Friday, September 30, 2016

Devil's Work and the Coffee, Gin and Tonic Cocktail

All the way from the UK, Mark Edwards, bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies, matches his new psychological thriller with the perfect drink. 

It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake.
What is her ambitious young assistant really up to? And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor? When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.

As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.

Why this drink goes perfectly with my book...

The Devil’s Work is a psychological thriller set in an 'office from hell’ in London.

Drinks are an important part of work culture in the UK. We spend the day downing endless cups of tea and coffee. The office tea and coffee round is, in fact, a great source of tension. We’re expected to take it in turns to make hot drinks for our whole team, but there’s always somebody who’s happy to drink but not take a turn making. Attempts to opt out of the daily round can lead to accusations that you’re not a team player.

After work, we go to the pub with our co-workers. Here, you’re expected to buy a round and most important team bonding takes place at the bar.

What drink could be more British than gin? I chose a British brand of gin, Hendricks, and added tonic to make it more refreshing and sociable.

Gin is also known as mother’s ruin - which is exactly what The Devil’s Work is about. A mum who returns to work after an extended break and finds herself plunged into a nightmare. Someone is trying to ruin her life…

The killer ingredient in this cocktail is coffee. My main character, Sophie, is young, metropolitan and always in need of a caffeine kick. Coffee is her daytime drink of choice.

So here we have the perfect blend for a work-based thriller. And it tastes a lot better than it sounds!

And here's how you can make your own...

Coffee and Gin & Tonic Cocktail

Fill the glass in this order:

Plenty of ice (a good G&T needs to crunch!)
25ml of gin (I used a British gin, Hendricks)
25ml of espresso coffee
Fill the glass with tonic water (approx 75ml)


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Doctor Who Cookbook

Yay! It's the super fun Official Dr. Who Cookbook: 40 Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Whimey Recipes. I was a little too excited when this landed at my doorstep. I mean you have your Zygon Pie, your CyberMelts, your Picnic at Asgard and your Davros Third Eye Brownies. And cookies! 

Cookies or not, David Tennant, the 10th Dr. Who is indisputably my favorite.

The Cookbook is filled with great photos and instructions. All the dishes are delectable and some are infinitely easier to make than others.The Pasta Bow Tie Salad requires absolutely no artistic talent, but the beautifully sculpted Ood Head Bread might require some practice loaves. 

A Pizza Cassandra is eminently doable, and quite hysterical. The overly plastic-surgerized Cassandra would like to be remembered, but possibly not in this particular way.  

Now here's the bad news - it doesn't come with a TARDIS so you can go back and re-cook anything that you burned. But it's a really fun and beautiful book. We're going to try either Dalek-shaped Extermi-Cake next or the matching cupcakes. Extermi-Cake! Extermi-Cake! I know, I am little too excited. 

We'll be back with more crafts next week. But in the meantime while you're Dr. Who cookies are in the oven, why not check out how to make this TARDIS tissue box cover or this fabulous TARDIS notebook cover

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Agatha Christie Stamps

The British Royal Post office has outdone themselves with the coolest stamps ever. Agatha Christie themed stamps that are beautiful and interactive. There are six stamps paying homage to six stories:

Murder on the Orient Express
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Body in the Library
And Then There Were None
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

A Murder is Announced

As if these beautiful stamps weren't enough, each stamp includes "hidden secrets" in the form of messaging in hidden ink. 
And yes, they will ship these beauties to the US. I've already ordered mine

Thanks for the heads up, Janet Rudolph at Mystery Fanfare

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Boston Speakeasy: Carrie Nation Cocktail Club

Just a few steps from the Massachusetts State House in Boston sits Carrie Nation Cocktail Club, a Prohibition-themed restaurant, and speakeasy. 

Carrie Nation was a real person, a dedicated member of the pre-prohibition temperance movement in the early 1900s. Her signature move was to attack drinking establishments with her hatchet in an attempt to stop people from drinking, so it's more than a bit ironic that this, or any, bar is named after her. 

Carrie Nation: Have hatchet, will travel

While Carrie Nation wouldn't have liked this club, my friend and I certainly did. There is a large and beautiful dining room that serves sandwiches, entrees and there's even a chef's table, but the crown jewel is the speakeasy in the back of the restaurant. 

The room in the back is dark and features two pool tables and comfortable seating. You can pick a drink from the menu or you can let the bartender's interview you to make a drink especially suited to your tastes. 

The Carrie Nation Cocktail Club is located at 11 Beacon Street, Boston, MA. Passwords are not required. If you plan to eat dinner, you may chose to make a reservation through Open Table. The restaurant and bar are available for private events. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Books Week

This week is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week where we all celebrate the right to read whatever the heck we want. And that's a great thing. The theme this year is celebrating diversity. Which is also a great thing. 

Publishers are working to draw attention to the cause in different ways.

Penguin Random House is giving away a box of banned books. Great books are on the list like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Slaugherhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. 

They also explain how some of the books were either banned or challenged.

Simon & Shuster is also giving away a pile of banned books on their special website, as well as downloads of banned book week posters. Banned books here include Judy Blume's books Fade, Blubber and Gone, Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

Other publishers like Hachette, Scholastic, Workman and Harper Collins are mobilizing their social media channels to draw attention to the cause. 

So help celebrate by reading whatever you want. You get to decide what you think and no one else. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: Devil Sent the Rain

Lisa Turner's third novel is the Billy Able series, Devil Sent the Rain, is the subject of Sharon Long's review here today.Devil Sent the Rain is being published by William Morrow and will be available September 27th

Lisa's second novel, A Little Death in Dixie, was nominated for an Edgar award from the Mystery Writer's of America. 

As the book begins, Caroline is driving a red Camaro, wearing her wedding dress and thinking about life and her unborn baby. For the first time, she is happy. That is until she is shot by a .22. As she takes her last breath, Caroline’s last thought is: I thought you loved me. The police are called when her overturned car is discovered and the first officers on the scene are Billy Able and his new partner, Frankie Malone. While Frankie is busy interviewing the person who discovered the car, Billy takes a closer look at the vehicle. He immediately recognizes Caroline in the driver seat and is stunned. As Frankie approaches, her initial reaction is, “The ruined face and bloody gown made the shots look like a Wes Craven Movie poster. Billy obviously cared about this women. No wonder he was so upset.” 

Billy and Frankie begin their investigation, which leads to Caroline’s ex-fiancĂ©, a local surgeon whose attorney will not allow any questions. Billy can’t help but take this as a sign of guilt, “She agreed to wear the dress. Instead of happily-ever-after he killed her. Revenge runs deep. This murder stank of it.” As time goes on, questions arise surrounding Caroline’s wealthy family, the highly respected Lees, and their law firm. It becomes apparent that the firm is linked to illegal activities and scandal, and that this could be much more than a murder investigation. 

I was drawn to this book by the title and the Memphis setting. Calling a detective by the last name of Able is genius but 
what I enjoyed most were the well-developed characters and the description of the old south. In the Lee family, we have the matriarch, Mrs. Lee, who leads the business and her family with an iron fist and her husband, the formidable Mr. Lee, who is in the throes of dementia. On the side of law enforcement, we see Billy, who is coming back from a difficult time, and Frankie, the ever eager to please female detective trying to make a name for herself. Add in the sweeping, graceful mansion, several suspects, and a crazy aunt. Billy and Frankie definitely have their hands full with this crime. The reader also learns more about Billy’s past relationship with Caroline and her father.

The story is fast paced and enthralling with great twists. I found myself immersed in the setting and eager to learn the identity of the killer. This was my first Billy Able novel. The author does an incredible job of giving the reader enough details from the previous two books so that the reader doesn’t feel as if anything is missing. Devil Sent the Rain is thoroughly entertaining and I highly recommend it. I am now going to read the first two books in the series.

This book was provided by the publisher. This is a fair and independent review.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Run, Zombie! Board Game

I will admit to you that one of my favorite exercise apps is the Zombie, Run! app for the iPhone. Basically it's an app that tells a story about Zombies running after you as you "pick up" medical supplies and food and try to save people. It's entertaining. It makes you run faster and it makes the work out go much more quickly. 

Well now the makers of the app are trying their hand at a board game and it's on Kickstarter for funding. I know what you're thinking - the app sounds like a different way to work out, but their are lots of board games. 

This is true, but the Zombies Run app is so fun and there is phone interaction with the board game, so I have hope. I think others do as well because they've only been on Kickstarter for two days and they've already met their goal

It's definitely worth checking out to see if it might be fun for you. Like almost everything on Kickstarter, you order and then they make it so it can take quite awhile to get you're product and there's always a chance it will never come at all. But it is fun to see the creative ideas turn to products.

Killer Punch by Amy Korman

The Killer Wasps Mystery series by Amy Korman has a new installment that you can add to your beach bag along with this book. Kerry Hammond is here to tell us what’s new with the amateur detectives of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Killer Punch, the third in the Killer Wasps Mystery series by Amy Korman, releases on September 20 in Paperback by Witness Impulse. This series follows antique store owner Kristin Clark and her friends Holly, Sophie and Bootsie, four women—WASPS—who always manage to get themselves mixed up in some kind of trouble.

The annual Tomato Show at the country club is the latest exciting event to hit Bryn Mawr and Kristin’s friend Holly, who volunteered to handle the event planning, has had to put up with the irritating Eula. Eula is dead set on winning the tomato contest, but might be skirting around the rules by growing her tomato plants in a New Jersey location. Before they can blow the whistle, a donated painting titled Heifer in Tomato Patch goes missing. They suspect everyone, including Eula, and set out to try and solve the case before the Tomato Show is ruined.

Meanwhile, the residents of Bryn Mawr are dealing with the rumors that a Mega Wine Mart is going to be built in their town. As excited as they are to soon have really cheap booze, it may not be worth ruining the beautiful fields of the town to have it. The girls have to dig a little deeper to find out why the whole thing is so hush hush.

These books are more about the crime and intrigue that occurs wherever Kristin and her friends happen to be. The reader won’t find grisly or graphic murders, just a puzzle to solve. Full of quirky characters and zany antics, it’s a fun and light read. Get your sandals, some sunscreen and head to the beach with this book.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hurricanes & Body on the Bayou

We still haven't recovered from Bouchercon in New Orleans last week, but it's OK, we don't have to let go of NOLA just yet. Ellen Byron is here today matching her new book, set in the bayous of New Orleans with the perfect drink - Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes. Ellen was here last week making Creole jambalaya and she has been a frequent Crafty Thursdays guest. Her first book, Plantation Shudders,made the USA Today Bestsellers list and was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. 

Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots; she’s written over 200 national magazine articles; her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. 

When you attend Tulane University, a rite of passage is to round up a group of merrymakers, head down to Pat O’Brien’s, and order a GIGANTIC three-gallon Hurricane – ignoring the sanitary ramifications of half-a-dozen or more revelers drinking from the same glass with a bunch of straws that inevitably get mixed up with each other.

There are a variety of entertaining stories about how the Hurricane came to be, but all the tales have one thing in common: Pat O’Brien. In 1933, he converted his speakeasy at 600 St. Peter Street into a legitimate bar. It became so popular that he moved it to a larger location on the same street, where it’s lodged ever since.

In the mid-1940's, there was a short supply of quality liquors like whiskey, bourbon, and scotch. There was, however, a ton of rum available. Bar owners were forced to buy large quantities of the rum, fifty cases or more, in order to purchase the other liquors. An effort to unload the unwanted booze led to the invention of new, rum-based drinks. Pat O'Brien poured one into a glass shaped like a Hurricane lamp and voila – a legendary cocktail was born.

The Hurricane is a fruity concoction that goes down easy, but trust me, it packs a Category 5 punch. Here are two recipes from one of my favorite websites,

Traditional Hurricane Recipe:

2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon simple syrup
1 Tablespoon grenadine
Garnish: orange slice and cherry

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a Hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice. 

Pat O' Brien's Hurricane Recipe:

Mix 4 oz. of Pat O'Brien's Rum, or any good dark rum with 4 oz. Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Mix 
Fill 26 oz. glass with crushed ice 
Garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry 

Mix can be purchased at Pat O'Brien's (800) 597-4823 or by visiting:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Halloween Treats

We're getting our Halloween on in the kitchen with fun Halloween treats, like these easy-to-make Halloween chocolates (photo above) and other party perfect Halloween delicacies. 

Check out these Bloody, Bloody Marys (recipe at the link).

Or the Poison Apple Martini.

If faux blood splatter is your Halloween thing, check out these Blood Splatter Cookies, and the Blood Splatter Glass Candy below. 

We'll be back next week with more Halloween baking and crafting fun. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Q&A with Art Taylor and Tara Laskowski

Husband and wife writers' Art Taylor and Tara Laskowski join us today to tell us what it's like to have to authors in the family. Tara and  Art, write the column Long Story Short at the Washington Independent Review of Books

You may also remember Art from his recent Drinks with Reads post where he matched his 2015 Agatha and Anthony Award-winning short story, “The Odds Are Against Us” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2014 - you can read the full story is available online here.) Art’s debut book, On the Road with Del & Louise, won this year’s Agatha for Best First Novel and is currently a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity in the same category.

Tara is the author of the short story collections Bystanders 
and Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Mid-American Review. She was awarded the Kathy Fish Fellowship from SmokeLong Quarterly in 2009, and won the grand prize for the 2010 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Series. She is currently the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly

Q: Which one of you started writing first? How did the other partner become interested? 

Art: Tara and I were each writers independent of one another; in fact, we met as writers, both of us pursuing MFA degrees in creative writing at George Mason University and critiquing one another’s work when we had fiction workshops together. To a great degree, the writing was both our introduction to one another and the foundation of the relationship: mutual admiration for one another’s work, which led to a deepening of our friendship, and then ultimately to romantic relationship.

Tara: And now we’re married! And with a four-year-old son!

Art: And each of us has books too. Those other kind of children.

Tara:  Those other kind of children are pretty important, though. I think we've tried really hard to strike a balance between family life and writing life, although it's a constant battle. And one filled with much guilt, when we're trying to divide our attention between several different areas.

Q: What do each of you prefer to write? 

Tara: This is a good question because I've been asking myself this very thing for a while now. If you're talking about length, it's easy. I hands down prefer to write very short fiction. Stories 1000 words or less. It's my favorite form to read and write and I think it's the best form out there. However, sadly, I'm in the minority because you rarely see flash fiction collections on the NY Times bestseller list.

If you're talking themes, my short stories tend to be on the darker side. They are a mix of domestic suspense, urban legend, crime, and family/women literary fiction. But now I'm beginning to work on longer, novel-length projects and trying to figure out where I might fit in the marketplace. Which is harder than you might think, and the verdict is still out as to what's going to play out for me in long form fiction. Stay tuned!

Art: What’s interesting is that Tara’s work and my own might sometimes seem to overlap in theme and tone—I’d also say that some of my stories edge toward darker subjects, and I’d also point toward domestic suspense to define many of my stories, and crime certainly is at the core of most all my work. But while I’m generally categorized as a crime writer, Tara is more likely to be tagged as literary. Various ways to explain that: the vagaries of marketing classifications, the blurring of genre borders, the slight differences between us in the balancing of plot and prose. (Tara has sometimes said she can’t plot, while I always think her prose is richer than mine.) 

