Friday, February 12, 2010

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!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

City of Dragons Tour - The Great Northwest!

So for the first leg of the tour, we flew to Seattle the morning after the M is for Mystery launch party, and relished being in my home state at Seattle's finest bookstore, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, with the wonderful and awesome Fran and JB! I met some folks, signed books, hung out with the gang, blogged, listened to the soundtrack for City of Dragons and had lunch with a friend in Seattle's oldest bar. Stayed at the Sleep Inn in SeaTac (and wished I actually could), but it was another early morning and a drive to Portland the next day.

Along the beautiful I-5, we stopped in Olympia to thank Linda Dewberry of Whodunit Books for nominating City of Dragons for the IndieNext list! We also enjoyed a great lunch next door at Olympia's finest sandwich shop.

And I've gotta say ... as a native Washingtonian, I'm very proud of my state's hospitality. All along I-5, you come upon rest stops with highway signs advertising "free coffee." Charities get donations of coffees, cookies (sometimes cupcakes and donuts) and offer them to travelers, who then donate cash. It's a wonderful system. :)

In Portland, we stayed at an Arts and Crafts guest house in the Hawthorne District, close to Murder by the Book. I love this store! Informative, friendly, wonderful, they--like Seattle Mystery Bookshop--are a must on any northwest tour.

Before the signing, we caught dinner at a cool restaurant called Belly Timber that also had the advantage of being directly across the street (and it was raining--hard!). Tried some lovely fried chickpeas as an appetizer, and now I'm addicted. Seriously, if you're ever there, try 'em--they're even better than popcorn!

Dear, dear friend and brilliant writer Bill Cameron joined us at dinner and showed us how to cross a rainy and dark Portland street like a native. We had a good turnout for the Murder by the Book event, including the wonderful Theresa Bergen, ITW member and writer, who wrote a great recap for Reading Local. I got the chance to pass around ephemera and answer a lot of interesting questions and do a little reading. And of course--had a lot of fun!!

The next morning, we left for Seattle, eating lunch at a seafood cafe along the way (halibut tacos--yum!). We made good time--stopping for our prerequisite I-5 coffee--and squeezed in fifteen minutes of childhood thrills before heading to the rent car center and airport. :)

I was born in Tacoma and lived there until I was seven, and have very fond memories of Brown and Haley--makers of the famous Almond Roca. And my mom used to take me to the factory outlet store ... which is still there!

The building is adorable, and we found out that it was originally built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, then transported to the factory when the fair ended. So my love of World's Fairs really did start early ... in person at Expo '67 and home in Tacoma with Brown and Haley!

The next leg of the tour takes me down to Los Angeles and points south ... to Mysteries to Die For, Book 'Em Mysteries, The Mystery Bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy and Poisoned Pen! I'll be blogging from the road. As always --- thanks for reading!

Monday, February 8, 2010

City of Dragons Launch!

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. And City of Dragons, Miranda and I are incredibly blessed and lucky to have the village--the family--that we do!!