Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Jungle Red Thank You Day!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Susan Elia MacNeal inspired me to this, she doesn’t know it, but she did. We were talking about the breathtakingly terrible events of last week—yes, other of the seemingly unending list of terrible events—but because it was journalists, it was…well, home.

Susan quoted Winston Churchill.  “These are stern times,” he said. And yes, they are.

And it made me wonder about legacy, and the tiny spit of time we each get, and  making sure we let people know things. I know Jungle Red is supposed to be fun and upbeat, and we are, so let’ this. 

Thomas Thornburg/Pike HIgh School 1967 
Tell us someone you want to make sure you thank.  Mom, of course, and Dad, goes without saying. But Mr. Thornburg, for instance, my high school English teacher who taught me about Shakespeare. And Alice Blitch, a college professor who took me aside and told me I was talented. She didn’t have to, you know? She just did.

Fred Heckman, the brusque-but-patient news director who hired 20 year old me, with zero experience, as a newbie radio reporter.

This is me on my very first day of work as a radio reporter at WIBC, circa 1971. You  can imagine how Fred felt about me, the very first female reporter at this station! But he taught me how to ask questions. 

My sister Nancy, who is always there. Red Hallie, who swooped me up in mystery world ten years ago, treated me like a real writer. And editor/author Paula Munier, do you know her? Nothing that’s happened to me would have happened without her. 

AnnLeslie Tuttle, editor at MIRA, who in 2005, said—can you rewrite your submission, same story but different sensibility? If you can, I’d love to publish PRIME TIME. And I did, and they did.

Oh, gosh, I could go on. My now-editor at Forge, Kristin Sevick, and agent Lisa Gallagher, and…Jonathan. SO patient! I wouldn’t put up with me, is all I can say.
Thank you thank you.

And here’s your bully pulpit. In these times of trouble, who deserves your thanks?

Julia's mom with Youngest and The Smithie
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It sounds like an Academy Award speech, but first I need to thank my mother, Lois Fleming, who always made books more-than-plentiful for me, even when the money wasn't, and who taught me much of what I know about composition, and who thought I should be a writer before anyone else did, including myself.

All the SF fans at the long-defunct B5 Unrest who first got me interested in playing around with fiction, Lucy Zahray, aka "The Poison Lady, who recommended my manuscript to the legendary Ruth Cavin when I entered it into the Malice Domestic contest.

Meg Ruley! Love her. 
I'm incredibly grateful to my agent, Meg Ruley, who took me on when I was still in the middle of a three-book deal my first agent had negotiated! For those of you not in the publishing business, that meant she was supporting and advocating for me for several YEARS before she saw any income from my writing. Lots of want-to-be-writers ask, "Why should I give away 15% of my booksales?" The answer is: because an agent like Meg is worth a lot more than that.

And thanks also to Hank! We had a great time hanging around at the San Francisco Bouchercon, and after I got home to Maine, she sent me an email asking if I'd like to consider joining this blog group she was a part of... I said yes and have never regretted it!

HANK: Aw, I remember that! oxoo

HALLIE EPHRON: Hank, you are so generous giving credit. Thanks. And now turnabout is fair play and I thank the generous writers, especially Hank and Lucy and Paula Munier, who are there for me when I’ve written myself into another cul de sac or just feel mopey.

And thanks to… family.
For giving me my first break, my sister Nora who connected me with an editor at the Boston Globe when I’d written an op ed piece about leaving teaching. And my sister Delia who read my first attempts at storytelling and told me the bad news (it needed soooo much work) and the good (I had talent.) And my younger sister Amy who started writing long before I did and so I had to race to keep up. And my mother who blazed the trail for us all as women slash writers and in the process, exposed its pitfalls.

And my husband who rarely uttered the word *but* when I told him what I wanted to do next. And my fantastic daughters who are proof positive that I can do some things really really right, or at least be trusted not to gum up the works.

