Friday, June 27, 2008

Hawks & Love

Hey y'all,
So, my sweet cousin, Michel Allen (who grew up in Memphis), had a book party for me last night at her art gallery, The Allen Gallery - Southern hospitality lives in Chelsea. It was great fun, like all of her art openings - definitely check them out on Thursday nights. Liz French and Faygie Levy from Romantic Times came by. Liz was wearing a fabulous dress, and yes, that is the same outfit I wore in Natchez, and I have little excuse since I dressed at home with my whole closet at my disposal, but with little time since I was with my small sons, but anyway.
Patrick Knisley from 192 Books (don't miss their writers' series at the store and at the NY Public Library - Salman Rushdie & Jeffrey Eugenides is tonight. Oh, to have a sitter again and be at that one!) had one of his fabulous employees there, then he joined a bunch of us afterward at my second most favorite NY bistro
La Luncheonette, but soon to be my most since Florent is closing in a few days thanks to horrendous rent increases in the meat packing district. Major dismal news. NYC is supposed to have terrible neighbors with little finds nestled in them like jewels. But no longer. God save me from more gentrification. I used to live around the corner from La Luncheonette on 20th between 9th & 10th before I moved to LA supposedly only for a month, but then stayed for way longer than 10 years. Back when I lived in Chelsea, I used to see Debbie Harry prowling the aisles of the awful Safeway (remember that one?) that is long since gone. She was a much better site than the ridiculous crowds that were on 10th avenue last night when we walked to our car at midnight. Not a decent transvestite in the mix which used to be all my ex-boyfriend and I saw when we ambled over to the Empire Diner for a late night sup of my favorite meal: ice coffee and french fries, the best in NY.
Okay, that is my love letter to my old stomping grounds.

This morning, my husband and sons and I woke up to the baby red-tail hawk that has taken up residence here. He was sitting on a large rock in our backyard,
screeching like a madman. He looks small and unprepossessing in this picture, but don't be fooled. He is quite large, and not shy. He loves chipmunk - guess how we know that? - and our sons' slide. Our 18 month old was very unhappy the first time young hawk landed on the slide, and stayed there as if it were his own. My son looked at me with as much distaste as I had for last night's crowds, and tried to shoo him away. Needless to say, the hawk didn't budge. I guess both are here to stay. Somehow, I think the hawk sticking around is a better sign.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Home Again, Home Again - For Now

Hey y'all,
So I'm back from my tour, for now. As y'all know, my two young sons (four years old, and 17 months old) came with me, and they were the best traveling companions ever. Seriously. And they are generally pretty easy kids—considering the fact that they never stop moving and there is a constant rotation of fire truck/work site/ball games in our house—but still, they are under five, for God's sake. But they were such pros that I felt like I was with the editors of Condé Nast Traveler, and maybe I was—future ones. And the best part was that we all had fun. Always important! So we're home, but I still have a bunch of dates left. So check them out, and if you are near one, come by—it'd be great to see you.

Here's a bunch o' photos. And my little travel editors say hey.

Okay, this was in Monroe, La. I drove over there from Jackson, MS to tape a radio interview at 8:30 AM for Lagniappe on KEDM with Sunny Meriwether, and yes, she is as much a bright light as her name implies. Then I had a reading that night at Windows, bookstore of the much fun Elisabeth and Pat who do The Book Report that I taped the week prior, but I had the day to myself - hence the blog posting before this one, if any of this is making sense! Help! Anyway. I forgot to get photos with Sunny or at Windows. Major :( BUT I did take pictures of where I ate lunch, infer from that what you will. This is my table at The Pickle Barrel. Do not miss this place next time you are in Monroe. It is where all the locals go. I felt like I lived there. I was waiting for my next door neighbor to walk in and sit down. It was heaven. And, yes, the pickles were homemade and great. Then I got true Southern Hospitality when Monroe resident and angle incarnate Mary Brinson met me for dinner at Genusa's before my event. Okay, if I'm not going to eat a lot down South, where will I??

The next day, my cousin Henry and I drove to Natchez, a gorgeous little town on the Mississippi which is famous for having the pilgrimage tours every spring where 25 antebellum mansions are open to the public. Girls dress up in period dress and give tours. Two of my sisters did it one year, and I was so jealous of their hoop skirts (hello, Crimes of the Heart). Maybe I wore my most colorful skirt to Natchez in some subconscious honor of that. Anyway. I had a great time at Turning Pages book store. Mary and Pat had made pimento cheese sandwiches cut into diamonds with the crust off, and sweet tea. Major yum.

