Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bag Lady

 Announcing the winners of this week's book giveaways! ARCs of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS: Jack Getze, Gram, Reine, Jamie Freveletti, Karen in Ohio, Judy in Owego, Lynda and Marianne in Maine. TROUBLED DAUGHTERS, TWISTED WIVES: Lisa Alger and Mary Sutton. 

Please send an email with your mailing address to julia at juliaspencerfleming dot com. Congratulations!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  There are two types of women in the world: shoe women, and handbag women. I am firmly in the latter camp, making me, I suppose, a bag lady. I certainly own enough to fill a shopping cart to overflowing.

I'm not sure what causes the great divide. In my case, I suspect it comes fom having extra-extra wide feet and impossibly high arches. Finding great shoes was just too much of a chore. Buy great bags - why those are everywhere. On Ebay. At yard sales. In consignment stores and designer outlets and marked down at the end of the season at Macy's.

I can't recall any of my bags before I started my first job in D.C., but I remember going to the now-defunct Woodward & Lothrop to get my first serious, grown up purse. It was a small Coach mailflap style in British Tan. Oh, how I loved that bag. It was the first of several Coach purses and totes I've collected over the years. I still have it, although it's been sadly battered and stained over the decades.

(It was a great disappointment to me when Coach stopped making simple, classic leather satchels and started selling bags designed for sixteen-year-old mall rats.)

I don't keep all the purses I've bought over the years - I'd need an extra bedroom for those. Some are very much of their time: There was that suede mauve-and-gray clutch that was more 80's that a Debbie Harry record. Or the one I got when I mistakenly bought into the early 00's studded look - I could have used that one as a weapon in a motorcycle bar fight. But I do have several dozen at this point: leather and straw, quilted cotton and wool, satchels and shoulderbags and totes and clutches.

My husband and youngest daughter and I went to the movies last night, and I came downstairs ready for our date looking, if I do say so myself, rather fine. "How do I look?" I asked (because you do, don't you?)

"You're always so pulled together," my husband said.

"That's because I always have the right bag for the outfit."

"You do, yes." He frowned, perhaps thinking of the overflow of purses taking up large sections of our bedroom. "I didn't know that about you when I asked you to marry me."

Thankfully, he didn't speculate on what he would have done had he known about my bag lady tendencies. How about you, dear readers? Do you have the perfect bag? One you can't live without?

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Secret Sarah

Jungle Reds: Let's just say we're in awe of Sarah Weinman. We are trying to be cool, but it is not working. (It is working for one of us, but we're not telling which one...)

Anyway. Yesterday Sarah gave us a bit of the scoop on her new book, TROUBLED DAUGHTERS, TWISTED WIVES: Stories From the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense. 

Say it with us:

Fourteen chilling tales from the pioneering women who created the domestic suspense genre…
In case you missed yesterday--where were you? --in Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives Weinman brings together fourteen hair-raising tales by women who — from the 1940s through the mid-1970s—took a scalpel to contemporary society and sliced away to reveal its dark essence. Lovers of crime fiction from any era will welcome this deliciously dark tribute to a largely forgotten generation of women writers.

She's the News Editor for Publishers Marketplace, where she works on Publishers Lunch, the industry’s essential daily read. She also writes the more-or-less monthly “Crimewave” column for the National Post.

A whole lot more about Sarah below...

but today, the Reds decided to explore the secret Sarah. By asking her cleverly posed questions (Hank, ever the researcher, got some of them out of the Neiman Marcus catalog. Do you believe that?) we will try to plumb the depths of the...we mean, well, here they are. 

Her answers are quite wonderful!  And at the end? You answer some of them--and we'll give away Sarah's new new book to a lucky commenter!

**You're penning an autobiography. What's the title?

The possibility of an autobiography is pretty remote at this point, but if that changes, the title would be NORMAL FEMALE, because when my mother was five months pregnant with me and got back the results of her amniocentesis -- it was the 1970s, and 36 was considered "older" for pregnant women then, no longer so much now -- and told her mother, she exclaimed, "A Normal Female!".

**Your idea of perfection?

78 degrees, sunny with a few clouds, a book in my hand, an iced coffee and a chocolate chip scone on a plate next to me. Rinse and repeat.

**What was the moment you got the inspiration for your new book?

I'm not sure there was a moment, but once I began writing the essay for the literary magazine Tin House that was the impetus for Troubled Daughters, I knew this whole idea of overlooked female suspense writers of a certain generation was one I needed to pursue for a very long time.

