We came to a deal and I bought a car load for my booth.  (I still have a couple of things I couldn't part with.)

Judy was one of my staunchest local supporters.  She didn't make it to many of my signings because she was on the go, taking a cruise and doing other things, but she when she couldn't make it, I'd get an email and she often had me leave a signed book at the store.

I last saw her in August at my signing for Chapter & Hearse and she was the same ball of fire she always was.  At least, that's how it seemed to me.  So to see her half-smiling picture in the paper threw me.

Good-bye, Judy.  I'll miss your laugh.  Thank you for being my friend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For the Girlie Girl in me ..,

By the time A Crafty Killing comes out (in two weeks--GAK!), I'll have been sitting on it for two years since I sighed the contract.  That's a L-O-N-G time to think about the whole series concept.

Pot and cup I admit it, I wrote the book(s) for a number of reasons, but I think the biggest one was because it would give me the chance to potentially write something "girlie."
Ever since I discovered country (or rather eclectic) decorating, I've wanted to immerse myself into pure girlishness.  Not so easy when you've been a tomboy all your life.  And the truth is, I'll never be a clothes horse and I can't be bothered to hand wash my good dishes.  But I like having this kind of stuff and admiring it.  (And I love reading magazines like Victoria, Romantic Homes, etc.


I figured if I ever sold the Victoria Square books it would be a license to be girlie.  Whoo-hoo!  I intend to have fun with this, and since I love most things Victoriana, I've allowed myself to dip my toe into it.

VS_calling_card One thing I did was order calling cards.  Talk about restrictive -- they only let you have so many characters per line, so I had to be judicious.  And I wanted them to be generic enough that I could use them for the life of the series, because how the heck am I going to get rid of 500 of them?  So far I've given away zip!  But I am taking them to my book launch on Feb. 5th--so anybody who wants one then can have one.  And I might start adding them to my goody bags.  (Truth be told, when the bags were put together for the book launch--gulp--I forgot about them.)

So what do you think?  What else can I do that's girlie?

Monday, January 17, 2011

And this is why I did it . . .

Penguin publishing logo There was a day when I would never have considered self-publishing.  Those days are gone.  Does that mean I'm going to stop publishing with a big New York publisher?

No way!

Contrary to what Joe Konrath (Big Time Kindle Author) says, not everybody has had his success on Amazon.  But self-publishing for established authors makes sense for several reasons:
  • Getting your out-of-print books (and short stories) back in circulation
  • Finishing a series that has been canceled for lack of sales by a big publisher
  • Writing the kinds of books you want to write that big publishers say they can't sell
In my case, I decided NOT to go back to my small publisher with the third (and 4th) books in my Jeff Resnick series.  The rights were tied up for too long, and they only marketed to libraries.  Libraries can be a big market -- or they might not.  There are thousands of libraries across the world--thousands more than wanted to buy my books.  I believe I can (eventually) sell more copies myself.

Polaris_star Two of the Jeff Resnick books are available as Kindle downloads.  Plenty of people have asked me why I didn't make them available as "regular" books.  Well, it's going to happen, but the process is taking much longer than I would have thought.  Part of the problem is I'm working full time on books for my big NY publisher.  I've got a contract with them, they're paying me, they get first shot with my time.

For another thing ... will anyone actually buy the books once they're available in print?  Experience (not mine, but other authors who've done this) says not exactly.  A friend of mine has made her out-of-print books available as trade paperbacks and reports she sells a few every month.  People aren't crashing down her door looking for those books.  She sells far more of the (cheaper) Kindle versions.  Therefore, my expectations are not great either.  Still, for those who are interested, I do want to make the books available.

CHEATED_no_2.sm So . . . I've uploaded the first of the four books to CreateSpace and even as I type this, my proof copy is in the making.  I probably won't see it until next week, and they've already said there's a glitch with the cover.  (I'm working with my cover designer to resolve that.)

It will probably take at least another month before all the wrinkles are ironed out and the books are available, and when they are--I'll let you know

In the meantime, are any of you interested in reading my out-of-print Jeff Resnick books?

Friday, January 14, 2011

No time!!!

Spring forward
It's time for another "not enough hours in the day" blog post, because . . .

THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY!!!

I feel like I'm falling behind in just about everything I do.  My to-do list never seems to get shorter.

If there were enough hours in the day, I could:

work on more than one book at a time
do laundry before I run out of something
work on promotion
Baking do more baking
go shopping
shovel more snow
clean the house
brush the cats more often
READ FOR PLEASURE
take up a hobby

What would you do?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Good Night's Sleep. Is It Overrated?

Can't sleep I've never been a good sleeper.  I often wake up for several hours during the night and read or just toss and turn.  I caught a cold over Christmas and made the mistake of sitting up in a chair on the worst nights when I was so stuffed that I couldn't breathe.

Guess what?  I'm now stuck in a rerun of sleepless nights.  We're talking EVERY NIGHT for almost three weeks now.  I've been averaging between 4 and 5 hours of sleep a night--on a good night.
Quite frankly, I'm pooped!

Ovaltine I've got some tried and true home remedies that I should have been using:  hot milk with nutmeg or Ovaltine have always been my middle of the night friends.  But have I gone to the microwave to heat up the milk?  Nope.  I kept thinking if I saw the same boring newscast on our 24 hours news station or kept watching the same forecasts on the Weather Channel that it would bore me to sleep. Nope!  Right now I know far more than I really need to about the amount of snow in Revere, MA hundreds of miles to the east of me, thank you very much.

But I've had it.  Tonight if I can't sleep, I'm hauling out the Ovaltine.

What do you do when you can't sleep?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not my typical day . . .

Zucchini-Fries1-1901 Yesterday was a good day.  Before lunch, I wrote 422 words.

Mr. L took me out to lunch at Wegman's new FOOD BAR restaurant.  They changed a lovely restaurant (Tastings) into a burger joint.  About the only thing that remains are the zucchini fries. (Heaven.)  Was it good?  Yes, it was good.  Was it worth nearly $18 for two burgers and two orders of zucchini fries?  No.  Will we go back?  Maybe ... but only for the zucchini fries.

Crafty Killing.bn Went to Barnes & Noble  in the same plaza -- just to check up on my Booktown Mysteries.  Hmm.  Only five copies of four titles, which I signed.  (I am extremely spoiled by my "home" B&N in Greece Ridge Center because the CRM keeps her shelves well stocked with my titles.  We're talking up to 10+ of each.  I love you Rebecca!!!)  But, I did have a very brief but pleasant conversation with one of their sales associates who was about to go to lunch.  I asked if she could see if the store had ordered copies of A Crafty Killing (which comes out on February 1st--hint, hint).  She looked it up, blinked a couple of times, and said, "Twenty four copies.  That's a LOT!"  (It was all I could do NOT to break into a Snoopy happy dance right there and then.)

Mysteryloversbookshop Then we went to Michaels and I raided their $1 racks.  I am such a sucker for blank note cards and such.  (And yes, I just visited my Greece Michaels last week and bought more stuff.)  This time I bought myself a little tote bag for Malice Domestic. (I had a wonderful small canvas bag that I was given by the Mystery Lovers Bookshop after their Festival of Mystery (if you have never gone-GO!!!) in 2009 and lost last year at the Malice Domestic conference.  (I could've cried!!!) I got a few other things, too.  (Fun stuff.  Hey, I deserve it!)

5000 We got home and I wrote another 800 words and an email to my editor.  In it I happened to ask what my print run was for A Crafty Killing.  A while later the phone rang.  Yes--it was from NY and it was my editor!!!  He decided to answer my print run question in person.  Whoa!  It's 5000 more than the print run for Chapter & Hearse. (He actually said he was ASTOUNDED to learn that.  Hey, no more than me.)  That means my publisher (or at least their marketing department) thinks A Crafty Killing should do well.  (I certainly have my fingers crossed.  I need a new hot water heater and a few other repairs to be made to the house.)

Let's summerize the day:

Got my word count for the day.  (YEA!)
Got taken to lunch.  (YEA!)
Found out a store where I won't be signing is buying half a case of books.  (YEA!)
Found out my print run would be higher than for Chapter & Hearse.  (YEA!)
Star happy face
and -- as an added bonus it did NOT snow and no cats puked on the carpet or wood floors for the entire day.

Yup.  I'd say that was a good day.

How was your day?

(P.S.  Weather went down the toilet.  It's snowing and we might get another 5 inches added to the 4 that fell overnight.  Oh well, you can't have everything.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And you thought being an author was all glamour

Writing is hard I've been in procrastination mode lately, and I was falling behind on the new book.  So, early to bed, early to rise, early to the page . . .

The writing day did not start out well.  in fact, by the time I'd been at it an hour, I had about 100 words.  Oh dear.  Then came lunch--my favorite meal of the day.  Finished reading the paper while I chowed down on curried black beans and rice and then showed up at the lap top once more.

And played about ten games of Solitaire.  And felt guilty because I wasn't working.

Then I lost my Internet signal.  For about half an hour.  PANIC!  PANIC!  I must know what's going on in my tiny world.  I must not miss one email.  I must be able to access Facebook at all moments of the day!!!

After messing around with the router, I got it back again.  Whew.  Dodged a bullet.

Back to work.  This time, I exited the Solitaire game.  For good. (Well, for the day.)

Wrote a sentence.  Checked my email.  Wrote a sentence.  Checked facebook.  Wrote a sentence, did a piece of research.  Wrote a sentence.  Ripped some hair from my head.

The problem is/was -- I had no fresh ideas.  I had to get Tricia and Angelica from one scene to the next. Scenes A and C were written.  I just had to connect them.

So I tossed in something unexpected.  Whoa!  That worked like a charm.

Monkey typewriter Bottom line:  the first 750 words of the day took five hours to write.  The next 1100 words took half an hour to write.

Why can't I have more half hours like that one?