And here it is! See the photo shoot process here.
And here it is! See the photo shoot process here.
Who is the duke of Lancaster? It’s a simple answer that requires a not-so-simple explanation.
The first creation of the dukedom of Lancaster was on the 6th of March 1351, for Henry of Grosmont, 4th Earl of Lancaster, a great-grandson of Henry III. Like many of his ilk, he wore lots of other hats. He was also 4th Earl of Leicester, 1st Earl of Derby, 1st Earl of Lincoln and Lord of Bowland. Let’s face it, this was an important person, holding a great deal of land and wielding oodles of power. He was as close to the throne as could be. He was a favorite captain of Edward III (Richard II’s grandfather) and a founding member of the Order of the Garter. He distinguished himself well in many different ways.
How John of Gaunt became duke on the 13th of November, 1362, was after he married his cousin and Henry of Grosmont’s daughter, Blanche of Lancaster, 6th Countess of Lancaster, and the old duke died. John of Gaunt, 1st Earl of Richmond, was the fourth son of King Edward III. He certainly wasn’t going to inherit the throne (although in those days with battle and disease, you never knew), so John set to the task of diplomat, soldier, and all around rich guy, the richest in England, in fact. I put my fictional detective, Crispin Guest, into his household as the perfect place for a knight to grow to maturity and to understand the ways of chivalry. John was a knight of knights,right enough, and Crispin couldn’t have done better. Geoffrey Chaucer also lived and worked in that household so it was a perfect fit making him Crispin's best bud as well. (You can read more about John of Gaunt here.)
When John of Gaunt died on February 4, 1399, the Dukedom passed to his son, Henry of Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby and 1st Duke of Hereford, though at this time, Richard had had him banished. Henry had already been part of a group of clergy and noblemen who, with armed soldiers, forced King Richard to do right by Parliament and quit spending the treasury on so many favorites (See BLOOD LANCE and SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST). But Richard rose up in power again and got his cousin out of the way. Later that same year, when Henry returned with an army, he essentially usurped the throne of England away from Richard II, took the throne himself as Henry IV, and merged the Dukedom with the crown, and decreed that it would be personally inherited by the monarch.
And so the present Duke of Lancaster is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who is “the Duke,” by the way, not the Duchess. Further, it is customary today at formal dinners in Lancashire and in Lancastrian regiments of the armed forces for the Loyal Toast to the crown to be announced as "The Queen, Duke of Lancaster." The Duchy remains and is, in fact, a good source of income for the Queen. You can read more about that here.
No one could seem to decide if the crowds were lighter on Sunday or not. I felt the traffic was a bit better (I sold more books today, at any rate, if that means anything). And some lovely folks stopped by with their own copies to have them signed. Which is almost a better feeling than selling someone brand new on the series.
Here I am amongst the merchandise of books behind me from Mystery Ink, and the chapter swag beside me we were selling (the bookbags always sell well).
I did my best to take more shots today of authors in the MWA booth (they aren't great pictures, but here they are). That's Alan Cook and Linda O Johnson.
And there's Dave Putnam on the left and Gregory Von Dare on the right.
And then Christopher Allan Poe (yes, he's related--a great, great nephew) and Maxine Nunes.
And then we broke for a spot of lunch. Found THE best place on campus for lunch, called Lemonade. That is a string bean and corn salad, a shaved brussel sprout and parmesan salad, and a piece of cold poached salmon. Wonderful! Where's my white wine?
Then we went over to the art walk (which was much too small--hey artists! More participation!) where this fellow was weaving with painted paper strips.
And this lass was sculpting with old books.
And this booth featured art that anyone could participate in on a looooong scroll of butcher paper.
And finally, back at the booths, where Les Klinger interviewed lots of folks for his podcast. This is Stephen Jay Schwartz. Earlier he interviewed April Smith and Lee Goldberg. And that's Nancie Clare (former editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Times Magazine) in the middle, helping Les out.
I didn't attend any panels. One must get tickets beforehand or wait in long lines, and I simply didn't have the time to do it. Besides, I've seen many of these authors before quite a few times already. No, instead I hung out at our booths, signed at the end of the day beside Cara Black and Denise Hamilton, met some faithful readers and made a few new ones. I call that a good weekend. See you next year!
