Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Meeting Cute: Debut Author Edwin Hill

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  We met cute. We totally did. we were seated next to each other at the Malice Domestic banquet, always a treat, and since of course we had a lot in common--we were both at Malice, that's plenty--we started up a conversation.  
Are you writing? I asked. (Always a good one.) 
Yes, he said, in fact, my debut novel, Little Comfort, comes out August 28.
Oh! I said. What a coincidence! Mine, too. That's when Trust Me comes out.
I know, he said.
(To which, silly me, I thought--how wonderful of this cool guy! He's such a fan of mine that he knows my pub date! Isn't that great? Aw. I instantly adored him, of course. and continued the conversation.)
Oh, such a coincidence! I said. We can be pub date buddies. 
Yes, he said, but I'm not doing my launch until the 29th.
(To which, silly me, I thought--well, there's gotta be some reason for that. Wonder what it is?)
Oh, I went on, so brightly, interesting! Why?
Because that's when YOURS is, he said.
What? (This was not computing. Lots of people have the same pub date, obvs.)
Yes, he said. Brookline Booksmith scheduled YOU for that day, so I had to postpone. 
What? (I was repeating myself, I know.) You're from Boston?
Yup, he said.
So, it went on like that, and now we are doing an event together later in the month, and all fabulous.
But today is all Edwin Hill here at Jungle Red, and you are going to love him, too. 
And even more so--as he tells us about:

The Power of the Librarian

   by Edwin Hill
Mysteries, no matter the genre, are about curious people asking questions, and to me, librarians are among the most curious people I know – solving big and small mysteries for their patrons every day. My novel, Little Comfort, is about a librarian named Hester Thursby who finds serial killers, which has given me the opportunity to talk with librarians all over as I’ve researched, and to remember one librarian in particular who played an important role in my life and many others.

My parents grew up in Whitman, a small town on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Before it was a town of its own, Whitman was a neighborhood in the larger town of Abington, called Little Comfort. I always appreciated the irony in that name and thought it would make a great novel title, so here we are!

My grandmother, Phyllis Hill, was the town librarian in Whitman from the forties through the early sixties. She ran all sorts of programs for children and adults that brought the community together. In addition to working as a librarian, she was a poet, publishing a collection called Poems for the Future, and conducted psychic readings and automatic writing. She retired in the early sixties and passed away in the early nineties, and at her funeral, it was amazing to hear people talk about how she’d inspired and helped them through her work at the library. 

Even twenty-five years after my grandmother’s death (she’d be 124 this year), I’m still amazed by that reach. The staff at the Whitman Library helped me find the photos for this piece, and many of them remembered meeting her. 

Recently, because of the publicity for Little Comfort, a man named Andrew Michael Rossi reached out to me through Twitter. I’d never met Andrew, thought he’d grown up in Whitman when my grandmother was still the librarian, and he wrote about how important she had been to him - how she had listened to him and seen him. And then he told me a story that I’ll cherish forever. 

“Your grandmother lived on Washington Street, not far from where I grew up. She had written a book which I had read. I called her and she agreed to meet me. I was twelve years old. I decided I would do a watercolor of a seascape as a thank you. When I got to her house, she asked to see the picture I did for her. She held it up to a picture on her hallway wall. It was almost exactly the same. I kid you not! We talked about the paranormal. She showed me some of her automatic writings from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and then told me a young boy was present around me and he told her to tell me he was watching over me. My older brother Wayne was killed in a freak accident when a piano fell on him ten years earlier. All in all its an experience I will never forget. I just loved your grandmother to bits!”

Phyllis Hill may not have been your stereotypical librarian, but then, neither is Hester Thursby. I adored my grandmother in all her unique, loving ways, just as I love Hester Thursby.

HANK: Right? Of course he had me at the librarian who finds serial killers because she knows about research. BRILLIANT!  And how about that fabulous name, Hester Thursby?  

