Thursday, July 31, 2014

Off the Digital Leash

Not our dog. Wheatie is invisible.
NO DOG: Jonathan and I don’t have a dog, but we wish we did. So we did the next best thing.We have an invisible dog, named Wheatie. Wheatie is a Wheaton Terrier: invisible, so constantly adorable and very low maintenance. (We forget to feed her, she doesn’t care.)

Solly and Daisy
PUPPY LOVE: My colleague/producer Mary has real dogs. Crazy, bouncy, hilarious rescue Labs who are an adventure every day. Very high maintenance, but Mary cannot talk about Daisy and Solly without smiling.

POOCH PHILOSOPHY: The dog-person thing is pretty intriguing. What I have learned from Mary is that there’s more to dogs than dogs. And now I am learning it from Matthew Gilbert, too.

BOW WOW.  Matthew Gilbert. Made me laugh every day as TV critic for the Boston Globe. Fearless, opinionated, hilarious and insightful and a beautiful writer, he made our love of TV be like a community. Something we all shared, discussed, cared about—and it was okay. TV was good. And we were grateful.

DOG CHOW: A few months ago, at a dinner party, (after we dissected The Wire and Game of Thrones and The Americans) Matthew told me about his new book. A book? About TV? (That had to be it, I figured.) Nope. He explained it was about how he’d been forced to detach himself from TV—by a dog.

COME!  I latched onto this instantly. We have dog lovers at Jungle Red, I said. We have readers. We have people who love to read about dogs. Come visit! I implored. And he agreed.

GOING TO THE DOGS. So now, Matthew Gilbert, in his new life. How going to the dogs led him to a whole new place.

Off the Digital Leash

    Hi, my name is Matthew, and I am a TV junkie.

    Like many of my friends, I feel like I was raised by TV. I remember watching reruns of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as a kid and wanting Rob Petrie to be my father. He was a goofy string bean of a man, and I loved him for his stumbles, for his macho-free masculinity, for the rare birds in his life like his co-writers Buddy and Sally.

    You’ve been there, no doubt, fed by the dependable love of the remote-controlled breast. You’ve visited that place of comfortable numbness, where the world is like another TV show. It’s not a bad place. I’ve made a very satisfying career out of it as the TV critic for the Boston Globe. I watch many, many hours of TV a week, and I love it. I love the medium, and watching stories unfold over time, especially now that those stories – like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” – are so good.

      But since I’ve been taking my yellow lab Toby to the dog park, I’ve developed a daily ritual of going unplugged for an hour or two, of leaving the digital bubble. It has been a great development, a daily “off.” I’m away from the TV and computer screen when I’m at the park, and I also try not to use my cell phone. It’s a regular intermission from that state of electronic thrall.

    Toby goes off the leash, I go off the digital leash.

    It’s not the only thing I’ve gotten from the dog park. As I describe in my new book, “Off the Leash: A Year at the DogPark,” I’ve learned how to play, how to relax among groups of people. But this daily intermission from the virtual, this spot of sun through the cloud, has been so eye-opening. These screens and devices we obsess over are very high-tech tools with which to make a very primitive kind of flight. They enable emotional distance; you’re in a room or on a street or at a park, and a very beautiful park at that, but only partially there. I knew that state intimately, long before cell phones arrived.
Toby’s name has “to be” in it – that had been my idea when my husband Tom and I named him, thinking of a Globe editor who’d killed himself shortly before we got Toby; that friend, so overwhelmed and resigned, had chosen not to be. Time to be, I thought, at least for a few hours a day, while the dogs are wrestling joyfully at my feet. Stay in the moment of the park, at the park.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Ah, Matthew. See what I mean, Reds?  Do you have a dog? Or have you ever? Did your dog—change your life? Are you a "dog person"?

**And pssst. There's still time to enter my fabulous THE WRONG GIRL paperback contest  **

OFF THE LEASH is a group portrait of dog people, specifically the strange, wonderful, neurotic, and eccentric dog people who gather at Amory Park, overlooking Boston near Fenway Park. And it’s about author Matthew Gilbert’s transformation, after much fear and loathing of dogs and social groups, into one of those dog people with fur on their jackets, squeaky toys in their hands, and biscuits in their pockets.

