Thursday, October 31, 2019

Our Characters Do Halloween

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Happy Halloween, everyone, from all of us Jungle Reds in Dallas! I think the only costumes we will be wearing today are our Jungle Red pashminas on our Jungle Reds panel. But as we'll be asking a lot of fun questions about our books, it occurred to me to wonder what our CHARACTERS would wear to a Halloween party. (And, yes, they do celebrate Halloween in England these days.)

My Superintendent Duncan Kincaid would go as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc, I'm sure of it. He has a brown leather bomber jacket. All he needs is the fedora and the whip! (And if you want to imagine Duncan looking like a young Harrison Ford, I'm okay with that.) 

My characters have a great advantage in that Portobello Market has all sorts of vintage clothing stalls, so they would be spoiled for choice. Gemma might be Amelia Earhart, although she's not cutting her hair! She could tuck it up in her aviator's cap, and I think she'd look quite dashing on Duncan's arm. 

Melody Talbot? Well, Melody would let out her inner rock chick--thigh high boots, bare skin and sequins, gelled hair and LOTS of make-up.

And Doug Cullen? Well, that one's easy. Harry Potter, of course.

JENN MCKINLAY: I have too many characters to costume them all so I’ll just go with my Library Lover’s characters. I suspect Lindsey will dress as a female sleuth, perhaps as Rhys’s Lady Georgie or Julia’s Clare Ferguson! And her sidekick Beth Barker, the children’s librarian, will definitely be Mo Willems’s Pigeon from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! LOL!

LUCY BURDETTE: Hayley snow Has to go for somebody in the cooking world, I’m thinking Julia child? Although that’s not really a cute costume. You can’t really dress like a food critic unless it was someone from the New York Times like Ruth Reichl, Tall and thin with a big mass of curly hair. And Miss Gloria? The more sequins the better! And by the way Nathan, no way is he wearing a costume of any kind. He’ll probably come as a key west police officer.

HALLIE EPHRON: Professional organizer Emily Harlow might go as an unmade bed. I see her business partner Becca going as Raggedy Ann.

RHYS BOWEN: I went to a Halloween party as Lady Georgie a couple of years ago but I think she might go as something naughty (a cancan dancer maybe) because she has been so pure in real life and her inner sexy lady is dying to get out.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Debs, this gave me furiously to think, as a friend of mine used to say. I can honestly say I never considered what the denizens of Millers Kill would wear for Hallowe'en! At first I thought Russ Van Alstyne might go as Jack Reacher, but that's a bit...vague. Who would know, unless he prominently displayed a folding toothbrush? Upon consideration, he'd dive into his love of upstate New York history, and go as one of Roger's Rangers, arguably the first special forces in America. He'd pooh-pooh the idea of making an effort with the costume, but wind up hiring a completely accurate 18th century uniform, complete with musket and powder horn.

Clare Fergusson, who loves Lindsay Davies' Marcus Falco mysteries, would love to dress up as a Roman matron, perhaps one going to her martyrdom in an arena. If it was too cold for a tunic and stola, she'd probably put on a jumpsuit and go as WASP, one of the brave women pilots who ferried planes and trained pilots in WWII.

Readers, share your inner fictional character with us!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Your Bouchercon Concierge

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hi, ya'll, I'm Debs, and although Bouchercon 19 in Dallas doesn't officially begin until Thursday, I thought, it being my city, that I would give you a head start.

First, we've had what we call a Blue Norther, so if you haven't already packed, add some sweaters. It's cold, and will be raining through Thursday.

Second, the Hyatt Regency has great views and a huge bar, but it is offset from the rest of downtown so restaurants and other attractions outside the hotel are not easily walkable. Uber or Lyft are the best options, are very reasonable, and very available.

Now, for food! Here are some restaurant suggestions.

The Henry 
Near the Perot Museum, casual American eclectic, nice atmosphere.

Flora Street Cafe
Near the Dallas Museum of Art. Chef Stephen Pyles is a big name in Texas dining.

  This is a gorgeous restaurant! (I would not call it a gastropub!) In Klyde Warren Park, across from the DMA and the Arts District, it's one of the highlights of eating downtown.

North Italia Near The Henry, casual Italian, gets good reviews, and not quite as expensive as some of the other options. 

Homewood For the foodies among us. New restaurant from our biggest star Dallas chef. Absolutely amazing food, but comfortable atmosphere. Just a bit north of downtown, should be just a few minutes Uber ride.

Wolfgang Puck Five-Sixty
Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Reunion Tower, next to the hotel. I haven't eaten here, but my daughter has and says it's very good. She also says if you want to see the view from the tower, you're better off having a drink in the bar than paying for the observation deck. (And it's cold. Did I mention that?)

