Thursday, March 31, 2011
KATE: Before I begin to outline a plot, I need to know who gets killed and why, and a reason that my sleuth must get involved. Then I figure out which four people in the life of the murder victim would have a reason to want the victim dead. I give them backstories, means, motive and opportunity. The only other thing I need is the dramatic ending. With all that figured out, the outline is much easier to write.
LEANN: I am an outliner. Once I start my narrative synopsis the story begins to flow and I know so much about the characters before I even begin the creative part. I also need a title. Strange, perhaps, but the title is very important to me. It keeps me focused on what this particular story is really about.
ROBERTA: Kate, since you have a long-running, popular series, with more books in the pipeline, I'm wondering how you keep from getting stale in this series? And tell the truth, are you ever sick to death of your own characters?
KATE: What keeps the series alive for me is the relationship that has been developing between my little florist/sleuth, Abby Knight, and the hot hunk who owns the bar down the street, Marco Salvare. Readers have loved seeing them go from that first spark-filled meeting to a growing attraction to a deep love. We're still moving forward with Abby and Marco, with lots of fun to come. So far, I haven't grown sick of my characters. I like watching them grow. What I do get tired of is having such tight deadlines, but I'm working on that issue. I want to love the process, and that can get tough on close deadlines.
ROBERTA: For Leann, I'm wondering what it was like to switch from the yellow rose series to the cats in trouble. And also I'm curious about whether you use your background in psychiatry in your writing, and if so, how?
LEANN: I thought the switch from Yellow Rose Mysteries to Cats in Trouble would be easy. So NOT easy. I had been writing the Yellow Rose Characters for more than a decade, long before I was published, so I knew them so well. Plus, those books are set in real life city that I am very familiar with. Everything in the Cats in Trouble Series had to come from my imagination. And making my two heroines very different was important. It was a whole new writing learning curve! As for the second part of your question, my psychology background is invaluable. I have met so many "characters" and have the college course work behind me that explains much about why people behave the way they do. Yup. Invaluable.
ROBERTA: Now for both of you, where do you think is the best bang for your promotional buck--and for your energy?
KATE: In general, the Internet affords the chance to reach the widest audience. I love to meet with readers at booksignings and at mystery conferences, as well, but since my time is limited, I can “talk” to many more readers through Facebook, Goodreads, and other similar sites.
LEANN: Since I have several chronic illnesses, I rely on things I can do from home. Facebook is my friend as far as connecting to readers, but I also network with other writers. And I have some very amazing writer friends who have gone the extra mile to help me get the word out about my books. I can never thank them enough. Bookmarks, buttons, cute business cards and now stickers with my cat character names are all part of the promotion.
ROBERTA: Thank you both for visiting--we know how busy this time is! Good luck with both of the books. You can read more about Kate and Leann at their websites.
And tomorrow (drum roll please!) we accept entries for our first crime fiction concept contest...see you in the comments...
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
By Linda O. Johnston
Okay, I’ll get a little more specific. Because of the characters--plucky, smart, determined and successful in what they do. They live their own fun and fictional lives, taking care of what’s important to them... while solving murders.
And because of the themes. They’re what make cozies cozy!
I’m sure you know, as a Jungle Red Writer or follower, that each cozy series has its own theme or background. Some are similar, but all are at least somewhat unique--based on who the protagonists are, where they live and, mostly, what drives them.
Some of the most popular themes involve crafts or hobbies such as sewing or other needlework, crocheting, scrapbooking, quilting, rubber stamping, or collecting things such as miniatures.
Some involve careers, such as gardening, cooking, giving advice, or owning a particular kind of shop or restaurant. Others involve sports. Some have paranormal themes. Some are historical.
Still others--among my favorites, of course--involve animals.
Why themes? Because they intrigue readers who are already interested in those areas, lure them into picking up the books, then reading them--and in addition to being entertaining, the contents may teach readers about aspects they might not otherwise know. Themes also allow readers who share those interests to identify even more than they otherwise might with the protagonists. A theme additionally provides a background that can be carried through the entire series, sometimes allowing introduction of ongoing characters who act as the protagonist’s friends and sounding boards--or some even become victims or suspects in the murders that inevitably occur. These are, after all, mysteries.
I’ve had fun with the theme of my first mystery series, the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. Kendra lives where I do, in the Hollywood Hills. She’s a lawyer by background, as am I. She’s owned by a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie--a good description of my older dog. So, yes, Kendra is an alter ego of mine--but fortunately neither I nor my friends trip over dead bodies, and the only murders I solve are on the pages of my books.
This month, the first book in my new Pet Rescue Mystery series debuted with BEAGLEMANIA. The new series, featuring Lauren Vancouver, is a spinoff from the Kendra series, although both can be read independently. Yes, both involve animals, but from different perspectives. Different protagonists, too, even though both are written in first person.
Kendra’s tone is lighter than Lauren’s, which carries through with the difference in themes. A pet-sitter has a lot of responsibilities, sure--especially one who’s also a lawyer. That’s Kendra. But the weight on Lauren’s shoulders is often heavier. She rescues animals.
Lauren is the director of HotRescues, a no-kill animal shelter. She was introduced in HOWL DEADLY, the eighth Kendra mystery, and she also appeared in FELINE FATALE, the ninth.
Her own stories start with BEAGLEMANIA. Saving animals is her passion, and she’ll be involved with some difficult situations such as being there when puppies and their parents are saved from a puppy mill. The second Pet Rescue Mystery, THE MORE THE TERRIER, starts off with Lauren learning that her mentor in pet rescue has turned into an animal hoarder, and Lauren has to help deal with that, too. The stories of course contain murders that must be solved.
The theme behind the Pet Rescue Mysteries may be a bit edgier than many cozy mystery themes. I admit to wanting to call attention to the plight of too many animals who need new homes. But the mysteries are written to entertain lovers of cozy mysteries, not to hit them over the head with a message.
Because these stories are fiction, I’m able to make sure that HotRescues is adequately funded without a lot of stress on Lauren’s part. Plus, no matter what else happens, the animals will come out of it all just fine. I’ve even adopted a slogan: In the Pet Rescue Mysteries, “no-kill” means pets, not people!
I hadn’t initially considered that Lauren, like Kendra, would become an alter ego of mine, but as I got into researching the Pet Rescue Mysteries, I got into pet rescue more, too. I currently volunteer at a no-kill shelter as a dog adoption counselor. I’ve gone on training exercises with the Small Animal Rescue Team of Los Angeles Animal Services. And, I’m the L.A. Pet Rescue Examiner for Examiner.com.
In case you can’t tell, I’m delighted with the pet rescue theme of my new Pet Rescue Mystery series!
By the way, I’m so obsessed with animals that I also write romances about them--the Alpha Force miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne, about a covert military unit of shapeshifters!
Please come visit me at www.LindaOJohnston.com and at www.KillerHobbies.blogspot.com on Wednesdays. Friend me on Facebook. I’d love to hear what you think of pet rescue--and BEAGLEMANIA!
JRW: thanks for stopping by Linda! We love the cover on Beaglemania...Linda will be checking in today to answer comments and questions. And don't forget to enter our crime concept contest, social media style, on Friday!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
ROBERTA: Every once in while we like to invite Mary Buckham to JRW--she's such a terrific writing teacher. I've taken several of her online writing classes and recommend them highly. Today she's here to talk about active setting--and she'll be stopping in to answer your questions so don't be shy!
MARY: What is Active Setting and how can it make a difference in our novels? Active Setting involves using narrative description of a place to do so much more than simply describe an environment. Active Setting means instead of describing a room, or town, or landscape we use that specific Setting to show characterization of the POV character or another story character, add sensory detail to the page, show emotion or create complications. Active Setting can also reveal back story, orient the reader as to the where, when and who of the story and it can impact story pacing.
It's amazing what Active Setting can do to enhance a story or, with the lack of it, flatline your novel.
Details must matter for Active Settings. Don't focus your reader on something that isn't pertinent to your story. Example --- you're showing the reader a room in a house. That room, and the details in that room, should show characterization, or conflict, or emotion, or foreshadow, or be there for a reason instead of simply to describe placement of objects in space.
One thing to remember is to let your POV characters interact with the setting, move through it, pick things up and brush past them, etc. Whenever there's an introduction of a setting that's different for the POV character, or for the reader, spend a few words of description to orient the reader. Make your Settings matter and your whole novel can benefit.
So what about you? What does Setting mean to you as you write? As you read? Feel free to comment and out of those who do comment one name will be drawn for a copy of BREAK INTO FICTION(tm): 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells or one-on-one help with a Query letter. For more information on Active Settings, Mary will be teaching a two-week intensive online class called ACTIVE SETTINGS: For All Genres in May at www.WriterUniv.com.
Mary Buckham is an award-winning fiction writer, co-author with Dianna Love of BREAK INTO FICTION: (tm): 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells from Adams Media, co-founder of www.WriterUniv.com 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 www.MaryBuckham.com
Monday, March 28, 2011
Gosh we could have come up with that one! But since we didn't, I thought it would be fun to talk about the best or most memorable advice we Jungle Reds have ever gotten. I'll start with a couple of pearls from my mother, both of which came in my teenage years.
First: Never lie down on a blanket with a boy. Nuff said.
Second: One day you'll feel about a man the way you do about the cat. (My husband is still waiting for that one to materialize!)
So what about you Jungle Reds? Best advice ever? (Can be writing-related or just about life.)
DEB: From my dad--"Smile when you speak to someone on the phone. They can hear it." He was in sales his entire life, and this was one of his mantras. But it works for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE you deal with on the phone. My dad was a self-made man whose bible was Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. He lived by "treating others as you would like to be treated." Can't do much better than that.
JAN: Wow Deb. I'm going to use that one. That's terrific. I do a meditation which involves smiling and the effect is amazing. The best advice I got was also from my father and I repeat it all the time. He used to tell me, if you aren't actively trying to be a better person, you start sliding backwards. I think that's especially true as you age and get set in your ways.
Also, this is the best advice that I give my kids. Don't think about anything important after 9 p.m. at night. All thoughts get distorted as you get tired. And especially don't think of anything important as you are trying to go to sleep. Think about the plot of a movie or TV show -- someone ELSE's life, not yours.
HALLIE: Great advice, Jan - I confess, I churn late at night and it's pointless. I "go" places in my head--wander through the halls of my elementary school or through Robinson's department store near where I used to live. Before I know it I'm asleep.
My mother used to say things like Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. And Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. I rarely knew what she was going on about. But the one piece of advice I've taken to heart: Take notes.
ROSEMARY: Deb...I actually write down the word SMILE when I give a radio interview..dad was right! I like all of these suggestions. I didn't take much advice from my father but I do remember him saying - as my mother dragged me to church and he stayed home - "just be a good person, you don't need all those rules." I try. Interesting that most of these words of wisdom came from our fathers. Maybe that's because our mothers just kept telling how how wonderful we were??
HANK: (RO, not mine....:-)) My mother told me "Thoughtful consideration of others is the sign of a true lady." We used to SNEER! Now I think, oh, I see what she means. Once I had lunch with my Dad, I was oh, about 22. And working at Rolling Stone, and CLUELESS. And I knew I was clueless. I said to dad--gosh, I am so nervous about work! I have no idea what I'm doing,I am just making it up as I go along every day.
And Dad (a foreign service officer) said, Oh, honey, that's what we're all doing. Everyone is making it up as they go along.
I was SHOCKED. And relived. And reassured. And I still think about that all the time.
And Roberta, yeah, we could have thought of it. Absolutamente. But we are not Katie Couric.
ROBERTA: Hank, to us you are definitely in Katie's league!
JULIA: Hank is like Katie Couric with better hair. Roberta, your mother's advice about "never lie on a blanket with a boy" reminds me of what my mom said before I left for college: "Aspirin is a sure-fire birth control method. You just place one between your knees and hold it there." That still makes me laugh, all these years later.
The piece of advice from my dad that still echoes in my head (and in my teenagers', since I regularly pass it on to them) is, "Assume everyone else on the road is an idiot." My dad is the best defensive driver EVER (even if we do tease him about always going five miles below the speed limit.)
For me, though, the best advice I ever got was in premarital couple's counseling, with Ross. The priest who was going to marry us was talking about how love is something you do, not just something you feel, and he said, "There will be times when you don't feel loving toward your spouse. There will be times when you don't even LIKE your spouse. But if you always act in a loving, considerate way toward each other, the feelings will follow your actions." (I add in passing this has also been very useful advice for the times when I feel like strangling my children.)
ROBERTA: Oh I love these suggestions! How about you, Jungle reds, best advice ever?
Sunday, March 27, 2011
In the Key West Citizen a couple of weeks ago, the crime report section featured a robber who was caught because he'd logged into his Myspace account while in the very home he was robbing! And the New York Times featured a story about criminals boasting about the crimes they'd committed on Facebook, or threatening future victims on their Facebook walls, or ranting on Twitter.
So we got the idea of sponsoring the first annual JRW Crime Concept Contest, social media style--and we have some terrific prizes! (The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel by Hallie Ephron, an ARC of One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming, signed copies of Teaser and Prime Time.)
Here are the rules.
1. Entries will be accepted on Friday April 1 only. (Yep, that's April Fool's Day, but we're not fooling.)
2. Entries should consist of one paragraph maximum and should be posted as a comment on the Friday blog.
3. Entries should describe the concept for a story or book you might write--the sky's the limit except social media, computers, or public electronic communication must play a major part.
4. Winners will be announced and posted on Saturday April 2, chosen at our whim of course!
AND while you're coming up with your concept this week, come back often--we have some terrific guests lined up: Mary Buckham talking about making your settings active on Tuesday, Linda O. Johnston about why read or write a cozy mystery on Wednesday, and following Monday's subject on good advice, writing veterans Leann Sweeney and Kate Collins will give their best tips for promotion and writing on Thursday. So come back soon!
Friday, March 25, 2011
Tonight there was a fabulous opening reception with a group of native American dancers from a nearby Pueblo. I wish I'd thought to bring my camera. Rosemary did so maybes she can share a picture with you. But the youngest member of the group was eighteen months old. She had the complete costume, absolutely adorable, and stood solemnly watching while the bigger kids and grown ups did a wonderfully energetic buffalo dance, full of intricate steps.It was a great way to have a blessing bestowed on our convention.
Tomorrow I have a panel with Laurie King, Rebecca Cantrell and a couple of guys on 20th century sleuths. It seems funny to refer to the 20th century as history now, doesn't it? And tomorrow night is the banquet. I'll have John take pix and try to post them.
Between panels there was a little time for shopping. We now own two lovely Indian baskets and may go back for a rug tomorrow....
I was tempted by some snakeskin boots until I found they were $750. Now I'm telling myself they would have pinched my toes.
And I wanted to share some amusing snippets to give you an end-of-week chuckle. you know when you Google something, Google paid ads appear beside it. Well, last year when I was writing Royal Blood and wanted to make sure I got all my vampire facts correct, I googled vampires. And the first ad that came up said, "Want to meet other vampire singles?"
Well, this week I was researching cyanide. I typed it in and up came the ads, Potassium cyanide, we offer best prices.... cyanide, best buys...
I ask you--has the world gone crazy?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
A few weeks ago I was approached by my publisher Minotaur to write a Molly Murphy story that they would put up as an ebook, to help to lure new readers to my series at the time Bless the Bride came out. I did this—it’s a quel when Molly is a teenager, and it’s called The Amersham Rubies. So I was going to mention it at some stage on the blogs when I got an email from blog mate Julia Spencer Fleming asking me to mention her ebook promotions, tied to the release of her next book, One was a Solider. I’ll give Julia’s details at the bottom of this article.
There has been so much buzz recently on the future of publishing and whether the real paper book is now on the way of the dodo. Certainly my e-book sales are outstripping my real book sales on Amazon. Maybe it’s only a matter of time before the libraries all just stock ebooks. Some people tell me they still love the feel of a real book in their hands, but that won’t be true for the next generation. My seven year old grandson loves his Kindle. He likes the fact that he can make the type bigger and that he can listen to the book when he gets too tired to read.
What this will mean for writers, I’m not sure. However I don’t believe the world will be taken over by technology for a couple of reasons. One was that I was in a big craft store this week and it was really busy. Women and children were being crafty all around me, in spite of the fact that nobody these days needs to make anything. People enjoy making things. It’s in our genes. Look at the incredible popularity of all the craft mysteries—knitting, quilting, scrapbooking, cooking, you name it, there is a mystery series about it.
There must be something in us that likes the real, the traditional, the safe, the sturdy. We go to real plays rather than movies. We play real board games with real people. We cook for family gatherings when we could easily buy all the food pre-cooked. We get satisfaction from gardening and growing our own vegetables. We are not designed to be idle people. Our genes expect us to forage and hunt, to cut wood and make fires. And we like to turn pages to. So I’m hopeful that real books will continue to be part of our future. How about you?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Professor Douglas Starr is co-director of the graduate Program in Science and Medical Journalism at Boston University. The Killer of Little Shepherds is his second book. His previous book, BLOOD: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce, tells the four-century saga of how human blood became a commodity – from the first experimental transfusions in the 17th century, through the collection and mobilization of blood in modern wars, to a tragic denouement during the AIDS epidemic. It was published in seven languages, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (science and technology category) and was named to the "Best Books of the Year" lists of Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal. A PBS series based on the book, Red Gold, aired on more than 300 PBS stations in the U.S. and internationally. Starr's writings about science, medicine, public health and the environment have appeared in a variety of venues, including The New Republic, Science, Smithsonian, Public Television, National Public Radio. He has appeared as a commentator on ABC's Nightline, the BBC, CNN and NPR.
RHYS:Doug, it's a pleasure to welcome you to Jungle Red Writers and to congratulate you on the accolades this book has been garnering.
Your background is in journalism. Have you always been fascinated with true crime?
DOUG: Surprisingly, no. I’ve always been a science-guy. I’ve always written about the environment, medicine, public health and related subjects. I especially love the history of science, and the larger questions that the scientific method poses – and answers – for humanity. With those interests, I guess it was inevitable that I’d become interested in the theme of science and justice. And that, inevitably led to the story of this case.
RHYS: In what ways is a true crime book harder to write than mystery fiction?
DOUG: I’ve never written fiction, so can only imagine what it’s like based on having fiction writers as friends. You guys have it easy! (At least as I imagine it.) You do your research, and then once you establish your setting and basic facts you can lean back and invent! In non-fiction I never get to invent. Every detail must be factual. If I say it was a rainy day on March 2, 1898 it’s because I verified the weather for that day. If a character says something in one of my books it’s because I found that quote in testimony or news reports.
I’d compare non-fiction writing to creating a pointillist painting. Instead of using thousands of tiny dots of paint to create a portrait we non-fiction writers use thousands of data-bits. The challenge lies in standing back from those data bits to see the larger stories and themes.
RHYS: What drew you to this particular crime?
DOUG: I knew I wanted to write about the 1890s, when modern forensic science was developed. So I started rummaging about in the history of medicine journals in the Harvard Medical School Library, near my home. I tripped over an academic paper about this case, and started researching it. Then I found a book about the case by the man who solved it -- Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, the greatest forensic scientist of his day. Over the months, as the evidence accumulated, I realized that this would be the perfect case to represent the birth of a new science. I was also struck by the larger-than-life nature of the protagonists: one of the most brilliant scientists of his day pursuing one of history’s worst serial killers. Finally, I wanted to resurrect the memory of Dr. Lacassagne. Most people never heard of him, but his name should be every bit as prominent as Darwin, Pasteur and others of his contemporaries
RHYS: Tell us briefly about the case that sparked the book.
DOUG: It was quite ghastly. Joseph Vacher was a vagabond in France who killed more than twice as many people as Jack the Ripper. I guess we’d call him a psychopath today. He would wander the countryside taking agricultural jobs, and when the impulse came upon him, stalk, kill and eviscerate young people. Then he’d hide the body, clean himself up and walk upwards of 20 miles to the next district, where no one had ever heard of him. Whole villages would be traumatized in the wake of his killings. The newspapers called him “The French Ripper,” or “the Killer of Shepherds,” because he liked to stalk shepherds, who tended to be young people in remote locations without witnesses.
What drew me to the story wasn’t the killings, but the brilliant ways in which investigators approached it. The Vacher case included so many elements we know as modern forensics – crime scene analysis, scientific autopsies, criminal profiling, modern interrogation, and psychological analysis, to name just a few. It really was a “poster child” for modern criminal investigation.
RHYS: How did you handle the gory aspects of this case? I'm impressed that you sat in on autopsies--what was that like?
DOUG: It wasn’t easy. During my research trips to Lyon, France, I got to know Dr. Daniel Malicier, who currently heads the Institute of Legal Medicine that Dr. Lacassagne created. Dr. Malicier invited me to sit in on a couple of criminal autopsies. Frankly, the experience gave me a nightmare – these were not pretty corpses at all, and one had been found after sitting for several weeks in an abandoned warehouse. It was worth it, though. In one of his most famous cases Dr. Lacassagne had to perform an autopsy on a body in an advanced state of decay. Because of my experience I was able to accurately re-create the details of that scene.
RHYS:Do you have another book in the works?
DOUG:Not yet. I’m looking, though. Every non-fiction book is an adventure, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Manners were important until recently. There were rules to society and you were judged on how well you obeyed these rules. You didn't call without a calling card. You didn't speak to strange young men without an official introduction. Even after WWII you never went out without hat and gloves. Dinners were often four or five courses, all with the correct silverware. We have inherited lovely boxes of fish knives and forks, pastry forks, coffee spoons, all of which lie at the bottom of the hutch and never see the light of day.
