Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tom Sawyer Detective

Here are some great photos of a 1924 copy of Tom Sawyer Detective, in honor of Samuel Clemens 178th birthday. This is a collection of short stories first published in 1878. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

After the Mayflower came Fortune

Now that you've had your fill of turkey and possibly tales of the first Thanksgiving, 
pilgrims and the Mayflower, did you ever think about the ship that came to America next?

Of course not because the Mayflower always gets all the press. But here's the thing, the investors who sent the Mayflower to America didn't finance the journey because they were nice guys. They did it because they wanted to make money. So much so, they greedily named the second ship for the Fortune they were sure they would make. 

But the good ship Fortune didn't live up to it's name. By the time it reached Massachusetts with thirty-five people on board, it was out of much needed supplies - for both passengers on the Fortune and the colonists of Plymouth who were still short on food because while Thanksgiving was a great meal, the hard living continued after the feast.
Despite the hardships, the investors sent a letter demanding that the Fortune be filled with treasure and sent back to England immediately. It seems the boss is the boss no matter what time and place. 
According to accounts, the settlers rallied and filled the ship with what treasure they could - mostly furs. Then they got together to figure a way to buy themselves out of debt, but it took seven long years to achieve.  
So even after the feast, the Pilgrims had to work hard to get themselves out of a massive debt. Hmmm. It doesn't sound so different than the United States today. 

To learn more about the Fortune, visit

Thursday, November 28, 2013

WhiteHouse Cookbook, Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! 

We are taking today off but wanted to leave you with some old fashioned recipes for turkey, stuffing and left overs from the White House Cookbook, circa 1900.

I apologize for the photo quality. My copy of the book is way too old to put in the scanner. 

Here's instructions on how to prepare your turkey starting with how to remove the feathers. The directions and comprehensive and go onto the next page, which you see just below the first. 

Since the turkey recipe calls for "Dressing of Stuffing for Fowls," I've also included those instructions below. You can see these recipes are more instructional and less prescriptive about weights and measures.  

Here's advice on carving from The White House Cookbook:

"When carving use a chair slightly high than the ordinary size, as it gives a better purchase on the meat, and appears more graceful than standing, as is often necessary when carving a turkey or a very large joint. More depends on skill than strength. The splatter should be placed opposite, and sufficiently near to give perfect command of the article to be carved, the knife of medium size, sharp with a keen edge.  Commence by cutting the slices thin, laying them carefully to ne side of the platter, then afterwards placing the desired amount on each guest's plate, to be served in turn by the servant."

Here's the directions for preparing a boiled turkey in case you don't feel like roasting it. There are also instructions for how to make turkey soup afterwards, for a fabulous left over. 

Too many mashed potatoes left over? Why not try Presidential Potato Puffs. This recipe looks easier than the others. We might even try it at my house. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Family Book Club

A few years ago my dad came up with the idea of all of the adults in the family reading the same book and then sitting down at some point when we were all together during the holidays and discussing having our own mini book club.

That year he suggested The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. There were five of us that Thanksgiving and only three of us read the book, but it was a fun discussion that led to other discussions throughout the holidays and after.

This year my mom chose the book and she decided to go with fiction -- Karin Slaughter's most recent book, Unseen. My mom and I have a slight advantage because we've both already read this book.

Our discussion is planned to take place in the lull between Christmas and New Years. We also plan to have another discussion about Unseen with another friend who is coming to town after Christmas.

The rules are simple, read the book if you want, you can participate in the discussion either way.

The Family Book Club is a fun and easy way to add a little bookishness to the holidays.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Crime & Beyond Book Club Reads Lisa Jackson

Kerry Hammond returns with an update on the latest meeting of her Denver-based mystery book club, Crime & Beyond. 

This month at Crime & Beyond, we mixed things up a bit. We had trouble getting enough copies of the book we had scheduled, so we rolled with it. Rather than reading the same book and discussing what we thought, we chose an author and each member was free to read any book that author wrote.

We chose Lisa Jackson partly due to the fact that she is quite a prolific writer. She has about 10 different series, a medieval trilogy, and another 10 stand-alones to her name. Our club covered 5 of her series, or is it series’? (I never know how to make that plural.) We read from New Orleans, Wicked, Savannah, To Die, and West Coast. 

New Orleans
The New Orleans series contains seven books, and members read Lost Souls, Devious, and Absolute Fear. The characters featured are Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya. We had a range of scores for each, with Lost Souls getting the highest rating. We agreed that you could read each book in the series without feeling like you were missing something by reading out of order.

