Wednesday, July 18, 2018

T-shirts! Trash or Treasures?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I need your advice. First, the good news: I got to sit in business class on the train from New York to Boston. The bad news: its not the quiet car.
The bad news: You can hear everyone's conversations.
The good news: You can hear everyone's conversations.

So, what could I do but listen? And behind me, a woman was on the phone talking about how one of her friends was moving to a new apartment and what made it so hard was that this friend could never throw anything away.

I was feeling very virtuous about what a good thrower-awayer I am until I thought about the t-shirts. Because, since it is just us, I can reveal that I have a bag of t-shirts in one closet in our house. And I did not even know what was inside. Was I just like train-talker's friend?

So, inspired and semi-embarrassed, when I got home from Thrillerfest, (and most about that soon)---I thought: Okay. I am going to throw away all those old t-shirts. Adios, goodbye, gone.

So, as I said,  I need your advice.

Could you throw these away?  I've been a reporter for forty years. And, um, got a lot of t-shirts.

Here's the Red Sox in 1986, American League champs, and the 2001 Patriots. A Super Bowl I covered. A 1984  Boston Marathon shirt from one of the years I watched the whole thing backward from the back of a pickup truck in front of the lead woman runners, reporting via two-way radio. Throw these? Yes or no?

How about these? From TV stations I've worked for, with changed and now-vanished logos, and shows that were cancelled, slogans that have faded from memory. The Lillehammer Olympics. This is part  of my work past. Save or throw?

These make me so nostalgic! The Paul Simon-Bob Dylan concert? The STONES???? That's a keeper, right?  The Bread and Roses rally in Lawrence? And here is the t-shirt from the 1998 concert of the Century on the Champs de Mars in Paris: The Three Tenors. Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras. No way I'm giving that up. Vincero.

And--come on, you guys. My t-shirts from my time working at Rolling Stone Magazine?  The t-shirt from playing Hitchhiker's Guide? (Did you catch the Babel fish?)   And how about that anti-war number? And oh--NORML. I used to date the guy who was the head of it--and he introduced me to...truly? Coffee. I had my first cup of real coffee, cream and sugar, with Keith. Keeping that.

What do I keep and what do I throw?

And, Reds and readers, do you have a stash of t-shirts? Why? Which ones can you not bear to throw away?

(and more on this week's winners tomorrow!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Solitary Un-confinement

Hank Phillippi Ryan:  I grew up in really rural Indiana, so rural you couldn’t see another house from our house. I had three sisters and a brother, and fifteen million pets, from a clan of Irish Setters to Chet & David the hamsters to ponies Cadet and Sable to endless cats: Mrs. Purdy, Picnic, F.Scott, Zelda, and Rosemary. So you can imagine--what was scarce was time alone. In the quiet. Just by myself.

I chose the hayloft of the barn behind our house. Alone—well, maybe with Sherlock Holmes.

But the amazing Nicole Baart—(do you know her books?
More on her below, including her fabulous family, and her gripping new thriller YOU WERE ALWAYS MINE)--has a special memory of “alone” as a child. A breathtaking realization. 

And then—a question for you. 

(And her new book to one lucky commenter!)

A Moment Alone

My best friend when I was a little girl was my cousin, Arlana.

Lana and I were born one month and nine days apart (she’s older–something I tease her about to this day). My first word phrase was “No-no, Na-na” because apparently she stole my rattles (I’m sure my infant self would never do such a thing). As kids we were both painfully skinny, more than a little dorky, and blind as bats (thus the matching coke-bottle glasses we were stuck in for years). But best of all, Lana and I were imaginative, passionate, and in love with life (we spent countless hours making up elaborate games, writing stories together, and creating imaginary worlds).

There wasn’t much that Lan and I didn’t share. Except for her tree.

Lana lived in a small development on the edge of town and it was rimmed by a stand of tall, narrow trees. One of our favorite pastimes was tree climbing, but I was (and still am) a little afraid of heights, and she could always climb higher than me. I envied her daring, her ability to push herself just a bit farther and then a bit more, but I was never so jealous as the day that she showed me her tree.

