Sunday, March 26, 2017

Girls Go Antiquing

DEBORAH CROMBIE: What could be better than a road trip on a gorgeous spring day? How about a GIRLS road trip! 

And, even better, how about a girls' antiquing road trip?

That's what I'm doing tomorrow, with my daughter and my BFF, who has driven down yesterday from Kansas City for the adventure. (And when I say BFF, I really mean BFF. We have been best friends since we were in THIRD GRADE!)

So, the three of us are setting out at 5AM tomorrow morning for Round Top, Texas, for the huge twice yearly antiques fair that turns a spot in the road (population 90) into a destination. Round Top is iconic, and I can't believe I've never done this before.

Here's one of the big tents:

 And some of the stuff in the Americana tent:

I am little more inclined towards the Continental Tent--except for the quilts in the Americana tent.

And anyone who knows me will testify that I have weakness for quilts. Do I need more quilts? No, but that's not really the point, is it? It's the outing, and the adventure of it.

It will take us (fingers crossed) about four hours for the drive. (Round Top is about halfway in between Austin and Houston.) It's going to be a gorgeous day, and--fingers crossed again--the Texas bluebonnets will be blooming.

Once we have spent the day walking and shopping, we have dinner tickets at this really cool venue called Rancho Pillow,

where dinner is being catered by our very own favorite place right here in McKinney, Patina Green and chef Robert Lyford.  After that, assuming we are still are our feet, we are going to enjoy staying at a fab self-catering cottage in the Texas Hill Country, with a hot tub (which I expect we will need) and an amazing breakfast.
On the way back to Dallas on Tuesday, we plan to stop at the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas (swoon... and that should be a whole other post) 

and then at the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco. For anyone who has ever watched Fixer Upper, this needs no explanation. 

I have no doubt that guy road trips are just as special (I've heard enough camping stories from the hub.) So REDS and readers of either gender, what's your most fun road trip?

Or road trip fantasy?

And what would you look for if you were going to Round Top???

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who Wants Wine? 50 Shades of Cabernet!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Wine? Well, sure. (Somehow I can only drink wine when it’s dark, weird, huh? But I can read about wine any time.)

In vino mysterium is the theme for a wonderful new anthology of short stories, each blending a baffling mystery and a glass (or more) of cabernet. 
When eighteen mystery writers combine their talents, the result is the perfect “flight” of stories that range from light-bodied puzzles to sparkling cozies to darker, heavier tales of deceit and murder. While cabernet is the featured wine, this anthology will appeal to connoisseurs of all varietals—in both wine preference and mystery style.

I mean, yeah. I can be a joy to sip a nice drink when reading about murder and other crimes? Last week Koehler Books published that book, 50 Shades of Cabernet. And today half of the 50 Shades authors are visiting the Reds—and we asked:
Tell us about your story. What makes it different?

