Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Auf Wiedersehn...

I'm back! Amazingly enough, so is my luggage. [g]

I think I've been to Germany five or six times now—and my luggage has never once reached the place when I did. It's always showed up eventually, after one, two, three, or even four days, but I'm probably one of the few Americans who knows exactly where the British Airways lost-luggage office is in the Duesseldorf airport. Mind, the first time I went to Germany, Things Happened en route, and I ended up in Amsterdam rather than Frankfort, so it was no wonder that the luggage ended up somewhere in the bowels of Gatwick airport and I was obliged to attend my German god-daughter's christening in the jeans and T-shirt in which I'd been traveling.

(That was the four-day delay, which led to my being Really Tired of those jeans and T-shirt by the time I arrived in London two days after the christening, which in turn led to my washing said clothes in the bathtub of my borrowed flat with a bottle of shampoo (I'd arrived on a Sunday evening, nothing was open save the little shop down the road, and I had only two pounds in English money on me; all I could afford was a tiny bottle of shampoo and a carton of milk) and hanging them out the window to dry, only to discover that the humidity of a summer night in London is about 92%. I eventually resorted to drying my jeans in the oven, though I was still pretty damp when I squelched off to Selfridge's in the morning to buy a fresh shirt and a pair of earrings before my first interview.)

You'd think I'd learn. But nooooo….I entrusted my luggage this time to USAirways (my current candidate for Worst Airline Ever, and I speak from vast experience), to be handed over to Lufthansa when I changed planes in Chicago. Not that I really had much choice; you can't carry the Necessary for a week-long book-tour in a book-satchel, after all. I was not really surprised, though, to eventually reach Cologne and discover that my luggage hadn't.

Well, one gets philosophical about this sort of thing, and the Lufthansa lost-luggage people kindly gave me an emergency overnight kit, with toothbrush, toothpaste, and a size XL white cotton T-shirt in which to sleep. I had my book-satchel with me, containing Kindle, takeoff/landing book (because they won't let you read your Kindle during those periods), chocolate, and essential meds, after all—what else did I really need?

Granted, there was a photoshoot scheduled for the next morning, during which the German publisher proposed to get a new dust-jacket author photo. And while I could do interviews perfectly well in jeans, turquoise Uggs, and a turquoise plaid shirt (my travel ensemble), that seemed a little casual for the evening event at LitCologne, the city's very elegant literary festival, for which I was meant to address the multitudes—in company with Cologne's Vice-Mayor for Culture (Cologne has seven or eight vice-mayors, I'm told. And there is evidently quite a bit of vice, too; I was told that the new Metro was constructed by the German equivalent of the Mafia, who stole so much material from the project that a new underground station had recently collapsed—taking with it the state Archives (which was sitting on top of it) and destroying the biggest collection of medieval manuscripts in northern Europe) and Daniela Hoffman, the actress who reads the German audiobook version of my work, this event to be held on a ship cruising up and down the Rhine.

The resourceful publicist who'd met me at the airport checked me into the Hotel im Wasserturm (Hotel in the Watertower, and it is. Built inside an ex-water-tower, I mean. Interesting place. Wedge-shaped rooms., then asked the desk clerk where to find a department store likely to be open in the evening, and we charged down the street in the rain (propelled by the enormous umbrella helpfully supplied by said desk clerk, which acted as a wind-sail) to Kaufhof, a monstrous store with acres of clothes, shoes, luggage, jewelry, etc.

One hour of frantic shopping, and I was hastily but respectably equipped with black short-sleeved sweater, black long-sleeved sweater, black pants, colorful scarf, a rudimentary makeup kit, gold earrings, and what my husband described upon seeing them as "fetish boots." (see above).

Got up early the next morning and dressed in my new finery, went off to be photo-shot. The art director from the publishing company had chosen two locales for this: the basement of the City Hall, and the ruins of a bombed-out church. (Don't ask me; I'm not an art director.)

The entourage included said art director, the publicist with me, the photographer, the photographer's assistant (the hapless person whose job it is to hold immense reflectors and carry the tripod), and a nice young stylist named Xenia, who plied her art subtly enough that while I did look older than I do unadorned (_vide_ the less formal snapshots, which were taken that evening in a café with some local readers, after the LitCologne event, and the lovely rain-soaked one taken by my German translator coming down into the Moser Valley). I did not look like a prostitute, I'm happy to say.

I did nearly freeze to death. It had stopped raining, but spring had not yet sprung, and I tell you what, old stone buildings are C-O-L-D, especially if you have to stand very still on said stones for very long. The photoshoot took abour four hours, all told, and Xenia and the publicist took turns leaping forward to swathe me in coats and shawls whenever the photographer paused to change equipment.

The locales were actually very picturesque; the basement of the City Hall is open to the sky, and is the oldest part of the building, with arches and twining vines; they told me that it's a popular site for weddings (preferably in warmer weather). The church is St. Alban's, and the ruins enclose a very moving war memorial called "Grieving Parents", which I think you can see here:

and in more detail here:

(We were naturally not shooting near the sculpture, but off to either side.)

Cologne is also where I made rendezvous with my friend and translator, Barbara Schnell—who is also a photojournalist. You can see some of the pictures she took of the German tour here (click on one of the pictures to enter the site, then click on "blog" and you'll see the entry for March 20th there is of the German tour):

I had a wonderful time in Germany, but am glad to be back—and so is my luggage. [g]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tournament of Audiobooks!

Well, here's a quickie: some kind person just notified me that AN ECHO IN THE BONE is one of the entrants in's "Tournament of the Audiobooks." [g] I'm very flattered!

Should you be an member—or just feel like voting—the first round of voting is open until (I think) March 15. This

is the page for the "Customer Favorites" category, which is where ECHO is (there are also several other categories, all accessible from this page. Have fun!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


You know, I'd have gone to the Tucson Book Festival this coming weekend (I went to the first one last year, and had a wonderful time—heartily recommend it to all of you who live in the Tucson area!), save that I'm leaving for Germany on Sunday, and didn't want to be gone all of Saturday, rolling home after midnight and then having to rush around packing and watering plants and all the stuff one does when leaving home for a week. So I declined with regrets.

However, late last week, I got a request from the Peoria Book Festival, through the Poisoned Pen, asking whether I might be able to come just for a couple of hours on Saturday. Well…Peoria is a lot closer to where I live than Tucson is, and a couple of hours is do-able, so I said OK, sure.

So, I didn't want those of your connected with the Tucson Book Festival to feel I was snootering you if you heard I'd been in Peoria on Saturday. But I do want those of you who might be closer to Peoria and might be interested, to know about their book festival—which actually is titled "Bravo Peoria!" [g] For those who might be interested, here are the details:

Event: Bravo Peoria!
Date: Saturday, March 13th
Time: 9:00am - 4:00pm
Location: Sunrise Mountain Library
Description: A community event to celebrate Culture and the Arts. Sunrise Mountain Library will host a day long event with entertainment, artists, antiques, book sale and more. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Sunrise mountain Library 21200 N 98th Ave., Peoria, AZ 85382.
Contact Person: Library Staff
Contact Phone: 623-773-8650

OK, now please note that I'll be there only between 1 and 3 PM. (I will be talking for about half an hour, then signing books.) But the Poisoned Pen will be there all day, and will have what the manager refers to as "Gabaldoniana" in quantity. If you plan to come to the festival, but won't be there when I am, feel free to buy a book at the Poisoned Pen booth, and leave it with a note as to how you'd like it signed. You can pick it up later in the day, or ask the store to mail it to you.

(Also, if you'd like to buy a particular book to have signed there, you might want to call the Poisoned Pen ahead of time; I know they'll have a lot of OUTLANDER and ECHO, because the first and most recent titles always sell best—but I'm sure they'd bring any of the other books you like, if you let them know. The PP phone number is 480-947-2974.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

THE METHADONE LIST: Christopher Brookmyre

THE METHADONE LIST: Christopher Brookmyre

I seldom write fan letters to other authors. Not that I don't want to; there are lots of wonderful books that move me to admiration, laughter, tears, etc., and I'd love to let the authors of them know that. In some cases, the authors in question are dead, though, which kind of renders a fan letter moot (though I do Say a Word during my evening rosary—that's my Lenten devotion this year, saying the rosary every night (provided I don't fall asleep in the middle, but I haven't yet; lovely, peaceful meditation)). In most cases, though, I just don't get around to it. You know, busy life, obligations, family, dogs, book-tours, saying the rosary [g], answering the nice messages people send me, etc., etc.

Which is why I particular appreciate the letters and emails people send me; I know just how much effort it takes to actually do something like that, rather than just think about it. So it's all the more remarkable that upon reading Christopher Brookmyre's PANDAEMONIUM recently, I put down the book and actually wrote him a fan letter. Which said:

Dear Christopher--

I've just finished wallowing in PANDAEMONIUM, pausing occasionally to gasp with admiration at your sheer technical brilliance (we'll take the tremendous energy, amazing ear for dialogue and eye for social dynamics, and your talent for chronic hilarity (ranging from subtle to belly-laugh) as read). All of which is _nothing_ to my enjoyment of the way your mind works. [g] I couldn't have done a clearer explanation of just what science _is_ (and how it works) myself--and I do it frequently, what with the appalling state of prevalent ignorance and the many practitioners thereof. And the sheer bloody brilliance, not only of the concept, but the _ending_...!

I've been enjoying your books for years, and you've been getting better and better, juggling the ideas so deftly with the satire and the plot (speaking of juggling, I adore your magician from THE SACRED ART OF STEALING and SNOWBALL IN HELL, too). This one is Just Great. Thanks so much.


So anyway, still in the grip of this unaccustomed burst of energy [g], I thought I'd mention Chris as the latest recommendation on The Methadone List, and an excellent one he is, too—not only for the quality of his books, but the quantity as well; he produces something close to a book a year (a feat which excites my envious admiration).

Brookmyre's books are all violent, bloody, and absolutely hilarious. They're not a series; some of the books feature a recurring main character, the journalist Jack Parlabane, two of them have a wonderful, emotionally vulnerable, light-fingered magician as the hero (I fell in love with him, and I have high standards in that department [cough]), and some are one-off standalones. ALL of them are wonderfully plotted, deeply satirical, and done with a distinctly Scottish sense of humor.

The only real drawback to Brookmyre's books is that they aren't all published yet in the US (US publishers in these parlous times fight shy of anything offbeat, like stories written with Scots vernacular—but I sort of don't think that would be a problem for most of you guys [g]). Still, does have all of them for sale at least in paperback

though I'm displeased to note that they only have PANDAEMONIUM listed in the Kindle edition. (I bought mine in hardcover—I grab Brookmyre on sight—from The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale; they import a lot of British authors, and routinely carry all of Brookmyre's books. If you'd like a hard copy (undeniably expensive, but worth it), see .) I'm sure you could get them all from, but then there's the shipping to pay, so it's pretty much a wash.

Hope you enjoy him as much as I have!

(And here's his website, too, which has brief excerpts from some of his books: .)