Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Hank's Writing: It's Copy Edit Time!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: First: Breaking news!

So what we're writing? Well, first, ten million thank you notes--at least--to the universe at large! THE MURDER LIST is nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary novel!  AND--drumroll: for the Mary Higgins Clark Award! I am overwhelmed, and my feet have not yet touched the ground. And--super bonus-- our dear Rhys LOVE AND DEATH IN THE TIME OF CHEETAHS is also an Agatha nominee--for best Historical.  SO fabulous! And we are both thrilled and incredibly grateful.

(The Agathas will be awarded at the Malice Domestic convention in May--where Red Julia is Guest of honor. Need I say: world domination? )

What I'm actually writing? Well, first, hurray. On Monday I finished (and sent in, with five whole minutes to spare before the deadline!)  the copy-edited version of my new book!

Copy edits. Can we talk? I actually adore doing them--it's the time where I can carefully carefully carefully look at every single word and every single sentence and paragraph, AND the book’s big picture,  and see how I can make the book better, clearer, more special. It's like a treasure hunt. But it is quite the journey.

The manuscript arrived, with all the copyeditor's changes and thoughts. It's a little intimidating to see all the corrections and questions. So, to make it easier to handle, first I go through and search for all my pet words. "Of course," and "actually" and "even" and "just"--I go through and ask myself: why did I use that word? What did I mean to say? How can I say that better? And that's a wonderful way to reacquaint myself  with the book. 

I look for qualifiers--Nancy Pickard taught me this--kind of, sort of, almost, maybe, could be, possibly. I try to take them all out.  Sentences are so much stronger without them.

I can confess I had used "of course" 41 times. Isn't that crazy? And I took out every use of "very"--at least when it was used to increase the value of the word it modified. Very angry, very upset, very  nervous. Delete, delete, delete. I can do better than that.

Then, another trick, I search for the word "like."  That lets me discover whether  I have fallen in love with any similes. Yes, indeed, I had. There were several mother/daughter and teacher/student comparisons.   Nope, all gone.

Then I search for semi-colons. Yup, I am not a fan, and the copy editor always rearranges my sentences to put them in. I usually make the sentence into two.

I also search for the phrases I seem to have fallen in love with--things about what happens to people's knees--turning to jelly, or mush, or shaking or whatever knees do. No knees do anything any more. After my copy edits, people no longer shrug. Or grin. Or shrug and grin. Or PAUSE! Argh.  HOW did I write all that stuff?

Oh, and everyone grimaced! No one flinched or winced. Or, heaven forbid, did nothing. ALL grimaces. All gone.

And whoa. Every single thing was gray in this book. The sky, the furniture, the rugs, the walls. The cat, the car. People's faces, their sweatshirts, the clouds, the snow, the slush. Uniforms, hair, seagulls. Yeesh. Most of the grays have now been changed to other colors. 

Then, ta dah! THE BATTLE OF THE HYPHENS.  This is a battle royal. Let's vote, Reds. Co-conspirator, or coconspirator?  Thirtysomething or  thirty-something?  Midsentence or mid-sentence?  I am all about hyphens, especially if the un-hyphenated word doesn't look like a word.  And the compound words: back yard or backyard? Face up or faceup? (I really loathe faceup. That's just not even a word.) So we battle over that.

And here's a new one. To me, at least.  Do you know there's not supposed to be a comma before too? Like: I want one, too. The CE took out all the commas in sentences like that. It's now: I want one too. Can that be right? Grr. 

And apparently I cannot spell "through." It comes out "though" every time. And I take out all the exclamation marks.

In other copy edit news, Ashley the copyeditor  brilliantly found at least two career-ending errors. Maybe three. Well, possibly not career-ending, but at least hideously embarrassing. So I would battle over everything else happily, given how grateful I am about those discoveries.

Here's another page of the copy edits, just to give you a tiny glimpse of the book to come.

And may I say two more things? 

I am SO excited about this book! Crossing fingers you love it, too. (HA. See what I did there?)

And--SO HAPPY ABOUT THE AGATHA and MHC nomination. 