**What talent do you wish you had?

 Woodworking/carpentry. Would make so many things so much easier.

**What's your greatest fear?

Dying alone, my body undiscovered for weeks. I've seen the effects of that, literally, and it is horrifying. (Also: a fairly common New York City-based fear, I've learned.)

**If not your current occupation, what would you like to be?

Investigator/policy advocate for missing persons and long term unidentified individuals. But truth be told, I don't see myself leaving writing and journalism behind.



**What puts you in a creative mood?

A state of relaxation. Barring that, tenacity.

**What is your most treasured possession?

First edition of Shel Silverstein's LAFCADIO: THE LION WHO SHOT BACK. Which is not actually among my possessions at the moment, it's elsewhere.

**What is something about you that no one would guess?

I cannot wink. Don't have the right eye muscles to do it. Believe me, I have tried, and practiced, but it doesn't work.

**Favorite indulgence?

Chocolate chip scones. Sigh.

**If you could rewrite your history, what one thing would you change?

Sometimes I think my entire life is about rewriting past history.

**Which artist do you most admire?

Shel Silverstein. A career like his is impossible now.

**What would you do with one extra hour in your day?

Work, sadly. Or read.

**What is the first musical/concert you attended?

I have my mother's word for this, but again, when she was pregnant with me, she knew I was going to be a musical child because I kicked very hard in the womb while she attended a Mozart recital.

**Which single piece of art do you wish you'd created?

Sticking to crime fiction: Dorothy B. Hughes' IN A LONELY PLACE.

**How would you like to be remembered?

Kind, but fair.

**Secret junk food vice?

Seeing as I've already mentioned chocolate chip scones twice in this Q&A, I guess it isn't so secret....

**If you had to pick your theme song, what would it be?

"I Can't Touch the Sun", as sung by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.

Ed note--here's the song:

**What are you going to do next--right now?

After answering these questions? Updating the Domestic Suspense website, and then reading a few more pages of a forthcoming Sholem Aleichem biography.

Thank you, Sarah! Amazing.
Hank's three answers: The Juggler, Franz Marc's Deer in the Forest or Joni Mitchell's Carey, and Twizzlers.
How about yours? 
Remember, Sara's book to one lucky commenter!

More about Sarah Weinman:

Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in many print and web publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Observer, the Los Angeles Review of BooksTin House, The Daily BeastMaclean’s, The Daily, The Guardian, The New York PostThe, the New Yorker’sPage-Turner blog, Quill & QuireTabletThe Philadelphia Inquirer, and New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth”. She’s also appeared on C-SPAN’s BookTV, Minnesota Public Radio’s “Midmorning” and NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered to speak about crime fiction and the publishing industry.
Weinman’s short fiction has appeared in DUBLIN NOIR (Akashic Books), BALTIMORE NOIR (Akashic Books), DAMN NEAR DEAD (Busted Flush Press), EXPLETIVE DELETED (Bleak House Books), A HELL OF A WOMAN: An Anthology of Female Noir (Busted Flush Press), LONG ISLAND NOIR (Akashic Books) Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
Previously she reported on the publishing industry for DailyFinance and wrote “Dark Passages,” a monthly online mystery & suspense column for the Los Angeles Times, and “The Criminalist”, a monthly online column for the Barnes & Noble Review. Earlier in her career she was the Baltimore Sun’s crime fiction columnist and an editor for’s publishing industry news blog GalleyCat.
In a parallel life, she completed her M.S. in Forensic Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of New York in February 2004 and still harbors faint hopes of actually making use of her degree someday.
From October 2003 through January 2011, Weinman created and maintained the popular blogConfessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind,  which USA Today hailed as “a respected resource for commentary on crime and mystery fiction”. The blog has been mentioned in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Ottawa CitizenLibrary Journal and the India Times Business-Standard.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why I'm Glad My First Book Is An Anthology: a guest blog by Sarah Weinman

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  Back in 2003, before YouTube, before Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, young Sarah Weinman was a crime fiction lover who decided to start a "weblog," as they were then known. Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, with its book reviews, author interviews, tales of true crime and news of the publishing world became a daily must-read for writers, readers and publishing insiders. Its success boosted Sarah to national visibility: she became a columnist for the LA Times and the Baltimore Sun, an editor at the publishing industry news blog GalleyCat, and eventually led to her current job as an editor at Publishers Marketplace.

