Thursday, April 25, 2019

Do You Have Your Ducks in A Row?

Congratulations DianeR, last week’s winner of Leslie Karst’s MURDER FROM SCRATCH. Diane, send your mailing address to Leslie at lesliekarstauthor “at” gmail dot com.
 And the winnners of Jeff Siger's Murder in Mykonos are  (US only please,...let me know if that's not you) Jana Leah B. and Robin!  Email me at Hryan at whdh dot com 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Talk about the universe aligning. Yesterday morning, I looked out the backyard window and saw--SEVEN ducks. In a row. On the edge of our pool. A seven duck day--remarkable!

 And so when I read the amazing Cindy Callaghan's post for today I though--ducks in a row! And the karma is good all around.

Cindy is a treasure, and we go way back, and she has such a wonderful and inspirational and educational story--I've just gotta let you read it. 

 In writing and in Life:  
            Make Your Own Luck
     by Cindy Callaghan

As a writer and reader, I spend a lot of time in my head.  I imagine, daydream, and as Pooh says, “think, think, think.”  Perhaps you share a fondness for deep thinking?

I get excited for long car rides to plan plots, characters, or scene sequences.  (And to sing very, very loudly to the radio.  I’m a chart-topper in the car.)  At those times when I’m in my head, I manipulate the destiny of my story in any way I want.  In this respect, fiction writing is a great career for a control freak like me.  However, the business of fiction writing can be challenging for those of us who like every duck in a neat row. 

My book Lost in Ireland was originally launched under the title Lucky Me.  When I’d sign that book, I’d add a message to my ‘tween reader:  Make your own luck.  I believe that in writing and in life we make our own luck, but the business end of writing holds variables that, despite our best-laid plans, are out of our control.  I’m referring to things such as:
·      Will critiquers be honest about what’s working and what’s not? 
·      Will the cover be appealing to my target market? 
·      Will I submit the same time someone else is submitting a similar premise?
·      Will a huge competitor launch a similar book at the same time as mine? 
·      Will a bookstore stock its shelves? 
·      Will it snow on the day of my big launch event?

For Type A personalities, these uncertainties can be maddening.  For sanity’s sake, I’ve practiced being laid back, which for me truly takes effort.  But, it was at one of these trying moments when something magical happened.   

Circa 2003 my daughter, about nine at the time, and her friends were baking in my kitchen - flour everywhere, icing in hair and on counter tops - you get the idea.  I was twitching, but trying to be chill.  I exhaled and let them go.  In that moment I saw how much they loved it.  

Think, think, think. 

I began to imagine a cooking club for tweens.  That’d be fun, right?  In fact, that’d be a cool idea for a book. 

Think, think, think.

What if it was a secret cooking club?  And at that moment the idea for Kelly Quinn’s Secret Cooking Club was born…you may know it as Just Add Magic.  (Original 2010 cover and revamped 2016 cover)


In Just Add Magic Kelly Quinn and her besties stumble on an old recipe book in Kelly’s creepy attic.  When they make the recipes strange things happen around town. Thus begins the girls’ quest to understand the rules of the magical potions and the book’s history…a history that involves Kelly more than she ever imagined.  

I would go on secure literary representation who would sell this book to Simon & Schuster, and in 2010 Just Add Magic hit the shelves.  But that book was only the first half of Kelly Quinn’s story; there’s untold backstory and loose ends that aren’t tied up in book one.  I not only wanted to tell readers the rest of the story, but I also wanted them to see Just Add Magic.  But uncontrollable factors played out.  

In 2011, my agent and I separated, putting my aspirations for both a sequel and screen adaptation out of reach - my ducks had fallen out of row.

But my story continued:  About this time I connected with a college friend.  We lunched, and she suggested I send the book to a friend of hers for film/tv tips.  Making a long story short, that friend turned out to be a film agent who repped the book and sold it to then new-on-the-block Amazon Studios.  Starting in 2016 and each year thereafter a new season of Just Add Magic has dropped.  What a thrill! 

In light of the show’s success, I hoped the book sequel, which had been pitched many times over the years, would happen.  After several years of “no,” my magical agent sold Potion Problems (2018).  Even more recently the book was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best in Children’s/MG/YA Mystery.  It makes me giddy that readers can now know what only I’ve known - the previously untold backstory and ending, which holds many surprises.  After years of waiting, the ducklings are aligned.

The point I want to make in this piece, my friends, is this: 

In writing and in life make your own luck.  That is, do the worktake control of your ducks, your career, and your future.

BUT, when despite your efforts, you find yourself in a floury mess or otherwise detoured from Plan A, just maybe, something magical can stir.

So, tell me, are you a planner and how to you manage when things derail?

HankI had a little discussion with myself yesterday about that very thing--I realized: If I stoped spending time worrying about how my plans might not work, I'd have more time to think about the other possibilities. So I try not to think about fail as much, and instead think: plot twist! 
How about you, Reds and readers?

About Cindy Callaghan: Cindy Callaghan is the award-winning author of two ‘tween series: The mega-popular Just Add Magic and Just Add Magic 2: Potion Problems, the five Lost in books: London, Ireland, Paris, Rome, and Hollywood, and two stand-alones: the award-winning Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead and Saltwater Secrets (2020).
Cindy’s first book, the much-loved Just Add Magic, is now a breakout Amazon Original live-action series in its third season.  And the upcoming Saltwater Secrets is set up at a major studio.
Cindy holds an MA and MBA and has over twenty years of business experience. The Delawarian (by way of Los Angeles (USC)) is a Jersey girl at heart. She lives in Wilmington and escapes to her PA mountain retreat whenever time will allow.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It's Greek to him--and that's a good thing!


((and the winner of Caught Up In It from yesterday is Beverly Fontaine! Email Hank via her website!)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Can you imagine a more glorious historic romantic suggestion than—let’s go off to the Greek Isles? Have you ever been there? We’ve talked about setting in mystery, of course and chosen the places we’ve adore to go.

But whoever chose the Greek Isles—you win. Because the amazing Jeff Siger will take us there. In his books, of course, but hey. We love that.

(Do you know Jeff? He’s absolutely fascinating, with a jaw-dropping resume, and you can see all that below).

But we are so thrilled to have him here today. Got your passport? Let’s go to Greece.

HANK: When you made the decision to start a crime series, why did you choose Greece as the setting?

JEFF: When I started writing about Andreas Kaldis with Murder in Mykonos, I thought I’d be writing a stand-alone novel telling the story of a Greek island I had come to know intimately over the course of several decades. I wanted to write about the people, culture and politics of Mykonos, and only settled upon the mystery format because it struck me as the best vehicle for exploring how a tourist island society might respond to a threat to its newfound economic glory.  

Greece provides an inexhaustible source of material for the two central elements of this series:  a serious, modern day issue that my characters must confront and overcome, and  a perspective on that issue to be found in the ancient past.  There is no place on earth more closely linked to the ancient world than Greece—it is the birthplace of the gods, the cradle of European civilization, the bridge between East and West. 

Spartan courage, Athenian democracy, Olympic achievement, Trojan intrigue—all sprung from this wondrous land.  

As for Greece’s place in the modern world: just look at a map, and you'll immediately realize how many of the greatest issues facing the modern world are centered in Greece’s Mediterranean neighborhood.  I’d venture to say no western country is closer to what challenges our planet today than Greece.

HANK: And your setting shifts from one Greek island to another. I’m losing my geography here—but seems like you won’t soon run out of new places.
 JEFF: In order to run out of Greek island locales —not to mention the plethora of utterly intriguing mainland venues—I’d have to live more than a thousand years… and that would be at a two-book-a-year pace!

HANK: Okay, then! Setting solved. But you also use of timely contemporary issues as a centerpiece. In THE MYKONOS MOB, it’s the island’s ever-expanding popularity with the tourist trade upon the lives of its native occupants. What else are you thinking about?

JEFF: So many things happening in our world call out for Kaldis to intervene, but at the moment there’s an idea percolating in my mind that's got its hooks deeply into me.  It’s a battle raging on an island close by Mykonos that has islanders seeking to preserve their agrarian ways pitted against those seeking to maximize tourism profits.  It is a dilemma facing many of the world’s tourist paradises, but particularly so the Greek islands. And it can lead to murder.  That's all I have to say on that for now. Stay tuned....

HANK: How about you--who do you read? Who do you revere as an author? Who has influenced you? 
JEFF: That’s such a hard question for me to answer, because those I think of as having most influenced my style of writing are not commonly associated with the crime writing genre.  Cormac McCarthy is a favorite of mine on so many levels, as is Steinbeck, and I admire the pacing of Tom Clancy—but in my approach to dialog I think of myself as influenced more by the cadence of poets (Robert Frost, believe it or not) and the decisive rigor of playwrights (such as August Wilson).

I see Inspector Kaldis and his crew as having naturally evolved without any conscious input on my part.  Having said that, my work is most often compared to that of Ed McBain and Donna Leon, two literary legends to whom I am deeply honored to be compared.

HANK: Whoa. That’s quite the pedigree! Okay, now I can’t resist. Were Netflix or HBO to come calling with a plan to develop an on-location film or miniseries based on one of the Kaldis novels, which one would you suggest they start with?  And play casting director for a moment.

JEFF: Funny you should mention that. Let’s just say that I don’t count my film deals—or leading actors—until they’re hatched. :) However, and hypothetically speaking, I’d say the place to start is with the first in the series, MURDER IN MYKONOS, because it plumbs the spirit of Greek islands in general, and Mykonos in particular, while establishing the personal integrity of Andreas Kaldis that carries forward throughout the series. As for lead actors, I’m so bad at that, but others have suggested Clive Owen or Bradley Cooper.  

HANK:  Hmm. Investigative reporter me is hearing…secrets.
So, Reds and readers, do you imagine Greece? Or have you been there? Like to go?
And a copy of  THE MYKONOS MOB  to TWO  lucky commenters!


When corruption lies deep beneath the surface, how can truth come to light?

"A perfect setting and first-rate storytelling."
   Ragnar Jonasson

The Mykonos Mob, the tenth book in the Greece-based Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery-thriller series, reveals the wildly lucrative dark side of an internationally renowned Aegean Island playground for the world's rich and famous, those battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.

Jeffrey Siger   
Jeffrey Siger is an American living on the Aegean Greek island of Mykonos. A Pittsburgh native and former Wall Street lawyer, he gave up his career as a name partner in his own New York City law firm to write mystery thrillers that tell more than just a fast-paced story. His Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis novels are aimed at exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece and the world at large, while touching upon Greece’s ancient roots.
The New York Times Book Review honored his work by designating Jeff as Greece’s thriller novelist of record, the Greek Government’s General Secretariat of Media and Communications selected him as one of six authors—and the only American—writing mysteries that serve as a guide to Greece, and Library Journal named his ninth book in the series, An Aegean April, as one of the best mystery books of 2018. He’s also received Barry and Left Coast Crime Best Novel award nominations.
Jeff’s work is published in the US, UK, Germany and Greece He is honored to have served as Chair of the National Board of Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery convention, and as adjunct professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching mystery writing.
His new novel, The Mykonos Mob, is the tenth in the widely praised Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, and explores the wildly profitable dark side of this renowned 24/7 island playground for the world’s rich and famous, the forces battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.
Jeff blogs about Greece every Saturday and can be reached, on Facebook @jeffrey siger, and on Instagram at jeffrey_siger
The Mykonos Mob: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery—the tenth in the series—will be published on April 2 by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks.