It’s New Year’s Eve, and when I reflect on 2015 I realize I have much to be grateful for, particularly in my professional life. There were definitely some sad moments – my stepfather died at 92, I had to cover the death of six young adults who plunged to their deaths from a rotted balcony in Berkeley, among other things.
But Tangled Vines went out into the world and was greeted more enthusiastically than I ever expected. For some reason, I was very nervous about the reception for this book, more nervous than before my first book, Towers of Gold, was released. I doubted that the story was sufficiently significant and worried that no one would want to read about this huge arson fire and my quest to understand the significance of losing 175 bottles of Port made by my great-great grandfather in 1875.
It probably was second book syndrome. The first time you write and publish a book you have no idea how it will change your life and how it makes you a “public” person about whom people both praise and criticize. But I am not complaining. It turned out well. Here are some of the highlights of 2015 :
1) Tangled Vines made the New York Times bestseller list, in the paper’s Crime and Punishment category. I did not see this coming, but it has given me an ease that I did not expect. Although I hope to do more good writing in the future, making the list makes me feel I don’t have to prove myself to others, only to myself.
2) Tangled Vines spent two (non-consecutive) weeks on the San Francisco Chronicle/Northern California Independent Booksellers’ Association bestseller list.
3) A number of publications put Tangled Vines on their list of best wine books of 2015, or list of wine books people should buy. This included Food & Wine magazine, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the San Jose Mercury News, and KQED’s Bay Area Bites.
4) A number of reviewers praised my writing and said the book was “riveting.” This was especially nice to hear because I spent hundreds of hours, like all authors, playing with words and sentences and structure to make the book as readable as possible.
5) By Christmas, the book was sold out at Bay Area bookstores. Thank you so much my independent bookseller friends, including Elaine Petrocelli at Book Passage, Kathleen Caldwell at A Great Good Place for Books, Marion Bundy and Ann Leyhe at Mrs. Dalloway’s, Michael Barnard at Rakestraw Books, Ingrid Nystrom at Book’s Inc., Praveen Madan and his staff at Kepler’s Books, the people at Copperfield’s, and many others. Independent bookstores are the center of my galaxy.
6) I got a lot of press for Tangled Vines, for which I am very grateful. It is hard to get attention for a book, so I want to thank all those writers who found the book a worthy topic.
Of course, the best part of the process has been the people I have met or reconnected with along the way. I was incredibly touched that my Kindergarten teacher, whom I hadn’t seen in more than 50 years, came to my reading at Book Passage. I loved the fact that that a number of friends from elementary school, as well as a friend from journalism school, also came to some bookstore events. Two of my parents’ friends, Peter McCrea and Ted Hall, threw me a book party in Napa, to which Brian O. Parker, the ATF agent whom I wrote about, showed up with his adorable family. And my Los Angeles relatives showed up in droves to my events. Of course, my close friends and family were the best. They were almost like my individual press agents. They shared my Facebook status updates, retweeted my tweets, and talked about Tangled Vines.
Goodbye, 2015. It’s been nice knowing you.