Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding!

I'm so proud of myself! I woke up at 6 a.m. on the East Coast (which is 3 a.m my time), just in time to tune in to the best part of the ceremony. And I thought it was perfect, didn't you? The dress was simple and elegant (in fact very like the dresses that my daughter's chose) and what struck me most was the rapport between Kate and Will. Those little snuck glances and grins--so endearing.

The other thing that struck me was how well the police managed the crowd. That many people surging forward could have been disastrous. But the police just calmly moved them forward until they were at the palace gates. And it all went smoothly with no security glitches. Pfew.

And what did you think of some of the hats? Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie? They looked like hats out of a period comedy. And I'm sorry, but yellow is not the queen's best color. Harry looked very glam. All in all very satisfying, except that there was no tea in my hotel bedroom. Sorry Hyatt, but some of us like to drink tea in the morning.

Now back to real life and a day ahead at Malice Domestic with friends, fellow mystery writers and fans for the next three days. I hope to see some of you there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Historic week ahead

This is one of those weeks we'll probably all remember where we were and what we were doing, in the same way that we remember Kennedy's Assassination if we're old enough, and certainly Princess Diana's wedding.

And I am not refering to Rhys Bowen's visit to Ann Arbor, Bethesda, Annapolis and Pittsburgh either, although I like to think they are momentous occasions. I am, of course, refering to the royal wedding.

 A lot of us will get up at an ungodly hour to watch Will and Kate's wedding live. On the West Coast it will mean rising at 1 a.m., or not going to bed the night before. Not sure how many devoted fans will do that. On the East Coast, where I will be that day, it will mean rising at 4 a.m.  Still ungodly. I may make it by six, and I'm sure the news channels will re-broadcast over and over.

Now that I learned that Tony Blair didn't receive an invitation, I don't feel so badly about not getting one. In fact when I watch such momentous occasions as this, my one thought is always.... what happens if anyone wants to go to the bathroom?  They always make you take your seats hours before the event, especially in these days of maximum security, and I'm sure it will be cold and drafty in the Abbey. It always is in English churches. So in a way I'm glad I'm not there, or one of those lining the royal route, because if I knew I had three or four hours of not being able to find a loo, I'd immediately want to go.

Sorry. I'm a practical kind of gal in some ways. But what about you? Do you wish you could be there?
And I look forward to seeing some of you at Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor on Wed, Malice Domestic on Friday and Saturday, Barnes and Noble Annapolis on Sunday and the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont on Monday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Empty Nesting

Celebrate with me, please. Yesterday I printed out my next Molly book, tentatively called Hush Now, Don't You Cry. Now it goes to several readers whose opinions I trust and value. When they've given me their imput, I do one giant rewrite and then off it goes to the publisher.

You'd think I'd heave a sigh of relief every time I get through a book, wouldn't you? In a way I do. But that usually comes around page 200 when I know that I can see the climax of the story and how it will end. Actually what I feel when I send a book off is the same feeling as when a child goes off to college. It has gone. Whatever happens to it now is out of my hands. And with this a profound feeling of emptiness. This book consumes my life for at least three months. I write daily. I wake and think about it in the middle of the night. And now, suddenly, I don't have to get up, go to the computer and write any more. So the question looms--what am I going to do with myself until I have to start another book? Clean house? Weed garden? Shop for new toothpaste? Strangely nothing seems to have appeal, and it's worrying because I am already of an age when my friends have retired or are thinking about retirement. I simply can't visualize not writing.
Friends shake their heads in astonishment and ask where I get my energy when I tell them I'm about to zoom off around the country again--to Ann Arbor, Bethesda, Annapolis and Pittsburgh next weekend. And it's true that these trips are tiring. But I love the interaction with fans. (and actually I secretly enjoy it when a limo is waiting for me, which happens sometimes).

So I guess the answer is that I'm going to keep on writing as long as I can sit at a computer. If I'm one of those lucky enough to still have contracts with major publishers, I'm going to make the most of it. Who needs retirement, anyway?

And a blessed Easter or Passover to you all!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Born too Soon

I've just done a blog on being born too late.
But recently it has also struck me that I was born too soon.
I am not by nature a creature of the 21st Century. I'll tell you when this really struck me. When I was staying at the Westin Bonaventure hotel in Los Angeles at the beginning of April. This is a really futuristic building with four round towers rising from a central atrium area. Towers are connected by walkways, fly-ways etc. It looks like something out of the Jetsons (and yes, I know this dates me horribly).
The problem was that I could never get the hang of this building. I'd emerge from the yellow tower and have no clue how to reach the part of the hotel where the convention was taking place. I'd cross walkways and then re-cross them because I couldn't figure out how to find the restaurant where I said I'd meet somebody.
And those little glass elevators whizzing up and down the outside of those towers. Not my favorite thing to do. All I could think of was what it would be like if an earthquake happened while I was in one of them.
Ditto for my room on the 21st floor. Would my bed going sailing out through that floor to ceiling glass window in an earthquake?

