Monthly Archives: October 2014

Spooky Nights

by Vinnie Hansen

As night falls, we advance toward the 100-year-old mausoleum in the cemetery. There is no electricity. Candles and a kerosene lamp light the way.

vINNIES POST mausoleum

Me reading by lamplight

Vinnie reading by lamplight

Here in Santa Rosa Memorial Park, I join seven other mystery writers to read our spooky stories in the echoing marble chambers.

Even though we are competing with the Giants playing in the World Series, the annual event draws a standing-room-only crowd.

No one rose from the dead around us except in our tales.

However, two nights later, at the Dead Writers Costume Party, three local Santa Cruz writers used an Ouija board to conjure up Edgar Allan Poe. Asked what he wished he’d written about, Poe replied: H-O-E-S

Three "dead" authors conjuring up a 4th one.

Three “dead” authors conjuring up a 4th one.

vinnies post HP Lovecraft

This delightful evening, a fundraiser for the Young Writers Program, featured H.P. Lovecraft as an animated host.

I resurrected my Emily Dickinson outfit for the evening. Before I retired as a teacher, I would wear the costume when teaching Dickinson. I’d stay in character for the entire class, in spite of questions like, “Are you a virgin?” and “What’s it like to be dead?”

I also rubbed shoulders with the lovely Beatrix Potter who brought along her hedgehog and Peter Rabbit.

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with "Beatrix Potter"

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with “Beatrix Potter”

Among others in attendance were Kurt Vonnegut, Dashiell Hammett, Mark Twain, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, and an imposter Emily Dickinson. Authors were invited to read and I recited “my” poem:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

If you had gone, which author would you have impersonated? Why? And which author would you have wanted to contact in the Great Beyond?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

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 lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Most Haunted House in New Orleans

by Kirsten Weiss

We’re hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate the Halloween release of my new book, The Hoodoo Detective! The prize? An ARC of the novel!

But first, a bit about the most haunted house in New Orleans…

In The Hoodoo Detective, Riga Hayworth travels to New Orleans for her paranormal reality TV show. The book opens mid-way through shooting, and Riga has found little to get excited about in the haunted houses they’ve filmed so far.

What would have happened if they’d filmed at the Lalaurie House, considered the most haunted in New Orleans?

The stucco-over-brick mansion, on Royal Street in the French Quarter,  was built in 1832, and an invite to the fashionable Lalauries’ abode was considered a hot ticket.

On the afternoon of April 10, 1834, a fire started in the kitchen while the Lalauries were away.  Neighbors rushed inside, dousing the fire, and found hapless slaves chained in their quarters, near death from starvation.

The newspapers reported – and it’s suspected they exaggerated – the wretched conditions the slaves had been discovered in, and authored follow-up stories of gory torture and degradation, including one about a slave girl who Madame Lalaurie chased with a whip until the terrified slave jumped to her death from the roof. Today it’s believed the Lalauries may have been one of America’s early victims of yellow journalism. But they kept human beings chained and whatever else happened, that in itself is enough. (It’s a surprise more southern mansions aren’t haunted).

The paper’s tales of the torture, dismemberment, and abuse of the Lalaurie slaves inflamed New Orleans’s sensibilities. An angry mob ran the Lalauries out of town and ripped the mansion apart. The couple escaped and eventually made their way to France.

The apparitions of tormented slaves and of Madame Lalaurie have been reported in the house, as well as  moans and weeping.  Ghostly re-enactments of the fire have also been reported. People have heard shouting, doors slamming, and even the servants begging for help with putting out the flames. Furniture has moved of its own accord, and visitors to the mansion have reported feelings of oppression.

Adding to the general spookiness, some say Madame Lalaurie was an amateur occultist and a friend of the voodoo queen, Marie Leveau. The mansion was reputedly even too haunted for one of its more recent owners, the actor Nicholas Cage. You can watch him discuss his rationale for buying the home on his interview on Letterman, along with the possibility of whether he’s a vampire. (Nicholas Cage denied the vampirism).

Today’s Lalaurie house doesn’t look much like the original, and the most recent owner hired an upscale designer who played off the haunted theme. (She says she wore holy water whenever she visited the house).

The Hoodoo Detective will be released on Halloween! If you’d like to win an advance review copy, click on the link before the blurb to enter the raffle.

Hoodoo Detective collage of cover and excerpts.Hoodoo, Haunts, and Horror.

Riga Hayworth just wants to wrap up her supernatural TV series exploring the magic of New Orleans. When she stumbles across a corpse, she becomes a police consultant on a series of occult murders, murders that become all too personal.

The Hoodoo Detective is book six in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels.

 

Click here for: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you ever been inside a house that was truly haunted? I’d love to hear about it.

Posted by Kirsten Weiss.  Kirsten is the author of The Hoodoo Detective, book six in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasies, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. She’s also the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense.

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 lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Halloween Haiku, Just for You

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

party logo of New Orleans cemeteryOur own Kirsten Weiss is hosting a Hoodoo Halloween Blog Party this weekend to celebrate the upcoming release of her new book, The Hoodoo Detective. She also suggested we do a haiku post for Halloween, so we decided to make this our contribution to her party.

photo of pumpkins

And since this was Kirsten‘s idea, she gets to go first:

Footfalls crush dried leaves
Pumpkins cast malformed shadows
Gimme candy now.

