Sunday, April 27, 2008

Agatha Award Winner Hank Phillippi Ryan!

Three cheers for JRW's own Hank who was awarded the coveted Malice Domestic teapot this weekend for Best First Mystery. Hurray!!!

RO: This week is the equivalent of Oscars week in the mystery community. We couldn't be more thrilled for our own Hank who faced tough competition from Deanna Raybourn, Beth Groundwater, and Charles Finch but snagged the Agatha for Prime Time!

Malice Domestic has just wrapped up, Mary Alice Gorman's Festival of Mystery is tonight and by the time my driving buddy, Liz Zelvin, and I roll into New York it will be time for the Edgars.
Malice will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first mystery convention and they say you never forget your first. Typical New Yorker, I went to breakfast on Friday with my Ipod and a newspaper - which I never read or listened to because of the chatty Pari Noskin Taichert who was sitting next to me and must have thought I looked lonely so she decided to introduce me to Patsy from Remember the Alibi and a few other folks who stopped by to say hello and then moved on. If you haven't been, Malice is that kind of show - lots of friendly people, fun panels, and yes, there's the bar. No men in g-strings or chaps like the Romance show (uh, at least I didn't see any...Hank?) but maybe we can talk to the organizers about that for next year!

HALLIE: Today I'm at the wonderful Mystery Lovers Bookshop's 13th! (a lucky number in the mystery world) annual Festival of Mystery. It's one of my all time favorite events ever, and Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman are THE BEST FRIENDS of the mystery writing community.
My first mystery event was the big enchilada, Bouchercon in Denver back in...could it be 2001? I took a van to the hotel from the airport and shared it with two delightful librarians from Wisconsin. I still remember the huge red rolling suitcases they had--they told me it was filled with books they were going to get signed. I knew then that I'd died and gone to heaven.

ROBERTA: I am JUST back from Malice. I think my first appearance there was in 2000, before I was published. It's so much more fun now--full of meeting with old friends, making new ones, and Sisters in Crime business. We were so thrilled to see Hank accept her teapot for best first mystery!!! A perfect conclusion...

Ro: Jan...we MISSED you, Hallie, see you later and Hank....way to go!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


ROBERTA: Now I'm going to whisk you around Friday night's vampire ball--it truly was amazing! Top left: See if you recognize two rather well-known mystery writers, Harley Jane Kozak and Alexandra Sokolof--I sure didn't! Top right: The ball brought out the "fangs" in fellow author Shane Gericke, pictured with our own Hank and Lisa Daily. The others are random costumes that I loved! Now Hank and Ro and I are off to Malice Domestic and Hallie to Ohio. I think Jan is in charge of holding the JR fort. Have a great weekend and don't forget to add a comment to be entered into the t-shirt drawing...

You really had to be there: Romantic Times part 2

Sorry this is a lousy picture, but I was sneaking a shot of the candidates for Mr. Romance 2008. You get the idea...Rumor had it that one of the candidates had to be carried off in a gurney once he got the news that he didn't win the title! To the right are Lori Avocato and me, posing with CJ, a long-time Romance novel cover model. You just don't see this kind of thing at Malice Domestic!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are.”

ROBERTA: Almost eight books into my mystery-writing career, I’ve lost count of the mystery conferences and conventions I’ve attended. I certainly won’t forget my first, the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Milwaukee in 1999. I knew absolutely no one, and my timidity was just barely outdistanced by a fierce desire to get my book published. So I forced myself to leave my hotel room to listen to panel discussions and try to meet other authors, publishers, and agents.

Since then I’ve traveled across the country to Malice Domestic, Bouchercons as far away as Alaska, Left Coast Crimes in California, Arizona, and Colorado, Sleuthfests in Florida, Crime Bakes in Massachusetts…After a while, the events take on a familiar rhythm: Appear on panels, attend banquets, sign books, schmooze with writing pals and publishing professionals, greet fans.

Then my buddy Lori Avocato persuaded me to burst out of that mystery rut and try the Romantic Times convention. I joined up with thirteen other mystery types (including our Hank) to form The Mystery Chicks and Private Dix—the zanier the better at Romantic Times. Of course, there were panels about getting published, putting romance in your mystery, and shining on TV. But unlike at our mystery cons, muscled hunks in skimpy t-shirts wandered the halls and the goody tables offered such items as a six-inch felt lobster that was (hint, hint) neither a sock puppet nor a cell phone cover. But best of all were the nightly balls jammed with folks in full costumes—wings, horns, Medusa’s headpiece, lace gowns with plunging cleavage, thigh-high boots, and more. (Lots of pix to come later this week—stay tuned.)

Despite my reservations, I had a great time. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll break out of my rut and pack a suitcase of costumes for the balls! So Jungle Red Writers, what rut have you stepped out of lately and how did it feel?

HALLIE: But it's such a NICE rut...

Actually, I stepped out of my comfort zone a few weeks ago by attending a conference of skeptics--THE AMAZ!NG MEETING International Conference on Applied Critical Thinking. It's run by the James Randi Education Foundation.

There were about 300 of us with the usual panels and banquets and book sales but a much younger and more heterogeneous crowd, at a somewhat down-at-the-heels hotel outside Fort Lauderdale...all the room smelled like smoking rooms. Speakers talked about 911 conspiracy theorists and predatory psychics who prey bereaved parents of missing children. The focus was on activism/how to fight back against pseudo-science. A big split in the group: can we have the same kind of debate over whether God exists that we can over whether explosives brought down the World Trade Towers. It was a decades-old group that's been galvanized to new life with rise of Creationism and the push to bring it into the schools as an "alternate" to the science of evolution, and the religification (my word) of government and public discourse. We can all imagine a Muslim or a Jew or a Born Again Christian running for President...but never an atheist.

The group's founder and guru, magician Amazing (James) Randi, crusading scourge and debunker of psychics and the like, was there indefatigably performing magic tricks and taking part in lively discussions. He's got to be eighty years old and looks like an elfin Gandalf with his long white beard--talk about a great character for a book.

The highlights of the meeting was hanging around with a lot of young people who are passionately engaged in the headier questions of our time and who drink astonishing amounts, and learning a luscious new word: badonkadonk. To amuse myself (and to avoid writing), I've used it indiscriminately to replace words on the first page of my new novel (Authorities yesterday issued a badonkadonk... When I didn't hear from her I knew something was badonkakonk... We're trying to badonkakonk everyone she knew.....)

HANK: My rut? (I'm sure I have stepped out...haven't I? At some point?) But I'm too tired to think of it.Just got off the plane from Pittsburgh and I need a nap. A big big nap. And Roberta was too protective of me to reveal that I was the one who thought the 6-inch felt giraffe I got from the erotica publisher was a cell-phone cover. Badonkadonk!

There's much too much to tell about the conference (more later, we promise, including photos), but I leave you with one vignette:

I'm cranky because my key card to my hotel room keeps getting demagnetized. Not once, not twice, but five times at least. Why why why? I am trying to keep from bursting into tears as I call the hotel security for the fifth time. Are you putting your key card by your cell phone, they keep asking? That'll demagnetize it. No no no, I try not to yell. There's nothing like that.
I'll skip the middle--but just reveal that, turns out, the reason my card was getting demagnetized was that I had attached an adorable Lipstick Chronicles pair of plastic flashing red lips to my name badge. My key card was in the pocket of my name badge. And um, the lips were held on by a, um, magnet.

More to come, including my elevator ride with..wait for it...Fabio.

RO: Wow ee will be tough to follow that act at Malice this weekend. Ball gowns and party dresses? On the rowing machine this morning (rut) I was trying to make the monumental decision which pair of black pants and black shoes (rut) to pack for Malice. I need some Romance in my life!