So I don't think I'd survive well in a city of the future. It's hard work for me even to keep up with technology. I've learned to handle my computer and the internet because my livelihood depends on it. But it doesn't come naturally. However it is in the genes of the current generation. I remember my three year old granddaughter Mary Clare being allowed to play a computer game in which she had to click on flowers or jewels or something harmless. We went away, came back to find her playing another, quite different game. Not only had she found this game, but she'd logged herself successfully into the site--at age 3.

I've tried these games and I'm hopeless. Even the harmless ones like steering msyelf through mazes raise my blood pressure alarmingly. When you add figures leaping out to shoot at me, then I'm a nervous wreck. So I have to confess that I'm old fashioned enough to prefer real things--scrabble and Jenga and charades and real people to laugh with.

My grandmother and great aunts used to shake their heads in dismay over the advent of television and air travel. I suppose their parents thought that the automobile would bring about the end of civilized life, and their parents the steam train. I guess I'm beginning to sound old.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Born Too Late

I was looking through a fashion magazine yesterday and it was full of advertisements for straightening your hair. This made me realize how unfair life is:

I have the world's straightest hair. All my childhood I longed for curls. in my teens I tried home perms--frizzy disasters. Now I have the money to go to a good hairdresser guess what? The styles are all straight.

This is true in other areas too. Now I can afford to go to good restaurants, I can't eat too much or food that is too rich. The all-you-can-eat buffet which seemed so wonderful when we were young and penniless now has no meaning. I'm actually just paying for a salad.

Now I have no responsibilities for children and pets and could stay out all night, I'm pooped by ten.

Now I can afford clothes, nobody designs clothes for anyone over the age of eighteen. Dresses are either up to my thighs or down to my ankles with no shaping. I have been looking for a good dress to wear out to dinner for ages. There are cocktail dresses and prom dresses but the smart function dress, well cut, good cloth, simply doesn't exist. Neither do the "little women" my mother used to go to who would run her up a stunning dress and charge almost nothing.

I used to envy those international jet setters who were whisked around the world in First Class ease. These days everyone has to endure the long lines at security, taking off shoes, jackets, scarves and being groped, even if they are traveling business or first. Not so much fun. And on the plane those lovely meals have been shrunk to a bag of chex mix.

Have you had similar experiences? Were you also born too late?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Prequel takes Kindle by Storm!

More good news! The Amersham Rubies, which is a prequel story to the Molly Murphy books, is now available for pre-order on Kindle. And the best news is that it's free, free, free.

What's more, it's currently #2 on Mystery and Thrillers free on Kindle and #5 on all the free stuff on Kindle. How cool is that? And it has a gorgeous cover, doesn't it?  My publisher conceived the whole thing and did the cover
, hoping, of course to bring more readers to Molly. We'll see if that works.

I should warn you that it's just a story, not a whole book, but it gives readers a glimpse of Molly's detective powers and life in Ireland before she gets to New York. So tell your friends and reserve your copy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yeah, New Cover is up.

I noticed today that my new cover for the next Lady Georgie book, Naughty in Nice, is now up on Amazon and the book is available for pre-order. I'll try and put a sample up on my website so that you can check it out, but I'll say in advance that it will be a lot of fun--Riviera, casinos, Coco Chanel, blue Med and smoulderingly handsome Frenchmen. What more could you want?

And what do you think of the cover?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reporting from RT Convention

Much better news to report this morning: Royal Blood won the RT Reviewer's Choice award for best historical mystery AND I was given a pioneer award for being one of the founders of the teen romance genre back in the eighties when I wrote as Janet Quin-Harkin.

So it was a special evening, and no more runaway scooters, falling chandeliers or anything dangerous, except for one elevator that remained with its door open and a cold wind howling out of it. Since I'm at a convenion full of vampires and other kinds of undead, I went to find another elevator bank. You can't be too careful, can you?

Last night was the faery ball--a Venetian masked ball, and the costumes were spectacular. Ordinary attendees had made Venetian ball gowns and wore elaborate masks. Some were interesting fairies with wings. Sorry I didn't bring a camera to share with you. Me--I just wore a sparkly dress and a blue feather mask. Tonight is the vampire ball. I may or may not attend...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Non-royal blood?

Things happen to me, especially at conventions. Especially in LA. Last year I was at Left Coast Crime and the Starbucks person didn't put the lid on my coffee properly resulting in a brown tsunami over my leather jacket and white turtleneck.

Today I'm at RT convention.... in LA again. Before my morning presentation Hollywood icon Bill Link lost control of his motorized scooter. It careened at me, trapping me between him and the table. Result was a cut arm that bled over my white linen pants. We tried getting out the blood with milk, which worked quite well, but I then had a round dubious-looking stain as I stepped up to the podium in front of 250 people.

I'm beginning to think I am doomed. No wonder I identify so strongly with my character, Lady Georgie. Accidents always happen to her when she wants to make a good impression. Wait a minute--perhaps the accidents that happen to her have already happened to me

At least I have a good supply of disasters for future Georgie books.
Keep your fingers crossed for this afternoon when I get an award for best historical mystery for Royal Blood that I don't trip, fall, stab myself or spill coffee.....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And How Real is Her Royal Spyness?

