Friday, October 31, 2014

Literary Costumes

We're taking a break from Drinks with Reads today so Kerry Hammond can tell us all how to whip together a last minute literary themed Halloween costume. Happy Haunting! 

As sad as it is, it’s generally frowned upon for adults to dress up in costume and walk the streets. But Halloween is that one time of year when it’s encouraged. Why not take advantage of the season and come up with a fun, yet literary costume idea. You can dress as your favorite author, or better yet, a character from a book. Here are just a few ideas for those looking for a literary Halloween. I found quite a few costume ideas and accessories for purchase (at prices that won’t break the bank) on Candy Apple Costumes. You can also get great ideas from the site and hit your local thrift stores to create the look by yourself.

Sherlock Holmes is always a recognizable costume. You can find a pipe and magnifying glass from any costume shop. Pair it with a cape and deerstalker hat and you’re good to go. If you’ve got a friend, he or she can go as Watson. We all know from watching Elementary that Watson works as a Joan, not just a John.

If you’re a fan of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are a lot of costumes you can find to dress in the style of the Roaring 20s. Girls can go as flappers and call themselves Daisy Buchanan. Guys just need a suit and fedora and viola, you’ve got Jay Gatsby. Call everyone around you “Old Sport” and you’ll be a hit. I found some neat and inexpensive accessories for these costumes on Candy Apple: cigarette holder for the ladies and shoulder holsters with toy guns for the guys. 

If you want to go more fun and juvenile, there are some great Where’s Waldo and Where’s Wenda costumes at Target online. You can create these on your own by finding a red and white striped shirt and socks, and any black glasses from a costume shop. A hat with pom-pom ball is really a must, though, to pull it all together.

Lastly, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are always a favorite of mine. My husband and I attended a murder mystery dinner one year and costumes were encouraged. I found the clothing and most accessories at a local goodwill, found the cane and bowler hat at a costume shop, and purchased the pince nez and lapel pin on Ebay. Hercule won the best costume award.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Sherlock Plate

This week we're making ceramic Silhouette Sherlock plates. You read that right. The crafty gang headed for the ceramics open studio and got a little crazy. These plates are super fun. 

Here's what you need:
- Clay
- Rolling pin
- Kiln or open studio
- Pointy tool or dull knife
- Surface to roll your clay out on - a board works well
- Coffee straw
- Glaze

Step One:
Create your template. I used the Sherlock shape in the photo below and printed out and enlarged it. Once your project dries it will shrink about 10%, so make it a little larger than you want your final project to be. You may recall that we used this same shape in the glass painting project back in June. 

Step Two:
Roll out your clay and put the template on it to cut out your desired shape. Use your pointy tool or dull knife to cut they Sherlock shape out of the clay.

Step Three:
Smooth the edges around the Sherlock Shape. Keep in mind when you move it that the pipe is the most delicate part of the plate. We lost several Sherlocks because we weren't careful of that pipe. If you want a curved shape to help keep items on the plate, we recommend that you let in dry in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. 

Step Four:
Let your item dry and then have someone who knows how to use a kiln fire it. We cheated and let the open studio instructor, Trudi, do this part. Thank you Trudi! 

Step Five:
Apply the glaze. We used an opaque black glaze and dipped them in a vat of glaze, then sponged the glaze off the back, so it didn't melt onto the kiln. The dipping method worked well. If you don't use the dipping method, apply the glaze to the top of the plate with a paint brush. Three coats works best. Be careful that you don't  over glaze the pipe. Too much glaze can cause your project to stick to the kiln. We lost another Sherlock to this problem. 

Step Six:
Fire these little guys in a kiln one more time. And you are ready to serve little items on your Sherlock plate.  

Come on back next week for more Crafty Thursday...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Denver Ghost Stories

In honor of Halloween, Kerry Hammond takes us ghost hunting in Denver....

Most cities have haunted sites where ghosts have been spotted. Many times it’s where multiple or famous deaths have occurred. I decided that this year I would do a self-guided ghost walk in the city where I live, to find out just how haunted Denver really is. I chose the self-guided tour because the guided tours were full, which just goes to show how popular these things really are (and makes me realize I’m not alone). 

I started my tour in downtown Denver at the recently remodeled Union Station, located on Wynkoop and 17th Street. Built in 1881, Union Station was the first railway depot in Denver, and to this day is still home to Denver’s Amtrak train line. There have been several ghost sightings at this location, one being a little girl dressed in clothing that dates back to the 1800s. Some believe she died in a fire that destroyed a huge part of the station back in 1894. 