What rut have I crashed out of lately? Let's see...I've only been a published author for 65 days so I'm not in that rut yet....still like my husband, so that's not it. No longer feel like I have to blow-dry my hair three times a week? That's been pretty liberating...and soooo....badonakonk!

JAN: My rut doesn't have to do with conferences, which I have to admit, still twist my stomach into knots, but writing. I'm writing a screenplay -- something I haven't done in a few years. To refresh myself, I've been reading screenplay writing books -- and I have to tell you, even though its all the same stuff I use in my mystery novel writing -- conscious goal, unconscious goal, midpoint, etc. -- it's somehow inspiring to be thinking about it all again. I'm also merging my journalism background with my suspense writing experience for the first time (the screenplay is based on a true story of a real life murder), and I'm having the time of my life.

ROBERTA: Hallie, it IS a nice rut! Hank, you met Fabio??? Jan, a screenplay--that's so exciting! Ro, I'd like to follow your lead!

By the way, we have Mystery Chix t-shirts to give away to two lucky visitors this week so don’t be shy with your comments...And the person who comes up with a cool give-away like those flashing lips but suitable for Jungle Red Writers gets something cool back...can't tell you what exactly...maybe a badonkakonk...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

You're a Winner!

"You can't win if you don't play."
state lottery advertisement

JAN: I've run a contest on my website ever since I put up a website, but for the first time, one of my contests was advertised on a popular online sweepstaks website and I received hundreds of entrants. Some of these entrants appear to be semi-professional contest enterers. They have screennames like Winsbig or Sweeps5000. This amazes me.

Here's why.I've realized that I'm actually afraid of most contests. In fact, one of the first screenplays I ever wrote was a comedy about a woman whose life was ruined by winning the Downy Flake Donut sweepstakes. And A Confidential Source was about how gambling can ruin your life. So deep down, I clearly have some sort of fear about the consequences of easy money. A Catholic thing? A Polish thing? Who can tell?

But it could also be a journalist thing. Because I've written about so many swindles, I don't trust anyone. I'll buy a raffle at a local fundraiser, but anyone who offers me any kind of prize by mail, phone or Internet, I don't trust. I can't tell you how many three-day cruises to the Bahamas and free IPODS have passed me by. In reality, these people want to sell me a time share or want my email address. What's so horrible about that? Still, I marvel at my fearless entrants. But how about the rest of you? Am I the only sweep-a-phob out there? Or has everyone else won their free laptop, and turned into a real player (pronounced play-AHS if you are in New England)?

RO: The only contest I've entered in recent memory was the Al Blanchard contest, (I didn't win, but the lovely and talented Pat Remick did, so I didn't feel so bad) but other than that, I'm just not the contest type. I don't buy lottery tickets either. I don't want anything, I have too much stuff already.

Now that I think of it, Pat turned me on to the Erma Bombeck humor (writing) contest a couple of years ago. I didn't win that either. That's it. I'm done.

JAN: Well I'm off to print out my list of contest entrants and draw a name from a hat. Although I eschew contests myself, it's awful fun to inform people that they are winners..

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Repeat after me: IN STOCK!

For days after my first book was published I carried it about in my pocket, and took surreptitious peeps at it to make sure that the ink had not faded.
...Sir James M. Barrie

HALLIE: There are those moments, though admittedly few and far between, when you realize that this crazy career is not all smoke and mirrors...

When you cash the check for the advance.
When you get a gander at the book cover.
The first time you hold a copy of your book in your hot little hands.
When you go to a bookstore and actually seeing it on display in the window!
When you're riding on a train (or subway or airplane or...) and there's an actual person, reading your book!
When I see that book you've written for sale on the rack at...not a bookstore, but BJ's!
Or when your daughter calls you from the Dallas airport to say the book is right there, in the airport book stand.

