Friday, January 18, 2019

The Mystery Series

LUCY BURDETTE:  I am very excited to have been invited to give one of the Friends of the Key West Library lectures next month. I think I've decided to talk about the pros and cons of mystery series, both from the perspective of a writer and a reader. But there are so many directions I could go. What do I love about writing them and reading them? What are the pitfalls? How long should a series go on?

I have always read series and also always written them. Why? I think this might be connected to how attached I get to the characters. If a book is great, I don’t want that to be the last word on those characters. I want to know what happens next in their lives.

So help me out here. Which do you enjoy most, writing series or standalones? What problems have you faced? 

HALLIE EPHRON: I've written both series and standalones, and right now my heart belongs to standalones. It's definitely more work having to create a whole new set of characters and a setup each time out. But I feel like I put my characters through so much in a single book, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to make them go another round. They need to get on with their lives.  Having said that, my new novel is the first standalone I've written which really could be the first of a series. Not sure how my publisher would feel about that... I'm thinking about it. 

RHYS BOWEN: I've also written both. I love writing a series because it feels like visiting old friends. The setting is familiar, the secondary characters recur, so in many ways it's easier. Fans come to love a series and talk about the characters as if they are real. They come to think of them as friends. On the other hand I am now writing my fourth stand alone and relish the freedom that gives me to explore such different times and situations. But I do get letters asking me when there will be a sequel, so I think there is a need to revisit favorite characters.

JENN McKINLAY: I'm a series junkie. If I really enjoy the characters, I want to know more and more and more about their lives. The middle ground that I love is the continuity book/series. This is where you have protagonists in one book and then their friends or siblings or partners in crime or what have you, are featured in the next book. You see this a lot in romance but Tana French has mastered it, too. It keeps you in the world but it's not the same character's eccentricities driving the plot. I have yet to write a standalone but perhaps 2019 will be my year!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Interesting discussion, because i just had a conversation with a writer friend of mine who is in talks with a potential new agent. The agent requested the uncompleted ms for Book 2 in a prospective series; she came back with much praise for my friend's writing, but passed on repping the book. The agent said new series have become a hard sell right now, because publishers are looking for stand-alone psychological thrillers and domestic suspense, a la WHAT SHE KNEW, INTO THE WATER or THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10. My friend is considering changing up the unfinished manuscript, bringing the backstory forward and focusing the story on the dysfunctional family and unreliable characters, turning it into a stand-alone.

Of course, that's not to say if any stand-alone is a huge success, the publisher wouldn't immediately try to turn it into the first in a series...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, my gosh, I'm in love with standalones. When I started writing TRUST ME, I had no idea how different it would be --completely overwhelmingly different. In a series, (which I still love writing and will continue to do so) the ultimate suspense cannot come from the possibility that the main character will actually die. I mean---Jane Ryland's gotta come back for book 5. Right? So it's a challenging juggle to deal with that--the reader knows Jane will survive, and so the focus comes on creating page-turning suspense in the lives and futures of others.

But in a standalone--whoa. Anyone could die. When I realized that--and now it seems so obvious--I actually gasped. And anyone could be lying, and anyone could be guilty, and anyone could turn out to be good or bad. There are no reader expectations whatsoever. The freedom is astonishing. Plus, it is absolutely ALL on the table--and all the loose ends must be tied up. In  THE MURDER LIST, I really went for it. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm a series junkie, too, always have been. Although I do make exceptions for standalones, Rhys and Hallie and Hank and Jenn! And Roberta with your WIP! But I've always loved getting to know continuing characters and settings, that sense of being able to dip into the lives of old friends. Nor have I had any real desire to write a standalone. I have so much fun with my big cast of characters that I haven't felt a great need to stretch beyond them, and every book has a new set of characters as well.

Not that  I would say no if a terrific standalone idea suddenly took hold in my brain, but it would NOT be the sort of book that Julia has been told editors are looking for--so maybe I should just stick to what I'm doing...

LUCY: that wouldn't be me either Debs--too scary to keep something like that in my head for a year! Now your turn Red readers, what do you like/not like about mystery series? How long can one reasonably go on? If you were in the audience, what would you want to know about the nuts and bolts of the process?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Some Real History in this Mystery

LUCY BURDETTE: So happy to welcome our friend Sherry Harris back to the blog. Today she's talking about her new book which has a fascinating backstory...I'm going to let her tell it...