 

Shannon discovered she was even more mathematically challenged than she’d thought. It’s 5, 7, 5, Shan. She finally nailed it:

Brillant red leaves

(photo by Mckelvcm CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

Confetti of gold
Flutters, falls, lands on hard earth
Creates skeletons

 

And from Vinnie:
Closure:
Time of ripe walnuts
my sister’s hope shimmers like
golden aspen leaves.

 

Along similar lines, I chose to contrast the autumns of my years in Maryland with those of my new home in Florida:

red apple hanging from branch
Crisp air, brilliant leaves,
Plucking apples from the trees–
Autumns of my youth.

Black cats and palm trees,
Ghosts and gators and brown leaves–
Southern Hallowed Eve.

And another from the poetic Vinnie:

For Micah:
Like a genie or
sunflower, wispy and bold,
magic, dancing gold.

And if you prefer spooky…

painting of moon in the trees

19th century painting by Stanisław Masłowski

From Kirsten:
Brooding autumn wind
shivers skeletal branches
clawing at the moon.

From Kathy:
Eve of All-Hallows
brings moon-cold fog, wisp-fingered,
circling huddled souls.

*shudders*  That sent a shiver down my spine.  And finally some fun images:

flying witchFrom Vinnie:
Fall:
Crows bombard the street
with walnuts, then strut and pluck
the sweet exposed meat.

From Kathy:
Battered, bruised flyers
need night-vision goggles, or
headlights on broomsticks.

Heroes, ninjas, ghosts:
“Get candy, get candy, get-”
Mission accomplished.

Check out the other posts at ParaYourNormal, then try your hand at your own autumn/Halloween haiku in the comments.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from the crew at misterio press!!

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 lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Two-Sided Sword of Ambition

by Kassandra Lamb and K.B. Owen

I woke up the other morning with the subject of K.B. Owen’s new release, Unseemly Ambition, on my mind. My muse had apparently spent the night pondering the question: What happens when ambition, normally a good thing, is no longer reined in by a conscience?

When we say someone is an ambitious young man or woman, that’s meant as a compliment. We’re saying that they are going to work hard in life and probably accomplish great things. And if we say that someone “lacks ambition,” we’re putting them down, indicating that they are practicing one of the seven deadly sins: sloth. They are being lazy, cruising through life. We may even view it as an intrinsic flaw in their character.

1725 engraving of "The Lazy Student"

“The Lazy Student” 1725 copper engraving by Johann Georg Puschner

A synonym for ambition might be goal, or even dream. And we’re supposed to have goals and dreams. The only times in life when someone is allowed to not be ambitious are childhood and retirement. And even then, although it’s not expected, we still applaud ambition when it occurs.

Many of my younger writer friends complain about the reactions they sometimes get from others (sometimes even total strangers). Some people tell them to “stop wasting their time” and “get a real job.” These critics don’t see writing as a worthy ambition. “You’re just sitting around all day writing.” As if crafting words were the same as eating bonbons.

I have never gotten that reaction. When people ask me what I’m up to these days and I tell them, their response is always positive. “Wow, that’s so cool!” Why? Because I’m retired from two previous careers as a psychotherapist and college professor. So I’ve already fulfilled the requirement to be ambitious. Now, my efforts to write are seen as a bonus ambition!

But ambition has a dark side. What happens when one is so obsessed by their ambitions that they become ruthless?

I’m reminded of a famous incident 20 years ago, when those close to a champion figure skater conspired to take out the competition via a physical attack. In 1994, Tonya Harding’s ex-husband and her bodyguard hired a man to attack Nancy Kerrigan and break her leg. Their ambitions were successful in the short term. Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, leaving the path open for Tonya Harding to win that event.

Stamp of Azerbaijan--Nancy Kerrigan skating

1994 Azerbaijan Republic stamp honoring Nancy Kerrigan

Kerrigan, fortunately, recovered from the attack, her leg only bruised rather than broken. She continued her career and won or placed in other champion-ships, including winning a silver medal in the 1994 Olympics.

Those who had engineered the attack ended up in prison, and Harding avoided jail time only by pleading guilty to hindering the prosecution of those men. Her career was over. The U.S. Figure Skating Association conducted their own investigation and determined that she knew about the attack in advance. They stripped her of her 1994 Championship title and banned her from skating.

In this case, the overly ambitious were caught and punished, and their intended victim recovered relatively unscathed, but that doesn’t always happen in the real world. Indeed, when we stop and think about it, much of the evil in the world is perpetrated by those who have crossed the line to the dark side of ambition.

When ambition is no longer balanced by ethics and compassion for others, it becomes ugly… and unseemly. But fortunately, in both the real world and in fiction, there are those who are willing to stand up to the overly ambitious, such as K.B. Owen’s intrepid Concordia Wells.

Your thoughts on the two-edged sword of ambition? Have you ever felt its bite? Talk to us in the comments, but first here’s K.B. to tell you more about her new book, and a contest. Woot!! (Psst, it’s okay to have the ambition to be one of the twelve winners. Make sure you enter multiple times. That’s allowed.)

Hi, K.B. here. So excited to tell you about Concordia’s latest adventure…

book cover UNSEEMLY AMBITION, A Concordia Wells Mystery
by K.B. Owen

A murder…a missing boy…a secret society’s bold and deadly plot.

It is 1898, and Professor Concordia Wells turns to an old ally when her good friend, the eleven-year-old Eli, disappears after his mother’s murder. Complicating Concordia’s desperate search for answers is the ever-watchful college dean, who has recently learned of her past “lady sleuth” doings. It also doesn’t help that Concordia’s own school colleagues are not above suspicion.

Despite the dean’s close scrutiny, the lady professor presses on with her unseemly inquiries. Far more people are in jeopardy than the loved ones she seeks to protect, and now there is no turning back.

Available at:     AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE      KOBO     SMASHWORDS

And in paperback as well!

Ready for a little “Unseemly” giveaway?

We’re ready to celebrate the recent release of the new Concordia Wells mystery, Unseemly Ambition, and we want you to party with us!

K.B. Owen mysteries logoPrizes: ebooks from the series, a signed paperback, promo goodies (Post-It pads, candy tins), and even the opportunity for folks to collaborate with K.B. to name a character or pick a distinctive trait for a character in book #4, Unseemly Haste! She’ll be randomly drawing twelve winners overall. If any of the winners live outside the United States or Canada, she’ll substitute a gift card to Amazon because of the prohibitive postage for certain items.

When: between now and January 31, 2014. Winners will be announced on February 6, 2014.

How to get your name in the drawings (choose from any or all of these): 

1. subscribe to K.B.’s newsletter (those who have already subscribed will have their names automatically entered);

2. write a review on Amazon or BN for any of the Concordia books (your name will be entered TWICE for each review, and if you’ve already left a review in the past, drop her a line to confirm that you want her to enter your name in the giveaway, either in the comments or email: contact@kbowenmysteries.com);

3. send her a pic of yourself (to the address above) with any of the Concordia books (on your e-reader or in print)…or, if you feel camera-shy, send her a pic of one of the books “in the wild.” She’d love to see where Concordia has traveled to! She’ll post them on her Unseemly Readers page;

4. leave a comment on today’s blog post, and any she writes at kbowenmysteries.com. There will also be the opportunity to comment on upcoming guest posts K.B. writes (to be announced).

Remember, your name can be entered more than once, so participating in multiple ways will increase your chances of winning!

 K.B. Owen is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 4 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

Forget Apples, Get a Hug a Day!

by Kassandra Lamb

A couple weeks ago I made a statement in a post (15 Things To Do By The Time You’re 62) that “hugs are the vitamin C of the heart.” This line struck a chord for many people.

And it is literally true. Just as the vitamin C in an apple bolsters your immune system (thus keeping the doctor away), hugs lower your stress level on a physiological level so that both your mental and physical health are improved.

photo of Derek Jeter hugging Hideki Matsui

Derek Jeter hugging Hideki Matsui in 2010 (photo by Chris Ptacek CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

So instead of (or in addition to) an apple a day, make sure you get a hug a day!

Would you like to know more about why hugs are so good for you? There is a fairly simple scientific explanation for it.

It all revolves around the hormone, oxytocin. This chemical serves many functions in humans. The one that you may be familiar with is the triggering of childbirth. Indeed, when women are having a slow time getting their babies born, doctors use a synthetic form of this hormone, Pitocin, to stimulate labor.

This hormone is also responsible for the letting down of milk during breast feeding, and is probably the biochemical explanation for “maternal instinct.” (Women tend to have higher levels than men, especially right after giving birth.)

Oxytocin has a calming effect and also “promotes affiliate behavior,” which is psychobabble for it makes us want to hang out with and be empathetic and affectionate toward other people.

Okay, all that is important to the preservation of the species, but what’s it got to do with hugs?

Physical affection tends to increase the release of oxytocin in our systems. So hugs mean more of this hormone in our blood streams, calming us down, and making us want to be even more affectionate. Now isn’t that a lovely positive cycle?

4 multi-colored hands grasping each other
Research has also found that oxytocin tends to increase empathy and trust, so it’s good for our relationships in other ways as well. The higher levels in women also explains why women tend to be more physically affectionate than men (in general, as a group; there are plenty of exceptions. Don’t throw things at me).

But don’t despair, gentlemen. The more hugs you get, the more of that nice calming effect you will experience. Also, fathers who actively participate in the care of their infants show significant increases in oxytocin as well, which in turn increases their warm feelings toward their infants (and calms them down/gives them more patience).

And research has found that oxytocin levels are higher, in both partners, during sexual arousal. It also tends to be higher in people who are in the process of falling in love.

So basically this hormone is a major feel-good chemical. And it’s totally natural and free!

Have you had your hug (oxytocin fix) today? Talk to me in the comments. I love hearing from you, because I’m really into that affiliative behavior. 😉

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 lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)