Mesomaya Downtown Mexican food. I haven't eaten here but it's really well-reviewed.

Fun bar and restaurant in the old Woolworth building. Good food, fabulous smoking tequila drink!

Here are More good suggestions from Eater.
  Also, anything in Bishop Arts (lots of suggestions in the Bon Appetit issue), West Village, Uptown, or Deep Ellum will be very doable by Uber from downtown.

Now, if you want to catch up with the REDS at the conference, here are our schedules, all in one convenient spot!



9:30 GOH interview by Lucy Burdette

2:30 Jungle Reds game panel

7:00 Harper Limited Book Giveaway and signing,


9:30 MWA Table signing, 9:30


9:30 Show Me the Evidence panel

1:00Three Goddesses panel, with Rhys Bowen and Caroline Todd

2:00-4:00 Librarian’s Tea (introducing the Royal Chef)



SinC into Great Writing workshop


2:30 Thursday, Jungle Reds panel


11:00 Moderator History panel

1:00 Goddesses chat  

Librarians Tea 2-4 Saturday

Presenter at Anthony Awards Saturday evening.



2:30  Jungle Reds Panel



11:00 Moderate WAYS TO KILL panel (Tori Eldridge, Tracey S. Phillips, Ingrid Thoft, Carl Vondereau, and SG Wong)

2:30 Jungle Reds game show panel

7:00 Book signing/limited givewaway for HarperCollins in Landmark D


9:30 Signing with Jungle Reds at the MWA table in the bookroom


7:00 Speed dating

1:00 Interview Elizabeth George



 8:00 Guest of Honor introductions, receiving GOH award

11:00 am  Interviewing James Patterson

2:30 Jungle Reds panel

3:30 signing

6:00 pm Opening Ceremonies

7:30 SINC breakfast

REDS signing? Is this when it is?

11:00 Emcee of the The Bill Crider Awards

2:00  Signing for Forge Books 


 9:30 AM .  Hank's GOH interview-- Interviewed by Lisa Unger

10:30 signing

2:00 Librarians Tea  Opening speaker 

4:30 signing after the Tea

PM Anthony Awards


930: Interview Deb!

230: jungle red game show panel followed by signing

7:30 sisters in crime breakfast

930: signing at the MWA booth in the book room


2:30 Jungle Reds panel

9:30 MWA Table signing

And as a bonus, we thought it was a nice touch that the Hyatt has named their special conference cocktail


-Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
-House-made Simple Syrup
-Blanc de Blanc
-Luxardo Cherry Garnish

We hope to see all of you who are attending, and we'll do our best to share the fun with those who can't be here this year! 

Welcome to Dallas!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Annie Hogsett--On Being a Writer

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Every so often a book comes along that makes you sit up with delight. That's how I felt when I read Annie Hogsett's debut novel in her Somebody's Bound to Wind Up Dead series, TOO LUCKY TO LIVE.  (A sassy girl meets a hot blind guy who's just won 500 million dollars trying to convince a young friend not to gamble!) Annie's writing is so self-assured, her voice so fresh and funny, that I couldn't imagine she'd ever doubted that writing was her path. 

But she did, and here she is to tell you more.

 Before my dream came true.

In the lowest moments of my quest to become a published author—a year before I found my wonderful agent and two years before I came home at last to my fierce and supportive editor and the warm and generous Posse at Poisoned Pen Press—I wrote an essay.

Outside my window on that Wednesday, February 5, 2014, Lake Erie was stone-cold frozen, and I was sitting at the rock bottom of Sad & Rejected. So I wrote my misery into my blog, and, as so often happens, the writing raised me up and set me back on my path.

I titled the post “When a ‘No’ Is a ‘Yes.’” And began it with some words from a favorite poet:

"It may be when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey."
~ Wendell Berry
This is that post.

“In the middle of last week I finally heard from the agent who had been considering the first hundred pages of my novel. She’d been considering it for six months. Actually, it had been lost for four of those six. So for the last two months, her response had been gracious, kind, encouraging. She liked it, it was good, I should not give up. And so on. And now?

No. It was not for her.

In some respects, I was relieved because I don't think I'd ever have the guts to say no to an agent's yes. And based on things she's written online about what she’s looking to represent, my novel did not seem to be a good fit for her. Today's agent really needs to find a good fit. I get that. Therefore, I'd already moved on. About 97% on. 96% maybe. 87%?

What ensued, I can see now, was a mini dark night of the soul.