Two things today: Reds and readers, tell us one thing about your grandmother!
And Ed, we want to hear more about his book!

Edwin Hill grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and where he spent most of his childhood obsessing over Enid Blyton’s “The Famous Five,” Agatha Christie novels, and somehow finding a way into C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe. After attending Wesleyan University, he headed west to San Francisco for the original dotcom boom. Later, he returned to Boston, earned an MFA from Emerson College, and switched gears to work in educational publishing, where he currently serves as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan. He lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts with his partner Michael and his favorite reviewer, their yellow lab Edith Ann, who likes his first drafts enough to eat them.


In a brilliantly twisted debut set among Boston’s elite, Edwin Hill introduces unforgettable sleuth Hester Thursby—and a missing persons case that uncovers a trail of vicious murder . . .

Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine.

Sam has no desire to be found. As a teenager, he fled his small New Hampshire town with his friend, Gabe, after a haunting incident. For a dozen years, Sam and Gabe have traveled the country, reinventing themselves as they move from one mark to another. Sam has learned how trusting wealthy people can be—especially the lonely ones—as he expertly manipulates his way into their lives and homes. In Wendy Richards, the beautiful, fabulously rich daughter of one of Boston’s most influential families, he’s found the perfect way to infiltrate the milieu in which he knows he belongs—a world of Brooks Brothers suits, Nantucket summers, and effortless glamour.

As Hester’s investigation closes in on their brutal truth, the bond between Sam and Gabe is tested and Hester unknowingly jeopardizes her own safety. While Gabe has pinned all his desperate hopes of a normal life on Hester, Sam wants her out of the way for good. And Gabe has always done what Sam asks . . .

A second Hester Thursby Mystery will follow in 2019.

Little Comfort Giveaway

Head over to and sign up for my newsletter by September 26. I’ll be offering two signed copies of Little Comfort as a giveaway.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bow WOW! Mystery Dogs!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Hurray hurray, fireworks and champagne! We're celebrating like mad here in the jungle—flinging rose petals and confetti for the debut mystery of our dear darling talented wonderful Paula Munier. 


And so is Paula.

::pausing now while we all cheer::  

And what could make a terrific mystery even better? It co-stars a dog! Even better? TWO dogs.

I will say no more. Except bow WOW.

Curious Dogs and Mysterious Incidents
           By Paula Munier

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Canines and crime fiction go together like, well, mystery and murder. When I wrote A
Borrowing of Bones, a mystery featuring Army MP Mercy Carr and bomb-sniffing Belgian shepherd Elvis and game warden Troy Warner and search-and-rescue Newfoundland-retriever-mix Susie Bear, I knew I was following in a rich tradition of dogs in mysteries.

Here are a few of the best:

Snap and Waggo
The first literary dogs I fell in love with were the dogs in the Bobbsey Twins books: Snap, the retired circus dog, and Waggo, the fox terrier. These were my first—and favorite—mysteries.  The Bobbsey twins had it all—a big family, lots of adventures, even Baked Alaska in one story—and a high-energy fox terrier and a circus dog full of tricks. Oh, to be a Bobbsey twin!

Nancy Drew had a dog, too, a terrier Togo. Nancy named him after the courageous sled dog who ran the lion’s share of the famous journey across the frozen tundra to Nome, Alaska with the serum the townspeople needed to survive the diphtheria epidemic. I know, I know, we all thought that was Balto, who gets most of the credit, as he ran the last lap of the trip. But Togo was the one who ran the longest leg of the relay by 200 miles and swam through the ice floes of Norton Sound to save his team and driver. Apparently the ever-clever Nancy knew all along.

I discovered Dashiell Hammett in my teens. I read all the books and stories and obsessed over them all. The Maltese Falcon, the most, despite the fact that there was no Asta. Which brings us to The Thin Man, Nick and Nora, and their beloved Schnauzer Asta. To me, Nick and Nora Charles were the epitome of high-society chic, and Asta was the epitome of canine-society chic. If she could talk, I knew she’d be as witty as Nick and Nora. And demand a martini immediately.

