Category Archives: Announcements, New Releases, Giveaways & Contests

Where The Research Takes Us: How To Kill Your Characters

Kass here to tell you about today’s guest blogger, cozy mystery writer Gilian Baker, who is about to release her debut novel, Blogging Is Murder (which I review below).

She will entertain us with a fun little post on how to kill one’s characters (I swear, the FBI is going to come knocking any day now).

First, let’s get to know Gilian a bit…

Gilian BakerGilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.

Disclaimer:  Do NOT try this at home, folks! This post is for entertainment purposes only.

Researching How To Kill Your Characters

by Gilian Baker

I love to plot murder! Yeah, that’s not a sentence you read every day, but it’s true. In my first cozy mystery, Blogging is Murder, the murder victim is poisoned with hemlock.

Why hemlock when there are so many new, man-made chemicals available?

I’ve just always wanted to kill someone off with an old-fashioned plant. And when I started researching the properties of hemlock, I knew I had the perfect murder weapon for my first mystery with my protagonist, Jade Blackwell, amateur sleuth.

Here are a few of the questions I had to research to determine if hemlock was a viable murder weapon for the story:

  •  Does it grow wild in Wyoming? (The setting of the series)
  •  Where is it found there?
  •  What parts of the plant are poisonous?
  •  Why would Jade’s friend, Liz write about hemlock on her blog, The Wise Housewife? Is it still used in herbal remedies? What ailments was it historically used for and what is it used for now?
  •  How does it kill? What are the symptoms of the poisoning?
  •  Is it still poisonous when dried?
  •  When does it grow?
  •  Is it frost hearty? Or is it killed off easily by a heavy frost?

I researched some of these questions before I wrote much of the story. But other questions didn’t occur to me until the plot developed, and I needed to know. For example, I was considering adding a freak snowstorm to add tension to the last third of the book. It’s not uncommon to get snow in Wyoming eight months out of the year, so that could work.

I’d written a couple of chapters that included light frosts overnight, which worried Jade since her spring bulbs had already come up in her garden. But wait! Would even a light frost, let alone a big snowstorm kill hemlock that was growing in the wild? If so, how would the murderer get fresh hemlock to kill their victim? Did I want to change the plot so the killer used dried hemlock?

You see how plot twists and new ideas for where to take the story impact the research that needs to be done. In this case, I had to go back and change the entire setting to a later time in spring to avoid overnight frosts. That meant rewriting those scenes where Jade worried about her spring bulbs.

detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David (public domain)

I bet you want to know the answers I found in my research, right? After all, who doesn’t want to know more about hemlock? Okay, to satisfy your curiosity, here are the answers.

  • Does it grow wild in Wyoming?
    Yes, in fact it grows wild in most states in the U.S. There are many types of hemlock and most regions have the right conditions for several types to grow.
  • Where is it found there?
    It’s found most anywhere, but it likes a damp climate. During a wet spring, ranchers have to keep an eye out for the plant in their pastures. It’s one of the most poisonous plants to humans, but also to cows, horses and other animals.
  • What parts of the plant are poisonous?
    All of it.
  • Why would Liz write about it on her blog, The Wise Housewife?
    It is still used in herbal remedies, but only in minute doses and only in the hands of a skilled alternative therapist or homeopath. It was historically used for a wide range of ailments, including bronchitis, mania, anxiety, epilepsy and asthma. The Greeks also used it to put criminals to death.
  • How does it kill? What are the symptoms of poisoning?
    Hemlock affects the central nervous system so that the brain continues to function, but the person can’t move. They are paralyzed, but aware of what’s happening to them. It eventually stops their heart.
  • Is it poisonous after it’s dried?
    Yes, for up to three years.
  • When does it grow?
    In the spring.
  • Is it frost hearty?
    No, it’s not. That’s why I had to change the setting of the book and forgo my inspired idea of a freak snowstorm.

But I’m sure I’ll be able to find another way to use that idea in later books. 🙂

If you want to find out who exactly gets knocked off with hemlock and whodunit, well I’m afraid you will have to read the story.

book coverBlogging Is Murder, A Jade Blackwell Mystery

Former English professor Jade Blackwell’s promising new career as a blogger falters when she learns of a hacker who is controlling her friend and fellow blogger Liz Collin’s business remotely. Then the hacker is found dead, and Liz is thrown in jail.

Determined to help her friend regain her life and livelihood, Jade teams up with Liz’s reluctant lawyer to get Liz off the hook and out of jail. What she learns will break the case wide open, while unraveling her faith in humanity and the safety she has felt living in the quaint Rocky Mountain hamlet of Aspen Falls.

Available on AMAZON

Posted by Gilian Baker. You can connect with Gilian on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter or at her website. Blogging Is Murder is the first book in her Jade Blackwell series.

Kassandra Lamb’s review of Blogging is Murder:

This is a very good debut cozy mystery. The pace is lively and the characters likeable. (I particularly enjoyed the quirky elderly neighbor of the murder victim.) The twist at the end was unexpected but plausible.

I also enjoyed the glimpses into the life of a professional blogger. I had no idea how much work was involved in that business. I’m looking forward to reading more of Jade’s adventures and getting to know the residents of Aspen Falls, Wyoming. Four out of five fingerprints!

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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. 🙂 )

8 Tips for Short and Sweet Descriptions in Fiction

by Kassandra Lamb

For the writers among our subscribers, I’m over at The Write Stuff today, talking about some of the best ways to make descriptions of settings and characters as efficient as possible. I’ve included some interesting info I learned as a psychologist and college professor, about how people process input through their senses.

8 Tips for Short and Sweet Descriptions in Fiction

hand painting

A few deft strokes often will suffice.

While editing the book I’m releasing tomorrow, and especially while trying to pare down the scenes that beta readers and my editor said were dragging, I truly came to appreciate the importance of a finely honed description.

Descriptions in fiction are important to ground the reader in the setting and allow him/her to visualize characters. But they can also bog down the pace and bore the reader if they are too long, and can be jarring if they’re in the wrong spot.

Read More…

 

Love Mellowed

by Kassandra Lamb

Love, like cheese and wine, tends to get better with age, in a mellow kind of way. Oh yes, it can go in the direction of moldy or potentially turn into vinegar, but more often than not, it mellows into a very deep friendship.

My favorite model for understanding love (if one can ever understand love) comes from a psychologist named Robert Sternberg. He put a whole new twist on the concept of a love triangle.

Sternberg's Love Triangle

First he distilled love down into three components: passion, intimacy and commitment. You might assume that these terms are self-explanatory, but when I was teaching psychology I was amazed at how many college students had never really thought about their definitions.

  • Passion: physical attraction (this one is obvious)
  • Intimacy: closeness through self-disclosure (sharing who you are, your feelings, your past, etc.)
  • Commitment: making the effort to maintain the relationship

The ideal love, that’s strong enough to base a marriage on, is consummate love, according to Sternberg—a fairly equal balance between these three components. A triangle with equal sides.

So what happens when the relationship “ages?”

old couple

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Often the passion slows down. (Why do you think we have all those ED medications out there?)

Even if there are no physical problems, our energy levels go down with age. The number of nights when one or both partners are too tired to even think about sex increases.

The passion rarely goes away completely, although it can, especially if there is some medical reason why the couple can’t have sex.

But even then, a relationship that had a strong base to begin with will usually still be deemed a happy one by the partners. Why?

(photo by Mike DelGaudio-Flickr, CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Mike DelGaudio-Flickr, CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Because the commitment and the intimacy have grown over the years. The couple knows each other, and trusts each other, like no one else does. And they have many years of shared experiences.

So the triangle has become skewed, with two long sides and one short one, but it’s still strong. Sometimes stronger than ever.

