Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guest Blogger - Hank Phillippi Ryan


Is there magic in your life?

I bet there is. But whether you see it depends on where you look. The song you were thinking of--and you turn on the radio, and thats what's playing. The answer you were looking for--in the newspaper article you just happened to read. A name. A thought. An answer.

In our back yard, there's a swimming pool. It's in-ground, and built in the fifties, maybe? (In the winter, it's covered with a black tarp, and fills with snow, then rain). Its lovely and peaceful and surrounded in spring and summer and fall by flowers and graceful trees. And that's magic enough.

But several years ago, on a March afternoon, my husband and I were sitting on the couch--and suddenly heard the strangest sound. A huge splash! We looked at each other, surprised and questioning--and then looked outside.

Paddling on the pool, just as if they belonged there, were two mallards, a male and a female. I got some bread and quietly quietly opened the back door, and fed them. We named them Flo and Eddy. (Which I thought sounded nice and watery.)

The next day they came back. And brought friends. We guess they thorught the tarp-covered pool was a pond. The ducks flew in and out all spring. We fed them, and got to know them.

And then, one almost-summer day, they did not arrive.

I was so sad. (But I knew the pool people were coming soon to open the pool-- they would take off the tarp, put in chlorine, and make it nice for humans, but not so nice for ducks.) So it was time for the ducks to go. How did they know that?)

The next day, one lone female duck, who I recognized as Eddy, came back, swam around a bit, then flew away.

And they never came back.

Summer came, and then the dahlias, and then the leaves turned and the pool closed and we were in the midst of the Boston winter. And March arrived and the ice on the pool started to melt, there was another splash.

The ducks were back.

The same ducks.

And they've been back every year since. Six or seven years in a row.

Is that magic? Or what?

Other magic? How about this:

I was writing the proposals for the fifth and sixth books in the Charlotte McNally series. In book five, tentatively called Show Time, one of the characters is an agent with the Internal Revenue Service. She's a great shot, a master of disguise, (and I can say "she" because the book is far in the future, and you'll forget, right?) deeply undercover and quite an complex character. We'll call her Amanda, for now. Although that's not her real name. (In case you don't forget.)

But someone at my office at Channel 7 said: are there really IRS agents who carry guns? Sure, I said. Absolutely. There's the IRS criminal investigation division.

Amanda exists, I said. Absolutely.

The person shook her head. I don't think so, she said.

The next day, I went to get some coffee from our office coffee maker. You can imagine the scene--there's the coffee pot, and various little packets of sugar and etc, and stirrers, and whever goodies the reporters an producers bring in. Cookies, and donut holes and whatever. But that morning, there was something else. There was a glass coffee mug.

And the mug had an elaborate seal and some words stenciled on it. I picked it up--and it was an official mug from the Internal Revenue Service--Criminal Investigation. I literally looked around, to see if there was someone laughing at me. Had someone heard our coversation? And put the mug there?

But no one had.

Where did Amanda's mug come from?

You know the answer.


Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first mysteries, Prime Time (which won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2007, and was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel and a 2007 Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and Face Time (Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers. They'll both be re-issued in June and July 2009 as MIRA Books. The next in the series are Air Time (MIRA August 2009) and Drive Time (MIRA February 2010.) Her website is
As an additional treat, Hank has graciously offered a drawing for 5 signed copies of the all-new Prime Time. Winners will be selected randomly from those who comment!


  1. SO, how do you like the photo of Flo and Eddy?

    They were paddling around as usual this morning!

  2. I think they are charming and they obviously are very happy ones!

  3. You are right there is something magically about thinking of a song and Viola you turn the radio on and it's playing.

  4. Oh my gosh Hank I know what you mean. Years ago I had my uncle on my mind and I kept thinking how I needed to call him. About 4 days later we got word that he had died.
    And how many times have I had someone on my mind that I haven't talked to for a while and the phone rings and it's them.
    But your story about the ducks is wonderful! I would love, LOVE to have them visit me. Maybe if they are ever flying over Kansas you could ask them to stop by? I'll break bread with them. : ) Great blog!!

  5. Yes, Glenda (And Anonymous!), that's exactly what I mean. And it happens so often.

    In the movie world, they call them "movie moments' because sometimes "coincidences" like that are needed to flesh out a plot, or move it along.

    But do you think it's coincidence? Sometimes, sure. I somehow just think it's got to be more than that.

    Has anyone else had that happen?

    (Glenda--I'll talk to FLo and Eddy about coming to visit. They're partial to corn, so that's perfect.)

  6. Oh I'm the Anonymous one today. This was the only way my blog would let me answer today. Hank will there be any magic or magic moments in your future book plots? Pamela

  7. Hank, you've made me teary and you've made me smile in under 5 minutes. Nice job. LOL. And yes, there is magic in my life for which I am truly grateful. Enjoy yours. Mare

  8. Well, thats so interesting. Personally, I thnk the whole thing is magic, and the idea that a plot could come out of my own brain is certainly some kind of magic.

    But having magic in books--unless they are books about magic, of course--is tough. It may seem like "author convenience" when something just happens to happen. You know? although we accept it in real life, in fiction, we sneer.

    What do you all think?

  9. What an interesting, dare I say MAGICAL, guest post! Hank seems just in nice in print as she does in person. Loved meeting you at Malice, and your interview of Elaine Viets was stellar.

    And I agree, the idea that a former (and current!) reporter gets to make all this stuff up is magical, indeed. Thanks for your encouraging words, and stay in touch.

  10. I love magic in books but then I belive in magic...humming song now...

    But a lot of people I know want it kept to genres like fantasy or paranormal romance. But occassionally it creeps in to more mainstream stuff - Think Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

    As more genres cross these days, who knows what will happen! It shoulc be fun to see.



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