Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guest Blogger: KELLI STANLEY

I left my heart
By Kelli Stanley

I first fell in love with San Francisco when I was too young to remember it.

It made a … what would you call it? Impression? Too soft. Impact? Too plain. Maybe I should just rely on song lyrics and say it lodged itself in my three year old-heart.

I spent a good part of my adolescence growing up two hundred and fifty miles north of The City, as she is fondly known by her residents (and yes, the old adage still holds true—don’t call her “‘Frisco.”) But whenever I could, I took every opportunity to visit … to smell the diesel and coffee on early Powell Street mornings, to say hi to the uniformed door men at the grand old hotels. To peak through a cloudy view finder and picture Al Capone shivering on Alcatraz, or sit in a warm and solemn pew in Mission Dolores.

And, as soon as I could, I moved here.

I love San Francisco, with all her foibles and faults – there are more than just the San Andreas – and I knew I had to write about her. To try to capture the dichotomy of this beautiful city, the tragedies and the comedies that formed her rich history, the fog and the sunshine and two bridges across a Bay.

So I took the plunge. And that’s partly how CITY OF DRAGONS came about.

Of course, it’s set in the San Francisco of 1940 … Hammett’s city almost twenty years after Hammett wrote about it. It will always be Hammett’s city, a birthplace of noir … and I wanted to honor that history and write in that style, because hardboiled prose and film noir dialogue have been loves of mine for as long as San Francisco has been. I was born with the gene! ;)

Writing CITY OF DRAGONS was a dream, in many ways. And when my wonderful agent submitted it just last January, I hoped it would lead to other dreams … to a move from a small to a major publisher, to be able to see it in stores that couldn’t carry NOX DORMIENDA, my first book.

And …it happened! Honestly, I wake up in the middle of the night at times and *still* can’t take it in. 2009 was a heady year, first selling CITY OF DRAGONS and sequel to Thomas Dunne/Minotaur in January, then NOX winning the Bruce Alexander Award and a Macavity nomination, and then selling the sequel, CURSED, to my editor at Thomas Dunne.

CITY OF DRAGONS and Miranda Corbie, the private eye who stalks the streets of 1940 San Francisco, live in my mind, a San Francisco parallel to my home city. When I pass Fisherman’s Wharf, I think of Miranda, gazing out at Treasure Island and the World’s Fair where she works during the season … when I shop downtown and walk by the venerable Pickwick Hotel, I replay Lester Winters’ murder, and picture Miranda picking up a package from the lockers at the Stage line. And when I eat dim sum in Chinatown, the place where it all begins, I think of Eddie Takahashi, the Japanese-American teenager she finds slain on Sacramento Street.

I hope you too will leave your heart in 1940 San Francisco. Mine’s been there for a long, long time.

Thanks for reading, and big, big thanks to Stacy for letting me launch my blog tour on the BookBitch Blog! And remember, Bouchercon 2010 will be held in the City by the Bay this October …

To win your own copy of CITY OF DRAGONS please send an email to with "CITY OF DRAGONS" as the subject. You must include your snail mail address in your email. All entries must be received by February 10, 2010. One name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. The winner will receive a free copy of CITY OF DRAGONS by Kelli Stanley. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States. One entry per email address, please. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone. All entries, including names, e-mail addresses, and mailing addresses, will be purged after winners are notified.

Kelli Stanley is an award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). Her second novel, the San Francisco-set CITY OF DRAGONS, will be released by Minotaur on February 2, 2010, and has garnered praise from Lee Child, Linda Fairstein, George Pelecanos and a host of other top writers. It’s also received three starred reviews (Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal), is a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews and an IndieNext Pick from the ABA. "Children's Day", a short story prequel to CITY OF DRAGONS and set during the 1939 World's Fair in San Francisco, will be published in the highly-anticipated International Thriller Writer's anthology, FIRST THRILLS: High Octane Stories from the Hottest Thriller Writers, in June, 2010.