And then there's that moment like today I went to Amazon to see what was up with my new book, 1001 Books for Every Mood (official pub date some time in May) and there it was, IN STOCK! And suddenly what seemed ephemeral feels real.

It's a little like having a baby...because for months you don't think anything is happening other than that you're getting very fat. At least your book will not throw up all over you.

What moments make your journeys feel real?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Laundry

“After enlightenment, the laundry.” Zen Proverb

JAN: I have a good friend who must do laundry every morning because she can't stand the smell of dirty laundry accumulating in her hamper.

I have another good friend who launders her towels after every single use because the idea of them drying on the towel rack illicits frightening fears of mold.

Me? I'm always somewhat surprised that there is any laundry. I did it last week, didn't I? I always feel that I've been hoodwinked, swindled even, to find that its back again, demanding attention.

In fact, until I learned of my friend's hypersensitivity, I wasn't even aware that dirty laundry sitting in a bedroom hamper smelled bad. Certainly not if you keep the top closed and walk past really fast - which is advisable, anyway, if you are trying to ignore it.

I'm one of those people who forgets about the laundry until it's undeniable that the hamper lid isn't going to shut anymore. Then, I engage in what I call the laundry festival. I do about five or six non-stop loads of laundry, and feel a sense of accomplishment as the sorted mounds of dirty clothes on the kitchen floor slowly disappear.

Some might call me a procrastinater, but I like to think that I prefer the satisfaction of solving the major disaster of backed-up laundry, over the minor challenge of keeping up with it.

But I also think it's the way I write my books. As Hallie can testify, my chapters are a complete mess up until the very end. When I'm focusing on plot, I can't pay attention to double periods or typos. Half the time I don't even see the errors or realize I've switched tenses. I clean up my book in one big laundry festival at the end.

So my question is this: Are there any everyday task metaphors that mirror your writing style? If we are what we eat, are we also what we fold and put away?

ROBERTA: I love doing laundry. It's such a small job with a satisfying reward--neat stacks of clean clothes instead of a big messy, smelly pile. (And by the way, Jan, if you keep the hamper in your husband's closet, your smell problem could be solved!) Unfortunately, though clean laundry is necessary and it feels good to have it done, tackling it doesn't solve my major household/life organization problems.

My writing style mimics this problem exactly. Once I have a couple of pages written (that's the pile of dirty clothes,) I'd much rather go back over those, tweaking and reworking each word, than forge on ahead. Rewriting gives me the same satisfaction as folding clean clothes and putting them away. But it's not the answer to my bigger problem: advancing the book.

HALLIE: Ah, laundry. Ever since I turned my husband's underwear pink...for the third time...he does his own. And I have no idea how that black crayon got into the sheet wash. Since then he's taken over laundering sheets and towels, too. My daughter Naomi comes home to do her laundry and prohibits me from taking it out of the drier because, according to her, I can't fold. She's right. I'm just not a stacker or a folder or a neatener-up. I tolerate mess and untidiness up to a point, and then I have a straightening melt down. It's ugly.

For me, the laundry of writing is outlining. I can go along happily and haphazardly writing (aka making a mess)up to a point, but when I feel the book veering out of control, I revise my outline to see where I am...then hack away at my overgrown manuscript until it conforms to some kind of order.

RO: Uh, I don't do the laundry very often. My cleaning lady does it. Now if only I could get her to write the books too, then she'd really be worth the dough I pay her.

So maybe the best metaphor for me is cleaning out my closets - I do occasionally throw stuff out, sometimes boxes of it, but more likely I will agonize over every article of clothing I own, relive the good or bad times I had in it, and then decide whether or not it gets another shot or goes in the Goodwill bag. Lots of things go to the back of the closet to be resurrected again at a later date. Pretty much the same with my editing process.

HANK: Writing has competely changed my connection with laundry. Now, my husband does it. Yes, he does, and I'm sure it's out of sheer self preservation. Because I'd be at the computer saying--yes, I'll do it in just a sec. Really, honey, just let me finish this one part...then of course, hours later, no laundry.

