Thursday, April 30, 2015

Crafty Thursdays: DIY Time Zone Clocks

Kerry Hammond is here for Crafty Thursdays making a time zone clock board that's so cool it transcends borders.

Today’s craft is a three-time zone clock collage. It’s pretty simple to make and you won’t need a ton of fancy power tools. Part of the reason it’s so easy is that my main material (clocks) came all ready to go. This is just my fun way of displaying them that feeds into my love for travel.

3 clocks
Magnets & Glue (if your clocks don’t come with magnets attached)
Sheet of Metal 
Metal Cutters
2 screws, nuts and bolts
Picture Wire
Letter stickers and other embellishments

Step 1: Cut your Metal
Place your clocks on the sheet of metal and cut around them in the size you want your final collage to be. I bought my clocks at World Market and they had magnets built in and I got my metal sheet at Home Depot. 

Step 1.5: Attach Magnets:
If your clocks don’t come with magnets, hot glue enough on the back that they will hold tight to the metal.

Step 2: Affix Hanger
You can do this step any way you like. I am one of those people who saves all extra screws and pieces that come with any project, so the hanger on my clock collage was something I found in my tool box. It is two bolts with picture wire already attached between and I simply screwed it through my metal. Since most people won’t have this, I suggest you put a piece of wood behind the metal at the top and screw in a couple of bolts (depending on the metal’s thickness you may need to hammer a nail through first to start the hole). Then attach the washers and bolts to the back and string the picture wire between.

Step 3: Location Stickers
Place your clocks on the metal where you want them and using your letter stickers, spell out the locations you want to feature. I picked 3 places I planned to visit soon. Either stick the letters directly on your metal, or place them on a piece of paper or another plain sticker and then transfer the whole word to the metal. You can also embellish the metal with other sticks like airplanes, suitcases, etc.

Step 4: Set the Clocks and Hang
Set the clocks to local time for each location and hang on your wall. There are several websites that give you the world time and you can use it to make sure you’ve got it right. Don’t forget to adjust when daylight savings hits.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America awarded the coveted Edgar Awards tonight in New York City and here are all the winners, including the fabulous Stephen King, winner of Best Novel (pictured above with the wonderful Camille Minichino - we'll have more from Camille later this summer). Congratulations to all who won, and all who were nominated...


Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)


Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)


The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)


Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
by William J. Mann (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)


Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe
by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)


"What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn
(Penguin Random House Publishing – Bantam Books)


Greenglass House by Kate Milford
 (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)


 The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)


“Episode 1” – Happy Valley, Teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)


"Getaway Girl" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine By ZoĆ« Z. Dean (Dell Magazines)


Lois Duncan
James Ellroy


Ruth & Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder


Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

Great Moments in Edgar Award History with Donna Andrews

The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is holding it's 70th Edgar Awards ceremony tonight in New York, where they will honor the best of the best in mystery writing. Lois Duncan and James Ellroy will be named Grand Masters (I'm still haunted by Duncan's I Know What You Did Last Summer). You can see the fabulous list of the nominees here.

To celebrate the Edgars, best-selling author Donna Andrews Executive Vice President of MWA, is here today answering all of our questions.

The original slogan for MWA was "Crime Does not Pay – Enough." Have things improved since 1945? What has changed?

I’m not sure things have improved, but they have certainly changed.  The publishing field today is very much more complicated than it was in 1945, so there's a greater need than ever for us to help our members cope with the complexity and manage their writing careers successfully.

What unusual suspects have received Edgars over the years?

A lot of unusual suspects, if you consider the fact that the awards sometimes pluck someone out of relative obscurity and make him or her a star.  That happens because unlike awards that are voted on by large numbers of readers or reviewers, the Edgars are juried—a small panel of professional mystery writers spends an entire year reading everything submitted in that category.  In the Best Novel category, that could easily be 600, 700, even 800 books. And because the committees read so widely, a relatively new author from a small press who happens to have written a brilliant book has as much chance of winning as an established author with a big press. 

Raven Award Winner FDR
Another type of unusual suspects—well, maybe not so much unusual as just cool. Did you know that in 1959 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was posthumously awarded a Raven as “Reader of the Year”—and Eleanor Roosevelt came to accept it? Oh, to be a fly on the wall that year! Or in 1961 when Charles Addams was given a special Edgar for his role as cartoonist of the macabre.. . 1966 when Truman Capote won Best Fact Crime for In Cold Blood. . . 1978, when Edward Gorey won a Raven award for the sets he designed for the Broadway production of Dracula.

Charles Addams
His creation, Morticia Addams

 In fact, I think of all the past years, 1978 might be the banquet I most wish I could have seen—not only did it have Edward Gorey, but also Alfred Hitchcock accepting his Grand Master award.

Some consider the Grand Master the most important Edgar Award. Who was the very first Grand Master, and did they serve to inspire future writers?

The first Grand Master award was given in 1955 to Agatha Christie—and very fitting, if you ask me, since she’s the best selling novelist ever, with over two billion copies of her books sold worldwide. If you look at the list of Grand Masters over the years, it’s a partial roll call of the giants of our genre—partial because we only give the award to living writers. Some of the greats, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe himself, died before we began giving out the masters awards, and there are others, like Dorothy Sayers, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, that I’m sure we would have honored if we’d known we’d lose them so soon. Still, a list of names to conjure with, from some of the early recipients, like Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, Earl Stanley Gardner, James M. Cain, or John D. Macdonald to some who, sadly, we’ve lost within the past few years, like P.D. James, Barbara Mertz, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Micky Spillane . . . I know I’m leaving out a lot of important names—but there aren’t any unimportant names on the list!  And I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s honorees, Lois Duncan and James Ellroy, accept their awards.

MWA has just released a cookbook with recipes contributed by its members. Any killer recipes to recommend?

So far I’ve only made one recipe, Sheila Connolly’s Apple Goodie, which was excellent.  You have to keep in mind that I’m not an expert cook—if I were, maybe I’d have contributed a recipe!  But I have a couple on my hit list to try soon. Lorenzo Carcaterra’s “Grandma Maria’s Pasta Puttanesca,” for example—I love puttanesca sauce. And Raymond Benson’s “Zillion Calorie Mac and Cheese” is calling me. Gillian Flynn’s “Beef Skillet Fiesta” and Charlaine Harris’s “Charlaine’s Very Unsophisticated Supper Dip” both sound right up my alley. If I can borrow a slow cooker I’m going to try Greg Herren’s “Greg’s New Orleans Slow-Cooker Meatballs.” And if I can figure out how to cut it down from something that sounds as if it would serve a small army, Mary Higgins Clark’s “Mary’s Celebratory Giants Game Night Chili” sounds fabulous.

You must have attended many Edgar Award ceremonies over the years. What is the most memorable thing that happened? Any stories from the event?

Actually, I’ve only ever been once before.  In addition to working in MWA, I’m also involved with the Malice Domestic mystery convention, which nearly always starts the day after the Edgars.  (Yes, when it comes to volunteering, I’m a repeat offender.) So that time of year is usually a crazy busy one for me even without adding in a trip to New York.  The last time I went was in 2002, when I was on the committee that judged the young adult category and got to present the little ceramic statue of Edgar Allan Poe to Tim Wynne-Jones.  And it’s magical, to read a book, love it, and then be able to hand an award like the Edgar to the person who wrote it.

What has been the best part of serving on the MWA board? What will you miss most when your term is over?

The best part? It’s exciting to be playing a part in the history of such a grand old institution—and also helping to shape its very lively future.  I notice you don’t ask about the worst part, but I’ll tell you anyway: the email. All of us on the board are writers, and none of us are shy, so we have very lively email discussions about the issues facing us. If any of us is away from his or her computer for most of the day, odds are we’ll return to a very full in-basket. And I think what I will miss when my term is over—which won’t be till this coming January—is the chance to spend time working with such a wonderful group of writers. Of course, I should be careful about saying that--I said much the same thing when I left the board upon completing my term as president of the Mid-Atlantic chapter—I think that’s where they got the idea to recruit me to server as Executive Vice President.

When is your next book coming out and what will it be about?

The next book will be The Lord of the Wings, coming out in August from Minotaur.  It’s the nineteenth in my Meg Langslow series of humorous mysteries, and takes place during a Halloween festival being run in the small town where my heroine lives. Meg;s noted for her organizational skills, but for once she’s not in charge of the whole festival—only heading up the Goblin Patrol, the volunteer security force recruited to help the local police. But then a dead body turns up in the woods outside town . . the Goblin patrol uncovers a creepy Halloween-themed scavenger hunt that might have something to do with the murder . . . and the woman who’s filling Meg’s usual role as the chief organizer disappears.  Meg has to help find the killer while keeping the festival on track and helping her six-year-old twin sons devise the perfect Halloween costume.

A big thank you to Donna for stopping by, especially during Edgar wee. Come on back, we'll have the Edgar Award Winners for you later tonight. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spy Training Tips with Matthew Dunn

Matthew Dunn, author of Dark Spies and former M16 spy, sent us some tips on how to spot if someone, or even an entire surveillance team, is following you. Especially on shopping trips. Since I am always looking for tips on how to avoid capture, I thought I'd share...

  • While walking between shops, be highly aware of your surroundings and make mental notes of the people you see. Surveillance teams may deploy tricks such as constantly rotating team members following you and even changing clothes. Remembering faces is vital. Subtlety is important when observing anyone who may be following you. 
  • Any shop you enter should be chosen carefully. Ideally it should be large and feature more than one exit. 
  • If you suspect you are being followed, select a shop that enables you to watch anyone who may be following you. A shoe shop could work, and as you try on shoes you can naturally observe other shoppers. 

Here's a little about Matthew's latest paperback:

"On the run from the CIA, intelligence operative Will Cochrane heads to the U.S. to uncover a diabolical spymaster at the center of an international conspiracy in this thrilling follow up to Slingshot.
"When Will Cochrane encounters a Russian spymaster—codenamed Antaeus—who everyone believes is dead, he is thrust into a deadly game set in motion by powerful players deep inside the U.S. intelligence community. Will has worked with the CIA for years and knows them all. But now he knows there’s no one he can trust.
"His orders from Langley are clear: ANTAEUS MUST NOT BE TOUCHED. FURTHER INQUIRIES REQUIRE PROJECT FERRYMAN CLEARANCE. But as Antaeus and his men then attempt to execute the CIA’s best agents, Will decides to take his own shot at the spymaster, knowing it will make him a marked man.
"Now, the only way to save his career—and his life—is to get into the U.S. and expose the truth about Project Ferryman. But to accomplish that he’s got to outmaneuver four deadly Russian assassins and an elite FBI team controlled by shadowy officials who will stop at nothing to keep their sins and secrets safe."

Monday, April 27, 2015

GM Ford: Wanda Fuca and Threshold

If you ever get the chance to hear GM Ford speak in person, go. Just go. You won't stop laughing. While his books are a little more dark, that underpinning of irony seeps from his pages, with characters you want to root for, and beg them to stay out of trouble.

The first GM Ford book that I ever read was a little known gem called, Who the Hell is Wanda Fuca? 

Ford lives in the Seattle area and if you look at a map of the surrounding area, you'll see the Straight of Juan De Fuca. This is where GM found the title for that book.

So when I heard that he had a new book coming out, called Threshold, I jumped to read it. 

This is a new series, with a new detective - Mickey Dolan. I must admit that name made me think of one of the band members of the Monkees - Micky Dolenz. But Ford's character is really nothing like the 60s TV show wonder. He's more an intense fighting-the-world-type who's willing to put his career on the line to go after politicians who can destroy him. And his wife just dumped him and he's more than a little lost personally. 

Dolan faces a moral dilemma between being a perfect cop and doing the right thing. Without giving too much away, Dolan finds himself distinguishing between being a cop and doing the right thing.   

Threshold returns us to the solid moral compass themes of the mystery/thriller past that are often absent in today's best sellers. If you like solid characters who have to make tough choices, fast-paced plotting and well drawn characters, you'll love GM Ford's latest.

And if you get a chance you'll also want to pick up Who the Hell is Wanda Fuca?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Art Deco & Poirot

One of the many things I love about the Agatha Christie Poirot TV series is the wonderful pervasive Art Deco feel. So I was tickled to see an Art Deco exhibit at the San Francisco Airport United terminal. They've has some super interesting exhibits ranging from Speed Racer to the History of Polio. Right now it's full of art deco fabulousness. The airplane models above and below are actually drink shakers. 

Here are a few relics from way back when smoking was cool. 

And here are just some fun things from World's Fairs and such.

World's Fair compacts. Aren't they beautiful and so very gold?

And here we have the sort of train cases that would have been carried on the Orient Express while Poirot was board. Can you hear the train whistle? 

Picnic anyone?

And you absolutely must have the proper accessories...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mr. Holmes

A fabulous trailer for this summer's new Sherlock movie came out this week, showing Ian McKellen playing Holmes at 93 determined to correct the errors in Watson's stories about him. It's yet another wonderful take on Arthur Conan Doyle's character. The movie comes out July 17 and I can't wait. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drinks with Reads: Aunt Dimity

Kerry Hammond has been matching drinks with books again. Here she is with Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter by Nancy Atherton...

The Aunt Dimity series, written by Nancy Atherton, is one of my favorite cozy mystery series and I am in the process of collecting signed copies of each installment. Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter is book 13 in a series that so far contains 20 books. I will give a little bit of backstory on the series before I tell you how great the book was, but I do recommend that anyone wanting to give it a try should start with book #1, titled: Aunt Dimity’s Death.

All through Lori Shepherd’s childhood her mother told her stories of the adventures of what she assumed was a made-up character. Aunt Dimity had many adventures and Lori always listened to them with rapt attention while hugging her little pink flannel bunny, Reginald. When Lori was a young woman, and after her mother had passed away, she found out that Aunt Dimity was a real person. She had been her mother’s best friend when they were both nurses in England during WWII. The stories she had been told were actual stories about Dimity. She unfortunately found out too late, after Aunt Dimity had passed away, when she was contacted about her appearance in the will. Aunt Dimity had left her a small cottage in the English countryside, as well as all of her worldy goods. You find this all out in book 1 and I am trying not to give any spoilers, but some of it can’t be helped. Ok, so here’s the kicker. Lori frequently solves mysterious happenings both in England as well as in other places that she visits. She is never without her pink flannel bunny, or a particular blue journal. When she opens the journal and speaks aloud to Aunt Dimity, her questions are answered as Aunty Dimity writes in the journal before her eyes, from a place beyond the grave. Dimity is often able to help Lori in her investigations, and sometimes she just offers advice and a kind word.

In the most recent adventure, Lori’s young twin boys claim to have spotted a vampire in the woods on one of their horseback rides. Everyone thinks the boys are making it up, or that their overactive imaginations have taken over. But Lori isn’t quite as convinced that her sons are wrong, and sets out to try and figure out just what they spotted, and whether or not there is any danger lurking in the woods. What she finds is an old woman in a farmhouse who tells stories straight out of a Bram Stoker novel.  She also visits Aldercott Hall, a beautiful Georgian mansion, seemingly hidden away in the woods, inside whose walls is a woman whose heart was clearly broken many years ago. Lori, ever the one to try and set things right, continues to not only investigate the vampire sighting, but the source of the woman’s heartbreak.

The Aunt Dimity series is nothing short of heartwarming. I love the characters, and the English village setting (although Lori and the boys often set off for faraway places). These books aren’t the type to contain violence or even murder. Most of the stories revolve around mysterious happenings and puzzles that Lori needs to solve. These solutions often bring peace and happiness to others, as well as to Lori and her family. The paranormal aspect is entirely centered around Lori’s conversations with Dimity, so if woo-woo isn’t your thing, never fear, these are light on woo-woo and heavy on charm.

If Nancy Atherton ever comes to your town for a book signing, I highly recommend attending the event. She’s very nice and always has fun stories to tell. For followers of the series, it’s great to discuss the books with her. I’ve included a couple of photos of the inside of my signed books to show that Nancy has a wonderful little extra touch when she signs a book. I stated above that the pink bunny Reginald is always mentioned, as he is Lori’s childhood companion. As you can see, Nancy carries with her a couple of bunny stamps for her signings.

The drink I’ve chosen to go with Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter, is The Vampire Cocktail. A sweet drink that is reminiscent of a punch, but be careful, it’s an alcoholic one.

The Vampire Cocktail (makes 2)

1 cup raspberries (I used strawberries and the puree was a bit pink rather than red)
1/8 cup sugar
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce amaretto
1 ounce orange juice
3 ounces club soda

Puree the berries in a blender or food processor. Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer to separate the pulp from the seeds. Discard the seeds. Combine the puree with the sugar in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir frequently and cook until mixture darkens and thickens, about 10 minutes. Chill until ready to use. Add vodka and amaretto to a shaker with ice and shake until very cold, about 20 seconds. Stir in orange juice and club soda. Pour into iced glasses. You can pour ½ of fruit syrup into each glass and stir, or if you’re entertaining, you can fill plastic syringes with equal parts of the syrup and place in glasses before serving. Then you can squeeze out of syringe and stir in front of your guests. I think you can buy the syringes at those big Halloween stores (heck they might even sell them at Walmart).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

James Patterson Makes Dessert

We're taking a break from Crafty Thursdays for a little celebration and dessert in honor of Mystery Writers of America's 70th Anniversary and the publication of it's new cookbook, Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

On Tuesday we brought you Laura Lippman's Salmon Ball recipe, on Wednesday we brought you Charlaine Harris' Very Unsophisticated Supper Dip and today, James Patterson is making us dessert - with Grandma's Killer Chocolate Cake. Look for more on MWAs 70th in the coming weeks, but for now, let's dig in to this chocolaty goodness...


Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake

Here’s one “killer” Alex Cross always loves to catch—Grandma’s Killer Cake! A special family recipe dating from the 1940s, this decadent cake seems to get better with age; it is tastier on day two. And you need to be a good detective around the house after it has been made, sitting there in its glass-domed cake stand, staring back at you with deadly temptation, because a piece seems to mysteriously disappear every time I go into the kitchen. Not to be caught red-handed, so looms the “Killer Cake Killer”! 


2⁄3 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar 
2 eggs
2 cups flour
11⁄3 cups buttermilk 
11⁄3 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 ⁄ 5 cup hot water 
31⁄2 squares bitter chocolate, melted gently 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1⁄2 cup butter
3 squares bitter chocolate
 2 cups granulated sugar
 2⁄3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon almond extract 
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs.  
2. Blend in flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Add baking soda mixture, followed by chocolate and vanilla extract.  
3. Pour batter into one 9-by-12-inch pan or two round 9-inch springform pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.  
4. Combine all frosting ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a full boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Let cool. You can put saucepan on ice if necessary to cool quickly.  
5. Remove the cake from the pan, frost, and serve. 
James Patterson has sold 300 million books worldwide, including the Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He supports getting kids reading through scholarship, Book Bucks programs, book donations, and his website, He lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Sue, and his son, Jack.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Charlaine Harris Shares Her Recipe for Supper Dip

This week we are celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Mystery Writers of America by featering recipes from their new cookbook: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Yesterday, Laura Lippman shared the recipe for Aunt Effie's Salmon Balls and today we have the fabulous Charlaine Harris with her recipe for Very Unsophisticated Supper Dip. It may be unsophisticated, but it sounds delicious. 

If you'd like to see a review of Charlaine Harris' latest book, Midnight Crossroad, matched with the perfect drink (and recipe), we can help you there too

Charlaine’s Very Unsophisticated Supper Dip

This recipe is very good to make after a day spent working on something tense and finicky. It is simple, requires about 10 minutes to assemble, and after that you just let it simmer until you’re ready to eat, though you do have to stir it from time to time and add more wine if necessary.


2 pounds ground chicken (or beef)
3⁄4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
1⁄2 cup taco seasoning
2 151⁄2-ounce cans charro beans, undrained
1 151⁄2-ounce can black beans, drained
1 151⁄2-ounce can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup red wine
To serve: shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese and your favorite sturdy tortilla chips

1. Brown the meat in a deep skillet with the chopped onion, and sprinkle generously with chili powder.

2. Transfer the meat mixture into a 3-quart pan with the rest of the ingredients except cheese and tortilla chips.

3. Cover the pan. Let this all simmer gently together for at least an hour. Stir occasionally, and add more wine or tomato sauce if it gets too thick.

4. Serve in bowls. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Scoop up with tortilla chips.

CHARLAINE HARRIS, whose most recent book is Midnight Crossroad, alternates between cooking whatever’s easy and planning a whole menu. The older she gets, the more “easy” wins. Charlaine has a husband, three grown children, two grandchildren, and a passel of dogs. She has been a professional writer for thirty-five years. She lives on a cliff in Texas.

Excerpted from The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

Come back tomorrow when James Patterson will share a recipe.