Aging and love mellowing are subplot themes in my new release, Book #9 in the Kate Huntington mysteries. The main character, who was in her 30’s when the series began, is now dealing with menopause and an angst-ridden pre-teen daughter.

But that doesn’t stop her from chasing down leads to unravel the latest mystery!

Official release day is this Saturday, 2/18, but it’s now available for preorder.

Just $1.99 during preorder and for 5 days after the release! (Goes up to $3.99 on 2/22)

AnxietyAttack-Thumb

ANXIETY ATTACK, A Kate Huntington Mystery, #9

When an operative working undercover for Kate Huntington’s husband is shot, the alleged shooter turns out to be one of Kate’s psychotherapy clients, a man suffering from severe social anxiety. P.I. Skip Canfield had doubts from the beginning about this case, a complicated one of top secret projects and industrial espionage. Now one of his best operatives, and a friend, is in the hospital fighting for his life.

Tensions build when Skip learns that Kate—who’s convinced her client is innocent and too emotionally fragile to survive in prison—has been checking out leads on her own. Then a suspicious suicide brings the case to a head. Is the shooter tying up loose ends? Almost too late, Skip realizes he may be one of those loose ends, and someone seems to have no qualms about destroying his agency or getting to him through his family.

AMAZON     APPLE     KOBO     NOOK

Your thoughts on the mellowing of love with age?

 HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

February, the Runt of Months

by Kassandra Lamb

Contemplating this month of February that we’ve just entered got me thinking about being the shortest or smallest in a group—a team, a classroom, a family, etc.

We humans are fairly obsessed with size, as if that’s some indicator of power and, in turn, worth. Small equals powerless equals unworthy.

football player receiving the ball

Photo by Torsten Bolten CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Big equals better. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger you-know-whats…

Look at football players. Definitely bigger is better, right? Hey, it’s Super Bowl time so we’ve gotta have some football references.

(But wait, who’s that wiry little guy ducking and dodging around the big bruisers? You know, that receiver who makes a bunch of touchdowns because he’s a bit smaller and leaner, and a lot faster, than the others.)

Being the shortest/smallest one can bring on teasing, and whether it’s good-natured or mean, that teasing can leave one feeling less than and can undermine self-esteem for years to come.

Poor February is the shortest month—the runt of the year. Do you ever wonder if February feels self-conscious about it’s lack of length—inferior even. Do the other months pick on February? Do they point and make fun?

Here’s some advice I found on the Internet* for short kids who are teased by their classmates. Just for fun, let’s see if we can apply these ideas to February.

1. Ignore those bigger ones who put you down for being smaller.

Ha, I turn my back on you, January. You are so yesterday!

2. Confront those who tease you.

Hey, March, cool it with the short jokes. You’re no better than me. I may be cold and snowy, but you’re rainy and dreary, and about that wind…

3. If it gets to be too much, tell an authority figure, someone with the power to stop the teasing.

Hey, April. You may be 30 days long and the true beginning of spring. But if you don’t stop picking on me, I’m gonna tell July and August. They’re each 31 days long and they will burn you!

4. Embrace your size. (It may be that you just haven’t had your growth spurt yet.)

There’s nothing wrong with being short. (Oh, and just you wait until the next leap year!)

hearts on a bare tree

photo by Johntex CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

5. Play to your strengths.

Yes, I’m short, but I’m sweet, and a lot of fun. I’ve got the Super Bowl, Presidents’ Day (Yay, long weekend!), Valentine’s Day, and Mardi Gras going for me.

6. Stand tall and be confident!

That’s it February, head high, back straight!

You may be short, but for those of us who hate winter, you sure seem like the longest month of the year.

(*Loosely paraphrased from WikiHow: How to Handle Being the Smallest Person in Class.)

What are your thoughts on being the shortest, or the youngest, or in some other way, the runt of the litter? Do you have other suggestions for overcoming the message that you are less than if you’re the “runt?”

And speaking of teasing, my protagonist’s daughter is now in middle school and coping with being the youngest kid in her class, among other things. Check out this subplot in my upcoming Kate Huntington Mystery (#9), ANXIETY ATTACK.

