Sunday, December 30, 2007


It is not good enough for things to be planned - they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation.”
--Walt Kelly

”Our intention creates our reality.”
--Wayne Dyer

”All that counts in life is intention.”
--Andrea Bocelli

"Before you agree to do anything that might add even the smallest amount of stress to your life, ask yourself: What is my truest intention? Give yourself time to let a yes resound within you. When it's right, I guarantee that your entire body will feel it.”

--Oprah Winfrey

So--we know you've been thinking about it--what are your resolutions for 2000 gulp 8?

ROBERTA: I hereby resolve to leave enough time that isn't filled with busywork so if an idea comes up, I might notice it!

JAN: I hereby resolve to FINISH my latest book this MONTH and to STOP wasting so much time on the Internet. I also hereby resolve for my next project to find a story that desperately needs to be told.

HANK: I hereby resolve to stop worrying and just do it, whatever it is. And to figure out what to do with all my collection of sloganed tshirts so they're not just stacked to the ceiling on the shelf of the guest room closet. (Okay, it;s a silly resolution. But there are a lot of tshirts.) And to answer emails faster, not just read them all for the instant gratification, then mark them to answer later which then leaves me with an impossibly long to-do list. And to continue to remember how lucky I am.

HALLIE: I hereby resolve to strike a balance between 1) reading, writing, teaching, and promoting the book I have coming out in '08 (1001 Books for Every Mood)...and 2) enjoying life and the people I love. Sappy, I know, but there you are.

RO: Will someone please remind me of this resolution in March when I'm tearing out my hair? I hereby resolve to stay focused on wrapping up book two and not let myself volunteer for anything else until it's done. (I've already committed to spending a week in El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity so that doesn't count, but that's it. Nothing else. I mean it.)

HANK: Ro, your hair is gorgeous and you would never tear it out.

ROBERTA, HANK, HALLIE, JAN AND ROSEMARY: Happy New Year to all! And let us know your resolutions, okay? We promise NOT to remind you of them later!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


And a one
And a two
And a-
All together now!

Follow the little bouncing ball..
**Mitch Miller

HANK: Last year, about his time, I was deep into revisions. In order to prevent myself from actually working, I decided (as any of us would) to write new words to an old song. The revisions were fine, and now just a fond memory. The book will be out next year, if all goes as planned. But the song? Well, it's almost New Year's Eve so what better time to wrap up the holidays. Let's do a little Jungle Red caroling!

On the first day of revisions, my editor said to me:
A partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the second day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Write a little faster
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the third day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Try to use some humor
Write a little faster
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the fourth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Make your chapters shorter
Try to use some humor
Write a little faster
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the fifth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.
On the sixth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the seventh day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Seven chapters bore me
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the eighth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Eight titles vetoed
Seven chapters bore me
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the ninth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Nine new characters needed
Eight titles vetoed
Seven chapters bore me
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the tenth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Ten motivations missing
Nine new characters needed
Eight titles vetoed
Seven chapters bore me
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Eleven conflicts iffy
Ten motivations missing
Nine new characters needed
Eight titles vetoed
Seven chapters bore me
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of revisions, my editor said to me:
Twelve months til the sequel
Eleven conflicts iffy
Ten motivations missing
Nine more characters needed
Eight titles vetoed
Seven chapters bore me
Six weeks til deadline
Find a better plot!
Make your chapters shorter
Write a little faster
Try to use some humor
And a partridge wouldn’t like a pear tree.

ROBERTA: Love the song Hank. But I'd still much rather revise than write that dratted first draft!

HANK: Oh, I actually love revisions. Not that you'd know it from the song. But let's see, maybe I should write a first draft song. Or better, a synopsis song.

To the tune of MARIA:

I still have to write my synopsis
But not one useful word
Or sentence has occured
To me....

Okay, sing along! Anyone???

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Someday soon, we all will be together,

If the fates allow

Hang your brightest star above the highest bough..

HANK: I'm a sap. And I embrace it. That song always make me teary, and it's not only because I'm often wrapping presents on Christmas Eve. My pals know to expect New Years cards. It's not because I'm Jewish, it's more because I'm behind.

At the urging of my siblings and me, my family actually celebrated every holiday you could get presents for. My mom drew the line at live Easter chicks, as any wise mom would do. But otherwise, we attempted to cash in at every opportunity.

