Walking San Francisco

We arrived home this morning at about 1 am after almost a week in San Francisco.  First, I have to mention our flights out and back.  Last Saturday morning we’re in the plane on the runway for takeoff and the pilot drives back to where we boarded and tells us that on the way to the runway he accidentally drove through a snow pile and just wants to make sure everything is okay.  And then 10 minutes later comes back and tells us he’s completely ruined the engine and they’ll have to find us another plane.  Seriously, shouldn’t a 737 be able to handle a little snow?  We switched planes and it was all good.  Then on the way back we were in the plane and a light came on, didn’t come on, whatever, and we had to get off the plane and wait.  And wait.  Four hours later we were good to go.  During that time we were able to meet a wonderful family Noel and Maura and their two kids Will and Ellie.  They made the wait easier to take.  So my advice?  If you need to get someplace on time don’t fly with us!

We stayed at The Palace downtown…

Jason’s conference was being held here and it is beautiful hotel.  Our taxi driver from the airport told us that we came just in time for the Chinese New Year parade that evening.  This is second only to the one in China (so the local news told us) and lasted a long time.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a parade…

We took the required trip to Alcatraz and learned so much about it’s history.  I didn’t know (or remember) that it had only been in use as a prison for 30 years. 

The ferry ride there was only 10 minutes and provided some lovely views of the city.

I had my fish ‘n chips at Fisherman’s Wharf, hiked up the hill to Coit Tower, overworked my short legs through the hills od Nob Hill & Russian Hill, saw the famous painted houses and spent quite a bit of time in Chinatown.  I went to the Fortune Cookie Factory where I saw the women making the fortune cookies and had some fresh off the line.  I love fortune cookies so I brought a big bag home.

I spent Monday at Golden Gate Park and my favorite place on this trip was there.  I loved the  Japanese Tea Garden.  It is peaceful and beautiful and I could have spent all day there with my camera and book.

There was a wonderful tea house near the entrance where I stopped on my way out for a nice cup of jasmine tea.

So, there you have it.  A wonderful week in beautiful San Francisco.  I was unconnected all week long.  Not one email or blog or website.  I’m feeling refreshed.  Even if I am looking outside my window at huge mounds of snow.

Bring on the Cable Cars!

Jason & I will be heading out to San Francisco for a mini vacation next week and we’ll be there six days.  Well, okay, Jason will be working a lot of the time, but I’ll be busy exploring.  We’ve both been there once.  I was there for a few days in  1994 mainly to visit friends and Jason was there for a few days of work a few years ago, but didn’t get to see much. 

So, I’m planning our trip and I’m wondering if any of you have a favorite place or activity that you think we should see.  Or maybe a bookstore I shouldn’t miss?  I’d love some recommendations!

10 in ’10 with Shirley Tallman

Last fall I read Murder on Nob Hill and The Russian Hill Murders and fell in love with the independent and spirited Sarah Woolson.  The next  book in this historical mystery series is on its way to me as I type 🙂  So, I was very excited when I contacted author Shirley Tallman and she agreed to answer a few questions. 

I recommend visiting her website where you will find access to her blog, books, and contests.  This month she’s giving away an Amazon gift card and next month she’ll be giving away signed hardcover copy of one of her books EVERY DAY!

On to the questions…

1. I love Sarah Woolson.  She’s smart, independent, and brave.  What or who was the inspiration for this wonderful character or did she just show up on your screen one day?

Actually, Sarah’s character had  been growing and developing in my mind for quite some time before I started MURDER ON NOB HILL, the first book in the Sarah Woolson Historical Mystery Series. To me Sarah embodies all the qualities I most admire in a heroine: intelligence, determination, fair-mindedness, empathy, honesty and, above all, courage. In order for a woman to square up against the chauvinism rampant in 1880’s society, she would have had to possess all of these virtues — in spades! Yet despite her feisty independence, she also possesses a quiet vulnerability and sensitivity that makes us sympathize with the many obstacles she must face, and root for her to come out victorious in the end.

2. Historic San Francisco is such a wonderful setting for this series.  What was it about San Francisco that made you want to explore its history in a series?

Several things led me to choose San Francisco as the setting for my novels. Of course the fact that I was raised in San Francisco was largely responsible. Fortunately, at the time I was growing up it was still fairly safe for a young girl to travel practically anywhere in the city by bus or cable car. My friends and I loved to ride our bikes through Golden Gate Park, visiting museums and the California Academy of Sciences, then continue riding down to the beach where we’d go ice skating, to Playland at the Beach, or to the Cliff House (the setting for book number four in the series). With my family I attended live theater and plays downtown, shopped along brightly decorated Maiden Lane at Christmas, and window shopped on Market Street. I think I fell in love with San Francisco before I even learned to read, and once I could, I would literally bury myself in books to learn more about its fascinating history. I don’t remember considering any other locale for my mysteries.

