Friday, April 18, 2014

A Fistful of Collars and Bourbon Plain & Simple

Sue Carpenter joins us today to match the book A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn to Bourbon Plain & Simple. Sue is on the committee for Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery convention. 

Here's a little background on A Fistful of Collars:

Hoping to bring some Tinseltown money to the Valley, the mayor lures a movie studio to town to shoot their next production, a big-budget Western in the classic tradition. The star is none other than ruggedly handsome—and notoriously badly behaved—Thad Perry. When the mayor decides that someone needs to keep an eye on Thad so that he doesn’t get into too much trouble, Bernie and Chet are handpicked for the job. The money is good but something smells fishy, and what should have been a simple matter of babysitting soon gets more complicated—especially when they discover that Thad has a mysterious connection to the Valley that nobody wants to talk about. What kind of secret could Thad have left behind when he went to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune? The only people who might know the answer have a bad habit of turning up dead before they can talk.

As Bernie’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend Suzie goes long-distance, and Chet’s late-night assignations appear to have resulted in an unexpected dividend, it’s all our two sleuths can do to keep Thad and his motley entourage of yes-men, handlers, and hangers-on in their sights. Worst of all, Thad is a self-proclaimed cat person, and his feline friend Brando has taken an instant dislike to Chet.

Like the winning books before it, this fifth book in the series combines a top-notch mystery with genuine humor and a perceptive take on the relationship between human and dog that will stay with you long after the case is solved.

Here's what Sue has to say:

A Fistful of Collars is a great blend of good mystery and humor. The main characters, Chet (a dog) and Bernie, are the perfect team even if both of them are bit flawed. They are both dedicated to their profession and one another. Seeing the action through Chet's eyes makes for an easy and totally enjoyable read. I laughed out loud throughout this book. If you need a humorous escape and have a great sense of humor, I highly recommend A Fistful of Collars

Bernie is a bourbon guy and it fits him. Plain, simple and gets the job done. Chet’s favorite smell is a mixture of bourbon, pepper and sweat, which is how his favorite human Bernie smells. 

You don't even need the recipe for Bourbon Plain & Simple which is really the point, just pour it in a glass at room temperature and enjoy! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Library Notecards

In celebration of National Librarian Day yesterday our craft today is library note cards. We made these out of the check out pages from damaged books withdrawn from our local library, but you can use any type of paper -- even children's drawings (we've made them with Nancy Drew illustrations, too). 

Materials & Tools:

  • Blank note cards (I got these at Michaels)
  • Photo corners (also purchased at Michaels)
  • Paper trimmer (you can use scissors but it's hard to get perfectly straight cuts
  • Card catalogue pages from damaged and withdrawn books from the local library sale (don't use these pages from library books still in circulation.)
  • An Exacto knife

Step One: Cut out your book page (I use the exact knife for this). Then use the paper trimmer to cut it to the right size with clean straight edges.

Step Two: Use photo corners to attach to the card. And you're done! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Librarian Day

Today is National Librarian Day and now you can become
your own pseudo librarian with one of these personal library kits from Knock Knock. It comes with a stamp and check out cards so you can keep track of books you loan out. 

It doesn't help you collect overdue library fines though...and my friend, Pat, the librarian tells me that it can't teach you the Dewey Decimal System (which I'm actually OK with). She also points out that it doesn't let you borrow from every library in the state, but many real libraries do. That is pretty cool and she does help me order random books for whatever crazy thing I am researching from all over the state. 

I asked Pat (who's one of the Mystery Playground craft, photo and drink development crew) and another librarian friend of mine, Michelle (contributor extraordinaire), what three things they wish every library patron knew and this is what they told me:


1. Librarians are not judgmental. Bring any question to us and we'll help you.

2. Tell all your friends that you are a library user!  Help spread the word about all the wonderful resources and people that are at the library. Help us build support  and awareness in the community.

3.  Libraries are not just about printed books anymore (but as a good library patron they probably already know this).  We have electronic resources, speaker programs, study areas, white boards, WiFi, computers, printers, great people, and more.


1. It is easier to find authoritative sources if you use the library's resources and suggested strategies.

2. Everything is not on the free Web.

3. In higher education the librarian will not simply provide you with an answer, instead she will teach you how to find it yourself.

Then I asked them to confess what the last book they read was...


The last book I read was:

Longbourn by Jo Baker
Think Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view.  Not only a fun read, but I felt like I was back in that era.  I highly recommend it.

Currently I'm reading:

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

I'm totally hooked by the situation: a young girl, bonobo monkeys, armed rebellion in The Congo.  It is really well written, I feel like I'm right there in the middle of it all.

Last book I read: Armistead Maupin's The Days Of Anna Madrigal.

I am also currently in the middle of three non-fiction books for two courses I am taking: Race, Class, & Gender: An AnthologyLuck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career, and Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win.

Come back tomorrow for a special librarian inspired craft and a giveaway...

No librarians were harmed in the development of this blog post. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Melissa Bourbon's A Killing Notion

Melissa Bourbon joins us to today to answer a few questions about her new book, A Killing Notion. And don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

Here's a description of the book:

Harlow Jane Cassidy is swamped with homecoming couture requests. If only she didn’t have to help solve a murder, she might get the gowns off the dress forms....

Harlow is doing everything she can to expand her dressmaking business, Buttons & Bows—without letting clients know about her secret charm. When she has a chance to create homecoming dresses with a local charity and handmade mums for several high school girls—including Gracie, whose father, Will, has mended Harlow’s heart—she is ready to use her magical talents for a great cause.

But when Gracie’s date for the dance is accused of murder, Harlow knows things won’t be back on course until she helps Gracie clear the football player’s name. If Harlow can’t patch up this mess before the big game, her business and her love life might be permanently benched.

And now let's talk to Melissa:

1) What was your favorite book growing up and why?

I loved Gone with the Wind in high school (and beyond). I don't reread many books, but that’s one I’ve reread several times. I love that Atlanta is really a character in the book, and Scarlet is such a well-drawn heroine. Complex and layered, so great inspiration. And Rhett Butler?  Love.

2) If your protagonist were actually a real person, would you be friends with them? Why or why not?

I absolutely would be friends with Harlow Cassidy (and Lola Cruz from my other series).  I think that’s one of the requirements of the main characters I create… I want to write about people I want to spend time with (because I spend a lot of time with them!). Harlow is a down-to-earth woman who could easily be a neighbor, friend, confidant. 

3) Have you ever come close to missing a deadline?

Too many times! I have come to realize that I work better under a tight deadline. I work slowly, plugging away, but I usually don’t make my daily quotas because my day job is so busy. So when it comes close to deadline, I’m always behind!  But I find inspiration comes when I’m forced to create. Sometimes I think I’m a masochist! But it works. 

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

I think doubts are part of the process. I have a love/hate relationship with the book I’m writing. I alternately think it’s the best and the worst thing I’ve ever written. But the great thing is that the revision process allows me the time and process to work through any issues I’ve had and to make it the best it can be.

5) Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get past it?

I think writer’s block is part of the creative process. Even though I plot, the actual development of characters and the world come as I write. And sometimes that development doesn’t come when I need it to. When I get blocked, I put the project aside for a day or two and just mull things over. Invariably I figure out the way past the wall I was against.

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

I had the luxury of taking a year and a half to write my first book. When you have a contract, things change and you can’t take that time. I have a nine month time period between publication of A Magical Dressmaking mystery series, which means I have about six months to write each book. After that comes revisions. Of course, if I’ve procrastinated, then I have less than those 6 months.

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, gave up teaching middle and high school kids in Northern California to write full-time amidst horses and Longhorns in North Texas.  She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationship with yoga and chocolate, is devoted to her family, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams.

She is the Marketing Director with Entangled Publishing, is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur and Entangled Publishing, and A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL. She also has written two romantic suspense novels, a light paranormal romance, and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox, a practical marketing guide for authors.

You can find Melissa on Twitter ( and Facebook.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler

Gambling. Murder. Mayhem. It's Vegas all the author Cathi Stoler stops by to talk about her new book which debuts tomorrow, The Hard Way. Lucky for us, she's also giving away a copy. 

Just comment below to be entered to win on something to do with ritzy, glitzy, risky Las Vegas...

Laurel Imperiole and Helen McCorkendale are in trouble again in The Hard Way, the latest installment in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery Series. 

This time, they’re headed to the neon fueled, high-roller world of Las Vegas where anything can happen, and usually does. 
Helen’s friend Jimmy Scanlan has just opened January, the most lavish casino and resort on the Las Vegas strip. When a mysterious woman is murdered poolside, Jimmy calls on Helen to investigate. She’s instantly thrown into a whirlwind of diamond dealers and International jewel thieves, all of whom might kill her in a heartbeat to obtain the world’s most precious diamond, the DeGroot Red.

As with my other novels, I based part of the story on what’s going on in the world around us, a bit of real life to ground it in the realm of the possible. 

And so part of the tale takes its cue from a real red diamond, the Kazanjian diamond, a 5-carat stone, which is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I also modeled my jewel thieves on the daring and audacious gang Interpol has dubbed The Pink Panthers. Their name derives from the movie staring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, and their copycat move of hiding a precious stone from one of their heists in a jar of face cream. They’ve stolen millions of dollars worth of gems, all with very few arrests, and were recently profiled on 60 Minutes, which you can read about in my recent post on Women of Mystery.

These are the bad guys Helen and Laurel take on—masterminds of crime for sure. To get the job done and see the case through to its conclusion, Laurel and Helen need to become masterminds of crime themselves— using all their skills and cunning to solve a murder and doing it “the hard way”, working together and going for doubles while hoping their luck will hold.

And if you're in a Vegas sort of mood, you can check out Kim and Kerry Hammond's trip to the Las Vegas CSI Experience and Las Vegas Speakeasies, The Lady Silvia and The Laundry Room. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lisa Scottoline's Keep Quiet

Kim Hammond reviews the new Lisa Scottoline book...

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline is a family-driven, suspense filled story that asks the question how far would you go to keep your loved ones safe.

"Ryan, don’t tell Mom. Never, ever.I…never ever would. Are you…insane?I mean it. No matter what. You know what she’d do. She’d have to.I swear…I won’t tell Mom…I won’t tell anybody."

Jake Buckman wants nothing more than to reconnect with his sixteen year old son Ryan before he finishes high school and goes off to college. Jake has been absent in his life for the last few years while he got his new financial planning business off the ground, a by-product of being laid off and struggling to find a new job. His marriage to Pam and relationship with Ryan has suffered. Marriage counseling helped, but no amount of reaching out to his son has worked.
One evening Pam urges Jake to pick Ryan up from the movies instead of her. Jake is both happy and nervous to have some alone time with his son. On the way home from the theatre, Jake has a lapse in judgment and lets Ryan drive on a seemingly deserted road, and their lives are changed forever after a child dies at their hands. Jake makes a split-second decision in order to save his son and Ryan's future. The estranged father and son take a vow of silence, and this forces the pair to lie and deceive the ones they love.

You can read the rest of this review over on Criminal Element.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

You Don't Own the E-Books on Your Kindle

Joel Johnson over at NBC News told me something that I didn't know about my Kindle account this week. I don't own the ebooks I buy there. You just license them and if Amazon decides to take that Kindle account away, your books disappear.

In an odd moment or two I have had thoughts of the Twilight Zone episode where the last human left on earth is so happy that he has lived and that he is left with a gigantic library and nothing but time to read in. As soon as he sits down to read, he breaks his glasses.  Of course he's the last man left, so there isn't anyone to make him new glasses. The Amazon meltdown equivalent would be if the system crashed in some catastrophic destruction of technology and all this information we've stored on computers - including books would be lost to mankind. 

Or Amazon could just decide to change the terms of the book licenses. Or close your account. Which they probably won't do because it doesn't make sense. Until it some day it does. 

I buy books both on paper and screen. If it's reference or travel books or novels by my favorite authors, I go for paper. Most everything else I get in electronic form. Ebooks are easy to read on the road and I don't have as many piles of books lying around the house, I still have piles mind you, but not as many. I know the paper to ebook paradigm shift is well in motion. I just have one more thing contemplate that I don't particularly like now. 

If you haven't already, you might want to go take a look at Joel's article.