Monthly Archives: March 2014

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Have you ever wondered about the origin of April Fool’s Day? The most popular theory is it began in France in 1582 when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year’s Day was changed from March 25 – April 1 (new year’s week) to January 1.

Apparently it took a while for everyone to get the news or even accept the change once they did hear about it. Those who stuck to celebrating the new year on April 1st were considered fools and opened themselves up to all kinds of practical jokes, like invitations to fake New Year’s parties.

By anonymous (Punch (the Danish) page 105) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, PD-ART- PD-old-auto-1923

By anonymus (Punch (the Danish) page 105) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, PD-ART- PD-old-auto-1923

Each country now celebrates April Fool’s Day in their own way. In India, they smear colors on each other; in Portugal they throw flour on each other and in England they play small pranks but only before noon. It’s considered bad luck after that. We here in America play practical jokes on our friends and family throughout the day.

I’ll share one of my favorite practical jokes that didn’t actually happen because nobody could stop laughing long enough to make the phone call.

My mom is a big bird lover. When she lived in North Carolina she hung lots of bird feeders in her yard, full of seed for them. Unfortunately, hungry and determined squirrels also shared her yard and no matter what she tried; she couldn’t stop them from getting into the feeders. Until one day, she got so fed up she bought some traps and began trapping them. Every day she would catch squirrels and drive them to the local park where she would rehome them.

By Cephas (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My husband thought it would be hilarious to have someone call her, acting as a game warden and tell her that she’s been seen dumping squirrels in the park. Unfortunately, she would have to pay a fine for each squirrel she dumped or take back thirty squirrels from the park. I’m not sure how stunned my mother would have been to get this call because the guys at work he tried to get to make the call couldn’t stop laughing every time they picked up the phone.

So, how about you? What’s the best joke you’ve played on someone for April Fool’s Day? Or has someone really got you good? Please share!

 

 

 

Are You A Secret Steampunker?

by Kassandra Lamb and Kirsten Weiss

We are delighted to announce that a new sub-genre has been added to the misterio press stable of mysteries: Steampunk suspense!

Have you wondered what this thing called Steampunk is all about? I certainly have.

Kirsten Weiss has just released her first Steampunk suspense story and she’s here today to explain the whole phenomenon for us. Maybe you’ll discover that you are really a Steampunker. Take it away, Kirsten.

5 Hints You May Be a Secret Steampunker:

The joke goes that Steampunk is simply Goth wearing brown.

But since Steampunk is much more than fashion, as jokes go, this one isn’t terribly accurate. Steampunk is a sub-genre of historical fantasy set in the Victorian era. Usually featuring steam-powered machinery, over-the-top characters, and a touch of magic, Steampunk is finally starting to break into the mainstream.

Here are some hints Steampunk might be right up your fog-shrouded alley.

1) You’ve got a yen for adventure. [Tweet this!] Ever fantasized about being in one of those old British explorers’ clubs? The kind with leather armchairs, and where the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are broken only by a fireplace and ancient maps on the walls? Steampunk is all about exploits and escapades.

steampunker in corset on stilts

Speaking of over-the-top characters! LOL

2) You secretly lust for corsets. Too uncomfortable, you say? Stuff and nonsense! It’s fashion, m’dear. So if you’ve an eye for vintage, Steampunk may be for you. [Tweet this!]

3) Love a good period drama? I say! Steampunk is set in Victorian days. And though it’s usually set in Victorian England, with all the attendant aristocrats, it can cross the Atlantic to America for a Wild Wild West vibe.

4) You crack open a book for a fun escape and the more mayhem, the merrier. By jove, reality’s what you get when you roll out of bed. Who needs to read about it, dash it all!

5) You like Star Trek and aren’t ashamed to admit it. What do Star Trek and Steampunk have in common? Fab characters and crazy technology. Some folks call Steampunk a sub-genre of science fiction. But I disagree. Jules Verne-style steam technology is a building block of the Steampunk world, but Steampunk is set over a century in the past. Still, it has a certain wacky, techno-charm, particularly reminiscent of the old 60s Star Trek TV series. Top drawer, that!

So are you a secret Steampunker? What do you think of this genre?

Kirsten Weiss is the author of the Riga Hayworth urban fantasy/paranormal mystery novels, and a new Steampunk adventure, Steam and Sensibility, set in 1848 San Francisco.

Kass here again: This is the cover and blurb for Kirsten’s new book. I would not have thought of myself as a Steampunker, but I read this book and absolutely loved it!

Srteam and Sensibility coverSteam rising.

California Territory, 1848. Gold has been discovered, emptying the village of San Francisco of its male population. Steam-powered technology is still in its infancy.

At 19, Englishwoman Sensibility Grey has spent her life tinkering in her father’s laboratory and missing the finer points of proper British life. But when her father dies in penury, she’s shipped to San Francisco and to the protection of an uncle she’s never met.

The California Territory may hold more dangers than even the indomitable Miss Grey can manage. Pursued by government agents, a secret society, and the enigmatic Mr. Krieg Night, Sensibility must decipher the clockwork secrets in her father’s final journal, unaware she’ll change the world forever.

Magic, mayhem, and mechanicals. STEAM AND SENSIBILITY is a pre-Steampunk novel of paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush. [Tweet this!]

Available now on AMAZONBarnes & Noble and Kobo.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Do You Get That “Aw Shucks” Feeling?

by Kassandra Lamb  (Note: this post was inspired by some of the writings of Shan Jeniah Burton on her blog)

When someone gives you a compliment, do you immediately feel like you should say something self-deprecating? Or at least shuffle your feet and say, “Aw, shucks. It was nothing.”

shuffing feet in sand

Some of you may be wondering what I’m talking about. But those of us raised before 1980 (and maybe some after that period) were taught to deflect compliments. This was taught more by example than by blatant words. The message we absorbed was that if you didn’t respond with something self-deprecating, then you were arrogant.

Now there’s nothing wrong with being humble. Nobody likes a truly arrogant person. As my mother used to say, “We all put our pants on one leg at a time.”

The dictionary defines the word humility as “a modest opinion of one’s importance, rank, etc.” Hmm. So I looked up modest – “having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.”

Okay, I’ll buy the last part. But is it necessary to only have a “moderate estimate of one’s merits” in order to be humble? How about “an honest estimate of one’s merits?”

I like the definition given by John Bradshaw, a speaker at a workshop I attended many years ago. The workshop was about toxic shame (or UNhealthy humility). Bradshaw defined healthy humility as “being aware that you are an imperfect human being, just like everybody else.”

He went on to tell the story of a time when he was presenting his workshop to an auditorium of over a thousand people. The workshop was going very well, and he was feeling quite full of himself as he left the stage for the mid-morning coffee break. Then he looked down, and realized he’d been prancing around that stage for the last two hours, in front of all those people, with his fly open! “Talk about a healthy reminder of my imperfections,” he said.

But let’s get back to the subject of compliments. Being humble in a healthy way does not mean that we can’t acknowledge what we are good at. We all have strengths and weaknesses. If we are able to feel good about our strengths, then we will be able to acknowledge our short-comings more readily.

So by all means, be humble in a healthy way, but don’t deflect compliments. Doing so does harm in two ways:

#1:  It’s insulting to the person giving you the compliment. S/he just told you how good you look and now you’re saying that’s not true because you’ve gained some weight recently or your dress is an old one or your hair just wouldn’t behave this morning.

You’re essentially saying that they are either lying or they’re an idiot for not realizing that you don’t really deserve that compliment.

WWI soldier talking to two women

That’s a lovely frock, ma’am.”
“Oh, you are just too kind ,sir. This old thing is so last season’s style.”

#2:  You are not letting the compliment sink in so that it can feed your self-esteem. Good self-esteem is essential to leading a happy life (see my post on this). And even those of us with a good foundation of self-esteem need validation now and again that we really are okay, and that we do certain things well.

Good self-esteem also gives us the nerve to venture into new territory, to try new things. At those times, we especially need others’ heart-felt compliments to sink in, so we know that our efforts are working, that we are making progress and learning that new skill.

I know this all too well as someone who ventured into the world of writing fiction in my latter years. It was the compliments of those who read my first book that kept me going. All of them said it was good, but what convinced me the most that I should keep on writing was the note of pleasant surprise in many of their voices. They hadn’t expected it to be good, but it really was. That’s how I knew the compliments were sincere. 🙂

One other thing about accepting compliments. It’s hard to do at first. You will get a weird feeling inside when you just say “thank you” and nothing more. There may even be an awkward pause in the conversation, as the other person waits for the usual deflection.

Here’s something I figured out when I was trying to break myself of the compliment-deflection habit. Go ahead and say something else – something that agrees with them without sounding arrogant. This fills that awkward space inside of you, and in the conversation.

Here are a couple examples:

Complimenter: “Hey, I really like your outfit.”

Complimentee: “Oh thank you. It’s one of my favorites.”

Or “Thank you. I get a lot of compliments on it.”

You will probably catch yourself slipping back into the self-deprecation at times. I certainly did, and still do occasionally. But keep practicing. Responding this way to compliments will make both you and the complimenter a lot happier!

What are your thoughts? Did you learn to be a compliment deflector as a kid?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

The Music That Feeds Our Souls

by Kassandra Lamb

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  ~  Berthold Auerbach

All Saints Episcopal Church, San Francisco (photo by AJ Alfieri-Crispin CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by AJ Alfieri-Crispin CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I finally got around to uploading a post to my own website. It’s one I wrote last year for Catie Rhodes’ Author Celebrity Playlist series on her blog. But instead of doing my own playlist, I did one for my main character, Kate Huntington.

It includes the songs that were meaningful to Kate at various turning points in her life. (If you’re a Kate Huntington fan, check it out; it gives a lot of her back story.)

Posting that playlist got me thinking about music, and how so often it can speak to us in ways that mere words alone cannot. Somehow combining those words with a beautiful melody makes the message so much more powerful.

My favorite song of all time is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Teach Your Children. I first heard it in 1970, the year I graduated from high school. It spoke to me then, but it’s appeal has only increased through the years. I can now relate to the song from both the perspective of a grown child and that of a parent of a grown child.

Listen carefully to the lyrics:

 

“And feed them on your dreams, the one they picked…”

There is one dream that has survived for three generations in my family: to be a writer.

My mother was a public relations specialist for a college. She used words all the time in her job, writing press releases and college catalogs. But it had always been her dream to be a “real” writer. The closest she came were a couple rough drafts of children’s books and some travel articles she wrote in her retirement for a seniors’ magazine.

I spent the majority of my working life as a psychotherapist. It was a very satisfying career and I have no regrets. I wrote professional articles through the years. But the demands of my job and family left me little time or energy for creative writing. My second career was that of college professor. Again I found an outlet for my writing lust as I drafted lecture notes and developed tests, but still there never seemed to be much time left over.

Finally, at age 59, the novel that I’d started in my mid-forties came to fruition and was published (sadly, six years after my mother’s death). Now I have several published works to my name. I have been well fed by my mother’s dream, the one I picked.

My son has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a masters in divinity. His full-time job is that of Episcopal priest. Like I did before him, he can satisfy some of his desire for writing through his profession as he drafts his weekly sermons. But he also carves out what little time he can for writing fiction–fantasy novels with a strong spiritual component. I have no doubt that he will be published, hopefully some day soon.

My mother is dancing in heaven. We have fed her with our dreams, the one she picked.

And then there is the chorus:

Don’t you ever ask them why; if they told you, you would cry.
Just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

I get a lump in my throat every time I read or hear those lyrics. I have learned through the years that there are things we may never understand about other generations, the ones that came before us nor the ones that follow us.

Don’t you ever ask them why; just know they love you!

What song speaks to your soul? Do you share a dream with other generations of your family?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Like Detective Fiction? Thank the Metropolitan Police Act

By K.B. Owen

Ever wonder how the police came into existence?  We certainly wouldn’t have any detective fiction without them.

Although each country has its own history in that regard, the formation of the police force in England was what led to the birth of detective fiction as we know it.

Here’s where it all started:

The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829

Manchester Police, 1880s, from flickr.com

Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary in the British Cabinet and a Tory, brought about a number of reforms in the area of criminal law and the gaol system, but it was the Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 that was most far-reaching and controversial at the time.  For the first time in Britain’s history, the Act established an organized police force in London, with 17 divisions of 4 inspectors each, its central base at Scotland Yard, under the purview of the Home Secretary.  (The Detective division was formed in 1842).

The early names for these policemen – “Bobbies” and “Peelers” – derived from the man who passed the reform.  They carried truncheons as their only protection, and dressed in blue uniforms (similar to the color of the Royal Navy uniform) with long tail coats and top hats (LearnHistory.org.uk says that the top hats came in handy as stepping stools for policmen to stand on and look over walls).

However, the idea of a government-instituted police force made people nervous.  It was an alien concept, in an age of  Bow Street Runners and local constables (poorly-paid and barely trained), hired individually by each town, walking a beat.  What if the government started using this new police force to get rid of its political enemies, or to spy on honest citizens?

But people also knew that their options were few.  The Industrial Revolution was crowding London quickly, and with more people came more crime.  Constables were notoriously unreliable, preferring to drink in a sheltered corner on a cold night, go to sleep, or visit a prostitute.  Even if every constable was reliable, there still weren’t enough of them.

Although it took a while for the general population to accept police (who were often jeered in public), the police force worked well in suppressing riots and bringing down crime in the areas they were allowed to go, driving crime, in a way, out into the neighboring boroughs, which experienced an increase (later Municipal Acts were instituted to address this problem).

One significant black eye for the police, however, came in 1888: Jack the Ripper. But that’s another post.

Punch cartoon by John Tenniel, Sept 22, 1888. Wikimedia Commons.

Want more info?

Text of the 1829 Act

Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 (Wikipedia)

History of the Metropolitan Police

Crime, Punishment, and Protest Through Time, c. 1450-2004

The Metropolitan Police

So, who’s your favorite detective? Do you prefer your protag to be an amateur or a professional, private eye or cop? I’d love to hear from you!

~Kathy

About K.B. Owen:

K profile pic 2014K.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

 

Check out the latest Concordia Wells adventure!

cover art by Melinda VanLone

cover art by Melinda VanLone

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Where to buy Unseemly Pursuits:

Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

iBooks

Ready for an “unseemly” giveaway?

SwagKitDuring K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!).  The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits.  At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of kbowenmysteries.com for the full tour schedule and other info.

***

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

K.B. Owen’s Such A Tease…

K.B. OwenWe’re doing our weekly post on Thursday this week. It’s part of K.B. Owen’s blog tour for her new release, Unseemly Pursuits.

Today she’s over at Tiffany A White’s Ooo Factor discussing one of my favorite fictional detectives, Columbo. Check it out ~ Just One More Thing: Columbo

On Thursday, she’ll be giving us the history behind the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. Did you know that there was no formal police department in England before then?

Stop by and find out why British police officers are called “bobbies.”  (If you’d like a reminder on Thursday, sign up to follow this blog and you’ll get an e-mail each time we post–usually once a week.)

If you love to know the story behind the story, check out the rest of K.B. Owen’s blog tour stops in the sidebar of her website.