He's great it at, which I think is adorable. Since he's not really the laundry type. But I always fold. ( Eventually. And, to be honest, I fold everything except the fitted sheets which I know were designed to drive people into a rage. Those I kind of...wrap.)

Anyway--you know what I LOVE? Ironing. Even though I hardly ever do it anymore. And maybe that's the perfectionist in me. In writing, I love that final edit process, where you get to find the kinks and wrinkles and glitches, and smooth everything out until it looks beautiful.

JAN: In the rare instances that I do it I also find an odd satisfaction in ironing. But but no real love. Similarly, while I'm not really crazy about the final edit process. there is something comforting about it. If only because the worst is over....the heavy lifting/laundry is done!

Friday, April 11, 2008


"All the news that fits, we print."
MAD Magazine, c.1964

As befitting 'anything can happen' Friday, and Hank's role as reporter, here's some interesting stuff you might not have heard:

This news release arrived from the crayon people! I was transported, remembering the fragrance of a new box of crayons, how careful we were to keep the points perfect, and save our favorite colors (burnt sienna and black, surprise surprise) And it looks like they have come out with some new super-sharpener . Wonder if it makes those points with a little ledge around the edge. Remember? I'll spare you all the details, but here's the best parts:

Crayola 64 Box Turns 50
To Celebrate, Eight New "Kids Choice Colors" Debut in Iconic Box
An American classic, the Crayola 64 Box is turning the big 5-0 and Crayola has gone a bit "radical red" to mark the golden moment. That famous box with the built-in sharpener that debuted in 1958 and became home to colors like burnt sienna and cornflower has undergone an extreme color makeover for its fiftieth, to reflect the color preferences of today’s kids.

Just like professional color experts who predict the year’s hot hues; kids across the country had the chance to voice their own opinion and pick the colors they felt were "in" for 2008...
they ...zoomed in on the shade within each color family (red, blue, green, yellow, brown, pink, orange and purple) that they felt was the coolest. The result? A collection of eight colors was created that draw on everything from kids wanting to play their part in protecting the planet to believing that they can become famous just like the everyday people who achieve stardom on reality shows.

The 2008 "Kids Choice Colors" include:
"super happy" -- kids don’t want to worry, they just want to be happy -- "super happy" -- as their color says and they wish the same for others, too;
"fun in the sun" -- riding bikes, playing soccer, skateboarding, and gymnastics – kids said this color means exercise and keeping fit are important … and fun!;
"giving tree" -- it’s a colorful truth that kids are thinking green, too, and want to play a part in protecting the Earth;
"bear hug" -- a hue of harmony as kids want their homes to feel warm and loving just like a great big bear hug;
"awesome" -- means kids think school is cool and getting good grades feels awesome;
"happy ever after" -- kids want to make a difference and create Cinderella moments for others, so everyone’s story has a happy ending;
"famous" -- American Idol and shows like it inspired this hue, as kids believe they can become celebrities just like everyday people who become stars;
"best friends" -- this shade of purple reveals who kids’ real BFFs are – their parents – and spending time with them is what they enjoy most.
(Hank interrupting: Hang on a second here. Imagine the conversation:
Mother: "What color do you want to make the sun, Billy?
Billy: Oh, Mummy, lets make it awesome.
Mummy: Of course, honey, it is awesome! And it's 93 million miles from the earth. But here's a drawing of it in your coloring book, sweetheart. What color shall we make it?
Billy: I said, awesome.
Mother: But, sweetheart, awesome is not a color. How about a nice sunny yellow?
Mother: I agree, Billy, and here it is.
Billy: NO! I said AWESOME.
(throws box of crayons)
Mother: Billy! You need a time out!
Billy: What color is that?
Okay, back to the press release.)

