Wednesday, February 29, 2012

6 Ways to Energize Your Writing Naturally

LUCY BURDETTE: Which of us doesn't need a little advice about upping our energy level? Today Chrystle Fiedler visits JRW to give us some tips about natural remedies. Not only is she an expert on this subject, she's also the author of the brand new natural remedies mystery, DEATH DROPS. Welcome Chrystle!

CHRYSTLE FIEDLER: It's fun to take a break from writing and visit Jungle Red! I thought it would be interesting to write about natural remedies since my new book Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery features a holistic doctor who dispenses natural cures. I also thought that readers might be interested in natural ways to boost energy when it comes to writing.

I don't know about you but the best time for me to be productive and hopefully brilliant! is in the morning from 9 to noon. But once I have lunch, I feel less energetic. However, if I'm under a deadline I need to power through less productive times and write throughout the day. That's when I turn to my favorite natural remedy - coffee! I buy mine from 7-11 because home brewed just isn't strong enough.

I interviewed a doctor at Harvard Medical School years ago for an article and he told me that coffee at 7-11 and Dunkin' Donuts is 8 times as strong has home brewed! Not only does coffee give me a much needed pick-me-up, I've found it also boosts my mood (recent research shows that coffee can help with mild depression) and helps me see things more clearly. In addition, these natural cures can make you more alert and focused, with writing or whatever you need to do!

1. Sip small amounts of chilled water every 30 minutes. Studies show that when you consume small amounts of chilled water every 20-30 minutes during the day, it sends a clear and immediate signal to your brain to increase alertness and energy.

2. Smell peppermint. According to a study in the North American Journal of Psychology drivers had more energy when exposed to this scent. Peppermint increases alertness and decreases fatigue. Chew a nice strong peppermint gum or peppermint mints while you write or drive to decrease fatigue and increase alertness.

3. Use acupressure on your outer ears. Applying pressure to acupressure points all along the outer ear helps to clear the head, gets rid of dull pain above the neck and charges up your entire energy system. Just take your thumb and first finger and go up and down the entire outer ear two or three times and give it a good brisk rubbing.

4. Drink green tea. Green tea has some energizing caffeine, but it also contains theanine, an amino acid that has a stress-reducing effect on your brain. It calms you while giving you mental clarity, leaving your mind clear and sharp and alert.

5. Inhale Eucalyptus or spearmint essential oil. The nose is the only part of your brain that extends to the outer environment is your sense of smell so it's very charged. Volatile oils such as eucalyptus or spearmint stimulate a part of your brain that triggers alertness. For a natural pick-me-up place a few drops of eucalyptus or spearmint essential oil on a tissue and inhale deeply.

6. Eat Dark Chocolate. Although it's weaker than caffeine, the chemical theobromine in chocolate is a mild stimulant. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, (PEA) which is a feel good mood elevator. Choose a high quality, imported dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa content. It has less sugar and its rich flavor will satisfy you with less. Aim for 1 ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week.

About Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery:

Dr. Willow McQuade, N.D., a twenty-eight-year-old naturopathic doctor specializing in natural remedies, has decided to take sabbatical and visit her Aunt Claire, the owner of Nature's Way Market and Cafe in idyllic Greenport, Long Island. But the idea of rest and relaxation is quickly forgotten when Willow arrives from a morning meditative walk to discover her Aunt Claire dead in the store, a strange almond-like smell emanating from her mouth and a bottle of flower essences by her side.

Despite her Zen nature and penchant for yoga, Aunt Claire had a knack for getting into confrontations with folks. An activist, she held weekly meetings for different causes every week in the store. The police want to believe the death is accidental-but Willow thinks she may have been poisoned.

Chrystle Fiedler is the author of DEATH DROPS: A NATURAL REMEDIES MYSTERY (Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster), as well as of the non-fiction title THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL REMEDIES (Alpha, 2009), co-author of BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010), currently in its fourth printing, the BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! COOKBOOK (Fairwinds Press, 2012) and THE COUNTRY ALMANAC OF HOME REMEDIES (Fairwinds, 2011). Chrystle's magazine articles featuring natural remedies have appeared in many national publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times and Remedy. Visit

LUCY BURDETTE: Thanks for stopping by today Chrystle! JRW, for a chance to win a free copy of DEATH DROPS: A NATURAL REMEDIES MYSTERY, post a comment with your answer to this question: What is your favorite natural remedy?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Season of Envy

LUCY BURDETTE: Last week I came across a fascinating article by Dennis Palumbo, one of our previous guests on Jungle Red, in which he talked about the impact of awards on a Hollywood career. One of his patients (Dennis is both a psychotherapist and a writer) calls this period after the Oscar nominations are announced "the season of envy." And he compares it to the sense of longing and insecurity many of us experienced in high school. I suspect this description might go for writers just as well--we'd always like to reach some peak a little higher than the place we are now. There are tons of awards coming up in the writing world that can contribute to these feelings, like the Lefties, the Edgars, the Agathas, the Macavities, the Anthonys--and I know I'm leaving some out. And we've just learned that Meryl Streep won the Oscar for best actress in THE IRON LADY, and THE ARTIST cleaned up otherwise.

I thought it might be fun to talk about the award we each most covet--never mind whether we have the talent--and what it would be for. I can imagine enjoying a number, but I'll name just two. The first would be an Oscar for best actress in a role like Meryl Streep played in JULIE AND JULIA--a real character part where viewers are astonished at how well I was able to inhabit someone else's skin. (This will never happen as I am completely devoid of acting talent.) And the second would be the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not sure what exactly I would have done to deserve it, but I can't think of a better goal.

