Monday, January 26, 2015

The Queen Mary

Kerry Hammond has been fulfilling her dreams on a magnificent ship...

It’s been a dream of mine to stay on the Queen Mary ever since I found out that it had been converted to a hotel. I love the romantic idea of traveling across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1940s aboard such a ship. I’ve watched television shows that highlighted the ship’s history and its many famous passengers. I’ve even watched a ghost hunter episode that took place recently aboard (this was a bit hokey, but still fun). 

Last month I got the chance to stay on board this historic ship while attending the Long Beach Bouchercon conference. I strolled the Promenade Deck and wondered what it was like to be a passenger way back when. I stood in my cabin and tried to imagine the gentle rock I would have felt on a voyage. I marveled at the woodwork and Art Deco décor in the dining areas and lounges. I took in all of the displays of furniture and dishware from her original travels. I shopped at the vintage gift shop on board and bought lots of goodies. I enjoyed a pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks. Ok, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of the original list of amenities, even in first class. But that didn’t bother me. I read fiction, so I can accept certain things and still stay within the story.

The RMS Queen Mary sailed from 1936-1967 for the Cunard Line (originally the Cunard-White Star Line).  She and the RMS Queen Elizabeth were built to maintain a two ship weekly express voyage between Southampton, England and New York. Because of her speed, she was painted and used during World War II to bring Allied soldiers to England to join the war effort. Her new color and her speed earned her the nickname the “Grey Ghost.”I watched a recent clip on Sunday Morning and found out that the ship was so fast that it could outrun a torpedo, so it was useless for the Germans to even try to attack it with their submarines. It was rumored that Hitler was so mad that he offered a reward to anyone who could hit it. Clearly, no one collected.

At the end of the war, the ship was even used to take war brides across the pond. They traveled in far less cramped quarters than the soldiers. (On one voyage, she carried over 15,000 men from New York to England.) After the war, the Queen Mary was re-fitted as a passenger ship and commenced its transatlantic voyages until airplane travel took over in the late 1950s. She left Southampton for her last voyage on October 31, 1967 and sailed to Long Beach, California, where she sits today. There are several restaurants on board, a museum , and other exhibits. You could spend a 3 day weekend and never have to leave the ship. I won’t say that my room was haunted, but I will point out that I was startled awake one morning by the sound of water pouring from the faucet into my tub. When I tried to turn off the spout, it was already off. Again, I read fiction, my imagination has no limits.

A stay on the Queen Mary is highly recommended for anyone who loves the romance and history that such a place contains. If you’re a light sleeper, bring some earplugs, as the walls are very thin. It made me wonder if the sounds of the engines used to cover up the noise and lull the passengers to sleep.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Literary Bracelets

These works of art from JezebelCharms on Esty are the most fun bracelets I've seen in a long time. Taken from famous stories from everything from  Shakespeare to Sherlock they highlight some of the best passages in fiction through the ages. 

Some of my favorites come from MacBeth. Take a look at the quote from MacBeth, 
"Out Damned Spot" 
as Lady MacBeth says when she is trying to cleanse herself spiritually from murder. Or the witches from MacBeth, 
"From the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes".

Here's a quote from the three witches in MacBeth, 
"When will we three meet again? In thunder, lightning or in rain." 

 I also love these Sherlock Holmes inspired bracelets. The one below even has a blueprint of 221b. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Interview with Cindy Brown

Cindy Brown visits today to tell us about her new book, MacDeath. And she's giving away a paper copy, so comment below on your favorite work by Shakespeare. US Residents only.

Where did you get the idea for this book? How did you know that was the book you wanted to write?

One day I woke up with a character in my head. I knew the character’s name, Ivy Meadows. I knew that she was a struggling actor in Phoenix, Arizona who also worked part-time for a private detective. And I knew that I wanted her story to take place during a production of Macbeth. 

Why “the Scottish play?” To begin with, I played Lady Macbeth many moons ago, so I have a good feel for it. But the other, creepier reason is that theater lore says that Macbeth is cursed, that all manner of bad things happen during productions. I didn’t believe in the curse until one night during a production of Barefoot in the Park. I had decided to prove the curse was nonsense and so said, ”Oh Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth!” right before the show. I became a believer (and a bit of pariah with my fellow cast members) when the theater lost power for 20 minutes in the middle of the performance. 

If you could meet any author alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Shakespeare, of course! I’d love to ask him some serious questions about writing, especially how he managed to go back and forth between tragedy and comedy so well. Also, Shakespeare wrote several sonnets for a mysterious raven-haired lover, “the Dark Lady,” as she’s called. Scholars have never been able to agree on her identity.  Some believe she was a prostitute, others think a married woman-about-town, and still others point to a feminist poet. I want to ask him who “the Dark Lady” really was.  And of course, I want to know if he really wrote all those plays and poems.

Do you ever base characters on people you know?

The other day, Patrick Cox (of Portland Actors Ensemble) was telling me how much he liked Macdeath. When I asked why, he said, “All of us theater people have known and worked with those characters. We’ve all had directors like Edward and fellow cast members like Simon and Bill Boxer.” That’s exactly what I was going for. So yes, the characters are based on real people, but they’re usually a bit of a mash-up of several different character traits. And since I write comedy, I exaggerate wildly.