“Who’s Wine Is It Anyway?” by Barb Goffman
There’s a funny T-shirt slogan that says, “Be careful or I’ll put you in my novel.” Well, I write short stories, but the same sentiment applies.
In the mid-2000s I was preparing to leave the large Washington, DC, law firm I’d worked at for five years. I often planned events for our department, such as our annual holiday party. Doing so was a nice break from due diligence and reading regulations and other fun stuff like that. Yet I was a bit surprised when the partner with whom I worked most mentioned that he was (and wasn’t) looking forward to my goodbye party that Friday. Had a planned something great?
Now I enjoyed organizing department events, but this still left my jaw hanging open.
“I have to plan my own goodbye party?” I asked wide-eyed.
An uh oh expression came over him as he realized that of course I shouldn’t have to do that. He said he’d make sure someone else took care of it. And he did.
That conversation has stuck in my brain, and in “Whose Wine Is It Anyway?” I finally put it to good use, writing a story of Myra, a law firm secretary. In her final week at her firm, Myra learns that her boss, Douglas, expects her to plan her own retirement party. Myra is already upset with Douglas because he’s hired a bimbo to replace her, so Myra decides to use this party to teach some lessons.
It took me more than a decade, but I finally put my jaw-dropping moment to good use. So let this be a lesson to you: Don’t anger mystery writers or you too may end up in a story, and it may not work out well, either.
“Blown Away” by Nancy Naigle
“Blown Away” is set at Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo where I own a condo. My balcony overlooks the beautiful fishing boats. It’s an inspiring place to write, and imagined a hundred stories there. When I was asked to write a story for 50 Shades of Cabernet I couldn’t wait to use this wonderful setting. I hope you’ll enjoy this story about a heist gone wrong, and revenge taking place years later. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone that the bad guy is staying right in my condo , and the take-down in the parking garage below.
“Wine, Women, and Wrong” by Maggie King
Wine and sex. That’s how “Wine, Women, and Wrong,” my contribution to 50 Shades of Cabernet, a wine-themed mystery anthology, differs from the ones my talented fellow authors penned.
I emphasize the sensuous aspects of red wine—the taste, how it feels on the tongue. And I suggest a relationship between wine and sex. 
Consider my story opening:
“Ah! Sweet, bursting with berry flavor.” Lanie Jacobs mimicked the sales pitch of the wine merchant who’d poured the Ruby Port.
“Yet firm.” Rhonda Reay sipped and actually moaned in ecstasy. “Powerful.”
Lanie rolled her eyes. Was the woman having a sexual experience in the middle of a wine tasting party? Rhonda was her best friend but she could be embarrassing.
Is red wine an aphrodisiac? Studies suggest that it is. But I won’t get into the dull stuff, like brain activity and amines (organic compounds present in wine). And, when you pair the wine with a tasty appetizer, almost anything could happen! 
“These meatballs are amazing. They’re simply amazing.” Rhonda Reay popped one in her mouth. Tommy interpreted the coy look on her face as inviting. “What’s in this sauce?” she asked.
Tommy tried to remember what Camille had told him. “I believe it’s a pomegranate currant sauce.”
“It’s amazing,” she repeated. “And it pairs beautifully with this cab.” Rhonda drew her shoulders back and lifted her glass, as in a toast. “A graceful cabernet with generous flavors of cranberries, blackberries, and light baking spices. Full in body with a velvety smooth finish that coats the palate in soft tannins and lovely fruit.”
Is it the Cabernet, the gourmet meatballs, or the sexy Tommy that piques Rhonda Reay’s interest? Tommy is investigating the attempted murder of a local wine merchant and is trying to find out what Rhonda knows about it. Will he succumb to her charms and join her in a glass of Cabernet? Or two?
Read “Wine, Women, and Wrong” and find out.
“Friday’s Jewelry” by Ken Wingate
What makes “Friday's Jewelry” unique or different from all the rest of the stories in 50 Shades of Cabernet?
It could be that the Louis M. Martini LOT No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon featured in the story is the most expensive of all the rest of the wines in the other stories.  It is considered one of the finest Cabernets in the world.
It could be the beloved gift given by a grandmother to her granddaughter, holding a most powerful secret.
It could be the life-long friendship of the two primary characters.
It could be the surprising discovery in which the cork becomes the center of the investigation and the undoing of the thief.
I challenge you to read “Friday's Jewelry” and come to your own conclusion.
“Love the Wine You’re With” by Teresa Inge
“Love the Wine You’re With” takes place at a Virginia Beach wine tasting and includes a romance between Lewis McGehee, a real life, popular Virginia musician and my protagonist, Jules Riley. 
It was fun incorporating Lewis and his music into the story and transporting readers across Virginia’s unique but deadly landscape. 
“Par for the Course” by Heather Weidner
“Par for the Course” focuses on the dynamics among the different generations within a wealthy family, and wine plays a key role as one of the central businesses in their vast portfolio. I write what and where I know, and the Commonwealth of Virginia has over 230 wineries. So, the Blue Ridge Mountains became the perfect location for my fictional vineyard and winery.
In the story, Mona McKinley Scarborough, the family matriarch, doesn’t take no for an answer. When she’s not successful at convincing her granddaughter, Amanda, to make the right choice—to join the family’s winery—she plans a day of golf as a chance to draw them closer together. Their chat reveals some deadly secrets, and they learn that the grape may not fall far from the vine.
The Scarborough family, who can trace their roots back to Jamestown and the colonists, has been a fixture in Richmond’s capital society for more years than anyone can count. Their roots and dirty little secrets run deep. I like mysteries with lots of twists, and “Par for the Course” takes on several meanings throughout this tale, where we learn that some family secrets are as dark as the cabernet.
“And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” by James M. Jackson and Tina Whittle
“And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” is the only cowritten story in the anthology. It features Tina Whittle’s continuing characters Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver and James M. Jackson’s Seamus McCree and his darts-throwing mother. The four combine to solve a mystery involving Civil War antiquities using logic, guile, tarot cards, and the finest boxed cabernet (and other oxymorons).
“Name Your Poison” by Maria Hudgins
Recently an author friend of mine posted a dire notice on Facebook. She was expecting GUESTS. They were coming to stay at her house for several DAYS and she was expected to prepare FOOD. To many people this sounds like a good thing—unless these are guests you don’t like. But if you do like them, this is a good thing. Right?
Not if you’re a writer.
If you are the sort of writer I am, a perfect day is one in which the phone doesn’t ring, the doorbell doesn’t buzz, you have edible food in the fridge, and you have a comfy place to write.
I laughed to read the comments my friend got from other authors. “I feel your pain,” “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and “You can stay in my garage.”
It’s a writer thing.
Of course every writer is different and I do know some who are super-gregarious, but most of us are closet hermits. There’s something wrong with that phrase, closet hermits—a double negative? Anyway, here are the most common traits of dedicated writers:
1.             We observe life like a fly on the wall. It’s interesting but we avoid getting involved.
2.             Everything we say is reworded and reworded again in our heads. This limits how much we can say on any given occasion.
3.             We constantly write stories in our heads.
4.             We are obsessed with our current Work-in-Progress.
5.             We may be inherently messy or neat, but neither tendency concerns us much.
6.             We aren’t procrastinators. At least those who are published aren’t procrastinators.
7.             We are not perfectionists. As Bunter said to Lord Peter: “Perfect, my Lord. That is to say, slightly flawed.”
8.             Sometimes we worry that we aren’t quite normal.
9.             We are introverts. Our idea of hell is a cocktail party where we don’t know a soul.
In the new anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet, my story, “Name Your Poison,” starts with a cocktail party at a mystery conference—the sort of event where I usually drink too much too fast in the hopes that it will loosen my tongue and make me sparkle. Those of you who have attended a mystery conference will recognize the scene, if not the hapless victim of the story.
By the way, every story in 50 Shades uses the word “cabernet” at least once. I challenge you to find them all. 
HANK: Do we get wine while we’re looking? That is a treasure hunt I can completely get behind. Reds, are you wine aficionados? What’s your favorite?

