Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

We're out celebrating the fabulous 4th of July today, so we'll leave you with this photo of the Declaration of Independence and a link to this Slate story about how the founding fathers were actually pretty young.

Have a wonderful holiday! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ken Bruen's London Blvd with the Patron XO Cafe Shooter

Kerry Hammond is matching Ken Bruen's book with the perfect drink...

Mitchell has just been released from prison after serving a 3- year sentence and he’s picked up by his buddy Billy Norton, who gives him a place to stay. As much as Mitch doesn’t want to go back to prison, he finds himself struggling to stay away from a life of crime. Billy is working for a money lending crime boss named Gant, and is actively trying to get Mitch to join the team. Mitch helps Billy a bit, but also finds his own job as a handyman for an aging actress. He finds himself attracted to his new boss and realizes that there are perks beyond a paycheck in his current position. But Gant isn’t willing to let Mitch off that easy, and tries to convince him to continue working for him. When a crime boss tries to convince you, it’s much harder to resist. 

Mitch eventually finds himself torn between the women in his life: the aging actress, his crazy sister, and a girl he’s just met and clearly falling for. For an ex-con, keeping his woman safe while keeping himself out of trouble proves to be a difficult task. Gant puts more and more pressure on Mitch and he begins to take drastic measures to free himself. Mitch is a man with few friends, and this makes it extremely difficult to know who to trust.

I read London Boulevard because I wanted to read an Irish author to get myself excited for my trip to Ireland. Alas, this book takes place in London, so it didn’t have the Irish locale and scenery. But Ken Bruen is Irish through and through, and many of the characters in the book were Irish. So I figure I still accomplished something. Since it was my first Ken Bruen book ever, I felt very accomplished indeed. It’s hard to describe his writing, and I really enjoyed it. It’s written very simply, not a lot of extra clutter or flowery descriptions. I would venture to guess that, like the ballerina who leaps through the air making it look effortless, that this style of writing is difficult to pull off successfully. Not only did the author pull it off, he gained a new fan. 

Now I just need to get my hands on the movie that was based on the book, starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley.

I paired this book with a drink from Kytelers Inn, a pub in the town of Kilkenny, Ireland. Established in 1324, I believe Kytelers is the oldest establishment I have ever had the pleasure of entering. It is home to an interesting backstory, including that of Dame Alice Kyteler, the earliest person on record to be accused and condemned as a witch in Ireland. The Inn is said to be haunted, and if you ever step foot inside, you won’t doubt it for a minute. 

The drink I had was called a shooter, and being a coffee fan, I went with the  Patron XO CafĂ© Shooter. It is described as Tequila with Coffee essence. It was very tasty.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Christmas in July - The Crime Scene Tree - Week 1

Every July the crafty gang at Mystery Playground likes to do a little advance work on Christmas, even though it's prime beach weather. We post these crafts now so everyone has time to think about what they want to do in time for the holidays. Once September starts for me, I find little time for Christmas crafts in the hustle bustle. 

This year we are doing a special crime scene tree. Each week we will have another Christmas ornament craft until the final week of July when we'll show you how to make a Christmas tree skirt. We starting our tree ornaments today with The Suspect ornament. Because you always need a suspect. 

This is an easy craft since almost everything is already made and you're just putting it together. Perfect break on a Sunday afternoon. 

Here are the materials you'll need:
  • 1 round and flat Christmas clear glass Christmas ornament -  I got mine at Michaels last year at the post holiday sale, but Hobby Lobby has them in stock right now. You can use another shape if you like, but a spherical ornament won't allow the suspect charm to hang right.
  • 1 Stranger charm - I got these at Michaels ready made (if you comment below you could be entered to win one). You can also make this with other charms.
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Book pages to fill the inside (We use only damaged books, popular books.) 
  • Chain and 2 jump rings
  • A pencil
  • Wire cutters

Step One:
Cut your book pages into strips. Curl them around a pencil. Open the top of your ornament and stick the book pages inside the glass like in the photo above. 

Step Two:
Take your chain and cut a 2-inch piece of chain with the wire cutters. Take your jump rings and attach it to the rings at the top of your Stranger charm. Hang the chain around the back of the ornament. Glue the back of the chain to the back of the ornament.

Step Three:
Wait until the glue dries. I told you this one was easy. 

You can use this technique to attach any charm to a Christmas ornament.

If you would like to win a Suspect charm to make your own at home, just comment below. 

Come on back next week when we will show you how to make Crime Scene ornaments. If you want to check out our mystery and book themed crafts from last year, you can see them here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mystery Day at Kepler's

Kepler's Book Store in Menlo Park, California had it's annual Meet the Mystery Authors Day with Catriona McPherson, Laurie R. King, Cara Black, Keith Raffle, David Corbett, Paul Draker, Seth Harwood, Steve Hockensmith, Terry Shames and Mystery Readers International Editor and Mystery Fanfare blogger, Janet Rudolph. Kepler's is a wonderful independent bookstore and they have great events - author signings, author days and book swap events

Catriona and her husband, Neil, were gracious enough to send us some photos and tell us about all about the day. Catriona writes the Dandy Gilver series and several stand alone novels published by Midnight Ink. Her next comes out in September and is called The Child Garden.

In the photo above, Keith Raffle (his most recent book is called Temple Mount) ask panelists whether they plan their books in advance (called "plotters" among those in the mystery writing community) or just write (called "pansters" because they write by the seat of their pants). Cara Black and Catriona admitted to being pansters while Steve Hockensmith and Paul Draker said they were plotters. 

Catriona says, "Pantsers won on the clapo-ometer, but Paul made a really good point - we all write, rewrite, plot, polish language, and research before we're done but we all hop on the merry-go-round at different points. So ultimately we hugged it out. (But we beat them)."

Mystery writer's aren't afraid to take on the tough topics. Catriona says, "Seth Harwood, Terry Shames, David Corbett and Laurie R. King were in fine fettle talking about writing across differences - of race, gender, sexuality and age. Laurie made a topical point (to thunderous applause) when, asked about writing sex and relationships from a different point of view, she said there's no such thing as gay marriage now - just marriage - and that's the point: people are people and love is love. (What a hippie!)"

Laurie R. King's latest novel is Dreaming Spies. 
But the day wasn't all so serious. Catriona says, 
"The trivia quiz was a hoot: questions ranged from the easy - who wrote The Maltese Falcon - to the middling - what was Mary Westmacott better known as - to the truly impossible - whose character was aging Major League baseball player Johnny Adcock. No one got that right, but everyone had a ton of fun."

Big thanks to Catriona for a great report and to Neil for the fabulous photos. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Adventures at the American Library Association Conference - Part II

This past weekend was the American Library Association had their annual conference in San Francisco. I spent some quality time in the Sisters In Crime booth. 

Here's mystery writer Matt Coyle signing his latest novel, Night Tremors

Matt signs frequently with his buddy, David Putnam author of The Replacements. Here's David signing and the two of them getting their books out. 

MP Cooley has a new hardback out this summer called Flame Out. It's set in Washington State and follows up with Former FBI agent June Lyons where she left off in Cooley's first book, Ice Shear. MP will be at Thrillerfest July 10-14. You can see her there. 

On the Pop Top stage, highlighting popular culture topics, the last panel on Saturday was all mystery. Cate Carlisle, Juliet Blackwell, Emily Brightwell, Jenna McKinlay and Elaine Viets regaled us with stories about where they get their ideas, and what it's like plotting murders. 

Here's Laurie R, King and Cara Black hamming it up in the Sisters in Crime booth.

Overall it was a great conference full of lots of mystery and wonderful books. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

#MajorCrimes Facebook Chat Recap with GW Bailey, James Duff and Phillip Keene

James Duff hit Facebook to answer fans questions as he does almost every Monday when Major Crimes is airing. It's really fun to have so much access to the creator of Major Crimes and The Closer. He's not the only one. Earlier this season Mary McDonnell (Captain Sharon Raydor) and Tony Denison (Lt. Andy Flynn) did a Facebook chat and earlier today GW Bailey (Provenza) and Phillip Keene (Buzz) were on Reddit for an AMA (Ask Me Anything)

Every week there's an extra webisode featuring the character of Rusty Beck, called Identity where he tries to discover the real name of a victim called Alice Herrera. It's ironic that in tonight's episode we finally learn Jonathan Del Arco's character, Dr. Morales' first name. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is. You have to watch it for yourself. (You gotta love Jonathan Del Arco!)

I've recapped James Duff's Facebook chat responses below. He does an excellent job of recapping the questions in his answers so in the interest of space, I just include his answers. Any spoilers for tonight's episode have been removed. 

James Duff Ilona Arcari starts us off tonight with a good question. Are we going to learn Dr. Morales's name tonight on Rusty's vlog. We will. Go to Identity by Rusty Beck after the show.

James Duff Mike Robin just stepped in - my producing partner for eleven years - and wants me to tell all of you this is the best of our lighter episodes. Ever.

James Duff And Patrice will be back on the show in a couple of weeks.

James Duff GW loves tonight's episode because he gets to tell Phillip off several times in each act!And Patrice will be back on the show in a couple of weeks.

James Duff Of course, let's not forget Tony Denison is also a big deal in this episode. It is our second Flynn/Provenza/Buzz episode.

James Duff GW and Phillip did a Reddit today. And their conversation is hilarious.

James Duff Maybe that's a secret.

James Duff Phillip and GW are a great team whenever they're together. 

James Duff Ashlee B L asks Phillip and GW what was the best thing about working on tonight's episode. They both say getting to work so much with each other.

James Duff Yes, tonight, you will learn a little bit about Buzz's backstory, but we got some of it last year.

James Duff It also includes the Dodgers.

James Duff Lila Jones asks if we're going to see anything about Flynn's upcoming sobriety. And we are, in a way. In two weeks, we'll be dealing with alcoholism again. And Flynn is one of our resident experts.

James Duff GW and Tony and Buzz feel like they should have a crossover show to run between seasons of Major Crimes. GW said it will be called, Provenza!

James Duff Major Crimes goes to some dark places. We like to take a little light with us.

James Duff GW wants to thank you for the questions, Phillip wants to thank you for finding us again this year, and we all want to thank you for watching and making Major Crimes a part of your week. We know how busy you are, and we appreciate so much that you make time for us!

James Duff If you loved Murphy Brown, Adam and Joe reunite for this episode, and prove they're both up to the task.

James Duff No, we are not going to hire Donald Trump, now that he's been let go from Celebrity Apprentice. He's running for President, and there are rules about that.

James Duff And, as regular readers of our Facebook chat will recall, I always refer to MPC (Michael Paul Chan) as the adult on the show!

James Duff Luana DG asks if we will see more of the Sharon and Flynn relationship. Yes. You will.

James Duff To whoever asked, we probably won't have time to meet Hobbs family; we have to concentrate on the division. GW says he wants more time with Patrice. And that Dawn is an amazing actor for him to work with because he gets to do love scenes.

James Duff People are asking about our ratings. We're doing very well. I think in the live+same day Nielson's we'll be the number one or number two show on cable, and our DVR numbers are pretty spectacular. Of course, A&E proved that you can cancel your highest rated show for no good reason and Longmire ended up on Netflix. Someone suggested this is the last year of the show. I doubt that very seriously. But we can't ever know the future, and we're not coming back until our network decides to pick us up.

James Duff @Evelyn David asks if we have all this summer season written. As of tomorrow, the answer will be yes!

James Duff GW says he will get grief from people who think he was too mean to Buzz. And it's all worth it.
I loved our guest cast Lee Garlington has been a longtime friend. Joe is a genius and all the young people are genius!
James Duff 

James Duff Laurel Roy says Joe Regalbuto: Yay! G.W. could not agree with you more!

James Duff For those who are asking where Rusty is, he's not as heavy in this episode as he is in the next one. Our actors trade off carrying the story. But his Alice journey is still going on, and if you miss him tonight, you can see him in the vlog, Identity, which will be posted on this page as the show ends.

James Duff Adam Belanoff wrote this evening's episode and I think he had a blast putting it together.

James Duff Megan E- Author asks if Phillip ever dreamed Buzz would be an officer. He didn't dare hope, he says, but G.W. thought it was a great step for their two characters. And it has given them more to do in the Murder Room scenes.

James Duff Stephania T asks if Brandon will be back soon as Det. Robby Oderno. Yes! In five weeks. We love Brandon and he does an amazing job.

James Duff Leo Geter is a genius. I'm not the first to say it. And I won 't be the last.

James Duff Our comedies must include the Dodgers. Or baseball.

James Duff I loved our guest cast Lee Garlington has been a longtime friend. Joe is a genius and all the young people are genius!

James Duff I agree. We do the comedic episodes to break up the darkness a little.

James Duff Aileen C P says we needed this lighter episode after the intensity of the ones that came before.

James Duff GW and I are both from Texas and we both lived all over the state. Though I never got to be in Austin for any real length of time (despite having shot there a couple of times).

James Duff And we'll see you here next week. And catch up with Rusty's vlog if you can. Tonight's post features Jonathan Del Arco!

James Duff Our guest stars and series regulars really knocked it out of the park.

James Duff It will play out in real time.

James Duff If you like a show, I know how irritating and difficult it can be when it goes off the air. That's how I feel, too, when my favorite programs go off the air.

James Duff I miss Game of Thrones and Survivor and Sense8 and it's hard to believe how long we have to wait for them to come back.

James Duff But you will see us through most of August. And then we will come back for another eight-episode run in the autumn.

James Duff And remember, tonight, you can learn Dr. Morales's first name on Rusty's vlog, Identity!

James Duff Like all jobs, there are some things cops don't like to do, or would pass on to other divisions if they could.

James Duff Phillip loved Joe and he does an amazing job in this episode, as does all the past cost. But I feel good about our performance, and I feel even better about the KIND of audience we have.

James Duff Phillip says he's afraid of what GW will get to do to him next.

James Duff Everyone has a nickname.

James Duff I'm behind my own work, but the other writers have done a spectacular job of keeping things moving. But our writer's room is filled with great talents.

James Duff Oddly, GW and Phillip MPC, because he sometimes insists that GW and Phillip leave while he's doing a big speech because their reactions make him laugh.

James Duff Kryzzle G asks when shooting a comedic episode like this one, which of the series regulars are most likely to crack up and "blow" a take.

James Duff Patricia A H asks if GW ever goes back to Port Arthur. He does! Not very often, but a lot more than I go back to Beaumont.

James Duff There is a hashtag on Twitter right now #Buzzflynnza!

James Duff Joy SB asks if we can have longer seasons.Actually, we are doing eighteen episodes this year, one less than last.

Don't forget that tonight is a Flynn and Provenza episode!

Book Review: Exit Strategy by Lena Diaz

Kerry Hammond is here with a book review of Exit Strategy, the first book in a new series by Lena Diaz, along with an interview with the author.

Exit Strategy is the first book in the Exit Inc. thriller series by Lena Diaz. I really loved the book and had a great time reading it. The characters were wonderful, both heroes and villains. The action was non-stop, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. The scenes were so well written that I wonder if the author spent any amount of time hanging from a zip line for research. The romance was well-placed and well-done. It was a great addition to the storyline, and I only needed a moderate amount of ice water to cool down. The book was a thriller, in the sense that the reader knows a lot of the underlying information at the beginning, and follows along as the hero chases down the bad guys. But as the story progressed, the information that was revealed added to the twists and turns of the book, and I quickly realized that there was another mysterious dimension to the storyline.

The story revolves around Sabrina Hightower, a young woman who has recently lost her parents in an accident. Her grandfather, who was more of a parent to her than her own were, has gone missing and she fears he may be dead. In the middle of the night, she hears an intruder in the house. The next thing she knows, she’s being carried away by Mason Hunt. Mason works for a secret, government sanctioned hit squad whose job it is to take out terrorists and other criminals hiding in plain sight among normal, everyday citizens. He has actually been sent to kill Sabrina, but believes that the exit order issued against her is false and that she may be innocent. This fact makes him question his past missions and the work he’s done for Exit Inc.

When Mason’s boss realizes he’s gone rogue, he sends out other agents to not only take him out, but to make sure that they take out Sabrina too. The two are running from the bad guys, but also trying to figure out why a fake order was issued, and whether or not Sabrina’s grandfather’s disappearance is tied up in the whole thing. Sabrina is no weak female, she can shoot a gun and defend herself. She’s a strong character who is not looking for a man to save her life, but soon realizes she may need a little help to stay alive.

I really haven’t had this much fun with a romantic thriller since my last Sandra Brown book. I will absolutely read the next book in the series, all the while wondering who should play Mason in the movie version.