Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who Wants Wine? 50 Shades of Cabernet!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Wine? Well, sure. (Somehow I can only drink wine when it’s dark, weird, huh? But I can read about wine any time.)

In vino mysterium is the theme for a wonderful new anthology of short stories, each blending a baffling mystery and a glass (or more) of cabernet. 
When eighteen mystery writers combine their talents, the result is the perfect “flight” of stories that range from light-bodied puzzles to sparkling cozies to darker, heavier tales of deceit and murder. While cabernet is the featured wine, this anthology will appeal to connoisseurs of all varietals—in both wine preference and mystery style.

I mean, yeah. I can be a joy to sip a nice drink when reading about murder and other crimes? Last week Koehler Books published that book, 50 Shades of Cabernet. And today half of the 50 Shades authors are visiting the Reds—and we asked:
Tell us about your story. What makes it different?

“Who’s Wine Is It Anyway?” by Barb Goffman
There’s a funny T-shirt slogan that says, “Be careful or I’ll put you in my novel.” Well, I write short stories, but the same sentiment applies.
In the mid-2000s I was preparing to leave the large Washington, DC, law firm I’d worked at for five years. I often planned events for our department, such as our annual holiday party. Doing so was a nice break from due diligence and reading regulations and other fun stuff like that. Yet I was a bit surprised when the partner with whom I worked most mentioned that he was (and wasn’t) looking forward to my goodbye party that Friday. Had a planned something great?
Now I enjoyed organizing department events, but this still left my jaw hanging open.
“I have to plan my own goodbye party?” I asked wide-eyed.
An uh oh expression came over him as he realized that of course I shouldn’t have to do that. He said he’d make sure someone else took care of it. And he did.
That conversation has stuck in my brain, and in “Whose Wine Is It Anyway?” I finally put it to good use, writing a story of Myra, a law firm secretary. In her final week at her firm, Myra learns that her boss, Douglas, expects her to plan her own retirement party. Myra is already upset with Douglas because he’s hired a bimbo to replace her, so Myra decides to use this party to teach some lessons.
It took me more than a decade, but I finally put my jaw-dropping moment to good use. So let this be a lesson to you: Don’t anger mystery writers or you too may end up in a story, and it may not work out well, either.
“Blown Away” by Nancy Naigle
“Blown Away” is set at Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo where I own a condo. My balcony overlooks the beautiful fishing boats. It’s an inspiring place to write, and imagined a hundred stories there. When I was asked to write a story for 50 Shades of Cabernet I couldn’t wait to use this wonderful setting. I hope you’ll enjoy this story about a heist gone wrong, and revenge taking place years later. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone that the bad guy is staying right in my condo , and the take-down in the parking garage below.
“Wine, Women, and Wrong” by Maggie King
Wine and sex. That’s how “Wine, Women, and Wrong,” my contribution to 50 Shades of Cabernet, a wine-themed mystery anthology, differs from the ones my talented fellow authors penned.
I emphasize the sensuous aspects of red wine—the taste, how it feels on the tongue. And I suggest a relationship between wine and sex. 
Consider my story opening:
“Ah! Sweet, bursting with berry flavor.” Lanie Jacobs mimicked the sales pitch of the wine merchant who’d poured the Ruby Port.
“Yet firm.” Rhonda Reay sipped and actually moaned in ecstasy. “Powerful.”
Lanie rolled her eyes. Was the woman having a sexual experience in the middle of a wine tasting party? Rhonda was her best friend but she could be embarrassing.
Is red wine an aphrodisiac? Studies suggest that it is. But I won’t get into the dull stuff, like brain activity and amines (organic compounds present in wine). And, when you pair the wine with a tasty appetizer, almost anything could happen! 
“These meatballs are amazing. They’re simply amazing.” Rhonda Reay popped one in her mouth. Tommy interpreted the coy look on her face as inviting. “What’s in this sauce?” she asked.
Tommy tried to remember what Camille had told him. “I believe it’s a pomegranate currant sauce.”
“It’s amazing,” she repeated. “And it pairs beautifully with this cab.” Rhonda drew her shoulders back and lifted her glass, as in a toast. “A graceful cabernet with generous flavors of cranberries, blackberries, and light baking spices. Full in body with a velvety smooth finish that coats the palate in soft tannins and lovely fruit.”
Is it the Cabernet, the gourmet meatballs, or the sexy Tommy that piques Rhonda Reay’s interest? Tommy is investigating the attempted murder of a local wine merchant and is trying to find out what Rhonda knows about it. Will he succumb to her charms and join her in a glass of Cabernet? Or two?
Read “Wine, Women, and Wrong” and find out.
“Friday’s Jewelry” by Ken Wingate
What makes “Friday's Jewelry” unique or different from all the rest of the stories in 50 Shades of Cabernet?
