Sunday, July 31, 2011

Strawberries = Summer

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Okay, Julia asked me for the Strawberry/Blueberry cream cake recipe and I thought some of you might like it too. This cake is amazing and ridiculously easy to make. It will raise you to the level of domestic goddess in the eyes of your friends and family.

I made it once for a July 4th party and got in the habit of sprinkling blueberries on the top too otherwise it's a Martha Stewart recipe. I've also added blackberries or whatever berries looked good in the market that day. One between the looks nice if all of the strawberry tips are pointing out. Toothpicks or bamboo skewers help to get the berries exactly where you want them. Also the weight of the top layer will squish the cream out which looks good but not when too much comes out. Neurotic..?

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 pound strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-ounce envelope)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan, and line with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper and sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2.Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan.

3.Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split cake in half horizontally; place bottom half, cut side up, on a serving plate.

4.Make topping: In a large bowl, combine strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar; set aside. Place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan, and sprinkle with gelatin; let soften 5 minutes. Place saucepan over very low heat, and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool.

5.Using an electric mixer, beat cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until very soft peaks form. Continue to beat, and gradually add gelatin mixture; beat until soft peaks form.

6.Arrange half of strawberries over bottom cake layer; top with half of whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Cover with top half of cake, cut side down. Top cake with remaining whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Refrigerate cake and remaining strawberries separately, at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Just before serving, spoon strawberries over cake.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

No thanks, honey...

ROSEMARY HARRIS: My husband is good at a great many things. He's even brilliant at a few - but buying me clothing is not one of them. Witness the last two presents. I know I should be grateful that the man still wants to buy me anything (ungrateful wench that I am)but seriously - a heavy cotton Derek Jeter t-shirt? Not an itty-bitty baby tee that might look cute or so big you can sleep in it tee, a medium, square-cut, not flattering if you were Gisele Bundchen t-shirt that my high school gym teacher would have rejected as too ugly to wear. I ask you...

I smiled...I thanked him...I asked him how the game was. I wondered if he'd notice if I never wore it. I said nothing. Mistake.

Not two weeks later he came home from Yale (where he was lecturing at their publishing course...see...frequently briliant.) I got another shirt. Not a small, sexy, cami-like tank, or a giant wear it as a cover-up on the beach tank. A tank with a pocket right on the E (of Y-a-l-e) that makes me look like I'm smuggling a loaf of bread in my top and still manages to be tight across my hips. He beamed and said "look, there's a pocket for your ipod."

I know...I'm horrible...but I'm running out of closet space.

It's hard to buy gifts after years of birthdays, Valentine's days, Christmases,etc. just to show that I'm not totally heartless, he did get me a ownderful present recently - a beautiful leather pencil case. Sounds weird, but I write with a pencil so it meant a lot to me - it's just a little too small to wear out of the house.

Friday, July 29, 2011

You're invited....

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Next week I'm having a few old friends over for a BBQ. Nothing fancy - Bruce will grill chicken, burgers, dogs, corn, we'll make a few salads and if the strawberries look good I'll make a strawberry/blueberry cream cake. No, the food is not an issue. And give my pals a cooler full of diet soda, beer, wine, vodka, sangria, prosecco, frozen margaritas, martinis and g&ts and they'll be fine.

With the exception of two all the guests are friends from high school who I've reconnected with in the last three years or so. Is that why I'm doing everything but having the house repainted? I started slowly - moving things around the pool and the deck. I told myself it was just to make more space. But what was the rational behind replacing the falling apart lattice and painting the new one? Scrambling to buy new pool floats (not eaasy to find at the end of July) because the ones we had were slightly dirty. Weeding the woods that border our property. Artfully rearranging - oh, just about everything I own?

Husband says we should have parties twice a year if only for the major shake-up that it involves. Does anyone else do this? My friends are not going to grade me on my container garden, or whether or not the throw pillows work with the throw on the wicker loveseat that's soon to be moved to the pool. Particularly after the first drink.

Does everyone do this?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rest in Peace..maybe

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I'm in mourning. For a pair of hiking boots. It's 4AM and I'm trying to remember if the garbage man came yesterday because I'm seriously considering retrieving them from the trash.

They're Tecnica trekking boots and I bought them at Eastern Mountain Sports near Lincoln Center in 1990. I was going hiking in Utah for the first time and I needed the real deal - no sneakers, no workout shoes. I wore them on Columbus Avenue to break them in, but they didn't really need it. From the moment I put them on it was love. From the moment I saw them. They were gray, with a little turquoise and some red - sounds hideous, but they were beautiful. And they made me feel strong. Capable. And tall.

I wore them in dozens of national parks from Acadia to Yosemite and though I considered getting new ones eight years ago when I prepared to climb Mount Kilimanjiro, I trusted my old Tecnicas and - don't laugh - I wanted them to climb Kili with me! They deserved it.

It was inevitable that I'd need new boots and I searched all over the internet for the same boots - or anything close. I was convinced that a new pair existed in a warehouse somewhere (along with the Big John jeans which were my faves and you can't get anymore. One day I'll blog about what you get when you search "Big John.") Anyway,about five years ago I bought Lowas. Very nice. German. (They know hiking.) All gray, very tasteful. What's not to like?

My old boots stayed in the closet. I loved looking at them. They reminded me of all the great places I'd been in them (don't worry...they didn't actually speak to me..)
So I started wearing them to walk the dog in the arboretum near my house. Ninety acres of woods, some wetlands, a narrow boardwalk through a swampy bit. It was perfect for my old boots - hiking light!

But this week there was a problem. Had I developed a limp? No, the bottom fell off the right boot. I looked at it in disbelief. I looked at it for two days actually before I made the decision that they had to go.

And now it's 4AM and I'm wondering if the garbage man came yesterday BECAUSE I WANT THEM BACK.

What's the thing you wish you'd never thrown out??

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MWA University: A Labor of Love

ROSEMARY: On August 13th, MWA is holding another session of MWA University, this time in my home chapter of New York and featuring - not only two of our very own Jungle Reds - Hank and Hallie - but award-winning mystery writer Reed Farrel Coleman.
I asked Reed to tell us how this incredible opportunity got started.

RFC: About five years ago, right after my term as Executive Vice President of MWA ended, I began teaching mystery and genre writing at Hofstra University on Long Island. I teach an accelerated summer term during which the students attend class for four hours a day, five days a week for two consecutive weeks.

It struck me during my second year at Hofstra that there had to be a way to accelerate the process even further. This was also during a period when new writing classes and workshops were sprouting like weeds. For me, the sad part of these new classes and workshops was that they didn’t actually focus on writing at all … not unless you consider composing a query letter writing.