RHYS BOWEN: Boy, you certainly don't start humbly, do you Lucy? Where can I go from there? Actually I want to win an Edgar. I covet that little statue with the bow tie. I have won most other awards in the mystery sphere and I was nominated for the Edgar once (at the same time as Julia) but I suspect I'll never come close again. I actually wrote a poem about it. A couple of verses go:

"I just want to win an Edgar
That little guy with bow tie red-grr
And with an R beneath his head--grr
Quoth the maven, "I'm not sure."

"If you want to make your marker
You must write a book that's darker
Change your name to T Jeff Parker
That's the only way to score."

There was more but that gives you the gist.
Of course I wouldn't mind winning anything at the Oscars, because I'd like an excuse to buy a dress like that.

HALLIE EPHRON: Laughing, Rhys! I wouldn't mind an Edgar...

BUT, since we're talking fantasy here, what I really covet would be a Grammy for singing like Aretha. Or Olympic Gold for high diving.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: At the risk of suggesting that I'm more highly evolved than I am, I don't really think too much about awards. Don't get me wrong, I was pleased to be nominated for the Agatha and the Anthony - and like Rhys, I would love an excuse to buy and wear a killer gown but it doesn't go much further than that. If pressed I would say a Pulitzer for writing a novel that really speaks to women - or failing that, Miss Congeniality. How's that for a range?

LUCY: Oh, I wish I'd thought of the Olympic gold medal--Maybe basketball, or floor exercise, or figure skating...Ro, Miss Congeniality--that will keep me chuckling all day. I say we just go ahead and award that one to you right now!

JAN BROGAN: Well, I'd have to say the award I'd most covet is the Pulitzer for history, but right now I'm sort of a stick in the mud about awards, and you can blame it on NPR. Last week, they did a story on why Woody Allen shuns the Oscars (except in 2002 when he was promoting NYC after 911). He believes strongly that art is so subjective, it's madness to pick one as the best, The works aren't comparable in any way.

Now this is particularly powerful because Woody Allen HAS won Oscars. Three times, so its not out of envy he says this. I have been thinking about it ever since - and thinking that if that is true, the Oscars are just another reality show.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Eeesh. It all started when I was a kid, and felt like I was never good enough. (Lucy, jump in here..) So as a result, I think I became very competitive. And I do like awards.
Example of why this happened: my mother, upon hearing that I'd won another Emmy, responded "Oh, honey, do you still care about things like that?"
Anyway, yes, mom, I do. Sorry. I'm a bad shallow person. And I would LOVE an Edgar. (And an Oscar for best screenplay. OOOH. YES!) And I still look at my mystery awards with endless delight and happy memories and much gratitude. Who'd a thought?

But a propos of "the season of envy"--that's not how I feel when I lose. When I lose, I always think--"I have to work harder! I have to be better!"

RO, you ARE Miss Congeniality. SO, hurray, and we are sending you a tiara.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Yeah, I have to confess with Rhys, that I'd like an Edgar. It kind of feels like the one that got away. When Jeff Parker won, for the deservedly fine CALIFORNIA GIRL, Ross leaned over and said, "They just switched names at the last minute because his kid and elderly dad are here with him." So if I'm every invited back to the Banquet, I'm bringing the whole family and a three-legged, blind dog with me. No way I won't win then.

Ahhh...fantasy award? Picking up an Emmy for Best Screenplay (on the stunningly-successful series based on my books, natch.)

Too bad we don't have things to award like the OBE in America. Rhys, are you still a British citizen? Could you become a Dame?

RHYS: I have dual citizenship, so in theory I could become a Dame. You'd have to curtsey to me, of course. If we're going all out, I'd rather be a baroness, like Lady Thatcher. And I want an Olympic medal too--ice skating? And Julia, if you bring your blind dog, I'm coming in a wheel-chair.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Doesn't everyone who writes crime novels want to win an Edgar? Or the British equal in prestige, the Gold Dagger? But while it's thrilling to be nominated for awards, and even to win them, I can think of few things more excruciating than waiting for that final announcement. Then if you've lost, it's half disappointment and half relief that you don't have to walk up on that stage and babble something totally incoherent.

But as much as I appreciate the Edgar (having served on enough committees over the years, I know how much hard work goes into that short list) and the fan awards, and as much as I love the Oscars (and I do) I have to admit to feeling a bit Woody Allen-ish about it all. It's the same reason I think we shouldn't pay too much attention (or maybe even read) reviews of our books. These things are all so subjective! And in the end, no amount of awards or reviews change a single thing about our relationship with the words on the page.

And now that I've had my high-brow vent, Julia, I'll fight you for that Best Screenplay award for the stunningly successful series based on my books:-) But Dame Rhys may win it first.

JULIA: If Rhys ever becomes a Dame, we shall INSIST she wear towering great hats a la Lady Violet in DOWNTON ABBEY. Agreed?

LUCY: Agreed! And if any one of you are up for the Edgar or best screenplay, we'll all come and cheer you on! And speaking of winners, Virginia wins a copy of AN APPETITE FOR MURDER for her spaghetti in the German chocolate cake story. (Send an email to raisleib at so we can work out the details.) And Theresa of California won the DVD on Sunday.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dinner Party Disasters

LUCY BURDETTE: This topic came to mind after a dinner I made over the weekend. Luckily, it was only John and me, no guests. Sometimes I get a little bored with my rotation of meals, and so leaf through cookbooks or food blogs for something new. This particular recipe came from an app I'd downloaded onto my iPhone. The app gave a list of ingredients, then instructions, all nicely illustrated. So at the grocery store, I bought the ingredients for two new dishes. The linguine with spinach, garlic, pinenuts, and Key West pink shrimp was delightful. The next night, I tried the Thai stir-fry with chicken, carrots, broccoli and peanuts. Only at the last minute, I realized I'd misread the recipe and used rice VINEGAR instead of rice wine. Too late to turn back, so I added some sugar, hoping for a sweet and sour effect. It looked gorgeous and we choked it down, but that's about all I could say for it. And that got me thinking about dinner disasters in general.