I had traveled from Ohio to the Rocky Mountains last summer to meet this agent who had judged my entry to be a finalist in the writer's contest for the Crested Butte Writers Conference. I could tell she appreciated a lot of things about the story that I myself think make it special. She'd had a chance to meet me face-to-face in all my charming irresistibility—and still she said no.

Moreover, I'd finally permitted the whole screaming flurry about The State of Traditional Publishing and Publishing In General to penetrate the carapace of my resolve to a) find an agent b) get a publisher c) become a real bunny after all. The odds against that happening—especially that last thing, which is not now nor has it ever been in the purview of publishing— seemed vast. So very vast.

There it was. The freaking abyss.

I fell right on in. I sulked about my lost grail. Wept some over it.  Ate a few—well, maybe six—brownies in its honor. (Good choice, IMHO.) And I felt really, frighteningly, totally, adverbially lost for...I think it's been exactly one week. The questions I kept asking myself were

What am I going to do with myself?  
Who am I if I'm not a writer?  
Wherever will I go? It's too late to take up figure skating.

Then last night I was burrowing through some old emails and I stumbled over the Wendell Berry quote I've posted above. It seemed serendipitously apropos. I put it back in my email signature and this morning it all came into focus for me. At last.

So I'm sharing.

Oh, for Pete's sake! Here's who I am: I'm a writer. I've been a writer since I was eight. Truly, I can't remember when I wasn't one. I'm a writer washing dishes. I'm a writer driving my car. I'm a writer, eating brownies. I'm a writer, most especially, when I'm writing anything at all. And when I'm in gear, fully, physically, word-to-page writing, in that space between Infinity and the keyboard of my laptop? Then? I am a writer as deeply, profoundly, miserably, exaltedly as can ever be. What's more I've been an author since I finished my first of four complete novels in 1997. Fact: Writing is not publishing, it' writing. And letting people read what you write.

Will I ever find an agent? Maybe. Who knows. I haven't given up. Will I ever be published? Oh, maybe. I hope so. Will I ever— and this is the only question that makes the difference to me at the end of all things—have readers? Heck. I have readers. Honey, I have you. Every single reader counts like crazy.

I'm not sure why this feels like such a revelation to me. Maybe, because I'm a prisoner of my time and place like everybody else on this beautiful planet, I believe I actually subconsciously thought I'd have to give it all up if I couldn't sell it. That I equated "real writer" with "best-selling author." There’s my good old "real bunny" problem again. Everybody has one. Let's all make a pact to give that one up and be our own real bunnies all the time.”

I wrote that, and time passed….

It’s been five years since February, 2014 and the third book in my mystery series came out on October 15. I share all this because I believe if you’re a published author, you’ll remember that journey and maybe smile. If you’re a not-yet-published author, you can be raised up, again and again, by realizing the truth and the joy of who you really are. 

DEBS: I was so inspired by this. And so thrilled to have that third novel, THE DEVIL'S OWN GAME, in my hands, a new adventure for one of my favorite mystery-solving couples, Allie Harper and Tom Bennington III!

 The murder is the message

What you don't see is what you get. When a sniper targets a blind man walking along the lagoon of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the bullet is a wake-up call aimed straight for Allie Harper and Tom Bennington, shattering their illusion that the Mondo Mega Jackpot Nightmare is over.

On the day Allie—sassy, lonely, broke—met Tom—smart, hot, blind—he won $500 million trying to show a kid that gambling doesn't pay. Romance—and multiple murders—ensued, along with a new, opulent lifestyle that the couple had never dreamed possible. Then a ruthless man of formidable skills and resources hacked into the security system in their rented 9,000 square-foot lakeside mansion, and they learned just how far someone who begrudges their good fortune would go to destroy them. Now they know the past six months of peace and quiet were the calm before a rising storm of mayhem and revenge.

The new game begins tonight. An old devil. A new devil. And a new case for The T&A Detective Agency. (Yes. They should have put Allie's initial first.) Tom and Allie aren't on the case long before they discover a strong lead that takes them into the heights of Cleveland's upper-crust, where husbands and wives weave webs of betrayal with unfathomable sums of money at the center. As the threats–and murders—multiply, Allie, Tom, and the T&A must fight to beat the devil's own game. Will they get out alive?

Reds and readers, share your recipes for dealing with self-doubt--brownies or otherwise, and welcome Annie!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Forget Me Not

DEBORAH CROMBIE: We’ve been talking about our travel woes, especially the food (or lack of) on book tours. But I have another complaint. No matter how organized I try to be, there is always the last minute rush to pack up in hotel rooms, and things get left behind.  I have left socks (I tend to go to sleep in them and then kick them off in the middle of the night), my travel pillow, jewelry, phone chargers, books.

But this time, on the first leg of my book tour, I lost my Bluetooth headset on the very first day. (To be fair, I think that fell out of my purse in the Uber. Or maybe on the plane.)

Then, in St. Louis, I left my KINDLE! My beloved Paperwhite. And a pair of socks, under the covers as usual, I’m sure. Along with the Paperwhite, because I went to sleep reading. The Paperwhite cover was hot pink—you would think I’d have noticed it in the bed, but, no. I reported it to the Lost and Found website (I didn’t even know there was such a thing), but no success.

I’ve replaced the Kindle, this time with a bright YELLOW cover, but now I’m going to be really nervous about traveling with it—which of course is one of the major reasons for having a Kindle…

Yasu, thinking I should leave the new Kindle at home.
REDS, what’s the worst thing you’ve ever left behind in a hotel room? And did you get it back?

RHYS BOWEN: On one book tour I left 3 pairs of sunglasses in three successive bookstores. I took them off to sign books, put them on the counter and then went without them. So now I travel with cheepo sunglasses, terrified I'll leave my Raybans. I left a charger in a hotel, realized immediately and called them but no, they couldn't find it!  And I can't find my expensive headphones. I think they must have been left on my last plane flight. So annoying,

HALLIE EPHRON: Worst thing was leaving my favorite glasses in a toilet stall at Vancouver airport. I remember setting them on the toile paper dispenser and thinking: don't forget to take them with you. And then I did. Jet lagged, I suppose. Kindles are too easy to lose - they slide right out of your purse. I lost one on a plane, and swore never to buy another BLACK electronics item again. Ever. Because they blend into the carpet, the countertops...  My new kindle is white, but looking at Deb's comment, now I"m in the market for a yellow cover for it.

JENN McKINLAY: On a road trip cross country with my best friend, I left my wallet on the top of our car in Oklahoma. Someone mailed it back to my home in AZ with everything inside of it! On the same trip, I left my pajamas on the back of the bathroom door in a hotel in Holbrook, AZ. The hotel mailed my pajamas back to me. Granted, this was in 1996, maybe the world was friendlier and less light-fingered. In fact, it must have been because when I flew out of Kennedy in NYC to return to AZ, I didn't even have to show ID to board the plane - just my boarding pass. 

LUCY BURDETTE: These are all heartbreaking stories. I hate that you lost things you treasured. But I think I still win the prize for being a traveling knucklehead, by losing my passport along with my hard-fought visa in INDIA. (Here is the link in case you want to refresh yourself about that nightmarish saga.)
All I can say is that experience has made us double and triple check everything every time we pack up and leave. And from now on, we should all travel with Jenn who seems to have the best lost item Karma in the group!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, this makes me so sad. I was on book tour in San Francisco. It was fleet week, something like that, so the publisher put me in in a "little boutique hotel." The lobby was adorable, chic and hip . But he rooms were..Dickensian. It was bad enough that they were DARK and that my room overlooked an alley where drunk people were sleeping, I am not kidding, but I decided to count my blessings that I was on book tour and it would be a good story. But then I got into the shower, and was dripping wet , and the fire alarm went off. Long story, but after this happened twice, I realized that the steam from the shower was setting off the alarm. Okay,  still funny. But then: there were flies. A BILLION FLIES.

I said--get me outta here, and I dashed to the airport Marriott, and in my wild haste, left my best little black book tour dress in the DARK closet.

I was so sad. I called an hour later, and it was...not there. Ah. I still miss it.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Weirdly enough I'm pretty good at NOT leaving things behind in hotel rooms. I have a somewhat rigid (obsessional) protocol for unpacking and repacking my things, and I check over everywhere before I leave. My weak spot? Rental cars. I have left audio books (always just the one, irreplaceable CD, of course,) jackets, lip balm, sunglasses, maps and a folding travel umbrella.
The worst thing I ever lost was my complete book tour travel itinerary! This was in 2003 or 2004, when our phones were dumb and internet access on the road was rare and precious. (Remember internet cafes?) I was on my flight from Denver to California when I realized I had left the itinerary in my rental car. It had names of bookstores and booksellers, phone numbers and addresses and info on my rental car reservations... I was saved by Rachel Ekstrom Courage (now an agent at Folio Literary) who was then the very young assistant publicist at St. Martin's. She faxed the pages to my hotel in LA and I was able to go on my merry way.

DEBS: Oh, Hank, Kindles and even sunglasses are replaceable, but the little black dress--that's tragic.  (And I think I've stayed in the same hotel.) Lucy, I can't even think about your passport saga. What a nightmare!!

Readers, what have you lost on the road? And what's your fail proof method for keeping up with things?