August 31st, The Final Day of the August Blogging Challenge

I’m ending this challenge on a humorous note, along with a heartfelt statement of how much I’ve enjoyed participating in this challenge and what fun it’s been to get to know all of my fellow Blog Challengees. What a wonderful bunch of diverse, talented and inspirational writers! I look forward to continuing to get to know you via your blogs and wish you all nothing but good things!

This is something to think about when negative people are doing their
best to rain on your parade. So remember this story the next time
someone who knows nothing, and cares less, tries to make your life
A woman was at her hair dresser’s getting her hair styled for a trip to
Rome with her husband She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who

“Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It’s crowded and dirty.
You’re crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?”

“We’re taking Continental,” was the reply. “We got a great rate!”“Continental?” exclaimed the hairdresser. “That’s a terrible airline.
Their planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly, and they’re
always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?”

“We’ll be at this exclusive little place over on Rome’s Tiber River
called Teste.”

“Don’t go any further. I know that place. Everybody thinks its gonna be
something special and exclusive, but it’s really a dump, the worst hotel
in the city! The rooms are small, the service is surly, and
they’re overpriced. So, whatcha’ do ing when you get there?”

“We’re going to go to see the Vatican and we hope to see the Pope.”

“That’s rich,” laughed the hairdresser. “You and a million other people
trying to see him. He’ll look the size of an ant. Boy, good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You’re going to need it.”

A month later, the woman again came in for a hairdo. The hairdresser
asked her about her trip to Rome.

“It was wonderful,” explained the woman, “not only were we on time in
one of Continental’s brand new planes, but it was overbooked, and they
bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had
a handsome 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot.”

And the hotel was great! They’d just finished a $5 million remodeling
job, and now it’s a jewel, the finest hotel in the city They, too, were
overbooked, so they apologized and gave us their owner’s suite at no
extra charge!”

“Well,” muttered the hairdresser, “that’s all well and good, but I
know you didn’t get to see the Pope.”

“Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a
Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes
to meet some of the visitors, and if I’d be so kind as to step into his
private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me.

Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and
shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me.”

“Oh, really! What’d he say?”

“He said: ‘Where’d you get the shitty Hairdo?’ “

Saturday, Day 30th of The Great August Blogging Challenge

Okay, the following made me laugh out loud:

Some people are like slinkies - not really good for anything but they 
bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs. 


Does this make me a bad person?

Excuse the brevity of this post.  It was not sent from my handheld, but it WAS sent from my parents’ house in San Diego where I’m on vacation and not inclined to spend much time on my computer.

Muni Pages – Day 29 (which means yesterday’s post was the 28th!)

I was doing my morning pages on the Muni this morning.  Have any of you ever used this tool?  Morning pages, not Muni.  If you’re familiar with The Artist’s Way, you’ve heard of the practice of writing three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness first thing when you wake up.  It acts as a mental (and sometimes emotional) garbage dump, the theory being it clears out your mind of extraneous crap so it’s free and clear to focus on creative endeavors. It works too, at least for me.  I don’t always do it first thing in the morning – I have a habit of rolling out of bed with just enough time to get ready for work and catch my streetcar (or, if I give myself an extra 10 minutes, I walk 45 minutes to West Portal and catch the train there).  I like my sleep and love to dream and will stretch my ‘just five more minutes’ far past its 300-second allotment.  Plus, have you ever tried writing in bed with a pen and a curious feline (or 5) in attendance?  The pen is the best toy in the world and they KNOW you’re wiggling it around JUST for them.  10 minutes of morning pages becomes 20 minutes of entertaining the kids.  Fun, but not what the author of Artist’s Way intended. These days I do them first thing on the Muni or when I’m waiting for it to arrive.  I can’t read what I write, but that’s not the point of them.

