41 posts categorized "Hank Phillippi Ryan"

September 05, 2011

In Labor

Hank Phillippi Ryan:
So, the unemployment rate is more than nine percent, and that means a shocking one in ten of us is out of a job.  That means nine in ten of us are  counting blessings.

In my family, the moment we turned 16 we had to get a job.  Do I have to, I wailed? Nope, my step-father said. Only if you want to live at home and eat at home.  I went from door to door, applying for work, and finally got hired (this was in 196--7?) at a dry cleaners.

Dry cleaning The guy behind the counter came out with a form for me to fill out, and I picked up a pen to do so.

Left handed? he said.

Yup, I said.

Sorry, he said. I can't train you if you're left-handed.

No job. And, as it turned out, no summer of being exposed to PCE and TCE and other hideous carcinogens.  I finally got hired at the Dairy Queen, where the scariest thing was calories. ConeThe world is an amazing place.

I'd planned on being--in order: a cowboy, a waitress, a stewardess, 

a ballerina, an actor, a geneticist (until I attempted chemistry)  a lawyer, Perry mason

the lawyer for the mine workers union, an English teacher, a disc jockey.

The reality: I've been a proofreader at a publishing company, a saleperson at a dime store, a clerk in a record store (my fave) and then Vote 4an organizer in a political campaign,

a radio reporter,Microphone

 a legislative aide in the US Senate, an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine, and then, for the past 35 years (!) a TV reporter.

 Oh, and an author! (Lovely.)

 So on this Labor Day, we wonder:  what do you do for a living?  Is it what you thought you would be? Did your labor life turn out the way you planned?

 And if you're looking for a job, the Tarts are here to help. Feel free to say so--and list your qualifications!  Maybe the power of Lipstick will create a connection.


August 28, 2011

Seven Pieces of Advice to a Young Writer

Sara_Gran_043 HANK: To introduce Sara Gran, I have to name drop.

(I was once at an event with Paul Simon--no , that isn't the name drop. He was talking about name dropping. And he said the best name drop he ever heard was from John Lennon. Who said to Paul Simon--"When I was talking to the Dalai Lama the other day....")

 Anyway, this is just about that good. I was at the Agatha's this year, sitting next to Sue Grafton. (Told ya.)

On the other side of Sue was this very very cool woman, funny, hip, clever, and obviously a favorite of Sue's. I found out later, after a dinner full of dish and hilarity, that Sue, being asked for a blurb by Sara's editor, had almost tossed Sara's new book--without reading it-- in the "no" pile. Gran_cover Then, for some cosmic reason, decided to give it a go, and then--was totally hooked. Sue's blurb: "I love this book." Can't do better than that, right?

 Anyway, everyone else is loving the book, too--amazing reviews--and now, Reds, Sara has some Sara-type insight to the wonderful world of publishing.

 Seven Pieces Of Advice To A Young Writer

                        by Sara Gran

Ten years ago this fall I published my first book. God, am I old! But being old is fun, and I've learned a little along the way. I've just returned from a teary, emotional tour for my new book, CLAIRE DeWITT & THE CITY OF THE DEAD, and lately I've been thinking a lot about what I wish I'd known when I started in this business. Ultimately, that's a topic too big for a blog post (maybe a five-volume bound set would do the trick), but here's a few tips for all the kids out there with stars in their eyes and a contract waiting for them to sign it.

Ladies, what are your best pieces of advice for "baby" writers? Which mistakes did you make starting out?

 1. Trust no one. Horrible, isn't it? Of course, your agents, editors, publishers, and publicists aren't bad people (probably). But things change fast in publishing, which makes it hard for folks to keep their word. Every business has a bullshit factor, of course, but in publishing it's shockingly high. I'm not saying to close your heart or give up your compassion, but take everything, especially promises, with a grain of salt. Or an ocean.

2. Keep records. Lord, I know all you old hags like me out there agree with this one. Start some kind of a simple bookkeeping method to keep track of payments you should get and payments you do get (which may but probably will not correlate). Believe me kid, you don't want to be rereading your contract and scrutinizing royalty statements in ten years to see if you got that on-pub check for that second novel in Germany (and the answer is no, you didn't—because you weren't keeping records!).

3. Find your allies. In the crime and mystery world, most of the other writers play pretty nice. Trust your gut and find good friends. You might live across the country and you might not talk every day, but you'll need each other and enjoy each other as the years go on. I was just emailing with a pal I've never met, but have known for ten years, when both of our first books came out.

Your friendships with other writers will keep you sane, healthy and happy, and serve as your reality check when an editor tells you a check that's twelve months late is perfectly normal. But keep one eye open for the drama queens/kings, sociopaths, users, and social climbers, and avoid them at all costs. Stay with the nice folks. It might take them a little longer to succeed, but they get there eventually, and when they hit the big time it tends to last.

 Books_3_htm 4. Understand that you're in vaudeville now. Sure, you can be the kind of writer who stays home and turns down interviews. Or you can be that brutally honest person who says what everyone's thinking on Twitter. Sounds good to me. But you know what doesn't sound good? A day job! I want my books to sell and for better or worse, a part of that today is showmanship. Learn to give a great presentation. Buy some decent clothes for events. Tweak your natural inclinations to develop a wittier, less offensive, public version of you. Create a character you can play when you have to go out in public. Not only can this sell books, it makes it hurt less when things go wrong. And it makes it all so much more fun.

 5. Write what you want to write. Seems like the more books a writer sells the more people want to tell her (and maybe also him) what to do. "Sure, kid, that mystery was great, but if you really want to reach audiences you need to write a paranormal vampire thriller with the characters from Mad Men…"

Well, that might be a great idea, and I'm not saying you should ever turn down a good job offer; if someone wants to give you fifty grand to write the Mad Men vampire saga, cash the check, write the book, and use a pen name. It could be something wonderful. That's the short-term game. But never stop doing what you want to do, first because you absolutely have to or you will go crazy, and second because eventually, it'll sell.

The books that last aren't usually the books that people ask us to write. They're usually the books that sold two hundred copies on release and then went out of print for ten years. When Fitzgerald died his book were not, as commonly reported, out of print. They were sitting in the warehouse with no customers.