Kelli's debut novel, NOX DORMIENDA, was a Writer’s Digest Notable Debut, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and was a Macavity Award finalist.
Kelli earned a Master’s Degree in Classics, loves jazz, old movies, battered fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies. She is walked daily by a Springer Spaniel named Bertie.

You can find more information—including multimedia audio and video—on Kelli’s website, at

Monday, January 25, 2010



Four stories, four authors, one theme: that was the idea behind the bestselling anthology It Happened One Night. Now, Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro and Candice Hern return to write four stories ultimately chosen by readers, in IT HAPPENED ONE SEASON.

Romance fans should visit to suggest their story. It must take place during the Regency social season. And they must include three specific plot points (such as these used for the anthology It Happened One Night: (1) a couple meets at an inn 2) they had met before but not within the past ten years 3) the whole story takes place within a 24 hour period.)

About the Contest

Submit three specific plot elements and your ideas could create the theme of the four tales in the new anthology collection, IT HAPPENED ONE SEASON.

The authors choose the four finalists.

The readers vote on the ultimate favorite and one lucky winner will see their dream come true.

The grand prize winner will be acknowledged on the dedication page of IT HAPPENED ONE SEASON and receive a $1,000 American Express gift card and a copy signed by all 4 authors. Semi-finalists will receive $100 American Express gift cards and a set of personalized autographed books.

Deadline for ideas: February 14, 2010

Round two/general voting begins: February 25, 2010

Winner announced: March 14, 2010

Note: Contest is open to US residents only, age 18 or older.

Visit for more details.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

BOOKMANIA 2010, Afternoon

No rest for the hungry...skipping lunch allowed me to enjoy Steve Berry (The Paris Vendetta) and James Rollins (Altar of Eden). Berry's books are fabulous. If you are not familiar, he does DaVinci Code type thrillers, only they are well written and even faster paced. He credits his success to Dan Brown, who blurbed his first book, The Amber Room. DaVinci hadn't been published yet, but came out a few months before Berry's book so when they published Berry, the Brown blurb was front and center.

Berry gave us an interesting factoid he stumbled across in his research - there are more books written about Napoleon than any other figure in history except for Jesus. Berry's next book, The Emperor's Tomb, will be out in November, and he has a book planned for 2011 about an unusual clause in the United States Constitution. He also let aspiring writers know that it wasn't easy for him to get published. It took five novels, 85 rejections and 12 years of writing to get The Amber Room published!

Berry & Rollins are great friends and co-Presidents ok the International Thriller Writers group. It is very unusual for authors from different publishing houses to tour together, but they enjoy it. In fact, Berry's book is dedicated to Rollins, who he says saved him from drowning in Fiji. They were both in Fiji teaching a writing course, and Berry was working on the Paris Vendetta and ran into some problems, a bad case of writer's block. Talking it out with Rollins, the two of them were able to get past that hurdle, hence the dedication. Rollins is a recently retired veterinarian and this new book is a stand alone, featuring a vet who stumbles across a genetically mutated exotic pet breeding nightmare. While Rollins recently retired, he still volunteers every Sunday with a feral cat group, spaying and neutering all the cats they find. He told us he can neuter a cat in 30 seconds, and spay a cat in under 5 minutes! His next book in the Sigma series will be out in June.

The next panel was presented by Barnes & Noble. The director of their Discover Great New Writers and Barnes & Noble Recommends program, Jill Lamar, brought a diverse group of authors for one of my favorite events. This year's authors included Allison Hoover Bartlett, Katherine Howe, Julie Metz and Mark Seal.

Bartlett wrote The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, about a notorious rare book thief and the world of antiquarian book collecting. She said she thought the title was too long, but every bookseller who heard it said the same thing - that book's about me! She interviewed the thief while he was in prison, where he confessed to her additional crimes he'd not been charged with, and his future plans to steal more books once he got out of prison.

Julie Metz has a heartbreaking memoir, Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal. When her husband was 46 years old, he died suddenly of an embolism, leaving her with a 6 yr. old daughter to raise alone. If that isn't bad enough, she later found out that he was unfaithful numerous times, even with a woman she considered a friend. A very difficult book to write, but probably helpful too.

Katherine Howe is the author of the very well received The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, a novel set in both 17th century Salem and the witch trials, moving back and forth to modern day. Howe was trying to put together her doctoral proposal, but kept getting turned down so turned to fiction as a break. Deliverance Dane was a real person, a woman accused of witchcraft. Howe pointed out that the vast majority of accused "witches" were women who weren't conforming with the religious and cultural customs of the day.

Mark Seal wrote an article for Vanity Fair about Joan Root, one of the most respected and well known wildlife photographers in the world, after she was murdered in Africa. The article was compelling enough to get him a book deal, resulting in the compelling book Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and An Untimely Death in Africa. To capture Root's own voice, Seal had to travel to Nairobi and track down her ex-husband, who reluctantly ended up giving him boxes of her letters and thirty years worth of diaries...and then he had to sift through it all to complete her story.

Someone asked a question of Jill Lamar, the Barnes & Noble spokesperson, about how many books one has to sell to land on the NY Times bestseller list. Jill explained that it really depended on when the book was published, and what other books were currently on the list. She said a lot of publishers will postpone a new author to avoid having to compete with a James Patterson, Danielle Steel or other bestselling author. That said, she did say that the number of books sold are dramatically less than ever before, due to the economic downturn.

The last panel I stayed for introduced two journalists, Doug Stanton, who wrote Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, and Steven V. Roberts, From Every End of This Earth: 13 Families and the New Lives They Made in America.

Horse Soldiers is about the special forces invasion of Afghanistan right after the September 11 attack. The intelligence said there were training camps there and these soldiers were sent in to find them and destroy them, and they were not expected to make it back alive. They had to ride horses and only two of them had ever been on a horse before - they called it "the Flintstones meet the Jetsons". This is their story.

Roberts' book is a look at immigration today. He tells the story of thirteen recent emigres, and pointed out that there has been prejudice against immigrants since the 1700s! He told us the story of the Stern family, a young man and his wife who were Jews in the Ukraine. They were terribly oppressed, and dreamed of escaping their homeland. Nick had the idea to write the necessary information on tiny slips of paper which his wife then sewed into the waistband of boxer shorts. Every Jewish family that emigrated were given a pair of boxers to hand over to the Hebrew Union, so they could file a visa for them. It took 20 tries before they got their visa. Nick was an engineer, and did really well here in America, so well that they now live in a beautiful penthouse apartment on the upper West side of New York City, and have a vacation home too. Nick told Roberts that his wife's closet in their vacation home is bigger than their old apartment was in the Ukraine.

There was one more panel but I couldn't sit anymore, so it was time to go.

Next up is the Writers Live! series of author events hosted by my library, the Palm Beach County Library System. We will be having Tim Dorsey, Linda Fairstein, Joy Fielding, Andrew Gross, David Morrell, Lisa Scottoline, Randy Wayne White and Adriana Trigiani. For times and locations, check out

BOOKMANIA 2010, Morning

I haven't been back to BookMania for a couple of years, but this year the schedule of authors was too compelling to miss. That's me with one of my favorite authors, Claire Cook! Unfortunately, they still are running it as if a hundred people are showing up instead of the 400+ they've been getting the past several years. The regulars know what to do: they come first thing in the morning and dig in. They bring pillows to sit on (the chairs are just the stacking kind and not especially comfortable for an 8:30-6 shift;) they bring coolers and pack lunches and snacks and the smart ones bring a friend to guard it all for bathroom and booksigning breaks. More than once I overheard someone say they wished they could go buy a book and get it signed, but they didn't want to lose their seat, so I'm thinking it has to affect book sales. They had a food vendor outside with one person selling food, leaving a ridiculously long line to buy just a bottle of water, and only two tables to eat at. Nevertheless, despite all the logistical problems, it was a really fun day.

First panel of the day featured Masha Hamilton, Paulette Jiles, Sheramy Bundrick and James O’Neal (James O. Born). I wouldn't miss Jim for the world, he is hilarious! He was there to talk about THE HUMAN DISGUISE, his first futuristic crime thriller. He also talked about his day job as a cop, and how he found a good way to shake up suspects is to "accidentally" let them overhear things they will find upsetting. He gave the example of letting the guy with the Corvette overhear him call it a Chevy, and lets the musclebound guy hear him call him "tubby."

Paulette Jiles talked about her new book, THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING. She also talked about how sometimes a character she doesn't like gets stuck in the story and she has a hard time getting rid of them. She actually tossed out a 200 page manuscript because she hated the character. Sheramy Bundrick is a professor at USF, and her novel is a historical fiction book about Vincent Van Gogh. She did tons of research, but still it is fiction. She said that as an art historian, she was always finding fault with inaccuracies in books and films, but now that she's written this book, she's much more understanding of poetic license.

Next up was a fascinating discussion about Miami & Cuba, with Ann Louise Bardach (Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami,Havana and Washington)and Gerald Posner (Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth, and Power—A Dispatch From the Beach), moderated by Scott Eyman. Bardach hinted at the death threats she's received, including men showing up her door with machetes, and how Castro won't allow her back into Cuba because he didn't like what she wrote about him. Posner mentioned that his next book was on Vatican finances, and said that he's been practicing holding his hands above oven so he can get used to those eternal flames of damnation...

Around this time I finally got a seat, just in time for a discussion with Raykesh Satyal (Blue Boy) and Robert Goolrick, the author of one of my favorite books of 2009, A Reliable Wife. Satyal was a delight; warm and funny, and he even broke out in song! His book is an irreverent coming of age story of a young, gay Indian boy growing up in "white bread" Ohio. He said his character was very lonely, and felt like an outcast, despite having friends - "not your best friends, but the best friends you can get."

Goolrick was 54 when he wrote this first novel, and said he was greatly influenced by a nonfiction book, Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy, which was published around 1972. The cold, bleak Wisconsin winter, almost another character in Reliable Wife, was born from the Lesy book, and grown during several trips Goolrick took to a client in Wisconsin. Goolrick made an interesting comment, that he feels "the only thing that matters in life is goodness."

The next panel was dubbed FEMMES FATALES, and featured a couple of my favorite authors, the irrepressible Elaine Viets, the vivacious Claire Cook, and forensic scientist-turned-author Lisa Black. Black used to work for the Cleveland coroner's office for several years, and that's where her books are set. She changed the name to the Cleveland Medical Examiner's office, so she wouldn't be sued, but Cleveland just recently decided to change the name to the one she used! Her latest, Evidence of Murder, was loosely based on a real incident. For the past several years, Lisa has been working for the Cape Coral police department as a fingerprint analyst. She says her job consists of staring at fingerprints on her computer screen all day long, and "is as glamours as it sounds."

Viets was there promoting her most recent book, Killer Cuts, a Dead-End Job mystery. I love these books, and this one was particularly good. Her next book in the series is Half Price Homicide, and Elaine worked in a high end designer consignment shop to do her research. She said it was "the most dangerous job" she's ever had...Prada purses were calling to her, and even at half price they were still too expensive. The next book in her Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series is about lingerie shopping, but she shot down the suggested title of "Tempest in a C-Cup"!

Claire Cook talked about her warm, witty characters that tend to reflect her own large, Irish family. Her protagonists are usually middle aged women and she likes writing 3 generations, so includes kids and grandparents. She also loves having the older generation have "adventures", usually sexual! Her latest book is the Wildwater Walking Club, and her next book, the Seven Year Switch, comes out in June. Claire always has contests offering free books and gifts on her website, so check it out!

Stay tuned for BookMania 2010, the afternoon!

Search This Blog