Then on Sunday, we drove to Memphis, and the next morning (6/16), I did an interview on Live at 9 on WREG. Okay, I am still trying to figure out how to get to the video of my interview to play on their website, and have no idea. Can I just not be a Luddite for once?!! If anyone figures it out, please yell.

After that, we went to CMOM, (Childrens Museum of Memphis - hugely great fun. FedEX donated a cockpit to them, and my 4 year old was out of his mind with joy) then to my favorite eatery, the Piccadilly! I know, I already ate there on this trip (2x before!), but how ca I resist? My kids had the best time picking their dishes of food. And where else can you get okra as a matter of course? I miss the food I grew up on!!

Then I taped a radio interview with Stephen Usery for WYPL's Book Talk. We just sat and visited about Stuttgart, and the Heat Wave of 1980, and other obscure, but important parts of my life that I rarely, if ever, get to talk to one person about who also happened to experience them. Finally, we taped a show.

That night, I did an event at Davis-Kidd; I so love that store. It's huge, but feels like it could be your library in some crazy perfect bibliophile kind of house. Anyway, one of the people who came was this amazingly sweet new friend of mine, Lindy, who I met on, this new (at least to me) site where you can connect with other reading/writing lovers. They become a kind of wonderful internet family for me.

The next day, we flew home. I so had to pay the extra baggage fee :( But it was the first time on the entire trip, so I can't really complain. But I will.

One night later, I had a Spoken Interludes here in NY with David Rabe, Mark Doty, and Kathryn Harrison. They were amazing - all such different, but powerful voices.

And it's nice to be home again. Jiggity Jig.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Day of One's Own - Sorta

