Sunday, July 15, 2018

A peaceable kingdom in a suburban garden

HALLIE EPHRON: This quiet summer Sunday, welcome to my garden. I'm probably sitting out in it right now, sipping my morning coffee and reading the bridge column.

My garden is low maintenance, and it surrounds me with bushes and wildlife even as it is in turn surrounded by cars and traffic. An oasis of green.

For two years now, we've had bunnies. Here's the Momma bunny, chillin' on a hot summer day on the cool grass. She barely notices my presence.

And another shot of her taken from inside, through my living room blinds. 

And here's the baby, which arrived this spring and is growing by leaps and bounds and eating  the clover in my weedy lawn. (We haven't used pesticides or herbicides in the 40 years we've lived here.)

Sadly, the bunnies do not limit themselves to feasting on weeds. Here's what would have been a flower. (A black-eyed susan, I think.)

Then there are the birds. I don't feed them because the squirrels (we have a ton of them) would Hoover it up first, but I keep the bird bath filled and they make ample use of it. Here's a pair of cardinals. 

 A cat bird. They're my favorites. So cheery and noisy. They're grey with a black cap, and a patch of reddish-brown feathers on the rump, under the tail.

And a crowd of sparrows jockeying for position.

A winter memory. Bunny tracks in the snow. 

And a finally a visiting bunny rabbit.

 Summer! It's for  birds and bunnies who come to people watch. What's going on in your garden?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Inspired by what she wore: Hallie's turquoise jumpsuit

HALLIE EPHRON: I’ve just turned in the manuscript for my new novel, Careful What You Wish For. It will come out NEXT summer. I often wonder, what do publishers do in the 9-12 months it takes to get a book in print. I shouldn’t complain, though, because it takes me at least two years to write one.

The story was inspired by the decluttering craze set off by Marie Kondo. With clothing, for example, her method involves getting rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy,” and carefully smoothing, folding, and putting away the things that do.

My book is about a married couple. Emily is a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives. Her husband Frank can’t pass up a yard sale. Its working title was Folding Frank.

I looked to my own closet (and marriage, but don't tell anyone) for inspiration. At the back of my closet I found a turquoise zippered parachute jumpsuit that I’d bought in California in about 1980. It inspired this passage:

Emily picked up a turquoise zippered jumpsuit that she’d bought in Venice Beach. She’d been a different person back then, just out of college and getting her teaching degree. Frank was an idealistic, newly minted attorney, committed to human rights and equality, and about to start what would be a two-year stint working in the Massachusetts Public Defender’s office.

That had been more than ten years ago, before being poor had gotten old. Back then she’d never have considered wearing tailored pants and a blazer, and her romance with the camera had just begun.

She shook out the jumpsuit and held it under her chin in front of the full-length mirror that hung on the bedroom door. With her long dark hair and bangs, Emily didn't look all that different from the way she'd looked when she'd first tried on the jumpsuit. She'd worn it with the sleeves rolled and the cuffs pegged, belted with a grommet-studded military-surplus belt. The get-up had attracted attention from passers-by on Newbury Street in Boston, but when a bartender at Sonsie had asked where she'd bought it, she felt it had been given the ultimate stamp of approval.

Emily ran her palms across its soft fabric. Raised the zipper all the way and straightened the stand-up collar. No, the outfit did not remind her of a younger Frank so much as Emily herself--at least the juicier, less mousey self that she hoped she hadn’t inadvertently consigned to some rubbish bin on her journey from free spirit to elementary-school teacher and on to professional organizer, imposing rows and right angles on a chaotic world.

Today's question: What’s hanging in your closet right now that you’ve kept just because it reminds you of another you?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mark Combs's Podcast has AUTHORS THINKING OUT LOUD

HALLIE EPHRON: What’s an expert in ancient biblical history doing hosting a weekly podcast (Public Display of Imagination), interviews with such ne’er-do-wells as Brad Parks and Faye Kellerman and me?

I had the pleasure of being interviewed last week, and will be posted on Tuesday, July 17th. His questions went far beyond “Where do you get your ideas?”

