Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Gifts for YOU!

JUNGLE RED WRITERS Holiday gifts for you!
 One, if you are rushing rushing rushing to do your holiday necessities, wouldn't it be nice to stop for five minutes, make a cup of tea, and read a short story? Yes, indeed. And to make that easier,here are some stories from the Reds!  
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I had two this year, one in the Sherlock Holmes anthology called "The Adventure of the Dancing Women" (about which Criminal Element said: “A sleuth by the name of Annabelle Holmes works with an ex-soldier nicknamed Watson since, as Holmes charmingly explains, both names go hand in hand… it works with Ms. Ryan’s imaginative, steady hand. If you like Lucy Liu’s performance as Dr. Joan Watson on the TV show Elementary, then you will undoubtedly appreciate this mystery.”) Hurray!
And more about the Sherlock anthology from Hallie and Debs below. And another short story—completely different! From Lucy.

But the story I’ll share in full here is from the wonderful anthology called Malice Domestic: Murder Most Conventional. There's a snippet below, and then a link.
And your second holiday gift is at the bottom of this post. And since you love mysteries, I'm giving you one to solve. And, ho ho ho, there are prizes!

                by Hank Phillippi Ryan 
I could be sitting right next to you on the subway or standing behind you in the grocery store line or waiting for my latte while you get your tea. You’d never notice me, and that’s exactly how I like it.
My skill—for blending in and being ordinary—is the hallmark of my trade. The reason I get the big bucks. I’m so careful about my identity, I don’t even meet my clients, but simply leave that to “Thomas,” my colleague. That’s not his real name, of course. I call my security company Griffin and Co., even though there’s no one else, except for “Thomas,” in the co. It would be nice to have someone else, but right now we’re the tiniest bit strapped for cash.
The “big bucks” I referred to earlier was the tiniest bit sarcastic. But we’ll be fine, as long as nothing goes wrong.
I made a final adjustment to my black felt cloche as I walked closer to the massive convention center. My unremarkableness, I supposed, was the reason I was assigned to this ridiculous job.
Well, maybe not “ridiculous” so much as “waste of time,” I thought as I pushed through the heavy revolving doors. Nothing would go wrong, and it was my job to make sure that was true. If by some chance something did go wrong, it would be my job to assess, respond, subdue, and resolve. And then instantly, as always, blend back into the woodwork.
Pausing past the bank of revolving doors, I scanned the triple-tall skylighted entryway from left to right and then back again, calculating, knowing the first-response assessment often sets the stage for what’s to come. And then I almost burst out laughing.
There were no men here. And every woman looked exactly like me.
I touched the flowered silk scarf tied around my neck, and the strand of pearls underneath. It’s not usually necessary for me to go undercover to blend into a crowd, because my whole life is undercover. But coming here in costume had seemed prudent, and now, surveying the lobby, the line of registration desks, and the vast convention floor, it turned out my costume was not only prudent, but hilarious. It was like being in a massive hall of mirrors.
Blond wigs—or, on some, I supposed, real blond hair—scarves and pearls and twin-set cashmere sweaters, stockings, and sensible shoes. Plaid skirts. Some women carried magnifying glasses, and some, like me, wore little vintage hats tilted rakishly over one eye. A fluttering canvas banner suspended from the erector-set ceiling announced why we were all dressed that way, and why we were here—not exactly why I’m here, of course, but why the rest of them were here.
NANCY DREW CONVENTION, it trumpeted. They’d included a huge graphic portrayal of the iconic silhouette of the 1930s girl sleuth, all waved hair and cloche hat and pearls and cardigan.
Just like me.
Just like all the attendees, because all were requested to dress as Nancy Drew. Clearly, these women followed directions. The organizers had promised a big-time surprise guest speaker, and as of now, word hadn’t leaked about who that would be. Not even to me, which was somewhat unnerving. I don’t like surprises.