Along the way, she became the go-to historian and literary scholar for all things crime fiction, appearing in publications such as the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and The  Guardian. Her short stories have been anthologized in several books, including Dublin Noir and Damn Near Dead, and have appeared online as well as in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

You can see why we're excited to have Sarah here at Jungle Red Writers. In fact, we think she has so much to say of interest to our readers that we've taken the unusual step of inviting her as our guest for two days running. Today, she talks about a particular kind of sleuthing: that of bringing forgotten women writers back from obscurity.

In the book world there are dreams so many writers dream they almost feel like cliché. Publishing a novel before the age of thirty. Cracking a major bestseller list. Seeing hundreds or thousands of fans at a book signing. Winning a prestigious award. Finding that signature character that will be read and remembered years after leaving the mortal coil.

Having indulged in a few of these reveries myself – and hey, some of them are still within the realm of possibility – I'm no stranger to grand writerly fantasies. But I know that when I look back on whatever further career develops, I'll be glad my first book was an anthology. Especially this anthology. Here's why:

It's not about me. Yes, my name's on the book, I wrote the introduction and selected the stories. And, aside from Dorothy Salisbury Davis, still sharp and spry at the age of 97, I'm the only living representative readers and media can contact. But what would make me utterly giddy is if Troubled Daughters,Twisted Wives spurred current readers to go out looking for what else the authors in the anthology wrote. Which leads to...

If reissues happen as a result, the anthology is already a success. In some instances, backlists are readily available. Patricia Highsmith's, thanks to W.W. Norton and Grove/Atantic, and Shirley Jackson's thanks to Penguin and FSG. Helen Nielsen's, thanks to Prologue Books. Open Road filled in the gaps for Dorothy B. Hughes that NYRB Classics and The Feminist Press hadn't, and also sell much of Charlotte Armstrong's ouevre, too. Stark House Press has been doing yeoman's work with many books by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, and Vera Caspary's greatest suspense novels are also under The Feminist Press's watch.

But Margaret Millar's work remains, for the most part, shamefully out of print. The same goes for Davis, Celia Fremlin, Nedra Tyre, Joyce Harrington, and Miriam Allen deFord. The greater the awareness of these excellent writers off of single stories, the better chance of more permanent fixing in the literary and crime fiction canon.

I learned some valuable skills. The key reason I began work on TroubledDaughters was to give proper due to 20th century domestic suspense fiction, and the female writers who found their voice within this category. But I also wanted to learn about aspects of book publishing I wasn't exposed to as a reporter, critic, and occasional pundit.

People in the book business speak of permissions with grumbling impatience, and there were certainly times – luckily, not that many – when negotiating with an agency or author estate spiked my blood pressure. But those moments were easily counteracted by the satisfaction of being able to tell the child or grandchild of one of the authors that yes, their work would be discovered by a new audience. And yes, I thought the work was good and still held up well and resonated further in the 21st century.

An anthology requires old-fashioned detective work. There were mean streets and blind alleys and wild goose chases and lots and lots and lots of waiting, the same as any detective, working for a police department or a private firm, knows. Some estates or rightsholders were so readily available it took less than an hour to track down. Others took weeks or months. And, in the case of Miriam Allen deFord, the matter of who controls her literary rights is such a mystery that even the daughter of the Bay Area-based ACLU lawyer who was deFord's executor until his death in 1998 didn't have an answer. That's a whole other story I'd like to tell someday – hopefully with a gratifying resolution.

The stories are terrific. These fourteen women, along with dozens of their contemporaries, knew how to tell a chilling suspense tale that is impossible to put down until the reader is done. I still recall my own vivid sense of horror or wonder or voiced-out-loud amazement at these stories, wondering how so many of them had all but been consigned to the dust pile. Now, I hope, they won't ever be again. 

Please join us tomorrow for our group interview with Sarah! You can find out more about Sarah Weinman at her website (currently undergoing renovation) and at Domestic Suspense. You can friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter as @sarahw, and check out her Tumblr

BREAKING NEWS: And we are DEAD ON THE LEVEL (see above)--a signed copy of Sarah's new book to one lucky commenter today..and one tomorrow! Hurray! (And could VANISH IN AN INSTANT.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What to Expect When You're Expecting (a college freshman)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  It's that time of year again, dear readers. Back to school - or, in the case of my eldest, back to college. Over the past few years, I've handed out advice on touring campuses, on getting your student into college, and even how to deal with having the kids back for the holiday break.

