Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Royal Snippet

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday.  I know I did. It's always fun when there are kids opening presents.  And since I still have the cast on my wrist I really didn't have to do too much work. I always have to make mince pies and sausage rolls the Christmas-- it is a family tradition from my grandparents and beyond, but this year it was my granddaughters who made them under my direction and made them very well.  My daughters Anne and Jane were very good in the kitchen and John has dismembered the Turkey remains and made them into a curry. 
I'm waiting impatiently for next Monday when I hope my cast can come off. It really has been very frustrating. I gave my granddaughters are real sewing machine Christmas and yesterday I gave them their first sewing lesson.  Lizzie managed to complete almost a whole dress yesterday but I couldn't help as much as I wanted to.  I couldn't thread the machine or the bobbin with one hand , or show her how to sew on the snaps.
Having promised a week please snippet of royal gossip I do have a couple:
it turned out that William and Kate met each other at the age of 11. They were prep schools nearby and his hockey team came over to play at her school. Everybody wanted to talk to the young prince and have him sit at their table for tea,so I don't suppose he particularly noticed Kate although she was a pretty little girl. 
The other piece of gossip has to do with Kate Middleton's family- we've all been told that her father has made millions from the family business but that doesn't seem to be so-since a similar company who is his biggest competitor actually only made £130,000 last year. So we suspect that the bulk of the money comes from those mysterious family trusts which enabled Kate to go to Marlborough College. At least she's used to money and won't be overawed by the good things in the Palace,but I don't suppose they have that many antiques at home.  They don't have corgis either! 
More next week.    

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Rhys

Since I properly won't get to check my e-mail for the next couple of days I wanted to wish all my friendsa very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

If you are fans of the Jungle Red Writers you will already have seen this poem. If you haven't seen it yet enjoy.

A modern Christmas Carol

dashing through the web
googling sites like mad
cyber Monday's here again
bargains to be had

click click here, click click there,
by it all online
Overstock and Amazon 
Christmas will be fine

click click here, click click there,
bought it all online
Christmas done and wrapped and shipped
have a glass of wine.

Mayyour Christmases be stressfree
Rhys

Monday, December 20, 2010

King William?

New royal definition: abdicate-- to step down from the throne in favour of William and Catherine.

Just in time for Royal gossip Monday, a rumour has surfaced that the Queen is considering abdicating so that William will have a chance to be king before he's too old -- that if his father doesn't live to 100.  Of course many people would like Charles to step aside and let William become the next king, but I can't see that happening.  After all, the poor man has spent his whole life in waiting for a certain job, and it would be cruel to deny it to him when his mother dies or abdicates.

Personally, I'm not sure that the Queen would consider abdicating.  Duty has always been a primary motivating factor and I think she will consider it her duty to remain on the throne until her death.  But she is now approaching 90 and the poor woman does deserve some free time from a very hectic schedule.  I never appreciated how hectic their schedule was until I did my first book tour.  Events all day new city each day, it's exhausting.  I did it for two weeks but she does it every day of her life.  Anyone who doesn't think the Royals earned their money ought to try this -- always on always cheerful, always having to eat someone else's food and appear interested in the most boring things. It's not an easy life.
Oh and the other piece of news is that the Royal China has been unveiled-- you can have a teacup.  Or rather what they call a tankard for $55. But it does have cute little doves on it.

Rhys, still typing with voice recognition software and a broken wrist, and now battling a cold as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Will William be different?

Its royal gossip Monday and the first thing I saw on the news this morning was the engagement pictures of William and Kate Middleton. They look so happy that I'm hoping things will turn out differently for them than for Williams parents, and that William won't follow the age-old tradition of the heir to the throne keeping a mistress. Apparently that's one of the things that Charles said to Diana -- I refuse to be the first Prince of Wales, who doesn't have a mistress.  Not the sort of thing or wife wants to hear.
 Of course, in the old days, Royal marriages were business propositions, linking two nations , two economies.  Love did not come into it, although some royal couples became fond of each other.  So it was considered normal, but once the wife had done her duty and produced an heir, the husband could play elsewhere. Charles obviously followed that tradition, as did his great, great grandfather , King Edward VII and his great uncle, King Edward VIII.  Although not his great grandfather, George V, who was devoted to Queen Mary. This in a way was amazing as Mary was originally engaged to George's older brother, the Duke of Clarence, who died at the age of 28. Mary was then passed along to the next in line, who was George and they lived happily ever after.

I'm sure she was much happier married to George, who was a stable and simple chap, rather than his wicked and wayward older brother. In fact the whole country heaved a sigh of relief when he died, supposedly of influenza. Rumours flew for many years about whether he had died of natural causes or whether he had been helped to his death, leaving the way to the throne open for the more sensible George. I play with this scandal in my book  Royal Flush.

Let us hope that William and Kate can live without any scandals, although scandals do provide such good material for books, don't they?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best laid plans

I'm sorry I've been so silent recently I fell and broke my wrist a week ago, and I have been unable to use the computer properly until now.  But yesterday I managed to install my newly acquired Dragon software, and after several hours of frustration, it finally works brilliantly.  I have to remember to say full stop instead of period at the end of the sentence as I selected the British English pronunciation, but I think we're learning to understand each other.  I find it so-cool when I look at the computer and say wake up in the microphone immediately switches itself on.
I now sport a festive red cast with white lining and my hand looks like a mini Santa Claus.  I'm thinking of adding a little glitter and maybe even a tinsel wreath.
So now I'm back in business, and luckily, I don't have to start my next Molly book until the New Year.  So I'm going to enjoy being a lady of leisure and inviting over a friend to wrap my presents for me.  But I promise to update on my royal gossip on Monday, so check back then.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Royal Scoop Monday

As promised here is my next tidbit of royal info leading up to the wedding on April 29th. I'm annoyed about their choice of date as I'll be at the Malice Domestic convention on that day, so I'd better let them know that there is no point in sending me an invitation :)

Anyway last week the newspapers in England were coming up with evil little snippets to hint that future princess Kate came from the lowliest of lowly families. Her great grandmother worked in a jam factory while her grandfather had to look after his 6 siblings.

Well, it turns out that was only one part of the story. On her father's side the family were rich industrialists who built the first shopping center in the city of Leeds and helped to found Leeds University..and left a hefty trust so that Kate went to one of the most expensive private schools, Marlborough College.  However, they were always commoners and to the British aristocracy that is a gap that can never be breached.

Small example: I was at a sherry party in the Cotswolds once (snooty area of England) and the hostess beckoned us all closer and said, "My dears, you'll never guess who bought that house across the valley."
And everyone said, "Do tell!"
and she said, "My dears, he's a grocer."
And everyone made expressions of surprise, disgust, horror etc.
And the point is that even if he owned Safeway, he'd still be a grocer to them.

So poor Kate. Let's hope the rules are finally breaking down for her sake.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post-thanksgiving thoughts.

The turkey has been dismembered, the pies devoured and we've all had a chance to think about what we are thankful for. So here's my list :
1. I'm thankful for my family and friends. Money, success, material goods mean nothing if you don't have people who love you.
2. I'm thankful for my health. You can't enjoy anything if you're not feeling well
3. I'm thankful that I live in a society where I am allowed to express my opinions, worship in any religion, have a chance as a woman to run for office, be a judge, or do any job that I choose.
4. I'm thankful that I've been lucky enough to make a good living at what I love to do for most of my life. I realize that success is always a mixture of talent mixed with perseverance mixed with luck.
5. I'm thankful that people like my books. What point would there be in writing books if I didn't have fans?
6.I'm thankful that I can live in a beautiful place, or rather two beautiful places. When I wake up, look out of the window at mountains and sunshine, when I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge or walk through the Sonoran Desert then I feel that all is right with the world.
7. I'm thankful that I've had the chance to travel, to see much of the world and to visit places of spectacular beauty.
8. I'm thankful for a sense of humor so that I can laugh if I take myself too seriously.
9. I'm thankful that I love to read. I'll always have exciting places to visit.
10. I'm thankful that I enjoy singing, crafts, painting, learning new things. I'll never be bored.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Royal Wedding, Royal Scandals

Since I'm heavily involved with royal personages in my life--albeit not living ones--I shall be following with great interest the build up to the wedding of William and Kate (or Katherine as we are now supposed to call her).
So visit this blog every Monday for latest snippets of royal gossip, royal scandals from the past and juicy details for royal watchers.

I'm starting off with a couple of really juicy details to share: the first were the comments made this weekend by the Bishop of Willesden, in North London. (blogger note--I didn't even know they had a bishop in Willesden. he must be a very minor one!) Anyway this clueless guy posted on Facebook that he thought the upcoming royal wedding was a ridiculous waste of public money and that the couple would be divorced within seven years. He went on to compare it to the lavish celebrations for Charles and Diana, whom he refered to as Big Ears and the porcelain doll, reminding people what happened to them. He could not have been more offensive and said he'll be in France on the day, celebrating with other republicans.

Note this is a Bishop of the Church of England, the head of which is...THE QUEEN. He's attacking his employer, essentially and IMHO should be out of a cushy job, standing in an employment line. That will make him rethink his views on republicanism!
Anyway, he's apologized today, or been made to apologize. How stupid not to think that the world would pick up his Facebook comments.

There have been outcries about the cost in UK, but the complainers don't stop to think that the wedding is projected to bring in 260 million in additional tourist pounds for the event. It will make a profit, however expensive it is to the tax payer, and both the queen and Charles have already said they plan to foot a good part of the bill.

So do you think it's a waste of money?

And one other juicy tidbit for today... Kate's great grandmother worked in a jam factory. I told you it would be juicy, didn't I? 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Made in the USA

This blog and a similar post on Facebook seem to have opened a whole outburst of frustration among a lot of people.
It seems we all feel strongly about buying locally, buying US made goods, keeping jobs in the USA.
So I've been looking into having bumper stickers made saying BUY LOCALLY MADE IN USA.
If you're interested, let me know. I'm trying to get a feel of how many to order.
You can comment here or email me at rhysbowen@comcast.net

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chinese Eyes

I was in a hurry to buy a new eye shadow yesterday. I grabbed one from the shelf that seemed to be the right shade. As I was standing in line I read the words "Made in China" on the back. It was returned to the shelf and I had to leave without one. I'd never really looked before and now I wonder how much other stuff made in China I've put on my face. I've nothing against the Chinese but any country that can put poisonous additives in baby formula and kill pets with tainted pet food can most definitely shove mercury/lead etc into my eye shadow!

So then I had to look at all the other cosmetics I buy and I have to report--buy the good brands. All the reputable brands are made in the USA, except for my other favorites like Lancome that actually say Made in France.So no more impulse buys in future without checking the back. (You'll notice they don't put the ingredients on cosmetics!)

All this checking and double checking on all consumer items is becoming annoying. I found some lovely looking salmon the other day then saw that it too came from China. With the polutant levels in those waters I simply can't risk my health.
I've already becoming selective about where my clothes are made. I won't buy anything made in certain Central American countries where girls work in sweatshops. I am somewhat leery about buying from China as one never knows what the conditions might be like for their workers. But it's a difficult choice. If I don't buy that item, will that sweatshop be forced to close, thus leaving those girls with no work at all?

My daughter and son-in-law worked among the poor in Juarez Mexico for three years. Of course this is the site of the maquilas--the factories owned by US companies where US goods are made without any US regulations. My son in law tried to talk to factory managers to try and improve conditions for workers, and you know what those managers said to him?  "If you make things difficult for us, we'll simply close up and go somewhere else."
Which would mean no income at all for those people.

So all these well-meant decisions come at a price--and the knowledge that it's not always an easy matter to make the world right. And I haven't even touched upon the fact that all those Made In China sweaters mean one American garment worker out of a job. In my book For the Love of Mike I depicted the conditions in the sweatshops in New York at the turn of the century and the brave girls who defied odds to form the Ladies Garment Workers Union. That union brought imporoved conditions but also made American goods more expensive.

So the question is--are we prepared to pay more for goods that are made here? I'm trying to adopt the European attitude and buy fewer clothes--but good quality, preferably made in the USA. And I'm definitely going to look carefully at what goes on my face.I think you should too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not going gentle into that good night.

I am currently between books. I've sent off Naughty in Nice and I have to start the next Molly book in January, so I'm reading up on Tammany Hall and Irish politics. We're in Arizona and the weather is perfect. The desert beckons, there are great restaurants and yet I am feeling guilty because I'm not working. I should be starting a short story. I should be finishing my travel book on Australia.

I have to face that I am not good at doing nothing. I feel the need to be working all the time. And this is not good because most of my friends have retired or are approaching retirement. They are happily playing bridge, taking art classes or volunteering. And I--I cannot picture a life without writing, without working to deadlines, without flying around the country and making speeches. I keep telling myself that it would be good to slow down and not push myself so hard, but in truth I don't want to.

Luckily both series seem to be in demand still, my sales are still good, so there is no need for me to slow down my pace, but I can't help looking to the future. Will there be a time I have to stop writing, and if so, what would I do with myself all day? It's a scary thought. So I'm interested to know what others contemplating retirement feel about it. Who else intends to go on working for ever? Who looks forward to doing nothing? Am I unique?

Friday, November 12, 2010

In the Dog House?

I've just come back from speaking at a fundraising event for a women's garden in Dallas, and I've spent this morning cleaning the kitchen after two days of husband being on his own. I've swept the crevises in the floor from where he decided to make breadcrumbs. I've discovered new gadgets bought to replace perfectly good gadgets. I've even discovered a new tea pot (bought to replace a perfectly good tea pot).  And I've loaded half washed sticky implements into dishwasher.

So I'm wondering--would somebody please invent a boarding kennel for husbands when wives have to go away?

It could consist of nice little cubicles with recliner, TV and remote, computer desk, small fridge full of beer and a bed. Every day he could be let out to socialize with other husbands on benches at the back of the property where there would be a horseshoe court or bocce ball for those who felt energetic. He could even be walked to the nearest pub  and back for exercise.

He'd be served all the meals he likes that I won't cook ( shake and bake chicken,  for example). He'd be left alone to potter and do his thing and he'd be in heaven.

I'd be willing to pay anything. Someone please set one up near me soon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Don't Do Serial Killers!

I am probably the last person in the universe to read The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. Spoiler alert--if there is another person after me who has not read it, please disregard this post. I shall give away plot points.
For the first two hundred pages I was
a. enjoying it as an interesting read but
at the same time wondering why it generated so much buzz as it was not particularly exciting or unique.

