Thursday, July 2, 2015

Title clinic with Elizabeth Lyon

HALLIE EPHRON: She's ba-ack!Remember when Elizabeth Lyon spent a memorable day talking about subtext on Jungle Red. We had a record-breaking 76 comments and a lively discussion.

Elizabeth is one of the most thoughtful, incisive editors in the business. She's been editing since 1988, and her Editing International typically has a waiting list of authors lined up at the "door." Her book, "Manuscript Makeover," is a classic, and she's written five other books on writing.
Today she's back to talk about titles and her booklet #2 in a series for writers, "Crafting Titles."

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds coming up with a title so difficult. I wanted to call one of my novels "Baby, Baby" because there were two pregnant women in the story and because a song with those lyrics figured in a particularly pivotal scene. My publisher said the title sounded like a book about pregnancy and childbirth section. Instead we called it "Never Tell a Lie." Suspense, mystery, and a little creepy. Perfect.

Why is it so hard to come up with a good title?

ELIZABETH LYON: Finding the best title is your most important and shortest writing assignment. Just a few words. I’ve been working as a book editor for a long time, since the prior century. Seldom have I seen a first title make the final cut.

Author Janelle Hooper told me about reactions to her contemporary women’s fiction title, “Custer and his Naked Ladies.” A potential reviewer told her she didn’t accept erotica, and other readers were disappointed when it wasn’t. Custer as the protagonist? No. Custer is a dog, a common name, Janelle tells me, for old yellow dogs in the Fort Sill, Oklahoma area, which is Custer’s old stomping ground. Naked ladies are lilies that have a bloom but no leaves, thus naked. The title perfectly matches the symbolism in her moving story, but you wouldn’t know it from the title.
Catch-18 anyone? How about -11, -17, -14. Aw heck, let’s make it “Catch-22,” but Heller had to run through all of these numbers before settling.

Another author’s choice, “Fiesta,” seemed perfect since his story takes place during the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

Hemingway thought again. Next he chose “Lost Generation,” coined by Gertrude Stein, referring to the post-WWII generation and his characters. Discussing the title with his editor, Max Perkins, Hemingway said the characters in his novel “may have been ‘battered’ but were not lost.” (Wikipedia). “The Sun Also Rises,” from Ecclesiastes, hits the mark: it is evocative and poetic, and captures its thematic meaning from the biblical reference.

In other words, title torture is common and will always be a novelist’s challenge.

In a sweeping statement, I can tell you that your task in finding a best title is to

(1) determine what is most important in your story,
(2) hook and don’t confuse your reader,
(3) please you,
(4) hint at or broadcast your genre,
(5) be uniquely yours, and often, but not always,
(6) taste good on the tongue and sound pleasing to the ear.

In nuts and bolts, you can accomplish these tasks by choosing character names, their roles, settings, themes, animal-vegetable-minerals, other things, quotations, creations of your imagination,
and/or word patterns or devices. Which one and why?

I wrote this booklet to lead you through the wilderness of these demands and choices. Any questions?@#%!

HALLIE: A million of them!

And today we're asking you to ask them. In particular Elizabeth is here to offer her take on any book title you're considering. In particular, she'll tell you if your title and genre are working together.

So send in your questions, and send in any working titles you'd like worked over. Especially if you're considering several titles, send them and hear what Elizabeth has to say. (If you submit a title, tell us the genre, too.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crock, crock... tales from the Yucatan from Molly Touger

And the winner is LORI! An ARC of MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE!will be on its way to you. Lori, contact Susan's assistant: MacNealAssistant "at" gmail dot com.

HALLIE EPHRON: For your daily amusement...

As many of you know, my daughter Molly is a Brooklyn girl living for a year in the Yucatan and blogging about her adventures on Muchas Donas.... which means many donuts, not many ladies because the n has no squiggly dash over it. When we were visiting her, we did indeed have great donuts. And amazing paletas (ice pops, minre was made from fresh passion fruit seasoned with chiles.) And tacos to die for.

Close encounters with wildlife are part of life  in Felipe Carrillo Puerto because it's in the middle of the jungle and half of Molly's apartment is an open balcony which she shares with a vigorous passion fruit vine, a squadron of geckos, and recently... well, I'll let her tell you.

MOLLY TOUGER: I’m making coffee in my outdoor kitchen when I see the green. I turn and he’s sitting on the patio rail. I freeze. I’ve seen flycatchers, doves, cuckoos. But not parrots. Parrots belong in the jungle.

