Monday, October 16, 2017

When Will I Ever Learn?

RHYS BOWEN: Last week I made dinner for some friends. “What are you planning to cook?” John asked.
“It’s a chicken with lemon and rice dish,” I said.
He looked worried. “Have you made it before?”
“No, but I saw the demo on Facebook. It looked good.”
He sighed and walked away, knowing better than to say anything. And actually it turned out just fine.
But I have to confess that I have tried out a new recipe on guests in the past and it has not been an unqualified success: like the time I wanted to impress with turban of sole. I’d seen the recipe in a magazine but never tried it. You line a bundt pan with fillets of sole and make this incredibly rich mixture of mushroom and shrimp that you stuff it with.  You poach in hot water. Then you turn it out  and voila. A perfect ring of sole with a delightfully rich surprise inside.   Only I turned mine out onto the plate and it collapsed into a soggy, unidentifiable pink mess with the inside shrimp mixture still runny and flowing. The guests were waiting. There was no way I could serve them a pink blob with salad.
So I should have learned not to try out new recipes when I have guests.
What else should I have learned?
Shoes that pinch in the store will not miraculously stop pinching when I’ve worn them a little. In fact they will pinch worse. I have several pairs, sitting on my shoe rack, that prove this.

However tempted I am, I should not cut my own hair. I look in the mirror and think my bangs are just a tad too long and I should just snip a little…..and now I have bangs that are too short.

And toe nails. Do not paint my own toenails, whatever happens. I need a new pedicure but I don’t have time so how hard can it be to put polish on my own toes? And I have blue not just on the nail but around the rest of the toe, looking like a strange case of frostbite.

And just because something is a bargain I should not buy it unless I really love it. I have items in my closet I have never worn and finally give to charity. How stupid is that?

And I should have learned not to read reviews and not to care about them.

I’m sure there are more, but I should stop before I embarrass myself too much.
So now I want your confessions, Reds. What should you have learned, but haven’t?

HALLIE EPHRON: That 9 times out of 10, whatever I lost is exactly where I think I left it. Go back and look again.
Not everyone agrees with me. Surprising, I know.
If I remind my husband, it won't necessarily get done faster.
It's not all about word count: sometimes a book has to get shorter to get better.
A second glass of wine is never a good idea.
At least half of what I pack I will not wear.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  If you want to take off whatever layer is underneath whatever you are wearing on top, and you figure you can just slide the underthing off  without taking off the top, forget about it. Just take the top off. It'll take longer to take the shortcut.
Defrosting in the microwave does not work.
If it crosses your mind: do I need a _____? You do. Jacket, umbrella, bag of nuts, flat shoes, scarf, shawl, sunglasses. If you think of it, there's a reason.
You always need a little bag of almonds.
A lost thing will reappear when you stop looking so hard.
You can't hurry rice.
(And I totally agree about the shoes, sales and toenails. Whoa--does that sound like a cozy title?) 

Don't ever get on an international flight hungry.
Always order the airline vegetarian entree, even if you are not vegetarian.
There is no way you can keep dog hair from getting on your clean clothes in your suitcase.
No matter how many miles you walk on a vacation, calories do still count.
The third glass of wine is never a good idea.

If I think the correct direction is the left, then I should definitely go to the right.
The answer to the crossword clue will suddenly come to me when I pick up the paper later.
It's not about word count and it's better to turn a book in late rather than on time and lousy.
A second or third glass of wine might not be a good idea but dessert always is!

I rarely regret exercising.
You should smile at parents on planes, especially parents of babies.  They need moral support!
A late thank you note is better than no thank you note.
A rainy afternoon viewing of a British TV mystery can cure much of what ails you.
Forget the wine!  Have a cocktail!
I agree with Jenn:  Dessert is always a good idea.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hmmm. Things I should learn, but don't...
I can not actually finish the first draft of a book by writing 2000 words per day every day for weeks.One week in I will have written no more than 1100 words in a day and will miss writing twice; once to take Youngest to school/the doctor's/rehearsal/part-time job, and the second when my car starts to wheeze and I have to spend hours in the garage waiting room. Speaking of which...
Change the oil every 3,000 miles. How did I get to 6,000 so fast? What's that smell?
Bronchitis will not be cured by antibiotics, but by the passage of time. Three months, usually.
I will never eat a whole watermelon before it rots.
When traveling for Thanksgiving, get your tickets early. The fact that once in 1989 airline prices dropped on November 20 does not mean they will do so this year. Or any other year.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ready for the Changing Season?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  If you are seeing this on Sunday, it means I couldn't post Bouchercon photos...but they will come soon!

