Friday, October 31, 2008

On smashing pumpkins

Halloween in New England is a sight to behold. It just about trumps Christmas for wonderfully hokey front yard decorations.

I look one way and my nieghbor's yard has ghosts, a tombstone, and a skull and a fingerbones sticking up out of the lawn. Cornstalks are teepeed around a front light post. The piece de la resistance: a person-high pneumatic ghost inflates and deflates, springing up and collapsing into a plastic pumpkin.

Look the other way and another neighbor has a virtual picket fence of dancing skeletons; ersatz spider webs and orange twinkle lights coat the bushes.

I love it.

We have always gotten into the spirit with leaf-stuffed a scarecrow dummy and with what are by far the best carved pumpkins on the block. It was one of the unexpected perks of having kids, discovering that my husband had an amazing talent for pumpkin carving.

That one up top is among his best.


Our daughter Naomi got into the spirit early on... here's a side-by-side early effort (hers is on the left)>>









And here's one from quite a few years later -- as you can see, she improved with age. This jack-o-lantern has a lovely moony-spooky look about it. Far more subtle than her father's work.


Do you carve pumpkins? If you have any photos of your work, please email them and I'll post them over the weekend.

In the meanwhile, here's what to do with pumpkin seeds:

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

1. Scoop them out of the pumpkin and pretend they are ghost's intestines; smear some of the goop in your sister's hair.

2. Try to scrape off the slime and hairy bits of pumpkin innards; rinse the seeds in a collander.

3. Spread them out on a layer of paper towel and pat them dry.

4. Sprinkle them with a bit of olive oil and coarse salt; mix til coated.

5. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast in a 300-degree oven, checking after 10 minutes (and turn the seeds) and then every 5 minutes after--you want to catch them when they've just browned and crisped but not burned. Even goblins won't eat burnt seeds.

And you CAN cook the remains of a jack-o-lantern--just not the parts that got burnt by the candle. Make it into pie or cook it the way you'd cook a butternut squash.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On romantic funnies

HALLIE: Confessions of an indiscriminate reader.

Am I the only one who used to read romance comic books? Becky Motew reminded us all about Katy Keene.

The comics I loved were pure schmaltz. The women wore shirt-waist dresses and pearls--yes, we're talking way back, maybe the late 50s early 60s? Invariable there was a tear oozing from the corner of an eye.

Stereotypes: good girl who gets her heart broken; bad girl who breaks the boys' hearts. But the good girl always triumphed in the end.

The good girl (she's the one crying)/bad girl (she's the one with the great clothes) dichotomy was went on to greater glory and less schmaltz in the Archie comics' Betty and Veronica.

HANK: Katy Keene! I LOVED her. And haven't thought about her for decades. I was a big big comic book reader. I got to buy one a week--they were 10 cents, right? And my sister got to buy one, too. It was about the only thing we happily shared.

I was very involved in the romances of Riverdale High of course. But I am a Veronica fan. So sue me.

HALLIE: I was SO Betty. But I wanted Veronica's hair and outfits.

But who did
you lust after? Ron or Archie or Jughead?? Actually, sometimes I think I married Jughead. Sweet, dopey, boy genius...

Did you read comics? What are the ones you loved??

Monday, October 27, 2008

On games we played...

HALLIE: When I was trying to finish writing NEVER TELL A LIE, I got totally stuck. I'd gotten my character locked in a windowless attic room and I could not for the life of me figure out a **believable** way of getting her out.

The answer came to me as I was driving and,for no particular reason, thinking about games I played as a kid. Candy Land--remember those amazing graphics of the gingerbread man and gumdrops? Clue, of course, with its real lead pipe in the days before toys were recalled for being toxic. Careers, a truly bizarre game where you pick a career based on how much money, fame, or happiness you want. (Turns out it was invented by a sociologist and one of its careers was "Uranium Prospecting".) And what about Go to the Head of the Class?

It was Chutes and Ladders that helped me get my character out of the attic, but I'm not telling whether it was a chute or a ladder that did it.

What were your favorite games?

RO: I remember the names of those games but don't remember playing them. Also Operation, Parcheesi, and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. I played a couple of card games, Royalty and Uno, but two board games stand out from my childhood.

The first is RISK. It was about global domination, kind of like Monopoly for those who thought Atlantic City (Monopoly) too limiting. I played with an older male cousin so that's probably why I thought it was cool. For some reason I always wanted to own/invade Kamchatka - or something like that. It was green..I think you could see it from Alaska.

The other game, of course, was and still is Scrabble. I am one of those annoying people who can be 200 points ahead and still agonize over the next word, and more importantly, ruin something for the next player. My husband only agrees to play a few times a year because it's too demoralizing.

I've always wanted to really know how to play mah jongg. In high school,friends and I played with somebody's mother's set. I even had my own cards (there's an annual card with the official mah jongg hands, as I recall.) But I haven't played in years. I bought a gorgeous set on Ebay a few years back and haven't used it once. So, I also bought these nifty bracelets made of vintage mah jongg tiles - I had a feeling that was going to be as close to the game as I was going to get. I just rented the movie Lust...Caution and there was a lot of mah jongg in it. (Also some pretty steamy sex, but that's another blog.)

JAN: At my house, with three older brothers, we always LOST the pieces to the board games. The only games that stayed intact were Trouble, the game where you get to send your opponent (and older brother) back to square one. That was probably my favorite. And Monopoly, which my father kept track of. Mostly, we played card games, especially during rained out vacations down the shore, and next door at my aunt's house. Crazy Eight, Rummy 500, gin Rummy. and some poker. It taught me to be a cagey competitor (hah!)

To this day, when I play cards, I like to have a glass of Coke over ice in a squat "rocks" glass. It reminds me of being a kid who felt grown up, getting to play cards with the big kids.

ROBERTA: RISK! that's what I was going to mention, too. My older sister always won, though she doesn't remember it that way. We also loved Clue, Parcheesi, Mousetrap, Monopoly, Candyland, Chutes...When on vacation at the Outer Banks in NC with my extended family, big groups of both adults and kids used to play Pounce. this involves everyone having her own deck of cards and playing solitaire with them, but all playing to the center of the table. So you were constantly scanning the cards in the center and try to bang yours down before someone else got to what you needed. It was so much fun. I'm certain the grown-ups weren't sipping on Coke in their rocks glasses:).

Recently, we have developed a family tradition of playing Boggle. In my stepfamily, as the kids got stronger and bigger, it was the only game I could win. Even that's beginning to give way:(. I had a lot of fun putting a Boggle game in ASKING FOR MURDER. Rebecca Butterman was a tad annoying to her guests, insisting on using every rule properly, and then keeping score when it was clear she was ahead. Something like your description of playing Scrabble, Ro. Remind to decline if you ask--or make sure we give you a big handicap to begin:)

HANK: Yes, RISK! That's where I learned about Irkutsk (and right, Ro, I think you can also see it from Alaska) and that Italy always loses. We also played Yahtzee. And I adored Go to the Head of the Class. I haven't thought about it for years--but wasn't it pretty much Trivial Pursuit (also fun) with desks? Mille Bornes? We were big on Charades, too, and I'll admit I still love to play it. Another good after-dinner game is Celebrity--do you guys know it?

