Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Year of the Rat; or, The Best Laid Plans O' Mice and Men ...

Last week I mentioned that a book debut was a little like temporary insanity ... what I didn't know is that I was actually making a prophecy.

In short, dear readers, insanity in the form of the most improbable series of coincidences since the plot of Murder on the Orient Express struck my household on Sunday.

Now, I don't normally like to write about my life blah-blah-blah stuff. Writing in the Dark is, at its heart, supposed to be about noir with a dash of history and esoterica thrown in for good measure. However, the events of Sunday afternoon were so bizarre as to warrant their own blog post. After all, if not to chronicle life's strangeness -- and truth is, indeed, far weirder than fiction -- what else is a blog for?

Noir will return next week, when I resume my top ten countdown (with the truly strange and wonderful Nora Prentiss! Stay tuned!). For now, I'll share a little noirishness of my own ...

Sunday afternoon I was type-type-typing away, trying to finish a chapter of my work in progress ... when I hear some noises that alarmed me, opened the door of our very small, 1941-built San Francisco home, and found my loved one in a state of consternation. Make that great consternation.

First, a little architectural background. San Francisco houses of the district in which we live were usually built with the living space on an upper floor and a garage below. A substantial (for this city) backyard appends the rear. Our house is virtually unchanged from 1941 -- the garage is still a garage and storage area, not an extra living space. One day, when I'm not trying to launch a new career, we'll add an extra bedroom or library downstairs. For now, however, our living space is very small, very crowded (especially with a 70 pound Springer Spaniel) and (at this point in time) messy.

It's called "debut book syndrome," and it happens to the best of homes.

Anyway, we like things old-fashioned, and I am, after all, currently writing about 1940, so hey--our house is like built-in research.

Anyway, back to Sunday. The consternation was because:

A. Said Springer Spaniel evidently had a medical emergency ... in the nature of a urinary tract demonstration. This was brought to our attention by the fact that the living room futon was beyond salvation.

B. At exactly the same time as the dog was tracking pee in the hallway, the cat was hissing and howling outside the door that leads from the hallway downstairs to the garage. And said cat chased a large mouse or small rat under the door, into our house and into the bedroom.

Well, let's just say I didn't get that chapter finished on Sunday. We spent four or five hours trying to clear out the bedroom so that we could find the rat. In the meantime, we also had to make sure the dog was all right, take him out every fifteen minutes, and haul a very, very wet and heavy futon mattress downstairs.

We combed the bedroom looking for the rat, finding it at one point, but then poof! he seemed to disappear under the bed. Fearing the worst, we examined the box springs ... not there, thank God. But that meant ... no, it couldn't be ... one of the eight foot tall bookcases. Maybe he was behind it.

So we stripped that bookcase, dear readers, removing all the precious books until we ran out of room, boxes and bags. We carefully moved the bookcase, and ... no rat.

By then it was time to take a break, and we were faced with:

A. Having to stay in a motel for at least one night
B. Obviously missing work the next day
C. Dismantling 2 (two) more bookcases ... same size

We were in the Slough of Despond, the Pit of Despair, feeling like noir protagonists (you-know-what on page one).

And that, my friends, is when the clouds cleared, if only for a moment, when the magical sound of the Ice Cream man rolled down our street, signaling "Don't worry!"

There's something magical about the Ice Cream man, and no more so than when your dog has ruined your futon and there's a rat in your bedroom.

After a delicious Fudgsicle and Blue Bunny Chocolate Sundae Bar, we resumed our daunting and gargantuan task. We started to clear the room of everything, examining each bag and box to make sure there wasn't a rat in it before we moved it to another spot in the house.

And, lo! I peered into a bag of books, lifting it off the floor ... and I immediately dropped it again, because Mr. Rat was tucked next to a hardback of What Charles Dickens Ate and Jane Austen Wore or something similar.

I stood over that bag like my cat. Loved One cleared the path between the rat and freedom, flinging open the guilty door which led to the basement and the back yard.