Then I got to the nitty gritty and found that the family secrets included a branch of sadistic serial murderers. And that was it for me. I don't do serial killers. I find them a real cop-out for the mystery writer. I would much rather read about an ordinary, normal person who has been driven to kill by circumstances that might put any of us in his position. I like to see all my characters as humans to whom I can relate. 

The twisted warped mind of a serial killer may be fascinating as a psychological study, but it doesn't play fair with the readers on the whodunit level. Obviously a good serial killer leaves no motive clues, because the only motive is his crazy gratification.

So I had hoped that the skeletons within the Varner family in TGWTDT would have been those of greed, betrayal, fear... those motives with which we can identify.

So please share your opinions. Do you enjoy serial killer stories? Do you think that writers write about them because they are shocking and scary and thus have 'bestseller' potential?  Did you like the GWTDT? 
Do you think it deserved the hype?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Good Old Days?

My umbrella broke in the wind the other day and I was reminded of that song about the man who mended umbrellas. Can you imagine being able to make a living mending umbrellas? Yet there were also people who earned their living repairing shoes, re-tailoring clothes, even collecting old rags. There was no throw away society when I was growing up.

And in those days milk was delivered to the doorstep. So were newspapers. Sheets were sent to the laundry once a week. The window cleaners came every Wednesday. The piano tuner every couple of months. On buses there was a conductor to collect the money. At stations there were plenty of porters to carry the bags. Theaters always had a live orchestra. And the point is that all these people could earn a living doing these jobs, and we could afford to pay them.

The cost of living and wages have risen so steeply that all the above have disappeared. Likewise the big corporations have shipped manufacturing jobs abroad, the banks have shipped their service centers abroad. It makes one wonder what jobs will be available for the generation now growing up.

I had a long chat yesterday with a young man working as a bagger at the supermarket. He's also a college student and asked me if I thought his generation lacked the drive and enthusiasm of former generations, who had wanted to make the world a better place. I said I thought he had grown up in bad economic times which had created a depressing atmosphere for many young people. In the past we expected to get a good job after college. This is no longer true. In fact in some parts of Britain there are people who will never work in their lives. There are no jobs in areas that used to be coal mining, ship building etc.
.
So what's the answer? Obviously the bright young people will make jobs for themselves. The next Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will do fine. But how can a country sustain itself and flourish if there aren't enough jobs? My own daughter has been unemployed for two years now. And she applies for several jobs every day. And she has great credentials and work experience. She's been reduced to part time babysitting and office work in an attempt to keep her head above water.

As a writer I watch as the e-book gains momentum, wondering what that will do to my future book sales. obviously I don't make as much from an e-book as from a hardcover. And then there are the pirated e-books being offered free on the internet. Almost every day my name shows up on one of those sites now. The music industry has the same problem. I remember when we'd rush to the music store the day the new Beatles song came out on a 45. (I realize this dates me)

So what do you think is the answer? Where are we heading? Is there any good news for our young people?

Friday, October 29, 2010

What's so great about Halloween

I'm surprised at the number of kids who tell me that Halloween is their favorite holiday--over Christmas with all the presents and the tree, over 4th of July with the parades and fireworks, or Easter with the chocolate eggs.

I'm also surprised at the costumes they choose. I think my girls were always something sweet and adorable--princesses and fairies and maybe a good witch or two. But my little granddaughter Mary has been a vampire, two years in a row. What's more, she is so convincing about it that her teacher last year had to ask her mother to speak to her about scaring the other children.
"They think she's a real vampire," the teacher said.
So Clare spoke to her and she agreed she wouldn't try to tell them she was a real vampire any longer.
So guess what she told them?
She told them she was really a werewolf instead!


So is this the main reason that kids like Halloween? Not the candy? They love the power of being able to scare people, and feeling just a little scared themselves. Mary for the rest of the year is a sweet, well-behaved little girl (if a rather good actress).

But I'm also surprised at the number of adults who say they love Halloween. I suppose again it's the costumes, the taking on a character so different from our own--pretending to be evil, or sexy, or both. It's the one day nobody stops us if we act strangely or look even stranger.
But it's not for everyone. You try getting my husband to select a costume for a party tomorrow night. He's agreed to look like an Englishman from the 1930s, wearing blazer, bow tie, yachting cap, white flannel trousers.  And what does he normally wear--blazer, sometimes bow tie, sometimes light trousers. And he thinks this is a costume???
I'm going as my character, Lady Georgie in my blond flapper wig, long backless evening dress and long pearls. Still looking for cigarette holder, and you know what? They don't seem to make candy cigaretts any more so I'll have to pay for a pack of real cigs--almost more expensive than the rest of the costume.
 I expect we'll have fun, but it's not my favorite holiday. My favorites involve the family, around the dinner table, fire crackling merrily, Christmas carols on the stereo, tree twinkling with lights in one corner. Or Thanksgiving is almost as good.

You know how Halloween started, don't you? It's a Celtic festival that was adopted into the Christian calendar. It is the one night of the year when the door bewteen the two worlds opened and the dead came among us. And people put on scary costumes--skeletons and ghosts--so that the dead would think they were one of their own and wouldn't take them to the otherworld with them.
Do you think they'd be convinced by a man in a bow tie and yachting cap?

Do you love Halloween?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jungle Red

Sorry, I haven't posted all week on this blog, but I have a good excuse--apart from the Giants.
It is my week to blog on Jungle Red Writers (http://www.jungleredwriters.com/) and I've been blogging every day this week.

If you have a moment please jump over to that site: I've discussed Sex and the Single Sleuth, a true crime story about human hearts found in jars at a local cemetery. I've interviewed Tasha Alexander. And today a lovely true story about an old blind woman who acquired a whole new circle of young friends who took turns reading her favorite books to her. And this was in New York, the last place you'd expect such neighborly behavior among strangers.

And tomorrow a whimsical look at childhood pastimes. See you over there!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away!

Yesterday it started raining in Northern California and my thoughts turned instantly to Arizona. I started going through my wardrobe deciding which clothes I needed to take with me, which items from my office. Our condo is actually well stocked with clothes basics but there are some items I need for when I'm giving talks etc. And some favorites that have to come with me to both places.

Now I know that rain is a good thing. After a dry summer we need a good wet winter in California to fill those reservoirs, prevent fires and make things grow. But I'm sorry. I just don't like rain, or cold--apart from the occasional crisp day on the ski slopes. Other people say that they couldn't live without the four seasons, but I would be happy with sun every day. In fact I feel cheated if I don't wake to blue skies.

This aversion to rain and dark skies is strange, considering I was born and grew up in a country where rain and dark skies are the norm for much of the year. But I realize now that I've always suffered from SAD--the seasonal disorder that makes the body not work well in lack of sunlight. Not only do I find it hard to leave the comfort of my bed in winter, I actually feel depressed. Clearly my body was designed to hibernate and not emerge until springtime (no wonder I've always had an affinity with bears!)

But I have a book that needs to be written during the winter months. So I do the next best thing to hibernation--I escape to Arizona. I wake to the sun sending stripes on my wall through the fronds of the palm tree outside my window. We go for long walks in the desert and take photos of cactus and birds and the most incredible sunsets. And I've come to the conclusion that the stork actually dropped me into the wrong country at birth. I wasn't supposed to be British. The Brits put on their wellies and raincoats and stomp merrily through the puddles, chanting things like, "This rain will be good for the cabbages."
But I DON'T DO RAIN.