Do you share any traits with your protagonist?

I am easily distracted—wait, is that Elvis out there? (from an actual conversation: my writers group was deep in discussion when a white pant-suited Elvis walked by the windows of the coffee shop. This is Portland, after all.)

You can see the other stops on the tour here (and where the giveaways are): 

Tour Participants
January 19 - Back Porchervations - Review
January 20 – Kelly P's Blog – Guest Post
January 21 – Latte Da! (blog) - Interview with Cindy
January 22 – LibriAmoriMiei - Review, Giveaway
January 23 – Shelley's Book Case - Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
January 24 – Mystery Playground - Interview, Giveaway
January 25 – The Gal in the Blue Mask - Review, Interview, Giveaway

January 26 - Queen of All She Reads - Review, Giveaway

Friday, January 23, 2015

Drinks with Reads: The Mysteries of Machu Picchu

Kendra Kelley joins us today to match the perfect drink with Turn Right at Machu Pichu. Kendra is an enthusiastic world traveler, accomplished cook & foodie, avid sports fan and active community volunteer – you can follow her escapades at KMJtravels & BoozeHouse.

In 1911, explorer Hiram Bingham stumbled upon one the world's new wonders, Machu Picchu and questions have swirled around it's existence ever since.  Why was it built? What was its purpose? Why was it abandoned? To this day, many researchers have yet to agree on one single theory.  It's a spot that will forever captivate me, so when I spotted Mark Adams' tale Turn Right at Machu Picchu, I snapped it up quickly.

In 2008, I was lucky enough to hike the Inca Trail and visit this Lost City - it was a grueling, magnificient journey.  And after three long days of hiking through the Andes, upon arrival it remained shrouded in mystery to us, covered in a dense fog:

Luckily, the mist dissipated as the sun rose, at which point all you can do is marvel at the destination and ponder, how did they build this?  Each rock's placement seems to have strategic reason and the entire site is an engineering marvel - so where to begin unraveling the mystery?

In his travelogue, Adams takes the reader along on his own journey to Peru while inter-weaving his stops with the history of Bingham's path.  One fascinating fact:  Bingham wasn't even looking for Machu Picchu.  The tale is a great way to learn more about Peru, the Incan culture & the history of the ruins, with the humurous side of Adams' hike providing levity to the weight of Bingham's personality and journey.

 Progress continues to be made at the lost city site- just two years ago an archaelogist discovered a "secret door".  What new questions & mysteries will that bring us?  Whew, it must be time for a drink while we ponder...

 The most popular liquor in Peru is, of course, Pisco - a brandy produced by distilling wine.  Most folks have only enjoyed it in the Peruvian National drink, the Pisco Sour, so I decided to mix things up:  instead I propose you enjoy a Pisco Punch - it will take some extra time as you need to soak the pineapple in the pisco for a couple days, but the result is worth it.

The Machu Picchu Pisco
Ingredients (makes 6)

  • 1 peeled, cored pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bottle (750 milliliters) pisco
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 4 limes)
  • Ice
Combine pineapple with pisco in a nonreactive bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for 3 days (make sure fruit is submerged). Bring sugar and water to a boil; stir to dissolve. Let syrup cool. Stir 1/2 cup syrup and lime juice into pisco mixture. Fill 6 glasses with ice and punch. Garnish with soaked pineapple.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Crafty Thursdays: English Paper Piecing with Barbara Graham

Author Barbara Graham is here today for Crafty Thursdays to tell us how to do English Paper Piecing and to tell us about her new book, Murder by Gravity. And we're giving away three paper piecing kits so you have all the supplies to try out this wonderful technique at home. Just comment below to enter (US Residents only).

English Paper Piecing, often abbreviated as EPP, is a simple technique for piecing quilt blocks by hand. Few supplies are needed—a needle, a neutral colored thread like gray or beige, scraps of fabric and paper templates. The templates can be most geometric shapes like triangles, squares and diamonds but the one most of us are familiar with are hexagons, sometimes referred to as “hexies”. The pattern known as Grandmother’s Flower Garden is made of hexes.

Templates are available for sale in quilt shops, on the internet and as free printable downloads (these require you to cut them apart as accurately as possible. The size of the hexagon is the measured length of one edge, not the size across the middle and range from ¼ inch to several inches.

General instructions: Place a paper template against the wrong side of the fabric piece and secure with a straight pin on the front. Smooth one fabric edge over the paper to the back and baste it into place. Continue around the shape, folding the fabric smoothly over the template and basting as you go.

For hexagons smaller than 1 inch, it is possible to baste a fabric square into shape taking only stitches in the corners on the back side. The best way to handle larger hexagons is to cut a fabric hexagon about a quarter inch larger on all sides than the paper and actually stitch through the fabric and the paper using long stitches. This is a great way to use up odd colors of thread you may have.

Most frequently, the hexagons are stitched into a flower shape with a central hexagon of one color surrounded by six hexagons of another color. To stitch the hexagons together, hold two basted hexagons, one center + one petal with right sides facing and whip stitch along one edge. The stitches should be somewhat horizontal and close together enough and tight enough to be stable when you open the twosie. Add the next hexagon and stitch along the center edge and then fold again and stitch along the edge it shares with the first petal. Continue until the center is surrounded. Then, and only then, you can remove the paper from the center hexagon. Remember to remove basting threads before trying to extract the paper.

Always leave the papers in the outside edge pieces until they are sewn to other pieces or until they are stitched onto the background fabric. It is the same process for anything from a small coaster or pincushion to a king sized quilt. 

Once stitched down to the background, you can make a small slit in the fabric under the back side of the hexagon and using tweezers, pull the paper out. 

If you need extra help, there are great tutorial videos available for free on the Internet. 

Murder by Gravity: The Coffin Quilt is the 6th “Quilted Mystery” featuring Tennessee Sheriff Tony Abernathy and his wife Theo, a quilt shop owner. Snow before Halloween shocks the residents of tiny Park County. More upsetting is the private plane passenger who reportedly jumped, without a parachute, into the most remote spot in the county. Problems increase with a stabbing and the theft of a priceless quilt. As the sheriff, Tony hates Halloween. Even so, he never expected a valuable coffin, and the body inside, to go missing.

Don't forget to comment to be entered for the English Paper Piecing Kit. US Residents only. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Edgar Nominees Announced

Mystery Writers of America announced the Edgar nominees this morning. Big congratulations to all who were nominated and extra congrats for Catriona McPherson for her nomination for best paperback original. Now I just have to decide which books to tackle in the TBR pile. 


This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Wolf by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville (Soho Press)
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown)
Coptown by Karin Slaughter (Penguin Randomhouse – Ballantine Books)


Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh (Crown Publishers)
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)


The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Albani (Penguin Randomhouse – Penguin Books)
Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Barkeep by William Lashner (Amazon Publishing – Thomas and Mercer)
The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)
The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)


Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook (W.W. Norton)
The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson (Tin House Books)
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter (Amazon Publishing – New Harvest)


The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis by Charles Brownson (McFarland & Company)
James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Jim Mancall (Oxford University Press)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Classic Film Noir by Robert Miklitsch (University of Illinois Press)
Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film by Francis M. Nevins (Perfect Crime Books)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)


"The Snow Angel" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
"200 Feet" – Strand Magazine by John Floyd (The Strand)
"What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn (Penguin Randomhouse Publishing – Ballantine Books)
"Red Eye" – Faceoff  by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly (Simon & Schuster)
"Teddy" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Brian Tobin (Dell Magazines)


Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith  (Quirk Books)
Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)


The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (Penguin Young Readers Group – Kathy Dawson Books)
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books - Amistad)
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)


“The Empty Hearse” – Sherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
“Unfinished Business” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Siobhan Byrne O’Connor (CBS)
“Episode 1” – Happy Valley, Teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)
“Dream Baby Dream” – The Killing, Teleplay by Sean Whitesell (Netflix)
“Episode 6” – The Game, Teleplay by Toby Whithouse (BBC America)


"Getaway Girl" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine By Zoë Z. Dean (Dell Magazines)


Lois Duncan
James Ellroy


Ruth & Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder


Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

* * * * * *

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Tuesday, April 28, 2015)

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton (Minotaur Books)
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)


Kerry Hammond has been playing games again but she's back at the Playground to share her latest find with us. 

I love mystery board games and I check out every toy section of every thrift store I enter. I don’t find games as often as I find mystery puzzles, but I have been known to come across a gem or two. One of my most recent gems is the Whodunit Mystery Detective Game. The game is from 1985 and published by Selchow & Righter Company. It can be played by 2-6 players, ages 8 to adult.  

Here is the description on the box:

A suspenseful mystery game for super sleuths. Players snoop through an elegant mansion searching for clues that will identify suspects to the crime. Each player tries to outsmart his opponents and be the first to discover “Whodunit.” But if a player falsely accuses an opponent he must leave the mansion. At the end, the player with all the correct clues solves the crime and is declared the winner.

Love the art on the box!

Ok, so you had me at “snoop,” but you really had me at “elegant mansion.” In the spirit of the game Clue, your playing piece is able to wander around different rooms of the fictional country estate located in the fictional town of Brimfield. The owner, who has been found murdered, was Lord Edward Peter Percival Pembrook. There were 10 occupants in the mansion at the time of the murder, including the butler, the maid, and several mysterious houseguests. 

At the start of the game, each player chooses a detective card, which is that player’s new identity. There are six different detectives available to investigate the murder. As players learn different characteristics of the murderer, murder weapon, and scene of the crime, he or she is able to record the information on a Detective Sheet. Players can be questioned when another player draws a “pursue alibis” card, or when a player’s pawn lands on their space. 

In order to win the game, you must uncover the why, where, what and who. In other words, the motive, scene of the crime, murder weapon, and guilty suspect. It is a fun game and a great addition to my mystery board game collection.

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