Faster than you can say "Fudgsicle" I rolled up the top of that bag (thankfully, it was double-bagged), tucked it under my arm, and performed a 50 yard Rat Dash to the backyard, where Mr. Rat was able to scamper and hop through the grass and up and over the neighbor's fence, from which (we surmise) he had emerged earlier. The cat chased him again, but couldn't be bothered to go over the fence herself. There are limits to Sunday work for cats, or they contact the union.

The literary Rat thus lived to read someone else's library. I immediately fixed the doorway so that, should the universe ever attempt to repeat this insanity, the rat would be forced to make a U-turn.

We were able to stay home that night, though the next day was spent in trying to achieve equilibrium: finding clothes, locating books, rearranging furniture, buying another couch, and of course, getting antibiotics for the dog.

The moral, dear readers, is that something good actually came out of this rather tortuous adventure. We are now in the middle of a late Spring cleaning, foisted upon us by an uninvited guest, and have a great head start in a home improvement project ... despite the impending book launch.

And think about how amazingly lucky we were ... first, to have seen the rat getting chased, and thus be able to do something about it, and secondly, to have found it in a bag.

So here is my Year of the Rat challenge to you: what seemingly horrible event has resulted in something positive for you? When have your best laid plans gone awry, and yet you later discover that that was a good thing? And what has been your equivalent of "The Ice Cream Man" -- that one, shining moment that seems (in retrospect) to have turned everything around?

Share your stories ... it's the Year of the Rat!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Roz!

So here it is ... tomorrow will be a month before my book comes out. Book Debut, by the way, is a euphemism for insanity.

I plan to work my madness out publicly in various forums, so if you're the scientific observer type, just stay tuned. ;)

Before I launch into the actual theme of this week's post, let me interrupt for station identification and tell you about some floor wax (remember that stuff?) ... seriously, good news last week for me: Nox Dormienda is in this month's issue of Writer's Digest as a Notable Debut (pg. 23, so my mother tells me). Last week was also my birthday, and this was a wonderful present.

Also, I'll be announcing soon some guest-blogging spots I'll be doing leading up to the July 18th release. Come by and leave me messages so I don't feel like I'm talking to myself. Writers have too many voices in their heads as it is.

So today, let's talk about Rosalind Russell.


You heard right. Once in a while, I like to deviate from my normal noirishness to discuss different genres and performers from the classic Hollywood era. I dabble in Westerns, flirt with Dramas, dance with Comedy, and duet with Musicals. And Sunday, if you missed it, Patti Lupone won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Mama Rose in Gypsy.

Now, Gypsy happens to be my favorite American musical. Sure, I love Sweeney Todd, a noir if there ever was one, but Gypsy is on the noir end of things, too, and much easier on the viscera. Besides, Gypsy Rose Lee wrote The G-String Murders (some say it was ghost-written), which in turn was made into a film called Lady of Burlesque starring noir queen Barbara Stanwyck. So there you go -- not even six degrees of Double Indemnity.

So what does Rosalind Russell have to do with this? Well, for me, Roz was the ultimate Mama Rose. If you don't know the plot of Gypsy, it's simple: stage mother Rose Hovik mercilessly pushes child sensation Baby June toward stardom, sacrificing everything and everyone to success on a failing vaudeville circuit. Said Baby June (the real life June Havoc, best role Gentleman's Agreement) up and left Mama, and Mama coaxes her plainer sister Louise into taking it off at a strip club. Voila! Gypsy Rose Lee is born.

Of course, it's the music (Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim), dancing (Jerome Robbins) and book (Arthur Laurents) that make the musical. Plus, the acting chops of a good actress portraying a truly complex and challenging character. And it so happens that everyone who has played Mama Rose on Broadway has, indeed, won a Tony.

Ethel Merman (the orginator)? Check. Angela Lansbury? Check. Tyne Daly? Check. Bette Midler won an Emmy for her terrific interpretation (made for TV). Bernadette Peters? Check. And now, Patti.

