Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Literary Tourists

I made my first solo trip to London when I was 21 years old. As a life-long student of history, I was naturally excited to explore as an adult everything from the Tower to Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court. But I also came to London as an enthusiastic devote of Georgette Heyer. When I walked down St. James's Street or sat on a bench in Hyde Park, part of the thrill I experienced undeniably came from my awareness of the historical associations of those place. But it was a history filtered through the talented imagination of one of my favorite authors. I was there as a literary tourist.

There have long been Dickensonian (Dickensian?) tours of London; now there are De Vinci Code tours of Paris. I recall searching out the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby in Edinburgh, thanks to a Disney movie I'd loved as a child. When I went back to the Alhambra, I could hear the echoes of my father's rich baritone telling me one of his favorite bedtime stories, about how when Granada's last Moorish ruler paused and wept as he looked back on the beautiful city he'd loved and lost, his mother admonished him, "Don't cry like a woman for what you failed to defend as a man."

So it was in this tradition that Steve and I spent last week in New Iberia, Louisiana. Yes, we were there because New Iberia is in the heart of Cajun country and because it is the site of Shadows on the Teche, a lovely plantation. But we were mainly there because as anyone who reads James Lee Burke knows, New Iberia is the literary home of Dave Robicheaux. We had a great time, and once I get my photos organized--and get though all the radio interviews I have lined up this week--I'd like to do several posts on it. But in the meantime, the photo above is of the Bayou Teche, while here is Victor's Cafeteria, where Dave always eats breakfast...so of course we did, too.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

With a Little Help From Our Friends...

Whiskies helping Samantha and me put up her tree...

And Sodapop, my sister's new rescue donkey...

Who knew there's an entire society dedicated to rescuing donkeys and mules?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Precious?


There's a meme that has been floating around for a long time involving a list of 100 books. The list is supposed to have been compiled by the BBC, although according to this article in The Guardian, the list was actually compiled for World Book Day from respondents who were asked to name their ten most "precious" books. But why let a little something like facts get in the way of some fun?

The idea is to bold the books on the list you've read and italicize those you started reading and never finished. Because of the way it was compiled, it's a weird list, containing both The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Hamlet, for instance. Now, I'm a huge fan of Shakespeare, but I can't claim to have read every single one of his plays (I have read all of his poetry). I also find the list heavy on Jane Austen and oddly lacking in other time-tested authors such as, say, Robert Louis Stevenson or Homer. But I'm digressing again.

In looking over my list, I realize the exercise reveals several things about me. First, I'm good at starting books but not so great at finishing them. In fact, I'm so famous for giving up on books that my writers group has given my name to the act of abandoning a book unfinished: they call it "proctorizing." I also realize I used to be better about finishing books than I am now. I still remember plowing through the 1600 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo as a senior in high school (for fun, not for class). I doubt I'd make it these days.

Would I call any of these books "precious"? Well, maybe the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Very few of the works of this list would make it on to my list of the 100 Best Books of All Times, or even a list of The 100 Books I Liked Best (I recognize that some of my best-loved books are not great literature.)

Anyway, without any more analyzing, here's my list:

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Booksignings and Interviews Coming to Someplace Maybe Near You

Things are gearing up for the release of The Babylonian Codex on 30 November. So far, Steve and I will be doing a booksigning on December 11, from 1-3 p.m., at the Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania Street New Orleans, Louisiana. If you are unable to attend, you may contact the bookstore to preorder a signed, personalized book. Their telephone number is 504-895-2266.

We will also be doing the following radio interviews:

Los Angeles
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
12:15 PM to 12:30 PM CST LIVE
Sam & Suzy Show

Friday, December 3, 2010
5:00 PM to 6:00 PM CST
“KYCA Talks”

North Carolina
Monday, December 6, 2010
8:30 AM to 8:40 AM CST
WCBQ-AM 1340 WHNC-AM 890

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
8:30 PM to 9:00 PM CST LIVE

Personally, I much prefer live TV interviews to live radio interviews. I find it very disconcerting to have tens of thousands of people eavesdropping while I talk to someone I don't know and whose face I can't see. It's a weird experience.

I'll let you know when more events are scheduled.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Author Quotes

I suspect I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s a subject that I frequently find myself pondering. How much attention do you as a reader give to author quotes on the covers of books? You know the ones where some famous or at least well-known author says, “Don’t miss this!” or “Compelling! Spellbinding! Impossible to put down!”

I suppose there was a time when a positive quote from an author I liked plugging an unknown writer might have compelled me to pick up a book. Now I know to take such quotes with a grain of salt. Because the truth is that authors give quotes (or “blurbs” as they are sometimes called) to other authors who are their friends, or at least their friends’ friends. They also agree to read books for quotes as a favor to their editors or agents. There is even one famous male author (who shall remain nameless) who has been known to give quotes to young, attractive female writers in exchange for, well, you know. Do all those authors really loooove all the books they plug? What do you think?

I’d like to believe that the wonderful, generous authors who have given me great quotes over the years did truly love my books. I know some of them did because they have gone to the trouble of contacting me privately and telling me how much they enjoyed my book. But did they all? I doubt it.

Since I'm not on the NYT bestsellers list, I don’t get asked for blurbs that often, although I’ve noticed a definitely uptick in the requests this past year. When you get to be really famous, everyone wants a quote from you. Some authors, such as Anne Perry, almost never give quotes. Others, such as Steve Berry, are very, very generous. (Yes, I have a Steve Berry quote on my book; thanks, Steve!)

Sometimes finding the right author to give a quote for your book can be really, really hard. I had a NYT bestselling author lined up to give a quote for Where Shadows Dance only to have my editor say, no, she didn’t think that author set quite the right tone for the book. Sigh. Of course, when you’re James Patterson or John Grisham, you don’t need another author plugging your book; that Number 1 NYT Bestseller! banner over your name pretty much says what needs to be said.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Reactions to Infidelity

A young psychology student of my acquaintance is conducting a survey on emotional and cognitive reactions to infidelity. The more people she can find willing to complete the survey, the more generalizable her results will be. It's short and fun and thought provoking, so if you have the time and the inclination, please visit her site here.

The responses to the survey are completely anonymous and the results will be reported in aggregate form only. Your participation is voluntary and you may discontinue at any time. If you have any questions, the contact information is on the survey.

If you know of anyone else who might be interested in taking the survey, please pass on the link. I'll be posting the results when they become available.

Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Lake in Autumn

I arrived home from San Francisco, told my family hello, then headed off to our lake house to spend a week frantically scribbling away on Sebastian Number Seven. The weather was gorgeous; the serenity and scenery inspiring. I spent Halloween sitting out on the porch in shorts (the above photo was snapped on my iPhone from my perch on the swing). The wildflowers were blooming in breathtaking bursts...

...and those of you awaiting the next Sebastian book will be happy to hear that I made great progress.

On another note: some people leave their hearts in San Francisco; I appear to have left my camera. So no more Bouchercon photos from me. Sigh.

Charles Gramlich over at Razored Zen was kind enough to review the last two Sebastian books he's read; thank you, Charles!

And finally, here's a picture of one of my daughter's little rescue Manx orphans, being a Halloween cat: