The Lord of Opium is moving through the publishing machine.  It has been proof read, a galley printed and checked, and we aren't too far from having Advanced Reader's Copies printed.  These are sent to newspapers and reviewers.  They get to read the book long before the rest of you see it.  Of course if you ARE someone who writes book reviews, you can ask for an advanced reader's copy from Atheneum.  You might have to prove it.  The cover will, I think, be a shadowy picture of Matt with his hand in light.  He will be wearing a scorpion ring.  This is still being discussed.

Harold and I were in Tucson for a doctor's visit when our hotel room caught fire in the middle of the night.  An explosion woke us up.  The lights in the bathroom had blown out and the extractor fan over the stove was in flames.  Burning plastic dripped onto the floor.  Our smoke alarm did not work and the telephones were partially disabled.  Harold managed to call the night desk and the girl in charge asked whether we wanted the fire department.  Harold said, "Yes, since your hotel is on fire."

The police and firefighters asked us whether there was suspicious activity and at the time we didn't know of any. Later we learned that there were three men in the room next to us.  (A room with only one bed)  A patron told us they had been there 42 days and that people came and went all night long.  She asked to be moved because she thought they were dealing drugs.  We heard them fighting and shouting at one point.  During the fire, although there were two fire engines, two police cars and flashing lights they didn't come out to see what was going on.  I suspect the men weren't sleeping in that room, they were COOKING in it. The manager of the hotel also acted strangely.  He refused to come out of his room even though there was a fire and left the inexperienced young woman on night shift to deal with the problem.  And he hid from us the next day.

Unfortunately, plastic smoke is extremely toxic and Harold didn't get out before damaging his lungs, so we have been back and forth to Tucson to deal with that.  I thought there might have been a meth lab in the room next door and left a tip with the police.  In case you want to know, the fire happened at the Best Western Hotel at 6201 N. Oracle Rd. in Tucson.

A gray fox, a beautiful animal, lay down in front of my kitchen window yesterday and gazed out at the valley beyond.  We were very quiet all day, so as not to frighten him.  It was only at dusk that Harold suggested that the fox was not sleeping, but dead.  And he was!  I had found a dead bat outside the kitchen door recently and disposed of it carefully because I thought it might have rabies.  Bats are the only mammal that has some immunity to the disease, so they can spread it around.  Now I feared that the fox had rabies -- some animals get paralytic and don't go mad.  I couldn't leave the body out all night because the coyotes, of which we have many, would eat it.  If the coyotes crunched into bone and cut themselves they, too, could get rabies.  It was a long shot, but one I didn't want to take.  A biologist friend took the fox away and will have it tested.  Gloom.  I include a picture of a healthy, young fox (as ours seemed to be) and the one that perished in our yard.

Some of you have asked for my address, want to correspond with me directly, or want a picture.  I can't publish my private address on this website because I no longer have the energy to answer more than a few letters.  I haven't had a picture taken for years because age has not improved my looks and I'm sensitive about it.  If you have something urgent and important that you don't want to put on a public website, please add your email address.  If you don't, I can't get back to you.