Not to take anything away from Diva Lupone, but from what I've seen of her performance (and most of the other stage productions), I still prefer the woman who couldn't sing but was a hell of an actress: Rosalind Russell (in the film Gypsy, 1961).

(A digression: I saw Patti in a Sondheim produced production of Sweeney Todd in San Francisco (she played Mrs. Lovett), from the second row. The woman has amazing lung power. And George Hearn is not only brilliant, but a humble and wonderful man. Back to the blog.)

My problem with Patti is that she is charismatic but cold. And Rosalind Russell, in the first few seconds of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" can make me get teary-eyed.

So here's to Rosalind, born June 2, 1907, consummate actress and under appreciated talent. She won five Golden Globes (one for Gypsy) was nominated for an Oscar four times (and should have won) and is best-remembered today for embodying Auntie Mame, both in the film and on Broadway. But make no mistake: this lady played everything.

Hildy Johhson, His Girl Friday (1940), going toe-to-toe with Cary Grant in probably the best comedy ever made. The unglamorous nag Sylvia Fowler in the classic The Women (1939). Mourning Becomes Electra. Night Must Fall. Sister Kenny. Picnic. The Trouble with Angels. And, in one of her last roles, the sleuth Mrs. Pollifax. And countless other films, big and little, all of which were enlivened by her intelligence, her talent and her presence.

So if you get a chance, check out what a great actress can do without a great voice. You'll be left applauding Rose--and Ros--at the end of the film.

As Auntie Mame proclaimed, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" Rosalind Russell, in her charity work, her humanity, her legacy and her talent ... fed us all.

Happy Birthday, Ros.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Beauty of the BEAst, Part II

So after the events of Friday -- and those terrific Cosmos (in honor of the Sex and the City premiere) at the Edison -- I slept like a baby, and woke up on Saturday ready for more BEA and my signing.

And despite Culver Studios across the street, I didn't murmur "Rosebud."

We drove down Venice Boulevard -- I resolutely refuse to travel on gargantuan freeways if I can help it ... past the incredible Helms Bakery building, a landmark of LA Deco from 1931, complete with an amazingly beautiful roof-top neon sign ... past the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, with its time-worn, individual monuments. Among the notables interred here: Dooley Wilson, Anna May Wong, Hattie McDaniel, Jessie Benton Fremont, horror director Todd Browning, and Everett Sloane, who portrayed Mr. Bernstein in Citizen Kane.

"Rosebud," indeed. Yet another reason to slow down and actually experience the history of a city, especially one as richly fabled as Los Angeles.

We arrived at BEA, and I put a little time in behind the MWA booth, giving away copies of our short story anthology edited by Michael Connelly, The Blue Religion. Again, the booth was buzzing, due to Margery's brilliant set-up of the booth environment and a constant stream of great authors like Harry Hunsicker and Patricia Smiley. I happily reunited with friend and LCC panel mate Ken Kuhlken (The Vagabond Virgins), and before I knew it, it was time to go see James Rollins (The Judas Strain), who was signing at the autograph area.

James bestowed me with a fantastic blurb for Nox Dormienda-- in fact, he was my first blurb, ever, and let me tell you -- it's a frightening thing to ask authors whom you revere to read your book, just on the possibility that they may like it. It's a process that can be painful and terrifying.

For the record, I never met nor previously corresponded with any of the generous and wonderful authors who blurbed Nox Dormienda, so this was my first chance to thank Jim in person.

By the time I reached the autograph area, they'd already shut off the line, because Jim was to sign for half an hour only. Fortunately, the crowd moved fast enough to add a few more people. I was able to thank him and give him a hug (though not my mother's apple pie, unfortunately -- when she read the blurb, she wanted to bake him one). And I got a signed copy of The Last Oracle, which I can't wait to read! (Jim also wrote the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull!)

Next, we trekked over to the other hall, wandered around collecting more books and book bags, and visited good friend and author Laura Caldwell (The Good Liar), who was signing in the plush and comfortable Harlequin/Mira booth.