So, Reds and readers, how do you feel about hyphens?   And is there a comma before "too" when it's used to mean "also"?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What We're Writing: Rhys tackles two times

RHYS BOWEN: Hi, Rhys here, deep in the throes of my new novel that will be called THE VENICE LEGACY, SKETCHBOOKS, SECRET, KEYS or whatever marketing thinks will sell books. It's set in various time periods: 1928, 1938, 1939-45 and 2001.  So a lot of jumping around which for the author is a challenge as I don't want to confuse my readers. I don't want anyone to say, "Wait--where are we now?"  So it all has to be done smoothly, with two stories unfolding at the same time, one giving clues to the other. And... it's not easy.

I am on one of the chapters that is my present day story. Well, not exactly present day but 2001.  Why that year, you ask? Because it had to be realistic that a character from WWII could still be alive AND the added drama of the World Trade Center has to play into the character's life and motivation.  And so in my present day story Caroline Grant's husband has gone to New York to enter a fashion competition, stayed there, made a name for himself and now wants equal custody of their son. The son has been with him for the summer but when it comes time to return him there have been excuses-an ear infection and the doctor says he shouldn't fly. And then the Twin Towers....

. The Venice Inheritance/Key/Sketchbooks, Legacy, Secret etc
That year in Venice, Long Ago in Venice. The  (Three) keys to Venice

The first Caroline knew of it was a strange hysterical sobbing that came from the conference room. Intrigued she followed the sound and found people already crowded inside the door, staring at the television screen that sat on a shelf at the far end of the room. One young secretary had her hands to her mouth and was producing great heaving sobs while an older editor had an arm around her shoulder. The others were strangely silent. Caroline stared at the screen, unable to realize immediately what she was seeing. She looked to a colleague.
            “What is it?”
            “The World Trade Centre in New York. Apparently an aeroplane flew into one of the skyscrapers. A big passenger jet. The upper floors are on fire.”
            “How terrible. How sad.”
            Suddenly the girl at the front screamed and pointed. “There’s another one. Look!”
            And they watched in horror as a second passenger jet flew in direct line at the second tower, striking it in a fireball.
            “It can’t be an accident,” someone said.
            “It must be a terrorist attack.”
            “I bet it’s that idiot Osama Bin Laden.”
            “Oh God. How many more of them might there be?”
            Caroline couldn’t speak. She was finding it hard to breathe. My son is in New York, she thought. She hadn’t ever checked where exactly Desiree’s penthouse was in the city. Surely not in the financial district where the towers were. Surely somewhere suitably safe and far away…
            She pushed her way past more people who now blocked the doorway, rushed to her desk and fumbled in her purse for her telephone book. Her hand was trembling so much that she found it hard to dial the number.
            “I’m sorry. All circuits are currently busy” said a mechanical voice. “Please try again later.”
            She tried every fifteen minutes, all night, until about three in the morning the phone at the other end rang. “Hello?” said a sleepy woman’s voice. “What is it?”
            “It’s Caroline Grant,” She gasped out the words. “Is Josh there? And Teddy? You’re all safe?”
            “Oh yes. We’re fine. We’re up in the nineties. Miles away. Josh tried to call you yesterday, after it happened, but nobody could make phone-calls. It was unbelievable, wasn’t it? Surreal, watching those towers fall.”
            “Awful,” Caroline agreed. “Can I speak to Josh, please?”
            “He’s still asleep. Hold on a minute. I’ll wake him for you.”
            Caroline heard her saying “Your ex-wife on the phone, from London. You’d better wake up.”
            Then a long pause and Josh’s voice. “Hey, Cara. We’re fine. I tried to call you. Everything’s okay here. The kids were quite upset when they saw it, but they’ll get over it. Talk to you later, okay?”
            She put down the phone and gave a big sigh of relief. They were fine. Her son was fine. She swallowed back tears. News programs on TV broadcast almost incessant updates. The Pentagon hit. Another plane crashing in a field in Pennsylvania. All flights canceled. All transportation stalled. Saudi nationals responsible… and yes, it was that idiot Osama Bin Laden behind it.
            Again she waited patiently to see when flights would resume. They’d all be overbooked, of course. All those people trapped in New York, waiting to get out. Finally she made contact with Josh. “When do you think you can fly again?Teddy’s missing school.”
            “I was going to call you, “Josh said. “Teddy’s been having nightmares. We took him to Desiree’s shrink. He says the child has a real terror of planes right now and shouldn’t fly for a while. So we’ll find a school for him here.”