Pearl the Wonder Dog
By my twenties I’d discovered Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Boston, a tough-but-tender errant knight/private detective, an even tougher enigmatic sidekick, a sexy and smart shrink girlfriend, and a spoiled German short-haired pointer named Pearl the Wonder Dog. In real life, Bob loved his pointers, all named Pearl, and he immortalized them in his books as Pearl the Wonder Dog. A very writerly and gallant thing to do. Very Bob, very Spenser. All literary dogs should be so lucky.

In Craig Johnson’s Longmire series, the laconic hero Longmire is so laconic that his dog’s name is, well, Dog. In keeping with that, I’ll keep it short: Dog is a great dog. Period.

In her series Inspector Armand Gamache, Louise Penny has created a man of honor and humanity we readers love. So it’s no surprise that Gamache’s German shepherd is as wise and wonderful as he is. As Gamache puts it himself in How the Light Gets In:  “He realized Henri already knew all he’d ever need. He knew he was loved. And he knew how to love.”

The most engaging dog in crime fiction must be Chet, the K-9 school drop-out with the mismatched ears who becomes the smarter half of Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series. I bought the first novel, Dog On It, at the New England Crime Bake and had Peter Abrahams aka Spencer Quinn sign it for me. I read it one snowy evening, and spent the winter reading all the rest of them. These stories are written from Chet’s point of view, a risky proposition that Peter pulls off with aplomb.

Which Brings Us Right Back to Sherlock Holmes
The most famous dog in crime fiction is the “spectral hound” in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. This story scared me silly; I have Sherlock Holmes to thank for a still-real fear of a bloodhound-mastiff mix—not that I have ever run across one. (I also have Sherlock to blame for a still-real fear of snakes, but that’s another story.)

In my novel A BORROWING OF BONES, my hero dogs owe much to these literary dogs I’ve read and loved. Elvis is fierce and formidable; Susie Bear is friendly and faithful. Both are fun to write—and good at helping their humans solve the mystery and save the day.

Just like in real life.

HANK: Hurray! Oh, I said that. Anyway. (And I had no idea that was Nancy’s dog’s name. Huh.) ANYway. I’m madly in love with Asta, too, always have been. What about you, reds and readers? Who are your favorite literary dogs? And I’m awarding A BORROWING OF BONES to one lucky commenter!

Paula Munier is the author of the bestselling Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, Writing with Quiet Hands, and the acclaimed memoir Fixing Freddie. The first novel in her mystery series, A BORROWING OF BONES (Minotaur, 2018) was inspired by the hero working dogs she met through Mission K9 Rescue, her own Newfoundland-retriever-mix rescue Bear, and her lifelong passion for crime fiction. In her fabulous day job as Senior Literary Agent and Content Strategist for Talcott Notch Literary, she represents many great writers. Her specialties include crime fiction, women’s fiction, upmarket fiction, MG and crossover YA, high-concept SFF, and nonfiction. She lives in New England with her family, Bear, Freddie, and a tortie tabby named Ursula.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Perchance to Dream

RHYS BOWEN: I have just planned out the watering system for the new plantings on my hillside, thought up the next plot twist for the book I am writing, gone through my finances and planned menus for the guests who are visiting next week. A good morning’s work, you might say, except that I did all this at 2:30 am when I couldn’t sleep.
Like many of you, I expect, I find it hard to sleep when I am busy—either in the middle of writing a book or about to set off on a book tour, or both, as happened last month. I can fall asleep because I am really tired, but then I wake a couple of hours later with so many competing thoughts flying around my head. I have yet to find a way to still this teeming brain. My doctor has prescribed Ambien and it works well, but I try to stay away from drugs and only use it when I know I really need a good night’s sleep, like a big meeting or interview the next morning, or on my first night in another time zone.  I sometimes resort to Advil PM but that often makes me feel sluggish in the mornings—and again I don’t want to come to rely on drugs.
I have tried all the herbal supplements but again the ones that are most effective –valerian and melatonin—make me feel dopey. I’ve tried the sleep CDs… you know, the calm voice saying “Empty your mind of annoying thoughts.”  Great idea but the annoying thoughts cling on for dear life and won’t go. My son swears by meditation but for me this goes like: Ahh, I’m on a lovely beach, the waves lapping at my toes. I’m breathing deeply and –DAMN! She couldn’t have seen the murderer because he was behind the stairs!!!
So dear friends: any suggestions that actually work? And brilliant mattresses that enable deep slumber?