After chatting, I found myself surrounded by two half-naked -- make that more like 85% naked -- angels, characters from a video game/movie/book promo. This sort of thing is what happens at BEA, so I just went with it. After seizing the photo op, I handed the angels my requested business cards ... one went into a bejeweled bra, the other into a jockstrap. These, I believe, are the most exotic places any of my business cards have been ... so far!

Back to the MWA booth, passing a sign for Kirk Cameron (in one booth) and Alan Thicke (in another) and a long, long line at St. Martin's, where Alec Baldwin was sitting, signing marketing materials. Seriously -- no book, but he seemed to be taking time to really talk to people. Even from a distance, he was intense.

Then I had the good fortune to run into friend and Noir Czar Eddie Muller, which is always a special treat, because he's one of the busiest people I know.

When I got back "home" to the West Hall, Margery's husband Steve and Harry were discussing the prospect of getting Hugh Hefner's book. Steve managed to get a picture with the Hefmeister, despite the size and rabid temperament of Mr. Playboy's bodyguards. Pal Bill Cameron (Chasing Smoke) came by to check in with me, and soon it was time for my signing.

I was thrilled ... people actually wanted my book! The brilliant and delightful Penny Warner was sitting next to me, giving away copies of The Nancy Drew Handbook (an indispensable tome if ever there was one!), and we were both busy until we ran out. I only had thirty ARCS with me, so I distributed them very quickly, and was utterly delighted to meet some readers, bookstore owners and librarians.

In the meantime, I had realized that a tall, dark man had taken Ken's seat to my right. His back was to me, but then I realized that Andrew Peterson -- who the day before had signed and distributed over a hundred copies of his first thriller, First to Kill at the Dorchester booth -- was mouthing the words, "Lee Child." And so I turned, and realized that the tall, dark man was also handsome, urbane and witty, and of course was, indeed, best-selling author Lee Child (Nothing to Lose).

Lee is the ITW sponsor of the Debut Author Program, and will be introducing all of this year's debs (myself included) at the Debut Author Breakfast at Thrillerfest next month. So we chatted, and I had the opportunity of thanking him for his incredible support. As I told Lee, joining the program was the single most valuable thing I did as a first-time author ... it's been an amazing education, a wonderful network, and a treasure-trove of friendships.

Then Elizabeth Evans and Amy Burkhardt, two of the stellar agents with my stellar agency, Reece Halsey North, came by. Kimberley Cameron, my wonderful, wonderful agent, was at the Paris branch, so Elizabeth and Amy were down at BEA. I am so thankful to be represented by Reece Halsey North ... it really is "writer's heaven." :)

Eddie came by, and so did Denise Hamilton and Cara Black, whom I only had a chance to hug goodbye, because it was time for Saturday's main event: William Shatner.

We discovered he was scheduled the day before ... and fortunately, my significant other waited in line -- actually started the line -- at the St. Martin's booth, while I was signing. BEA Tip #274: bring family members with you.

Why was meeting Shatner so important to me? Am I a closet Trekkie? Do I own more than one Star Trek toy? OK, I'm a semi-trekkie, but only for the original show. And that wasn't the reason why William Shatner was on my must see list. I had to skip Leonard Nimoy because of the timing, and as much as I adore Nimoy, Shatner would always be my first choice. Why?

Public figures can become icons for a variety of reasons. But only a few become true symbols. I realized this after Princess Diana was killed. Her death felt like losing a family member, and I struggled to make sense of this to myself. I came to the conclusion that, to me and millions of women my age, just a bit younger than Diana, she was a symbol, a sort of ideal self, the ultimate woman of my generation.

We were mourning ourselves, as much as Diana.

With Shatner, I was facing the ultimate paternal figure. The strong, always positive, uber-leader James Tiberius Kirk. I greatly admire Shatner's work with animals, as well as his personal tenacity and humor and strength in adversity. In fact, those characteristics are what enables him to so easily reach that symbolic status. He's been kicked, he's been ridiculed, he's been adored and worshiped. Still, he perseveres, under his own terms. To paraphrase one of the quotes on his new autobiography, Up Till Now:"It's Bill Shatner's world. He just lets us live in it."