 On his deathbed, Jim Thompson told his kids: never sell my rights. That's the long-term game. Feed your soul first and the money will follow, even though it might take a while to catch up. In the meantime, enjoy the short-time game, too—it has its own charms.

6. Learn to love reading contracts. There's just no way around it. Find a way to make it interesting.

7. Have fun, and never forget how lucky you are. Old bitter folks like me like to complain, but you know what? I love this job. I have an editor I like and respect, a team I trust working on my books, I've made extraordinary friends and met fascinating people, and I just got a free trip across the country, during which my only obligation was to talk about myself incessantly. Sure, I've also been screwed every way possible, but that happens in other jobs, too—and besides, it was worth it. This job keeps you on your toes and never lets you forget that you're alive. And I get to play with imaginary friends all day—what other job can top that? Some people literally work in coal mines all day. Wow. I'll try to remember that the next time I complain about a late royalty check…

Ladies of Lipstick? What advice do you have for the kids out there—or for me?

HANK: See what I mean? Love to hear your advice...about writing--or hey, about anything! And please report in on your hurricane status. We're eager to make sure you're all okay... 


 Sara Gran is the author of the novels Dope, Come Closer, Saturn’s Return to New York, and the Claire DeWitt series (HMH 2011). Her work has been published in over a dozen countries in nearly fifteen languages. Born in Brooklyn in 1971, Ms. Gran lived in Brooklyn until 2004. Since then she has traveled widely and lived throughout the US including Miami and New Orleans. She now resides in the state of California. Before making a living as a writer, Ms. Gran had many jobs, primarily with books, working at Manhattan bookstores like Shakespeare & Co, The Strand, and Housing Works, and selling used & rare books on her own. Visit Sara at www.saragran.com.

August 22, 2011

A la recherche du temps perdus

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  The three h's are Horrified --time is going by so quickly--but Happy to be here today. Isn't it amazing? The crickets are cricking, the dahlias are revealing their colors, the basil is going to seed (if you're not careful) and although I refuse to look carefully, I swear I saw a leaf turning. But if might just be blushing in embarrassment about how quickly the season is changing.

Summer bain So today, we think of the fragrance of Bain De Soleil and coconut oil and remember the sound of the ice cream truck....but wait. There's still the rest of August to go! Hold on to summer...was  it a good one?   

Remember when it was June? What did you plan? Did you do it?

 HANK: June. I know there was June. I know, because I, um, what did I do again?

 HARLEY: I didn’t lose 10 pounds and I didn’t find True Love. I did, however, get my teeth cleaned.

HEATHER: I barely remember June. I know that I had a lot of plans that I didn't see through . . . there were a lot of conventions, and I spent a lot of time thinking that it was the last summer I'd get Chynna home from college, I wanted some quality time with her. The time has all slipped away, and I'm sad. I did get several great occasions with all five of my kids--and my nephew niece in law and the little ones. I'm grateful--even though I didn't get a lot done I intended to do!

HANK: Oh, wait! My dear darling agent sold my new book THE OTHER WOMAN! Hurray hurray hurray. BEST JUNE EVER. Or maybe that was May. Either way. It was at least two months of goodness.


Summer dentist HARLEY: See June; replace teeth cleaning with root canal.

HEATHER: I dimly remember it, yes, it came and went.

HANK: Oh, July I have down pat. I was working on a big big big project with a deadline of June 20, or something like that, so I worked ALL THE TIME, all the way through July 4th dinner party and the grandkids visit and several outings which I did NOT attend. I made the deadline, hurray, good for me.  And the project--is now on hold. (I got paid. Fine. I'm sure it will all work out for the best.)


HARLEY:See July; replace root canal with new crown on Tooth #30.

HANK: Revisons, revisions. I love revisions. I do. I really do. I'm serious! I really do. The book is getting better and better. If I do say so myself...and I'm almost finished. Very excited. And our dahlias are exploding. Very nice August. And still underway, imagine that!

 HEATHER: It's August now, and I'm in a panic, of course. Derek goes into his last year of nursing school, Chynna goes into her last year at CalArts, and I'm frantically trying to finish everything for our benefit workshop, writers for New Orleans. And of course everyone involved with me on the project is also panicking at the end of summer . . . .

What are you proud of?

HEATHER: Always proud of my kids.Summer midtown-963

 HARLEY: I took my kids on a great New York City adventure. They turned out to be natural subway riders. I could not have been more proud.

HANK: Okay, if we're talkin' kids...my grandson Eli is adorable, brilliant, and at 8 years old, he told me the BEST idea for a YA book. Truly, it's so good I can't even reveal it to you . I have to call him,soon,  to see how it thinks it should end.

What did you learn this summer?

HEATHER: That when you really see a problem, grab it at the onset!

 HARLEY: I learned I’m a lot happier when I’m playing the piano and painting with acrylics on canvas (not at the same time) even though I’m not that great at either one.

HANK:  I re-learned that no deadline is impossible. You just do what you can, and be done. (It happens all the time on Project Runway, right?) 

Favorite food of the summer?

Sushi HEATHER: Sushi. Chynna is a sushi girl, so we do lots of sushi when she's home. Seasons 52!

HANK:  Chicken salad. I know it's weird, but I never liked chicken salad. Suddenly, I do. Yummy chicken, yumy mayonnaise, yummy celery, and grapes.  Now I have a new mantra: "Know what would make this better? Chicken salad!" 

HARLEY: Frosted circus animal cookies.

Favorite drink of the summer?

HANK: Palmyras: vodka, mint, lime juice, simpe syrup. Also! Those little bottles of diet Coke? You can freeze them, til they're slushy. Oh, delicious! Just be careful openign them, they splatter. And beware of forgetting you're put one in the freezer.

Summer tea HEATHER: Of the summer, and always. Ice tea.

 HARLEY: Lipton Green Ice Tea, Berry flavored.

Favorite outfit of the summer?

HARLEY: White Dockers shorts; Cole Haan patent leather flip flops.

HANK:  I found this dress, I had purchased it last summer, and it wasnt right, but suddenly, shades of chicken salad, now it is. It's khaki, and wraps, and looks like a sleeveless trench coat. I've worn it about five million times this summer.

 HEATHER: As always . . . black.

 Favorite book/movie/tv show?

