Wednesday, December 28, 2011

That Was the Year, That Was.

RHYS BOWEN: As the year draws to a close I always find myself in reflective mood. The holiday celebrations are winding down. I've located the last pieces of wrapping paper and mince pie crumbs and slipping into that transition mood, like Janus looking back and looking forward.

I promise not to make this a dreaded holiday letter--we all get them, I'm sure--one I had this year literally gave a day by day recital of everything the family had done. (On Thursday Feb 2nd Freddie had a dentist appointment but he was very brave and we were proud of him!!) My daughter Jane threatened to send out a spoof letter : "Oh and we were thrilled when Lizzie won the Olympics and the national spelling bee in the same month..."

So I'm limiting my reflections to three highlights of the year. What were three things that happened this year that you will treasure and remember for the rest of your lives?
My first one is easy because it's still happening--it is having my whole family together to celebrate the holidays, my own children and grandchildren and also my brother and his wife from Australia. Sixteen people in the house for a week--chaos, endless cooking and washing up but so great. Bocce ball tournament, charades, Taboo and musical evenings with everyone playing the guitar and singing. What a blessing and who knows when,if ever, we'll get everyone together again?

My second highlight was our trip to Spain, Morocco and Portugal. It's the first time we've ever taken a tour and I loved having every detail being taken care of by someone else. Bags up to the room, meals provided, evening entertainment and interesting people to travel with.

My career highlight? I think it would have to be the Love is Murder conference, at which I was one of the featured speakers. It was in Chicago, the day after that awful snow storm. We were about the first plane to land and drove along one cleared lane of the freeway with towering snowbanks on either side. I was driven to speak at a library and was sure nobody would come out in such awful weather. Instead the room was full. Amazing. And the conference ended with my winning the Readers' Choice award for best mystery series.

I am so grateful that I've been able to make my writing a career all my life and that the mystery world has not only given me an income and some accolades but some really good friends.

So who would like to share their highlights of the year? On Saturday I'll be looking ahead and finding out our resolutions and dreams for 2012.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: AH, Rhys, having to think back over the last year makes me realize I have NO IDEA what happened half the time. Was it this year that Jonathan had his operation? If so, his health is my number one item--but now, I think that might have been the year before.

Hmm. Clearly I'm not good at the reflection stuff. But certainly, THE OTHER WOMAN. And the two book deal beginning is about as life-changing as it comes. The cover is perfect and gorgeous and I get goosebumps every time I look at it. Who'd a thought?

Second, I won't exactly "treasure" it, but in the remembrance reel, my mother's death at 84 must take its rightful place. She was amazing, hilarious, and ALWAYS RIGHT (just ask her) and I'm completely who I am because of her. My family has a tradition of think of each other when the clock says 11:11. SO, I continue to do that. And I will treasure her memory.

Vacations? Nope, worked all the time. Fun? Yup, but let me think. I see my grandchildren growing and flourishing..Eli can read, can you imagine? And Josh is a big Batman fan--little boys are so funny. What could be better than that?

And I am so grateful for all of you blog sisters. Brilliant authors whose faces I first just knew from book jackets. And now, pals. And all you dear Reds readers. We've learned so much from each other! Happiest of New Years...

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Three things? Gosh. Rhys, you're brutal... Joining Jungle Red is certainly on the list! I've been so lucky in my writing career to have made so many friends and enjoyed such a sense of community, but this year with my fellow Reds seems to have multiplied that exponentially. And it's been such fun!

And in September I was asked to speak on a panel at the very prestigious Henley Literary Festival, as No Mark Upon Her (Feb. 7th, 2012!) is set in Henley. That was brilliant, but the best thing was being asked to introduce Felix Francis, the late Dick Francis's son. I'm a huge fan of Felix's, as I was of his dad--and as writers we are still fans--but there was an enormous sentimental element for me because Dick Francis was MY father's favorite author, so there was a sense of coming full circle. (And Felix is lovely...)

Oh, so hard to choose one more! A starred review in PW for No Mark Upon Her, hopefully a harbinger of things to come in 2012!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: The first thing that pops to mind is professional: ONE WAS A SOLDIER made the New York Times list in April. That was wonderful, thrilling, exciting, but I also treasure the silly family celebration we had - iced champagne (a surprise from Ross) and take out pizza and watching THE KING'S SPEECH. That sort of encompasses the high life here at chateau Hugo-Vidal.

The second thing is not one event, but a season: summer. Short and oh-so-sweet in Maine, especially now our oldest is away for much of the rest of the year. We saw great musicals and Shakespeare in the park, we went to the beach and to the Independence Day pops concert, we ate fried clams and home-grilled burgers. I felt as if we really took advantage of every moment and made wonderful memories as a family.

Finally, it was just about a year ago that I was invited to be part of Jungle Red Writers. It's been a wonderful, hectic, sometimes-frantic, always funny trip. I'm so glad you all asked me to be part of the club!

RHYS: Anyone else want to share memorable moments from 2011?


  1. First of all, I hadn't heard about Hank's mother's death. You have spoken of her on occasion, Hank, and she sounded like a remarkable woman. I'm so sorry.

    My highlight of the year has to be my still-fresh three-book contract with Kensington Publishing for a cozy Local Foods Mystery series. I cannot believe my luck and good fortune to finally break into the "big time," big from my perspective, at least.

    Visting one fabulous son in Thanksgiving and having the other fabulous one home for Christmas has been lovely.

    Finally, the lessons I have learned about what kind of small press NOT to go with to publish one's first mystery. SPEAKING OF MURDER is back on the market, alas, but I am much wiser!

  2. Sorry, that should have read, "Visiting one fabulous son in Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving..."

  3. Edith, what a year you've had!

    My dear hub had some health issues too--these are resolved and we hope to leave them all in 2011!

    time with friends and family are always the biggest treasure. I've just come from enjoying Christmas with mine--a lively, loving crowd.

    And now looking forward to January and my first book in over 3 years--hooray!

  4. I will join Hank with one in the remembrance reel. I was visiting my parents when my Uncle Johnny (my dad's older brother) died. His funeral was in the church of my childhood, full of relatives I hadn't seen in years--and many I'll probably never see again. I was asked to read the Prayers of the Faithful (list of relatives who died before you) because I'm the one in the family who knows (and can spell and pronoun) all the ancestral names. That confirmed my place as the family memory-keeper.

    Two professional biggies: I ticked off one from my literary bucket list--a residency at an artists colony. I also was recommended for a fellowship through the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. Didn't apply or do one single thing, so it was a hugely wonderful surprise to be nominated.

  5. Ramona, what a picture that is, to imagine you reading the list. ANd what a lovely and moving tradition.

    Roberta--yes, we're all so excitied! Lots of pub dates cming up around here..everyone feel free to post them, of course!

    Edith, may the still-fresh feeling never wear off. I can attest to how long it lasts..I still float!

    Rosemary--you typed THE END, didn't you?

  6. I'm going to have to dig deep into my inner George Bailey (gee, I guess I DID have a wonderful life!) for this one. 2011 was not a particularly wonderful year for me but to borrow a few lyrics from Stephen Sondheim - I'm still here. So I suppose that counts as a highlight.

  7. Yay, Edith! Congratulations, Ramona. And Lucy can't wait until your book's out and I can get it for everyone I know who loves food and mystery.

    I had a great year. COME AND FIND ME came out and the publisher wants two more. For the moment I've stopped holding my breath.

    The highlight of being a published writer has, since day-one, been getting to meet and hang out with writers whose work I so admire. This year, just for example, I met Jean Auel, Caitlin Shetterly, Jane Friedman, and David Eisenhower, Julia Glass, and Joan Wickersham -- to name just a few.

    And also hearing that some of the writers whose work I've critiqued are getting agents and contracts -- so exciting and gratifying!!

  8. This was a year of "big" occasions for our family: my 60th birthday, my brother's 50th, and our youngest daughter's wedding. I did a LOT of traveling, too, and now I'm tired and ready for a little bit of R&R. Preferably with some good books.

    Except. Our 30th anniversary is coming up fast, and we have more traveling to do around other family occasions. Well, we won't be bored, will we?

    Happy New Year to all.

  9. Hank, condolences on the loss of your mother. She obviously did a wonderful job in helping shape the amazing *you*.

    This was a rollercoaster year. In January, The Only married her sweet husband and in December she received her Masters with honors. Career-wise, the year was pretty much a bust. Lots of hope and almosts only to be rejected in the end. I did write more this year than I ever have and still hope to hear good news from Harlequin while I prepare another MS to send off to my editor to finish out the Faerie trilogy. Fingers crossed she'll still want it as it's been a long time in coming.

    Here's to the good times...

  10. Edith, congratulationS--the first big book contract is always the biggest thrill. Here's to great success with it in 2012

  11. Hmmm - Top three highlights?

    I got to attend a publisher's party at RWA Nat'ls this year. A small (and not mine) publisher, but I got a taste of what the published authors get at conference.

    I got requests for full manuscripts from agents and editors - and revise and resubmit letters on some.

    And I sold a short story to Women's World this year.

    Personally - I'll add one more even though it's not an event, more of a process.

    I lost 25 pounds this year.

  12. I'm sort of with Rosemary on this year. But, will say the GOOD news, was having my dad surviving a stroke and coming back to be able to read, use the computer and enjoy life as usual, tho' having to use a cane to get around.(Dad taught me to read when I was 2 or 3)

    We also enjoyed visits from our favorite niece and nephew, who have added much love and spice to our lives, since their mother passed away several years ago.

    And thirdly, I finished NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row and made some new friends along the way.

    I'm also thankful for having the Jungle Reds to read and comment on. Learn of new books all the time here. Y'all are the best!Please don't ever go away!

  13. Oh, gosh, I almost forgot to mention---today is my Mom's 82nd birthday! Happy B'Day, Mom!

    Even if she doesn't always get on the computer, I email her copies of stuff!

  14. Last spring I attended the wedding of my oldest nephew. I was moved to tears watching him and his lovely bride interacting with his parents. It was more than the ordinary tears of happiness that people shed at weddings: his mom is my second youngest sibling; she nearly died on the day she was born, along with my mom,from a complication that was not detected until it was almost too late. Both recovered,but were in the hospital for a long time. To be present all those years later with my sister at her son's wedding was so moving! I was just sad that my mom did not live to see it. She was always so proud of my nephew,who is the oldest grandchild.

    And the young couple recently announced that they will be parents this spring!

    Lastly, I am glad that I FINALLY joined the local Fine Arts Council, after procrastinating for about four years, and I am even participating in some activities. Wow! Big steps for someone who likes to hide in a corner or sit near the exit at meetings or gatherings!

  15. Not a terribly good year for me . . .

    Bad: Scammed out of new rehab wheelchair, paid for by insurance but never delivered by provider who kept money and said he delivered it.

    Good: Gabby Giffords and staff helped me get new chair.

    Bad: Couldn't get paratransit ride, but thinking about trying again for a ride over to Safeway to thank them, when I received news alert that they had been shot and some of our neighbors killed.

    Good: Gabby and some of those shot survived.

    Good: I found community on the internet.

  16. Well...the good news for those of us who didn't have stellar years is's almost over and 2012 is going to ROCK!!

    I got two lovely emails from readers today and I start my edits soon...will have a lovely New Years Eve with my hubby and then head for a quiet beach in the caribbean for a week. now if only the Knicks would play some defense all would be right with the world.

  17. Rosemary, that is a terrific thought. Scout and I have a lovely bottle of champagne chilling, and we are looking forward to a much happier 2012!

  18. Reine..ah. You are a miracle.

    Ro! You are SO right. Edits, sunscreen, champagne and friends.
    GO 12!

  19. Oh Hank, . . . it is miraculous that I could ignore the Knicks reference in Rosemary's comment . . . and you noticed! When Grandmother Harrington flew out to visit me in California - when she was 87 - I asked her how her flight was. She said, "Oh for god's sake, how bad could it be? I sat with Doug Flutie all the way from Logan."