Sunday, May 31, 2020

Same Tattered Dress--a lament by Rhys Bowen

RHYS BOWEN: Like my Jungle Red sister Jenn I am known as a hummer, or singer. I am not aware of it, but I sing while doing mundane tasks around the house. Years ago a dear friend Meg Chittenden, now sadly no longer with us, pointed out that the tune I am humming or singing is linked to what I am thinking or worrying about. Since she pointed that out I have checked and she is absolutely right. Is that the same for you, Jenn? Or do you just choose random songs to hum?

So this week I was surprised to identify that I was singing Try a Little Tenderness. No, this was not an invitation to my husband! He is being remarkably good at isolation. No complaints there. So why did I start singing it?
Then I came to the line, “She may be weary. Women do get weary, wearing the same tattered dress.”
AHA! Eureka!
I am stuck at our winter home in Arizona. We are never here in the summer, therefore I HAVE NO SUMMER CLOTHES HERE! The only really cool outfits I have are one pair of shorts, a cover-up to wear to the pool and one sundress. I have plenty of sweaters, jackets, heavy slacks even long sleeved T shirts and jeans. But the temperature last week was 104 degrees. I even find that any T shirt with a blend of cotton and polyester makes me feel horrible—sort of clammy.

We are now in our twelfth week of isolation and let me tell you that that pair of shorts and sundress are really losing their appeal! I’ve tried shopping online for more clothes. Confession, I did snag one extra pair of shorts online but they don’t fit me as well as my first pair. I ordered a good-looking culotte sort of thing and when it came it was backless! Since I am not about to go around braless it had to go back.

I’ve seen attractive linen dresses online but when I ordered a couple the delivery date was late June. I sincerely hope to be home in California by then. And frankly I usually avoid ordering clothes online. Even from brands I usually wear, like Chico’s, I find it impossible to know what might fit and what would look good without trying on. So I’ve pretty much given up ordering online. And right now I don’t want the added worry of having to brave the post office to send things back.

I know I shouldn’t care. It’s not as if anybody sees me apart from the three people we pass on our morning walk. I’m certainly not going shopping and I’m not allowed to try on clothes in stores anyway so I guess I’ll have to grin and bear it … and walk around humming “she may be weary…”

So what about you, my dear ones? Do you shop online? Are you tired of your clothes? Have you dared to brave a store yet? What will be the first things you dare to buy when we can shop freely again?

And now for a small commercial. Next Tuesday, June 2, Hank will be reading the first chapter of my book ABOVE THE BAY OF ANGELS for her First Chapter Fun series. I'm excited.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Lovers and Losers

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: His name was Mark Shaw. He was in the same biology class as I was. It was 1965, or so. And he was—so cute. And he loved cars. Cars. I didn’t care at all about cars, but okay. I tried to figure out some common ground for the casual conversation that would lead him to see how perfect I was for him.

So I channeled a Beach Boys song—what’s a little deuce coupe? I remember asking him. What’s four speed duo quad positraction 409?

He told me. And then he asked someone else out. I have to say that he crosses my mind from time to time. And, talking to the lovely and dear pal (and SinC Guppy, yay!)  Judy Penz Sheluk, I learn I am not alone.

Heartbreaks and Half-truths

I’ll admit it, I’ve been dumped, and on more than one occasion. The first time was just before grade eight graduation, when my prom date dropped me after I cut my waist-length hair into a “windswept bob.” Admittedly, the hairdo was a disaster, and not only because I’d gone to my mom’s hairdresser (whose idea of fashionable was perm it and roll it). I have wavy, unruly hair, which tends to frizz, and this was back in the day without flat irons and styling products.

 But my father had laid down the law: Cut my hair short so that people could see my earrings, or leave it long and go pierceless. I suspect he never believed I’d do it, but off it went. I really wanted pierced ears.
Judy and her hair. 

Next up was my first chaste kiss, grade nine, after our school’s spring music concert (he was shorter than me and had to stand on the curb to kiss me, but I walked on air for weeks).

 Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before he’d set his eyes on a long-legged track and fielder. My best efforts to master hurdles and high jump with two weeks of training failed to impress, and I gave up both sports at the same time I gave up on him.
But getting dumped aside, I was fifteen the first time a boy really broke my heart. With shoulder-length hair, the bottom of his blue jeans frayed to perfection, and a history of changing schools, albeit not entirely by choice, he was the bad boy to my good girl.

And, of course, I fell madly, passionately in love with him.

Years later, he would get an honorable mention in my first published short story, Cleopatra Slippers. What I didn’t mention in that story was the way the boy dumped me without warning.

By phone.

On Valentine’s Day.

For a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl he’d been seeing behind my back. A girl with “experience.”

I wonder, sometimes, if any of the boys mentioned even remember my name. My guess is, probably not. After all, to the best of my knowledge, they aren’t writers, we of the very long memories.

 But thinking of Blue Jean Boy got me thinking about the theme for the second anthology  I wanted to edit  under the Superior Shores Press umbrella: heartbreaks and half-truths.

Coming up with a theme, however, is just the first step in what is actually a very long process. For this collection, a callout was sent out in mid October and thanks to social media, the first anthology published by Superior Shores Press, word spread quickly. By the time the submission deadline of January 15 arrived, I’d received 106 submissions from the US, UK, Scotland, France, Germany, Australia, Argentina, and Canada.

Culling 106 submissions down to a manageable number was a daunting task, but the result is a diverse collection of mystery fiction in which one common thread emerges: Behind every broken heart lies a half-truth.

And behind every half-truth lies a secret.

HANK: Congratulations on the anthology, Judy! And what a fabulous line-up of authors! Wow. In clduing longtime friends of Reds  Kate Flora! James Lincoln Warren! John Floyd!  Steve Liskow! KM Rockwood!  Paula Gail Benson! Fabulous.

How about you, Reds and readers?  Is there a love from your past who did you wrong?

Lovers and losers.
Heartbreaks and Half-truths
Whether it’s 1950s Hollywood, a scientific experiment, or a yard sale in suburbia, the twenty-two authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “heartbreaks and half-truths” in their own inimitable style, where only one thing is certain: Behind every broken heart lies a half-truth.
And behind every half-truth lies a secret.

Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. Featuring stories by Sharon Hart Addy, Paula Gail Benson, James Blakey, Gustavo Bondoni, Susan Daly, Buzz Dixon, Rhonda Eikamp, Christine Eskilson, Tracy Falenwolfe, Kate Flora, John M. Floyd, J.A. Henderson, Blair Keetch, Steve Liskow, Edward Lodi, Judy Penz Sheluk, KM Rockwood, Peggy Rothschild, Joseph S. Walker, James Lincoln Warren, Chris Wheatley and Robb T. White.

Release Date: June 18, 2020, now available for pre-order on Kindle and trade paperback


Friday, May 29, 2020

What is it about toilet paper?

HALLIE EPHRON: Can we talk about toilet paper? Before all this happened, if I’d asked you, “What’s the first thing people will binge-buy and hoard during the pandemic?” would you even think toilet paper? I mean, seriously, why? And 14 weeks in, the stuff is still usually out of stock.

According to a news article [] the average person in the US goes through 100 rolls of toilet paper a year. How is that even possible? A roll every 3.65 days for each person? Am I nuts or does that sound ridiculously high, unless they’re using them for art projects as well as, ahem, necessities?

So I thought this week we could talk about life’s important questions when it comes to toilet paper:

  • 1- or 2-ply?
  • Scented or Un?
  • Hang it over or under?
  • How many rolls do you have on hand at this very moment?
  • Have you EVER run out of the stuff?
  • Are you having trouble replenishing your supply?
(And... congratulations Grace Koshida - the winner of a copy of Esme Addison's A SPELL FOR TROUBLE. Esme will be in touch.)
LUCY BURDETTE: I refuse to report my usage to anyone--
that is no one’s affair except mine:). We are headed north soon and I know up there I have a big stash waiting for me (bamboo, good for the environment!), because I was on the waiting list forever at Who Gives a Crap! Here’s the link in case you want to check it out.

JENN McKINLAY: Over never under. At present we have about 24 rolls. We dipped to a low of 2 rolls at one point but I sent the Hooligans out on TP recon and they came back with a twelve pack.

I can honestly say this was not what I expected from the panickers. Usually, it’s milk, eggs, and bread, or is that just my New England hurricane upbringing coming through?

Honestly, this is the first time ever in Arizona that we’ve had an event that required us to stock up on anything. We only have two types of weather here - summer and hotter summer so sometimes ice is in low supply but otherwise ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

HANK PHILIPPI RYAN: Ah, well, used to be over, because back in the day when it had patterns on it, that made the pattern visible.. But now, with white, I do under, because of gravity. It makes the flap available without rolling it. Right? Do they even make scented? I think that’s bad for the environment or something.

On hand supply--maybe--2 twelve packs? Have we ever run out? Recently? No. “Before”? Huh. No. And crossing fingers and touching wood, but no problems. And I agree, it’s SO WEIRD!

But someone said it’s because everyone is at home, and all those people who had previously used the supply at their places of work are no longer using that. (Bizarrely, when this first happened, I bought...light bulbs. Because..sigh. It just
seemed like they might vanish.)

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Over, absolutely! Under drives me crazy. You’re always fumbling for it. Plain white, unscented. And NO CHARMIN. Our sewer line is old clay pipe (cost for replacing is astronomical!) which tends to get root-clogged. We used to spend a fortune on plumbers until one really nice guy told us not to ever use Charmin because it doesn’t dissolve. No clogs since!

Our TP of choice is Kirkland brand from Costco, which is now (Yay!!) back in stock, so I got a 24 roll pack last week on a delivery. No toilet paper panic here anytime soon. We didn’t run out, have never run out that I can remember, but I admit I do feel relieved to have a stash now.

RHYS BOWEN: What do people DO with toilet paper. I make a roll last a couple of weeks. We have a 12-pack from before the outbreak. John always stocks up when he goes to Costco.

OUT! Always out!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Like Debs, I have an old house with old plumbing, so, sadly, it’s almost always unscented one-ply paper for us. I’ve been bending the rule during the quarantine, because you buy what you can find, but I’m sternly lecturing everyone to use as little as possible - not because I fear running out, but because I fear clogs.

Hank, I also read about the increase in TP usage at home being due to a lack of using the lav at work, at restaurants, while out shopping, etc. The article I read said 40% of our, um, flushing is normally done away from home - so no wonder we’re tearing through the TP. As a sidebar, I just got my electric bill for April-May and shrieked because it was five times larger than the same time last year. Then I realized, duh, there are four people living here instead of one, and we’re here all the time, instead of everyone but me leaving for eight hours a day to school and work.

Roll OUT - Hank, I’m sorry, but you’re very wrong here - and I am RICH in TP, thanks to our young friend who works for Whole Foods. In fact, I’m looking for suitors for my daughter, the Maine Millennial, and if you have an eligible son or grandson, she comes with a dowry of three twelve packs.

No flowers. No scents. No crocheted dogs to hide extra rolls!

HALLIE: Now I'm dying to know, what's Lucy hiding??

And what about the rest of you? Are you all stocked up or still stalking the elusive 12-pack? 

And congratulations-- the winner of a copy of Esme Addison's A SPELL FOR TROUBLE is Grace Koshida. Esme will be in touch.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


RHYS BOWEN : How many weeks of isolation is it now? Since March 10 for us. Two and a half months. I expect you are getting as tired of it as I am. I really miss the freedom to go out when I feel like it, even if it’s just into Walgreens for a new lipstick. I really miss meeting friends for lunch. Actually I really miss eating out. I’m in Arizona that has now opened up again (unwisely in my opinion) but I don’t intend to eat in a restaurant until my doctor friends tell me that they are doing so!

The weather has now become uncomfortably hot so that outdoor activities have to be limited to early morning or late evening, unless I’m invited to swim in my daughter’s pool—which is a welcome break a couple of times a week. We’ve even dared to eat dinner at her house, sitting outside at a separate table at suitable distance. It felt wonderful.

I know I have little to whine about. I am in a really nice house in beautiful surroundings. We are in a little private community surrounded by mountains. There are palm trees and flowering shrubs everywhere. But I find that life is a constant battle against boredom. I’ve finished and sent off my latest book. I’ve sent out my newsletter. I’ve done endless interviews, podcasts, Zoom bookclub meetings. But the days seem awfully long. We have to take our morning walk before eight or it is unbearably hot. And it’s also too hot to walk before about eight thirty at night. By day I clean the kitchen at least three times.  I answer emails, plot future books, read, play my new keyboard, do some drawing and challenge the computer to Scrabble.

This latter has become a source of pride. I’ve dubbed my computer opponent Ivan since he’s terrible and I’m sure he’s Russian AND he cheats (and yes, I’m sure he’s male too). He seems to give himself the X, Q and Z all too often and if he gives me the Q it’s at the end of the game with no U to go with it!  And he comes up with words that I’m sure are not part of any English dictionary. Yesterday he had grrrl. Now that is not a word! And things like enigbo or swazoodle. (I’m making those up but some are equally ridiculous) But then he denies me perfectly good words that I’m sure must be in any dictionary. He wouldn’t let me have Zen or mitt or even fart the other day. Or even Jew. And yet he had opa and longer, unpronounceable words. I should have written some down except they annoyed me so much. But he doesn’t care if I shout at him. Or accuse him of cheating. He has become my nemesis (and I bet he wouldn’t allow me that word either!). 

However, recently I have begun to beat him. At least once a day. I can’t tell you what satisfaction that gives me. He retaliates, of course. He gives me IIIIEET for my opening letters and himself VOXESTY. I tell him I know he cheats. But it’s all the sweeter when I beat him!

Do you think I’ve finally become unhinged? Have I turned into the equivalent of those prisoners who befriend cockroaches? Or the birdman of Alcatraz? Or inmates of an asylum who chat with Napoleon?

On a more serious note, I find myself thinking about those who have endured real separation and loneliness. Nelson Mandela, for example. Twenty seven years in an island prison and yet he emerged without bitterness, not desiring revenge. That is true greatness.

And what about those women who were part of the Westward movement? Who marched behind covered wagons until they built lonely sod houses. For months on end their world was husband, children and endless prairie. No shops. No TV, probably not even any books except the Bible. And the awful knowledge that if their husband or children injured themselves there was no doctor within reach. That took real strength of character, didn’t it?  And even my mother, saying goodbye to a new husband when she was pregnant with me as he was sent off to North Africa and wouldn’t return for three years. Those women in WWII had to be tough too. They had rationing and the threat of bombing every night and yet they got through it.

So I won’t complain about boredom or not seeing friends. We have the luxury of TV and the internet and the phone. I can Zoom with family and friends. I can binge my way through Britbox. I have one job at the moment and it is to survive. I can get through it. So can we all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Our Favorite Nasty Women: A guest post by Kelli Stanley

RHYS BOWEN: Today I'm happy to welcome one of my favorite people on the planet, Kelli Stanley.I've known Kelli for years, really enjoy her company and her passion for justice, equality and women's rights. So when I as asked to contribute to her anthology called SHATTERING GLASS of course I was delighted to do so, along with a few other nobodies like Barbara Boxer, Heather Graham, Jacqueline Winspear etc etc.
It's an interestingly eclectic mix of stories, memoirs, biographies all with one theme. Nasty women make a difference. So today Kelli has asked some of the contributors to talk about their own candidate for Nasty Woman.

Our Favorite “Nasty” Women
Kelli: First, Rhys, thank you so much for inviting us to Jungle Red, one of my favorite blogs, and for being a major contributor to SHATTERING GLASS!! When I founded Nasty Woman Press in 2016, one of the major ideas behind it was to offer a series of anthologies that encompassed a very wide variety of works—both fiction and non-fiction—but which were also thematically united as individual works. Those themes then directly relate to the non-profit for which each book is raising money.

For example, SHATTERING GLASS, the first of our publications out on June 16th, takes female empowerment as its overall theme and all profits are donated to Planned Parenthood.
Because SHATTERING GLASS offers fascinating and thought-provoking non-fiction pieces next to riveting short stories, we had an opportunity to ask contributing authors and political figures who their favorite “nasty women” were … and we’ve far from exhausted the subject! From history, the contemporary world or fiction, “nasty women” have influenced us all, so I thought we’d share three more of them with Jungle Red.
Joining me in this discussion are LIBBY FISHER HELLMANN and JAMES L’ETOILE, two of our contributors who have not had a chance to discuss their favorite “nasties” until now. 😊
Jim, please tell us about JOYCE ZINK—I was thrilled to learn about her and I know everyone else will be, too!
JIM: Thanks, Kelli and Rhys! “Birthright”, my story in SHATTERING GLASS, examines the potential for corruption and abuse within private-for-profit prisons where the most vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system are trapped. While my story focuses on a fictional women’s private prison and a single woman who breaks down barriers and exposes self-sustaining greed, there are real-life examples of women standing up against the system.
One such example is Joyce Zink. Joyce isn’t a household name, yet she faced incredible odds as one of the first women to serve as a Correctional Officer. Hired in 1972, Joyce Zink was one of the first Correctional Officers assigned to San Quentin State Prison, a historically all-male maximum security facility. She wasn’t allowed to perform in any role that brought her in regular contact with the inmates, because it was still believed, at that time, that women were the “weaker sex” and would prove to be a security threat. She was assigned to the visiting room and gun towers far removed from the housing units.
In 1973, she transferred to Folsom State prison with the hope that she would be able to pursue the full range of Correctional Officer duties but found her assignment in the visiting room once again.
On June 21, 1973, a resolution offered by Senator Hubert L. Richardson actually sought a moratorium on the hiring of female correctional officers in state correctional institutions. Fortunately, Richardson’s resolution died in committee.
In the midst of this incredible pressure, Joyce withstood the discrimination, harassment, and misplaced hostility she suffered because of her gender and focused on the job—and excelled at it.  Eventually, she became the first woman to work inside Folsom’s historic cellblocks.
Joyce went on to become one of the most respected Correctional Captains within the department and Correctional Officers lined up to serve under her. It was my pleasure to work with Joyce briefly at Folsom and her quiet confidence belied that inner strength and determination that paved a path for other women to follow.
KELLI: Wow, what a story—and what a story “Birthright” is, too, Jim—it certainly opened my eyes to the gross inequities of the incarceration-for-profit system. Next up is Libby Fischer Hellmann, who is offering another example of a woman who history will most certainly enshrine as a great jurist and human being: RUTH BADER GINSBERG.
By the way, Libby’s piece in SHATTERING GLASS, entitled “Daddy’s Girls”, is based on a horrifically true situation involving a politician, but is ultimately a story of survival, perseverance and above all, love. Take it away, Libby!
LIBBY: Thanks, everyone, and glad to be here! I’ve just gotta say that any woman who can do a one-minute plank at age 86 is my kind of nasty woman. I’m talking, of course, about the notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who, to my way of thinking, is the epitome of nasty women. Not just because she is highly intelligent and has blazed a trail as an accomplished attorney and jurist. Not because she has the discipline of a lion but the disposition of a lamb. Not just because she’s been a crusader for women’s rights since the start of her career. And not because she has beaten colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer.
Following are just a few of her accomplishments that guarantee her acceptance into the Nasty Woman Club:
  • 1st female member of Harvard Law Review
  • Graduated 1st in her law school class at Columbia in 1959
  • Became Columbia’s first female tenured professor.
  • Served as the director of the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, for which she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Appointed to SCOTUS in 1993 by Bill Clinton; confirmed 96-3.
  • Wrote the Supreme Court's landmark decision in United States v. Virginia, which held that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women.
  • In 1999 she won the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights.
  • Appeared at the Sundance Film Festival to accompany the premiere of the documentary RBG in 2018
Finally, one of her best Nasty Women attributes is discretion. Subtle when she needs to be, RBG wears unique collars on her judicial robes. Her most famous is the Dissent Collar. She wears it when she dissents from a decision being handed down by the Supreme Court. She also has a collar she wears when she's reading majority opinions.
RBG is my choice for favorite Nasty Woman.
KELLI: I so agree, Libby—RBG is most definitely in the pantheon of Nasty Women! 😊 And a true superhero to many of us. Like you guys, the favorite nasty woman I’m choosing to write about was real, but not contemporary—she died in 1883. “Hysterical”, my story in SHATTERING GLASS, is unrelated—it was inspired by contemporary events and a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone”.  
My choice for favorite Nasty Woman is the amazing Sojourner Truth. Born enslaved in 1797 in Ulster County, New York, Sojourner was bought and sold four times before escaping in 1827 with her baby daughter to an abolitionist family who purchased her freedom. The following year, she became the first African-American woman to successfully sue a white man, and won possession of her son.
She became a well-known and charismatic itinerant preacher, speaking on, from and with the Spirit, and on the necessity of abolition, despite never learning to read or write. In the 1850s she dictated her autobiography, which was published to great success, and became as much involved with women’s rights activism as she was with the abolitionist movement.
Her work before and during the Civil War brought an invitation to meet President Lincoln in 1864. She later worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping the formerly enslaved find jobs and reunite with families.
In the 1860s, she fought against segregation, and in Washington, D.C., successfully petitioned for the arrest of a streetcar conductor who tried to keep her off the vehicle.  Her statue is in the Capitol Building; it is the first statue of an African-American to be placed there.
Sojourner may be most famous for one of her eloquent speeches, circulated widely during the Civil War, but first given at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851. Entitled “Ain’t I a Woman?”, it eloquently resonates as a plea for recognition of human rights. As Hillary Clinton has said, “Women’s rights are human rights”, and Sojourner Truth, one of the great leaders of Resistance when Resistance meant fighting against the enslavement, torture and murder of human beings, was one of the most inspiring examples of true heroism in any era, in any country. She’s my choice for favorite “nasty woman.”
Thanks, everyone, for participating today! I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading—and hope that you’ll enjoy reading SHATTERING GLASS, where you’ll learn about other examples of women who’ve inspired us. Thanks again, Rhys, for your wonderful conversation with Jackie Winspear in SHATTERING GLASS and for inviting us to Jungle Red!

RHYS: Wonderful stuff, Kelli. So let's hear from you? Who is your Nasty Woman hero? I have several Maya Angelou, Nancy Pelosi, Mother Theresa, Michelle Obama.. all women who behaved with grace and dignity when they were insulted, belittled and threatened.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Comfort Of A Cozy Mystery... with Esme Addison

HALLIE EPHRON: Quick quiz: Which movie would you rather watch right now: Singin' in the Rain or Contagion? As for me, I'm on my fifth time reading the Harry Potter Books, so today's guest, Esme Addison's contention that many of us are looking for light reading, as we wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, rings true.

Esme is the author of A Spell of Trouble, an Enchanted Bay mystery with a protagonist who finds herself trying to help out estranged relatives who run an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies. These days we could all use a stash of those!

Welcome, Esme!

ESME ADDISON: The family featured in my story - the Sobieskis -  are Polish-American, so there’s Polish food.
If you’re Polish or have lived in an area with a large community of Poles, you’ve probably had some good authentic Polish food. It’s hearty, tasty and very 
satisfying. What’s more comforting than a big, hot bowl of zupa koperkowa (Polish Dill Soup) or a slice of slightly sweet, moist placek z jablka (apple cake)? 

Comfort is on a lot of people’s mind right now. Whether it’s a comfort read or comfort food, we’re looking to be soothed, to feel good. And that’s why cozy mysteries are the perfect escape to a place of contentment and well-being. With the help of a few familiar elements, including lovingly prepared, satisfying foods cozies help us relive good memories and envision better times to come

Cozy mysteries are known to feature small town feels, close-knit communities, supportive families, down-to-earth characters and good, comfort eating… Did I mention food? Someone is always fixin’ somebody something to eat in a cozy mystery. Whether it’s chicken soup for a cold, fresh bread for supper or an apple pie for dessert. And I knew when I wrote my debut cozy, A Spell For Trouble that comfort food would be integral to the story.