Cover reveal today. Ta-da!

book cover

ANXIETY ATTACK, A Kate Huntington Mystery, #9

When an operative working undercover for Kate Huntington’s husband is shot, the alleged shooter turns out to be one of Kate’s psychotherapy clients, a man suffering from severe social anxiety. P.I. Skip Canfield had doubts from the beginning about this case, a complicated one of top secret projects and industrial espionage. Now one of his best operatives, and a friend, is in the hospital fighting for his life.

Tensions build when Skip learns that Kate—who’s convinced her client is innocent and too emotionally fragile to survive in prison—has been checking out leads on her own. Then a suspicious suicide brings the case to a head. Is the shooter tying up loose ends? Almost too late, Skip realizes he may be one of those loose ends, and someone seems to have no qualms about destroying his agency or getting to him through his family.

Release Date:  2/18/17  ~  Will be available for Preorder on 2/14/17! 

Just $1.99 during preorder.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

Reassessing Where We’re Going: 4 Careers I Opted Not To Pursue and Why

by Kassandra Lamb

When the year is new, our minds may turn to evaluating our careers. And sometimes we decide we need a change. This can be a good thing, but only if we choose wisely.

I’ve had four careers in my lifetime—clerical worker in human resources (striving for but failing to break the glass ceiling), psychotherapist, college professor and fiction author.

Choosing a career is both complicated and life-changing, and yet I believe that we as a society give people far too little guidance in making this important decision.

When I taught psychology, I always included a unit on career choice. I emphasized that you really needed to walk not just a mile, but a whole year, in the moccasins of another. I suggested that students interview someone in the career they wished to pursue and ask them about a typical day, a typical week and a typical year in that field.

Here are 4 careers I opted not to pursue after checking them out.

Elementary School Teacher:

As a teen and young adult, I loved small children. I entered college with the intention of majoring in elementary education.

In my junior year, as I started taking more courses in my major, I realize that K–12 schoolteachers had very little autonomy. There are principals and vice principals and curriculum supervisors looking over your shoulder at every turn.

empty daycare center

This could have been my work setting (photo by bakztfuture CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Being a cussedly independent person, this did not sit well.

I dropped out of college and got a clerical job to support myself while I tried again to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I discovered that I actually liked the administrative tasks involved in running an office, but eventually I got frustrated by that whole glass ceiling thing (this was in the 1970s).

Daycare Center Owner:

Still enamored with small children, I took several night courses in child development while investigating what was involved in running a daycare center.

What I discovered was that the owners of such facilities were buried in paperwork and administrative duties and spent little time interacting with the children. And the teachers in such centers—while they did get to spend all day with the kids—tended to not make a living wage.

This was a no. I was already struggling on a secretary’s salary (this was before they were called administrative assistants).

Kass and son as toddler

Having my own little one cured me. (He turned 37 yesterday 🙂 )

Fortunately having a child of my own seemed to shift my desire to spend all day with other people’s toddlers.

My maternal instincts satisfied, I moved on.

Lawyer:

Several years into my career as a psychotherapist, I became fascinated by the legal field. I’d encountered a few cases where my clients were dealing with legal issues—divorces, lawsuits, etc.

The law appealed to my analytical brain. And I certainly had the people skills, grasp of language, and chutzpah to do trial work.

empty courtroom

Another potential work setting. (photo public domain Wikimedia Commons)

But I also had a couple of clients who were lawyers. Their descriptions of law school and the long, tedious hours they had spent in law libraries doing research as junior associates soon disabused me of any desire to change to a law career.

I do not deal well with tedium!

Antiques Dealer:

This one actually made it to the business-cards-are-printed level—“Antiques by Kassandra” they proclaimed—and my basement was piled high with old furniture and glassware.