Tomorrow, Ross and I will be heading down to Hartford, Connecticut, where we will leave The Boy in Trinity College's care for the next four years. (We've done what we can, Trinity - now you take a crack at him.) We will be making this trip in a car packed with more worldly goods than a family of six took on the Oregon Trail. The Boy will be bleary-eyed from staying up until 2 am messaging his hometown friends. And I will still be filling out the last of the approximately 187 forms that are now required to transfer ownership responsibility for your teen. So, obvs, I am the perfect person to tell you, parent of a high school senior, how to handle this important period in your family's life.

1. Start saving those Target gift cards. Seriously. You will walk into your local Target (or Walmart) with the intention of getting your incoming freshman a pair of flip flops for the shower and some sheets. You will stagger out again four hours later, having spent $341 on a mini-fridge, underbed storage bins, a bed-in-a-bag set, folding chair (with coordinating lamp,) shower caddy, backpack laundry bag, a throw rug and an over-the-door whiteboard organizer.

I never thought of myself as one of those parents until I found myself trying to ensure my son's cinder-block dorm room could pass for a suite at the Hyatt. You know what I took to college with me? A hot pot and a three-gallon jug of laundry detergent! (Which I also got for my son. And stain remover. I stopped myself from buying the expandable drying rack.) I probably should have followed my mother's advice. When I went away to Ithaca, she said, "You have to live in your room for a while before you'll know what you really need." In this instance, you should probably listen to her, unless you can convince yourself that you'll decorate with multi-colored milk boxes if your kid finds she doesn't use them.

2. Bookmark those college sites and save your kid's user name and password. Unsurprisingly for institutes of higher learning, colleges want to share information with you and your matriculating student. Lots and lots of information. There will be the email service and the student portal, the financial aid page and the ebill pay site, the incoming student update list, the bookstore text list, the pdfs from professors and TAs list...  you and your student will find yourself muttering across the dining room table as you each attempt to navigate the labyrinth from your respective laptops. Save every one as you locate it, and the next time you need the orientation schedule, you'll have it in a thrice, leaving more time for important things, like telling your kid to for God's sake get off the YouTube jazz channel and start packing already.

3 Make time for those little, practical life lessons. You will be amazed to discover that the same teen who took three AP courses and hit the 95th  percentile on the SATs doesn't know how to use a washing machine. Or write a return address on a letter. Or balance a checking account (to be fair, I still don't know how to do this.) The Boy and I spent a half hour practice-sorting pieces of clothing, an exercise that looked a lot like vocational training for a severely intellectually-disabled adult. "What about khaki?" "What do you think?" "Uh... colors?"

I don't care how self-sufficient you've made your children; unless you're part of the Swiss Family Robinson, I guarantee your kid is missing out on some everyday skill that you assume everybody over the age of, say, three, knows. Did you know you have to teach your kids how to look up a phone number? See what the internet has wrought.

4. Try to keep an even keel. Living with a teen in the last weeks before her college life begins is like sitting in on Uta Hagen's master class in acting: tears! anxiety! arrogance! bravado! impatience! And that's all before your kid's had breakfast (at 11:30a.m.)  You, as a parent, will be feeling all of those (plus exciting midlife symptoms such as hot flash! indigestion! bad back!) You need to breath it out and not let things escalate into a free-for-all where you and your chick attempt to peck each other to death before he can escape the nest.

I am convinced the last month of the summer before matriculation is like the end of pregnancy: before that point, you were worried and overwhelmed and a little scared of the future. In the ninth month, however, you just want to get that kid out. So it is with August.

5. When the big day arrives,'s not really your big day. Try to be as unobtrusively supportive as you can as your freshman navigates registration, the moving in process, and whatever other ceremonies and entertainments the college is putting on. (Trinity has a convocation and presidential address in the quad and we get to watch! I'm very excited.) At this point, you're  probably going to be feeling quite sentimental (taking out eldest to Smith for the first time, I had to drive because her father kept weeping when certain songs came on the radio.) But for your child, it's all looking ahead. Here and now is the start of his future. That's what you've all been working for for so long, right?

6. LEAVE at the appointed time. (And yes, wise college administrations all set appointed times nowadays.) It's okay to sit in the parking lot until you're done crying. We've all done it. And remember, Family Weekend is only a couple months away...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Characters Welcome! A guest blog by Lesa Holstine

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  Our guest today is Lesa Holstine, eponymous blogger of Lesa's Book Critiques, one of the smartest book review sites on the web. I'm going to quote her own blog profile to give you an idea of her range:

Lesa has been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. She is a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, and Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
 In other words, Lesa loves books. A lot. Today, she shares with us  - aspiring authors, pay attention! - that one thing that makes a good story a great read.

“Characters welcome” is the slogan of the USA Network, but it could be the slogan for my mother’s side of the family as well. We’re all readers. I just happen to be the one in the family who writes a blog about books. I started Lesa’s Book Critiques eight and a half years ago as a place where I could talk about what I had read. And, I didn’t care if it was only my family who read the posts. My mother was one of seven children, and there are more than forty first cousins in my generation. So, I not only discuss books on my blog, but I write a book column in the family newsletter. And, it’s not uncommon for my Mom and my sisters to all read a book at the same time, something I featured on my blog.

Why am I mentioning my extended family of readers today? Because I was just home for a week, together with my Mom and both sisters. We do talk about books on the phone, but this was a chance to talk in person. And, we’re all passionate about mysteries. We take characters and mysteries very seriously. We want authors to bring characters to life. And, I know we’re not the only ones. Why else would Rhys Bowen have so many comments on Facebook when she asked how far Lady Georgie and her love interest, Darcy, should go? Readers care.

If you had overheard our conversations this week, you would have heard one of my sisters recommend Jacquelyn Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs books to the other. She referred to them as meaty books in which she learned a lot about British history. And, you would have heard me passionately discuss the development of Jane Cleland’s Josie Prescott series. My sister teased me, knowing my pet peeve. “What? Josie Prescott isn’t Too Stupid to Live?” I analyzed Josie’s growth from a lonely woman to a strong woman who has gathered around her a family made of co-workers, friends and a cat. And, she is smart enough to work with the police, not against them.

Can you tell we care about characters and how they change? My youngest sister’s email notes to me probably contain much better and more succinct reviews than any of mine. She’ll complain about a character who dumps a boyfriend, or she’ll tell me the sleuth’s behavior was inconsistent. I have a cousin who reads the mysteries, and drops me notes commenting on the development of the series.

I wrote the chapter on “Mystery Fiction” for the latest edition of Genreflecting. I discuss Julia’s books, Deborah’s, Rhys’, Jane’s, and Hank’s, among others. Why? Their characters fit my comment. “Most readers of mysteries will also say they read the books for the appeal of the characters.” And, I’ll honestly tell you that I drop a series if the sleuth is consistently “Too Stupid to Live”. I also disliked a recent bestseller that lasted forever on the lists. I hated the characters.

When authors ask what they should write about when they do a guest blog, I often suggest they do an interview with their sleuth, or allow a couple characters to do the guest blog. It’s fun to see the questions an author will ask of the character. And, I’ve seen some very revealing questions and comments come from those characters. Sometimes, the sleuth has interviewed the author, which can be funny.

I want to like your characters. And, my extended family reads my blog, and the newsletter. We talk about your books, but we really talk about your characters. We care, and we can be passionate about our likes and dislikes. We’re not telling you what to write, or how to develop your characters. As readers, we really just want you to know we appreciate what you do, and we sometimes discuss your books and characters as if they were acquaintances. Give us characters to love, and we’ll forgive a weak mystery now and then. I’m sure I’m not the only one who read every Spenser book by Robert B. Parker because I adored the character even when the mysteries grew weak. So, “Characters welcome”, please.

What do you look for in characters, dear readers? Who are the most memorable ones for you? Join in the discussion, and one lucky commenter will win an ARC of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS!

Lesa Holstine blogs about books and reading at Lesa's Book Critiques. You can also like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter as @LesaHolstine and keep up with all her posts on Tumblr.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Vacation Snapshots

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  I just got back from our family's summer vacation. Living in Maine, we don't go far; up the coast to Pemaquid, where, thanks to the generosity of our friends Dan Hunter and Mary Anne Moison, we stay at a former salt water farm overlooking Pemaquid Harbor.

There's no cell phone reception and extremely limited internet access, so our time there starts to resemble family get-togethers of a generation ago (if families a generation ago marathoned AMISH MAFIA.) We walk to the beach, to the local Point of Interest (Colonial Pemaquid), to the breakfast cafe, to the seafood restaurant. We go kayaking and read on the front porch and play croquet and Trivial Pursuit and endless card games. The only time we need to get back into the car is when making a food and supplies run to Reilly's, a general store with wood plank floors and a screen door than bangs when customers walk in and out.

My kids say they love these trips - at home we sometimes have to chivvy them to spend time together, but here they happily spend hours every day playing, laughing and joking with each other. My hope is these family holidays will be a well-loved memory for them as they become adults, and something they will recreate with their own families (or with us, when they bring the grandkids back to Maine!) (Someday.) (In the distant future.)

How about you, Reds? Did you/do you take family vacations? Do you have any vivid memories of trips you took with your parents?

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Alas I am an orphan and childless to boot. When I was young we were so
poor that my mother had to draw swimsuits on us. But I do like kayaking and Trivial Pursuit so maybe Julia will let me come on her family vacation next year.

Seriously (sort of) we have over time brought Bruce's sons to Africa, Jost van Dyke, Alaska and Yosemite. We keep trying but then we are reminded of what one of them said once when we pointed out the rather spectacular wildebeest migration - "Yeah, Dad. Scenery."

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, that sound so idyllic!  I want to come, too! (Or maybe you could introduce us to your friends???)

JULIA: I know. We have great friends.

DEBORAH: The summer vacations of my childhood mostly consisted of long car trips to different parts of the country, and often to Mexico, which I loved.  Then in my teens, my parents owned a house north of Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was a big golf/retirement community, but there were lakes and swimming and canoeing, lots of just sitting on the deck and reading, nature walks through the piney woods. Sometimes we'd drive up to Lake Quachita (pronounced wash-ee-taw), the largest lake in Arkansas, and eat right-out-of-the-lake catfish at a little place on the shore. My dad loved cards, and if there were at least four willing people, there was always a game of 42.

Our problem now with summer vacations (besides time) is that we like to take the dogs, and it's hard to find rental cabins that will take two big pups.  And it's also hard to find somewhere less than several days drive where we can get away from the heat.

Suggestions welcome!

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm on one of those vacations right now, using the wifi at the "lodge" on Peaks Island, a short ferry ride from Portland Maine. The weather is gorgeous and I am sitting in a tower room (windows 3/4 of the way around, circular walls) looking out on Casco Bay. Tonight we'll buy lobsters from the lobster shack on a dock at the ferry landing (they haul your lobsters up from traps in the water). Beach, walks, bikes, ping pong... what more do you need?

RHYS BOWEN: Julia and Hallie. That sounds like my idea of vacation. My daughter and family go with friends to a lake in the Sierras every year and have exactly the same experience--swimming,boating all down time. When our kids were young John was with an airline so we went to exotic places--New Zealand, Barbados, Grand Cayman. We stayed at nice hotels but the only problem was we couldn't afford to feed the kids at hotel prices. So there was a lot of peanut butter and jelly in the room!

We've been on our long trip this year to Turkey, Egypt and Greece... and no, we didn't start the riots in any of those places. In September we're planning a short trip to Canada for fall colors and lobster. Mmmmm.
Hank and Nina on a bear somewhere, PARTICIPATING
: Oh, family vacations. They were a big deal at out house, five kids and two parents, and hilariously, although right now I would tell you they were wonderful, I remember sitting the rear seat (the "wayback") of the station wagon, my eyes glued to MAD Magazine instead of the scenery. I remember at various beaches, my stepfather yelling: PARTICIPATE! PARTICIPATE! as I sat with my nose in a book.

In Washington DC, though, we had the grand tour, and I was captivated by the FBI. My  annoyed mother told me years later I complained the whole time...but then called all my friends when I got home and told them it was wonderful.

We had a house in Acapulco, for years, where we all went, and that was sunny and gorgeous and terrific. (The site of my world's worst sunburn.) My parents would play gin rummy, with us kids as the prizes. We were big on Monopoly and Scrabble--for which my sister Nina and I would create new "rules" for the little kids so we would win.

Now, we go to Nevis and Truro. I remember we HAVE done that. Now I just work.

LUCY BURDETTE: Hank, after THE WRONG GIRL comes out, you must take a vacation!

I have fabulous memories of childhood vacations. We frequently went either to the Jersey Shore or later, Hatteras, NC, with our family and my mother's sister's family. So weeks and weeks baking in oil on the beach, then giant card parties, cocktail parties with stuffed clams for the grown-ups, and mobs playing kick the can after supper. The adults were serious about this game, occasionally dressing up in weird costumes and sidling up to the can as if they were strangers. Then BOOM! The can was kicked and the prisoners released...

JULIA: Lucy, that makes me remember the huge games of "Murder" my kids would get up when we had summer get-togethers with other families. The adults drinking beer or gin on the porch and the children running around in the dark with flashlights. I never did actually get the rules of "Murder," which is kind of ironic, considering.

How about you, dear readers? What are your favorite vacation memories? I'll have an Advance Reader Copy of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS for one lucky commenter!