I go through phases of not doing morning pages.  Sometimes months, sometimes years go by.  During these periods I go through frustrations, creative blocks, depressions and self-doubt.   I’m not saying that NOT doing the morning pages brings on these symptoms.  But I know from repeat experience doing the morning pages alleviates the symptoms and helps me gain perspective, figure out what’s blocking me up or causing the near suicidal moods.  And yet stubbornly I won’t renew the practice when the moods first hit. OH no, that would be too easy and reasonable. For whatever perverse reason, I wait until the last possible minute when it’s either go to my doctor’s for antidepressants (something I’ve avoided so far) drive my loved ones crazy, and then something finally snaps and I start doing them again.

So very simple.  I have to wonder at the way my brain is hardwired. I play observer a lot when I’m deliberately avoiding something I know would help – I am a big one for proactive behavior and taking personality responsibility.  Yet in this one area, I am a stubborn kid who won’t eat her vegetables, even though she’s had them before and KNOWS she like the way they taste.  Go figure.

So I reached that point a few weeks back and started doing morning pages again. I took a three-day break when I couldn’t use my right hand (the Dreaded Cat Bite Incident of August ’08), but picked them back up again as soon as I could hold a pen without excruciating pain (yeah, I’m still a drama queen).   Sometimes I write down my dreams, like yesterday when I woke up with a piece of a dream stuck in my brain.  I wrote it down and suddenly had a whole chunk of outline for one of my novels. I think that’s pretty cool.

Sometimes I write about the people around me on the Muni (they can’t read my writing even if they are looking over my shoulder).  This morning was one of those days because my nerve endings hadn’t sheathed yet (I need at least two hours after waking up before I’m ready for any social interaction beyond my bed) and I was surrounded by chattering boys, teenage girls on cell phones (can you say VAPID?), and someone with a cold who was a firm believer in the snort and spit cure.  Ugh.

I write out my frustrations with my job, my fears about my relationships, financial worries. I also write affirmations, intentions and remind myself I don’t have to lose 10 pounds to be attractive.  I just want to ’cause I have such cool clothes that currently don’t quite fit. I make ‘to do’ lists so I won’t repeat them in a circular thought loop the entire trip to work.  It pops into my head, it goes onto the pages.

When I’m finished with my three pages, I close the notebook, put my pen away and relax. Really relax. They’re an internal pressure valve release, those pages, and if there’s a more invaluable creative tool for me personally, I can’t think of one.  I’ve written more in the past month than I have in three years if we count both blog posts and fiction. Three cheers and a tiger for me!

The blog challenge this month also has its part in motivating my output, but I’m not sure I could have stuck with it if I hadn’t been doing my morning pages.  Or you might have read some scary posts all month…

Expression Lines? – Day 27

I had a totally different post in mind for today’s post. I wrote the majority of it this morning on my Alpha, but something else crossed my path that I just had to share and see if everyone else finds it as amusing as I do.

I work at a venture capital firm that invests in green and sustainable technology/beauty/cleaning supplies/etc., anything in the area of health and wellness. Which is kind of cool ’cause it’s really one of the first VC firms to venture into this area. I don’t want to be an office manager the rest of my life, but for the time being it’s a good job with good people. We do due diligence on products sent from potential investment companies and I swiped (with my managing director’s permission, of course!) a very expensive skin care kit to test out. It promises, among other things, to balance out all skin types, give you visibly firmer, younger-looking skin and ‘targets the causes of expression lines.’

‘Targets the causes of expression lines.’

Now is it just me, or does this bring to mind visions of faces super-glued into immobility, thus ensuring expressions do not occur and form those nasty expression lines. Botox in a bottle, maybe? It brought back to mind advice from a photographer friend of mine during my modeling days: he told me to always try and keep my face placid, with just the slight hint of a smile in my ‘cheekbones.’ It would prevent wrinkles from forming, he said.

I think it’s obvious I did not follow this advice.

I’m going to try out the product. It’s…well, let’s just say this kit has a retail price just short of $200. And I’m pretty confident whoever wrote that priceless piece of ad copy was referring to laugh lines (oooh, evil!!!) , crows feet and frown lines All of which are signs of aging, but also of our lives. Expression lines. So I’m not worried about becoming as waxy and immobile as Cher or Joan Rivers …but I’m not gonna be too disappointed if all the lines on my face are still there when I’m done with the due diligence. I’ve earned every one of them.