There was one particularly hard-to-climb tree that required us to jump for the lowest hanging limb and then swing ourselves up and hook our legs over the nearest branch. That alone was a feat, but once we started climbing it only got more treacherous. The limbs were unevenly spaced and required us to stretch for purchase and swing out over empty spaces. 

I found it utterly terrifying, but I followed Lana because I had to prove myself as brave as her. Until we reached the point where we couldn’t climb anymore–and she kept going. At the place where the branches began to drastically thin, my intrepid cousin had taken her pocketknife (we each wore one around our necks) and sawed through a wrist-sized limb. In order to reach the next “safe spot,” she had to carefully put one foot on the hacked-off nub, shimmy her arms up the trunk of the tree, grab a branch high overhead, and then wiggle her way up. For several heart-pounding moments Lana had nothing at all to hold on to. Then she found purchase on the last sizable limb, pulled herself up, and grinned down at me from a distance that seemed as far as heaven.

I remember staring up at her and thinking, “No one can touch her.” No one could follow that impossible path. She might as well have been on Mars.

I’ve been thinking about that tree, and about Lana’s not-so-secret hiding place. I don’t know why she cut that branch or why she created a route that only she could follow. But if I had to guess, I would imagine that it had much to do with the desire to be alone.

It’s a scarce commodity, isn’t it? A moment alone. Away from the hustle and bustle, the chaos of the earth below. Peace in a place where no one can follow. Doesn’t that sound like bliss? It does to me. I love the mess and muddle of summer with my five kids, one dog, and countless neighbor kids and nephews. We have a revolving front door and a backyard trampoline and tree fort that acts like a beacon to friends old and new. It’s delightful in every way. But by mid-July I’m craving a little silence. Some sweet time alone.

Today I would take Lana’s risk: I’d put my foot on that sawed-off nub and hold my breath until my fingers found that next branch. I’d do it just so I could spend a couple of minutes utterly and completely alone. Would you? Where do you go to be alone?

Hank: Such a good question, right? Where do you go where it’s so quiet you can hear the silence?  Or do you like that?

And remember—a copy of YOU WERE ALWAYS MINE to one lucky commenter!

Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.
Nicole Baart wants to live in a world filled with handwritten letters, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and great conversation.
A critically acclaimed novelist, Nicole’s work has been featured as a Midwest Connections book pick, nominated for a Christy Award, and earned a starred and featured review from Publishers Weekly. In 2011 she co-authored a book that debuted at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. 
Nicole is also the co-founder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, that partners with a sisterhood of churches and orphanages in Monrovia, LiberiaAn adoption advocate and the mother of four children from four different countries, Nicole speaks on a variety of topics ranging from orphan care to parenthood to books and the writing process.

Monday, July 16, 2018

You Heard It Here First! Reds Headlines

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  The Reds have a little yahoo listserv--the place we go to set up schedules and keep in touch and make sure the blog works the way it's supposed to.  As a result, we also know each others comings and goings, happinesses and sorrows, travels and domestic travails.  We've been together going on eleven years now, and I am grateful for it every day.

Anyway. We also know each other's deadlines! And this year, hilariously, there's a whole crop of Jungle Red books coming out around the same time, and several more in the works!  So today, will you allow us a little trumpet flourish and fanfare?  And then we want to hear about your books, too--whether you're reading them or writing them!  

My TRUST ME, for which I spend my entire life crossing fingers, is coming out August 28! I am so excited for this, my first psychological standalone. it's two strong women playing a high-stakes cat and mouse game--but which one is the cat, and which one is the mouse? I dare you to find the liar!

The amazing Lesa Holstine--you know her, right, super-librarian and reviewer extraordinaire--just tweeted about it: "TRUST ME is better than Gone Girl. This summer's page-turner!"  Now, THAT is a tweet.  (You can read the first five chapters here, free!   Or get the  SAY NO MORE e-book for $2.99, and the chapters are included! Click here. Or--go for it! And preorder here.)

And I'm adoring the reviews on Goodreads--they seriously make me cry. One said "If I could give this book 100+ stars, I would!" And another said "Trust Me is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read - and I have read hundreds." And how about this: "I would force myself to put it down to go to sleep but my mind would not stop. I was wondering what the characters were doing while I was sleeping. Best book I have read this year!!"

Ahhh. DO you know how hard I worked on this? What a joy to read these fabulous responses. (And trust me, nothing is more important to a book's emergence than happy readers posting reviews.)

I'll be keynoting at the Cape Cod Writers Conference coming up, and presenting at the National Book Festival in Washington DC, and ..well, more about all that later.

So Reds, what's your next book? Tell us about it! (Some Reds are keeping secrets, and some Reds are in the midst of the's that's you, just give us a hint!) And what else is in the future this summer?

HALLIE EPHRON: My next comes out summer of 2019... so I'm looking forward to celebrating every ELSE's books in the coming weeks/months. I'll be on hand for Rhys's (Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding) and Lucy's (Death on the Menu) shared book events at Brookline Booksmith (August 8) and RJ Julia in Madison, CT (August 9). Then, so much excitement over Hank's new book (Trust Me) and looking forward to her launch August 28 at Brookline Booksmith. 

As for me, I'll be teaching writing workshops at Willamette Writers Conference August 3-5 in Portland, OR, and at the annual NYC Writers' Digest Conference August 10-12. August is packed!

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm so looking forward to sharing two book launch events with Rhys (I have DEATH ON THE MENU, Key West food critic mystery #8) and Rhys has FOUR FUNERALS AND MAYBE A WEDDING. 

And the other Reds are such good supporters of new books--Hallie and Hank will both be helping us launch at Brookline Booksmith on August 8, and Hallie's also coming with us to my hometown August 9 event at RJ Julia Booksellers. I have to admit it's kind of a nerve-wracking time, as you can't know who's going to buy it and read it, and how reviews will come out. (I'm going to let Kathy Reel tell you what she told me about Menu!). I'm also deep into edits on A DEADLY FEAST, and that will be out next spring. Sometimes it all runs together in my mind...but truthfully, I wouldn't trade this crazy time for anything!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Sigh. The good news is, I've gotten back to writing (finally) and am shooting to have the first draft of HID FROM OUR EYES completed by the end of summer. I have no idea how that will translate into a publication date. Meanwhile, I'm going to be cheering all the rest of you on, as my TBR pile gets higher and higher!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Can I add to Julia's sigh? I, too, hope to be finished with the book in progress by the end of summer, and believe me when I have an official title and a pub date, I will be shouting it to the rooftops!!! I just want to reassure Duncan and Gemma fans that they, and all their cohorts, are indeed in the midst of investigating a mystery.

In the meantime, I'm going to be thrilled to have so many REDS books to read!

RHYS BOWEN: I'm one of the crazy Reds who always seems to have a new book coming out. The moment I turn in one manuscript I'm off on tour for the one before. I still haven't finished celebrating The Tuscan Child, which came out last February and has been on Amazon Chart's Top Twenty list ever since and now I'm excited about my next Royal Spyness novel, called FOUR FUNERALS AND MAYBE A WEDDING. It comes out on August 7th, the same date as Lucy's book, and we're doing two joint events, with Hank and Hallie in Boston and Madison CT. 

Before that I have to face copy edits for my next stand-alone called The Victory Garden. (Yes, I can say the title now as I've just seen the first cover mock ups). It comes out next February. This time it is set in WWI and is the story of women in the land army (as well as a cursed cottage and maybe a witch). And I've just started work on next year's Georgie book but I'm not telling you the title yet!

JENN McKINLAY: This is fabulous! So much to celebrate in Jungle Red Landia!  I'm looking forward to the release of my next library lover's mystery HITTING THE BOOKS in September, followed by a new bookstore rom-com series launching with THE GOOD ONES in February, after which another cupcake bakery mystery DYING FOR DEVIL'S FOOD releases in April. In the meantime, I am writing WORD TO THE WISE, the next library mystery, then I'm penning THE CHRISTMAS KEEPER the second bookstore rom-com, and finally I'll be writing another cupcake bakery mystery, after which I hope to be launching my first women's fiction title, which is already written but I am holding onto it for a bit to be certain I've tortured my characters sufficiently. I have to work at that as I don't like to make my characters feel bad. LOL.

INGRID THOFT: It’s an embarrassment of riches in Reds’ releases!  Like Julia and Debs, I’m working on my next release, SUBMERGED, and I don’t yet have a pub date.  I, too, will be singing it from the rooftops when I do!  Between writing and cheering on the other Reds, I’ll be at Bouchercon and the Hampton Road Writers conference ( in VA in September.  

Hank, are we talking about the Huntington event yet?  

HANK:  Well, since it's only among us: it's still a secret that an amazing number of us--total still to be determined--will be appearing together in October in Boston at an unprecedented and unusual...well, we'll let you know. But if you live near Boston, hold October 13! 

So reds and readers,  whether it's a book or a garden, a new dish or a legal case, a research project or a quilt--what are you working on this summer?  

(And we're giving away a two books today--who knows which Red's book or advance copy you'll win? Just leave a comment!)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A peaceable kingdom in a suburban garden

HALLIE EPHRON: This quiet summer Sunday, welcome to my garden. I'm probably sitting out in it right now, sipping my morning coffee and reading the bridge column.

My garden is low maintenance, and it surrounds me with bushes and wildlife even as it is in turn surrounded by cars and traffic. An oasis of green.

For two years now, we've had bunnies. Here's the Momma bunny, chillin' on a hot summer day on the cool grass. She barely notices my presence.

And another shot of her taken from inside, through my living room blinds. 

And here's the baby, which arrived this spring and is growing by leaps and bounds and eating  the clover in my weedy lawn. (We haven't used pesticides or herbicides in the 40 years we've lived here.)

Sadly, the bunnies do not limit themselves to feasting on weeds. Here's what would have been a flower. (A black-eyed susan, I think.)

Then there are the birds. I don't feed them because the squirrels (we have a ton of them) would Hoover it up first, but I keep the bird bath filled and they make ample use of it. Here's a pair of cardinals. 

 A cat bird. They're my favorites. So cheery and noisy. They're grey with a black cap, and a patch of reddish-brown feathers on the rump, under the tail.

And a crowd of sparrows jockeying for position.

A winter memory. Bunny tracks in the snow. 

And a finally a visiting bunny rabbit.

 Summer! It's for  birds and bunnies who come to people watch. What's going on in your garden?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Inspired by what she wore: Hallie's turquoise jumpsuit

HALLIE EPHRON: I’ve just turned in the manuscript for my new novel, Careful What You Wish For. It will come out NEXT summer. I often wonder, what do publishers do in the 9-12 months it takes to get a book in print. I shouldn’t complain, though, because it takes me at least two years to write one.

The story was inspired by the decluttering craze set off by Marie Kondo. With clothing, for example, her method involves getting rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy,” and carefully smoothing, folding, and putting away the things that do.

My book is about a married couple. Emily is a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives. Her husband Frank can’t pass up a yard sale. Its working title was Folding Frank.

I looked to my own closet (and marriage, but don't tell anyone) for inspiration. At the back of my closet I found a turquoise zippered parachute jumpsuit that I’d bought in California in about 1980. It inspired this passage:

Emily picked up a turquoise zippered jumpsuit that she’d bought in Venice Beach. She’d been a different person back then, just out of college and getting her teaching degree. Frank was an idealistic, newly minted attorney, committed to human rights and equality, and about to start what would be a two-year stint working in the Massachusetts Public Defender’s office.

That had been more than ten years ago, before being poor had gotten old. Back then she’d never have considered wearing tailored pants and a blazer, and her romance with the camera had just begun.

She shook out the jumpsuit and held it under her chin in front of the full-length mirror that hung on the bedroom door. With her long dark hair and bangs, Emily didn't look all that different from the way she'd looked when she'd first tried on the jumpsuit. She'd worn it with the sleeves rolled and the cuffs pegged, belted with a grommet-studded military-surplus belt. The get-up had attracted attention from passers-by on Newbury Street in Boston, but when a bartender at Sonsie had asked where she'd bought it, she felt it had been given the ultimate stamp of approval.

Emily ran her palms across its soft fabric. Raised the zipper all the way and straightened the stand-up collar. No, the outfit did not remind her of a younger Frank so much as Emily herself--at least the juicier, less mousey self that she hoped she hadn’t inadvertently consigned to some rubbish bin on her journey from free spirit to elementary-school teacher and on to professional organizer, imposing rows and right angles on a chaotic world.

Today's question: What’s hanging in your closet right now that you’ve kept just because it reminds you of another you?