LUCY BURDETTE: So sorry Rhys, no brilliant thoughts about what works! Though I too am in the market for a mattress so suggestions welcome. As a teen and twenties person, I was a brilliant sleeper. Probably back then I could have functioned on less, so it doesn't seem quite fair. Meanwhile, all the articles about how sleep staves off Alzheimer's only makes the prospect of rest even more dim!

HALLIE EPHRON: I was encouraged to discover when I was researching sleep science (one of the main characters in "You'll Never Know Dear" is a psychologist who studies sleep) that it's normal for people to sleep for the first for four hours, then wake for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep. Apparently it's a myth that a 'good night's sleep' is 8 uninterrupted hours.

Most nights, I'm awake in the middle of the night. I tell myself it's normal and use the time to think through a problem I was working on the day before. Or I have games I play with numbers (too complicated to explain, but a stress free way of occupying my brain).

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am a good sleeper, and can fall asleep anywhere any time. Except--when I can't. If I am trying to put myself to sleep, I imagine I am someplace else, and I meet someone, and I say this, and the person says that, and I imagine this scene. Not from a book, but as if I'm in it. (Does that sound weird?) So, Rhys, I say yes, go ahead with your scenes, but instead of doing it for the book, just let your mind go into someplace else. As if you're in a movie or a play. I cannot empty my mind--it only makes me start thinking: empty your mind empty your mind--until my mind is full of that. Or you can watch a movie in your head. That works, too.
And I think  a big key is not to worry--don't fill your mind with how much you NEED to sleep!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I've been dealing with sleep issues for some time. I have bursitis in both hips - I know it sounds like the ultimate little old lady ailment, but what it means is that the bursae, the little sacs of liquid that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles in our joints, become inflamed.  For me, it means that when I lie down after a normal day's activities, my hips ache. I can stay in one position of a while, and then the pain will wake me up and I have to shift.

My sleeping techniques? Of course, use good sleep hygiene. Dark room, quiet, don't use your bed for anything other than sleep, sex and a little nighttime reading. Regular pre-bedtime routine, regular hours. (Which I expect to be able to keep better now I no longer have a high-schooler who needs late-night transportation or homework help!) I love my black-out eye mask in soft velvet. You can get ones just like it on Amazon. And my empty-your-head trick - don't laugh - I do sums! I am SO bad at mental math, I have to focus so deeply I can't swerve off into things I'm worried about. I'l pick a problem like, "How many days since The Sailor graduated from basic?" Once I start to multiply 365 times 2, I fall asleep like a shot.

Rhys, have you tried keeping a notebook on your bedside table? Maybe if your mind knows it doesn't have to REMEMBER the clever ideas it comes up with during your sleep, you can drop off quickly after jotting a sentence or two down.

INGRID THOFT: In general, I excel at sleeping.  There are occasional nights or circumstances when my natural sleep talent fails me, but in general, I sleep well.  The thing I’m less thrilled about is that I need a lot of sleep.  Nine hours is great, but I can go longer given the chance.  New parents and other people who survive on six hours a night or less?  I can’t even imagine.  I follow the usual sleep guidelines: no screens in the bedroom, a melatonin and the occasional Zyquil, reading to get drowsy, and occasionally earplugs to block out the city sounds.  I also keep a notebook on my bedside table and write down the random thoughts that inhibit snoozing.

JENN McKINLAY: I am not a big sleeper, so if I clock in a solid six hours I wake up raring to go. I think because I sleep less than "normal", when I do sleep, I sleep hard. I can sleep anywhere in any sort of chair, couch, bed, plane, train, car, you name it. When I close my eyes - boom - I'm out. Also, I don't dream, at least, none that I remember.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys and Lucy, we replaced our mattress a couple of years ago (don't even want to admit how old the previous mattress was!) and it's made a big difference. I did a lot of research, too. We bought a Sealy Posturepedic firm mattress with a Euro pillow top and it has been fabulous. I highly recommend going somewhere with a big selection and trying out different brands and types. (Julia, the Euro pillow top works wonders for achy body parts.)

I was thrilled when I read the same sleep study that Hallie mentioned. It takes the pressure off, knowing that it's actually normal to wake in the middle of the night. I have a secret weapon in the getting back to sleep battle, however. I have a chaise longue in my office, across the hall from the bedroom, so when I wake up around four or five in the morning, I grab my pillows and curl up on the chaise under a favorite quilt or down comforter. Usually I can go right back to sleep, while if I stay in bed I will likely be wide-eyed for hours.

Jenn, now we know how you can write so many books--you don't sleep! Unfortunately for me, I need a good eight hours to be sharp and focused enough to write. And a twenty minute afternoon nap works wonders for a late afternoon writing sprint.

RHYS: Julia, I do keep the notebook beside the bed.  Jenn, I can't believe you don't dream. My sleep hours are full of vivid, and sometimes alarming, dreams. And Debs, a new mattress is on the cards for us too. We tried the Sleep Number, which was very nice but balked at the $9000 price (on sale!) I'm now considering the Dreamcloud I see on Facebook. Has anyone tried that?
And dear readers: does anyone have a magic charm for falling asleep and staying asleep?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

PSL--Hot or Not?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Saturday afternoon, at Gate 14 in the Tampa Airport, hoping my plane is not much later than it already is.  (I was at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association conference, which was fabulous! Lookit just some of the books I signed!)

Anyway, at the airport. One part of the airport  that never changes is Starbucks. You know me well, so that's no surprise. This is the view from my spot at the counter where all my electronic stuff is plugged in, in preparation for the aircraft to have no plugs. But that's another blog. 

So is what appears to be a flight of pterodactyls above.  Anyway. Starbucks never changes.

But wait. I'm wrong.  It's fall. And Starbucks does change.

It has pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING.

Reds and readers, forgive me. I have never had pumpkin spice anything. Pie, okay, pie. But that's it. Okay, perhaps pumpkin mousse at some point.

But PSL?  No way.  

So weigh in, reds and readers, on this pivotal question.  Are you PSL person?  Or does PSL mean--Pretty Sadly Loathesome? (Can you think of better words? Careful....)  Or are you still deciding? 

Off to the Provincetown Book Festival today--so cool! But I will check in to see how the vote is going.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

An Unexpected Guest

HANK: We all know people like this. They come into our lives, and we think: hi and goodbye. And then something happens, and they’re baaaaack.

Every author will tell you there’s no such thing as a secondary character. Say it with me: “A secondary character is the main character in his/her own life.”  But it’s not only a mantra, it’s the truth.

As our dear wonderful Annette Dashofy—hurray—found out first (or second?) hand.

Harry Adams’ Encore

I created the character of Harry Adams back in the second book of the Zoe Chambers series. I’d been exploring the theme of fathers, which for me meant exploring my own heart. I’d lost my dad to complications from Alzheimer’s a few years prior to starting this book. Enough time had passed that I could tackle the subject and the character with some clarity of thought. Or so I believed.

Harry is Pete Adams’ dad. For those unfamiliar with the series, Pete is the secondary protagonist who also happens to be the small-town chief of police. Pete’s sister has been their father’s primary caregiver, and in Lost Legacy (book #2), she drops him off on Pete’s doorstep, so she can have some downtime. In the process, Pete learns a lot about his dad and himself.

I knew from the start that Harry had Alzheimer’s, but I agonized over the character and the disease. Almost everyone has some experience with a family member or friend who suffers with this devastating illness. It’s ugly. 

I wanted to represent Alzheimer’s truthfully and accurately, but I also wanted to create a character whom readers would want to spend time with. As I wrote, I had no idea whether I’d found the right balance. However, Lost Legacy became the story of my heart, giving me a chance to revisit my dad. I selected quirks of his and instilled them in Harry, while leaving out the most difficult parts. I’ve always said, Harry is not my dad, but parts of my dad live on in Harry.

At the time, Harry Adams was to be a one-and-done character. I’d even contemplated having him die a hero in the end. To my surprise, my critique group fell madly in love with the old codger, leading me to realize I’d be in big trouble with my readers if I bumped him off. I also realized I must have succeeded in striking the balance I sought.

Harry got to live on, a tad worse for wear, but I still hadn’t planned to bring him back. Until my readers started demanding to know when Harry was going to show up again.

Four books later, I finally found a storyline that worked for him in Uneasy Prey (#6, released March of this year). I had Pete and his sister move their father into an assisted living facility where he constantly insisted people were being murdered. I liked the idea of a man with Alzheimer’s and a cop for a son, who would witness fellow residents passing away and immediately jump to wrong conclusions.

I’d intended to wrap up the thread and leave Harry to live happily offstage. Except, once again, my intentions didn’t work out. His story felt incomplete to me, so I knew it had to feel that way to my readers.

Which led me to Cry Wolf. What would happen, I wondered, if one of the deaths at Harry’s nursing home really did turn out to be murder? I loved the idea of Harry and his new friends “assisting” in a homicide investigation—and providing the key to solve the case.

Now that Harry’s had a taste of policework, will he be content to stay off the page? I have my doubts. As before, I don’t have plans for his return, but I suspect he’ll soon be hounding me for another chance to charm my readers.

For the writers out there, have you ever had a secondary character completely steal the show and demand a bigger part? And for the readers, what secondary characters have you fallen in love with and wish to see more of?

HANK: Well, Peter Hardesty in Truth Be Told. He gets SO much fan mail—right, Ramona?  And you’re not the only one.  (This potential suitor for Jane Ryland turned out to be incredibly winning and charming and attractive.  I love him, too, and we may see more of him.)

And may I say—hurray, Annette! Congratulations on your wild success. I truly, truly remember when you were just starting. And you have hit it out of the ballpark.

Okay, “secondary characters.”  I always wanted to write a book with Nancy’s pals Bess and George as the heroines. That’d work, right? Oh, whoa, Eeyore.

How about you, Reds and readers?

Rural Pennsylvania’s Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams is down an officer and has been dealing with extra shifts as well as a pair of bickering neighbors, one of whom owns a machete and isn’t afraid to use it. Golden Oaks Assisted Living is outside Pete’s jurisdiction, but a murder in the facility his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father calls home makes the case personal.

Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers has been itching for an opportunity to take the lead in a death investigation. She gets her chance when her boss is hospitalized and not only assigns her to the Golden Oaks homicide but puts her in charge of the county coroner’s office. As if she doesn’t have enough to handle, a long-lost, over-protective, older half-brother walks into her life threatening to drive a wedge between her and the man she loves.

A second dead body leads them to realize the case may have dark ties to a distant past…and if Zoe doesn’t untangle the web of lies, Pete will be the one to pay the ultimate price.

USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn’t roaming the family’s farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy. Her Zoe Chambers mysteries have received three nominations for the prestigious Agatha Award. Cry Wolf (September 2018 )is the seventh in the series.