Monday, September 26, 2016

Jungle Red Roll Call--Count Off Now!

Hank (taking photo) Rhys and Debs at Bouchercon!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: So. Bouchercon. All kinds of fun and friendship PILES of books. But the thing that touched me the most was how many people said to me--"Oh! I love Jungle Red. And read it very day."  Great, great, great, I'd say. But then the person would continue:  "But I never comment."

"Oh!" I said. "Please say hello! It makes such a difference to all of us that we know you are there". And it truly does.

A better shot--with Andrew Grant and Molly Weston
So today is Jungle Red roll call. Lurkers and listeners, no problem. Lurking and listening is a good thing. But today, just today, tell us who you are and where you are--and what you're reading. Or are about to read. Or just finished and love. Or what you're working on.

I'm Hank Phillippi Ryan. It's really Harriet, okay? And I like it. (Now, at least.) I live in Boston, and am the investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate. I've been a reporter for 40 years now! I'm in the midst of writing my 10th thriller, an untitled (as yet, and I'm sure you'll hear more about this) standalone, and am 74,000 words in. About 50,000 of those words are great. Plus, I've gotta hurry since it's due January 1. La dee dah.

 My newest thriller SAY NO MORE comes out November 1-- to amazing reviews!  (Ah. No pressure, it's just my career. And see below to win an ARC!)

I am in LOVE with the book I'm reading, called THE LAST DAYS OF NIGHT by Graham Moore--a historical thriller about the rivalry between Thomas Edison (my hero but I fear he's going to be the bad guy) and George Westinghouse. It is terrific.

I'm also about to start FORGOTTEN CITY by the brilliant Carrie White. She is amazing and her writing is,too.  (I found her via Robin Agnew of Aunt Agatha's.) 

And for inspiration, the brilliant REACHER SAID NOTHING, the hilarious and thoughtful Andy Martin's Boswellian chronicle of Lee Child. Highly recommended. 

 How about you? Lurkers, please! Chime in, if only just this once! 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm Deborah Crombie (Deb or Debs to my friends, but NOT Debbie!) and I live in north Texas but I write British crime novels featuring Metropolitan Police detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. The 17th series novel, GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS, is out February 17th (that's a nice coincidence) and I can't wait! In the meantime, I'm starting #18.

And I'm reading one of my Bouchercon giveaways, THE COLD, COLD GROUND, by Adrian McKinty, which is fabulous. McKinty has been on my to-read list for a good while, in part because Gerard Doyle, who reads my audio books, also reads McKinty and highly recommended him. Now I can see why. And I'm dying to read Andy Martin's REACHER SAID NOTHING. I heard so many good things about it at Bouchercon.

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm Hallie (not short for anything) Ephron and I live in suburb south of Boston and I write creepy suspense novels, standalones. I've set them in my hometown (NEVER TELL A LIE; COME AND FIND ME), in the Bronx (THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN), and in Beverly Hills where I grew up (NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT.) I'm waiting for my new novel (working title: YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR), which is set in South Carolina, to come back with copyedits. And I have only the slimmest glimmer of what I'm going to write next an panicking because I need to get it started. 

I teach writing at writing conferences, and right now I'm putting together materials for workshops I'll be giving at Surrey International Writers Conference (Vancouver, BC), a one-day for Mad Anthony Writers in Hamilton, Ohio, and the New England Crime Bake which is practically in my backyard.

I just finished reading Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs, which somehow I missed it. Brilliant brilliant plotting, writing that's nearly invisible and you get lost in it immediately, and Juliet Blackwell's LETTERS FROM PARIS which is a delicious romance wrapped in a historical mystery. And my TBR pile is tall and topped right now with Susan's THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Aw, thanks, Hallie! I'm usually just Susan, Susan MacNeal, or "Mom! MOM! MOOOOOOOOM!" I write the Maggie Hope series of New York Times-bestselling mysteries, set during World War II, which began with MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY. The sixth book in the series, THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE, is coming out October 4 and I'm hard at work on the next, THE PARIS SPY, which will be published in hardcover. I live with my husband and eleven-year-old son in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Right now I'm in serious deadline mode, but when the new book's in, I'm keen on reading the new Flavia De Luce, THRICE THE

BRINDED CAT HATH MEW'D by Alan Bradley, as well as the new Sherlock Holmes-inspired short story collection, ECHOES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (and featuring three of the Reds!).  

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm Lucy, aka Roberta Isleib, who was responsible for both the golf lovers and the advice column mystery series. For the last few years, I’ve been writing the Key West food critic mystery series as Lucy Burdette. The seventh book in that series featuring food critic Hayley Snow came out in April (KILLER TAKEOUT.) This series is set in Key West, Florida, a place I love dearly and live in for more than half the year. I always say if you can’t find characters and plot ideas in Key West, you’re not looking very hard.

I'm working on something new, but way too superstitious to tell you about it. Please all keep your fingers and toes crossed that it sells soon? And I'm reading Rhys Bowen's latest Georgie book, CROWNED AND DANGEROUS. It's funny and clever and falls for me in the category of "comfort reading," because I know the characters and it feels like visiting old friends. I also read LETTERS FROM PARIS, Hallie--great fun for francophiles! And just finished a book of essays about psychotherapy, that you'll hear more about week after next.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My name is Julia Spencer-Fleming, which is actually my maiden name and believe it or not, my husband also has a hyphenated last name. I live in the countryside near Portland, Maine, in a 200-year-old house that always needs work. I have three kids: The Smithie, looking for that career-starting job after getting her MLIS degree; The Sailor (formerly The Boy) at A School in Naval Station Great Lakes, and Youngest, a junior in high school. I also have one dog, two cats, and I occasionally find time to work on writing the 9th book in my Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series.

I recently read THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR by Helen Simonson, who authored the amazing MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND. The new novel isn't as absorbing as PETTIGREW, and becomes much darker than I expected from the blurb, but it was full of perfectly realized, engaging characters, and I can recommend it to you all.

The next book up I haven't started yet: Curtis Sittenfeld's AMERICAN WIFE. I didn't read it when it came out because it didn't sound like my thing - a roman-a-clef about Laura Bush? - but I so enjoyed ELIGIBLE, I thought I'd give the earlier novel a try.

RHYS BOWEN:  My name is Rhys Bowen, which as some of you know is my grandfather’s name, taken as a pen name when I started writing mysteries (and I really prefer it to my given name!) I am a transplanted Brit who divides her time between California and Arizona. I currently write two historical mystery series: The Molly Murphy novels, set in New York City at the turn of the Twentieth Century and the lighter Royal Spyness books. But I have been working on something quite different so please look out for a big book announcement in the upcoming weeks. Very exciting and game changing for me!
As for reading: I read The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders on the plane coming home from Bouchercon. Victorian melodrama and I loved it. Next up, if I get time between juggling book deadlines, is Louise Penny’s latest The Great Deliverance.

HANK:  And we at Jungle Red send our most heartfelt condolences to Louise Penny on the death of her beloved (to all!) husband Michael. He was a joy.

And after today--my already towering TBR pile is about to go to critical mass. Julia, I LOVED Eligible! So glad someone else did. 

But Red and Readers--time for you to join the roll call! Regulars and lurkers, tell us about yourself and where you are and what you're reading and writing!  And one lucky commenter wins an advance copy of SAY NO MORE!

And coming up this week! Tomorrow, a famous new YA author looks back at some classics--with surprising results! (Truly, you won't believe it.) And later in the week--Gigi Pandian's best birthday gift EVER (we hope you get one, too); then a brilliant publicist gives the keys to success.  (Whoa.)  And more!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Riffing on a plum torte...

HALLIE EPHRON: Last week I made Marian Burros's plum torte. The recipe was first published in 1983 in the New York Times, and has been published every year as a sort of fall ritual. But I'd never heard of it until a friend made it for us a year ago.

