Goodbye 2015, it’s been a great year for ‘Tangled Vines’

Mechanics InstituteIt’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.

This was one of those surreal moments: I was in the audience while Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage praised "Tangled Vines." It was an "Elaine's Pick."

This was one of those surreal moments: I was in the audience while Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage praised “Tangled Vines.” It was an “Elaine’s Pick.”

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.

People gathering at Mrs. Dalloway's books before a Tangled Vines reading.

People gathering at Mrs. Dalloway’s books before a Tangled Vines reading.

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.

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  1. John Nielsen on December 31, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Bravo, Frances. Well-deserved. Proud to know you.

    • William H. Eaglstein on January 13, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      I would like to invite Frances to speak about her book Tangles vines at a session of the Fellowship Forum which meets weekly in Palo Alto Ca. Thank for your consideration

  2. Constance Leshin on December 31, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Hurrah and Happy New Year!

  3. Robin Renfrew on December 31, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    So exciting to read about all the praise for your Tangled Vines
    Hope you and family have a fantastic New Years
    I still have a house in Berkeley on Hopkins right above MLK
    When my daughter (high school freshman) goes off to College my wife and look forward to returning from Sierra Foothills to Berkeley

  4. David Friedman Stern on January 6, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Frances: All the reading I’ve done today on the Internet speaks highly of you. I have known your name for many years because my beloved Aunt (Carolyn Stern) marred Bailey Dinkelspiel of Seattle. They moved to
    Burlingame, CA where they lived for a number of years until Bailey died suddenly from a heart attack. Carolyn married Sol Silverman, a prominent San Francisco attorney. When Tower of Gold was published, many people began asking me if I were related to you. I said not that I know of. Most people asked if I were related to Howard Stern. But they remembered my aunt Carolyn and her adopted son, my first cousin, John Bailey Dinkelspiel who grew up in Burlingame. All of this to fine out how you got the name Dinkelspiel. I couldn’t find out anywhere, including your Blog. So I decided to go directly to the source.

  5. Patricia Rusert Gillette on March 22, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Thanks to your dear cousin James, I learned of Towers of Gold, ordered at my local Nevada City Library, the Madeline Helling, waiting for arrival from the Truckee branch. I am delighted to recommend this excellent biographical history of a piece of our diverse and complex state!! Your skill in bringing to life the characters of your family and other historical figures, recreating the experiences of the some of the major shapers of our states unfolding made this a compelling read. I am requesting Tangled Vines, and am hopeful that we will see it come into our library as part of the amazon gifts, since this area has become a major Mountain Vintage Region. I have shared and will continue to recommend this excellent read!
    Thank you for creating the flow of story which keeps me reading with enthusiasm page to page, and sorry to end, though the term of life demands it be so!
    Thanks to the Squaw Valley Writers Workshops where your gifts and practiced skills were acknowledged and nurtured!

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