3. You also write screenplays.  How is that experience different than writing novels?

It’s completely different! For one thing, writing a novel is usually a solitary effort; for better or for worse, the author pretty much controls her story and her characters. Writing a screenplay is anything but a solitary endeavor. In Hollywood everyone seems to want a piece of the pie, and to satisfy their own egos. Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say everyone from the producer(s) (often there’s more than just one producer),  director and even the actors want to have a say in the final product — which frequently forces the screenwriter to veer off into vastly different directions. Of course when the writer attempts to please one of the producers/directors/actors, she’s sure to offend the rest of the players. To put it in a nutshell, the finished screenplay sometimes bears little resemblance to the writer’s first draft!

4. Can you tell us a little about how you were first published?

Once upon a time, my best friend and I (both mothers of small children) decided to write a book. Today we look back on the experience as having proven the old saying that, “Ignorance is bliss!” Having absolutely no idea as to the impossibility of the task, we blithely sent out the completed manuscript to at least fifty publishing houses, papering our laundry-room walls (yes, that’s where we did a good portion of our writing!) with rejection slips. Finally, one brilliant and perceptive publisher (at least that’s how we like to remember him), bought our book, PLEASE STAND BY — YOUR MOTHER’S MISSING, and released it in hardcover to an unsuspecting public. To his surprise, I’m sure, the book sold rather better than he suspected, and our careers were launched. Okay, maybe they weren’t launched right away, but we were certain we were on the right tract. As it turned out, my friend went on to write award-winning stage plays, while I helped feed my growing family by penning Harlequin/Silhouette contemporary romances. Later on, we joined up again to successfully write and sell movies to ABC, NBC and CBS.

5. Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?

There are so many it’s hard to list them. Certainly Agatha Christie introduced me to the magic of mysteries as a child. As a teen, I added science fiction to my favorites, then mystery masters such as Anne Perry, Elizabeth Peters, Ngaio Marsh, Robert Bernard and Ellis Peters.

6. What’s the last book you read?

I just finished reading Maeve Binchey’s novel, HEART AND SOUL, and Dean Koontz’s FOREVER ODD. Plus, of course, a steady stream of research books for my own novels, but I don’t necessarily count those as leisure reading.

7. What is your favorite non-reading and writing hobby?

I’m a Gemini, so I have a lot of hobbies. I love to bike ride and snow ski, do yoga, knit and crochet, and go to the movies. I admit I’m addicted to several TV series, including TRUE BLOOD, THE CLOSER, MONK, CSI (all three), HEROES, PBS MYSTERIES, HOUSE and  THE BIG BANG THEORY.

8. I love quotes.  Do you have a favorite?

I think my favorite quote is: “All things are possible to one who believes.” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – letters)

9. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?

I know I’m prejudiced, but actually I’d choose the life of my own heroine, Sarah Woolson. As I said earlier, she embodies so many qualities that I admire in a woman. Beyond that, her life is never dull!

10. And finally, what are you working on now?

I’m working on book #5 in the Sarah Woolson series, tentatively titled, DEATH ON TELEGRAPH HILL.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Shirley!

Murder on Nob Hill, by Shirley Tallman

Cover ImageFinished 1024-09, rating 4/5, mystery, pub. 2004

Book 1 in the Sarah Woolson series

Despite claims to the contrary – some, I fear, voiced by members of my own family – I pride myself on being an honest woman.  As a matter of principle, I hold dissimulation of any kind in contempt.  That said, I probably should add that I also subscribe to the old adage “God helps those who help themselves,” even if this sometimes entails being economical with the truth.

First paragraph of the book

Sarah Woolson is a strong young woman living in a time when strong women were frowned upon.  It’s 1880 and she has managed to get an interview with a leading law firm, but she is promptly shown the door because of her sex.  Not willing to step aside she steals a client and the firm takes her in to save face.  Now she must travel around San Francisco trying to prove her client innocent of murdering her rich husband and one of his powerful friends. 

Sarah is take no prisoners kind of gal and this really irks the lawyer who is assigned to following/helping her with the case.  And her brothers prove helpful as does her judge father.  She is not afraid of getting her hands dirty, but her mind is her best asset.  There is a lot to like about Sarah. 

The mystery was good.  I didn’t figure it out until right before Sarah did and it was a satisfying ending.  The family was a warm and fun and accepting of Sarah, well except for one brother running for California Senator, and I look forward to learning more about them as Sarah continues her adventures in the next book.

This did remind me of the Deadly series by Brenda Joyce if you are a fan.  Not any romance in this one, but I do see potential.

This was a library copy.