The most astonishing dinner party disaster I've witnessed did not take place in my kitchen. This was some years ago at a dear friend's house and we had partaken of an extended happy hour before dinner was to be served. We moved into the kitchen to help out. She pulled the main dish out of the oven--chicken nestled into a creamy sauce--then bobbled the pan so it flipped over onto the floor in agonizing slow motion. Sauce and chicken splashed everywhere--her husband's face looked like a thundercloud. After a pause, she began to laugh: "You won't believe it, but I just washed the floor this afternoon!" Then she scraped the food back into the dish and served it to us. And without a word, we ate it. We still laugh about it.

How about you Reds, any dinner party disasters you're willing to share?

ROSEMARY HARRIS: It was a pumpkin pie. I brought it to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know what I was thinking - maybe the pie plate I wanted to use wasn't the size specified in the recipe and I tried to tinker with the measurements. I looked beautiful but when they cut into it, it was like soup. So embarrassed. People were so polite, they actually tried to eat it.

HALLIE EPHRON: Lucy, your story reminds me of the time a duck I'd roasted slid off the platter on the way to the table. I confess I yanked it by it's little drumstick, threw it into the sink, wiped it down (carpet fibers), stuck it back on the platter, slapped a little a l'orange sauce on it, and brought it out. Isn't it Julia Child who said something like, "Remember, if you're alone in the kitchen, who is going to see you?"

Then there was the time Jan Brogan was complimenting my arroz con pollo -- how did I get the rice so crunchy? (My secret: it was undercooked.)

RHYS BOWEN: In my early days of marriage we entertained a lot and I'd try new recipes on a whim, (without trying them on my husband first). The turban of sole looked amazing and I was going to impress John's business clients. I lined a bundt pan with filets of sole, then filled it with a mixture of rice, shrimp, rich seafood sauce. It was supposed to turn out easily as a lovely firm ring. I went to turn it out and thwarp--it splatted onto the platter, a goopy disgusting looking pink mess. I did the only thing I could--made a quick sherry based sauce, added parsley and then poured it over individual servings, thus hiding them. John hoped I'd learn my lesson about not trying things out first, but I never have.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, you know the other famous Julia Child quote--when she dropped the Thanksgiving turkey! She laughed and scooped it up and said--no problem, I'll just take this into the kitchen and bring out the OTHER turkey!

My worst one (that I allow myself to remember) was also at Thanksgiving..I had so many side dishes, and I was so proud of myself for juggling the ovens and microwaves and everything was finished at the same time..EXCEPT the turkey!! What the HECK was taking it so long? I've cooked a million turkeys, and they always work, and WHY WHY WHY when I had special guests was this the ONE time that it seemed to take forever?

We all ate appetizers, FOREVER, and I kept the sides warm, but I was BAFFLED.
It was FINALLY done, and fine, but about an hour after I planned.
Later? I discovered I had not removed the giblet and yucky stuff package. Sigh. So silly. Lesson learned.

JAN BROGAN: Perhaps I am blocking memories. but I can only remember one incident, and it wasn't really a disaster because we had good friends over for dinner, and with good friends, there isn't a lot of embarrassment. But Sheila and Jay were coming for dinner, and for some reason Sheila inspired my decision to make scallops. Some sort of connection in my head between Sheila and scallops. Maybe because as couples we sailed a lot together and we had so many seafood dinners?


The scallops were delicious - But the reason I'd thought of scallops was because Sheila was allergic to them. Being extremely resourceful. Sheila got up from the table, rustled through my refrigerator and found the chicken I'd made from the night before and sat down with a full plate. That's what you call a GOOD FRIEND.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Oh, Jan, that is a good friend. Dinner disasters... usually, I stick with the tried and true (and not too challenging) exactly in order not to screw the meal up. There was the Christmas dinner (fortunately just family) when Ross and I decided to serve Bison as the main course. Don't ask me what we we thinking. We had been on an "exotic meat" kick since our safari in Africa that summer. We bought a lovely cut from a local organic rancher and, since we'd never tackled it before, followed the directions to a T. It seemed to call for a lot of liquid, and it had to be cooked in a covered dish for hours... well, when the time came for the grand unveiling of the centerpiece of our Christmas Feast, we had--pot roast. Falling apart, gravy-laden pot roast. It was delicious, thank heavens, but it definitely lacked that visual ooomph one wants for a fancy meal.

My other story dates back, back, back to the dawn of my culinary experiments, when I moved into an off-campus apartment in Ithaca. I had invited a bunch of friends over for dinner, and had to come up with something other than hot dogs (which was all I knew how to cook at the time.) My mother, the font of all cooking wisdom, suggested Spaghetti Bolognese with salad and store-bought Italian bread. Perfect! I browned several pounds of ground beef, drained it, threw it into canned sauce, and with the addition of a cheap jug wine, had a jolly and well-received party.

Afterwards, I started to clean up. The sink started filling with water. And filling. And filling.

That three pounds of fatty ground beef? Drained straight into the sink. The congealed fat set like concrete. Had to call a plumber to open the pipe again.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I love the Julia Child's story--it's one of my favorites. Unfortunately, on most days, anything that falls on the kitchen floor in my house is covered in dog hair. I solemnly promise that if any of you ever come to dinner at my house, I won't bring out the OTHER turkey:-)

And, Julia, maybe your mother should have reminded you why our mothers and grandmothers kept grease cans by the side of the stove...

My mother always told me not to try new things on guests, so of course I've always done exactly the opposite. My argument being, "When else would I try them?" I can't remember any major disasters, but that may just be because it's been so long since I've given a dinner party....

And now I'm going to go sweep and mop my kitchen floor.