HEATHER: Shameless, great show, love it! Book--I'm reading a bio on Humphrey Bogart. Movie . . . I saw several that I liked a lot. My favorite . . . The Conspirator. Brilliantly told, historically excellent, Robin Wright just as I might have imagined the character to be.

HARLEY: Nancy P.’s The Scent of Rain & Lightning/Pirates of the Caribbean Whatever Number They’re Up To/Buffy reruns

HANK:  Oh, we got hooked on The Killing. And Zen, which was just okay, except for the third one, which was great.  Movie, let's see..oh, we finally saw the King's Speech. Yes, yes, we're SO behind. Happy that Project Runway is back! Books? I'm an Edgar judge. Nuf said.

What will you DEFINITELY do different next summer?

 HEATHER: Ohhhhh . . . been trying to fix me for years. I will try not to pull out my back again. It really hurts! Stretching, yes, stretching.

 HARLEY: Lose 10 pounds; find True Love.

HANK: Read while floating on a raft on the swimming pool.  It's so relaxing..and I didn't do it t all.Summer float

 What will you DEFINITELY do the same way next summer?

 HEATHER: Try my hardest to see all the people I love!

 HARLEY: Get my teeth cleaned.

HANK:  Finish my next book! Now all I have to do,sigh,  is start it.

How about you, Tarts?  Any summer memories, or resolutions? Favorites you can point the rest of us to--while there's still time?

BREAKING NEWS: Hank says:  I just had dinner with Carla Neggers (gazpacho, scallops with corn salsa, peach pavlova) She's such an amazing friend of the Tarts--and in honor of the publication of her newest novel of suspense SAINT'S GATE (which comes out tomorrow) she'll send a signed copy to one lucky commenter!


August 01, 2011

Sue Thompson sang it right: "Sad Movies, Always...."

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I hate to cry. I know, people say, it’s good to “get it all out” and “let your emotions flow.” There’s some sort of a cliché about “have a good cry,” which I see only as an oxymoron. You know what I think? There’s no such thing as a good cry.

My eyes get puffy, I feel sad for days afterwards, there’s some sort of residual thing that happens so that even when I’ve stopped crying, and I’m not even sad anymore, it still feels like I’m about to cry.

Movie crying-woman  The problem is, I cry at EVERYTHING. Yes, the Hallmark commercials and anything where there’s a soldier, or a little kid, or anyone leaving anyone. I can’t discuss The Old Man and the Sea. Once, on a road trip, I read the whole thing out loud to my driving boyfriend. Buy the end, I was sobbing. THE WHOLE FISH WAS GONE! I wailed. Oh, nooooo.

Don’t even talk to me about the music from Candide ("And watch our garden grow..” Can’t even type about it.)  Defying Gravity, from Wicked. Nope. I’ll lose it. In Les Miserables, “bring him home, bring him home, Bring Him HOME!”  They almost had to carry me out of the place. I could go on.

Remember the movie Sling Blade? Jonathan and I went to see it, like our first date. We had planned to see something else, but it was sold out, and we really didn’t care, we’d known each other for a week and “dinner and a movie” was just an activity that one had to do. So we’re like, yeah, what movie has seats? And it was Sling Blade.

  Movie sling Remember, Jonathan barely knew me at this point.

So about ten minutes into the movie, I start to sniff. I am trying so hard not to cry, but I know the whole thing is futile.

 Jonathan leans over, whispers: “Do you have a cold? Do you want some Kleenex?”

I say, “No thank you, I’m crying.”

“Huh?” He’s worried. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m crying at the movie.”

The look on his face. Utterly utterly baffled. “Why?” he whispered. “It’s not sad."

I whispered back “I know. But it’s going to be sad.”

 Oh, yes, and indeed it was. I cried all the way through our Chinese dinner. It’s a wonder J and I are still together. He still doesn’t understand why I get so sad.

 Which of course, requires me to protect myself from things that I know will upset me. If there’s a movie we might want to see, or a play, or whatever, I ask—“Is it triumph of the human spirit?" If so, I’m not going.

I ALWAYS cry at triumph of the human spirit.

 So. No Beaches. No Schindler’s List. No Fried Green Tomatoes, no Terms of Endearment, No Steel Magnolias, Marley and Me. No Philadelphia, no Boy in Striped Pajamas. Nope nope nope. Not doing it.

 No Pearl Harbor, no Band of Brothers (you kidding me?) no Saving Private Ryan.

 I couldn’t resist To Kill A Mockingbird, ofcourse. Exception. An Affair to Remember, okay, l loved it. Cried like mad at both. I cried in You’ve got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle and –anything that has any element of Cinderella or the Ugly Ducking. (I think I cried at Maid In Manhattan, okay?) (Psychiatrists, you’re having a field day, right?)

Movie cinema_paradiso The saddest movie I’ve ever seen? Maybe it was—what’s the title? It’s Italian (not Life Is Beautiful, not a chance I’m going to that) but it’s the one where the little boy hangs out with the film projectionist, who has to cut all the kissing out of the movies, and in the end, he finds all the edited bits, all spliced together, in kiss after kiss? What was that? Oh, yes. Cinema Paradiso. Sad. Lovely. But sad.

 There was just a survey, which said The Champ is the saddest movie ever. I didn’t see it—of COURSE—but if you have, you know why. I did see the number two sad movie, Bambi, which, indeed is sad. But is now kind of annoying, since it seems—creepy to show that to kids.

 ET! Now that was sad. And Old Yeller. And A Night to Remember, yikes, I saw that as a kid and was permanently traumatized. Still, I find its easier if I know what’s gonna happen. Tell me the end, I always plead. It’ll be easier to handle.  They die? They lose? They die, but the planet is saved? Okay, I'll get myself ready for it.

We had brunch this weekend with a bunch of pals, six of us all together, a pretty diverse group if you consider there were criminal defense attorneys AND trust and estate attorneys. But I asked—what’s he saddest movie you’ve ever seen? And do you seek them out? Or avoid them? They were all—analyzing what ”Sad” means. Sad, like, you cry at the end? Or sad like, it’s sad along the way, but happy at the end?

 Whatever, I said. Just whatever you think sad is. Love Story, a man said. He admitted he brokeMovie love story  down at Love Story. Someone else said The Bicycle Thief. Sophie’s Choice. The Green Mile. (Oh yeah, FORGET about it. I read the book. That was enough.) Bonnie and Clyde isn’t. Thelma and Louise isn’t. There was dissent over Titanic.

We decided  "sad” was: unintended consequences. People just trying to do what was right and th en it goes wrong. War. Mistakes. Unfulfilled love. Missing someone, or departures. Saying goodbye. Bravery. Sacrifice.

 They all said they were happy going to sad movies. Didn’t avoid them. Me, I do. Avoid them. How about you? Any movies you wish you hadn’t seen? What’s the saddest ever?

July 04, 2011

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

Fireworks HANK: Happy Fourth of July! We all have our traditions--ours, happily, includes lobster and fireworks.

But I have another tradition.  Every July 4th, I read the Declaration of Independence.

It started, oh, twenty years ago. I was invited to participate in a ceremony at the old Boston City Hall, the place, right near where the Boston Massacre took place, where the founders, standing on a balcony,  read the just-written declaration to the colonists on the street below.

We each were assigned a section--I got the "he has erected a multitude of new offices" part. And then, in turn, we stepped out on the balcony and read it out loud to the people below. Tarts, you can imagine I hardly got through it without crying. And still, when I read it, it makes me emotional.

Drafting_of_the_Declaration_of_Independence2_jpg At the time I said to my husband (not the current one, but that's a different blog) "Can you imagine? Back then, in 1776, hearing this for the first time? Wouldn't you have been filled with patriotism and power and intensity and the zeal for independence?" And he said: "Heck no. I'd be thinkn'--this is treason! Get me out of here."

So there's that. Which, of course, makes it all the more powerful.

So happy Fourth of July, all.  Take a moment, before the fireworks and singing and barbeques and strawberry shortcake...to read the eloquent words that helped make it possible.










 The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

 — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

 But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

 — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

 To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

 He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

 He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

 He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

 He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

 He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

 For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

 For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

 For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

 For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

 For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

 He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

 In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.

We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare,

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. —

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor. —

John Hancock

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

 Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

 New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

 Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

 Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

 Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton 

Fireworks-324x205 HANK: Can you imagine, hearing this for the first time? What would you have done? Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

June 06, 2011

Art for Heart's Sake




By June, the official count of dead and missing remained above 24,000.

 Tens of thousands of people remained housed in temporary shelters or evacuated their homes due to the nuclear crisis.                                               

                                                 **The New York Times


HANK:  Today, we offer you stories. Today, we offer you prizes. And in return, you can help 
change the world.

Lipstick Chronicles is honored to present, for the very first time, the announcement of the completion of a remarkable project--SHAKEN, a book of short stories to benefit the people of Japan.

TIM HALLINAN: Add together twenty mystery writers with plenty of talent and lots of goodwill, plus e-book technology. Sprinkle it with the haiku of Basho, in the best modern English translation, donated by the translator, and a cover designed—surprise—by a first-rate mystery author. The result is (I think) the first e-book ever created as a charity fund-raiser—SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, coming out in the next ten days or so on Amazon.

 One hundred percent of the authors' royalties from the book will go to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund administered by the Japan America Society of Southern California.

HANK: It was all Edgar-nominee Tim's idea. He thought of it, he rounded up the authors, he wrangled us and encouraged us and organized the fund-raising element and  negotiated with Amazon and met with non-profits and worked non-stop-diligently to make it happen.

TIM: Watching coverage of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, I found myself wishing that writers, like actors and rock stars, could pool their craft to raise money when there's an aching need.

HANK: We can't sing, I can't at least, and we 're not movie stars, but we can do what we can do. We write, we read, we love books and stories.

TIM: And I instantly realized that we could do something, and quickly, because of the immediacy of e-books. I e-mailed about 30 writers, including Hank, to ask whether they'd be willing to contribute a story. The response was overwhelming.

HANK: What a heart-breakingly life-changingly wonderful idea. Editor-Boss Tim told us the stories could be whatever we wanted, but must have some connection--in any way we could imagine--with Japan.

TIM: In the end, we wound up with an amazing selection of writers: Hank, Brett Battles, Cara Black, Robert Gregory Brown, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dal Furutani, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Gar Anthony Haywood, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, Jeri Westerson, and me.

HANK: The stories are are incredibly different from each other. Gary Phillips' tough dark macho detective story, Tim's matching of Hollywood with 1940's history, Naomi Hirahara's haunting story of deception and desire.   And it's more than just the stories--there's also a jewel of a haiku between each one.

TIM: Yes, it was Adrian McKinty's opening elegiac piece about the time he spent in Sendai, following in the footsteps of the 17th century poet Basho, that planted the idea of alternating haiku with the stories. The Internet being what it is, within three days of approaching online haiku communities asking about good, available translations, I got an e-mail from Jane Riechhold, whose 2008 Kodansha translation of all Bacho's Haiku is the current gold standard. She gave us permission to use as many as we needed.

 HANK: You heard what Tim said. One hundred per cent of the authors' royalties will go to the Japan Relief fund. And we're already thinking about future projects--"Because Words Can Change the World."

                        TIM: In the Introduction to the book, I said this was art for heart's sake. I feel as though I've spent the past few weeks midstream in a river of generosity. It's been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

 HANK:( And even though there was a clamor for it, editor Tim wouldn't let his name go on the cover.)  Now, don't go clicking away to Amazon just yet. It'll be a week or so before you can buy this collection. But we can't wait to give you a taste of the amazing selection of stories. So what better way than a contest?

 TIM: See whether you can match the excerpts below with one of the listed stories. Five people who get them all right will win signed first editions from Hank and me.

HANK: And then, watch this space--and many others, by way of the other authors involved--to see how you can help. Now presenting, for the very first time--just a few of the stories of SHAKEN.


 1. One thing Eunice had learned very well during her internment was how to bargain. When you wanted something that was scarce – which was just about everything – you needed to come up with something useful to trade with, a compelling argument, and a quick finish. Too many deals got lost when people had time to think them over. So, here she stood, toe to toe with Mr. Antonelli, ready to bargain. She intended to get Papa’s truck back – his truck, not just a truck. 


 2. Someone killed the big arc light, and beyond it, Kiyoshi saw his friend Kenji, waiting. Kenji looked like his ears were ringing, like someone had hit him in the face with a tree. Kiyoshi waited while a wardrobe woman unbuttoned his robe from behind and slipped it off his shoulders, and then, with the arc light still a dark flare at the corner of his vision, he found his way to the edge of the platform and down the steps.

 “You're not working today?” Kiyoshi asked in Japanese.

“Sit down, Kiyoshi-san,” Kenji said. “It will be best if you sit down.”


3. All of a sudden the shrill drilling of the telephone came between them. Her business-like voice answered.

Moshi mosh, hello.”

Her tone changed immediately. “Anata,” she breathed.

 He could never get over how that Japanese pronoun anata, which meant ‘you,’ could mean so much. A simple pronoun. But the way a woman said it spoke volumes.


4. I risked an email to Teri: “We’re problem-solvers. We should do something. But I can’t think of anything that’ll hurt her more than it’ll hurt us.”

 Teri’s response popped up. “Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi.”

I turned to her, assuming it was one of her dad’s sayings, but not being able to read Japanese or whatever, that didn’t help. Of course I couldn’t say anything out loud, so I turned to her and made a face like, Huh?

She hit send. “It means: Fear is greater than the danger. An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.”

 Did she think we should try something to, um, exterminate the Queen Bee? Like what?


5. Strangers came and went for days. Gloria rested her elbows on her countertop, the one Ed had always said was too expensive, and watched, muttering to herself about how she'd have to get the windows washed again with all the dust and garden debris the workers were kicking up leaving a fine film on everything—her windows, her rhododendrons, which Kimiko had helped her choose at the nursery, even her eyeglasses. She envisioned late night hot-tub parties, scantily clad women traipsing around the area visible from her kitchen window! She would put her foot down. And the newcomer would probably make changes. Why did he buy the Tanakas' home if he was going to make changes?


6, The man still held her wrist. She recognized him. He was a rough-speaking, lowland man, with a kimono that was repaired with haphazard sewing. He had been accused of killing a man but no one could ever prove it and anyway Masaru-sama had paid off the judges. So it was said.

 She wanted to pull her hand away. His touch was clammy and disquieting, as was his leer, but she dared not shake him loose. Why was Masaru-sama allowing it?


7. A year or so before my birth, a stout Frenchwoman named Charlotte Pease was peeling potatoes at her kitchen sink at her farmhouse on the west cove of Hurricane Harbor. She glanced up and out the window as was her habit and saw a small boat with a slight, black-haired occupant.

The woman in the boat was crying.


 8. The streets teemed with refugees, one and all fleeing to the Park, except for those who stared in awe at the smoke enveloping the heart of San Francisco, watching building after building fall to Funston’s dynamite crew.  A few of the city’s elite opened still-standing mansions to the wrecked and wretched, Henry Crocker serving water from an unchipped china cup.


 9. There was an odd little moment just after the two had stepped outside the terminal. The woman let the bodyguard get ahead of her a few paces, then glanced back at the door as another woman, this one tall and blonde and Caucasian, came out of the building. It appeared to Orlando that they shared a look, but they were too far away to know for sure. A second later the blonde passed them and walked off to the right.


HANK and TIM: So who wrote those? Match them with these authors and  titles!

a. GIFT OF THE SEA  by Vicki Doudera

 b. THE ASSIGNMENT  by Brett Battles

 c. COOLIE  by Kelli Stanley

d. THE SILKEN CLAW by Tim Hallinan

e. BORROWED SCENERY by Rosemary Harris

f. FATHER KNOWS BEST  by Hank Phillippi Ryan

g.  NOODLE GIRL  by Jeri Westerson

h.  MOSQUITO INCENSE  by Cara Black

i.  THE EMPEROR'S TRUCK  by Wendy Hornsby

May 30, 2011

A Memorable Memorial

HANK: Happy Memorial Day, dear Tarts! And we hope you are celebrating in the way you love best. For me, Memorial Day has always been about two special sounds.

 One, Taps on a bugle, of course. Those haunting notes that can leave a huge crowd in utter silence. My father--who is healthy and happy with a wonderful wife and I can't even count how many grandchildren--was taken prisoner in the Battle of the Bulge. My little cute Dad! Who loves music and philosphy and dance and good food, and who carried a book of poetry with him in the war "to remind me there is beauty in the world." Yay, Dad. And thank you.

The other sound--the roar of 33 engines of the cars in the Indy 500. I grew up in Indianapolis, and not a person in the city didn't stop and listen the race. For years, it was only on the radio,and we'd sit in the back yard, all of us five kids and my mom and step-dad, and imagine how it looked. Even now, as a (?) grown up, I have to watch the race. I have no idea about auto racing, but you know, that's just what ya do on Memorial Day if you're a Hoosier.

 So here we are--a geographical triangle on Memorial Day--Harley in CA, Heather in FL, and Hank in MA.   And hurray, we get to share it with you!

Favorite Memorial Day tradition?

 HANK: Vroom vroom. VROOM. Press accelerator, keep turning left. And then have a cookout.

HARLEY: It used to be Topanga Days -- in my old ‘hood, a 3-day Woodstock-like event with a lot of beer, banjoes, hippies, and heat stroke. But I was pretty much over it after the first two years, and now it’s like penance. I’d rather go visit a cemetery.

 HEATHER: I think our Memorial Day tradition is a bit different. Both my dad and my stepdad (my mom was a widow who remarried a super-great guy at the tender age of 70) were in WWII, navy and air force, respectively. I never bring my dad's grave flowers--we all remember when he sick and someone brought him flowers and he said, "Hey, guys, come on, I'm not dead yet!" But I did share coffee with him constantly.

We'd go out mornings for coffee, and I guess that was when I really bonded with him. So, Bill (stepdad) was a great deal like him and a wonderful guy. We go, and think about the amazing things they said over the years about war--and pour coffee on the graves.

Since cooking out is so traditional: One Grilling secret.

HARLEY: Here’s my secret. Have a barbecue and invite a friend who likes to grill, and hand them the utensils and show them where the grill is.

HANK: Yeah, that's mine, too. Get Jonathan to do it.

HEATHER: The meat--always have quality meat. Or, in Harley's case, the vegetables. The freshest, best veggies and meats available. And a touch of olive oil in a bit of a marinade. Yeah, throw in garlic, too. And supply mints.


For extra credit: Gas or Charcoal? Top on or top off? Lighter fluid or newspaper?

 HEATHER: Charcoal. Top off.

 HANK: Lighter fluid is the scariest thing. The whole deal is scary. I don't even know how people grill without going up in flames. Jonathan loves it. LOVES it. Fine. I hide.

 HARLEY: Do I look like someone who would know the answer to these questions?

Bday 2Because Harley's twins turn nine today--Happy Happy Birthday Birthday--One Memorable childhood birthday.

 HARLEY: When I turned 10, my big sister made me a chocolate cake and then dropped it. But she “mended” it with a few hundred toothpicks and a lot of frosting, the Elmer’s Glue of the baking world.

HEATHER: Oh, Harley and twins . . . happy birthday!

 HANK: I have absolutely no memory of any childhood birthday. So I thought, when I heard this question, maybe I'll call Mom and see if she remembers. Luckily, I stopped myself. Can you imagine THAT conversation? When I'm SURE she worked and worked to do wonderful things for little me...and I have NO memory of it at all. What can we learn from this?

 Memorial Day Mandates: what is a seasonal must-do this weekend?

HANK: I always say I'll do it later, but those winter clthes were taunting me. So I put them all on the third floor mothball room and brought down the summer stuff. And I am wearing FLIP FLOPS! And, we have switched to gin and tonics. Diet tonic, HIGHLY recomended.Gin and tonic

 HARLEY: Survive it. And change the outfit on Bob, our dining room mannequin, from his winter tux to his swim trunks and tank top.

HEATHER: I think that has to do with the year--this year? MUST finish Civil War vampires. Yes, Civil War Vampires. Have to save DC from the scourge before Monday night.

HANK: Heather, you're too funny. Good luck with that.


Do you wear white shoes all year? How about white jackets?

HEATHER: I'm from Florida. I didn't know that you were supposed to change your sandal color by the season. I never wear white jackets. Black is my color--five kids, something spilled on you constantly . . . black just cleans the easiest, and thats the way it goes! Oh, I have one pair of black and red boots that I love. I'm not sure where the black shoes came in . . . I guess they just go with the other black.

HANK: No white shoes til Memorial Day. Do I even have any white shoes? I don't have any white shoes.  (Although I like those above..hmmm...)White jackets--always. White wool is a lot different than white linen.

 HARLEY: Nope. I’m a classicist. Summer only. Unless they’re running shoes, of course.

 The real Memorial Day--who are you remembering today?

 HANK: My Dad. See above. Memorial Day really gets me. Boston Common is covered in American flags today. Twenty-thousand of them. All those sons and daughters.

 HARLEY: My dad. Rest in peace, Joe.

 HEATHER: I think about my family, of course. And I also think of friends gone, our soldiers out on the field now, and those who fought before. I'm amazed to think of the Revolution and the Civil War, and all those men who walked right into blazing cannons and bullets being fired directly at them. I know that I'm a terrible coward, and I'm incredibly grateful for those who fought for me. And I think about the founders of the country, too--men who signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing they'd fight a war against incredible odds, and be hanged if they were caught.

 And I think of my mom and her family, and how much it meant to them to move to this wonderful country. Yeah. We have our problems, but we get to voice our complaints out loud with no fear, vote and campaign for change, and talk about our leaders.

And we'll leave it to dear Heather to wrap up:

HEATHER: No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.Of course, that quote is from Sir Winston Churchill but it sums it up nicely. Memorial Day--Thank you to all the heroes and heroines who have fought for us.

 So--you don't have to answer them all--but hey, tell us about your Memorial Day!

May 09, 2011

Just Ducky

    “Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens  underneath.”                 

                                                                                                                     **Michael Caine  

           Ducks 2011 
HANK:   We’ve known each other for a while now, right? So you know about the ducks. I’d say—“our” ducks, but they're wild duck, mallards, so they don’t belong to anyone but themselves. But they discovered us, our backyard pool at least, and every year—since gee, I bet 1997? They've arrived in the spring.

 The crocuses come, and then the tulips, and then the ducks. Every year. (Jonathan took this nice photo Sunday.) 

We have a (not glamorous) swimming pool in our back yard. It gets covered wth a dark green tarp for the winter. The tarp fills with snow and slush and gunk, and then the gunk melts. So, I guess from a duck-eye view—above and below and even on the surface, it looks like a pond. 

The ducks come every year. The same ducks.

Ducks in pool

And astonishingly, I was clearing out the photos in my camera recently, and found the duck-arrival-photo from last year. And it was dated, March 14. This year the ducks arrived on March 14.

I ask you.

How do they do that?

We named the first couple the first year they visited. The male, Flo. The female, Eddy. (Flo and Eddy, I thought, was kind of watery sounding.) More ducks arrived, we named them Not-Flo and Not-Eddy. And then Evil Duck, Spot-Front and No-Neck.( We’re not that good at naming ducks. ) (No-Neck has no white ring around his neck. Evil Duck is always biting, and Spot-Front has a--well, you can figure that out.)

Ducks flap

We feed them, duck food, although the Audubon Society told us not to. (So sue us. The ducks clamber out of the pool and waddle to the back door when they see me, so who could resist that?)

 But the point of this--and I bet you're glad to hear there IS one—is that we have learned a lot about human nature, and just nature, I guess, from watching the ducks. When Flo and Eddy arrived, they swam around, explored, floated, lumbered to the side of the pool and sat in the sun. Sometimes they sleep balanced one one foot, head tucked under a wing, which is pretty funny. And seems very difficult.

 But all in all (except for some duck sex which is kind of hard to explain) they were peaceful.

 When I came out to feed them, Flo would protect Eddy, making sure she got food first. It was very sweet, and made me think about true love.  Then one day Flo and Eddy arrived, and soon after, Not-Flo. Another male. T-rouble. Not-Flo bugged Eddy, followed her around.

 Flo just went crazy. Biting, swimming fast, hopping up on the side of the pool and standing on his little duck feet and flapping his wings. Eddy would fast-waddle away from Not-Flo (they’re fast swimmers, very lithe in the water, but they are really bad walkers.) Sometimes she waddles so fast she has to fly a little, to get ahead. It's pretty funny.