I have always believed and continue to believe that the vast majority of a writer’s energy needs to be spent on the writing itself. That finding an agent, finding a publisher, and developing a marketing strategy are concerns to be tackled after a writer produces the best work possible. Unfortunately, I found that even many of my own students were more concerned with agent hunting, marketing schemes, and ideas on how to spend their millions than on writing. I began to develop an idea for a one- or two-day event to be held at Hofstra that, for the most part, would focus on the writing skills necessary to produce good work. I went to then-EVP Harry Hunsicker with the idea of MWA co-sponsoring the event and calling it MWA University. He was enthusiastic about the concept. Then, at the time we were ready to move ahead, the economy went south.

About two years ago, Larry Light, the current EVP, and I had a conversation. He remembered my MWA U concept and asked me to revive it, to make it something MWA could offer to the chapters as a benefit, a recruiting tool, and, more importantly, as a program in keeping with the spirit of MWA. I agreed to co-chair the Education Committee with Hank Phillippi Ryan who was as enthusiastic about the idea as Larry and I. Hank, Jess Lourey, Dan Stashower, myself, and the rest of the committee worked at it for many months and came up with a proposal for the board. With little alteration, that proposal is what MWA U is today: six hours of college-level writing instruction for the nominal fee of $50. These six innovative sessions are not your grandma’s writing classes. New and original techniques are employed to make the best use of the time. The classes include instruction on the process of developing an idea into a novel, on setting, on plotting, on character, and on editing. The last class is usually taught by Hank, and is less writing instruction, per se, than inspiration to write. If listening to Hank doesn’t make you want to run through walls to get home and go to work, I don’t know what will.

Our goal is not to make money. It is to give people with a dream a chance to take one step closer to reaching it without bankrupting themselves. Dreams shouldn’t be held prisoners of a bad economy or tough circumstances. MWA U is a way for us to give back to the mystery community, to let people know we’re all in it together and that we want you to be successful.

There’s room for all of us. Do yourself a favor by joining us on August 13 for what promises to be a great day. MWA members and non-members alike are welcome. Your dreams are welcome too.

ROSEMARY: Hank, Hallie and I will be there. What about you? Register at

Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR's Maureen Corrigan. He has published twelve novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and one stand-alone with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. His books have been translated into seven languages.

Reed is a three-time winner of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year. He has also received the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards, and has been twice nominated for the Edgar® Award. He was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn, and his short fiction and essays have appeared in Wall Street Noir, The Darker Mask, These Guns For Hire, Brooklyn Noir 3, Damn Near Dead, and other publications.

Visit him at and look for his latest release Hurt Machine, 10/2012 from Tyrus Books.

Today's music quiz -
"It was still September when your Daddy was quite surprised
To find you with the working girls in the county jail"

Guess the title and artist and you'll win a signed copy of Dead Head. Good luck!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Runaway Bride, Murder Victim or Hero?

ROSEMARY: I first heard about Dr. Sneha Anne Phillip a few days after 9/11. She was my friend's doctor and she was missing, believed to have been a victim of the World Trade Center attack. Like thousands of others her distraught husband put up flyers and searched hospitals until the worst possible news became reality. No survivors would be found.

Over time more details emerged and it was discovered that Sneha had actually been missing since the evening of September 10. Her doctor husband believed suggesting she was a 9/11 victim was the only way anyone would care about what happened to one woman in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and the only way anyone would look for her. He was probably right.

Sneha Anne Philip was last seen on September 10, 2001 by a department store surveillance camera near her Lower Manhattan apartment. Due to the proximity of the World Trade Center and her medical training, her family believes she perished the following day trying to help victims of the terrorist attack. (She and her husband were on different working schedules so he claimed it was not unusual for them to go for many hours without being in touch - this was 10 years ago, before people tweeted their every move.)

An investigation into her disappearance by the New York Police Department revealed a very different possibility as evidence of a double life including drugs, alcohol abuse, a troubled marriage and a sexually adventurous lifestyle suggested it was equally possible she may have intentionally disappeared or been murdered by someone she met on her frequent nights out.

What does my friend think? He's Scottish so he doesn't reveal much, but I was reminded of a conversation not long before 9/11 when he told me his doctor had flirted with him rather aggressively.

No evidence has ever been found of her having perished in the Towers, but that's also the case with many other known victims. And there's nothing that prevents someone from behaving heroically even if their previous history might suggest otherwise.

From time to time articles appear in local papers and magazines, but the mystery remains.

For her sake I hope she ran away - but then I'm an optimist.

Today's music quiz - "...and you're sorry for what you've should never been playing with a gun..." Guess the song title and artist and you'll win a signed copy of Dead Head.
Stop back tomorrow for a visit from award-winning mystery writer Reed Farrel Coleman who'll be telling us about his labor of love - MWA University

Monday, July 25, 2011

Faking it - What we did for love...

ROSEMARY: A week or so ago Hank wrote that she'd gone gliding once with a former boyfriend. Actually she said beau, but I'm not sure I'm cool enough to use the word beau without it being something in French or about Jeff Bridges' brother.
She did it for love.

My husband has frequently described this or that woman as a "pre-nuptial sports fan. "No, honey, I'd really love to see the mixed martial arts championships with you and your friends this Saturday!" Sure you would.

There's a fun scene in an old Bette Midler movie (Outrageous Fortune) in which she and Shelley Long compare notes on what uncharacteristic things they've done to stay connected to the relatively new beau - one baked cookies, the other sewed Halloween costumes for an imaginary class of underprivileged students the man created just to get both women in the sack.

I'm usually pretty good at saying what I like or don't like - those of you who know me well feel free to guffaw here - but I've occasionally sucked it up for the good of the relationship. There were a few operas where I wished I'd brought toothpicks to keep my eyes open. And there was the eight course Paul Bocuse meal I pretended to enjoy because it was so hard to get a reservation and it cost a small fortune.

I'm not looking for any "oh baby, you're a god" moments, but what (else) have you faked for a partner or a friend?

ROBERTA: snort, giggle--we are laughing Ro! Okay, I picked up both tennis and golf for the good of a guy. Luckily, both turned out to be things I enjoyed just fine on my own. In fact, were it not for John and his obsession with golf, I probably wouldn't have started writing!

But skiing, that's a different story. :)."
Vermont skiing: I'm talking ice and whistling winds and fighting kids. In the early days, I went gamely along to be a good sport (you can all laugh here), but it was never my favorite activity. I was always worse than everyone else, by far. And the equipment adds up to more than your body weight. And the boots absolutely kill. And those romantic versions of crackling fires in the ski lodge? Forget about it--jammed with screaming children and loud teenagers. Unfortunately, my birthday usually falls on or about Martin Luther King weekend. So we would head up north with the kids and about 6 million other families. One year it was fifty degrees below zero. Get the picture?