And I've just realized that I've set my next Royal Spyness book on the French Riviera where my heroine has joined all the English who flee south for the winter. So maybe I'm not such a strange bird after all. Maybe most of my compatriots would seek sunshine if they could, and indeed many Brits now own homes in Spain or take a winter holiday in the Caribbean. And maybe my heroine is becoming an alter ego.


Hands up--who likes the four seasons? Who would opt for eternal summer?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's Go, Giants!


You may be surprised to discover this, from my demure and British demeanor, but I am a rabid sports fan. Of a competitive nature myself, I love watching any kind of sport--even lawn bowling, which is about a slow and sedate as it gets. However I really love it when I can cheer for MY TEAM.

So for the past few weeks I have been going through a regular dose of Giant's torture. It seems they can never win a game by a clear margin. It has to come down to one run, or, as it was in last night's game, going into the ninth tied. I have a feeling this can't be good for the heart. And baseball is the most heart-stopping game I know. Other games--soccer, tennis, are constant motion, constant give and take with a point here, a point there. In baseball time freezes. All the focus is on two figures-pitcher and batter. One wrongly placed pitch, one good swing of the bat and the world changes. It's like a brilliant chess game.

The other thing that I find fascinating is the pyschology of sports fans. If you've been to a big stadium to watch a game, you're witnessing the closest thing to a tribe we have in the current century. Forty thousand hearts beating as one. An overwhelming sense of kinship, togetherness. Every player down there is our brother, and his triumphs and defeats are our triumphs and defeats.

Tonight it's game five and the Giants could win the pennant. I only wish I could be there to be part of that tribe, chanting "Let's go Giants." clap  clap  clap-clap-clap."  I join in at home. Husband John looks at me and rolls his eyes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Party's Over.

I've been silent for a while because I've been at Bouchercon--the World Mystery Convetnion, which was held only a few miles from me in San Francisco this weekend. Bouchercon is one of those enormous conventions that takes place all over the USA, sometimes in Canada or even in UK. (I'm waiting for Australia next!). And brings in writers, publishers, reviewers and readers from all over the world. There was a good British contingent--note I say British, not English, because Val McDermid and Denise Mina would kill me. There was Irish representation and even Icelandic.

The local guest of honor was Laurie R. King, of Mary Russell fame. The international guest of honor was Denise Mina from Scotland and Lee Child was given a distinguished contribution to the genre honor. Lee brought with him not only members of his family--brother Andrew with lovely new wife Tasha Alexander, and niece Dana, but four Jack Reacher lookalikes for his Reachers Creatures party on Friday night. Imagine four buff guys, all six foot five and wearing tight Tshirts! That and the Dove bars in hospitality were highlights for me (okay, I'm shallow). Lee and Laurie were ominpresent, always with time to chat to everyone and epitomizing how generous and welcoming the mystery comunity is.


Other highlights were my non-panel--billed as a conversation with 3 goddesses (Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie and moi) It is so easy to chat with them, especially as they are two of my favorite writers and the audience seems to enjoy our completely unscripted chats; then applauding my blogmate, fellow Jungle Red Writer Hank Phillippi Ryan, as she won best short story on her birthday.

This picture is from our last goddess conversation. I'm still waiting for someone to send me the pictures that were taken this time. Oh, and I'm so glad I didn't wear the same jacket!

These conventions seem to turn into non-stop eating and drinking. Hi, how are you? let's grab a coffee. let's do breakfast tomorrow... let's have a drink at the bar to catch up. No wonder the line in the ladies room was always so long.  It was good to catch up with so many friends I hadn't seen in a while. All I had to do was stand at the bottom of the escalator and the whole world came to me! My one disappointment was missing my look-alike twin Meg Chittenden. She was supposed to attend but instead was rushed to hospital with clots in her lung. I hope she felt the love we all sent her.

So I realize I've given the scoop on a convention without one single piece of dirt to dish. The reason for this is that I was away for the juicy bits. I didn't stay in the convention hotel as I live just across the Bay--so I missed out on the fun late night stuff (memo to self--don't to that again. Lost half the fun). Also I was whisked across the Bay to the booksellers convention in Oakland to attend their author reception and sign books for my Royal Spyness publisher so I couldn't attend that publisher's party. I did attend the Minotaur party and stood between my favorite ancient Romans Lindsay Davies and Steven Saylor, and the Touchstone release party for their new serial novel. 

And now it's the day-after-Christmas feeling and I'm looking through the program and noting all the people I never saw in four days. It's always that way. Back to reality and laundry.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Catch a Thief

In August I blogged about having my purse stolen in France and how vulnerable and angry it made me feel.
Well today on my group blog, Jungle Red Writers (http://www.jungleredwriters.com/) Hallie interviews a young woman who took the law into her own hands, just like our amateur detectives do, and found the man who stole her purse. It's a great success at sleuthing and shows how social media is helping to track down criminals. So do pop over to Jungle Red and read her adventure for yourselves.

By the way, I'll be blogging on the same theme when it's my turn at True Crime Tuesday in two weeks from now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not enough hours..

Happy Columbus day everybody. If it's a holiday for you, enjoy. The weather here is fabulous but I don't think I'll be outside much because I have what might be called a busy week ahead:
My primary task is to finish the final polish on my new book which is due at the publisher's NOW. But my ability to focus on this task may be impeded by the following events...
At noon today my daughter and her children are arriving from Phoenix, on their way to visit my other daughter. It will be brief but chaotic with every toy in the house taken out, I fear.
Tomorrow I speak at yet another library
Wednesday we go to pick up the famous 2000 year old librarian Doris Ann Norris, who will be staying with us for the duration of Bouchercon, the world mystery convention which is in San Franicsco this year.
Thursday the convention begins (for me with an invitation to stop by and be welcoming at a new authors breakfast at 8 a.m.)  For once I'm not staying at the convention hotel, but taking the ferry in to the city as the hotel is at the bottom of Market Street where the ferry docks, so this is a lovley way to start the day.
The day ends with a publisher's reception.
Friday into the city again and again a breakfast meeting (why do people always want to meet me at breakfast--don't they know it's not my finest hour?)
Friday evening I have a car provided by my publisher to whisk me across the Bay to the Northern California booksellers convention in Oakland where I'm part of the big author's reception.
Saturday--my panel at the convention is, guess what, at 8:30 a.m. I have to be bright and witty with Louise Penny and Deborah Crombie at that hour.
Saturday night is a disco ball. Not sure about that one. Not too many mystery fans and writers are built for disco dancing.
And Sunday the convention ends with a brunch, then John and I are giving an author friend our famous tour of San Francisco.
And on the seventh day Rhys rested--I hope!
The convention endswi

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Long is Too Long?

Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I had finished the first draft of my new Lady Georgie book and felt it was a little long, so the next step was to bring out the axe.
I was surprised this morning to see a whole lot of replies saying "please don't cut it. We want your books to be as long as possible." Some were kind enough to add, 'we don't want them to end." but others added, "We love long books."

So now I'm curious--do you love long books? Do you select books based on length? Are you turned off by big fat books or do you look forward to staying with them for a while? Is there a certain length that mysteries should be? (mine are usually around 300 pages. The Molly Murphy series goes a little longer, closer to 400 sometimes).
I'm actually re-reading the last Harry Potter book at the moment--as a sort of wind-down after all the frantic activity in my life this month and I have to say I am not finding the 700 pages to be a chore. it's nice to see, when I pick it up, that there are still a few hundred pages to go.