We set up the Mystery Writers of America booth bright and early and were ready to go when the festival officially opened to the strains of the USC marching band rocking it.
Author and board member Matt Coyle was on hand as we opened our "doors" to our booth.
And right next door at the Mystery Ink Bookstore, are authors Patricia Wynn and Sue Ann Jaffarian.
And right behind us is Sisters in Crime. Change of plans. I was supposed to sign at 4 this afternoon at Sisters in Crime, but I traded signing times with Denise Hamilton so I'll be signing tomorrow morning at 10 to noon.
Below, (from left) Terri Nolan, Diana Gould, and Kim Fay, all signing away.
Author Gayle Bartos-Pool...and friend.
And then Denise Hamilton, who gets panels every year at the festival, asked if I would like to be her guest at the author's green room, tempting me with food and free coffee. Naturally I said yes. One of these days I will pursuade the powers that be at the festival to include me on a panel, but until that time, I will sneak in where I may. Thanks, Denise.
Quite the lavish affair. No wonder they don't want the likes of me in there!
And then it was off to see the sights. Like this...
And then my son Graham (with the beard), his girfriend Mysha (not pictured), Graham's writing buddy Eric, and Eric's girlfriend Emily stopped by for lunch, and a full blown discussion ensued about Hollywood and screenwriting, hence the hand signals.
Captain Husband Man...and Captain America.
Interesting things in booths.
Scary things in booths.
Someone help those kids!
Some cartoon rabbit.
And my Los Angeles. And that's not smog. That's marine layer... That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
And then it was off to the hotel to simmer in the hot tub and rest our weary bones before we got dried off and searched out some dinner at our fav Eagle Rock hamburger spot, The Oinkster.
And this is why they call it the Oinkster: this is the Royale, a burger with pastrami and bacon. This was Craig's. Mine (an avocado burger) was already destroyed.
See you tomorrow at the festival.
Before the Festival of Books gets started this weekend, the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (for which I am the benevolent president) sponsored a pre-party at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. And what a great bookstore it was! I don't need to describe it because I've got swell pictures.
It used to be a bank in another life, but the vault doors, the second story, the pillars, even some of the mosaic floor all remain.
Gary Phillips joins us.
Other authors are lured in by the free wine and munchies. That's Denise Hamilton, Cara Black, Linda O Johnson. And you can't see them--Diana Gould an Susan Goldstein--but they were there, too.
Author Holly West showed up.
Now, check out this bookstore. Upstairs are the genre books all arranged in creative shelves surrounded by interesting art installations. There were also shops upstairs that I didn't quite get to. A vault door opens into the horror and crime section.
A wall of steam-punky gadgets.
We had center stage below.
Interesting book sculptures.
Book arch leads to the dollar room, where some books are coordinated by color.
The Last Bookstore is a fabulous place. I do recommend stopping in when you're downtown. Buy books! Thanks to them for all their help. See you tomorrow at the festival.
It's no secret that it's tough to get published these days. More importantly, for those of us traditionally published, it's tough to stay published. And so many of us are becoming what are now called "hybrid" authors: publishing both traditionally with a publisher, big or small, and self-publishing. The Crispin Guest series, though critically acclaimed and nominated multitple times for industry mystery awards, won't continue with St. Martin's Press, the original publisher. But while I dabble in writing other genres and my agent shops them around, and before we look for the next publisher for the rest of the Crispin series, I didn't want a year to pass without a new Crispin Guest novel. So I dusted off an old manuscript, spruced it up, got it professionally edited, and will release it this July as a "prequel." Called CUP OF BLOOD, it's another Crispin mystery with murder and a religious relic, but it's also the story of how Jack Tucker came into Crispin's life.
With all the formatting of the book, all the prep to send out review copies, it was never far from my mind about the cover. Covers are important to the perception of the book and its contents and I've always loved the covers St. Martin's provided for the Crispin novels. Wanting to get something like them meant doing a new photoshoot with a new model (those St. Martin's covers don't belong to me. They belong to the publisher.) I drew on my almost twenty years of expertise as a graphic designer and art director (what I used to do for a living before becoming a novelist) and the experitse of my wonderful and patient husband who also happens to be a commercial photographer, and got to work.
The costume was secured by professional medieval garment specialists, Historic Enterprises. I procured a nice fourteenth century cotehardie in Crispin's signature crimson color, a leather hood and shoulder cape was made, and belt, shoes, and scrip were all ordered. I took one of my favorite daggers from my collection as well as my own cloak (yeah, I got a cloak. And a bunch of medieval weapons. Any questions?) and we set to work.
Our model, Chris, works with Craig, and he had the hair and height we needed. He's a young thing, though, 27 where Crispin is a hard 30 when the series begins. Chris also has a baby face, but this is what photoshop is for. We'll gaunt up his cheeks and maybe give him a wrinkle or two in post production.
As Craig preps the studio, I get the costume ready for the arrival of our model.
With over thirty years of photography experience, Craig moves easily through his studio, adjusting lights and getting the set prepared.
Even though I'm considerably shorter than our model, I stand in for him while Craig lights the set.
And then Chris arrives and gets into costume. Chris is a graphic designer and videographer, and he was a good sport coming in on a Saturday to do this for me. And yes, that's his real hair.
Photographing photography never looks good. You must realize that when it's shot, there are heavy shadows in the pictures that you can't see when I snap these shots, and a London street will be inserted into the background as I work on the cover design. Sometimes, only a portion of the figure will be used, not the full length. And more shadowing will be added, his hair darkened, his face made more hungry. So this Captain Morgan stance just helps the figure to open up, to show him off to best advantage, while the fan dramatically blows his hair.
I haven't seen Craig work in some time, and I am quite frankly impressed (of course, I'm always impressed by him and his many, many skills, including building sets and shooting food, a most touchy subject to master). He moves seamlessly from fixing a light here, creating a shadow there, always watching, adjusting, tempering. He clearly loves his work.
The card (below), leaning against the small ladder behind the fan, reflects light back to the subject, in this case, the sword Chris is holding, giving it just enough definition.
Even though I already know what the cover will look like since I mocked it up well before the shoot, we are doing lots of other poses in case I must publish the rest of the series myself. You never know and it's always wise to be prepared.
Craig has a lot of personal items in the studio to give it his own flavor. Looking down at us from the prop storage space high above, is the Duke himself. Not Lancaster, but John Wayne.
Another set choice with Chris/Crispin leaning on a table with his dagger at the ready.
Chris checks himself on the computer screen. Yes, it's all done digitally today.
Chris looks completely differnt when he's not in character. And blind as a bat without his glasses.
And then one last shot of my version of the Holy Grail--the cup of blood in the title--and we are ready to wrap.
Craig makes some last minute adjustments (using a different camera this time). To the right is the bottle of "holy wine"...from Trader Joe's.
And that's a wrap! Craig will do some fancy photoshopping from the final images, and then I work my magic, and we call it a cover. That cover reveal will be in about a week or so.
A big thank you to Chris and to ICG in Norco, CA, the place Craig works.
And by the way, I hope you plan to come to the book launch on July 26 at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. In years past, we had dueling knights. Unfortunately, we won't be having those fellows this year. But Chris will be there in the flesh, in Crispin's clothing, offering a photo op for readers to get your picture taken with him! How's that! A caveat. His girlfriend will be close by and she knows where the weapons are, so hands to yourselves!
See you there.
There has been a bridge on this site over the Thames--a span of about 870 feet--for over 1900 years. The Romans built the first wooden structure around 80 AD. Many wooden structures followed. Some burning down, some being pulled down by Vikings, and even a rogue tornado. Henry II's Brethern of the Bridge guild was responsible for keeping it in order, but after the last wooden bridge fell, they put up a stone bridge, and it has been of stone ever after--until recently. The first stone bridge of arches was built in 1176 and stood for 622 years. Because land was at a premium, 138 shops and houses, and even a chapel were constructed on the bridge, their foundations cantilivering over the edge with sometimes dangerous consequences. The bridge was its own parish, and tolls were exacted to cross its span from greater London to Southwark. After many fires and other catastrophes, a new bridge was constructed right next to it. This London Bridge--a much wider avenue without shops--lasted from 1831 to 1968, when it was sold to a U.S. company and dissasembled and reassembled like so much Lego at Lake Havesu, Arizona. The current London Bridge, built in 1973, is made of concrete and steel. London Bridge is often confused with the iconic Tower Bridge, constructed in 1894 in a style as to appear older, to compliment the Tower of London.