Gilbert, longtime TV critic at The Boston Globe, describes his reluctant trip into the dog park subculture, as the first-time owner of a stubbornly social Yellow Lab puppy named Toby. Like many Americans, he was happily accustomed to the safe distance of TV viewing and cell-phone web surfing, tethered to the digital leash. But the headstrong, play-obsessed Toby pulls him to Amory, and Amory becomes an exhilarating dose of presence for him. The joyous chaos of wrestling dogs and the park’s cast of offbeat dog owners – the “pack of freaks” – gradually draw him into the here and now. At the dog park, the dog owners go off the leash, too.

Dog-park life can be tense. When dogs fight, their owners – such as the reckless Charlotte – bare their teeth at each other, too. Amid the rollicking dog play, feelings tend to surface faster, unedited. But Gilbert shows how Amory is an idyllic microcosm, too, the home of enduring friendships and, as the droll but vulnerable Hayley knows, romantic crushes. Meeting daily, a gathering of dog owners can be like group therapy, or The Office, or a standup concert.

As a TV critic, Matthew Gilbert is well-known by his readership for his humorous and wry writing style. A charming narrative that will appeal to anyone who has ever enjoyed watching a puppy scamper through a park, OFF THE LEASH is a paean to dog lovers and their pets everywhere, perfect for fans of Marley & Me and Merle's Door.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Remembering James Garner...

HALLIE EPHRON: I was saddened to see that James Garner died last week. Dead at 86 -- not a bad run. And I thought: was he adorable or what? I wish I'd met the guy just so I could say I did.

I had such a crush on him, first when he played Maverick with wry humor, his hat tipped back on his head. Then again, much older as Murphy Jones in Murphy's Romance when he ogles Sally Fields's behind as she grabs a bale of hay.

Could he really have been as nice as he seemed? So I read his obituary skimming past his considerable credits to find out that he grew up in an unhappy home (his stepmother beat him and his two older brothers) in Oklahoma where his father ran a country store. He got into acting on a lark. And... he was still married to the woman he married two weeks after he met her in 1956. And he had two daughters.

If you asked me why I was so in love with him it would be a) he's knock-down-dead gorgeous and b) he made me laugh.

Another actor I was mad about was Robert Mitchum. Look at him,
is he the anti-James Garner or what? He died at 79 in 1997, and his NY Times obit described him as "rugged with dignity." True to his image on screen, in real life he was hard-drinking, chain-smoking bad boy who slept around.

If you ask me why I had a thing for Robert Mitchum it would be: a) those hooded eyes were sexy as could be and b) he scared me to death.

If I had to pick, James Garner (white hat) or Robert Mitchum it would be no contest -- though I'm not saying which one or for what.

So today I'm asking you to reveal yourself. Who would you rather be (or be with)?

  • Robert Mitchum or James Garner?
  • Barbara Stanwyck or Debbie Reynolds?
  • John Boy or Walter White?
  • Sharon Stone or Cameron Diaz?
  • Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr.?
  • Jack Nicholson or Carey Grant?
  • Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman?
  • Jennifer Anniston or Jennifer Lopez?
Your answers will tell us everything we need to know about you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Tripping to Peaks Island, Portland, ME

Hallie Ephron: Today I'm taking you on a summer trip to  a little island in Casco Bay, just a 10-minute ride by car ferry from Portland, Maine. 
Most people haven't heard of Peaks Island, which it turns out isn't a bad thing since it's small -- a mile and a half long, about a mile and a quarter wide. Year-round population in 1896 was 343. Today about 860 people live there year round; with summer visitors the population swells to between 2,000 and 4,000. Most roads are not paved and there aren't many vehicles.

We park our car in Portland and walk to the brand new ferry terminal. It's teeming with people on Thursday afternoon, waiting for the 5:30 ferry.

But it's off-peak for cars -- only a few get on making the view from the car deck as we cross the bay nothing short of spectacular.

 Fifteen minute later, we're arriving at Peaks. Walk off the boat and up the hill to the little house that once belonged to my son-in-law's grandmother (or possibly great grandmother.)

Our itinerary always includes: A walk to the cemetery. It's got a fantastic view of incoming ferries, old gravestones with stories to tell, and trees that are teeming with cedar waxwings.

Take any street and you'll find Victorian cottages, the earliest homes on the island, and quirky vacation homes. This one makes a statement with an enormous guitar covering the front porch.

The main street features the world's only umbrella cover  museum, along with a couple of restaurants, an inn, an ice cream store, and a terrific coffee and breakfast sandwich place. Walk a bit further and you'll reach the public library and the laundromat. And honestly, that's about it.

But the beach, hidden away, is the big attraction. Here's me on Sandy Beach where the sand is fine and the water freezing. 

