S.G. Browne

Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – Apple Fritters and Mochas

Nick Monday is a luck poacher. But once he’s poached luck from an unsuspecting mark, how does he get it out of his system so he can process it and sell it on the black market? Well, let’s just say that “he pissed it all away” isn’t just an expression.

Without going into detail (which you’ll just have to learn by reading Lucky Bastard), in order to avoid getting addicted to the luck they steal, poachers need to get it out of their system as soon as possible. Which means prepping with a mixture of sugar and diuretics. And for Nick Monday, his poison of choice is coffee and apple fritters:

The combination of sugar and caffeine helps with the processing of good luck into a marketable form. For others, sugar and alcohol does the trick. I don’t know why, since I never got better than a C in chemistry, but it’s what’s worked for generations. My great-grandma washed down rock candy with straight vodka, while Grandpa swore by powdered doughnuts and Budweiser. For me, it’s cappuccinos or mochas and apple fritters. Beer just makes me sleepy.

Because Nick’s got a thing for corporate-coffeehouse baristas (it’s complicated), he drinks cappuccinos from Starbucks and mochas from Peet’s. He also uses Starbucks to conduct some of his business, like he does in Chapter 7 at the Starbucks on Union and Laguna in Cow Hollow:

Starbucks is an ideal place for making drop-offs. It’s out in the open where no one expects it. No one’s looking around to see what anyone else is doing. People are too busy reading the paper or surfing the Internet or playing with their iPhones to care. Sometimes I think you could be masturbating while waiting in line and no one would notice.

When it comes to deep-fried pastry goodness, Nick gets his apple fritter fix from All Star Donuts on Chestnut Street in the Marina and from Bob’s Donuts on Polk Street in Russian Hill. Now I’ll be the first to admit that Bob’s has superior overall quality when it comes to donuts, but their apple fritters are a little too light for my taste. Apple fritters should be dense and artery clogging and make you feel like eating the whole thing was a really bad idea. So when it comes to apple fritters, All Star Donuts takes the prize.

While I’ve always been a fan of apple fritters, up until two years ago I’d never consumed a single coffee drink from either Starbucks or Peet’s. True fact. Although I would occasionally enjoy a cappuccino at a restaurant after a meal, unlike most writers I’ve never been hooked up to a caffeine IV drip, so I never did any writing in cafes.

But while I was writing Lucky Bastard, I decided I should probably drink a mocha and a cappuccino from both Starbucks and Peet’s for research, to get inside the head of Nick Monday. The next thing I know, I’m walking into Peet’s once or twice a week for a mocha to get a caffeine fix. Now I write at the Coffee Roastery on Chestnut Street two to three times a week while drinking a sixteen ounce mocha, no whipped cream.

This, of course, led to the inevitable mistake of drinking a mocha after 4:00pm and not being able to fall asleep until 2:00am. Which is what happened to me yesterday. And yes, that’s an apple fritter from All Star Donuts in the photo above on the right. If you’re wondering about the monkey, then you might want to check out the Name My Monkey Contest being hosted over on Facebook.

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Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – O’Reilly’s Irish Pub

Unfortunately, I’ve been laid up with the flu since St. Patrick’s Day and haven’t had a chance to take my monkey out to play. Yes, I know how that sounds. Yes, I said it on purpose. You see now why I chose a monkey.

In any case, I’ve been trapped in my apartment for four days and haven’t been able to take my Monkey-Who-Has-Yet-To-Be-Named around San Francisco with me to visit the places that appear in Lucky Bastard. Fortunately, I already took pictures of most of the locations sans monkey, which just means I’ll have to get a little creative.

For this installment of the Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour, we’re going to O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in North Beach, located right across from the Green Street Mortuary. Just in case you need one-stop shopping. O’Reilly’s is a great place to grab a pint or three of Guinness while grubbing on some fish ‘n chips or corned beef and cabbage.

The centerpiece of O’Reilly’s is a thirty- foot long mahogany bar with a fifteen- foot tall back bar decorated with pillars and antique Celtic stained glass panels. Opposite the bar, the walls and drinking nooks are plastered with old photos and framed pictures of Ireland and Irish celebrities, the shelves above filled with Irish memorabilia. And covering the corner walls at the back of the bar is a hand-painted mural of famous Irish writers, including W. B Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce (not shown).

The scene that occurs here in Lucky Bastard takes place in Chapter 29, when Nick Monday meets Tuesday Knight to discuss…well, I can’t tell you what they’re going to discuss because that would be a spoiler. But I can tell you that they sit in the back of the bar near the mural (by Oscar Wilde, actually). And when Nick orders his drinks, he stands at the bar in front of a small brass plate that reads: THIS SEAT IS RESERVED FOR CHOCOLATE DICK.

Apparently, a regular customer named Dick brings chocolate with him whenever he comes to the bar and shares the chocolate with the bartenders. So he has his own place reserved for him. No, I’m not making this up.

How Nick and Tuesday ended up at O’Reilly’s wasn’t planned out in advance. It’s just the way the story unfolded as I wrote it, where the characters told me they wanted to go, so there wasn’t any devised plan for them to meet there. But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the research.

By the way, if you didn’t notice my monkey Photoshopped into the mural of famous Irish writers, then you weren’t paying attention.

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Name My Monkey Contest on Facebook

Meet my monkey. He’s going to be accompanying me around San Francisco as I promote my newest novel Lucky Bastard, on bookshelves April 17. We’ll be visiting and blogging about all the places frequented by Lucky Bastard’s main character Nick Monday—a private investigator, luck poacher, and corporate coffeehouse whore. That’s my monkey on the left, sitting on a barrel out in front of O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in North Beach, which is one of the locations that appears in the novel.

Why a monkey? Because monkeys are funny. Just the name “monkey” is funny. Say it out loud. I dare you not to laugh. See? I told you so. But what makes this monkey relevant is that I just so happen to have an eBook exclusive collection of short stories coming out on March 27, entitled Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. The problem is, my monkey needs a name.

So what’s this all about? Well, a giveaway, of course. And what am I giving away?

  • Signed collection of my books (Breathers, Fated, Lucky Bastard)
  • eBook of Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel
  • $50 gift card to Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble or Amazon (your choice)

So how can you enter? All you have to do is pre-order a copy of Lucky Bastard, follow me and my monkey through my blog posts, and then suggest a name by entering the Sweepstakes through my Facebook Author Page. (Unfortunately, I’m not able to accept contest entries left here on this blog post. Sorry.)

Only persons residing in the United States who are at least 18 years of age can enter. Contest runs through April 16, 2012 at 11:56pm PST. Check out the Official Rules.

And good luck!

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Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – Chapter One

“It’s my understanding that naked women don’t generally tend to carry knives.”

That’s the opening line to my third novel, Lucky Bastard—a detective/noir/comedy/satire that takes place over the course of a single day in San Francisco.

Since I live in San Francisco, I thought it would be fun to take a virtual tour of the locations that factor prominently in Lucky Bastard and the inspirations behind how the book came to be written. Then I had the idea to add pictures.

Thus was born the Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour! (Cue the trumpets and orchestral music.)

Since all books have to start with Chapter One, that seems like a good place to kick things off. To quote James Lipton: We start, as always, at the beginning.

Lucky Bastard opens on the roof of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square, with our hero, Nick Monday, being threatened by an unidentified angry, naked woman holding an eight-inch carving knife. That’s the view from Powell Street of the Sir Francis Drake, known by locals as “The Drake,” on your right. They wouldn’t let me on the roof to take pictures for liability reasons. And I couldn’t find a woman willing to remove her clothes and menace me with a carving knife. So you’ll have to settle for this view, instead.

So what made me decide to start my novel out on the roof of a hotel? And why did I pick The Drake?

Lucky Bastard started out as a writing exercise for my writers group back in July of 2006. I can’t remember what the exercise was, but the opening line just popped into my head and I followed it up with a one page scene about a guy on the roof of some generic hotel and a naked woman holding a knife. That was pretty much it. I had no idea how he got up there or why the woman had the knife. It’s just what showed up on the page.

I didn’t do anything more with the scene until March of 2007. At the time I was working on my second novel Fated when  an idea popped into my head of what to do with that guy on the roof. So I sat down and wrote twenty pages of a novel that was loosely based on a short story about luck titled “Softland” that I’d written back in 2004. Which, by the way, you can read in my upcoming e-book collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel.

Another two years went by before I picked up those twenty pages and decided to see where the story wanted to go. For those who aren’t familiar with the way I write, I don’t plot out my stories. I’m a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants, discovering the story as I go along. Although the book starts on the roof of a hotel, that’s not the story. The story is everything that came before that opening scene. So I had to figure out how to get my protagonist back up on the hotel roof.

The first thing I needed to do was pick a hotel. While I’d set the novel in San Francisco, I hadn’t given the hotel a name, so I went out in search of one located in or around Union Square. The Chancellor Hotel had the right look and the colorful local history, but at fifteen stories it wasn’t tall enough for me. And while the Marriott and the Grand Hyatt were both over thirty stories tall, they lacked a certain panache.

So I decided on The Drake. One, it had the right look and feel. Two, having been built in 1928 it had the local history. Three, at twenty-one stories tall it was the right height. And four, it had something none of the other hotels could match: Beefeater doormen.

In addition to the architecture and the height and the Beefeaters, sitting atop The Drake is Harry Denton’s Starlight Room—a nightclub with a 360-degree view and 1930’s style throwback that I thought might turn out to be a useful setting at some future point in the novel. And I was right. It most definitely was useful.

But that’s another blog post.

If you’d like to read Chapter 1 of Lucky Bastard, you can check it out here.

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Filed under: Lucky Bastard,Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 9:24 pm