We also used to make up games as kids, the main goal of which was so that my little sister Nancy would lose. My sister Nina and I would say--hey, Nanc, want to play "Hawaii?" And she, dupe, who wanted to be with the big kids, would say yes.

Then we'd get out the card and proceed to pretend to be playing a game. And then just make up random rules. "Oh, we forgot to say 8's are wild, but only if they're red. You lose again."

We also tormented her in Scrabble. We'd put down any old word-looking combination of letters, and then tell her it was Russian, and Russian words were fair. (She's a very happy and successful person now, don't worry.)
I do adore Scrabble. Or I should say, I used to. When I used to win. But my husband is killer at Scrabble, and it's no fun when I'm making perfectly good words, and then he puts some triple-score word with z and x in it, a doozy that also uses two lines, and works across and down. I yell "Earthquake, earthquake!" and so much for the board.

Roberta, you could probably make something of this...

HALLIE: What is it you ladies had for world domination? I had an Annie Oakley rifle... And I know CELEBRITY. Still love charades. And am a pissy loser at Scrabble, too.

Roberta, loved the way you used BOGGLE in "Asking for Murder" which I just read on the plane back from the lovely Surrey International Writers Conference in Vancouver.

Please, let us know--what are the games you loved to play?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Halloween


Now what else is the whole life of mortals but a sort of comedy, in which the various actors, disguised by various costumes and masks, walk on and play each one his part, until the manager waves them off the stage ? **Erasmus, "The Praise of Folly"











Rosemary: The folks at cozy library discussion group recently asked what our favorite Halloween costumes were - as kids and as adults. I don't remember dressing up that much as a kid. I must have, because I certainly remember the candy - candy corn and tootsie rolls being my favorites. And I always hated those cellophane wrapped packages with the pastel colored disks in them. Yuck. What was that stuff? I do remember dressing up as a Volkswagen once when I was a teenager - that was my only memorable costume. It probably got uncool to dress for Halloween for a while. Then in my twenties, it got cool again.




When my husband and I worked for large companies we used to have great Halloween parties, lots of people. Sometimes the parties had themes. We had a Hitchcock party once. I decorated with birds all over the house, rope hanging out of a trunk and a bloodsplattered bathroom. One clever girl came as Marian Crane (from Psycho) complete with shower curtain and hooks. For the dead celebrity party, my fave partygoer was the guy who came as Marley's Ghost - Bob Marley, that is. Dreadlocks, chains. Ingenious.

In recent years I've been Cruella de Ville, Frida Kahlo (I made my husband dress as Diego Rivera), Jim Morrison, and various ghouls. This may be my favorite though - Wilma and Fred Flintstone. I'm Wilma.

HANK: They were NECCO's, Ro. (Made by the New England Candy COmpany.) In college, one year, we were all supposed to dress as a song title. I got some RIT dye (remember that?) dyed a sheet black and went as "She's Not There." (Kind of a reverse ghost idea, see?)


I've dressed up as a tea bag--brown leotard and tights, then covered myself with a plastic dry cleaning bag I filled with torn up pieces of orange and brown construction paper. I hung a string around my neck and at the bottom was a tag that said Constant Comment.


An old boyfriend and I went as spaghetti and meatballs. We created this enormous contraption, like a table, which we then hung from our shoulders with ropes. We covered the base with a red and white checked tablecloth. We stapled a big cardboard cone on top of it to hold the spaghetti. I cooked spaghetti, and figured I could just glue it to the cardboard thing.Well of course, that was ridiculous.


So I ended up sewing the strands to the cardboard with a huge needle and heavy thread. Then we covered brown paper bags with cotton balls, and sprayed them red and brown to look like meat balls, punched holes for eyes and put them over our heads.


We could not get the thing in the car, so we had to strap in onto the top. So imagine the spaghetti table flying down the Mass Turnpike, stands coming off along the way. When we got to the party, we stepped into the table of spaghetti and put the meatballs on our heads.


It worked, but it was hard to dance.
Two years ago, Jonathan and I were the Ark Family. I was Joan of Arc, and he was Noah.







Last year, I was too busy to make new costumes. So I printed out a new flag to replace the Fleur de Lis, put on a bandana, and went as Joan of Arkansas. (Jonathan was Noah of Arkansas, which I know makes no sense.)
Those are little animals pinned to his tunic, two of each, of course.


JAN: Hey, Ro, Bill and I went as Fred and Wilma Flintstone once, too -- those styrofoam balls from the crafts store make easy Flintstone jewelry. But my favorite costume was from the college years. My roommates and I hosted a party, in our lovely but pest-ridden apartment. Bill and I went as a cockroach and a can of Raid. I was the cockroach in a dark brown body suit with lots of attached legs and cute silver antennae. Bill got inside a huge wire cylinder we covered with paper?? Paper mache? Can't remember now, except that we had an artist friend who did an awesome job of copying the RAID logo and making it look just like the real can.
I also had a room-mate who was quite funny and notoriously loud. Bill and I carved a pumpkin to look like her, gave it an enormous mouth, stuck a radio inside it and squirted with her signature perfume. She had a good sense of humor and got a kick out of it.



HALLIE: You guys are aMAzing! I'm so impressed. You could have been contestants on Project Runway. (Don't you think they should have a challenge: making Halloween costumes?) The only memorable costume I ever made was a fried egg (a white sheet with a big yellow circle of fabric quilted over my stomach. I was pregnant which helped. Jerry went as a pencil wearing a bathing cap on his head for an eraser.
My kids always made awesome costumes. (Early on they felt this was child abuse). Naomi once made a cardboard box into a milk carton with a cutout for her face and under it HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD. Another year she went out painted green: the state of Florida. My (now grown) daughters still get together every Halloween and make costumes to go out.
Halloween is my favorite holiday.


ROBERTA: Funny thing that I can't remember childhood Halloween costumes at all. Now if we were describing dance recital outfits, I could tell you in detail...

But we had wonderful, wild parties when I was in graduate school. My very favorite costume was Wonder Woman. I wore a skimpy purple leotard, then made big felt breast plates with stars on them and sewed a short, flared skirt to match. I had a headdress of course, and knee-high maroon boots. It was the best. The next year, I sewed a Kermit the frog outfit which was technically gorgeous. The problem was no one knew who I was under all that green felt, so it got lonely. Then I ditched the frog and moved to Marilyn Monroe.

Love all these stories. We should definitely host a Jungle Red Writers Halloween party!


Ro: You're on!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Cyberpals


RO: This past weekend I went to my first New York Dorothy L luncheon. For those who may not know, Dorothy L is an online group of mystery fans and writers. The group is named after Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and the NY contingent meets every three months for lunch and chat.

I've been trying to make the lunches all year but something always came up - signings, trips, ...family. We met at Willy's a nice brunch spot on Second Avenue. I was a little early and took a leap of faith that the table I approached was full of DLers and not a group of people celebrating someone's anniversary. When I introduced myself a woman with a dark red spiky 'do said, "Rosemary Harris? Pushing Up Daisies?" Holy cow, had someone actually heard of me? (It was Bonnie. I'm convinced she knows everyone...)

