Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who You Gonna Call? Shelly and Andrew!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Happy Halloween! (And pass the Twizzlers.) Not to clog this with dreaded backstory, but when I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop (highly recommended!) they assigned a person to pick me up at the airport. She was lovely, and we chatted on the way to the event.

"So what do you do in real life," I asked, being curious and friendly.

"My husband and I are ghost-hunters," she said.

Now I ask you, Reds, when was the last time you heard that? 

So I got the whole scoop, of course but you all were haunting me. I knew it was a perfect blog for the Reds. 

So. No more backstory. 

Who You Gonna Call? 

by Shelly and Andrew Gage

There are a lot of ghost-hunting “reality” shows on TV these days.  Most of them do a pretty good job of showing investigations – the wandering in the dark, the use of various gadgets, and different ways of conducting EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) sessions.

  What they don’t show you, aside from leaving out the hours and hours spent reviewing footage and audio recordings in order to come up with the minute or less of evidence for the “reveal,” is how paranormal investigators work with their clients.  One of the most challenging parts of paranormal investigating is not dealing with the dead, but working with the living.

The first step in any investigation is getting familiar with the client.  We need to build trust with the client while at the same time gathering enough information to make a judgment call as to how reliable a witness he or she is.  Ideally, we’ll feel that the client is experiencing something, and the client will trust us enough to feel comfortable leaving us in his home, unsupervised, for several hours late at night.  (It’s not impossible to investigate with the client present, but it can be a hindrance particularly if the client is not familiar with investigative methods.)

A key thing to figure out is what the client wants.  What’s her motivation for calling us in?  What is he hoping we’ll find?  Some clients want confirmation that their house is haunted; others would much prefer that it wasn’t.  Our job as investigators is not only to capture evidence but also to manage expectations.  We aren’t going to manipulate our findings but our presentation of them will vary based upon what the client is looking for.  

If she’s really hoping that the activity she’s experiencing is grandma’s spirit lingering but all we find is evidence of bad wiring, we need to present that in a way that doesn’t belittle her feelings.  If he’s hoping we can prove that there are no ghosts and what we find can’t be debunked, then we need to find a way to assure him that paranormal presences aren’t automatically a threat. 

Clients call us in for many reasons.  In one of our first investigations of a private residence, we learned that our client was hoping we’d find proof that his mother’s home was haunted by the spirit of his grandfather.  While we did capture some evidence of a haunting, we weren’t able to say definitively that the presence was his grandfather.  Because we handled the situation with sensitivity, we were able to establish a good relationship with that client.  He’s joined us for other investigations, and referred people to us for help.

In another investigation, we discovered in the midst of reporting that we’d found nothing paranormal that our client was having trouble with her live-in boyfriend.  She’d been hoping we’d find a presence in her house which might be responsible for the changes she was seeing in him.  It was a tricky situation to handle - we’re paranormal investigators, not relationship counselors.  To our relief, our client was satisfied with our report, and she was so pleased that she referred her sister to us.

In addition to investigating private residences at the request of home-owners, we also investigate public sites.  In these cases, our concern is assuring the clients that they will control access to the results. 

Some sites would rather not announce that they’re haunted.  Others embrace it and are pleased to share whatever evidence we bring them.  We’ve investigated both.  A local bar was glad to have us in to investigate, but we had to promise not to share our results or even reveal we’d investigated there.  We have been scrupulously careful to not reveal anything about our investigation. 

On the other hand, the civic theater was thrilled to have us in to investigate and pleased to have us share our results on our website.  Because we’ve honored our agreements with both clients, we are welcome to return to investigate again and we are able to use the theater as a reference when talking with other places about investigating. 

If we do our jobs correctly, we will leave our clients feeling satisfied, regardless of what evidence we do or do not capture.  The client should feel that we’ve done a thorough job, that we’ve listened and considered what he’s reported to us, and that we’ve addressed any concerns she might have.

 In the end the ghosts might prove unreliable, but we never should.

HANK: Amazing, huh? Thank you for such a unique insight!  Okay, I have a LOT of questions. Like--tell us more about these photos! But you guys go first.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? No, Better Not...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Can't type....laughing. You know we invite guests to blog here on Jungle Red, people we love, people we'd love you to meet. Often, yes, they are writers, often mystery writers, and the coolest part of it is that every one is so different. We've had philosophy, and murder, and suspense, and drama, we've had pets and quilts and music and proms and torture and Twinkies and television and ...and...and...but we've never, I can safely say, had anything like this.
 Can't...type....still laughing.... (And she looks so normal, doesn't she?)

Literary Villain’s Halloween Dinners 

When given October 30th as a date to be on Jungle Reds (Thank you for having me!), I immediately thought Halloween. And then food. I am not a costume gal, nor much of a decorator. I have to live that existence through my character, Cherry Tucker, who wields a bedazzler as well as her paintbrush and shotgun. I get in a seasonal mood through books, movies, and food. So what could be better than pairing scary villains with cuisine for a spooktacular Halloween dinner? And as Halloween is on a Thursday this year, you have a few days to put together a fantastic Saturday night spread for a late Halloween party.

I’m offering five themed meals. The recipes are not my own, but easily googled. I had a sixth option of a villainous animal meal (Moby-Dick and Cujo came to mind), but that might put folks off dinner. And it’s hard to get whale in the United States.

Just kidding.

First up is your Classic Monster Meal. Sure you could make a cute Frankenstein, but to me the monster really lends himself to a casserole (think throwing together different parts). As Mary Shelley was English, how about Shepherd’s Pie? Red wine for Dracula? Sure, but obvious. I live in Georgia. Red Velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. With two streams of bloody cake gel as decoration. Yum!

Pennywise the Clown’s Satan’s Circus cocktail
Frankenstein’s mini Shepherd’s Pies
Grendel’s arm roast
Medusa’s Chinese Long (Snake) Beans sautéed with garlic, salt, and lemon juice
Vampire bite Red Velvet Cupcakes

The Evil Overlord Feast. Why dress up as the giant eye of Sauron, when you can eat Eye of Sauron cake? I was amazed at the plethora of Middle Earth and Hobbit recipes. Lord of the Onion Rings?  (HANK: see? Still laughing.) Yes, please! Fantasy is the place to go for food. Narnia dinners, Hogwarts meals. You would not believe the number of recipes on the internet for the Hunger Games’ “frothy pink soup dotted with raspberries” Katniss ate in the Capitol. Nineteen Eighty-Four? You ate well if you were Inner Party, but the Outer Party ate synthetic foods. More of a recipe challenge.

President Coriolanus Snow’s Frothy Pink Capitol Soup
The Dark Lord of Sauron’s Roast Mutton Chops and Po-tay-toes
The White Witch of Narnia White Winter Salad
O’Brien’s 1984 Victory Rack of Spam (slice spam without separating, insert American cheese between the slices, and bake in a 300 degree oven until bubbling)
Voldemort’s Unicorn digestif, a desert drink

The Haunted House Repast. What foods evict ghosts? Filmy, shadowy stuff? No thanks. Let’s examine food from the locale of these famous haunts. How about a little surf and turf? Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House took place in “the most remote part of New England.” Traditional Essex recipes for the estate in The Turn of the Screw.

The Exorcist’s No Spew Ham and Split Pea Soup
Hill House New England Grilled Lobster (fireplace grill suggested)
The Overlook Hotel’s Colorado Angus Beef with French Potato Puree (served with canned fruit)
The Turn of the Screw’s Essex Apple Slices

A Killer Banquet. How can you not serve fava beans for these psychotic killers? Or American Psycho
without Cheerios?

Patrick Bateman’s All-American Snack Mix (with Cheerios)
Mr. Hyde’s Bubble and Squeak
Hannibal Lector’s Liver and Fava Beans (Amarone wine suggested)
The Tell-Tale Heart of Palm salad
Talented Tom Ripley’s Mongibello Cannoli

Finally, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Don’t ask these women to cook for you.

Mrs. Danvers’ Manderley Hall Tea “Cucumber and Watercress Sandwiches” served with “Bowls of Fresh Raspberries and Peaches”
Annie Wilks’ Misery Pork Chops with Dom Pérignon sauce
Nurse Ratched’s Going Bananas Foster

Anyone out there making a special Halloween meal? I would love to hear your suggestions for evil villain cuisine. Choose your favorite antihero and a dish to match. I’ll be giving away a signed ARC of my newest Cherry Tucker mystery, HIJACK IN ABSTRACT, (releasing November 5th) to some lucky commenter!

HANK: Oh, Larissa, you are hilarious...and that is quite the challenge. Lemme think. Maybe we'll simply bob for Poisoned Apples al la Maleficent?  (How can I beat Going Bananas Foster! Tell Tale Heart of Palm? LOVE it!)  Gang? How about ...youuuuuuuu?  (Imagine scary voice...)