The Mystery of Mysteries

Tonight I was part of a panel of mystery writers at the West Portal Library.  I actually instigated the panel when Jess Lourey and I were on the first leg of our Thelma and Louise book tour and hitting all the bookstores and libraries in the Bay Area that we could hit in one day.  Terri and Melissa were the librarians on duty and they were as friendly and receptive as any non-famous author could desire.  They were definitely interested in having a mystery themed panel at the library and I was up for putting one together.  The panel included:

Kelli Stanley, (Nox Dormienda, the first Roman Noir mystery.

Melanie West (Conflict of Interest),

Peter Gessner (The Big Hello and the Long Goodbye);

(this was the biggest jpg of Peter’s cover I could find);

and (bats eyelashes demurely) Yours Truly,

Dana Fredsti (Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon.)

(I had a BIG jpg on hand)

Dave Fitzgerald was the moderator at my request  – I knew he’d make sure all four of us had equal microphone time and keep things moving along.

See, depending on the personality of the authors, panels can be highly entertaining and informative, or great cures for insomnia.  Sometimes one panelist will monopolize the entire session, the alpha wolf in the author pack, snapping and snarling if another writer dares to get to close to the kill (i.e. audience attention). If they don’t snap and snarl, they just don’t. stop. talking.  And if the moderator can’t take control, things spiral out of control, less extroverted panelists get shut out and no one is happy except the narcissist who wouldn’t shut up.

I am pleased to announce that not only did Dave keep the panel moving after first giving each of us well researched introductions and a chance to say a little bit about ourselves, but all four writers understood the concept of give and take.  No one tried to monopolize the panel, answers to questions sparked comments from the rest of us, and the audience members (some of whom none of us had met before, always exciting) were responsive and had plenty of questions of their own.

The only glitch for me was having it held in the children’s room of the library and the only reason that was an issue was because a ‘bitch’ slipped out during one of my answers (why did you write your mystery in the first place?  Because I worked with a total bitch and wanted to kill her) and there were still a couple of kids squirreled away in a corner with the computers.  I quickly changed my reply rating from PG to G.

So my question to my fellow bloggers and authors: what’s the worst panel experience you’ve ever had?  The best?   And if you’ve never been on one, but attended as an audience member, same questions.  Add to that, what makes a panel enjoyable for you?  And what makes you want to throw bricks at the panelists?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, Day 26

I’m sad. My sister had to have her long time companion feline Murphy put to sleep tonight.  Murphy was a special girl and had a wonderful, love-filled life with Lisa and she was a sweetie bug whenever we visited. She (according to her mother) liked watching football and listening to music.  And while I never watched football with her (I’m the changeling of my family and don’t enjoy sports), I can vouch for Murphy’s interest in music. It’s like Mouche and Bug Bear’s fascination with the television; wide eyed, erect-eared attention (although I never saw Murphy attack the CD player the way my kids go after the images on the television).

It’s never easy, losing a companion animal. Dave and I lost Haggis, our eight month old cat, and Boska, my 16 year old dog.  I shared custody of her with Brian and she was with him when it was her time to go.  Whether they’re too young to go or have reached the full span of their life cycle, it hurts those of us they leave behind, especially the first time you forget they’re gone and turn to greet them in their favorite spot…and they’re not there.  And never will be again.

It sucks.

But…no matter how painful it is to deal with the loss, it still can’t stand up against the sheer joy animals add to our lives.  I would not have missed a second of Haggis’s loving personality o matter how devastated I was when he died.

But it still hurts. I will miss Murphy almost as much as my own babies.  She was a very special girl and I’m proud to have been her aunt.

Email from a Friend

Hee hee…the other day I received the following email from a friend of mine whom I met via Homepage of the Dead. We email occasionally, usually with advice and/or observations on how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse.

Oh, there WILL be one. Oh yes. And all of you scoffers will be sorry you didn’t figure out how to fortify your house when the time comes…


Anyway, I got this email and it cracked me up.

Hi, Dana!

