Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

8 Body Parts Forensic Scientists Use to ID a Body

Carolyn Friedman has a very cool blog at I thought the subject of this post, 8 Body Parts Forensic Scientists Use to ID a Body, was particularly pertinent to Halloween! O.K. I'm a bit ghoulish..

8 Body Parts Forensic Scientists Use to ID a Body

1. Fingers – Fingerprints still continue to be the most universally used forensic evidence around the world. In most places, fingerprint examination cases out rank any other forensic examination casework totaled. It increasingly has grown to be the most respected method for identifying persons. Over ten thousand people daily have been added to fingerprint repositories in just America alone. Fingerprint identifications have lead to numerous positive identifications of bodies than any other human identification procedure.

2. Teeth – Forensic dentists can use teeth for identification or in some cases a single tooth can be used. If no dental Xray is available, digital photographs can be taken of the teeth to compare to a smile in a photograph during the victim’s lifetime. These dental examinations are quite often key in identifying an person through specific characteristics in the make up of the teeth and can be used to identify the remains of a person, even when entirely distorted from fire and water damage to body.

3. Bones – When skeletal remains are found, a Forensic scientist needs to establish from the beginning if the bones are human. If so, different bones can identify things such as sex, race, and age. Leg or arm bones can determine stature and weight. Also, any pathology of the skeleton must be start in order to make an identification of the remains, determine the cause of death and, if homicide is involved, could even identify the murderer.

4. Skull – Computer graphics are used to perform a facial reconstruction to estimate the dead person’s appearance. Like other bones, scientists can determine a person’s sex and race from skull features. The difference is , with the aid of these graphics, they can also discover much about the soft tissue in the ears and nose and how much fat the person had on his or her face. The image is then usually distributed for identification

Read the rest of the post -- and numbers 4-8  HERE:

Thanks, Carolyn, for posting and allowing a repost.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards

Shortlisted nominees for the 2010 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards were announced last night, according to blogger-author Declan Burke. There are 10 categories of competitors, with 6novels in contention for Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year honors:

City of Lost Girls, by Declan Hughes (John Murray)
Time of Death, by Alex Barclay (HarperCollins)
Faithful Place, by Tana French (Hachette Books Ireland)
The Missing, by Jane Casey (Ebury)
Dark Times in the City, by Gene Kerrigan (Vintage)
The Twelve, by Stuart Neville (Vintage)

Hat Tip to J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet, who agrees with Declan Burke that Kevin McCarthy's Peeler should be on the list. Haven't read that nor three of the books above, so I better get reading!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rick Mattix: R.I.P.

The Informer reports that Rick “Mad Dog” Mattix, 57, of Bussey, Iowa, died Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. Born in 1953, at Oskaloosa, Iowa, he graduated from Twin Cedars High School in 1971. Following high school Rick went to work for a local factory. He retired from there in 1998, after an accident.

Rick’s passion in life was researching gangster history; he was a world renowned author, researcher and historian on the subject. He was known by the gangster community as the “Godfather” of gangster history. He had appeared on the History Channel and on an A&E Biography program, speaking on gangster history. He wrote several books on the subject - including The Complete Public Enemy Almanac coauthored with his friend William Helmer. In July 2010, Rick announced that he and Thomas Hunt would partner in the operation of quarterly journal Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement.

Coauthor of The Complete Public Enemy Almanac; Public Enemies: America's Criminal Past, 1919-1940; The Public Enemies Handbook (in progress)

Contributor to: The Quotable Al Capone; Dillinger: The Untold Story; Thompson, The American Legend: The First Submachine Gun

Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of On the Spot Journal

Author of numerous articles on historical crime

Consultant to various television and radio crime documentaries.
Dillinger: The Untold Story by G. Russell Girardin, William J. Helmer, Rick Mattix (Contributions by)
The Public Enemies Handbook: A Who's Who of America's Most Notorious Gangsters by William J. Helmer, Rick Mattix
The Complete Public Enemy Almanac: New Facts And Features on the People, Places, And Events of the Gangsters And Outlaw Era 1920-1940 by William J. Helmer, Rick Mattix

He will be remembered as a one of a kind person that never had a harsh word for anyone. He was an avid dog lover. He was a strong supporter of Indian rites and the National Rifle Association. He enjoyed listening to the Beatles and enjoyed a laid back life.

Funeral services will be held October 31 at the Bates Funeral Chapel, Oskaloosa, IA

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Penny Warner Guest Blogs: How to Host a Vampire Party

Some of you know Penny Warner writes multiple mystery series, but did you know that she has more than 25 years of experience as an author and party planner and writes for party websites, such as She has published more than 50 books, including 16 specific to parties. Her latest books include LADIES’ NIGHT,  HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, and HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH. HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE will be out March 2011. 
Today I welcome Penny Warner to the Halloween Line-Up!

by Penny Warner

Vampire Parties are all the rage, thanks to books, TV shows, and movies like “Twilight,” “True Blood,” and “Vampire Diaries.” If you’re a fan of vampire Team Edward or werewolf Team Jacob, barmaid Sookie Stackhouse and vampire Bill Compton, or good/evil vampire brothers Stefan Salvatore and Damon Salvatore, host a blood-sucking party to celebrate Halloween

Eerie Invitations

Put some bite into your party invitations. Make a Coffin Invitation by folding a sheet of black construction paper in half. Draw the shape of a coffin on the paper, making sure one side of the coffin is on the fold. Cut out the coffin and write “Do not open until midnight” or “Open at your own risk” on the front using a blood-red sparkly pen. Or you can type it up on the computer using a vampire font, print it, cut it out, and glue it to the front. Find a picture of your favorite vampire on the Internet or in a fan magazine and copy it for each invitation. Open the coffin and glue the picture on the right-hand side. On the opposite side, write the party details. For added fun, add a set of vampire teeth, a glove of garlic, or a small cross inside the envelope, and seal with red sealing wax.
Creepy Costumes

Ask your guests to come as their favorite vampire—or werewolf—past or present. When they arrive, offer them face paints, vampire teeth, and vials of fake blood to add to their costumes. Make simple capes out of black fabric and hand them out to guests.

Dreadful Decorations

Create a gothic atmosphere with black and red balloons. Turn the lights down and light candles, or use a string of red lights around the room. Replace regular light bulbs with black lights and red bulbs. Make a giant coffin using a large appliance box. Paint it black, add a string of garlic or a wooden cross to the top, and place it in the center of the room to use for setting out snacks. Place vampire fangs, garlic, and plastic bats around the room or hang them from the ceiling. Cover your mirrors and black out your windows. Set the table with a black cloth and bright red paper products. Use vampire teeth as napkin rings. Make a centerpiece using a glass bowl, fill it with red tinted water, and float black candles. Make some personalized tombstones from cardboard or foam, and write epitaphs on them for each guest. Set them around the room. Play Clair de Lune, Muse, and Coldplay music in the background.

Ghoulish Games and Activities

Team Trivia. Divide guests into two teams and have them answer trivia questions about vampires and such from “Twilight,” “True Blood,” or “Vampire Diaries.”

Quoth the Vampire. Write down quotes from the vampire books or shows and have guests try to identify the speaker.

Vamping Vampires. Write down scenes from your favorite vampire film, book, or show, and have guests act them out for one another to guess.

Fortune Teller. Have a fortune teller stop by and tell the guests their futures. Or write fortunes on small pieces of paper, roll them up and insert them into balloons, then inflate the balloons with helium. Have the guests pull down a floating balloon and pop it to read the fortune.

Vampire Shirt. Let guests make their own t-shirts with their favorite vampires or sayings on them. Print pictures of vampires and sayings on iron-on paper using the computer, then let guests iron them on and decorate them with glitter glue, sequins, and other embellishments.

Vampire Videos. Watch videos of your favorite vampire films or TV shows. Don’t forget the originals, such as “Dracula,” or the popular “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Bloody Good Refreshments

Serve lots of red-colored food to satisfy that thirst for blood—red licorice, sliced red peppers, strawberries, red apples, red salsa with red tortilla chips, French fries with ketchup dip. Ask the bakery to tint a loaf of bread red, then make sandwiches with red jam. Cut out bat-shaped cookies, bake them, and spread with chocolate icing.

Offer a variety of red-colored drinks for the vampire guests, such as tomato juice, cranberry juice cocktail, red punch, red sports drink, etc. Freeze gummy worms in red water to make ice cubes for the drinks.

Make a coffin-shaped or tombstone-shaped red velvet cake, covered with chocolate icing.

Frightening Favors

Give the vampires plastic teeth, black capes, fake blood, posters of hot vampires, face painting makeup, videos of the shows, or other vampire related gifts—there are lots available!

Want a special alcoholic drink for the party, check out the Vampire Elixir on --Janet

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

King of Kindle Bouchercon Edition: Parnell Hall

Parnell Hall brings us a new version of King of Kindle: Bouchercon LOL! You'll recognize all the fellow mystery writers and fans!

2010 SCIBA Book Award Winner

The other nominees:
Boulevard by Stephen Jay Schwartz (Forge) Silver Lake by Peter Gadol (Tyrus Books)

For winners in other categories, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 10 Scary Movies

Halloween is fast approaching, and it only seems fitting that there are top 10 lists of so many scary things! Wes Craven, the master of horror, picks his Top 10 Favorite Scary Movies in the Daily Beast today.

For me Psycho and The House of Wax rated highly, but I saw both when I was quite young. I might also add Clockwork Orange. Saw it when it came out, and for some reason I thought it was a movie about Mozart, so you can imagine my horror! Don't ask. The Birds was pretty scary to me, too, when it first came out, and it is still hard to see a flock of black birds in Bodega Bay without running for cover. As if! In the movie, the birds shattered the windows, came down the chimneys. Scary times!

So here's Wes Craven's list of his Top 10 Favorite Scary Movies

Don't Look Now (1973)
Blow-Up (1966)
Psycho (1960)
The Virgin Spring (1960)
Repulsion (1965)
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
War of the Worlds (1953)
Frankenstein (1931)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Bad Seed (1956)

Read the Entire article with Wes Craven's commentary and clips, HERE.

And, here's one of my favorite clips. Never shower alone!

Juliet Blackwell Guest Blogs on Halloween

Continuing the series of Crime Writer Halloween Guest Blogs (scroll back to check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries), today I welcome JULIET BLACKWELL.

Juliet Blackwell, aka Hailey Lind, wrote the Art Lover’s Mystery series with her sister--including the Agatha-nominated Feint of Art. Arsenic and Old Paint, the fourth in the series, was released September, 2010. Juliet’s paranormal Witchcraft Mystery series began with the bestselling Secondhand Spirits (2009), about a witch with a vintage clothing store. A Cast-off Coven, a national bestseller, was released in June, 2010. First in the new Haunted Home Renovation Series, If Walls Could Talk, will come out December 7, 2010. 

A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has lived in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She lives in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist and portrait painter. A two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime, she is now a board member of SinC/NorCal and MWA. Visit her at,, or on Facebook and Twitter, @JulietBlackwell.

Halloween’s Not for Scaredy-Cats

Thirteen years ago I moved into a haunted house in Oakland. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. But really, stay with me here.
Juliet Blackwell: Chapel of the Chimes

Built in 1911 by folks who had money, the house was designed to be grand, with sweeping Moroccan arches, massive custom windows, and oversized rooms. The first owners lived here for forty-something years. Their daughter went in search of fame and fortune and landed in Hollywood back in the very early days of the movie industry. She liked to return by train with an entourage of young actors every once in a while. They would whoop it up in what was then the prosperous, urbane city of Oakland, and often held costume parties here at the house in the 1920s and 30s.

The daughter died in the house, as did her father and mother. All from natural causes.

And then Victoria and Ziggy moved in. They were also here for forty-something years, making me only the third owner of the home. Victoria and Ziggy were immigrants from Poland, and didn’t have the money to keep the place up. The house fell into disrepair, though its graceful bones remained sturdy. By then the town had gone downhill, the Bay Bridge making sparkly San Francisco the place to be and making obsolete the need for a true East Bay urban hub. Ziggy liked to tinker, and rigged up questionable devices throughout the house using things like the electrical connections from a model train set.

I don’t know where Victoria and Ziggy died, but they had both passed away and the house had stood empty for two years by the time I bought it. They left traces behind, mostly banal things like cement mixers, dog tags, and notes written in Polish. The original inhabitants, the Jeffress family, left photos and bottles and letters and deeds and a little button-up child’s shoe. The house carries their memories within its walls, basement, attic.

The house creaks and moans, especially when one is alone. This is par for the course in an old house, of course. The distinctive sound of footsteps overhead, however, is bewildering. Doors open and close of their own accord. Occasionally one feels the breath of someone over one’s shoulder, as though being followed.

But it’s Halloween that the place really comes alive. According to witchcraft lore, Halloween –or Samhain- is a time of the thinning of the veil that stands between the living and the dead. It is this night, and the first day or two of November, that death appears on earth, passing as it does through the veil. In the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead, skeletons are decorated and made beautiful so as to distract Death, so he will leave the living alone.