When we read a book that takes place in another time, some of these formalities come across as silly to us. And yet I lament the fact that manners have all but disappeared from society. I don't know about you, but it annoys me when the twenty year old receptionist at my dentist calls me by my first name. It annoys me when I dress up to go to the opera and the person in the next seat is wearing jeans and an old T shirt.
So maybe I'm old fashioned, but manners matter to me. I expect someone to hold open the door for me when I am following and always do the same for them. Most of the time they sail through without saying thank you. I would still give up my seat on a bus to a pregnant woman or a frail older person. Most people look the other way. I always say please and thank you the way I was brought up to. I write thank you notes after dinner parties.
So how about you? Do manners matter to you? Do you lament the passing of formality? Which aspects of modern informality bug you?
JULIA: I am a HUGE bug about manners. Ross and I have been drilling our children since they were born. Sometimes it feels like swimming upstream against a great cultural tide, but let me tell you, nothing gives me as great a pleasure as another adult saying, "Your son/daughter has such nice manners." They address grown-ups as Ms. Harris or Mrs. Quin-Harkin, they know what bread-and-butter notes are, and they understand the underlying ideal of good manners: to show kindness and make others comfortable.
Rules and a certain level of formality actually makes for a more relaxed day-to-day experience. Sometimes physically, as in Rhys' example of people needing seats on a bus. Other time, it relieves anxiety - if everyone is following the dress code, for example, no one is going to feel awkward or embarrassed. And Rhys, I'm with you. It drives me mad when I go to the theatre (for which, we know, I have already paid too much) and see others in the audience schlumping around in ratty casual clothes. This is 21st Century America, folks, you can't convince me you spend SO much time dressed to the nines that you just HAVE to have a break from society's cruel constraints.
HANK: Our next door neighbors have two adorable daughters, three and five. The parents are vigilant--and its so rewarding to hear. "Look at Uncle Jonathan when you talk to him, honey. Remember to say thank you." And they do, and it's adorable. They can order food at a restaurant--why is it so charming to hear a five-year-old say: "May I have the chocolate chip pancakes, short stack, please? And chocolate milk, please?" And then she grins at her mother, saying: "Delicious, Mummy! But NOT nutritious!"
And what about air travel attire? Remember when it was an occasion? Yes, I know, it's now steerage and semi-torture, but ratty cut-offs and midriff-baring t-shirts don't make it any better.
Plus--may I just add: language? When did "suck" beocme okay? And P*ss? SO unpleasant.
DEB: I am one-hundred-percent with you on the manners. I know how to set a table. I hold open doors, even for men. I let other drivers merge in rush-hour traffic. I give up my seat on London buses and the Tube to those who are frail, elderly, or pregnant. I don't address people I don't know by their first names. (Our late neighbor lived to be a hundred-and-two, and although she asked me to use her given name, I could never bring myself to call her anything but "Mrs. Montgomery.") I dress up for the opera and the theatre, and though I will try to be comfortable on a miserable transatlantic flight, I still try to look presentable.
I must have done something right, because my grown daughter has lovely manners. She even says, "Yes, ma'am," and "Yes, sir," which I don't think I taught her! Such a nice Southern touch!
Where I have to admit I fall down is on the written thank-you notes. I always have good intentions but my organizational skills (or lack of) get the better of me . . .
Huge pet peeve? Getting email from readers with no salutation. I don't mind being addressed as "Dear Deborah." Or "Ms. Crombie." (I'm not "MRS." Crombie--Crombie is my ex-husband's name, so I'm a bit touchy on that one. "Ms." isn't perfect but it beats addressing women as "Mrs." when you don't know their marital status.) But by my lights email with no salutation is the virtual equivalent of "Hey you!" and is incredibly rude. Does that make me horribly old-fashioned?
ROBERTA: Maybe we all sound a little old-fashioned (I was going to say "like old farts", but that wouldn't be good manners, would it?), but I'm going to pile on with the manners. We were trained to stand up when adults came into the room, shake their hands, and call them Mr. and Mrs. I think our kids came out with pretty good manners overall--though lots of adults insist that kids call them by their first names. Now there's another subject--is that because they don't want to accept the responsibility of being a different generation and demanding some respect?
I'm not too good at dressing up for plane flights--it's such a miserable experience! But I do admire the people who look sharp with jewelry and heels etc. But in the end, elastic waistbands and as little underwear as decent will win out:--especially on the dreaded red-eye.
RHYS: No heels or jewelry for me on plane flights these days. You only have to take them on and off at security. I've even left a lovely scarf behind doing that. And I'm safety conscious too--in a fire panty-hose fuse to your legs. Synthetic fibers melt. I know that's paranoid but I tend to wear natural fibers but look professional (you never know, you might be upgraded).
HALLIE: I think that's a great motto: wear natural fibers, look professional... behave properly and smile like you mean it. Yes manners really matter, and I also think using them makes people around you behave better.
A big deal for us was getting our kids to behave well in restaurants, because eating out was not something I was about to give up just because I had a toddler in tow. Meltdowns in restaurants were rewarded with a one-way trip to the car. I still remember Molly sitting in a high chair at the restaurant, thoughtfully perusing the menu she'd been given even though she couldn't read, looking up at the waitress, and asking, "Excuse me, but do you have rice?" (A few years later it would have been... do you have squid?)
JAN: I think I love historical novels for that polite, repressed world they take us to. And I wish the whole world - including my children - had perfect table manners. But I've seen people very recently give up seats for a pregnant woman, and even some one offered his seta to a man who was holding a toddler (although the man turned it down.) But I also think along with that polite, repressed world, came class divisions people couldn't cross. And that despite a lack of formal manners, I've seen most people/strangers come through in a good way when someone needs a hand. (or a seat.)
RHYS: My goodness, aren't we Jungle Reds a civilized bunch? So do share your thoughts with us--do you wish we still lived in a society where manners mattered?
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Want to work on your writing and support a good cause?
If you are within driving distance of Worcester, Mass, you might want to sign up for the all-day writing conference April 30th at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The Women's Words conference, organized by WPI and the YWCA, features fourteen published writers on six different morning panels: Children’s Lit, Nonfiction, Memoir, Fiction, Poetry and Journalism.
In the afternoon, the conference offers three different writing workshops on fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and a final panel including Noah Bombard, founder and editor of Worcester Wired; Lawrence Abramoff, publisher and former owner of Tatnuck Booksellers; and Lynne Riley, research librarian; will discuss thepracticalities of getting published.
The conference fee of $55 includes coffee and lunch, and all proceeds benefit Daybreak, a non-profit organization that provides emergency services to victims of domestic abuse. The goal of the conference, according to organizer Jim Dempsey, an adminstrator and instructor at WPI, is to bring attention to Daybreak and the very real problem of domestic abuse.
Scholarships will be awarded on the basis of need.
Writers include. April Jones Prince, children's literature; S.J. Wolfe, nonfiction; Eve Rifkah, poetry; Susan Rako, memoir;Lora Brueck, nonfiction; Judy Jaeger, fiction; Mary Bonina, poetry; Kim Newton, fiction; Dianne Williamson, non-fiction; and Janice Harvey, non-fiction,I'll be speaking on the fiction panel - so if you are in the Worcester area April 30th, check it out.
For more information about the conference go to: http://www.ywcacentralmass.org/
Friday, March 18, 2011
JAN: I've been practicing yoga a lot more diligently lately, and my instructor was trying to interest me in a teacher/training program. I really, really like my instructor, so I was mulling it over. But when I asked her how one makes the leap from teacher/training graduate to actual yoga instructor, she said, "Don't worry about that. If you think positively, it'll all work out. It's the Law of Attraction."
Thursday, March 17, 2011
JAN: On the surface Diana seems completely different from your last protagonist Ivy Rose. Is she or are there any similarities? And how hard was it to create a completely different heroine?
JAN: How did you go about your research into computer hacking and security?
HALLIE: I used to work in high tech, so networking with old friends I found a couple of amazing experts on computer security, one of them an expert on cyber-terrorism, another an ex-hacker. They helped me understand why people hack, and what real dangers they pose.
JAN: Where will you be talking about the book?
HALLIE: First stop is Brookline Booksmith next Monday, March 21 at 7 PM. Then BookEnds in Winchester Thursday, March 24. Then I'm off to Florida, Ohio, Pittsburgh (A shout-out to Mystery Lovers Bookshop!), Sacramento for the Bee Book Club, and more. I'm updating my web site with new events all the time. I hope lots of Jungle Red readers will COME AND FIND ME.