I wouldn’t bother you so soon but just saw your performance in Princess Warrior. I have to admit it was loads of fun. My only complaint is that the merciless one is still alive and in fairly good condition at film’s end. I doubt the guys who arrested her kept her long. I doubt if they are even alive. (Hell she’s probably in charge of the Republican Party these days. Either that of she’s the one behind the disorder in the ranks of the D.P. Fifth columnist for the GOP maybe. Or maybe she’s just head of organized crime now that the “old Mustache Pete’s” are out of the way.) Whatever she is she’ll make the most of it.

Or maybe she’s the one who ordered the zombie virus spread by the two doofuses during your airport adventure. It would be just like her, right down to hiring the iriots who coulld have easily bungled the job. Or perhaps she intended to get rid of them as well. Her associates did seem to be on the expendible side.

I’d better stop before I become paranoid in my (relative) old age.

It was fun watching you chew the scenery especially knowing you a bit better through the Den. Just hope I never get on your bad side. Curette scares the hell out of me.

Enjoy yourself as much as you can. And if Whacky Professor Guy gives you any more trouble just let Curette out of the closet. He’ll probably leave you alone after that.

You will have noted the zombie references, I hope. Now Curette is the name of the character I played in this truly horrific movie, Princess Warrior. To find out more about it (and get more insight on why Jack’s email cracked me up, allow me to share a bit of my shameful past as a C movie actress. Click on the link, go to the bottom of the page and look for the words: ‘Dana’s jaded past as an actress.’

Back to the novel…

Sunday is a Day of Rest

Boy, this blog challenge is a pest!

Sorry…I’ve got Marvin-itis and felt this uncontrollable urge to rhyme…

Definitely off to a slow start today. Dave and I went to a wine tasting and sushi dinner with the Julie half of Hailey Lind (the two sister writing team of the Art Lover mysteries) last night and we had a very fun evening. It wasn’t a lot of wine or a lot of sake, but it took a while for me to consider getting out of bed to be a good idea.

Julie is also the President of Sisters in Crime Nor Cal and one of those people who will always have ageless beauty. Her eyes and her smile are the first thing one notices about her; she has the kind of smile that lights up a room. I think I’ve mentioned in a past post about Left Coast Crime how I was wandering around my first day feeling out of place and uncharacteristically shy until Julie greeted me, took me under her wing and invited me out for drinks with a small group of people. That gesture and getting to know just a few people over drinks broke the social ice for me at Left Coast Crime and I ended up having a blast. Julie is the perfect person to be president of an organization (except maybe the Mafia, although she’d probably be a very beloved Don…er…Donna?) and is also one hell of a good writer (as is her sister, who I have not met).

I’ve read all three of the Art Lovers mysteries, although I managed to read them in backwards chronological order. I was amazed at how few (if any) spoilers occurred by reading them that way; there were no major plot recaps of the previous books, no ‘I wish I’d known two months ago that so and so was actually a murderer. This is a problem I’ve been wrestling with while writing my sequel – how to bring back characters who were prime suspects in MFH #1 without spoiling it for someone who, like myself, reads things out of sequence? So hats off to Hailey (both of ’em).

These books are all funny, fast-paced and full of interesting details about art – the heroine, Annie is an artist and has a business (like Julie herself) doing art restoration, faux finishing, painting murals and whatever else comes along. The writing style is very reminiscent of Elizabeth Peters in her heyday, namely the Vicky Bliss/John Smythe series, which happens to be my favorite. It was a pleasure to discover this series and I am now royally pissed that Hailey’s publisher has decided not to release any more of them. Way too many unfinished character developments, publisher person! It takes a few books in any series before they pick up a huge following, but it’s worth the investment and these books do have an ever expanding audience. Hailey Lind does have a new series coming out, which sounds equally intriguing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to find out what happens with Annie’s two love interests.

I have stolen these three synopses from Hailey’s home page (link provided above). If you haven’t read these, give them a try. If you have, write a letter to Hailey’s publisher and tell them to keep the series going!

Book Three—Brush with Death: Working nights to restore murals in a building full of cremated remains is strange enough, but chasing a crypt-robbing ghoul through a graveyard is downright creepy. In Brush with Death, San Francisco artist Annie Kincaid finds herself drawn into a decades-old mystery involving some illustrious graveyard residents and Raphael’s most intimate portrait, dubbed La Fornarina, or “the little baker girl”. Could the Raphael “copy” hanging amidst funerary urns actually be the priceless original? Is the masked crypt-robber somehow connected to the Raphael? Or is the painting part of a larger puzzle involving Annie’s unrepentant grandfather, master art forger Georges LeFleur, and an Italian “fakebuster” out to ruin him? Annie’s under pressure to figure things out…before she finds her permanent home amongst the ashes.

Book Two—Shooting Gallery: Modernism isn’t Annie’s thing, but even she is surprised to discover that the “sculpture” in a prestigious gallery’s grisly new exhibition is an all-too-real corpse—the artist’s. Meanwhile, a Chagall painting is stolen from the Brock Museum, and Annie’s old friend Bryan is accused of being in on the fix. To track down the missing Chagall, she’ll need the dubious assistance of a certain sexy art thief. And if Michael—or whatever his real name may be—isn’t distraction enough, Annie’s mother shows up in town, acting strangely. Annie’s got to solve these mysteries, and fast—because art is long, but life can be very, very short.

Book One—Feint of Art: Annie’s got bad news for her ex-boyfriend, curator Ernst Pettigrew; The snooty Brock Museum’s new fifteen-million-dollar Caravaggio painting is as fake as a three-dollar bill. Then, the same night Annie makes her shattering appraisal, the janitor on duty in the museum is killed—and Ernst disappears. To top it all off, a well-known art dealer has absconded with multiple Old Master drawings, leaving forgeries in their places. Finding the originals and pocketing the reward money will help Annie get her landlord off her back. But a close encounter with a fickle yet charming art thief could draw her into the underworld of fakes and forgers she swore she’d left behind…


Wednesday night I sent off three more ideas (short paragraphs on each) to an online publishing company I’ve currently got a four book contract with. And yes, I know that’s a badly constructed sentence. It’s Friday, it’s been a long week. I’m only human, people! This was the same night I took a break from doing anything I didn’t want to do and wallowed in old Dark Shadows movies. I didn’t feel like working on my book, but it was easy enough to scribble (is there a comparable word for ‘scribble’ when one is typing?) down some ideas, two of them based of off stuff I’d started writing years ago to stave off boredom at work (and oh, do I miss having a job that left enough down time for boredom to set in…), the other something that started percolating when I drove past the Madonna Inn on the drive back from Los Angeles.

For all my caterwauling about outlines and synopsises, I’m finding it easier to toss ideas down on paper (or computer screen). It took me a half hour tops to do these three paragraphs and about a minute to dash off an email to the two editors at Ravenous (two lovely women who I had the pleasure of meeting when they were out for the RWA Cence a couple weeks ago). I went to bed feeling pleased with myself – I’d catered to my inner child (I WON’T work tonight! I want an Oompa Loompa NOW, Daddy!) and satisfied my inner task master (I wanna see RESULTS, people!). Yay, me!

So today I checked my email when I got to work and there it was: an email from the editors saying they loved all three ideas and when could I deliver the finished books?


In that moment I realized I now had six 200 page novels to write, not to mention my co-writing project (What Women Really Want in Bed) with the lovely Cynthia Gentry (more on my history with Cynthia another post!) due February 1st (and if any ladies out there would like to take our survey, please let me know!). I had a mild freakout, but then realized once February 1st is past, I have a very reasonable writing schedule. Well, not VERY reasonable (three months per book), but definitely workable. Champagne is the most difficult to write for me because it’s in a genre I’ve never attempted beyond the original short story and that was written as a gift. So my initial GAH!!!! subsided to a workable *gulp!*

I’m actually really excited about this. I still have two other projects (including the sequel to Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon) I want to work on and a full time job. But I also have a creative fire lit inside me that I haven’t had in years. I think about writing all the time (when I’m not thinking about food, sex or exercise). Little sparks of ideas keep igniting…and I keep saying to myself ‘wow, that would make a GREAT book..’ And then I remind myself I have to finish the ones I’ve contracted for already. And THEN I scribble the ideas down anyway.

Yes, there will be lots of sex in the short novels. But no more than you’d find in a Laurel Hamilton Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novel..actually, probably less since she’s been writing sex scenes that go on for THREE CHAPTERS, leaving those of us who love the first half dozen books in the series to ask ‘where’s the action, Laurel? More butt kicking, less butt…er…never mind.’ I probably won’t have my mom read most of these. But she knows I’m writing them and I like to think she’s proud of me for getting the work and has enough faith in my writing ability to know the finished products will be well written. Right, Mom?


I’ll get back to you on that.

Dana in Muni-Land

So for those who followed my adventures yesterday with the bag lady shopping cart, the skanky pseudo professor who reeked of alcohol and injured my shin, and my general bad attitude, I am happy to write I had a better day today. It started out much like yesterday at work (as in, I must KILL someone or explode…), but slowly improved through a combination of yoga breathing exercises and my sense of humor. I think my night of relaxation and Dark Shadows movie helped too. Reading all the comments on the post certainly brightened up my day, as did reading everyone else’s (I’ve decided Marvin is quite happily one of the zaniest fellows I’ve ever ‘met’ and am delighted to have made his acquaintance via this blog challenge). So many good tips, interesting articles, great links and overall fun reading material!

By the time I left work, I was in good humor and looking forward to a game of Muni Roulette. Muni Roulette has very simple rules: whatever train comes along first is the one I take and I have to figure out a way to walk home from one of the stops along the route. Today my destination was actually West Portal where I was meeting Dave at 6pm for our Thursday wine tasting at Wine Styles. I wanted as hilly a route as possible (I’m feeling as plump as a force fed piglet these days). I didn’t have my bag lady shopping cart and I DID have my walking shoes (yes, I am one of THOSE women who will put on tennis shoes and socks with my work clothes. Today’s socks were black with the skeletal structure of the feet and shins on ’em) and a new paperback book to read as I walked. I had two hours to get to West Portal. The possibilities were, if not infinite, certainly varied.

The first train was a J. This was doable. I could take it to Noe Valley, wander up into the hills and do the hike up Clipper (at the foot of the hill is a sign warning trucks to use a low grade – steep hill ahead!) and down Portola. It was only a one car train, but without the cart and the crowds of yesterday, it shouldn’t be a problem. As I started to board the train, someone brushed me and boarded ahead of me.

Yes, folks, it was Skanky Professor Man, wearing the same clothes as he’d had on yesterday and still clutching a plastic bottle full of unidentified liquid. Gah!! I jumped back from the door and decided the gods of Muni Roulette would forgive me if I waited for the next train. I had no desire to have my good mood shattered by the sight, smell or sounds of another crazy Muni rat. Especially not one who’d already pissed me off enough to inspire violent daydreams. Not a good thing.

So I took an L train and jumped off at the Castro Street station on Market. I walked up 17th to Stanyan, down Stanyan to Parnassus, from there to 8th Street and then up into this amazing little hilly neighborhood with winding streets and houses that inspire the imagination. Very little of this route is flat and it took me an hour and a half to reach West Portal. During the walk I made friends with an Irish Setter named Maggie (a fine name for an Irish dog) who thought I was more interesting than her owner. I ended up going on a little detour up a hill to keep Maggie from running down into a trafficky area. I was glad I did; I stumbled on this little side street with a series of old stone staircases. One led down onto another curving street and another led up, lined by trees. If you stood at the bottom of this staircase, you could see an old weathered stone house covered with moss through the trees, like something out of a gothic novel. Shades of Dark Shadows and Collinswood! I plan on going back with a camera. I will be using the location in one of my books.  It’s the sort of place you just KNOW holds the magic wardrobe or portal to another time and place.

I love walking in this town. You see things you don’t see when you drive and discover little pockets of the past side by side with the present. I get ideas for my writing all the time…and have started using them instead of going ‘oh, yeah, that’s cool’ and forgetting about it.

Come visit me one of these days. I’d love to give you a walking tour of my favorite parts of San Francisco!