This is a squirrel in our back yard--clearly baffled that the green tarpaulin cover is on the swimming pool.  Yes, we have closed it, and it means summer is over...but it also means the pool will fill up and soon the ducks will come! So it's a marking of the seasons.

What are you doing to get ready for the fall?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Would You Say Panoply?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Hello from Toronto! With many of the Reds at Bouchercon and Red Julia is running the show from the US.  And today we’re talking about a writing (and reading) element all of us face—whether we’re male or female. Writing (and reading about) the opposite sex.
Jane doesn’t describe things the same way Jake does. Russ and Clare. Gemma and Duncan. All of us who write the opposite sex in our books—which would be, um, all of us—have to explore this minefield. 
Happily, today we have the wonderful Linda Lovely leading the way. And she has a bone to pick (see what we did there?) with writers who don't see the difference. 

Writing Men—When You’re A Woman
Most women know there is a whole panoply of words males don’t tend to use. (Panoply is probably one of them.) Colors are an obvious place to start. My husband would never describe a room’s color as fuchsia or mauve. Nor would he describe a woman’s hair as ginger or chestnut.
Let’s suppose he met a woman friend of mine but couldn’t remember her name. If he tried to describe her, he might tell me she was short or tall, skinny or fat. He might add she had black hair, a big nose, or sizeable knockers. But, as long as she was actually wearing clothes, he would not know (or care) about the details of her outfit. Would he ever mention the brand of a pair of shoes, a purse, or a scarf? Not in a million years.
This is my starting point. If I’m writing dialogue for a man or I’m describing something in his point-of-view, I guard against using colors, brands, and other descriptors I might use if a woman were speaking. Instead I look for the types of details he might notice to communicate subtleties of appearance or class.
That’s the easy part. Listening to what the men I encounter do—and don’t—say in a variety of circumstances. Naturally, male “speak” spans a wide gamut. For example, professors, plumbers, policemen, physicians and pro-football players are bound to have different vocabularies.
The harder part is trying to make sure male characters not only talk like men but think like them.
Or should that be my goal?
 I remember hearing one woman romance author—sorry I don’t remember who—unashamedly boast she wrote characters who reflected what women WISHED their men were like. After all, it’s fiction, why not make your heroes think and act as the bulk of your readers (typically female) dream the ideal male would act and think?
Translated the author might create male characters who display all the admirable qualities women want in heroes—for example, bravery, honesty, and talented lover. However, these traits are also coupled with ones more often linked to the fairer sex—tenderness, empathy, and, most of all, a willingness to verbally share their most intimate feelings and romantic sentiments.
Yes, I know there are men who exhibit the best of yin and yang. I don’t mean to imply men can’t be tender, kind, loving, and empathetic. It’s just that I rarely see them expressing their feelings in the same ways women do. They act. They seldom engage in long monologues about their feelings,
So, let’s suppose you want to make your male characters as realistic as possible, how do you do it?
When I’m writing dialogue, I ask: would my character really say this? Would he use these words? How would he show anger or love, frustration or fear? How would his language change if he were talking with male buddies? With strangers? With a lover, a daughter, a mother? All of us speak differently in private and public settings. The make-up of our audience also has a huge impact on how we express ourselves.
Even with my best efforts, I can easily miss the mark. That’s why I depend on two honest male critique partners to set me straight when I wander off base. In fact, my best advice to women authors is to find males who will read your manuscript and tell you when your men actually sound like women.
While Bones To Pick, my new humorous Brie Hooker Mystery series is “cozy” and doesn’t include even R-rated sex scenes, one of my male critique partners has helped me in the past write better sex scenes for my romantic thrillers. How? He explained in some detail about how circumstances impact the rise and fall of the potential for romantic fulfillment—information only a person with an owner’s manual understands.
If you find a critique partner of the opposite sex, it’s a win-win situation. You can alert him if his female characters fall within a realistic behavior spectrum.
What’s the payoff in attempting to create realistic men—and women—characters? I think it invites readers to more readily suspend disbelief when your characters are thrown into the unusual or dangerous situations that most readers (fortunately) never encounter. 
HANK: SO interesting! Jonathan often reads my pages—but I’ve never asked him: would a man say that? How about you, Reds and readers? Any secrets you’ve discovered about writing the opposite sex?

 Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely   at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. While her new Brie Hooker Mystery series may be “cozy,” she weaves in lots of adrenaline-packed scenes. Hardly a surprise given all the options she’s scoped out at the Writers’ Police Academy. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and advertising copy. She writes a blend of mystery, thrills, and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She’s the award-winning author of five prior mystery/suspense/thriller novels. To learn more, visit her website: www.

FB: @LindaLovelyAuthor
Twitter: @LovelyAuthor



Friday, October 13, 2017

Quick. Throw Salt. (But be careful of the person behind you.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Have you been apprehensive all week? Feared the coming of today like you feared the unavoidable ladder on the sidewalk? Like you feared the knowledge that you inadvertently picked up a penny that was tails up?

Yes, it's Friday the 13th.

According to  Wikipedia (I mean, where else would you look?) the fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: "triskaidekaphobia"; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen").


The superstition surrounding this day (so it says)  may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

But Friday the 13th is a new thing. Ish. Wiki says: While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

It is possible (just so you know, according to Wiki)  that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

Did you know this? In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th (Martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck. Not Friday.

In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th (and not the 13th) is considered a day of bad luck. (Has anyone heard of that? My birthday is on a 17th. I was always happy about that.)

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day".

Reds, do you take extra precautions?

HALLIE EPHRON: I went into labor on Labor Day, but no, I usually pay no attention to when Friday's gong to fall on the 13th. What would I do? Stay home? That's no good because according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (there is one), more fatal accidents happen at home than anywhere else. Somewhere else it says car accidents kill more. So what does that leave you? Air travel is probably safer.

LUCY BURDETTE: The truth is, I like Friday the 13th. I choose to consider it lucky, same as I consider black cats crossing my path to be lucky. I do not, however, walk under ladders or spill salt without tossing a little over my shoulder!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I don't usually even notice when it's Friday the 13th. I don't think I'm superstitious about any of the traditional things, although when I was a child I was totally convinced that if I stepped on a crack in the sidewalk it would break my mother's back. Fortunately, my mom lived a good long life with back intact! Where did such a silly saying come from?

HANK: I looked it up! That the cracks on the ground lead directly to the underworld and if you step on one, it lets out demons. That's the post politically acceptable reason, at least. 

JENN McKINLAY: I'm with Lucy on the salt and Debs on the cracks in the sidewalk. Weird stuff. Also, I don't open my umbrella inside but that just seems more practical than superstitious. I have no issues with ladders, black cats (I have two) or with Friday the 13th, but I do knock on wood to keep the good luck from turning bad. Ridiculous, I know! 

HANK: Well, according to someplace, knocking on wood is a version of the ruckus that pagan Europeans raised to chase away evil spirits from their homes and trees or to prevent them from hearing about, and ruining, a person's good luck. See? Can't hurt.

RHYS BOWEN: I'm not particularly superstitious, and also wouldn't notice Friday 13th unless someone mentioned it. I do mutter "Rabbits" when I wake up on the first of the month, courtesy of my great aunt who was into every superstition known to man: salt, ladders, black cats, if you drop a spoon it's a disappointment, etc etc. And Jenn, I have been known to knock on wood too.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I always say I'm not superstitious, and I'm not... but I do knock wood, toss a pinch of salt if I spill it, and pick up pennies for luck (extra lucky if it's your birth year!) Whenever I spot ravens or crows, I sing the counting song to myself to see what fortune the birds foretell: One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never told.

Sometimes I think it's less about believing in fate and more about keeping alive folk traditions in a world that is happy to throw away old ways and words with both hands. 

