Last Tuesday, February 2nd, was one of the most amazing moments of my life.
City of Dragons launched, released into bookstores and libraries and readers’ hands … despite the fact that at the time, it was blacklisted from Amazon, along with all other Macmillan titles.
But it didn’t matter.
All the hopes, all the dreams, all the wishing and wanting and waiting. It coalesced into magic at my favorite bookstore, M is for Mystery. So what are the ingredients for a once-in-a-lifetime moment that makes you incredibly touched and proud and feel like George Bailey at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life? Well, Chinese food of all kinds … bourbon and sake and drinks served by two of the most talented bartenders in the world — Edgar nominee Sophie Littlefield and Julie Goodson-Lawes … goodie packs in Chinese New Year envelopes, complete with packs of candy cigarettes and party poppers … Doll, the official mascot of Noir City, dressed in a fedora … champagne toast … and even a surprise birthday cake for Miranda. And, of course, the most important ingredient: friends, starting with the amazing M is for Mystery staff: Pam, Jen, Anne, Charlotte, and of course Ed Kaufman. I was truly, truly humbled, and the warmth and love and memory of this special launch into the major leagues will always be a highlight of my life. 🙂
Books are like children … it takes a village to raise them. AndCity of Dragons, Miranda and I are incredibly blessed and lucky to have the village–the family–that we do!!
One of my autumn resolutions (always a good time for resolutions–forget January) is to blog each and every week. Probably on a Sunday or Monday … and I intend to keep said resolution, even if the road to Washington, D.C. is paved with them …
So what have I been doing? What does that title mean? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?
Just a little over a week ago, I headed north to the great state of Washington (I can say that with sincerity–I was born there, in Tacoma, the “City of Destiny.” And yes, that is what Tacoma is known as, so there.) That’s Mt. Ranier in the photo, by the way.
Had the great good fortune and wonderful time of signing books at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, the premiere place for crime fiction in the state, and one of the top mystery stores in the U.S. J.B, Gretchen and Fran make three hours seem like three minutes — awesomely fun people!! We laughed, talked about theme songs, and listened to J.B.’s terrific “Spy Mix” of movie and television themes. Where else can you rock out to Thunderball or Mission Impossible while you’re signing books? I saw an old friend from comic book store days (Adam Barnes, ultra-cool guy and publisher of Perilous Press) and met a new friend, Christina Arbini, a romance writer who is set to rock the world with her amazing books.
In other words, I had an incredible afternoon, and can’t wait to get back. And then, this Friday, The Seattle Times posted the best-selling mystery lists from SMBS, and … I was on it! Five Star is a small press, and not known for its ease in bookstore ordering (euphemistically speaking) … so to be on the list (#5) was a complete surprise and a total highpoint! Topping off the good news, today the monthly list for August was released, and NOX DORMIENDA was #7 for the month, tied with James Lee Burke’s (!) SWAN PEAK. Holy Moley! And my home state, too! Thanks, guys!! Seattle Mystery Bookshop is the best!!
So back to the tour … I took Amtrak from Seattle (“The Emerald City”) to Portland, to sign at the wonderful Murder by the Book. This is one of the nicest bookstores you’ll ever step inside … Jean, Carolyn, Barb, Nick and Ted are so helpful and so knowledgeable, I defy anyone to leave without buying something. I am so thankful to have done a signing, and like Seattle, can’t wait to go back! To make selections easy, the store is organized by type of detective … unique and creative! I had a delightful afternoon, talking to a high school classmate (Hi, Tiffany!), a friend of a friend, and hanging around with the reason why Portland should be your number one destination in the Northwest: Bill Cameron. Bill’s my special buddy, and took us on a LOST DOG tour of the city. So I finally got to see the places that creeped me out in his kick-butt book. And snag a bite in the cool Hawthorne District, where the store is located. And take a train out of the oldest continuously operated station in the country, beautifully restored. Sigh. Portland was wonderful! (As you can see in the photo, LOST DOG and NOX DORMIENDA are blessed with supernatural energy).