One year, though, when I had just turned 16, my mom drew the line. We're Jewish, she said. No more Christmas trees. Which seems logical now, but didn't, then. My sibs were 14, 10, 9 and 8. And I knew they wanted a tree.

I had just gotten my driver's license, so The Night Before Not-Christmas, my sister Nina and I said we were going to the movies. We took the car, and we did go to the movies. But just to the concession stand. We got popcorn. Then we went to the grocery, the A and P, and got cranberries. And we also purchased the last of the scrawny old Christmas trees, not even good enough to be a Charlie Brown tree.

We hid the tree behind our barn, then scurried upstairs with our popcorn and cranberries, and stayed up for hours stringing them. (Is there a trick to this, by the way? The cranberries got very mushy.)

Then late late late, we sneaked outside and brought in the tree. Everyone else was, um, snug in their beds. We set it up, and decorated it, and put the presents underneath it. (Oh yeah, we still had presents. It was just the tree that was prohibited. Go figure.) Anyway, all finished, we scampered back upstairs.

The next morning--we got up early early as usual, and hid in the living room. It worked perfectly. We got to see the shocked and surprised looks on our parents faces. "Santa came!" Mom said. (And I guess that's how they felt when they saw our faces as little kids.) And to this day we still remember "the year without the tree."

Memories, anyone?

RO: My gosh, that sounds wonderful. Christmas Eve was always the big celebration in my family - the day itself was anti-climactic. On Christmas Eve we'd all gather at Grandma's house - my mother was one of eight, so I have a zillion cousins, and yes, being Italian, most of the males are named Anthony, or some version.

(It's even more complicated now that one cousin Pam, whose father was Anthony, and who has a sister named Toni, has married a Tony, and they have a son named Anthony. Another cousin Anthony had a son named Anthony and he married a Pam.)
Anyway my grandmother would make an antipasto that was a work of art, and god help you if you picked at anything before everyone saw it. She also prepared seven different types of fish, it's a Neapolitan thing, including bacala, which we kids never touched.

My mother would make zeppole and struffoli, two of the most fattening things on the planet. It was an orgy of eating.

There was always one aunt who gave great presents, and another who gave us all the same thing - usually a boring, practical gift like an umbrella, which is the last thing you want when you're seven - so after the first cousin opened his gift, we all knew what we got, and had to fake being excited. Other than that, it was big fun...and I still make struffoli.

So did you have an official tree the next year?

HANK: You know, I think we didn't. I was a senior in high school, then, way too cool for such things. Nina was probably on a date. The other kinds were older. And way too knowledgeable for such things. As will happen. Which makes it all the sweeter. I'm off to look up struffoli.

ROBERTA: Oh my gosh, I wish I'd been at Ro's house for Christmas Eve! Especially that antipasto! I can't even remember what we ate CE, because my mother was busy shopping for stocking stuffers. We were all crazy for stockings. She'd go out the day before Christmas to Two Guys, a discount store that must have been insanely busy, just to be sure each stocking was crammed to the top. My aunt had knitted all of us a two-footer with our names on it, plus Santa's head with an actual fuzzy white beard, leaping reindeer, and so on. It's hanging up by the chimney with care right now!

JAN: Once I heard about the seven fish dinner, I wanted to be Italian. The half-Polish, half-Irish thing didn't many Christmas rituals, except that we always had to have Kielbasa and horse radish on little rye breads for every holiday. (Luckily, the horrible Irish food was reserved for St. Patrick's Day.) Probably my best Christmas memory is just after college. My room-mate Beth was Jewish, with limited Christmas experience, so I got this inspiration to fill a stocking full of little presents for her. She was so tickled by this that the next year, she handknitted me a stocking with my name on it.I still hang that stocking by the chimney and for years, Beth and I exchanged stocking stuffers for Christmas. Once we had kids, we made Christmas ornaments together. We still have them and put them up on the tree.