To Die
The To Die series contains five books and takes place in Montana, featuring Detectives Regan Pescoli and Selena Alvarez. I think this was one of the most controversial series, mostly because one member gave an extremely high score to Afraid to Die and another an extremely low score for Born to Die. Like I always say, different books appeal to different people.

The Wicked series features The Colony and is written with Nancy Bush. This is a very interesting group of books (three total) and Ms. Jackson adds a bit of woo-woo into the stories. The books contain psychic activity and members of a cult (The Colony). Wicked Lies and Something Wicked got pretty high scores from club members and were really enjoyed.

West Coast
Only one person chose a book from the West Coast series, and it was Deep Freeze. It received a high score, which makes it a bit surprising that the most recent book in this two book grouping was published in 2007. Maybe the author prefers her other characters (or the publishers are finicky). The two books feature Travis Settler and his daughter Dani, who live in Falls Creek, Oregon.

The Savannah series contains three books and features Detectives Pierce Reed and Sylvie Morrisette. The library must have had a lot of copies of Tell Me, because everyone who read this series seemed to have read the same book. All scores were above average and the book had a good mystery for a plot, rather than just a suspense story.

Rather than mention it in each series summary, I think it’s important to note that most, if not all, of Ms. Jackson’s books contain quite a bit of sexual content. The stories seemed to focus a lot on the characters and their relationships, and many could be deemed romantic suspense novels. We all had a lot of fun reporting on the books we read and comparing the different series and the author’s writing style.

Next month is The Phantom by Jo Nesbo.

Kerry Hammond

Monday, November 25, 2013

Major Crimes' James Duff Answers Questions

Major Crimes is back for the second half of their season and tonight Executive Producer and Co-Creator, James A. Duff, returned to Facebook to answer questions. 

Major things we learned: Jon Tenney will return this season as FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard, but Brenda will not come back this year. Oh, and he dropped one hint about Sharon and Andy. 

The recap is below with only James Duff's answers. You can see the whole discourse on the Major Crimes Facebook Page

James Duff:  Jon Tenney is coming back this season as Special Agent Fritz Howard. Kyra is not coming back this year.

James Duff: Arlene@ you say don't make Rusty gay like that's a bad thing! Don't quite know how to respond to that!

James Duff: @Evelyn David I would love for the detectives from Major Crimes to go on a road trip. We did that at the end of Season Three of The Closer and it was a lot of fun.

James Duff: Yes, you will meet the letter writer this winter 

James Duff: @CathyC Unfortunately, the ordeal of the witness - and underrepresented drama inside our justice system - requires so much from people who try to do the right thing that I am reluctant to put an artificial end to this story. But Rusty will testify before the season is over...

James Duff: For those of you asking if Rusty will be staying with Sharon, please stay tuned to tonight's episode!

James Duff: For all those people who have posted how much they love the show, I can only say we love you back, and are grateful for your support !

James Duff: Mary Ann, we already have an openly gay character on the show! Dr. Morales has been out from the beginning! And he's also an immigrant! So, in terms of Los Angeles, very representative of our diverse demographic.

James Duff: @Dana, Rusty does humanize the cast, and demands some humanity from the audience as well. Justice has a price. And the weaker, more vulnerable members of our society always pay more of the burden.

James Duff: @Arron, it takes a great deal of time to write, produce and post these episodes. We like to run all of ours in a row, without interruption. There is a limit to how far in advance we can start prepping. So we go as far as we can until we run out of time to finish more episodes, and then we take off long enough to where we can run a lot more episodes in a row. Does that make sense?

James Duff:  To those of you suggesting the DDA must lighten up, you may see a slightly different turn from Emma Rios as she goes forward. But remember. Her job is not to help the police but to make sure we have a conviction.

James Duff: Just have to pause and say how wonderful Mary McDonnell is in this episode! And her best scenes are yet to come!

James Duff In re to tonight's episode, Det. Sykes carries a lot of the show! Love her!

James Duff: Just want to say, I love Brenda, too, and Kyra is a great and wonderful friend. No one misses her more than I do! But Brenda works somewhere else! Maybe she will be by next year. We will see.

James Duff @Aunt She'lee, it's hard to know what story lines wouldn't be addressed, because the justice system deals with all kinds of murders, but there is a limit to how dark I am willing to go. We bump up against that in the eight episodes we do this winter.

James Duff: @Jen Lynn, Raymond Cruz is one of my best friends, as well as a terrific actor, so don't worry about losing him!

James Duff: I love Raymond Cruz, too, and yellow everyone! Let me start by welcoming everyone to our winter premiere! I' watching and I hope you are, too. Also, a special thanks to Chris Wood, who just appeared in the repeat of our Summer finale!

James Duff: Those of you who are asking about Sharon and Andy, let me say that a performance of the Nutcracker has a part in their future.

Novellas in the Nick of Time

Today we're celebrating the launch of Cathi Stoler's new novella, Nick of Time, with an interview and a giveaway - stay tuned to the end of the post for details on how to win your own copy of Nick of Time. 

1) What is Nick of Time about?

This novella, my first, is a fast-paced international suspense thriller, featuring Nick Donahue, an American gambler living in London. Nick is in Venice playing Blackjack when he meets a beautiful woman in desperate need of help. He obliges and is soon embroiled in a whirlwind of mystery and intrigue.

Nick is kidnapped by a band of jewel thieves, then released and dumped in the woods outside Prague. Calling on his brother Alex, a banker at Zurich's SuisseBank, for assistance, Nick soon finds himself juggling Alex's problem: the murder of his boss and a world-wide money laundering scheme the bank has been running. When Nick blows the whistle on SuisseBank, its main client, the New York mob, is none too happy with his interference or their loss of revenue. They demand revenge and restitution, which only Nick, with all of his gambling tricks, can provide.

2) Why did you want to write a novella?

Nick of Time started out as two short stories, which I felt I wanted to expand upon. The format of a novella seemed right for what I had in mind. I could flesh out the character and create the story I wanted to tell.

The more I got into it, the more I enjoyed writing the Nick Donahue character—a male protagonist who was very different from the two female protagonists in my series—and setting him in intriguing and exciting places filled with dangerous and dramatic situations. Since I also enjoy exploring international settings, it made sense that Nick, a well-travelled gambler would be comfortable in this milieu.

3) How is a novella different from writing a short story or a novel?

Well, they all have a beginning, middle and an end. With a short story, the plot needs to move along and you have to be as concise as possible in describing the characters and situations. With a novel, you have the luxury of being able to develop your characters more fully. You can add back a backstory and introduce more twists and turns to the plot. To me a novella is a happy medium between the two, with characters who are readers can relate to and empathize with, and action that moves the story along at a good pace.

4) What is your favorite novella that you've read and didn't write?

I recently read The Foot Soldier by Mark Rubinstein, a novella about a young private fighting in the Vietnam War and a decision he makes that changes his life. While the Vietnam War is a distant memory for most of us, this book brings it back in chilling detail. You feel like you’re there on patrol in the middle of the jungle and it’s very scary. Putting the reader in the action, or embedding them, as the military might say, is what a good story should accomplish.

Now you can win a copy of Nick of Time. All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment below.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cake or Death? Eddie Izzard’s Enduring Lego

For your entertainment and morning coffee pleasure, here is a brilliant Lego re-enactment of an Eddie Izzard bit. Here he explains why the Spanish Inquisition (which, as we all know, no one ever expects) would never have worked in England. His reasons... the Church of England is too moderate and its inquisitors would have offered everyone the hideously difficult choice between cake and death.

This story originally appeared on on Criminal Element.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sesame Street takes on The Hunger Games

I admit it. I love when Sesame Street parodies popular movies or TV shows, I guess because I am just a big kid. This time Cookie Monster explores his feminine side and becomes a key player in the "Hungry Games: Catching Fur," a parody on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. 

In the Hungry Games, the teams have to compete by eating -- the challenge is figuring out what they should eat to win. I'll give you one hint - it's not cookies. 

Here you can see previous Sesame Street parodies of The Closer and HOMELAND.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seattle Mystery Bookshop

I love independent book stores and one of my favorites is Seattle's Mystery Bookshop. With a name like that, what's not to love. It's an entire store filled with mysteries and thrillers. Special racks include recommended series first, so you can start at the beginning of really great series, staff recommendations and the latest hardbacks.

They have author events regularly and large quantities of signed copies. The store is located at 117 Cherry Street in Seattle, right off Pioneer Square. The Underground Tour that takes you underneath the city is right around the corner and The Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tour is right across the street. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Well Organized Book Club

The book club that I belong to is very well organized and it's been running like a well oiled machine for almost twenty-years. I cannot take credit for any of this, because I haven't been a member for twenty years nor did I have anything to with the organization of it, but I can share how it works. I realize that this is just one way to organize a book club, and certainly not the only way. But it does work for us.

We have eleven members. One to host the book club every month except in August when we take a summer break. 

When it's your turn to be host you are responsible for everything:

1) You pick and provide the book the month before your turn. You buy copies for every single member and get it to them -- some like paper and some like ebook. This is one of my favorite aspects of the club - there's no situation where you're three weeks into the month and you haven't bought the book yet. There aren't lengthy discussions about which book to read every month. 

2) You remind everyone of the meeting, provide directions and confirm attendee numbers.

3) You provide all of the snacks and wine.

Book Selection

1) Books are supposed to have fewer than 400 pages (there have been some exceptions.

2) The hosts are not supposed to read or pre-screen the book. That way no one is offended if their selection is not universally loved.

3) You are not supposed to talk about the book with other club members before the meeting. 

The Meeting 

1) The group catches up and eats while waiting for all the members who have confirmed to show up. Once they do, the group talks about the book. Really talks about the book in depth. 

2) After we are done talking about the book, everyone starts catching up again. 

I love the way this works. It makes book club easy. I'd also love to hear your book club traditions, or favorite books your club has read. Looking forward to your comments below. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TWISTED by Laura K. Curtis

Laura K. Curtis' new romantic suspense e-book, TWISTED, comes out this week. 

Here's the book description: 
Lucy Sadler Caldwell is a successful true-crime writer. But the one story she's never been able to come to terms with is the murder of her own mother--until now.  She's returned to Dobbs Hollow, Texas, the hometown she fled seventeen years ago, to finally expose the real killer. 
After a bullet took out his knee in Houston, Detective Ethan Donovan found himself without a lot of options, which is how he ended up as Chief of Police in Dobbs Hollow. Lucy sure isn't asking for his help--she's not big on trust--but he can't help feeling a strong desire to come to her aid. 
And though Lucy is armed to the teeth, she will need all the help she can get. When she starts digging into the past, she unearths a psychotic killer who will stop at nothing to silence her forever...
Both my mom and I read the book and liked it. 

My Mom's Take:
Mom describes the main character Lucy as, "intelligent, brave and yet so vulnerable." She liked how Lucy used her true crime writing experience and applied it to trying to figure out the mystery. Mom got right into her character. She felt the focus of the book was more on the mystery rather than the romance. 

Deb's Take:
Lucy is a great main character who drives the story. She is so brave through all of her struggles, which I won't go . I agree with Mom, that the book is more focused on mystery than the romance. TWISTED is a fun read.    

Laura is giving away something every day for the month of November on her blog. Lots of fun to be had, including an opportunity to win book earrings that I made. Check it out.  

You can order TWISTED here. You may also want to check out her How to be a Romance Hero Guide. It's very fun.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Donors Choose: Schools Need Books

We talk about books here a lot on Mystery Playground because we love them. I recently found out that my friend Cory, who teaches high school in Washington State, doesn't have enough or the right textbooks for all of his students. At the very least, students should have text books. 

He's working with an organization called that helps teachers get the resources they need to teach. Cory, known as Mr. Campbell to his students, works in an economically challenged district with 40% of his students meeting the criteria for school lunch. Cory has purchased half a new set with his own money, on a teacher's salary. 

Here is his story and request:

"My two economics classes are currently using a partial set of textbooks from 1995. Not only is the book old, but it is also poorly organized. We need a better set of textbooks. I've purchased half of a class set with my own money, but need help completing the set.
My students are mostly seniors. My school serves a diverse population, including over 40% students receiving free and reduced lunch. Some of my students are taking the class in order to make up credit for previously failed social studies classes. Others are taking it to better prepare themselves for college. 
Our request is simple: we need good textbooks! We have made do so far with photocopies of a good textbook I have, occasionally sharing the old textbooks we have, and also watching some lectures from Khan Academy. 
The text I am requesting is very well organized, and while it is still about 8 years old, it is a decade newer than the one we have currently. 
This project will help my students learn the basics of economics, which will better prepare them to succeed in college and make informed decisions, both personal, and public (i.e. voting)."

To learn more about you can visit their website here


GREAT NEWS! This textbook project has been fully funded. 