I stare at him and wonder if I have time to get my camera. He’s beautiful, red and yellow around the eyes, a yellow beak. He stares back. Then he jumps to the floor. “Crock, crock.” I take a step forward. He flys at my face.

I run to the other side of the kitchen. He lands, and waddles toward me marching with intent. He is five inches tall at most. “Crock crock.” He goes airborne again and chases me into my apartment.

Now we are both inside, the parrot waddling furiously, me trying to find my phone to take a video while simultaneously deciding whether the bird is rabid. I find the phone and press record. He chases me back out of the apartment.

He squats on the kitchen floor looking perturbed. I turn off the recorder and we stare at each other. He could be a pet. I put on an oven mitt and place my protected hand on the floor. He waddles over and steps on. “Crock crock.” I lift him and he begins to climb.

I lose my nerve, slide the mitt and attached bird on to the kitchen table, and run down to the yard to find my landlord, Armando, who has been both a cattle rancher and a free-diving lobster fisherman. He can answer nature-related questions: how to assess a green mango for ripeness, revive a stunned woodpecker, dispose of a dead bat.

Thumb riding
I use my Spanish. “A parrot arrive in my kitchen. I believe it is pet. What to do? No is dangerous, no?”

Armando laughs. Armando always laughs: shirtless, curled silver moustache, mischievous eyes. The mango will be ready in two days. The woodpecker should be put in a basket until it comes to so the cats won’t get it. The bat can be buried in the garden if I insist on being overly sentimental. I follow Armando back up the stairs to my kitchen.

The parrot is still sitting on the table. “Crock crock.” Armando gently grabs the birds around the wings and places him on his finger. “Crock crock crock crock crock,” says the bird. “Tiene hambre,” says Armando. He’s hungry. Armando asks if I have any fresh masa.

I look in my refrigerator. I have mangos and stale tortillas. Armando says the tortillas are too sharp. I can try the mango but he will find some better food.

Don Stabby rejects mango

I try to pet the bird’s back, like I would a cat. He flaps irritably. Lesson 1: the parrot is not a cat. I walk to the counter and one-handed, cut a slice of mango. I hold it near the parrot’s beak. “Crock crock.”

Lesson 2: the parrot does not want mango.

Armando returns with his wife Sonja and a bowl of mixed flour and water. Sonja had seen the bird that morning—she thinks it came from the house behind ours. Definitely a pet.

Armando hands me a spoonful of white goo and the parrot begins to eat, jabbing at the spoon, sticking out his little bean tongue to lap up the sludge.

Lesson 3: The parrot likes flour and water. But Sonja suggests we should still get some fresh masa since the current mixture is basically glue. We enlist my neighbor to run the errand.

Sonja and Armando leave and we are alone. The parrot pecks at the spoon and digs his talons into my skin, gripping so he doesn’t fall. It is sweet and vulnerable but also painful. I decide: I will call you Stabby. I realize I don’t know if he is a boy or a girl. Since he seems like a “he,” I go with it.

My neighbor drops off the masa and a cup of green smoothie and I try feeding these to Stabby, now using just my fingers. He licks eagerly, calming down, emitting quieter noises between each bite. In this moment of sweetness I realize holy crap, this is incredible. I take a selfie and post it to Facebook.

Sharing a secret

When Don Stabby seems to be done eating, I start calling friends through FaceTime. I reach Joanna. Instead of saying hi I simply waggle my eyebrows and lift Stabby into the frame of view. Joanna is delighted. I lift Don Stabby up and down at diagonals so he looks like he’s riding an escalator across the FaceTime screen.

It’s Joanna who suggests I add “Don” in front of “Stabby,” which in Mexico is a respectful title approximately meaning “Mister.” With that, Stabby becomes Don Stabby, and then moments later, Don Stabuloso.

After I hang up, I try out Don Stabuloso in various locations in the apartment. I place him on the dining room table where he waddles uncomfortably. “Crock crock.” I move him onto the backrest of a wooden folding chair that he can grip with his feet. He looks much happier and expresses his appreciation by pooping. I decide he should not sit on anything upholstered.

I realize I need a shower. And coffee. And food. All of which I’ve forgotten since Don Stabuloso arrived. I place him on the tile floor which seems safe, and take a shower. When I get out I find him at the bottom of the folding chair, his feet curled around the rung that connects the chair’s legs. He has pooped again.

