After a Noah's flood of a winter, the little trees in my orchard, which have stoically withstood three years of drought, have flourished and flowered and, some of them, begun to fruit. Barring the unforeseen disasters that seem to hit every home gardener, I may have apples, figs, and even a few more plums and apricots than last year -- and even mulberries. And a new novel is percolating in the back of my mind. I have written a few pages, mostly in the way of profiles of characters. Such is the triumph of hope over experience.
I have, as you can see, emerged from a three-year silence
In the summer of 2019, the last time I posted, my third book, Next of Kin, was out, and I felt I might have an actual career of sorts as a novelist. But such is the fate of writers that my editor left for another publisher, and my book got no publicity and fell into the void. And then, of course, the pandemic hit. Michael and I were actually at a writer's convention, Left Coast Crime, when the governor of California issued an order prohibiting gatherings of more than 200 people. We came down from our hotel room to find the place packing up and people leaving or milling in bewilderment. We took the train home the next morning, made a last grocery shop, and settled down for a year of something like house arrest. That is a story in itself, and the deep anger and disillusionment left by the toxic politicization of a dangerous disease were a long time in healing. But eventually, with vaccines, we made a tentative return to life outside, with a trip to San Francisco and one to Death Valley and, not far away, the remains of the internment camp at Manzanar, now a national monument. It's a place every American should see, to remind us of the darkness within us. In 2022 we went to another Left Coast Crime in Alburquerque, New Mexico, and then to CrimeFest in Bristol, our second trip there. As if making up for lost time, we made another two trips we'd canceled at the start of the pandemic: a trip to Iceland, which is everything you've heard about it, and more, and then a river cruise down the Danube, through Hungary, Austria, and Germany. At the moment we're somewhat sated with travel, but still making plans for CrimeFest and another river cruise in 2023. At my age, I felt that lost year at home acutely, and now we're making plans with something like a sense of urgency, a wish to put as much as we can into the moments we have.
During the past three years, I have written a lot, but none of it fiction. My first life as a lawyer took over, and I wrote a book-length brief in a capital case, and then another. I also needed to get over my bitterness and feelings of failure over the fate of my first books. But in the past few months I've been blocking out a novel, something different from the Janet Moodie books, but still set in California and perhaps featuring her as one of a cast of characters. More, I hope, to come.
My third novel, Next of Kin, was published in the U.K. in early June. But my publisher told me the copies destined for the U.S. got caught up in a routine customs check, and the release date here was moved back to July 30. Right now, it can be pre-ordered here, and the British release has already gotten four and five star reviews on Goodreads.
(The title of this post is Mandarin for "long time, no see!")
This spring I attended two mystery writers' conferences. Left Coast Crime in Vancouver last spring was delightful, and Crime Fest in Bristol was stellar. I moderated my first panel, got to know some intimidatingly accomplished mystery writers, and finally met my first editor, the wonderfully supportive Miranda Jewess -- and got to spend time just being a tourist in Bristol, Bath, and London.
Right now, I'm taking a break from the writing of fiction to absorb myself in the other kind of writing I do for a living - the opening brief in a capital appeal -- a book-length document that will be taking much of my time and mental energy for the next half year at least. The governor of my adopted state, California, declared a moratorium on executions here last spring, and all of us who work in capital defense are hoping, more than we have dared to hope for a very long time, that this is the beginning of the end for the death penalty here. But in the meantime, the work goes on.
Next up: The Los Angeles Times Book Fair -- more info at the Events link. Read More