Ironically, the law was a big part of what burned me out as a therapist. Over the course of three years, I had four clients who ended up in legal battles, each one nastier than the one before. I went to court with them and held their hands, and in two cases, ended up testifying. It was the final straw. I didn’t want to hear about nor watch people going through misery anymore.

I appreciated antiques, so I decided to become an antiques dealer. Fortunately, I tested the waters before closing my therapy practice.

I had no desire to open a shop, but I could buy and sell—I’d always loved flea markets and yard sales and such. I soon discovered that being the middleman in the antiques business was not a great role. The owners of retail shops wanted to tear down the quality of what I had to offer, in order to get it at a cheaper price and then resell it for more.

18th century chair

Do people think  no one ever sat in this chair? (Museum of Fine Arts, Toluca, Mexico, photo by Alejandro Linares Garcia CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I loved old things. I did not want to hear, day in and day out, how these things were practically worthless because they had a scratch or a ding in them, especially since I knew the person denigrating my stock was only doing so to get a better deal. And to me, the scratches and dings enhanced their value!

Fortunately, around that time, I landed my first teaching gig at the college level. I soon discovered that I loved being a professor, and I was off and running in that new career.

And then of course, after retirement, I had the time and financial security to finally pursue my life-long dream of writing fiction.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of my careers, and I’m grateful that I managed not to go too far astray down these other paths.

What career changes have you considered? Did those pursuits turn out good or bad?

Also, today is the LAST DAY in our 7 Free Mysteries for 7 Days giveaway! Click HERE to grab your free books!

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

Spice Up the New Year with a Fab Giveaway!

by Kassandra Lamb

Some people like to change things up occasionally, to add a little spice to their lives. Others like things to stay pretty much the same. They feel more secure if they know what to expect.

One of the things I love about the mystery genre is that we can have it both ways, because there are so many sub-genres—cozy, historical, noir, detective, paranormal, psychological suspense, even steampunk!

To celebrate the New Year, we have a fabulous giveaway for you: 7 FREE MYSTERIES for 7 DAYS!

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There’s something for every mystery lover, so pick your favorite sub-genres or grab up one of each.*

Here’s the list and the links to claim these free ebooks. But hurry! They’re only available through January 10th!

To Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #1 (cozy)
by Kassandra Lamb

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) Banks likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. And when the former Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, she gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation—amateur sleuth.

Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

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Never Sleep, The Chronicles of a Lady Detective #1 (historical)
by K.B. Owen

An old flame…an assassin’s bullet…the event of the season.

Lady detectives were far and few between in 1885, but Penelope Hamilton is determined to join their ranks, which is why she agrees to help her estranged Pinkerton husband prevent the assassination of a wealthy industrialist. Events soon prove more complicated, however, when she encounters another old flame, who is looking more and more like the prime suspect.

Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

Bound cover

Bound, A Witches of Doyle Mystery #1 (paranormal cozy)
by Kirsten Weiss

Bound by magic, bound by love, bound by murder…

The Bonheim triplets live seemingly ordinary lives, hiding their magic from the neighbors in the small, mountain town of Doyle, California. But when a body is found in big sister Jayce’s coffee shop, Karin, the practical one, is determined to prove Jayce innocent.

Spells included at the back of the book! Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

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Karma’s A Bitch, A Pet Psychic Mystery #1 (paranormal cozy)
by Shannon Esposito

Darwin Winters, reluctant pet psychic, is determined to leave her family’s paranormal past behind and lead a normal life. So she strikes out on her own and opens up a new pet boutique in St. Pete, Florida. When a local homeless man she befriends is found dead, and the police assume it’s a suicide, Darwin has no choice but to use her gift to help collar the killer.

Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

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One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery #2 (amateur sleuth turned P.I.) by Vinnie Hansen

Carol Sabala’s boss sends the baker and amateur sleuth on a mission: find out who tampered with a teacher’s cookie dough and sickened the faculty. Eager to hone her investigative skills, Carol seizes the opportunity, but she gets much more than she bargained for when a talented student is found dead on the high school’s stage.

Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

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Steam and Sensibility, A Sensibility Grey Mystery #1
(steampunk) by Kirsten Weiss

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. When her father dies in penury, she’s shipped to San Francisco and to the protection of an uncle she’s never met. But the California Territory may hold more dangers than even the indomitable Miss Grey can manage.

Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

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Missing on Maui, A Kate on Vacation Mystery #4 (cozy
travel) by Kassandra Lamb

Soon after her arrival on Maui for her niece’s wedding, Kate Huntington discovers that young women are going missing on the island, and Amy’s maid of honor is hanging out with a notorious local player. Is he involved in the disappearances?

Hawaii is supposed to be a relaxing paradise, but Aunt Kate is kept busy chasing down errant wedding party members and refereeing between Amy and her mother… Oh, and facing off with a psychopath.

Click HERE to claim your free ecopy!

*Note: we are asking people to sign up for our newsletters in exchange for these free books. But no worries; we won’t spam you. We only send out newsletters when we actually have news, such as a special offer, new release, sale coming up, etc. And you can unsubscribe at any time.

How about you? Do you like variety, or the sense of security of knowing what to expect?

Either way, may you have a wonderful

Happy 2017

Image by ectorOpenStock CC BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia-Commons

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. 🙂 )

Binge Reading – No, It’s Not What You Think

by Kirsten Weiss

Call it the age of Netflix.

It’s spoiled us for the wait – no longer do we have to hang on an aching seven days to find out what comes next on our favorite TV show. With shows produced by Netflix, we can now binge watch the entire season over a weekend. (And yes, I’m guilty of this – Longmire! Stranger Things!).

So when I heard about “binge reading,” I decided to take the plunge with my new Doyle Witch cozy mystery series. Fortunately, my patient editors at misterio press were willing to take this journey with me, because a lot ended up happening in a short span of time.

Witches of DoyleThe concept is simple – launch all the books in the series at once.

As a reader, binge reading was nothing new to me. How many weekends had I spent curled up with a good book, closing one cover only to open and devour the next in the series?

My Kindle made the process easier. I didn’t have to go to a bookstore or wait for a book to arrive in the mail. Instant gratification! Push a button, and it arrives on my screen.

Now some people may not care for binge reading. They may prefer to savor a story a bit after finishing it, before plunging on in the series.

One of my editors at misterio reminded me about this old commercial:

 

But my witch cozy mystery trilogy seemed to fit the binge model well. Each novel in the Doyle Witch cozy mystery series is a self-contained murder mystery (and romance). But there’s a paranormal mystery too, which arcs across all three books, making the trilogy akin to a TV “season.”

(And if you’re one who likes “anticipation,” by all means spread out the reading of these stories. But they’ll all be there waiting for you when you’re ready.)

As a writer, the process of launching everything at once was more stressful than I’d expected. I was never one for keeping my powder dry. Having to sit on the first two books while waiting for the third to be completed was… irritating.

It also made the stakes higher. Many more months of work were riding on a single launch date. The only feedback I got on the books was from my editors – champions, to be sure. But what if readers didn’t like the series I’d spent so much time writing? (No pressure there.)

kitchen witch courseMy launches are usually chaotic, but having the materials prepped for the first two books well in advance made this one smoother. I had teasers. I had quotes. I had covers.

But I also ended up spending so much time thinking about the launch, that I made more work for myself. A friend suggested putting spells at the back of the books (instead of the ubiquitous recipes).

I squeezed out a 5-day free Kitchen Witch course to promote the series.

I developed a supplementary novella that fits between books 1 and 2. I even wrote a companion book of poetry, Tales of the Rose Rabbit. This did not get launched with the other books because of a last-minute brainstorm to add illustrations, and is due out some time in December.

 

The complete package

That said, I’m happy I did it all – I’m thrilled with the total package of books and supplementary materials.

What about you? Are you into binge-watching/reading or do you prefer to anticipate and savor?

