Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THE PERFECT APPLE PIE

by Sonja Stone


A PASTRY CHEF'S FAVORITE DESERT


Francine's post (Comfort Food for Any Crisis) resonated deeply with me. Like Francine, I often express my love by feeding people. I learned it from my mother--she's Lebanese, and in our culture, sharing food is vitally important.

Wedding cake designed by Sonja Stone
Wedding cake, designed by Sonja Stone
I have a confession to make: I'm a culinary snob. I like single origin chocolate from Madagascar, Vietnamese cinnamon, and always sweet, unsalted butter. My flour is from King Arthur's, my dutch-process cocoa from Penzey's, my coffee beans from Java Distribution.

Mini fruit tarts with vanilla bean pastry cream

I attended Le Cordon Bleu, but my snobbery began well before any professional pastry training. My mother always asks herself before eating dessert, "Is it worth the calories?" If it is, fantastic! We enjoy. But if it's not, nothing doing.

pumpkin pie with fallen leaves garnish
pumpkin pie with fallen leaves garnish

A few years ago, my mother's house burned to the ground. She lost everything. The remains had to be totaled, and a new house built in its place. A few weeks after the fire, as I was sifting through the rubble, I found a box of treasures: my mother's most cherished recipes, written on looseleaf paper, tucked inside manilla folders, stuck in a cardboard box on a kitchen shelf, directly over where the fire originated.

It was a tiny miracle. 

Of all the amazing recipes and sweet creations I've made over the years, my all-time-hands-down-without-a-doubt-wouldn't-trade-it-for-the-world favorite is my mother's apple pie.

Perfect Apple Pie
Mom's apple pie--post house fire

Naturally, as a pastry chef, I've slightly modified the recipe. But not much. The SECRET to making this the Perfect Apple Pie is to slice the apples paper thin.

My mom. Eating is always an event for our family!

Rebecca Wilson's Perfect Apple Pie (with Sonja's modifications) :)

INGREDIENTS:

10 Granny Smith apples
sprinkling of lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Dash of salt
2 Tbsp butter

optional:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar-in-the-raw

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Peel, core, and slice the apples paper thin (sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent oxidizing)
2. Combine sugar, flour, spices, and salt
3. Mix dry ingredients with apples
4. Put in a 9" pastry-lined pie pan, and dot with butter (it will seem like a lot of filling, but it'll deflate)
5. Moisten the edges with water or the egg, and add top crust
6. Optional: Brush top crust with egg and sprinkle with raw sugar
7. Cut slits in the top crust to vent, cover edges with foil (to prevent burning), and bake for 50 minutes

Naturally, a pie is only as good as its crust. I use Sally Schneider's Foolproof Flaky Butter Pastry recipe from A NEW WAY TO COOK.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We Rogues are so grateful for all of you!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

COMFORT FOOD FOR ANY CRISIS

By Francine Mathews

My family is sick to death of the phrase Food is Love. I trot it out on numerous occasions: when my son texts a picture of the grilled salmon his girlfriend left plated for him after his first day of work; when I spend three days shopping and preparing dinner for ten; or when I anxiously await the return of a kid from college, so I can finally grill his cheese sandwich again. I love recipes and cookbooks and great seasonal produce and perfect cuts of meat or fish. When I travel, I look forward to sampling new cuisine as much as new countryside. The characters in my books connect at tables over meals. I research food for every period and setting I employ in storytelling.

And when crisis strikes, I hole myself up in the kitchen. 

A profound emptiness or grief at one's core can sometimes be soothed--although never cured--by stirring a pot. Nora Ephron realized this fully, of course, in her quasi-fictional memoir Heartburn, but it's a truth that can't be repeated too often. Ephron's touchstone in those pages is rice pudding, the dish that returns us to the nursery. My favorite recent cookbook, however, is Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life (Random House, 2015). Reichl is known the world over as a restaurant critic and cookbook author, but this volume chronicles her shock when the magazine she edited, Gourmet, was summarily shut down in a Conde Nast purge and the entire food community she'd cultivated was put to the sword. The book reads like a diary of her recovery, punctuated by Reichl's abstractly-composed tweets. The recipes are rarely time-consuming or intimidating. They're about comfort and impulse and reconnection with living.

There have been too many types of loss, and too many who've experienced them, in 2017: floods and fires and the crushing force of 130 mph winds, madmen with automatic rifles and trucks driven out of control, and even, God help us, the resurgence of bubonic plague. For my part, the year has brought a handful of untimely deaths of people I loved. A good meal cannot end grief or avert chaos. But it can comfort. It can assuage. It can remind us that warmth and light and flavor remain in the world. And some days, that's enough.

Here are a few of my favorite comfort foods, for when the blizzard is raging or the wolf is at the door.

Ruth Reichl's Diva of Grilled Cheese (My Kitchen Year, p. 86)

Gather a group of shallots, leeks, scallions and an onion red, yellow, or white--as many members of the allium family as you have on hand--and chop them into a small heap. Add a minced clove of garlic. Grate a few generous handfuls of the best cheddar you can afford (Montgomery is particularly appealing), set a little aside, and gently combine the rest with the onion mixture.

Butter one side of thickly sliced bread and heap as much of the mixture as possible between the slices. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread (this will keep it from scorching on the griddle). Press the reserved grated cheese to the outside of the bread, where it will create a wonderfully crisp and shaggy crust, giving your sandwich an entirely new dimension.

Fry on a heated griddle or in a skillet about 4 minutes a side, until the cheese is softly melted.

TO WATCH RUTH MAKE IT: https://youtu.be/n90HIGDiZNE


Mark Bittman's Braised Lamb With Red Wine and Prunes (New York Times Cooking)

This is one of the simplest dishes ever. And it is phenomenally flavorful, deeply satisfying, feeds a small village. Don't be afraid of the prunes. They melt into velvet.

Cut two pounds of lamb into 2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brown in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove.

Add one chopped onion,  1 C diced or sliced carrots, 1 T minced garlic, 1 C pitted prunes, 2 tsps minced ginger root, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 1/2 C red wine, 1/2 C chicken stock, and the browned lamb. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.

Cover and cook until lamb is tender, roughly 2 hours (or more). Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over rice or couscous.

My Mother's Apple Crisp


My mother died nearly eight years ago. I have this recipe memorized. I make it whenever my elder son is home, because it says HOME to him.

Peel and core 8 strongly-flavored, not too sweet, large apples.
Thinly slice into a 9x13 pyrex dish or similar casserole.
Pour 1/2 C orange juice over the apples.
Toss with a well-blended mixture of 1/4 C sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Top with a crumb topping made from 3/4 C sugar, 1 1/2 C flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 12 T unsalted butter, cut in with two knives, a wire pastry blender, or processed in a food processor until it achieves the texture of crumb topping.
Cook at 350 degrees for one hour.
Serve warm with eggnog, rum raisin, or cinnamon ice cream.


And always remember:

Food Is Love. Where do you find comfort?

Cheers,
Francine





Friday, November 17, 2017

CARLA NEGGERS GOES ROGUE

...posted by Karna Small Bodman

We are delighted to welcome guest blogger, Carla Neggers, the New York Times bestselling author of over 60 thrillers and mysteries which have ben translated into 24 languages and sold in 35 countries. 

Carla Neggers
Carla is from New England and travels extensively to research her settings. Besides the Northeast, one of her favorite locations is Ireland. She shares her experiences and characters with us here:

One of my joys as a writer is creating a sense of place in my stories—transporting readers to an Irish country lane, a wintry Maine, autumn in the New England woods or any of the other places my characters find themselves. Thief's Mark, my latest suspense novel, opens in Dublin with FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan enjoying the last day of their Irish honeymoon. Of course, trouble finds them, this time landing them in the Cotswolds after a man is found dead at the country home of wealthy English art thief Oliver York.


 With rare exception, I've been to every place where I've set scenes. I'm a native New Englander, and Boston, where Emma and Colin are based, is "my" city. My husband and I met as students at Boston University. (I started out as a French horn major; true story!) Both our grown kids live there now. I've hiked many miles in the Cotswolds, wandered through Scotland and enjoyed a stay at London's Claridge's Hotel, Oliver's favorite hangout when he's at his Mayfair apartment.

Every book in the Sharpe and Donovan series has a touch of Ireland. Emma's octogenarian grandfather, a renowned private art detective, is based in Dublin, and Irish priest Finian Bracken now serves a church in Colin's hometown on the Maine coast. Finian and his twin brother, Declan, launched a whiskey distillery in the Kerry hills, but Finian quit the business and became a priest after tragedy struck his family.

I visit Ireland often, whether with Joe, our gang or on my own. When I was writing Saint's Gate, the book that introduces Emma and Colin, I spent three weeks in a tiny hideaway on the southwest Irish coast.
 Father Bracken (Colin says he looks like Bono) was just coming to life for me. I took a break and found my way to St. Finian's Holy Well on the edge of Kenmare village, literally at the base of an old cemetery. The well wasn't easy to find or to get to, and, of course, it started to rain. That helped Finian take shape, and he and Emma meet in the story in that spot.

As many times as I've visited Ireland, there's always something new to see and learn. In September, I ran the Dingle half-marathon. That was a first for me. Hmm. Must go back soon!

While I often draw on personal experience and research when I describe a place, the scene is never through my eyes—it's through the eyes of the point-of-view character. What Emma notices, for instance—what she sees, smells, hears, feels—is because of who she is, what she knows, what's going on in her life at that moment.

In those opening scenes in Thief's Mark, Emma sees Dublin differently from Colin because she worked with her grandfather there for several months before she joined the FBI. The walk from their hotel to her grandfather's house conjures up memories for her that it doesn't for Colin. He isn't as familiar with Dublin, but the details he'd notice would be different, anyway, because of who he is, his experience as an undercover agent, his mood as they wrap up their honeymoon and deal with a break-in at her grandfather's house that points to their elusive art thief.



Ultimately, setting is about the story, and I love the fun—and the challenge—of making a place and the people in it come alive.....Carla Neggers

Thanks, Carla for showing how you've incorporated so many great locations in your novels and how very important they are! Now, I hope our readers will check out Carla's new book, Thief's Mark - it's terrific.

.....Karna Small Bodman







Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pandemic Flu, Crisis and and a new book announcement!

The fifth in the Emma Caldridge series!
by Jamie Freveletti

I'm excited to announce the launch of my latest thriller, Blood Run! It's the fifth in the Emma Caldridge series and set in the Sahara desert. Because Caldridge is a bio chemist, she usually deals with viruses, bacteria, or other deadly combinations of natural and not so natural biochemical weapons and their ability to create a crisis. And because we're discussing how a crisis can inform a story, I'll just say that since I began writing the Emma Caldridge series I've learned a ton about pandemics.

 In 2014, vials of Smallpox virus were found in a storage closet in a soon to be closed NIH campus building...

The idea for Blood Run came from an actual event: in 2014, vials of Smallpox virus were found in a storage closet in a soon to be closed NIH campus building. Because Smallpox is highly contagious, any remaining virus is supposed to be kept under lock and key. These stray vials were created in 1954 and not stored in any climate controlled fashion, but when they were tested it was discovered that they were still viable. An official called the discovery a problem with "inventory control." So go the best laid plans, eh? When I read the story I thought about the scientist in Crichton's Jurassic Park. Remember the Jeff Goldblum character, the scientist studying chaos theory who intoned "Life....uh..will find a way?" So true. You can read the smallpox article here. This real life story that inspired Blood Run captured the imagination of our video team, the ad and marketing geniuses at the Emmy award winning Livelab, and they created a short video for Blood Run, (which I'm premiering here!)

We've had many pandemics over the centuries, the Black Death being the most famous in history. It killed an estimated 25 million and that toll may have been met or surpassed by a more recent and deadly virus in just the last century- the Spanish Flu of 1918. Estimates place the death rate for that virus at 20 to 50 million worldwide. The recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine gives an historical account of the Spanish Flu and how it was initially ignored and allowed to spread before officials finally realized that they had a massive pandemic on their hands. The article makes for fascinating reading and includes black and white photos that give an idea of the crisis. It ends with a sobering present day anecdote that reveals how easily our current public health officials can be lulled, just as they were in 1918.

So crisis can often give authors ideas for thrillers that address issues and perhaps allow for creative ways to solve them. Some, like Jurassic Park, imagine what might happen and act as a warning to tread carefully when messing with nature. And some, like Blood Run, can imagine what might happen from a failure of inventory control when that inventory is highly dangerous. Fiction is not real, of course, but it does allow a way to work through an imagined crisis in a safe setting. And also can provide some great reading along the way!

Jamie Freveletti










Sunday, November 12, 2017

Crises Made Into Thrillers

Posted by Karna Small Bodman

This month we are writing about crises we have experienced - personally or professionally -- that we may have woven into our thrillers. My Rogue colleagues have gone through many harrowing and challenging emergencies - from hurricanes and tornadoes to national security disasters.  How we deal with them -- and how a great hero or heroine would handle them -- is, of course, the stuff of great stories.

While I did experience earthquakes living in San Francisco some yeas ago,  the calamities most seared in my memory occurred during my service in The White House. Many of you will also recall these developments, even after so many years.  The first one occurred just two months after the inauguration of President Reagan.  I was scheduled to be in the car with Press Secretary Jim Brady on March 30, 1981.  But I recall standing in front of his desk there in the West Wing explaining that I had a ton of press calls to return and research to do before his next briefing (I was his Deputy at the time)I remember his replying that this event was "No big deal - just a speech over at the Hilton Hotel. I have to go anyway. You stay here and do the work. I'll see you after lunch."  As everybody knows, when the President and staff walked out of the Hilton that fateful day (I would have been standing right next to Jim, I'm sure) -- that's when John Hinkley fired 6 shots in 3 seconds, combat style, using two hands -- wounding Jim, two others and then hitting the President as he raised his arm to wave to the crowd.

Pres. Reagan - Assassination Attempt
Secret Service Chief, Jerry Parr, seen to the left in the trench coat here, shoved Reagan into the car which then raced to the hospital.  After the surgery we learned (but did not report to the nation at that time) that the bullet was lodged ONE INCH FROM HIS HEART.  While several members of the senior staff went to the hospital to monitor this disastrous situation, I spent the day in the Situation Room as members of the Cabinet gathered to handle the investigation of Hinkley and any other "potential attackers" along with contacting leaders of Congress, allies and especially watching for any reaction of the Soviet Union during our time of crisis.  Many books and article have been written about this whole scenario, and while I have not included this specific set of events into my thrillers, I have used the "tension" felt in the Situation Room, settings throughout The White House along with composites of many key personalities on hand.

When President Reagan recovered, like all presidents, he had to handle many other crises here and around the world. One of the first was the strike by the air traffic controllers - known as the PATCO strike.
When the controllers asked for a raise, Reagan looked at the numbers and offered them an 11% hike.  But they said it was not enough for them, and even though they ALL had signed an agreement NOT to strike, when 13,000 of them walked out, the President fired them and wrote the statement himself. Some 7,000 flights were cancelled, but order was eventually restored when many controllers from military bases rushed to fill the void until new ones could be hired and trained.  All the while the world was watching "the cowboy from Hollywood" to see just how tough he would be. Sometime later I recall Secretary of State George Shultz saying, "The statement Reagan wrote firing the air traffic controllers was the most important FOREIGN  POLICY statement to date." And I took his point.

I did use that incident in my second novel GAMBIT which is a story about a threat to our commercial airliners.  I was inspired to write it not only because of the fall-out from that PATCO strike, but watching the disaster of the shooting down of a Korean Jetliner (KAL 007) by the Soviets when it happened to stray into Russian territory.  269 innocent passengers were killed, and that included an American Congressman who had been on board.

As in every administration there were many other terrible incidents that the President had to handle -- any one of them could be the genesis of a thriller. For example, the attempted assassination of the Pope, the hijacking of the Achille Laura cruise ship by Palestinian militants who murdered an American on board simply because he was Jewish -- and, he was in a wheelchair!!!

Then there were numerous threats from the Soviet Union. When President Reagan took office, the Soviets had about a 3-1 advantage over us in large inter-continental missiles, to say nothing about their force of intermediate-range missiles.  This challenge led the President to announce a program I have written about before because it was so new, so unique, and so maligned at the time as being expensive, unworkable and "crazy." I am talking about his Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI - or "Star Wars" as one columnist dubbed it. Now, so many years later, these defensive systems have been deployed around the world for the protection of our troops and allies and have had a rather impressive record of "shoot-downs" of enemy missiles, especially in Israel, and most recently in Saudi Arabia. The system is now also being deployed as a counter to the biggest threat to our nation in recent history -- the threat of an EMP attack. 
EMP attack fries all electronics

If an enemy ever detonated even a small nuclear device high up in the atmosphere, it would create an "Electro-Magnetic-Pulse" that would "fry" all electronics on the ground. And just a few weeks ago, the dictator of North Korea threatened just such an attack on the United States.  If he ever pulled that off, certain parts of our country would be left with no communications, cell phones, computers, refrigeration, sanitation, transportation -- in effect setting us back to the year 1910.  It is this very threat that led me to write my latest international thriller CASTLE BRAVO.

As I said at the outset, many of my Rogue colleagues, along with other great authors of thrillers (and mysteries) have experienced any number of crises in their lives and have featured them in their in their stories.  So my question for you is this: what crises or challenges have YOU experienced that you believe could be the basis of a pretty good thriller.  Think about that and do leave a comment at the end here.

We would all love to have your thoughts.  Now, thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

...submitted by Karna Small Bodman

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

DIABETES: Have You Been Tested?

by K.J. Howe

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.   It's staggering how widespread diabetes is--over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed, and it's possible 8 million more have this illness and don't know it.  It is a worldwide issue with over 380 million people dealing with diabetes across the globe.  And the problem is growing.

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1 (T1D) is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone necessary for people to get energy from food because the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells--beta cells--in the pancreas.  Only five percent of people with diabetes have T1D.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not use insulin properly.  This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to compensate for the dysfunction, but over time, the pancreas isn't able to keep up and can't make enough insulin to maintain blood sugar levels at normal levels.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes can include:    

* Unusual thirst
* Frequent urination
* Weight change (gain or loss)
* Extreme fatigue/lack of energy
* Blurred vision
* Frequent or recurring infections
* Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
* Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet
* Trouble with erections

If you have any of these symptoms, have your doctor test your blood sugar levels right away.  Even if you don't have symptoms, it's smart to get checked, as many people with type 2 diabetes may have no symptoms.

In The Freedom Broker, my character Thea Paris has T1D, and she uses an insulin pump to keep her blood sugar levels steady while traveling to the globe's hotspots to bring hostages home.  I wanted to demonstrate that having a chronic illness doesn't have to stop you from enjoying an active and dynamic life.  There are many people with diabetes who are prospering in their chosen fields.


Fans of Interview with the Vampire, did you know that Anne Rice has type 1 diabetes?  Celebrities who have diabetes include Sharon Stone, Halle Berry, Selma Hayek, Paul Sorvino, Bret Michaels, Vanessa Williams, Christopher Biggins, Larry King, Victor Garber, Tom Hanks, Dick Clark.

Athletes who have diabetes include Ben Coker, Jay Cutler, Billie Jean King, Ryan Reed, Team Novo Nordisk, Charlie Kimball, Joe Eldridge, and Steve Redgrave.

Musicians who have diabetes include Aretha Franklin, Nick Jonas, Bret Michaels, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, and Damon Dash.

Please spread the word about the signs and symptoms, and have your loved ones checked for diabetes.  If you'd like more information, visit diabetes.ca or diabetes.org.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tornado Rules


S. Lee Manning: This month at Rogue Women Writers, we’re writing about natural disasters – real and fictional. I’ve never written about a natural disaster. Never really experienced one either, although as a child of the Mid-West, I did have a close brush with a tornado or two back in 1974 when 148 tornados swept through the South and Midwest. So from my position of experience,  I will give a few tips on what to do and what not to do when a tornado is nigh.

1. Try to find a safe place, not your car, and not the roof of a fraternity.


So, on a spring day in 1974, my sister and I, who were probably fighting since that was what we did, were in the car driving back from the University of Cincinnati to the apartment we shared with my friend Ethel when we heard the news. Tornados had been spotted approaching Cincinnati. We figured we had enough time to get home so we decided to risk it and drive. Not the smartest move – but a lot smarter than the scores of fraternity boys, some with cameras, who perched on the roofs of the frat houses lining the road for a better look at the funnel cloud.

We were lucky. We got to the apartment unscathed. As we reached the apartment, we looked across a valley and up to the Western Hills – and on the top of the ridge, a tornado was ripping up homes. It was a bone chilling sight.

The fraternity boys also got lucky. The tornados did not take the leap across the valley – so a generation of Cincinnati frat boys lived to reproduce.

 2.  If you’re heading to the basement because a tornado is coming, don’t stop to answer the phone.

This should be self evident – to anyone who’s not nuts, but anyway...

Once we reached our apartment, where Ethel was cowering in a corner, I quickly called my mother. “Tornados headed your way.”

“I know,” she said. “The tree in the front yard just fell over. I was going into the basement when the phone rang.”

Like I said. Should be self-evident. My mother. Loved her but there you go. Of course she’d answer a phone with a tornado breathing down her neck.

3. Opening the windows does nothing.

As a child, I’d heard that you should open windows when a tornado approaches – that otherwise the pressure difference between the house and the tornado would make the house explode.

As a child, I also thought that green jello with marshmallows in it was a vegetable. Turns out I was wrong both times.

The winds are what rip apart a house, not some sort of pressure nonsense. Opening windows just takes time that you should be spending getting to a safer place. Opening windows will also let the rain in, which won’t matter if a tornado actually hits, but which could ruin your stereo – that’s a device we old people used to use to play music – if the tornado misses you.

 Oh, and green jello with marshmallows does not count as a vegetable.


We opened our windows – because I was young and stupid. See above about stereos and rain.

4. Get to a basement or stay away from the windows. Preferably both.

This is actually important. First, stay away from windows. Self-evident. Windows break. Stuff comes through windows.

Second, the basement – get there. There’s a reason that Dorothy and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry were heading for the underground storm shelter when the most famous tornado in movie history hit. It really is safer.

However, if you are a resident in a second story apartment, you might not have a basement to retreat to. We didn’t.

There was a basement apartment with three weird guys who we didn’t really know all that well, but tornados make good neighbors. We knocked on the door, said TORNADO, and they let us in. The guys turned out to be what we’d probably consider nerds in this day and age – rather than serial killers – so it could have been a lot worse. All of us huddled against the wall. Someone, I think Ethel, had grass. What do you want – it was 1974 – and there was a tornado.

5. Have a flashlight and a radio in case the power goes out.

We didn’t have either, but generally just seems like a good idea when there’s a serious storm. Along with water. There’s a lot more things to have these days – like your cell phone and your cell phone charger – but those were simpler times.

6. Wait for the all clear.

That’s what the radio or the cell phone is for. Tornados are funny things. They jump around – and you do want to wait until they’re finished before you say adieu to the now stoned weird guys in the basement apartment.

We did. The radio announced that the tornados had passed. We thanked our downstairs neighbors and left. Then we called my mother, who had lost a tree but was fine.

And that is the total sum of my experience with tornados – along with the total sum of my advice. We - my sister, Ethel, the three weird guys, my mother, and I – had been lucky. The tornados that brushed by us wiped out the town of Xenia, Ohio, killing thirty-three people.

Wait, I lied. One last tip:

7. If you’re lucky enough to escape a natural disaster unscathed and with funny stories about weird guys in the basement, remember that not everyone does. Be generous and kind to those for whom a natural disaster actually is a disaster.

To that effect – remember all the people affected this year by hurricanes and fire who still need help.  The two links below will help you find a reputable charity to help those still suffering.





Friday, November 3, 2017

WENDY CORSI STAUB (the crazy cat lady) GOES ROGUE


from Chris Goff

The Rogue Women Writers want to welcome Wendy Corsi Staub, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense author who has written more than 80 novels and twice been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. I first met her years ago at the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver. She was an editor then, and I was unpublished. I thought she was cool then. Now we're both published by Crooked Lane Books, and I get to hang out with her at publisher parties. Pinch me! Smart, funny, energetic and generous, Wendy is a great storyteller. Thanks for taking the time to bask In The Rogue Limelight.   

Growing up, I steered clear of Narnia. As an English major, I loathed Animal Farm. Working part time at a bookstore, I gave Watership Down a wide berth. So, yeah, NO. I’ve never been a fan of books about animals with human characteristics, other than Charlotte’s Web--ironic, since I’m terrified of eight-legged creatures.

I do, however, have great affection for four legged ones. Particularly cats. I just don’t want them talking and solving crimes in the books that I read and write. Or, necessarily, in real life.

So I was taken aback when a longtime reader mentioned that she’d read everything I’ve ever written except my recent Lily Dale mystery series because “It’s about paranormal cat detectives…wait, isn’t it?” she added, seeing my dismay.

It is not. But I can see why she may have gotten that impression, and I figured I’d better set the record straight now, as the third book in the series, DEAD OF WINTER, goes on sale (Crooked Lane, November 7).

The series is set in quirky Lily Dale, New York, a very real Victorian lakeside cottage colony located a few miles from my hometown. Back in the 1800s, the Dale was the birthplace of the American Spiritualist movement, and remains populated by psychic mediums, people who can talk to the dead. Or can they?

My heroine, Bella Jordan, a pragmatic former science teacher, doesn’t think so. As the new proprietor of the Dale’s Valley View Guesthouse, she can usually find a logical explanation for frequent strange goings on around the village. Usually. Unlike her neighbors, she doesn’t rely on a sixth sense or communication with murder victims themselves to solve the mysteries surrounding their deaths. She uses good old-fashioned detective work.

The series opener, NINE LIVES (November, 2015), was inspired by an enormously pregnant stray tabby who showed up on our family’s doorstep a few years ago and refused to leave. My husband is deathly allergic to cats, but this one was deathly ill. Long and dramatic story short, she delivered six kittens, and we rushed her and the babies an emergency vet who saved them all. We eventually found homes for the sweet little litter. My husband was as enamored with the beautiful, enigmatic mama as our teenaged sons and I were. We named her Chance the Cat, and she lives with us, and as I write this blog, my husband is at the allergist getting his weekly shot.

I hadn’t intended to write a traditional mystery series, as I have a thriving career writing psychological suspense novels for HarperCollins, and no longer even have time to write women’s fiction under my pseudonym Wendy Markham. But on the very day Chance first showed up on our doorstep, my agent and I had had lunch with well-respected editor Matt Martz, who wanted me to write for his new publishing house, Crooked Lane. It was a flattering invitation, but I had a multi-book Harper contract with tight deadlines, so I left feeling like the girl who has a longtime boyfriend and has just been asked out by the cute new guy at school.

When I got home from that lunch…there she was. Chance the Cat.


In Lily Dale, the mediums believe there are no coincidences. And the community is very fond of its pets, particularly cats, considered mystical creatures who always cross our paths for a reason.

I had an epiphany the morning after Chance and her babies had survived almost certain death, while I was wondering how we were going to pay a ginormous (thou$ands!) veterinary bill for a stray. I was supposed to write about her! For Matt, and Crooked Lane!

The premise for my Lily Dale series opens with Bella, having just lost her husband, her job, and the roof over their heads, moving with her little boy, Max, halfway across the country to live with her only relative—her mother-in-law, Millicent, whom Bella has always privately called Maleficent. But mid-trip, a pregnant stray tabby named--what else?--Chance the Cat literally plops herself in their path, so they detour to return her to an innkeeper who lives in—you guessed it—Lily Dale. She also happens to have just turned up floating facedown in the lake. An ailing Chance has eight kittens, Bella and Max stick around to care for them, run the guesthouse, and solve the owner’s murder.  

The series caught on with readers, even as real life feline rescue caught on with me. A year after we adopted Chance, having by then fostered for several local animal shelters, I received a call about an orphaned weeks-old kitten who’d been found crying under a Harlem bridge and was turned in to Manhattan’s kill shelter. I drove down to get him out, and fell in love. His name is Chapter—Li’l Chap, Chappy or The Chap for (not-so-) short, and he came to stay, temporarily, we thought, with us and Chance. She’d loathed all of our female fosters with all the fire in her alpha soul, but a few days after Chappy arrived, I found her grooming him as if he were her own. Thus, Chappy, a Russian Blue, found his way into our home for good, and into the second of my Lily Dale mysteries, SOMETHING BURIED, SOMETHING BLUE (November 2016)

Allergy shots are helping, but my husband can barely breathe at this point, so we can no longer foster. But a few months after Chappy arrived, a little black cat showed up on our doorstep, loudly complaining about the chill in the air, the field mouse that got away, the alpha tabby glaring at him from our back window. I fed him, because I’m a pushover for a sparkling feline conversationalist with striking kiwi eyes. He stuck around, and I started calling him Sanchez—after dashing dark-haired Aaron Sanchez, my favorite chef on my favorite Food Network show, Chopped.  

No, we haven’t taken him in. We’re not crazy cat people. No, really, we’re not. But we may have set him up in a heated little house on our deck, where he’s safe and snug and looks forward to three (or more) meals a day, lots of affection from our family, and flirting with the lovely Chance, an indoor-only gal who’s made it clear she has no interest in the Latin Lover on the deck.

And yes, like Chance and Chappy Sanchez has made his way into my Lily Dale series.

In DEAD OF WINTER, an outspoken black kitty with kiwi eyes crosses paths with an asthmatic killer Elvis imitator (yes, you read that right) roaming the Dale in search of a missing priceless treasure. Meanwhile, Christmas is coming and an impoverished Bella is wondering how Santa is ever going to visit Valley View for Max, whose best friend, Jiffy Arden, the precocious psychic kid next door, has gone missing in a December blizzard—just as he’d predicted months ago. I hope you’ll join me, Bella, and a colorful collection of quirky characters for this light-hearted mystery full of twists and turns and yes, cameos by cats who would say thank you, thank you very much—if they could say something other than Meow. Guess you’ll have to go to Narnia for that…but I’ll see you in Lily Dale!




Thursday, November 2, 2017

Five Disaster Novels for Fun & Sleepless Nights


Mary Shelley
Gayle Lynds:  You’re lying in bed.  Your heart is pounding.  Sweat beads up on your forehead.  Your grip tightens on the disaster thriller you’re reading.  Sleep?   No way.  You’ve got to finish the book!

Ah, the sweetness of a novel that engages viscerally.  In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s feast on tales of catastrophe and celebrate with the characters as they survive and thrive. 

With that in mind, here’s a meaty selection of five disaster novels – some for adults, others for young adults – listed by the year in which they were published:

The Last Man by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 1826.  She is also the author of Frankenstein.  This ground-breaking tale created a new genre, a stirring brew of sociology, the Gothic, and
Ursula le Guin
romantic suspense.  It’s the 22nd century, and Lionel Verney appears on his way to becoming the sole survivor of the human race in a disintegrating world ravaged by an uncontrollable plague.  “The Last Man is an adult fairy story of plague-destroying deaths, graphic battle scenes, and impassioned love.” – Romantic Circles

The Dispossessed by Ursula le Guin, 1974.  In this award-winning science fiction tour de force, a planet of anarchists has been isolated from the rest of the civilized universe.  Only Shevek, a brilliant physicist, can challenge the rigid culture.  The Dispossessed not only won Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, it also won the internationally important National Book Award.
Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, 2000.  In this dystopian classic, an African-American teenage girl flees into a world of social chaos and violence caused by environmental and economic crises.  At last seeing a vision of humanity’s destiny, she becomes a prophet with a revolutionary idea called Earthseed.  “There isn't a page in this vivid and frightening story that fails to grip the reader.” – San Jose Mercury News

Bones of Faerie by Jani Lee Simmer, 2009.  A war between the faerie world and the human world has destroyed Faerie and left humans
Jani Lee Simmer

subsisting in farming communities.  All magic is outlawed.  But plants have become dangerous, crops have to be wrestled from the fields, and the town where 15-year-old Liza lives is surrounded by a forest threatening to those who enter.  “A thought-provoking and thrilling story about a girl at war with herself and her own magical abilities.” – School Library Journal

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 2014.  Civilization as we know it is over.  A visionary troupe of actors and musicians play the scattered outposts of civilization, risking everything for art and humanity.  Station Eleven was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.  The Seattle Times calls Station Eleven “A truly haunting book ... one that is hard to put down.”
Emily St. John Mandel

Fire can destroy – or it can forge.  Thrillers are perfect vehicles through which readers can face the conflagrations of life and live to enjoy the next rousing tale. 

May your Thanksgiving 🦃 be filled with family & friends 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧, and good books 📚.