LUCY: Tell us your disasters Reds! Best story wins an autographed copy of AN APPETITE FOR MURDER--Hayley never has dinner party trauma....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On the Road Again

I hope you've enjoyed our travel week here at Jungle Reds. I'm sure the travel gene is connected to the writing gene--we love to take ourselves to other places and times in our imagination when we are not actually traveling.

My next travel jaunt is coming up in March and it's not to far away places, but a short book tour with Cara Black. Cara and I have done many events together and I always enjoy her company. In fact I really like doing a book tour with another writer or two. It's more cheerful than the solo tour when you come back late at night to a lonely hotel room, order room service then head for the next city. With a companion the journeys are more pleasant, you have someone to celebrate with when the event goes well, someone to drown sorrows with when they are poorly attended. And above all, someone to laugh with.

I've done some strange events in my writing life and probably one of the strangest was with Cara and David Corbett when we were invited to speak at a nudist colony. David was the one who was freaking out most on the way there! He swore he was going to hold his book up in front of his face and not take his eyes off the page once. Actually it was a cold night and most people were clothed--except for one man who wore nothing but... a beard. He carried a tiny backpack on his back and insisted on walking up and down in front of us. Rather disturbing when I was trying to speak coherently.

I also remember speaking to an audience resembling the cast of Deliverance in North Carolina, including one girl who was crying hysterically. Nobody paid any attention to her. Oh, and there was the time we had to meet the store pet, and it was a pig. And the store that hosted a tea party and two old women didn't seem to understand that I was giving a speech. They wolfed down cakes while chatting in loud voices. "So, have you seen Sarah, lately?"

So you see, you never know what you are going to get. That's part of the fun. I'll keep you posted on how Cara and I fare this time. And if you're in Arizona, Southern Cal or the Bay Area, please check out our schedule and come to see us. Our schedules are on our websites.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Traveling Foodies

RHYS BOWEN: I confess. I'm a coward when it comes to food during my travels. Not having the strongest stomach in the world I have never eaten the more adventurous things like fried grasshoppers in Thailand. My husband, on the other hand, has a cast-iron stomach and will happily graze from stalls in markets wherever we are.

But it's memories of food that take me back to a place more vividly than any snapshot, so I've been trying to recall some memorable meals from my travels. I've eaten spectacular Indian curries and Chinese banquets, but what immediately came into my head was my time in Greece.

When I was a student I spent three months going around Greece with a backpack. My friend and i had no money so we ate in cheap cafes or from street vendors. In the cafes in small towns we were always the only women and the men would look up from their domino games to eye us with suspicion.
But my memories of that food are wonderful. Gyros made with lamb sliced from a carcass still turning on a spit, stuffed peppers snd tomatoes, moussaka. The convention was to go through the cafe into the kitchen, check out what was cooking and order what we liked the look of.
But my favorite meals were on the island of Aegina where we rented a tiny cabin. The cafe was just a shack on the waterfront and every day they cooked whatever fish they had caught that day. We'd eat the octopus we saw them catch earlier, banging it on the rocks like laundry to tenderize it. We'd eat whole grilled fish, or even a frito misto of stir fried whatever. All wonderful and washed down with retsina for which we developed a taste. Then strolling home through twilight olive groves, a trifle tipsy, while Greek music floated to us across the water. I'm smiling now as I think of it.

So who would like to share a travel food memory?

LUCY BURDETTE: I will never forget a roasted chicken with the most crispy skin garnished by a lentil salad in a cafe in Paris. We had a splendid cassoulet on the same trip--I think there had been an article about Parisian food in the LA Times. Did not write them down and have never been able to find them since...

HALLIE EPHRON: As you might imagine, I travel on my stomach. Oh, Rhys, your description of eating in Greece brought back memories. We ate ate a restaurant with fishing boats right outside; they beat the octupi and hung them to dry, so when you order it the chef ran across and grabbed a few.

But for favorite? SOOOO hard. I'd have to say dinner at Ristorante Miky in Monterosso al Mare -- across the street from the beach in this spectacular town in the Cinque Terra in Italy. The meal began with anchovies. Not the kind you get in the can, these are fresh caught right there. About 5 inches long by 3 inches wide, cured in a lemony brine and oil. Exquisite! Then fresh, tender homemade tagliatelle with langoustine.

RHYS: Hallie, I've eaten there! I stayed in Monterosso with my hiking friends when we hiked the Cinque Terre trail and we had a seafood risotto for all of us, cooked under a giant pizza crust that ballooned up like a huge mushroom. Then the owner pierced it and all that lovely vapor came out. Ahhh.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, fabulous food in Mexico, Italy, France, especially traveling with my parents on Frommer's $25 a Day (remember those?) and eating in working class cafes in France and Italy. Lunch at Gordon Ramsay Claridge's. BUT--can you guess? Last fall I ate at a restaurant called Joanna's in Crystal Palace, south London. They are famous for their mussels, so we that for starters with fresh artisan bread from the next door bakery. I have seldom been so tempted to lick the bowl. Then, roast belly of Suffolk pork, with winter greens and creamy mash (potatoes) in an apple and ginger sauce. And (can you guess again?) Sticky Toffee pudding for dessert. Everything was absolute perfection.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I think I've already relayed my Paul Bocuse and Fish A/Fish B story. I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to food - I passed on all the the exotic offerings in the Beijing food market (I think glazed sheep testicles on a stick were there, next to the chocolate covered grasshoppers!) I remember a wonderful meal in Avignon at a restaurant around the corner from La Mirande - but don't ask me what it was! I had asked for a vegetarian meal and they whipped up someting that was fantastic.

The one I do remember? It was the day after my first book came out and I had just flown to Phoenix for a gig at Poisoned Pen. I was starving and pulled into the lot across the street from the bookstore. The door was locked but I saw a few people inside and tapped on the window. The owner was closing up but took pity on me. His employee set one table, and lit candles while the owner - who said I'd have to take pot luck made me a plate with cold chicken pesto and a small salad. It was fabulous and every time I go back to PP I try to go to Cafe Monarch in Scottsdale!