I didn’t have too much time to miss the NW, though. Two days after returning, I had a library panel with fellow authors Dana Fredsti, David Fitzgerald, Peter Gessner and Rebecca Dixon. We had a grand old time — pure fun! — and so well-moderated by Dave that some sort of moderator award needs to be established in his honor. One of the best panels, ever.
And that brings me to my current schedule. I’m heading to LA and San Diego for signings this weekend, to Thousand Oaks and Mysteries to Die For, and The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles. Then the downtown San Diego Borders on Sunday to wrap things up. So what about the picks I referred to in my blog title?
Well, M is for Mystery — where I held my first reading on August 2nd — has selected me as their “Mystorical” pick for August. I’m in august (OK, I like puns) company … Denise Hamilton and Salman Rushdie are earlier choices. The Mystery Bookstore has also chosen NOX DORMIENDA as their “September Discovery Club Selection” — another honor! And Mysteries to Die For describes my book this way: “Kelli Stanley has created an exciting new genre of mystery here, Roman noir. Fast-paced plotting, first person narrative, staccato and hard-boiled prose are utilized to full effect. This series debut is one that will be talked about all year.”
I’ve been feeling much more cozy than noir lately, more like Gidget than Gloria. And I can’t wait to get to LA and San Diego and thank these amazing, supportive and wonderful bookstores in person! OK, so now we come to the Pre-Code Delight: Man’s Castle, a 1933 Frank Borzage film with Spencer Tracy and a 20 year-old Loretta Young. I caught it on TCM the other night, and it was fantastic.
Spencer and Loretta live in a shanty town in Central Park, along with the other discarded people of the Great Depression. Spencer takes odd jobs and keeps them in stew; Loretta plays wife. Though, because this is pre-code, they’re not married. In fact, the first night they meet, they go skinny-dipping, and they sleep in the same bed.
Yeah, people actually had sex before 1934 and the Hays Code tried to make it illegal.
Anyway, Spence is a man who doesn’t want commitments. He doesn’t want to be tied down. Loretta is in love with him, and persuades him to buy a stove for their Love Shack on the installment plan ($2 down, $1 a month!). He dallies with gap-toothed Glenda Farrell (filmland’s Torchy Blaine). But he buys the stove.
And then … she tells him she’s pregnant. Yup, they had unmarried sex. Twenty years later they would die for it. But pre-code, no worries. They are “married” by an ex-preacher, also from Hooverville. She even mentions something about getting rid of the baby if it would make him happy … and doesn’t use the word adopt. But Spence decides to run out on her, first throwing in with a real villain (a rapist type with designs on Loretta) to rob a toy shop safe, so she’ll be provided for.
I won’t tell you what happens, but I will tell you this: the characters have a happy ending (as happy as you could have, if you were impoverished in 1933).
You’ll have fun counting the “sins” in this film, all of which would be punishable by death or imprisonment, film-wise, the following year. The direction is romantic and lush, as is typical with Borzage; Tracy’s acting is breathtakingly natural, and Loretta Young is just breathtaking (and also turns in a great performance). Films like this make you wonder … how did the Code change American culture? How did it affect generations of film-goers? Can we blame the code for reality tv?
More next week, after my LA tour … home sweet home will be the Culver Hotel, next to the old Ince/MGM/RKO studios. Ah, Hollywood! 🙂
Ever notice how time is relative? I don’t mean Einstein relativity, or Stephen Hawking’s musings on the universe. I mean how it is subjective and personal and relative to you and what you’re doing.
I took a look at the date of my last posting, and had one of those animated eyes-bulging, double-take moments. It’s been two weeks … TWO WEEKS!
On one hand, it seems longer than two weeks, because so much has happened. On the other hand, tempus fugit, and flew fast. See … that’s what I mean. Relative and subjective.