Hey y'all
Apologies for another gigantic posting - it's been hard having time to get on here with tour stuff and spending time with my sons, but I am in Monroe, La for the day having a day of one's own, to paraphrase dear Eudora which is apropos since I drove here from Jackson, Miss for an 8 am live radio interview with Sunny Meriweather - how much do we love her name? and she totally lives up to it in the best possible way, this woman is pure light - for her show, Lagniappe, on KEDM. For y'all non-Louisianians, lagniappe means something extra. Sorta like a baker's dozen, but with extra hospitality thrown in. At 5, I'll have diner with a new friend, the force of nature Mary Brinson who made this day the wonderful thing that it is, and then a reading at Windows at 7, then back to Welty country.
But to pick up where I left off on my last posting:
This past Monday, I went to Lake Charles, where Fiona and Patricia - the main characters of my new novel - are from. I spent summers there as a girl visiting my grandmother, and I specifically set the novel there so I could go back and visit. It was heaven. Right when I got there, I drove straight to my grandmother's old house- she has been deceased since the '80's. I saw a woman watering the grass next door and introduced myself and she told me that the house is going to be torn down because of the damage it sustained in Hurricane Rita. I am beyond heartbroken, but so relieved that I was able to get there and see it one last time. isn't it wonderful? There is an amazing attic up there that was made into a playroom that was wallpapered with New Yorker covers from the 1920's up to the '50's. I put that room in my first novel. and I made this Fiona's house in my new novel. I so loved it.
And this is the pavilion that Fiona and Patricia play in as children in the novel, and where my sisters and cousins and I all played as kids, acting out all sorts of dramas and romances.
The house behind it is antebellum.
We never saw anyone in it, but
always imagined it was a very
benevolent elderly woman who
didn't mind us trampling her yard and jumping around her statue. And this is Lake Charles, as seen from my grandmother (and Fiona's virtual!) house. That's a beautiful bridge all the way across. It was a beautiful white-gold low rainbow at night.
And this is the entrance to Drew Park - another locale in the novel. The wrought iron arch above the pillars says Drew Park. My husband or four year old would have been able to make that visible, but I was lucky to get the framing straight - kinda. But that led to the bike path we took there to play on the jungle gym and clubhouse for ping pong games - both make appearances in the book. I could feel the shorts high on my legs, and imagine the restful, cold quiet of my grandmother's home when we'd come in after playing. She always had an old fashion at 5, and we'd have shirley temples and peanut butter on saltine crackers before a cold supper at 6. Dinner was at noon. This was the South! I would always make her drinks because I put in 2 jiggers of bourbon instead of one, and she'd always say, "DeLauné, you make the best old fashions." As if she had no idea that they were stronger than hers, though maybe she didn't. This was when I was 8 or so. She was a grand woman. Very elegant, but with a great sense of humor. She is much missed.
Then I went to Books-a-Million for a signing, where I felt like I was returning to the hometown of my dreams. We sold out of books after an hour and a half, and I met such wonderful women. Everyone was so happy to connect, an amazing bookclub came, The Pulpwood Queens. I love these women. They have pink t-shirts and tiaras, and so get the lifelong sister/friend female thing. I met a cousin, Traci Dubus, and her darling daughter Molli. Traci had grown up hearing about our ancestor in Marie Antionette's court, but didn't know the full story, so I filled her in.(the woman I was named for Helene Delaune was going to go to guillotine, but Marie Antionette gave her jewels for her and her husband to escape. I think that is a future book.) Then I did an event at the central library, and they had someone from the Junior League make appetizers and they gave me the Junior League cookbook - my husband is thrilled!! We can just close our eyes, open to a page, and find a great new dish for dinner. And, it's food from home! They both want me to come back in the fall, which I will in a heartbeat. They were so wonderful and welcoming.
Tuesday was New Orleans. It started with an interview with Susan Larson of the New Orleans Times-Picayune at CC's, Community Coffee's local cafe. If you think you are happy with Starbucks, order Community Coffee and find nirvana. And it's from New Orleans! She was so fun to visit with. She knows my whole family and had great stories to tell me about them, I mostly wanted her to talk more than me. Then I did a half hour taped radio interview for WRBH with Deb McDonald - she was great fun. Then I went to my dear dear friend, Sid Montz' stunningly gorgeously restored 1880's home off of Prytania street,and called in to do a taped radio interview for the Book Report - here's the MP3. I love Elisabeth and Pat -their voices combined are like a great old fashion (there's that drink again, I really am home!) - one's bourbon and the other is sugar.
After that, Sid and I went by Octavia Books (pic on left)to sign stock and see Tom and Judith and their darling puppy - my youngest son would have loved him!
Then I went to Garden District Book Store
for a reading and signing - that's me with my cousin René Thionville, and you can tell his accent by his name. I could listen to him all day. The voices down here are just heaven. My husband keeps telling me that every time we talk, mine is thicker and thicker - thank God!! After that, Sid and I had dinner at a great Uptown restaurant, then I drove back to big BR (Baton Rouge, or le rouge, as a friend used to call it.)
Wednesday in BR started with a live radio interview on the Jim Engster show, then I picked up my sons, and we went to see the school I went to, St Joseph's Academy, where the kind and delightful and regal Sr. Joan took us around for a tour and let my older son pick out two old school desks for us to get up to NY somehow for him and his brother to use - wasn't that lovely of her? They were throwing them out, but they are in gorgeous condition, the oak wood perfect, so the timing was great. Then lunch with my Aunt Kathryn and cousin Cathy, then off to see the most important resident in Baton Rouge (in many people's opinion) the one, the only Mike the Tiger.
Yes, he has his own website). After LSU won the championships, Mike got these new digs - and no, my pic does not do it justice. When I was little, he had a humble home, but he has stayed the same at heart (even though he is a different tiger!), when we got there, he was napping in the shade mostly out of view just like he always was when Momma would take me to see him. But that's the Mike the tiger experience. Kind of the reverse of an LSU game. There is nothing sleepy about that experience. My older son wished Mike were a camel. I won't tell the rabid LSU fans that!!
Then I had a reading/signing at Barnes and Noble that night - I promise I'm wearing a different skirt and top than the other pics, it's just hard to tell!! - and that was wonderful fun to see old friends and meet new people.
Then on Thursday, yesterday, we drove to Jackson, Miss, and I got
the boys settled with Julia (who has been a godsend on this trip) at my cousin Henry's house, and Henry and I went to Lemuria, a book store I love. That's us with his friend Karla - she's a hoot, as any good Jackson girl is. One of the wonderful people at the store, Joe, has been to parties at the house my father grew up in when he was a boy in Jackson - too small a world. We traded baby pictures. I was pregnant with my second when I was there two years ago with my first novel, and he and his wife were about the have their first child, and since have had a second. so that was dear to see those pictures.
Then off to Piccadilly - a restaurant I put in The Safety of Secrets - they are all over the South - don't miss them if you get down here - yum!!
And now we are caught up with me in Monroe. Tonight is a reading/signing at Windows. More pics soon.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Suspicous Ocean and photos from the road

Hey y'all,
So I am getting my sea legs, so to speak, on touring with two small children while keeping up with all things web, but I am glad to be getting back to my blog!

