Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What We're Writing: In which Hank Rejoices (but not for long)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What we’re writing week—I’m usually happy that alphabetically that makes me second in line to reveal the latest. But this week, I wish my name began with a later letter.

I’m juggling! And it’s terrific and fun and ca-razy.  Three things:

One: Whoo-do-doo-hoo. I finished the final final manuscript of SAY NO MORE. Not just kind of finished, or sort of finished, or someone else still has to look at it finished. But I’m talkin’ 12,000 (yes 12,000) word cutting, “at least” and “of course” deleting, em-dash deleting (thank you Ramona Long), plot-twist realizing and epiphany-hitting finished. Remind me of this when I am freaking out later, okay?  I really really really love it.

Here’s a tiny bit of SAY NO MORE—from a new character named Isabel Russo (whose name used to be Natalie Ruggerio, but somehow that didn’t work and now this new name is perfect.)
Nothing had happened to “him,” of course. She’d never say his name again. Never even think it. Never poison her mind with it. She’d make him a no one, a nobody, exactly as he’d done to her.
She looked up, glanced around as if someone could be watching. It always felt as if someone were, which was ridic. But Dame Callas’s darkly disapproving eyes seemed to stare right at her, and Mirella’s sweet expression had turned to pity. Isabel blinked, dismissing her fantasy. They’re only posters. She looked at her watch. 6:30.  Gormay on the Way would arrive in an hour.
She had time.
She clicked into Facebook, hit the bookmark for his profile.  Smiling, smiling, smiling. It was like this every day. Why did she keep looking?  She went to Instagram, checked his IG photos. She’d watched as his friend list grew, saw him amass endless “likes” with his stupid sports and silly pop concert tickets and dumb jokes. He’d gotten a new car, she saw, scanning the newest photos. Another new girlfriend. She was smiling, too, even kind of seemed familiar. She clicked away from the heart-twisting, stomach-turning site. Enough. 
Her next stop was always the “help” sites. Somehow, not being alone in her grief was reassuring. Even though it should have been chilling. But she had to look, once a day, every day.
Sexually assaulted on campus? We want to hear your story.
            The headline on the Facebook WE CAN HELP home page was so shocking, so surprising, so unexpected, she blinked at it, willing her eyes to go back into focus. The postage-stamp-sized icon was of a scale of justice.  Maybe you can prevent this from happening to someone else, the article began. Make a difference, it said. Take back the power.
Click here, it said.
She looked up again. It really felt as if someone was watching. The back of her neck prickled, and she could hear the silence.
Click? She could not do it. Why should she? All these hours she’d spent, making this place her refuge. Give that up with a click? No. She’d created a tiny bit of peace out of her shambles of a life. No way would she ever relive or talk about it again.
But how could it hurt just to see? “Prevent this from happening to someone else,” it said. She’d never wish her burden on anyone. Could she help instead? She touched her forefinger to the silver mouse. And pushed.
She steeled herself, waiting, not sure what to expect. Could they trace this? Know who she was? Should she close the computer, forget about it, fade to black? Maybe this was the biggest mistake she’d ever made.
            She leaned her head back against the top rail of her kitchen chair, crossed her arms, felt the warmth of her bare skin. Briefly closed her eyes.  No. The biggest mistake she’d ever made was going to that party. She shook her head, wondering.  It was an odd relief, maybe, to understand that nothing worse could ever happen to her. Maybe that was her power.
Isabel paused, fingers poised over her keyboard. Thinking about the phone number now on the screen. Should she call? The atmosphere of the room changed, a flicker of shadow through the maple tree outside, and then a single shaft of light glinted a rainbow on her keyboard, the spectrum of colors changing, dancing, playing across her fingers. Smiling in spite of herself, she looked up to see her little window crystal twisting in the resolute sunshine. 

You know the absolutely unbelievable journey of PRIME TIME, right?  The first book in the fun and funny Charlotte McNally mystery series came out from NEXT, in 2007.  And it won the AGATHA!   Then came FACE TIME, a Booksense Notable book. Then the Next imprint was pulled, and I thought I was doomed.

But rejoice!  The fabulous MIRA picked up the series, reissued PRIME TIME and FACE TIME in mass market size with gorgeous new covers, and went on to AIR TIME AND DRIVE TIME ,both of which were nominated for the Agatha and Anthony.
Then I had the idea for THE OTHER WOMAN, and got a new publisher, the amazing Forge. (All wonderful, and you all know the Jane Ryland story.)

But rejoice!

FORGE loves Charlie McNally, and they are re-issuing the whole series, one every other month this year, in trade paperback and hardcover.
If you like Jane Ryland, I do hope you will meet Charlotte McNally, her just-a-bit-older older  (and more-that-a-bit funnier) reporter predecessor.  

Here’s a tiny bit of PRIME TIME:

It may be that Angela Nevins doesn’t hate me. It may be she hates everybody. But here she is at my door.

“Charlie, Franklin, good morning. Great Job on the newsbreak, Charlie. Thanks for bailing us out.”

Angela has apparently read in one of her management manuals that it’s productive to begin potentially contentious conversations
by using some sort of a compliment. Softens up the peons for what’s to come.

I don’t dare glance at Franklin because one of us is sure to roll our eyes and make the other laugh. Plus I can never forget that even though on paper Angela’s my boss, she’s at least five years younger than I am. Maybe six. That she’s allowed to tell me what
to do is unrelenting torture.

Angela turns her back as if Franklin doesn’t exist and picks up where she left off with me, “We need you to handle an interview we’ve arranged with the wife.”

Am I supposed to know what she’s talking about?

“What wife?” I say out loud.

I get one of those “I can’t believe you reporters are so dense”looks.

“The accident victim’s wife.” Angela looks down at her clipboard, taps on it with her pencil. “Bradley Foreman? Aztratech? He’s dead. Car accident. His wife told the assignment desk she’d talk. But we’ve got to move quickly, before some lawyer shows up and orders her to keep quiet. So, Charlie, you’re the only reporter here at the station. If we wait for the next one to arrive, we may lose the story.”

This is simply unfair. She’s assigning me vulture patrol. I loathe vulture patrol. I paid my on- the- street dues for years, trying to convince the brokenhearted and miserable there was some noble
reason they should go on camera. I’m supposed to be done with all that now.

But because I’m here early, I’m the only reporter who’s available. And as a result, I’m the one who’s nailed.

Course they don’t teach in J- school: The Early Bird Gets the Work.

If you haven’t read the Charlie books, tell me in the comments! And one lucky commenter will get one as a gift.
SO happy about this! But hmm, wondering. Question for you all:  How do I market and promote? Any ideas?

Our back yard last week!
Three:  Ah. Hmm. I have a new book to write. It’s called OUT COLD.  And it comes out in October 2017.
And, sisters, that’s all I got. Not a word written, NOT. ONE. WORD. It is due in 11  months.

So I sit, and ponder, and wait for a good idea. I trust it will arrive when it should. Which I’m thinking had better be soon. I have blizzard, and cold cases. And wills. And knockouts.   Hey—any one you have any good ideas—or any ideas for that matter-what OUT COLD can be?

And one lucky commenter gets a copy of the all-new edition of PRIME TIME!


  1. So happy to hear that your Charlotte McNally books are coming back . . . and what a great cover! It's been a while since I've read them; now I've been reminded that it's time to revisit Charlie.

    What an amazing excerpt from "Say No More" -- already I can hardly wait to read it.
    I have to say, though, that it's hard to imagine having to cut 12,000 words . . . .

  2. It'll be great, Hank!

    Fenway Park. Out cold behind that funny little door in the Green Monster.

  3. I'm so pleased the "Time" series is being reissued, Hank. You're going to get a bunch of new fans - I know, because I read and loved every book.

    Looking forward to Say No More - great excerpt.

  4. I want those 12,000 words. Please.

    Love that excerpt, Hank. And the title with all its wonderful ambiguities and multiple meanings...

    And congratulations on the re-release of the Charlie McNally books! I have a mint signed set of the FIRST edition. Not sharing it with anyone.

  5. What a great excerpt! And congrats on the re-issue of the Charlie McNally series! As far as word count goes, I feel your pain, sister....

  6. One of my favorite parts of this blog--love hearing how the WIP is going (or not), how the ideas are flowing (or not), what's coming out and/or being re-released. SAY NO MORE--chills crawling up my spine--PRIME TIME--think I've read that one--but will probably be getting reacquainted!

