Friday, December 15, 2017


RHYS BOWEN: Usually on Jungle Red Writers we stay well clear of controversy. We are, after all, a welcoming and friendly community. But last week Time Magazine made those women who broke the silence about sexual abuse in the world-place people of the year and I felt I couldn't let this moment go by without commenting, based on my experience of writing historical novels.

It seems as if the flood gates have opened with the #metoo movement and the only thing that surprises me is that so many people (mostly men but not all) are surprised. 'This can't really be going on to this extent' is one comment I've heard. Those women are making it up for personal gain or revenge. I've heard that too.

But I think all of us who have ever been in the work place can think of at least one occasion when we were made uncomfortable by a man's comment, even if we weren't physically abused. I used to work in BBC drama and of course actors are terribly touchy-feely. It never really bothered me but then it wasn't the same as being put into an embarrassing position by a boss--one who had power and could terminate or damage a career.

Those who act surprised should realize there is a long history of men using power over women. In my Molly Murphy novels, set in early 1900s New York City women cannot vote. They can't own property. They can legally be beaten by their husbands and it only takes a husband plus one doctor's signature to have a woman committed to an insane asylum for life. (And one of the reasons for mental instability was listed as READING NOVELS, so beware!)

This was really long ago, you say and yet let's skip forward to the 1950s. A popular song was Wives and Lovers. The first verse went, Hey, little girl, fix your hair, fix your makeup. Soon he will open the door...."
And the second verse said, "Day after day there are girls at the office and men will always be men."

There are two things I'd like to point out about this. The first is that she's addressed as "Little girl". Not "Hey, grown woman, fix your hair...."  And the female employees are also "girls.'
But it's not Boys will always be boys.
It's "men will always be men."

And that's the excuse. The age-old excuse. Men will always be men. It's in their nature. If a man and a woman are in the same room the man will want to grab the woman. Nothing you can do about it. This has excused bad behavior for centuries. It's the same rationale that puts Muslim women into burkas... because the sight of them could inflame the passions of strange men.

So I hope this current awakening will change things. I hope men will be told "When you are at work you control your passions. You save them for a female who is interested in pursuing a relationship with you!

Will things really change now? Maybe they will if every woman, on every occasion, looks the man calmly in the face and says, "That is not an acceptable remark. That is not an acceptable action" And our girls are brought up to understand that they never, ever have to do anything they don't want to. That no means no. Calm and confident refusal is probably the biggest turn-off anyway! There is nothing more scary than a calm and confident woman.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you have stories you'd like to share?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

All About the Journey

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Doesn't it seem like everyone is taking photos of everything? It's almost as if it doesn't exist if there's no photo.  But the talented Wendy Tyson--and if you haven't read her marvelous books, you're in for a treat--uses those photos as an entree into her books.  What a great idea!

(Oh. Especially if the photos are in Italy.)

Welcome to my dear pal Wendy Tyson--who uses her photos to inspire her writing life. And, she's learned, it's all about the journey.

All About the Journey

During my first fiction writing class in college, I wrote a short story titled “Transit.” It’s an admittedly somber story about a woman who becomes the family breadwinner when her husband is severely injured at his slaughterhouse job. The entire piece takes place during the protagonist’s bus ride to the slaughterhouse where she’s now going to work, and it focuses on her internal transformation as she comes to terms with what’s happened and how her life is about to change.

The summer before I wrote that story I joined two friends on a backpacking trip through parts of Spain and Portugal. We didn’t have much money, and the Eurail passes we’d purchased provided both transportation and an uncomfortable place to sleep. The trip made an impression on me, not only because of the people we met or the places we saw, but because of the opportunity for introspection that’s afforded the traveler.

Since then, my fiction has become decidedly lighter and more optimistic, but I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of the journey, however short or long. 
It’s a perfect vehicle for allowing our characters to grow or change. In FATAL FAÇADE, the fourth Allison Campbell mystery, which was released in June 2017, Philadelphia image consultant Allison Campbell travels to the Dolomite region of Italy to meet with a reclusive client. There, amongst the haunting mountain vistas and ancient castles, she finds murder—and acceptance. 

Likewise, SEEDS OF REVENGE, the third Greenhouse mystery, open with protagonist Megan Sawyer journeying home from Philadelphia during a snowstorm. She comes to the rescue of a stranded driver, and from that act mayhem and self-awareness ensue.


But the journey isn’t an important tool only for the fictional beings among us; it can also be a source of inspiration for authors. The Greenhouse Series was born after witnessing the interactions of shop owners in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina during a book signing. 

The exchanges I witnessed were nothing unique or unusual, but the new setting, the hours I’d driven in unfamiliar terrain to get there, and the feeling of being out of my element, provided fresh perspective that triggered fresh ideas.
In fact, the act of traveling has become such an important source of ideas for my fiction that I’ve begun a photo journal to record moments that move me. Sometimes my subject is something grand that inspires a book, like an abandoned Italian castle (FATAL FAÇADE), a massive field of solar panels (BITTER HARVEST), or a walled convent (THE SEDUCTION OF MIRIAM CROSS). 

Sometimes, though, it’s something subtle that I might revisit later. BITTER HARVEST, the second Greenhouse mystery, opens with Megan finding a red Adirondack chair that’s been left on a hiking trail, positioned so that it faces her house. That chair was real, only I came across it while hiking in Vermont (it wasn’t actually facing anyone’s house). At the time, the chair intrigued me so I snapped a photo. It wasn’t until later that I realized it would make a haunting opening to a novel.

