When the brain is too fried to come up with posts…

MFH-new-cover ... Post book covers!  Yeah, that’s the ticket! So presenting the cover for my new eBook version of Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon, my very first published novel.  I thought I’d try my luck with the eBook rights and dabble my toes in the waters of self-publishing with the help of the lovely and talented Judi Fennell, writer and format queen extraordinaire.

  I have been in a serious fog/funk/OMG, my deadline is past type mindset the last few months and posting has not been much of an option for my already overtaxed gray cells.  I also find Facebook makes me lazy; why write an actual post when you can spit out a few sentences here and there or share cute cat pictures? Bam!  Immediate gratification with little, if any, thought.

I think I fried my brain a little during the publicity blitz for Plague Town.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast writing posts and doing interviews for the book, and I’d do it again (I certainly hope to do it again for Plague Nation!) in a heartbeat. But between doing book events for Plague Town, writing Plague Nation, and dealing with a mangy Plague Dog at home… well, it’s been a Plague-filled time, with shape-shifting jaguar shamans thrown in for variety( Fixation for Ravenous Romance).

Did I mention I have a full time day job too ? Not too unusual for a writer these days. Very few of us have the life of leisure many people imagine belongs to published authors.  Hell,the writers I know fortunate enough to write as their day job don’t have lives of leisure because they’re too busy writing their butts off (there’s an image for ya) to make their deadlines.

Sometimes the writing comes easy.  My muse is close by, doing that thing that muses are supposed to do . Y’know, be all inspirational and help the words flow.   Most of this year, though, my muse has been off on vacation, no doubt knocking back copious amounts of champagne while lounging in the sun somewhere. So I’ve been hacking my way through an overgrown jungle of prose, plot and characters, trying to clear a path to the end of book two, with little if any help from my lazy-ass, champagne-o-holic muse.  And … I think I’m nearly there. 

I sure  as hell hope so ’cause when I’m too tired and frazzled to even post cute animal pictures, it’s definitely time for a change. 

Now I wonder if I buy a bottle of Veuve Cliquot if my muse could be tempted back to San Francisco from whatever tropical island she’s using as a retreat…  

Why are these children calling me Mommy?


Why are these children calling me Mommy?

Originally uploaded by zhadi
Two of my favorite cards ever. Maureen (the other half of the Murder for Hire team and my best friend since high school) sent these to me. Mo is a nanny and we joke about them being ‘her’ kids (and they both are eerily like her in different ways). So she superimposed their heads and hers on the card. THEN she sent the one with my head and the cats. I’m not sure which card cracks me up more… But I felt like sharing. Click on the picture to enlarge it so you can read the captions. :-)

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.

When Life Imitates Art…or Vice Versa

I received an email out of the blue yesterday titled quite simply ‘Thank you.’  The return email address didn’t appear to be from a Nigerian asking me to transfer vast sums of money into my bank account or an  advert for Viagra, Nude Live Girl photos, or ‘great replica watches,’ so I opened it instead of consigning it to Spam or the trash bucket.  I am so glad I did because the ensuing correspondence made my day.

“Dear Dana.  Thank you for making me famous in your new novel.”

Cheers,

Grant”

I scanned down and read his email signature, which included his last name.  I am withholding the last name here for the time being, but if you’ve read Murder for Hire and remember the character of Grant, Connie’s boyfriend, you’ll know what it is.  Or you can refer to the book quickly and do your own Google search.

I can’t tell you precisely what else was said in the correspondence for fear of giving away some relatively important plot and character points if you haven’t read the book, but the gist of it is that my character’s inadvertent namesake is a college professor and one of his ex-students read my book, noted the character name and contacted Grant, telling him about my book and that my character reminded her of him (her professor). I did a Google search and found out that this real life Grant rates very high on his students’ ‘hot’ scale.  Five out of five, in fact.  My Grant would be pleased.

I am sending Prof.  Grant a copy of MFH so he can see for himself whether or not her comparison is flattering.  His sense of humor appears to be up for it, at least if his emails are any indication.  We shall see.

My only regret is his ex-student contacted him anonymously because I really would love to talk to her about both her reaction to this specific character and to find out what, exactly, about her ex-professor is reminiscent of him.  The character in my book is based on several ex-boyfriends and an annoying actor I worked with.  Enquiring minds really want to know here!  And I’d also just to love to know who all is reading my book out there.  I’m still a geek about the whole ‘people reading my book’ thing, y’know.

Will Write for WIne

Every Thursday Dave and I go to the Wine Styles in West Portal for a wine tasting.  We’ve been going ever since the store opened a year or so ago because the owners, James and Gail a: are really nice, b: have great senses of humor (they’ve seen COLD COMFORT FARM and have ‘seen something nasty in the woodshed’) and c: there is good wine to be tasted.  What’s not to like? 

Last night Mark, our favorite wine rep, was doing the pouring.  He had two sparkling wines and four reds (two syrahs and two pinot noirs).  The reds were all from wine maker Jim Walker, who was also there along with Mike (didn’t get his last name), He Who Grows the Grapes.  Mark asked me how the book sales were going and this sparked a conversation with JIm and Mike about my writing and more specifically, my murder mystery Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon.  Long story short, I ended up trading a signed copy of my book for a signed bottle of Orentano pinot noir (well out of our budget) and while I don’t think either side ended up with a bad bargain, I’m feeling mighty chuffed that someone would want to give me a lovely bottle of wine for something I wrote.  I guess it’s the same as being willing to shell out money for either the book or the wine, but they were so jazzed over the book and asked so many questions about it, it just made me feel awfully special!  It was a great boost for my ego and my incentive to keep writing.  It had the additional benefit of leaving the budget open to purchasing another of the reds, a yummy Fieldsa syrah, which was an amazing wine for a very inexpensive price. 

It also underlines points made by other August Blog Challenge participants on how it’s possible to market one’s book just about anywhere.  Heck, I didn’t even have to bring it up.  I think it helped that I had an equally genuine interest in the wine (and not just from a tasting standpoint – wine is one of my passions) and I don’t have much of an ego when it comes to my writing.  I’m not shy about it, but I’m always surprised and pleased when someone wants to take about it and takes the time to ask me questions or visit my website.  And it also gave me a great idea for my third MFH mystery…  All good things! 

Happy Friday, all! 

Writer’s Meme

Which is not the same thing as Writer’s Block.  In fact, it’s the opposite because now I don’t have to come up with a topic for Day 8 of the August Blogging Challenge put forth by Dani of Blogbooktours.   Dani is like a shark when it comes to researching useful and interesing networking tools online – she never stops.  If she did, I suspect she’d sink to the bottom of the cybersea and drown.   

Here’s a modifed writers meme for members of the August Blog Challenge, three of whom get tagged at the end. These are my answers:

1) Computer, longhand, or other?
Computer or my beloved Alphasmart when I’m on the Muni.  I’ll sometimes take notes longhand if I’m out and about and remember to take a notebook with me, but this is sometimes counterproductive because my handwriting is so awful I can’t always decipher what I’ve written!

2) Coffee or tea?
Er…what about wine? 

I have a mocha first thing in the morning and will sometimes make a pot of coffee.  If writing at night, I have a glass or two of wine and sip on it while I work.  I like tea in the afternoons (I’m getting addicted to Peet’s Jasmine Downy Pearls green tea) with a couple of cookies as a treat. 

3) Day or night?
I prefer to write in the day, but because I work full time most of my writing is down between 6 and 9pm.  On weekends set aside for writing, both!  I tend to fall asleep early, though. 

4) Favorite genre to write?
Mysteries (humorous cozies), although I’m liking the paranormal/horror as well.  Main thing for me is humor in whatever I write. 

5) Pencil or pen to edit?
Pen! 

6) Unusual writing quirk or trait?
I invariably work with at least one cat on my lap.

7) Writing from home or writing in a cozy café?
I am a big time homebody.  I like to set my ‘office’ up, light candles, put on music, and tune out the world.  I don’t think I could tune out the conversations going around me and I’d be bound to find myself writing ‘Can you hear me?…Yeah, I’m at STARbucks…’ when some loud idiot gets on his or her cell…

8) Music or silence while your write?
Music! I love film scores.  I wrote MURDER FOR HIRE while listening to The Witches of Eastwick, which is a John Williams score. 

9) Favorite motivational writing quote?
Writing equals ass plus chair. 