Each of these new hues introduced to celebrate 50 years of the Crayola 64 Box can be found inside the limited-edition 50th Birthday box, which features the new "perfect tip sharpener" that puts a perfect point on any worn down crayon so that it looks just like the original.
CRAYON QUIZ!!! (There was a whole paragraph of crayon lore in the release, but let's just see how much you know:)

An American cultural icon, the Crayola 64 Box made its debut in (what year??) on the "(What TV SHOW?)"
The 12.8 billion crayons inside would circle the earth HOW MANY times.
The most popular color inside the Crayola 64 Box is : WHAT COLOR?
Where else but Jungle Red could you hear this stuff?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


"On the Saturday morning when I finally got around to cleaning my apartment, I found a ton of mouse droppings, seven enormous water bugs, and a body."

Death Will Clean your Closet, Elizabeth Zelvin

Well, yuck. In our closets, there are no bodies.

Here's what we're supposed to say. All polite and ladylike.

Elizabeth Zelvin's first mystery, DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER, is coming from St. Martin's on April 15 2008. She is a New York City psychotherapist who has directed alcohol treatment programs, including one on the Bowery, and now treats clients online at Liz has written and lectured widely on addictions, codependency, and online therapy and has also published two books of poetry.

Here' s what we say just to pals: Yay Liz! Her first book is out and she's a love. And she's on her blog tour, so of course we said come on over. And then we asked for--what else--free advice.

HANK: Okay, counselor. What destructive behaviors do you see in mystery writers?

LIZ: Surprisingly, very few, at least in the professional or aspiring professional mystery writer. Because as a group they are cooperative rather than competitive, they tend not to shoot themselves in the foot by backbiting or making enemies. I've seldom seen tempers lost online or face to face. Not to detract from any of the others, Guppies, Sisters in Crime's online chapter for Great UnPublished and now also emerging writers, is possibly the only e-list I've ever been on in which I've NEVER seen any flaming--and that includes e-list groups of mental health professionals.

HANK: Are we addicted to--success? Possibility?

LIZ: Oh, I don't think so. Success? Being addicted to something means you can never get enough of it--but you can usually be sure of a steady supply. The mystery writer's career today is so precarious that I doubt any but the runaway bestsellers take success for granted, no matter what stage of their career they're at. Even in the few years I've been part of this community, we've seen popular and beloved authors have their series dropped and have a hard time climbing back.

HANK: And possibility?

LIZ: The term "addiction" refers to a pathological state, where the cost exceeds the reward. It isn't meant to imply that it's bad to keep hoping and taking one action after another, writing that next chapter, sending out that next query letter, going to that next conference so you can schmooze with readers and agents and fellow writers.

HANK: Any ideas for rehabilitation?

LIZ: I don't think writers need it. But rehab might be a great place to get some writing done!

ROBERTA: How do you hang in there when things get tough? Any advice?

LIZ: One day at a time. One minute at a time. When writing, one word at a time. And one small action at a time—at the most discouraging moments, it helped a lot to be able to think of one more stone I could turn: a resource I could check, a letter I could write, a person I could network with by email. The scariest time was when I thought I had run out of publishers, even the small presses. Everybody had seen Death Will Get You Sober—except St. Martin’s, where it had been sitting unread on an editor’s desk (not Ruth Cavin, my current editor) for 2 ½ years. The next action turned out to be walking up to a St. Martin’s editor I didn’t know (Marcia Markland, bless her—I read her name tag) at the MWA Agents & Editors party during Edgars week and saying, “Can I tell you my sad story about St. Martin’s?” She got things moving, and then the luck finally came my way.Oh, and my mantra was, “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.” It was a looooong five minutes!

HALLIE (see below): I know one of your favorite books is Little Women. Why, especially, does that touch you?

LIZ: I think if it weren’t by a woman and read almost exclusively by girls and women, Little Women would be considered the Great American Novel. It’s so fresh and immediate—even though it’s colored by 19th century culture and the Transcendental movement that the Alcotts were steeped in, there’s nothing stilted or archaic about the language or the relationships. These are real people that readers can take home with them, as millions have. And it sure passes the re-reading test. I still cry every time Beth dies. I recently wrote about being bewildered by contradictory reviews. I quoted from the scene in Little Women when Jo goes through the same thing with her first novel, and this time, that made me cry too.

RO: What surprised you the most, so far, about your journey in the mystery writing world?

LIZ: I've had both good surprises and bad. I was amazed at how much harder it's become to get an agent in today's market than back in the Seventies, when I wrote three now outdated and unsalvageable mysteries. They didn't sell, but I had a great agent. The best surprise has been the generosity and warmth of the mystery writing--and mystery loving--community.

HANK: Wait: "they didn't sell, but I had a great agent." How can that be?

LIZ: Jean Naggar, who believed in my work and took all three of my mystery manuscripts--she didn't really sell mysteries, which may be part of why she couldn't sell mine, the rest of the reason being, of course, that I was clueless about craft compared to today. This was also before Jean became famous for selling CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR for a then astronomical sum.

HANK:And congratulations from all of us for your Agatha short story nomination! (See DWCYC above) You're in stellar company.

Now--just for fun: The Jungle Red Quiz!

Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?

**Miss Marple

Sex or violence?

**Sex, please—I never get tired of it. Oh, you mean in my reading matter? Neither, to tell the truth. To me, sex is like conversation—not a spectator sport. I don’t watch talk shows either.

Pizza or chocolate?

**Chocolate, no contest.

Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan? (We won't even include Sean Connery because we know the answer. Don't we?)

**Daniel Craig, yeah. Him.

Katherine Hepburn or Audrey Hepburn?

**Tough choice. Katherine.

First person or Third Person?

Prologue or no prologue?
**No prologue, but I’m not a fanatic about it.

Making dinner or making reservations?
**Reservations, no contest. Hey, I’m a New Yorker. My idea of a local restaurant is one you can get to without crossing the street or walking as far as the corner.

And Finally: Tell us four things about you that no one knows. Only three can be true. We'll guess.

**That’s tough, because I have great difficulty not telling everyone everything. My husband can confirm this. He wishes I wouldn’t. I used to say, “All my poems are true.” My turning to fiction was a great relief to him. Quit stalling? Oh, okay.

1. On my first day in first grade, I took a crayon and scribbled in the coloring book of the little girl sitting behind me. Her name was Laurie. I’m sorry, Laurie.

2. Men with long hair turn me on.

3. I remember watching a camel caravan making its way toward the salt mines at sunset in the desert near Timbuctoo.

4. The scariest thing I’ve ever done was fly solo in a Cessna 150.

Thanks, LIZ! Okay, JR readers...what's not true?

PS. Hallie's always asking people about their favorite books. That's because her newest, the irresistible and unputdownable 1001 Books for Every Mood, is just about ready to hit the bookstores. Check it out!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


"The Cheshire Cat vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.”

***Lewis Carroll

"You can't always get what you want..."

*** Mick Jagger

I read somewhere--I think it was The Economist or, okay, maybe Vogue-- that if your lipstick color is discontinued, vanishes from the shelves, you should consider yourself lucky, because the cosmetics industry is blasting you out of your rut. Because, it went on, no one should wear the same lipstick color for so long that it actually becomes obsolete. That it says more about you than it does about the lipstick.

Well, say what you will, cosmetics people. Say I'm stuck in my ways. Mired.

I say: Got RIO? My dear lipstick color, a wonderful brick red, not too bright, not orangey or bluey, not gunky or transparent, just solid and competent red with a dash of glamour. Why, why, why, Trish McEvoy, did you give it the heave-ho? When it happened, I called the Trish HQ, and ordered all the rest of the tubes that existed. And now I have a refrigerator full of RIO. (I got, um, a few more than I had actually expected, but I did need a lifetime supply. I figure my life can now go to about 2060.)