The first reading was at the Borders in Portland. They did a wonderful event, and some people I know from came, so that was great getting to meet cyber-friends in person. Another woman there knew me from my reading series, Spoken Interludes, in LA. She just happened to be at Borders that night, saw the sign about my event and stayed. Great Serendipity!

The next day, we flew to Albuquerque, and my husband and sons went to my sister's house - heaven with a pool, I would never leave if I lived there - while she and I went to my event in Santa Fe - great fun and great sister visiting. And I got some pool time the next day!

The next morning, a radio interview on KHFM-FM with Kip Allen at 8 am - early, but worth it. I'll get the Mp3 to put on here soon.
The event at Borders that night had a great crowd and fun book-club like discussion. And Whole Foods was next door to stock up on organic chocolate - hooray!

Our digs in LA. Craig's list has been the saving grace this tour. How cute is this? if you need a place to stay.
And it's more spacious than their website makes it sound. Plus La Cienega park is two blocks away. A happy child (or two) is a happy momma.

BEA was Saturday. I had a signing that
morning, then got to see friends/Spoken Interludes Honorary Board members Robert Crais, T. Jefferson Parker, and Michael Connelly (the triumvirate of the mystery world) in a panel that afternoon about audio books. That's my friend, Betsy Little, with Michael and me.
The HarperCollins party was that night at Fox. It was funny to be on the lot as a non-actor - funny, but really nice. I shot NYPD Blue there, not to mention countless auditions, which I don't miss at all!!

Spoken Interludes was Monday night. Litblogger Mark Sarvas of the Elegant Variation and Marisa Silver read from their beautiful new novels. Michael Kearns read a powerful piece about his work with children with AIDS in Africa, I read, and the gloriously funny Taylor Negron read a piece he wrote for the evening about his start in Hollywood as a cartoon character for a Hanna Barbara show. Could breaking into the business get any better than that?

Tuesday night was Borders in Westwood, home of the amazing Lita Weissman, God's gift to writers. Betsy (of the Michael Connelly picture above) and Lita and my sons and I had breakfast at Juniors the next day. As we were leaving (after many eggs were consumed and/or thrown on the floor thanks to my 17 month old but I did leave a good tip, I remember being a waitress) we asked a woman to take a picture for us. She said sure, then promptly jumped into the photo and smiled. We said, Oh no, we were hoping you would take one of us. She looked confused, though not as much as we were as to why she would get in our picture, but she took the photo, then said goodbye. The valet - yes, this is LA, the deli's have valets - told us she was Fantasia from American Idol. I still don't know who she is, but I'm sure that has a lot more to do with my lack of TV time than hers.
Wednesday was Flint Ridge Books and Cafe in La Canada. I had
never heard of that town either. Now, I want to live there.
It was like stumbling upon a Ross
MacDonald novel without the murder. Total Southern California
circa 1950. I've been wanting to retire to Malibu in 1975, but since that isn't possible, maybe I can get my husband for us to move there instead.

Thursday I called in to do a radio interview with WWNO in New Orleans, then that night, Vroman's. Here I am signing a book in their office before the event. Yes, I did wear the same outfit two nights in a row. But it was only a few hours each night, so I figure combined together, they made up only one day. Sort of.

Friday, we flew to Louisiana.
As the plane left LAX, and flew out over the ocean to turn around, my 4 year old asked me what river that was. I told him it wasn't a river, it was the
Pacific Ocean. He said, "The suspicious
ocean?" I told him no, but really wanted to say yes.
We got to Baton Rouge, where it is over 90 degrees plus 95 % humidity - welcome home! I keep asking my family and friends if it was this hot when we were growing up. Either it wasn't, or I have been up north too long. I drove straight to NO to tape a TV interview (check that out here), then woke at 6 to call in to do a TV interview over the phone for a morning news show in Lafayette called Passe Partout (I love being home! Where else in the US would a news show have that name??) then later drove to Lafayette to do an event at the Museum at USL.
I got to see lots of old family friends and cousins I'd never met and meet new people - great fun.
It rained on the way home over the Atchafalaya Basin. It was a lot more beautiful than this picture, but here's a small taste of that.

Today, I did a reading at the Baton Rouge Art Gallery. I'm so happy to be back in the South where people dress up and wear hats. More soon.