During our annual Halloween party, spirits roam the halls and cubbies of my great old haunted house. It seems only fair. After all, I --and other living folks-- get free reign to be here most of the year, why not let the dead take over from time to time? We have a costume room for those who aren’t inspired or can’t manage to think of what to wear – I insist on people dressing up, for it is while costumed that we can most easily blend into the Halloween night. People are never so much themselves as when behind a mask; and I think Death appreciates this.

I’ll admit it, I like to have fun with this theme and I don’t really think that the original inhabitants of my house are roaming my corridors. I’m enough of a twentieth-century skeptic to laugh at myself when I jump at a sudden flash of…what was that?…in the mirror. But there’s part of me that hopes the Jeffress family, and Victoria and Ziggy, and perhaps some of their Hollywood and Polish friends drop by to see us every October 31st, just to join in on the fun.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jennie Bentley: Halloween Guest Blogger

Continuing the series of Crime Writer Halloween Guest Blogs (scroll back to check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries), today I welcome Jennie Bentley as Guest Blogger. Jennie is also offering  a copy of Spackled and Spooked. Read on.

Jennie Bentley is the author of the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime, as well as A Cutthroat Business, first in the Savannah Martin Southern real estate mysteries from PublishingWorks, published in her own name, which is Bente Gallagher. You can find out more about both of them at


First of all, thanks to Janet for asking me to blog here on Mystery Fanfare; it’s a great honor to be included.

Yes, I did indeed write a sort of Halloween mystery a year ago. It wasn’t my intention to write a Halloween mystery, though; things just sort of happened that way. I finished the first book in the Do It Yourself home renovation series with a setting in the summer, and it made sense that the next book would take place in the fall. Leaves were changing color, the nights were getting longer and darker, and Derek and Avery had to choose another house to renovate. I’ve always been enamored with ghost stories, so a haunted house seemed like just the ticket. And when I had the haunted house, with unexplained footsteps and eerie screams and a skeleton buried in the crawlspace... what could be more natural than ending the book on Halloween?

The name of it is “Spackled and Spooked,” and it’s the second book in the DIY series, after “Fatal Fixer-Upper.” It was released around this time last year. A third book, “Plaster and Poison,” has come out since, and a fourth, “Mortar and Murder,” is scheduled for release in January. There’s nothing supernaturally spooky in any of the others, since I don’t actually write paranormals. Nor do any of them take place on Halloween, if it comes to that. I’ve covered another year of book time, though—the book I just handed in, #5, was set during the summer—so maybe the one I have yet to write will have to have a Halloween theme.


And I do love a good ghost story. Lucky for me, there are some fantastic ones out there.

One of my favorites was released 42 years ago, back when I was but a gleam in my mother’s eye, practically speaking. Barbara Mertz, writing as Barbara Michaels, wrote “Ammie, Come Home” in 1968, and it has one of the most chilling examples of ghostly possession ever penned. Like all of Mertz/Michaels/Elizabeth Peters’s books, it’s also marvelously written, quite funny at times, and with a very satisfying love story or two.

Since we’re on the subject of Mertz/Michaels/Peters, she also wrote “Devil May Care,” and “House of Many Shadows,” and “Witch,” and “The Crying Child,” and a slew of others, all of which handle ghosts and spirits in various incarnations, and all of which are stellar.

More recently—like last month—Jennifer Crusie’s latest, “Maybe This Time,” arrived in stores. She’s an autobuy for me, and you can imagine my excitement when I not only found the expected humor and fantabulous love story, but also ghosts and—yes—even an instance or two of possession.

Not that I have a particular thing for possession, you understand, but ghostly possession can be a lot of fun. To read about; I’m not sure I’d like it if it happened to me.

And then there’s Lillian Stewart Carl, whose every protagonist generally deals with ‘ghost allergies.’ You can’t really go wrong with a Lillian Stewart Carl—she’s been compared to both Barbara Michaels and the brilliant Mary Stewart—but if I had to mention one book in particular, it would have to be “Shadows in Scarlet,” a paranormal romantic suspense romp in which Amanda, a tour guide at a historic home in Virginia, falls in love with the ghost of James Grant and ends up taking his spirit to his home castle in Scotland. I won’t go into details of the story, but it’s great, and even includes—for those of you who get off on that kind of thing—a ghost/human sex scene. There may be more of those out there, but this was the first I’d read, and quite well done, I might add. (And in case you wonder about the feasibility, as does a certain character in the book, to quote Amanda, who ought to know, “he had plenty of substance.”)

I could keep going, but I won’t. Instead, why don’t you leave a comment to tell me about your favorite ghost book, and I’ll send a copy of “Spackled and Spooked” to a random commenter to be announced at the end of the day.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Ultimate Retro Laptop

This is definitely a Laptop after my heart! For sale on etsy from usbtypewriter for $599.00


This Royal Aristocrat has been modified to work as a USB Keyboard for PC, Mac, and even iPad! That's right -- its a beautiful and fully functional computer keyboard!

This USB Typewriter works with all letters, numerals, and punctuation marks. It also includes shift, space, and return carriage (which is literally activated by the typewriter's return carriage!). Many non-standard keys, such as F1-F12, esc, ctrl, and so on are available with a special toggle key.

If you are worried about waking the neighbors with the clacking sound of the keys, just put a cotton ball on the platen and the typewriter will run silently.  
But isn't that what you really want!! I know, I would.

This USB Typewriter comes in the original carrying case. The modification is very clean leaves the typewriter looking, feeling, and working like a regular typewriter -- and yes, it still writes beautifully on paper. A beautiful, functional, unique addition to your home office.

Hat Tip to Bill Crider

Terrifying Halloween Gadgets

MSN's Sean Fallon reports on 10 Terrifying Halloween Gadgets. Perfect for the Halloween Series I've been posting! Here are two of them, but be sure and check them all out.

Electronic Serial Killer Shower Curtain
This shower curtain plays the "Psycho" theme music and then the screaming starts. The audio clips are activated by both sound and motion. Perfect for relatives who stay too long. Anyone in the shower will want to get out as fast as possible. $19.98 ( Things You Never Knew Existed via Nerd Approved)

Skullhub USB
Not an actual skull, this is a 4-port USB hub and knick knack holder designed to look like a skull.  $24.99 ( Think Geek via CubicleBot)

Read the entire list HERE.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Graham Crowden: R.I.P.

ACTOR Graham Crowden, well known for his work on TV and film, died this week at the age of 87. The Edinburgh-born star appeared in TV comedy shows such as A Very Peculiar Practice and Waiting For God. He also appeared in the cult 1968 movie If… and James Bond adventure For Your Eyes Only.

In 1990, he appeared as a lecherous peer in the BBC comedy Don't Wait Up and in 1991, he played a modest role in the Rumpole of the Bailey episode "Rumpole and the Quacks", portraying Sir Hector MacAuliffe, the head of a medical inquest into the potential sexual misconduct on the part of Dr. Ghulam Rahmat (portrayed by Saeed Jaffrey). It was the role he landed in 1990 as the leading character of Tom Ballard in the  sitcom Waiting for God opposite Stephanie Cole's character Diana Trent, as the two rebellious retirement home residents, that made him a household name. The show ran for four years and was a major success. One of my favorites!

In 2001, he guest-starred in the Midsomer Murders episode "Ring Out Your Dead" and also played The Marquis of Auld Reekie in The Way We Live Now. In 2003, he made a cameo appearance as a sadistic naval school teacher in The Lost Prince. In 2005, he starred in the BBC Radio 4 sci-fi comedy Nebulous as Sir Ronald Rolands. In 2008, he appeared as a guest star in Foyle's War.

A great actor! Maybe he's just off in one of his 'alternate' realities.

Pattie Tierney Guest Blogger: Mystery, Jewelry & Halloween

As I've mentioned many times, so many of my worlds and interests cross. Today I welcome Pattie Tierney, mystery critic, jewelry maker, bon vivant :-).

Pattie Tierney of St. Louis, MO, has a passion for travel, dining, photography, and mysteries, and writes about them all. She has published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Personal Journaling Magazine, The Diarist's Journal, and Ink & Ruminations. Her art has appeared in The Rubber Stamper, Signatures: The Art Journal Collection, ATCs: An Anthology of Artist Trading Cards, Somerset Studio and Stamper's Sampler magazines.


I came to learn about mysteries the same way I came to learn about baseball, at my father's knee. Literally. My mother would shoo us out of the kitchen when she was fixing dinner, so dad and I would head for the living room and the new B&W Deforest TV where I parked by nine-year-old self front and center. We watched “Rawhide” and “M Squad” while the aromas of our eventual dinner wafted over our heads. It was on that TV that I first got a glimpse of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, and Ken Boyer hitting a grand slam in the 7th game of the 1964 World Series giving the Cardinals the win. I was instantly captivated by both of these things then, and remain equally as captivated, if not more so, today.

As the result of my two loves, by the time I reached high school I had a mystery collection that exceeded the holdings of the public library - Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton, Dana Girls, (later Christie, Conan Doyle, Queen, Gardner, and Poe) -- and could quote batting averages more readily than any of the boys. Clearly I was hooked, on mysteries and on baseball. These two lifelong interests have been as much a part of my life as my family. I can define certain events by relating them to what book I happened to be reading, or game I was attending at the time. (I was in bed with the worst flu of my life while reading The Whispering Statue; I broke my new braces while eating a hot dog at a Cards-Dodgers game -- the Cards won.)

When I was younger and insecure, I pretty much kept my obsessions to myself. Now that I have reached the comfort of middle age, I wear them proudly like a badge, or bracelet, or earrings. It was while shopping (hopelessly searching) for unique jewelry that reflected who I am (no easy task considering my variety of interests), I came to realize that there was nothing on the market that reflected the real mystery-loving me. I wanted a bracelet that smacked of intrigue. Something where I could display my favorite books, murder weapons of choice, and tie it all together with colorful beads, and bits of whimsy. My background had been mixed media, but in the past I’d been fairly good at creating my own reality, so why not now, I thought. So, armed with nothing more than an idea and 40% off Michael’s coupon, I shopped, I bought, I came home dazed.

Considering I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I’m pretty proud of the first bracelet I ever made. It was an Agatha Christie tribute (I was reading Dead Man’s Folly at the time), with book covers, poison bottles, mystery charms, and beads. Now what?

An artist friend, not quite so sure what to make of my idea or creations, put me on to a new, experimental site for handmade items called Etsy, and I signed up. It was my first foray into online selling, so, much like the bracelet, was a learning experience. The bracelet sold within days of its listing. I had learned something. I learned there was a market for things like this. My people were out there! Somewhere! Clamoring for the same thing I wanted; I was not alone! I could make my own line of jewelry, put it in an online shop devoted to people like me, and fulfill that place in their jewelry box that ached for a mystery.

Well over four years have passed since that auspicious day. I’ve learned a lot since then. My designs have become more numerous and sophisticated, the elements more varied, and the wheels in my brain never stop turning, cranking out new ideas. I have now expanded into paper goods, offering mystery cards, beaded bookmarks, a mini mystery cookbook, and journal books of varying sizes, with more items making their debut for Christmas, in addition to the wide variety of jewelry. I love doing custom work, and thrive on listening to new ideas and turning them into the next mystery lovers’ reality.

It’s been a wonderful joyride. I think Nancy Drew would be proud.

Visit my online jewelry shop:
Visit my online paper goods shop:
See my photos:
Follow me on Twitter @pattietierney
Read my blog:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Michael Connelly Bouchercon Interview

How great to finally meet @popculturenerd, one of my twitter friends. Saw her filming several of the big interviews, and I was so pleased to see the Michael Connelly interview on YouTube today. 

Gregg Hurwitz interviews Michael Connelly in this interview filmed last weekend at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention.

Sharon Fiffer Guest Blogs Halloween

Today I continue the series of Crime Writer Halloween Guest Blogs. Scroll back to check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries. Today I welcome mystery author Sharon Fiffer.

Sharon Fiffer is the author of the Jane Wheel mysteries published by St. Martin's Minotaur. Jane Wheel is a PPI--picker, private investigator, whose talent for spotting treasures among the trash is essential to the crime-solving half of her business. Although she's a city girl now, Sharon grew up in Kankakee, Illinois where her parents ran a lively local tavern. She mines her own memories of growing up for Scary Stuff, number six in the series. Number seven, Backstage Stuff, will be published by St. Martins, January 2011. Here, Sharon shares a childhood Halloween memory that did not make it into Scary Stuff.

Tricky or Treated by Sharon Fiffer

Halloween was always my favorite holiday. No pressure to make or buy just-right gifts for parents or brother. No obligatory visits to grandma wearing a stiff scratchy dress with pinchy shoes. No unrealistic expectations of ponies grazing under a decorated tree. Just comfortable wacky clothes, an empty pillowcase, a walk through crunchy leaves after dark--and candy, candy, candy all for me, me, me. Half magic, half greed--isn't that what childhood should be?

I must have been six years old when I heard the whispering campaign at St. Pat’s. "Did you hear? Sanborns are going back to making taffy apples this year!" Taffy Apples? Crunchy, sticky, juicy and sweet--my four favorite food groups all rolled into one treat--so exotic, yet so homely! The humble apple dressed for company! My mouth watered when I heard the news. The best part? The Sanborns--an ancient couple whose children were grown and gone-lived on my corner! Right at the end of my block of Cobb Boulevard. I didn't even have to cross a street or risk cutting through the park where Kankakee Junior High eighth graders lay in wait with cartons of eggs.

What's better than one taffy apple? Two taffy apples! My friend and I decided we would go to the Sanborns first and get one apple, round two blocks of speed trick-or treating (sort of like speed dating, but better--you got chocolate!) then return for another apple. We would then follow our planned route, the map of which we had worked on for weeks. We had drawn in the houses where we expected giant chocolate bars and starred homes where we remembered the homemade popcorn balls of yesteryear. Proust and his little cookies had nothing on us and our memories of Chunkys and Bit-O-Honeys.

On the day of Halloween—when St. Pat’s school was all word puzzles in the shape of pumpkins and coloring pages of witches on broomsticks silhouetted against full moons-we heard the taffy apple rumor, part two. "The Sanborns make you come in their house and look you over. That's so they can remember your costume in case you try to come back for seconds." If the high five had been known to us, my pal and I would have been up high and down low, since we had already thought of this. We planned costume adjustments between our first and second visit. First round—boy hobos with hair bunched up under our brothers caps. Second trip? Girl hobos, hair down and burnt cork applied on the fly as we deposited our first apple at home and flew back down the block for seconds.

It was a good plan and a smart one for a first grader. But a six year old is no match for a couple of sixty-somethings who had spent the day over a steaming vat of caramel trying to do something nice for the neighborhood. We were greedy and we were tricky and we were deceitful but we weren’t liars. Lying, after all, was a sin. When presented with the “sign-in book” by Mr. Sanborn where we had to write our names, first and last, and our addresses, we dutifully did as asked. Not one kid I knew—and I knew some pretty rotten kids—had the guts to out and out lie or make up a name and address so they could later return—or had the foresight to be Jane Doe on the first round and reclaim true identity for taffy apple #2.

So we made do with one taffy apple…and 4 popcorn balls, 8 Chunkys, 3 Mounds bars, 12 tootsie roll pops, dozens of caramels, snickers, bags of candy corn and more…all for us, all kept in our rooms, unchecked for foreign objects by our benignly neglectful parents whom I’m sure knew that evil existed, but just didn’t believe that it had come to our neighborhood…and who were blissfully ignorant of the dangers of sugar, red dye #2 or high fructose corn syrup. Half greed, half magic—just what childhood should be!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crimespree Awards 2010

The 2010 Crimespree Award winners were announced last Sunday in San Francisco.

Favorite Book of 2009: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, by Charlie Huston (Ballantine Books)

Also nominated: Bury Me Deep, by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster); Tower, by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman (Busted Flush Press); Trust No One, by Gregg Hurwitz (St. Martin’s Press); and The Amateurs, Marcus Sakey (Dutton)

Favorite First Book 2009: Even, by Andrew Grant (Minotaur)

Also nominated: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (Delacorte); Running from the Devil, by Jamie Freveletti (Morrow); A Bad Day for Sorry, by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur); and The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

Best Book in an Ongoing Series for 2009: Walking Dead, by Greg Rucka (Bantam)

Also nominated: The Silent Hour, by Michael Koryta (Minotaur); Shatter, by Michael Robotham (Doubleday); The Shanghai Moon, by S.J. Rozan (Minotaur); and Truth, by Peter Temple (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In addition, the Jack Reacher Award (“given to an author who is someone we would recommend to everyone we meet and is also great to their fans and gives back to the mystery community”) went to Val McDermid.

The Crimespree Awards are sponsored by Crimespree Magazine.

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mark de Castrique: Guest Halloween Blogger

So many awards. Now back to the Holiday at hand, Halloween! Mystery Fanfare continues with Crime Writer Halloween Guest Blogs. Scroll back to check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries. Today I welcome mystery author Mark de Castrique.

Mark de Castrique is the author of the Barry Clayton and Sam Blackman mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains and two YA mystery novels. FATAL UNDERTAKING was release October 1,  2010 by Poisoned Pen Press.


My new Buryin’ Barry mystery, FATAL UNDERTAKING, wasn’t conceived as a Halloween murder. I’d focused my attention on another holiday, Christmas, in that I wanted to explore the growing problem of Christmas tree thefts in the mountains of North Carolina. Growers may wait twelve to fifteen years for a Fraser fir to reach the desired height and shape, only to have their harvest “rustled” as criminals steal loaded trailers waiting to be hauled, or even strip the back-slope, isolated fields using chainsaws and trucks to make off with a grower’s fifteen-year effort.

But I always like my detective, funeral director/deputy sheriff Barry Clayton, to have a personal stake in his investigations. This usually means I create an inciting incident that draws him into the crime. He’s been shot and wounded at a funeral he was conducting, found his girlfriend’s photo in the wallet of a skeleton uncovered while moving a grave, and had a body stolen from the funeral home, which is extremely bad for business.

I thought having an unexpected corpse turn up in one of his caskets would add a nice twist to his string of dilemmas; so I devised the situation in which one of Barry’s caskets would be out of his control. He loans the Jaycees a casket for their charity Halloween Haunted House, and the President of the Jaycees, playing the role of the rising corpse, gives not only the performance of his life but also the performance of his death.

Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, my own Halloweens weren’t quite so shocking. But, the dirt roads we had to trek to visit scattered houses for trick-or-treating provided plenty of scary moments as animals ran across our path or the wind knocked bare branches together with a sound that a kid’s imagination turned into zombie footsteps. The most horrifying incident occurred one year when two other brothers joined my two brothers and me in our quest for a sugar overload. We cut through a pasture and headed down a grassy slope toward a farmhouse when Jiminy Cricket, the younger brother, fell. “Hey, fellas, I slipped in some mud.”

We went to help the little guy to his feet, but abruptly stopped. What upended him had only the letter “M” in common with mud. Jiminy Cricket had tumbled into a fresh pile of cow manure. A ten-foot radius was the closest we dared approach before the stench overwhelmed us.

Now the kid dressed as the reeking Jiminy Cricket was too young to be abandoned and we were too far from home to send him there alone. Yet, this was Halloween, the one day of legalized chocolate extortion, so we continued making our rounds while forcing him to keep his distance. We carried his bag of candy to each door and would point to him lurking in the shadows like some leper so that we could ask for the extra treat.

His ultimate humiliation: being hosed down in our front yard and having his Jiminy Cricket costume unceremoniously tossed in the trash. Jiminy Cricket may have said, “Let your conscience be your guide,” but on Halloween, forget your conscience and keep your eyes on the ground in front of you.

2010 SMFS Derringer Short Story Awards

2010 Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Awards were announced during Bouhercon last weekend in San Francisco

Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 Words): And Here’s to You, Mrs. Edwardson,” by Hamilton Waymire (from Big Pulp, November 23, 2009)

Best Short Story (1,001 - 4,000 Words): ’Twas the Night,” by Anita Page (from The Gift of Murder, edited by John M. Floyd; Wolfmont Press)

Best Long Story (4,001-8,000 Words): “Famous Last Words,” by Doug Allyn (EQMM, November 2009) 

Best Novelette (8,001-17,500 Words): “Julius Katz,” by Dave Zeltserman (EQMM, September/October 2009)

The Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer For Lifetime Achievement: Lawrence Block

Congratulations to all of the winners and other nominees.

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Anthony Awards 2010

And, one more awards ceremony at Bouchercon 2010: The Anthony Awards,  named after writer/critic Anthony Boucher, for whom Bouchercon is also named.

Best Novel: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny ( Minotaur)

Best First Novel: A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original: Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Touchstone)

Best Short Story: "On the House" by Hank Phillippi Ryan in Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers (Level Best Books).

Best Critical Non-Fiction: Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James (Knopf).

Congratulations to all! What a great convention!

E.J. Copperman Halloween Guest Blogger

Halloween is fast approaching, and Mystery Fanfare continues with Crime Writer Halloween Guest blogs. Check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries. Today I welcome mystery author E.J. Copperman.

E.J. Copperman is a mysterious figure, or has a mysterious figure, or writes figuratively in mysteries.  Night of the Living Deed is the first E.J. Copperman novel. It will be followed in 2011 by An Uninvited Ghost, the second in the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series. E.J. Copperman is the pseudonym of a well-known mystery novelist, now embarking on a new type of story that includes some elements of the supernatural as well as a fair number of laughs. 

E.J. Copperman:

I realize I'm asking for trouble, given that I'm the author of a ghost-ridden mystery taking place in a haunted house during October, but the fact is, I never thought Halloween was the least bit scary.

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Halloween was the happiest of all holidays, mostly because we all knew it wasn't a "real" holiday. It was a day set aside (after school let out) to let your imagination run wild, dress up as whatever person, thing, or object you decided was interesting--and doable on a budget--and then make the rounds of the neighborhood getting free candy.

What's not to like?

Mrs. From, a block and a half away and around the corner, made homemade donuts every Halloween, but you had to get there early. And we did, because they were SO worth it. Watson Bagels on Chancellor Avenue gave out, waddaya know, free bagels on Halloween (and this was even after the price of a single bagel had been hiked to an unheard-of eight cents). Other, less imaginative, neighbors hung in there with the Kit Kat bars, Three Musketeers, Snickers or M&Ms (Fun size? What's fun about a tiny bag with four M&Ms in it?). Some people, clearly having forgotten that Halloween takes place in late October, threw pennies into your bag. Pennies? Who wants to eat pennies? (Okay, so I knew a kid who would eat pennies, but that's not what we're here to discuss , is it?)

But frankly, the candy was never the point.

There was something liberating about Halloween. You could dress up as ANYTHING. You could take on a new identity that wasn't the shortest kid in the class or the brain or the cute little girl or the brat. You could be SOMEONE ELSE. You could even be SOMETHING else. Sure, ghosts and vampires were well represented, but I saw kids going out as tigers, as street lights, as soda cans. We had our werewolves, but they weren't heartthrobs who wanted to listen to you talk about your feelings--they were monsters who wanted to tear your throat out.

Halloween, then, was the time imagination took flight. It was, perhaps, the time when writers were created. Let your thoughts go in any direction on Halloween, and follow them. You might find a spot where you're among friends, and you might want to tell their stories. Or you might want to scare the living crap out of your friends, and here's where you discover the way to do it. Maybe you want to make people laugh without talking, so you build (we didn't buy costumes after first grade) a suit that would show some wit.

Later in life, when I would dress as Harpo Marx for a costume party (I had my own klaxon horn and everything), I had a hard time remembering some of the costumes from my youth. I know I had a store-bought Superman suit in first grade--I was going through a serious Superman phase--and that later on, I personally spray painted a cardboard box silver to make a robot costume. But I'm hard pressed to recall any of the others. I'm sure a huge amount of thought went into each, but I honestly can't remember a single one.

Still, I do tend to make up stories to this day. And I make up characters to go into the stories. Some of them are even ghosts.

It had to start somewhere...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barry Awards 2010

More Awards from Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention!

George Easter presented the Barry Awards Friday night. The Barry Awards are nominated and voted on by readers of Deadly Pleasures Magazine.

Best Novel: The Last Child, by John Hart (Minotaur)

Best First Novel: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (Delacorte)

Best British Novel: If the Dead Rise Not, by Philip Kerr (Quercus)

Best Paperback Original: Starvation Lake, by Bryan Gruley (Touchstone)

Best Thriller: Running from the Devil, by Jamie Freveletti (Morrow)

Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Best Short Story: “The High House Writer,” by Brendan DuBois (AHMM, July-August 2009)

Don Sandstrom Award for Literary Achievement in Mystery Fandom: Len & June Moffatt; Captain Bob Napier

For all the nominations, go HERE

Shamus Awards 2010

So many awards being presented at Bouchercon this year, and in my mind there can't be enough awards presented for excellence in crime fiction writing!

The 2010 Shamus Awards, were presented last night by the Private Eye Writers of America in recognition of the private eye genre and its writers.

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel: Locked In, by Marcia Muller (Grand Central)

Best First P.I. Novel: Faces of the Gone, by Brad Parks (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel: Sinner’s Ball, by Ira Berkowitz (Three Rivers Press)

Best P.I. Short Story: “Julius Katz,” by Dave Zeltserman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2009)

Best P.I. Character: Sharon McCone

Lifetime Achievement Award: Robert Crais

See all the nominees HERE.

Congratulations to All!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Macavity Award Winners 2010

The Macavity Award Winners 2010. The Macavity is named for the "mystery cat" of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats). Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote on these awards. I presented these awards this evening at Bouchercon, the World Mystery convention, held this year in San Francisco.

Best Mystery Novel: Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman: Tower (Busted Flush Press)

Best First Mystery Novel: Alan Bradley: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Delacorte)

Best Mystery Nonfiction: P.D. James: Talking about Detective Fiction (Alfred A. Knopf)

Best Mystery Short Story: Hank Phillippi Ryan: "On the House" (Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers, Level Best Books)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery:  Rebecca Cantrell: A Trace of Smoke (Forge)

To see all the nominees, go HERE. Congratulations to all!

Glynn Marsh Alam Halloween Guest Blogger

Hope you're enjoying the Crime Writer Halloween Guest blogs. Check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries. Today I welcome mystery writer Glynn Marsh Alam.

Glynn Marsh Alam, the author of the Luanne Fogarty Mysteries, lives in north Florida. Her seventh book, Moon Water Madness, is the winner of the gold medal in popular fiction in the Florida Book Awards. Her latest book, Tide Water Talisman, involves Katrina refugees who find permanent refuge on the north Florida Gulf coast. She has a literary novel, River Whispers, also in a north Florida setting.
Glynn Marsh Alam:
Thank the saints for Halloween. It’s one of my favorite holidays, one that brings to mind a chilly, dry twilight with fallen leaves sweeping down an empty street. The fine edge of something about to happen is there, and if you stare long enough, you’ll see the ectoplasm curl around the tree trunk. Spooks are afoot.

Take all these magical and ghosty feelings that have harbored themselves within you for years and add them to your mystery stew. It all makes for good murder. (Good murder? Is that an oxymoron?)

I write the Luanne Fogarty mysteries set in the north Florida swamps. They alone provide a perfect setting for all kinds of death. When it came to writing about mysteries around holidays, however, it was Halloween that grabbed me. It just kind of fits inside moss-draped darkness with water moccasins and alligators. That’s why Green Water Ghost, my sixth book (of eight) was born.

Tradition here in the South is pretty much like anywhere else in the USA with costume parties and trick-or-treat raids. Contrary to national media, most of the religious factions don’t consider it evil and devil worship. Instead they embrace it, often giving their own parties to keep young kids from tramping the dangerous streets. That’s what happens in Green Water Ghost. A church, on the edge of an ancient cemetery, joins in the fun. The cemetery just happens to be remnants of an old slave burial spot. It’s on private land, and the owner has begun giving tours.

Enter mischief. Someone is adding modern bones to the old ones. History preservationists and religious fundamentalists are fighting over the ruins, and a group of college students haven’t got enough to do yet. A collision is bound to happen. When it does, everyone from the local farmer to the Baptist preacher to the funeral director seem capable of making ghosts out of people.

I had great fun writing this book. Some may have a little trouble in spots where body parts get in the way, but these are necessary to story, not to mention the suspense. The book takes on a uniqueness, its own version of holiday horror. In other words, it uses local color to enhance the Halloween elements. Where up North, one might bob apples in a sort of harvest festival, outdoor supper on the ground (meaning long tables set up outside) with cheese grits, slaw dogs, and catfish would feed the goblins here. Sinkholes present danger to the temporary fairies and pirates. Draped moss in the distance appears to be human or something like it hanging from a limb. And when suddenly all the critters of the night hush their cries, we all know something is out there and wants in with us.

Luanne, the adjunct diver, takes to the water and the discovery of even more horrors. She knows these woods and makes her home amongst the denizens who live in them. In the end, Halloween darkness fades to dawn. She has put things to right, but the memories linger and the moss waits in the sunlight to once again appear as night ghouls.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10 Best Haunted Houses

Continuing in the Halloween mood, BestCollegesOnline posts the 10 Best Haunted Houses. If you thought movies were scary, these haunted house attractions are positively terrifying! Here are the Best of the Bunch!

1. The Darkness Haunted House Missouri is the Show-Me State, and St. Louis will show you a frightening time at its renowned haunted house, The Darkness. The Darkness features two floors of your worst nightmares, as monsters, ghouls and 3D clowns and killer circus animals chase and taunt you till the very end.

2. The 13th Gate Haunted House Take the Hellevator to the 13th gate, where you’ll find 13 themed indoor/outdoor scenes of your worst nightmares come to life. Here you’ll crawl through a crematory oven, get lost in a dark underground tunnel and stand on a creaky bridge overlooking live snakes.

3. Edge of Hell New Orleans. Say your prayers when you enter the Edge of Hell, Kansas City’s oldest and best haunted house. Established in 1975, this converted five-story warehouse features 30 minutes of state-of-the-art technology and heart pounding scares, like sliding from heaven down a spiral slide into the Devil’s arms, being taunted by 45 live actors and seeing the glowing eyes of two 20-foot live anacondas.

4. Headless Horseman Prepare yourself for forty-five acres of pure fear, beginning with a one-mile hayride through the dark woods of Ulster Park, New York, with the Headless Horseman himself chasing you down. Then, you’ll be led through a labyrinth-style corn maze, into five horrific haunted houses.

5. Nightmare on the Bayou Situated next to Houston’s oldest graveyard, visitors can experience actual hauntings at the Nightmare on the Bayou. This terrifying haunted house experience starts with a heart pumping outdoor attraction, as you make your way inside to a clown room, caged hallways and a creaky bridge with zombies and a chainsaw man chasing you through a hedge maze.

6. Cutting Edge Haunted House Cutting Edge holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest haunted house in the world, totaling 55 spine-chilling minutes. Your worst nightmares take place in the 100-year old abandoned meat packing plant in Fort Worth, Texas, in the historic area known as “Hell’s Half Acre.”

7. Netherworld Atlanta’s Netherworld is another world of terror that has more scares, more haunts and more chilling effects than most haunted houses. As soon as you arrive, you’ll get a taste of Netherworld when you encounter terrifying creatures following you to the door way. Inside, you’ll get spooked by live actors, animatronic scare zones and movie quality special effects that will have you thinking you’re in a horror movie, and just guess who’s starring as the victim.

8. The Dent Schoolhouse Cincinnati’s Dent Schoolhouse depicts the frightening events of a murderous janitor who killed over 35 kids in this haunted schoolhouse from 1894. This terrifying experience will have your heart pumping as monsters, ghouls and a lone janitor terrorize you till the end.

9. The Bates Motel in Philadelphia will have you checking out in no time. The horror begins with a 20-minute hayride at Arasapha Farms, amid a dark, haunted forest with ghouls and zombies darting out at you, followed by the main attraction – The Bates Motel.

10. The Asylum is Denver’s most horrifying and gruesome Halloween experience by far. Visitors walk through two levels of Gordon Cottingham’s Hospital for the Mentally Insane, where spiders, rats and snakes roam and the screams of tortured patients never stop.

