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.
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.
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.