Comfort food is an important element in my story, same for most cozies. Surprisingly, A Spell For Trouble is not a culinary cozy, but it is about family. Lidia, the aunt of the main character in my story is always feeding her family. Don’t we all have a mother, grandmother or aunt like this? For them, it’s an act of love, an attempt to fix, and while it doesn’t always correct problems, it certainly helps.

So, you’ll find a lot of Polish desserts in the Enchanted Bay Mystery series, and that’s because my mother-in-law who is Polish made us a lot of scratch-made desserts. And coffee. And we’d sit and talk. If not cake and coffee, it was kielbasa, potato cakes, homemade pickles, fresh bread… shots of vodka. The food and drink never stopped flowing. And it felt good, the hospitality amazing. A feeling of warmth, of comfort… of love.

And that was my hope for A Spell For Trouble, that the inclusion of comfort foods would be a balm for the reader. And isn’t that what we need right now? To be comforted. To know that everything will be alright? 

In this post, I’m sharing two photographs of meals my mother-in-law prepared for us when we visited them in Poland last year. Everything she made for us was made with love.

What is your go-to comfort food? 

If we’re not talking Polish food, well… I’m from the south. And for me it’s macaroni and cheese, the butterier, the cheesier… the better.

HALLIE: I confess, these days I am big into and comfort foods. Pecan sticky buns would be my #1. And not far down the list, mac and cheese.

Esme Addison has wanted to solve mysteries ever since she discovered Nancy Drew. As a mystery author, she's finally found a way to make that dream come true. When not writing, she can be found visiting breweries, wineries, and historical sites. A former military spouse, she currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with her family.

A Spell for Trouble - Aleksandra Daniels hasn't set foot in the quiet seaside town of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina in over twenty years. Ever since her mother's tragic death, her father has mysteriously forbidden her from visiting her aunt and cousins. But on a whim, Alex accepts an invitation to visit her estranged relatives and to help them in their family business: an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies.

Bellamy Bay doesn't look like trouble, but this is a town that harbors dark secrets. Alex discovers that her own family is at the center of salacious town gossip, and that they are rumored to be magical healers descended from mermaids. She brushes this off as nonsense until a local is poisoned and her aunt Lidia is arrested for the crime. Alex is certain Lidia is being framed, and she resolves to find out why.

Alex's investigation unearths stories that some have gone to desperate lengths to conceal: forbidden affairs, family rivalries, and the truth about Alex's own ancestry. And when the case turns deadly, Alex learns that not only are these secrets worth hiding, but they may even be worth killing for.

Giving away one copy of A Spell For Trouble. Please subscribe to my newsletter at and comment on your favorite comfort food below + let me know you subscribed.

Follow Esme on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @EsmeAddison
Find her on Goodreads
And learn more about her at

Monday, May 25, 2020

About Memorial Day

RHYS BOWEN:  I had forgotten it was Memorial Day! I mean who hasn’t mixed up days recently when Monday seems a lot like Saturday. Any other year Memorial Day would mean the official start of summer. School is out for many students. It would mean picnics and barbecues, beaches and hot dogs without a thought for what the day is actually about.

But this year is different. This year we are all too aware of senseless death, loss and grief. Almost a hundred thousand of our brothers and sisters lost, many unnecessarily.  I read that this number is more than all those killed in every war our country has fought. Can that be true?

And so our thoughts turn to the reason for Memorial Day: founded to commemorate those lost in the Civil War--as senseless a loss of life as there ever was. All wars are horrible. Most are for the wrong reasons. But a civil war--brother against brother--is the worst kind. And it is still having repercussions today, isn’t it? How many Confederate flags are flying recently? It must be the only war in which the losing side has never admitted defeat. It still divides our nation after one and a half centuries.Was it necessary? Abraham Lincoln thought there was no alternative. Slaves were freed. Some good came of it. But at what price?

And every war since, except for WWII, which I think everyone believes was necessary and just, has been colored in shades of gray. Were we right to go into Korea? Vietnam? Iraq? For each there were justifications at the time, especially among politicians, but weighed against the cost of human life?

So this Memorial Day is a perfect time for reflection. Let us think of those rows of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery, each one representing a mother or a sweetheart who stood, weeping, and found themselves wondering what their loved one had been fighting for.