Now, before describing why and how I’ve been Time’s fool (to quote Willie S.), I am hereby undertaking an official pledge to keep up with my own blog every week. Here’s hoping the old man with the sickle won’t be chasing after me, horror-movie style. 🙂 So what has caused my chronological conundrum? Well, on August 1st, we celebrated a launch party. And quite a fete it was … Bourbon and Branch, the famed and fabulous speakeasy in San Francisco, provided the setting and the most delicious cocktails this side of Harry’s Bar in Venice, circa 1932. And yes, even absinthe was served!
On the menu were two delicious drinks, invented for the event: the Roman Noir (an amarna/mint/honey confection, dark, slightly bitter and delicious), and the Nox Dormienda (dreamy, white, frothy, with citrus and elderflower and an orchid on top). The setting was the library, complete with secret door and amazing ambiance. And I’m proud to say that Bourbon and Branch just won the Best of the Bay award from the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Diane Kudisch of the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore was my indefatigable and wonderful bookseller … another Best of the Bay award-winner! So we all had reason to celebrate, and celebrate we did.
But the most important ingredient of all — that which makes a party a wonderful, memorable time — the people. I really can’t tell you how good it felt to be surrounded by so many friends and colleagues from all the strands of my life … the writing community to comic store buddies to SF State. And I had the chance to meet new friends, because guests brought other guests!
Local writer-friends from MWA and SinC and ITW and out-of-town friends participating in the RWA conference … my agent, friends from Red Room (the best space for writers!) … I could fill up this blog with a list of my wonderful, generous and beautiful guests. Which included, by the way, a contingent of talented Romans dressed in costume, from the Legio X Fretensis. My beautiful, funny, smart and unique mother was there, of course, and she brought her friends, one of whom drove 250 miles from Fortuna to come. The joint was jumping. I’m posting a few pictures here … these and many more will soon be up on a new page of my website, a kind of photo scrap book of past events. Hey, with my small house, I need to electronically store my memories! 🙂
I really felt like George Bailey (at the end, not the beginning). 🙂 I just wish I’d had more time to talk to everyone for longer. And I’m immeasurably grateful to everyone for coming to the party! I’m writing an article about it … it was such a special event for me — a career launch as as well as a book launch — that I need to give it some more thought and time. More details when done.
The next day was my first book store signing/reading at the terrific M is for Mystery, which was absolutely wonderful. People actually came! I’ve heard all the stories from the road, and I’m fully expecting to encounter an audience of none for some upcoming event, but I was elated to meet some interesting and terrific readers my first time around. And I picked up a Certificate of Honor from the City and County of San Francisco, signed by our mayor, in recognition of Roman Noir. So my new genre has been officially recognized by my beloved, shimmering jewel of a city. 🙂 Sunday, a week ago today, I spent the morning with dear friend Jordan Dane, who’d flown out for RWA (and had come to the party). Then I came home and collapsed, exhausted but happy. The last week has been a return to normalcy, of a kind. Day job. Box dinners. Trying to catch up with all the myriad book stuff I’m behind in, now that Nox is officially and truly out in the world. I’m still behind, but am diligently trying. And writing my WIP.
Thursday night I also had the great fun of guesting on a library panel in Morgan Hill with Terri Thayer and Penny Warner, and getting to see Becky LeVine and Beth Proudfoot again (we’d met at my first-ever conference — No Crime Unpublished — last June).
Yesterday was a MWA NorCal meeting at John’s Grill, where we were able to hear scintillating stories from legendary female private investigator Sandra Sutherland.
And that brings me to today. Still with too much to do and not enough time to do it in, but I’m adjusting to the new normal, and hoping that Time will be kind. And not in such a damn hurry! Next week: A small and long overdue post on Nora Prentiss. I’ll be in Seattle for a signing at the fabulous Seattle Mystery Bookshop on the August 22nd, too.
Party photos: Bourbon and Branch library, around the bar, Romans!, the uber-talented and wonderful Jordan Dane and sensational Simon Wood, two of the most talented and beautiful and nicest women in the biz, Michelle Gagnon and Heather Graham, and the Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, looking like a million bucks in white (not black). 🙂
I’ve got fond memories of Casey Kasem. (And no, your eyes don’t deceive you–that’s not a picture of Casey.)
Gilda is my favorite film noir, so for book-launch good luck I’m adding photos of Rita as Gilda. Gotta sneak a little film noir in, and it did get your attention … 😉 And thank you, Rita. You can still make an audience hold its breath.
Those Casey memories were not only with the Top 40 Countdown, of course, but as the voice of Shaggy Rogers (yes, Shaggy had a last name … I’m not sure if “Doo” is Scooby’s last name or not) and Robin in various incarnations, most notably the Super Friends. God, those toys were cool. That Super Friends’ Hall of Justice … the only thing I didn’t like about the SFs were those annoying twins. Worse than Snapper Carr in the Silver Age Justice League. Jimmy Olsen clones just never cut it for me … though I will now officially confess a fondness for the old red-headed photographer himself. Shhh … don’t spread it around, it ruins the noir cred.
Speaking of noir, I’ve got a long-delayed blog on a film noir coming up after August 1st, when things get back to the new normal. Right now, I’m all-consumed with the launch of my book, and just didn’t want to write about a man who frames himself for his own murder. Call me superstitious.
Anyway, I’m thinking of Casey because I’ve been running through my own series of countdowns. Last Friday, the 18th, my book was officially released into the world, alive and kicking. More stock is coming into Amazon by August 31st, and I’m grateful to them for posting a notice to that effect. Barnes and Noble had it in stock for a couple of days last week, and have run out already.
This bodes well for demand, but I very much wish the supply chain was easier … distribution can be a challenge for a small press. I am eternally grateful to those readers who have already ordered it from various sources, and those who are waiting patiently. In all sincerity, I can’t thank you enough. It’s a scary world out there when you’re a debut author … and my biggest goal is to simply be read (and hopefully liked, of course). 🙂 So back to the countdown … this week, I’m counting down to my official launch date, August 1st. This is the date of my launch party, hosted by the phenomenal San Francisco speakeasy Bourbon and Branch. Think a gorgeous ’20s bar, custom cocktails (the Nox Dormienda and the Roman Noir), Roman soldiers in costume, prizes and a lot of fun. The San Francisco Mystery Bookstore very kindly agreed to be my bookseller for the event. My goal is really to send Nox off to boarding school with the best karma possible, and I’m lucky to have so many friends in town for the RWA conference and attending the party. My other goal is to try to avoid incriminating photos.
And Saturday, August 2nd, the party continues at M is for Mystery in San Mateo, California … at my first reading/signing/Q&A.
Fortunately, many of my friends have been through this already, so I learned a few tips:
Check your teeth for spinach. Make sure your fly is zipped. Bring kleenix. Musical instruments help (I’m bringing my harmonica).
Yeah, I’m nervous … what if no one shows up? I can talk to myself (hey, I’m a Gemini!) but I run out of questions pretty quickly. So if you’re around at 2 PM, stop in and say hello!
August is going to be busy … I’ve got a number of events and a signing tour jog up to my home state, Washington, at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop and in Portland at Murder by the Book. Plus, I’m finishing up a new novel. But as soon as I can peel myself off the ceiling, where I’ve been floating, I’ll be back on the noir track.
And in the meantime, watch Gilda. It’s as good as you remember.
You remember that hourglass in the Wizard of Oz, with Margaret Hamilton in green, cackling behind it?
Well, I’m watching it trickle away madly, to two dates of major importance, at least to me: July 18th, my official debut date, and August 1st, the day of my launch party at Bourbon and Branch, the famed and fabulous San Francisco speakeasy. It’ll be continued the next day–all good parties always run over–at M is for Mystery in San Mateo, CA.
And before these two events, I’ve got Thrillerfest in just a few days … my first conference in the Big Apple! I’m on a panel on Saturday, July 12 (Real or Imagined: Historical Thrillers), and am one of the ITW Debut Authors this year — things will be very busy, but it shouldn’t be any other way in NYC.
All this is one way of saying that my life is now in overdrive, and I haven’t been able to write a proper blog. So here are a couple of links to other places where I’ve been talking lately: