Sunday, November 30, 2014

An Interview with Frame Change Authors, T'Gracie and Joe Reese

Today T'Gracie and Joe Reese stop by to answer a few questions and tell us about their new novel, Frame Change.
1). What’s the best thing that’s happened to you because of your novels?
T’Gracie: The best thing is the fun we have together as we get ideas, puzzle out plots, think of amusing characters or situations and even answer interview questions like these!
2). Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get past it?
Joe:  I never find myself completely unable to write (if that is the definition of writer’s block). Sometimes, though a novel will reach a critical plot juncture and I simply don’t know what is to happen. All I can do is take my time, lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and hope that the characters will tell me what they want to do. 
3). Do you ever base characters on people you know?
Joe:  Always, but some aspects are changed.
T’Gracie: Sometimes it will be a physical description of someone that we have seen and sometimes it might be something that happened to someone that gets included, although fictionalized. 
Joe: The bottom line, I’ve always felt that all literature is 50% cold hard reality and 50% pure lies. 

4). What did you do to research the book?
Joe: Frame Change is a combination of museum visits we made in Chicago and summers we spent together in Graz, Austria. The marvelous Armory, Eggenberg Palace, which still seems to exist in the 19th century—writing a book gave us a chance to revisit all these places and relive some wonderful experiences.
T’Gracie: We lived in Chicago a couple of years ago and loved going to the Art Institute of Chicago. They had opened a new modern wing while we were there and I loved exploring it. Of course, I also prized the little rooms of period doll house furniture in the basement. And one time they had a special exhibit of Matisse paper collage pages. They were wonderful!
Joe:  I did have to do a little research on stolen art and methods of reframing art work, but that was doubly profitable because now, if the books do not sell, I can become an international art smuggler.

T’Gracie: And, of course, the initial idea for the book came from my participation in an amateur painting event at a local restaurant with some friends. We often wonder what Nina would do if experiencing the same thing that one of us does. 

Graz, Austria Clock Tower and View of the City

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Macavity Awards

Named for T.S. Elliot's mystery cat in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the Macavity Awards are given out every year at Bouchercon to recognize the finest in mystery by Mystery Readers International. Here are all of the 2014 winners and  nominees.
Best Mystery Novel:
  • William Kent Krueger: Ordinary Grace (Atria Books)
  • Thomas H. Cook: Sandrine's Case (Mysterious Press)
  • Mick Herron: Dead Lions (Soho Crime)
  • William Kent Krueger: Ordinary Grace (Atria Books)
  • Alex Marwood: The Wicked Girls (Penguin Books)
  • Louise Penny: How the Light Gets In (Minotaur Books)
  • Ian Rankin: Standing in Another Man's Grave (Reagan Arthur Books)
Best First Mystery:
  • Terry Shames: A Killing at Cotton Hill (Seventh Street Books)
  • Matt Coyle: Yesterday's Echo (Oceanview Publishing)
  • Becky Masterman: Rage Against the Dying (Minotaur Books)
  • Jenny Milchman: Cover of Snow (Ballantine Books)
  • Derek Miller: Norwegian by Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Terry Shames: A Killing at Cotton Hill (Seventh Street Books)
Best Mystery Short Story:
  • Art Taylor: "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)
  • Reed Farrel Coleman: "The Terminal" (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
  • John Connolly: "The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository" (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
  • Martin Limon: "The Dragon's Tail" (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
  • Gigi Pandian: "The Hindi Houdini" (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
  • Travis Richardson: "Incident on the 405" (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
  • Art Taylor: "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

Best Nonfiction:
  • Daniel Stashower: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War (Minotaur Books)
  • Roseanne Montillo: The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece (William Morrow)
  • Charles J. Rzepka: Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard (Johns Hopkins University Press)
  • Daniel Stashower: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War (Minotaur Books)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award:
  • David Morrell: Murder as a Fine Art (Little, Brown)
  • Susanna Calkins: A Murder at Rosamund's Gate (Minotaur Books)
  • Robert Kresge: Saving Lincoln (ABQ Press)
  • Catriona McPherson: Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses (Minotaur Books)
  • David Morrell: Murder as a Fine Art (Little, Brown)
  • Stuart Neville: Ratlines (Soho Crime)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Patricia Cornwell and the Bloody Mary

Patricia Cornwell has a new Kay Scarpetta novel called Flesh and Blood. the action starts as Dr. Scarpetta is getting ready to leave on vacation to celebrate her birthday. Right before she goes on vacation she finds pennies on a brick wall near her house. What does that have to do with anything? Make yourself a Bloody Mary and read the first chapter of Flesh and Blood below to find out...

Patricia Cornwell's Bloody (or Virgin) Mary

Spicy V8, a lot of fresh squeezed limes or lemons, hot sauce, horseradish, favorite vodka (or not) and the big clue is keep everything cold. 

Do not use ice. 

When it begins to melt in the glass it looks like... Well, never mind.

Here is the first chapter of Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell...


JUNE 12, 2014

COPPER FLASHES LIKE SHARDS of aventurine glass on top of the old brick wall behind our house. I envision ancient pastel stucco workshops with red tile roofs along the Rio dei Vetrai canal, and fiery furnaces and blowpipes as maestros shape molten glass on marvers. Careful not to spill, I carry two espressos sweetened with agave nectar.
I hold the delicate curved handles of the mouth-blown cristallo cups, simple and rock crystal clear, the memory of finding them on the Venetian island of Murano a happy one. The aromas of garlic and charred peppers follow me outside as the screen door shuts with a soft thud. I detect the aromatic bright scent of fresh basil leaves I tore with my bare hands. It’s the best of mornings. It couldn’t be better. My special salad has been mixed, the juices, herbs and spices mingling and saturating chunks of mantovana I baked on a stone days earlier. The olive oil bread is best slightly stale when used in panzanella, which like pizza was once the food of the poor whose ingenuity and resourcefulness transformed scraps of focaccia and vegetables into un’abbondanza. Imaginative savory dishes invite and reward improvisation, and this morning I added the thinly sliced core of fennel, kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper. I used sweet onions instead of red ones and added a hint of mint from the sunporch where I grow herbs in large terra-cotta olive jars I found years ago in France.
Pausing on the patio, I check the grill. Rising heat wavers, the lighter fluid and bag of briquettes a cautious distance away. My FBI husband Benton isn’t much of a cook but he knows how to light a good fire and is meticulous about safety. The neat pile of smoldering orange coals is coated in white ash. The swordfish filets can go on soon. Then my hedonistic preoccupations are abruptly interrupted as my attention snaps back to the wall.
I realize what I’m seeing is pennies. I try to recall if they were there earlier when it was barely dawn and I took out our greyhound, Sock. He was stubborn and clingy and I was unusually distracted. My mind was racing in multiple directions, powered by a euphoric anticipation of a
Tuscan brunch before boarding a plane in Boston, and a sensual fog was burning off after an indulgent mindless rousing from bed where all that mattered was pleasure. I hardly remember taking out our dog. I hardly remember any details about being with him in the dimly lit dewy backyard.
So it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have noticed the bright copper coins or anything else that might indicate an uninvited visitor has been on our property. I feel a chill at the edge of my thoughts, a dark shadow that’s unsettling. I’m reminded of what I don’t want to think about. 
You’ve already left for vacation while you’re still here. And you know better.
My thoughts return to the kitchen, to the blue steel Rohrbaugh 9 mm in its pocket holster on the counter by the stove. Lightweight with laser grips, the pistol goes where I do even when Benton is home. But I’ve not had a single thought about guns or security this morning. I’ve freed my mind from micromanaging the deliveries to my headquarters throughout the night, discreetly pouched in black and transported in my windowless white trucks, five dead patients silently awaiting their appointments with the last physicians who will ever touch them on this earth.
I’ve avoided the usual dangerous, tragic, morbid realities and I know better.

Then I argue it away. Someone is playing a game with pennies. That’s all.

Fans in the US who buy Flesh and Blood in hardback will get a copy of a Kindle single short of Patricia's called Chasing the Ripper

You can follow Patricia Cornwell on Twitter @1pcornwell.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Prayer of Thanksgiving to Crime Fiction Readers

Happy Thanksgiving! Brad Parks is back at Mystery Playground today and is graciously letting us print his super official Toastmaster toast from Left Coast Crime, a benediction of sorts. It's A Prayer of Thanksgiving to Crime Fiction Readers...

The photos here were taken by Darrell Hoemann Photography. 

Delivered at Left Coast Crime Opening Ceremonies
By Brad Parks

Fellow crime fiction readers, let us bow our heads with meekness and humility... 

Oh God of Chandler and Christie, Oh Deity of Dorothy L, Oh Maker of MacDonalds – Ross and John D… We come to you today to express our thanks for the many blessings you have bestowed upon our genre.

We thank you for knitting shop owners whose places of business act as magnets for unexplained corpses... for busybody old ladies whose mah-jong groups end up having more crime-solving wherewithal than the state police... and for small towns in the Adirondacks where the body count resembles the Battle of Gettysburg.

We thank you for law enforcement officials who go rogue more often than breakaway Russian Republics... for conspiracies whose tendrils reach all the way to the White House... and for highly trained ex-special forces demolitions experts who hang out their own shingle as ham-and-egg private detectives.

We thank you that while our characters sometimes have sex, our authors have enough decorum not to describe it in forensic detail.

We thank you for strong female characters… yet we also pray fervently for the day when we can stop having to use the words “strong female character.” 

And while I’m at it, oh Elohim of elocution, can you please also retire the phrase “transcend the genre.”... And go ahead and tell certain Chilean authors that if they’re not a fan of mysteries, we’re perfectly comfortable with them not writing one.

Yes, we know you by many names, oh heavenly reader spirit. To some you are the King of Kinsey. Or the Giver of Gamache. Or the Lord of Leduc. Or the Maharajah of McCone... or the ... dangit, Pronzini, how am I supposed to do something cute and alliterative when you don’t give the detective a name!

However it is we summon your spirit, we thank you for conferences such as this one, where we can have perfectly normal conversations in the elevator about our favorite ways to administer poison... and we admit, we sort of like it when that causes the other people in the elevator to start slowly backing away from us.

At this gathering in particular, oh most holy of Hemingways, we in the congregation who call ourselves authors would like to thank you for the bar. Let me try that again: will the authors please make a joyful noise for the bar. 

Guide us, oh creator of nouns and adjectives, to fabulous debut authors whose work is ripe for discovery... to rising stars of the genre who will someday be our bestsellers... and to established authors whose work may have been unfairly overlooked—not that we’re going to mention names.

We thank you in particular for the Guests of Honor. May you bless Sue Trowbridge, who venerates so many of the authors present both in person and in web design; bless Cara Black, and see that her characters never run out of Parisian underworlds to explore; bless Sue Grafton, so that Kinsey may continue to have horrible taste in men; bless Bill Pronzini, because anyone who has written that many books needs to be blessed; bless Marcia Muller, because I have this sneaking suspicion she could kick my ass; and bless Louise Penny for not being nominated for the Lefty Award... because I believe I speak for every writer here when I say: I’ve lost enough awards to Louise already.

Let us also extol our librarians, who spread the gospel of good books, one patron at a time. Let us raise up our booksellers, who are the high priests and priestesses of our world, even though they’re often paid like monks who have taken poverty vows. Let us ordain our publishers: may they make the size of our advances be fruitful and multiply.

And whether we enjoy traditional mysteries or cutting edge thrillers, whether we like our heroes hard-boiled or soft, whether we prefer series or standalones, we thank you – above all – that our extensive reading has given us at least five foolproof ways to make a body disappear forever... because you just never know when that’s going to come in handy.

Oh alpha and omega of red herrings, may you increase our herds and our flocks and our TBR piles. May our spouses remain blissfully ignorant of just how much we spent during our last trip to the bookstore. And may you see to it the Toastmaster doesn’t go to hell for this prayer. 

May the words of my mouth, the meditations in our hearts, and the volumes on our nightstand remain acceptable in your sight. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tess Gerritsen's Die Again & Giveaway

I'm still in the kitchen making turkey, so I'm giving away this Advance Reader Copy of Tess Garritsen's new Rizzoli & Isles book, Die Again. This book doesn't get released until 12/30 so the lucky winner would get to read it before almost anyone else.

This is open to US residents only. To enter just comment below with your favorite Thanksgiving dish. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

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 premiere 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 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.