Next One Minute History: The Battle of Hastings
There is a whole other day to Left Coast Crime, but I'm afraid they will have to carry on without me, as I leave early-ish tomorrow morning for home.
It was a full day, nonetheless, and started off with an extremely interesting panel on screenwriting. Not that I have any interest personally, but my son has stepped into the arena of screenwriting and I did my listening for him...on things he probably already knows. The panel consisted of Georgia Jeffries, Craig Faustus Buck, Ellen Byron, Lou Berney, and veteran Rita Laken (who used to write, among other things, Dr. Kildare and the Mod Squad). Moderator Jeffries began by asking the panelists what do they wish they knew when they were starting out. Lakin, who says that a female screenwriters had just as hard a time then as now, wished she had gone to more parties and networked. She said that the others at the parties assumed she was someone's girlfriend and not a writer. Some years later, she got tired of being asked by anxious newbies what they should do to get noticed by studios, and just to get rid of one guy told him to climb over the studio walls (you see, Graham. You're in.). Berney gave the best quote by saying that writing for the screen is "the only place you can die of encouragement." Every script you submit and get accepted is "the most perfect script anyone's ever seen"...before they offer you notes to change it all. But he cautioned that there are "good" notes vs "right" notes, that is, notes that might be good but wrong for that particular script. Buck suggested giving yourself time to get out of the room, telling the executives, "Let me think on it," so there is a bit of distance between the time the executive--not a writer--can rewrite it for you. Executives are fighting for their jobs just as much as writers are looking to slip in. And if the executive doesn't make suggestions for changes, it looks as if he isn't earning his keep.
For all the quirks of publishing, I think screenwriting has to be much worse.
Then it was off to "When Bad Things Happen to Good Detectives." I think I should have been on this one as I've done some pretty dastardly things to old Crispin, but no matter.
Sue Trowbridge, the Fan Guest of Honor (and my web maven) was on hand to moderate Cara Black, Janet Dawson (whose protagonist is named "Jeri." What a perfect name!), Libby Fisher Hellmann, and William Kent Krueger. (That's Sue, below, hiding behind the others. I don't know why, she's not shy.)
They offered intriguing insights to an amazing array of books, locations, and detectives.
And then finally, "How to Murder by the Book," with mysteries about books, librarians, and other book-related topics, with Rae James, Kate Carlisle, Erika Chase, Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott, and Jenn McKinlay. Readers love this sort of mystery, something in the cozy category.
And then I snuck away for lunch--another uninspired and barely palatable fare (how did I manage to do that in Monterey?). But the view was nice. I walked around this little park, watching the coots and geese on the water, and the people paddle around in paddle boats. Especially this swan one.
And then the banquet. The authors were let in early so we could decorate our tables with goodies and such. I had some swords, a shield, and princess hats for everyone, including the men. But to appease the men, I dubbed them, so now they are knights.
Everyone also got a special little gift bag with a Crispin votive, a medieval rubber duckie, a sword pen, and a special scroll with hints as to the next books in the series. And as an added bonus, I did a book giveaway.
And everyone had to wear the silly hats.
A lovely mix of authors and readers! And such good sports for letting me humiliate them like that.
As for the banquet, our talented toastmaster Brad Parks was a very funny fellow but David Corbett was right, less is more. Award winners were Kent Krueger, Louise Penny, Brad Parks, and Catriona McPherson. Congratulations, all! And for me, anyway, another Left Coast Crime comes to a close. I'll be driving fast and dangerous tomorrow. See you back in Menifee ("Menifee? Where's that?")