Follow Mark on Twitter @PDI_Podcast2016. His page looks like this:

Mark, how did you get into podcasting, and why primarily genre authors (action-adventure, mystery, suspense, thrillers, sci-fi …)

MARK COMBS: It's a vehicle through which I can invite almost anyone to sit down with me for a digital cup of coffee and get a positive response. I'm drawn to those genres I guess because they seem to best reflect life in the raw... unscripted and

HALLIE: How did you get from biblical history to edgy modern crime fiction?

MARK: Oh boy... there's a couple of worlds that you wouldn't immediately connect. For me, if the biblical text is separated from the ancient culture that produced it, then it becomes subject to the whim and fancy of modern day spin, which really doesn't interest me at all. In any study of the ancient culture, you begin to get a sense of who the writers were as people and of the message they were trying to preserve for their generation.

That takes me to my fascination with the modern day novelist. Regardless the story line, the heart and thought processes of the author bleed through on every page and that relationship captivates my attention in a unique way.

HALLIE: Way back when, who was the first author you interviewed, and how’d it go?

I started with KJ Waters; she was intelligent, entertaining, and easy to talk with. A closer, more personal friend came next.

Gary S. Pritchett had just released his first work and he had done so much to encourage me that I wanted to try to do something to encourage him.

Then, I met MJ LaBeff; she took a reciprocating interest in my written work and the podcasts. She promoted both and almost single-handedly exploded the listening audience.

I gave a little ink to each of them in the back of my book, Don't Forget Your Cape. They're all heroes in their own way for me.

HALLIE: Who was the first author you interviewed, for PUBLIC DISPLAY OF IMAGINATION, and how’d it go?

MARK: My first two professionally published and marketed authors were Brad Parks and Carter Wilson. Brad caught me off guard with his away-from-home office set-up at Hardee's. I'd be totally distracted in such an environment, but, as you can tell from his books, it works exceptionally well for him. I was also quite taken by his commitment to research.

Carter drew me in with the way he uncovered his storyline. I got the impression that his mind's eye would be drawn to the imagery of a old framed oil painting, hanging in a dimly lit room that depicted a scene that he was compelled to investigate. As our conversation unfolded, I could envision him standing in front of the piece, studying every minute detail.

I really liked his approach to peeling back the layers.
HALLIE: You felt SO well prepared when you interviewed me. How do you prepare for an interview?

MARK: When I read Stephen King's book, On Writing, I was
intrigued by his description of how telling a story is a bit like unearthing a find in an archaeological dig for him. My goal is to research enough about each author so that I can properly set a tone that brings the audience to the "dig site" and then we explore from there. My goal is to infect every listener, to let them "catch the bug."

HALLIE: Do you have any advice for budding podcasters?
MARK: You can easily research and learn about equipment and how to set things up, but getting a look at the overall picture of what's really involved in bringing it all to life is important. Devote quality time to each step of the process.

You have to invest time in scheduling guests, recording the conversation, editing the recording, and producing the end product. Then, you have to devote daily time and effort to marketing the show. All of those things are important to achieving the goal.

Once you have an audience, you have a promised date with that audience on each production day. The reveal of a new episode is an absolute thrill.

HALLIE: And… taking a page from the kinds of questions you ask: If you could interview any author, living or dead, who would it be?

MARK: One is Agatha Christie. I've heard that she would write her mysteries without designating a guilty party upfront, then go back through the work and try to determine who, among the suspects, is the actual culprit. I think it's incredibly unique.
The second person is the ancient prophet Ezekiel. He wrote his text during an absolutely soul-crushing time for his people. Once proud Israel, who served the supreme deity, Yahweh, was being conquered; their fortified cities were being destroyed and the survivors of the brutal siege warfare were being systematically taken into captivity by the nation of Babylon. I cry when I read what Ezekiel wrote and I'd love to explore those emotions with the aging writer.

HALLIE: Any budding podcasters out there? Mark should be checking in to answer any questions.