HANK PHILLIPI RYAN: (RO, that's lovely--I hope to be there smeday!) For me--Pizza--in France! We were at the Michel Giraud restaurant/hotel in the town of Pau. The chef made pizza with fresh tomatoes right out of a lush garden-and it was the most intense! (In French, I think it's pissaladiere.) But you know--I had a memorable meal right here in the the Four Seasons in Boston. PERFECT salad, perfect steak with blue cheese, perfect broccolini and some caulflower/potato thing with truffles. I also love when Jonathan grills out in our back yard..

JAN BROGAN _ The freshness of the tomatoes and cucumbers and the honey and yoghurt in Crete. Closer to home, but just as memorable, eating lobster bought on the docks of Cuttyhunk, cooked and eaten while on a the cockpit of a sailboat with the added pleasure of tossing the shells right back into the sea.It's really the only way you should eat lobster.

RHYS: Are you drooling yet? Do these memories evoke any of your own? Who has actually tried the fried grasshoppers? Actually I have eaten prairie oysters so I guess I'm a tad adventurous

Friday, February 24, 2012

Travel Traumas "Come and Find Me"

RHYS BOWEN: We Jungle Reds have had a lot to celebrate recently, including Hallie Ephron's nomination for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark award, to be presented during Edgars week at the beginning of May. And now we're celebrating with Hallie today because her nominated book, COME AND FIND ME, is coming out in paperback and will be at stores near you on February 28th.

Hallie is also a great traveler, so it seemed only fitting that she step into today's travel spotlight.

Take it away, Hallie! We're raising our champagne glasses to you.

HALLIE EPHRON: Raising my glass back at you Rhys! Rhys Bowen's NAUGHTY IN NICE is nominated for an Audie award for best audio book!

Back to... Thank you! Thank you!

Is the new cover cool or what? Clink, clink, clink, all around. (Some of you have heard me talk about how important it is to celebrate. I'm CELEBRATING!)

This week's posts on travel got me thinking...
Travel can be exciting. Sometimes too exciting. My trip to Barcelona was like that. I got mugged. (Doesn't everyone get mugged in Barcelona?)

I was standing on a street corner near the famous Ramblas and a man came running up from behind me, grabbed the strap of my shoulder bag, and threw me to the ground. He got my purse, but fortunately I had my passport in a pouch around my neck and a spare asthma inhaler in my suitcase. Best of all my two kids were across the street so they didn't see it happen.

I was badly bruised, but fortunately nothing was broken. What really got shaken was my travel confidence. I'd always felt comfortable venturing out into unfamiliar places. All of a sudden, not so much. In crowds, in particular.

When I was writing "Come and Find Me" I was channeling some of that residual fear. I hope never to have a travel trauma like my character, Diana Highsmith. Her lover fell to his death when they were ice climbing in the Alps. Ever since, she's become intensely agoraphobic -- just opening her front door to the UPS deliver man can trigger a panic attack.

When her sister goes missing, Diana has to get up the courage to leave her house. The only way she manages to leave her safe world is by taking on the persona of her avatar -- a cyberspace character she created who is the embodiment of her former fearless self.

If you got mugged in Barcelona, raise your hand!

So today's travel question: Any travel traumas in your past, and any tips for getting over the residual fear (short of dressing up as Wonder Woman)?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our Five Most Beautiful Places on Earth.


It’s Day 4 of Jungle Red Travel Week, so I thought I’d ask the Reds to come up with their FIVE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES ON EARTH.

They discovered, as I did, that it’s almost impossible to limit it to five, and it’s hard to compare natural beauty with manmade beauty.

But I’m going to kick off with my top five

Lake Dal in Kashmir

Sedona, AZ

Lake Como, the view from Bellagio, Italy,


The coastline between Nice and Monte Carlo, France.


Twilight in Provence

Sunset in Menemsha

When the wind is in from Africa, in Matala, Crete

Sailing in the British Virgin Islands, but especially Virgin Gorda

Rocking on a porch on Thousand Islands, (especially Round or Frontenac Island) New York

Sunset in Key West (of course!)
Budapest, Hungary, riding a bike along the river
The bridge over the Seine on the way to Notre Dame, Paris
The Outer Banks of North Carolina
The cobblestone streets of Rome


London, anywhere, but especially the view of St. Paul's from
Westminster Bridge at sunset.
Paris, along the Seine.
The English countryside in the southwest--Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset,
Shropshire, Oxfordshire, Glouscesteshire... (is this cheating?)
The Scottish Highlands

RHYS: I guess we can let you off with a blanket description of the Southwest of England, especially since I come from Bath and have to admit it is lovely country.


"Beautiful Beach" in Nevis
Glacier National Park in Montana

The view from the roof of Samaritaine in Paris
Siena,Italy on Palio day

The vistas of Chianti, with cypress trees poking up from the hills and the
towers of San Gimingnano

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley
Three Gorges on the Yangtze River
Paris, looking toward Notre Dame from the Petit Pont
The streets of Venice
Bryce Canyon

The Adirondacks
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
Almost any white-sand beach along the gulf of Mexico
The Scottish Highlands
And my two favorite cities, London and Vienna.


I'm chiming in from Tanzania - one of MY Most Beautiful places (also had a few horrible experiences here but mostly wonderful.)

Uhuru Peak, top of Kilimanjaro, TZ
Serengeti/Masai Mara, TZ/Kenya
Road to Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Confluence of Green and Colorado Rivers, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana

So unfair to make us only choose five! Next time five fave cities!

RHYS: It’s interesting how many we had in common (except for Rosemary and her Everest Base Camp and the top of Kilimanjaro—with which we can’t compete!). I also had Bryce Canyon, the Highway to the Sun, Paris, Tuscany on my extended list. I think Italy wins as the country most often mentioned.