My family recently moved from Pennsylvania to Vermont. I travel back and forth to Pennsylvania regularly now, a five-hour car ride that’s become second nature.

While I often find myself looking forward to the journey because it offers time in my head to explore ideas, there’s risk in retracing a well-worn path. To keep it fresh, I make a point of looking for something new every time I go.

A few weeks ago, during the leg of the drive that winds through upstate New York, I saw a man walking along a lake on a lonely stretch of road. Dusk was just beginning to fall, and he cast a long shadow on pitted pavement.  I couldn’t stop to take my customary photo, but the image stayed with me—and it’ll be the basis for Greenhouse Mystery number five.

HANK: Oh, I can’t wait to hear about it!

And you know, the say there are only two plots. One, a person goes on a journey. Two:  a stranger comes to town.  And, thinking about hat, that’s the same story. From different points of view. Hmm.

So Reds, if someone was walking down YOUR street, what interesting thing might they see? Hmm I see a big hedge that--overnight—was run into and smashed by…something. There’s a story, right?

How about outside your window?  And—have you ever used a Eurail pass? I always thought that was the coolest thing.

And what's your favorite book about a journey?

Wendy Tyson's background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.


Megan Sawyer is determined to farm year-round. So much so that she braves a December snowstorm to pitch her fresh greenhouse greens to Philadelphia chefs. And then she sees a stranger stranded on the side of the road. But this woman is no stranger to Winsome. It’s Becca Fox. A love chemist (you read that right). She’s headed to her aunt’s house to sell her love potions at holiday events.  Or so Becca thinks.

Her sneaky aunt only invited Becca home to reunite her with her estranged father. It sounds noble and kind-hearted, until the man ends up dead.  Megan soon finds herself in the middle. She realizes Becca’s not the only one getting iced over. Megan’s own aunt, the famous mystery author, is dragged into the drama. Now it’s personal. Our Megan must follow a cryptic trail of literary clues, all while sifting through the victim’s sordid past. As she gets closer to the truth...the murderer gets closer to her.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017


RHYS BOWEN: Today I'm delighted to host a good friend, Kate Carlisle. I'm sure she needs no introduction to those of us who love cozier mysteries. Kate and I share a publisher and an agent and seem to wind up doing events together, so I thought it would be a great idea to have her on Jungle Red with her suggestions for holiday gifts. 

How is it that the holidays—dates fixed well in advance—always manage to sneak up on me?! I've had a deadline looming, which is always a good excuse for neglecting to pay attention to every other date on the calendar. Yet somehow, despite my inattention, Christmas is right around the corner. And as my Jewish friends know, Hanukkah is already upon us.

In case you're scrambling like I am, I present you with a few Gift Ideas for Mystery Lovers. Or if there's something on this list that you'd like to unwrap, share this post with someone who might be looking for gift ideas for you.

A Handmade Mystery Charm Bracelet


Etsy is a great website for getting clever gifts you can't find anywhere else. One word of caution, though: if you're intent on committing a crime, this bracelet will give you away every time. It's going to be a little jingly.

A Mystery T-shirt

This T-shirt featuring the late, great Edgar Allan Poe would be a conversation starter, for sure—which could be a bad thing, if people keep interrupting you while you're trying to read!

A Murder Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle

A story and a jigsaw puzzle that helps you solve the crime—fun for a couple to do together!

A Mystery Novel—or two—or three—or more!

What a great gift books are—hours of entertainment in a convenient little package! If you've missed one or more of these books, then let your loved ones know which titles so they can get you something you really want. And be sure to check out all the other books by the Jungle Red Writers.

At the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour in Lighthouse Cove, the competition is about to turn deadly....

Contractor Shannon is in high demand among rival homeowners, who will do anything to win Best in Show. One-upmanship and even espionage break out among neighbors. When a body is discovered at one of her home sites, Shannon must nail down the details and build a case against the killer before the door shuts on someone else—for good.

Following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, private detective Molly Murphy Sullivan and her husband, Daniel, are invited for Christmas at a mansion on the Hudson, and they gratefully accept, expecting a peaceful and relaxing holiday season. Not long after they arrive, however, they learn that the hosts' daughter wandered out into the snow ten years ago and was never seen again. But Molly slowly begins to suspect that the occupants of the house know more than they are letting on. Then, on Christmas Eve, there is a knock at the door and a young girl stands there. “I’m Charlotte,” she says. “I’ve come home.”


In the latest Library Lover’s Mystery, the library’s big fund-raiser leaves director Lindsey Norris booked for trouble

Lindsey Norris and her staff are gearing up for the Briar Creek Library’s annual Dinner in the Stacks fund-raiser. But the night of the fund-raiser, Lindsey finds Paula, one of her employees, crouched over the villainous library board president's dead body. As the plot thickens, Lindsey must catch the real killer before the book closes on Paula’s future . . .

A middle-of-the-night call wakes Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her husband, Police Chief Russ van Alstyne: a farmhouse has erupted in flames, killing the couple sleeping indoors – and their eight-year-old foster child, Mikayla, has disappeared from the wreckage without a trace. A recent transplant recipient, Mikayla will sicken and die without proper medication.

Can anyone unpick the trail that leads to Mikayla before her days come to an end?

Wishing you peace, love, and lots of time to read this holiday season!

What books are on your wish list this year? Are you giving books, as well?