Anyway, then I heard Elizabeth Arden has discontinued Visible Difference. I haven't used that in years, but I still have a jar of it, and sometimes just take a whiff of the fragrance. And it brings back so many nice memories. We all swore by it in the 70's. And now, EA says, fuggedaboutit.
Some really great fabric softener came out a year or so ago, scented lavender and vanilla. I loved it. And I bought about five bottles of it on one trip to the grocery. My husband stopped in his tracks. Why on earth, he asked, do we need five bottles of fabric softener? Because, I said, I love this, and that means they are going to discontinue it soon.
Are we too set in our ways? Have any of your faves disappeared?
Some years ago I used to LOVE a Body Shop shampoo - I think it was Cocoanut Oil and they paired it with a Brazil Nut conditioner. Smelled heavenly and it made my hair look and feel fantastic. Went to buy it one day - boom, discontinued. I had them call every Body Shop on the east coast and I bought all of the giant sized bottles that I could get my hands on. I had it for about two years after they discontinued it. Every once in a while I go into a Body Shop to see if they've brought it back. It was the best.

I had a little hissy fit at the Gap last year...wanted another pair of the same style jeans I had bought not 60 days before and I was told they didn't make them anymore - as if I had tried to buy...I don't know..a freaking Edsel.

You were absolutely right to buy the fabric softener. I just bought 3 tubes of Touche Eclat concealer...YSL better not stop making that!Umm, do you think I can get that shampoo online..?

My all time favorite scent came from a container of Arpege by Lanvin talcum powder. It was tangy and spicy and sexy and I loved it and the last speck of it is long gone. My husband, sweetheart that he is, a bottle of the perfume for me in a vintage perfume store--yes, they do exist. It's close, but it ain't the same.

I've, um, had the same tube of lipstick for years and years and years. On a whim (or maybe it was the two for one sale at Walgreen's) I shopped for a new tube a month or two ago. Remember the olden days, when you could try a lipstick at the Woolworth's counter? And remember how many tries it took to get just the right shade? Now you just have to imagine what will work, and forget trying to return a used tube. So I bought a skinny little tube, a kind of reddish terra cotta. It's okay, and occasionally I use it. But what is this with the tingling when you put it on? Is this supposed to make me feel like I got botoxed?? Or plumped? Minty-fresh lips is not what I crave. Am I imagining this??

As you may have noticed, I'm no expert on lipstick. Now if the Burt's Bees company ceases to manufacture lip balm, I will be in serious trouble. I'm an addict and I admit it. I have a tube in the bathroom, kitchen, office, car, purse, many of pants pockets. If I could find a lipstick that didn't make my lips feel like sandpaper, I'd love to look like Hank. (Only shorter and less stylish--well, you know what I mean!)

My other problem has to do with hair products. For 21 years I drove an hour and paid big bucks for a certain hair salon. Finally, I couldn't take it and made the switch to someone nearby with a sink in her basement. But my shampoo, conditioner, and styling goop all come from the previous place. I'm starting to panic as I move to my last bottles. I suppose I'm going to have to make the trip and slink back in disguise to buy up whatever's on their shelves...
Hallie, sounds like you got the special so-called lip-plumper stuff? Yeah, I think some lipsticks have flavors, which I don't really understand. Others just have a weird scent, don't they? And tell us what you need, Roberta. The least I can do is go in undercover and get it for you! So how about you, dear JR readers--anything you're hoarding? Or worried about being discontinued? Or have you had your favorite stuff whisked out from under you?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Roses for Rosemary! A Derringer Award nod...

Bouquets to our Ro!

This just in! The Short Mystery Fiction Society has nominated Jungle Red's own Rosemary Harris for a 2008 Derringer Award for her short story, "Growing Up is For Losers." It was published in "Still Waters" from Level, Best Books, 2007.
The story features one of the characters from her debut novel, "Pushing Up Daisies."