SHERRY HARRIS: Thanks, Reds for having me back! I can’t believe I’m here to talk about my sixth novel in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries, The Gun Also Rises.

When my editor at Kensington and I were talking about the sixth book I knew I wanted Sarah to organize a book sale for someone. A book sale full of mysteries. My editor thought adding a Hemingway-like character with a missing rare book would be interesting. I read a lot of Hemingway during my high school and college days. And I will never forget an enlightening discussion with a professor about the symbolism in Hemingway’s short story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” when I did an independent study. But that was a long time ago.

In preparation for writing The Gun Also Rises I started reading more about Hemingway and came across a fascinating story some of you may be familiar with—especially if you’ve read The Moveable Feast—but I had never heard.

Here’s the short version: in 1922 Hadley Hemingway was traveling from Paris to Lausanne, Switzerland to meet Ernest. She packed up his works in progress including the carbon copies.
Ernest had been working on Nick Adams stories for months. Hadley stowed her bags and went to buy a bottle of water. When she came back the bag with the manuscripts was gone. A conductor helped Hadley search the train but the manuscripts were never seen again. If you would like to read more about the story here’s a link

I sat there stunned. Could anything be more perfect? But how could I use it? Should I use it? Back to my editor for permission to change from a Hemingway-like character to using the event from Hemingway’s life. He was as interested as I was in the story and told me to go for it.

 I decided that Sarah would find the missing bag with the manuscripts in her client’s attic tucked in with all of the mystery books. She takes them down to her client who is stunned that they are in her house. She asks Sarah to give her some time to process the find so Sarah goes back to the attic to work. When Sarah returns, she finds her client injured and that the maid has stolen the manuscripts. During Sarah’s search for the manuscripts she runs into a suspicious rare book dealer and a fanatical group called The League of Literary Treasure Hunters. They are convinced Sarah knows where the missing manuscripts are and follow her all over town.

The story still intrigues me. At the time Hemingway was a well-known war correspondent, but he wasn’t the famous author he is today. I keep picturing someone thinking, “There’s a nice bag.” They steal it and dump all the manuscripts in the nearest trash bin. Who knows? Maybe they did Ernest a favor with all the rewriting he had to do.

Readers: Are you familiar with the Hadley story? Any guesses as to what really happened to those manuscripts? I will give away a copy of The Gun Also Rises to someone who leaves a comment.

Here’s more about the book:

A wealthy widow has asked Sarah Winston to sell her massive collection of mysteries through her garage sale business. While sorting through piles of books stashed in the woman's attic, Sarah is amazed to discover a case of lost Hemingway stories, stolen from a train in Paris back in 1922. How did they end up in Belle Winthrop Granville's attic in Ellington, Massachusetts, almost one hundred years later?

Before Sarah can get any answers, Belle is assaulted, the case is stolen, a maid is killed, and Sarah herself is dodging bullets. And when rumors spread that Belle has a limited edition of The Sun Also Rises in her house, Sarah is soon mixed up with a mobster, the fanatical League of Literary Treasure Hunters, and a hard-to-read rare book dealer. With someone willing to kill for the Hemingway, Sarah has to race to catch the culprit—or the bell may toll for her . . .


Sherry Harris is the Agatha Award nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery series and the upcoming Chloe Jackson Redneck Riviera mystery series. She is the President of Sisters in Crime, a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.

In her spare time Sherry loves reading and is a patent holding inventor. Sherry, her husband, and guard dog Lily are living in northern Virginia until they figure out where they want to move to next.

She blogs with the talented women at

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

And Along Came T-bone

LUCY BURDETTE: I've had a cat in my life ever since the year I turned 13. I was desperate for two things for that birthday--Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, and a kitten. My mother was wise enough to agree to the kitten. It was January, though, and not the kitten season. She found one who'd been returned to the pound by his adoptive family. We called him Tigger, and I still have the receipt stamped "No Refund."

You might remember that both of our furry family members died this past summer. I have missed them terribly and worried I'd never find animal friends so wonderful. And I needed time to grieve, and negotiate what would be next with John.

