An Epiphany of Noir

Today marks Epiphany, the day after Twelfth Night, and in the words of the immortal Bard, “If Twitter be the food of writing, tweet on!”

January dawns in 2011, and it truly is a brave new world of social networking. Just four years ago all this checking in and updating and status reporting was strange and new, as much a figment as Hamlet’s ghost (bear with me—I’m trying to keep up the Shakespeare references here). And now … well, the first app that I added to my new HTC Hero smart phone (and yes, I love it) was Tweetdeck. I sometimes wonder at the familiarity—nay, indispensability!—of the technology that was the stuff that dreams are made on such a short time ago (see—I told you I’d bring up Shakespeare again).

So—luckily for me, since I’m more comfortable in the past when teens actually sulked and talked to each other, rather than sulked and texted—every January brings a little bit of old to mix with the new … and the best kind of old, at that.

Noir! Noir City. At the Castro Theater, in glorious black and white (with an occasional technicolor thrown in). The line up this year is particularly grand, and deals with a theme near and dear to most writers … insanity. After all, if we don’t write about it, we often live it … hearing voices in our heads, getting up at odd hours to scribble notes about ice pick wounds (that’s coming up in CITY OF SECRETS) … trying to juggle all the tweets and updates while working on multiple storylines, mumbling to ourselves when we walk down the street … er, maybe I should stop now.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing The Two Mrs. Carrolls (fabulous Bogart/Stanwyck film) and Beware, My Lovely on the big screen—along with the sublime performance by the late Jean Simmons in Angel Face. I’m buying a passport—I’ve got my citizenship papers—and will cram as many late night noir fests into my schedule as possible.

It’ll be tough because THE CURSE-MAKER launches February 1st, and then it’s book tour time … but at least I’ll get my annual Noir inoculation first. Forget the flu shot—get a noir shot!

Meanwhile, I’m ringing in the New Year in San Diego tomorrow, signing ARCS of THE CURSE-MAKER and copies of CITY OF DRAGONS for the wonderful librarians at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference! I’ll also be part of a mystery writer contingent with some good friends at Mysterious Galaxy tomorrow night—come by if you’re in the area! Saturday morning I sign in the great cavern of the San Diego convention center, then 2 PM will be moderating a panel of very cool “Tough Guys”: T. Jefferson Parker, Ken Kuhlken, Timothy Hallinan, and Gary Philips. So much to look forward to!

In the meantime, I just want to thank you all for reading—my blog, my books, and the books of so many outstanding writers throughout the year of 2010. I’ve been very lucky with the response to CITY OF DRAGONS, and I’m blessed to be able to publish two novels this year. [That’s a sneak peek at CITY OF SECRETS, releasing in September]

May 2011 shower you with good fortune, a gentle spirit, kind thoughts—and crime fiction! 🙂

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City of Dragons Tour – on the way to LCC!

So last we met, I was in San Diego. Now I’m about to leave for Los Angeles and Left Coast Crime.

What happened??

Well, I’ve discovered a new law of physics. Time bends when you’re on the road, true … but when you get home–and try to continue a book tour from your own sweet domicile–time really messes with your head. It’s also more tiring by far … because you’re having to juggle your “normal” life (in my case, a day job, taking care of springer spaniel Bertie, buying toothpaste, etc.) with your “writer” life (driving all over to events and signing your book).

In short, everything snuck up on me, and I still haven’t really caught up from the long distance part of the CITY OF DRAGONS march. But I did download some wonderful photos of the desert, and will post them soon … I promise. In the meantime, here’s a recap, from the middle of February to now:

Mysterious Galaxy is a wonderful store–known as the Cheers of the mystery world and for good reason! I had a blast hanging out with Patrick and Michael, and was sorry to leave … but can’t wait to return. They’re the best!!!

The next day (February 13th) we made a beautiful and really incredible drive across I-8, skimming along the US/Mexico border through California and southern Arizona. The geographic landscape was jaw-dropping. Craggy, desert mountains with piles of giant reddish boulders that looked like some gargantuan god piled them up to skim along a now-dead lake … I yelped when I saw my first saguaro cactus, multiple arms stretching toward the sun. Ocotillo too, looking like desert-dancing seaweed against the dry, vulnerable earth. I fell in love with the desert on this ride, and can’t wait to go back.

We stopped for lunch in Yuma, easily imagining either Glenn Ford or Russell Crowe alongside the still prominent train that runs right through the town … but the only thing criminal we found was the sinfully delicious Mexican food at Tacos Mi Rancho. Truly–the best, the very best, Mexican food I’ve had anywhere–including Texas. Yuma, I take off my hat to you!

A bit later, we stopped at Dateland, Arizona, which is a wonderful little oasis that serves fresh date milkshakes and sells all kinds of dates. A grove–with grapefruit trees in front–looms in the distance over the diner and gift shop. It’s one of those old-fashioned tourist places that are sadly disappearing, getting swallowed up in homogenized conglomerates disguising themselves as mom and pops (Starbucks, anybody?). We loved it! (and the milkshake was delicious).

We turned north on a state highway, and finally made it into Scottsdale as the sun was setting. A beautiful place, and the land is so … delicate. And beautiful. And gentle, too, at least in winter.

Next morning, we had a great breakfast at a place called Butterfields, and then to a signing and Valentine’s Day party at the Poisoned Pen! I am a big, big fan of Barbara and Rob, and it was an honor to be there … and an honor for CITY OF DRAGONS to make four of their “pick” lists, including the Hardboiled Club. I loved meeting everyone, and had a grand time, followed by dinner at a fabulous pizza place just down the street.

The next morning we were off again, this time along I-10 to LA. Not as dramatically beautiful, but lovely nevertheless, and a mid-day stop in the fascinating little waterhole known as Quartzite, Arizona, is worthy of its own post. We also rested for a bit at the I-10 equivalent of Dateland, called the Chiriaco Summit–which houses not only a vintage-style diner, shop and tiny post office, but a George Patton museum.

We finally made it to Culver City, our home away from home, and stayed in the Clark Gable suite at the Culver Hotel, which was a real treat. Gable must have helped sprinkle sleep dust, because we woke relatively refreshed, and ready for an equally long drive back to San Francisco up 101.

Since arriving home, I’ve been on the road around the Bay Area, doing upwards of two signings a week, plus signing stock at Barnes and Noble … and the tour isn’t over. Tomorrow I fly to Left Coast Crime … which is where I came in. 🙂

I’m wrestling a cold right now, but plan to prop myself up on tea, Vitamin C and adrenalin, at least long enough to have a great time on a panel tomorrow afternoon and at a reading/signing at Book Soup tomorrow evening.

Thanks for reading — and hope to see you somewhere along the journey! 🙂

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City of Dragons – City of Angels Tour!

Today I’m blogging from San Diego, where I’m looking forward to a signing at the fabulous Mysterious Galaxy!

Time is whizzing by, calendar pages flipping in a black and white montage … it seems like just yesterday (well, OK, the day before the day before yesterday) that we drove to LA.

The drive down was beautiful (not many rain showers, despite prediction of thunder and hail), and we enjoyed a requisite stop for caffeine rejuvenation in Salinas for breakfast and spit pea soup rejuvenation at Andersen’s Pea Soup restaurant in Buellton, outside Solvang.

BTW–danish is Solvang is really Danish–and utterly delightful. One of the pleasures of driving down Highway 101, amid the stately mission bells along the old El Camino Real.

We stayed at the Culver Hotel–a queen among hostelries, and right next to the Culver Studios (formerly RKO, Selznick and part of MGM). Who wouldn’t want to stay in a beautifully refurbished historic hotel, with a great bar, food menu and the magic ambiance of former guests like Clark Gable and Judy Garland? (The Culver Studio’s main building is the columned mansion seen in the Selznick opening credits of Gone With the Wind).

On Wednesday, we drove to South Pasadena and Book ‘Em Mysteries, where we met Jean, the indefatigable and fabulous Chair of the upcoming Left Coast Crime conference, and signed copies of City of Dragons. Afterward a great visit and some good Mexican food across the street, it was onward to Pasadena and Vroman’s, where I got all goose-bumply seeing City on the IndieNext Wall and the New and Noteworthy front table!

Next, we drove to our “neighborhood” Barnes and Noble in Marina del Rey (close to Culver City) and signed stock. And from there, I enjoyed the rather surreal experience of seeing my book on the New Arrivals table at the gigantic theme-park like Barnes and Noble in The Grove, near the Farmer’s Market and the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. Posters advertising upcoming signings for Raquel Welch and Melissa Rivers, etc. were all over the place, and the whole thing was, well … very Hollywood … in a retail Disneyland sort of way. 😉

Thursday was wonderful–I had a signing at Mysteries to Die For, in lovely Thousand Oaks, and seeing Alan at this wonderful store is always a treat! Another treat was the tea room/cafe/chocolatier across the street–Chocolatine. Owned and operated by French chef Hugo, this was some of the best quiche — and best chocolate! — I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in Thousand Oaks, shop at Alan’s and try the chocolate! 🙂

Later in the evening, we capped off the LA tour with a heartwarming event at the marvelous Mystery Bookstore!! I love the staff–Linda, Bobby, Ingrid and Emily–and friends came out to officially welcome me to the City of Angels. Angels themselves (though of the crime fiction writing devilish kind), Brett Battles, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Eric Stone and Holly West reminded me why this is the best business to be in — it’s the company you keep! 🙂 Thanks, guys!!

This morning, we headed down to San Diego, stopping at a just reopened very swanky restaurant in Oceanside called The Flying Bridge. And when I say swanky, I mean swanky–the architecture looks like Frank, Dean and Sammy could’ve eaten lunch here on the way to the track at Del Mar.

The food was delicious, the service superb (ask for Summer–she’s a great waitress!) and all in all, I highly recommend it.

So that’s the LA rap-up–next blog will be our San Diego sojourn and next stop will be Scottsdale and the fabulous Poisoned Pen bookstore! Thanks for reading!

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