So when I say it was like meeting God, maybe you'll get what I mean.

The St. Martin's people passed out the books early, and gave away free audio books, too. Publishing professionals came by, murmuring about how they've always wanted to meet Shatner, can I get in, can so-and-so introduce me. And we stood and waited, while the line grew.

At least I had a chance to chat with Ivory Madison, CEO and Founder of the amazing writer's site Red Room, while we were waiting. Ivory has authored the definitive relaunch of DC's The Huntress, is supremely multi-talented and an absolutely wonderful person. Red Room is a joy to be a part of, a true community. And of course, she immediately understood why I was standing in line!

My feet were killing me, but before I quite realized it, there he was. A literal hush fell over the crowd, and all you could hear were the clicks and whirs of cell phones taking snapshots of Captain Kirk. Steve was standing in front of me, and shook Shatner's hand. We backed up, with me in front.

I'd decided that I had to give him something. I feel like he's given me a great deal. Courage. Tenacity. Entertainment. Positivism. Determination. Strength. So the only thing that seemed appropriate was to give him a copy of my book ... after all, that's why I was at BEA.

Shatner set the rules for the signing, since the St. Martin's people weren't exactly on top of things. One of the booth handlers brought over someone from the booth across the way, a rock musician I hadn't heard of, to have Shatner sign a book for him. You could feel the frenzy of the crowd behind us, eerily still and quiet.

The man himself exudes charisma and an ultimate alpha quality. Truly. It's quite intimidating, and almost frightening. Almost Old Testament, if you know what I mean.

Shatner asked me how long we'd been waiting. He was jovial and chatty, but wanted to have the signing proceed like a well-oiled machine ... like the Enterprise.

So then it was me. I could feel the weight of the 250+ crowd behind me, the swarm of people around us, not waiting in line, but trying to get pictures. When he saw I had two books in my hand, a St. Martin's marketing rep tried to tell me that Shatner was only signing copies of the autobiography, which I knew. I replied that what I was holding was my first book, a gift for Mr. Shatner. In all honesty, I don't remember what else I said. It was hard to get words out, rather like the first time I was in Europe and staring at St. Peter's Square.

Shatner said "Put it there," interrupting any objections from the booth man. So I put my book where he said to put it -- next to him, on his left -- and I thanked him, and he said, quite kindly, "You're welcome," and I tried to say something about how I felt and hoped I didn't sound like an idiot. I couldn't say much. I remember he asked my name, and at the end, when I left, he turned toward me and gave me that particular Shatner wink -- you've seen it a million times, he crinkles one side of his face.

I waited for my group, and none of us were exactly sure what had just happened. Our feet were killing us, we were hungry -- it was after 3:30, and we hadn't eaten lunch. So we walked back to the West Hall, managed to find a table in one of the dining areas, and ate and talked until we felt something resembling normalcy.

Back to the MWA table, to collect my books, say so long. By this time, I was wobbly. Really, really tired, not used to the heat in LA, not used to signing books, not used to meeting symbols. So I had to unfortunately miss out on a helicopter tour of LA I was going to take with Julie Compton (Tell No Lies), another friend from the ITW debut authors, courtesy of pilot and writer Andrew Peterson. But alas -- the spirit was willing, the post Shatner-signing flesh was weak.

After a small dinner at the excellent Italian bistro Novecento in Culver City, I watched a Val Lewton documentary on TCM ... and of course the films it discussed had mostly been made in the studio across the street.

The next day, we thought about going back. But you really can't, not after a Saturday like that. So we didn't rush, enjoyed a Sunday morning in Culver City and flew home to San Francisco later in the afternoon.

Did I really give a copy of Nox Dormienda to William Shatner? Yeah. I guess I did!

My first BEA ... and one to remember.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beauty of the BEAst, Part I

I'm back from BEA (BookExpo America), and -- while not yet fully recovered -- am at least ready to post about it.