Growing up in a small town, Larissa Reinhart couldn’t wait to move to an exotic city far from corn fields. After moving around the US and Japan, now she loves to write about rough hewn characters that live near corn fields, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. HIJACK IN ABSTRACT is the third in the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series from Henery Press, following STILL LIFE IN BRUNSWICK STEW (May 2013) and PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist. QUICK SKETCH, a Cherry Tucker prequel to PORTRAIT, is in the mystery anthology THE HEARTACHE MOTEL (December 10, 2013). She lives near Atlanta with her minions and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit. Visit her website

HIJACK IN ABSTRACT, A Cherry Tucker Mystery #3:

Cherry Tucker’s love life has shifted into neutral. And her siblings, Grandpa, and sort-of-ex-husband have flipped her personal life to greasy side up. But life in Halo, Georgia, isn’t all bad for the sassy, Southern artist. Her career has pushed into full throttle. A classical series sold. A portrait commissioned. Then Uncle Will, Forks County Sheriff, calls in a favor to have Cherry draw a composite sketch of a hijacker. Suddenly, life takes a hairpin when the composite leads to a related murder, her local card sharking buddy Max Avtaikin becomes bear bait, and her Amazonian nemesis labels the classical series “pervert art,” causing Cherry to be shunned by the town. 

Cherry’s jamming gears between trailer parks, Atlanta mansions, and trucker bars searching for the hijacker who left a widow and orphan destitute and Max Avtaikin in legal jeopardy. While she seeks to help the misfortunate and save her local reputation, Cherry’s hammer down attitude has her facing the headlights of an oncoming killer, ready to grind her gears for good.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ON--Then GONE. Weird TV!

 HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I remember how TV used to be. A show was on, say, Ed Sullivan at 8 on Sunday, or LA LAW on--when was it? Whatever. It was on when it was on, and if you missed it, tough.

Then came video tape, and if you could figure out your machine, you could TAPE a show and watch it whenever you liked! It was amazing. When it worked. 

Then came On Demand, and Tivo, all brilliant and all fabulous, but it has so changed television so now no one knows when anything is on--and I wonder if that's why TV shows come and go so quickly. 

Did you see they just canceled the new Ironsides? I think it was on *once.* Once!   I mean--I MIGHT have watched it, if I'd had any idea when it was on, who knows. But, it was on. and then--gone. Because no one watched it--canceled.  Blam. Scary. Just--on, then gone.

Used to be , a show was on for a season, and might accumulate buzz and viewers and then managed to succeed. Word of mouth traveled more slowly, I guess, right? And that could save a show. Now word of mouth is instant, and that means a show's survival is on the chopping block the first moment it hits the air. Scary. 

Are you watching anything new these days? (Could you BELIEVE what happened on Homeland?) (How great is GAME OF

THRONES?) (And we binge-watched--new word!--HOUSE OF CARDS!)  We like Hostages, and um...hmm. I'm not sure there's anything else new on our TV agenda. How about you?  And did you get caught in any "on then gones"?

LUCY BURDETTE: I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but once in a while I get hooked. And then I'm DEVASTATED when the show is over. (Funnily enough, series books in publishing are in much the same dilemma, she said sadly.) I adored FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. And now I'm totally gaga over

NASHVILLE. Luckily, we figured out how to use our DVR and so can catch up if we miss something...if we're at home. I have a sister-in-law who loves the show too, but did not realize the season had started. (What? I had it on my calendar all summer!) So now she's missed the first 3 episodes. And they have no DVR and she wouldn't begin to know how to use it...

"You can watch it online, on the network website. But you can't fast forward through the commercials," John tells her.

"Huh?" she says. 

Anyway, I'm going to pick up Homeland again and give it another try. The tension just got too much for me and I had to back off.

RHYS BOWEN: I also watch very little TV. I was hooked on Downton Abbey until they started killing off all my favorite characters. Now I'm not sure whether I'll watch next season or not. I am a big PBS fan and annoyed that so many English programs are min-series and don't go on and on. I adored Silk but it was only three episodes. I haven't been hooked on any US drama for a long while. So much negativity and violence. Where are the Waltons when you need them? Only The Amazing Race and Project Runway keep drawing me back.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I LOVE TV. TV shows are a little like sports teams. They give you something to have in common with people. I just don't love too many shows. Does that make sense? 

I know what you're saying about what they used to call time-shifting. There used to be an almost community feel when on Friday morning you'd go into the office and everyone would be talking abut LA Law (or 30Something, Hill Street Blues.)  Or Monday mornings after the hot PBS show. I never Tivo'd or taped and I guess that was the beginning of - you're on your own, watch when you want. It must be driving the ratings and advertising people crazy.

I was made for binge-watching. Didn't watch Breaking Bad for 5 years until it was ALL OVER - and then I watched it all in one month. Awesome. I'm already watching Downton Abbey thanks to Tunnelbear and looking forward to House of Cards and Orange.  I still want Tony Soprano to be alive and I think Nancy Botwin should go back into the weed business.

HALLIE EPHRON: Yes, shows get killed very fast these days. I think it's something like 6 get shot, and then if it's well received they make more. And if ratings are good enough, they order a second season. Most shows don't even make it out of the starting gate.

I almost never watch a new TV show. I might notice when it goes into reruns if it's been a well received. We have a smart TV critic in the Boston Globe (Matthew Gilbert) and if he really likes something I might give it a try. But that shows you how out of date I am: I read the newspaper.

I do love THE GOOD WIFE - but I watch it on my computer. And lots of stuff on PBS -- Antiques Roadshow, most of the PBS crime

shows (love George Gently and Silk (will there be more?) and the one about the two British police detectives whose names I can never remember. I remember when American PBS tried to make their own mysteries and they were dreadful dreadful dreadful. The BBC really has the knack.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: My husband won't watch anything in real time--he binge-watches when shows become available streaming.  He's just caught up on Homeland but I haven't watched it. I do watch some "regular" TV, but I record shows on my DVR and if I watch on the night they air, I usually delay long enough so that I can fast forward through the commercials. But I'm still trying to catch up with shows from LAST season.  Sigh.  My DVR is 70% full.  Then if the satellite box goes dead, you lose it all.  That's happened before, and it was almost a relief.

As for new shows this season, I've watched one episode of Marvel's Agents of Shield (a bit silly, but fun) and one of The Blacklist, which I really liked.  James Spader is, as always, amazing, the dialogue is good, and best of all, Parminder Nagra has a top role. (Anyone remember Neela Rasgotra from ER?)

Which makes me think... I kind of miss the days when our Sunday nights revolved around The X-Files, and MY Thursday nights around ER...

Best new series from the UK this year (which you can watch streaming from Netflix)? The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson and an Irish actor named Jamie Dornan, who's just been picked to play Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey.  (Not that I've read THAT!)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Debs, you can admit your love for 50 Shades of Grey here. We won't judge.

I'm more like Hallie - I tend to wait until a show's been out for a season or two and then pick it up streaming. Not that I tend to marathon too much - though there was that time two summers ago when the Smithie and I sat down to watch the first WALKING DEAD episode at 9pm and didn't get up until 2am! Half the first season in one night. What I really like is the convenience of watching a show when I want to, especially since it always seems like the one show I'm interested in airs at 10:00pm.

Youngest, Ross and I are watching AGENTS OF SHIELD together and liking it very much. So far, it has a low ratio of dumb to good. I've become incredibly picky about the writing on a show, and if the dialog or plotting isn't up to par, I'll bail, even if the performances are great. One example: FALLING SKIES, which I was very excited about. I actually bought the first season when it came out on DVD on the strength of its reviews and was deeply disappointed to see one example after another of supposedly smart characters acting in a TSTL (too stupid to live) fashion just to ramp up the suspense. Which wasn't that ramped up because unlike WALKING DEAD, regular cast members never get killed. Terrific performances by Noah Wylie, Moon Bloodgood and Will Patton, though.

DEBS: Julia, I had the same experience with Falling Skies.  LOVE Noah Wylie.  Horrible writing. I think I made it through two episodes.  As for Agents of Shield, maybe I'll manage a catch-up on that this week.  Anything by Joss Whedon goes on my A-list.  Don't even get me started on Firefly!!!!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I  wasn't really interested in TV in my 20s. Mostly because I didn't have the money for a TV — and also because I just didn't think it was worth it. 

The day I broke down and bought my own set was during the 1994 Winter Olympics. Everyone was talking about figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding and I just had to watch them compete. I remember just going into Macy's, getting a really small set, and lugging it home on the subway. I was too broke for cable, so I put it by the window and wrapped tin foil on the antennas.

But even with a TV, I didn't watch that much. I remember doing grocery shopping on Thursdays, so-called "Must-See TV" night, because the stores would be empty and you could get everything done really fast. I did like the X-files though.

It was Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer that made me a TV addict. Tuesday nights , my boyfriend (and then husband) and I would sit down to watch at 8 and life would stop until it was over at 9. Ditto for Angel and Firefly.

We got into the DVR thing after we had a baby and our schedule was upside down. Hey, I could get up and nurse the baby at 2 a.m. AND still watch Grey's Anatomy! Now we're still pretty selective about shows and tend to DVR them. We used to be obsessed with Friday Night Lights. Current faves
are Breaking Bad (what a finale!), Game of Thrones, Girls, Scandal, Orange is the New Black, Homeland and House of Cards. Oh, and also the Golden Girls. Always the Golden Girls.

Now that my mother-in-law's living with us, I tape some "old-school" shows and we all watch them together as a family. The current house fave is 70s era Match Game—you know, the one with the orange set and Richard Dawson. It's so nice to see celebrities who actually still look like real people. Makes you realize how plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures have really changed our idea of what's "normal."

HANK: So how about you, Reds? What are  you watching? What do you miss? Any show you liked-- that disappeared? And do you time-shift?