I get dressed, place Don Stabuloso on my thumb and return to the kitchen, where I find that the administrator for our compound, Cauich, has arrived with a small red wire bird wage and a pile of newspaper. Cauich says that if I don’t want the bird, he will take him. He has many animals, including two birds and two dogs. I say I think we should try to find the parrot’s owner. As soon as I say it I feel incredibly sad.

I also feel sad about the cage. But I understand that if I keep Don Stabby he will continue to need a place to poop that is not my floor. I put Don Stabby in the cage but leave the door open. He sits where I’ve placed him, his tail feathers hanging out.

Cauich says he thinks the bird belongs not to the backyard neighbors but to the people across the street. We decide that if we can’t find the owner, Don Stabby will stay with me until I leave Mexico and then Cauich will take him.

We have a plan. In the cage, Don Stabby sits in silence. He looks very small.

On Facebook there are many comments, expressing love for Don Stabby and encouraging me to keep him. There is one that disturbs me: “Parrots form an incredible attachment to humans and if that’s you, he will be devastated when you leave.”

I go on the Internet and learn more about parrots. They mate for life. In captivity they often transfer their mate love to their keepers. Don Stabby is most likely a Yucatan Parrot. Yucatan Parrots are supposed to be wild birds and as such cannot be brought to the United States according to Mexican law and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. I realize it is legally impossible for my relationship with Don Stabby to be anything but temporary.

I try to take Don Stabby out of his cage but he flaps irritably so I let him be. I refresh his water bowl and put a wooden spoon through the bars so he’ll have a comfortable place to perch. I watch him fluff and settle, showing off the blue tips of his wings. I notice that under the wings he is sort of scrappy, downy white fluff on pink skin. I wonder if this is normal, or if he’s been neglected or is sick.

I realize I need to go grocery shopping. I feel guilty about leaving him alone. But I realize if Don Stabby is going to stay here, there will be other times I need to go grocery shopping. And go to work. And go to sleep.

I decide he should stay inside the apartment. I place the cage on the dining room table, near the window. The midday sun is burning through the glass. Don Stabby stares into it, seeing but not seeing. I move the cage so he can have a bit of shade if he wants. I leave the cage door open so he can go exploring.

When I come back Don Stabby is still in the cage, perched on the handle of the wooden spoon. He doesn’t acknowledge me. Perhaps he has been lonely. I take the cage outside to the kitchen table so we can be together while I cook. While I chop onions and garlic, he is quiet. It feels too quiet. I stick in my hand, remove him from the cage and place him on my shoulder. “Crock,” says Don Stabby into my ear. I decide this is an improvement.

Shoulder-riding takes some adjustment on both of our parts. When I bend over, Don Stabby climbs onto my back which complicates straightening up. I have to rest my head on the kitchen table so he can climb off and we start again. I drape my shoulders with a towel to give him something better to grip, and soon Don Stabby moves naturally with my body, climbing to my shoulder blades when I bend, climbing back to rest by my ear when I straighten.


While I wait for the food to cook, I sit at the kitchen table, drink a beer and we talk. “Crock,” he says. “Crock,” I say. “Crock,” he says. “Crock,” I say. I decide he may be hungry again. I take the masa out of the refrigerator and let him nibble it off my fingers. “Crock.” His throaty noises sound happy, almost like coos.

I pick up my phone and take more selfies. Don Stabby looking at the camera. Don Stabby talking in my ear. Don Stabuloso chewing on my hair. The pictures are adorable. I open WhatsApp to send one to a friend.

And then in a flash of green, he has disappeared over the patio rail, heading for the street.

I race to find my keys then run down the kitchen steps and through the compound garden. I unlock the door to the gate and step out on the street. The sun is starting to set. Grackles scream in the trees and flycatchers twitter on the power lines. But Don Stabby is gone.

HALLIE: I was crying and laughing at the same time when I got to the end of this. Love story with parrot.

I now believe what bird owners have been telling me: birds make wonderful companions. Anyone out there who's had a close encounter with wildlife to share? 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

RUN YOU DOWN @JuliaDahl opens a new window on a hidden world

HALLIE EPHRON: When I finished reading Julia Dahl's Edgar-nominated first novel, Invisible City, I dearly hoped that the story wasn't over. Because though the main mystery was solved, a bigger (to me) mystery -- why Rebekah's mother had abandoned her and where she was now -- remained to be answered.

So I'm delighted that Julia's second novel, Run You Down, is a sequel. And I'm thrilled to host Julia herself to tell you all about it.
JULIA DAHL: The idea for my first novel, “Invisible City,” was simple: I had been told by activists and police officers that in cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence, people in the insular Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, N.Y. were often reluctant to talk to authorities about what they had witnessed for fear of bringing scrutiny onto their community. But what would happen, I wondered, if there was a murder in this tight-knit world? Would people speak out then?

Over the next six years, I explored that question.

HALLIE: I was riveted by all the details Hasidic famlies, neighborhoods, their relationships with the police and religious authority. How did you find all that out, given how secretive the community can be?

JULIA: I met people who had grown up Hasidic, and some who still lived the strict religious life. I sought to tell their stories through the eyes of my narrator, Rebekah Roberts, a young reporter trying to make a name for herself at a seedy New York City tabloid.  

To connect Rebekah to the world of the Hasidim, I created the character of her mother, Aviva Kagan, who ran away from the cloistered world of Borough Park as a teenager, got pregnant, and then abandoned Rebekah and her father. When, at the very beginning of “Invisible City,” Rebekah is assigned to report about the murder of a Hasidic woman, she uses the opportunity to learn more about her mother’s world – which is she both disdainful of and fascinated by.

HALLIE: Rebekah's personal story is just as compelling as the murder she's investigating. But left those answers hanging.

JULIA: As I got to the end of the tale of the murdered woman, I knew that there was a missing piece to Rebekah’s story: her mother. Why did she leave Brooklyn? Why did she abandon her child? And where has she been for the past 23 years?

But introducing Aviva would have taken “Invisible City” in an entirely different direction. It was, I realized, another story. Another book.

HALLIE: Did you know there'd be a sequel?

JULIA: I hadn’t initially conceived of “Invisible City” as being the beginning of a series, but when Minotaur gave me the opportunity to write a sequel, I jumped at it.
Immediately, I knew that “Run You Down,” would be different from “Invisible City.” I wanted part of the book to be told by Aviva, and I wanted to examine different issues. I also had a deadline, which was something I hadn’t had with the first book, which I wrote in my spare time, unsure if it would ever get published.

HALLIE: Ah, a deadline. How did that work out for you?
JULIA: I wrote the first draft of “Run You Down” in about 10 months, then spent six months doing revisions. Alternating narrators was a challenge – I had to make sure the voices were distinct, that present and past action flowed smoothly, and that the reader wasn’t “ahead” of Rebekah in her investigation into the death of Pessie Goldin.

Writing “Run You Down” was by far the hardest work I have ever done. For whatever reason, the plot of “Invisible City” came relatively easily to me. “Run You Down” – perhaps because there were more moving parts – was a puzzle. There was a lot of frustration (I have nearly 300 pages of deleted scenes), but each time I hit what I thought of as a “plot knot,” I knew that if I just gave myself a little time, I’d unravel it. I started to think of the finished book as a Rodin sculpture. I had a block of marble and for nearly two years I chipped away, knowing that as long as I kept chipping, eventually, the rough stuff would fall away and the object inside would appear.

HALLIE: Your process sounds as chaotic as mine. My "OUT" file is usually almost as long as the novel.

Did it make it any easier knowing who Rebekah is?

JULIA: As I was writing, a lot of people remarked that writing a sequel “must be easier” because I “know the characters.” In some ways this is true, of course: I know Rebekah’s backstory (though I was fuzzy about Aviva’s), but Rebekah was not the same person I began writing about so many years ago. When “Invisible City” began, she was in many ways unserious and immature. By the last page, she had evolved into a more professional reporter and a more empathic, if still judgmental, human being.

In “Run You Down,” which begins just a few months after the end of “Invisible City,” I knew these new parts of her would be tested. Could she balance the demands of reporting for a tabloid with her growing instinct that she is, as she puts it, “a human being before a reporter”? What choices would she have to make? Who would she have to disappoint?

I knew that if I was going to keep readers interested in Rebekah (heck, if I was going to stay interested in her) I had to answer these questions. I spent a lot of time gazing at walls, trying to slip into her skin and feel what she would feel. We’ve become close, Rebekah and I.