You might want to ask what this might have to do with Venice: well, you'll just have to wait for the book to come out next year to find out!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What We're Writing @LucyBurdette

The Falkirk wheel
LUCY BURDETTE: The truth is, I am probably (almost certainly) not writing because I am on vacation. But I was writing before we left on the trip and I certainly will be writing when we get back, so here’s the smallest sneak peek into what’s happening with Key West food critic mystery number 11.

You may or may not remember that part of this book (coming 2021) takes place in Scotland. Hayley, Nathan, and Miss Gloria are visiting Nathan's sister, who is co-writing a book about thin places in Scotland. Over the two weeks we spent last summer touring Scotland, there was only one day where we were left scratching our heads to figure out why we were visiting this particular attraction. So Hayley and company head there too...

Then we piled in Vera’s car to drive to two local sites. 

“We’re meeting Gavin and the others at the Falkirk Wheel, but first I’ll drive you the by the Kelpies. Gavin insisted on including these in our book.” With a tight voice, she added, “there isn’t a whisker of a thin place for miles around. But I will have to leave that argument to the editors. Or the readers who trash the book because the authors persisted in including commercial sites with no real spiritual value.”
“What are kelpies? What exactly are we seeing?” Miss Gloria piped up from the backseat next to me.
“They are a couple of giant horse heads made out of metal,” said Vera grimly.
“Horseheads made of metal?” her mother asked.
“It’s hard to describe them in any other way. Some of the local folks are quite proud of them, as they commemorate the role of horses in Scotland and were designed by a well known artist.” We could see her roll her eyes in the rearview mirror. “And then we will be visiting the Falkirk Wheel where we'll meet up with the others. This is a boat lift that connects the Forth & Clyde and the Union canals. There used to be a staircase involving eleven locks that took an entire day to transit. This wheel was opened for business by the queen in 2002.”
“It sounds very different from the other sites you've mentioned,” I said.
“You think?” She turned around to glance at me. “I suppose it is a modern feat of engineering, so I don’t argue that point. And it’s clever and brilliant and a solution to connecting the canals. But I can’t believe anyone will ever have a spiritual moment while rotating in this concrete and steel contraption in a glassed-in boat.” She sighed. “You’ll see.

Of course something terrible will happen there, how could it not?

Meanwhile, THE KEY LIME CRIME (July 2020) is available for pre-order!

You can order it at an independent bookstoreBarnes and Noble, Amazon, and anywhere books are sold!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Sticky words - What Hallie's Writing

HALLIE EPHRON: Once again, it's WHAT WE'RE WRITING WEEK on Jungle Red. I'm not sure that you'd call what keeps me busy right now writing. A whole lot of idea scribbling, blogging, and noodling about in my head.

Kasey Goodwin - Pauls Valley Noodling Tournament
Kasey Goodwin
Paul's Valley
Noodling Tournament
And because I'm barely writing full sentences, never mind paragraphs or chapters, I'm going to focus on words. Expressions. "Noodling about," for instance. I have no idea where I got that expression (apparently it's also a slang expression referring to the catching of catfish), but these days I'm finding a lot of my words and expressions are creeping in from other media.

My friend and Clever Girl Organizer Kathy Vines uses a word sticky to express the way things like words can, well, stick. 

I've always been susceptible. Years ago, my husband I saw a
dubbed-in-Italian SHREK on television in a hotel in Italy, and ever since we've referred to one or the other of our daughters as the Principessa. (Pronounced: Prin-chee-PAY-sa). When I've got too many clothes to pack, I'm likely to say, "We’re going to need a bigger boat." (JAWS) "Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone" (BIG NIGHT) has a million uses.