HALLIE: The thing I remember most fondly about Christmas, growing up in Los Angeles, was the night BEFORE the night before Christmas, going out to bag a tree. Every year, my mother would beg my father to bring home a small tree, just about this tall (her size). We'd pile into the family wagon and cruise through Westwood and Santa Monica where, on vacant street corner lots (there were such things back in the olden days), the tree vendors would be set up for the season. We'd hold our noses at the pink Christmas trees, the silver ones, and the ones laden with fake snow (did the rest of the world have those back then?). Invariably we'd be drawn to the monster trees (what was usually left by that late date) and my father would haggle and we'd all have to squeeze in the front seat for the drive home because the tree would take up the whole back of the wagon, filling the car with that lovely pine smell. And when we got home my mother got her person-sized tree, because that was about the size of the top my father had to cut off to get the thing into the house.

HANK: Yes, decorating the tree is another whole blog. There was the year Mom wanted all red bows. Then we'd all sneak on our favorite ornaments, just one, and eventually the red bows were overtaken by the family treasures.

So--how about you? Traditions and memories? Did you put out milk and cookies? Read The Night Before Christmas? Hang stockings? Make struffoli?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tagged #5

HANK: Okay, I'm "it" now. SO here are my seven things. And, then, to complete our assigned task--we get to tag seven more people to tell all. I have a lot more things I could tell. But I only get seven. Lucky you.

1. I'm probably a workaholic. I never take all the vacation days I'm allotted. I think about work--TV reporter and writing my books--much more than I think about anything else. Sometimes I'll realize I've just stopped talking in the middle of a conversation, because something gave me a good idea, and I'm suddenly in another world.

2. I'm ridiculously competitive and I like to win. Charades, Monopoly, Celebrity, Trivial Pursuit. I won't play Scrabble with my husband any more, because he beats me. I almost got all the badges in Girl Scouts, but I couldn't figure out a way to get "Beekeeper"without being around bees. It was all I could do to let my 4 and a half year old grandson beat me at Fish. And even then I thought Eli should learn about losing. I even like to take standardized tests.

3. I stink at sports. You name it, I stink at it. Tennis. Skiing. Softball. Swimming. Whatever other stuff people all do. I'm terrible. (This is where my competitive streak disappears.) Okay, I'm a pretty good softball pitcher, but I can't bat or catch. Not much call for such specialized playing.

4. I kind of do have, um, ESP. From time to time. Or whatever you call it. I saved someone's life when they tried to kill themselves. I was home. I sat up and thought, oh no. He's in trouble. I called. No answer. I beeped. No answer. I called a neighbor. They called the ambulance. He had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. Another time I had a boyfriend. I was home. He was at his house. I thought: oh no. I called him. No answer. I called his sister. He had been taken to the hospital with a ruptured appendix.
Less dramatic stuff happens all the time. But not always.

5. I can wake myself up at any time with some sort of internal alarm clock. I don't totally rely on it because you never know when this kind of thing is going to stop working. But if I tell myself: I'm going to sleep now, I want to wake up at 7:35 in the morning, I will. On the dot.

6. I'm kind of superstitious about some things. Walking under a ladder, why do it? Throwing spilled salt, why not? Rabbit rabbit, yup. Hat on bed? nope. I kind of like Friday the 13th though. Plus, I believe in life on other planets. And possibly time travel.

7. I don't go to sad movies. I haven't seen Steel Magnolias, or Beaches, or Terms of Endearment. I start crying instantly, within ten minutes, because it's so clear to me what the ending is destined to be. The first movie my husband and I saw together was Sling Blade. Which I hadn't known was touching and emotional.
Few minutes in, I started sniffling. It was obvious this movie was on the path to be devastating. My husband-to-be leaned over and said--"do you have a cold?"
I whispered, "No, I'm crying."
He was baffled. "It's not sad," he said.
"I know," I replied. "But it's going to be sad."

NOW! Nancy Pickard tagged us. So that means we can do it, too. Jungle Red writers tag:

The Femmes Fatales
The Plot Monkeys
Poe's Deadly Daughters
Cathy Cairns
Robin Agnew

You guys are it. And lest you forget, here are the "rules."

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

(Okay, I'll admit it. I was actually kind of fun.)

Did any of us surprise you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tagged: Part 4

Mr. Daruma Fell Down (A Japanese Game of Tag)
How to play the game
First, the person who is 'it' (the tagger) yells to other children, "Mr. Daruma fell down!" When the tagger yells, the other children run away. Then he turns his back to them. Next he calls out again, "Mr. Daruma fell down!" After that, he turns around and looks for the other children because he has to catch them.
When a child moves and is caught, he has to go to jail. The other children have to get close to the tagger and hit his back; however, they cannot move when the tagger looks at them.
Therefore, they have to run as fast as possible while the tagger's back is turned and he is yelling, "Mr. Daruma fell down!" Whenever a child hits the tagger's back, other children can escape from the jail.
When the tagger catches all but one child, the game is almost over. In that part, the tagger is given many chances to catch the child because he can yell quickly.
When the tagger has tagged everyone, a new game starts. Then, a new tagger is selected by a finger-flashing game.

I just though this sounded fun..yelling "Mr. Daruma fell down!" I would have played this a lot when I was a kid, although the part about the finger-flashing at the end sounds suspiciously like something we used to do back in Brooklyn usually while driving and passing slower vehicles.

Ro’s Stats

1.I weight train with a NYC fireman.
2.I’ve made it to the top of Kilimanjaro.
3.Pushing Up Daisies is the first thing I ever wrote for publication.
4.I sat in a limo with Bill Clinton when he was President
5.I own over 300 cookie cutters
6.My garden was featured in Connecticut Magazine
7. I kissed Pete Townsend once.

My little twist on this? One item is false, can you figure out which one?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tagged Three

"Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools..." Aretha Franklin

Tagged by Nancy Pickard, I'm number three on the list, followed by Ro and Hank, who all must tell seven facts about themselves.

Here are Jan's facts.

1. Unlike Hallie, I've never wanted to be a torch singer, and cleavage just seemed too big of a dream, but I've actually sung before a crowd of one thousand, a solo even, a couple of times, although not an entire song. I did this without fear, oddly enough. But that's because all the performers were all newspaper reporters and the crowd (At the annual Providence Journal Follies) had low expectations.

2. I ran away from home once -- at about age fourteen -- by ripping my bed sheet in half, tying it together to make a rope, and shimmying down from my second story window. I stayed away for three days. My poor parents.

3. I am the youngest of four. The three older being brothers. This means that unlike Roberta, I could not be bossy. No one would have listened to me if I tried. I also never understand when people are sensitive to "being told what to do." You can always just ignore anyone bossing you around. That's how you survive when you are the youngest.

4. I spent more than twenty years struggling with a very severe plane phobia. I tried hypnosis, desensitization, cognitive behavioral therapy, dry martinis, and all sorts of prescribed drugs. I finally conquered the phobia two years ago. I now fly all the time! Yeah me!

5. I play tennis five times a week. I also play acoustic guitar. Both involve equipment that demands regular restringing. Also a fifteen-minute warm up before you are any good.

6. I'm almost five feet ten. I started smoking cigarettes at thirteen because they warned it would stunt growth. I actually think it worked. My brothers were 6'6'' 6'4'' and 6'2''.

(I quit in my twenties)

7. I would have loved to have met Marilyn Monroe, but hey, I did interview Patty Duke once. You could tell she had been an actress from a very young age.

Tagged - 2

Here are Hallie's facts. Jan, Ro, and Hank will come later this week! And our mystery taggees will be announced on "Anything can happen day!" (See Roberta's post below for the rules.)

1. I have beautiful indoor plants. The secret: when one dies, throw it away and buy a new one.
2. I won the horseback riding trophy when I was 12 at summer camp.
3. My secret ambition has always been to be a torch singer...and have cleavage.
4. I've read all the Oz books, the Nancy Drew books, and the Harry Potter books.
5. I'm a Trekkie. 6. I met Marilyn Monroe.
7. I hate writing. I LOVE having written.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


"Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools..." Aretha Franklin

[SORRY - We lost all the wonderful comments when this got edited...]

Doggone Nancy Pickard has tagged the Jungle Red Writers for the blog equivalent of a chain letter.

Here are the rules, she said glumly:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.

2) Share 7 facts about yourself.

3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.

4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

And so here are Roberta's facts. Hallie, Jan, Ro, and Hank will come later this week! And our mystery taggees will be announced on "Anything can happen day!"

1. I despise chain letters. I don't care what you threaten me with--plague, tanking sales, loss of love--I refuse to pass them on. The only reason I'm going along with this is that we adore Nancy. And Hank was so darned excited about being tagged--who could resist?

2. I'm the second of four in my family, but people say I act like I'm first. In Hallie's terms, I suppose that means I'm bossy.

3. I once made an appointment and paid big bucks to visit a hand-reading expert in Tennessee. I still remember him telling me I'd be married twice, the second time to the love of my life. He was right!