But Monday my birthday came around again (a frightening number of years past 13) and I decided, with much encouragement, to go take a look at the Florida Keys animal shelter.

The shelter is located out on Stock Island, and it's tiny and bursting with animals. The volunteers and workers are very eager to get to the new building, most likely in February. This is the office and waiting room--on the other end was a gray cat in a cage named "Saucy," a gila monster, hamsters, an enormous snake, and many birds. And this being Key West, there was a rooster behind a gate.

My friend Stan went with me--I can't begin to describe how overwhelming it was to see 60 cats in four tiny rooms...How to choose? I was thinking of a tiger, either yellow like Tigger, or gray like Evinrude in the Key West mysteries. 

This guy had nice stripes...

Black cat on shelf

Cat in sink

Rocky was adorable but he seemed very shy

We met T-bone, who'd been spotted by a friend from the gym...

And then along came Ramp, a very frisky kitten who launched himself onto my chest and clung there purring...

I said to Stan, "I guess I've been chosen." So we went back to the office and told them I'd sign on for Ramp.

"Oh," said Del, the administrative assistant, "Ramp has a lot of heat around him." (Cat-shelter speak for he's hot.) "We've got four applications already on him."

"Ok, what about T-bone?"

"He has a hold application on him, too."

So I went back home, disappointed and unable to choose another. Two days later, my gym friend emailed again with photos of T-bone:

He greeted me at the door 
Played and purred
Followed me to the other rooms

The people with the hold are not ‘this cat specific’

Go adopt him

And so I did. He spent the first couple hours in the laundry room while I read in the hall and chatted with him. 

"T-bone, what do you know about social media?" I asked.

"Not much, mom, but I can learn."

And then he came out and there's no going back...

At the end of his first day...(gotta love the two-toned paw...)

And here's the next morning...

I admit to being completely besotted. So you'll be seeing lots of T-bone! And ps, here he is at the Marathon Vet Hospital on Monday, because yes, he developed a virus and got sick as a proverbial dog 4 days in. He says he's fine now, thanks for asking.

And here he is yesterday, feeling very much better and very much at home. 
Stripes on stripes

Thanks to my sister Sue, Bunnie, Leigh, Renee, Cheryl, and Stan for nudging me along. And to the wonderful folks at the SPCA who rescue so many animals and take care of what they need so they can find homes. If you're looking for a cat, go there....

If you had or have a special animal friend in your life, how did you find them?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

THE WIDOWS: A Visit to a 1920s Appalachia Mystery with Jess Montgomery

LUCY BURDETTE: We're so excited to be hosting Jess Montgomery and her brand new release, THE WIDOWS. You might know Jess as Sharon Short, who's written a wonderful novel MY ONE SQUARE INCH OF ALASKA, along with several mystery series and many essays and humor columns. But this month she's here to talk about her new historical mystery, written as Jess Montgomery. Welcome Jess!

JESS MONTGOMERY: I’m a child of Appalachia—both sides of my family of origin go back generation after generation after generation deep in the hills and hollers (as we pronounced ‘hollows’) in Eastern Kentucky. However, I grew up in a region of Ohio that’s geographically outside the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio—a first-generation “Buckeye,” as I was often teased as a child.

Yet, the dynamics of growing up in an Appalachian family shaped me far more than actual location of birth. I grew up steeped in Appalachian lore, dialect, food, attitudes, customs, crafts, music. When I was in high school, I wrote a musical, “Just an Old Ballad,” inspired by the Appalachian ballads I’d grown up learning—ballads that often centered around heartache and sorrow and, yes, murder. “Pearl Bryant,” a variation of the ballad more commonly known as “Pearl Bryan” was one of the songs my Mamaw taught me. The opening verse as I learned it from my Mamaw:

Down, down in yonder valley

Where flowers fade and bloom

Lies our own Pearl Bryant

A-mouldering in her tomb…

Probably not the lyrics an eight-year-old girl ought to learn from her grandmother, but though I couldn’t have described it this way as a young kid, I was enchanted by the ballad’s intrigue, the striking imagery and lovely though dramatic words, the haunting melody and mournful rhythms.

I loved singing it while helping Mamaw wind skeins of thread or yarn for her crocheting projects. Such songs—along with quilts, and soup beans and corn pone for supper, and observing aunts and uncles barter tomatoes and canned goods back and forth at the end of each summer, and trips ‘back home’ (as my parents called it even decades after moving north for factory work) to the land where my family members were tobacco and subsistence farmers—formed the backdrop of my childhood.

So perhaps, knowing I wanted to be a writer, and being fairly proficient as a pianist and guitarist, it’s not all that amazing that I wrote a musical play inspired by this backdrop and the ballads I’d learned: “Just an Old Ballad.”

What was amazing is that my school’s drama teacher allowed me to produce and direct it. Even more amazing—I cast in the lead male role a young man who I’d later date and marry. Thirty-plus years later, we’re still happily married—a pretty great outcome for a self-penned and produced high school musical!

But in the middle-class, suburban high school I attended, the audience of my peers was a bit less than, well, receptive. It wasn’t just that the tunes I wrote were pretty amateurish. (I was 17, after all.) I think the dialect and subject matter and characters were odd and jarring to them.

As years went by, I never wrote directly about Appalachian characters. Looking back, I was probably somewhat burned by the reception of my murder-mystery/love-story musical. I’ve always felt a bit at odds with where I fit—not geographically born into Appalachia, and yet formed by the region more deeply than where I actually was born and grew up.

Then, a few years ago, we were planning our first trip to visit our younger daughter for her birthday weekend at Ohio University, in Athens County, Ohio—the Appalachian foothills. I ran across a tourism website for Vinton County (just southwest of Athens County), which featured Maude Collins, Ohio’s true first female sheriff in 1925 after her husband was killed in the line of duty while writing a speeding ticket. Maude worked as her husband’s jail matron in the small jail attached to the county-owned sheriff’s house, where they lived with their five children. The story goes that Maude was packing up to go back to her parents in West Virginia when the county commissioners came by and asked, “Where you goin’, Maude,” and then further inquired as to whether she’d fill out her husband’s term. She would and did, and in 1926, was elected in her own right as sheriff—in a landslide.

My imagination immediately went to work: what if great mystery surrounded the murder of the sheriff? What if he was allegedly killed by a prisoner he was transporting—and that prisoner supposedly ran off? What if his widow didn’t accept that easy explanation, but did accept the role of sheriff—just so she could investigate his murder?

And so, Lily Ross came into being. Along with an unlikely ally—Marvena Whitcomb, herself a widow after her common law husband dies in a coal mining cave in, a union organizer, and a childhood friend of Lily’s husband—Lily sets to investigating the murder. Their sleuthing plays out against a backdrop of women’s rights, worker’s rights, union miners sparring with management, coal mining, and prohibition.

But the setting—1920s Appalachia—is as much a character in the story as Lily and Marvena.

So at last, I could come full circle and embrace my Appalachian roots in my writing—lore, dialect, food, attitudes, customs, crafts, music. More importantly, as I shaped the strong female cast of THE WIDOWS, I particularly drew on the paternal side of my family of origin—my grandmother, aunts, great aunts, and a cousin—and memories of their quiet strength, their traditions. I thought about travelling with my parents down winding roads, deep in the night, to finally come to my grandma’s tiny house, set on a sloped lawn that bloomed with purple phlox in the spring. In any season, she always had some treat waiting for me—a slice of pie, or of her delicious dried-apple stack cake, or sorghum cookies, and a big glass of fresh cold milk. I didn’t live with her, but somehow, each visit with her deep in the heart of Appalachia felt like coming home.

Though THE WIDOWS is fully a story of my imagination, its threads include not just the inspiration of Maude, but the inspiration of these deep roots. Writing it, in many ways, feels like finally coming home.

For Jess, that dried-apple stack cake evoked a sense of "home." What food, person, or activity most evokes home for you?

About the Book: Set in the coal-mining town of Kinship, Ohio in 1925, The Widows is about two women from different worlds, whose lives collide when the man they both love is found murdered. When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, Kinship’s widely respected sheriff, has been killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.  Hours after his funeral, a stranger appears at her door.  Marvena Whitcomb, a hardscrabble coal miner’s widow, is unaware that Daniel has been killed, and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter. In the course of their encounter, these two women—who live only miles apart but come from entirely different worlds—realize that Daniel was not the man they believed him to be—and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined. In order to uncover the truth, Lily and Marvena must work together and eventually learn to trust one another if they are going to find Daniel’s killer—and save their community.  While The Widows is a work of fiction, the plot was inspired by the true stories of two women: Maude Collins, the first female sheriff in the state of Ohio, whose husband died in the line of duty under mysterious circumstances in 1925, and by Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, the prominent labor and community organizer. The Widows explores the dangers of coal mining, the history of unionization, and the struggle for women’s rights.

THE WIDOWS (writing as Jess Montgomery), published by Minotaur Books, January 8, 2019
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Age Discrimination?

LUCY BURDETTE:  I’d been working along on my latest manuscript and thinking about a plot for another book in the Key West series, when it occurred to me to wonder whether I was really qualified to write about the inner life of a 20 something? Or even a 30 something? On the other hand, I realized that I’d never had a main character over the age of 40. Hayley Snow is in her twenties, nearing thirty (maybe) and Cooper Hunziker is in her 30s. 

One theory to explain the phenomenon might be that this is what publishers want. And they believe this is what the reading public wants. Another might be that I write about an age in my life that is strongly imprinted in my memory, maybe a time when I went through important changes. What do you think Reds? What age do you write? 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My main characters range from early fifties to late twenties, but i have everyone from grandparents in their eighties to little kids in my books. As someone was in college and was a young working single during the Regan years, the hardest ages for me to write are the twenties and thirties. Despite slang and social media, teens have not altered much since my day, probably because the job of those years - figuring out who you are and how you relate to the world - is the same. 

But Millennials have gone through a whole different kind of youth than I did - online from an early age, graduating during the Great Recession, burdened with school loans and social expectations that bear no resemblance to what I had to deal with. I'm lucky in that I have kids between the ages of 18 - 26, and I have godchildren aged 29 - 35, so I have a lot of sources to help me get it right. I'm comfortable with writing Hadley Knox, who's a mother of two and in her mid-thirties, but I'd really have to stretch to write a main character who was, say, the Smithie's age. I'd want to spend a lot of time reading fiction with twenty-somethings before I tackled it.

HALLIE EPHRON: I like to write generations of women, young and hip and old and prickly. YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR has three generations -- a 30-something, her mother, and her grandmother. Or working the other way, a woman in her 70s, her daughter, and her granddaughter. In THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN I've got an 80+ year old with her neighbor's daughter who's in her 30s. I feel like the different perspectives sparks misunderstandings, conflict. 

Besides, older women are hot. Right now. And not just on the BBC. ( (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nancy Pelosi, Janet Yellen, Angela Merkel, Helen Mirren, Glenn Close...) 

LUCY: And that reminds me Hallie, that Hayley Snow’s roommate, 80-year-old Miss Gloria, is probably the character from the Key West books that I hear most about!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was talking to a big time person who should know (not an author) who says the best age for a character in FICTION (the kind we're talking about here) is about 33. I don't wanna debate it--I'm just saying that's what she said. She says that's who readers want.  Mid-forties is too old for a main character.  Agree or not--but that's from pretty on high.

 I'm most comfortable writing from the viewpoint of--and this is so odd--kids who are about nine.  The difficult age for me is that 30's group--because a thirty-something now is SO different from 30-something me. But I do love to get to be that age again, through fiction--because of course you have to channel how they feel, and understand how that's the result of their particular experiences.

A main player in THE MURDER LIST is referred to as "a grandmother " by a court clerk, and indeed she is. She's also treated with super-hyper-partronizing kid gloves by a judge.  But when I parsed out how old she really was, she was, um, my age.  Ahh.

JENN McKINLAY: I've never really thought about it. My characters pretty much arrive on scene with their age already established. My protagonists range from 25 to 35 because those seem to be the big life change years where the relationships are the big ones, the career choices are solid, etc. The supporting cast is always diverse in age and ethnicity and sexual orientation. I try to get into the head of each character so that they are authentic. Mostly, I try not to overthink it. 

RHYS BOWEN: my main characters seem to be young women in their twenties, apart from Constable Evans who was in his late twenties, and Hugo who was in his thirties. I'm lucky because most of my stories take place in the past so I don't have to worry about what is current or what young people want. I have plenty of young female fans. I have received fan letters that say " I've just seen your photo and until now I thought you were the same age as Lady Georgie. I have to say her first person voice and Molly's voice came to me so easily and naturally.

I would not want to write a book starring an elderly woman. It's much more fun to be twenty again!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: My four main series characters range between late twenties, mid-thirties, and early forties (since they are aging VERY slowly) but I've always loved writing all ages. Even my first novel had a stroppy fifteen-year-old and a couple of elderly sisters. I adore Hallie's Mina and Lucy's Miss Gloria--I certainly don't have a prejudice against reading books with older protagonists. And I guess it's a good thing nobody told J.K. Rowling she couldn't sell a book with an eleven-year-old protagonist...

Reds, any thoughts about this? And what age characters do you prefer to read about?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Book of Lost Words

RHYS BOWEN: I was doing an event at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale during the holiday season when owner Barbara Peters showed me a book. "You have to see this," she said. I did and bought it instantly.

It's called THE LOST WORDS. And it conveys a worrying and serious message. The latest edition of the Oxford Junior  Dictionary has removed  around 40 words it no longer considers relevant for young people so that it has room for words more important for our latest technology. Blog, broadband, voice-mail etc. I could understand this if the words were like "forsooth" or "perambulation".

But they are not: they are words from nature, words I consider highly relevant and important to everyone. And so did the writer and illustrator of this book: Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris.
And so they created this gorgeous work of art. Robert MacFarlane describes himself as a collector of words and is a professor at Cambridge. Jackie is a distinguished artist and illustrator of many books. For each of the words they have chosen Robert has written an acrostic. The whole book is such a treat for the senses, a perfect coffee table book, but it carries such a powerful message....

you'll understand when I tell you the words that have been removed from the Junior OED





Are these not absolutely essential words in the vocabulary of any young person?

The acrostics are powerful poetry in themselves.

Here is the one for Acorn:

As flake is to blizzard, as
Curve is to sphere, as knot is to net, as
One is to many, as coin is to money, as bird is to flock, as
Rock is to mountain, as drop is to fountain, as
   spring is to river, as glint is to glitter, as
Near is to far, as wind is to weather, as
    feather is to flight, as light is to star, as
    kindness is to good, so acorn is to wood.

Aren't these brilliant? And page after page of museum-worthy illustrations too. Thank you, Barbara for thrusting this at me.

So what do you think? Should our dictionaries be revised to keep up with the times? Should we lose words of our childhood? Should a child grow up not knowing what an acorn or a bluebell or a kingfisher are?

The Book is The Lost Words, Published by Anansi Books, (

Saturday, January 12, 2019

What I'd Do For Beauty

What I’d do for beauty.
RHYS BOWEN: One sees the darndest things on Facebook. This week I saw a video of a woman getting a snail facial. That’s right—she was letting snails slither all over her face, lots of them, over her eyelids, lips…. Yuck.

Watch the video:

Proponents claim that it's like micro-needling and that their slime contains anti-oxidents, anti-bacterial properties etc etc. The treatment is being offered in UK for fifty pounds a go. (quicker and easier to go out into the garden, methinks)

And I found myself thinking that there was no way I’d let snails slither over me. I’d rather stay unbeautiful. Which got me to thinking about what I would do for beauty. I’ve had enough facials. Usually I find them a waste of time. I lie there, while they put cucumbers over my eyes, and smother other sorts of gook onto my cheeks and I find myself thinking “I should be writing. I could be doing the laundry.”

I’ve tried microdermabrasion, and various other silly things like light therapy and radio waves and electric current. They do make the skin a little smoother and nicer, I agree. Not that I’ve ever looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Wow. Who is that gorgeous woman?”

But I’ve stopped short of going under the knife. I saw a face lift on TV once and they pulled back the skin, just like peeling an orange, and then they stretched it over the face and stapled it at the hairline, and I thought “My God, that looks scary.” Even though I have friends who keep urging me to get a little tuck, stretch and smooth here and there so far I’ve chickened out. Now I fear it is too late!

So it’s confession time: who has undergone some sort of facial or therapy that was fabulous? Inquiring minds want to know! And who would undergo a snail facial? Or who would like to share a disaster?