Now when skiing comes up, I say "have a nice time honey

JULIA: I dated a much older man toward the end of my college days. He adored foreign films (old black and white ones, especially) and opera, neither of which I had much exposure to. The movies - oh, my God, I can't tell you how boring they were. But I went. The only takeaway I got from them was the ability to BS with the best of them about Jacques Tati and Michelangelo Antonioni. Hint: sex = capitalist oppression. Or Citroen = capitalist oppression.

HANK: SO funny.

JULIA: Opera was another story. He took me to see Cosi Fan Tutti and Abduction from the Seraglio and I was hooked. Opera has remained one of the great pleasures of my life. I don't get the chance to see a live performance very often (we have no resident or even seasonal opera company in Maine) but I'm on the radio every Saturday, listening to Live From the Metropolitan. Someday - someday! - I'll go there in person.

ROSEMARY: I've grown to love opera..especially the Italian ones. You should let me know the next time you're in NYC.

HANK: Me, too.

HALLIE: Oh, Julia, I'd forgotten about the movies! A guy I dated in college was into martial arts movies. Yawn. Fortunately he was also into Chinese food and knew some of the best places in New York's Chinatown to eat. And then there was the boyfriend with the motorcycle--NOT my preferred method of transport. I had to meet him down the block because my mother would have had a fit if she'd known I was riding around on the back of one. We're talking pre-helmet era. Scary to even think about it.

Fortunately my husband and I have most of the same interests. Art. Birds. Nature. Food. Wine. And of course yard sales. Though he takes everything to extremes.

DEBS: Oh, Hallie, the boyfriend with the motorcycle . . . Maybe it was the same one? I had to meet him around the block because my parents would have KILLED me for getting on it, and just to prove them right, I got a huge burn on the inside of my calf from the exhaust pipe. Still have the scar. Can't remember what story I made up to explain it.

As for my DH, although his idea of fun is generally more outdoorsy than mine, we've liked many of the same things for years. BUT. Isn't there always a BUT? There was the time he convinced me to go on a snorkling boat out of Cozumel. I love swimming but am not a particularly good swimmer. I'd never snorkled. The swell was heavy and I am not comfortable in deep water. They dumped us off the boat and DH swam happily off, saying, "Oh, don't worry. It's salt water. You won't drown." Need I say more?

HANK: Yeah, Roberta. One little word. Skiing. SURE, I LOVE skiing, that's what I told...hmmm..what was his name? (SURE. I love to be freezing cold, and in constant danger, and have wet feet, and attempt to ride on those lift things where there's not only no way to to get on gracefully, but certainly no way to get off without facing certain death.)

One of my favorite photos is me at Alta, standing by a sign pointing to "easiest way" and me getting ready to go the other way. You can imagine what happened.

Yes. I know skiing is great, but I am too clumsy, I fear. I remember one moment of thinking--wow, fun! And then I splatted.

Also, in another life, to prove my worth and devotion I gritted my teeth though many Tai Chi lessons. Although the impetus for that is long gone, as it turned out I eventually..liked it.

ROSEMARY: So...for you Broadway musical fans out there "can't regret, won't forget, what I did for ...loooove..!" What have you done for love? (First to guess what musical that lyric is from wins a signed copy of Dead Head.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Best Food of the Summer

ROBERTA: Since we all ought to be outside enjoying summer instead of hunkering down behind our computer screens, how about describing your best taste sensation of the summer so far? TEN WORDS OR LESS...

I'll go first:

Homemade pizza dough, ditto pesto topping, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes.

Okay, now you! Make us drool...

HANK: Peaches. Corn. Lobster. Proseco. Proseco. Mozzarella. Tomatoes. Pesto. Gin. Tonic.

DEBS: Artisan sourdough. English Cheddar. Fresh figs. Prosciutto. Honey. Toasted sandwich.

HALLIE: Tomatoes. Basil. Corn. Barbecued steak, rare. Watermelon. Ice cold beer.

JULIA: Hood's Green Monster Mint ice cream. Homemade blueberry pie. (I'm obviously bringing dessert!)

RHYS: smoked salmon sandwiches. Oysters. Chilled wine. Ripe peaches. Cherries

ROSEMARY: Miller's new light beer with lime. Yum!

Great job, Reds, I'm starving... What's your best treat of the summer so far?

Friday, July 22, 2011

What are you reading?

ROBERTA: Okay Reds, time to stock up our summer reading stacks with your recommendations! I met a lot of interesting writers last year in Key West, one of them named Rosalind Brackenbury. I've had her book BECOMING GEORGE SAND on my pile for a while--I was afraid it would be a little slow. But it turned out to be quite lovely--the story of a professor in Scotland who becomes obsessed with George Sand, and studies Sand's life and work to find answers for herself.

I've also been reading lots of food-related books, including a memoir by Sandra Bullock's sister, Gesine Bullock-Prado. Gesine worked in Hollywood for a while managing her sister's movie production company. But she hated it and decided to leave the familiar and open a bakery in northern Vermont. What an interesting story!

And I've got some good options burning my TBR pile, including new books by Steve Hamilton (love his series set in the UP of Michigan) and Megan Abbott (highly recommended by Hallie), and a couple of Barbara O'Neal's backlist books that somehow slipped my attention. Oh, and I've downloaded our own Deborah Crombie's first novel onto John's Kindle--she's the only Red I've had yet to read. Must correct that right away!

What are you all reading?

JAN: A lot of history and non-fiction: I just finished Villa Air-Bel by Rosemary Sullivan, a WWII story set in Marseilles. The Women Who Wrote the War, about early women journalists who covered WWII and sometimes slept with Ernest Hemingway (that guy got around), by Nancy Caldwell Sorel. Now I'm reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis and listening to ...
And The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. The last two books I'd highly recommend to anyone. The first two are for subject-specific readers..

HALLIE: Making a list and adding on... Kindle is so great at giving you access to all kinds of books that you'd have to hunt and hunt for. I'm promising myself a Kindle... or a Nook... or an iPad... how to pick is a blog for another time. If there was just one choice I'd have it by now.

I loved Mary Roache's nonfiction STIFF -- all about what happens to dead bodies. She's a hilariously funny writer and fearless researcher. It opens with: "The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you."

In my TBR pile, Joseph Finder's BURIED SECRETS and Gary Braver's TUNNEL VISION and Margaret McLean's UNDER FIRE. Also all the Harry Potter books to reread.

ROSEMARY: I also enjoyed STIFF.

On August 17th I'll be moderating a talk with Edward Conlon and Andrew Gross and I was just sent their latest books. I happened to open the package from Random House first and I haven't been able to put down RED ON RED by Conlon. I even took it in the cab with me on the way to the theatre last night (WAR HORSE, great, by the way.)Conlon is a NYPD detective and is the author of BLUE BLOOD, a memoir and NY Times bestseller from a few years back which I didn't read, but will now.

It does RED ON RED a disservice to call it a police procedural although it is ostensibly the story of two cops. Halfway through.. it is the story of two men, their lives, their friendship, their passions, flirtations, memories.

It is exquisitely written communicating their lives, the place, the circumstances and the job without the endless cursing and "hopping in and out of the Crown Vic" that bores me to tears in many police procedurals. Not to sound like such a delicate flower - there is profanity - but it's there when it needs to be there, not because the writer wants you to think the book is dark, edgy, or hard-boiled or is too lazy to fully flesh out a character. Anyway...can you tell that I'm lovin' this book?

RHYS: I'm a judge for an Edgars committee this year so that is my first reading priority at the moment, but waiting on my Kindle for when I escape to Hawaii next month are Kate Morton's Rivington Street, Jan Burke's Deliverance and Connie Willis's Blackout. I don't know about you but I can't read fiction when I'm writing so my bedtime book is currently Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Country--a journey around Britain which I'm enjoying a lot.

HANK: Yup, Edgar Judge. More I cannot say. DO YOU REALIZE HOW MANY MYSTERIES WILL COME OUT THIS YEAR??? Just saying. But I am having a terrific time.

ROBERTA: Hank, I did that twice. I think I warned you:). All consuming, but fascinating! I think I will love RED ON RED, Ro. And the ones Hallie mentioned, going on the wish list. And Andrew Gross's book from our blog last week. At the last minute, I chose Keith Richards' autobiography LIFE out of my stack. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion...can't stop reading...

JULIA: Every July, I appear at the Boothbay Book Festival, sponsored by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. I always walk away with a stack of summer reading, and this year is no exception. I picked up SHOW ME GOOD LAND by Shonna Millikin Humphrey, which can best be described as The Beans of Egypt Maine solve a murder. I got Jim Nichols' HULL CREEK, about a lobsterman tempted into pot running in order to save his family's home from voracious out-of-state developers. This is actually turning out to be a lot funnier than I expected! And I was happy to buy my friend Hannah Holmes' latest, QUIRK: BRAIN SCIENCE MAKES SENSE OF YOUR PECULIAR PERSONALITY. Some of you may know Hannah from her first book, THE SECRET LIFE OF DUST, I think she's the funniest, most intelligible science writer out there.

I've just read some great mysteries: Amanda Flower's MURDER IN A BASKET, Sarah Graves' DEAD LEVEL, C.C. Benison's TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING. Unfortunately, as I'm sure is the case with the rest of you ladies, I can't push them on anyone because they won't be published until next year!

DEBS: Yep, Edgar judge, too. Looks like JRs got blitzed this year. But I've been reading mostly mysteries just for fun as well. Julia, I liked TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING, too.

A couple of weeks ago I read A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness, which is my "find" of the last several years. LOVE that book! Will read it again! And can't wait for the next in the trilogy.

Now I'm reading a lovely novel called IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES by Emily Arsenault. Next up is COME AND FIND ME by our own Hallie Ephron, and I can't wait for that!

And THEN--drum roll--my much anticipated summer highlight--GHOST STORY by Jim Butcher. It will arrive on my doorstep on the 26th and I know I'll be hard-pressed to get any work done that week . . .

This has made me realize I'm not reading much non-fiction this summer, but I was steeped in research all spring, and besides, that's what summers are for, right?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ric Cunningham and his Modern Retro Lounge

ROBERTA: Today, we are pleased to introduce Ric Cunningham, AKA Mr. Lounge, your host for the Modern Retro Lounge. What the heck is that, you might ask. Ric is a music producer/writer/performer who believes music can help take us back to earlier, less complicated times. He has studied classical and jazz music and performed with many bands, including a two-year stint with legendary rock star Joe Cocker.

We can't help asking first: What was it like traveling around with Joe Cocker?

RIC: Touring and Performing with Joe Cocker on three World Tours was one of those Check Marks on your Life’s goals. Ever since seeing and hearing The Beatles in the 60’s, I wanted to perform and travel with a band. Being on stage with a vocal legend of Joe’s caliber was definitely a musical high in my career. Performing nightly in front of 100,000 fans who are not only critically listening but also singing along with each song was quite rewarding. Joe is an very distinct voice in pop music history and he really helped shape my understanding of music expression. It also taught me how tough it was on the road and made me realize that writing and producing music was a much better long term game plan than just being a “hired gun” sax player living tour to tour. I started acquiring studio equipment for the purpose of producing my own product instead of just being a part of the end result. (The first picture on right is Ric from his touring days, and directly right is Joe Cocker.)

ROBERTA: All of us here at JRW know how to write, but we don't have the foggiest idea about how to write music. Tell us a little about that--do you hear it in your mind first and then write the notes down, or what??

RIC: I think it’s probably much like literary writing in the fact that it depends on it’s purpose. When I was writing for TV shows and jingles, I was usually limited to the direction, style, time and/or emotion that the Creative Director or show’s producer was looking for to aide the visual. Certain guidelines or directions were given and your task was to please. So I would take the requirements and make them work around my style.

Now that I’m writing for myself there are still different scenarios for each tune and no limits. Sometimes I have a melody that I hear in my head, sometimes it’s a lyric that needs a melody and sometimes it’s a beat or bass line that needs direction. I’m just the musical conductor making sure everyone plays well together based on what I’ve learned, heard and liked musically throughout my life.

ROBERTA: Now you're working on your own, a proponent of the modern retro lifestyle, AKA Mr. Lounge. Translate all that please!

RIC: Sure. Being a sax player, my love of Jazz and Smooth Jazz have brought me to a Genre of Music called Lounge Music. Now Lounge Music can be described in many ways, but it is always background music or easy listening. Unlike Jazz or Smooth Jazz there is less emphasis on the artist and more on the melody or the mood that the song puts you in. Also the term Lounge conjures up a “kicked back”, relaxed way of life with the inclusion of alcohol and cocktails and with the Retro element you have a whole world of 60’s swinging bachelor pad sub culture. What I embrace is a Modern Retro Lifestyle where we take all those elements and add some Hip Hop feels and contemporary elements to give the musical genre a fresh approach. The lifestyle encourages a throwback to the 50’s & 60’s. The concept is to take a break from all the constant input of data(cell phones, pads, pods, laptops, internet, TV). A daily 10 to 20 minute escape to decompress with a favorite cocktail, coffee, tea or cigar just to “smell the roses”. Not unlike the martini at the end of a hard day at the office(think of the hit 60‘s style TV show, Mad Men). Oh, and by the way, I have some background music that can help you in your search for this way of life. My CD, “Adventures in the Modern Lounge”, is the Soundtrack for the Modern Retro Lifestyle.

It’s just good, clean fun!

You can listen to Ric on his website or follow him on facebook or twitter. Thanks for stopping by Ric! (And ps, he'll send you a very cool "thanks for following" message on twitter.)

And here's Ric with a little Christmas in July:

And Ric has offered to send a cd to two folks who comment and would like to try his Modern Lounge music--so pile on!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barbara O'Neal Bakes a Perfect Life

ROBERTA: Today I'm so happy to introduce you to one of my favorite writers, Barbara O'Neal, also known as Barbara Samuel. She's the author of both historical and contemporary romances and more recently THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING, THE LOST RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS, and HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE. She's won six RITA awards and the Colorado Center for the Book Award (twice.)

Welcome Barbara! You said this on one of your blogs: "In virtually every novel I have written, in any genre, some major scenes will take place in a kitchen. There will be scenes written around food, the preparation of food, the feeding of people."

Seeing as I'm writing a mystery series centered on a food critic, I'm fascinated with how you work food into your books without overwhelming the story. Could you talk a little about this balance?

BARBARA: It's much like real life--food is everywhere, a part of everything. Every morning, you're thinking about what to have for breakfast. Every night, you'll have to have some supper. We all have food we love and food we hate (my personal hatred is for egg whites--ask anyone and they will tell you in great detail why they hate that food!) and eating is something we all have to do. In developing character for a foodie sort of novel, it can be helpful to define each character's food profile as part of the development process, and then set them free to do what they do. Food is such a natural part of our lives, that it's easy to work it in. Working it in without overwhelming the work is like using pepper--a little goes a long way, and not everybody likes it.

ROBERTA: And are you a cook yourself? What would we be having if you invited us over for supper?

BARBARA: I love to cook, and in fact, it is one of the handful of things that quiets my word-centric brain and brings me back into my body. When I'm stuck on a scene or on a plot point, you will always find me in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe.

If you were to come over for dinner in the summertime, I might serve a tomato tart with goat cheese that I adore, along with fresh bread and ice cold Sauvignon Blanc. If we were just hanging around in the backyard, it would be my mother's tacos, with soft corn tortillas and whole pinto beans, along with guacamole and fresh salsa and plenty of good beer and ale.

In the wintertime, I might bake my specialty vegetarian lasagna, made with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, or perhaps my favorite soup, Caldo Gallego, which is a Spanish peasant soup that sticks to your ribs and makes you beg for more.

ROBERTA: Oh my, that all sounds delicious…As a psychologist and a writer, I'm also interested in your comments about how themes emerge in your work. Could you comment on the kinds of things you've watched repeat themselves in your books?

BARBARA: I always say that every writer is stuck with certain ideas. As a friend of mine says, "Even when I don't think I'm writing about fathers, I'm writing about fathers." My central story seems to be about survivors--how do people survive trauma? What kinds of qualities do you need to navigate it well and be healthy on the other side? What makes people give up? It's not always a violent trauma like a car accident or a soldier who has been in battle. Often is is a life-shift that shatters a character's idea of herself. In How to Bake a Perfect Life, Ramona's trauma is getting pregnant at 15. This event turns her life upside down. In The Lost Recipe for Happiness, it is a gruesome car accident that kills everyone but the heroine. I have no idea why this is my central theme, honestly. It just is.

There are other things that show up in my work over and over again--dogs and cats and gardens, the food and kitchen motifs. Animals ground us, create families even when the traditional unit might break down. Food, too, creates community and connections. I'm interested in beauty and how even the pursuit of it makes us happier. Not the shallow idea of beauty, as in beautiful faces, but planting flowers and serving food attractively and finding clothing that feels beautiful to the wearer. All of it.

ROBERTA: You strike me as a writer who is in this business for the long haul. (38 books!) Could you offer some words of wisdom for writers who might be discouraged by recent changes in the publishing world.

BARBARA: I'd say I'm here for the duration! I sold my first book when I was in my twenties, and that was in 1988, so I've been writing a long, long time. The upheaval in publishing is the biggest change I've seen by far. The thing to remember is that change is not synonymous with bad. The markets are changing so fast that it's uncomfortable, but I strongly believe there is always going to be work for good writers. Publishing in e, publishing in paper, publishing by voice or in graphic form--all of those formats still need content providers. That would be us. We provide content, and however the reader finds books, the bottom line is still about the story. Good stories, good characters, good writing is always what matters most. It's up to us to make the magic, and that's the true joy.

If your goal is fame, to be an author, rather than a writer, attaining that in the new order might be a little more difficult. Stars will be created in new ways, mainly by the consumers.

But writers will have more and more ways to make money, and in many cases, a lot more money than most rank and file writers could make in the past. It's a time to be optimistic and excited, not depressed and anxious!

ROBERTA: And what can we look forward to next?

BARBARA: I'm currently finishing a book tentatively titled The Garden of Happy Endings, about a woman minister who has turned her back on God. She organizes a community garden in a challenged neighborhood and helps run a soup kitchen (thus my new passion for Caldo Gallego soup!) out of a Catholic church. There is a wonderful dog, of course, Charlie, and sisters, and love stories of all kinds. It's been a challenging book to write because the central questions are big ones, but I'm finally happy with it. Bantam will publish it in trade paperback in May.

ROBERTA: Thank you for being here Barbara! You can find Barbara on Twitter or at her website or on her excellent blog for writers, called A Writer Afoot. Now JRW, questions, comments, dates you can make it for our dinner??

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

PI Mistakes Crime Fiction Writers Make by Steve Brown

Today, in honor of True Crime Tuesday, Steven Kerry Brown, a real life private investigator, is here to tell us about mistakes fiction writers make with their fictional PIs. Thanks so much for coming and take it away Steve!

SKB: I’ve been an investigator for almost 40 years. Eleven years as a special agent with the FBI and almost 30 years as a private investigator. I devour commercial crime fiction. I also write both fiction and non-fiction which revolves mostly around private investigative type themes. There are some authors that “get it right” and many that do not. Who “get’s it right?” Nobody does all of the time but the following do a pretty damn good job of acutely portraying their PI protagonists. Robert Crais and Michael Koryta. There are others that get it right most of the time. Who screws it up? I’m not going to tell you.

But how can you tell? Here are 4 scenarios you’ll find in the typical PI novel.

The PI is computer illiterate and uses a geeky friend who lives in the basement of his mother’s house to get all of the online data he needs by hacking into private and government databases. No, no, no, no. Get the idea? I know this is fiction and we’re going to “suspend disbelief” but your fiction needs to have the appearance of reality. Show me a private investigator who is not computer literate, who doesn’t subscribe to at least 3 different proprietary databases and doesn’t have direct access to the department of motor vehicle records in his own state for vehicle tags and drivers license information and I’ll show you a PI who is starving to death.

Hmm, starving to death PI. Now that’s another cliché isn’t it? Let’s look at real life numbers. But first a little theory. There are always people who will work for less. If your PI protagonist is going to compete with the competition on price then he’s going to be serving subpoenas for $15 each. That won’t even come close to covering the price of gasoline in his/her car. I charge $85/hour plus expenses like $0.62/mile. This is augmented by charges for rental of GPS tracking devices ($350/wk), database, tags, and driving histories pulled etc. etc. etc. I pay my employee investigators and subcontractor investigators $40/hr and $0.50/mile. So if my employee bills 30 hours a week (and they can bill twice that) then they’re grossing $62,400/year. Not getting rich but not starving either. That’s more than most of us make writing about private investigators.

The third clichéd scene is where the private investigator irritates his nemesis in the police department. Detective Hardcase says, “You low life skulking PI. You better stay away from my investigation or I’ll pull your license.” First make sure your PI is working in a state that requires licensing. In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, 2nd Edition, page 20-21 I’ve laid out which states do not require any licensing of private investigators. It’ll be difficult for detective Hardcase to pull my license if I don’t need one anyway. There have been some changes in the state list over the last year or so. If you have any doubts, email me.

Back to pulling that license. Can Detective Hardcase really do that? Not really. Licensing bureaus in most states are state agencies and licenses are not issued or denied by the local police or sheriff’s office. The worst Detective Hardcase could do is file a complaint with the state licensing bureau and then they would investigate, hold their hearings etc. So threatening to pull a private investigator’s license is mainly an empty threat and very, very clichéd. Don’t use it.

The fourth follows from the above scene. The private investigator is hired by “the family” to investigate a murdered/kidnapped/disappeared/ family member. Your protagonist is in competition with the police. Frankly, most private investigators make their living by conducting insurance “sub-rosa” surveillance in cases like workmen’s compensation, slip and falls, or other insurance related investigations where a claimant is screaming about serious injury but the insurance company thinks he is roofing his house on the weekends. That is the day-to-day pay-the-bills case most PIs work. But there are those who have practices like mine, that do involve murders/suicides/missing family members and whose paths do cross with the police department on nearly every case. I have yet to have a single argument or shared a harsh word with any police/FBI/state law officer in 30 years. Have I pissed some off? You betcha. They may bitch about me in their offices (usually because I’ve found good leads that they’ve missed and they look incompetent to their superiors) but our face-to-face relationships have always been cordial and professional, even under the most stressful of circumstances.

Steve Brown is the author of THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PRIVATE INVESTIGATING. He blogs with James N. Frey and Jeffrey Phillips at Handcuffed to the Ocean. You can also find him at his website.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Adventure Gene

"Sailors on the high seas are the last people to give a reliable forecast, even when they have the most intimate experience of the weather." Robert McCrum

ROBERTA: A couple of weeks ago, my husband was invited to help sail his friend's 44 foot boat back from Bermuda to Long Island. He leaped at the chance. The captain, an old college pal, and his brother had just completed a race from Massachusetts to Bermuda. With only two of them handling a big boat and a lot of bad weather, they had little sleep and even less to eat. At a cocktail party for the recovering sailors, I heard terrible sailing stories, including one in which the crew of a small catamaran battled an unexpected storm off the coast of North Carolina for 50 hours until one of the hulls filled with water and they realized they were going to tip over. The Coast Guard was able to reach them and they were plucked out of the roiling sea one by one and drawn up into a helicopter.

Here's John at the helm, with his pal Fritz as videographer. Not one minute of these trips sounded like fun to me. But obviously the life-threatening adventure gene skipped right over me. I don't mind running my characters through the physical wringer, but I'll stay safely home, thank you. And I might be curious about a crime, but at the FIRST WHIFF of danger, I'd call the cops.

How about you all? Did you get that gene?

JAN: Roberta, I did NOT get that gene, but I married that gene. I've found myself sailing immediately after a tornado (NOT A GOOD IDEA) spent my honeymoon and four subsequent vacations sailing in the British Virgin Islands (With me the only mate) , and flew in numerous small airplanes (volkswagens with wings) that my husband piloted. I actually grew to like sailing, but thank god the small plane phase is over. My mother used to clip every article of every small plane disaster and send it to me.

I know exactly what you mean -- Some people interpret danger as fun. I am not one of them. My husband wants to go skydiving. He will go alone.

HALLIE: I am a class-A wimp. Boats: Feh! However... the one boat trip we've taken is a cruise down the Yangtze on barely moving water through spectacular gorges with someone else at the helm (and great food) was an experience of a lifetime.

The closest I get to adventure is riding a roller coaster. I love-love-love roller coasters and was always the one who lined up with the kids for rides on Disneyland's Matterhorn and Space Mountain because my husband is an even worse wimp than I am. Though he is the designated driver for all round-and-round rides which make me throw up.

RHYS: I am attracted to adventure when it comes to traveling to outlandish places, but not when it includes sensation. Terrified of roller coasters and anything else that involves hurtling down anything out of control. My granddaughters obviously haven't inherited my gene and love amusement rides and the scarier the better. I do like sailing and one of the best things I ever did was to take out a Hobie Cat alone on the ocean. It wasn't a very rough ocean and it wasn't a challenging sail, but it was the first time I'd handled a sailboat alone. I got a big kick from knowing it was all up to me and that I could handle this thing. Usually the most adventurous thing I do is drive through LA occasionally.

ROSEMARY: I like exotic trips and I enjoy challenging myself physically but the potential for danger, death, disfigurement, dismemberment...does NOT increase my enjoyment level. Climbing to Everest Base Camp we passed a lot of memorials to fallen climbers. If my guide says turn around, I turn around.

And I would really not like to drown. We've sailed around the Galapagos and the Greek Islands but I really like to see land. I think sailing across the Atlantic would be very stressful for me! I'd keep having visions of the end of the movie The Perfect Storm - which even though I know it wasn't real - was one of the scariest scenes on film in recent memory.

HANK: Laughing. Jonathan leaves the house to walk to the corner drug store. I call after him: Be careful! He says: Of what? And there you have it.
(Roller coasters them.)

DEBS: HATE roller coasters. I have chronic vertigo and there are few things less appealing to me than being made deliberately dizzy.

Zip on the danger gene, too. My husband's idea of fun is white-water rafting, camping, climbing, going up in helicopters, deep sea diving. Mine is reading in a hammock. You can see we have some vacation issues.

He, on the other hand, won't consider making a trans-ocean flight, while I'm a fairly good long-haul traveler. (I sleep.)

My one little aberration? My husband has been a storm chaser for years, and I love going after a big storm. It's crazy, but I find it more exhilarating than scary. Would I do it with anyone else? Probably not. Give me my hammock.

JULIA: Hate roller coasters. Barf city for me. Actually, I hate the movement sensations in most fun park rides. On the other hand, I love sailing and small-pane aviation (despite being prone to motion sickness) and did a lot of white water rafting, rock climbing and bombing down ski slopes when I was younger. I remember realizing I had become noticeably more risk-averse once I had children: I stopped driving like a bat out of hell (when they were in the car) and was no longer willing to say, "Sure, what the hell, let's do it and see what happens."

Nowadays, I think my risk-aversion is more like discomfort aversion. I'm game for any adventure - as long as I can have a hot shower, a well-cooked meal and a comfortable bed at the end of the day!

ROBERTA: And you Jungle red readers? How do you feel about adventure? (And sorry Hank did not find an image of a corner drugstore:).

Saturday, July 16, 2011


RHYS: Jan Burke was supposed to be my Wednesday guest, but alas, various factors, including my disappearing internet, did not cooperate, so I'm giving her the whole weekend to shine.

So welcome to JRW Jan.
I was at ALA and saw great piles of the new Jan Burke book DISTURBANCE, Obviously Simon and Shuster are excited about this and when I eard that it was a follow up to Bones, I was too.
So tell a little about the new book, Jan:

JAN:Disturbance is essentially a sequel to Bones. If you haven't read
Bones, don't worry — Disturbance's plot is separate. It won't spoil
Bones for you, and you don't need to have read Bones to know what's
going on in Disturbance. But if you are someone who like to read a
series in order, you may want to read Bones first.

In Disturbance, Nicholas Parrish, the serial killer who pursued Irene
in Bones, has recovered from injuries he sustained when she escaped
him. Although others remind Irene that he's in prison, she isn't much
comforted by that — he has a group of supporters who call themselves
the Moths and they threaten revenge on his behalf. She is unnerved by
an increasingly disturbing series of events, events that she sees as
the Moths' way of letting her know they can reach her.

Disturbance is also about reinvention. In addition to her problems
with Parrish and the Moths, Irene has other troubles. The Express,
the newspaper where she has worked for most of her adult life is on
the verge of closing. Irene, who has identified herself with the
Express and newspaper reporting on a bone-deep level, may soon be
forced to say goodbye not just to a job, but work that brought meaning
to her life and provided her with an extended family.

RHYS. Was Irene Kelly an alter ego when the series started? Is she still?

JAN: No, never. I imagine her as a completely separate individual, one with
whom I enjoy spending time.

RHYS:You write about very dark subjects, darker than most women writers.
How do you handle the darkness? I know I once had to murder a child in
a book and in the end I couldn't do it. Have you learned to distance
yourself from your subjectmatter? Or are you just super tough?

JAN:You are determined that I won't get to demonstrate how funny I am,
aren't you? Okay seriously, then --

First, for anyone who may wonder if I inspired your example, I should
quickly point out that there are no dead children in Disturbance.

It's interesting to me that you say I write about very dark subjects,
because I don't view my books as especially dark. Irene is not a
depressed and brooding loner detective — unlike at least a dozen
others who quickly come to mind — and although she has to struggle
with understandable fears, she is ultimately resilient, an optimist
with a sense of humor and strong loyalties. I see most of my books as
having themes related to hope, justice, and forgiveness.

All of that said, like 99% of writers of crime fiction, I do write
about violence. The smaller subset of writers I belong to are those
who write about the emotional impact of violence, and sometimes, that
is difficult.

It has been extremely important to me, though, even from the time I
wrote my first novel, to not emotionally distance the characters in my
books from the crimes that take place in them. In Goodnight, Irene,
it was important to me that she grieve the loss of O'Connor, rather
than merely set out to avenge him. Again, she's doesn't spend the
book crying in a corner, but you come to know O'Connor because she
misses him so much. Many books later, in Disturbance, although she's
moved on with her life, she still misses him.

By the time I started the second book, I was concerned about how
seldom I saw any representation of the emotional impact of violence on
protagonists. They'd get the hell beaten out of them, and then they'd
just knock back a shot of whiskey and go out after their attackers.
They were about as emotionally affected by the beating as someone who
had nicked himself shaving. But in real life, if you or anyone you
know has been attacked, you know the cuts and bruises heal relatively
quickly — it's your state of mind that is never the same. Your
ability to feel safe — more important to many of us than we realize —
is altered forever. Some would say the tough guy shows us how a
courageous man acts. But to me, the kind of courage that is more
interesting is the kind we see in so-called ordinary people. People
who may need every ounce of courage they have just to step outside the
front door, but they do it. They feel afraid, but act anyway.

While my research on those who are violent has caused its share of my
nightmares, I suppose it is the example of courage and persistence in
the face of adversity that I've found in survivors and in those who
are working in law enforcement, criminal justice, and forensic science
that allows me to feel hopeful.

Oh I should add -- I'm not super tough. I probably cry more easily
than anyone you know. Do not whistle the theme to Lassie if I am
within earshot.

RHYS: We're going to be seeing each other in a couple of weeks at the Book
Passage Mystery Conference. Can you tell us a little about that?
What will you be teaching?

JAN:I first attended this wonderful conference as a keynote speaker, back
when Judy Greber and the late Marilyn Wallace were organizing it. I
love Book Passage, one of the Most Wonderful Bookstores on Earth, and
hope those of you who are not interested in writing conferences will
still take the time to browse its Website.

For those of you who are interested, you can't pick a better
conference. (Sign up soon, the conference is limited in size.) Why
do I like this conference so much? Part of it is the Book Passage
itself — while some bookstores do little more than temporarily house
writers' books, Book Passage has become a kind of home place for
writers and books. This store has a strong relationship with its
community, and also with its community of writers. That means they
can put together conferences with faculty members such as Daniel
Silva, John Lescroat, Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, Gregg Hurwitz,
Martin Cruz Smith, and many others. They bring in experts, agents,
and editors. They give attendees the opportunity to have manuscript
consultations. And its all in beautiful Corte Madera, across the
Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

That would all be enough for most folks, but I should add that the
Book Passage goes out of its way to ensure that the first concern of
the faculty is to teach. That may sound obvious to anyone who hasn't
been to a conference that was full of authors who do little more than
pitch their own wares.

As for what I'll be teaching -- I'm in a conversation with Jodi
Compton, and we'll be talking about our research styles and other
general topics. I'm also doing an advanced session with Tony
Broadbent on Developing Character and Dialogue.

RHYS: What's next? Do you enjoy Irene books more than standalones or the
other way around?

JAN: I've decided that I'm not going to say much about the next one yet.
I've found I can talk myself out of manuscripts if I talk too much
about them while they are in progress.
I enjoy standalone and series books equally -- each has its own
challenges and rewards.

RHYS: You've recently started an experiment called "Spoilerville." What
is Spoilerville? Why did you start it?

JAN: Spoilerville ( ) is a place where readers who
have already read a book can comment on it or ask questions of
participating authors and feel free to give away plot -- you visit
Spoilerville *after* reading a book. For those of us who have wanted
to let an author know how much we liked a certain twist, or had a
question about something we read, or wanted to make a comment that
might get us lynched on a list or blog, Spoilerville is your new safe

Many writers get a lot of wonderful blog comments and good questions
from enthusiastic readers who -- if the post goes through --
unintentionally give away parts of the plot. Websites, Facebook,
author blogs, and email discussion lists are places where those who
haven't had a chance to read a book might have things spoiled for them
by such comments. Spoilerville is essentially marked by its name with
a giant spoiler alert -- it's a place where our readers will be able
to meet and discuss books they've finished reading, and ask
plot-specific questions in an environment where those who haven't yet
read the book are not be likely to accidently see them.

Books are on Spoilerville because authors are willing to place them
there -- I'm happy to see you're willing to be one of the pioneers
there, Rhys! I hope your readers will visit Spoilerville! I think we
can have some fun there.

RHYS: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us, Jan. I know your readers will be lining up for the new book. See you next week!
Photo by Sheri McKinley Photography.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Desert Island Comforts

RHYS: When I worked for the BBC one of the first programs I was assigned to was called Desert Island Disks. It involved asking celebrities which music they would choose to take to a desert island with them.Since I'm off to Hawaii next month my thoughts have turned to desert islands and I'm going to ask my Jungle Red Sisters the following questions:If you were marooned on a desert island:
1. Which 3 books would you choose to take with you?

2. Which one piece of music (and the Ring Cycle is cheating)

3. If you could bring one person with you--from history, from the present, who would it be?

ROSEMARY: Oh fun..I love these things...and I'll probably think of other answers as soon as I write these but here goes...Pride and Prejudice- because I can read it over and overThe Bible - because I've never read itMy WIP - obvious
Brandenburg Concertos
My husband.

HANK: Oh, I can never ever choose.Three books--Winters' Tale, by Mark Helprin. (gorgeous) Bonfire of the Vanities. (maybe? hilarious. Laughing is good.) And yeah, my WIP. Got to.
Music? The Beatles White Album? (I guess it's not fair to say--some huge Mozart compilation.)
And yes, of couse. Jonathan. If husbands don't count, in this situation at least, I'd say--Shakespeare? And if you don't think he existed, then I guess..Paul Simon. (The songwriter, not the senator.) That's a tough one, though. It would have to be someone fun to talk to, right? Oh, maybe I should have chosen a doctor. Or a cook!

DEBS: Rhys, what brilliant questions!
Do the Bach cello suites count as one piece of music? (Can I have Torvill and Dean skating to them as well?)
Hank, I LOVE Mark Helprin's A Winter's Tale! Must go on the re-read list . . .
Three books? Oh my gosh, only three? Does Lord of the Rings count as one? That would keep me occupied for a while. #2, waffling between Possession by AS Byatt and Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon (and I can think of a hundred others, but am restraining myself mightily.) #3, WIP, as I would hate not to finish it, even if I had to scribble in sand . . .
And the one person, if we don't count husbands . . . I see we're having a bit of a male bias on this. How about Amelia Erhart? I'll bet she'd have some good stories to tell, and would be useful to have around on a desert island in a pinch.
(Of course, if we're not limited to real people, I might go for Sawyer on LOST. Very handy to have around on a desert island, and looks quite nice without a shirt as well.)

ROBERTA: I'm definitely choosing my husband. You need someone you can get along with over the long, long haul, right?
As for books, something about boat-building would be a good choice. and Gone with the Wind. And okay, I'll bring my WIP though Rhys did not say anything about computers or even legal pads.
For music, I'll go with The Messiah or else La Traviata. Though I hate when I listen to something too much and it gets stuck in my head like an earworm...

HALLIE: Books--Amanda Hesser's compilation of NY Times recipes in The Essential New York Times CookbookInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerGhost Light: A Memoir by Frank Rich
Music--Heaven help me: Carole King's Tapestry. Or Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik
Person: Husband aside, definitely Julia Child.
DEBS: Hallie, love Into Thin Air. Have read it multiple times and will probably read it many more. And why didn't I think of Julia Child?

RHYS: Wouldn't it be torture to have a cook book and Julia Child if all you had to work with was coconuts and clams? Or are you picturing a lush and abundant desert island?
It's amazing how much we are soul sisters. I would definitely choose Lord of the Rings, even though I have read it so many times, but I'd find its essential message of good triumphing over evil, of the small and weak being able to conquer inspiring. I also adore Pride and Prejudice, although I'd choose the Colin Firth TV version if I could...
And Debs, I also adore Possession. I could take the time to read all those poems and marvel at their cleverness.But now I'm starting to think I might need the Dummies Book of Desert Island Survival as one of my choices.
And for the third: maybe Winnie the Pooh to remind me that life is funny and touching and simple.And if not that, then maybe a book on Einstein's Theory of Relativity or on String Theory so that I'd finally have the time to understand them.
For my music: (why did I ever start this thing. How can one choose one piece of music?) Something to make me happy and uplifted. Probably Die Fledermaus.
I'm impressed that everyone wants her husband there. I'm sure mine would be a nuisance and want me to treat his sunburn and coral scratches and the bumps from falling coconuts. Is it cheating to ask for Jesus so that he could inspire me and then teach me how to walk on water? Yes. Okay. Probably Peter Ustinov because he had so many good stories.