Like Tara, I generally prefer short stories—though longer short stories. The novella, to my mind, may be the perfect length for a story. But like her, I’m also increasingly writing longer works, both in terms of the length of individual stories and then in terms of book projects, as with the architecture of my first book, On the Road With Del & Louise, which is built out of short stories that cohere as a novel. 

Q: Do you ever want to write the same stories? 

Art: I’ve said several times that we should actually write the same story—the exact same story, collaborating on a project. But we haven’t done it yet. I haven’t given up hope on that.

What’s funny is that one story I’ve drafted and been tinkering with involves a man who went missing on a fishing excursion and his body was never found, and now his girlfriend begins to wonder if he’s still alive. But when I showed it to Tara—

Tara: I pointed out to him that one of my own stories—which he'd already read—was about a woman whose dead husband starts writing her letters eight years after—wait for it—he went missing on a fishing expedition and his body was never found.

Q: How is your approach to writing similar and how is it different? 

Tara: I've never been one who could get up every day and write at the same time for a certain period or word count. I'm a random writer. I would blame having a child for that, but I was a random writer even before we had our son. It's just the way I work, in fits and bursts. What's difficult is when I get on a writing streak but don't have the time to carve out to work through that streak. So I have to take what I can get and make my time as productive as possible. Lately I've been getting most of my writing done on the train during my commute to and from work.

Art: Like Tara, I’m not a writer who tried to write toward a time quota or word count each day—make sure I put in my two hours or get down my 500 words or whatever. But I do believe that there’s value in what I call “checking in” each day. My goal is to make some forward motion, whether that’s a scene or a paragraph or a sentence or even just some notes toward any of that. And I believe that by keeping some connection with a work-in-progress, then even when you’re away from the notebook or the computer, your mind is still brainstorming and processing and imagining—keeping that momentum. The worst is when you don’t work on something for even a small stretch, and you come back to a project having to reorient yourself, gear up the machinery from a stalled position, get a firm foothold…. That mixes a lot of metaphors, I know, but I hope I hope one of them makes sense.  

Q. Do you write together or separately? 

Tara: We used to write together—sometimes sitting on the couch together, or even heading to a coffee shop for an hour or so. Now it's often a trade-off, fitting it in when we can, where we can.   

Art: Much of that is because of our son, of course—and then time demands generally. And then some of that is driven by who’s really making progress or who needs the time most; with both of us being writers, we try to respect the other’s needs there—give where it’s needed.

One thing to add, however, is that we’re also planning ahead for a writing retreat next year, both of us at the same place for a week, which would be great for a number of reasons.   

Q: What projects are you both working on now?

Tara: My first story collection, Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, is being re-released by Santa Fe Writers Project in February, and I'm really excited to see that book out into the world again (the first print run by Matter Press sold out). It is a collection of dark etiquette stories—etiquette guides about things like homicide, obesity, adultery, and other topics you wouldn't find in an Emily Post book. The new version will include two new etiquette stories that weren't in the original: “The Etiquette of Voyeurism” and “The Etiquette of Gossip.” Exciting!

Other than that, as I mentioned earlier, I'm turning my attention to a novel right now. I'd rather not say too much about it at this point because it's all still churning around in my head, but I'm trying to take all the themes and interests that crop up in my short fiction—women's issues, some crime and mystery, and a little hint of the supernatural—and stretch them out book-length-style. If I can pull it off, I'll be the happiest lady on the block.

Art: Like Tara, I’m hesitant to talk too much about works-in-progress. One book idea may have turned into a short story—or series of short stories—and I have a few other short stories in various stages of being finished (or unfinished, depending on how you look at it: glass half-empty, half-full).  I’m also working on another book project, though at my own slow pace. In the meantime, I’ve had one story published this year—“Parallel Play” in the anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning—and a second, “The Great Detective Reflects,” is scheduled for an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. A third, “A Necessary Ingredient,” is also forthcoming in the anthology Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea