Friday, January 29, 2010

On Launch Parties

No Malice Palace
RO: I know, I know...lots of people say they're pointless and a waste of money, but dang it, I finished another book, it's coming out and I want to celebrate! Perhaps it's because my first two parties went so well. When Pushing Up Daisies was released people from every stage of my stage came to the launch party. Old bosses and colleagues showed up. Old boyfriends. Relatives I hadn't seen in years. It was wonderful. I felt like a bride. The party was at Partners & Crime in Greenwich Village and they sold so many books they had to run to B&N five blocks away to buy more. (I enjoy repeating that.) It was a fabulous experience. The next day I flew to Phoenix for an event at Poisoned Pen and signed hundreds of books. I thought..I could get to like this.

Needless to say that never happened again. You can only be a virgin once. I knew I had to do something different for The Big Dirt Nap - which is kind of funny - so I had a party at The Friars Club. I thought if nothing else people will come to see the landmark, members only club. And they did. It went well, I sold books, a good time was had by all.

So now we're up to book three, Dead Head. CBGB's is no more. The Fillmore is long gone, but given the title and the subject matter, I was hellbent on having a party in the village and I think I found the perfect spot - No Malice Palace. First off I love the name. And the place is as cool as it gets, a lounge-y, low key bar with a garden in the back. In fact the website says Bar, Parties, had my name all over it.

So on April 15 everyone I know - and that includes all of you - is invited to help me celebrate the release of Dead Head, at No Malice Palace, 197 east 3rd Street, bet. A & B, look for the green lantern (I love this part of the actually says this on their website.)

There is no way I'll sell enough books to justify the cost of the party, but I need that good sendoff
and I like to let my publisher see me selling books and chatting people up. I also like inviting other people from the house to acknowledge their work on the work. (BTW don't forget to stop back tomorrow for our chat with St. Martin's art director, David Rotstein.)

How do you all feel about book parties? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Awkward? Awesome?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Never give in...

"Never Give In"

"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." Winston Churchill

In the last few days tennis fans have been treated to an extraordinary display of "never give up, never give in." I won't bore the non-tennis fans with the details but in four important matches the player who dropped the first set came back to win. In some cases they were also down in the second set. For the women that would have meant game over and for the men it would have represented an almost insurmountable hole to climb out of.

Beyond the obvious athletics, it's the idea of never giving up that's struck me while watching the Aussie Open. We don't necessarily do it on a global stage like Li Na, Serena Williams or Roger Federer but every day we write our stories and books and sometimes we are rewarded..and other times we can get an unceremonious smackdown. It can be a rejection letter, a negative review, the non-invitation to the cool event. But we don't give up.

Okay we we're not fighting a war..and we're not even battling for a trophy and a huge check (well, maybe one day..)but we are all tested in this business.
So tell me, have you ever thought of giving up? And if you did, what did you do to get yourself out of it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

True Confessions...

Okay, somehow many of the Jungle Red gals have confessed to crushes on Christopher Walken. Who knew? We are all so different, how did this not-quite-handsome guy capture our imaginations? (In my case, so much so that I'm still thinking about that offhand comment he made at the bar, Columbus, when it was a hot spot in New York and I lived across the street. I knew the bartender and was very comfortable there!)

I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover - although don't tell that to St. Martins art director, David Rotstein who will be our guest on Saturday - but who can really say that he or she doesn't? At least the standards have changed somewhat in the last few decades. Everyone doesn't have to be pert and blond to be considered beautiful. And for the men, interesting faces are ... well...interesting..look at the difference between Walken and Rock Hudson. Russell Crowe and Tab Hunter. Those guys were almost too pretty.

So now that you've come out of the closet about your feelings for Christopher, who else have you lusted for from afar - despite his non-traditional looks?
JAN: This is my confession. I have a thing for broken noses. Just look at my husband. I'm crazy about Pete Carroll, former coach of Patriots and soon to be coach of the Seattle team -- whoever they are. I can't stand football but I run to the screen every time my husband kindly alerts me to Pete Carrol's presence. Once I saw him on the street in Medfield.(where he used to live.) I almost swooned.
I'm not crazy about guys who are too perfect. Or too short for me -- and what are the odds that I'm actually going to hook up with them?? I like Johnny Depp, even though he's a bit pretty. But he's also a little weird like Christopher Walken.
RO: This is good. You must have loved Jean Paul Belmondo. And funnily enough I have a character in Dead Head who's got a broken nose and is quite the heartthrob. I should send you an ARC!
ROBERTA: For a while I had a thing for the coach of the UCONN Huskies women's basketball team, Geno Auriemma. About ten years ago, they had a feature in the local paper in which they printed one of the players in color full page each day. They finally got to Geno and I cut out the page and taped it up over our bed as a joke for John. Three days later, he still hadn't noticed it. I had to point it out so we could get a good chuckle.
RO: Interesting choices ladies! After all the chat about the Fatboy Slim it is..I loved it!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Woman in Red

RO: I'm going to my first RT Booklover's Convention this April and no sooner did I click Send on the registration form than I went out and bought a red dress. Unless you know me, this might not seem like a significant event but ninety-five percent of the items in my closet are black. There's a blue suit and a brown dress and a lilac one-shouldered number that I had to buy because it's Armani and was on sale, and it looked terrific on me eight years ago when I bought it but it's never been worn outside of my closet. (Did I mention it has sequins?) I don't know what possessed me.

I'd gone to Macy's to buy a bra (forget Victoria's Secret Macy's has the best selection on the planet.) Anyway, bras are on the sixth floor and some marketing genius must have realized that by having only escalators (and no elevators) in the building a shopper would have to pass lots of other merchandise they aren't really looking for on the way to the thing they are looking for. There it was, on the fourth floor. Red. Sleeveless. On sale. And calling to me. It's one of those dresses that seems to have a shape even before you slip it on. Does everyone weigh an extra pound or two in January? I was risking a depressing sight in the harsh light of the dressing room, but I had to see what it looked like on.

It was a miracle. The dress held me in where I needed to be held in. It flared out where I did. (I'm no waif.) Was I really going to buy a red dress?
I flashed on the scene in Gone with the Wind when
Scarlett goes to Miss Melly's house in a slutty red
dress that Belle Watling might have worn. ("And put on plenty of rouge, I want you to look the part!")
And Bette Davis daring to wear red to the Olympus ball. (It doesn't help her win back Henry Fonda...look at him, he looks miserable. "I'm thinking of a woman named ...Jezebel!")

Some years back I was sipping a drink at a bar on NYC's upper west side and Christopher Walken told me I would look good in a red dress. Was I finally buying one? (Should I go back and look for him if I do?)

I'd read that attendees at RT (formerly called the Romantic Times Convention) dress with a certain, shall we say, flair? Daring? Did I have enough confidence to pull off a red dress? And in that crowd? What the heck, worst case scenario it will keep the lilac dress company at the back of my closet.I'm pretty sure I've seen Hank in a red dress, and of course she looked smashing.

What about the rest of you? Do you feel powerful in red?

JAN: I don't look good in red, unless its kind of orangey, which is a pretty ugly color. Mercifully, they don't make cocktail dresses in that shade.. But if Christopher Walken (I'm the only woman in the world who ever had a crush on him) told me to put on a red dress, I would.
But you've got the coloring for red. So wear it without apology. No big deal, really, you've just been living in Manhattan too long wearing black.

HALLIE: Red is my color. I love love love it, and over the years have had many red dresses. One was a red chiffon shirtwaist (that's how long ago) cocktail dress. Many Halloweens ago we made its flowy circle skirt into a devil's cape for my daughter.
Red makes you feel powerful. It's like being an exclamation point instead of an elipses. ENJOY!
ROBERTA: I love red, too, Ro. And Jan's right, you've got just the coloring for wearing it. And you must trust me on this: however far out you might feel with a red dress on, you will be dressed conservatively compared to many at Romantic Times! I went once, more as an observer and writer than a participant. It was amazing to see people checking in with scads of luggage and dress bags--different formal gowns and costumes for each night's ball.
Go ahead and wear that red--and take the lilac dress too, just in case.
RHYS: Rosemary, you'll look good in red and you're right. You have to make a statement at RT. You'll be amazed at the way some of the women dress up--sequins, feather boas, not to mention bustiers.
RO: Now...bustiers I can get into...I have quite a collection..this could be fun.
RHYS: Unfortunately I do NOT have the coloring to wear red, or black. I look like La Traviata in the third act in either color. I'm definitely a spring--pastels, beige, maybe a daring mid green or blue. I do have a fabulous red leather blazer--the softest lambskin. That was bought on impulse, and on sale, in Macy's simply because it felt so soft. It is that red in the blue spectrumso it looks okay on me--and I usually wear a white shirt or turtleneck under it.
But I do have several impulse buys in my closet that are totally wrong for me and have never seen the light of day, but I can't admit my failure. I'm currently debating what to wear as toastmaster at Malice this year. Can't upstage Mary Higgins Clark!
RO: Any interest in a lilac, one-shouldered dress? Never worn?
HANK: Oh, yes, red dresses--well, there is a certain something. And not just red dresses. Red anything. You know Helen Thomas used to wear red suits to White House press conferences so she'd stand out. Wasn't it President Nixon who called her the Lady in Red? Something like that. (And how many movies and songs hve The Lady in Red or some such as a title?)
Check out crowd scenes in movies or on T--you can always see the people in red. And RO, I was riveted by Bette Davis in Jezebel. "You can't wear red to the cotillion!" And it completely ruins her life. Luckily, although I saw that movie in my formative years, it didn't affect my grown-up clothing choices.

Can't wait to see the photo of you in your red!
RO: Maybe we all (except for Rhys) should wear red to Malice this year..

Saturday, January 23, 2010


ROBERTA: Now that the nominees for the 2010 Mystery Writers of America Edgar awards have been announced, I can stop worrying about whether I'm going to blurt out the names before I'm supposed to. (I served as the chair of the best novel committee this year.) We spent the last year sorting through almost 500 books to come up with this list, which I happen to think is wonderfully interesting and diverse:

THE MISSING Tim Gautreaux
THE ODDS Kathleen George

However, I could not wait to move on to reading something other than mysteries! This week I finished Mary Karr's memoir, LIT, and also Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP. Karr is a poet--an incredible writer--and the story she tells about her family, her drinking, and her recovery is devastating. I absolutely tore through The Help and can definitely see why this book is a huge hit: great characters, a fascinating story set in 1960's Mississippi, and tons of tension.

What are you folks reading?

RHYS: I'm reading Anne Hillerman's TONY HILLERMAN'S LANDSCAPE as I'm a huge fan of his books and have actually done this drive, visiting scenes of his various books. It's interesting to see it through the eyes of his daughter, however.
And in February I'm waiting for the new Connie Willis.

RO: I'm finally reading Olive Kitteridge, which I suppose every else has already read. But, it's slow going since I have no time to carve out a few hours, make a pot of tea and curl up in the big chair the way I used to, I have to grab ten minutes here and there, so the format is perfect for me...short stories that all connect with one character.

I scored some great books at ALA this weekend, but with the Australian Open and all the writing I hope to be doing, it may be a while before I actually get to read them - Precious by Sapphire, 212 by Alafair Burke, Life Sentences by Laura Lippman, So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, John Dies at the End by David Wong(isn't that a great title?) and The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern. Thanks to my pals at Harper, Workman, Random House and MacMillan.
JAN: I'm also reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which kept me up until 2 a.m. the other night. I just LOVE when book can take over my life that way. I don't want to do anything but read that book.

Next on the list Saturday by Ian McEwan, its supposed to be tough to get into but an awesome finish.

HANK: AH, Roberta! I know how you feel! I was a judge, too, in a different category, and we read maybe 100 books. It was really really tough. But fantastic. And now, I'm about ready to read ANYTHING else. (I can't wait for Alafair's 212 (we're now fellow board member of Mystery Writers of America, that's where I was this weekeend, but I am such a fan of hers) and for book one in Nancy Martin's new series. Plus, at ALA I got the new book by Alan "Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie" Bradley. Cannot wait! But I MUST write.

HALLIE: I read "Sweetness" and loved it. And I just read "Wicked" which I've had set aside for eons and so looked forward to, as a huge fan of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. I finally got a chunk of time to read and I have to say, it was so NOT an easy read. Beautifully written. It was fun to be at the ALA meeting and see all the new books. Distressing, though, to hear a librarian say (as I signed a freebie for her) "My library has no budget for books." She comes to ALA for books to stock their shelves. How depressing is that?

ROBERTA: Hallie, that's awful. I hope you told her about the Sisters in Crime library raffle. And by the way, congratulations to Hallie for her Mary Higgins Clark Edgar nomination for NEVER TELL A LIE. And to Rhys for her Lefty nomination for IN A GILDED CAGE. We are so excited! Meanwhile, don't tell a lie, tell us what you're reading!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Seven Steps to Empowering Your Creativity

Today we're thrilled to host Mary Buckham, who many of you know from her online classes and new book, BREAK INTO FICTION with Diana Love. Be sure to leave a comment to have a chance for winning one of her books!

MARY: I love January, not for the post hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but as a season of reflection, of slowing down and taking stock prior to making New Year’s goals that stick. I usually give myself all of January to decided and clarify. Lately I’ve been reading a book by John C Maxwell: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work. With lots of quotes, anecdotes and insightful questions Maxwell opens avenue of thought I found helpful to writers or anyone really, in particular a chapter on Creativity. Because being creative and living our creativity is at the heart of every writer. I’d like to share what I learned from Maxwell as well as my own experiences as an author, an instructor and a human being.

Every child is born an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso.

Were you aware that 90% of five-year olds see themselves as highly creative? That in itself is not amazing, but wrap your minds around the concept that by the age of seven, 80% of us who saw ourselves as creative no longer believe we are. That means only 10% of seven-year olds believe they are creative. By the time we reach our teens that number drops to 2% and remains fairly constant throughout our adult lives.

So if you are a writer, or a painter, or sculptor, etc., count yourself among the few who have never, ever given up on a gift given to many, but realized by few.

To savor and honor that gift here are seven steps to continue to empower your own creativity.

Step 1) Remove Creativity Killers. Sometimes the words are said by others, sometimes from within, so if you catch others, or yourself saying any of the following then you’ve run into a Creativity Killer. Follow the Rules. Don’t Ask Questions. It’s Hard. Be Practical. Be Serious. Think of [fill in the blank]. You Can’t Afford [fill in the blank]. Yes, But. You Don’t Have the Time. You Don’t Have the Money. Don’t Be Foolish. The list goes on and on but you don’t have to buy into the Creativity Killers.

Step 2) Develop a Creative Environment. You know best what spurs ideas, fuels your passion, creates energy. Is it color? Certain objects? A wide horizon? A secluded space? Honor your sacred creative space, whether it’s a desk top, a room or something else, and it will honor you. So take a good look at your working environment. Does it foster your creativity? If it doesn’t, how can you change it?

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow” – Charlie Bower

Step 3) Surround yourself by people who support you and challenge you to be the best at what you want to accomplish or do, not what they want you to accomplish or do. The more time you spend with creative people engaging in creative activities, the more creative you will become. Conversely, the more time you spend with nay-sayers or limited thinkers, the more time . . . you can fill in this answer. Who are you surrounding yourself with?

“Reaching new goals and moving to a higher level of performance requires change, and change feels awkward, but, take comfort in the knowledge that if a change doesn’t feel uncomfortable, then it’s probably not really a change.” John C Maxwell.

Step 4) Challenge yourself constantly and be willing to feel uncomfortable. Delight in exploring something new, something different for you. What have you done lately to push your comfort levels? To challenge yourself? When have you broken your routine? Driven a different route home or read in a genre different than the ones you usually read? When have you tasted a new cuisine? Explored a new location? Daily we’re given opportunities to push our limits, so what’s holding you back?

Step 5) Creative thinkers don’t fear failure. Why? Because they hold a different expectation of what failure means. Didn’t achieve what you had hoped for? For many this is considered a failure, but what if it meant something different? Any situation holds the seeds of new knowledge, self-awareness and new direction.

The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.” – John C Maxwell

Creativity requires a willingness to look stupid. It means getting out on a limb, knowing that the limb often breaks! And if it does, take that opportunity to spread your wings and fly!

So what about you? What does creativity mean to you? How have you faced the highs and the not-so-highs of being creative or wanting to feel creative? Feel free to comment and out of those who do comment one name will be drawn for a copy of BREAK INTO FICTION™: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells or a Fiction book of your choice depending on the genre you love.

Mary Buckham is an award-winning fiction writer, co-author with Dianna Love of BREAK INTO FICTION: ™: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells from Adams Media [June 2009], co-founder of and a highly sought after instructor both on-line and at live workshops around the country. To find out more about Mary, her Manuscript, Synopsis and Query help, her Lecture Packets, Workshops and Writing projects visit her website.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

True Confections

ROBERTA: Ten years or so ago, I attended an all-day writing event in my hometown sponsored by our local bookseller, RJ Julia. I was so impressed with novelist Katharine Weber's presentation that I tracked her down in the hallway to ask if she'd consider mentoring my writers' group. She did and we spent Monday nights for the next semester meeting in her adorable writing studio, sipping tea, and entertained by her adorable dog, Lester. One particular piece of Katharine’s advice still plays in my head as I write: "stay in the moment." So Katharine, let's start with your teaching. Talk a little about your method of teaching fiction and your best bits of advice for aspiring writers.

KATHARINE: I am not sure I have a patented method exactly, but it is always my goal, whether it is teaching Yale undergraduates (which I did for eight years), or teaching brief intensive workshops (which I did at the Paris Writers Workshop for three summers), or doing thesis advising for Columbia MFA students (which I have done for the past four years just about every other semester), or teaching a weekly workshop like the one we did together, Roberta, to help writers find their own voice and write whatever it is they mean to be writing. I would never want to hijack someone's writing, which I think certain writing teachers do all the time, either consciously or unconsciously, because they only know how to write the way they do it, and they aren't necessarily able to tune in to whatever it is that is going on for any other writer. I think we all know of writing workshops where everyone in the room is there because of an ambition to write just like the teacher, superficial strategies for which are exactly what will be offered. I would be horrified if a student starting imitating me, and it would feel like a failure to me as a writing teacher. My goal is to help people find their own voice every time, to do whatever it is they are doing, only better.

ROBERTA: Katharine's brand new book True Confections, is just out from Shaye Arehart Books--and it has the most gorgeous cover! Please tell us about the book, including how you came upon the idea of setting a novel in a candy factory.

KATHARINE: First of all, that cover! I love it, It was the product of a lot of brainstorming and going back to the drawing board. It was really a collaborative effort, conceptually, among my editor, the art director, and me. I suggested the concept of the candy bar having all the typography on it, and I supplied an old advertisement that this candy was based on.(Dedicated aficionados recognize at a glance that the candy bar on my cover is inspired by the original Goldenberg's Peanut Chew.)

My last novel, TRIANGLE, was set partly on the premises of the Triangle Waist Company, which went up in flames on March 25th, 1911. So this is a return to a factory setting. But it was writing about the Triangle fire for a New York Times Op-Ed piece

and writing about the undocumented children who died in that fire, just as children today are dying in garment factory fires in Third World Countries, now that we outsource our appalling labor practices and our tragedies that go with them, that led me to chocolate.

Because there are child slave laborers working in cacao plantations right now in Cote D'Ivoire, which supplies more than half the world's industrial grade chocolate. And while I didn't write about them, since I was writing about children at risk in Third World factories making cheap goods for our consumption, that got me thinking about the moral issues of chocolate, and from there, it was a small leap to a chocolate factory in New Haven where one member of the presiding family has self-serving spasms of guilt over where the chocolate comes from.

This plot element actually moved off to the side before too long, but it was how I got to a chocolate factory in the first place. And from there, it was great fun setting up some more not unrelated moral dilemmas. The narrator is the non-Jew who marries into the Ziplinsky family and is never really able to assimilate, no matter how hard she tries. And Zip's Candies has been making Little Sammies, Mumbo Jumbos and Tigermelts since 1924. These three candies are each inspired by an aspect of the very problematic children's book Little Black Sambo. True Confections is a novel about chocolate, and a family business in crisis, but it is also very much a novel about race.

ROBERTA: Every so often, you may email Katharine and find that she's in the Paris part of her life, which has me completely green with envy. How did you come to live part-time in Paris? And will you give us some insider's tips on what to see and where to eat?

KATHARINE: Let's not forget how all that terrific the chocolate available in Paris was essential to my work. (I am actually somewhat serious.) In 2000 my husband was beginning to write his majestic biography of the architect Le Corbusier, and he was on a sabbatical leave from the Albers Foindation, which he directs here in Connecticut, to do resrearch in Paris. So there was a rented apartment, and one of our daughters enrolled in a high school semester at the International School of Paris while he was there, and I was back and forth a great deal. Next thing, the high school was too good for her to leave, his research was taking longer...somehow, we ended up buying an apartment "for the duration," which made good economic sense, sort of. Charlotte got her International Baccalaureate from the ISP and went from there to a British university, Nick finished his research and found that it worked well to divide his time more and more between Connecticut and Paris, his Le Corbusier book was published here in 2008 by Knopf, and in France in 2009 by Fayard. We seem to be able to keep it going indefinitely, as Nick has a great deal of work that takes him to Paris all the time. He is there right now, about to go to Senegal as part of his work with the American Friends of Le Kinkeliba.

Katharine, thanks for stopping by Jungle Red today--and also congratulations on the terrific review in the New York Times! Read more about Katharine and her books at her blog. She'll also stop by JRW later today to answer comments and questions.

We shall not see his like again...

We will miss you, Mr. Parker.

Bo's Cafe Life

Today Jungle Red Writers welcomes Wayne Pollard, author of Bo’s Café Life, his look at the writing life through the eyes of Bo, an aspiring novelist. Bo spends his time in a café writing and talking to other writers who are also on the quest to get a book deal. Take it away Wayne!

WAYNE: I became a writer by choice – just not mine. I was fired from my last position as the marketing director of a software company. Believing that I should live each day as if it was my last, I gave the president of the company a piece of my mind. This made it rather awkward for me when, apparently, I didn’t die that night.

After I got fired I was angry and I used this to write an article that was published in CIO (Chief Information Officer). CIO was a difficult magazine to get published in and the editor I worked with told me that as a writer, I was either very good or very lucky. That’s when I realized that I was a writer.

Although I created Bo’s Café Life, I am not a cartoonist; I am a writer who’s pretty damn good at drawing cups. I use the cups as a means of showing the strip’s setting: a café.

Like Bo, I spend a lot of time writing in cafés. I go to a café nearly every day and there are two things I know for sure. First, never have two large coffees and a bran muffin before sitting on an hour-long bloggers panel. Second, cafés are not just about the coffee.

I write in cafés because they make me feel more creative. And if I don’t feel more creative, at least I look more creative. Yes, the coffee in cafés can be overpriced, but it’s worth it. I’ve considered trading down but my muse doesn’t do fast food.

Just prior to creating Bo’s Café Life I was feeling down because another agent had decided not to represent me. I wasn’t surprised; I had written a satire about the civil rights movement that guaranteed I wouldn’t get a book deal. I was sitting in a café, telling my frustrations to a chai latte and a blueberry muffin, when the idea of writing a comic strip that takes place in a café hit me.

I knew that I wouldn’t be very good at drawing faces: I wanted to stick with drawing cups. I remembered seeing a few Doonesbury strips that didn’t have people in them, just dialogue and a drawing of something, such as the White House. So, I knew that strips without people had been done before and that I could do it, too. I’ve always liked reading about the relationships between famous writers, such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wanted to capture some of that but with humor.

Bo’s Café Life is primarily about determination and persistence; Bo is determined to get a book deal. That’s what the strip is really about, pushing on with a dream despite the tremendous odds you face. And Bo will keep trying.

Good luck to you and Bo! Read more comic strips here. And Wayne and Bo are standing by to take your comments and questions.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


ROBERTA: If anyone is worse than me at spotting trends early--fashion or otherwise--I'd like to know her. Even if I see a fashion trend coming, the wagon will have left the station by the time I considering piling on. Let's take leggings for example; I've waited so long to embrace this trend that I think it may be coming around for the third or fourth time before I ever try a pair on. Facebook? I protested this as a useless time sink for years before I finally signed up--one of the last holdouts I suspect. Trends in publishing? Don't I wish I'd thought of writing about vampires in the early days along with Charlaine Harris. Or at least piled on while the idea was still catching fire. But no, I study my daily Publishers Marketplace emails, in awe of all the high concepts that wouldn't have occurred to me in a million years.

So what's the secret to spotting trends Jungle Red Writers? Are you good at it? Can you give me some tips? If not, tell us a story about what you missed!

HALLIE: Don't ask me! Three years ago I was telling people to forget about writing vampire mysteries. It would be so passe a few years hence. Not.

RHYS: I think some people are born with the trend gene. My daughter was one step ahead of fashion all the way through high school. When I was in London in the swinging sixties (doesn't that date me?) I was right up there with Mary Quant--dress up to my thighs like a British flag and white plastic boots with windows in the side. Since I left the entertainment biz and got married I've never tried to keep up and frankly I don't miss it. I know what suits me and am content. Funnily enough my daughters look at pictures of me and can't believe that I threw away clothes that are now fashionable again!

ROBERTA: OH man, Rhys, wish we could have seen you in the British flag and those boots!

HANK: Pleeeze. In 1980, I got a phone call from a guy who was working on a start up company. At the time,I was the anchor of the weekend news for the NBC affiliate and thought I was hot stuff. This guy showed me the new offices, and told me he wanted me to be the Los Angeles bureau chief of this new news organization they were putting together. But I was truly a trendspotter,so I knew it was doomed to failure.
No thanks,I said. Miss Know It All.
Afterwards I said to a pal--can you imagine? They think they can show news for 24 hours a day? No way. They're nuts.
Yup, CNN.

ROBERTA: Ouch, that one hurts, Hank. But just think, maybe you wouldn't have met Jonathan, nor would you know all of us:).

HANK: Oh, exactly! NO regrets. More hilarious, I had a news director who came into the office in 1975 with a yellow plastic thing. I said--what's that? He said--"It's called a 'videocassette.' They say videotape is going to replace film. But don't worry. It'll never last."

JAN: I actually think I'm a pretty good trend spotter. I picked up that Financial News was going to become big, back in late 1970s. So I jumped in. The bad news was that I got bored and jumped out in 1986 (Okay to have a baby) just when financial news really took off.

I find that a lot. I spot a trend, but too early. And then if you want to jump back in, it's too late.

But I think all of us spot a trend from time to time, just not ALL the TIME, or the EXACT right trend that would profit us best at the moment.

RO: Clueless when it comes to trends, especially clothing. If I'm wearing something that's in fashion it's probably an accident. I realized in the fourth grade that I'd never be fast enough to keep up with them so I took a pass. I see pictures of myself from high school or my twenties and think...I would still wear that - and sometimes do! That doesn't keep me from buying InStyle magazine, my favorite guilty pleasure airport magazine to which I now subscribe. I like knowing what the trends are but rarely want to wear them myself.

My notable non-fashion, clueless moment was when my former boss told me he'd forged a relationship with the WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, to distribute their videos. I thought, jeez, wrestling? That'll last a year and he'll be stuck with videos of Hillbilly Jim and Junkyard Dog. He made a ton of dough, wrestling is still going strong, and Hillbilly Jim was one of the nicest guys I met in the video business. What do I know?

ROBERTA: Okay Jungle Red readers, do you have the trend-spotting gene? And what have you missed?

Don't forget to come back often this week--we'll have three visitors: a comic strip artist/writer, the author of TRUE CONFECTIONS, and advice for empowering creativity. And we'll be talking books, books, books...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Confessions of a clutterer,

I am what I eat is a phrase we hear. I've just finished a mammoth spring clean of my office and I have to say that in my case it's I am what I collect.I like things around me--to distract me from my writing. I like toys to play with, pretty views to admire. And so I have pictures by Monet on the wall, as well as Robert Redford in an open shirt, and Redford and Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I have an Edgar Allen Poe bobblehead with a stuffed lizard sitting on it. I havea jeweled enamel owl sent to me by my friend Katherine Neville. Open it and there is a star inside. I have snow globes containing my book covers, an antique miniature teddy bear, a cow that moos when squeezed, Mr. Jeremy Fisher from Beatrice Potter and a kookaburra from Australia.

My favorites are a cube of Monet pictures that can be changed according to my mood--the snowscape is rarely chosen in winter. Instead it's the beach in Dauville. I have a tiny wooden top that a craftmsn in Udaipur India made for me. it spins beautifully. I also have a spinning disk with holograms on it.And I like wind up toys. A cat that plays a saxophone and mechanical teeth are the latest.

Then we come to my greatest treasure and distraction: my Celtic harp sits right behind my desk with music on the stand, ready to play when I need a break from writing. So what does this mean--that I have a cluttered mind? Or are these toys a demonstration of my childlike creativity? I'd like to go on with this post but there is a little box of carved African animals just begging to be opened and lined up across my desk....
I do have my award nominations framed on one wall, to remind me that if I don't get back to work, I'll never win another award in my life.
Please tell me, dear Jungle Reds, that you don't have pristine offices!

JAN: I just cleaned my office and already its a mess again. There's just no containing me. Or making me put things back where they belong. In my office, I keep my guitar on a stand next to the desk. Also the music I'm working. On the desk there's a framed photo of me and my mother, and her crystal candy jar where I keep receipts that have to be recorded. There's nail polish I never wear and cuticle cream I sometimes remember to put on. Also two brass tennis rackets that are paper weights.
On the wall, I have my Gerald Loeb award, a journalism award, framed covers of my novels, a poster of Aix En Provence, where I spent a semester in college and month last summer. Also three -- count em -- three bulletin boards. One is for moving around scene cards when organizing a novel or screenplay. . One is for stuff I don't want to lose, and one is filled with letters from people I love.

HALLIE: I have the riding trophy I won at Camp Tocaloma. I started the summeroff by falling off a horse and ended up winning this timed race around barrels. I have the award I won in high school for "Best Newswriting" and it always reminds me how stunned I was to win it. I have a collection of feathers I've found on our many bird walks, the badge from every conference I've attended. and piles and piles and piles and piles of books, organized by "keepers" and "on their way out the door."
RO: I can't say that my office is neat. It's a bit more tidy now than it's ever been but it is filled with things that I love to look at. I've got two walls of windows so that I can look at the trees and the birds. The telescope takes up a lot of space. The sofa and curtains are 40's barkcloth and there are lots of throw pillows. On the walls..dozens of bird and flower prints, a Hopper poster, a Vladimir Tretchikoff print (one of his blue ladies from the 50's) and a cherry blossom painting I picked up on the street in China. Shell and coral collections, ceramic deer vases, a china cabinet filled with vintage linens, a plastic angel that lights up, a pink flamingo stuck into the pot of a very large plant, a squeezable brain, three vintage lamps, lots of plants. And tons of books. It's a wonder I can think with all of this stuff here, but I love it!

ROBERTA: I'm not at home right now, but I can picture the slanted wall of my writing nook in Connecticut. It started out with a few photos taped up, but now every square inch is covered: photocopies of friends and relations, funny cartoons, my Agatha and Anthony nominations, a certificate of appreciation for my years as the faculty adviser to the Yale peer counselors, book covers, and lots more. I love looking at it when I'm wasting time. As for my desk, I try to be neat. But the further I get into a project, the messier things are. Unfortunately, this creeping paper affliction reaches the bedroom too.

RHYS: I knew I was among like minds at Jungle Red. When I am writing I have to have all my research materials around me, like a bastion, so I can swivel around and reach for any of my books on New York, history, forensics etc etc.They all came with me to Arizona and here I don't work at a desk but sit with my laptop next to one of our tall arched windows, so I can gaze out at palm trees and sunshine.
And I took some fun pictures of all the stuff in my office at home and of course I downloaded it to the wrong computer. Sorry, you'll just have to imagine how it looks!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Party Girl

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Penny Warner. Apart from writing darned good mysteries, there's not much she doesn't know about parties. She has written books on how to host any kind of party you can imagine and demonstrated her talents on the Today Show, no less! Now she has put her talents together and started a mystery series featuring a party planner.

So welcome to Jungle Red Writers, Penny.

PENNY: Thanks, Rhys. I was on the “The Later Today Show,” with co-host Florence Henderson, AKA “Mrs. Brady.” It went off the air very soon after I appeared….Coincidence?)
Thanks for the kind introduction. I’ve been looking forward to guest blogging on Jungle Red—what a great site! And what a great bunch of mystery writers. I’ll bet you all put on some great parties—lots of jungle prints with splashes of red, poison chocolates, a game of Truth or Dare... Now, on to the interrogation…I mean, interview…

RHYS: Where did this interest in party planning come from?

PENNY: It all started when I was three and had my first birthday party. I got to dress up like a princess, invite all my friends over, open a bunch of presents, and eat chocolate cake decorated with M&Ms. I knew from that point on that parties were my destiny. Trouble was, my birthday only came around once a year, so I had to think up other reasons to party. (Don’t you love that “party” is also now a verb, as in “to party!”)

RHYS: I forgot to mention that Penny has this wonderful dry sense of humor. So Penny, tell us about your new sleuth

PENNY:Presley Parker (named after Elvis—her mother was a big fan), was recently downsized at her abnormal psychology teaching job at San Francisco State University. Her mother, once the party queen of San Francisco café society, encouraged her to try the event-planning business, since Pres often helped her mom at various functions. Reluctantly Pres gives it a try. After the City’s premiere party planner mysteriously dies, Presley finds herself hired to plan Mayor Davin Green’s “surprise” wedding on notorious Alcatraz—with a “ball-and-chain” theme. But a major party foul occurs when the bride-to-be is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates. When Presley becomes prime suspect, she gets help from her quirky co-workers, as well as the mysterious crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews who helps tidy up her tarnished reputation. She realizes that if she doesn’t solve this mystery, she’ll be exchanging her party dress for prison stripes.

RHYS: You're not new to the mystery genre, but your former series, featuring a deaf sleuth, Connor Westfall, was serious and dealt with many social issues. This one is all fun. Which is closer to the real Penny Warner?

PENNY: I love them both, but I have to admit, since I majored in partying the first two years at the University of Oregon, I’m more like Presley. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer a degree in the subject, so I got my teaching credential and taught deaf kids and sign language for a number of years. Still, I never gave up my love for hosting creative parties, and began writing books on the subject for both kids and adults. It’s not easy juggling a life of partying with teaching and writing, but thanks to my ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—Presley and I also have this in common), I manage.

RHYS: You're a lady of many talents--you've written children's mysteries and a non-fiction Nancy Drew bible. Obviously you have a strong connection with children. Were you ever a teacher?

PENNY: I’ve been teaching Child Development and Psychology at the college level for the past 30 years. My readers often question why a child development instructor would want to write murder mysteries. I think, when you raise children, it’s obvious, but I do promise my readers that no children—or cats—are harmed in the making of my mysteries.

RHYS: What is next for you and your sleuth?

PENNY: I plan to have a margarita, but my sleuth has, what you’d call “a life,” so she’s busy hosting parties. In her next book, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH, she plans at Murder Mystery Party at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Naturally, someone winds up deader than a decaying artifact. When she’s finished solving that case, she’ll head to the Winchester Mystery House and learn HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE. RH

RHYS: When is the new book out in stores?

PENNY: Tuesday, February 2—any time after midnight…And it’s only $6.99!
RHYS: Thank you and good luck with the book! Maybe you can help us throw a Jungle Red party some time--and if anyone has a question to ask Penny, she's promised to stick around.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Choosing an Identity

RHYS: When I'm working at the computer I'm often struck by strange phrases--like the words "Unknown Zone" before it finds a website. Doesn't that sound like a good sci-fi title. She was lost in the unknown zone (which I often am, not being the most computer savvy person in the world).When I'm saving files to an online vault it shows the words "reticulating splines." I have to believe these words are made up just to impress people. Nobody has been able to explain to me what they mean.

And now we come to my favorite. When I post a comment on Blogger it says, "Choose an identity."What an offer. I can be who I like? So who do I want to be today? Queen Elizabeth the First or Queen Victoria, and boss everybody around? That probably wouldn't work because there's only John here and he isn't very easily bossable.A great opera star, about to sing the last act of La Traviata and know there won't be a dry eye in the house?Agatha Christie? William Shakespeare? How about Dan Brown, on the way to the bank?

So joking aside, if a genie came out of a bottle and I could really be anybody I wanted to be, who would I choose? It's a choice fraught with danger and twists of fate, of course. I could choose to be a lady in the Middle Ages only to find it is the day before the Black Death arrives in town. I could choose to be a Roman senator only to find that Nero is about to fiddle while Rome burns.I'm not sure I would like to go back in history for anything more than a visit, Connie Willis style. And even her historians always get more than they bargained for.

I don't have a need to be super rich. Or super famous. Both come with a heavy price tag. I must say I have fantasized about being a great athlete. I was a sickly child and useless at sports until I turned about twelve. Then, as i grew healthier I decided I wanted to be good at tennis. I can't tell you how many hours I thumped a ball against a wall. I never quite made the school tennis team but I kept on practicing and ended up playing for my college. And I actually got better as an adult, as I learned to control nerves and focus and use strategy. I could beat my son-in-law ( a hunky six foot four) until I had to give up the game a couple of years ago with some damaged disks in my neck.So yes, I'd love to be a top tennis player, walking out onto the center court at Wimbledon. Or a top skier, or ice skater. It must feel amazing to know that you are the best at something in the world.So next time you see a post on Blogger from Serena Williams, it's probably me.

And what identity would you choose, Jungle Red Sisters?

JAN: I think I'd chose Anna Quindlan. I always thought I should have ended up first at the New York Times, then as a best selling author, then as a columnist for TIme, is it?? Or Newsweek. And if I can't be Anna Quindlan, I'll be Faith Hill.
HALLIE: Fascinating question. And rather than who I want to BE, here's who I wish I could be FOR A DAY. Agatha Christie the day she typed THE END on Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Helen Keller in mid-life on a day when she was writing her book. Jane Goodall on a good day with her beloved gorillas. Billie Jean King on the day she defeated Bobby Riggs.

HANK: Marie Curie. Shakespeare, whoever he was, writing Henry V. Meryl Streep. Ameila Earhart, up to a point, of course. To have been brave enough to be Christa MacAuliffe. Oh, yes, Rhys, just for a brief icy moment, Nancy Kerrigan. Or Cynthia Gregory. Or Linda Ronstadt. I'm sure they would have all lusted to be someone else, too. Which is interesting.

ROBERTA: Meryl Streep, yeah that's a good one. And icon and my idol. But in the writing department, how about Kathryn Stockett who wrote THE HELP as her first novel. Not only a huge bestseller, but critically well-received too! I don't even need to BE her, I just want a successful book like that one! By the way, I haven't read it yet, but it's very close to the top of my TBR pile.

RHYS: Oh, I have to agree with Meryl Streep. What a fun life she has had, able to show her stuff in such a variety of acting roles, equally good at comedy and drama. I'd actually rather have her as a friend because I can see she likes to laugh a lot. And I agree with Hallie too. To be someone else, but only for a day. Much as I grit my teeth when a mediocre book hits the NYT list and I don't, I think I'd still rather be me.

RO: Most of the time when I have this fantasy I just want to be me younger but let's see..for a day...lots of people. Living - Clint Eastwood, Roger Federer, Julia Roberts, Keira Knightley. Dead - Gertrude Bell, Lillie Langtry, Karen Blixen, Pamela Harriman, Mata Hari, Cleopatra,...Eve. I said there were a lot..

RHYS: I guess that's why we became writers, so that we could play at being other people every day. I certainly enjoy spending time in Molly Murphy's world and even more so in the glittering environment of Her Royal Spyness. So do non-writers fantasize about being other people as much?

RHYS: Eve--now that's an interesting one. What if Adam was boring and droned on about his fig leaf collection? I think I'll stick to Queen Elizabeth the first or Queen Victioria!

Friday, January 8, 2010

On mini-dictatorships

JAN On the BBC yesterday morning, I heard that the city of Guanzghou, one of the largest and most prosperous of Chinese cities, is developing a new penalty system for icky behavior.

Icky is not the term they use. They call it anti-social behavior, but compared to American anti-social behavior, like Bernie Madoff bilking billions from investors and charitable institutions, I'd say its really more along the lines of just icky.

We're talking about spitting,which is apparently a big problem in China. Urinating in public. Drying your laundry on a fence, and littering and throwing trash out the balcony.

Accrue enough penalty points, which could simply be one incident of each, and you get thrown out of your public housing. (remember this is China we are talking about. Public housing applies to most people.)

Of course, here in the land of the free, you can't impose these kind of regulations, but wouldn't you love to??

I, for one, would love to see anyone caught more than three times using their cell phone while driving,lose his or her car for at least twelve months. Get caught texting ONCE and you not only lose the car, you never, ever get it back.

Rude to a waiter or waitress? You lose your right to go out to dinner with your friends, who have been embarrassed for years by your behavior.

Men who leave the toilet seat up have to pee sitting down like a girl for at least six months. Okay, that one might be a bit harsh, especially from someone who grew up with all brothers and didn't even know they were SUPPOSED to put it down until she was in her thirties. But this is fantasy we're talking about.

I've just handed you an imaginary minit-dictatorship to stamp out any behavior you find detrimental to society, or just slightly irritating to you, personally. Tell us, what is it?? And what's the punishment??

HALLIE: China is SO CROWDED I can completely understand the need for rules like that. The thing that makes me so crazy (is this just Boston drivers?) is drivers who use the far right lane as a passing lane. Everyone is going 60 or 70 and these cowboys come zipping up the right lane doing 85 or 90.

Incidentally, they do this in China, too, and it's terrifying. Punishment: a bullet between the eyes, so appropriate for cowboys. Or maybe a good helping of mud in their gas tank.

HANK: Having more that 10 items in the 10 or fewer express checkout. Jaywalking, slowly, without acknowledging that you're doing something selfish. Ordering a HUGE list of complicated stuff at the coffee place. (And the toilet thing. Hey. JUST LOOK and see if you've left anything behind. I mean--I can't stand it.) Doctors who keep you waiting as if their time is more important than yours. Credit card companies who shorten the billing cycle so you can't possibly pay on time unless you send the check instantly and who does that.

Punishment? Ah. Eating not-done pasta. Drinking flat diet coke. Getting aged tuna salad in your sandwich. Being next in line when the person in front of you gets the last one, whatever it is.

JAN - I can't believe I left out those right lane passers -- they make me crazy on Route 128. And I once wrote a column about doctors who keep you waiting. I was lucky that my doctor at the time wound up reading the column and was appropriately sheepish.

Okay, here's your chance to make the rules; Tell us what you'd do:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On No Discipline Whatsoever

Okay, maybe they weren't the best New Year's resolutions, nor the most ambitious, but I was sincere about them. Really, I was.

1. No eating after 9 p.m. at night. I was doing really well with that one until last night. I had one of those cinnamon sugar graham crackers. The good news was it immediately gave me a stomach ache. So after one small lapse, maybe I'll get back on track. Unless I'm watching television late at night. Then all bets are off.

2. No email until after I've already written five pages of my novel or the book proposal. I was actually doing pretty well with this one BEFORE New Years. But this week is my blog week, and the first thing I have to do in the morning is get up and post. For some reason, these leads to checking email. Plus I have a new computer AND a new email system. So what human could possibly resist the novelty factor?

3. Be green and use all cans of tennis balls at least twice before throwing them out. I tried this, but most people I play tennis with insist on opening their own fresh can of balls if you offer a used can. So it isn't any greener and it just seems cheap.

4. Stop telling my kids what to do. They are grown ups for goodness sakes. That was the idea behind the resolution. But this week I remembered that I'm still helping to finance them. And if I let my son shop for his clothes without me (on my credit card) he comes home with stupid stuff that is the wrong size. He hates shopping. I can't help myself. I have to go and save him from himself.

5. Buy less at the supermarket. Especially produce, which almost always goes bad because I buy too much. I've already had to throw out wilted parsley and a very funky looking lemon. And my first grocery bill has not yet gone down a penny. But then again, my son is still home from school and he eats a lot. Right?

Okay everyone, what new year's eve resolutions have you already broken???

And for those you who have resolved to watch less television, if you are in the Providence area today, January 7th , I'll be reading from Teaser and talking about mysteries with the talented Mark Arsenault at the Providence Main Library, Empire Street, Providence, RI at 7 p.m. We would love to see you there!

And Congratulations to Ruth McCarty, who won a copy of Brad Park's new book: FACES OF THE GONE.

And a reminder from Hank: WINNERS!! SECOND NOTICE!!

Margie B! You win Toni'sKelner's book! Email me and send your snail mail address.

And Plastic Santa! You win a copy of Quarry, the new and wonderful collection of short stoires from New England writers (okay, including my On The House.)
Send me your snail mail!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Fan Mail

JAN: I'm sure I speak for us at Jungle Red when all I say we all love to get fan mail. Every correspondence is hugely appreciated. I, for one, am always amazed and touched that there are readers out there who take valuable time out of their days to write a note.

Maybe it's because I have a secret fantasy of teaching high school English, but an email I received recently from a fifteen year old boy from Toronto went straight to my heart. It made me think a bit about why we all write murder mysteries.

Eeshmam Munir is a student at the Scarborough Academy of Technological, Environmental and Computer Education in Toronto, who had read A Confidential Source, the first in my Hallie Ahern series. It started with a simple email: He wrote me to ask if the mayor, Billy Lopresti, or anyone from the Providence Police, was involved in the conspiracy which explains the murder. He added, "Can you please tell me before December 14th because I need to know before my class presentation."

I was so excited that I'm sure I went on and on -- with more detail than necessary explaining more than he wanted to know. But it really tickled me to think of a high school student an
alyzing my book. Thinking about what it all was supposed to mean.

Later, he wrote me back to thank me and sent along the pdf. file of the poster he made and presented to his class. I thought, it doesn't get any better than this. What a treat to see how someone else's imagination interprets your own imaginary characters and world??

Through later emails, Eeshmam said I could run his poster here, but being WAY more responsible and diligent than I ever am, asked me to cite the links where he got his art. (I run those at the bottom) Also, he asks that no one download his artwork from here. So no downloading.

The best part, for me, was that he also explained why he chose each image in the poster. The white sedan, for example, is in one of the earliest scenes, a getaway car for the murderer. It also turns up in later scenes and for another murder. That's why he put it against a dark background.

The woman in the middle is Eeshmam's idea of what my protagonist, Hallie would look like. As it turns out she looks a lot like the actress Anna Torv from the TV series Fringe, which is a big compliment to Hallie. She is holding a flashlight in this poster to symbolize "no matter what happens she will get to the truth."

The character to the left represents is the prosecutor Matt Cavanaugh, who is Hallie's love interest throughout the series. The man on the right is Hallie's confidential source, Leonard, the talk show host. Eeshmam says they are on either side of Hallie to symbolize their support for her 'honesty and bravery." (That comment alone made my writing career worthwhile.)

You can't read it here in the compressed image, but on the bottom he wrote: No one wants to know the ugly truth. This hits on the theme that no one in power wanted to own up to either the murder or the conditions that gave incentive for the murder.

And here Eeshman gets at why we write mysteries. Because in our worlds, we want to believe that although it's a struggle, the good guys will eventually expose the truth. That the flashlight will shine.

Okay, so this was my favorite fan letter ever, but I know there are a lot of writers out there who read this blog, so come on, now it's your turn: Tell us about your favorite fan letter. Or if you are a fan, tell us if and when you were compelled to send a fan letter.

Below are the attributions for the images used. White sedan. The seal of Rhode Island. Anna Torv, who stars at the show Fringe on FOX, as Hallie. The actor Mitche Pileggi in the X-Files series represents Leonard of Late Night. This picture represents prosecutor attorney general Matt. It is Joshua Jackson, also from a FOX TV series Fringe. This is the background picture the brick wall and a police cruiser light flashing.

And thanks again Eeshmam, for one of my very favorite Christmas presents this year!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

JAN: I received a beautiful pair of earrings from my sister-in-law on Christmas Day. Lucky I put them on and wore them that evening, because when I wore them Monday night, I lost one. I've lost so many things, I don't even get upset

I try to tell myself that Matter Doesn't Just Disappear, but I don't believe it.
I actually think it's a conspiracy against me. As if the universe is stealing my valuables, or just messing with me mentally. Once I lost a diamond earring in my bedroom. I felt it fall off and immediately began the search. Bill and I searched the bedroom a dozen times. We still haven't found it.

But I've come to think that there are certain things that are just eminently lose-able. Earrings are obviously an issue for me. But when the kids were little, it was pacifiers. I'd have a dozen of them, but whenever I desperately needed one, I couldn't find any. Then I'd come across three under the sofa cushion when the baby was sleeping peacefully with three more of them next to her in the crib.

Now, it's guitar picks. I have a ca
rved box in the living room where they belong. They are always gone. And none in the guitar case either, or stuck in the strings. Two days later, I'll find one in my son's pockets when
I'm doing laundry. Or in my wallet. Or on the window sill.

Reading glasses?? Come on, don't
you secretly think there's someone out there removing them from your nightstand, coffee table or purse?? Or are there other things in your life that have a way of slipping behind the shelves?

RO: I can't believe you're blogging about this because this was going to be my next rant. No one likes losing anything, but I HATE it. And I have a hard time shutting up about whatever it is that I've lost - an expensive pen, my sister's two necklaces which I lost in 2005 and always wore together (one, yes, two?..I smell conspiracy.)

And I never stop expecting to find the missing item. I can remember moving out of an apartment many years ago and thinking - ha! I'll finally find that earring! Didn't happen. These are not misplaced items, these are the well and truly gone, beamed to another planet, never to be seen again things. How does this happen?

Last year on tour, I was at the airport in Philly and couldn't find my driver's license - my only picture ID. Somehow I finessed the security guards, got on my flight and had my husband overnight my passport to my hotel. But it drove me nuts. how could I lose my driver's license? Six months later I found it. It had slipped between the lining and the leather of the bag I was using. THAT'S why you never stop looking.

Now, whenever I'm looking for something and ask my husband if he knows where the item is, he says "it's with your sister's necklaces." Do you think he means "shut up, already"?

HANK: Ah, this is hard. I agree, nothing is really lost. It can't be lost, it exists. Still, if you don't have it, it's lost to you. And it's so frustrating, because you keep going back to the time when it wasn't lost--and
how did it cross over into the land of the lost? And why didn't you stop it?

And how about my Mom's famous question: Where did you lose it?

Still, when its not our own stuff, isn't there a women-can-usually-find it thing? I mean this morning, Jonathan said: Where's the mayonnaise? I said, fridge, door, lower left. No, it isn't, he said, I can't find it. You do not need me to tell you what happened next.

(But I know that's different than losing earrings and pens. Last night at din
ner, no two nights ago, I wore mismatched earrings, because on the costume-jewelry level, they are all I have left. Not kidding.)

HALLIE: Mismatched socks. Mismatched gloves. I have an entire basket where they live because hope springs eternal that the missing mates will show up. I wish there was a way to put a expiration date on the orphans so I’d know when to throw one out.

And what about that horrible feeling when you realize you’ve lost your purse? I remember having the exact same feeling when I went to the mall for the first time in years WITHOUT a daughter in tow. I knew something was missing, but it took me awhile to figure out what it was. Some things don’t go missing, they just grow up.

ROBERTA: yes, I lose earrings because they're too uncomfortable to keep on for long and soon the squeezing pain outweighs the urge to be stylish. I find them in pockets, in my car, in my husband's suit jacket... Yes, Hank, in our household we say "use your looking skills" when something is hidden in plain sight.

I will never forget years ago my grandparents came to visit me. They'd been in their room a long time so I finally went to check. They had lost their keys and were going through every item in their suitcase, frantic to find them. I pointed out that they'd pinned them to one of the pockets so they wouldn't get lost. Scary, scary, scary to think I'm closer to that than I ever could have believed!

Oh, and more way to lose things--on my computer when I save them to the wrong file. Very, very nervewracking...

JAN: So have you been losing stuff all your life? Do you cede your possessions to the universe or are you like Ro, expecting that if you just keep searching a little bit longer, you'll find it?

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Preview of Coming Attractions!

HANK: Thanks so much for the kind words about yesterday's New Years Eve poem! Next year, more verses. I’m already keeping notes on rhymes for next year: Lesa (piece-a cake?) and Rhonda (easy one. Quite fond a).

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2010 preview. I thought it would be fun, you know, to compile a list of upcoming books and stories from the friends of Jungle Red. Fun to see the coming attractions. So I asked around, requesting just the basics and figuring I’d just put it all together, slap it on the blog, and have a fun look into he future.

But it turned out to be more than that. As I sat at the computer, copying and pasting and downloading and alphabetizing, it became more than an edit session. Forgive me for being sappy, but it became a lovely ritual. Here were so many peoples’ hopes and hard work and years of devotion and persistence. Each time I made name bold, or put a title in caps, I thought of the person who created it. How often they’re thought about it, how they certainly struggled , and how excited they must be to have their pub date draw near.

It started as a kind of little gift to you—a way to let fellow authors have a tiny moment in the spotlight. (Such as it is.) But it turns out, it’s a gift you have given to me. To allow me to think of each of you, separately, and as part of our writing and reading community. And to share in your happiness. Thank you.

Anyone who’s not listed—put yourself in the comments!

(And the covers are randomly interspersed…and some didn't work at all. Blogger wins that round. Sigh. Think of the spacing as...surprising.)

And happy happy new year from all of us at Jungle Red Writers.


Ellery Adams
(A Books By The Bay Mystery)
Berkley Books

Avery Aames
A Cheese Shop Mystery
Berkley Prime Crime
July 2010

Jina Bacarr
Harlequin Spice
February 2010

Lorna Barrett
#4 in the Booktown Mystery Series
Berkley Prime Crime,
August 3, 2010
According to the gossip around Stoneham, New Hampshire, Tricia Miles cannot put down a real murder mystery. After all, the owner of the mystery bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, has been spending more time solving whodunits than reading them…

Lee Barwood
January 2010
Double Dragon Publishing
Love can survive death, but so can hate; the two collide in this haunted Ozarks tale of murder, betrayal, and heroism -- on both sides of the grave.

Brant, Marilyn
Kensington Books
October 1, 2010.

Brown, Pat
Digital Armageddon descends on the city of Angels.

Downtown Los Angeles' financial center is the heart of this thrilling murder mystery and the unwanted love that grows between a cop with a dark secret in his troubled past and an up and coming world class artist.

Kate Carlisle
NAL Obsidian
February 2010

Jessie Crockett
Mainly Murder Press
August 15, 2010

Krista Davis
Berkley Prime Crime
February 2010
Sophie Winston could hardly turn down her deceased neighbor’s last request for a bequest party, but she had no idea that the crafty old man brought the guests together for a deadly reason .

Jenny Gardiner
Simon & Schuster
March 2010
Barb Goffman
in Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin'.
Wildside Press
Spring 2010

Rosemary Harris
A Dirty Business Mystery
St. Martins Minotaur
April 2010
(Ro! Your cover would not download! CLick here to see it! Http:// )

Angela Henry
A Kendra Clayton Mystery
Boulevard West Press
December 31, 2009

Stacy Juba
Mainly Murder Press
December 1, 2010

Teresa Leigh Judd
Anthology: Ghostly Dreamspell

“Mystery, Mischief and Mayhem”
Anthology: Cats in a Dreamspell

Anthology: Revenge
L & L Dreamspell.

Liskow, Steve
May, 2010
Mainly Murder Press

"Strangle Hold"
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine
July/August issue.

Rebbie Macintyre
Five Star/Gale
Feb. 17, 2010

Nancy Martin
(A Roxy Abruzzo Mystery)
March 2010
Minotaur Books

Donna Russo Morin
Kensington Publishing
March 1, 2010

Kris Neri
(A Tracy Eaton Mystery)
March 30, 2010

Susan Oleksiw
An Anita Ray Mystery
by Five Star
May 2010.
At a seaside hotel in South India four women tourists find far more than sandy beaches and palm trees under a romantic moon, and Anita Ray must find a missing tourist and a murderer before her aunt's hotel is ruined.

Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant
FED UP (paperback)
the fourth Gourmet Girl mystery
January 4, 2010
Berkley Prime Crime.

Jessica Conant Park and Susan Conant
(the fifth Gourmet Girl mystery )
March 2, 2010
Berkley Prime Crime.

Sandra Parshall
(Third in the Agatha Award-winning Rachel Goddard series)
Poisoned Pen Press
February 2010
Blackmail. Murder. Summer is deadly in the mountains of Virginia.

Christina Phillips
Berkley Heat
September 2010

Caridad Pineiro
Forever from Grand Central Publishing
October 2010
A football player sidelined by a degenerative bone disease would risk anything to return to the game he loves, including a radical gene therapy--but when obtaining a cure threatens his family and doctor, he must change his plan to protect them.

Linda Rettstatt
Champagne Books
January 1, 2010
Champagne Books
May 1, 2010

Hank Phillippi Ryan
(Fourth in the Agatha-winning Charlotte McNally Mysteries)
Feb 2, 2010
MIRA Books
When everyone has a secret, reporter Charlotte McNally learns it’s possible to know too much--and the real secret is knowing when to tell.

JB Stanley
(A Supper Club Mystery)
Midnight Ink

Jennifer Stanley
(A Hope Street Church Mystery)
St. Martin's
January 1
Cooper Lee and the members of the Sunrise Bible Study find murderers while they search for friendship, romance, and answers to life's biggest questions.

(A Hope Street Church Mystery)
St. Martin's
April 27
Cooper Lee and the members of the Sunrise Bible Study must discover the identity of a killer preying on the elderly.

(A Hope Street Church Mystery)
St. Martin's
Cooper's sister finds a body in the trunk of her car and the members of the Sunrise Bible Study must foil a smuggling ring dealing in illegal aliens, forged documents, and heroin.

Elaine Viets
(A Dead-end Job mystery)
May 2010.
Helen Hawthorne solves the murder of a dead customer -- and really, truly gets married this time.

Elaine Viets
(A Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper paperback)
November 2010
Josie mystery shops lingerie this time!

Heather Webber
Feb 2
St. Martin's Press
A romantic paranormal mystery.

Liz Zelvin
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
A young Marrano sailor on Columbus's first voyage

Hurray for everyone! If you have a new book or story coming out next year, tell us all about it in the comments!