My vocabulary has taken a decidedly British turn when I adopted. "I could use a bit of Wensleydale" from WALLACE AND GROMMIT. "Don't Panic" (said with eyes rolling and arms waving about) from CHICKEN RUN. And the simple "Thanks, Luv" from VERA.

Lately I've been watching THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW (I am not a baker but I find it mesmerizing... even the
episodes I've already seen) and I find myself adopting a whole new vocabulary. Who knew biscuits are cookies (I'm sure Debs and Rhys did). That a British pudding isn't gooey and creamy unless it's undercooked. I'm dying to know what royal icing or creme pat or fondant tastes like.More than that, the baking show has larded my language with all sorts of new expressions. I find myself:
  • Complaining about having to do detail work with lots of fiddly bits
  • Being chuffed for some kind words from a reader
  • Finding the chocolates I made for Christmas scrummy
  • Encouraging my husband to crack on
  • And hoping that a bit of writing I've done ticks all the boxes.
I do have to be careful not to allow all of this run off to flow into my writing, since this is not the way my characters talk. 

What expressions have stuck to you from the TV shows and movies and social media you're imbibing?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Jungle Reds' Discussion Questions for Book Groups

HALLIE EPHRON: Whenever I finish a reading a book, I find myself desperate to talk about it with someone else who’s read it. For those of us in a book group or book club, we’re fortunate to have a go-to source of like-minded readers to talk about the books we loved… or hated… or simply stirred us up and got us thinking.

From an author’s point of view, we’re thrilled when a book group decides to read one of our books. We’re often asked for discussion questions, so today we’re offering a list of questions for each of our latest books. And inviting you, please, at the end, to share your own experiences in a book group and what kind of questions you’ve found generate the most interesting discussions when your book picks a mystery novel. 

LUCY BURDETTE: In my ninth Key West food critic mystery, A DEADLY FEAST, food critic Hayley Snow is set to be married to her heartthrob detective Nathan Bransford. But she has a lot of worries because Nathan’s been married before and both sets of parents were married and then divorced. So she canvasses her friends and family about their experiences with marriage. I’m hoping this book might make for a good book club discussion!

1. What’s your theory about what makes for a good marriage?
2. Does it seem to you that Nathan and Hayley are a good match? Why or why not?
3. When you’re reading about a fictional wedding, how much do you like to hear about wedding plans and details?
4. What are your favorite examples of fictional weddings, either books or movies? Explain why you chose them.
And for some non-wedding questions:
5. Have you ever gone on a food tour? If so where? If not yet, what place would you love to eat your way around?
6. Martha Hubbard talks about chefs feeling possessive about the recipes they make and serve—they don’t want diners making substitutions. How do you feel about that?
7. How do you feel about Hayley’s relationship with her mother? And compare this to her relationship with Miss Gloria and Allison, her stepmother.
8. Hayley’s boss Palamina says she never understood why Hayley was living with a senior citizen, until she met Miss Gloria. How do you feel about this character? Does she accurately reflect seniors?

If you'd like to invite Lucy to speak to you group, contact her at RAISLEIB "at" GMAIL DOT COM.

If not, get some wine and go into the other room and finish the book! Everyone else...

1. How did you feel about the ending?
2. When you started the book, how did you feel about Rachel and Jack’s marriage? The dynamics of their relationship? What was the balance of power in that relationship?
3. How do you feel about lawyers and what they do? If you’re a lawyer, what parts of the book capture a legal reality for you? If you’re not a lawyer, which lawyer in the obok did you like the most? DId that change as the book progressed?
4. How do you think women’s issues--sisterhood, support, mentoring--change professional relationships? How did Martha use hat? How did Rachel use that? How did Clea use that?
5. We are never in the point of view of the reporter Clea, but we hear her described-very differently by the three characters who deal with her. How do Jack, Martha and Rachel think of the journalist--and what do you think about how different those descriptions of her are?
6. Have you ever been so madly in love with someone that you would do anything to “get” them? Which characters in the book are obsessed with someone?
7. We think about unreliable narrators--but aren’t we all unreliable? Because we’re describing the world the way WE see it? Or the way we want it? And lawyers, especially, have to be able to argue both sides of any story. How does that prism change how you understood the book?
8. Have you ever been on a jury? What did you think about what happened in the deliberation room? If you’re called to jury duty in the future--will this realistic portrayal change how you think about the jury system?
9. If you were a lawyer, would you want to be a prosecutor? Or a defense attorney? Why?
10. The title THE MURDER LIST has at least three meanings--maybe more. What did you think it meant when the book began--and what did you think at the end? 

To request Hank for an event or speaking engagement, please contact 

RHYS BOWEN: These discussion questions for my new book, Above the Bay Of Angels, that will be published on February 11. Maybe you can think about the questions when you read it. 

Above the Bay of Angels is a story of a young girl, cheated out of the life she expected but able to shine when she becomes a cook for Queen Victoria and experiences the delights of French cuisine when the queen goes to Nice. 

1. Do you think Bella made a wise choice when she acted on the letter she found?
2. One of the themes of this book is the British class system. Do you think it right that Bella remains a snob?
3. Food plays a big part in this book. What does Bella learn about food as the story progresses.
4. The journey to Nice opens up a whole new world to Bella. Why do you think she is able to appreciate it more than her fellow cooks?
5. Discuss Bella’s relationship with her sister
6. The story in Nice has its basis in real history. Did the plots and intrigue enhance the story for you?
7. In what ways is this a mystery rather than a simple historical novel?
8. Which character did you dislike most? (There were several really objectionable ones, weren’t there?)
9. What was your impression of Queen Victoria from this story? Did it agree with what you already knew about her?
10. Did you agree with the ending? Were you surprised? Did she make the right choice?

If you would like your bookclub to Skype with Rhys do contact her at and visit her website for updates.


1.Do you think the portrayal of Viv’s experience in the kitchen at O’Reilly’s was realistic? What special challenges do women chefs face in the kitchen?
2.Why do you think Viv cut off all contact with Fergus? How might things have turned out differently if she had not?
3.How do the events of the book change Viv’s relationship with her own kitchen staff?
4.Why did Melody withhold the truth about her family and their circumstances from Andy?
5.Do you feel that Melody’s relationship with Andy can be repaired? How might it be different?
6.What qualities does Kit have that are consequential to the resolution of the story and Grace’s safe return?
7.Do you feel that Melody’s relationship with her parents, and in particular, her mother, has changed by the novel’s end?
8.How does Duncan’s injury affect his handling of the case?
9.Why does Duncan feel driven to learn what happened to Nell Greene?
10. Are there any commonalities in the revelations experienced by the major characters? If so, what are they?

To arrange an author appearance, Deborah's publicist at Harper Collins:


Interestingly enough, I have to write reader’s questions for my July book PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA this week. It’s a new genre for me, single title romantic comedy, but I’m having a lot of fun with discussion possibilities. Here’s my starting place, we’ll see which of these make it into the back of the book!

1. What event causes Chelsea to reconsider the path her life is presently on?
2. Do you think revisiting her past will help Chelsea to move forward with her future?
3. What is Chelsea looking for? What does she hope to find in revisiting her post college gap year?
4. Which of the three loves of her postcollege gap your is your favorite? Why?
5. When does Chelsea start to see her work rival, Jason Knightley, in a different light?
6. What happened that kept Chelsea from moving forward with her life? Why?
7. How does grief play a role in both Chelsea and Jason’s lives?
8. How does Chelsea’s relationship with her family change during the course of the book?
9. What does Chelsea learn about revisiting her past? Why couldn’t she be the girl she once was again?
10. What does Chelsea learn about herself during her trip? How is she different at the end of the novel from who she was at the beginning?

