Archive for the 'books' Category

A New Identity

Since the countdown for my food critic mystery series launch is under a year, I’ve decided it’s time to start switching over to my new identity: Lucy Burdette. Lucy has a new website now (though admittedly the content is a little thin–I’m working on that:) with some gorgeous artwork, and a fan page on facebook. And miracle of all miracles, you’ll even find her on twitter! Actually Twitter is kind of fun–though I’d like to have more tweethearts. It’s cool to spread the word about a book or recipe without spending much time on it.

Hope you choose your poison and stop by to say hello!  Lucy (AKA Roberta)

Wanna Write with James Patterson?

So last night’s room at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park was jammed with members of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America–all salivating to hear from best-selling author James Patterson. (And yes that is me standing next to him. Note he has his fingers around my neck–we were discussing the psychology of golf. Photo courtesy of Ang Pompano, introduction courtesy of Chris Grabenstein!)

Patterson talked about his long career, noting that one gift he possesses is the power of imagination. (Something Hollywood and the publishing industry could use, he added.) “Whatever you may think of my books,” he said, “I’m very involved with all of them and doing the best I can.”

In advertising, the movies, and television, work is done with teams of writers. Why shouldn’t this be true with novels too, he wondered. He knows his strengths lie in generating ideas and spinning stories. He’s okay at writing but doesn’t love to do it. So if he has a cowriter who is a good stylist, they end up with a good story and good style.

So how does the co-writing work? He generates the basic idea and a detailed chapter by chapter outline. Then he asks his co-writer to contribute to the outline and begin writing. He looks at the progress of each book about every two weeks and they discuss anything that he thinks is going off track. Why wait until the end of the draft (as most often happens with traditional publishing) to address problems? The co-writer gets a big check and Patterson himself writes any subsequent drafts.

So where do you sign up? That’s the bad news–right now there are no openings. Hmmm, wonder if I could work my way into his golf foursome?

The Rich and the Dead

Each year Mystery Writers of America chooses a celebrity editor/writer to put together an anthology of short stories based on a theme of the celebrity author’s choosing. Next year the anthology, THE RICH AND THE DEAD, will be edited by Nelson DeMille, published by Grand Central in April. I’m very psyched to report that my story “The Itinerary” was chosen to be included. I’ll be in terrific company–the authors who were invited to participate were: Ted Bell, Peter Blauner, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, David Morrell, Twist Phelan, S.J. Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer and Angela Zeman. And these writers had their stories selected for the remaining slots: K. Catalona, Tim Chapman, Frank Cook, David DeLee, Joseph Goodrich, Daniel J. Hale, Roberta Isleib, Harley Jane Kozak, Carolyn Mullen and Elaine Togneri.

In “The Itinerary”, Detective Jack Meigs (from the Rebecca Butterman series) has been sent on a forced vacation to Key West after his wife’s death. Of course he has no interest in playing the tourist and he gets drawn into the puzzle of woman who goes missing from her cruise ship.

Can’t wait to see the finished product!

Happy July

strawberrycreamcakeHappy fourth and fifth of July–hope everyone had a great weekend! This was my masterpiece–a light yellow sponge cake covered with whipped cream and sliced fruit. The blueberries came right out of the garden and the raspberries from the farmer’s market.

It’s my week to come up with content for Jungle Red Writers so stop over all week and enjoy a variety of posts. Tomorrow we’re talking about energy independence–are we headed that way, or will we wait until we’re forced into changing by the price of gas? Make a comment to enter your name into a drawing for Unspoiled: Florida Writers Talk about the Coast.

On Wednesday, come meet writing newcomer Sophie Littlefield, who’s taking the mystery world by storm. And then we’ll finish up the week with my favorite topic on Thursday and Friday–food, glorious, food!

Fun at the Edgars

Had a fantastic two days at the Edgars–Wednesday night was the MWA agents/editors party. img_0156Here’s a photo of MWA president Laura Lippmann, along with the incomparable Mary Higgins Clark, and Hank Phillippi Ryan, who chaired the committee to choose the Mary Higgins Clark award winner this year. The award went to SJ Bolton for THE AWAKENING. img_0158

This photo shows two of the nominees, Nadia Gordon and Hallie Ephron with MHC and Hank.

On to Saturday and the Edgar awards banquet. Judges were given a private reception with the nominees–so much fun to meet Kathleen George, Jo Nesbo, and John Hart, along with many other mystery luminaries! This is me with John Hart and my co-presenter CJ Box after John was revealed as the winner of Best Novel for THE LAST CHILD.30788_398548946590_664301590_3922507_6445619_s (PHOTO courtesy of Margery Flax.)

Hand of Fate

hand-of-fate-coverAre you looking for an exciting spring read? Cybergirlfriend April Henry has just released her newest thriller, HAND OF FATE, written with former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Lis Wiehl.

About the book

When the host of a popular radio talk show is murdered, the suspects almost outnumber his millions of listeners.

Outspoken radio talk show host Jim Fate dies he opens a package and releases poisonous gas while his polarizing show, “The Hand of Fate,” is on air.

In the ensuing panic, police evacuate downtown Portland. Soon the triple threat of  FBI Special Agent Nicole Hedges, crime reporter Cassidy Shaw and Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce begin piecing together the madness, motive, and the mystery that lie behind Fate’s murder.

While Lis has worked with Bill O’Reilly for years (often serving as the voice of reason or his liberal foil, depending on your point of view), the character is NO WAY based on O’Reilly.

This is the second in the Triple Threat mystery series, which has been optioned for TV. The first, Hand of Fate, one was on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks! And in April 2011, readers can look for Heart of Ice, which traces the path of a destruction left by a sociopath – and based on a real-life case Lis prosecuted.

ROBERTA:  Dr. Rebecca Butterman, the protagonist in my advice column mysteries, is a clinical psychologist (like me.) If your protagonist made an appointment to talk to Dr. Butterman, what would that first session be like? What deep dark secret or problem would she be there to discuss and how much of it would she tell?


APRIL:  There are three main characters in the books.  Allison would talk about her longing to be a mother. Nicole would probably not say much of anything – but if you could get her to talk, she would talk about her shameful (in her eyes) need for love.  And Cassidy would want to be reassured that is a worthwhile, talented person.

ROBERTA: Sounds like an exciting book. Good luck to you both!

About the authors

April Henry grew up in a little town in Southern Oregon where the main industries were timber and pears. When she was was 12, she sent Roald Dahl a short story she had written about a six-foot-tall frog named Herman who loved peanut butter. He not only wrote her back – he showed it to the editor of an international children’s author, who asked to publish it.

Since then, April has written nearly a dozen mysteries and thrillers for adults and teens, with seven more on the way. Look for her young adult thriller – Girl, Stolen – in October 2010.

Lis Wiehl is a former federal prosecutor who is now a legal analyst for FOX-TV.

What the critics are saying

“Exciting… readers will identify with these very real women as they try to uncover Fate’s killer, and each battles a personal demon—Allison her fear of miscarriage, Nic her fear of her daughter’s criminal father, and Cassidy her prescription drug addiction.”

–Publishers Weekly

“The second book by Wiehl and Henry featuring the Triple Threat Club ratchets up the excitement and suspense to another level. Realistic characters with authentic dilemmas will appeal to a wide array of mystery lovers.”

–Romantic Times, four stars

Read more about Hand of Fate at April’s website and her blog.

Ellen Meister’s Amazon gift card drawing

In anticipation of a new book coming next year, cybergirlfriend Ellen Meister is getting ready to spread the word.

Pitched as “Jodi Picoult meets THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE,” THE OTHER LIFE tells the story of a suburban mom expecting her second child who discovers that she might be able to slip through a portal to the life she would have had if she never got married. When a routine sonogram reveals unexpected problems, her grief lures her to escape to the life that might have been …  in which she discovers that she stayed with her neurotic ex-boyfriend, and that her mother, who committed suicide several years before, is very much alive.

Ellen wants to keep you abreast of the news about the new book. So she has a special offer … sign up for her mailing list now and you will  automatically be entered in a drawing for a $25 amazon.com gift card.

Just click here, fill out the form, and remember to click through when you get the confirmation email. That’s it. Ellen only sends out a few updates a year, so you won’t be bombarded. Besides, I think you’ll want to hear about her breakthrough novel, THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam/2011), which is already getting great early buzz. Good luck Ellen!

Read more at her website.

Everyone She Loved

Today we’re celebrating not only the paperback release of Sheila Curran’s EVERYTHING SHE LOVED, but also her health after a bout with cancer. Read more at her blog. Hurray Sheila–may you live in good health to write many, many more! cover-art-everyone-3

Winging It: Memoir of a Vengeful Parrot

ROBERTA:  Today I’m happy to welcome another one of my cybergirlfriends, Jenny Gardiner, with a different kind of book and a hysterical title. Welcome Jenny! Tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it.

tnwingingitJENNY:  This time around my book is a memoir, titled WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME (Gallery Books). Think of it as David Sedaris meets Marley & Me, with a deadly beak. It’s about an African gray parrot with an attitude who arrived as a surprise Christmas gift the year we had our new baby. Life has never been the same.

The idea grew over many years. We got this parrot as a gift–my brother-in-law came back from Africa one Christmas with parrots for the family, and we ended up with the ornery one. And over the years, stories about her have become so legendary, she is such an entertaining thing (when she’s not being vicious). I have written about her for my newspaper column before and people were so interested in her. At dinner parties, she becomes the focus of everyone’s interest–we’ve had her now for almost 2 decades and people are always so entertained by her and stories about her, so I thought it would be fun to do a book. My sort of funny backstory is YEARS ago, I was sitting in a bat mitzvah, and I get really antsy when I’m a captive audience, especially when everything isn’t in a language I can remotely understand. So when I was sitting there for like 3-1/2 arduous hours (it was a high holiday so they had a huge service with it), I pulled out a notebook and pen and HANDWROTE four chapters of what would eventually become this book…
ROBERTA: Now I have to ask my standard question. If my character, psychologist Dr. Rebecca Butterman, was to see your character in therapy, what would they discuss?

JENNY:  Oy, this is a tricky one!

But let’s say my parrot, Graycie, has an appointment with Dr. Butterman. As if that could fix her.
I think it would go something like this:
“Dr. Butterman,” she snaps, pecking at the good doctor, aiming her steely beak at anything within striking distance, “I was separated as an infant from the only family I knew, and taken to this strange land and expected to adapt to this family but I want to be back in my land. I want to be free, to soar through the air, to flap my wings and have them work as they were intended.”
“How does that make you feel?” Dr. Butterman asks her, dodging that beak again, just a split second before it hit its intended target (her face). “Ouch, dammit. What the hell was that for?”
“I’m mad. That’s what. And bored. And lonely. How do you think it would be, spending all of your days stuck in a house, no breeze wafting through your feathers, just hanging around? would you like it?”
“But your family loves you,” the doctor replies. “They care for you and make certain you are safe.”
Graycie hangs her head. “Safe? For what? So I can hang around here and do nothing for the rest of my life?”
Dr. Butterman nods, understanding her point. “Well, look at this, you’ll have plenty of practice time to nail that family of yours with your beak, right?”
Graycie juts her beak out, looking pensive. “Hmmm. Good point. Well, it does feel pretty good when I clamp my beak down into that lady’s flesh.”
“Perhaps you might want to consider a more civilized approach to whiling away the hours, though? Say, maybe wood carving?”
“Hey, woodcarving. Now why didn’t I think of that?”
“That’s what you’re paying me the big bucks for, Graycie. That’s what you’re paying me for.”
ROBERTA:  Wonderful Jenny (and Graycie!) Good luck with the book. You can read more about WINGING IT on Jenny’s website or watch a video about Graycie here.

Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

hprdrivetime-final-300med-2Today we’re celebrating DRIVE TIME, the new release from my cybergirlfriend and multi-talented blog sister, Hank Ryan. Hank not only writes mysteries, she’s an investigative reporter for the Boston NBC affiliate. She’s won 26 Emmies to go with her Agatha award for best first mystery for Prime Time. (How does she fit all that on the mantle?) Welcome Hank and congratulations!

Tell us about Drive Time.


HANK:  DRIVE TIME is about secrets. TV reporter Charlie McNally’s working on a story about a dangerous scheme that could absolutely happen…and let me just say, if you own a car, or rent a car, you’ll never look at your vehicle the same way after reading DRIVE TIME. In fact, after writing the book, I now get a bit creeped out when I go into a parking garage. That’s all I‘ll say.

Charlie’s also drawn into another frightening situation—this one at the prep school where her fiancé is an English professor. When Charlie learns a secret that might put her step-daughter-to-be in danger, and might also be an blockbuster investigative story—how does she balance her loyalty to her husband-to-be—with her need to protect the public?

So this is a tough one for Charlie. And she must make many life-changing decisions. Just when she begins to think she might be able to have it all—a terrific career and a new husband and a new life–revenge, extortion and murder may bring it all to a crashing halt.

How did the character of Charlotte ‘Charlie’ McNally come about?


HANK:  I have NO idea. She was born when I got a weird spam in my email. It was what looked like lines from a play by Shakespeare.  I thought–why would someone send a spam like that?  And it crossed my mind–maybe it’s a secret message.

I still get goose bumps telling you about it. And I knew, after all those years of wanting to write a mystery, that was my plot. And that turned out to be the Agatha-winning PRIME TIME. But Charlie? Well, I knew I had a good story, but who would tell it? A television reporter, of course. And she just instantly popped into my head. Named, fully formed. I knew her perfectly.

The other characters were more difficult to get to know. But now, Charlie surprises me a lot! And I love when that happens.

hpr-stoolvertcropped2mug-300lgAny mistakes you’ve made along the way, have you learned anything from them?


HANK:  Hah. That’s another long blog for another day. Mistakes? Ah, on a huge level, people always yell at me for working all the time. ALL the time. Is that a mistake? None of this would have happened without that. Would I change it? I have to say no. So is that a mistake? I’m not sure.  On a tiny level, I should have put together a mailing list of bookstores. Still haven’t done that. Wish I had.

Advice to fledgling writers and journalists?

HANK:  For journalists: Don’t be afraid. Be very afraid. Be scrupulously careful. Think. And think again. Never give up.

For writers? On my bulletin board there are two quotes. One is a Zen saying: “Leap and the net will appear.” To me, that means: Just do it. The other says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” And I think that’s so wonderful—just have the confidence to carry on. Writing is tough, arduous, not always rewarding in the moment—but no successful author has ever had an easy path. When you hit an obstacle, pat yourself on the back. You’re a writer!

Congratulations on the new book Hank! You can read more about Hank and her book at her website. You can also visit her every week at Jungle Red Writers.