Thursday, August 31, 2017

Are you Inked up? asks Vicki Stiefel

HALLIE EPHRON: I confess, it's taken me awhile to become comfortable with Millenials' romance with tattoos. I want to ask, "Don't you know your skin will sag when you get older?" "Do you really want that on you when you interview for a job?" "What's going to happen when you get tired of it? ... I want to ask, but don't.

My dear friend and author Vicki Stiefel (Chest of Stone) is far ahead of the curve on this. She's got them. And she's not a millennial. 

So here's a page from Vicki Stiefel... how tattoos twine through her real life and her fiction.

VICKI STIEFEL: I take the receipt from the clerk.

“Is it real?” He points to the tattoo on my finger, the one with all the flowery vines.

“Yes, it is.”

“Really?” His tone bubbles with skepticism.

The urge to reply with snark is strong, but all I say is, “Really.”

I assume his disbelief is because I'm not a Twentysomething or a Goth or a biker, either, although I do still possess a bit of the hippie I once was. 

But, hello? Tattoos have gone mainstream.

What is it about these permanent inkings—living symbols etched into our flesh—that make them so compelling?

I blame my tat addiction, er, acquisition on my late crime-writer husband, Bill Tapply, who sported a mayfly tattoo to honor his fly-fishing passion. When he chose to get another tat, I joined in. He got Kokopelli. Mine? A Celtic spiral tattooed on my wrist, which was the inspiration for Clea’s tat in my novel, Chest of Bone. Hers is magical. Mine? I'll never tell.

Clea’s tattoo is “applied” by her dying mentor, the act of which comes with lots of blood and pain and launches my story. But I’m not the first author to pen tats into a tale. 

Novels use tattoos as symbols, plot threads, and more. Good guys, bad guys, and even corpses are fleshed out with ink in their skin. Can you imagine Moby Dick’s Queequeg without his tats? Or Lisbeth Salander’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo minus that dragon on her back? 

Speaking of dragons, the serial killer in The Red Dragon wears a William Blake design, which he believes is a spirit he calls "the Dragon.” Tattoos play a huge role in Elizabeth Hunter’s masterful Irin Chronicles’ The Scribe, where they heighten the wearer’s magic powers. Magic of the evil kind illuminates Mr. Dark’s “human” tats in Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. From the Man Booker finalist’s The Electric Michelangelo to the evil preacher’s tats in Night of the Hunter, a character’s tattoos can add layers of meaning to a character and a novel, which is part of why I love them.

My Wyvern wrapped around a Key symbolizes two of my series’ characters from The Afterworld Chronicles. 

I’m not alone in sporting a tat from my books. To quote the marvelous Rob Hart, “Books and tattoos have a lot in common. Both are intimate — and sometimes painful — acts. They’re addictive, in that you finish one and immediately ache for the head rush of another.” Rob’s got his New Yorked inked on his skin. Elizabeth Hand, Kevin Wilson, Steph Post, and many other writers wear ink based on their books. Other tattooed authors range from Dorothy Parker to Julie Hennrikus to China Mieville. As ink-decorated John Irving told The New York Times, “Tattoos are souvenirs. They’re road maps of where your body’s been.”

Legions of readers, those wonderful folks who devour our work, ink themselves as a permanent badge of their love for authors and reading. They sport tattoos from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter novels to those of Jane Austen and Sherrilyn Kenyon. They wear open books with “I’ve lived a thousand lives” or “Books are proof humans can do magic” or “Wanderer,” which is etched into my forearm beneath an open book.
I am that wanderer of ideas and of books. And, yeah, I want to get another tattoo.

Oh, BTW — if you plan to get a tattoo, do it right. Go to a reputable tattooist whose style you admire. Be sure you’re passionate about the tat, since without costly laser removal, it’s forever. Finally, copyedit your design. Seriously. Or this might be the result.

Do you have tattoos? Care to show and tell?

HALLIE: I think all our readers know that I do not. Or if I did, it would be my secret.

Vicki Stiefel''s fantasy suspense series, The Afterworld Chronicles, launched with Chest of Bone, the tale of a Mage, a Monster, and a Mission. Her mystery/thrillers include Body Parts, The Dead Stone, The Bone Man, and The Grief Shop, a Daphne du Maurier prize winner. All feature homicide counselor Tally Whyte. Her writing and photography have also appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Worcester Magazine, Wild Fibers, Dive Training, and other national publications. She co-wrote (with Lisa Souza) and photographed the non-fiction 10 Secrets of the LaidBack Knitters, and recently published Chest of Bone, The Knit Collection.

With her late husband, William G. Tapply, she ran The Writers Studio workshops in creative fiction. For six years, Vicki taught fiction writing and modern media writing at Clark University. She mentors writers and students and critiques writing in a variety of genres, from partial to completed manuscripts.

The Afterworld Chronicles' second novel, Chest of Stone, will hit shelves Nov. 2017, and she’s pounding the keys on the series' third novel, Chest of Air. In the works, her next mystery series will feature a tattooist.

Twitter: @vickistiefel

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Preserving personal histories, telling Stories with a Heart

HALLIE EPHRON: We Jungle Reds tell made-up stories of fictional characters. Filmmaker Leslie Wittman tells what she calls "Stories with a Heart" -- the stories of real people, preserving personal history. Today I'm pleased to host her on Jungle Red.

I met Leslie when we were both working at Digital where she developed corporate videos, more years ago than either of us care to count. How serendipitous, after Sunday's discussion of our favorite WWII novels, that her first project as a personal history videographer was capturing memories of WWII survivors.

LESLIE WITTMAN: About five years ago I got a call from someone who asked if I could help with a large WWII Memories project being undertaken at a local retirement community. 

As a child of holocaust survivors, WWII was not something we talked about. I didn’t know if I really wanted to or was able to “go there” by being involved in this project. 

However, having the opportunity to hear the stories of bravery and selflessness that people had in order to save people like members my family filled me with gratitude. 

This project ended up being a turning point in my life both professionally and personally. I began to focus my work on capturing and preserving memories and stories of elders as a legacy for their families or communities. I’m privileged to see and hear so many examples of ways that people are vibrantly and creatively engaged in life in their later years and it inspires me to discard any assumptions I may have had about aging and to live my own life boldly and with purpose.

HALLIE: A case in point! I love your video, Moving from Foot to Foot, about two women who dance again. It's so delightful to watch.  

Can you tell us the back story of how you ended up creating that video?

LESLIE:  I was working on a video about two people in their 90s who’ve become poets and recently published their work. I went to videotape a class taught by their poetry instructor and a woman in that class told me I needed to come meet her mother who does ballroom dancing at her assisted living facility. 

What I found there was a truly inspirational dance instructor and a wonderful story.

HALLIE: How do people connect with you?

LESLIE: By word of mouth. Often it’s the grown children who contact me because they want to preserve their parent’s stories. I conduct a pre-interview so I can get to know the storyteller and then at another time we do an on-camera interview using questions I developOddly it’s often not until later when I review the recordings and begin editing that the story begins to emerge. 

HALLIE: Leslie, all of the writers reading this will relate to this. It's how so many novels and essays come together. By feel. How do you know when you're done?

LESLIE: A video program can be cut and pieced together in countless ways. I can edit and re-edit until the end of time. At some point I have to decide that this is the story I’m going to tell.

HALLIE: It's spooky how much this is like writing a novel. And what YOU end up with every time are stories that do, indeed touch the heart. Do you ever contemplate putting your videos together into a documentary? 

LESLIE: I’ve produced two short documentaries—one about how food helps people stay connected to their to cultural heritage, and the other a living history of a small New England town, featuring elders who grew up there. I am contemplating crafting another one with material I’ve been collecting in my “Age is Only a Number” series.

HALLIE: THANK YOU! I love writing older women--they have starring roles in THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN and in YOU'LL EVER KNOW, DEAR, so I am particular taken with Leslie's work. 

Have there been older women in your life that have touched your heart and led by example?

Visit Stories with a Heart Videos website and watch video clips.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Special Paperback Celebration Day--SAY NO MORE


Big news! And a giveaway below.  

But first, isn't this cute? My grandchildren were here for a weekend, and one thing I can never get over is how much fun it is to see them read. This is a great photo of my stepson and our younger grandson out by the pool. Reading. Books.

(Isn't it adorable?)

 When we moved inside, everybody still was reading paperbacks. Josh reading Rick Riordan, Paul reading Colson Whitehead, Elijah reading Freakonomics. Their mom was reading a textbook for her teaching program, but still, it was a trade paperback.

Again, it's summer, and no one wants to get sunscreen on a hardcover.

But when I went upstairs to get my book, I saw on our guestroom shelves… masses and masses and masses of mass market paperbacks.

 So many many many mass-market paperbacks that they are double and triple on some of the shelves.

What should I do with those? I can tell you, with some embarrassment, that the second and third layers back I don't even know what books are there! So why why why am I keeping them? Because I adored them all at some point, and some I could never ever part with. 

Do you read mass-market paperbacks? 

I guess even more important --do you still buy them? 

The mass-market paperback of Say No More comes out TODAY! (It's a Mary Higgins Clark, Daphne and Agatha nominee!)

And a big surprise about the SAY NO MORE paperback below. Keep reading.

They are so nicely tuckable into a purse, and takable to the beach and pool, and they are light, and if you lose one, you can just buy another one, right? And be happy that some lucky person gets the book you forgot.

How do you feel about mass-market paperbacks?

Do you buy them? Keep them? What do you do with them? Why do you like them….Or not?

Do you believe they are soon going the way of the transistor radio?

But let me ask you this:  If I gave you another paperback (by me or a pal of mine) IF you bought SAY NO MORE in paperback, would that be a good thing?

Or would you just sigh and wonder, what am I going to do with another book? 

And here's the cool part.  The paperback of SAY NO MORE includes a big juicy excerpt--three whole chapters!--of my 2018 standalone psychological thriller TRUST ME.

So thrilled and excited for you to read it.  (And SO nervous.)

So. Click here for the offer.  I know it gives you three choices of what book you want, but if you ordered (thank you!) tell me in the comments if you'd rather have pot luck. (Just for readers of Jungle Red.) 

(And hey, if you already have the hardcover (smooch) you can buy the paperback "for a friend" and read the excerpt before you give it way! Just a suggestion.)

Hurray! It's paperback launch day. And tell us what you do when you have too many paperbacks--or is there such a thing?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reds vacation, staycation, & naycation

HALLIE EPHRON: It's the last week of August... where did the summer go? My husband and I took a much anticipated Alaska cruise (more on that later in the week) but today I want to talk about family vacations

Today we're with my daughter and her family on Peaks Island--a short ferry ride from Portland, ME--where the bikes and golf carts far outnumber cars. Their house there is basic, a Victorian gingerbread cottage with a floor that slopes down down down from one end of the house to the other. Across the front is a screened  porch where we spend copious down time inhaling the view and enjoying our little people (that's my grandson at the door to the porch of the cottage on Peaks.) 

Oh, and eating lobster pulled fresh out of the sea, and each morning walking two blocks to Peaks Cafe near the ferry landing for the best breakfast sandwiches in the world.

As I get nostalgic for summer's end, I think back to our best family vacations. Topping the list is last year's trip to Puerto Rico, all seven of us (our daughters, one son-in-law, two grand babies). We splurged, and stayed in a fancy resort (but shopped for our food locally using the kitchen in our roomy "casita.") 

Enjoying kids requires extended time. Hours spent splashing in the infinity pool with a spectacular view, walking the beach, sitting on the balcony and bombing the shrubbery below with Barbie dolls.

LUCY BURDETTE: your week on an island sounds heavenly, Hallie. I wonder if we could get everyone to agree on something like that? Though, hmmm, maybe. When I suggested we'd pay for a place in Santa Fe after Christmas, there was a lot of enthusiasm. 