My next stop was the Oxford Hotel on 14th Street, which opened for business in 1891. Perhaps passengers stayed here after their rail journey while visiting Denver. One such couple, as the story goes, stayed in room 320. While on the premises, the husband caught his wife cheating and killed her prior to committing suicide. This room is still believed to be haunted by the woman’s ghost. The Cruise Room is the bar located inside the Oxford Hotel, and I have stopped here many times for a martini. I have never encountered the postman who some have seen sitting at the bar talking about delivering Christmas gifts. In the early 1900s, the body of a postman was found next to a pile of undelivered Christmas gifts, he is believed to be the ghost who visits the Cruise Room for a beer now and then.

Every city seems to have its very own red light district, and in the late 1800s in Denver there was an area known for prostitution and general debauchery. Market Street was the hub of this activity and there were three reported stranglings of young working women in the fall of 1894. All three murders happened on the same block and the murderers were never found. This area was known as Stranglers Row and some think these three women still haunt Market Street.

My last stop was the Brown Palace Hotel on 17th Street (photo at the top of the page). This hotel was opened in 1892 and is well known for its afternoon tea events, high-end spa, and beautiful rooms. It is also known for its ghosts. Some of the sightings have been: a waiter riding in the elevator, the sound of a string quartet where none is playing, and a train conductor who hangs around where a railway ticket office used to be.

I have never come across any of the ghosts that I discovered on my tour, but I can always hope that next time one will show itself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dawn Eastman & Be Careful What You Witch For

Dawn Eastman, Author of Be Careful What you Witch For, is here today to answer questions.

First here's a little about her new book:

Leaving a traumatic police career behind, Clyde Fortune has returned to her seemingly quiet hometown of Crystal Haven, Michigan. In spite of the psychic powers of its residents, there’s no telling what trouble is brewing in this burg…

The highlight of the fall festival in Crystal Haven is a bonfire with a witch’s cauldron resting over it. Clyde’s best friend Diana leads a ritual to divine the future, but it seems no one foresees that one of their own will drop dead—or that Diana will be a prime suspect.

 Clyde already has her hands full with her eccentric family, runaway nephew, and burgeoning secret romance with a hunky homicide detective. But after another coven member is attacked, Clyde suspects there’s a witch hunt afoot and focuses her psychic and sleuthing skills to clear her friend’s name and catch a killer.

Do you have any favorite Halloween traditions? 

Fall is my very favorite season. I love to watch the leaves change and prefer temps in the 60’s to temps in the 90’s. So, when the weather starts to cool I decorate the house, starting in late September. I love ghosts and witches and pumpkins. Both of my kids have always loved to plan their costumes so sometimes we start preparations before summer is even over. I think my favorite tradition is to go to our local Living History museum. They have a nineteenth century town that they set up for trick or treating, hay rides, marshmallow toasting and ghost stories. We try to go every year, although both of my kids are getting older and only one dresses up anymore. I may have to borrow the neighbor kids in the future…

(one of my rare Martha Stewart moments)
What’s special about the town where your book is set: Crystal Haven, Michigan?

Crystal Haven is a classic cozy small town on Lake Michigan. They have a beach, beautiful woods and sand dunes, boating and shopping. They also have psychics, tarot readers, witches, palm readers, and pet psychics.

(This is an example of the cozy shops you might find in Crystal Haven)

Why do you write cozy mysteries?

Because I love to read them. Cozy mysteries are my comfort reads. I have several series I follow and love to return to the small town setting and re-visit friends from previous books. 

Is there a particular author who has been an inspiration to you? 

There are so many authors I love, I can’t possibly choose. In the mystery realm some of my favorites are Janet Evanovich, Louise Penny, Laurie King, Margaret Maron, Tana French and Susan Wittig Albert. I’ve also started reading Ann Cleeves, Krista Davis, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Laura Morrigan, Jen McKinlay, and Rhys Bowen.

What is the most fun about being an author? 

I love to meet – either online or in person – readers and other authors. Two fun fan moments for me are pictured here. I met Louise Penny and Ann Cleeves at a mystery conference – two of the nicest, most gracious authors you’d ever want to meet. That’s my mom next to Louise – she’s another mystery fan.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Major Crimes Comes to The World's Mystery Convention

James Duff, co-creator of TNT'S The Closer and Major Crimes TV shows is coming to the world's mystery convention. The convention, called Bouchercon, is in Long Beach, CA at the Hyatt Regency, November 13-16. Duff will appear on Friday, November 14 from 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm with other cast and crew members from the show. 

The session will give viewers a behind the scenes look at how Major Crimes portrays the art of the deal in the American justice system, while providing a glimpse of how the show is developed, written and filmed. 

Other happenings at the four-day convention include sessions on how to work a crime scene, interviews with best-selling authors Jeffery Deaver, J.A. Jance and Michael Connolly, book signings, parties and panels. 

You can find out more about the Bouchercon convention here

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Well Dressed Haunted Mansion Dining Room

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is one of my favorite places in the world and I'm clearly not the only one. Disney, ever interested in sharing it's properties with it's fans, has come up with not one but two, Haunted Mansion themed dish sets this Halloween season. It's like the couldn't pick the one they liked best to produce so they did both. 

The first set is reminiscent of the old Fishs Eddy blueprint plates. There are three dishes in this set - the dining room dinner plate, the second floor dessert plate and the third floor appetizer plate. 

The second set, named after the mansion's fictional owner, Master Gracey, is fancier but also a little darker. It also comes with drink ware. 

Both sets are available on the Disney Store website as I write this. 

I know what you're thinking, how many Haunted Mansion plates can one person have? Did you buy all of these? The answer is, no I didn't because I am perfectly happy with my set of Mansion plates from the Haunted Mansion 40th anniversary a few years ago. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley Starts Tomorrow Night on PBS

The BBC/PBS Mystery Masterpiece Adaptation of PD James' Death Comes To Pemberley hits PBS tomorrow night (check your local listings) and finishes up Sunday, November 2nd. 

The show stars Matthew Rhys of THE AMERICANS who leaves behind his Russian spy turned America persona to Fitzwilliam Darcy (there's a great interview with him about playing Darcy here). Elizabeth Bennett is played by Anna Maxwell Martin. 

The action begins six years after the Jane Austen books end and Darcy's relationship with Elizabeth is a bit strained at the weight of trying to maintain Pemberley. 

Here's a clip from the BBC showing.

My DVR is set. Will you watch Death Comes to Pemberley?

Friday, October 24, 2014


Author Cathy Ace joins us today from Vegas for Friday Drinks with Reads matching her latest book, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair with a drink she just made up - The Tsar!Tini. 

With birthday celebrations in the cards, Cait Morgan and her significant other, retired cop Bud Anderson, travel to Las Vegas. As they are about to finish dinner in the casino owners’ exclusive private dining room, Miss Shirley, a woman acknowledged as Queen of The Strip, is murdered. Security locks down the room. Cait, Bud, a corpse, and ten possible murderers are trapped in the luxurious restaurant for twelve deadly hours. The bodies pile up, the tension mounts, the list of suspects dwindles—and Cait knows she has to work out who the killer is because there’s no telling who might be next to die.

The fourth book in the beloved Cait Morgan series, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair travels to Sin City, where Welsh Canadian foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan comes up against her toughest mystery yet.

“I've always loved closed room mysteries and this is a terrific one. A cast of characters (each of them with something to hide) marooned on the top floor of a swank Las Vegas casino with a corpse. A fun and suspenseful mystery.” Rhys Bowen. New York Times bestselling author of the Molly Murphy and Royal Spyness mysteries.

For THE CORPSE WITH THE PLATINUM HAIR I had the delightful task of inventing a fictitious casino and hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The Tsar! is inspired by Tsarist and Russian architecture and entertainment themes, and it’s d├ęcor is as over-the-top as you might imagine. In Vegas each casino is stuffed with many bars and restaurants, and the Tsar! is no exception. From the Babushka Bar to the Romanoff Room Restaurant, it is opulent and allows for overindulgence. The titular corpse, Miss Shirley, is one of the owners of the Tsar!—she’s a woman of very definite tastes, and this martini is the one she chose as the signature drink for her “empire”. 

The Tsar!Tini is very strong, and quite sweet, rather like the woman for whom it was invented. It shows off the signature colors of the casino—red and gold—and it is definitely something you’d sip, rather than glug. You have been warned! Here, for the first time anywhere, is the recipe for the just-developed Tsar!Tini. 


3 parts vodka
2 parts Lillet
1 part Raspberry Sourpuss
3 parts champagne
3 golden raisins, soaked overnight in Lillet, for garnish

Soak golden raisins in enough Lillet to cover overnight in the fridge (it’s worth it, but, if you’re pressed for time, just use golden raisins as they come).  

Put the vodka, Lillet and raspberry sourpuss in a cocktail shaker, over ice, and shake vigorously for at least a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. The mixture should fill only about half the glass.

Top up to the rim with champagne.

Pop three golden raisins onto a pick, and place across the edges of the glass. 

SIP!! Cheers, folks!