It could be that the Louis M. Martini LOT No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon featured in the story is the most expensive of all the rest of the wines in the other stories.  It is considered one of the finest Cabernets in the world.
It could be the beloved gift given by a grandmother to her granddaughter, holding a most powerful secret.
It could be the life-long friendship of the two primary characters.
It could be the surprising discovery in which the cork becomes the center of the investigation and the undoing of the thief.
I challenge you to read “Friday's Jewelry” and come to your own conclusion.
“Love the Wine You’re With” by Teresa Inge
“Love the Wine You’re With” takes place at a Virginia Beach wine tasting and includes a romance between Lewis McGehee, a real life, popular Virginia musician and my protagonist, Jules Riley. 
It was fun incorporating Lewis and his music into the story and transporting readers across Virginia’s unique but deadly landscape. 
“Par for the Course” by Heather Weidner
“Par for the Course” focuses on the dynamics among the different generations within a wealthy family, and wine plays a key role as one of the central businesses in their vast portfolio. I write what and where I know, and the Commonwealth of Virginia has over 230 wineries. So, the Blue Ridge Mountains became the perfect location for my fictional vineyard and winery.
In the story, Mona McKinley Scarborough, the family matriarch, doesn’t take no for an answer. When she’s not successful at convincing her granddaughter, Amanda, to make the right choice—to join the family’s winery—she plans a day of golf as a chance to draw them closer together. Their chat reveals some deadly secrets, and they learn that the grape may not fall far from the vine.
The Scarborough family, who can trace their roots back to Jamestown and the colonists, has been a fixture in Richmond’s capital society for more years than anyone can count. Their roots and dirty little secrets run deep. I like mysteries with lots of twists, and “Par for the Course” takes on several meanings throughout this tale, where we learn that some family secrets are as dark as the cabernet.
“And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” by James M. Jackson and Tina Whittle
“And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” is the only cowritten story in the anthology. It features Tina Whittle’s continuing characters Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver and James M. Jackson’s Seamus McCree and his darts-throwing mother. The four combine to solve a mystery involving Civil War antiquities using logic, guile, tarot cards, and the finest boxed cabernet (and other oxymorons).
“Name Your Poison” by Maria Hudgins
Recently an author friend of mine posted a dire notice on Facebook. She was expecting GUESTS. They were coming to stay at her house for several DAYS and she was expected to prepare FOOD. To many people this sounds like a good thing—unless these are guests you don’t like. But if you do like them, this is a good thing. Right?
Not if you’re a writer.
If you are the sort of writer I am, a perfect day is one in which the phone doesn’t ring, the doorbell doesn’t buzz, you have edible food in the fridge, and you have a comfy place to write.
I laughed to read the comments my friend got from other authors. “I feel your pain,” “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and “You can stay in my garage.”
It’s a writer thing.
Of course every writer is different and I do know some who are super-gregarious, but most of us are closet hermits. There’s something wrong with that phrase, closet hermits—a double negative? Anyway, here are the most common traits of dedicated writers:
1.             We observe life like a fly on the wall. It’s interesting but we avoid getting involved.
2.             Everything we say is reworded and reworded again in our heads. This limits how much we can say on any given occasion.
3.             We constantly write stories in our heads.
4.             We are obsessed with our current Work-in-Progress.
5.             We may be inherently messy or neat, but neither tendency concerns us much.
6.             We aren’t procrastinators. At least those who are published aren’t procrastinators.
7.             We are not perfectionists. As Bunter said to Lord Peter: “Perfect, my Lord. That is to say, slightly flawed.”
8.             Sometimes we worry that we aren’t quite normal.
9.             We are introverts. Our idea of hell is a cocktail party where we don’t know a soul.
In the new anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet, my story, “Name Your Poison,” starts with a cocktail party at a mystery conference—the sort of event where I usually drink too much too fast in the hopes that it will loosen my tongue and make me sparkle. Those of you who have attended a mystery conference will recognize the scene, if not the hapless victim of the story.
By the way, every story in 50 Shades uses the word “cabernet” at least once. I challenge you to find them all. 
HANK: Do we get wine while we’re looking? That is a treasure hunt I can completely get behind. Reds, are you wine aficionados? What’s your favorite?

A toast to the authors of this wonderful new anthology!
And you can buy it here! Cheers!

For fun on Facebook and website:
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If you want to help out an indie bookstore, here are two possibles:

Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, MD, has the hardcover and trade paperback on their website:


  1. Wow . . . the stories you’ve previewed are delightful and now I’m really looking forward to pouring myself a glass of wine and reading this book . . . .
    I prefer rosé or blush to the dark red wines [they give me a headache]. And although I do enjoy having a glass of wine, I have a tendency to pour a bit of it into whatever I happen to be cooking, so almost any bottle of wine around here tends to do double duty in both the cooking pot and a glass [except the jalapeño wine which we never drink] . . . .

    1. Joan,
      Thank you for your interest in "50 Shades." I hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you think of it.

    2. Thank you, Joan! "Pour Yourself a Good Mystery."

    3. Good idea, Joan! xoxo (I'm a big red fan, though..)

  2. What a great anthology! Thanks for the previews of each of the stories.

    And yes, I am an avid wine drinker. For reds, I like California zinfandels or cabs. For whites, I drink Ontario rieslings or gewurtztraminers.

    1. Grace,
      Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the anthology. Take care.

    2. Grace, I love Cabs too! That is my favorite wine. Thank you for posting about 50 Shades!

    3. Oh, fabulous! That is...great! Cannot wait to see you! (And my complete pleasure...)

  3. Thank you so much for letting us visit today!

  4. Oh, our pleasure! I am off to my sisters in crime event this morning, celebrating 30 years, with guest star nancy martin! Back to you when I can sneak a moment… Meanwhile, cheers!

  5. I love how your story came about, Barb! It's so true that ideas are all around you, just have to listen up. The anthology sounds delightful. Congratulaton!!

  6. Thank you for the synopses! This anthology looks like grand fun, especially with the challenge of finding the word cabernet in each story!

    Like Grace, zinfandel is a great favorite of mine, but they tend to be a bit pricey for our nightly medicinal glass of red. When my kids were all going to be here for Thanksgiving I bought a bunch of wines for them to try and we discovered one that was fantastic, and only $9 a bottle on closeout. I sent them back to the wine store to get a case, and now I wish we'd gotten two cases. We only have three or four bottles left, and there isn't any more to be had, at least locally. If you happen to find a 2013 Red Diamond Mysterious Red Blend, snatch it up. It goes with everything, too.

    Give Miss Nancy a big hug from me, okay, Hank? Have a wonderful SIC event!

    1. Karen,
      Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the anthology. Let us know what you think of it. We appreciate the feedback. Take care.

  7. Hi Hank!! Great to catch up with you again. Clearly I'd had too much cabernet when I wrote my little story...hahaha. This really is a fun collection of stories. Hugs and happy reading~

  8. Thanks to the Reds for letting us come and visit today. And I'm loving these comments.
    Joan, I'd never heard of jalapeno wine before, but it has sparked my interest--my writing interest, that is.
    Hallie, it's so true. An idea can come from anywhere, the smallest snatches of conversation. In fact, I used that exact sentence from real life, "I have to plan my own goodbye party?" in the story. It was fun.
    And Karen, I love that the wine you and your family fell in love with has the word Mysterious in its name. It seems serendipitous.
    Cheers to everyone!

    1. Barb, my husband and I went to a wine tasting at a small vineyard in Dahlgren, Virginia where the jalapeño wine was one of the selections. And while it wasn’t a wine we’d choose to fill a glass, it’s turned out to be a perfect ingredient for cooking . . . .

    2. I've never been to that part of Virginia before. It's right near the Potomac, right? Was it very lush and green?

  9. Have you seen the wine called 19 Crimes? Perfect for us! And one of my faves is a Cabernet called IRONY. Got to love it!

    1. Hank, thank you for the great quote for 50 Shades of Cabernet! It's on the front cover. I will give you a book at Malice!

    2. Oh, so exciting! Thank you! And what a terrific anthology… My pleasure. See you soon-- yay.

  10. Hank, we have a bottle of 19 Crimes in our wine rack right now. Our favorite Cajun place serves it as their house wine.

    1. SUch fun! DId you see the cork? There's a different cork for each of the 19 crimes.

    2. No! Now I'll have to look! Thanks, Hank.

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  12. I love the concept of this anthology and it's immediately going on the TBR list.

    Me and wine? We don't mix all that well these days, so I tend to imbibe only at home - but I will probably have to raise a glass or three at Malice.


  13. Hank, for a moment there, I could have sworn you said "guest Nancy Martini." Must be the subject matter... But congrats to your S-in-C chapter and "hi" to the wonderful Nancy Martin!

    What a clever idea for an anthology. I can read about wine anytime, and unlike Hank, I can even drink it (occasionally) in the day time.

    PS Hank, of course I had to buy 19 Crimes when I saw the label, and it's not bad, either.

  14. Oh Hank -- I so need to check out the IRONY Cab. Thanks so much for having us today,

    ~ Jim

    1. Try it! It's funny just to look at it, right? But it's pretty good..

  15. Yes. Just yes. I do enjoy wine if it isn't super sweet or real oaky. I've seen 19 Crimes too. Someone told me that there were 19 crimes you could commit in England that would get you transported to Australia. I love the story where you were expected to organize your own going away party. I've worked at places like that. Can't wait to see what form revenge takes.

    1. Hi, Pat. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy my story and the book!

  16. This anthology sounds like the perfect hostess gift...with or without a bottle of wine! I enjoy wine, but unlike some of my friends, no very little about it. I tend to choose bottles based on the price and the label. The exception is the Carmenérè variety, a red grape only found in Chile. It's hard to find, but worth the hunt.

    1. A hostess gift. What a lovely idea, Ingrid. I actually know very little about wine, too. I wrote about how that affected my story in another blog coming out on Thursday.

    2. LOVE Chilean wine! And Argentine Malbec. And you are so right, what a great hostess duet!

  17. I want to personally thank the Jungle Red Writers for your kindness and hospitality in hosting the "50 Shades of Cabernet" crew today. Excellent blog and most gracious hosts. Take care.

  18. I agree with Ingrid - 50 SHADES OF CABERNET and a corresponding bottle of wine would be perfect to bring with you when spending the weekend at a friend's place.

    I love wine, though it doesn't always love me. As I've grown older, I find I get wine headaches more often, alas. I don't know anything about it, so I rely on others for recommendations. I told Ross (who actually took a couple wine appreciation courses when a young man) one of the reasons I married him was so I'd never have to puzzle over what wine to order. I just go with whatever he picks.

    1. I love that one of the reasons you married was his knowledge of wine! 🍷

  19. Oh, that is a fabulous hostess gift idea - I am totally stealing that, Ingrid! I do drink wine, but I'm more of a beer girl. In all truth, I'm mostly a Jameson girl. When I lived in Phoenix as a single girl, my next door neighbor was a lovely man Irishman named Howard Adams who was the state liquor commissioner at the time. Needless to say, everyone gave him gifts of booze of all sorts and every Sunday night he and I would watch the X-files together (he was afraid to watch alone) and we'd sample ALL the whiskey. He used to call me "Ave Maria" because I'd sing Ave Maria in Latin when I'd had too much...but that's another post :) LOL!

    1. Jenn,
      You live in my favorite part of the country. I have been out to Arizona three times now. Sedona is my favorite area, though last trip, Judy and I hit Monument Valley and had a private tour by a Navajo elder. Amazing. Judy and I are going to being visiting New Mexico in June. We want to see the Georgia O'Keeffe art museum.

    2. Jenn, great story about whiskey & X Files. I love that show.

  20. Barb:
    Yes, Dahlgren is near the Potomac; lots of trees. In that section of Virginia, there’s a state park and a preserve. The Naval Surface Warfare Center is also located there . . . .