We've wrapped up our tour of The Silence of Stones in rainy northern California. I started off on a Friday morning and headed out toward the Bay Area, just short of San Francisco, in Oakland and surrounds. It was to be a seven hour trip driving by my lonesome (husband Craig was off on his own adventure in Chicago and was going to meet me later in NorCal. More of that in a minute.)
The landscape of California is wide and varied. From beaches, to deserts, to wide open plains, to mountains and everything in between. Our rainy season--at least in southern California--is usually January and February, but with a drought, climate change, and El Nino, well, anything can happen. For the last two years we've had heatwaves in February and very little rain. That's the story down here in SoCal, anyway. NorCal is another deal. They get a bit more rain, particularly the coast and particularly in the Bay Area. I would be traveling mostly up Interstate 5 which took me through the Central Valley and farm country. Most notably where YOUR almonds are grown. Here they are in bloom. I can't rightly tell if the white on the ground is fertilizer or spent blossoms. It looks like snow but I can assure you it isn't. My trip up north came with temperatures of a solid 72 degrees F.
As you move north and leave urban areas behind, California breaks out into rolling hills. I'm used to seeing them after the rainy season has ended, when they dry out to a crisp golden toast, amber waves of grain. But right now, they are as green as Ireland. A huge change for me and quite welcomed. But you can see the result of the weather in the background. Some snowy hills. I got some sprinkles as I went until at one point the sky opened and I was deluged. Not used to driving in that!
But with showers comes flowers. Wild mustard, I think.
The next day I set out for Oakland along the long bridge across the bay. And it rained. And it rained.
I was off to meet my critique buddy, Ana Brazil, for a spot of lunch and thence on to the Sisters in Crime NorCal chapter (I'm a member of the LA chapter). Author friend Jan Burke was going to speak and it was serendipitous the meeting happened on the same day I was there for my own event AND it was just down the street. The back of me, listening rapt to Jan's discussion on the state of forensics in this country and myths about it. And then Craig texted me telling me his flight from his layover in Las Vegas from Chicago was cancelled. They'd be sending him instead directly to Oakland...and he arrived in time for the SinC meeting! Bone tired but I had my hubby again. His luggage, however, went on to San Francisco as originally planned. So we'd have to get to SFO after my event. Oy.
After a quick lunch we headed over to Laurel Book Store on foot in the driving rain. I am spoiled, people. SoCal, no rain. And when it does, it is over pretty quick. Which equals drought so there you are. That is the divine Luann Stauss, the owner and bookseller doing the introductions.
A few brave souls came despite the weather and they were treated to cheeses and mead and, of course, the free raffle to win a bottle of Craig's award-winning mead and a medieval mouse figurine. And so I talk...and talk...
When it was over and the books were signed, Luann tried on the helm. She only likes me for my toys.
After the event, we had to make our unscheduled stop to SFO to pick up Craig's bag. It was pouring. It was dark. The unfamiliar streets and highways were full of rush-hour traffic. Craig navigated while I white-knuckled it in the driver's seat. It took an hour to get to San Francisco International, we pulled up to the baggage claim curb, and I waited (illegally) until Craig's return, which I thought might take hours. Happily he got it immediately. So off we went, an hour or so back into the same conditions on our way to where we were staying, with my father-in-law in Redwood Shores.
My next event was the next day and not until the afternoon. This is my father-in-law's fabulous house along the canals in Redwood Shores. Nice, isn't it?
It's so relaxing there with the water and water birds; geese, swans, egrets, ducks, coots, and an assortment of others. He also has his own miniature version of the African Queen. (As he took us out for a putt-putt around the canals, I turned to him and said, "I understand that it's only when the hippos wiggle their ears that they become dangerous." You'll get that joke if you live in SoCal.)
Craig enjoys what little sunshine there was.
The lovely canals.
Craig and his dad. That's the guy who taught Craig all the clever things he knows.
Later that afternoon the weather held and we had a nice little turnout to the Belmont Library. What a generous group!
I stole this picture from Facebook fan Ed who was there!
The next day, Monday morning, we set out for home. It was still pouring on us and the temperature had decidedly dropped. We stopped in the little town of Gilroy--home of the famous garlic festival--for a very late breakfast.
We aimed toward Paso Robles, the biggest wine growing region in California, and stopped at a winery to taste...and buy.
And then hit the open road.
The oil fields of Bakersfield.
But it wasn't all rainbows on the way back though this is a stunning picture of how it looked. It was raining off and on, pretty hard in places. Coming out of Mojave one of those dashboard warning lights started to flash. Not a good sign. It was the electric throttle switch and the accelerator was having trouble. We were still an hour away from home and the owner's manual admonished us that this was serious and could fail at any time. 37 degrees outside, raining, and far from home, we did NOT want to get stuck. Craig nursed it back, his mind working on the problem the whole time. When I'm with him, I know it will be all right. He can do anything. He's the guy you want to be stuck on a desert island with. But you can't have him. He's mine.
Well, we made it home in one piece. He explained it thus: the cold damp air iced up the throttle and confused the computer and the air intake and the whatsit. But once we got home it was defrosted and the computer realized it was all jake again. Whew! A rainbow after all.
Slept in a little later Saturday morning but made it on time to "Mixing Media: Print Film, TV--Authors Who Write in Multiple Media Platforms" with a fantastic bunch starting with the fantastic moderator Ellen Byron, Ann Cleeves, Gregg Hurwitz, John Sheppird, and Thomas Perry. Each of them have been involved with the process of either turning their book into TV or features or writing screenplays. Ann Cleeves said something interesting about the power of readers when asked if she ever personally wanted to translate her Vera books into screenplay format. She much preferred to keep them separate animals because they were. "Reading is much more creative then we give it credit for," she said. Each reader creates the play in their minds and she didn't want to disrupt that. There's a huge difference between print and play, much must be changed.
Writing a novel might be a solitary art form, but as Greg Hurwitz put it, a "script is an invitation to collaborate." Not only with other screen writers, but with producer and director. It's about the practicalities of putting together the live action from the written word. And Thomas Perry elaborated on this point when he suggested that you "take notes from smart people." Those you work with in Hollywood will give you "notes," suggestions, and it's a good idea to listen since they understand how much it all costs and the practicality of what needs to happen. Though Hurwitz advises not to take the notes themselves literally but to "excavate beneath the tectonics" of what the director and producer are trying to tell you.
They also mentioned a newish marketing category; "New Adult," a slightly older version of "Young Adult." These are the Young Adults that have graduated upwardly to their first job, first house, first truly adult experiences and there are books marketing to this demographic.
Then it was back to my room for a spot of much-needed writing. However, what I thought would be a simple, quiet time turned into a Preston Sturges scene. First the maid showed up. That's fine. I've worked on writing while a maid did her job around me. But I also decided to call downstairs to the front desk since some of our TV channels kept on cutting out. So they sent a man up, the world's second oldest man. An asthmatic man at that, wheezing and coughing as he did this and that with the cable and whatnot. But it still wasn't working so he called for help. I expected some young guy to pop up here. But the worlds first oldest man showed up, and they were both hard of hearing so they couldn't hear what the other was saying. I was trying to write while the conversation was going on behind me: "So I changed the cable." "Might be a good idea to change the cable." "I think I should probably replace the card." "You know what you should try? Changing the card." And it when on like that. Meanwhile, because I propped the door open, the security guy stopped by to see that everything was okay. "Come on in, it's a party," I said. Finally it was all fixed and we received free breakfast passes for our inconvenience. So that worked out!
So, still trying to write I eventually emerged again--late--to the panel called "Sex.Sex, Sex--Discuss: How Much Sex in Mysteries is Too Much?" which, you can imagine was a pretty amusing panel, especially when panelists David Corbett, L.J. Sellers, Caroline Todd, and Simon Wood were asked by moderator Jess Lourey to read excerpts of bad sex writing. Some good advice if you choose to include sex scenes:
A good time was had by all. Too good. (Was it good for you?)
And then the interview with Toastmaster Catriona McPherson. A very funny Scottish lady with a work ethic like you wouldn't believe, and miles of awards.
After that we had a lull before the banquet where Craig and I had to arrive early to set up my hosted table.
My tablemates were good sports in wearing their crowns.
Everyone got a little castle filled with goodies, a crown, and a goblet.
We had a raffle to give away two books and an audiobook.
And there was much toasting, "huzzahing," and cheer. Thank you all for sitting with us.
So that concludes my Left Coast Crime attendance. We will be leaving early-ish tomorrow. And then back to the grind.
Day two for me and Long Suffering Husband Craig. First thing this morning was my panel "Plot Digging: The Challenge of Research" with moderator Leslie Blatt, Hilary Davidson, Alan Russell, and Marty Wingate.
The gang after the fact.
Always with the hand gestures.
Nothing better than getting to your signing table and people are waiting for you!
The strange institutional room stacking of the Hyatt. Mind you, the rooms and public spaces are very nice. Not so much the TV signal. Craig wanted to watch the curling and Adult Swim and it kept cutting out on us.
We took lunch at a very good micro brewery, Mother Bunch. Craig hit it off with the waiter who was also a homebrewer and he got himself a tour of the brewing facilities.
And then some significant pool-sitting time. For reading and napping. That pretty much killed the day until it was time to check out some of the hospitality events. We missed "Meet the Canuks" Canadian authors with booze and munchies in the atrium, but we caught the Chanticleer Book Reviews Saloon with their drinks and munchies. They had me at Chanticleer.
And because we liked Mother Bunch so much we returned for dinner, a bunch of shared plates--too much food, as it turned out. Bacon popcorn is a brilliant invention. And yes, Craig is toasted.
He had the rye I had the blond. Tomorrow are more panels and the banquet where I host a table. Our last day. See you then.
And here we are. It took five hours with a brick on the accelerator and tying the steering wheel down, but we traversed the deserts of California, crossed the mighty Colorado River, and traversed the Arizona deserts. Once you cross the Colorado, saguaro cacti spear upward from the desert floor. No, we don't have them in California. Even they can't cross the mighty Colorado.
Of course the first place we stop is a rest area.
Just don't wander too far.
We stopped at our favorite luncheon spot in Quartzsite, the Yacht Club for some burgers, sat outside, and enjoyed the warm February weather (the same weather we have back home, mind you) where I saw the world's saddest coconut...
So sad that that's not even a real plant inside it. Sad little coconut.
But we moved on from there, made it to Phoenix, dropped off my books in the bookroom, said hello to lots of random people (Terry Ambrose, Tammy Kahler, Kelli Stanley, Craig Faustus Buck, Diane Vallere, Terry Shames, Gregg Hurwitz, Hilary Davidson, Christa Faust...and many others!)
Craig is a hit everywhere he goes with this nametag I cobbled up for him:
We checked into our very nice room, threw open the curtains, and found ourselves with a Brooklyn-type view of a wall.
Undeterred, we got ourselves some drinks from our personal bar (always bring a set-up), then went down to see the interview of Gregg Hurwitz, talking about his many movie and TV projects. He's a busy fellow these days. He says his main focus is looking for motivation in characters, why they do the things they do. He seemed to have read a lot of Stephen King and Hardy Boys. Now there's an interesting mash-up.
We decided to skip the reception and head over to some restaurant destination. The Arrogant Butcher. Sounds like my speed. Tomorrow morning is my panel at 9:30, Digging Up the Past. Hope to see some of you there.
Had two locations that were a lot of fun. First up, was the Murder and Tea Book Club hosting an event at the kitschy Tam O'Shanter in Los Angeles. It's one of those Disneyesque fake Tudors that's supposed to be a Scottish Inn (actually Jacobean) with delightful little rooms with lots of cozy chairs and amusing items on the walls.
Books and bags were available for sale.
And the lovely group that was happy to talk murder as we consumed our prime rib and cocktails.
Next up was the San Diego independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy. Do give it a try when you are in the area. It's chock full of mystery, fantasy, and sci fi books.
I can't believe it's the EIGHTH Crispin Guest book! And we are having a helluva time.
Yesterday we started our tour in Huntington Beach at Mystery Ink. Do check it out for all your mystery and thriller needs.
Doing a bit of reading. And then raffling off Mouse and Mead.
We had a very good crowd.
And I was happily surprised by a fan's very special gift of "Crisbear Guest." It's quite simply AMAZING! So many thank yous, Rebekah! He's now my tour mascot. (Look at those details! Dagger! Pouch! Tiny painted buttons on his cotehardie!)
And then it was off to Vroman's in Pasadena. There I am, awaiting my "crew" to set up. (That's that lovely resting bitch face.)
The table laden with goodly fare.
My captive audience. (A fun photo op for my guests)
My son Graham mans the mead. How did I get such a handsome boychick?
I offered a powerpoint, did a reading, answered questions, raffled Mouse and Mead, sold and signed books.
We had an excellent turnout. Thanks to all who came out to support me! We also had fun at the dinner afterward.
Our view of the Pasadena City Hall from our hotel window.
The next day, it was on to Book Carnival in Orange.
Well, we certainly wouldn't have scheduled it this day if we'd known it was Super Bowl Sunday. Unfortunately, the turnout was small, but mighty.
I talked, I read, I raffled, I signed. Rinse and repeat.
Next weekend it's the Murder and Tea Book Club. More pictures to come!
I feel as if an era is passing away, receding into the shadows of time. It was on January 25, 1915, in fact, that the very first transcontinental telephone call from San Francisco to New York was conducted by American Telephone and Telegraph Company (now AT&T) before the opening of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and World's Fair in San Francisco. (Of course, the first transcontinental telephone LINE was first completed on June 27, 1914, and successfully first voice tested in July 1914.) Prior to that, the first commercial telephone exchange (a system where two or more phones can be connected within a small area) was opened at New Haven, Connecticut with 21 subscribers on January 28, 1878. By then, American homes began installing ONE telephone, though sometimes the only phone in rural locations was at the general store. The technology spread fast. It quickly became indispensable, like indoor plumbing.
Phones have come a long way from that time. Cell phones are more than phones. They are little computers in our hands, little televisions, little...well, everythings. And to our little home a landline seemed irrelevant, especially when all I received sometimes five, six times a day were robocalls. Still, there's something sentimental about those landlines. They were fixed, anchoring our homes to the rest of the world. Cell phones or mobile phones are by their very nature...mobile. There comes the idea of where do you now put them if they are to now be your "home phone". Maybe men have an easier time of it, simply putting it in your pocket. Women don't have that luxury (though you'd think fashion designers would get off the stick and realize we have to carry cell phones, too). I keep mine centrally located, charging in the hallway, and hope I remember to take it with me when I leave the house, always a problem as one gets older. And speaking of getting older, there was also the practical consideration of perhaps having to make a 911 call. Would it be close enough in an emergency? But are my landlines any closer?
The fact of the matter is, as we limp toward retirement, some sacrifices had to be made to save a little money. And those robocalls! I won't miss them.
No matter. The deed is done, but with it is just a little sadness. It's a different era. It's time to move on. Maybe we don't have flying cars but we have whole computers, vast technology in the palms of our hands. That's something, isn't it?
*By the way, those are my old phones I collected from around the house, a far cry from that one phone at the general store.