Just a short walk up along the back shore is the aptly named Stone Beach where visitors spend hours creating stone towers.

Dinner requires a walk back to the ferry dock to the Peaks Island Lobster Shack, hours of operation daily from 5 to 6 PM. Period. 

They haul the lobsters up from the ocean twenty feet below the floor of the shack. Cash only. And talk about fresh! Soft shelled lobsters, 5.99 a pound. Hard shelled lobsters, 7.99 a pound. We buy pound-and-a-half hard-shelled lobsters, take them back to the house, cook them with corn we've brought with us, and pig out.

Okay, I've shared mine... What's your favorite place for a quiet summer getaway?

Monday, July 28, 2014

The hem that can't make up its mind...

HALLIE EPHRON: When I first saw a pair of four-inch spike heels with horse-hoof toe beds, I thought that trend can't last. And yet it did. For years. Until finally -- if Marshalls, where I shop for my shoes is any indication -- comfortable (wearable!) heels are once again everywhere.

A few years ago it seemed as if anyone endowed on top was letting it overflow. Much more boob and cleavage than I personally wanted to know about was on display from young and old alike. That, too, seems to have ... deflated.

So now comes the skirt with the hem that can't make up its mind.
Short in front, long in back. Show of hands, who thinks this is a good idea? And this dress is from Eileen Fisher, whose clothes I would generally love to be able to afford.

When I posted this on Facebook, there were people who stuck up for it:
"...women who've been 'graced' with ample rear bumpers don't have to worry so much about the hem riding up in the back. Also, there's room in case you leave the ladies room with a bit of dress caught in the pantyhose." (Rhonda Lane)

But for the most part, it was "Looks like it's a mistake" (Sue Robinson) and "the mullet dress." (Cornelia Reed)  And my favorite, from Keenan Powell: "On shirts, it's a public service in the event the wearer bends over. In skirts it's just stupid."

What fashion trends are you digging or avoiding.

RHYS BOWEN:  I've tried on several dresses with that hemline and I simply don't like it. When I was shopping for an outfit to wear for the wedding it seemed that skirts were either halfway up the thigh or long. And if long, then the waist was usually right under
the boobs, making me look pregnant.

It took a lot of shopping before I found an elegant dress online. Most of the sites that were titled "Mother of the Bride" were full of clothes that no sane woman would wear--either bride of Frankenstein or covered in pleats, drapes, fake roses, lots of beads, making the wearer look like a walking advert for Joanne's Fabrics.

 I've come to the conclusion that nobody caters to anyone over 50, expecting us to wear comfortable clothes and lace up shoes, no doubt. If I wasn't fully occupied with writing, I'd start a chain of stores for elegant older women--well tailored clothes, good fabrics and the waist in the right place.

HALLIE: Laughing, Rhys, because most of us "over 50s" would kill to have your shape!

LUCY BURDETTE: I've always like handkerchief hemlines, but that sounds different than what you two were seeing. Rhys, when you start stocking your boutique, make sure you find some dresses that make us look cute. Why shouldn't we still look cute over 50?

For a family wedding this summer, our daughter shopped through She looked adorable--but I went to the site
and was immediately overwhelmed by the choices. I think I need to see something in person and try it on.

I'll tell you one trend I hope never comes back--that's shoulder pads. We went to a Miami Vice party a couple of weeks ago, so I dragged this dress out of the back of my closet. (I know, why is it still in my house??)

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Rhys, I hear you
about waistlines -- why are they always so high? I don't get it. Do most women like that?

And Hallie -- I'm with you on the four-inch-heel shoes, too. Whenever I see a woman wearing them, my first thought is always "Ouch!" and then, "Chinese foot-binding!" — not "What great shoes."

So-called "skinny jeans" — don't even get me started....

Honestly, I know very little about current fashion —I don't even know what the trends are, let alone how to critique them! I'm a New Yorker and just default to black, I'm afraid....

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I thought the "short in front, long in back" was a country fashion thing, not a good look, and one that they will probably view with absolute horror in twenty years...

Lucy, I thought you looked adorable in your shoulder pads! None for me, thank you--my shoulders are broad and square enough
without any help.  No four-inch heels either. Yikes! I think the worst fashion decade of the 20th century for women may have been the eighties. Just watch some old episodes of Miami Vice. The guys looked fabulous, the women... ack.  Will anyone confess to having had Big Hair?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: See, they have to think up new stuff, so people who want to be trendy have to BUY the new stuff. They tried it with "color blocking," right? An easy way for clothing manufacturers to use up odd sized leftover fabric.  Sleeveless dresses? SO much easier to fit, righ? Because you don't have to adjust sleeves.  AND it uses a lot less fabric to make sleeveless things...right ? But do they COST any less? Oh, my dear, no.