I know that Friday the 13th is unlucky this year, I'm not spending it at Bouchercon!

INGRID THOFT: I’m wracking my brain, but I can’t think of one superstition that I abide by.  I walk under ladders, on cracks in the pavement, and don’t worry about breaking mirrors except for the cleanup.  I’d never even heard of the heads-up penny, Hank!  I had an Italian roommate my first year of college, and my goodness, the superstitions.  Salt over the shoulder, cross yourself when you hear an ambulance, don’t touch houseplants during that time of the month.  It was a wonder she got any school work done, she was so busy warding off evil spirits.  I did recently notice that my high rise doesn’t have a 13th floor, except of course, it does.  That one must be universal if even building developers accommodate it!

HANK:  I always think that's hilarious, Ingrid. Oooh, just don't call it that, and it doesn't exist. Brilliant. 

And just so you can be prepared: There will be two Friday the 13ths per year until 2020, where 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence. Crossing fingers. 

 Reds and readers, are you superstitious? Or about anything? (I won't put shoes on the table. But I can never remember if it's no shoes on the table, or no  hat on the table. Or no shoes on the BED or no hat on the bed. Safest not to do any other them. And cleaner, too.

How about it, Reds and readers?

Copyright: olivier26 / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Dreaded Mogus (Read this and see.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Some days on the writing road you meet a colleague who turns out to be a lifetime pal. Jess Lourey and I have been on so many adventures, and misadventures, and life changes and hurdles and hilarity—I cannot begin to tell you. (Someday we will.)
Shannon is a Forge colleague, and when I read her amazing first book, I knew were we soul mates, too.
Then Jess and Shannon met. And they teamed up to become the power sisters. Seriously. They are a force of nature.  And now, with shelves of their individual books between them, they are once again taking their show on the road. And their sisters at Jungle Red are welcoming them with open arms, champagnes, and…fear of the dreaded mogus. 
(Plus--you could win their books!)