And of course with my new Kindle the question of the weight of a 700 page book is removed from the equation, isn't it? I can read War and Peace, holding it in one hand!! And speaking of weight--the thinness and lightness of Kindle was one of the factors in deciding to go with it over the iPad or even the Nook. But now I think I should get a case for it and you know what? The cases are heavy. Does that make sense? Can anyone suggest a light little sleeve that keeps out dust but doesn't turn my Kindle into a clunky object?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's a Small World

I've just been checking my blog stats and among other things it shows where my blog visitors come from. I was surprised to see that I have visitors from both Russia and Egypt. Either this is wonderful and it means my readership is spreading throughout the world, OR it means someone in Russia is looking for a way to hack/spam/take over my blog and someone in Egypt is similarly looking for a way to infiltrate my blog with terror messages.

Let's hope the former! I'm amazed at how small the world has become. When I ran a contest on a website last year the prize for the entries that had traveled the most miles went to South Africa, followed by Finland. I certainly have friends from all over the world on Facebook. Every now and then I'm reading through Facebook news and a chat button will click on and I find myself chatting with someone from Africa or Australia. How cool is this? Perhaps Facebook will actually achieve what everyone else has tried to do--bring about world peace and understanding!

Today I go literary... I'm reading at Litquake, which is a week long festival of the written word in San Francisco. I'm reading at a theater with fellow crime writers Barry Eisler, Sophie Littlefield and one more, but we follow a group of poets and after us a group of memoirs. I'm going first, thanks to beginning with B,so I'm just hoping that the poet before me hasn't written a long poem about the death of a butterfly or the end of the world, because I intend to make people laugh with an excerpt from Royal Blood.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The End is in Sight

Today I hope to write those fabulous words THE END on my next Lady Georgie mystery. Of course it will not be the end. It will be the end of the first draft, to be followed by intense revision which includes reading out loud (boy, don't those clumsy sentenses and repeated words jump off the page) having trusted readers read it, enduring a battle with my husband as he does a line by line edit and tries to make me change things I don't want to change... and finally the rewrite and off to the publisher, hopefully within the next three weeks.

But once I've got that first draft down the load becomes lighter. I know the story is there. It just needs a little tweeking--rather like a dressmaker who does the final fitting with some small nips and tucks to make it perfect. And it's been such a fun story--most of it taking place in Nice (where I did all that gruelling research under a hot Mediterranean sun), and it involves a stolen royal necklace, a handsome marquis who may or may not take the place of Darcy, naughty parties and various bodies. Oh, and Coco Chanel. What more could anyone want. Great food, fine wines, lovely fashions, sex and violence. it's bound to be a hit, isn't it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Celebrating a life

Today is my birthday and it started off with a really funny card and Sarah Palin's book all nicely wrapped up for me by my husband John. (he knows my feelings on that lady) Now I've threatened to get even with him and promised to read him a chapter every night! Inside the book was a very generous check, and I'm about to buy a Kindle and lots of books to go with it. During my tour I jotted down titles of books I wanted to read so I've got a good start.

I was also amazed to find over 150 birthday wishes waiting for me on Facebook--from friends all over the world. Isn't technology great? And it's also made me appreciate how blessed I am with my friends and family.

I was supposed to spend a fabulous day at the spa with my daughter Jane, but again best laid plans etc... my granddaughter Meghan woke with a fever and sore throat. Sweet little thing that she is she said, "Couldn't you find a babysitter for me so you can take Nana out on her birthday?"

So we've rescheduled the spa day for next week and the weather is gorgeous and I may just take a book down to the pool, plus a little chocolate, and some grapes... oh, and I may do some shopping

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Wearing more than one hat

As a writer I am called upon to wear more than one fitgurative hat. One minute I'm sitting focused at my desk, writing away to meet a deadline, living in a world that is not my own reality/ The next I'm required to get dressed in my "famous author" clothes and go out to speak to people about my books, to entertain them, make them laugh and essentially to sell my books. These require completely different personality types, don't they? Silent, focused, shut away, in another world...and then witty, sparkling, elegant and charming among crowds of people.

I'm actually a people person so the second half is easier for me than the first. I find it hard to stay focused. I know I have to write. I know I have 30 pages to complete the book, and yet I'm checking Facebook, blogs, my emails, deciding it would be nice to take a long soak in the tub. I'll get to my writing becuase I force myself but I never want to get started. Once I'm working I keep going until I'm finished for the day, but getting started--my, that's hard.

And on hats--I never was much of a hat person. I have a small head and hats tend to look--well, stupid. But since I've been promoting the Royal Spyness books, I've been wearing a lot of lovely hats. I made the mistake of taking a very regal hat on tour with me last year. It was too big for my suitcase so I had to hand carry it through all those security checks. Learned that lesson. But on this tour I was at Powells Books in Portland (wonderful, wonderful store!) and they had a tower of hats (just what you'd expect to find in a bookstore, right?) Among them were some vintage looking hats. I said jokinly to Michal, the store person, that what I really needed was a cloche hat for my 1930s heroine and he went "Voila!" and there is was--the perfect cloche hat. I'll post pictures when I've had my hair cut. It's too long at the moment.

So back to that writing hat or I won't get my five pages done today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Today was to be my first day in three weeks with nothing on the calendar. I planned to write, catch up with business stuff and then take a book to the pool. Instead I awoke with swollen glands and a headache. A trip to the doctor and I find out that I have either an infected salivary gland or infected sinus or both. So I'm home on antibiotics and feeling annoyed.

I suppose with all those flights and strange hotels and bookstores I was asking for something--actually it was mega-sales, not an infection. I may look like a hamster for my bookstore event tomorrow. And you can tell how bad I was feeling--I walked past Sephora and Ann Taylor Loft WITHOUT GOING IN.

So I think an afternoon of book therapy is needed. I may just re-read one of the Harry Potters. They have become my escape literature of choice. OR I may re-watch Mama Mia, although I get depressed when Colin Firth turns out to be gay. Do you have a comfort/escape entertainment of choice?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

I'm home. I slept in my own bed last night. Are you as crazy and mixed up as I am? When I'm home I long for adventure and to be traveling. When I'm traveling I long for my own bed at home and leisure to make a cup of tea in my dressing gown and eat grilled cheese.

It was a good tour--a little exhausting as it is flying from one place to the next every day, but I saw so many nice people and reconnected with old friends along the way that it was worth every morning when the car came at 6 a.m. One of the encouraging signs was to see the books well displayed in the Barnes and Nobles--paperbacks always on the front tower and sometimes hardcovers on the new books table. There's hope yet! But the best thing was hearing what the fans said about Lady Georgie. They loved the series and begged me to keep on writing them forever. That makes a writer feel awfully good.

So I look back on my little adventures--the strange bathrooms, the flight from Portland to Seattle in which there were 3 passengers( of which I was one) and two crew. It was a small plane and we flew right by the volcanoes for a most memorable flight (and the hostess joked by asking how I'd like my prime rib cooked). At the other end of the pleasure scale was yesterday's flight that was delayed for 4 hours. Just when I wanted to get home we sat at Burbank airport, only 300 miles from my house, and waited and waited all day. There was only one not-good coffee shop with the most disgusting imitation of a panini for lunch so it was a long day. Left hotel at 9 and wasn't home until 6. I could have gone to London in that time!