Hallie is second from right
Teachers: Mr. Gelms who taught journalism at Beverly High. And Barbara Ann Schenkel my 6th grade teacher. Both of them died before I got the chance to thank them properly. If there's a someone you want to thank, DO IT NOW!

HANK: Hallie, who's the guy on the right?? He was..framed.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Wow, I had no idea an email would turn into a post! Churchill actually edited "dark times" into "stern times." I do believe his word choice is important.

People to thank in my life? Mrs. Elizabeth Lewin, at the North Tonawanda Public Library, Iris Skoog of Nardin Academy, Father P.S. Naumann, SJ at Canisius High School, Susan Meyer of Wellesley College, Caitlin Sims, formerly of Dance Magazine. Idria Barone Knecht. 

Noel and Bear, circa 1998

My husband, Noel MacNeal, who didn't laugh when I said I wanted to write a novel and in fact supported me through all kinds of craziness and gifted me all of his Bear in the Big Blue House and Sesame International airline points to travel....

RHYS BOWEN: I'd like to thank all the little people......wait! I don't know any little people.  The ones to whom  I owe a lot are no longer with us. My grandmother and great aunt Min who raised me in my early years, surrounded me with love and taught me the art of story telling. My aunt Gwladys who whisked me away to strange and exotic places and gave me my love of travel.

Best photo EVER! Where is this, Rhys?
Then there are my college friends who have remained close until today. The many wonderful friends I have made in the mystery writing world. Dorothy Cannell who introduced me to my agent (also Meg Ruley) and the fantastic Meg herself. Having an agent and editor who wholeheartedly believe in me-i couldn't ask for more. 

John is seated, right, with adorable child on lap
And of course John who is my first, and most critical reader, who drove me coast to coast three times before any publisher sent me on a book tour, and my kids who keep my life sane and grounded , as in "can you watch the dog and do you have a sleeping bag we can borrow?" and my grandkids. There is no better feeling than having a small child running toward you, arms outstretched and face alight with joy.  I feel truly blessed.

LUCY BURDETTE: My family of course. My poor old dad supported everything I did, even though he could not fathom why in the world I was throwing away all those years of training as a psychologist for...writing mysteries. (I wasn't throwing them away, it turns out. The two careers dovetail brilliantly!) My sister Susan, who was the first writer in the family but consistently supports me nudging in alongside her. John, the best husband ever. How much harder it must be to be married to someone who pushes you away from your dreams instead of toward them!

Roberta and Mr. Dorhout
Mrs. Covey, my fifth grade teacher. Albert Dorhout, high school music teacher and Mr. Schneider, drama teacher, who both encouraged my enthusiasm for the subjects, in spite of a lack of native talent:). And Gabriel Asfar, my adviser in college, who was probably the first person to tell me I was a good writer.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, Hank, this was hard. My first thought was, "How can I choose?" But here's a stab at it: First, always, my maternal grandmother, Lillian Dozier, who taught me to read and to love reading, who shared my dreams and nurtured tiny sparks of ambition, and who told me many times that I could do whatever I set my sights on. My 3rd and 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Schwann, who was the truly inspirational teacher that every child should have (and who read us A Wrinkle in Time, chapter by chapter, when we were in 6th grade. If I hadn't already been hooked on books that would have done the trick.) My writer uncle, A.C. Greene, who
A.C. Greene
told an awkward fifteen-year-old that her poetry was not too bad, and who supported my writing wholeheartedly from then on. Howard McCarley, my biology professor and my mentor in college, who encouraged me despite my obvious mathematical defiencencies. Warren Norwood, writing teacher, friend, mentor, who gave me the confidence to finish that first novel and send it out into the world. Nancy Yost, my incomparable agent of more than twenty years!

And so many more! My parents, of course. Writing friends, family, husband who puts up with me--and my daughter, who shares with me every day the great gift of loving books.