10) Favorite bookmark?
Sigh.  I’m so bad about using bookmarks.  I’m an evil corner of the page folder downer (if they’re my books; I don’t do it with books I borrow) or if it has a book jacket, I use the front flap. I have dozens of bookmarks from my own promotional stockpile and from other writers.  I love pretty bookmarks in theory, though… 

11) Favorite fictional character of all time?
Oh jeez louise…  that’s just mean.  I will only answer this with the caveat that this changes with my mood.  So at 8:55 am on 8/8/08, my favorite fictional character of all time is Scarlett O’Hara. 

12) Most admired living writer today?
Another answer that will change depending on my mood.  Today it’s Stephen King for his succinct and dead-on descriptions.  His plots sometimes leave me cold, but when it comes to the actual craft of writing, he’s my man. 

I am tagging:

 Elysabeth, Marvin and Michelle.  

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.

Nifty!

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.

Nah.

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. 

Upcoming Virtual Book-signing Events

My friend and fellow writer Steve Prosapio, is holding Bookdays on his blog, virtual interviews and book drawings with four writers, including myself.  Steve’s blog is here.  Below, in his own words, is a more comprehensive description of the events.  Please stop by his blog, both on the dates mentioned and just to check it out!  And yes, a free copy of MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon, will be up for grabs!

 

They say that March comes in like a lion…

 

But I’m hereby declaring the next thirty days, “March out and buy a book” month! In support of that, I’ll be hosting virtual “book-signing” events each Wednesday this month on my blog. In fact, I’ll no longer refer to the fourth day of the week as “Wednesday” any longer. It’s now called “Bookday.”

 

Okay, that last part might be a bit over the top, but the “book events” will be fun.

 

Without further ado, here’s who will be joining us:

 

March 5th – Chicago, IL

Geoffrey Edwards, author of Fire Bell in the Night, a historical novel set in antebellum South Carolina that centers on the trial of a man who helped an escaping slave.

 

March 12th – San Francisco, CA

Dana Fredsti, author of Murder For Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon, an almost-cozy murder mystery about an acting troupe that specializes in spoofing, not sleuthing…until bodies start stacking up. 

March 19th – Sienna, Italy

My review of Too Much Tuscan Sun by Dario Castagno, a memoir of a Chianti tour guide. I recently met Dario at a book signing. I’d corresponded with him from time to time since purchasing his book in 2005.

 

March 26th – New York, NY

Seymour Garte, author of Where We Stand:  A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet. This nonfiction work explores environmental topics and suggests what we can do to better care for the earth. 

Stop by for any/all of these events on my blog. Interviews with the authors will be posted and some of them have agreed to stop by the blog that day to discuss their work and answer questions from the audience (aka the No Bull Gallery). You do NOT need to be registered with Live Journal to participate. You can post anonymously (hit the “anonymous” button after clicking your comment), but please make sure to put your name on the post. Books and/or gift cards will be given away on the Friday following the visits to those who participate.

 

Don’t miss out on your chance to “mingle” with published authors (and win free books)!

 

Again, these events will be held ON MY BLOG on the posted dates. I will be “replaying” the interviews, so to speak, on my gather.com home page but if you want to win prizes, come and post to the BLOG itself. “

I am the Liberty Bell!

I went to a Capitol Crimes (Sisters in Crime, Sacramento Chapter) meeting this Saturday as the guest speaker.  Dave went with me, in a combination of pack horse (he lugged the book boxes), actor and moral support.  My sister Lisa also joined us as she was up from Venice Beach for her birthday.   We drove separate cars from our house to Sacramento as Lisa has a sometimes cranky back and my Saturn, which would have fit all three of us and our gear,  is not necessarily the best car for that.  She has a Mini, a cute little red and white one, and although it’s comfy and adorable, it does not have the trunk space we needed for the trip. 

We rendezvoused at Perko’s Grill and Cafe in Rancho Cordova where the Sacto Sisters have lunch before their meetings.  They were just a delightful group of women, some professional writers themselves, some aspiring authors, all of them voracious readers and so nice!  Dave was an honorary Sister for the day and handled himself well as the only male in a group of around 20 women.  No huge shock, that.  And they didn’t seem to mind the extra shot of testosterone he brought to the mix.  Lisa had just gotten her own literary agent (yay, Lisa!), so she fit right in the conversation and had some good advice to share.  

The meeting itself was at the Rancho Cordova Library.  Now I’d mapped out the journey weeks in advance, using Google Maps.  Oh, foul Google Maps!   Assuring the helpful Sisters I knew how to get to the library, we set off following the directions I’d googled (as did Lisa, who had the same directions as us) and ended up on the correct street, but going in the wrong direction.   We figured this out as the addresses went up in number instead of down to the 9000 block, where the library was.  D’oh!!!  So we flipped a U (and I mentally flipped off Google Maps) and drove as fast as the traffic would allow down Folsom, a busy street with many stoplights and more Sunday drivers than should be legal on a Saturday.  

 I will admit to being a little (a lot!) stressed.  I hate being late and every minute the clocked ticked closer to 1:00, the higher my blood pressure rose and the more vociferous my swearing became.    When poor Dave tried to calm me down, I’d snarl “I. Just. Have. To Get. This OUT OF MY SYSTEM!” 

Now in my defense we’d received some very bad news Friday in the late afternoon and we were already dealing with a huge amount of stress.  I like to think I’d have been a little calmer had things been different, but I’m sure there would have at least been some mild cursing.  As I said, I hate being late.  I knew in the back of my mind the Sisters had business to take care of before my presentation and my being 5-10 minutes late wouldn’t hold up the meeting, but the rational part of my brain was obviously being held at gunpoint by my inner White Rabbit ’cause common sense never made it past the ‘omigod, I’m LATE!!’

We finally made it to the library, which is located about three blocks away from Perko’s.  Sigh.   Got the books, the presentation board with all the old MFH material, the boombox and noir cds, and ourselves inside and all was well.  Two of our Brackmann cousins, Jill and Sammie, were there.  Jill was dolled up for a wedding she was attending right after the presentation and Sammie was noired out to the hilt in green and black satin and velvet, with four inch green satin heels, and a little black torque perched on the back of curly auburn hair.   They both looked quite smashing.  My cousin Lindy also showed up a bit later even though she was not feeling well.  So a special thanks to all three cousins and Lisa for going out of their way to come see me do my schtick. 

Dave started out the presentation with a short monologue (backed by appropriately noirish music) from The Peruvian Pigeon (which, for those of you not familiar with the history of my mystery…heh…that rhymes…was the first script Maureen and I wrote for Murder for Hire many years ago), which was much appreciated by the audience.  I think it was both the effectiveness of his performance and the fact he looks cute in a fedora and trenchcoat).  The monologue ends with “…and SHE walked in.”  A great cue for me to start my presentation if I do say so myself.

I’ve done this presentation a few times now and get more comfortable with it with each new appearance.  I basically talk about the history of Murder for Hire, both the theatrical troupe and the novel, going off on tangents about chocolate, supermodels, show anecdotes, screenplays, whatever happens to come up during the talk.  I love fielding questions from the audience and this group was the best yet in terms of having plenty of questions to throw at me.  After the presentation, I sold and signed books.  I seem to be incapable of just signing my name; I feel obliged to write a mini-novel for each inscription.  I’ve been told by more seasoned authors I’ll get over that the first time I do a really big signing.  Heh. 

The Capitol Crimes group also sold and signed books; CAPITAL CRIMES, an anthology of short stories written by members of their group.  Dave and I bought one and I’m looking forward to reading it.  Capital Crimes Cover

What, you might ask, does this all have to do with the Liberty Bell?   Well, I’d brought my camera to the event and Dave took pictures of me as I was giving my talk.  I saw the pictures yesterday, showing me in my slinky black top, red flowing skirt made out of Saree fabric, and black boots and for all the world, the shots all made me look bell shaped and much heavier than I’d like to think I appear in real life.  I told Dave I looked like a big fat bell and he said I was cracked.  Hence the Liberty Bell. 

And you didn’t think I’d ever come to the point, did you? 

The pictures had one positive affect (after reducing my slowly building self-esteem to rubble) – my motivation to exercise has revved up to high gear, I’ve started taking calorie counting seriously (did you know if you order a goat cheese, strawberry and spinach salad with candied walnuts and raspberry dressing you can reduce it from 880 calories to 280 by switching the dressing to a vinaigrette and cutting out the walnuts?) and I’m going to remember to stand up straighter when I give my talks!  More yoga!