For the next two hours I had a wonderful lunch and lively conversation with 15 people I'd never met before (and 1 that I had met, Liz Zelvin.) I felt as if I was on a blind date that went really, really well. We talked politics and sports - two things that are off-limits on Dorothy L, as well as books, fan cons, etc. I was amazed at the range of topics we covered, from Youtube to Rolling Stone to botanical poisons! I can't wait for the next lunch.

Pre-internet days, I had a phone only relationship with a guy who worked for the same company I did - Waldenbooks, we were both bookstore managers. When he was about to move down south we finally met to say hello and goodbye. Well, of course that was just the beginning, but that's another blog.

I know a lot of DLers (including me) were thrilled to meet Kaye Barley at Bouchercon, after reading her funny and insightful posts on DL. Have you ever arranged to meet someone that you knew only online (or on the phone)? How did it go?

HANK: Well, Kaye Barley, of course, is pretty much the example of the glories that are waiting online. She's exactly like her posts, charming and intelligent and warm. And what a treat to see her nametag at Bouchercon! Usually the names of internet pals are only connected to emails. To see the name on a real person is always such a hilarious moment--I always do a doubletake. Patty Smiley, Nancy Martin, Charlaine Harris...all terrifically talented people I only knew from email back-and-forth until at some conference or other I met the real thing. And of course, they're just like their online personalities. I'm still shy at those meetings, though. Having talked via email doesn't take that element away for me. It maybe makes it worse.

And I had never never met my own web designer, Maddee James. We've worked online together for maybe--two years? Three? With her in Denver at xuni.com and me in Boston. And we finally met in person at Bouchercon.

Now that--was amazing. We were instant best friends. As if we'd known each other for years. Which, of course, we had. The surprise? She's gorgeous.
I'd love to go to a DL lunch. I have mental images of everyone on that list. And it would be such fun to see how reality stacks up.

RO: I met Maddee at Left Coast Crime in Denver last March. It took a second for the name to sink in and then it was as if we'd known each other for years. And you're right she's a knockout. Almost a little unfair that she should be so clever on the computer AND look so good!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Teach Your Children Well


Recently, I was asked to speak at three different high schools in my area. After confirming that it was really me they wanted - and not the Rosemary Harris who appears in the Spiderman movies - I said, of course, and proceeded to think nothing more about it. How hard could it be to speak to a bunch of 15 year-olds?

The only other time I've prepared this extensively for a talk was my lecture at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I agonized over that. I had over 300 pictures on a powerpoint presentation. I worked on it for months and rehearsed with my husband a dozen times usually ending with me yelling at him for something I screwed up. In the end the presentation went well and they've asked me back, but it could just be that I was the only person there who wasn't talking to them about cow manure or slugs. (Actually, I had some funny slug stories..)

But this is different. These are kids. Granted half of them will be on their phones, or sleeping or listening to their ipods, but some of them might actually be hoping to become writers. I'm planning to give them the Cliff's Notes version of what the publishing business is like, but I feel I should do more to, dare I say it, inspire.
You gals have been in this business longer (and most of you have kids...I don't.) Any tips?

HALLIE: Be afraid, be very afraid. Seriously. The only speaking gig that has ever left me quaking in my boots is talking at a high school. It's better if you're addressing a classroom full (as opposed to an auditorium full)...but chain the teacher to her chair, DO NOT let her leave the room.
Katherine Hall Page does this all the time and she's wonderful at it...we should ask her what's the secret.

JAN: Be funny, be very, very funny. Be loud enough to carry over the cell phone conversations and keep it as brief as possible. Honest, though, I really enjoy talking to kids, and think the key is to speak from the heart and engage them with something participatory. In a smaller class setting, I used do a thing where I'd illustrate how a story works by making them choose the protaganist, the goal and the obstacles. Sometimes it was hysterical. In a larger setting, you might just let them choose one or two elements from a pre-set list. Good luck, you'll be terrific.

ROBERTA: I talk to 5th and 6th grade classes every year, first describing how a book gets made (with tons of props), and then having them work on their own idea for a mystery using a worksheet. When Lori Avocato and I went to Homer, Alaska, we used the same ideas with two high schools. It went better than expected. Jan is right--speak from the heart and loudly. Hallie's right, keep the teacher in the room with you. My very worst experience was the day there was a sub in a class that was troubled anyway. We lost any semblance of control and I spent an hour shouting over the din! I always leave a day of teaching thinking that school teachers are truly saints.

HANK: Oh, Roberta, I love the idea for having then work on a mystery. You know, too, they all love movies. Wonder if you could bring up some mystery/thrillers they know of and use them as illustrations about "story" and the importance of a story. Of start with half a sentence, the old: "It was a dark and stormy night, or better: Tiff and Melissa knew they shouldn't climb out the window, but... And see if they have ideas on how to make it a story. Could there be a mystery just in text messages?
I would do something very very organized and structured, so the kids know what to expect. Like 'the top ten' of something. Or a quiz.
And some of them, even many of them, will be terrific. It'll be fun to watch them connect with you. When the light goes on in a teenager's eyes--there's nothing more fulfilling.

RO: LOL..well I had my debut and not only did the light NOT go on in any of their eyes, I'm pretty sure one of them WAS fast asleep. And another spent the whole hour drawing.
I didn't really expect them to know Elmore Leonard, but shouldn't they have recognized Hemingway? I tried dropping names...Project Runway (which I only know about from you guys!) Brett Favre, Sarah Palin..humor...text messaging....it wasn't horrible but I'm convinced they only came for the cupcakes, which they inhaled at the end of my talk.
At least they weren't as bad as the kids in the old Glenn Ford movie..where they terrorize Anne Francis and break poor Richard Kiley's records. Anyone remember who played the leader of the bad kids? The good kid? The kid with the coke-bottle glasses?
**check back on Wednesday to hear how my NY DL lunch went. No one fell asleep!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sex, Lies, and Videotape: Where are they now?



ROBERTA: Shortly after my first book was launched, I met fellow newbie writer Libby Hellmann at an MWA event in New York. She was brimming with ideas about how to get her series out into the world—and looking for partners in crime. Before I knew it, I had signed on for a tour of the California coast in spring 2003, with Libby and another new writer, Deborah Donnelly. We called ourselves “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” in honor of Deborah’s wedding planner, my golfer, and Libby’s videographer. Keeping company with those wonderful women pushed me way past what I might have tried alone. During our trip, we sent letters home from the field—an early group blog. We were ahead of the curve!

I look back on that first year with great fondness, in large part because of Deborah and Libby. Today Jungle Red Writers checks in to see where their journeys have taken them. Welcome Libby and Deborah! Let’s start with talking about that first year after publication. Tell us what you remember best about the trip or that first year following publication.

LIBBY: Touring with you guys was a terrific vacation. It was the first time I’d seen Carmel, Big Sur, the first time I’d driven the 101. I remember getting the opening scene for A SHOT TO DIE FOR at a rest stop, when (for the umpteenth time) I had to stop and I was afraid you’d drive off without me. I also remember Deborah constantly rolling the windows down and up. And how can I forget trading our life stories, and how amazed you both were that I was still on my first marriage? I remedied that.

ROBERTA: I’m pretty sure we helped with that Libby☺.

DEBORAH: One moment I remember vividly is going into a Barnes & Noble and seeing My Book – mine, that I wrote, out of my own head! – there on the shelves with all the others. To paraphrase Annie Lamott, getting published will not heal you (or make you rich, alas) but it is something you can tuck into the back pocket of your mind, to take out once in a while and smile over. What a feeling.

And, of course, there’s the Sex, Lies & Videotape tour. A peak experience, hitting the road with sister authors who soon became friends. At every stop the bookstore people were so gracious, and the fans (or soon-to-be-fans, we hoped) were so open to hearing from these three beginners. From sorting laundry in a small town parking lot, to getting lost and spooked in East Oakland, to zooming through Big Sur with the radio blaring, I treasure every memory.

ROBERTA: I was the designated driver coming home from Oakland, so I didn’t partake when the bookstore offered wine—but my navigators had a blast!

This is a big question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Tell us what you’ve learned over the past six years.

DEBORAH: What did I learn? That it’s a great favor readers bestow on authors, to take the time to come hear them in person. I know that all three of us valued that favor highly.

LIBBY: What did I learn? That promotion is a black hole that can suck you under. That first year, I was unflagging -- I wanted to tour, do events, go to conferences, appear at libraries, get lots of publicity and reviews, exploit the internet (yes, Al Gore had invented it by then); in other words, everything. The problem was I wasn’t sure of the relative weight of each activity. I’m still not, but I’ve learned to marshal my resources more efficiently.

My biggest regret, and this is more a reflection on the past 6 years than year 1, is the demise of so many independent mystery bookstores and independents in general. It makes a difference in terms of support -- and makes it harder for all of us.

ROBERTA: Tell us about what you’ve written in the past 6 years.

LIBBY: My fifth novel, EASY INNOCENCE, came out in April, 2008. The protagonist is Georgia Davis, who first made her appearance in my third novel, AN IMAGE OF DEATH. She was a cop then, now she’s a PI. And I’ve written 4 other novels in the Ellie Foreman series. And in 2007, I edited CHICAGO BLUES, a wonderful anthology of 21 dark crime fiction stories based in Chicago, loosely interpreting the Blues. And over the years I’ve published 14 short stories that have appeared in various magazines and anthologies.

DEBORAH: After my debut with VEILED THREATS, I wrote five more books in my series of Wedding Planner Mysteries, finishing the series with BRIDE AND DOOM.
The first two have come out Spanish, Thai and Portuguese, with more foreign reprints to come in future. That Moscow publisher has been so slow!

ROBERTA: That’s an impressive amount of writing! Libby, which book was hardest and which was easiest for you?

LIBBY: The hardest book for me to write was A SHOT TO DIE FOR. I was distracted by all sorts of things in my personal life, and it had an impact. The book I enjoyed writing most was probably EASY INNOCENCE, followed by AN IMAGE OF DEATH. Both those books ended up saying things I didn’t know I wanted to say.

ROBERTA: And Deborah, after six installments in the wedding planner series, how did you end up feeling about your character Carnegie? And weddings? Anything you would have done differently, looking back?

DEBORAH: I had really grown to love tough-minded, soft-hearted Carnegie. But I have to say I was getting burned out on weddings -- especially the big-budget extravaganzas that are being marketed these days.

Looking back, I would have spent less time worrying about promotion and more time writing -- or maybe sleeping. And I wouldn't have taken everything so seriously. Remember our panicky phone calls? "I can't work my way out of Chapter Nineteen, the book is doomed, my life is over!"

ROBERTA: Yes, I definitely remember that! You saved my sanity a couple of times, Deborah. And it’s not like it’s gotten easier either…last question, and it’s a hard one: What’s next?

LIBBY: I’m just finishing a sequel to EASY INNOCENCE, which brings together both Georgia and Ellie in one novel. The working title is DOUBLE-CROSSED, but I’m sure that will change. It’s been quite a challenge to write both their voices together – they’re so different. I’ve also written a stand-alone thriller, called SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, which takes place, in part, during the late Sixties in Chicago. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that.

But, to be honest, I have NO idea what I’m going to do next. None at all. Got any ideas? Maybe it’s time for another trip.

DEBORAH: These days I’m settling in to my new home city of Portland, Oregon, which I love, and working as a website writer while my imagination recharges. I’m not sure what I’ll write next, but the stories are burbling away in there...

ROBERTA: Thanks to you both for stopping by Jungle Red Writers and for being among my first writing friends. Now the floor is open for questions. (Deborah’s out of town but will answer questions and comments when she returns.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On the Glass Half Full

Our most foolish belief is that we have time. (author unknown)

ROBERTA: Last year my DH John went into New York for the launch of Grandparents.com, a website started by a former colleague. There was going to be a lot of talk about marketing to Baby Boomers, a subject near to John's heart because of his retirement website. The speaker began with an audience-engaging question: "Considering your life now, how many of you believe the best part of your life is yet to come?"

Many hands were raised.

"And how many of you believe the best part of your life is behind you?"�

John, thinking of his impending 60th birthday and the few aches and pains that were currently limiting his usual round of vigorous sporting activities, raised his hand. He was the only one.

The speaker laughed and said: "We'd better leave that between him and his therapist."

John was perplexed and embarrassed, only trying to make an honest assessment. I'd have to agree with him in some ways: my physical body isn't going back to its peak, no matter how many pilates sessions I attend. My writing, on the other hand, I'd like to think is only halfway (maybe even less!) to where it could be.

Big question for a Wednesday morning: Is the best yet to come for you?

RO: A resounding YES. I may not look or feel the way I did at my physical peak, but I'm so much less crazy now,that it more than makes up for it. Would I like to feel like a 20 yr old every once in a while, sure. And this week I discovered a great way to do it. Go to a Wednesday matinee in NY. It's filled with 80 yr olds. Saw South Pacific. Some of the people in the audience looked like they'd served with MacArthur. I felt like young stuff.
BTW, my DH, Bruce talks about this a LOT. He frequently mentions that each decade has been better than the last (I don't remind him that he was married twice before and this last decade was MINE!)

JAN: I understand John completely -- only because my DH, Bill, has also always been an athlete. Athletes feel the aging process most acutely because they remember how fast or fit they used to be. Lucky for me, I didn't become obsessed with sports and physical fitness until I was 35. So, to me, every ache and pain has to do with this new sports addiction of mine, NOT aging. I fail to make the association. I also think it helps to be a writer. For the most part, writing is about perspective -- and I think perspective improves with age.

HANK: Oh, we love John. And yes, he was just being honest. And doesn't that make the discussion more interesting?

Anyway, it's probably an indication of how old I really am, but it's so nostalgic for me, now, to watch teeangers struggle and battle for postiion and popularity and self-esteem. How many times did my mom tell me, in high shcool--don't worry, honey, high school is not the pinnacle of your life? And in hindsight of course, that's right. It just--seems as if it is, at the time.

Now I feel--stronger (usually), and confident (sometimes), and at least more flexible about what's to come. The world is funnier, somehow. People are strange, events are unpredictable and yeah, that's how it is. I can more easily go with it.

(And Ro, we have season tickets to Symphony here in Boston. It's terrific. And not just for the music. Except for the music students, I'm by far the youngest. Remember when we wished we were older?? Mwa ha ha.)

Is the best yet to come? Sure. Around every corner. I think we just have to be open for it.


HALLIE: Is the best is yet to come? I certainly hope so. But if not, this has been a pretty great ride.

It’s the old: Is the glass half full or half empty? Seems to me the real question is: What’s in the half that’s left? As for me, I hope it’s champagne.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Gremlins


Alas. The gremlins have taken over. Yes, the fonts and colors in the very fun and funny blog below have gone mad. Yes, it's partly in red. Why? Yes, it suddenly turned to all capital letters. Why? We are attempting to fix it. It is driving us, um, bananas.

Comments? Suggestions? Come back tomorrow, as the Jungle Red Writers battle the forces of the blogosphere.

On fashion disasters


I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch. ~Gilda Radner


ROBERTA: I know we have very serious concerns in our world, but we can't think about big problems all the time! Hence, fashion disasters...

A few weeks ago I overheard Hank talking enthusiastically with another writer about “Project Runway,” a fashion reality show. I went to check out their website and learned that the show is already in its fifth season. And that about sums up my knack for fashion. By the time I’ve converted to shoulder pads and puffed sleeves, the well-dressed woman is outfitted in pencil skirts and tuxedo blouses. Frilly girl dresses in style? I’m wearing pinstriped man suits and those stupid silk bow ties that were in vogue in the eighties. I’ve had to come to terms with the facts: I’ll never be on the cutting edge. And part of the problem is that comfort always trumps trendiness when I’m shopping. Anything tight, abrasive, or even with an itchy tag—forget it. An old friend recently sent a photo from my days in Tennessee in the late 70’s. I went to grad school dressed in these overalls—this is what we call a fashion disaster. And now we are ready to hear about yours.

JAN:
Cutting edge isn't always a good thing. I bought this shearling coat from the window of a chic Newbury Street store -- with the proceeds from the first big feature I sold to Boston Magazine. (Literally, I was walking back from the BM office and the check burned a hole through my purse.) When my mother first saw me in this coat, she rolled her
eyes and asked if I was trying to look homeless. I chalked it up to her lack of fashion sense. A few years later when we were going to an evening event, my husband, who rarely comments on my outfits, asked if I would please wear any other coat but that one. Again, what did he know about fashion? Finally a couple of years ago, my daughter confided she thought the coat was the ugliest thing she'd ever seen. She'd actually been photographed and named the most fashionable girl on her college campus, so I had to listen. Or maybe it was the rule of threes. Anyway, it's still in my closet, but won't be making an appearance this season.

RO: This is hard for me. Not because I'm so fabulously stylish, but I feel like I've been wearing the same things since the fourth grade. Different lengths, tight, baggy, low rise, high waist, I probably have a hundred pairs of black pants and just as many black tops and jackets. I friend actually told me I was starting to look like Johnny Cash a few years back so I've tried to integrate some color into my wardrobe (hence the red fishnets last weekend.) Problem is, that's not what I usually reach for when I get dressed. Every season I buy a few magazines and tell myself that this year I'm going to look a little spiffier. Never really happens, but I keep buying the magazines.

Last year I was on a flight from San Francisco to New York and the guy from What Not to Wear got on the plane. I swear, I thought my friend had set me up.

I did have a pretty excruciating perm in the 80's but mercifully no pictures survive.

This is my fourth grade picture (I think..) A black and gray blouse that I wore as often as my mother would let me. I'd wear it today if I still had it. It was cute. And I wore that headband, or something like it for about a year. Pretty hideous.


HALLIE: I am a huge Project Runway fan, but geeze Louise, I wish they’d deep-sixed Kenley. Talk about annoying and quel cloying, deja vue fashion sense. On the other hand, our waitress last night at the Ashmont Grill was wearing a red leather flower on a strap around her head, a la Kenley. With her baggy red South Boston T-shirt and jeans, I thought it looked pretty silly.

But I’m hardly one to talk—I was wearing black sweatpants and a bright orange zip-up sweatshirt hoodie. Celebrating early Halloween? It was cold! Still, not a fashion statement worth repeating.

Hey, I remember when we wore overalls. And later parachute-material jump suits (I had one in turquoise which was, as I recall, adorable).

Here’s me on vacation in purples and pinks—that was the decade when we tucked in our shirts. My favorite part is the sunglasses stuck over the babushka.

HANK: Rosemary! You were absolutely darling. You all are. And that attitude is so Jan. No nonsense.

Ah, well, you got me here. I spent lots of my teenaged years drawing fashion designs. I really wanted to be a designer, of some kind, though if I remember my drawings at all, the clothes were more suited to Barbies than real people. Think: mermaid skirts. I had Cyd Charisse paper dolls, and loved to cut out the clothes and tab them on.

When I was 15, I think, I cut my hair in an asymmetrical Vidal Sasson, up over one ear. I thought I was so mod. My mother never recovered. (Imagine! You walk into your bathroom and your daughter has hacked off half her hair. That's how she saw it, at least.) Blue eyeshadow, Cleopatra eyeliner. I do wish I had a photo. But, alas, no. And I ALWAYS got sent home from school for having my skirts too short. Once was with a white lace dress and white lace stockings. I was SO mod.

Anyway, now I'm on TV, and have to be kind of careful. And in the past, actually, until maybe 10 years ago, that has resulted in my "look" being a bit--prim. Don't I look like a dorm counselor here? With kind of Farrah hair. And oh yeah, my hair is brown. Imagine that. This is from 1976. (And I still have that blouse. Which, ta dah, is now back in style. And the pearls)

And um, I like Kenley. Yes, her voice is annoying. But she's really talented.


ROBERTA: Oh good job with the pix this week ladies! I think you all look cute. And Hallie, I remember wearing exactly those colors--I had a pink blouse and a maroon skirt that I was so proud of...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Bouchercon



From Baltimore,



The Jungle Red Writers had a great time, with Hallie moderating our panel on Do You Want to Know a Secret? What we all wish we'd known BEFORE we'd gotten into the mystery writing business.

This was Hank's idea and we attracted a packed crowd because everybody wants to know a secret.



We did our best to offer entertainment and encouragement, and had a lot of fun exchanging war stories.


Characters who won't behave, plots that won't work and writing ourselves into tight corners.

And of course, rejections, bad reviews, and the pros and cons of promotion.



At the Sisters In Crime luncheon earlier that day, Roberta said farewell as president of the national organization, where she'd wowed everyone with her hard work, cool hand and attention to detail.

We had a great weather in Baltimore, and lots of fun attending panels, auctions, and parties at this well-organized event.

Not to mention all the fun smoozing with other writers, editors, booksellers, reviewers and most of all READERS.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On Reading with Robin



JAN: I met Robin Kall about five years ago at a book conference. I was researching A Confidential Source, and because I had a talk radio host as a major character, I needed to learn how talk radio stations worked. Robin helped me get inside WHJJ in Providence and introduced me to some of its radio stars. Within a year, she had her very own radio show – devoted to books. Reading With Robin airs on WHJJ (920a.m.) from 7 to 8 a.m. Saturday mornings, and can be heard via podcast on her website. ttp://http://www.readingwithrobin.com/.
I was Robin's very first guest, but since then she’s hosted everyone from Jodi Picoult to Alice Hoffman to David Baldacci.


JRW: Tell us about how you got into talk radio.


Robin: I was the least likely person to even listen to anything on the AM dial. But it was at a point in my life when I was working from home and desperately bored. When I first tuned into Imus in the morning show, it was on one of the local FM rock stations. I soon became “Robin from Providence.” Once addicted, I wanted more and more, which as addicts will tell you, is the way it works. Then I found the John DePetro show, which was local Rhode Island show on WHJJ, and became a frequent caller to John’s show.

JRW: How did you go from caller to host?

Robin: I began going into the studio – invited of course – and started writing for the show. Then I did some fill in work, as host, which was much harder than I thought. About a year later, I pitched an idea – about a show devoted to reading books. And they liked the idea.

JRW: Tell us about the Reading With Robin program. What were your goals for the program?

Robin: The goal is to bring wonderful authors to my audience – to share the books that should not be missed and to have a lot of fun chatting about the writing process – and anything else that comes into my head. One long term goal, which I just realized, was to finally have podcasts of the show added to my website. Now people can tune in whenever it’s convenient for them – and without any nasty commercial interruption.

JRW: Any goals not yet realized?

Robin: My major long term goal is to write my own novel. I prefer to think rather than do the actual writing, though. This interview has been more than I’ve written in a while.

JRW. Long before you had your own radio show, you had a love of books. What fostered that love?

Robin: My mother. She was such a lover of books and whenever she had free time, which wasn’t often, we could find her reading a novel. She would always have a book on her nightstand and I would note how often the titles would change. After she passed away, I took one of her book collections, which I keep in my library. I keep them in the same order she left them on our family bookshelves and love looking up at the spines.

JRW: What’s your best advice for authors trying to get publicity on a radio show?

Robin: Send an email to the producer of the show that includes a short bio and some info about the book and why it might work on a specific radio show you are interested in. Follow up once, but if they are not interested, being a pest/nudge is not going to be helpful. Sometimes it’s just timing (nothing personal).

JRW: Any special traits that make an author a better guest?

Robin: Even if the book isn’t particularly funny, I appreciate it when the author has a good sense of humor and isn’t taking it all too seriously. I like to have a good time on the show, and be able to go off topic – as I’m doing here.

JRW: What’s your favorite question of authors?

Robin: If it’s as hard as it seems to get a book published and should the rest of us even bother trying. I love hearing the stories about the road to publishing, the rejections, the doubts, and the drama.

JRW: What are the perks of having your own show about reading??

Robin: the biggest perk is getting to talk to these incredible authors. Henry Winkler was a guest last summer and if that wasn’t cool, I don’t know what is. Meeting Judy Blume, who was the author of my favorite all time children's book, was another real treat for me.
Another perk is that I get to use the microphone to help raise money for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk each year. It’s something I have been passionate about for many, many years.

JWR: What are the burdens of your show?? How many books do you read a week, and how many books are stacked up in your living room?

Robin: Burdens? There are no burdens. When there are burdens I will stop doing the show. For me, it’s a passion and I love preparing each week for it. I usually read 1-2 books a week. I have too many books to count in every room in the house. I buy books, they are sent to me, I get them at conferences, but I never borrow books. Ever. I don’t want to have to remember to give them back.

And now, the Jungle Red Writers Quiz:Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple?
ROBIN: HUH???

JRW: Sex or Violence?

ROBIN: NOT SO BIG ON VIOLENCE ALTHOUGH AM A BIG FAN OF ALL THINGS MAFIA AND FOR SOME REASON THAT VIOLENCE DOESN’T BOTHER ME….GO FIGURE!
SEX IN BOOKS AND MOVIES IS GOOD. I’VE READ MUCH BETTER SEX SCENES THAN ALMOST ANTYHING I’VE SEEN IN THE MOVIES. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A WELL WRITTEN SEX SCENE!

JRW: Chocolate or Pizza?
ROBIN: CAN’T I CHOOSE BOTH??

JRW: Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan?
ROBIN: NOT SURE WHO DANIEL CRAIG IS AND I DO KNOW PIERCE BROSNAN SO I’LL GO (ANYWHERE!) WITH HIM….EVEN AFTER WATCHING THE MOVIE VERSION OF MAMA MIA (MAMA MIA!!!!)

JRW: Katherine or Audrey Hepburn?
ROBIN: OH,NO…THIS IS TOUGHER THAN THE PIZZA/CHOCOLATE QUESTION. I DO LOVE THEM BOTH!! IF I REALLY HAD TO CHOOSE….I THINK I’LL PICK CHOCOLATE AND CHOOSE BOTH HEPBURNS! WE HAVE EXTENSIVE COLLECTIONS OF BOTH HEPBURNS AND THERE IS NOTHING LIKE WATCHING THEM WITH A TRAY OF TRUFFLES!!


JRW: First person or third?
ROBIN: GOOD QUESTION….ROBIN MUCH PREFERS READING BOOKS IN THE FIRST PERSON! (OR SO I’VE HEARD!!)
JRW: Prologue or no prologue?
ROBIN: CERTAINLY A TIME AND PLACE FOR PROLOGUE (AT THE BEGINNING?) BUT I PREFER TO DIVE RIGHT INTO THE STORY AND FIGURE OUT WHAT MIGHT HAVE COME FIRST FOR MYSELF!

JRW: Making dinner or making reservations?
ROBIN: A TRICK QUESTION!! WHILE MAKING RESERVATIONS WOULD BE THE OBVIOUS CHOICE FOR ME NOT SO AT THIS PARTICULAR TIME. WE HAVE BEEN UNDER CONSTRUCTION FOR THE PAST ALMOST 5 MONTHS WITH A KITCHEN ADDITION AND FIRST FLOOR REWORKING SO I HAVE NOT HAD A WORKING KITCHEN SINCE MAY!! MAY I SAY THE NOVELTY HAS WORN OFF AND I SOMETIMES DREAM ABOUT THE FIRST THINGS I’LL PREPARE (OR EVEN WARM UP!)ONCE THE NEW KITCHEN IS UP AND RUNNING!

JRW: Tell us four things about yourself: Three true things and one lie; we'll guess which:

RED IS MY BEST COLOR

I WAS ENGAGED MY SENIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE

I HAVE NEVER EATEN TUNA FISH

I WATCH A TON OF TELEVISION

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On words that need a comeback



You don't carry in your countenance a letter of recommendation. Charles Dickens


Jan: Everybody always writes about the overused words or phrases that irritate them. Lately, I've been collecting the underused ones that fell out of fashion. I'd like to see these make a comeback.

Countenance: The general impression given by the facial features. Kind of a mix of appearance and what today we might call aura. But it hints at intrepretation of the observer, rather than an energy emitted from the observed.



Fortnight: In Charles Dicken's and Jane Austen novels, everyone always goes away for a fortnight. What an economical way to say a two-week period. Why not use it? As in, I clean my house fortnightly!


Coupling: One of the nicest euphemisms for having sex, and a whole lot better than the much cruder term we overuse today. Wouldn't it be great if rappers converted to the use of Mothercoupler?
Singular: Big favorite of Somerset Maugham. I remember looking it up when I read one of his collections because he used it in pretty much every short story. The first definition is separate, individual, but Maugham used it to mean deviating strongly from the norm. Along the lines of extraordinary.
Physiognomy: -A favorite term of Sherlock Holmes if I remember correctly. It means judging human character from facial features, which fell out of favor for good reason. It was biased against anyone non-white or unattractive. But if you read Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, you know that we still unconsciously assess people this way. So why not use the correct term for it -- if only to define it as a flawed human practice.
Strumpet: A much nicer way to say slut. It seems to imply a certain amount of flair --- or maybe musical ability.
Malarky: So much better to be full of than bologney or worse.
Come on, if you think about it, there are lots of these. We can force them into everyday conversation and make it a mission.
HALLIE: Oh, Jan, get thee to a library and check out H. L. Mencken's "The American Language" (1921). You and Mencken would have been soulmates. He was chronicling how American-English was diverging from English-English, and doing so with his own particular brand of wit.

In the book, you'll find a plethora(!) of colorful terms and their origins--like palooka, belly-laugh, and high-hat. And mourn colorful terms that have faded like infanticipating (expecting), shafts (legs), and Reno-vated (contemplating divorce).


JAN: Oh, I forgot about high-hat. I'm reading Millers Crossing, from the Coen brothers screenplay collection. The setting is Chicago during the prohibition years and the gangsters repeatedly use high-hat, as in "you were giving me the high hat." The uppity, condescending blow off.

RO: I love throwing in an underused word or expression every once in a while and watching the faces. Has she lost it? Is she that old? Hallie, I actually used Reno-vated yesterday! (Shades of the orginal Women, come-a ti-yi-yippee!)
Of the Damon Runyon-type words I like malarky and hooey, but really prefer the Brit-sounding (is it?) balderdash. I vote for strumpet or hussey over the all-too-popular slut. Even twelve year-olds are calling each other that.
Let's see...brouhaha...that's a good one...what else..I may need a cuppa joe first...

ROBERTA: yes, love brouhaha--I still use that one. and how about "rhubarb," as in "What a rhubarb!"

JAN: What a rhubarb? I never hard that before. Is that a Minnesota-ism, like Holy Buckets? And what is a rhubarb anyway? A jokester?

HANK: A rhubarb is a dustup, right? I like piffle. As in oh, piffle. And I just read about the word "wifty," which is like ditzy and fey. All three of those are lovely.

JAN: Piffle and wifty can double as excellent names for puppies and kittens.
It seems there are just so many useful words and slangs benched before their time. Please come tell us your favorites.

Friday, October 3, 2008

On fashion disasters



I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch. ~Gilda Radner




ROBERTA: I know we have very serious concerns in our world, but we can't think about big problems all the time! Hence, fashion disasters...

A few weeks ago I overheard Hank talking enthusiastically with another writer about “Project Runway,” a fashion reality show. I went to check out their website and learned that the show is already in its fifth season. And that about sums up my knack for fashion. By the time I’ve converted to shoulder pads and puffed sleeves, the well-dressed woman is outfitted in pencil skirts and tuxedo blouses. Frilly girl dresses in style? I’m wearing pinstriped man suits and those stupid silk bow ties that were in vogue in the eighties. I’ve had to come to terms with the facts: I’ll never be on the cutting edge. And part of the problem is that comfort always trumps trendiness when I’m shopping. Anything tight, abrasive, or even with an itchy tag—forget it. An old friend recently sent a photo from my days in Tennessee in the late 70’s. I went to grad school dressed in these overalls—this is what we call a fashion disaster. And now we are ready to hear about yours.

JAN: Cutting edge isn't always a good thing. I bought this shearling coat from the window of a chic Newbury Street store -- with the proceeds from the first big feature I sold to Boston Magazine. (Literally, I was walking back from the BM office and the check burned a hole through my purse.) When my mother first saw me in this coat, she rolled her eyes and asked if I was trying to look homeless. I chalked it up to her lack of fashion sense. A few years later when we were going to an evening event, my husband, who rarely comments on my outfits, asked if I would please wear any other coat but that one. Again, what did he know about fashion? Finally a couple of years ago, my daughter confided she thought the coat was the ugliest thing she'd ever seen. She'd actually been photographed and named the most fashionable girl on her college campus, so I had to listen. Or maybe it was the rule of threes. Anyway, it's still in my closet, but won't be making an appearance this season. PHOTO TO COME

RO: This is hard for me. Not because I'm so fabulously stylish, but I feel like I've been wearing the same things since the fourth grade. Different lengths, tight, baggy, low rise, high waist, I probably have a hundred pairs of black pants and just as many black tops and jackets. I friend actually told me I was starting to look like Johnny Cash a few years back so I've tried to integrate some color into my wardrobe. Probably is, that's not what I reach for when I get dressed. Every season I buy a few magazines and tell myself that this year I'm going to look a little spiffier. Never really happens, but I keep buying the magazines. Last year I was on a flight from San Francisco to New York and the guy from What Not to Wear got on the plane. I swear, I thought my friend had set me up.

I did have a pretty excruciating perm in the 80's but mercifully no pictures survive.

This is my fourth grade picture. A black and gray blouse that I wore as often as my mother would let me. I'd wear it today if I still had it. It was cute. And I wore that headband, or something like it for about a year. Pretty hideous.


HALLIE: I am a huge Project Runway fan, but geeze Louise, I wish they’d deep-sixed Kenley. Talk about annoying and quel cloying, deja vue fashion sense. On the other hand, our waitress last night at the Ashmont Grill was wearing a red leather flower on a strap around her head, a la Kenley. With her baggy red South Boston T-shirt and jeans, I thought it looked pretty silly.

But I’m hardly one to talk—I was wearing black sweatpants and a bright orange zip-up sweatshirt hoodie. Celebrating early Halloween? It was cold! Still, not a fashion statement worth repeating.

Hey, I remember when we wore overalls. And later parachute-material jump suits (I had one in turquoise which was, as I recall, adorable).

Here’s me on vacation in purples and pinks—that was the decade when we tucked in our shirts. My favorite part is the sunglasses stuck over the babushka.

HANK: Rosemary! You were absolutely darling. You all are. And that attitude is so Jan. No nonsense.

Ah, well, you got me here. I spent lots of my teenaged years drawing fashion designs. I really wanted to be a designer, of some kind, though if I remember my drawings at all, the clothes were more suited to Barbies than real people. Think: mermaid skirts. I had Cyd Charisse paper dolls, and loved to cut out the clothes and tab them on.

When I was 15, I think, I cut my hair in an asymmetrical Vidal Sasson, up over one ear. I thought I was so mod. My mother never recovered. (Imagine! You walk into your bathroom and your daughter has hacked off half her hair. That's how she saw it, at least.) Blue eyeshadow, Cleopatra eyeliner. I do wish I had a photo. But, alas, no. And I ALWAYS got sent home from school for having my skirts too short. Once was with a white lace dress and white lace stockings. I was SO mod.

Anyway, now I'm on TV, and have to be kind of careful. And in the past, actually, until maybe 10 years ago, that has resulted in my "look" being a bit--prim. Don't I look like a dorm counselor here? With kind of Farrah hair. And oh yeah, my hair is brown. Imagine that. This is from 1976. (And I still have that blouse. Which, ta dah, is now back in style. And the pearls)

And um, I like Kenley. Yes, her voice is annoying. But she's really talented.

ROBERTA: Oh good job with the pix this week ladies! I think you all look cute. And Hallie, I remember wearing exactly those colors--I had a pink blouse and a maroon skirt that I was so proud of...







Thursday, October 2, 2008

ON FIREARMS FASHION



"While the nation’s attention is focused on a provocative presidential race, Dr. Alexandra Blake investigates the unexplained death of a DEA agent on a Mob stakeout. Within hours, similar deaths occur throughout the Southwest. Is it a naturally occurring epidemic—or has a lethal bioweapon been released in the United States?"
Lori Andrews on IMMUNITY


HANK: Yeah, Lori knows all the most cutting edge scientific stuff. She's advised presidents. Written internationally acclaimed treatises on the most lethal and dangerous weapons and disease-causing agents the world has ever known. But she knows there's one pressing question that often defies even the most brilliant mind: What do I wear?



MY FIRST GUN
by Lori Andrews

The man who is about to teach me to shoot calls to say, "Wear something casual. You’ll get gunpowder all over you."

With my closet full of lawyer suits, this request is tougher than it seems. I choose a pair of hand-me-down jeans (hand-me-up?) from my younger sister and, at the back of a shelf, find a T-shirt from a documentary filmmaker friend. This black sleeveless body-hugger touts the hip-hop movie, "Death of a Dynasty" by Rock-A-Fella Films. Nah, I think, the guys at the range won’t find this amusing.

I choose instead the "Mystery Chix and Private Dix" T-shirt that Hank Phillippi Ryan created for our mystery writers group. ((Hank says: well, it actually my graphic designer, Bonnie Katz. My role was to say "Yes, that looks nice." Okay, Lori, back to you.))

Finding sensible shoes – flats – is the next problem.
Not sure what to expect, I enter the gun shop, where I can get a deal on everything from the type of gun Sean Connery used as James Bond to the ones that cops strap around their ankles as back up. Despite the sunny summer weather, there’s a line for the 10-lane indoor range.

My friend and I lean against a counter in a waiting room that smells of acrid powder and shakes with an unbelievably loud sound each time someone opens the door to the range. The place looks like the back room of an Italian restaurant in a Mob movie. But at the long table, instead of passing around a plate of cannoli or dividing up the take from the numbers racket, older men are passing around guns, admiring each other’s scopes. Though none of the men are Italian, they are all white. I’m glad I left the hip hop shirt at home.

When it’s our turn for Lane 6, I realize I’m sweating. I adjust the safety goggles and the ear protectors and my friend hands me a Browning .380 short, a gun, I’m told, a lady could sleep with under her pillow. With ear protectors on both of us, we can’t speak to each other without leaning extraordinarily close.

My hand trembles as I try to position the wisp of metal at the tip of the barrel between the V of the sight at the rear. Behind me, unobtrusively, my friend angles his right shoulder and knee so that the kick from the gun doesn’t knock me to the floor.

My third shot hits the two-dimensional target in the heart. As congratulations, my friend makes the okay sign to the left side of my face. As other shots score in the inner two circles, I realize that I’m doing better than my mystery series character, Alexandra Blake, did her first time at the range. All she managed to do was to shoot targetman in the balls.

After I discharge a few rounds, my friend moves me up to a Beretta 9mm, a Sig Sauer 9mm, and finally, a Sig Sauer .40, the gun Alex’s partner, a DEA agent, uses in my new novel, IMMUNITY. Each gun has a bigger kick, lifting my hand after each shot and propelling my shoulders backwards. I thought I’d prefer the lady-like Browning, but I like the feel of the Sig Sauer 9mm. The sight is better and the gun, despite being heavier, seems steadier than the Browning.

In my best shot of the day, from the Sig, the bullet barrels toward the black and white target, then hits him in the 10-point spot, creating a surge of iridescent green, like some alien blood. But before the bullet reaches the target and I see the jubilant "okay" sign from my friend, the hot metal of the expelled cartridge hits me square in the forehead, branding me. I think of ashes being applied to the forehead on Ash Wednesday as the priest says, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."

Shooting a gun, even on a range, changes you.


ABOUT LORI:
The American Bar Association Journal listed Lori Andrews as a “2008 Newsmaker of the Year -- a lawyer with a literary bent who has the scientific chops to rival any CSI investigator.” But More magazine got a little more personal, describing her as “Petite and blonde, with classic features, she appears as aristocratic and self-assured...Off camera, though, you encounter a very different Andrews: warm, outgoing, self-effacing, giggly, indefatigable.”

Well, it's true.

Immunity--her latest, came out in September 2008.


NOW, OF COURSE--LORI ANSWERS THE JUNGLE RED QUESTIONS!

Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?

Hercule

Sex or violence?

Both, shaken and stirred.

Pizza or chocolate?

Fueled by chocolate.


Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan? (We won't even include Sean Connery because we know the answer. Don't we?)

Daniel Craig! Pierce lost my vote with his silhouette in the opening credits of GoldenEye. His legs were just too skinny to hold up a real James Bond.

Katherine Hepburn or Audrey Hepburn?

Audrey.

First person or Third person?

Third, but intimately.

Prologue or no prologue?

Prologue at the scene of the crime, since my protagonist, Alexandra (Alex) Blake is in every scene after that.

Your favorite book as a kid?

Why, the Nancy Drew series, of course.

Making dinner or making reservations?

Reservations. When my publisher asked me if I provided any recipes in my latest book, IMMUNITY, I pointed out that Alex was so busy tracking a killer and trying to identify an epidemic new disease that her idea of a gourmet dinner is mixing sliced apples and cheese with a can of tuna. I must confess, she got that idea from me.


And also: the Jungle Red Quiz. Tell us four things about yourself. Only three can be true. We'll try to guess what's false.

I killed off my old boyfriend in one of my mysteries.

I traveled to Dubai to advise the government on cloning men.

I contracted malaria while in Vietnam doing research for THE SILENT ASSASSIN.

When the White House called and asked for my social security number, saying the President wanted me to drop by, I hung up thinking it was a credit card scam.

HANK: Gotta believe the boyfriend thing is true. Haven't we all done that?

But hmmmm...what do you all think? Thanks, Lori!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Charlaine Harris reveals all



And finally, Charlaine, will you answer our Jungle Red questions?

JRW: Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?

Oh, Miss Marple. I love her.




JRW: Sex or violence?

Now that’s difficult. Violence, I think.



JRW: Pizza or chocolate?

Chocolate.




JRW: Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan? (We won't even include Sean Connery because we know the answer. Don't we?)
Daniel Craig.

JRW: Katherine Hepburn or Audrey Hepburn?
Audrey.




JRW: First person or Third person?
First.


JRW: Prologue or no prologue?
No prologue.





JRW: Your favorite book as a child?
“Jane Eyre.”



JRW: Making dinner or making reservations?
Making dinner. Though if there was anywhere here that took reservations, I’d vote the other way.


And also: the Jungle Red Quiz. Tell us four things about yourself. Only three can be true. We'll try to guess what's false.

1. My office d├ęcor includes headstone pictures.

2. I have skeleton flamingos in my front yard.

3. I set up a haunted house at Halloween.

4. I have a customized set of fangs.

Okay, Jungle Red readers...which one is false?

And thanks, Charlaine! And congratulations on a second season of True Blood.
(Tomorrow--come meet Lori Andrews! Her real life is right out of a thriller...and her new book IMMUNITY is--a real thriller.)