Saturday, November 22, 2014

All About the Bass Spoofs

Meghan Trainor's catchy song, All About the Bass, is inspiring parodies all over the web. My favorites are The Nerdist's Star Wars take on the song, All About that Base

High Schoolers in Maine came up with this version called, All About the Books, meant to inspire people to read. And we love that. What a creative bunch. 

But perhaps my absolute favorite was when I was at Disneyland and overheard a family singing, "It's All About the Line..." It was a pretty long line. 

And here's the original:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Drinks with Reads: KILMOON, the Kilmoon Sour, and Sipping at Bouchercon with Lisa Alber

Just back from Bouchercon, Lisa Alber joins us for Drinks with Reads where she pairs her book, Kilmoon, with the perfect drink. You'll just have to keep reading to find out all about it. 

Family secrets, betrayal, and vengeance from beyond the grave … Merrit Chase has just discovered her long-lost father.
When I first started developing KILMOON, I began with Merrit’s long-lost father. In my Irish travels, I’d landed in Lisdoonvarna village, home of the Matchmaker Bar, which is home to a matchmaker named Willie Daly during the annual matchmaking festival. It was all very fascinating, but I couldn’t help but wonder, as we mystery writers are wont to do:
What if there was a matchmaker with a dark past at odds with his happily-ever-after fa├žade?
From there, Merrit’s story slowly developed. Her quest seemed simple enough: to meet her biological father, celebrated Liam the Matchmaker, in hopes that she can reconcile issues from her past. Instead, she lands in the middle of a decade’s old story of manipulation and hatred that erupts into the present when a local man is murdered. When Merrit discovers that the matchmaker’s treacherous past is at the heart of the chaos, she must decide how far she will go to save him from himself—and to get what she wants, a family.
This story is the first in a series that includes Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern and a cast of villagers, many of whom spend way too much time in the pubs—kind of like I did while I was in Ireland for novel research!
You might think I’d link Kilmoon with the perennially Irish drinks, Guinness or Bailey’s. Nope. Last December, I became obsessed with the idea of a signature cocktail. I’d like to blame thank Susan Elia MacNeal for inspiring my obsession. In this Jungle Red Writers blog post she shared signature cocktails for the Reds.
Alas, unlike Susan, I’m not a mixologist. I cajoled a friend who is rather an expert into inventing a drink for me. It’s called the Kilmoon Sour and features Irish whiskey. It comes in two variations, depending on whether your bar of choice carries fresh lemon juice. In addition, using bitters prevents this cocktail from being too sweet.
Last weekend I met our illustrious Mystery Playground hostess, Deborah Lacy, at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Although we didn’t get a chance to sip Kilmoon Sours together, I can verify that bartenders have no problem making this drink. Yum! 

Kilmoon Sour with Fresh Lemon Juice
2 oz. Irish whiskey
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. grenadine (for the red in honor of murder, hehe)
2 dashes bitters
Optional garnish: blood orange (seasonal)
Put the whiskey, lemon juice, grenadine, and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker, over ice, and shake vigorously for at least a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with blood orange as available.
Kilmoon Sour with Sweet-and-Sour Mix (if your bar doesn’t have fresh lemon juice)
2 oz. Irish whiskey
1/2 oz. sweet-and-sour mix
1/2 oz. grenadine
4 dashes bitters
Optional garnish: blood orange (seasonal)
Put the whiskey, mix, grenadine, and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker, over ice, and shake vigorously for at least a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with blood orange as available.

Lisa Alber received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on an early version of Kilmoon, in addition to a Walden Fellowship. Visit Lisa at She blogs at Lisa Alber’s Words at Play. Also visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Upcycled Book Mail Caddy

Our project today is a mail caddy made out of a book. In this case we used an old reference book purchased at a Library sale for $1. While it only took about 40 minutes to make, you might need a little patience making everything fit. 

Here's what you need to get started:
- An old book - it should be the size of a larger dictionary in order to be able to hold mail and stand up on it's own
- Cardboard - we used an empty cereal box
- Glue stick
- Gorilla Glue
- Scissors
- Exacto Knife

Step One:
Take your Exacto knife and slice out the pages of the book. It's easier to do this in one batch instead of page by page. Just open the book and cut between the pages and the cover. Save the inside pages for later.

Step Two:
In this step we are going to create the sides of the mail caddy. Take out your cardboard and put the book cover on top to help you (see photo below). 

Your cardboard need to extend beyond the sides of the book and will ultimately look like this...

Crease the cardboard where it will bend to fit into the book. It's easier to do this now, rather than after you glue on the book page.  We tried it both ways. 

Step Three:
Make a second side using the technique used to make the first. 

Step Four: 
Take a book page and wrap it around one side of your cardboard, like this. 

Use glue stick to make sure it stays. We used it on both sides of the cardboard underneath the book pages. Of course, we only did one side at a time. 

Step Five:
Use the glue stick to glue book pages over the inside of the book cover. That way when you view the mail caddy from the top you will see the book pages. Make sure the edges are well glued, otherwise mail might get caught on them later. 

Step Six:
Take your mail caddy sides and glue them into the book cover. Use Gorilla Glue so you have a really strong bond.I put the Gorilla glue on the wings of the ends and then pushed it in until it was even with the top and the sides of the book cover. Then we held it for a minute or so while it dried. Gorilla Glue dries fast. 

Now you are done. and you can put mail in the caddy. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Major Crimes Co-Creator, James Duff, and Friends

James Duff, Detective Mike Berchem, Kathy Mazur, Jonathan Del Arco, Domani Johnson, Kendall Sherwood and Adam Belanoff

I had an amazing chance to talk with James Duff, the co-creator and head writer for TNT's Major Crimes (and The Closer) last week. He brought a few friends with him - Jonathan Del Arco (who plays Dr. Morales), Kathe Mazur (who plays DDA Hobbs), Detective Mike Berchem (a former detective who helps the writing team with plots and details), Damani Johnson, (the newest writer to join the Major Crimes team), Kendall Sherwood (who joined the team as an intern at the beginning of The Closer and now writes episodes - this is the only job she's ever had!) and Adam Belanoff (writer of many episodes, including the famous Flynn and Provenza leave a dead body to go to a Dodger game storyline. That episode is brilliant. Brilliant). 

This post is part one. Come back for Part Two on Monday, November 24th so you can more tidbits from James Duff and company, and we can also celebrate the return of the winter season of Major Crimes

James and the team was so genuinely excited to talk about the inner-workings of the show and share it with us. We had a pre-panel session with bloggers who loved the show. James had everyone sit in a circle so we could ask questions and get the answers about our favorite show. 

Jonathan Del Arco and Kathe Mazur
Jonathan Del Arco and Kathe Mazur played off one another and seem to be so comfortable. I'm thinking we need to figure out how to get more scenes with Dr. Morales and DDA Hobbs together. 

Jonathan says that the actors rarely go off script when filming because the show is a mystery, you can't mess with much, or you might unravel the puzzle. 

But that doesn't stop Jonathan from making the most of the fan favorite Dr. Morales. At one point James said that Jonathan is so good at doing eye-rolls, you can hear him making an eye roll from down the hall. I asked Jonathan if he can do an eye-roll on cue. He said he can and does. We'll have to get that on video next time...

Jonathan Del Arco and Kathe Mazur
Kathe Mazur's DDA Hobbs is a powerful character on the show in that her character is directly responsible for the shift from closing cases on The Closer to the art of the deal on Major Crimes. Hobbs even saved Brenda Leigh Johnson's job (played by Kyra Sedgwick) by making sure she got another job in her department after she frames Stroh with DNA with the help of Dr. Morales. (Dr. Morales only agrees after DDA Hobbs tells him it is only being used to get a confession and that it won't be used in court.  If you don't know what I am talking about, you need to go watch all of the episodes of The Closer. Start at the beginning. You'll be glad you did.) 

Duff said that the team had struggled to find the perfect actor to play a DDA character because there is so much terminology and you also need character development. Kathe delivers.

In addition to playing our favorite DDA (Duff admitted to us that Kathe was his favorite DDA too). Kathe also narrates audio books. She has narrated multiple mysteries and thrillers, including books from Tess Gerritsen and April Smith. 

Duff was generous with hints and  subtle spoilers, so stop reading if you want everything this season to be a surprise...

Philip Stroh

When we asked about the impending return of super villain Philip Stroh (played by Billy Burke), Duff said that this storyline will be resolved. But he also said that neither Sharon nor Rusty will like the resolution. 

Stroh is a smart man. He tells the police that three people will die and in return he wants immunity and to talk to the material witness - that's Rusty. Apparently according to California law, a person in Philip Stroh's situation has the right to face material witnesses, which means Rusty will have to sit down with Stroh. Of course, he doesn't want to do it, and Sharon isn't happy about it either. 

Sharon & Flynn

"Sharon and Flynn are friends," says James Duff. "Or are they?"

If you want to hear what else Duff said about "Shandy," you'll just have to watch the video below...

Here's a slightly blurry selfie with Damani Johnson and me. Duff said that Damani got the writing job on Major Crimes because he wrote a fabulous pilot script. Of course, I forgot to ask what the pilot was about. Was it the hoped for Jon Tenney (Fritz) spin off, SOB? Or is there something else in the hopper? 

Oh, missed opportunities. 

On Twitter, you can find Kathe Mazur @kathemazur, James Duff @JamesADuff and Jonathan Del Arco @jonathandelarco.

Don't forget that Major Crimes is back next Monday on TNT for nine sure-to-be fabulous episodes. We'll have the next installment of our meeting with the Major Crimes team, this Monday morning to celebrate the show's return, and our regular Major Crimes Facebook chat recap on Monday night.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The World's Largest Mystery Convention: #Bouchercon

I just got back from the world's mystery convention, Bouchercon. As usual, we overestimated what we would be able to cover in real time, but here are some of my favorite happenings at the convention.

Jonathan Del Arco, Kathe Mazur and Kendall Sherwood
One of the biggest highlights for me was the visit from the head writer of TNT's Major Crimes, James Duff. He brought Jonathan Del Arco (Dr. Morales), Kathe Mazur (DDA Hobbs), Detective Mike Berchem (writer and advisor to the show), Adam Belanoff (writer), Kendall Sherwood (writer) and Damani Johnson (writer). Major Crimes returns on November 24th and we'll have more on what we learned later this week. 

Another highlight was the surveillance workshop by RT Lawton. This was a practical session where first former DEA agent Lawton tells you how to tail someone and then you are assigned to a group and an author who has volunteered to be tailed. You have to try to tail that individual without being identified as tailing them. This is much harder than it looks on TV and everyone in our group thought we'd be much better at it than we actually were. We weren't identified, but mostly because we lost the mark early... I guess we'll have to keep practicing. Thank you to author Cathi Stoler, who was my partner in tailing. 

It was great to see my fellow Mystery Playground authors, Kim and Kerry Hammond. 

Love catching up with old friends Laura K Curtis, Clare Toohey and Terrie Farley Moran plus meeting new friends Lisa Alber, Shawn Reilly and Judy Bobalik. 

Laura K Curtis moderating the Four Funerals and A Disappearance panel

A big thank you to all my fellow Bcon 2014 committee members - Ingrid Willis, Sue Carpenter, Karen Ringer, Janet Rudolph, Robin Berry and Tammy Kaehler. I love my Murder on the Beach award.

Long Beach - what a beautiful place to hold a convention!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Robert Dugoni's My Sister's Grave

Kerry Hammond reviews Robert Dugoni's new book, My Sister's Grave. And, we're giving a book away to one lucky US resident. To be entered just comment below on why you would like to read the book. 

This book was excellent and I am hooked on a new writer.  I have added Robert Dugoni to my “read everything he or she writes” pile. Yes, I have one of those piles. The book had it all: suspense, great characters, twists and turns, and was extremely well written. But I digress, let me tell you a bit about the book first.

Twenty years before the story opens, Tracy Crosswhite lost her younger sister, Sarah. Sarah drove off one evening and was never seen again. A local man, Edmund House, was convicted and sent to prison for her murder, even though no body was found. The police were able to provide enough evidence that a jury convicted House, a previously convicted rapist, even without a body. The problem is, Tracy was never quite convinced he was guilty. 

Years later, the remains of a young girl are found outside their hometown where Sarah went missing. When these remains are determined to be Sarah, Tracy begins to re-investigate the events of her sister’s disappearance. She teams up with a childhood friend, Dan, who is now an attorney, and with his help she begins to dig into the events of the past and uncover secrets that were kept hidden during the first trial. She has to re-examine everything that happened, including her Dad’s suicide and the twenty year imprisonment of a man she believes to be innocent. The local Sheriff’s office, which includes the original investigator Roy Calloway, is not happy with her interference and her determination to get House a new trial. Not only does she not have anyone’s help, but she comes up against roadblocks wherever she turns.

The book toggles back and forth between the events of twenty years ago that led up to Sarah’s disappearance, and the events that are occurring present day. The author weaves these two timeframes together seamlessly and I loved the back and forth telling of each story. Not only is the reader able to get to know Tracy, but with the retelling of the past, I was able to get to know Sarah as well. 

This was an excellent read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The ending was a surprise, and I love when an author can pull that off.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bouchercon Moments

This weekend the Mystery Playground team is at the world's mystery convention. Here's a selection of photos from the past few days to give you a flavor. We'll have more in-depth posts later this week. 

Fan favorite, Heather Graham, signs books.

Guest of Honor, JA Jance and her husband after the Anthony Awards.

Sheila Connolly signs books.

Hank Phillipi Ryan, Anthony nominee and author of The Wrong Girl and Truth Be Told.

We've gotten so many free books. Here are a few that I am really excited about.

Author, Laura K Curtis in between panel sessions. 

Sue Grafton, Rhys Bowen, Rochelle Staab, Sharon Newman and Ann Parker.