......Want to read the rest? Just click here. And as I said: there's a real clue in this story. If you find it--don't reveal what it is. Just put: "I found it!" in the comments, then message me via my website with the answer.(Http:// and click on Contact. That comes directly to me!)
Are you savvy enough to discover it? If you are correct, I'll send you a great prize.

But wait—we have more fun reading for you!

HALLIE EPHRON: In a year when I did not publish a book (I have two next year), a proud moment was seeing my short story, “Understudy in Scarlet,” in  Echoes of Sherlock, a wonderful anthology of stories inspired by the Holmes canon, edited by Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King. So thrilling to be in the same anthology with my fellow Reds, Hank and Deborah, not to mention writers like Meg Gardiner, William Kent Krueger, and Catriona McPherson. I floated for days when Kirkus singled out my “Understudy” as “a delight from beginning to end.” 

It’s the story of an actress who starred as Irene Adler 25 years ago in what has become a cult classic version of A Scandal in Bohemia. She answers a casting call, over the moon that she’s going to be able to reprise her role. Needless to say she’s in for a rude awakening that will put her in a murderous temper.


    It’s not an open casting call, Angela Cassano realizes as she takes in the emptiness of director Glenn Lancaster’s outer office. The gloomy space, on the second floor over storefronts on Santa Monica in Beverly Hills, has rough stucco walls painted off-white. The furnishings are chrome and ebony and black leather, and the stale air smells faintly of cigar. Her appointment was at two. At three she’s still waiting for Lancaster to emerge from his inner sanctum.

“They want you,” her agent had said when he called, sounding as surprised as she was that a remake of A Scandal in Bohemia was afoot, this time as a major motion picture. Same director, same actor as Sherlock Holmes, and they wanted her to read for the role she played twenty-five years ago: Irene Adler, the one woman who outsmarted the great detective. Was she interested? Of course she was. The only gig she’s got lined up is summer stock in Ojai playing Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But she’s also more than a bit wary. She and Lancaster didn’t part on the best of terms, not after she refused to sleep with him—something he seemed to think was his due for casting her in his movie. Bygones, she hopes. Because if he were holding a grudge, why would he be calling her agent?

…..Want to read more?  Here’s a link to the book—it’s wonderful! And you should also find Deborah Crombie’s wonderful “The Case of the Speckled Trout”--which introduces Holmes' goddaughter in a hilariously-voiced tale about a fish and a potential murder. What could go wrong?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I had more fun writing this story! I was in a really stuck place in my novel, and this gave me a much needed break.


My name is Sherry Watson. It’s a crap name, Sherry, I know. But what can you do? It’s not like I had a say in the matter. My parents, to give them credit, were trying to do the right thing—a sentimental gesture I wondered if they were sorry for after.

They named me after my godfather, who is—or was, before he vanished a year ago—a famous detective. All I have to say is it’s a good thing I wasn’t a boy, or I would really have something to be pissed off with him about. Actually, he’s responsible for a lot of things I should be pissed off about, my godfather, not the least of which was me standing in a freezing Scottish kitchen, up to my elbows in fish guts.

But wait, there’s more!

LUCY BURDETTE:  My first Key West story, THE ITINERARY, which was published in the MWA anthology edited by Nelson DeMille, is now available as a podcast! If you don't know about Great Jones Street, you should. It's a free app that contains tons of short stories in many genres--what fun!

The Itinerary (by Roberta Isleib) begins like this....
         Detective Jack Meigs knew he’d hate Key West the moment he was greeted off the plane by a taxi driver with a parrot on his shoulder. He hadn’t wanted to take a vacation at all, and he certainly hadn’t wanted to come to Florida. But his boss insisted he take time off and then his sister surprised him with a nonrefundable ticket:  He was screwed. The driver packed him into a cab that smelled like a zoo and lurched away from the curb. Then the bird let loose a stream of shit that splattered off his newspapered roost and onto Meigs’s polished black leather loafers. The cabbie hooted with laughter.