We had a staycation in July when all the family came to us to celebrate bunch of birthdays, including baby Dorothea's first. Hectic and exhausting but loads of fun!

Growing up, we traveled as a pack with my mother's sisters and their families. Most often we went to a beach house in Hatteras NC that used to be a coast guard station. Such good memories!

RHYS BOWEN: Last November we took our family to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for a week to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. Absolutely perfect. It was a big all-inclusive resort. The kids played endless games of water volleyball and swam in the waves. 

We took early morning walks along the beach, sat and read in the shade by the pool, had big noisy meals together and played late night games. John said afterward that not one cross word was spoken all week. I'll treasure this time forever.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Family vacations...when we were little, we'd pile into the station wagon-I always dibbed the wayback--and from moment one we'd start asking "Whenner we gonna BEEEE there?"  

At some point, my stepfather decided  to cut that off at the pass--we'd get to the end of our driveway, and he'd ask us "How do you like it so far?"  We'd laugh so hard--and we began to say that all the time. And I still do. 

We had a house in Acapulco too, so for many years we'd all go there for Christmas. Like Rhys said, not a cross word was spoken.

Anyway, now...often the family outings are at our house! With the backyard pool and parks nearby. We love it! We all just hang out and grill outside and soak up the niceness. Often it's Fourth of July week, so we go to the Concord town parade--which is adorable! 

JENN MCKINLAY: We are lucky to have a summer house on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia where the Hooligans run wild with their cousins. Sadly, we didn't make it there this year as we were awaiting Hooligan 2's surgery (no worries - It went very well and just this past week, I saw the mischievous sparkle return to his eyes). Instead, we made sure to have a fabulous holiday season together last December - ugly Christmas sweater contest and all! 

We also have big family reunions every three years on my husband's side of the family - this past summer it was in Oregon. Being unplugged and enjoying nature is definitely how we spend our vacations. I am partial to beach time but I'm okay with mountains, too. Anytime there is no clock ticking, no phone ringing, and no texts to return is an a-okay vacation by me.

INGRID THOFT: Our annual family vacation takes the form of a long weekend gathering in my Massachusetts hometown.  I’ve written here before about these festivities, which include a treasure hunt, a badminton tournament, hilarious games of Scattergories, and time to catch up with everyone.

The more memorable family vacations from my youth were in our nation’s spectacular national parks.  My parents would pile the four of us (and often my grandmother) into a station wagon and hit the road.  In Yosemite, the station wagon broke down and a couple of hippies in a VW bus gave us a ride to the only available accommodations, “Fish Camp.”  Believe me when I say the name was generous.  

In Canyonlands, we explored the park in jeeps with a guide named Boyd.  That day took a dark turn when one of the jeeps got stuck in the sand, and a flash flood threatened.  The mishaps were part of the fun, and the amazing scenery and the Holiday Inn pools always made for a winning combination.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, I feel so left out here! We haven't taken a proper vacation in years. Between my trips to England and conferences and book tours, and DEADLINES, we just never seem to find a spot. Besides, Rick doesn't like to leave the dogs, even with a house sitter. We used to take the (late) two dogs with us on dog-friendly car trips, but we haven't done that in ages, either. And the kiddos and grandbaby are right next door, so we don't have to go somewhere to see them.

But we used to do so much with my parents. When I was younger, it was car trips all over the country. Later, my folks owned a house in Guadalajara and we'd spend a week or two a couple of times a year. Then, my parents had a house in Hot Springs, Arkansas for years. We always went for the horse races in the spring, then my dad organized a big golf tournament every Labor Day. It was all their friends and a lot of family, too. That was a big part of my daughter's childhood. 

I miss that, and am making a resolution that next year we will all do something fun.

HALLIE: And from our archives, here's a photo of our beloved Julia and Ross, vacationing in Maine from a few years ago. Waving, Julia!

And we're dying to hear about your family vacations... please share, where do you love to go with the dear ones you consider your "family."

AND our thoughts and prayers are with our friends in the Houston area. Stay safe, stay dry if you can. Wishing we could swoop in and scoop you up ...