Cleavage? Do NOT get me started.
But shoulder pads? Um, subtle ones? I'm, I have to admit, in. And high heels? Oh yes, NOT PLATFORMS. Those are absurd and dangerous, And ugly. But gorgeous high heels can fit beautifully and even be comfortable. Semi-comfortable. Comfortable enough.  And I do wear them all the time.

Big hair and shoulder pads in the 80's? Oh yes, Here I am covering the 1988 Democratic Convention in all my big-haired shoulder-padded glory.

HALLIE: Hank, what sells it is the attitude. You are all Hildy Johnson.

So where are the rest of you in all this? When we look back ourselves, what will we be wearing that prompts us to say: "What was I thinking?"

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What We're Writing Week: Susan Elia MacNeal on Maggie Hope's continuing adventures

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: As many of you know, THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT came out at the beginning of this month! (Number 10 on the New York Times bestseller list, woo hoo!) 

Also, Miss Edna is now out of the hospital. She's resting comfortably at home and thanks you all for your good wishes. One of the things she wants to learn to do during her recovery is learn to use the computer, so with luck, she'll be able to interact in person!

And I've been busy doing book events in Pittsburgh, Houston, and New York. And going to Philadelphia, Ann Arbor for more book tour fun. And maybe Charlotte, for research.


For the most part, I'm pretty good at writing while traveling. First, beyond keeping up with the schedule, your down time is your own. (As opposed to at home: "Mommy, can you get me the (fill in the blank)?" "Miss Susan, when you have a moment...." and "Uh, honey....") 

I work happily on planes, trains and autos (just need an electrical outlet) and I loooooove to work in hotel rooms. (The silence — oh, the blessed silence!)

And so, even though I've been on the road, talking about THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT (Maggie Hope #4), I've also been writing MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE (Maggie Hope #5).

Since the new book is just out and I don't want to give away any spoilers by quoting from the next one, I'm going to talk a little about the characters we'll see in MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE.

The book opens with our old friends from MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY —  Maggie Hope, David Greene, John Stirling, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill — now reunited in Washington D.C. just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Having Maggie return back to the U.S. has been great fun to write, as has been having the Brits be the "fish out of water" characters for a change.

Of course they meet President Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

And OF COURSE they meet Fala, the President's dog.

Maggie will go on to meet a character inspired by Pauli Murray. She's pressuring Eleanor Roosevelt to use her influence on staying the execution of a black man, inspired by Odell Waller. Needless to say, this doesn't go over well with certain Southerners who have secret ties with the KKK — and when bodies start piling up, Maggie and Mrs. Roosevelt investigate....


Meanwhile, there's a subplot where Walt Disney makes more than a cameo (he and the Disney Studio were heavily involved in war work for the U.S. government — not just propaganda films, but also animated instructional films for the armed forces, designing icons, logos, etc.) Disney's seen here with RAF pilot turned British spy, turned children's novelist Roald Dahl (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, et al.)

We'll also see how Maggie's half-sister, Elise Hess, does as she's granted a temporary leave from the Ravensbrück concentration camp and returns to see her father in Berlin.

And we'll continue to follow the story of Clara Hess. (That's all I'm going to say — anything else would give some big surprises away.)

I'm so excited about this book — Maggie's first line is "I'm back!" — and so she is. 

Literally, back in the U.S. for the first time since 1937.

But she's also figuratively back — in that she's recovered (more or less) from her battle with the Black Dog of depression. Not only is she back to the Maggie we know from past books, but she's ready to start her next adventure — this time, in America.

Wonder Woman made her debut in December of 1941, 
the same month Maggie returns to the U.S.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What We're Writing Week: Julia Spencer-Fleming is writing...and writing...and writing...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Aaaand....still working on HID FROM OUR EYES. There are writers who can turn out two books a year like clockwork - our friend Brad Parks comes to mind. (For all his merry japes, Brad is an extremely disciplined writer. He's the Sir Percy Blakeney of the mystery community.) There are writers who can manage three a year, if pressed, like our own Rhys Bowen. There are even an extraordinary few who can craft more good books in a year - I was talking with Maine author Al Lamanda earlier this month, and since his 2012 Best Novel Edgar nomination he's produced an amazing fifteen completed manuscripts.

Then there's me. Sigh.

Here's an excerpt from HID FROM OUR EYES. A third Millers Kill Police chief is presented with the discovery of a third seemingly-identical murder:

Hadley had done a good job as first responder. By the time Russ turned his truck onto the county highway, the fire and rescue guys were already in place with cones and blinkers, ready to reroute any morning traffic that might come through. The scene – an isolated stretch of road with pastures running away on either side - was ringed round with yellow tape fluttering from flex poles. Hadley's unit blocked the road on the Cossayuharie side, its lights looking almost dim in the brilliant May sunshine.

It had been a beautiful day the last time, too.

He heard the whoop-whoop-whoop of a siren as he climbed out of his truck. He waited while the squad car crested the rise, slowed, and pulled in behind his pick-up. Lyle MacAuley, his deputy chief, flipped off the light bar and got out, stretching and snapping his back. “Heard we have a traffic fatality.”

God, maybe that was it. Russ had been in such a hurry to get to the scene, he hadn't pressed Harlene to patch him through to Hadley for the details. “I hope so,” he said.

Lyle's bushy gray eyebrows shot up. 
Not that way.” Russ headed for the yellow tape. Lyle fell in beside him. “Just...I hope it's not a homicide.”

Person dead in the road? Vehicular manslaughter and fleeing the scene. Probably some damnfool jogger not watching where she was going meeting up with another damnfool texting and driving on his way to work. What have you got here, Knox?” Lyle held the tape up so Russ could duck through.

Hadley Knox, three years at the department, was their juniormost officer, and the only woman sworn as a peacekeeper. Despite taking the job as a last resort – she had two kids and an infirm granddad to support – Russ thought she had the potential to be an excellent cop. If he could keep her on the force. If he could make sure there would be a force for her to work at. He pinched the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses and tried to make himself focus.

White female, looks to be in her early twenties. No ID I could see in the first pass.” She stood next to a blue Tyvex tarp spread over the body. Whoever it was beneath there, she was so slight she barely lifted the plastic shroud. 
This where you found her?” Lyle looked around at the verge of the road as if expecting to see signs of the body being dragged. A scattering of gravel marked the line between asphault and the field beyond. No blood. No crushed grass or broken wildflowers.

Right here in the middle of the lane, dep. I wouldn't move her.” Hadley sounded defensive.

We know that, Knox.” Russ pulled his purple silicone gloves from his pocket and tugged them on. Lyle did the same. “Let's take a look.” He peeled the tarp away from the body.

Young. Pretty. Dressed up like one of the girls he saw in town just a week ago, headed for the prom. He glanced at her feet. No shoes.

Where the hell's the blood?” MacAuley got down on one knee. “No scrapes. No torn clothing.” He stretched himself flat on the roadway next to the body. “Doesn't look like there's any blood underneath her.”
Doctor Sheeler's on the way,” Hadley said. The Washington County ME. “And the state crime scene lab.”

Good job,” Russ said automatically. 
Doesn't even look like anything was broken in impact.” MacAuley got back up onto one knee. “Damndest thing I've ever seen.” 

If any of you have any suggestions for producing more words on schedule, let me have 'em!

Friday, July 25, 2014

What We're Writing Week--Deborah Crombie, TO DWELL IN DARKNESS, At Last!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm in roughly the same place in the book process as our Jungle  Red Lucy Burdette. Only, her new Haley Snow, Death with All the Trimmings, comes out in December, and Kincaid/James #16, To Dwell in Darkness, comes out September 23rd! What this tells you is that I was very slow and that the book is now in a crunch production schedule. This isn't fun for anyone, writer or publisher. Note to self: WRITE FASTER. Stick copies of note on keyboard and mirrors... BIG NOTE!

This also means I barely drew a breath between turning in the last chapter of the manuscript and starting my own and my editor's revisions, and that I had more editorial revisions sandwiched in with the copy edit.  A terrifying combination!  Much writerly angst!  "Will everyone hate it? What will I do then???"

Fortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case. (Or at least if my copy editor hated it, she didn't say so.) My editor is quite happy with it, I think. WHEW. 

That's my copy-edited manuscript above. The actual edit is done these days in Word Track Changes, but I ask for a printed copy as well. Everybody goes about this differently--would love to hear how REDS and other authors do it--but I do a first read-through of the digital copy, addressing the copy editor's comments that don't require much decision making. Then I curl up somewhere cozy with the printed pages, flags, and a pen, and make notes as I read, because I catch things in print that I never see on screen.  After that, I put my changes, and more changes suggested by my editor, into the digital copy. I am thrilled when I get an editor Smiley, and shudder when I see the dreaded Show, Don't Tell. (And yes, I still get those, after sixteen books...)

And now, tomorrow, just over a week after I turned in the copy edit, I will get page proofs. For non-writers out there, these are the type-set pages. You are only reading for little errors that might have slipped through the copy edit, or errors in type-setting or transcription. It's very expensive to make big changes at this stage and very much frowned upon.

Unlike the terrifying copy edit, I love reading the page proofs. It's the first time that an author gets to experience what they've written as a real BOOK. Not only have all the editing changes been incorporated, but you see the design of the book (font, chapter heads, etc.) for the first time.

The book comes to life!  In a few weeks, the ARCs (Advanced Readers Copies, or what we old fogies still call "galleys") go out, and then, in a little less than two months, TO DWELL IN DARKNESS will be on the shelves (or your e-reader.)

So what's next? I'm plotting Kincaid/James #17. I have a working title, which my editor and my agent both like, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready to share it. I have a start date for writing actual pages written in RED on my calendar. August 4th.

So hold me to it.

Here's a smidgen from TO DWELL IN DARKNESS, Chapter 1:

London was miserably cold for mid-March. There were a few hardy crocuses showing their heads in the parks and private gardens, but hard frost had nipped the daffodils and turned the early blossoms on the fruit trees crystalline.

Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid walked to Southhampton Row from Holborn tube station, his coat collar turned up, neck swaddled in a wool scarf, gloved hands shoved deep in his overcoat pockets. The sky was as dark as gunmetal, and when he turned east into Theobald’s Road, a blast of wind almost pushed him off his feet. Lowering his head, he trudged on. The weather boffins said the wind was blowing from the Siberian steppes—he wondered if he should consider one of those Russian hats with the earflaps. At least he now understood why the Russians wore the silly-looking things.

He quickened his pace as the concrete bulk of Holborn Police Station came into view. Although its architectural design might have come straight from the Gulag, it at least promised warmth.

Holborn station. His home away from home for more than two weeks now, yet he still felt as displaced as he had on his first awkward day. And as angry.

Returning to Scotland Yard from paternity leave in mid-February, he’d found his office empty. He’d been transferred from his longtime job as head of a homicide liaison team at the Yard to an area major-incident team based here in Holborn. It was a demotion, although he had kept his rank. There had been no warning and no explanation.

His immediate superior, Chief Superintendent Denis Childs, had been called out-of-the-country on a family emergency. That had added a second worry atop the first, as Kincaid and his family had been letting Childs’s sister Liz’s home in Notting Hill while her husband worked a five year contract in Singapore.

Kincaid had come to like Liz Davies, although they had only communicated via email. He hoped that the out-of-country emergency didn’t include her.

With Kincaid’s transfer to Holborn, Doug Cullen, Kincaid’s detective sergeant, had been moved into a data-entry job at the Yard, ostensibly to accommodate his recovery from a broken ankle. Now, Kincaid faced adjusting to a new job without Cullen’s capable, nerdy presence. Losing a good detective sergeant—a partner with whom you spent more hours than you did with your spouse—ranked, in his opinion, close to divorce on the scale of life disruptions, and there’d been no compensating honeymoon with his new team.

As if conjured up by his thoughts, he glimpsed his new detective constable, George Sweeney, trotting down the steps of the LA fitness gym across the street from the police station. Fresh from his morning workout, Sweeney wore a three-piece suit that was too expensive for a constable’s salary, and no overcoat. His short hair was still damp and trendily spiked, his cheeks red from his healthy exertion.

 “Morning, Guv’nor,” Sweeney said, overly hearty, as they both reached the station entrance. “You look like death warmed over,” he added, squinting at Kincaid. “A little too much partying?” Sweeney added with a wink and what came much too close to a nudge. By God, the man was irritating.

“Sick child,” Kincaid said shortly. Their three-year-old foster daughter, Charlotte, had a bad cough, and he and Gemma had taken turns to sit up with her.

“Oh, well.” Sweeney shrugged. “That means the day can only get better, right, Guv?” 

Kincaid felt a sting on his cheek, and then another. The lowering sky had begun to spit sleet.

And just for the record, I failed the compound word test. Almost every single decision I made turned out to be wrong. How do my fellow REDS fare on the compound word challenge?

Or should it be "compound-word"?