“That means good luck, man,” he said, gunning the motor and grinning like an ape in the rear view mirror. “Mango doesn’t do that for just anybody.”

The parrot screamed during the entire ten-minute ride to Meigs’s hotel and the driver never shut up either. Everyone connected with this damn town wanted to give you a travelogue. Hemingway got soused here after writing his obligatory daily pages of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS; Truman played poker at this table with this or that visiting dignitary; Jimmy Buffet wrote “A Woman Goin’ Crazy on Caroline Street” based on one bad night in his own Margaritaville Bar.

What difference did all that history make when the place was currently overrun with fat, sun-crisped cruise ship escapees, homeless people in search of free booze and the endless summer, and weirdos and misfits of every description? Truly a police officer’s nightmare.

Want more? Here's the website: 

JUNGLE RED:  Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and Happy Reading, everyone! And if you have a moment (sure….) tell us what you’re doing today.

And don’t forget to look for the clue in Hank’s story!


  1. Wow . . . such great stories. Thank you, I’m in reading heaven . . .

    Today, brunch with my Virginia grandbabies and my daughter. And I probably should think about wrapping the presents . . . .

  2. I love the concept of the short story as a gift for yourself. Excellent. Half day at the day job and then---let the festivities begin!

    Joan, enjoy your brunch. Sounds delightful.

    Happiest of holidays to all!

  3. Hank/Hallie/Lucy: Thanks for sharing these great short stories.

    Today I am off on another group walk this morning for @3 looks like a winter wonderland here in Ottawa. I enjoyed our first snowshoeing outing in the forests was awesome.

    Happy holidays!!

  4. How fun! Thanks, ladies. I've read Roberta's and Hank's, but never got my hands on the Holmes anthology - must remedy that immediately.

    Happy Hannukah eve, and Christmas Eve eve!

  5. I am at channel 7 today… its a juggle, since my book deadline is January 3! I'll be working in high gear this holiday…

    And yes, I still have some wrapping to do!

  6. It's the first day of my week-long end-of-year vacation. And at 11 I'm taking my kids to swim practice! LOL That's okay, because for the two hours they are there, I anticipate some quiet writing time. And I'm finally at the wrap-up of the novel-in-progress. Then I cn move on to final-ish polish for my Bouchercon 2017 submission. It's all good.

    What an awesome Christmas present. Thanks Reds!

  7. Counting my blessings--the cats and kittens let me sleep till nine, then a walk up next (Grace, only leftover bits of snow to be seen here), then lunch, followed by "A Christmas Story" and a little wine (okay, okay, maybe a bit more wine!) with my three sisters. Home later to putter about doing odds and ends, then some leisurely reading--can't wait to check out these short stories by the Reds!

    Wishing you all a time of grace and joy with your loved ones!

  8. Love hearing all these! This is such a transitional traffic at all coming to work. I guess Thursday is the new Friday.

    Grace--snowshoes(Is it more difficult than cross country skiing?)! I've never done that. How about the rest of you, reds?

  9. If anyone else has a short story link--feel free to post!

  10. I thought I posted but it disappeared! These stories are perfect for waiting for my row to board, which is on the agenda this morning. I'll check in from the other side of the country!

  11. Today I'm working. After being terribly ill for two months, I'm now terribly behind schedule. But, as a friend pointed out, at least I have work to do.

    As to short stories, I can't recommend Hank's story in the Malice Domestic anthology enough. It's smart and fun. (And I know; I edited it.) Anyone wanting to read more short stories could head over to my website, where I've posted my two stories published this year: "Stepmonster" from the anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, and "The Best Laid Plans" from the Malice Domestic anthology. Here are the links: and Happy reading and happy holidays, everyone!

  12. Ingrid, safe travels! xoxo

    And aw, Barb..thank you. You are the queen of short stories. Hope you are feeling better--your darling pooch is helping, right?

    1. He is. Jingle is a wonderful companion. And I am much better. Hardly coughing at all.

  13. I was thrilled to learn my short story "Jitterbug Voodoo" was selected for inclusion in the Bouchercon Blood on the Bayou anthology. Pretty cool being included with the likes of David Morrell, Elaine Viets, Alison Gaylin, Greg Herren, etc.

  14. OOPS! I didn't finish my last post - sorry. All the stories take place, as you probably gathered by the title, in and around New Orleans and the bayous. Some terrific stuff and a really nice way to remember the New Orleans Bouchercon. Link here:

  15. This is such fun! I love everyone's stories, and I did not know about GreatJonesStreet!

    Safe journey, Ingrid, and everyone else who is traveling! I'm only going as far as the grocery store:-) That's my kind of Christmas...

  16. I'm making a concerted effort to read more short stories. I enjoy them so much, but I was treating anthologies too much like a novel, feeling like I needed to read one from beginning to end. Now, I'm letting myself dabble, which is such a treat. I've read Hank's and Hallie's and Debs' stories in Echoes of Sherlock Holmes and loved them. And, Barb, "A Year Without Santa Claus" was a great story. I had a good chuckle over the Coyote brothers and their Acme equipment. Lucy, I'll be back later to read "The Itinerary." I also want to read the short stories in Murder Most Conventional by Hank, Rhys, and Barb, and a few others.

    I'm getting ready to start my final clean-up before Christmas around the house this afternoon. Making some chili later. Son is coming in later today, too, which I'm so excited about. He doesn't get home much. We will have a whole day together tomorrow before everyone gathering at my daughter's house in Indiana for a delicious Christmas dinner on Sunday. It's going to be a balmy Christmas Day here in Kentucky and Indiana, but at least that enables everyone to travel more safely.

    I'm getting over a cold, which has been miraculously cut short by Mucinex. I am now Mucinex's #1 fan. Barb, I'm so happy that you are feeling better, and I have been following your sweet Jingle's story. Glad Jingle is home and resting. Grace, you continue to amaze me with your cold-weather outings. Joan, your brunch sounds lovely. I finally finished wrapping last night, and it felt so good to get all the wrapping mess put away.

    Oh, tomorrow I'm going to make something new, quick and easy, that I saw on a FB post. I'll provide the link here because it would be such an easy addition as an appetizer. Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

  17. Barb, oops, I had Jingle mixed up with Aimee Hix's dog Karma, who just had surgery. Both dogs are adorable, and Jingle always makes me smile.

  18. Hank - Got it (I think) -- great story.

    Today I am getting my hair cut, some root maintenance done and enjoying all of the snow we got last night. We're definitely having a white Christmas here in Colorado ~

  19. Hank: I just got back from my group's walk. Today's distance was 18.4 km (11 miles).

    Yesterday's snowshoeing was easy since it was on flat terrain that was already groomed for x-country skiing and hikers. (I shared my FB post on your timeline if you want to see the conditions).

    It is much harder to snowshoe on hilly terrain through 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) of fresh powder. You have to make your own trail, so you get a much harder cardio workout. And going snowshoeing at night (with headlamps) adds another dimension of difficulty!

  20. Great to hear about all the stories.

    What I'm doing today? A little final shopping, wrapping, baking. And movie watching. While I was out this morning, I passed a stall at the mall selling British Movies, so thought I'd check for a long lost, unavailable anywhere, never seen in decades movie, The Holly and the Ivy. Yes! Got it!

    Peace to all.

  21. Kathy: I walk/snowshoe with a group of very active retirees. Most are 10-15 years older than me and at first, they were leaving me in the dust! But I quickly upped my fitness level, and now can match/surpass their speed and daily goals. And they warned me that they are active all year around...there are group walks scheduled for both Christmas Day and New Year's Day!

    Plus side to all this walking: I am eating and sleeping really well, and feel great. Down side: I am definitely way behind in my annual Goodreads challenge/tackling the massive TBR mountain.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Susan D---what's the Holly and the Ivy? (wouldn't that be a great theme for a holiday short story anthology?)

    "Meet me in St Louis", Debs. Or "Miracle on 34th Street." That could be your problem, ma'am. ;-)

  24. It is dismal and rainy in McKinney, and I'm wishing I'd gotten out to do my grocery shopping before the rain started! But go I must!

    I'm hoping to make a Mexican chocolate cake later, to go with the Mexican feast we're planning for Christmas, and I'm trying to organize all my ingredients so I can start cooking tomorrow.

    This evening, after Wren is in bed, Kayti and I are going to wrap gifts and put on some Christmas movies. We've tried to find Miracle in St. Louis, which neither of us has ever seen, but no luck!

  25. Debs: Both the Mexican feast and Mexican chocolate cake sounds awesome!!
    I hope the rain stops soon and that you have a bright Christmas day.

  26. Okay, I think I've figured out the clue in the story . . .
    Everyone has such fantastic-sounding plans for the day/evening --- hope everyone has a wonderful time . . . .

  27. My son and husband pressure washed the front sidewalk and parking pads this afternoon. They were caked with thick muddy clay left over from when the city dug up our front yard to replace the water line a private company broke while laying fiberoptic cable. Long unhappy saga with the tech company starting on Halloween. A story for another time. My nextdoor neighbor produced prosecco to celebrate having semi-clean walks again. It is 75 degrees, a little humid, and the darned mosquitoes are out. Our happy party is going to walk over to the restaurant/bar area of our neighborhood this evening and celebrate some more!

  28. I had to work today, which was fine. My shopping is done; I do need to get some gift bags, though.

    I bought the Echoes of Sherlock book a few weeks ago and so far have read the stories by the Reds. DO read them, everyone! My sister's final illness kept me from getting back to the rest of the stories but I plan to pick up the book again soon.

    Deb Romano

  29. Joan and Celia, email me at h ryan at whdh dot com and tell me!

    Pat D --never a dull moment...

    DebRo, love you.

  30. Oh, Debs, I pity you having to go to the grocery today. I sent hubby after a couple of items, including milk that we had run out of. Your Mexican feast and cake sound yummy.I

    I've got a meatloaf cooking right now. Son will be home within the hour, and we will have a late supper of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. Turkey begins Sunday.

    Tomorrow I make fudge and the cranberry feta pinwheels. For Christmas, I'm taking asparagus casserole, scalloped oysters, cheeses, and little transparent pies.

  31. Coming back after running around all day.

    I just had a short story published in Mysterical-e:

    And along with Kaye, I had a short story in this year's Bouchercon anthology:

  32. Thank you all for the stories! When I was still teaching, I sought out short works for my own leisure reading, all I could manage with so much reading and grading to do for school. Now I still enjoy them between the longer works. I devoured (and reviewed) and Holmes anthology and am currently enjoying BLOOD ON THE BAYOU. Rainy here, so cocooned warmly indoors with books, computer, and classical Christmas music.
    Hank, I think "I got it," and I also figured out THIS protagonist can't be autobiographical . . . blending into the background? I don't think so.
    Happy almost Christmas -- or as Larry S. says "Christmas Adam" -- happy ALL the holidays! Be happy and safe <3

    and since you invited links, the story I wrote as therapy when targeted by a mean assistant principal . .

  33. I think my Bouchercon story link might have been broken. Try this one:

  34. A little late, but here's my Bouchercon short story, "The Mayor and the Midwife."

    I was thrilled to be included! Thanks, Hank.

  35. I'm not sure if this is even the right day that I'm commenting on, but I might as well comment as long as I am here. I don't know what to do with this holiday. If I think about it long enough, it will be gone. It's not that I don't want a holiday. I just don't know what to do with it for the first time. XO r

  36. Reine, it's a holiday if you think it is… And if you don't, or if it's not the right time, then it isn't. You have control.
    And oh, thank you all for the wonderful links! The stories are going to be such fun to read…
    See you tomorrow!