Monday, November 18, 2013


To celebrate the launch of Catriona McPherson's latest Dandy Gilver book, DANDY GILVER AND A BOTHERSOME NUMBER OF CORPSES, we are giving away the fabulous Crime Scene Do Not Cross scarf pictured above AND a copy of Catriona's new book. These two items are the must have fashion accessories for any mystery fan. 

Here's the description of DANDY GILVER AND A BOTHERSOME NUMBER OF CORPSES from the publisher and Publishers Weekly:

"Agatha Christie meets Upstairs Downstairs . . . [For] fans of Phryne Fisher and Maisie Dobbs." —Publishers Weekly

A mystery writer perfect for fans of Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey, and Gosford Park,  Catriona McPherson has charmed readers everywhere with her fun and clever series set in 1920s Scotland. In this new adventure, witty, aristocratic sleuth Dandy Gilver travels to an all-girls school in the small seaside town of Portpatrick to investigate the disappearance of a childhood friend who taught there. Soon, Dandy discovers that her missing chum is not the only thing that's off in Portpatrick. Other teachers have been disappearing at an alarming rate. The BBC has optioned the Dandy Gilver series for television, and mystery fans will love Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, the newest excursion with Scotland's most charming sleuth.

These books are witty, fun with a spot of murder. I can't wait until the BBC series comes out. In the meantime, if you aren't familiar with these books, you may want to start with the first one, DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS. You can learn more about Catriona on her Facebook page

To enter the contest, make a comment below related to Scotland or the BBC... We'll pick a winner on Thursday.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

1940s Three Musketeers

This is a 1940s version of Volume Two of The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. Notice the blurb from George Sand, the pseudonym for Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Baroness Dudevant. She died in the late 1800s so they must have chose to re-run the old quote in the 1940s version. I love this old cover. 

You can read The Three Musketeers here

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: DUST by Patricia Cornwall

Kim Hammond reviews the next Patricia Cornwell book ... 
Dust by Patricia CornwellDust by Patricia Cornwell features Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, trying to unravel a posed corpse's impossible death while her FBI-profiler husband involves her in the case of D.C.'s sexual predator, the Capital Murderer (available November 12, 2013).
I've enjoyed following Kay, Benton, Lucy, and Marino through the years, but it’s hard to believe this is the 21st installment in the Kay Scarpetta series that started with Post Mortem in 1990.
Marino is now a cop with the Cambridge police and he’s calling Kay because of a body found at MIT on the athletic fields: a young woman who was posed dramatically and has no apparent injuries, but is dead nonetheless. She may be a young woman who is the plaintiff in a 100-million dollar lawsuit that is week away from trial.
Kay is still stinging from Marino’s sudden departure from the Cambridge Forensics Center (CFC) and she isn’t sure she can work with him again. He has already fallen back into the old cop persona that she doesn't like.
Kay is also wrestling with her own demons at the moment. She has just returned from a gruesome case of a tragic shooting that left twenty-seven children dead at an elementary school. Her mind keeps experiencing flashbacks:
Television and production trucks were everywhere, and we made sure all of the blinds were drawn. Dark brown carpet. Thick slicks of dark coagulated blood that I could smell as it began to decompose. Sticky on the bottom of my shoes as I moved around inside that room. There was so much blood and I tried so hard not to step in it, to work the crime scene properly. As if it mattered.
Hope on over to Criminal Element to read the rest of the review...

Book Review: BURIED LEADS by LynDee Walker

Today Kerry Hammond reviews Buried Leads by LynDee Walker...

Buried Leads by LynDee WalkerBuried Leads  by LynDee Walker is the second Nichelle Clarke Headlines in High Heels Mystery about a Virginia journalist (available October 15, 2013).
Nichelle Clarke is a reporter for theRichmond Telegraph and her job is to cover the cops and court beat for the paper. She’s a fashion-conscious girl, who isn’t afraid to get dirty if it means getting information for a news story. When she hears on her police scanner that a dead body was found in the woods, she doesn’t even think to change out of her Manolos before heading over to the scene.
Dead people can have the worst timing.
After a ridiculously long day of deadlines, criminals, and cops who did not want to talk to me, I wanted a hot bath and my warm bed. Is that too much for a girl to ask? Apparently so, because there I was, traipsing around the woods looking for a half-eaten dead guy who got himself discovered at eleven o’clock. At night. The glamorous life of a journalist.
The humor in this book starts at the very beginning and moves right along through to the end. You might think that a series about high heels would be fluffy, but you’d be wrong. This book has a great mystery, a ton of humor (I know I’ve already said that, but it was worth repeating) and really wonderful characters. Nichelle might like her shoes, but she’s a smart career girl who works hard and tries to do the right thing by writing stories that matter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Playground: Project Gutenberg

Allan Pinkerson's "true" stories from his detective work

I love all kinds of old books. I love the smell, the touch, the feel, the look. I also like to read them, but sometimes beautiful old books crumble when you open it up and turn a page, much less hold them for hours. And sometimes you just can't find a particular book when you need it, even when combing the state-wide library system.  

From Allan Pinkerton's book, the Somnambulist and the Detective. Somnambulist means sleep walker. 
That's where Project Gutenberg comes in. Named after Johannes Gutenberg who invented the printing press in Europe, the site has more than 42,000 free e-books available on their website, ready for immediate download. 

Interested in reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original works featuring Sherlock Holmes? Here they are.  The works of Edgar Allen Poe? Right here. What about Detective Allan Pinkerton's "true" detective stories? No problem. What about the Book of Cats by Charles Ross? I had never heard of it either, but it's a fun book for cat lovers.

Free e-books abound on the Project Gutenberg website, because the copyright has expired in the United States. The site does ask that you make a small donation to help the site keep running. The books are uploaded and proof-read by volunteers. Some are even in audio book and many have wonderful illustrations. It's a fun site to check out. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Seattle's EMP Museum: Fantasy & Myth Exhibit

I recently went to a fun exhibit at Seattle's EMP Museum near the Space Needle, called Fantasy: Worlds of Myths and Magic. Above you see a photo of one of the Cowardly Lion outfits worn by Burt Lahr in the classic movie, The Wizard of OZ. This is one of two costumes Lahr wore in the film. Below is an outfit from the Winkie guards. Looking at this, I can hear the 'Oh-we-oh" song rolling in my head. 

Next we have costumes from the 1987 movie The Princess Bride based on the novel by William Goldwin. Here are costumes worn by Robin Wright and Cary Elwes as the fought the Rats of Unusual Size (ROUSs).


Here's the glove and sword used by Mandy Patinkin as he rocked the Inigo Montoya character and uttered the fabulous line, over and over and over... 
"My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."

From Harry Potter, you find the costume worn by Gary Oldman to play Harry's godfather, Sirius Black. 

And if you've got a minute more, check out the giveaways going on over on Laura K. Curtis' blog to celebrate the launch of her new book, TWISTED. She's giving away something every single day throughout the month of November. It's definitely worth a stop...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The World of Audio Books

Today Kim Hammond interviews audio book star, Barbara Rosenblat and talks about her love for audio books. 

I never have enough time to read. If there were more hours in a day I’d like to read 3-4 books a week….sigh, wouldn’t that be nice? I am cursed with a long commute each day and round trip is at least 1 ½ hours, so my compromise is my beloved audiobooks.

I think an audiobook can make a character come to life. There’s just something about hearing a character’s “voice” that can make you connect to them, and if it’s a series narrated by the same actor, all the better because that voice is consistent and familiar.

I also find that a narrator can make or break a story for me. If the narrator is good, he or she can make a so-so story much better with their ability to bring the characters to life. By the same token, if the narrator isn’t good, even a well written story can be disappointing. 

Just like having my favorite authors, I have my favorite audiobook narrators. In my humble opinion, the rockstar of female narrators is Barbara Rosenblat. When I see her name on one of my audiobooks I actually get giddy and know I am in for a treat, and I am bummed when the book is over.

Now you’re in for a treat because I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara on a Saturday morning as she fit me into her busy, busy schedule. Truth be told, I was nervous, and I talk for a living, so that’s saying something. As soon as I heard her voice I felt like I was talking to Linda Fairstein’s Alexandra Cooper. I just finished the audiobook of Death Angel last week and Barbara’s voice was still in my head.

Kim: How long have you been narrating audiobooks?

Barbara: Since the 1980s. I lived in England for 14 years and started my career there. My agent asked me to do a 3 hour abridged Harlequin romance and I was hooked…..I loved it. But opportunity didn’t come up again until I came back to the States.

Kim: How many times do you read a book to prepare?

Barbara: Once. But I read it a lot slower than the average person in order to take it all in, the pacing and characters. I once had a fan say I have a phonographic memory, which refers to my ability to remember the voices as they come up in the book. As I begin to work, I rely on that skill and 'bookmarking' to maintain the characterizations.

Kim: How long does it take you to tape an unabridged book?

Barbara: It takes about 2 hours to record one finished hour. I start a book for Audible tomorrow and will be at their studio in midtown from 10 till 4 in the afternoon. With lunch, I should get around 3 finished hours done. Recorded Books is one of the only studios that works in 2 hour increments. My current assignment must be completed in 3 days. 

Kim: Do you have a favorite character?

Barbara: Linda Fairstein’s Detective Mike Chapmanis one of my favorites, Elizabeth Peters’ Emerson and Marla from Diane Mott Davidson’s books.

Barbara then talked to me in Mike Chapman’s voice and then switched to Emerson talking to Amelia Peabody. I was beside myself with glee. It was amazing to hear her change her voice back and forth.  I feel like I know these fictional characters because of her and I could recognize their voices immediately.

Kim:  Speaking of Elizabeth Peters, I feel that her death was such a loss to the writing community.

Barbara: I’m still not over it. I don’t often meet the authors whose book I narrate, but I met her years ago and we became great friends. I’d visit her for a weekend and we enjoyed talking about everything. 

Kim: Do you read for pleasure, and if so, what are some of your recent reads?

Barbara: Yes I do. A few books are Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and Forever by Pete Hamill.

Kim: How do you get picked to narrate a book?

Barbara: Sometimes I have to audition just like an actress would for a part in a movie. Sometimes an author will ask for me.

Kim: Do you like narrating a series for an author? I know that I enjoy when a series is narrated by the same person throughout. I like each character’s voice to remain the same.

Barbara: Yes. Doing a series is like getting into a comfy pair of slippers for me.

Kim: What projects are you doing right now?

Barbara: Usually an actor is only as good as her current job and you never know where the next one is coming from. I’ve never been in this position with my life before…. being so busy. I’ve been asked to narrate the new Nevada Barr. I am filming another episode of Orange is the New Black (she plays Miss Rosa) and I am also working on a film.   I have an embarrassment of riches at this moment in my life.

Kim: You can tell just by the way you talk that you are having the time of your life and really enjoy what you do. Not everyone can say that in life.

Barbara: I am very fortunate.  I like to say that I am seducing readers one pair of ears at a time. It’s a personal one on one event to me. It’s just you and me and a bond is created.

The audiobook industry has its own awards and Barbara has won her fair share: over 40 Earphone Awards, the latest is for Death Angel, 8 Audie Awards (more than any other female in the nation) and many others. A critic once said, “Barbara is to audiobooks what Meryl Streep is to film.” Now that’s quite a compliment. As I was writing this post I took a break to tool around face book for a few minutes and I see a post from none other than Linda Fairstein who said:

"Just in! The superb Barbara Rosenblat- who has read many of the audio books in this series, just won Audiofiles “Earphones” award for her narration of Death Angel. Way to go Barbara! She is fantastic."

Barbara was very generous with her time and it was amazing to get a glimpse into such a unique world. I hope she continues to entertain and delight us for many years to come. Now I have to go to Netflix and check out Orange is the New Black
Kim Hammond

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Making A Book Purse: No Sew Method

Sometimes a good short cut is just what you need. Super fast way to turn an old book into a handbag. The key to this short cut is finding a pre-made purse that fits your book. I have a bag full of old books in my car and when we hit thrift shops and estate sales, I know exactly what kind of purse I'm looking for. The purse has to be boxy and book shaped. I love it when they are an exact fit, but like the one below, sometimes close enough is just as good.

Here are the materials needed:

1) A book and a purse that match in size
2) Gorilla Glue (you can use other glues but this is my favorite)
3) An Exacto Knife

Step One:
The first thing you do is liberate the inside pages of the book by carefully cutting the book innards from the cover. Be careful not to cut the book cover, or yourself. I save the inside pages for other crafts. More on that later. 

Step Two: Dot the purse with Gorilla Glue, all over one side. Then quickly fit it into the book cover. Hold until the Gorilla Glue sets, 3-5 minutes to be safe. 

Step Three: Repeat Step Two and glue the other side of the purse to the other side of the book cover. I usually put other books on top until the glue sets. 

It's pretty easy, the only challenge is finding the purse that matches the book at the right price point. Library sales are a great place to find old books.

Here are two more purses I made this way. 

The inside of this book was destroyed, otherwise I would never have pulled it apart.

This inside of this one was also unreadable.