A toast to the authors of this wonderful new anthology!
And you can buy it here! Cheers!

For fun on Facebook and website:
Facebook page:


If you want to help out an indie bookstore, here are two possibles:

Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, MD, has the hardcover and trade paperback on their website:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stephen Booth--Secrets of Death

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  Oh, what a treat today, when nothing could suit me better than a good
British detective novel--and a chance to introduce a British writer to American readers who may not be familiar with the series! I've been a fan of Stephen Booth's Cooper and Fry books since the very first one, and now there is a new book out on April 4th. The series is set in the stunning Derbyshire Peak District (where I have gotten very lost, once upon a time...) with two appealing police protagonists, Ben Cooper and Diane Fry, and I have followed their stories as if they were my friends. And I'm not the only one, as Stephen will tell us!

STEPHEN BOOTHThank you for hosting me on Jungle Red Writers!

One of the fascinations of writing a long-running series is the complicated relationship that develops between fiction and reality.

There’s a kind of magic that happens in a reader’s imagination, isn’t there? When we’re completely gripped by a novel, we can become so absorbed in the story, so involved in the lives of the characters, that we accept the fictional world as just another form of reality.

It’s true for the writer too. After 16 novels in the Cooper and Fry series, I sometimes feel as though I’m living in strange parallel universes, moving backwards and forwards between the two like a character in the TV show Fringe.

I’ve written about Ben Cooper and Diane Fry for 18 years now, and they feel very real to me. Nothing gives me more pleasure than a reader who believes in them too.

Of the two characters, Ben has gained the most fans around the world. Readers have fallen for him because of his humanity and his sense of compassion. He cares about people, and he always tries to do the right thing. Thousands of people have become involved in his life and want to know what happens to him next. Will Ben find happiness? Will he get promotion? What name will he choose for his new cat?

I’m British, but I love the unbridled enthusiasm of American readers. A lady once emailed me from California to say:

“I think Ben Cooper is the most wonderful human being I’ve ever met!”

Another reader once sent me a message via our local bookshop. She really likes the books, and she particularly loves Ben Cooper. But she wanted me to know that she’s getting very elderly now, and she doesn’t want to die until Ben has got married and settled down. What sort of pressure is that for the author? I don’t think he even had a steady girlfriend at the time…

I write about England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District, and my characters work for a genuine police force, Derbyshire Constabulary. My fictional version of Derbyshire has a lot of similarities to the real county, but there are differences too.

Over the years the settings have become very important to readers. When a new book comes out in the UK, I know my readers go out into the Peak District to try to find every location I’ve mentioned – including the fictional ones.

And it comes down to the smallest detail. One of my books opens with a threatening phone call to the police, which turns out to have been made from a particular public phone box, located in the real world in a village called Wardlow. I’ve lost count of the number of readers who’ve told me they’ve travelled to Wardlow to look at that phone box. Well, it’s a nice traditional red one… but it’s just a phone box. So why is that important for readers? Well, I think it’s because that phone box is a physical connection between the real world and the fictional world they’ve been reading about. You can go and stand in exactly the same spot that Ben Cooper stood, which puts you right into the story.

Some of the emails I get from readers make me think quite hard about this complex relationship between reality and fiction. I write about real places as much as possible, but my detectives are based in a fictional town, which I call Edendale. Although it’s fictional, I know exactly where it would be on the map if it existed. This is fortunate, because I get some tough questions!

In a couple of books I’ve mentioned that Edendale has a railway station, because Cooper or Fry will occasionally drive past it on their way somewhere else. A reader wrote to me with a very pertinent query.

“If Edendale has a railway station,” he said, “where do the trains run to?”

Ah, yes. Where do the trains run to from a fictional town?

But I know where Edendale is, and I was able to answer his question:

“So there’s a (fictional) branch line which comes off here at Grindleford (a real place). It runs up the Eden Valley (which doesn’t exist), and there’s a tunnel through that hill there (the hill exists, but not the tunnel). It connects with the (real life) Buxton to Manchester line at a (fictional) junction near (real place) Doveholes.”

And my reader was perfectly happy with that answer. One day I might have to supply details of the train timetable and how long the journey takes from Edendale to Buxton, but for now the bridge between fiction and reality is holding up!

I’m aiming for what I call “the golden moment”. For many of us, there comes a moment when we’re so fully engrossed in a novel that we forget there’s a difference between the real world and the fictional one we’re reading about.

Just this week, a reader informed me she’d been telling people about an incident she thought she’d read about in a local newspaper. When no one else seemed to have heard of it, she suddenly remembered that she’d actually read about it in one of my books.

One of my novels is set around an area called Stanton Moor, a very ancient and atmospheric place full of stone circles and Neolithic burial mounds. A reader wrote to me who lives so near Stanton Moor that she can see it out of her window, and she was reading that book. She’d reached a point in the story where the police are looking for a white Ford Transit van, which has been seen near the murder scene. As she was reading, she looked up – and going past her window was – guess what - a white Ford Transit van. Her first thought was: “I wonder if that’s the one the police are looking for?” Then she remembered that outside her window was the real Derbyshire, not the fictional one. For a moment, she’d forgotten there was any distinction.

That’s a testament to the power of a reader’s imagination, and it’s part of the unique magic that happens when we’re reading a good novel. It’s such a thrill to be able to create an entire world, and the people who live there, and then invite readers to come in and share it with me. What a privilege we have as fiction writers to experience this magic.

So what about you? Do you lose yourself so completely in a good book? Have there been occasions when you’ve forgotten the difference between fiction and reality? Perhaps there are characters and a location you love so much that you’d like to be living in their world, at least for a visit? 

DEBS: Stephen, I know exactly what you mean! My characters and setting seem so real to me after seventeen books that I sometime feel I'm living in two realities. It's very strange, but I wouldn't change it for anything.

Here's more about SECRETS OF DEATH:

Residents of the Peak District are used to tourists descending on its soaring hills and brooding valleys. However, this summer brings a different kind of visitor to the idyllic landscape, leaving behind bodies and secrets.

A series of suicides throws Detective Inspector Ben Cooper and his team in Derbyshire’s E Division into a race against time to find a connection to these seemingly random acts - with no way of predicting where the next body will turn up.

Meanwhile, in nearby Nottingham Detective Sergeant Diane Fry finds a key witness has vanished . . .

But what are the mysterious Secrets of Death?
And is there one victim whose fate wasn’t suicide at all?

And about Stephen:  Stephen Booth is a British crime novelist. He is best known as the author of 16 novels in the Cooper and Fry series, all set in England’s beautiful and atmospheric Peak District and featuring young police detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. The series has won accolades on both sides of the Atlantic, including an Anthony nomination, two Barry Awards, and four Dagger nominations from the UK Crime Writers’ Association. Ben Cooper was a finalist for the Sherlock Award for the best detective created by a British author. The books have been translated into 16 languages, and are currently in development for a TV series.

REDS and readers, whose fictional world would you like to visit? 

And Stephen, I just have to ask--who would you cast as Ben and Diane???? 

Oh, and Stephen will be checking in to chat, even though he is on UK time!