Cheers to my top-ten authors, my top-tier team, The Circle of Thirteen fans – and a drink to celebrate the New Year

The Circle of Thirteen took flight in 2013, and there are lots of people to thank.thecircleofthirteen

Let’s start with an author’s little secret: the main audience you write for is other writers. If they like what you’ve written, you’re a success. Anything else you get is just icing on the cake.

With that in mind, here are my top ten authors of the year. It’s one thing to be supportive of a fellow author, but Isabel Allende, John Lescroart, David Corbett, Sheldon Siegel, Cara Black, Laurie King, and Katherine Neville went way beyond that. They each appeared in an author event with me, and in each case I was blown away by the insight and enthusiasm they showed while discussing The Circle of Thirteen. And many thanks also to Abraham Verghese, Lisa See, and Martin Cruz Smith who warmly endorsed the book (and I have quotes on the book jacket to prove it!)

Two radio events deserve special mention: The interview with Michael Krasny on KQED’s Forum on December 10 and on the interview with Liz Saint John on Radio Alice @97.3, which aired on -December 22. Both hosts were warm and gracious, and the shows were superb.

And cheers to my team! My agent Lisa Gallagher, my publicist Kathlene Carney, my blog-specialist Wiley Saichek, and my web-designer Steffen Rasile all did their best to try and make me look professional. My editors Christina Huffines, Diane Gedymin, Todd Bottorff and the rest of the Turner Publishing team poured every effort into the project. And Elaine, Karen West, and the rest of the Book Passage Team were sensational.

And for me, 2013 became almost the Year of the Blog. I had a wide-ranging interview with Andy Ross on his blog Ask the Agent. For Mystery Fanfare I helped answer the question: Solved: The Mystery of the Mystery Seller who became a Mystery Writer. For RT Book Reviews it was a question about my writing habits. My answer?  Writing: The Best Group Sport You’ll Ever Do By Yourself. Spinetingler Magazine wanted to know how to write like your evil twin: How Bad Can the Bad Guy Be?  And In Reference to Murder I tried to explain my favorite (if, at times, exasperating) trick of Telling the Story Backwards. With Bestsellersworld.com I talked about the pesky problem of Keeping Reality Out of the Way. With Suspense Magazine it seemed appropriate to discuss a curse, and I went after the most wicked one of all: The Curse of the Cross Genre. Fresh Fiction wanted to know, reasonably enough, where the story is hidden. I gave them a hint: Front Story, Back Story – Where do you find the Story? Then Elizabethwhite.com wanted to know how you handle uninvited guests, such as  Characters Who Invite Themselves into the Story. And it seemed appropriate with SF Signal to discuss Fact-Checking the Future.

But then the editors of Crimespree Magazine threw me for a loop. They wanted me to write a blog about recipes — recipes?  They had another alternative — I think it was pets. I had even less to say about that. But then it dawned on me:  it wouldn’t be bad for my image as a writer of thrillers to have a bit of an edge — something in character. How about a recipe for a drink?

Here’s what followed (and Happy New Year!):

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“Recipes?” the blog-master wants me to write about that? What do thriller-writers know about recipes?

We can cook up a metaphor – a recipe for success, disaster, or confusion.

We can use one as a clue. “As he examined the blood from the chef’s wound, Detective Poirot realized that some of it had spattered on to the recipe for the soufflé.”

We can use it as a puzzle. “I think I have it, Watson. It’s telling us to turn Right at the Edge of the Corpse and look Inside the Pantry….”

Cooking a meal? They’re asking the wrong writer.

But, wait. If it’s a drink recipe, that’s different.cocktail-glass-martini-clip-art_429273

I claim the recipe for the world’s best Manhattan. Here are my credentials:

  1. It’s the first drink I ever had. I was about 13 or 14 (in any case, too young to drink). My mother mixed Manhattans for New Year’s Eve and made one for me. I’m sure it was sweeter than the way I make them today. If not, I probably would have spit it out instead of remembering it fondly.
  2. I’ve studied the work of that eminent mixologist, Rachel Maddow. At the end of her Friday night show, she often hosts a “Cocktail Moment.” As she made a Manhattan one evening, I picked up a few tips. One Maddow rule:  don’t put in a cherry. “I’m opposed to any drink in which fruit displaces liquor.”
  3. Julia Moro, the protagonist of my novel The Circle of Thirteen drinks Manhattans. Although she knows that you should only drink one per evening, Julia – who at the time was a Colonel in the U.S. Army – drank two of them on page 260 and was feeling a bit drunk. But she had an excuse. She had just spent the last hour fending off a rape by her superior officer.

So here’s the recipe:

  • Pour 2 oz. of rye in a shaker filled with ice. You can use bourbon, but rye is better. I prefer Sazerac (and I’m not getting any product placement money)
  • Add 1 oz. of red vermouth. I use Dolin (still no placement money)
  • Put in three quick shakes of Angostura bitters (ditto on the money)
  • If you need a shot glass, the one from Pallino has a line at the 2 oz. mark separating the ottimista above from the pessimista below. I pour right on the line. (Should I be getting placement money?)
  • The secret ingredient is a small slice of orange. Cut an orange in half and then whack off a wedge that’s about a half-inch wide (I realize this violates the Maddow rule, but we can’t agree on everything.)
  • Put the orange in the shaker. You’ll never get a bartender to do this. So if you’re drinking out on the town, you may have to settle for an orange garnish.
  • Stir the mixture in the shaker. Do not shake. James Bond’s Martinis are shaken, but Julia Moro’s Manhattans are stirred.
  • Pour the mixture in a flat champagne glass. If the bartender offers to put it over ice, politely tell him no. However, you are allowed to raise an eyebrow.

If you want personal training on this, drop by my place around 6:00. People carrying copies of The Circle of Thirteen will get served first.