I'm not sure that it's something from which one can recover. An event that large (even though the numbers were low this year), that chaotic, that carnival-like in its showmanship and chutzpah -- yet demonstrating a strange serendipity -- is actually quite an individualized experience. My BEA will be different from all other BEAs, if only because of the sheer number of choices available. Nimoy or Shatner was probably the toughest, but that was day two ... tomorrow's post.

So where to begin? Culver City, I suppose. I stayed at the Culver Hotel, once owned by John Wayne, who, legend has it, won it in a poker game from Charlie Chaplin. This pairing strikes me as highly unlikely ... rather like Michael Moore playing poker with Bill O'Reilly, but you know what they say -- that's Hollywood, or rather Culver City, the "Heart of Studio Land."

Three studios once populated the landscape, and Sony is still located in Culver. More significantly for me, the Hotel is immediately across the street from the old Ince/Selznick/RKO/Desilu studios, where films like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Rebecca, and Citizen Kane were filmed. They are now the Culver Studios, and are still busy.

If you've ever seen a Selznick movie, you'll remember the opening shot of a colonial mansion, sometimes confused with Tara, that prefaced all of his productions. I woke up to that mansion every day, looking down and to the west from my sixth floor room. That's a magic kind of film history, and the Culver Hotel is a gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful and wondrous place to stay, with an exceptional staff of welcoming and helpful people.

Plus, I really loved the old elevator ... an original from 1924, when the hotel opened.

Across the street is a newly-built Pacific Theater complex, designed to look Art Deco, and done so well that it fooled me from a distance. So at least somewhere there are architects and developers with souls, who remember what beautiful building design looks like.

Friday dawned early and orange in LA, and fellow debut author Andrew Peterson and I entered the huge complex together, first paying our respects outside to the enormous sign for James Patterson. Mr. Patterson was helping bring in the crowds, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in a slightly more cozy environment at Thrillerfest next month.

The Expo feels like a world's fair, an amusement park, a circus, a conference and a business meeting. And depending on what you were there for, it could be all of the above.

People in elephant costumes, people in pirate costumes, people in practically no costume or clothes at all. People with signs, people with free cookies, people with free lip gloss, all wanting your attention, all wanting to call your attention to something, usually a book.

And then there were the free books. Books in every subject, hardbacks, paperbacks, magazines. People passing them out, people piling them on garbage cans because they couldn't stuff them into one of the gazillion free book bags that were handed out along with the -- yes, I said it -- FREE BOOKS.

It was insanity. A woman walked around in zealot robes, carrying a sign that read "The Rapture is Coming ... and it's only 12.99." The flip side said, "It is Written ... but you can also get the audio rights."

That's BEA, Los Angeles-style.

I checked in at the MWA (Mystery Writers of America) booth, where I was volunteering and where I'd be signing on Saturday. The MWA relies on an organizational goddess based in New York named Margery Flax ... Margery had planned everything to the proverbial t and the booth was hopping with excitement. Brad Meltzer (a wonderful writer and guy) was dishing out books like hotcakes, and the joint was jumping!

I hung around for a bit, greeting colleagues, and then wandered off to meet Dionne Warwick, who was signing free copies of her new children's book Say a Little Prayer (complete with bonus CD). I grew up with Dionne, and have always appreciated the fact that she made San Jose a glamorous place when I lived there in elementary school.

Next was Diahann Carroll. OK, by now I was in pure fan mode ... I grew up with Julia, and absolutely adore this woman. She is as sweet, generous and open as she is gorgeous, and signed ARCS of her forthcoming autobiography, The Legs are the Last to Go. We even got a chance to chat about new author syndrome, and she wished me a heartfelt good luck on my book. Wow!

I checked back with MWA to remind myself that I was still an industry professional, and ran into the wonderful David Morrell (founder of ITW (International Thriller Writers), author of First Blood and countless other best-sellers) and his talented, terrific daughter Sarie. As an ITW member (and participant in the ITW Debut Authors Program), I had to thank David for the amazing friendships, opportunities, and education I've received. Soon, a group of us were talking in the giant lobby, and I had a chance to meet uber-talented writer Denise Hamilton (Los Angeles Noir) and walk back to MWA with her.

