Monday, July 23, 2018

It's the Bling, Dahlings!

RHYS BOWEN:  As many of you know, I just returned home from six weeks in Europe. During that time I taught a workshop in Tuscany, did research in the South of France and was feted by my Amazon team in London. As I unpacked a small cloth bag tumbled onto the floor. It was the jewelry that I had taken with me on the trip. And I realized, to my mortification, that I HADN'T WORN IT ONCE. Not even changed my earrings. I always travel wearing a simple ring that can't get caught handling luggage, a gold chain around my neck and a tennis bracelet my mother gave me. But I hadn't touched anything else.  We had gone out for fancy dinners in Tuscany. I had dressed up to meet the Amazon crowd. We had taken my sister and brother-in-law out to dinner. Yet no jewelry!

It's not that I don't like jewelry. I love looking at it in my jewelry case, trying it on sometimes. And I like to look good. I'm sure I wore nice outfits and maybe a scarf on all those occasions. It's just that I never think of jewelry unless it's a fancy evening affair. I did buy a new necklace and bracelet for the Edgars this year! So I'm a failure in the jewelry department. I guess I'm actually an all around failure in the accessory department. My mother loved purses. She had purses to match every outfit and she changed them regularly. I change my about twice a year--a dark purse for winter, a bright purse for summer. I had an elderly friend who wore matching jewelry with every outfit--earrings, necklace, bracelet, the lot!

I tell myself it's because I'm always in a hurry, with three million things to do that I don't take time to go through my jewelry box. But it reality I have to confess that I'm just not a blingy sort of person. So I'm intrigued to know about my fellow Reds (who always look so put-together when I see them). Do you wear jewelry all the time? On special occasions? Jewelry to match your outfit? And how about purses? Do you change to match what you are wearing? Am I the only boring Red?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I am evermore not a blingy person. A combination of natural tendencies, being raised by a mom who was of the "Take one thing off before you leave the house" persuasion, and thirty years of living in Maine. Maine is not a blingy place. We won't say it where you can hear us, but if you're wearing jewelry on the beach, we make fun of you.

I am the queen of handbags, though. I have dozens and dozens, none of which I've been carrying this year as I am in mourning. But when I'm NOT shrouded in black, I love to switch up purses every day to match my outfit. Unfortunately, that doesn't fly when I travel (pun intended) so if you only ever see me at Bcon or Malice or some other conference, you won't be able to appreciate the splendour of my bag coordination.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: One of my favorite stories. Two days after I met Jonathan, we were walking down the street in Nantucket. And he said, unbidden, "What kind of jewelry do you like?" I stopped in my tracks.
"Excuse me," I said. "I have to call my mom."
That said, I wear the same jewelry every day, essentially.  Pearls, almost every day to work. And bracelets, and rings.  I don't have pierced ears, but I wear clip ons, which I am always losing, so sometimes they don't match. But, whatever. I have other bling, very nice, but sometimes I forget, even though I love it.
Handbags. I call them purses. I have too many, but I carry the same one all the time. And every time I make myself switch them up, change, I forget to move something, and I regret it.
Let's not talk about shoes.   (RHYS: My husband John has been known to take pictures of Hank's shoes, because he is so fascinated with them. I'm trying to put my hands on one of those pictures!_

LUCY BURDETTE: Not a wink of bling here either. I have one purse, it's a Baggalini and I use it with everything. (thoough this is the bag I was carrying when my passport disappeared, eek.) I became allergic to my pierced ears some years back, so I can no longer wear my favorite earrings. I will wear a necklace for dress-up but I don't like the feel of watches or necklaces. I had to remind myself of this last week at a craft show when I was very tempted by a bracelet made out of a spoon. So Cute! I remembered at the last minute that I wouldn't wear it, so saved myself forty bucks:)

INGRID THOFT:: I’m going to buck the JRW trend!  I love jewelry and wear it every day.  I favor small, delicate necklaces, but I’m rarely without some kind of necklace in addition to my wedding and anniversary rings, and earrings.  I love hoop earrings since they go with everything, but I also have things like glass studs from Pike Place Market and a dangly pair from El Rastro street market in Madrid.  One of my favorite necklaces was a gift from my mom upon the release of LOYALTY.  She had a necklace made with some glass beads in my favorite colors and a tiny book cover engraved with LOYALTY on the front and my name on the back.  She even had matching earrings made! The only jewelry I don’t like is bracelets, not because they aren’t lovely, but they get in the way when I type!

JENN McKINLAY: I firmly believe diamonds really are a girl’s best friend. I love jewelry and have too much and wear it all the time. I have three holes in each ear just so I can wear more. It’s ridiculous.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I am allergic to nickel, the alloy in gold jewelry, so my bling options have always been limited That rules out most really expensive jewelry right off the bat. My only diamonds are the little chips in my white gold wedding band, which I can wear, thank goodness. My ears have been pierced since I was fourteen, and I adore earrings. I can wear sterling silver, titanium, and some very good hypoallergenic costume things. (Chico's is the best I've ever found for hypoallergenic jewelry, if anyone else has these issues.)  I love bracelets, too, when I can find them to fit my little wrist, and a couple of years ago Rick found me a titanium watch--the first nice watch I've ever owned, because bands and buckles always made me break out!

I do not have the purse gene, or the shoe gene, as my daughter and my more fashionista friends will be happy to confirm.

RHYS: I have been going through my pictures and find that I do occasionally dress up and wear jewelry!

But more often if I have to look smart I wear a scarf. I do have an awful lot of scarves... so I guess we all have our secret vices, be it shoes, handbags, or bling!

How about you, dear readers? Who wears matching jewelry with every outfit? Who changes their purse to match their shoes? Who loves bling?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Speaking of Mozart

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It's a Mozart/Sibelius weekend for us. Happy Sunday! We spent this weekend in the Berkshires, at Tanglewood hearing the Boston Symphony, and seeing old friends, and generally relaxing.  The weather was mostly gorgeous--and we won't talk about the Sunday afternoon predictions.

It takes a bit to get here from Boston. Actually, two solid hours of this:

But it's worth it.  Here's where we stayed--peaceful and lovely, from the heyday of Lenox, when the robber barons came here and built summer cottages. This home has a ballroom, of course. 

Here's a view from Tanglewood before the concert--see why so many people love it?

And here's Emmanuel Ax, accepting a standing ovation after playing a Mozart concerto.

Here's the view from where we have breakfast ...

And the patio where it's served:

and the little visitor who came to beg some of Jonathan's morning muffin.

Back home, the house sitter is getting the mail and papers, and hanging out using our pool (house sitter perks), and we are taking in the Western Mass niceness.  Soon, TRUST ME, it'll be all about book tour, hurray. But this weekend is all about music and peace.

Reds and readers, do you listen to classical music? What's special to you?  Hope you are having a peaceful Sunday, too.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

DO Touch That Dial!

BREAKING NEWS! TRUST ME  gets a starred review from Booklist! (They sent me this graphic.)

"This is the first stand-alone for Ryan...and it’s a knockout. Truth is elusive here, as the plot twists, driven by guilt and desperation, and tension grows. First-rate psychological suspense."   

SO happy! 

And now we return to our original programming

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   True story.  A million years ago, well, 1980, when I worked at Channel 2 in Atlanta, I got a call from a guy named Ed. He was the executive producer at a new TV enterprise, he told me, and he asked whether I would come for a job interview.


He explained, once I got to this big red brick building that would be the HQ, that they were starting a new TV news channel, 24 hours of news. On cable.

What on earth was cable?
And whatever it was, there was no way anyone could fill anything with 24 hours of news.

I didn’t say that in the interview, of course.

So, he asked, did I want to be the LA bureau chief?

Smart me, I knew everything. This idea was a total loser in every way. Right? Right?

I politely declined. And wished them all the best.

I went back to my perfectly great job, happily, proud of myself for not being tempted by snake oil.

Well you know the rest. It was CNN, and it turned out just fine. (And so did I, actually, and if I had taken that road, none of what’s happening now would have happened, and I would not trade that for anything, so all good.)

And now, I have to make Jonathan turn off CNN, because we are too riveted.

But instead of talking about our roads less traveled, let’s talk about TV! Not news, though, okay?

SO much good TV these days!  Here's what we're watching: 

We went crazy over Killing Eve—watched it as fast as we possibly could, stayed up WAY too late.  Have you seen it? Two amazing women main characters, pursued and pursuer. But the cop Eve Polastri is Sandra Oh, and she is incredible. And the villain is called Villanelle, hilariously, and she's played by Jodie Comer in the most amazingly diabolical devious sociopathic way. Riveting.

We’re watching Secret City, about Chinese
dissidents in Australia. The main character is an intrepid investigative reporter, so you can imagine how much I am fascinated by everything she does.  It’s terrific and chilling and very political.

We’re watching Occupied, a futuristic but not too futuristic series about a time when Norway is occupied by Russia on behalf of the European Union, because the newly-elected environmental friendly Norwegian government has stopped the production of oil and gas in the North Sea.

(I know. Can you imagine pitching that? It sounds terrible. But it is SO great! And--it was created by Jo Nesbo!)

And then, the fabulous Marcella. Oh, crime fiction fans, please watch Anna Friel as a troubled police officer in London. Whoa. The writing is so great, too—it makes you feel really smart, and tricks you into thinking you have figured it all out—when you haven’t!

And we're not finished, so don't tell me the end.

What are you watching, Reds and readers?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Girls on the Line--The Hello Girls of WW 1

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You know how much I love it when the Jungle Red week gets a theme, right? And more on that in a moment.

But first. Look at this cover! Does it not stop you in your tracks? This is as irresistible as it gets, right?

And the story behind it, the one Aimie Runyan tells, is equally irresistible! And, because yesterday’s post on the turning points in our lives was such a compelling topic, it continues to this week’s impromptu theme:

Sometimes the Universe Comes to You

By Aimie K. Runyan

Most writers—especially those who don’t write in a series—will tell you that the process for every book changes. Some books come after months or years of struggle to make the characters dynamic, the world palpable, and the prose seamless. Other books demand to be written and drag the author along for a wild ride.

My first three books were, to varying degrees, more like the first scenario with glorious moments of the second.

My forthcoming novel, GIRLS ON THE LINE, fell almost entirely within the second category. I began working on the story after a friend sent me an article about the women who served as telephone operators in France during WWI. The concept was compelling, and there was a lovely new nonfiction book on the topic that would be a great resource for tracking down primary sources and the like.

 Hello Girls operating switchboards in Chaumont, France during WWI 

I sat down to read that nonfiction title, HELLO GIRLS by Elizabeth Cobbs, and my protagonist, Ruby, sprang forth in my brain as I was reading. Compared to my previous novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE NIGHT SKY, whose protagonist, Katya, refused to make friends with me for months, this was an absolute treat. I’ve discovered that once you have the main character in hand, most everything else falls into place.

Once I had my outline, synopsis, and some sample chapters in, I made my way to Kansas City, Missouri and the National WWI Museum. The archivists ushered me in graciously, and I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of letters, photographs, postcards, journal entries, and other military paperwork the women had entrusted to their lawyer, Mark Hough. 

You see, the women, despite having taken the oath of service to the US Army were informed upon their return that they were actually not soldiers, they were civilian contractors, and not entitled to veterans’ benefits. Despite the fact that they could not resign their posts at will. Despite the fact that they could be court martialed. Despite the fact that enlisted men were forced to salute them, and they in turn had to salute officers. They were absolutely part of the military hierarchy, but had their status revoked as soon as there was no need for them.

For sixty years, they fought for the recognition they deserved, but it wasn’t until that young lawyer, Mark Hough, took the case for them in the 1970s that the government finally acknowledged these women.

Chief Operator Grace Banker receiving a Distinguished Medal of Service for her role in the US Army Signal Corps in WWI. 
 In 1979, Hough won the case, and the 28 remaining Hello Girls (of the nearly 250 who served) were awarded their victory medals and due rights.

I was passionate about telling this story, but if there was any doubt that I was meant to be a part of it, it was when Mr. Hough himself came into the museum archives for an interview. 

I’d had no idea he would be in town or that I would ever have the opportunity to speak with him, but I had the chance to listen to him tell his anecdotes about these wonderful women for several hours and ask him the questions I didn’t even know I had. 

I know that the experience breathed life into my book that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. People may think museums are nothing more than dusty relics, but I assure you, there is magic in the sprawling underground archives that most visitors never see. And while writing a book can be excruciating at times, sometimes the universe comes to you.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, I am transfixed. And I have so many questions! But what women do you know who were in a war? Have you ever thought about what you might have done if we were twenty-somethings in 1915?  Or 1940? What about Vietnam?
Or what questions do you have for Aimie? 

 Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She has written four historical novels, including the internationally bestselling Daughters of the Night Sky and Promised to the Crown. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children. To learn more about Aimie, please visit

 From the celebrated author of Daughters of the Night Sky comes a stirring novel inspired by the courage, dedication, and love of the unsung heroines of the Great War.
December 1917. As World War I rages in Europe, twenty-four-year-old Ruby Wagner, the jewel in a prominent Philadelphia family, prepares for her upcoming wedding to a society scion. Like her life so far, it’s all been carefully arranged. But when her beloved older brother is killed in combat, Ruby follows her heart and answers the Army Signal Corps’ call for women operators to help overseas.
As one of the trailblazing “Hello Girls” deployed to war-torn France, Ruby must find her place in the military strata, fight for authority and respect among the Allied soldiers, and work to secure a victory for the cause. But balancing service to country is complicated further by a burgeoning relationship with army medic Andrew Carrigan.
In GIRLS ON THE LINE, what begins as a friendship forged on the front lines soon blossoms into something more, forcing Ruby to choose between the conventions of a well-ordered life back home, and the risk of an unknown future.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How Cosmo Changed my Life. Really!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You all know the story—don’t you?—about how my first book Prime Time, was inspired by a random spam in my computer? Or how The Other Woman came from my experience getting a root canal? If you don’t I’ll tell you another time, because today is about a different author’s unpredictable moment in time. A moment where everything changed.

And yes, it was just as random as that spam. For the fab Diane Haeger, it was …well, more about that in a minute. But since then, she’s written all kinds of fabulous historicals about people like Jean Harlow, and the secret wife of King George IV and Picasso’s paramour. 

Her very first novel, Courtesan, came out in 1993—and it’s still in print! Ooh. Let me tell you a bit about that.

Amid the disapproving gossip of the Court, a royal romance defies all obstacles.

The Court of Fran├žois I is full of lust, intrigue, and bawdy bon temps—a different world from the quiet country life Diane de Poitiers led with her elderly husband. Now a widow, the elegant Diane is called back to Court, where the King’s obvious interest marks her as an enemy to the King’s favourite, Anne d’Heilly. The Court is soon electrified by rumors of their confrontations. As Anne calls on her most venomous tricks to drive Diane away, Diane finds an ally in the one member of Court with no allegiance to the King’s mistress: his teenage second son, Henri.

Neglected by his father and disliked by his brothers, Prince Henri expects little from his life. But as his friendship with Diane deepens into infatuation and then a romance that scandalizes the Court, the Prince begins to discover hope for a future with Diane. But fate and his father have other plans for Henri—including a political marriage with Catherine de Medici. Despite daunting obstacles, Henri’s devotion to Diane never wanes; their passion becomes one of the most legendary romances in the history of France.

Ooh. Can't get better than that, right?
And now—what provided Diane’s life-changing moment?


                               CHANGED MY LIFE
by Diane Haeger

I wasn’t a writer, not a professional one anyway, but what I was about to be was a bride—and as I sat perusing magazines in a hair salon before I got married, my eyes caught on a headline in an edition of Cosmopolitan: “Great Courtesans throughout History”. The story was written as a number of vignettes about famous women and their even more famous lovers. 

One of them absolutely riveted me—the story of Diane de Poitiers. 

Pretty scandalously, the noble widow and mother of two had ruled France for two decades during the glittering Renaissance as unofficial queen beside her much younger lover, King Henri II and his wife Catherine de Medici.

Cat fights, intrigue and deceptions in their story abound. It was a pretty amazing love triangle. Even though I loved France and had studied French in school I’d never heard the story.
Back then it didn’t seem like many people in the U.S. had either. As it happened, we had already been planning our honeymoon in France.

I’m not sure to this day if finding that magazine was a coincidence, or fate, or maybe a little of both. On my wedding day I was a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology. After my honeymoon, I gave it up to become a writer in earnest—at least one in training, because I had no idea how to actually write a novel. 

When I first saw that Henri II had created a DH symbol in tribute he had emblazoned everywhere—one that also happened to be my new initials, it was a sign that I needed to learn.

I had to be the one to tell their story.

There was a steep learning curve for sure, a lot of career twists and turns and plenty of hard knocks but 26 years later I’m proud to say I’m still a writer. I guess I’d also have to say I’m most passionate about uncovering true love affairs from history. 

Whether it’s Pablo Picasso, William Tecumseh Sherman or Jean Harlow (writing as Anne Girard), my stories have been all over the map. The truth is so often not only stranger than fiction, it can be every bit as interesting.

One of the most thrilling parts about being a writer today, as opposed when I sold that first novel, is being able to be a part of several writer’s and reader’s communities like this. For someone who intended to have a career talking to people all day, I found it such a jarringly solitary profession at first in those days before social media. Now I totally embrace and value this chapter of my career and hope I do it with a grateful heart. 

I will never forget my very first book signing at a place called Laguna Beach Books near where I live. Watching someone I didn’t know actually buy my novel for the first time that day and hand it to me to be signed was pretty surreal. It felt like not only sharing my story but a piece of my heart.

Being able to get to meet and get to know many of my readers through the years has truly been the cream on top of a wonderful and long career.

So, tell me Reds and Readers, was there a moment when your life took a turn you didn’t expect but that turned out for the best? I’d love you to share yours with me too.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, we’d love to hear! What’s your Cosmo or spam moment? (Or—what’s your favorite story of illicit romance? Real or fictional?)

And a copy of Courtesan to one very lucky commenter!

Diane Haeger, who has also written under the pen name Anne Girard, holds a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from UCLA. A chance meeting with the famed author Irvine Stone 25 years ago not only inspired her, it sharply focused her ambition to tell great stories from history, and to write them only after detailed research and extensive travel to the places her characters lived. Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel Courtesan in 1993, a novel that remains in print today, her work can be found on Audible and has been translated into 18 different languages, bringing her international success and award winning status. Platinum Doll, a novel about Jean Harlow is her 15thbook. She lives in Southern California with her husband and family.