Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Alfred Hitchcock & Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Giveaway

I'm in the kitchen getting the turkey and pirate treasure hunts ready, so I thought we'd give away the November issues of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to celebrate. 

These magazines are full of wonderful short stories - quick little bites of crime fiction that you can fit in-between holiday shopping and parties. 

Just comment below to enter. US residents only. 

And don't forget to start thawing that frozen turkey by putting it in the fridge now...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Major Crimes Facebook Chat Recap with James Duff, Jonathan Del Arco & Phillip Keene

James Duff, executive producer and co-creator of Major Crimes, returned to Facebook tonight to answer a multitude of audience questions about the show and tonight's winter premier episode. He was joined by Phillip Keene (Buzz) and Jonathan Del Arco (Dr. Morales). Duff is always so generous with his time with fans -- from this letter he sent out before The Closer finale to his recent appearance at the Bouchercon mystery convention. Thank you, James! 

Onto tonight's recap. What did we learn:

  • Det. Julio Sanchez will be read his rights this season. (Now I am worried about him)
  • Duff says that as a writer everything is harder than he thinks it will be
  • Four of the nine episodes will have Jon Tenney as Agent Fritz Howard in them. He directs one. (We could see more of Jon Tenney if the Major Crimes potential spin off, SOB (Special Operations Bureau) gets picked up...But more on that later.
If you want to read more about the Major Crimes writing process and what might happen this season, check out this post and this one

At the end of the chat James wrote:

James Duff I wish I could thank each of you individually for being here, but we're all grateful for the time you take to spend with us. Next week, young love as two college students suffer a deadly attack with a pair of scissors. Awful! I couldn't turn away.

Can't wait until next week's episode...

The rest of the answers are below. As usual, I've removed any references to this episode specific episode. Because of the volume of questions, only James Duff's answers are included. He restates the questions in his answers so you can track all of the action. 

  • James Duff Marsha S asks why The Closer and Major Crimes have stayed successful and I don't know the answer to that, really, except that our audience has stayed so loyal.

    James Duff
    Kimberly B says she loves Provenza and would like to see him with another lady who could liven up his life.

    James Duff
    Provenza is about to meet someone who changes his life. Next week.

  • James Duff Kathe Mazur, who plays Hobbs, is one of my favorite actors in the world. She raises the tone of every room she enters.

  • James Duff
    And we work every year to tie her closer to the squad.

    James Duff
    Helen B asks why the LAPD would hire someone after they had a heart attack. As a rule, heart attacks do not necessarily disqualify people from work, especially in the era of modern medicine. But, in point of fact, LAPD officers get their physicals from their own doctors, who sign off on their health for work.

    James Duff
    Elle R that we put our show in real time. Including the birthday of the baby. Yes, we do it whenever we can for the sake of the people watching the show when it originally airs.

  • James Duff
    Those of you who show up for us when our episodes premiere: you deserve something extra!

    James Duff
    The LAPD has hundreds of reserve officers who work as patrol cops and detectives and terrorist experts.

    James Duff
    And Michael V also suggests that role of Buzz has grown and grown as the show has grown. Buzz will have even more to do, as he trains to be a reserve officer.
  • James Duff I don't know about that myself.

  • James Duff
    Phillip wants people who watch the show that the Rusty story effects him deeply, and that he thinks that's why the show has transitioned so well. Captain Raydor is the mother Rusty needed. And that relationship is so primal that people almost need to see it.

  • James Duff Jonathan Del Arco wants everyone to know he's better looking in person than Phillip is.

  • James Duff Phillip disagrees.

  • James Duff They argue about this a lot.

  • James Duff
    But we have an idea that we think will work really well for the end of the year.

  • James Duff Ilona A asks if we have selected the theme for next season. We're talking about it in private right now.

  • James Duff
    I don't want to say anything before I sit down with the writers again next week to begin our work on the fourth year.

  • James Duff
    Phillip P. Keene thinks the switch to Major Crimes offered him a chance to step up. And he's very proud of how all the actors from The Closer have gone on to do so much.

  • James Duff
    Jonathan Del Arco thinks the transition from The Closer to Major Crimes gave him an opportunity to do more. And to expand the work he was doing.

  • James Duff
    If I knew how hard something was going to be when I started, I would probably not try.

  • James Duff Pete W asks if the transition from The Closer to Major Crimes was harder than I thought it would be.

  • James Duff As a writer, I can tell you for sure that everything is harder than I think it will be.

  • James Duff As for titles, we try to find something that couples our theme with our mystery and uses a phrase you may have heard before, or a bit of lingo from law enforcement that fits the subject
  • James Duff Sometimes there's a clue in the title. Sometimes it's a mislead.

  • James Duff
    Usually, we talk about story for seven to ten days, writing it all down on white boards around the writer's room. And then the writer goes off for about three weeks and writes an outline. And then we take that outline and convert it into a script (in about two more days). And then we keep rewriting the script while it shoots.

  • James Duff So each story takes about nine weeks to complete. But we are doing several stories at once, so it mostly works out.

  • James Duff @Todd H (hi my friend!) asks how long it takes us to come up with stories and how we come up with the name.

  • James Duff We come in to work, hoping to do the very best job we can do.

  • James Duff We want to do new stories that you've never seen before. And to the extent we can achieve that, we feel lucky to be here.

  • James Duff
    If we have done anything out of the ordinary, it is only what most of you do every day.

    James Duff
    Michael V talks about how interesting Jonathan DelArco is on the show, which is absolutely true. He's been doing snarky/creepy autopsies for eight years!

    James Duff
    Lorraine B asks if Jon Tenney is coming back.
      James Duff Yes, he appears in four more episodes and directs one in our winter season!
  • James Duff Jon is now a Deputy Chief!

  • James Duff
    Teresa F wants to see more of Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

  • James Duff
    And so would we. Malcolm comes back in our last two episodes, when we also become reacquainted with Phillip Stroh.

    James Duff
    It's hard to keep a show from getting out to the public in this day and age

    James Duff
    I can't say too much more than that, except to mention that, at some point, Julio Sanchez will be read his rights...

James Duff and show writer Detective Mike Berchem

  • James Duff Del S asks Phillip about significant events that happen in Buzz's career. Yes, that happens this winter, in the finale involving Phillip Stroh.
  • James Duff We work so hard to make the show surprising in some way, and then I think people get overly excited when they learn something and spill the beans.

  • James Duff Phillip Keene, Kearran Giovanni, Graham Patrick Martin, Raymond Cruz, Michael Paul Chan and Tony Denison all met G.W. Bailey in Florida this last week for a golf tournament raising money for the Sunshine Kids.

  • James Duff Jonathan and Mary both would have gone, but they don't golf!

  • James Duff I don't golf either.
  • James Duff Unless there's a windmill on the course.

  • James Duff But the actors like the other actors on our show!

    James Duff
    I'll be back here next week and I will bear in mind that you all want Hobbs, Morales, Buzz and Tao to go out and get a drink together one night!

    James Duff
    Phillip P. Keene says he hopes you all stay to the end and Jonathan thanks you for coming back to chat with us at the beginning of our new season.

    James Duff
    We hope to do nineteen episodes in season four, but right now, we are only being ordered for fifteen. That could change after we begin breaking stories.

    James Duff
    Of course, we don't ever begin with an order for nineteen. Only fifteen.

    James Duff
    It takes a lot of time to write, shoot, edit and mix every episode we do, not to mention the effort the cast has to go through to memorize and perform it all.

  • James Duff Grace E asks why we only have eight episodes. We are actually airing nine episodes.

  • James Duff At some point in the process, we run out of time to finish episodes and get them to air in consecutive order.

  • James Duff So we take a break to make enough 
  • episodes to show in a row and keep you interested.

  • James Duff Jonathan Del Arco says he uses medical consultants when the show hires them, and Wikipedia when they don't.

    James Duff
    I don't expect privacy in my life anymore. And I'm just one person! So how you maintain privacy on a project with two-hundred-and-fifty people working on it: I don't know.

Major Crimes Returns Tonight

Major Crimes returns tonight on TNT at 9:00 EST/8:00 CST pm. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Major Crimes executive producer and co-creator, James Duff, and he brought along a few friends: 
Jonathan Del Arco (Dr. Morales), Kathe Mazur (DDA Hobbs), Adam Belanoff (writer and producer), Damani Johnson (executive story editor), former Detective Mike Berchem (writer and story consultant) and Kendall Sherwood (writer). 

This gang really likes and plays off one another. You can tell how well they function as a team. Duff told us that all of the writers work together to conceive and write the shows, although one writer will take the lead per episode. The season is carefully planned out at the beginning of each season and a theme is chosen. The theme of the first nine episodes of this season (seen last summer) was expectations and how life can change when they aren't met. 

Once the theme has been chosen, the writers can suggest different murder storylines that fit the theme. Then the individual episode writing begins. This season each character's story will be highlighted in an episode.

James Duff, Detective Mike Berchem, Kathe Mazur, Jonathan Del Arco, Damani Johnson, Kendall Sherwood and Adam Belanof
Here's James Duff with Detective Mike Berchem. Duff says that about 70% of the stories they tell come from Detective Mike’s 29 years on the homicide squad. The writers frequently go to Detective Mike to help them figure out how LAPD would approach a certain situation and to brainstorm ideas on how clues can be brought to light. 

James Duff and Mike Berchem

And it's no coincidence that the character of Lt. Mike Tao (played by Michael Paul Chan) is consulting for a detective TV show. 

You can find out what Duff had to say about Captain Sharon Raydor and Andy Flynn's relationship here (and the resolution of the Philip Stroh storyline and a romantic relationship for Lt. Provenza)

Here's what else we learned:
  • GW Bailey was Duff’s acting coach in high school. Duff has known him since he was fifteen years old.
  • Adam Belanoff writes all the Flynn & Provenza episodes (including the fabulous episode of The Closer where Flynn & Provenza leave a body in Provenza’s garage while they go to a Dodger game).
  • Buzz is training to be a reserve police officer and is quick to point out when Provenza takes liberties with rules. Provenza doesn't like that so much. 
  • Each character will have a focus episode this season. Sanchez will have some serious issues. 

Special Operations Bureau (SOB)
There is a Major Crimes spin-off in the works called SOB, which stand for Special Operations Bureau. Jon Tenney would star as Deputy Chief Fritz Howard with Laurie Holden and Malcome Jamal Warner as co-stars as they chronicle the stories of the LAPD Special Operations Bureau. Duff says when citizens need help, they call the police. When police officers need help, they call SOB. The show hasn't officially been picked up yet, but I hope it will be. 

Duff will be back tonight for his weekly Facebook chat, which we will recap later tonight. If you missed the first nine episodes of this season, you can catch them on TNT today starting at 11:00 am EST. 

Jonathan Del Arco, Kerry Hammond and Kathe Mazur

You can find more from this session on Major Crimes here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Library Inspired Wallpaper

Anthropologie has this wonderful library inspired wall paper available on their website right now. The card catalog paper above is my favorite created by Debbie McKeegan. 

This stacked book paper created by Tracey Kendall features lots of fabulous Penguin paperback books. Love the orange color sprinkled throughout.

The calligrapher collage paper below features little post cards and notes. I think all three would be lovely on one wall in the right room. I'm not so sure about all four walls. It might be too much. 

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 www.lisaalber.com. 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.