    OUT COLD--it reminds me of a true story--a couple of young men and the live-in girlfriend of one of them. At least both men drunk, a fight ensues, one man hits the other guy hard enough to knock him out cold on the concrete driveway. Girlfriend gets the unconscious man inside and drops him on the couch. The next morning, he's dead. So, did the man die of his head injury? Did the girlfriend take the opportunity to rid herself of an unwanted partner? Or did someone else hasten his death? I know what the coroner ruled, but was that the whole truth? And to add misery, the young man's mother had died as a result of another domestic incident when he was a child--murder or accident?

  7. hoohoohooohoo, I'm turning to FChurch from now on when I don't have a plot!

    And I am going to fight Hallie for the extra words. We are "write spare" Siamese twins...

    Love the excerpt Hank, and the blizzard. I was thinking boxing, but maybe that's not too interesting to your readers?

  8. Love that, Flora! Hmmm…Using a real-life occurrence is always a wonderful starting point--and that is a great story! Thank you!

    Yes, the 12,000 words! It's a result of not having an outline--sometimes I put in actions or references that I think might go somewhere--then they don't, and become an artifact of an old version.

    Sometimes I tend to say something two or three times. A ridiculous and made up example:

    She looked at the letter, just a few scrawled words. She was nervous. What could it mean? She had no idea. It was scary.

    SO I look at each line, and say, what;s this for? What does it mean? What am I really saying? Can I pick one perfect word, use it in one perfect sentence? What if I just cut the whole darn thing? I have to say, it is SO much fun. And so educational.

    Rushing to Channel 7..more in a bit! Keep those Out Cold ideas coming!

  9. So happy to see Charlie and the "Time" books available to readers once again. That was where I discovered your wonderful writing Hank, and of course I'll be adding the hardcovers to my permanent library.

    As for promotion, feel free to reach out if you want to do a guest post on BOLO Books talking about this earlier series. I'd love to have you on the blog again.

  10. Ha! My personal war on dashes rages on....Just kidding. I like them--just not in every line.

    Hank, this is brilliant: "'SO I look at each line, and say, what;s this for? What does it mean? What am I really saying? Can I pick one perfect word, use it in one perfect sentence? What if I just cut the whole darn thing?"

    Welcome back to PRIME TIME and SAY NO MORE is indeed an intriguing title. Great subtext and a worthy subject.

  11. I don't know the Charlie McNally books and look forward to fixing that. They look like fun! And I will be alert next year to see what Out Cold turns into. I grew up in the snow belt of norhtern New York I know an awful lot about snowstorms, if that is any help. Not that New Englanders don't know a thing or two. :-)

  12. First, I love that excerpt and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next Jane - as always. And I'm sure you'll come up with something brilliant for OUT COLD. Again, as always.

    I didn't get past PRIME TIME. I got it as a gift and then could not find the next one. So I'm very excited they're being reissued (I loved Charlie's cameo in WHAT YOU SEE).

  13. OH, Mary, that's what I've been hearing--that people read one of the Charlie books, and looked for the others, but couldn't get them.

    It was kind of industry-complicated, because when the rights were purchased by Forge, the MIRA e-books that had been available everywhere where taken down. So the ONLY way to get Charlie was a used book--which is not optimum.

    So I am so thrilled by the whole thing! (Let me know if MLB is getting them, okay? You are hereby designated as my spy..)

  14. That's really Me, Hank, above. Obviously.

  15. I figured. =) And I'll definitely let you know about MLB.

  16. Thank you, Ramona! I am so used to dashes. I think it;s from writing for television, where the punctuation is ....casual, because it's only written to be read out loud. So it's easy for me to think in fragments and bullet points. But your admonition tat a simple declarative sentence often works best--or whatever you said exactly---really spoke to me.

    So I did a big edit/find for -- And was appalled. And you're so right, it's much stronger.

    As I said, I also took out of course, and at least, and ,right? SO easy to lapse into those.

    Then I went after "just."

    Those deletions didn't add up to 12,000 words, naturally, but it was gratifying.


  17. "Say No More," - wow. just. wow. And, as usual, tapping my toe in great impatience, here!

    AND, HPR, you know how very much I love Charlie. I am thrilled beyond words that she's coming back. I have missed her.

    Hallie, this for you. I missed being here yesterday so missed your piece. But I read it first thing this morning and you, my friend, have hit a nerve with this gal. You know how partial I am to anything and everything written about the south. Your story sounds divine!!!!! (too many of those? oh, well). I know Beaufort and am as taken with it as you. It's history is fascinating, it's streets and homes purely magical. Did you run into Pat Conroy or Cassandra King while you were there? ;-) Can't wait to read it! (p.s. I read Night Night, Sleep Tight over the weekend and loved it! knew I would, of course).

    I love "what are we writing" week.

  18. OUT COLD makes me think of being left out in the cold, as in excluded from some high priority event (like many folks are feeling about the Hamilton musical), or forgotten by people who should have known better.

  19. I'm happy that Charlie is coming back. That's the series that introduced me to you.

    Out Cold: Waking up from a long hibernation (could be coma) and not knowing where you've been.


  20. Ohhh, can't wait for Say No More, and your photo is perfect inspiration for Out Cold. You'll be keyboarding like a maniac soon. You are amazing.

    So glad that the Charlotte McNally books are coming out again, they are wonderful and have forever changed the way I hear the name "Charlotte" in my head. Spectacular.

  21. Hank: I missed the "Time" books in their entirety despite trying my best to get my hands on them. So glad Forge is re-issuing. Love the sneak preview from Say No More and have absolutely no ideas to help you with Out Cold, sorry!

    Hallie: I also missed yesterday due to power outage here in "sunny" San Diego where the high winds and surf went crazy. I awoke to the green light on my computer this morning and happy to see your excerpt. I don't mind any author's taking license with locations as long as she conveys the sense of the place, I'm good. When do we get to experience all of Vanessa's story?! Can't wait.


  22. Kait! Thank you for the reassurance. I truly am in "What We're NOT Writing" week. Ahhh. I test everything I hear--is THAT my idea? Is THAT my idea? ANd the answer is always no.

    But you have to hear no before you hear yes, right?

  23. Dru! Brilliant. Love that. Tucking it into the soup pot. Thank you!

  24. TFJ--love this--because I thought: no one will ever buy the new Prime Time because everyone already has it. Which is demonstrably absurd. Hurray.

    Kris--you weren't in that audience that was left , um, out, were you? What a disaster!

    And Triss...crossing fingers you love it. I can't believe I'm happy you hadn't already read the Charlie books. The world is so funny/

  25. Yay, Hank! So thrilled to hear that Charlie is back! I love the Charlie books and just reading the excerpt made me laugh.

    And huge congrats on finishing Say No More. Doesn't it feel nice to have cut all those unnecessary words and let the story shine through?

    Out Cold. Hmmm. You come up with THE best ambiguous titles. I'm sure you'll come up with a plot to match!

  26. And Yes of course, I'd adore to be on BOLO!! Thank you! Let's plan. Email me! xxoo and thank you!

    In other news, Jonathan has laryngitis. Any superduper home remedies? I've been pushing hot lemon-honey water, which is lovely, but he still can't talk. And he went to the doc, and the doc says: Yeah, don' t talk and good it'll go away.

  27. So glad the time series has mbeen renewed as the one place i could find them has stopped selling books!!!

  28. I have not had the honor of meeting Charlie yet.
    Hurray for smart publishers who know a good thing when they wee it and pick it up.

  29. I have read one Charlie, and happy to get access to the others, so count me out.

    It's fascinating that you have a TITLE and no book!!! I hope you know more than we do about it. It's winter here in New England, and I am thinking homelessness (Falmouth, MA is dealing now with people who live in tents in the woods) or having heat cut off (bad landlords, bad utility companies, poor people)???

    I guess it could also be boxing, or organized crime. Hmmmm. Can't wait!!

  30. Ramona and m-dashes, Ramona and m-dashes - yay! I just did the m-dash thing myself a few weeks back. :-)

    I love the tension in your excerpt. And I love that "ridic"!

    Out cold -- I thought along the same lines as Kristopher. In the larger question, could be about homeless/disenfranchised -- or military PTSD sufferers! Oooh ... that could be good. Did you hear about the Bronze metal-awarded four-time combat Sergeant (I think) with chronic PTSD who was dishonorably discharged for dubious reasons? So now he's out in the cold, with his PTSD with no support at all. It's tragic -- all the PTSD sufferers left out in the cold once they're back here ... (Wow, OK, I. did. not. know that was going to pop out of my brain -- I love brainstorming!)

  31. Libby Dodd! So great to hear this..crossing fingers you love Charlie. She is very different from Jane--and it's a rel treat to write about her. As you can see--I hope--the voice in my head is not like Jane at all. And yet--there's a real kinship. We've talked bout whether Charlie might be Jane's--mentor? Competitor? Idol? Maybe Jane doesn't like Charlie at all? Wouldn't that be...interesting?

  32. Thank you, Judy Hoyt. What DO they sell?

  33. Agreed, Denise Ann. A title and no book. But I had to think of something, and I had a few ideas, and outside my window, it was blizzarding. So what else could I do?

    And Lisa, so amazing, right? What brainstorming reveals? And how much your brain knows that it wasn't saying until you unearthed it?

    And thanks, Debs! Yes, I am--briefly--thrilled about SAY NO MORE. Done done done, and as we all knw, there were days when I feared that would never happen!

  34. That's the best part of the creative process -- I get so jazzed when that happens during the writing!

  35. haven't read your stuff, need to start. please help Sara annefitza at yahoo

  36. Oh! There's a Goodreads giveaway too! Going on right now! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/172294-prime-time-a-charlotte-mcnally-novel

  37. What a treat for 2016. Smart Forge! Prime Time was the first of your books I ever read and I was hooked.

  38. OH, thank you, Debra! Cannot wait to read YOUR book...xoxoo

  39. Ahhh, Hank, not one word written. Lordy! I have about 1/10 written of mine and am sighing about I need to work on it! I think I'm just about caught up and can. Many hugs, vb

  40. Love Charlie's books. They introduced me to your work. Happy that others will have the possibility to read them. Only Drive Time missing here.
    The best marketing for me is "bouche à bouche". If each of your readers tell to one person, it should sell many books.
    No specific idea for Out Cold but a good suggestion: come in Montreal to visit an exhibition titled " Investigating Agatha Christie".
    Both in English and French, it explains and shows many things about her life, her work, her imagination, her universe . It should inspire a mystery writer. I went last week and it is very well done. It is at Pointe-a-Caillere museum of archeology and history of Montreal.

  41. I haven't read your Charlie books before, so more to look forward to! I do enjoy a sarcastic sense of humor. Too much, I'm afraid. Out Cold invokes unconsciousness to me. If it were out in the cold I'd think of the spy who came in. I don't know of any cures for laryngitis. I've had it only once myself. I think all you can do is relax and don't talk. It will go away when it's good and ready.

  42. I meant " bouche à oreille" like " mouth to ear" but I don't think it's the way to say it in english.

  43. Best news today! (and that's saying much because tai chi was great with a dozen participants -- a recent high ;-)
    I don't know how you get all this done, but I'm so grateful that you do, and I can hardly wait!

  44. Danielle-momo, in English "bouche à oreille" is said with the phrase "by word of mouth." I know. Makes no sense, but that's how they say it. xo

  45. Vicki! So great to see you! One-tenth, sigh. YOu are rocking it!

    Danielle-momo--thank you! Yes, if only all readers were as wise s you are...it is SO important to spread the word.

    Oh, Mary, thank you! ANd it would be so great to be in your class...

    SO Reine- bouche a oreille...what does that really mean?

    What a great day..anyone watching the OJ movie?

  46. Hank, literally it means (from) mouth to ear. Intentionally it means by word of mouth. xoxo

  47. I love the Charlie McNally books; my only idea for promotion is to tease the news story at the heart of each one. "Out Cold" makes me think of climate change.

  48. "Out Cold" conjures images of someone lost in the snow in a blizzard. [I recently read an amazing story about a Pennsylvania man lost in a snowstorm; he was literally frozen when rescuers finally found him. The medical folks at the hospital warmed him up, shocked his heart, and brought him back. I guess his guardian angel was working overtime.]

  49. Auriette--great idea! We will do that--thank you!

    And Joan--yes! I actually read that story… And I absolutely thought hmmmmm--is that my story? We are so on the same wavelength…

  50. Pat D--I fear you are right about the laryngitis!… But! You are the winner! Send me your email, and you get a copy of Prime Time!
    Thank you so much for a wonderful day, you all! And don't forget to enter the Goodreads giveaway for Prime Time!
    Love you all--and Jonathan is signaling he does too.

  51. Congratulations on finishing the next one! Seeing Charlie's cameo in What You See made me wonder... wondering no more! I've read a couple of them but not all.