To contact Jenn, reach out to publicist Brittanie Black, PRH Publicity: 

HALLIE EPHRON: Careful What You WIsh For

1.There are three couples in the book (Emily and Frank, Ruth and “Murph,” and Quinn and Wally.) How is “stuff” a dynamic in each of their marriages?
2.How did Emily and Frank’s fertility problems affect their relationship? How has it affected Emily’s relationship with Becca?
3. What is Emily’s relationship with her mother? How are they alike; how are they different?
4. At the end of the novel, why do you think Emily goes with Frank to the storage unit?
5. Do you think Frank got what he deserved in the end?
6. What do you collect, and what does it say about you?
7. Have you known a hoarder? What skills do you think a professional organizer needs to help someone like that? 
8. Do you think Emily and Becca made any decisions that a more experienced professional might not have made?
9. What do you think the title CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR refers to?
10. The author has said that one of the inspirations for this book was the Patricia Highsmith novel, Strangers on a Train. Can you see the similarities and differences?

If you would like your bookclub to Skype with Hallie, please contact her at Hallie "at"; check her website for her events.

Now we'd love to hear about your experiences in a book discussion group. We'd love to hear all about it... 

What are the books that were particularly interesting or difficult to discuss? And what kind of questions you’ve found generate the most interesting discussions when your book picks a mystery novel. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020


HALLIE EPHRON: As everyone who follows us knows, I have a thing about the small matter of saving our planet. About conserving, cutting down on waste and recycling, and trying to ensure quality of life for our grands and great grands, along with the flora and fauna with whom they'll share the earth.

Today I’m welcoming a kindred spirit who is much more informed and much more emphatic than I. Kyla Bennett is a PhD ecologist and an environmental lawyer working for a Washington DC based environmental whistleblower non-profit organization. A lifelong environmentalist (and vegan), she's trying to save the world.

I’m thrilled that she’s give me the okay to share her advice. Some of it’s easy-peasy and you're probably already doing it. Some of it’s a stretch.

Hang onto your hats because what you're about to read may feel a bit stronger what you’re used to finding  on Jungle Red. Think of it as bracing. And literally, food for thought.

Kyla has promised to drop
by today to field questions and comments, so please add on and share your thoughts!

KYLA BENNETT: It's that time of year where I get on my soapbox and tell you what YOU can do to save the earth.

Guys, it's 2020. We have tipped over the precipice and we may not be able to save ourselves. But we have to try, right? So here are the top 10 things you can do to help. Because if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Yes, I KNOW we have to hold fossil fuel and chemical companies and plastics industries and the government accountable, but that doesn't mean we are helpless. EVERYONE HAS TO DO SOMETHING. Don't you have children, grandkids, people you love? Australia is on fire. The earth is literally burning. We are destroying our planet, and we have to stop. Failure is not an option.

Okay, here goes.

1) Go vegan. Seriously. Or at least cut down substantially on meat, fish, poultry and dairy. It's not hard, it's better for your health, the planet, and it's humane. And it’s too late for snarky comment about how they can't give up their bacon, or how plants have feelings too, or how veganism is harder on the environment than meat. We have to make some concessions here if we want to save the planet. (Plus, have you SEEN any of the footage coming out of some of those slaughter houses??? Have you no compassion???)

I urge you to watch Forks Over Knives, or if you're an athlete,
Game Changers. Make it a resolution, and do it soon, because I think Forks Over Knives is getting taken off of Netflix soon. And yes, I know, small family farms are better than the big industrial farms, but many people buy from those small family farms?

How about this: if you're going to eat eggs or drink milk or eat meat, buy it from a small family farm. Otherwise, just don't.

Stop using pesticides. It's 2020. There is an insect apocalypse, and we NEED insects to survive. I live in Ground Zero for EEE (eastern equine encephalitis) and WNV (West Nile virus), and we don't use pesticides. I use Repel's Lemon Eucalyptus spray on us, and it works, and it's not bad for the environment, and it doesn't have PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) Yes, many pesticides have PFAS. Stop killing the bees. Stop spraying carcinogens that destroys the brains of children.

Just. Stop.

3) Minimize/eliminate plastic. There is too much plastic. Microplastics are everywhere, in the ocean, in our water, in our food. It's dangerous. It's killing marine mammals and sea turtles and birds and mammals. It's killing us.

Here are some of the things I've done: switched to
Little Seed Farm
deodorant, which comes in a glass jar. It works. Switched to Viva Doria toothpaste, which comes in a glass jar. I use Etee's concentrated dishwashing liquid, which comes in a biodegradable pod. I bought some glass pump jars, and I reconstitute it in that. I've gone back to bar soap (added bonus: no palm oil, which is killing orangutans). I like Kirk's and Meliora soap. Speaking of Meliora, they have a great laundry powder in a cardboard container - no plastic. And a cleaning scrub. I clean with vinegar and essential oils.

Try to avoid plastic wrapped fruits and veggies. I bring
mesh bags
to the grocery store for my produce and my bulk foods. I buy bulk organic oats, and put them in glass jars (I like Anchor Hocking from Target, because there is NO plastic!). Buy from your local farm when you can, and bring your own reusable bags.

Bring your own
mug to the coffee place (I like Stojo, because it collapses down to nothing). I even make my own granola, because I can't get a straight answer out of the cereal companies as to whether their plastic inserts have PFAS. And as you all know, I have gone down the PFAS rabbit hole. Speaking of which...

4) PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Get rid of your Teflon/non-stick pans. No, NONE of the so-called "green" non-stick pans are safe. Get cast iron and season it well. Or get stainless steel if you are okay with using oil. Get rid of your waterproofing crap, check with companies to see if they use ANY PFAS when buying rain gear, shoes, carpets, car seats, makeup, etc. Use a brand of dental floss that doesn't use PFAS, like Desert Essence. Use the PFAS free ski wax, and furniture polish. I use Kenetrek for waterproofing, and all natural furniture polish for my wood furniture.

GET A FILTER. We are all contaminated, and this is all about minimizing risk.

Avoid plastic. A ton of it has PFAS in it. Home Depot and Lowe's have allegedly banned all PFAS from their carpets as of now, but check. Don't buy biosolid fertilizer. Avoid the "flame retardant" clothes and fabrics. It all has PFAS.

Look, this isn't just about YOUR health. Whenever YOU use a Teflon pan, and wash it, that plastic goes down the drain and ends up in MY water. You're contaminating everyone. Just stop.

Read labels and buy wisely. Did you ever notice how many things have palm oil? We have to stop. Email companies and tell them to remove it. We are destroying rain forests, which are the lungs of the earth. We are killing orangutans. We just have to stop. Even sustainable palm oil. We don't need it, and it's not healthy. I even gave up my beloved Dr. Bronner's soap because of palm oil.

6) Cut down on flying. Yeah, I know. But really... try. 

7) And cut down on driving, if you can.

8) Go solar. Yes it works. We generate 118% of what we need, and sell the rest to the grid. If you live in an apartment or condo or you can't afford to buy solar panels, switch to green energy with your electric company.

Turn off your friggin' lights and stop wasting water. Why do you leave your porch lights on all night? Turn off lights when you leave the room. Make sure you have energy efficient bulbs. Stop watering your lawn. Really? Just stop. Oh, and hang dry your clothes. I got a great drying rack from Lehman's. Dryers use a ton of electricity.

9) Avoid chemicals. Did you know there are 80,000 chemicals on the US market, and EPA has banned only 9? Yeah. Well, that doesn't mean that only 9 are dangerous.

10) Teach children about nature, and wildlife, ecology, and biology. If they don't spend time outside, if they don't understand how we're all connected, and how vulnerable humans are as animals, we are doomed. Teach them to love and appreciate wildness and other species. Teach them empathy and compassion and curiosity.

"In wildness is the preservation of the world." - Henry David Thoreau.

Okay, I'm done. Thanks for reading. Never underestimate our power. We can change things if we all act together. We cannot afford to wait any longer. Do something. And #vote.

HALLIE:  What did I tell you? Bracing, right?

I’ll be switching to green energy with my electric company. And changing my toothpaste. I stopped buying plastic wrap and tin foil and I try not to use plastic bags or paper towels. I don't water my lawn. I'm switching to Kyla's toothpaste and dental floss. Never owned teflon pans so that's easy. And all our carpets were made before PFAS were invented. And...

Baby steps, I know. But if we all do it, it makes a difference. (Remember when dog poo was everywhere and airplanes had no smoking sections?)
What have you done in 2019 and what will you be trying to do in 2020 save the planet?