Author, Mark DeWayne Combs began his writing career by publishing weekly motivational blogs for a business networking group that he founded in the fall of 2007. More...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book groups: How to invite a Jungle Red Writer

Summer is upon us, and book groups are looking for summer reads. And what could be more fun than reading a book and then inviting the author to share with your book group. If you've been wondering how to set up a book group discussion with one of the Jungle Reds, here's how...,

HALLIE EPHRON: If you're in the Boston area, I might be able to visit with your group in person. If not, there's Skype! Or FaceTime. Just go to my web page and click on CONTACT and send me a message about when you were thinking of and what your group will read.

My latest book, YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR, just was featured on the New York Public Library's Summer Pick for Adults List.

Two suggestions from me, domestic suspense, all now in paperback:

YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR - Mary Higgins Clark Award finalist and Earphones Award winner. A little girl and the porcelain portrait doll her mother made for her went missing... 40 years later, the doll comes back. 

THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN - Mary Higgins Clark Award finalist, NY Times bestseller. A ninety-one-year-old woman, living on the water in the Bronx, thinks she may be losing her mind... a much younger woman, the daughter of her neighbor, could save her.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Thank heavens for Skype! I've used it to converse with small gatherings in peoples' homes and with large crowds at universities and libraries. Book club members, if you'd like to do a video chat with an author but are worried about the logistics - will we be able to see her? Will she be able to hear us? - I suggest you contact your local library. Many libraries are equipped with AV resources that make it easy for a group to interact online. And libraries love book clubs!

My picks? If you want to discuss current issues such as veterans reentering society and the effects of America's wars, ONE WAS A SOLDIER. On a warm September evening in the Millers Kill community center, five veterans sit down in rickety chairs to try to make sense of their experiences in Iraq. What they will find is murder, conspiracy, and the unbreakable ties that bind them to one another and their small Adirondack town. You can find a downloadable reading guide here.

If you want to escape the heat with an adventure in the frozen north, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, which won the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Dilys, Macavity and Gumshoe awards.  When a newborn baby is abandoned on the church stairs and a young mother is brutally murdered, Reverend Clare Fergusson has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow that town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. Want a downloadable reading guide? Here!

RHYS BOWEN: I'm always happy to Skype with a book group. I'm not so comfortable attending in person, first because I really
don't have the time and second because I don't feel the members can be honest about the book if I'm there. (Imagine sitting in a room with twelve people who trash your book!) I am often asked to send discussion questions to a book club.

Two books of mine I can recommend are the latest big stand-alones: In Farleigh Field is a novel of
espionage among the upper class in World War 2 and The Tuscan Child is also set in WWII but has parallel stories that take place in 1944 and in 1973, mainly in Tuscany. It's more than a war story: it's about family, healing through food.

LUCY BURDETTE: I LOVE talking to book clubs, hearing readers' reactions and discovering questions I never considered about the books I've written.
The two I'd recommend as starting points are the first book in the series, AN APPETITE FOR MURDER, and the fourth, MURDER WITH GANACHE. APPETITE introduces Hayley Snow and her gang and the bigger character, Key West.

Here are some questions to jumpstart the discussion.

And here's the story of a whole Key West themed
dinner party that one club did for AN APPETITE FOR MURDER,

​And for Murder with Ganache, here are both questions and a recipe for noccialato fudge to feed your group while you talk.

INGRID THOFT: Book groups are one of the perks of the job, as far as I’m concerned!  I love talking to groups in person—in the Seattle area and also the Boston area, where I visit a few times a year. 

Skype is also a wonderful tool for connecting with readers.  To arrange a visit, IRL or virtual, just send me a line and you can check out the book group guides on my website

Given that my books are a series, I always recommend readers start with the first, LOYALTY.  The book introduces Fina Ludlow, a private investigator in Boston who tangles with the city’s criminal element and her family of personal injury attorneys.  Juggling family, business, cops and crooks is no problem for Fina, but when her sister-in-law disappears, she’s caught up in a case unlike any she’s encountered before.

Prefer to jump into the series?  BRUTALITY won the Shamus Award for Best P.I. Novel and finds Fina immersed in the world of college sports and the debate about sports-related concussions. 

What price are we willing to pay for entertainment?  What happens when tradition collides with the prospect of serious injury?  What are we willing to sacrifice for personal glory?  Fina wrestles with these questions while uncovering a murderer and navigating the perils of her own family.

HANK PHILIPPI RYAN: Can you tell we are all about book clubs? What could be more wonderful? I love doing them, too, adore it, and am always completely wowed by the wonderful questions and terrific insight. Invite me!  On Skype or in person, I'm there.

The newest Jane Ryland thriller, SAY NO MORE , is a Library Journal Best Thriller of the year, and offers some wonderful book club discussions about very contemporary issues: campus sexual assault, eyewitness identification, and personal sacrifice. 

Here's the list of questions my editor and I came up with. But don't read it unless you've read the book. 

And, say no more, I can now help you with that, and give you a
bargain in the meantime! SAY NO MORE ebook is now $2.99  on all platforms. AND you get the first five chapters of my new standalone TRUST ME too!   (Here's the link for that short-term offer.)

Speaking of which, I would be honored for you to read and discuss TRUST ME. There is so much to talk about, from what makes a "good" mother, to what makes a "true" story, to how many versions of the same story can exist.

It's a psychological cat and mouse game between two strong women--but which one is the cat, and which one is the mouse?  I dare you to find the liar.  It comes out August 28, but, as we say, it is now available for pre-order! And one reviewer whose name you will recognize will soon publish a review saying: "It could be this summer's Gone Girl." (One can only hope.)

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, isn't Skype great?? I love talking to book groups and library groups on Skype! But as there are 17 books (so far) in my Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Scotland Yard detectives series, it's so hard to know what books to suggest.

It is always fun to start readers on the very first book in the series, A SHARE IN DEATH. This introduces Duncan and Gemma, who as partners are just getting to know each other, and is a proper British mystery set in a time share in the brooding Yorkshire Moors.

But for books that offer a little meatier book group discussion topics, I'd recommend two later novels in the series. WHERE MEMORIES LIE is set in west London, Notting Hill and Chelsea. The contemporary story, which centers around the auction of a rare Art Deco piece of jewelry, is interwoven with a historical backstory that deals with the difficulties encountered in London by Jewish refugees escaping Hitler's purges at the beginning of WWII.

Then, there is NO MARK UPON HER, a more recent book, that deals not only with the post traumatic stress suffered by a British army veteran, but with the sexual abuse of female police officers by a superior officer. It also has Olympic caliber rowing and search and rescue dogs, so there is lighter fare to discuss!

JENN MCKINLAY: Yes, I’ll Skype or show up in person! I love book clubs. It’s a meeting of book lovers - my people! - plus, there’s usually food.

A book I’d recommend? Trevor Noah’s BORN A CRIME. I just finished it and it is fascinating, wonderfully written, and if you do audio, Trevor reads it, which is a treat. For one of my own books,
I have no idea. I’ve written forty so you have plenty to choose from, mystery or rom-com. I have both happening. LOL.

HALLIE: So who out there's in a book group, and what are you reading?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wendall Thomas: Snakes in her luggage and award noms up her sleeves

HALLIE EPHRON: Back in the fall, we welcomed Wendall Thomas ("Your Handbag is Killing Me") to talk about her debut novel, LOST LUGGAGE. So I was thrilled to see the book pop up as a finalist for the Lefty Award for best first, and for a Macavity Award. Huge honors, both!!

Here's how the book begins:

Travel is my business. Or at least it was. After the last two weeks, no one may trust me with a drink order, much less their seat assignments, cabin preferences, or credit card numbers.

Irresistible, right?!

And here's what one reviewer said: "Thank heavens! I've been waiting for years to find a successor to Janet Evanovich, and I've finally found one."

So welcome back, Wendall. Are you pinching yourself? Is your publisher over the moon? Just give us a taste of what it was like when it occurred to you that the book was going to be such a success and what the ride's been like?

WENDALL THOMAS: When you write a novel where your protagonist’s false eyelashes are taken out by a chameleon tongue and she’s forced to smuggle snakes in her bra, you don’t really figure you’re creating “award bait.” The idea that my name would even appear next to the fabulous writers up for both these awards still seems like an elaborate prank, but I’m very grateful the joke’s on me.

I think the nominations took my publishers by surprise as well, but of course anything that gets the word out about the book is great for them and for me.

Honestly, the loveliest thing about being nominated has been the chance to meet and hang around with the other nominees and to speak with some of the generous readers who voted for the book. The mystery community in general has been particularly generous and kind.

Besides, that, there have been three things that have probably thrilled me most since the book came out. The first was having my very first reading/signing in my hometown bookstore, TheRegulator in Durham, NC. The second was seeing Lost Luggage on the shelf in the Mystery section of the Los Angeles Central Library. And the third was getting to write a chapter of the sequel in the window of LA’s Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard, across from my former mecca, Tower Records. That’s burned on my brain forever.

HALLIE: I can't tell you how many aspiring authors who've told me their goal is to write like Evanovich. Was she your model? And what IS your one piece of advice for any author trying to write a funny crime novel?

WENDALL:  Janet Evanovich is the gold standard and funny beyond measure.  I’m assuming anyone who wants to write comic crime has to credit her with their inspiration. I certainly do. And, because I come from a screenwriting background, I’m also inspired by the screwball heroines of films like Bringing Up Baby, Ball of Fire, Charade, and of course, Romancing the Stone.

I guess my one piece of advice in terms of writing comedy in a  crime novel is the same as it would be for creating any kind of humorous piece—the comedy works best when a character is completely serious about what they’re doing. It doesn’t come from trying to write jokes or having your character try to be funny. It comes from creating situations where your character is going to have trouble, or create chaos, just because of who they are.

If you can create a character who’s conflicted by nature and put them in situations where that conflict comes into play, you can always create comedy in the unique way they handle the problem. Just take a look at Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory and you’ll see what I’m saying.

HALLIE: Do you think it's easier for you to write humor because you come to this from screenwriting?

WENDALL: God, I thought it was going to be. I do think it helps with writing dialogue, as at least I’ve had lots of practice with that. But in terms of the rest, it’s almost made it harder. There’s something about the format of screenwriting, with its separation of dialogue and action, and its availability of white spaces on the page, that makes it much easier to create a comic rhythm and build to a big joke or ending to a sequence.

I had to completely relearn and reinvent how I wrote pratfalls and banter once I was doing it in prose. The hardest thing about both Lost Luggage and the upcoming Drowned Under has been getting the physical comedy sequences right.

I’m still not sure I’m there yet.

HALLIE: And, honestly, has it got you amped or anxious about the next book? What have you got up your sleeve and when can we expect to see it? Will there be reptiles?

Oh, it’s made me a complete and total wreck. The next book, Drowned Under, is due to my editor this week and last night, as I was doing some proofreading, the theme music for The Newsroom came on and I just burst into tears. That pretty much tells you where I am at the moment...

The new book finds Cyd in Australia on her first ever cruise—
from Melbourne to Tasmania. Best research trip ever, for me. In terms of reptiles, the cabin stewards admit a pet python has gone missing on a former voyage, but on this trip, while looking for her ex-husband’s missing parents, she winds up with a “functionally extinct” baby Tasmanian tiger in her purse.

HALLIE: Seriously!?! I'm laughing already. And thinking about Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and the leopard in Bringing Up Baby.

So today Wendell (though she's finishing a manuscript) is open for questions. Mine: Wendell, what actress (in your mind's eye) would be perfect for the role of Cyd Redondo?

AND for those of you who missed it, Wendell Thomas's MULTI-award nominated first Cyd Redondo (travel agent) novel is zany adventure and  a perfect summer read.
Cyd Redondo, a young, third-generation Brooklyn travel agent who specializes in senior citizens, has never ventured farther than New Jersey. Yet even Jersey proves risky when her Travel Agents' Convention fling, Roger Claymore, leaves her weak in the knees-and everywhere else-then sneaks out of her Atlantic City hotel room at three a.m.

Back in Brooklyn, when she reads about smugglers stopped at JFK with skinks in their socks or monkeys down their pants, she never imagines she will join their ranks.... Find it on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Wayfinding atrophy? Blame GPS

HALLIE EPHRON: I admit it, I am directionally challenged. Right now I’m in NYC and it’s particularly obvious. I keep coming up out of the subway and heading the wrong way. East for West. North for South.

Fortunately for me, New Yorkers are incredibly patient and generous and do not roll their eyes when you stop them and ask, “Can you tell me, please, am I facing North?” as you stare down Sixth Avenue at the needle-nosed One World Trade Center.

I haven't always been, as they say, lost in familiar laces. I used to be able to come up out of the subway (the lines had letters: BMT, IRT, IND) and know instinctively which direction I was facing. Which meant for 90% of the time (barring lower Manhattan and the Village where the original cow paths defy right angles), I could  find pretty much any address without a map.

Now, I come up into the light of day and, whichever way I go, it’s always wrong. Even when I KNOW I’ll be wrong and reverse my assumptions… I’m still wrong. Even after I pull up walking directions on my phone, I go the wrong way.

This is not my fault. I blame GPS. 

I was fine finding my way all those years when I HAD to rely on my judgment. HAD to read a real map without a moving YOU ARE HERE button on it. HAD to notice landmarks along the way so I’d be able rewind my route and find my way home.

Now with GPS, I believe that as a result of all this ‘help,’ my natural way-finding ability has atrophied.

It's all that time spent on automatic pilot, staring at that little screen and following its instructions to "turn around when possible." My only worry: when it tells me “in 100 feet, turn right,” how far ahead is 100 feet.

What has improved is my relationship with my husband. In our household, I’m the designated driver (he grew up in Brooklyn and didn’t learn to drive until it was…too late. He drives like a beached whale, and only does it when he has to.) Used to be, he’d be in the passenger seat, juggling a massive fold-out map and trying to direct, and I’d be yelling “Shouldn't I turn here?” or “What do you mean turn right? It’s one way.” This would be compounded by the fact that he gets left and right confused.

So how’s your internal compass these days? As reliable as your GPS?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Havin' a heatwave?

HALLIE EPHRON: We're just coming out of a heat wave -- 90+ degrees day after day. Most of my house is not air conditioned because MOST of the time we don't need it. But this last bout of heat tested my resolve. 

My mother, who'd survived many un-air-conditioned NYC summers, used to say that someone should invent a necklace of beads that could be put in the freezer, and then worn chilled around the neck. I went to look on Amazon and sure enough, there was my mother's unfulfilled dream, selling for a mere $49.00. There were 15 enthusiastic reviews and three expressing disappointment.

My beat-the-heat regimen consists of:
- Fans - lots of them
- Ice water
- A barely-warm bath - sit and schvitz (that's my granddaughter a few years ago, demonstrating this technique)
- Do any cooking early in the day; eat cold late
- Popsicles (OUTSHINE raspberry fruit bars, please)

When it gets really bad we go to the movies, but this year's crop of summer movies is rather pathetic. Lucy's been recommending Won't You Be My Neighbor (and in this day and age, we do need Mr. Rogers sweet neighborliness), but it's not playing anywhere near us. And no, I will not pay $15 to see the new Jurrasic Park.

How's the heat where you are, and what are your tricks and tips for keeping cool.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We have NO air-conditioning in my 200 year old farmhouse, a decision I may need to rethink, given that we can expect ever-more "degree days" ie, beastly hot weather, in the future. Maine traditionally has no more than 4 - 5 days a year where the temperature tops 90, and a heat wave is maybe two days in a row. Four to five days of sweltering heat and humidity really tests us, especially considering Maine has the oldest (pre-20th century) housing stock in the nation, most of which hasn't been refitted with central air.

Fortunately, timber framing and lathe-and-plaster walls are excellent at keeping the heat out. (Keeping the heat IN is another story.) My plan for keeping cool is, except for the use of electric fans, pretty 19th century.

At night, as soon as the air temperature is at or below that of the interior of the house, I open all the windows (or at least, those that open – another story.) We have window fans in all the bedrooms to suck in cooler air throughout the night. I rise at 5:30 or 6 and go around shutting all the windows, drawing the curtains against the
sun. When I know it's going to be particularly hot, I also switch the screen/storm windows – the screens go up and the storm comes down, creating an extra layer of insulation. During the day, we turn on fans in rooms where we are – right now, I'm typing this at my kitchen table, in front of a box fan at the top of the cellar stairs. It brings up the always-cool air from the subterranean cellar.

Using this regime, the downstairs never gets hotter inside than 80F, and usually stays in the comfortable mid-seventies, even when it's 95 outside. By 10 or 11pm, the bedrooms are cool enough to sleep comfortably. I like to sit at the edge of the tub and soak my feet in cold water before retiring. 

LUCY BURDETTE: What could I possibly add to Julia's, aka, the
prairie settler, suggestions? I'm going with the movies. Yes, John and I adored the Mr. Rogers documentary. It starts a little slowly, but stay with it. He was a remarkable man who loved children and had a deep understanding of what they needed. He also seemed to know what we need in the world today--kindness, acceptance, willingness to stand for what we know is right.

We also loved RBG, the documentary about the remarkable Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I'm not usually the biggest fan of documentaries, but both of these were so excellent and inspiring--and the movie theater will be air-conditioned!

INGRID THOFT: Thankfully, I live in Seattle, where hot days are
few and far between.  I stay cool regardless of the temperature outside because our high-rise building has central air.  When I’m back on the east coast, which I will be in a few weeks, I find that swimming in the chilly ocean is the best way to stay cool.  As long as the ocean is at least 63°, I’ll go for a dip.  The bracing cold seems to lower my core temperature and provides a brief respite from the heat. 

RHYS BOWEN: I've just returned home from England where it was hotter than it is in California. Everyone in Cornwall looked as if they'd been holidaying on the Med.
So I'm actually feeling quite cool at home. Our summers in Northern California are rarely uncomfortable. We have a few days of 90 every year but then the fog comes in and cools everything down. We've never had an air conditioner and rarely need one. Big ceiling fan in the kitchen and bedroom do they job quite well upstairs and the rest of the bedrooms downstairs are always perfectly cool.  On uncomfortably hot days I go swimming at my health club, come home wet in my suit and prepare the evening meal while still wet!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Even with air conditioning, we are struggling with the heat here in north Texas. The last few days have
brought a little respite--low to mid nineties instead of one hundred plus, but the humidity has gone up as well.

So our strategies are pretty similar to those of you in the north east
with no AC! Definitely no baking anything in a hot oven in the evening--or the morning, for that matter. Lots of salads and grilling, although our gas grill gets west sun from late afternoon until sunset and that means we are eating late. Lots of fans, lots of ice water. A tepid bath before bed. And when cooking or doing any chores, I usually have a wet dish towel draped around my neck. Very fetching!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN : Oh, gosh, we have a 100-year old house--and it has no AC. It is absolutely no problem except for about two weeks a year. And then. OMG. It is so hot.

We do have an AC in the bedroom, or we'd be swooning. It's funny--our house stays very cool, even on the hottest days.  And then at some point--it gives up. We go into the pool, of course. But the other night we talked about having drinks and apps outside by the pool--and we decided the only way to make that bearable would be to be IN the pool.

And want proof? Here is the thermometer from our car! See? I made it a little bigger so you could see it says 102 degrees!
HALLIE: We know Jenn is in Nova Scotia where the weather is probably perfectly delightful. But for the rest of us... in the spirit of misery loves company, how hot is it where you are and how do you cope?