Last week I followed the recipe. The batter is basically like a cookie dough (cream butter and sugar, add flour and eggs and baking powder...) schmered over the bottom of a springform pan; then press (unpeeled!) sections of plum into the batter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (and lemon juice), and bake.  

That's it! Easy peasy. You don't even have to grease the pan.

This week I made it again using pears and raspberries and added almond extract to the batter. Spectacular. Again. 

I used very ripe Anjou pears; I think Bartletts would be even better. BEST would be tiny seckle pears but there're not yet in the market. If you use seckle pears, use about 10 cut them in half (remove the seeds and stem).

Here's my adapted recipe and a picture...

Pear and raspberry torte

3/4 cup sugar
1 stick softened unsalted butter
1 c flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
5 large pears (not peeled) cut into thick slices(Or 10 small seckle pears, cut in half, seeded & de-stemmed)
A handful of fresh raspberries (These didn't add as much extra pizzazz as I though they would)
1 tsp almond extract (This DID add extra pizzazz... especially if you like almond macaroons which I do)
Sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon for topping

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl; beat in flour, baking powder, salt, eggs. (I don't bother with a mixer -- can easily be beaten with a wooden spoon if the butter's soft enough.)
3. Spoon batter into the bottom of a springform pan and smooth out.
4. Place chunky pear slices SKIN SIDE UP, pressing them lightly into the batter. Press in the raspberries, too.
5. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar to taste. Add a few squeezes of lemon if the pears need a little zip. Mine did.
4. Bake about an hour; cool. 

Serve cool lukewarm with whipped cream.
Next spring, I'll try this with peaches. And apricots.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

On noticing...

HALLIE EPHRON: I was writing in my office yesterday morning, the window shade next to my desk raised a few inches so I can see a slice of the hedge next to my house. And there, in the branches, was a downy woodpecker, a little black and white guy, pecking at the woody stems.

It turns and I can see the red blaze on the back of its head.

I go for my camera but when I come back to take this picture, the bird is gone.

Later that day I hear the distinctive bell-like call of a blue jay. Over and over. I go out into the yard and there are two... no four of them in a bush. 

And it's not just a call. It's a call and response and choreographed head movements. They've a virtual synchronized swim team. This YouTube (thanks LesleytheBirdNerd) video captures it. 

This brings to mind this moment years and years ago when my husband Jerry says to me, "My watch stopped." 

"Need to get a new battery," I say.

"I mean, it just stopped. While I was watching it."

We both stare at the watch face in delight. It has a frozen second hand. Is that cool or what?

Now I'm thinking of other things are so fleeting that if you're not paying attention, you'll miss them.

When the last Hanukah candle burns out.
When the clouds in a sunset sky lose their pink glow.
When oncoming headlights turn on.
When zeroes queue up on the odometer.
When a baby stops flailing and focuses on his little fist. And slowly moves it into his mouth.
When the temperature rises that last degree on the candy thermometer.
When jello jells, an egg hatches, labor starts.

Blink and you'll miss it.

And why does before something happens seems interminable, whereas the time after passes us by, unawares? 

What have you noticed lately that, if you hadn't been paying attention, you'd have missed?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Echoing Sherlock and in great company

HALLIE EPHRON: This week the most lovely package arrived: my very own leather-bound limited first-edition copy of ECHOES OF SHERLOCK, an anthology of stories inspired by the Holmes canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger.

It's gorgeous, and signature sheets from all the authors are bound into it. Mysterious Bookshop has done a spectacular job. 

Publisher's Weekly named it a TOP 10 MYSTERY pick for the fall.

The hardback edition is available October 4, and it can be ordered now.  
The book has stories in it by three Reds, and today we're treating you to a taste of each.