Finally, Flo just attacked, quacking like mad and snipping at Not-Flo with his beak. He eventually drove Not-Flo, flapping and hopping, away. To celebrate his victory, Flo stretched full out in the water, almost standing on the surface, lifting his neck to its full length, making himself as big as possible, and beating his wings in victory.

IMG_0107We came outside, and Not-Flo was ON THE ROOF of our house, looking down. You haven't laughed until you've seen a duck on the roof of your house.  It's something about the webbed feet on shingles, or something. It's just so unlikely.

(The photo shows Flo and Eddy on the roof. They now go up there all the time.)

Jonathan and I--devoted to duck-watching--began to learn about duck habits.  Kind of like E.O.Wilson and the ants, only not so erudite, and we didnt write anything down about it. 

For instance. When there are two or more ducks together, and one of them wants to fly away, they for some duck-reason have to make sure everone else wants to leave, too. So they do something with their necks--uh, let's see. Remember Walk like an Egyptian? Do that head-move, poking out your chin and neck.

That's what they do. So one duck will do the neck-bill move, kind of fast, and then see if everyone else does it, too. When they are all bobbing their heads in exactly the same rhythm--they ALL take off and fly away. At exactly the same time.

And I've seen it happen. One will start doing the head thing, and the others look at him (it's always a male who starts it) and ignore him and swim away. Duck number one stops. Later, he'll try again, and sometimes the others are ready to go by then. Duck one will NEVER leave by himself.

Flo and eddyWhen there's a male and female alone together, fine. The swim, they dive underwater, they sun on the side  of the pool. When they're just floating, they stick to the exact middle of the pool, farthest from the edge where marauding squirrels and cats may hover. (We chase the cats away. I love cats, but these are from next door, and they shouldn't be around the ducks.)

More pretty interesting duck sociology:

Where there are two females together, they're fine and they swim around.  This is very rare, though, to have two females. They always look kind of--worried, scanning the sky and never sleeping. Until the male ducks arrive. I don't think I'm inmagining this. (Someday my prince will come?)

When there are two males and one female, it can get ugly. As y u saw with the arrival of not-Flo. And if I bring food out when there are three? The dominant male will do anything to keep the second male from eating. The domaint male will attack the other male INSTEAD of eating. He'd rather keep the other guy from the food than eat his own.  (Better to starve than be submissive? You can always get dinner later when the intruder is conquered.)

However! If there are just two males? The same two, Flo and Not-Flo? They're fine together. They swim, the float, they sleep, they share food, they're dandy. Best buds. Peaceful and serene. As long as there's no female duck. (Women are always the prize?) 

When the female arrives in male-duck world, all hell breaks loose. She's attacked and, well, duck-banged.  (No comment. I keep telling her--you can fly, sweetheart! If you really want to get away, you can do it. No reason to stay in this abusive relationship. But she doesn't fly. Again, I ask you. What can we learn from this?)

Three males and a female? That's a different deal. The two males hang together, the duck couple hangs together, they're peaceful. And they share food.  (Dinner party.)  Three males and no female. Fine. Good buddies.Five males--which is often who come to visit--all happy and pals. (Fraternity.)  One male is always the dominant one, its very clear, and he's the one who decides when to leave. (There's always a boss.)

And where there are two males and two females, it's very clear who the couples are. And they stick together. Share food. And leave together. (Double dating is a good thing.)

We have seen no ducklings. Like any good parents, we are WAITING to see some ducklings.  Maybe next year.

So  have you learned anything from your animals? My cats taught me that sleep is good, and that you CAN provide food for yourself, but if you can get someone to make dinner for you, all the better. How about you?

May 08, 2011


HANK:  Hi Mom! And thanks for everything. Even the thighs. But we'll talk later.  I just got to do a really fun thing. Many weeks ago, I invited my dear pal Avery Aames to guest blog here at TLC, and she was eager to do Mother's Day. Because Avery is a lovely person. (I promise you this has a point.)

Because Avery is also astonishingly organized, she wrote her blog a few weeks ago, and sent it to me.

Because the universe is an amazing place, and you never know what wonderful thing will happen next, turns out Avery's biography changed between then and now.

In the one she sent, it said Avery's book was nominated for the Agatha for Best First Novel. 

Aha. Last week, Avery's book WON.  Hurray and congratulations. And I just got to change Avery's bio. I'm sure her mother is now even more proud than ever.


Mothers make the memories

Underneath the memories:

Morning's undertow.

 By Avery Aames


It’s Mother’s Day. How I wish my mother had given me one of her talents.  She aspired to be a journalist, but she set her life on hold for other things that became more important: family.  But she had a gift.  She could write with such ease. I wish I had her gift. I do have her love of the language. {Thanks, Mom.}


But let me say in all humility that I’m not a natural writer. It does not come easily to me. I work hard; I take classes. I know some people can simply crank out a good book in no time flat, but I stress over every sentence, every plot point, and I never feel it’s good enough.

All my life, I have written. Little stories, fantasies, plays that I could put on if I rented a barn. I attacked everything with abandon. [My mother kept a few in my baby book. She thought I was pretty good.]

But then in 7th grade, things changed. My writing dreams were dashed.  Here’s the story.  We were assigned a creative writing project. I wrote “The Girl with the Pearl Necklace.”  I loved what I had written. I presented it proudly to the teacher…who ripped it to shreds and said if I was considering becoming a writer, I should give it up. [My mother consoled me, but to no avail.]

 Gack.  As if that critique weren’t enough, I had another teacher in college who railed at my treatise on Shakespeare and the use of eyes in his work.  Okay, maybe I’m not a full-blown intellectual, but it was a decent paper. And he gave me a B, for heaven’s sake!

 But alas, I left my young years behind and decided I could never be a writer. Never.  Luckily, I also enjoyed acting and put all my efforts into it and I was good. I worked. I made a living. But if I wanted to get ahead in the acting world, a good script to star in was required, so bravely I wrote a screenplay. Though I won a few awards, I could not get the attention of agents. I wrote a treatment for a TV sitcom and sold it, but even that didn’t open doors for me.

 When my husband wanted to move out of Los Angeles to further his career, I moved willingly.  But I was a creative person. Even far from Hollywood, I needed to put my creative energy into projects. I loved reading mysteries and thrillers. I always had. So I turned from writing screenplays to novels.

 Guess what happened? You bet. As I faced rejection after rejection from agents, that little voice from my 7th grade teacher came back to haunt me. “You can’t do it; you’ll fail.” I had to prove him wrong.  Had to. And I did.  I’m now published. But even with success in the past year, I continue to feel that I’m at the precipice and might fail. After all, I’m writing under an assumed name. Doesn’t that make me a poseur?

 Okay, if you’re a writer, have I got your attention? Are any of you feeling like I do/did? Now, I’ll do what I do best.  Cheerlead.  Yep, I’m a cheerleader (and I’m good at it) because I have learned in this life to never give up. If you’re a “late bloomer” as David Seidler, the screenwriter who won the Oscar  for “The King’s Speech” this year, called himself at the youthful age of 74, keep trying. If you’re just starting out but there are voices in your head telling you that you’re no good, tell them to take a flying leap. If you’re in the middle of your career and you’ve taken a few headers, as an old song says, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”

You can do it!

So what was the worst thing a teacher, mentor, parent said to you? And do you still believe it?

  Lost and fondue

Three commenters will win copies of LOST AND FONDUE. 



Avery Aames is the author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series.  The first, The Long Quiche Goodbye, is a national bestseller. Avery just won the Agatha Award for “Best First Novel.” Avery blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, http://www.mysteryloverskitchen - a blog for foodies who love mysteries. And some of her characters show up on the Killer Characters blog, http://killercharacters.com  You can order LOST AND FONDUE here: http://www.averyaames.com/book_sellers.html


April 11, 2011

TheTrill is Gone

by Hank

 Phone 1

 Dear Telephone.

I fear to tell you, since we've had such a wonderful relationship over all these years, and certainly I'm grateful, but the thrill is gone.

I remember you, CLifford 1-4858. You were a black rotary phone on the wall and my cute little sister and I had such fun with you! We'd call a random number, then say "Yes, May I help you?" And when the person on the other end was confused, and insisted WE'D called THEM, we'd excoriate them for playing with the phone. (No lame "is your refrigerator running" phone pranks for us.)  Yes, phone, I liked you then. 

(And we had a party line, didn't we, for part of  the time? And it was weird but fun to pick up the receiver and hear someone's voice that we didn't quite know who was. And we were not allowed to listen in.)

I remember you, UPtown 3-2768. I remember you were a pink princess phone  with buttons, so very new,  in the Beatle-wallpapered bedroom I shared with my suddenly bratty and annoying little sister. We'd would call the radio station to try to win records and tickets, and you were so good at it! And I know you were always ready to take the calls from the boys who rarely called...and you were so patient  when I'd check to see whether maybe, maybe, there was something wrong with you when the calls didn't come. Maybe our phone was broken? Maybe it was busy? Off the hook? And that's why they didn't call?  I relied on you!  You were my lifeline to coolness. 

(Even though being on the AXminster exchange was cooler. One could always know who lived in the flossy neighborhoods because they were AXminster. Or TRinity. We were UPtown, which meant rural. But I digress.)

Even years later, when you received your three-new-numbered area code (those would never last, right?) and lost your instantly-recognizable glamorously geographical nametags, and became all numbers, I still couldn''t live without you.  Newstips and news sources and appointments and dating and guys and endless endless chatting with girlfriends about what had REALLY happened that night or what we should DO or SAY or tell someone.

Bells And when I lived in Washington DC, I had an answering service, a real person, like in Bells Are Ringing, who'd take my messages and then tell me when I got home who had called. (She seemed to really care about my personal life, in a big-sister kind of way.) And I looked forward to talking to her. She know what was going to happen in my life before I did!

 So, dear telephone, when did it happen?

 When did the sound of your trill lose its thrill? 

I remember my first cell phone--yikes for some reason I can't remember that number, psychologists will have a field day-- and I DID love it, it was convenient (although huge) and I could call for reservations and pizza and tell people I'd be late. Nice. And my landline (when did we start saying that word?) had a tiny tape cassette as the answering machine.

 But now--I have a cell phone, which everyone expects to be on ALL  the time, and everyone expects me to answer it, and talk to them when THEY want to talk.

And when I'm home? How does our landline know to ring RIGHT when the pasta is ready, or RIGHT when The Good Wife is starting or RIGHT when we've just opened the Sunday paper and our coffee is perfectly hot and the cream cheese is melting beautifully on the bagel?

RINNNNNG!  So, what?  I'm supposed to drop everything and answer it?

 (Yes, when the lovely Malice people called about DRIVE TIME's Agatha nomination, I was thrilled to have you, dear phone, and saved the message so I can listen to it over and over, but that' s anther blog.  And when my husband fell and I had to all 911, I was pretty darn happy with you.)

Caller ID is new to our territory...love it. But to me, it's just proof of the bleak spectrum of potential callers--fundraisers, solicitors, powerwashing offers and the drugstore saying our prescription is ready. Fine, but I don't wanna talk about it. Please, leave a message, delete delete delete.

Telemarketers But caller ID is also a diabolical dilemma. If someone calls, and they think I'm home, and I don't answer they know I'm gasp--screening calls. Which is rude rude rude.   

And now, dear telephone, I'm sorry to say every time you ring now, I cringe. Frankly, part of it, I fear, is the apprehension that there'll be something bad on the other end.   Or something I have to do or take care of, or decide about.

(Oh,  tarts, you should be at our house when the phone rings. Jonathan and I look at each other. Answer it, I say.  RING RING No! He says, you answer it, It's going to be for you. No, I reply, It is not! RING RING!  YOU get it, okay? It's your turn. You get the picture. 

Then we wait til it stops ringing. And  then we check the message. And if there isn't one, we win. We hope.)

 To be fair, I don't call OUT much, either. But everyone , everyone, I see walking down the street,  (or driving, yikes) is on the phone.    Why? How would they have handled their life before you?

THOUSAND-CLOWNS_3 Remember Jason Robards, in A Thousand Clowns? He'd answer the phone: "Is it someone with good news or money? No?" And then he'd hang up.

 Dear telephone, what am I missing here? Do others love you, need you, want you, lust after the sound of your voice?

I'd love to know. Perhaps in the comments. Or send me an email. But don't call me, okay?

Do you remember your first phone number? Do you have a special ring tone on your cell?