By this time I was getting kind of woozy, and it was still morning. I headed back to the autograph area [and I need to interrupt myself to explain that authors signed one of two ways: in a specific autograph area, where lines were roped off, and in exhibitor booths, where people could could a little closer].

Now, it so happens that my mother is from Harvey, Illinois. And she grew up in a working-class neighborhood with a little boy named Tommy Dreesen, who grew up to become the wonderful, talented and very funny comedian (and great golfer!) Tom Dreesen. Tom is one of the last links to the Rat Pack, having worked as Sinatra's opening act for the last fourteen years of The Voice's life. Before that, Tom worked for Sammy Davis, Jr. And before that, he and Tim Reid (Venus Fly Trap on WKRP in Cincinnati and acclaimed director) had toured as Americans first (and only) biracial comedy team.

Tom, Tim and Ron Rapoport (the Chicago Sports columnist) have co-authored a book about this experience, called Tim and Tom: An American Comedy in Black and White. The book debuts from the University of Chicago press in September, and is as much a thoughtful, poignant look at racism in America as it is autobiographical reminiscence.

Naturally, when my mom found out Tom was going to be at BEA, she asked me to go see him (they've stayed in touch periodically). So when I said, "I'm Patsy Geniusz' daughter!" Tom actually knew who I was, told Tim and Ron that he used to borrow Mom's papers occasionally, and was just an absolute sweetheart -- he's such a kind, generous man. I gave him a copy of my book, and he signed mine, "For Kelli, who is as beautiful as her mom." Something I'll treasure forever!!

By now, my head was spinning, so we tried to scare up some food, but the food court lines were gigantic. Fortunately, we met up with pal and amazing thriller writer Robert Gregory Browne (Kiss Her Goodbye), who helped us fight for chairs (chairs were in shorter supply than tables, and harder to come by than parking at a Toys R Us during Christmas). We managed to score some low-fat muffins and frappucino for our efforts, and were joined by another BFF, Bill Cameron (Lost Dog and the forthcoming Chasing Smoke). These are two of my favorite guys on the planet, and their company was much more refreshing than the Starbucks food.

We all wandered into the main exhibit area, where we split up, Rob and Bill to another publisher area, I to wait in line for Billie Jean King. Yeah, the lady I watched demolish Bobby Riggs in straight sets, who gave courage to every little girl I knew, was there signing copies of her ARC, Pressure is a Privilege. I got a chance to thank her and tell her she's a real Wonder Woman. Plus, she's got a great laugh!

After this, we squeezed into the end of the line for Barbara Walters who was a late addition, and signing free copies of her best-seller Audition. Got a chance to thank Barbara for her inspiration, too. She's quite beautiful in person, with amazing skin and bone structure, and a very gracious benevolence. Can't believe she's 78!

Once outside, I thought I heard a voice call my name, figured it was the angels, and it turned out I was right ... it was Cara Black, the supremely talented author of the Aime Leduc series, good friend, wonderful, wonderful person and fellow San Francisco resident. We caught up on some of the BEA craziness.

After this, I headed back to the hotel and collapsed, finally locating real food at the Culver, and then headed back to downtown LA and into the trendy and fun bar, The Edison. The place looks like a Buffy set ... I half-expected Angel to walk down the stairs. This was an MWA hosted bar, and I had a blast drinking Cosmos and chatting with Margery and husband Steve, friend and Lambda nominee Neil Plakcy (Mahu Surfer) and another great friend, Laura Caldwell (The Good Liar).

Back to the hotel, through the strange, apocalyptic streets of downtown Los Angeles. Back to the Culver, to the Selznick mansion, to the kindly and generous ghosts of the Culver Hotel.

Thus endeth Day I. Childhood icons, my mom's childhood chum. What a day! More tomorrow.