HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Wine? Well, sure. (Somehow I can only drink wine when it’s dark, weird, huh? But I can read about wine any time.)
In vino mysterium is the theme for a wonderful new anthology of short stories, each blending a baffling mystery and a glass (or more) of cabernet. When eighteen mystery writers combine their talents, the result is the perfect “flight” of stories that range from light-bodied puzzles to sparkling cozies to darker, heavier tales of deceit and murder. While cabernet is the featured wine, this anthology will appeal to connoisseurs of all varietals—in both wine preference and mystery style.
I mean, yeah. I can be a joy to sip a nice drink when reading about murder and other crimes? Last week Koehler Books published that book, 50 Shades of Cabernet. And today half of the 50 Shades authors are visiting the Reds—and we asked:
Tell us about your story. What makes it different?
“Who’s Wine Is It Anyway?” by Barb Goffman
There’s a funny T-shirt slogan that says, “Be careful or I’ll put you in my novel.” Well, I write short stories, but the same sentiment applies.
In the mid-2000s I was preparing to leave the large Washington, DC, law firm I’d worked at for five years. I often planned events for our department, such as our annual holiday party. Doing so was a nice break from due diligence and reading regulations and other fun stuff like that. Yet I was a bit surprised when the partner with whom I worked most mentioned that he was (and wasn’t) looking forward to my goodbye party that Friday. Had a planned something great?
Now I enjoyed organizing department events, but this still left my jaw hanging open.
“I have to plan my own goodbye party?” I asked wide-eyed.
An uh oh expression came over him as he realized that of course I shouldn’t have to do that. He said he’d make sure someone else took care of it. And he did.
That conversation has stuck in my brain, and in “Whose Wine Is It Anyway?” I finally put it to good use, writing a story of Myra, a law firm secretary. In her final week at her firm, Myra learns that her boss, Douglas, expects her to plan her own retirement party. Myra is already upset with Douglas because he’s hired a bimbo to replace her, so Myra decides to use this party to teach some lessons.
It took me more than a decade, but I finally put my jaw-dropping moment to good use. So let this be a lesson to you: Don’t anger mystery writers or you too may end up in a story, and it may not work out well, either.
“Blown Away” by Nancy Naigle
“Blown Away” is set at Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo where I own a condo. My balcony overlooks the beautiful fishing boats. It’s an inspiring place to write, and imagined a hundred stories there. When I was asked to write a story for 50 Shades of Cabernet I couldn’t wait to use this wonderful setting. I hope you’ll enjoy this story about a heist gone wrong, and revenge taking place years later. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone that the bad guy is staying right in my condo
, and the take-down in the parking garage below.
“Wine, Women, and Wrong” by Maggie King
Wine and sex. That’s how “Wine, Women, and Wrong,” my contribution to 50 Shades of Cabernet, a wine-themed mystery anthology, differs from the ones my talented fellow authors penned.
I emphasize the sensuous aspects of red wine—the taste, how it feels on the tongue. And I suggest a relationship between wine and sex.
Consider my story opening:
“Ah! Sweet, bursting with berry flavor.” Lanie Jacobs mimicked the sales pitch of the wine merchant who’d poured the Ruby Port.
“Yet firm.” Rhonda Reay sipped and actually moaned in ecstasy. “Powerful.”
Lanie rolled her eyes. Was the woman having a sexual experience in the middle of a wine tasting party? Rhonda was her best friend but she could be embarrassing.
Is red wine an aphrodisiac? Studies suggest that it is. But I won’t get into the dull stuff, like brain activity and amines (organic compounds present in wine). And, when you pair the wine with a tasty appetizer, almost anything could happen!
“These meatballs are amazing. They’re simply amazing.” Rhonda Reay popped one in her mouth. Tommy interpreted the coy look on her face as inviting. “What’s in this sauce?” she asked.
Tommy tried to remember what Camille had told him. “I believe it’s a pomegranate currant sauce.”
“It’s amazing,” she repeated. “And it pairs beautifully with this cab.” Rhonda drew her shoulders back and lifted her glass, as in a toast. “A graceful cabernet with generous flavors of cranberries, blackberries, and light baking spices. Full in body with a velvety smooth finish that coats the palate in soft tannins and lovely fruit.”
Is it the Cabernet, the gourmet meatballs, or the sexy Tommy that piques Rhonda Reay’s interest? Tommy is investigating the attempted murder of a local wine merchant and is trying to find out what Rhonda knows about it. Will he succumb to her charms and join her in a glass of Cabernet? Or two?
Read “Wine, Women, and Wrong” and find out.
“Friday’s Jewelry” by Ken Wingate
What makes “Friday's Jewelry” unique or different from all the rest of the stories in 50 Shades of Cabernet?
It could be that the Louis M. Martini LOT No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon featured in the story is the most expensive of all the rest of the wines in the other stories. It is considered one of the finest Cabernets in the world.
It could be the beloved gift given by a grandmother to her granddaughter, holding a most powerful secret.
It could be the life-long friendship of the two primary characters.
It could be the surprising discovery in which the cork becomes the center of the investigation and the undoing of the thief.
I challenge you to read “Friday's Jewelry” and come to your own conclusion.
“Love the Wine You’re With” by Teresa Inge
“Love the Wine You’re With” takes place at a Virginia Beach wine tasting and includes a romance between Lewis McGehee, a real life, popular Virginia musician and my protagonist, Jules Riley.
It was fun incorporating Lewis and his music into the story and transporting readers across Virginia’s unique but deadly landscape.
“Par for the Course” by Heather Weidner
“Par for the Course” focuses on the dynamics among the different generations within a wealthy family, and wine plays a key role as one of the central businesses in their vast portfolio. I write what and where I know, and the Commonwealth of Virginia has over 230 wineries. So, the Blue Ridge Mountains became the perfect location for my fictional vineyard and winery.
In the story, Mona McKinley Scarborough, the family matriarch, doesn’t take no for an answer. When she’s not successful at convincing her granddaughter, Amanda, to make the right choice—to join the family’s winery—she plans a day of golf as a chance to draw them closer together. Their chat reveals some deadly secrets, and they learn that the grape may not fall far from the vine.
The Scarborough family, who can trace their roots back to Jamestown and the colonists, has been a fixture in Richmond’s capital society for more years than anyone can count. Their roots and dirty little secrets run deep. I like mysteries with lots of twists, and “Par for the Course” takes on several meanings throughout this tale, where we learn that some family secrets are as dark as the cabernet.
“And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” by James M. Jackson and Tina Whittle
“And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” is the only cowritten story in the anthology. It features Tina Whittle’s continuing characters Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver and James M. Jackson’s Seamus McCree and his darts-throwing mother. The four combine to solve a mystery involving Civil War antiquities using logic, guile, tarot cards, and the finest boxed cabernet (and other oxymorons).
“Name Your Poison” by Maria Hudgins
Recently an author friend of mine posted a dire notice on Facebook. She was expecting GUESTS. They were coming to stay at her house for several DAYS and she was expected to prepare FOOD. To many people this sounds like a good thing—unless these are guests you don’t like. But if you do like them, this is a good thing. Right?
Not if you’re a writer.
If you are the sort of writer I am, a perfect day is one in which the phone doesn’t ring, the doorbell doesn’t buzz, you have edible food in the fridge, and you have a comfy place to write.
I laughed to read the comments my friend got from other authors. “I feel your pain,” “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and “You can stay in my garage.”
Of course every writer is different and I do know some who are super-gregarious, but most of us are closet hermits. There’s something wrong with that phrase, closet hermits—a double negative? Anyway, here are the most common traits of dedicated writers:
1. We observe life like a fly on the wall. It’s interesting but we avoid getting involved.
2. Everything we say is reworded and reworded again in our heads. This limits how much we can say on any given occasion.
3. We constantly write stories in our heads.
4. We are obsessed with our current Work-in-Progress.
5. We may be inherently messy or neat, but neither tendency concerns us much.
6. We aren’t procrastinators. At least those who are published aren’t procrastinators.
7. We are not perfectionists. As Bunter said to Lord Peter: “Perfect, my Lord. That is to say, slightly flawed.”
8. Sometimes we worry that we aren’t quite normal.
9. We are introverts. Our idea of hell is a cocktail party where we don’t know a soul.
In the new anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet, my story, “Name Your Poison,” starts with a cocktail party at a mystery conference—the sort of event where I usually drink too much too fast in the hopes that it will loosen my tongue and make me sparkle. Those of you who have attended a mystery conference will recognize the scene, if not the hapless victim of the story.
By the way, every story in 50 Shades uses the word “cabernet” at least once. I challenge you to find them all.
HANK: Do we get wine while we’re looking? That is a treasure hunt I can completely get behind. Reds, are you wine aficionados? What’s your favorite?
A toast to the authors of this wonderful new anthology!
And you can buy it here! Cheers!
Amazon Kindle: https://smile.amazon.com/50-Shades-Cabernet-Mysterious-Anthology-ebook/dp/B06XH65CP7/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1490219484&sr=8-1
Amazon trade paperback: https://smile.amazon.com/50-Shades-Cabernet-Mysterious-Anthology/dp/1633933571/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1490219484&sr=8-1
Amazon hardcover: https://smile.amazon.com/50-Shades-Cabernet-Mysterious-Anthology/dp/1633933598/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1490219484&sr=8-1
For fun on Facebook and website:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/50ShadesofCabernet/
If you want to help out an indie bookstore, here are two possibles:
Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, MD, has the hardcover and trade paperback on their website: http://www.mysterylovescompany.com/search/site/50%20shades%20of%20cabernet
So does Scrawl Books in Reston, VA: http://www.scrawlbooks.com/search/site/50%2520shades%2520of%2520cabernet