Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Night Train from Prague to Paris

Vyšehrad, Prague.
I returned a few days ago from my celebratory post-cancer-treatment trip to Prague and Paris. Now I'm jet-lagged and broke, but it was worth it! Highlights below.

Related posts: I'm posting artsy mysterious photos from the trip over at the Gargoyle Girl photography blog on Mondays for the next several weeks. I'm also writing up a separate blog post about delicious healthy eating options in Prague and Paris for cancer survivors, vegetarians, and others with food restrictions—coming next week.


We flew into Prague. I had been to the city once before, for only two days right after college. I had always wanted to go back, but at the same time I wasn't sure if my memories had romanticized the city. Was it possible it wouldn't be as intriguing as I imagined? I'm happy to report it was even better than I expected. The sites, the people, the food, the gorgeous architecture... The whole vibe of the city was wonderful. If Czech wasn't such a difficult language to learn, I would be very tempted to spend a sabbatical living in Prague.

Views of Prague from the Klementinum (National Library) Tower.

Whenever I travel to a country where English isn't the primary language, I try to learn at least a few words of the language, both to communicate and to be respectful of the fact that the world is a lot bigger than my home country. Czech was more difficult than I expected, but by the end of the week I had about a dozen key phrases down. The problem? Unlike the French, who often switch to English upon hearing my accent, the lovely Czech people were so happy I was speaking Czech that they'd try to keep speaking to me in Czech! I had no trouble finding English-speakers, though. It's true that most young people speak English. But I did use "mluvite anglicky" ("do you speak English") quite a bit once we left the touristy center of the city. 

We spent nearly a week exploring the city and surrounding areas. After visiting the requisite sites—e.g. Old Town Square with the amazing clock tower, the hidden underground level of the city, and the Prague Castle complex that includes the towering St. Vitus Cathedral covered in gargoyles—we headed further afield, including hiking down to the old fortress ruins at Vyšehrad and checking out some alchemy sites for the mystery novel I'm currently writing.

Views of St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle complex.

The Vltava River, from Vyšehrad.

Astronomical clock tower in Old Town Square.


From Prague, we caught a City Night Line train into France. The train station deserves a blog post of its own, if not a whole mystery novel, so for now I'll just say that it's fascinating how different the old northern train station is from the new main train station. I'm pretty sure we were either in a Twilight Zone or Doctor Who alternate reality. But the train still showed up, and a wonderful porter got us set up in our sleeper car at the very end of the train. He explained that the train would be split up in Germany during the night, with destinations in Germany, Switzerland, and France.

On the sleeper car, I felt like we were in an Agatha Christie novel! (However, no jewel thefts or murders took place on the train ride. As the husband had to remind me, that was a good thing.) We spent the evening watching the scenery go by.

Autumn in Paris: Luxembourg Gardens.

We stayed at a hotel in the Marais neighborhood (4th Arrondissement), the perfect central location for leisurely walks with frequent breaks at cafes that provided excellent coffee and even better people-watching. I love the presentation of coffee in Europe, where elegant little trays that give you everything you could need for your coffee, including a tiny chocolate.

Cafes in Prague and Paris. Below, Mama Coffee in Prague, full of laptop-users; Les Deux Magots in Paris, with an interesting literary history; one of many random street cafes where all the seats face outward for blatant people-watching.

Street art in the Marais.

Since I've spent a lot of time in Paris before, this trip was for relaxing more than sightseeing, but we did wait in line at Notre Dame to climb the 387 steps to see my favorite gargoyles.

With the gargoyles at Notre Dame.

This post is long enough, so I'll stop now and you can catch more photos at Gargoyle Girl!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Prague & Paris (Plus a Goodreads Giveaway)

Rather than doing daily blog posts here, I'm going to be posting lots of photos from my upcoming trip to Prague and Paris on Twitter.

I've only been to Prague briefly before, but it was such a mysterious city that I have some ideas for research for my next mystery...

And for those of you on Goodreads: Up until October 24th you can enter to win a copy of Other People's Baggage, the collection of three mystery novella's including Fool's Gold, a prequel to Artifact

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bouchercon 2012 Recap: Back from the Mystery Convention in Cleveland

I'm back from a great four days in Cleveland for the Bouchercon Mystery Convention. Here are some highlights:

It's impossible to make it a few feet through the lobby without running into old friends and new. Below, I was meeting up with new author Susan Boyer (second from right) for lunch, when we ran into Juliet Blackwell (a good friend who writes the witchcraft mystery series), Victoria Laurie (whose books I adore but who I'd never met before), Chantelle Osman (Sirens of Suspense), and Lesa Holstine (of Lesa's Book Critiques).

Gigi, Juliet, Victoria, Chantelle, Susan, and Lesa.

The opening ceremonies took place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday night. Since Bouchercon has a couple thousand attendees, not everyone fit right in front of the stage, so we were free to explore other floors of the museum. My favorite view was from above the stage.

View from above the stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the morning, I woke up bright and early for the New Author Coffee Hour, where I and over a dozen other new authors were speaking about our books. 7:30 a.m. Cleveland time felt very early for someone on California time, but as I was getting coffee I caught this gorgeous view. (Yes, Cleveland is beautiful! I posted more architectural detail photos over on the Gargoyle Girl photo blog.)

It provided an early morning thrill to have Scottish mystery novelist Val McDermid reading our book blurbs and introducing us.

After the presentations, the new authors went to the book room to sign books. I didn't know what to expect as a new author, but lots of people came to talk to me, several of whom bought Artifact. It was exciting to hear that Artifact sold out in the book dealer's room!

Twitpic posted by one of the people who bought the book!

Below, I'm at the signing table with Yves Fey, whose debut mystery Floats the Dark Shadow was recently released. It takes place in Belle Epoque Paris, so I'm looking forward to reading it.

After signing, I went to breakfast with Mysti Berry and Sophie Littlefield. There was lots of coffee and good conversation to be had. Did I mention lots of coffee?

Done with my own promo, I could turn to having fun and attending other panels! There were lots of great ones, and a few of my favorites that I remembered to photograph were: the paranormal mysteries panel with Sarah Zettel, Juliet Blackwell, Victoria Laurie, Judy Clemens, and F. Paul Wilson; the short stories panel with Laura Curtis, Shelley Costa, Terrie Farley Moran, John Floyd, Janet Hutchings, and Barb Goffman; the Sherlock panel with Laurie King, Daniel Stashower, Michael Robertson, Les Klinger, Dan Andriacco, and Sara Paretsky; the suspense panel with Norb Vonnegut, AGS Johnson, Ken Wishnia, David Bell, and Ted Hertel.

The Sisters in Crime Guppies chapter got together for lunch. 22 of us were in attendance, and here are photos of some of us below.

Even though there wasn't an awards banquet this year, I got dressed up with good friends from home, Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield. Anthony awards winners are posted here.

After the awards ceremony, I met up with old friends at new at the hotel bar. Clockwise from top left: Gigi Vernon (another mystery writer Gigi!), Darrell James, Roni Olson, Deborah Ledford, me, Ken Wishnia, Victoria Laurie, Juliet Blackwell, Nicole Peeler, me, Sheila Connolly, and Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames.

At lunch with authors Terry Shames and LJ Sellers before heading to the airport.

I'm looking forward to next year!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Post-Chemo Haircut Photos: Weeks 9, 10, 11

Life got away from me after the release of my first mystery one month ago. It was one of those months that felt simultaneously like it went by in a flash and that it was endless. I posted about fun book news, but didn't step back and upload my post-chemo hair photos, though I continued to take them each week. Below are the last three week's worth of photo of my hair growing out.

Post-chemo hair, week 9.

Post-chemo hair, week 10.

Post-chemo hair, week 11.
My curls are coming back, so the hair is starting to get crazy. I've got wax it in to keep it from being completely mad-scientist-esque, but the curls are starting to stand their ground! The guy I bought coffee from today said I had artist hair, which sounded about right.