  • "Understudy in Scarlet" by me (about a movie actress who once played Irene Adler is now cast as Mrs. Hudson)
    It's not an open casting call, Angela Cassano realizes as she takes in the emptiness of director Glenn Lancaster's outer office. The gloomy space, on the second floor over storefronts on Santa Monica in Beverly Hills, has rough stucco walls painted off-white. The furnishings are chrome and ebony and black leather, and the stale air smells faintly of cigar. Her appointment was at two. At three she's still waiting for Lancaster to emerge from his inner sanctum. "They want you," her agent had said when he called, sounding as surprised as she was that a remake of A Scandal in Bohemia was afoot...
  • "The Adventure of the Dancing Women by Hank Phillippi Ryan (in which Annabelle Holmes follows a trail of pictogram emails to a missing fiancee)
"It's the end of literacy as we know it," I complained. I leaned back in my swivel chair, plonked my black boots on my desk, and glimpsed the last of the Wednesday sunrise, wisps of pale lavender, still visible behind the coppery foliage of our towns famous beeches. This morning, however, I was lured from our front window and the glorious autumn by the curious email that had pinged onto my computer. I studied it, perplexed. I recognized the sender, but there was no subject line, nor were there words in the message section. The page showed only a colorful jumble of tiny graphic symbols.
  • "The Case of the Speckled Trout" by Deborah Crombie (featuring Holmes's cheeky goddaughter)
My name is Sherry Watson. It's a crap name, Sherry, I know. But what can you do? It's not like I had a say in the matter. My parents, to give them credit, were trying to do the right thing--a sentimental gesture I wondered if they were sorry for after.
Deb and Hank were at the official launch party at Bouchercon in New Orleans ... I was not (sigh.) That's Les Klinger to the left of Deb, and   in front of him is Laurie King. Catriona McPherson rear left and Meg Gardiner front right. Off camera about a half-dozen other wonderful authors of short stories in the collection. 

Here's a list of the other authors whose wonderful stories appear in the book:

Tasha Alexander
Dana Cameron
John Connelly
Cory Doctorow
Meg Gardiner
William Kent Krueger
Tony Lee & Bevis Musson
Jonathan Maberry
Catriona McPherson
Denise Mina
David Morrell
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Michael Scott

Every year, hundreds of Holmes-inspired books and stories and TV scripts and movies are created, and the canon goes on inspiring. I, for one, can't wait to see what fresh hell the BBC's Sherlock gets up to this season.

How do you explain the lasting influence, and for the writers out there, how do the stories inspire you?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Greetings from Nether Monkslip & G.M. Malliet

HALLIE EPHRON: I fell in love with G. M. (Gin) Malliet's writing when I read "Wicked Autumn", her first Max Tudor novel. A traditional mystery with a satiric edge, it was set a world away from London and a breath away from Agatha Christie's St. Mary Meade in a quaint village with copious bucolic charm not a smidge of ethnic diversity. Where once there were blacksmiths and wheelwrights, now shopkeepers peddle New Age crystals and organic jellies and jams. 

Gin's fifth Max Tudor novel, "Haunted Season," is just out in paperback. and I'm delighted to  host her on Jungle Red.
Gin, seems like you got shot out of a cannon in 2008 with your first novel, "Death of a Cozy Writer," winning the Agatha Award for best first novel. Did you have any idea where you’d be now, nine books later?

G. M. Malliet: At the moment, I’m just starting to write a tenth series book, and I’m revising a standalone that will be published in 2017. So soon it will be eleven books, which surprises even me.

You make it all sound much more thrilling than it is. It’s not so much like being shot out of a cannon as riding an ageing donkey uphill while blindfolded. I have had many of the breaks in this business and I’m so very grateful, but when you are in the thick of finding agents and so on it feels like a very slow process.

Right now I’m either doing revisions or plotting the next book while I wait for edits for the previous book to land back on my desk. It still catches me by surprise every time it happens. It’s like, oh! You want me to read through all this again? I just sent back to my publisher the copyedited version of the sixth Max Tudor ("Devil's Breath") which won’t appear in print until April 2017. I could paint the Sistine Chapel in that amount of time but I am told it has something to do with the lead time reviewers require nowadays.

Anyway, just when you think you can’t look at the typewritten pages again, back come the page proofs—the typeset version of the book, hopefully now free of typos or, worse, dead people who have inexplicably come back to life in the final pages. Or characters who have changed their names in midstream, or stopped somewhere along the way to dye their hair black.

HALLIE: No kidding!

Gin, I know you write cozies but they are truly wicked. They have an Austen-ish (Barbara Pym-ish) edge to them. Is humor something that comes with the first draft or do you layer it in (or out) in revisions?

GM: First, thank you for that. (I am such a fan of Barbara Pym’s work.)

Well, you know the advice about writing. You simply sit down at your desk and open a vein. But humor is the bonus you sometimes get for all that blood-letting. Your reward for having behaved well the rest of the time, and stayed put during the long slog of trying to come up with another word to describe Max Tudor than “dashing” or “dishy.”

Humor seems to come out of nowhere, but it does seem to crop up during the first or second drafts. If I write something that makes me laugh I am SO happy. And I trust someone else will laugh, too. Otherwise, I feel they would be better served reading something educational like the instruction manual for their new colander. (I always love it when people give their colanders five-star reviews on Amazon, don’t you?)

HALLIE: LOL! I will peruse Amazon with a whole new pespective from here on.

You seem to know so much about English village Anglican church goings-on. Is that a product of great research or a great imagination? 

GM: I don’t know about the “great” but it’s a bit of both. I just love all things British and am drawn time and again to visit and keep my eyes open while I’m there. Every Anglican church seems to be repairing its roof at any given time and that means some rather desperate attempts at fund-raising are always in progress.

Officially I am an Episcopalian (the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion) but I’m not one of their best—not destined for sainthood, me. I love church architecture and the liturgy and the hymns (which are so blessedly predictable you can be tone deaf and sing very loudly and no one will notice). And there is such poetry in the language of the King James Bible.

[Stepping onto my soapbox]: I do think children not raised in any religious tradition are missing out, just for these reasons of beauty, language, and history [stepping down off my soapbox]. I volunteer here and there at the local shelter but other people do so much more. They turn up every time. That said: People often get up to things in the name of sweet charity that can backfire in hilarious ways. Bring-and-Buy events can positively pulse with unspoken jealousies and animosities long buried.

HALLIE: And the names! Nether Monkslip. Totleigh Hall. Lady Baaden-Boomethistle. They’re downright Dickensian. How do you come up with them? 

GM: You don’t have to go far in the UK before tripping over some wonderful name. Mine tend to be an amalgam of one or two existing names. For example, J.K. Rowling lived for a time in Chipping Sodbury, which the villagers naturally renamed Sodding Chipbury. 

Lady Baaden-Boomethistle was one of those things that came from nowhere but made me laugh as I typed it, so I knew I had to keep the name. My English editor thought it was too Germanic for her UK audience but there are moments where you stand or fall on important principles like this. “But I think it’s funny,” I told her.

This is when you learn what you’re really made of as a writer.

HALLIE: I so agree. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Your new Max Tudor mystery, "Devil’s Breath," comes out in the spring and is now available for pre-order. What can readers expect? Because "The Haunted Season" (the paperback edition was just published) ends with the suggestion that Max might not be bouncing back from the catastrophic loss he nearly experienced.

GM: Max realizes he can’t run away from the world—the world keeps finding him, anyway. "Devil's Breath" returns him temporarily to working a case for MI5, but he’ll not quit the priesthood. The two worlds just start to blend for him. My Fall/2017 standalone is also set in an English village—I can’t seem to help myself. But it’s a much darker book than I’ve done before. 

HALLIE: Thanks, Gin! Gin will be at the Brattleboro Literary Festival (Oct 13-16) as will Hank, Susan, and me. Hope some of you will come out.

Today's question: What are some of your favorite place names and character names, made up or real?