4. I love taking lessons. Right now Tonka the wonder dog and I are attending agility classes together. This teacher is going so slowly that I may have my lesson-craving satisfied for the rest of my life before we ever get ready to compete.

5. I did not make the cut for cheerleading in high school. I did, however, nab a spot on Highlander dancing team for the all-girl bagpipe band.

6. I used to sew my own clothes. Now people in my house are lucky if they can get a button replaced.

7. I love groups of women working together. Did you read the style section of the NY Times a couple weeks ago about the woman who'd had a bad experience in her sorority and avoided women ever since? I feel really sorry for her.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Perfectionism

Both the artist and the lover know that perfection is not loveable. It is the clumsiness of a fault that makes a person loveable.

Joseph Campbell

JAN: All I can say, is THANK GOD, because perfection is so far from my personality type, it's never, ever been an objective.I used to worry about that because achievement is about exceeding expections. Without only the highest expectations, how can you achieve excellence? Then I worked with an editor who was a sweetheart, but a perfectionist. He actually wrecked pretty much every article he got his hands on because he wanted it to be perfect. In the news biz, that meant answering every question. When I moved to a larger newspaper and I worked with a new editor for the first time, he said to me: "Jeez, I've never actually said this to a reporter before, but you have too many facts in here. Too much information."

You see, when an article tries to answer every question it becomes dense and unreadable. In fact, it loses its focus.

This provided three lessons that I found valuable in fiction writing. The first was: readers can only absorb so much information at once. Throw too much into a paragraph and no one gets anything from it. The second was that if you strive for perfection, you may not see the forest from the trees. And the third was that if you try to please every reader, you will please no one.

Personally, I haven't so much as struggled with perfection, as discovered my justification in not being a perfectionist. But I'm wondering, have any of you struggled with perfectionism? And what have you learned from the battle? Or do you have a completely different take on its value?

RO: I certainly don't strive for perfection in my writing. I'm hoping to be entertaining, pure and simple. In other, smaller areas, I sometimes try. I'm frequently disappointed but I keep trying. Examples? The perfect flower arrangement..I can happily try 8 or 9 vases before settling on the right one. I have been known to move cooked cranberries or blueberries with a toothpick to make the perfect arrangement in a tart. I've just about stopped making tart tatin because I can never get the apple slices to fan out perfectly.Roberta, have I just revealed a deep neurosis to the entire blogosphere?

ROBERTA: Ro, yes. But they probably already had that figured out:). I would so not move fruit with a toothpick in a tart. But I would worry about choosing the perfect words, all while knowing that isn't possible either! I think I've learned a lot from being in a writers' group. On the nights when I've sent chapters to be read ahead of time, I remind myself that I'm just going to listen to all the comments, take notes, ask questions, and otherwise keep my yap shut.

I think there's such a continuum of perfectionism--my family thinks I'm a nut about the house. Whereas I can practically see my neighbor's eyes bulge out when she stops over--dog hair everywhere, piles of shoes, stacks of mail...

Did anyone read the Science Times article on perfectionism this week? Interesting stuff:

JAN: Yes, it says perfectionism is at the root of many mental illnesses, including depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. So I'm feeling much better about being a slacker

HALLIE: I am so NOT a perfectionist, but I do know how to cut corners. Back in the day when I crocheted, I started an afghan and it ended up being a perfectly adorable pocketbook. I once watched Martha Stewart, the Princess of Perfection, ice a wedding cake and got inspired to try a recipe for a 12-layer dobos torte (12 thin cake layers, each baked on the BACK of a cake pan; mocha butter cream filling; a glaze of cramelized sugar on top.) Mine ended up with only 5, albeit delicious layers. It doesn't have to be perfect--adorable and delicious is good enough.

HANK: Yes, I'm the last to add. And it's just about deadline moment. And I was asking myself why I had waited til the last minute to post. Well, I wanted to think of the perfect thing to say, I replied.

And this internal dialogue happened with no sense of the irony involved.

Perfectionism is a truly complicated need. I'm a TV reporter of course. So I have worked for the past 30 years knowing I can NEVER make a mistake. Never be one minute late. Actually, not one SECOND late. Never choose the wrong word, never call someone by the wrong name, never make a math error, never have a bad hair day. You try that, and see if it doesn't make you a little crazy. And of course, to have chosen a profession where perfection is required, also may put me in some DSM-4 category that we will leave un-named.