What's your favorite Haunted House?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nancy Pickard Guest Halloween Guest Blogger

Hope you're enjoying the Crime Writer Halloween Guest blogs. Be sure and check them all out and the list of Halloween Mysteries. Today I welcome mystery writer Nancy Pickard. 

Nancy Pickard is a 4-time Macavity winner for her novels and short stories. She lives in Merriam, Kansas, where she is at work on her third “Kansas” novel following “The Virgin of Small Plains” and “The Scent of Rain and Lightning.”

My What Big Teeth You Have by Nancy W. Pickard

It’s not easy to scare me.

Oh, I still startle easily—walk up behind me and go Boo, and I’ll jump most satisfactorily, even when it’s not Halloween. Especially when it’s not Halloween. But I don’t get outright scared much anymore. Partly, I think it’s just a stubborn reaction to the politics of fear that’s going around like an epidemic of pretend chicken pox. To that, I dig in my heels and say, “No! Cut the crap.” It’s also partly because I am actually braver than I used to be; I did take those flying lessons, after all, even if I refused to do “stalls” all by myself. (Talk about terror!) I even can, as a grown-up, walk casually into a dark basement without needing to fumble in a panic for a light switch.

But I think the real reason lies with werewolves.

When I was way too young, my normally-cautious mom screwed up and let me go to the movies (what we used to call them then, because they literally were plural) with some older girls. Mom was practically as innocent as I was, and it didn’t occur to her to ask if they might be taking me to see THE SCARIEST PICTURE SHOW ON THE PLANET. (Scariest until “Psycho,” that is, but that was still many years away from forcing me to duck into the lane between the seats and cower there with my hands over my ears until the screeching was over.)

So little me, eight years old, skipped off to see the original Lon Chaney “Werewolf.”

Okay, so maybe my heart rate went up a little bit the moment I typed that capital “L,” and maybe it’s still beating a little faster than is strictly necessary for a woman who’s writing this on a porch at a friend’s house on a sunny day. But really, I’m over it. I’m fine with werewolves now.

“Scared” doesn’t begin to describe how that movie made me feel back then, however. My mom found out how scared when she had to run into my bedroom when I screamed for help that night because I was too frightened to sleep alone in the dark.

The werewolf virus infected me, but good.

From then on, I couldn’t go to scary movies, couldn’t bear to hear scary stories at slumber parties, couldn’t read scary books. And we’re talking about decades here, not just a few years of childhood. When I was in my twenties, I tried to read “The Exorcist,” and got so scared that I ran outside with it and buried it in a trash barrel! I didn’t like being that way; I wanted to “enjoy” chills and shudders the way other people did who hadn’t been bitten by the fear creature when they were too young to tell real from pretend.

But I’m over it now.

Really, I am. I even wrote a werewolf story for Charlaine and Toni’s anthology about same. That was my victory, that story. That was my ultimate triumph over the forces of hair and teeth and bloody transfiguration.

I even made the werewolves the good guys, of sorts.

One of the things that helped me emerge from Werewolf Phobia was a novel I wrote called The Whole Truth. Up until that book, I had skated around my villains, avoiding looking deeply at the worst they could do. But I had finally come to realize that was cowardly; I was a mystery writer, for heaven’s sake. The least I could do was meet my bad guys face-to-face, stare them down, dig deep into their lives and psyches, and find out what caused their mutations from human to monster.

That helped, because it turned them back from werewolf to human again, and it also probably made me a better writer. I may, in fact, owe my later books at least in part to my mother, Lon Chaney, older girls who didn’t have the good sense God gave a possum, and to centuries of werewolf lore.

One last observation before the full moon rises. . .

My maiden name was Wolfe.


cue sound of howling in the distance

Of all the monsters in all the gin joints in the world, which ones scared you more than any others?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Camille Minichino/Margaret Grace: Guest Halloween Blogger

To further expand on my Halloween Mystery List,  I've asked "Halloween Crime Writers" to Guest blog about themselves, their books and their Halloween Experiences. Boo!

First up is Camille Minichino. She has published eight novels in the Periodic Table Mysteries series, featuring retired physicist GLORIA LAMERINO. The series continues in short stories on Kindle and
As Margaret Grace, she's published five novels in the Miniature Mysteries series, featuring miniaturist GERALDINE PORTER and her 10-year-old granddaughter, Maddie.
As Ada Madison, she's poised to release a new series, the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries, featuring college professor SOPHIE KNOWLES.

A Halloween Carol by Camille Minichino/Margaret Grace

I can't say enough about a month that starts out National Dollhouse Month, and ends with Halloween.

Throw in all that fun-size candy, those glittery costumes, and the anniversary of Sputnick (October 4, 1957), and you have 31 party-filled days every year. Well, except for October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles read a script derived from "The War of the Worlds" and scared millions in the radio audience more than any ghosts, evil witches, or giant spiders' webs could have.

In October, all the whites are safely put away and the orange comes out: pumpkin scones, pumpkin lattes, and pumpkin ice cream. No wonder I love this season.

I always wanted to live on a street that treated Halloween with respect, taking orange and black decorations seriously. It didn't happen, so I created one of my own in my fifth miniature mystery, "Monster in Miniature."

The residents of Sangamon River Road, in the fictional town of Lincoln Point, California, hold a competition every year for the best, most elaborate Halloween sets. I had the most fun time with this book, sparing no expense in outfitting the street with cauldrons, low-flying bats, jack o'lanterns, skeletons, gravestones, black cats ready to attack, and electronic nooses (yes, that's nooses, not noises, though there's also sound everywhere). In front of every house is a large pumpkin shaped bowl filled with treats, mostly chocolate.

My childhood fantasy come true. Why else write fiction?

"Monster in Miniature" revolves around a scarecrow that comes out every year on a certain porch on Sangamon. The scarecrow is wired to scream and flail its arms when anyone approaches. Children, including those who know what's in store, run away even as they squeal with delight.

Except this year, the scarecrow doesn't move. It turns out (not a spoiler; it happens right away) the scarecrow is alive. Well, dead, but formerly alive.

Not to worry—the town miniaturist and her precocious eleven-year-old granddaughter are on the case and the story ends with a rousing Halloween party where Shakespeare's three witches show up.

It's not a coincidence that National Dollhouse Month is the same month as Halloween. Dollhouses and Halloween go together just as Mysteries and Halloween are a natural combination. Every miniaturist has built at least one haunted house.

I wish there were Halloween carols to sing. But failing that, I've programmed my smart phone with a new ring tone: He did the mash. He did the monster mash.

It will have to do.