And now, as I write her third story, I am happy to say that if we met in the newsroom, I think we might be friends.

HALLIE: And I'll be lined up to read it. 

Thinking about this, I'm wondering do series protagonists need to change? 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beyond the pail

HALLIE EPHRON: Writers everywhere got a giggle out of a widely copied headline from The Oregonian celebrating the debut of the Oakland A's switch-pitcher Pat Venditte.

Blogs had a field day with it:

From "Oakland A’s reliever Pat Venditte may be able to throw with either hand, but he can’t pitch underwater."

The Washington Post quipped: "... well, let’s just say he made a splash."

It reminded me of a sadder news story I'd read a few weeks earlier about a victim who was "killed by a rouge bullet."

I like to collect these turns of phrase, especially the ones where the mistake renders a new layer of meaning. My cache includes
- Beyond the pail
- Have a quick peak

And in my own writing, there was the time I was talking about a bowls and instead wrote bowels. Fortunately someone (not me) caught that before it went to galleys.

Here are the nearly-alikes that I often confuse:
discrete discreet
descent decent
dessert desert
crêpe crepe
ascent assent
peak peek
liable libel
mold mould
rein reign
cache caché
plow plough

Have you made some interesting "typos" in your manuscript? Are there words that trip you up?

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: It's so funny that you put this up — only this morning I was having a steak/stake moment — yes, I was talking about a metaphoric vampire, so it was stake — but does the "steak" mean I'm unconsciously hungry? Tired of mostly vegetarian life? What should I make for dinner?

Hallie, I also do discrete/discreet and descent/decent and others. I think we U.S. Americans are so much-mouthed when we speak that the differences are unintelligible, making for vague spellings. (Or, you know, that's what I tell myself.)

A friend recently mixed up "vaginal" and "vestigial" in conversation — that was a bit confusing until we sorted it out....

And I always have to remind myself about "Hear! Hear!" as opposed to "Here! Here!"

HALLIE: Is it "Hear! Hear!" -- really??? And what about "making due" or is it "making do"? I could go either way. And "cut the muster" or "cut the mustard"?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It's making do, no question.  And yes, Hear, hear.  Cut the mustard. (But why, that I don't know.) Pass muster. (That I do. Military.)

But is it carrot AND stick approach? Or is it: carrot ON A stick approach? Or is it: carrot or stick approach?

And don't even get me started an effect and affect. I men, I understand it, I do. I just can't remember it. And it ALWAYS sounds so wrong..I just avoid it.

It's like one of my (very funny but strangely-educated) pals once said to me-- "This is SO difficult! I't like Godot pushing that boulder up the mountain."

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hank, it's "Carrot AND stick." Because you use both to get the donkey to do what you want:-) And Sisyphus! How funny. "Discrete" and "discreet" get me every time. I think it's because I was a biology major, where "discrete" means "apart of detached from others." So confusing. And "affect" and "effect." But then I have the British stuff to contend with, too, like "inquiry" and "enquiry." Ack.

Oh, what is the "pale", by the way? And why are we beyond it?

Hallie, I'm glad someone caught "bowel." :-)

HANK: But I always imagine the carrot hanging from a string tied to the end of the stick, and the rider holds it out in front of the mule, and the mule keeps walking toward the always-ahead-of-him carrot. Carrot ON a stick. which is still, carrot and stick. And string. But you are not whapping the mule with the stick.

RHYS BOWEN: I have always struggled with spelling (unlike my friend who got a stoke of the cane for every word she got wrong and was thus a terrific speller. I also have to battle with Transatlantic differences. Draft versus draught.

Discrete  is a big stumbling block for me. Affect/effect also really have to think through that one every time it comes up. Don't you think that soon English will be purely phonetic and thus none of this will matter?

I can answer the Pale question. In the middle ages villages had a fence of stakes (not steaks) around them and that was called the pale. If you were beyond it, you outside society. BTW a pet peeve of mine is the use of "outside of"

HALLIE: So what words and expressions trip you up? And Susan, I hope you'll share what your friend was trying to say when she used vestigial instead of vaginal, or was it the other way 'round? Rhys, that's brilliant! I never knew the origin of "beyond the pale." And I'll never hear the play title WAITING FOR GODOT without thinking of Sisyphus.

Sunday, June 28, 2015



SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Happy Sunday, Reds and lovely readers! I'm delighted to tell you that MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANT is now out in ARCs (aka Advance Reader Copies)! And yes, I do have one to give away to one reader who leaves a comment below! And wow, the book's publication date is October 27, 2015 — that's just four months away! As our Hank would say, "Whoa."

The other books in the Maggie Hope series are doing well, too. MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY is now in its 16th printing, the other titles are in multiple printings, and Barnes & Noble has come up with a nifty bookshelf display. This one is from our local B&N, but I hear there are others?

So, in between getting Kiddo through the last of 4th grade (sniff), getting ready for summer (Rhode Island!), and copy edits for MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANT (hair-pulling and nail-biting), I've also been researching and writing book #6 in the Maggie Hope series, THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE.

This is now two books ahead for readers — and I want to be careful not to spoil anything for anyone. But I can say that THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE will follow Maggie from Washington, D.C. back to London. And in it, we'll meet a new baddie — the Blackout Ripper — a serial killer (or, rather, a "sequential murderer," since the term "serial killer" wasn't in use back then) who preys on the smart, ambitious, professional women.

I knew Maggie would be back in London for this book — and so I began to think her struggles against the patriarchy as a smart and capable woman weren't getting enough page space, the way they did in the earlier books. And so I deliberately created a killer who was targeting strong professional women — the women who were to be sent abroad to fight in the SOE (the Special Operations Executive — the British black ops organization Maggie has been working for). Since the killer is targeting women of SOE, Maggie's brought in by old friend Peter Frain of MI-5, to work alongside her old frenemy, Mark Stafford — and also a new character, a detective from Scotland Yard. 

[ When I began the project, I became obsessed with the literature of Victorian London. Many of the books I'd already read (women in Victorian lit was my specialty as an English major in college). But I wanted to go back to the really gothic books. So I chose DRACULA and DR. JEKYL AND MR. HYDE. DRACULA, I'd read in junior high or thereabouts, but it was still plenty scary. As well as unintentionally hilarious: "Get Mina recipe for chicken paprika."]

And then there's Jack the Ripper, himself. I started with THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JACK THE RIPPER, then on to 1880: LONDON MURDERS IN THE AGE OF JACK THE RIPPER, and lots more. Like many, I knew the story without really knowing a lot of facts. The details are grisly.

But — why the fascination with Jack the Ripper, you may ask? 

Good question. 

Jack keeps coming up in the public consciousness as well as literature and pop culture for many reasons. Any plot about about the Jack the Ripper (or a new Ripper) contains coded discussions of the dangers of unrestrained male sexuality, misogynist fears of female sexuality, and censure of female autonomy. 

And so I turned to the scholarly book, A CITY OF DREADFUL DELIGHT, a feminist interpretation of the Ripper murders and their effects. The book also explores how Jack the Ripper (and his many fictional variations) has acted as a catalyst for women’s anger against male violence against women in the public sphere. As author Judith R. Walkowitz argues: "The Whitechapel murders have continued to provide a common vocabulary of male violence against women, a vocabulary now more than one hundred years old. Its persistence owes much to the mass media’s exploitation of Ripper iconography. Depictions of female mutilation in mainstream cinema, celebrations of the Ripper as a 'hero' of crime intensify fears of male violence and convince women that they are helpless victims."

And so, in other words, if I'm going to take on the Ripper myth as a feminist writer with a strong heroine, I'd better tell it in a radically different way. And that's my goal. In the usual Ripper stories and films, the Ripper's challenger is a man — a detective or a journalist usually. The female victims are peripheral to the hunt/catch story. 

In this newest Maggie Hope book, I want to turn that traditional Ripper narrative on its head.

Reading about Jack the Ripper led me to books about our own first serial killer here in the U.S., H. H. Holmes, including Erik Larson's excellent THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. Jane Addams, the urban reformer who founded Chicago’s Hull House, wrote about the time period — which has its parallel in London of World War II — “Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs.”

I'm also doing research on women in police force during World War II. Yes! It's true! 

And not just researching, but writing, too — it's just a wee bit too early for me to feel comfortable showing any pages. But please rest assured there are about 100 rough pages written, 100 more sketched out pages, and a whole slew of notes and ideas. Maggie's met a lot of horrific people in wartime, but this — a serial killer — is a first. And it's scary. (I'm scaring myself sometimes, which must be good, right?)

Dear Reds and lovely readers, please leave a comment below to be entered to win an ARC of MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE!