Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vaulting the Horse

It’s been an interesting few days of mental acrobatics - tour events, book revision, and now the structuring of a screenplay.

This morning began with editor’s notes on the manuscript of my latest Enzo book - following a reverse route from France to Arizona, instead of the other way round.

Thank God for good editors. And Barbara certainly is one. She offered valuable insights into the book, and made some telling suggestions which will only improve it. So my homework awaits me as soon as I return to France.

Then, in between builders setting off smoke alarms, gardeners nearly letting the dog out, and a jack-hammer pounding ceaselessly through the wall, La Patronne and I began work on the screenplay.

The process had begun with La Patronne identifying and annotating every story development in the book, which is to be the basis for the screenplay. These were then assembled in a piece of software called Final Draft, and printed out. In the meantime, I had been burying my head in detailed Hong Kong research, finding new locations, seeking out new contacts.

I read through the Final Draft printout over breakfast, after digesting Barbara’s notes on the book, and then we cut up the printed sheets to lay out on the dining table - 114 story movements.

What followed were eight brainstorming hours spent re-locating the story in Hong Kong, turning the original tale almost completely on its head, throwing away a substantial amount of story material from the book, and winding up with a running order that, hopefully, is fast-paced and dramatic.

The next step is to reassemble the new structure in the computer, before I sit down to write a dramatic synopsis of the whole, which will go to the producers for discussion.

Just an average sort of day in sunny Scottsdale!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Caption Competition

I’m sorry, I can’t wait.

Following my daughter Carol’s comment on yesterday’s blog about the photograph of her husband, Chris, with a witch on his shoulder...

... I just had to share it with you!

I simply couldn’t resist taking it. The miniature witch on his shoulder whispering in his ear. The poster on the wall behind him, the red-faced blues singer leaning at exactly the same angle, his hands in the same pose as if he, too, were holding a camera (his lobster face was exactly the same colour as Chris’s after a day in the sun).

Now, here’s a thought. Anyone got any bright suggestions for what the witch might be whispering in his ear?

A prize for the best caption! (I’ll figure out later what that will be.)

Bad News/Good News

The bad news is, I thought I was in the shade!

We had lunch on the terrace at P.F. Chang’s, on the corner of Scottsdale and Camelback, under the shade of a huge awning stretched overhead. Only, now it seems that the shade was illusory. It was some loose-weave fabric that still let the sun through. And now I have a big, red face (as well as a horse on my head - see the pic).


Lashings of après sun ce soir, and barrier cream every morning from now on.

The good news is, that the fourth Enzo novel, “Freeze Frame”, after receiving starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, got a great review in the New York Times. You can see it here.

I got word of it, bizarrely enough, from my own study in France. My US publishers, Rob Rosenwald and Barbara Peters, have swapped houses with us - staying at our home in France, while we stay at theirs here in Arizona.

Rob called us on Skype this morning with the news (I knew it was my study, because I recognised the water stain on the ceiling). And Barbara revealed that she was 130 pages into the manuscript of my new Enzo book. What was strange about that was that she was reading it in the room where it was written! I wonder of how many books she could say that?

Stranger still... next week, she and Rob go to eat at the restaurant of France’s top chef, Michel Bras, who very kindly allowed me to spend three days in his kitchen to research my book. It is a story set in the world of French haute cuisine, and I used his kitchen as the basis for the kitchen of the murdered chef. So Barbara will have the chance to “taste” it first-hand.

She certainly won’t be disappointed by the food.

Later in the day, after getting burned at P.F. Chang’s, I went to meet readers and talk about my book at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. A good and lively crowd turned up, and we passed an enjoyable hour, before I tackled the signing of the piles of books that awaited me.

I met, in the flesh for the first time, one of my fellow bloggers on Type M for Murder - Donis Casey. Sadly we didn’t get much time to talk, but I hope that next time we will.

Then it was off to retrieve Odin from “doggy day care” (remember Odin - he’s the wire-haired fox terrier who takes me for walks every day), before returning through the early evening heat to search for moisturisers and other soothing lotions (not to mention alcohol).

I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security. It has been cool here for the last couple of days. We even - God forbid - had some desert rain! But temperatures have soared again today, so I will cower in the shade all this week (except, of course, when Odin forces me to go out for walks).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Desert Bloom

It was a week ago today that we left the Pacific coast and headed east into the desert.

It is a dramatic drive through some of the most scorched and arid wastes on the planet. But we were fortunate. It is spring, and the desert was in bloom - albeit temporarily. Carpets of yellow, and green and pink covered this normally barren landscape. Until, as we wound our way towards the valley that cuts a swathe through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountain ranges, we found ourselves driving through a forest of windmills.

Not the Don Quixote sort. Those tall, elegant, white wind turbines, whose blades turn with deceptive languor in the winds that scour their way between the mountains. Thousands of them. Filling the eyes, like a mirage, vanishing into the fibrillating distance.

We stopped overnight at the home of friends Mike and Barbara Monachino, at Rancho Mirage, a settlement of gated communities somewhere between Palm Springs and Indian Wells. This was an area of extraordinary beauty. A veritable oasis. Rich in blooming flowers and fragrant blossoms, fed from the waters of an underground lake. In the distance, the San Jacinto mountains burn red in the sunset, and in the morning glow gold, cut with deep-veined blue shadows.

And then on again in the morning, leaving California behind, and entering the parched plains of Arizona, the horizon broken only by those bizarrely shaped mountains that used to pepper every cowboy movie. Laid down in strata at the very creation of the earth itself , then fashioned by time and wind. There is something quite primal about this landscape.

At last, almost incongruously, we reach the vast, sprawling conurbation of Phoenix laid out in the desert valley, and our home for the next month in the adjoining city of Scottsdale. This is the home of my American publishers, who have taken a route much further east, across the Atlantic to France, to live in our house during our absence.

Their house comes with a pool, unlimited sunshine, and a dog called Odin. Odin, a lively, intelligent, wire-haired fox terrier, greeted us with initial suspicion. But, as you will see from the photos, he and I quickly bonded, and he takes me out walking for at least an hour every day - which I am sure is good exercise for him, too.

And, so, settled now in this desert oasis, we said our goodbyes to Susie, who headed back to Northern California, and we set up computers to get down to work. For although there may be a pause in the tour, there is no pause in the work schedule. A book to revise, another to research, and a screenplay to write.

Oh, well...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Moon Rising

The first phase is over

It was two weeks ago today that we flew to Minneapolis from Paris. It feels like a lifetime. I have completed eleven events, the last of them last night in San Diego at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.

There, I shared the platform with local author Michele Scott, who was celebrating her birthday as well as “A Toast to Murder”, the sixth in her Nikki Sands Wine Lovers’ Mystery series. There was a lively crowd, and we had a fascinating discussion about the merits or otherwise of changing technology in the book world - e-books, print-on-demand, etc.

Earlier La Patronne, Susie, and I had dinner with Dr. Steve Campman and his family in a nearby Italian restaurant called The Godfather. It was so dark inside I thought I’d left my sunglasses on. Maybe they don’t want us to see the food, I thought. But actually it was good. And a pleasure to see the Campmans again.

Steve is the Medical Examiner in San Diego, and has advised me on the pathology in my books for the last thirteen years. Since our first contact in 1997, when he faxed 40 pages of autopsy material across the Atlantic believing it was three dollars for the lot instead of three dollars a page (!!), we have become firm friends.

(I have come to a secret arrangement with Steve’s daughter, Danielle, to supply me with a photograph of him wearing his prescription autopsy glasses which, apparently, turn him into a facsimile of Mr. Magoo. I will keep you posted.)

Breathing a huge sigh of relief, we head off today into the desert to overnight with friends Mike and Barbara Monachino, before setting off tomorrow for Scottsdale, Arizona, where we can put down roots for the next four weeks and get back to controlled eating and sleeping.

I can’t wait!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wickedly Resting

It’s kinda fatal to stop. You lose your momentum. You let fatigue creep in, and you lose the will to go on.

That’s a little what this weekend has been like.

Friday was a coming down day after the long drive on Thursday, and the adventure in the dark finding our condo. Sadly, Newport Beach seemed to have reserved its worst weather of the year for our short stay here. It was cloudy, dull, even chilly.

Lunch at my favourite seafood restaurant, The Crab Cooker, was first item on the agenda. It is always like stepping back into the 50s, a little piece of vintage Americana preserved in aspic. Plastic cutlery, wine out of plastic cups. Simple, unpretentious shrimp and scallops and salmon and crab cakes.

I love it!

A wonderful, cobweb-clearing cycle along the boardwalk, watching the Easter hordes on the beach, was just what the doctor ordered. Then it was on to the home of old friends, Rob and Linda - Susie’s former neighbours from the house at Dolphin Terrace, which featured in my standalone thriller, “Virtually Dead”.

It was their last weekend in their rented apartment before moving into their new home at the exclusive One Ford Road development near Fashion Island. We had aperitifs and appetisers before heading out to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner. We saw them again, just two days later, as they took possession of their new home (which we christened with champagne) - a fabulous three-bedroomed villa with courtyards and decks, and a three-car garage in a street that looked like a set straight out of a movie.

Saturday was tough. I had to wind myself up again for another two events. The first was a one-and-a-half hour drive to the city of Thousand Oaks, just north of Los Angeles, to be greeted Alan Chisholm, owner of the Mysteries to Die For bookstore, and a group of regulars who had come to hear me speak.

After allowing myself to relax for a day it was hard to get myself going again. But once I started it was fine, and I ended the event by signing huge piles of books.

Lunch at Chilli’s, then on the road again to Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Mystery Bookstore at Westwood. Although I was there just for a stock signing, I got into conversation with some die-hard fans. Tim arrived with a huge pile of my books to sign, and to my astonishment was able to quote passages from various novels I had written over the years.

Another fan who showed up was called 50 Winx - her Second Life name. A university librarian, she is a stalwart of the group, Librarians of Second Life, and had actually attended one of my inworld presentations. So I signed the book from Flick Faulds.

Bookstore owner, Bobby McCue, had me sign several piles of China Thrillers, Enzo Files, and Virtually Deads, before we set off again along Wilshire Boulevard in search of the home of our old French neighbours who live in Beverly Hills. A mis-turn led us on to Walden Drive, to be confronted by an extraordinary Hansel and Gretel house on the junction of the street. Turns out it was built for a movie in the 1920s, and has been used as a real home in several different locations since. It was in the process of being prepared for yet another move, and is known universally in the neighborhood as The Witch’s House.

John and Bettie Jensen live on Benedict Canyon Drive, and we met up with them there before heading off to a little French bistro off Sunset Boulevard, with daughter Elizabeth, who had so kindly provided a bed for us in Minneapolis.

Then the long drive back in the dark to Newport Beach, and the best and longest sleep of the tour so far.

Sunday, I never really got out of first gear. The weather was grim. Drizzly dull, the ocean leaden. We ate at Chimayo’s at Huntington Beach, and later feasted on a take-out Chinese meal from P.F. Chang’s that night while watching a movie on the giant TV in the condo.

Today I am having to rev myself up again, write the blog, and prepare for the drive south to San Diego, and an event at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. Before that we will eat with my good friend and pathology adviser Steve Campman, who is the Medical Examiner in the city. I’m really looking forward to that.

Then tomorrow, everything must be packed up again and stowed in the car for the drive east, stopping first at Palm Desert, before heading for Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, and an appointment with a radio journalist from Austria who wants me to do a live interview from within Second Life.

No rest for the wicked!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

They shoot prowlers, don't they?

An hour earlier we had driven over The Grapevine as darkness fell. Behind us, dusk was settling over the breadbasket of California and a dusty seven-hour drive had left us tired and hungry. Ahead of us, the lights of Los Angeles had spread out like a fireflies’ convention along 40 miles of Pacific coastline.

But that was then. Now it was fully dark, and we had just arrived in Newport Beach, our southern California stopover for the next four days. We had an address and a door entry code for a second floor condo and garage.

Betty (of GPS fame), had delivered us to the appropriate address, but try as we may, we couldn’t find a house with the right number on it. There were streetlights on the other side of the road, but our side was pooled in darkness.

I got out of the car and found myself prowling up dark alleyways, tapping the entry code into every door I could find. No luck. And all the time I could hear La Patronne calling from somewhere in the darkness in a loud stage whisper: Be careful! They have guns here!! They shoot prowlers!!!

Stomachs were growling. It was after ten, nine hours since we had eaten. And I had a pressing call of nature.

Finally, I found myself in a gloomy parking area behind what I thought might be the property, and fumbled my way along a narrow alleyway between pressing walls of clapboard siding. I tried one door. Then another. There were no lights and no sign of life anywhere. I came to the third, and last door, with an increasing sense of desperation (for more than one reason). And... BINGO! It unlocked.

Mad dash for the bathroom.

Then a chance to take in our surroundings. The apartment was a brand new conversion, with a TV like a cinema screen. A huuuge kitchen. Comfortable leather sofas. An internet connection. The ocean just two blocks away, and bikes in the garage (it was the following morning before I discovered how to get into it).

La Patronne, Susie, and I wearily unloaded our luggage, then spent the next half hour cruising the town for a pizza joint that was open. We finally settled for a stale-tasting offering from Pizza Hut, washed it over with several glasses of red wine, and fell into a deep sleep.

Today is my first real day off since the tour began. Washed, showered, feeling almost human again, and about to set off on one of the bikes in search of the ocean. I need to feel the sand between my toes, and the cold waters of the Pacific lapping around my ankles.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


The same soothing tones that might be employed to induce calm in the event of nuclear holocaust, issued from the front of the car.

A soft, breathy, female voice with hints of both English and American accents. We call her Betty. She is, in fact, the voice of our TomTom GPS system, who incongruously calls the freeway a “modorway”.

Last night, she guided us up through the hills above the San Francisco Bay area to a high point above the town of Berkeley. We climbed, and climbed, then rounded a corner to have our collective breath immediately removed.

For there, laid out below us in all its early evening glory, was THE bay. The entire city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge. The most stunning panorama I think I have ever seen. I might have stopped to take a photo, but it would never have done it justice. Your imagination will do a better job, though even that will never come close to the reality.

In any event, Betty wasn’t allowing us to linger. “Turn right. Then you have reached your destination.”

Our destination was the home of Janet Rudolph, book reviewer and editor of the magazine, Mystery Readers International. She traditionally holds “at-home” events in her house, with a regular group of attendees, and visiting authors from all over the world.

We made our way through a fairytale garden populated by peacocks, to be greeted by Janet herself, an attractive, energetic lady with a fantastic head of thick, curly hair. Others had already arrived. Some I knew - Bill and Toby - whom I had met at Left Coast Crime in Seattle in 2007. Some were new to me, but greeted me warmly with that wonderful, open, Californian hospitality.

We drank wine, nibbled cheese, then sat in a circle to discuss my books, writing in general, research, publishing, genres. We talked for almost two hours, at the end of which I signed the books which everyone had brought. I had brought some copies of The Firemaker, the first in the China series, a taster for the rest.

An elderly British couple, Stuart and Sheila, originally from Northern Ireland, are neighbours of Janet. Sheila came to me at the end of the evening and gave me a copy of The Firemaker to sign. She leaned forward and whispered confidentially, “You know, I’ve been coming to these events for years now. But this is the first book I’ve ever bought.”

A delightful end to a splendid evening, topped off by the gift of a bottle of wine whose label was the cover of my latest Enzo book, “Freeze Frame” - the work of Janet’s husband, Frank.

We headed out into the dark and turned the car back up the hill, Betty still breathing seductively from the windscreen. The lights of the Bay Area opened out like a firmament below us. But again Betty would not let us linger. “At the end of the road turn right. Then take the modorway.”

• I can finally announce, since we signed the contracts this morning, that the movie rights to “The Killing Room”, one of my China Thrillers, have been bought by a French production company. La Patronne and I have been commissioned to write the screenplay, which we will work on during our stay in Arizona. The story will be re-set in Hong Kong, and Margaret will become French. Vive La France!

A Californian Corollary

Thought this would make an interesting little corollary to our wet Sunday in Sacramento. Susie’s sister, Kathy, and her husband John, had been hoping to celebrate our arrival with a barbecue, and time spent in the garden.

Sadly, the weather precluded that possibility. But poor old John was still sent out into the garden to cook the meat - it’s man’s work, you know! But being a fellow of fine temperament, he took to his task with the relish for which he is renowned - as illustrated below...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Flowers in our Hair

Where to begin?

Well, I can start by telling you that I am writing this on my iPad. Yay! Picked it up on Saturday night at Susie’s in Sacramento, where I had asked Apple to send my pre-order.

I won’t bore you with it except to say that it is AMAZING!

It was cool in Sacramento, and wet, when we flew in from Seattle on Saturday night. But that was nothing compared to the rain that crashed down on us on Sunday. Like a tropical downpour.

We splashed along the freeway to Davis, and lunch with our old friends Sharon and Hibbard, then back to Sacramento for dinner with Susie’s sister, Kathy, and her family. By the time we got back to Susie’s that night, inches had fallen, and thunder and lightning were crashing all around us.

Then, lo and behold, Monday brought painfully clear blue skies and sunshine, and an interview on the Jeffrey Callison show on Sacramento Capital Radio. Jeffrey is an ex-pat Scot with a mid-Atlantic accent, who has been entertaining Sacramento listeners with his daily chat show for years now. It was my third appearance on his show, and you can listen to it here (scroll forward - I was in the final segment of the show).

Then it was into the car and a two-hour drive south to San Francisco. It was my third visit to the city, and the first time I have seen it in sunshine. It is an extraordinary place - white houses built across the steeply pitched slopes of hills that push up out of the bay, clustering around the skyscrapers of downtown. The view of it from the bridge as you approach from the north is stunning. And on Monday, with the sun coruscating away across still, burnished waters to the misted silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was quite breathtaking.

We drove, then, through the city’s gay area, The Castro, where men stroll hand in hand, finally arriving at Noe Valley, the home of Susie’s daughter, Shannon, and her husband, Tim - just in time to help Tim demolish the entrance to his home to get a new refrigerator through the front door. Proceedings were directed by Susie’s 2-year-old-granddaughter, Madeleine, whom we then took for a walk up and down the city hills, puffing and gasping for breath while she continued to direct our progress - from her pushchair!

Then on, finally, to the evening event at the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore, before grabbing a bite to eat, and driving back through the dark to Sacramento - barely awake as the lights of downtown San Francisco rose up all around us, before dipping away as we crossed the bridge and into the night.

Tuesday was a day of catching up on shopping for all those essential little things you need on a long trip - computer cables, iPad apps... oh, yes, and some toothpaste and stuff! Before Eric the Viking descended on us with his new Volvo to sweep us south again, past San Francisco, still basking in sunshine, to the smaller Bay Area city of San Mateo, and the incomparable Ed Kaufman’s M is for Murder bookstore. There I met up with long time fans Milene Rawlinson and Dennis Sitcler, delivered my talk on Virtually Dead, The Runner, and Freeze Frame, before signing well over a hundred books and staggering off for a late dinner in a nearby Italian.

The lights of San Francisco seemed like a dream seen through nearly shut eyes as they drifted past once more on the drive home.

Tonight another drive south, not quite so far this time. Stopping at Berkeley for an at-home evening at the house of book critic and editor of Mystery Readers International, Janet Rudolph.

I seem permanently tired, but never able to sleep at the right times. Maybe I’ll get the chance to catch a few winks during the 8-hour drive south on Thursday to Newport Beach - as long as I’m not behind the wheel at the time!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Hello Goodbye

Saturday afternoon. Just over a week since leaving home. Already it feels like a lifetime.

Sitting in Sea-Tac Airport, Seattle, waiting for a flight to Sacramento. We arrived in the rain and we are leaving in the rain. After the dry, clear sunshine of Denver, we flew in yesterday to gale force winds and ice-edged rain driving in off the Pacific.

This town, so like Glasgow - the light, the rain, the seven hills - was alive with fancy-dress kids attending a Japanese anime convention, lending already spaced brains an even more surreal perspective on the world.

Having dropped our bags off at the Renaissance Hotel, we fought against the wind and the rain, mid-afternoon, to the Pike Street fish market where we found my favourite chowder joint - a tiny café squeezed into a corner of the market, where they serve the most wonderful chowders. Sadly they were out of my favourite smoked salmon, and I had to do with southern chicken and corn instead. Large cups of thick, warming, comforting soup.

Neither La Patronne nor I could face another restaurant last night, so while at the market we found a great cheese stall, bought a selection of nice cheeses, some herb crackers, then went in search of a screw-top bottle of wine - can’t carry a corkscrew with us on our flights.

So it was cheese and wine in the room before collapsing amongst the pillows of the king-sized bed for an early, early night.

Of course, I was awake at 5.30am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and with a morning to kill before my signing event at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. I found a US channel showing the Man U/Chelsea game, which passed a couple of hours before breakfast, then another battle with the elements and the hills to find the bookstore, just off Pioneer Square.

Warmly welcomed as always by Bill and Fran, I signed stock for the shop, and books for customers - one of whom had dropped in looking specifically for a book set in Paris, to get the atmosphere of the city before heading off for a spring holiday. He bought “Extraordinary People” (now renamed “Dry Bones), and I recommended that he make a tour of the catacombs, which he would read about in the book. Before I left I made my own contribution to the bookstore’s blog, which you can read here.

Then we ate in an Italian restaurant, and spent the afternoon feeling sick, and responding to excited e-mails from Susie in Sacramento who was getting orgasmic over an iPad delivery.

The airport has suddenly come alive with people in open sandals and shorts, and winter white skin. God knows where they’ve come from, or where they’re going. It’s the holidays!! Aaaargh!!!

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Rocky Rugs

It was a dramatic sky. Bruised black over the plains. Almost white over the Rockies where snow and hail swept down across the mountains. A washed-out yellow in the west where the sun was sinking and breaking through, turning the mountain ranges into paper cut-out silhouettes.

In the far distance I saw the Flat Irons - brooding and dark above the university town of Boulder, where I had gone on every one of my previous tours. But the book store where I had given my talks, High Crimes, had been forced to close its doors - a sign of the economic times.

But its owner, Cynthia Nye, ever resourceful, had swapped bricks and mortar for the internet, from where she is now selling direct to her clients. And making it work.

Tonight we were heading north of Boulder to the town of Longmont, and a rug store where Cynthia now holds her author visits. She had told me that some authors turned their noses up at this event these days, since she no longer had four walls and shelves lined with books. Which made me all the more determined to do my talk for her.

And what a venue she has chosen for her author encounters. An amazing emporium of oriental and navajo rugs - not unsurprisingly called The Oriental and Navajo Rug Company. Most of the rugs are hand made. The walls hang with them. The floors are soft with them. They lie in piles feet deep. There is artwork, crafted jewellery, and a small water fountain that brings the restful tinkle of flowing water and keeps the chi moving in a good way.

It is a wonderful, open, and colourful space for these events, and I took great pleasure in talking to the good folk of Longmont and Boulder who had braved the ever-changing elements to come and meet me and buy my books.

After the talk I got into conversation with one lady whose son lives in Olympia, Washington. I had noticed on the internet that my books were frequently among the top ten bestsellers in that town’s mystery bookstore, Whodunnit. This lady’s son had gone into the store and asked for a recommendation for a book to buy for his mother. The book they recommended turned out to be “The Firemaker”, the first of the China series.

As it happened, this was not a genre which had interested her in the past. She read mainly historical novels. However, something about “The Firemaker” had caught her, and she arrived at my talk with all six of the series for me to sign.

I signed Cynthia’s stock for her, sipping on a glass of soft red wine, and then a copy of “Virtually Dead” for the owner of the rug gallery, Patrick, who had been seduced by my tales of sleuthing in Second Life.

A word to those authors who have declined appearances at the gallery. Shame on you! Everyone who sells our work deserves our support. And I have to tell you that this is one of the best and most unique venues on any author tour.

So, then, it was back on the road. Through the dark to Denver, a glass of wine, a nibble of cheese, and bed. And today? Another airport, another airplane, another town. This time, Seattle. The forecast is for rain. Why does that make me think of Glasgow?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sick of Heights

Where was I? Oh... yeah. Denver. Colorado. An hour forward, an hour back? Dunno. Who cares.

To the jetlag I can now add altitude sickness. Been spaced out all morning, breathless after my breakfast walk to Starbucks in this mile-high city, and the first caramel machiato of the tour.

Strange. I’ve been here a few times, but never been this affected before. I picked up, though, when we went with our Denver hosts and good friends, Charles and Marilyn, to the city's downtown spice store. Wow! Never seen so many spices under one roof. The smell as you walk through the door would knock you over (in a nice way), or in this case, pick you up, as it did to me.

I felt even better after a buffalo burger on a bed of mixed greens, smothered in caramelised onions, with a side helping of sweet potato fries. A bottle of dark lager helped, too.

And now to the writing of the blog. Then (hopefully) an afternoon nap, before heading north - an hour-and-a-half’s drive - to a speaking event at a place called Longmont, north-east of Boulder.

So... last night? Well, having flown into Denver from Minneapolis just a few hours earlier, we headed off to yesterday’s event at a bookstore called Murder by the Book. A good turnout of readers in an intimate atmosphere. And, as always, a wonderful cake. It’s a tradition that the bookstore has a cake made with the author’s latest book cover reproduced in icing. I wondered what they would do, since I had three books out this time.

Well... see for yourselves! Three covers on one cake. And it tasted great, too!!

Charles then whisked us back to his condo, where he had whipped up an amazing Indian meal, complete with authentic Thali plates

After the meal, sated, knackered, and all wined out, I lay back in a leather recliner and... fell asleep. Well, it was waaaay past my bedtime!