Living a Hobby

This is actually a ‘reprint’ of a post I wrote a year ago for my first blog book tour.  Since I hadn’t ‘met’ a lot of my readers back then, I wanted to repost it ’cause I’m particularly fond of it.  Also, it goes hand in hand with an interview the lovely Jean Henry Mead did with me for her new blog Mysterious People.  Please check it out!  And now…on with the post!

To quote Wikipedia:

“An important determinant of what is considered a hobby, as distinct from a profession (beyond the lack of remuneration), is probably how easy it is to make a living at the activity. Almost no one can make a living at cigarette card or stamp collecting, but many people find it enjoyable; so it is commonly regarded as a hobby.”

According to Wikipedia, my entire adult life has been spent in the pursuit of hobbies strung together with a series of short-term temp jobs the financial glue holding my life together.   I’ve been, in my 20 or so years of supposed adulthood, an actress, singer, writer, percussionist, volunteer keeper/docent at an exotic feline breeding facility, and stuntwoman specializing in sword fighting.   I have not made enough money at any of the above to quit my day job(s), but I have enjoyed myself immensely and am rich in eclectic life experiences.

I have spent a fair amount of time wondering why I never settled on a profession that brings in a serious salary, at a level that would support such habits as purchasing real estate and traveling to far and distant climes every year.   Any one of my hobbies has the potential for raking in major bucks, but the odds are somewhere up there with winning a big lottery jackpot.  And when it comes to anything involving animals, trust me when I say there is no one out there waiting to pay a person for bottle-feeding motherless kittens or raking up leopard poop.

My current day job (or paying hobby, as one co-worker put it) is at a venture capital firm, so I work with and meet a lot of people who earn great flipping wodges of cash.  An pricey dinner is a drop in a very deep bucket to them, whereas to someone like me it’s the difference between covering my bills and keeping my cats in expensive no-carb kibble or being harassed by collection agencies and feeding my little darlings Purina cat chow.

If asked, however, if I’d trade my life experiences for a career path that involved 4-8 years of college, a high-powered job requiring 24/7 attention to a Treo and no time for a social life, my answer would be no.  For one thing, I haven’t given up the dream of someday making one of my hobbies pay off on the material level.   Also, I’ve found I can live vicariously through the characters in my writing.  In MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon, for instance, my heroine Connie and her best friend and business partner Daphne make their living running a theatrical murder mystery troupe.  True, they have a theater-struck landlady who gives them dirt-cheap rent for a Victorian style house in the seaside community of Emerald Cove (a thinly veiled pseudonym for La Jolla, a very ritzy neighborhood in San Diego County), but even still they rake in enough income to keep them in nice clothes, chocolate chip cookies and cocoa, with an occasional splurge for a decent bottle of single malt scotch.

My best friend Maureen and I really did run a company called Murder for Hire based in San Diego and most of our gigs were in La Jolla, but neither of us lived there and we both had other jobs to subsidize our baking and hot chocolate addiction (baking was another of our hobbies – both the creation of the goodies and subsequent consumption thereof).    We had lots of good ideas, enough drive to implement some of them, but not the financial wherewithal or time to turn our theatrical hobby into a full time, lucrative career.

I eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and theatrical combat while Maureen stayed in San Diego and fulfilled one of our goals by moving to La Jolla.   I worked on, acted in and wrote some movies of questionable value to society (B movies a bit further along the alphabet, but nothing X-rated, thank you very much!), still have a few scripts I’m quite proud of under option, but haven’t yet cracked the magic ‘no longer a hobby’ barrier.   And that’s okay.  I can live out this dream (hopefully to someday be my reality) of making my living as a writer and in the meantime, Connie and Daphne will continue to make their livings as writers/actors/directors/producers of the fictional version of Murder for Hire.

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.

Back from the Thelma and Louise Tour…

…and working on a writing deadline (tomorrow, June 1st!) AND still recovering from road weariness.  So this is gonna be a shorty.  I just wanted to share reviews of my book and Jess’s that I found on Seattle Press Online:

Dana Fredsti & Jess Lourey Book Signings

Hide details…

Dana Fredsti’s “Murder for Hire” centers on a semi-fictional theatrical group that is best known for murder mystery role-playing … until one night, when the line between acting and real life becomes blurred.

The novel is a well-executed throwback to the era of film noir dramas of the late 1940’s: fedora, trenchcoats, stylish heroines and all.

“August Moon” is the fourth novel in the successful “Murder-by-Month” series by Jess Lourey. Readers will enjoy the events that ripple through the seemingly tranquil town of Battle Lake, Minnesota. A refreshingly strong heroine steps into the role of detective in this scorching summer mystery.


A Week Without Blogging

Oh, the shame of it!  The stain upon my honor will never be washed from the fabric of the laundry of life.   Nay, there is not enough spiritual spot remover to expunge the…the…er…well…

Never mind.
I didn’t write any posts last week.  At this rate, it will be time for Left Coast Crime 2009 by the time I finish my series of posts about Left Coast Crime 2008.


Last week was one of those ‘got a social event every friggin’ night except Tuesday night’ type of weeks.  And Tuesday night I got a stomach bug.  The weekend was taken up with more social activity; my sister Lisa was up visiting from Venice Beach (one of the cool parts of Los Angeles) and we had a full weekend of beach walking, ferry trips, wine tasting and exploratory drives up the 101 and 116 to the coast.

I did, however, finally finish the prologue for BAD RAP, my current WIP.  Third person is NOT my friend and it took me an inordinate amount of time to hammer it out.  But it’s done, I’m happy, I tasted good wine and took my first ferry ride since moving up to San Francisco.  I haf no regrets!

But I do have a hell of a lot of posting to catch up on.

I’m also doing another mini blog tour in prep for a live (not dead!) signing tour with fellow mystery writer Jess Lourey, author of the hilarious MURDER BY THE MONTH series.   She’ll be promoting her new book AUGUST MOON and I’ll be promoting MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon.  To check out our tour stops in the Bay Area to Seattle, starting the Wednesday before Memorial Day, go here.   I’ll be doing an interview with Jess on Pointless Drivel on April 22nd.  Don’t worry, I’ll post a reminder.

Jess and I are planning on a pacifistic Thelma and Louise type drive from San Fran up to Seattle.  Only problem is we both wanna be the Susan Sarandon character.  Which is okay ’cause even though we won’t get laid, we won’t get our money stolen by a sexy drifter either.