HANK PHILLIPI RYAN: I love seeing all these names. They’re people most of us will never meet, or know, and yet, kind of like the Bridge of San Luis Rey, you know, at some place and time they crossed our lives and made a difference, and it’s good that we simply state their names. Our own “Honored” Roll! And it seems to be about giving confidence, right? And encouragement?

So, reds and readers, who are you thankful for? And has anyone—anyone special and life-changing—ever surprised you with their thanks? (Lucy, music? Susan, and Hallie specifics! Julia, what’s B5 Unrest?)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fragrances of the stars... Preciousssss

HALLIE EPHRON: A subplot in NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT involves a hush-hush new perfume being developed and branded for Elenor “Bunny” Nichol, a still gorgeous but past her prime movie star.

As I was researching perfumes launched by movie stars, I discovered that post-Dynasty Joan Collins launched I AM WOMAN (musk, citrus). Givenchy supposedly made L’INTERDIT (woody, floral) for Audrey Hepburn. Coty created the spicy SOPHIA scent for Sophia Loren. And Elizabeth Taylor went for the Trifecta with WHITE DIAMONDS (candy sweet), BLACK PEARLS (soft powdery, floral), and VIOLET EYES (rose, citrus).

Taking a cue from Violet Eyes, I named Bunny’s scent CERULEAN – the color of my character’s legendary eyes. 

And I made up this TV commercial for it.

Violins, piano, and finally an accordion swell to a tango rhythm. A tall, slender man dressed all in black moves slowly away from the camera toward Bunny, takes her in his arms, twirls her once, twice, then bends her backward. Dissolve to a close-up of Bunny raising a bottle of Cerulean as if in a champagne toast, arching her head back and spraying her neck with the perfume. In smoke, words write themselves out on the screen in front of her.

you’re a woman

Cerulean,” Bunny’s voice whispered as the words disintegrate in a skim of mist that slowly dissipated to reveal a bottle of the perfume.

I was tickled when I saw an ad for ENGAGE, a men’s fragrance with (be still my beating heart) Jean Luc/Patrick Stewart shilling for it. Sadly it's a parody because I was ready to punch the replicator and order a bottle.

But it got me thinking about what men’s fragrances I’d like to see and the stars who’d promote them:

Lucky - Clint Eastwood
Iron – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Shaken – Sean Connery
D’oh – Homer Simpson
Green – Kermit the Frog

Preciousss - Gollum
Contender – Marlon Brando
Lookin’ at You - Humphrey Bogart
Alive! - Boris Karloff
Elementary - Benedict Cumberbatch

So what other fragrance/star combinations would you like to see?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Makin' it from scratch…

HALLIE EPHRON: Recently there was a piece in the New York Times with recipes for things you should make not buy.

Here’s the list. Take the test: how many do you make not buy?

1.    Marinara sauce
2.    Chocolate chip cookies
3.    Salad dressing
4.    Cupcakes
5.    Mac and cheese
6.    Ice cream
7.    Brownies
8.    Ketchup
9.    Pickles
10. Chocolate pudding
11. Pizza
12. Pancakes
13. Biscuits
14. Chocolate sauce
15. Mayonnaise
16. Layer cake
17. Pad thai
18. Mustard
19. Bread
20. Corn muffins
21. Hummus
22. Chocolate truffles
23. Granola
24. Jam
25. English muffins

Now I consider myself a fussy cook and I like to think that I cook healthy, thriftily, and mostly from scratch. But from scratch I make only 8 of the things on this list. Seven since I tried my Stop ‘n’ Shop’s upscale store brand “Nature’s Promise” marinara sauce.(The ingredients list has nothing I can't pronounce and it tastes really as good as mine, if not better.) 

I used to make my own hummus, too. And have never made a from-scratch cake that tasted as good as Duncan Hines Devils Food. I do make my own cake icing. It's easy and store-bought is gross. And I make my own pie crust, same reason.

But ketchup or mayo or mustard? I am devoted to Caine's and Heinz and Grey Poupon. But here are a few of the easy things I make as from as "scratch" as I get.

Tartar sauce
Mix together mayo and your favorite pickle relish.
That's it.

Russian dressing
Mix together that tartar sauce you just made with ketchup.
That's it.

And a quick Hollandaise sauce that really is from scratch.
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
Juice of half a lemon
STEPS (there are a few):
Melt the butter in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat.
Whisk the egg with the lemon juice and add to the melted butter.
Whisk over low/medium heat (WATCH IT! Or you'll end up with scrambled eggs) until it thickens. 
Add cayenne to taste.
Delicious over salmon, asparagus, or broccoli; or add some chopped fresh tarragon (a little goes a long way) and it’s great on a grilled steak or lamb chops. 

And THE best from scratch granola, can't match it anywhere is Lucy's Good for Anything Granola.

What do you make from scratch and what are you content with getting packaged? 

Friday, August 28, 2015

A house insires what-ifs: C. Michele Dorsey on NO VIRGIN ISLAND

HALLIE EPHRON: When people ask me where I set my books, my answer always includes a particular house. The one in NEVER TELL A LIE is the Victorian that "got away" -- my husband and I bid on it in the 1970s (fortunately not high enough). A house in NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT is a Beverly Hills estate where my friends and I used to sneak in and swim in the pool. Long before security cameras and motion sensors.

When I read C. Michelle Dorsey's wonderful debut novel, NO VIRGIN ISLAND, I could picture the house and by the end of the first chapter it was all I could do not to book myself a trip to St. John.
Today we're welcoming Michelle to Jungle Red and celebrating her brand spanking new, hot off the presses novel. She's here to take us on a tour of the house that inspired her.

C. MICHELE DORSEY: Villa Mascarpone, the scene of the crime in No Virgin Island, was inspired by a real villa on St. John where I have stayed many times and have never considered sinister. Located as far out in Fish Bay as you can go at the end of a cliff that looks down upon jagged rocks in the water below, the only way out is the way you came in. Unless you are a bird or a fish or a very clever criminal.

The dramatic views from each side of Villa Mascarpone are mind-blowing. To the east you look out at the Reef Bay Trail, which is part of the National Park, and beyond to Ram Head, a breathtaking cliff that was the site of a mass slave suicide in the early 1700's. To the south, you can see St. Croix on a clear day. Farther to the west, Puerto Rico can be seen in the distance with the third U.S. Virgin Island, St. Thomas, more closely to its left. St. Thomas lights up like a giant Christmas tree each evening, except during the more than occasional power outages common on islands.

The view above Villa Mascarpone during the day is of a sky so big and close you feel as though you could stick a finger out and grab a bite of one of those huge cotton candy clouds. At night, Orion and the Big and Little Dippers hang above the pool during starlit swims.

All of these views could be easily described as "atmospheric," a word frequently used when the location of a story, often referred to as "place," becomes akin to a character in itself.

So it is a little surprising to me that it was the poolside of the villa that made me begin a series of "what-if" thoughts. Walking through a periwinkle blue gate, you enter a courtyard with a hexagonal pool in the center with a native stone pillared pergola to the left and the entrance to the villa to the right. Such a serene scene. Apparently too much so for my liking, because I wondered during one happy hour with friends, what if there was a dead man, shot in the belly, lying on a hammock beneath the pergola.

Flash forward seven years later when that "what if" had morphed into a full-length mystery about to be published as my debut novel. Knowing people who love St. John are as passionate as readers who love mysteries and often overlap made me wonder, how could I share the news of my virgin mystery with my fellow fans of St. John?

A young man named Jason Hubert of St. John Videos answered that question quite easily. With a drone! What a hoot it was to see that drone fly over and then actually through Villa Mascarpone, where I was staying, to create a book trailer capturing the stunning surroundings where No Virgin Island is set. 

A drone captured the photos for you trailer? Wow! And can I just say scary... because what if...

What memorable houses have been brought to you by books? Anastasia Krupnik's with its tower room? The little house on the praire? 221 Baker Street?