Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crafty Thursdays: Book Safe



Kerry Hammond is making really fun upcycled book safes for Crafty Thursdays....

Today’s craft is not only a cool craft, but it’s practical too (and very simple). I will show you how to make a safe out of a book. You can put it on your bookshelf to hide your valuables, or, you can also use it for a savings account for something special. I put money into mine whenever I remember, and before I know it I have enough to buy something special. Last year is was a spa day with my friend.





Materials
Mystery Book (remove paper cover while creating the craft and replace when finished)
Exacto knife
Glue Gun
Mod Podge
Paintbrush

Optional Materials
Scissors
Felt 



Step 1 – Cutting out your book pages
Choose the size you want your opening to be. You want to leave enough at the edges to make the sides of the safe opening. The larger the book, the larger the pages. So if you want to be able to put cash inside and not fold it, choose a larger book accordingly. Using the exact knife, start cutting into the pages in a rectangle. You might want to start a few pages in, so if someone just opens the cover, they still think it’s a book (although the fact that the pages are all glued together may tip them off). Only cut a few at a time, or you’ll give yourself blisters pushing so hard. Keep those pages you cut and remove, there are lots of Mystery Playground crafts that call for book pages. Only cut into the book about ¾ of the way. You need to leave pages and not cut into the back cover of the book. 

Step 2 – Sealing the Pages
Using Mod Podge and a paintbrush, brush the outsides of the book pages and the inside 4 walls of your safe so that the pages stay together. Let dry overnight and if there are any loose areas, repeat.


Step 3 – Lining with Felt
This step is optional. If you’re just putting cash inside your safe, you may be happy with just the book interior. If you’re going to put jewelry inside, you might want a soft felt lining. Measure your safe opening as well as the depth of the opening. The measurement needs to account for setting the felt inside and then also covering the insides of the opening with the felt. Cutting the corners out helps the felt not bunch up in the corners. Using a hot glue gun (or Elmers glue) glue the felt into the opening.




There you have it, start putting your valuables inside and store on your bookshelf.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Girl on a Train



Sharon Long is with us today to review a book that almost everyone seems to be reading these days: The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins. 

The Girl on the Train is a debut novel by Paula Hawkins.  The books starts with Rachel riding the train to work looking at the houses along the tracks as they go by.  At one stop, she looks at one particular house and often sees the couple outside on their deck drinking coffee.  This is the house she focuses on every morning, imaging the prefect life of this couple even going so far as to give them names. On the way home at night, Rachel struggles to see that same house but usually cannot because it is on the other side of the tracks.  Every day she waits with anticipation  hoping to get another glance at the man and woman who live there.  One day when Rachel looks over at the house, she sees something very wrong.  
After what she has seen, Rachel inserts herself into the situation and we find out more about the man and the woman.  In addition, we find out why Rachel is so fascinated with this couple and this particular street. The book has 5 main characters but concentrates on 3 women - Rachel, the woman in the house and Anna, Rachel's ex husband's new wife. Their stories are told in first person and we learn about each of their strengths and weaknesses.  About halfway through the book, I was sure I knew the outcome and where the story was going but I was very wrong.  The dramatic conclusion is somewhat unexpected but definitely fulfilling for the reader.
This story is very well written, both character and plot driven, full of lies, deception and distrust. The author does a great job of leading suspicion from one character to another and back and forth.  I thoroughly enjoyed riding the train with Rachel and the author on this journey.  I personally have often looked at houses while driving and wondered about the people's lives who live there.  The Girl on the Train gives you that look inside and very often it is not what we on the outside envision.  

Paula Hawkins has been a newspaper journalist for the last 15 years and lives in London.  CBS Morning News did a five-minute interview with the author, her first American television interview on February 9th calling The Girl on the Train a runway hit.  The book is currently number one on The New York Times Best Seller List and debuted at the top spot in January.  That is a feat unmatched by any novel in a decade.  I would say this debut author is off great success as a novelist. 

You can read Sharon's review of SJ Watson's Before I Go To Sleep here
If you want to keep up to date with Mystery Playground, sign up for the e-mail digest above, or follow us on Twitter @MysteryPlaygrnd. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Star Wars Costumes: Heroes






Seattle's Experience Music Project has a new Star Wars costume exhibit, running now through October 2015, called Star Wars and the Power of Costume: Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen. The exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with Lucas Film. Since there are so many costumes in this exhibit I've split this into two parts. Yesterday we focused on villains, and today our focus is heroes.

Classic Star Wars Heroes

Episodes 4,5 & 6 and the characters from those movies will always be my favorites. Here are the classic hero costumes that they had from those movies. Starting with Leia in her disguise to rescue Hans Solo from Jabba right next to the outfit Jabba forced her to wear after she was captured.




 

















If you like movie and TV costumes, check out some of our past costume posts:
Harry Potter
Once Upon A Time
The Wizard of OZ (original) & The Princess Bride


You can find Mystery Playground on Twitter @MysteryPlaygrnd and on Facebook

Monday, February 23, 2015

Star Wars Costumes: Villains

This Stormtrooper has seen his share of action

Seattle's Experience Music Project has a new Star Wars costume exhibit, running now through October 2015, called Star Wars and the Power of Costume: Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen. The exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with Lucas Film. Since there are so many costumes in this exhibit I've split this into two parts. Today we're focusing on villains. And tomorrow we'll be back with Heros.



The Devolution of Senator Palpatine to the Emperor


One of the most interesting parts of this exhibit was the showcase of the chronology of the outfits of The Emperor as the character started as Senator Palatine/Darth Sidous and devolved into The Emperor. 













Here's an in-depth look at the Boba and Jango Fett costumes. According to the museum, Boba Fett was originally the model for Darth Vader and then Vader evolved beyond the concept of the bounty hunter. These two costumes sit outside the rest of the Star Wars exhibit which is why you see Jimi Hendrix in the background. 


Boba Fett


Jango Fett and Jimi

Darth Vader is also in the exhibit, of course. These aren't the best photos, but worth seeing. It was fun to see the Darth costume up close.





We'll be back tomorrow with Hero costumes from Star Wars. 

If you like movie and TV costumes, check out some of our past costume posts:
- Harry Potter
- Once Upon A Time
- The Wizard of OZ (original) & The Princess Bride


You can find Mystery Playground on Twitter @MysteryPlaygrnd and on Facebook

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ladle to the Grave: Connie Archer


Connie Archer is here to answer questions and tell us about her latest Soup Lover's Mystery, Ladle to the Grave. And if you comment below with your contact information you could win a print copy of the book (US residents only).

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

The idea for Ladle to the Grave, or perhaps I should say the jumping off spot for this plot, came from a news story.  It concerned a cold case about a missing child.  Now, I always get a terrible feeling in my bones when I read a story like this, but in this instance, there was a happy ending.  The strange twist was that the child did not want to be happily reunited with his mother.  These are the kinds of things I like to look for – stories in which the end result is far from what would be expected.  Now, I couldn’t actually use this story as it took place, it just wouldn’t fit in the village of Snowflake, Vermont, but it was the inspiration that kick-started the novel.  

Many readers expect cozies to be safe – for the murders to happen offstage, for all the ends to be neatly tied up or even to be humorous if not downright funny.  I guess the Soup Lover’s Mystery series is a somewhat darker village mystery – they are traditional mysteries, red herrings and all, with endearing and quirky characters, but the crimes and the motives are anything but lighthearted.  I do want readers to enjoy some vicarious thrills, to put my protagonist in terribly dangerous situations and then to finally, neatly tie up all the ends of the story.  



What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your novels? 

So many wonderful things have come my way from this series – seeing my books in bookstores – so thrilling!  Receiving emails from readers to tell me how much they enjoyed visiting my imaginary village.  Those are priceless.  But just as important are the friends I have made in the mystery community, in person and online.  I think mystery writers (and readers and bloggers) are the most generous, friendly and helpful group in the world and I’m very proud to be a part of the mystery writing community.  



Do you ever have doubts when you are in the middle of the writing process? How do you get past them?

Oh, doubts are constant, for all writers I think.  We’re all working without a blueprint and we have no idea how it will all turn out, much less what our editors will say.  It’s a lot like baking a cake, adding all the ingredients to the bowl, greasing the pan, yet not knowing if the oven will work and make a pile of sludge turn into a delicious cake.  
I like to outline, or maybe I should say storyboard.  Visualizing the plot in pictures or segments helps me a lot in terms of structure.  If the structure is solid the pacing won’t lag.  

I’ve read interviews of famous, well-respected writers, far more prolific than I, who say they’re convinced when they sit down to write the next book that they’ll never be able to do it one more time.  So I don’t think doubts ever go away.  Maybe you’re only in trouble when you stop doubting.  





How long did it take you to get your first draft done of this book?


Because this is a series, my contract with my publisher allowed me approximately eight months to complete each book.  I spent a good part of the first month working on an outline and trying to foresee snags and pick up on all the little details as much as possible.  In the long run, that saves a lot time, I think.  With each book I was able to complete a first draft (all the blank spots filled in, etc.) about six weeks before each deadline.  That gave me several weeks to go over each book again and again, try to catch any mistakes or typos or spots that didn’t quite work well enough and fix them.  Then, crossing my fingers, I hit the button and sent the manuscript on its merry way, hoping my editor will like it and approve.  



What did you do to research the book?

Ladle to the Grave didn’t really require much research.  A character appears who is “sort of” a private investigator.  Consequently, I did have to look into what is actually required to obtain this license in New York state (just across the border from Vermont) or private investigator licenses in general, to make sure I wasn’t making any mistakes about how I described this character’s career and work.  

In the second book of the series, A Broth of Betrayal, released in 2013, I did quite a bit of research.  An ancient body is discovered and I needed to be specific about exactly how that body would look.  It was quite different than what I had imagined.  

New England and other parts of the U.S. are dotted with ancient megalithic structures, predating by centuries the arrival of colonists from England and Europe.  I decided this would be a great element to add to the third book, A Roux of Revenge, so I invented the “Stones” just outside of Snowflake where lots of frightening events occur.  

You can read Connie's interview about her last book, A Roux of Revenge here


Here are the rest of the stops on the tour:

February 16 – Books Are Life – Vita Libri – Review
February 17 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews  – Review, Interview
February 18 – A Chick Who Reads – Review
February 19 – I Wish I Lived in a Library – Review
February 20 – Babs Book Bistro – Review
February 21- Lisa Ks Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post
February 22 – Mystery Playground – Interview
February 23 – fuonlyknew – Review
February 24 – A Blue Million Books – Guest Post
February 25 – The Gal in the Blue Mask – Review, Interview
February 26 – The Bookwyrm’s Hoard – Review, Guest Post
February 27 – readalot – Review
February 28 – Melina’s Book Blog – Review, Guest Post
March 1 – Brooke Blogs – Review


You can find Mystery Playground on Twitter @MysteryPlaygrnd and on Facebook

There is also a Rafflecopter for a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Ghostly Undertaking: Tonya Kappes



Today we have a first chapter excerpt of Tonya Kappes new book, A Ghostly Undertaking. This is the first in a new paranormal series and the second book comes out in March.

Here's a little bit about the book:

"Bopped on the head from a falling plastic Santa, local undertaker Emma Lee Raines is told she’s suffering from “funeral trauma.” It’s trauma all right, because the not so dearly departed keep talking to her. Take Ruthie Sue Payne—innkeeper, gossip queen, and arch-nemesis of Emma Lee’s granny—she’s adamant that she didn’t just fall down those stairs…she was pushed. Granny Raines, the widow of Ruthie’s ex-husband and co-owner of the Sleepy Hollow Inn, is the prime suspect. Now Emma Lee is stuck playing detective for Ruthie, or will risk being haunted forever."


Chapter 1

Another day. Another funeral. Another ghost.
Great. As if people didn’t think I was freaky enough. But, truthfully, this was becoming a common occurrence for me as the director of Eternal Slumber Funeral Home.
Well the funeral was common.  
The ghost thing…that was new, making Sleepy Holly anything but sleepy.
“What is she doing here?” A ghostly Ruthie Sue Payne stood next to me in the back of her own funeral, looking at the long line of Sleepy Hollow’s residents that had come to pay tribute to her life. “I couldn’t stand her while I was living, much less dead.”
Ruthie, the local innkeeper, busybody and my granny’s arch-nemesis, had died two days ago after a fall down the stairs of her inn.
I hummed along to the tune of “Blessed Assurance,” which was piping through the sound system, to try and drown out Ruthie’s voice as I picked at baby’s breath in the pure white blossom funeral spray sitting on the marble-top pedestal table next to the casket. The more she talked, the louder I hummed and rearranged the flowers, gaining stares and whispers of the mourners in the viewing room.
I was getting used to those stares.
“No matter how much you ignore me, I know you can hear and see me.” Ruthie rested her head on my shoulder, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin. “If I’d known you were a light seeker, I probably would’ve been a little nicer to you while I was living.”
I doubted that. Ruthie Sue Payne hadn’t been the nicest lady in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky. True to her name, she was a pain. Ruthie had been the president and CEO of the gossip mill. It didn’t matter if the gossip was true or not, she told it.
Plus, she didn’t care much for my family. Especially not after my granny married Ruthie’s ex-husband, Earl. And especially not after Earl died and left Granny his half of the inn he and Ruthie had owned together..the inn where Granny and Ruthie both lived. The inn where Ruthie had died.
I glared at her. Well, technically I glared at Pastor Brown, because he was standing next to me and he obviously couldn’t see Ruthie standing between us. Honestly, I wasn’t sure there was a ghost between us, either. It had been suggested that the visions I had of dead people were hallucinations…
I kept telling myself that I was hallucinating, because it seemed a lot better than the alternative—I could see ghosts, talk to ghosts, be touched by ghosts.
“Are you okay, Emma Lee?” Pastor Brown laid a hand on my forearm. The sleeve on his brown pin-striped suit coat was a little too small, hitting above his wrist bone, exposing a tarnished metal watch. His razor-sharp blue eyes made his coal-black greasy comb-over stand out.
“Yes.” I liked. “I’m fine.” Fine as a girl who was having a ghostly hallucination could be.
“Are you sure?” Pastor Brown wasn’t the only one concerned. The entire town of Sleepy Hollow had been worried about my well-being since my run-in with Santa Claus.
No, the spirit of Santa Claus hadn’t visited me. Yet. Three months ago, a plastic Santa had done me in.
It was the darndest thing, a silly accident.
I abandoned the flower arrangement and smoothed a wrinkle in the thick velvet drapes, remembering that fateful day. The sun had been out, melting away the last of the Christmas snow. I’d decided to walk over to Artie’s Meats and Deli, over on Main Street, a block away from the funeral home, to grab a bite for lunch since they had the best homemade chili this side of the Mississippi. I’d just opened the door when the snow and ice around the plastic Santa Claus Artie had put on the roof of the deli gave way, sending the five-foot jolly man crashing down on my head, knocking me out.
Flat out.
I knew I was on my way to meet my maker when Chicken Teater showed up at my hospital bedside. I had put Chicken Teater in the ground two years ago. But there he was, telling me all sorts of crazy things that I didn’t understand. He blabbed on and on about guns, murders and all sorts of dealings I wanted to know nothing about.
It wasn’t until my older sister and business partner, Charlotte Rae Raines, walked right through Chicken Teater’s body, demanding that the doctor do something for my hallucinations, that I realized I wasn’t dead after all.
I had been hallucinating. That’s all. Hallucinating.
Doc Clyde said I had a case of the “Funeral Trauma” from working with the dead too long.
Too long? At twenty-eight, I had been an undertaker for only three years. I had been around the funeral home my whole life. It was the family business, currently owned by my granny, but ran by my sister and me.
Some family business.



Friday, February 20, 2015

Drinks with Reads: Wilbur Smith and The Bloody Bull


Janet Kuchler, (formerly of our Portland office, now from our Salt Lake City office) is back today with a special pairing for Wilbur Smith latest historical adventure, Desert God. 

In Desert God, Wilber Smith returns to Ancient Egypt and the character of Taita and the world he created in River God in the 1990s. Although this is the fifth book in the series, you don't have to have read the others to become engrossed in this one. 

It's easy to get lost in ancient Egypt with this book. Smith paints a vivid picture of what life was like and keeps the action moving. If you like historical novels, don't mind a lot of fantasy, and like a lot of action, you will love this book. 


The story centers around Taita's relationship with the young royals and how strategic marriage (and a little piracy) was used to forge allies with a rich Minoan society and strengthen Egypt's army. Taita, who is a eunuch, struggled to protect the children of the woman he loved while trying to regain the majesty of an Egypt past. Wile, strategy and sacrifice were called for to oust the uncouth Hyskos from their stronghold in the north and begin to rebuild Egypt to its former glory.

Along the way, earthquakes, Demi gods and volcanoes played havoc.

The perfect drink for this book is the Bloody Bull because there is an actual run in with a Minotaur (The Bloody Bull). this drink is really a souped up Bloody Mary with horseradish and beef bouillon. Here's what you need:

The Bloody Bull:
Celery stalks for garnish
4 ounces tomato juice
2 ounces vodka (you can leave this out for a virgin drink)
1/4 teaspoon horseradish
one beef bouillon cube
Two shakes of Lea & Perrins
Two shakes of Tabasco sauce
A pinch of onion powder
A pinch of celery seeds

Mix all ingredients except celery and then pour in a shaker with ice. Shake until cold and then pour over ice. Garnish with your celery and enjoy!