I had this question yesterday so I thought I ought to answer it before I am swallowed up in doing my tax, packing up and driving back to California, finishing my book and attending Romantic Times Convention tomorrow.

First I have to confess that if you check the royal family tree, Lady Georgie doesn't exist. I've never actually mentioned which of Queen Victoria's daughters was her grandmother, but one daughter did marry a Scottish nobleman (not called the Duke of Rannoch) so that much is accurate. I chose Rannoch for the family seat because it is so barren, bare and remote and I wanted her to have enough good reasons to flee from her Scottish castle.

But as to the royals around her--I have tried to make them as real as possible. If they say something it is either a real quote or a sentiment they have expressed. Queen Mary's intense dislike of Mrs. Simpson, her passion for antiques, Mrs. Simpson's mocking of the Duke and Duchess of York, the little princesses and their passion for horses... all true.  I read biographies, autobiographies of secretaries, nanny, etc and in some cases I've used actual phrases the person uttered. And I should also add that I have met several members of the royal family. I had tea with the queen when I was young and met the  queen mum on several occasions (delightful woman).

So the environment in which Georgie moves is colored by my own experiences. My husband's family (mother's side goes back to King Edward III, former owners of Sutton Place and several other stately homes) is littered with cousins with strange nicknames and stories about jokes played on the butler. All I have to do is visit and listen. 

The actual background of the times and political happenings is accurate too--(except for the vampire-ridden castle in Royal Blood. That was pure spoof). Struggles between communists and facsists taking place all over Europe and even in England. Bread lines at London stations. Thousands of men out of work. The Great Depression and yet those with money lived as if nothing had changed. A fascinating time to write about. I'm thinking of sending Georgie to America to meet Hollywood stars and Al Capone... what do you think?

Monday, April 4, 2011

How real is Molly--part deux.

Continuing my thoughts on Molly Murphy, my turn of the century heroine sleuth.
During the course of this series I have received non-fan letters telling me that what Molly does is just not possible for a woman of the time.

I'm told no woman could be a detective or undertake Molly's risky assignments when women were delicate creatures who fainted and stayed at home, taking care of children. I'm always delighted to disprove these statements. First--history is written by men. Women were never delicate creatures, except in the minds of their menfolk. Look at the women who walked behind wagons across the continent, often giving birth along the way. Nothing delicate there. And at that time women were mounting expeditions to the North Pole (Louise Boyd), riding across Arabia disguised as a man (Lady Hester Stanhope), discovering uranium (Marie Curie) and pretty much doing anything a man can do... only not always getting the credit for it.

But Molly is actually modeled on two women in particular:
Sabella Goodwin was a police matron when the NYPD started using her for undercover surveillance. She proved so good that she was promoted to full detective by 1910. One of two women to be police detectives when Molly was operating. She appears in my books and I have seen her uniform in the police museum.

The other model was Nellie Bly, the fearless female reporter who took incredible risks to expose corruption and injustice. She had herself locked in a mental asylum so that she could report on abuses there, arrested so that she could report on women's prisons. Her most famous achievement was going around the world in 72 days, thus shattering the record of the famous book. While reporting on an election in Mexico probed too deeply and she had to be whisked back to the states with a price on her head. In 1914 she was the only female reporter at the front in WW1.

So Molly is in good company. We'll have to see whether marriage actually cramps her style or not. I rather think not.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How Real is Molly Murphy?

My husband sent me some facts he had found on the internet about the year 1909, which is six years later than my latest Molly Murphy story. I was familiar with many  of the facts, including the price of groceries, wages etc.
I was all too aware that the automobile had been invented but there were only a couple of hundred miles of paved road in the US. But what shocked me was that there were 230 recorded murders in the whole of the United States that year.

230! Why, then Molly must be the busiest and most successful detective of her time because she solves several murders each year! I find the number hard to believe--are we including gunfights in Tombstone? Gang fights in the big cities? From what I've read it wasn't unusual to find a body in an alleyway or floating in a river in New York. But perhaps they didn't count.

And think of how many murders went undetected. All those patent medicines loaded with opium, heroin, mercury, arsenic...a few too many doses and it's death from natural causes.  But the number is still astounding, isn't it? There are that many deaths in Oakland, CA alone each year.

I remember as a child growing up in England that a murder anywhere made the headlines for weeks. Brutal Murder in Scotland. It was an anomaly, something that shook the fabric of a civilized society. Of course in UK nobody owned guns. The police didn't, and still don't carry guns. So murders were brutal--stranglings, stabbings, bashing over the head. But apparently not very often.

That's why our mystery books have to be taken with a grain of salt. There really aren't many murders in civilized society and most are horribly easy to solve. Man drinks too much, thinks woman has been cheating, strangles her in fit of rage. None of the clever motives or subtle clues that we put in our books. Nobody ever really puts a speckled band through the keyhole. That's why books are such fun!