So the news of David's death still haunts me but otherwise I had a great time and I'm happy to report that independent bookstores are flourishing! And people are reading. Hooray. Now I'm going to take a long soak in my own, very normal tub with no pictures on the walls.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Handling Sad News

I'm at the airport waiting for my flight home, and I was going to write a witty bright blog about the time I had a private plane by mistake and other fun things that have happened to me.

But life intervened. When I was visiting bookstores in Portland OR the store owner asked me if I'd heard about David. David who? I asked.
David Thompson, owner of Murder by the Book in Houston.

It felt like a punch in the gut and literally took my breath away.Because David was only 38 years old, a bright, healthy wonderrful young man, because he had been a good friend for many years and because I had done a book signing at his store only 3 days before he died. We had joked and laughed. When someone asked me if I'd like a glass of water he replied, "of course she wouldn't. She'd like a glass of champagne," and produced one for me. No hint at all that his life was about to come to an end. And I must have been the last person to do a signing at his store.

We haven't heard whether it was a massive heart attack or an aneurysm but it struck with no warning. And he has left a darling young wife and a bookstore to run. I was always so happy that a young couple were able to pursue their passion for books together. Life is so unfair.
So I have finished the last stops on my tour trying to be bright and funny while all the time feeling the heavy weight of grief.
If you're reading this and you knew David, there is going to be a memorial fund for his wife and for a scholarship. I can send you details if you contact me

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Best Laid Plans and Scary Rooms

I'm sitting at Seatac airport in a fog so thick that I can only see a vague impression of a plane outside. However planes are actually taking off in this--I can hear noises. I just hope pilots can see runways....

This after a truly lovely evening in Seattle yesterday. My first evening off in ten days as I did a midday event--so I had the delight of walking along the waterfront, taking in the sparkling water, the smell of ocean and cooking seafood and simply feeling that all was right with the world.

Last night I had just gone to sleep when someone came into my room--okay, I'd fallen asleep early as I was still on Central Time. I leaped up and it was the maid, come to turn down the bed ( a little late, don't you think?). That was when I noticed that the picture on my wall was really scary with a spotlight on it--it shows a man with no face, almost lifesize. What are they thinking when they put Taliban warriors and now haunted people on hotel walls. Isn't the object to create a little oasis of calm? How about pictures of water lilies and beaches and mountains instead of clevere designer stuff that is unsettling to look at?

I'm curious to see what tonight's room will be like.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bathrooms, the ongoing story

I seem to be devoting a lot of time on this blog to bathrooms I am encountering on my book tour. Maybe it's because when I'm tired, it throws me to find something weird. So far I've had:
The large jetted tub in the middle of the room.
A large photograph of an Afghan tribesman hanging in the bathroom--actually staring at me. I began to feel that I should be showering in a burka. Whoever thought that was comforting and relaxing bathing art?
The lovely, exquisite bathroom that had no hair dryer--a fact I only discovered when my driver was coming in fifteen minutes and I had soaking wet hair. I called down and was told "It's with the towels on the shelf." 
"No, it's not," I said. "I have searched every inch."
"I'll send one up," she said.
I waited. And waited. My hair was rapidly drying plastered to my head.
Another phone call. "I need that dryer NOW!"
Finally it arrived.And this was one of those hotels who say, "If there's anything we can do for you--anything at all, just ask." Well, I asked for a hair dryer before my hair was totally ruined for the day.
Usually I bring along a small travel dryer for such emergencies, but I knew I'd be staying in first class hotels so why add the extra weight.
You see, I remember the time in NY, at a not so delux hotel,when the hairdryer went up in a blaze of sparks just as I was about to dry my hair..
I called housekeeping and told her the dryer wasn't working.
You must plug it in first, she said, patronizingly. And if that doesn't work, press the re-set button.

Would the reset button stop the sparks from coming out of it? I demanded.
I'll tell someone, she said.
And again I waited. And waited. I was due to meet with Viacom about a TV version of one of my books. Nobody came.
At last, in desperation I rushed down Seventh Avenue into the nearest electrictronics store. "Hairdryer. Now!" I gasped, hair dripping onto the counter, and thrust a credit card at them.
So that's why I usually carry a hairdryer.
Finally last night I have a sensible bathroom--with containers of everything I need on the wall rather than those little bottles i can't read with my glasses off.
And a big drawer for my cosmetics and no tribesmen glaring at me.
But instead the room had strings of Christmas lights over my windows and it took me ages to find out how to turn them off.
There's always something.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day two of tour. Yesterday started with a lovely luncheon in Phoenix at the Royal Palms hotel (yes it has palm trees growing through the roof of the restaurant)with some delightful ladies who love my books. Then an evening event with my friend Margaret Coel (who writes wonderful mysteries featuring the Arahapo tribe) and spent the night at a resort with a large jetted tub in the middle of the bedroom. I didn't have time to try it out and it seemed strange since it was only big enough for one person--so why would one person want to bathe in full view of the world?

Today I've just arrived in Houston and my hotel is fabulous! I'm in the Splendida Suite, I believe--big enough for a family--one room with glass dining table, chandelier, sofa, Asian antiques, then gorgeous bathroom and then separate bedroom. It's a pity I don't get to enjoy it. I'm about to go out to speak and won't be back until late evening. Still, it's fun playing at celebrity for a while.
I'll try to download pictures later today.
Tomorrow, Kansas City.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Book Tour--Fashion disasters.


Tomorrow I set out on a book tour--nine cities in nine days, drop in signings, events, a lunch, a dinner and little time to breathe--and no time at all to launder clothes.


I've done this before so I know what I'm in for, especially the car arriving at crack of dawn to whisk me to the airport. And I've learned from my mistakes, especially fashion mistakes. I don't mean that I've ever shown up with clashing colors or last year's leopard print, heaven forbid, but I've learned the following:

If you only have one white top, the plane will hit turbulance the moment you sip coffee.
Or even worse, what happened to me in Los Angeles last spring. I arrived at the hotel early, went to get a coffee and sit in the courtyard. The person at Starbucks must have been new, or not liked the look of me. As I picked up the cup the lid came flying off and with it hot coffee all over me. I mean all over--white turtle neck, pants and, worst of all, my lovely red leather jacket. I grabbed napkins, rushed to the nearby fountain and started sponging the jacket furiously, all the time believing that it was either ruined or I was in for a very expensive cleaning. Miraculously the patient sponging worked and there are only a couple of specks still visible. But the turtle neck and the pants were useless for the rest of the weekend.
So
what I've learned is always take one spare neutral top and one spare pair of black pants because you never know.
Like the time I was on a mid day TV show. I finished my segment but I'm sitting on one of those high stools and I can't leave when the host announces that next we're having a cooking demonstration. The chef makes a very red pasta sauce, very oily, tomato type sauce. He pours it over spaghetti and then--he hands me some to eat. On camera. With my white shirt on.  Okay, so I've never been the best spaghetti eater and with the world watching me slurp it in while sauce drips down my front was not one of my favorite moments. So I've learned: PRACTICE PRETENDING TO EAT.
Also I've learned.
Never believe in weather forecasts. Last weekend I was in Portland. I checked the weather and it was predicting hot all weekend. It reached 90 the first day I was there. However, when I set out for the airport on Sunday it had dropped to the 50s and I froze.
Just because the outside air temperature is one hundred does not necessarily mean it won't be arctic in the hotel, and the air conditioner will invariably be directly over the place where I have to stand to give a speech.
So
Always take along a shawl, pashmina in the carry on for those freezing planes, a long sleeved shirt when you think you'll only need short and a sweater.

My big fear is that I'll wear the same outfit at the same store two years in a row. Fans always come up to me with pictures they've taken of us together on the last occasion. How mortifying when I look and see it's the same jacket! They must think I only have one. I should keep a fashion diary, but who has time?

So I hope I'm prepared--I'm going to be hot in Scottsdale and Houston, cold in Seattle and who knows in places like San Diego and LA? And I'll be going from air conditioned car to heat to air conditioned bookstore. So I've learned never wear fabric that turns into a limp rag with humidity. I'll try to post pictures along the way so you can see whether I've succeeded or not!

Do you have any fashion disasters you'd like to share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Royal Blood about to be Spilled!

Tomorrow, Tuesday 7th Sept, is launch day for my new Lady Georgiana book ROYAL BLOOD.
I'm kicking off with a bloody good launch party at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA.
Anyone within reach, please come and join in the festivities.
And if you're not in the area, please check out my schedule online and see when I'm coming to your town.

I had a fabulous weekend at the Festival of Wales, a great appetizer to the main course of my book tour, as it were. And now I'm trying to pack so that I have clothes for Scottsdale (hot), Houston (humid) and Seattle (maybe bloody freezing) I know I'll be inside most of the time but I do have to go between the car and bookstores many, many times.

When I find the time and energy I'm going to blog on previous book tour clothing disasters.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Into the Wide Blue Yonder

Tomorrow my crazy September really gets going.
I fly to Portland, OR, for two days at the Festival of Wales. (No, it's not, as one old man thought, about the ocean creatures, but the country, stuck to one side of England, where my mother's family came from) It is the North American celebration of all things Welsh. There will be fabulous male voice choirs and Welsh foods and stories about Welsh pioneers in America--and me. They are holding a meet and greet cocktail party for me tomorrow evening and then on Saturday I have to give a speech, followed by a book signing.  I'm looking forward to it at lot, although I know I'll have to answer the same question about five hundred times:
when is the next Constable Evans book coming out?

The problem is that it's not. At least not in the immediate future. I made the decision not to write any more books when the publisher took most of the series out of print. That would mean that a new reader would not be able to go back and read the rest of the series in order, and we all know how important that is. So no more Evan for now, although I am toying with a short story or two, just to see how Evan and Bronwen are doing. And if that TV series ever gets off the ground, then I'll write some more.

In the meantime my hands are full enough with Molly and Lady Georgie, and I'll be kicking off Royal Blood with a launch party next Tuesday, followed by a tour all over the place.
Wish me luck. And stop by to say hello if I come to your town.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Search of Bull's Blood!

I feel like NASA! Only seven days to go before Royal Blood is in stores and I set off on a book tour.
First stop the launch party at my own local and wonderful bookstore, BOOK PASSAGE is Corte Madera CA. If ever there was a perfect bookstore, this is it! Every book you'd ever want, events and classes going on all the time, a delightful courtyard to sit and read plus a geat little cafe so that you can sip a latte at the same time. It's reader heaven.

I always try to put on a big party there for my local friends and loyal supporters, and each time I try to do something different. This time, because the theme is Transylvania, Vampires I've decided to serve Bull's Blood wine from Hungary. Yes, I know Transylvania isn't in Hungary,but it WAS before the allies divided up that part of Europe after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Hapsburg Empire. And my story takes place not too long after the redefining of borders, so a lot of bad feelings and political intrigue (what else in a murder mystery!)
So the wine is pretty authentic.
Obviously for food it should be goulash or meat served flaming on a sword, but I'm honoring their light carpet and I'm sticking to salami, cheese and strawberries. Any other sugestions for red things, apart from licorice, which doesn't really do it for me?

So I'm off on a quest for Bull's Blood today! Wish me luck

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Juggling Two Series

People often ask me how hard it is to juggle two series. Do I get get them mixed up and have Lady Georgie say what Molly would have said? The answer usually is no. When I'm writing one,I'm completely involved in that world. I'm living with Molly and Sid and Gus and crossing those busy New York streets. When I'm with Georgie, I'm into drawing rooms and afternoon tea. Most of the time I don't find it too hard, either and I actually believe that writing two such different books one after the other helps to keep my writing fresh.

However, there are times when this breaks down, and one of those times is NOW. As you know, I'm preparing for the launch of Royal Blood next week. I'm thinking out what I'll say in my speeches, which excerpts of the book I might read, which funny anecdotes of the British upper classes I might tell. And at the same time, I'm working hard to finish the next Lady Georgie book to meet my end of September deadline.

So my head is completely with Georgie at the moment. Imagine then my frustration when the copy edits for Bless the Bride, the next Molly book, arrived on my front doorstep yesterday. Due back by Sept 13, which means they have to be done NOW. So this morning I attempted to switch gears and be with Molly. But it is proving really hard to swing myself out of Lady Georgie's elegant life and into New York's Chinatown. My editor has scribbled little notes in the margin like, "You had her use these words a couple of pages ago. Could she say something different this time?" 
And I'm staring at the page thinking desperately "what would Molly Murphy say in a place like this?"\

It is a similar feeling to getting on a plane in San Franciso and stepping off in Tokyo or Honolulu--that feeling of not quite sure where I am or what I'm supposed to be doing. So, dear readers, please be patient with my next book. If you read that Molly suddenly says "Oh gosh, what a frightfully droll thing to have happened," it's Georgie taking over my head again.

And if you're counting down: it is Ten Days to the launch of ROYAL BLOOD.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The TwentyFirst Century Writers Life

I'm a writer--and what I want to do is sit at my desk and write books. But I'm just back from vacation and the next two months have a schedule that would make the queen of England turn pale. Because these days writing is only half of an author's life. The other half involves selling the books.
Now you might naively think that selling the books is the job of the publisher and bookseller. Unfortunately it's also become a requirement of the author. When you have time check out my schedule at http://www.rhysbowen.com/ and click on Events. See what I mean?

I have two white boards next to my desk which started off as tools for me to jot down ideas and plot points as I wrote. They have been taken over as to-do lists. What I see before me at the moment is:
send out paper invitations to 50 people for launch party
send out email invites next week to about another hundred
make sure store has specially requested advance copies Royal Blood for event at Festival of Wales
coordinate with friend who want to fit in lunch at Festival of Wales in Portland
Coordinate with man who wants to fit in Welsh Society after event in Kansas City
Hair appointment before launch party.
Get handouts printed for fall events.
Arrange prizes for various events (vampire themed?)
2 guest blogs, 2 interviews, one radio as of now.
This doesn't include daily Facebook and Twitter stuff and regular fan letters.
And this is before I am on the road and doing pretty much an event a night for the month of September.

You might tell me that all this is my choice, and in a way that's true. There are some writers who never leave home, who hate to travel and hate meeting people. Some of them do pretty well. However when one is not Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich the object is to try and make some of those bestseller lists so that the publisher sits up and takes notice. And unless that publisher is prepared to spend a hundred thousand or so on publicity the only way to be noticed is by personal contact and word of mouth. Someone finds my book, reads it and recommends it to a friend. It's building readers one at a time and it takes a lot of effort.

However in today's brutal world of publishing writers whose readership is not constantly growing find themselves axed. Besides, I have to confess that the personal contact with readers is one of the things I have come to cherish. To be in a strange city and have someone come up to me with all my books and ask if I mind signing the whole lot--well, that is special. When someone tells me that my book just got them through a difficult time, it makes the getting up at 4 a.m. to catch the 6 a.m. flight worthwile.

Once September starts I'll try to blog daily about my travels and I look foward to meeting many of you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Home Again, Home Again..

I'm back home, sitting at my own computer. It's three in the morning and of course I can't sleep because in England it's already eleven. So I'm using the quiet to catch up with all those things that were waiting for me. Did I really promise to guest blog in so many places, to do so many interviews?
I had a magical weekend with old college friends, staying in a dorm at our old college. It was sad to see it in a way--the college itself is no more, victim of budget cuts within the university. I suppose it never made financial sense to have a facility for 300 female students and a faculty for them too. So the buildings are now a dorm for bigger King's College and the lovely eighteenth century old house is shut off because too much work needs to be done to it. The chapel lawn has been sold to a developer. But enough was still there to bring back memories--that's the mail box that we used to climb over the wall when we were out after curfew.
There was high table at one end of the refectory, and oh the agony of dining up there with the dons in full view of all the other students. When I was summoned it was always something hard to eat, like grapefruit in a high stemmed glass.
Of course we had a weekend of non-stop talking, laughing, eating--and quite a lot of champagne too. Most people were still so young at heart and interesting. One had raised money for a clinic for mothers and babies in Ethiopia by taking part in a sponsored bike ride across the mountains of Etheopia. She and her bike were by far the oldest but she managed the fifty miles each day. Another now runs an art center in France. Jane Finnis is a fellow mystery writer. Penny and husband are about to drive the old Monte Carlo rally route in a restored 1960 sports car. So although we're now about retirement age, nobody is playing bingo!
And the perfect ending to the weekend was a private docent tour of the Chelsea Physic Garden--a garden started in the 1600s to train apothacaries in the art of healing. There are plants to cure all kind of ills, both ancient and modern. And it is a little haven of peace in the midst of busy London.
So I come back torn in two, as it were. One part of me wanting to stay with my roots, enjoying the slow pace of the English countryside, sitting outside the pub on a warm evening, drinking Pimms, and the other part looking forward to picking up my life again, catching up with family and friends. Was is Proust who said "you can never go home again?" and I suppose that's right. Once you leave home, you never belong anywhere, one hundred percent. But one never considers that when one sets out looking for adventure as a twenty-four year old.
So it's back to writing and household chores and picking up granddaughters from school. And you know what? That part's not so bad either!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recharging the Well

I'm heading to London today for a really BIG event: a reunion with 25 college sisters, some of whom I haven't seen for over 40 years. We are celebrating the arrival of the day we met, long ago in the sixties. We have arraged to stay in our old college dorms, we're eating one night in a local chinese restaurant (because going out for chinese food was about the only thing we could afford those days\) and we have a caterer coming in for the big meal on Saturday night. I'm currently staying with my two best friends from college and we've had some fabulous build-up days together but this morning we ste off with anticipation of two days of fun, food, drink and much laughter.

I've been away for six weeks and I'm finally ready to go home. I have the last third of a book to finish and my batteries have been recharged so that I think I can breeze through it.. Sometimes it takes foreign experiences, new lifestyles to take me out of myself enough that things become clear and I'm ready to go on.

I have two weeks after I get home before the chaos starts for the launch of Royal Blood and I'm zooming all over the country again. I don't think I'll finish the book in that time but I'd like to get a big chunk done so that the end is in sight.

I'll be putting up my fall schedule on my website next week, so look for where I' m going to be speaking.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thoughts on Bathrooms

Im' back in UK now after two weeks in France and one deep thought has been going through my head all the time: how come Europeans just don't GET bathrooms?

I could understand if I stayed at a five centuries old inn that the plumbing might be a little eccentric. But new hotels are apparently built with baths and showers that take an engineering genius to turn on. And they provide tubs with a shower attachment but with no curtain. How are you supposed to wash your back and your hair without spraying all the walls?

And the size of the baths! Big, narrow deep with no room to turn around. It's like scaling Mt. Everest to get in--in fact I had to call down to the desk to ask for crampons at one place. And then to get out again when they are wet and slippery... well, my dears, if I hadn't been touring with John I would have had to stay there until I surprised the maid next morning.

Such big baths must cost a fortune in water heating to fill and are such a waste of water, but there are still precious few walk in showers. Of course the tub is great after a long day of climbing through Medieval hill towns, but not for washing hair.

And don't get me started on the subject of loos. Well, I have started on it now, haven't I? Who on earth might think that standing on two steps with a black hole between them, squatting down and hoping that one's aim is not too off, is as satisfactory a way of relieving onesself as sitting on a nice seat? And yet these black hole toilets are still all over the place in France, including a new loo on a beach.

Brought back memories of embarrassing childhood experiences.... including the time we were driving across France, stopped for lunch at a lovely old farmhouse. Food out of this world. Plumbing less so. I went to the outhouse--hole in the ground variety. Afterward I pulled on the chain and water started rising at my feet AND the door wouldn't open. As the water crept higher I had visions of being the first person to be drowned in a loo.

But I have to say that experiences like this are great to use in my Royal Spyness books--since Lady Georgie always seems to have embarrassing accidents happening to her, I can use all my former embarrassments. In one of the books I have someone almost kliled by a flying toilet tank , not that that's ever happened to me but there have been some wobbly ones. \Oh, and Lady Georgie would never say the word TOILET. Far too lower class. The correct word is LAVATORY, but loo will do perfectly well.

Back home next week where the plumbing works faultlessly.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summing up France

I'll be leaving France in two days and some observations on the French have been jotted down along the way:
1.They love to make rules and then totally ignore them. There are signs saying "It is absolutely forbidden to park here," and everyone does. We watched a car calmly pull into the "bus only" bay.
Near our hotel there is a walkway that has the sign, "Forbidden to pedestrians." So we walked around for a few days before we found that everyone else cuts through there.
However--on the buses and trams there is an honor system of validating the ticket and watched everyone do it. Maybe the fine is so heavy that it's not worth cheating

Observation 2: the French are prepared to spend a lot on food, especially when eating out. I just passed a restaurant with caviar potatoes at nearly two hundred euros. And restaurans have strange names: we seen onc called the "Why Not?" another "His master's Voice."  It's usual for people to have a starter, then a main course and often dessert and coffee. And to spend hours over them.

Observation 3: one very rarely sees sloppily dressed French women. They tap around on high heels with very short shorts or skirts and sexy little tops, even when they're out shopping.

Last observation: Nice is very nice! It's easy to get around. The sky is bluer than blue. It has the sea, the hills, the villas, the hotels--lots of parks and fountains and art work--take a look at the enormous sculpture on the corner where we stay. It's called Block Head! Lots of talented street performers. A lively exciting place.

And I've done all my research--this is the Negresco hotel--rather fancy, isn't it? I've found a villa for my bad guy to live in, visited police headquarters, looked at pictures from the 30s. So the book will be full of real and interesting things. And it will have a great title....wait and see