So now it’s your turn. Your five most beautiful places on Earth please.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday in Paris, with Cara Black.

RHYS BOWEN: No travel week would be complete without a trip to Paris and what better guide than my good friend Cara Black. Cara has become THE definitive writer of mysteries set in Paris and her many fans look forward to guessing in which part of the city she will set her next book. The wait is over and Murder at the Lanterne Rouge takes place in Paris's Chinatown (which is interesting because we are about to tour together and I'll be promoting the paperback of last year's Molly book, that took place in New York's Chinatown.

So welcome Cara and tell us :What drew you to Chinatown?

CARA BLACK: I follow your lead Rhys comme toujours. In Paris, my friends live around the corner from a small Chinatown at the northern edge of the Marais. Intrigued I discovered that this warren of several medieval streets contains the smallest and oldest Chinatown of the four Chinatowns in Paris. The inhabitants come from Wenzhou, a southern province below Canton and engage in selling wholesale bags, luggage and costume jewelry. They’re ‘entrepeneurs’ and quite different from the Chinese population in the other Chinatowns. As I walked these narrow streets I heard the slap of Mah Jong tiles and pounding of machines from behind closed doors and in the old courtyards. There’s a whole substrata below the surface of sweatshops with illegal immigrants who come to France to work but become almost indentured slaves to pay off their passage. A conversation with a man in the Renseignements Generaux, the RG, which is the dom
estic intelligence service really sparked this book after he told me ‘No one dies in Chinatown.’

RHYS: People always tell you such good things! So h
ow many more arrondisements to go?

CARA: Twelve down, eight more, Rhys. But of course each arrondissement is
composed of four quartiers. So in theory I could go on well, until I’m a hundred?

RHYS: And what we all really want to know:. Will Aimee ever find a steady guy and settle down?

CARA: Poor girl, she’s unlucky in love. Her fiancé, Yves, the journalist who she thought was the 'one' was murdered a few books back. Ever since it’s been a rocky course - relationships are a mine field for her. Alors, she likes bad boys. But she’s attracted to Melac, a homicide inspector in the Brigade Criminelle despite her experiences with the police - her father was a policeman before he was drummed out of the force on trumped up charges. Aimée’s made a rule that she won’t get involved with this homicide inspector who’s job takes him on all night stakeouts in danger and might not return. Now, she’s broken it. Just when her relationship with Melac seems steady, in Murder in the Lanterne Rouge, they’ve planned a long weekend together he’s called to a new assignment, a clandestine surveillance that takes him away for he doesn’t know how long. He’s been promoted to a job he can’t talk about ‘or he’d have to kill her’.

RHYS: Did you get a thrill when you saw "your" detective agency appear in Midnight
in Paris?

CARA: Yes, I actually saw the film in Paris and jolted in my seat. It was funny because I was determined NOT to see it even though lots of French friends were raving about it. Then one night on my street, rue Delambre in Montparnasse behind the famous La Rotonde, Le Dome and La Coupole cafe’s where Hemingway and the ‘Lost Generation’ of writers and artists hung out I relented. The film literally was about to start so I bought a ticket. French movies theatres are so fun and old fashioned they even have a lady selling candy in the aisles. When I saw Duluc Detective flash on the screen and the real interior of the detective agency I laughed. I interviewed Madame ‘Duluc’ (her married name is different) years ago in Duluc Detective when I was coming up with the character of Aimée Leduc. I shamelessly used parts of Madame Duluc’s story of inheriting the agency from her father and grandfather who’d been with the Suréte and gave Aimée an interesting history.

RHYS: Since this is Red's travel week, tell us one thing about Paris that would surprise us.

CARA: There’s a lot actually. But what’s wonderfully convenient is that you can buy your car registration sticker at the local cafe-tabac - no waiting forever at the DMV and those long lines. You can drink an espresso while you wait, very civilized. Also, the Hotel de Ville, the main Paris town hall, has a clock minder - it’s a real municipal job - he repairs and keeps all the several hundred old clocks in the huge 19th century building running. It takes him two days to wind all the clocks!

RHYS: What's your favorite Parisian meal?

CARA: I’m not an escargot fan nor of raw chopped steak tartare. I love the fish dishes at La Marine, a bistro on Canal Saint Martin - a simple filet dorade with a light caper sauce. Or oysters on the half shell, fresh from Brittany, served at the wine bar le Baron Rouge near the marché d’Aligre one of the oldest markets in Paris near the Bastille. There’s always a line and it’s a wonderful convivial place with fresh-this-morning oysters. The meal would be topped by limon-cassis sorbet from Bertillon on the Ile Ste-Louis, the best ice cream place in the world.

RHYS: I've made a note of both for my trip to Paris this summer! And while we're on my trip to Paris, if I wanted to buy one of Aimee's little black dresses where should I go?

CARA: Didier Ludot’s boutique in the Palais Royal. He only sells little black dresses; vintage couture in mint condition. So grab your YSL clutch and prepare to pull out a big wad of Euros but the dresses are classic, timeless and worth the investment. As French women say ‘you can’t go wrong wearing a little black dress.’

RHYS: Bonne chance with the new book, Cara. MURDER AT THE LANTERNE ROUGE comes out on March 1st and Cara will be speaking and signing all over the West Coast. Some of those signings will be with me but if you want to know Cara's crazy schedule, check it out on her website,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's In the Genes.

RHYS BOWEN: Welcome to Day 2 of Travel Week at Jungle Red Writers.
Yesterday I mentioned that travel must have been in my genes and I was bitten by the travel bug from my toddler days. But then I started to wonder where in my genes it came from. From my Devonshire father's lot? I don't think so. Nor the Welsh who only moved across the border. But then I remembered my French great grandmother, Josephine Bonne. I'd like to have known her--she was 17 when she married my Welsh great grandfather, who was 35. They had 14 children. He died. She married again. He died. Then at 82 she decided to go out to Australia to be with her eldest daughter. In those days it was a sea voyage of months, but off she went alone. I have a picture of her with her children and grand children around her, looking about twenty something with a tiny waist. So if I have her genes, I'm glad.

All my family has also inherited the Welsh musical genes. Two of my children are professional musicians. My grandkids all have lovely voices and play instruments. It's funny how talents are passed along, isn't it?

So what family genes do you have?

HALLIE: I love to travel, too, but like Rhys I can't blame it on my parents who mostly stayed home. They were writers -- I definitely inherited their writer gene. But where did THEY get the gene from? No great Russian writers (or comedians) that I know of in my family tree. I'm sure I got the foodie gene from my mother. Also the bossiness gene which every one of us got in spades.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What genes did I get? I know I got the "I know the best thing to do" gene from my mother. Sadly, all of us kids got it, and that made for some fun times as I was growing up. Eesh.
I also got the "if one is good, maybe three are better" shopping gene. And you made me realize exactly where it came from--double dose. My paternal grandfather owned department stores. And my maternal grandmother was a shopaholic, way before there was even such a thing. After she died (in the 1960's?), we went to her closet and found--well, for example, the same blue dress: one in EVERY SIZE. I don't even want to think about that.
From my dad? Well, he was a reporter and author! (The music critic for the Chicago Daily news, and wrote two non-fiction books on American music.) Amazing, huh?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My paternal genes dictated my appearance. If you compare pictures of my father and me at the same age, we look like the masculine/feminine version of the same person. He was a beautiful singer, and so am I (and my mother has a wonderful singing voice as well.) Sadly, none of my children have inherited that talent...all three of them require large buckets to carry tunes. My mother is a talented artist and a gifted writer who also strongly encourage my interest in reading, writing, and the arts - so which part is nature and which nurture?

More of a mystery - both my parents had perfect eyesight, so where did my amblyopia/myopia/hyperopia (yes, all three) come from?

One thing I know for sure: I got my southern Grandmother's body type. All the Key women had, shall we say, generous figures; and all their daughters and most of their granddaughters have inherited the kind of metabolism that would enable us to withstand an extended famine. Sure, I have to buy larger dress sizes now, but when the Mayan Apocalypse comes this December, I'll be sitting pretty.

JAN BROGAN - I got married in my mother's wedding dress and it fit like a glove, so I'm guessing that means I got her body type. Personality-wise, I probably inherited more genes from my father, but the frugal part definitely came from her. Neither one of them was a writer, but my father was a lawyer, so a teller of tales. More striking than what I inherited, though, is what I passed on. Although my son looks just like my husband, he is frighteningly like me personality-wise. As my husband puts it, my son ended up with "my software package" entirely. He's even in journalism now writing a literary column for the New York Daily News and at 22, written his first novel.

LUCY BURDETTE: I inherited my mother's love of food (though she did not enjoy cooking and was not very talented in that department) and her utter nuttiness for animals. We always had pets, usually more than one, and they were treated as full members of the family. Tonka, my Aussie, and Yoda the cat enjoy those privileges now. And I'm small and bossy, like my paternal grandmother. John explains that I seem to have no concept of how big I actually am...I figure it's one of those traits that serves animals well in the wild--they puff up so they look more ferocious and unappetizing to potential predators.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: If I have a travel gene, I inherited it from my parents, but they outdid me by far. As the first middle-class generation on either side of the family, they were determined to see the world, and they didn't miss much except the Middle East and Africa. My father also planned the day's adventures around meals, and I suspect I inherited that, too, as well as my chin and nose... My dad was very creative. If he'd had the opportunity, I think he would have loved to write. He invented the advertising slogans for his company, and after he died I found a folder of poems he'd written but had never shown to anyone. He also had a lovely voice, which I, unfortunately, did not inherit. (Julia, you can give me a bucket, too.)

RHYS: Okay, your turn. Did any of you inherit a travel gene from an interesting family member?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Traveler's Tales

RHYS BOWEN: I had planned to devote this week to travel because I'm about to embark on a book tour with Cara Black, who writes the fabulous Parisian mysteries and will be my guest on Wednesday.

Then fellow JRW Rosemary Harris announced that she was just popping off to Dar Es Salaam to visit the library in Tanzania that she created with her husband and I was reminded what a terribly peripatetic group we are. (See I know long words even if I can't spell them) Deb spends half her time in London, Hallie and Rosemary are outdoor nuts, Jan goes to civilized places like Provence, Lucy to Key West, (Julia is chained to child rearing at the moment and Hank is perpetually busy but does zoom around the country to writers events.)

I had the travel gene in me from birth, from the time I wandered into the sea wearing only my sun hat and would have kept on going if I hadn't been rescued when it came up to my neck. At twelve I went from London to Vienna alone. More trips across Europe followed. I left England to go to Australia at 24--a place that had always haunted my dreams. Luckily I met a man who worked for an airline so we've traveled all our lives. When I've been at home for about a month I find myself staring up at a passing airplane and thinking "I wonder where that is heading?"

I've cris-crossed most of the world but I find the trips that stay with me are not those that go smoothly. My travel memories are more about things that go wrong. It's the adventure of the thing. So I'm asking Jungle Reds and our visitors today to share their most memorable travel experiences:

My own: I vividly remember every detail of going by jeep into Ladakh when there was no real road and we had a maniac driver who tried to switch off the engine to save gas while going down an unpaved 15,000 foot pass. I remember an overnight in a first class sleeper with my daughter and a disgusting old man who drank red wine from a big coke bottle, made noises and asked to borrow my comb for his long greasy hair. My daughter, the sweetest natured of all my kids, whispered to me, "When he's not looking stab him with the fruit knife."

Of course I have lovely memories too, but I'm going to be discussing my 5 most beautiful places on Earth later in the week, so start thinking of yours.

LUCY BURDETTE: Stab him with the fruit knife? that's priceless Rhys! I'd hate to tangle with your other kids:). Probably my most adventurous trip was a church mission trip to La Romana, in the Dominican Republic. We stayed in a dorm-like arrangement with one bathroom for about 20 women. For some reason, we had to spit our toothbrushing liquid into a giant garbage can. But compared to the folks who actually lived there, we had it made. I'd never seen such poverty in my life--we were helping to build a hospital for Haitian immigrants, who were not allowed to use the regular hospital. The building conditions were primitive--no elevators to move supplies up to higher levels so we had to shovel gravel up, several stages at a time. It was utterly exhausting and humbling and I don't believe I slept a minute the entire week.

: Most-memorable-bad, you mean? I suppose it was all in the line of duty, and I try to think of it as being a team player. I was assigned to cover the Super Bowl when the Patriots played the Bears, in New Orleans. It was all fine for the beginning of the week, even though we worked around the clock, editing all night, shooting all day, and appeared on every newscast. Still, it was fun and exciting. At first, we stayed at the Intercontinental. It was gorgeously luxurious, the whole place smelled fabulous, it had millions of high thread count pillows and sheets, there was such lovely soap, I still remember, I was hoarding it like mad.

But. Our station had failed to plan on so many of us staying thought the weekend, so at the last minute, we had to move out of our lovely hotel. You can imagine that New Orleans was fully booked for Super Bowl weekend, so we would up billeted on a river boat that was in the process of being renovated into a hotel.

Note I said in the process.Can you imagine staying someplace that is under construction? On a BOAT, that is UNDER CONSTRUCTION? It was a horror. Dark, only the dimmest of lights, freezing, no heat, clammy, no rugs, no hangers, no drawers, no curtains, no towels--only some thin pitiful little gray washcloths. It didn't matter, because there was no hot water. The beds were cots. There was no food, at all. I kept a coat on all the time, and never took off my shoes, because I'm sure the floor was crawling with whatever. It was as bleak as bleak could be. It was January, and SO COLD even in NO, and we were on the river so it was windy, too.
We were EXHAUSTED, working every minute, and to come back to that prison of a pseudo-hotel, tired and starving and oh, I just remember almost bursting into tears.

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, what a shame! How to spoil New Orleans.

My husband and I are amateur birders, and one of our best trips ever was to Costa Rica where we stayed at a biological reserve in the Corcovado National Park. Our "room" was a tent platform - electricity after 8, no hot water. Very basic meals. We saw the MOST AMAZING wildlife. Toucans and scarlet macaws and howler monkeys and and and... ants. Lots of them. Parading into our tent, under the mosquito netting to get at my husband's breath mints. They bite.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Back in the 80's and early 90's, Ross's father made a sort of avocation of going to time-share presentations (this was in the glory days of the time share condo) and picking up free vacations, which he would frequently donate to us, the young married couple. As a result, we went on quite a few four-day, three-night holidays to sunny spots.

One year, he gave us a more extended trip to Manzanillo, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Overall a good time, it was a trip with many memorable moments: We got picked up at the airport by the resort shuttlebus. We were the only passengers. We drove and drove and DROVE and drove through what seemed, to our Maine-trained eyes, dense jungle. Ross was convinced we had been kidnapped. We finally arrived at a fairly luxurious resort - but we were the ONLY people there.

Turned out it was off-season. Way off-season. In fact, it was the rainy season, which we found out when we took our complimentary topless VW bug into town to sightsee...and had to bail it out before driving back to the resort. We spent the week feeling rather like secluded drug lords, walking through beautifully decorated empty rooms, sunbathing by the empty pool (which would get covered in leaves after every passing rain storm) eating, alone, in the Palapa restaurant, while rain dripped off the palm thatching. One thing I'll say - we had EXCELLENT SERVICE.

RHYS: Julia, that is so weird because exactly the same happened to my daughter on her honeymoon. Also out of Manzanillo, miles of jungle. When they arrived there was nobody to greet them except for a Dachshund who escorted them to the reception area. They signed in then found a palapa and went to sleep. All week they were the only guests and food and margaritas miraculously appeared. They said it was lovely but creepy at the same time. I wonder if it was the same place?

JAN BROGAN - The year was 1978 and I was in school in Aix-in-Provence traveling through Italy with a friend who did not know enough to NOT TALK TO MEN WHO FOLLOW YOU FROM THE TRAIN STATION. So this guy followed us all the way to our pensionne, up three flights of stairs. Here, he finally caught on that I was telling my friend to ignore him, and as punishment, he grabbed my crotch. Reflexively, I pushed him away and he tumbled down the stairs. We rang the doorbell of the pensionne and banged on the door, hoping like hell, they door would open before the guy at the base of the stairs, furious now, could recover. Door opened in the knick of time and we scrambled inside.

: Traveling all over England and Scotland on a coach (bus) pass on my own a year or so after I graduated from college. I'd worked for a year to save up for the trip, but still, the money didn't go very far. B&Bs with nasty nylon sheets and the only heat came from coin-metered electric heaters. These were the sort of places that rationed hot water, too--the boiler was only on an hour or two morning and evening. I was always wet and cold. The food was generally horrible, and nobody talked to me. One night on a coach layover in Birmingham, I ate in an Indian restaurant near the coach station. A rat ran over my table. I must say that put me off Indian food for many a year...

Obviously, the entire experience didn't put me off Britain, and I can now look back on it with a tiny bit of nostalgic gloss. But I like my hot water and down comforters these days.

RHYS: Your turn, friends. Share your most memorable experience. The best comment will win a signed copy of NAUGHTY IN NICE.