And on this particular Memorial Day, one we will never forget, let us remind ourselves that every life is precious and each one of those souls lost to this virus is a loss to our country and to humanity.


DEBORAH CROMBIE: Perfectly and eloquently said, Rhys.


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  Poignant and true. Thank you, Rhys.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Reading Royalty!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Trumpets, ruffles and flourishes: we have true royalty visiting Jungle Red today! No, not who you might be thinking. We are so honored to host the incredibly talented Heather Gudenkauf, who exploded onto the scene with the groundbreaking THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE,  then continued to enthrall readers with a string of bestsellers, and now is out with her brand new book, her  eighth, THIS IS HOW I LIED.

It is fabulous. It is seductive, and sinister, and simmering, and surprising.  It is—Fargo meets Kinsey Milhone. But actually? It’s pure Heather Gudenkauf. And more about that in a minute. But first:

Like all of us, even one of her main characters, Heather started out as a reader.  Sometimes— reading books she wasn’t quite supposed to read. We’ll all talk—but as I said. Heather first.

In my new novel, This is How I Lied, fifteen-year-old Eve Knox is a reader and she loves books with happy endings. Unfortunately, we learn very quickly that things don’t end well for Eve. We only get to know her through the span of one day, but there are a few things we do learn about Eve. She’s a caring, patient sister and she’s a reader. Eve devours books. 

The last book she is reading before she dies (this is not a spoiler – we learn Eve’s fate right away) is The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I did not choose to place this book in Eve’s hands by accident.

When I write my books, I like to leave little clues about
myself within the pages, often leaving references to things have some significance in my life and for This is How I Lied one of those Easter eggs was The Thorn Birds.

I have a long, storied history with The Thorn Birds. The novel was scandalous. It’s a saga about of the ill-fated (and unethical) romance between Meggie Cleary and Roman Catholic priest, Father de Bricassart. It was also a whopping 700 pages and by far the longest book I’d read to date.

“What are you reading?” my mother asked in shock when she caught me reading her well-worn paperback copy. I was twelve and she was used to me reading the innocent Sweet Dreams series that had titles like P.S. I Love You and The Perfect Match.

The Thorn Birds,” I responded distractedly, my eyes still pinned on the pages. “It’s really good.”

“You probably shouldn’t be reading that,” my mother said plucking it from my hand.

“But this is the second time I’ve read it,” I protested. “I read it last year too.” My mother sighed and handed it back to me.

Like most libraries, our public library had two distinct sections: the children’s room and the adult section. They also had two types of library cards – one for children and one for everyone else. When I was little I remember sneaking over to the adult side. It was like stepping into a mysterious realm. The lighting was dim, the air heavier and hushed compared to the busy, bright and noisy children’s room. I roamed the tall stacks looking at the thick volumes that I wasn’t allowed to check out. 

I was always drawn to books that I probably shouldn’t have been reading: Carrie by Stephen King

 Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner

 The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, to name a few.

Finally, the day came and I graduated from the children’s section. Clutching my newly minted library card I went in search of the perfect book. I can’t remember the exact title I checked out that day, but it most likely something that would have given my mother heart palpitations. 

To her credit, my mom never censored my reading choices. When she was a child, the library was a respite for her an escape from her complicated family life. Though my parents gave me an idyllic childhood, she knew how drawn to books I was, could appreciate the need to while the hours away lost in in another world no matter if the content was a bit too advanced for me.

What about you Red and Readers? What forbidden books did you sneak off the shelves?

HANK: I am laughing so hard. Of course! I sneaked Marjorie Morningstar, I remember it perfectly. 

And Ten North Frederick. 

And then, I terrified myself with On The Beach. Who know it was about nuclear winter? Yeesh! 

And then all the James Bond books. 
Under the covers, with a flashlight. 
But I have to confess. I've never read The Thorn Birds. And I did not watch the TV show. Should I?

 And I wonder, too. How about you all? What were your sneak reads?

And hurray! A copy of THIS IS HOW I LIED to one lucky commenter.

Heather is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence. Her eighth novel, This Is How I Lied was released on May 12th. She lives in Iowa with her family.

Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.