But it does certainly carry over into my regular life. My holiday presents are wrapped beautifully. Moving a cranberry in a tart, as Rosemary described? Of course. I have discarded out-going mail envelopes because I put the stamps on crooked, or if I decided someone might think I was making some sort of a statement by my choice of stamps.

I could go on here, but I see you all shaking your heads. And hey,I can let go. It does not carry over into all realms. Don't even look in my dresser drawers. Or kitchen drawers. (I, too, have stacks. Of magazines. What's the 'perfect' thing to do with the ones you haven't read but might?)

But as I get happier, my need for perfection diminishes. (What can we learn from this?)

And when it comes to writing. You know, the sense of "perfection" is kind of--different. I's a sense of "right"-ness. For me, not for others. When it feels right, you know it. And that's a fun journey, not a struggle for perfection.
How do you know if you're pushing too hard?

JAN: I think we've nailed this topic, PERFECTLY, so to speak. And now that you all know I don't struggle with perfectionism, check in on Friday, when I reveal that I struggle with caramelism. Yes that's making home-made caramels for the holidays --at the last minute of course. A mental illness all its own.

Friday, December 7, 2007

On Surprises

Today is a day that is filled with surprises,

Nobody knows what's gonna happen.

Why, you might find yourself on an elephant on the moon

Or riding in an auto underneath a blue lagoon.

Yes, we Mouseketeers think you're gonna have some thrills,

And you know it's true that a laugh can cure your ills.

And so, if you're pleasure bent, we are glad to present

The Mouseketeers' "Anything Can Happen Day"!

**Jimmy Dodd

On the original Mickey Mouse Club--if you remember and please say you do--it was Wednesday. On "Anything Can Happen Day." Mickey flew on stage on a magic carpet wearing his sorcerer's robe and hat. The Mouseketeers wore different costumes since anything could happen.

We tried to get Roberta, and the newest Mouseke--I mean, Jungle Red Writer--to wear a costume today, and she flat out refused. Rosemary is pulling up her dahlia tubers (or whatever they are), Hallie is reading the newest crime fiction and Jan won't reveal what she's doing. So since I'm supposed to be at work and since I'm the reporter--here's the scoop.

Fridays will now be Anything Can Happen Day at Jungle Red. Okay, today what's happening is the announcement of anything can happen day, which isn't so wild and crazy, I know, but you didn't expect it, right?

So from now on, every Friday, we'll have someting new. Different. Unexpected and unpredictable. (Actually that's what Jan is doing now. Cooking up next Friday's surprise.)

It could be: free books. Free verse. A contest. A protest. A rant or a rave. A special guest. Or the dishy scoop on something new. We'll give you hints and allegations in the comments during the week--so keep in touch. You may want to contribute or cash in.
Monday, come back to join our usual Monday chat. (I know, on the Mouse Club, Mondays was Fun with Music day. Hey. Just be grateful we ain't gonna sing. (We're more about--signing. Books, that is.)
(I was going to put a cute drawing of Mickey Mouse here, but it's probably some horrific copyright violation. So--imagine the Mouse.)
Now back to our regular programming...and go buy Roberta's new book!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On Roberta

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.
**Girl Scout camp song

Now we are five!
Jungle Red gets a fabulous holiday gift. (You've probably noticed our snazzy new look.) (And her snazzy new book!)

Roberta Isleib--sister in crime extraordinaire and beyond--successful mystery writer has slid down our chimney (am I pushing the metaphor here? Plus, is she too lady-like for that?) and agreed to sign on as a Jungle Red Writer. We have issued her a bottle of our special blazingly crimson nail polish, and given her our secret code book. (We have not yet told her about the initiation rites, but that can wait.)

I first met Roberta at Kate's Mystery Books--I think it was at the signing for Hallie's "How to Write and Sell.." How meta can you get. Anyway,I was new new new, and a huge fan, and just agog to meet her. She was charming and gracious and made me feel right at home.

(This wasn't that day. But it's another day at Kate's. Good
enough. That's me, Ro-2, Ruth McCarty (new pres of SINC-NE) behind Hallie, and Cathy Cairns (out-going pres of SINC-NE. But she's not going far away, of course. But. I digress.)

So now, please note, her lovely photo has been added to our row of smiling faces, and you can click right over to her website. And click to buy her books. But wait. Not yet. First..let's get the scoop on the Jungle Red Ro. Or, I guess, she's Jungle Red Ro-2.

HANK: So, Roberta. You're president of National Sisters in Crime. One of the best-known mystery authors in the country. You have a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, many many pals and an extremely cute dog. How much do you think about crime and death?

ROBERTA: Hank, you were agog? You crack me up! I'm so excited to be part of Jungle Red--you girls are the cream of the crop in mystery fiction! Now on to the question...
What a lovely way of asking how come a nice middle-aged lady has killed off so many people! Knock wood, I haven't been the victim of a crime other than the five times my radio was stolen out of the same car. I could have murdered someone around broken window #4. As far as solving crimes, I'm not a brave person. If a burly cop growled at me to butt out of a crime scene, you'd see me sprinting as fast as my short legs could take me.

All that said, when I'm working on a book, of course I spend a lot of my day thinking about crime and death--who was murdered, who did it and why, how's my psychologist going to solve it. I try to consciously remind myself that the characters are dealing with a death that is real to them--an event that would feel scary and upsetting. I don't want to leave a group of cardboard cut-outs on the pages.

HANK: Preaching to the Corpse is coming out December 4--just in time for the holidays! And reveiwers are loving it. One said: "Preaching to the Corpse is a fun holiday mystery with a heroine who will easily win new fans and keep old fans well satisfied."
And some of your "old fans" also loved your Cassie Burdette golf mysteries. Talk a bit about starting with one main character and her world--then switching to another. How did your brain handle that?
ROBERTA: I did what I always do when faced with change: I kicked and screamed and said "no way!" But keeping Cassie going wasn't really an option. The publisher had suggested they'd "like to see something new", a polite way of saying the golf series wasn't selling well enough to support more books. After a couple of weeks of deep depression over losing Cassie, I was able to start thinking about a new adventure. And I love writing this new series. The work of a psychologist is right up my alley. And my new character adores cooking and eating, so I eat right along with her. Actually Hallie is my cooking muse. You haven't lived until you've had her roast chicken and gravy...

(HANK: Oh, we're all going there for roast chicken dinner next week to celebrate your arrival. We just have to tell Hallie. La dee dah.)

JAN: I think the idea of advice columnist as protagonist is terrific. I can just imagine the crazy letters real advice columnists get. How did you come up with this idea and how much of your own experience as a psychologist are were you able to draw on?

ROBERTA: I can't remember the "aha" moment, but I've always loved reading those columns--I'm an advice junkie. The kind of therapy that I did (and that Rebecca does now) involves biting your tongue when the urge to give advice arises. The idea is rather to help the patient explore what's inside and then life decisions evolve from that knowledge. So giving advice without a lot of data and introspection is just good fun! The trick for me as writer is to avoid having the column turn into a gimmick and try to integrate it naturally into the story.

HALLIE: **The idea is rather to help the patient explore what's inside and then life decisions evolve from that knowledge.** This is why you're a psychologist and I'm not -- I want to scream "You did WHAT?!" and shake the person until their head flops back and forth. And I happen to know that you have your own streak of bossiness that quite matches my own. Did you have to watch that in writing Rebecca Butterman?

ROBERTA: Ha, ha, what me, bossy?? I channeled all of that stuff into my home life so Rebecca could be sympathetic. Just ask the family!

HANK: Okay, we'll get right on the phone with them and we'll let you know the bossy verdict. (Rosemary Harris is in Africa right she'll weigh in later. With questions. Not about Ro-2 being bossy. Or not.)

ROBERTA: Oh you'll find out first hand soon enough!! Really, it's an honor to be here and I'm looking forward to all kinds of conversations. Just don't expect me down the chimney--I've already had a few too many holiday treats to make it a comfortable fit...

HANK: We're all thrilled! And happily, Jungle Red readers, Roberta is ready to answer questions from you! Need advice? On anything?? Now you know exactly who to ask.

And she would never do it herself--that's what sisters are for--so remember to look for PREACHING TO THE CORPSE in your favorite bookstore or on line! Having trouble finding it? That shouldn't happen--but just visit us here at JR and we can point you in the right direction.

Now--Roberta is ready for questions!