SHANNON BAKER:   Good morning Reds and everyone. Thanks, Hank, for inviting Jess and me for a stop-over on the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Blog Tour redux, in which we get to mention our upcoming releases, but more importantly, settle in for a good visit (as my grandma would say).  Virtually traveling with Jess is more fun than a person can have without a prescription. 
I’m Shannon Baker on the road to peddle Dark Signal, the newest in the Kate Fox series, where it’s murder by railroad tie. Forge is releasing a .99 Kate Fox short story September 17th, but at the time of this writing, I don’t have a link, so I’ll put it in the comments. Jess Lourey is announcing the ever-hilarious installment in the Murder by Month series, March of Crime.
Shannon: I recently ran a half marathon. It was my first. I’m 57 years old. I’d kind of always wanted to run a ½ marathon, but the idea of actually racking up 13.1 miles seemed so far outside of my abilities (and the bounds of sanity), I didn’t ever try. Jess, when was a time you challenged yourself to do something you thought might be outside your abilities?
JESS LOUREY: First, can I say how thrilled I am to be here? The Reds are amazing women, and I count two of my favorite people among them: Hallie and Hank.
HANK and HALLIE: Aw. We feel the same way. xo
JESS: Mwa-h. So My 2016 TEDx Talk, and the book it inspired, Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction, were so far out of my comfort zone that I’m still finding my way back. Both deal with the transformative power of turning your facts into fiction. The thing is, I don’t write memoir for a reason. I like hiding behind stories, and I had to drop my fiction fig leaf to share the process with others. I am glad I did, but I’m still dealing with the psychic terror.
Shannon, congratulations on the half marathon! How’d you do? Did you have special equipment? And why in the name of all things lazy did you do it?
Shannon: A couple of things inspired me to run the race, not least was proving to myself I wasn’t too old to try new, fun things. Once I convinced myself it might be possible and even enjoyable, I immediately signed up for a race three months down the road. I invited my daughter (who had talked about wanting to run a ½ marathon…someday) and her fiancé to take a trip from Portland, OR to Tucson and run it with me.  With that, I was set-in-cement committed.
Shannon: As you can imagine, you don’t just wake up one morning and run 13.1 miles. I found a training schedule that would take me to race day. And I stuck with it. The first week my big run was only 6 miles. And the next week, 7 didn’t seem so hard. The week I ran 10 miles nearly blew me away. Ten miles! Me? No way. After that, adding one more mile a week didn’t seem insurmountable.
Jess: Hmmm. Does it count as exercise to drink beer while I read about you training for a marathon? Because that bottle isn’t making its way to my mouth by itself. Also, you make this whole training process sound pretty smoo—oooth.
Shannon: I suffered some set-backs along the way. I developed a hitch in my giddy-up (a technical term) that required slacking off and lots of Ibuprofen. I contracted a dread mogus flying to a book event. Nevertheless, I persisted. (I’ve been waiting to use that quote!)
Jess: What is a dread mogus? Also, rock on with that quote. I’m going to talk politics here, and I’m going to keep it simple: women are capable, women are amazing, and it is our time. Boys are welcome, too—some of my favorite people are male—but it’s long past time to shake up the system. Back to our regularly-scheduled programming: Shannon, after you peturped (I can make up words, too) the dread mogus, what’d you do?
Shannon: My daughter and her fiancé flew in, we carbo-loaded and bought new running clothes, although my almost son-in-law only opted for new socks. Then ran the race, in much better times than any of us believed we could, and I basked in the glow of that accomplishment.
Jess: Well-deserved. I felt the same way after my TEDx Talk, and when the backstage pass I kept from the event snags my eye, I feel a tiny purr of that wonderful “I did it, you guys I did it!” feeling you earn when you Do the Thing That Is Hard. And what that thing is differs for all of us. For me, the combination of sharing personal information I’d kept hidden for over a decade, public speaking, and standing on the revered TEDx red circle was so terrifying for me that I woke up at 2:00 am the night before my Talk, sweating cold, realizing that I’d been gone for three days and hadn’t asked anyone to feed my cat. I was on my phone, crying, scrolling through my contacts to see who I could call to see if my poor kitty was even still alive, before I realized I don’t have a cat.
I learned something important about myself, and the world: we were put here to push our boundaries. All the good stuff is on the other side of Uncomfortable I Don’t Wanna. Shannon, what were your takeaways from the half marathon?
Shannon: Through this, I learned that a mile can be really far, or hardly any distance at all, depending on where I focused my attention (and what was on my playlist). Any big chore can be tackled by breaking it into chunks. Commitment and accountability are key. And whatever the journey, find comrades to share, commiserate, and celebrate.
Jess: Love it. As in running, so in life.
Shannon: I admit that a few days after the race I felt let down and wondered if I ought to schedule another race and see if I could better my time. But running is not my passion. Writing is.
Jess: That’s so interesting that you say that. A while back I started a writing retreat business because I was searching for something that I apparently wasn’t getting with my full-time teaching, writing two novels a year schedule. After five months and hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars invested, I realized I hadn’t been running toward something. I’d been running away from writing. I’m back, and remind me this is where I belong, yes?
HANK: Love you guys so much--and congratulations on your wild success! (I am now doing the thing that is hard. So your inspiration comes at the perfect time.)
Reds and readers, what have you faced and conquered?
And wait--there's more!
JESS AND SHANNON: Yes, there's more! We are each giving away three books on the Lourey/Baker Double-Booked Tour. For every comment you make along our tour stop, you’ll get another entry in the contest. We get lonely if you’re not talking to us.  This is our last stop but we’ll count if you check out our other visits.
September 2 Mysterious Musings
September 5 Janice Hardy
September 7 The Creative Penn
September 9 Write to Done
September 12        Wicked Cozy Writers
September 20        Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog
September 21        There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room
September 23        Femmes Fatales
September 24        Writer Unboxed
September 25        Dru’s Book Musings
September 27        Do Some Damage
October 3               Terry Ambrose
October 12             Jungle Red Writers

Jess Lourey (rhymes with "dowry") is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft's Excellence in Teaching fellowship, a regular Psychology Today blogger, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk. March of Crime, the 11th book in her humorous mystery series, releases September 2017. You can find out more at

Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 and 2017 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at