Here’s a bit about the books themselves:

Bound: Book 1 in the Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery Series

Bound cover

Bound by magic, bound by love, bound by murder…

The Bonheim triplets live seemingly ordinary lives, hiding their magic from the neighbors in the small, mountain town of Doyle, California. But when a body is found in big sister Jayce’s coffee shop, Karin, the practical one, is determined to prove Jayce innocent.

A murder isn’t the only bizarre event in Doyle. Why are hikers vanishing in the nearby woods? Why are some people cursed with bad luck and others with good? And why is Karin’s magic the weakest of the three sisters’?

As Karin digs deep to uncover the truth and regain her magic, her family is thrown into peril. Will her power return too late to save the people she loves the most, or will it be the cause of disaster?

Spells included at the back of the book!

ISBN: 1-944767-15-0  ~  Available at:    Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

Ground: Book 2 in the Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery Series

Ground cover

Her magic flows from the earth…

Jayce Bonheim is on the sheriff’s radar and not in a good way.

Always the reckless one of her triplet sisters, Jayce is trying to turn over a new leaf. No more wild partying. No more one night stands. But when someone leaves a dead body in her pickup truck, her resolve to become the sensible sister is sorely tested.

Caught in a web of love, murder, and magic, Jayce must clear her name and discover who is behind the curse that holds her family and town in thrall.

Spells included at the back of the book!

ISBN: 1-944767-18-5 ~ Available at:    Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

Down coverDown: Book 3 in the Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery Series

The answers lie below…

A shamanic witch and a poet, Lenore Bonheim hides in the world of books to escape reality, which for her includes seeing ghosts and forecasting death. But when her employer and friend dies under suspicious circumstances, she must use all her skills – magical and mundane – to find the killer and save her two sisters and her town.

As the three sisters pull together to stave off a growing menace, Lenore must discover what it means to be in this world and of it.

Spells included at the back of the book!

ISBN: 1-944767-20-7 ~ Available on:    Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

Spirit on Fire, A Doyle Witch Mystery Companion novella

Spirit on Fire coverWhat happens when a fictional character writes a romantic novella about a shaman and a fire demon? All hell breaks loose.

When fledgling witch, Karin Bonheim, began writing her paranormal romance, she never could’ve anticipated the world she created would bleed into her own…or the danger it would bring.

A companion novella of romantic suspense to the Witches of Doyle trilogy, this novella takes place between books 1 and 2 of the Doyle Witch cozy mystery series.

ISBN: 1-944767-21-5 ~ Available on:

Rose Rabbit cover

Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

And coming in December:

Tales of the Rose Rabbit (Poems)

~ preorder on Amazon now ~

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective urban fantasy/mystery series, the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries, the Rocky Bridges mysteries and the Witches of Doyle cozy mystery trilogy.

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. 🙂 )

1890s Courtship Etiquette

by Kathy Owen

Among the rewarding perks of historical novel writing are the cool bits of info that I find along the way.

While researching the topic of courtship for the fifth book of the Concordia Wells Mysteries – a series set in a fictitious 1890s women’s college – I came upon a fascinating self-help etiquette book by Mrs. John Sherwood, entitled Manners  and Social Usages (1884, revised 1901). I thought I’d share it with you today, focusing on what was expected of men and women in their journey to the altar.

etiquette-manual-title-pg

 

At the time of its original publication, the United States was barely 100 years old. The author (an American woman who had read and traveled widely) was very much aware of the need for a guide. She says in her Preface:

The newness of our country is perpetually renewed by the sudden making of fortunes, and by the absence of a hereditary, reigning set. There is no aristocracy here which has the right and title to set the fashions.

But courtship was no mere fashion. It was a serious business, with significant consequences to the young lady’s reputation if she and her parents/chaperone weren’t careful:

etiquette-manual8a

Sadly, I think the “black sheep” will always be with us.

What were the consequences when one of these black sheep strayed into the fold? Wolfish rather than sheep-like (though a wolf with a big wallet and a taste in theater…but ahh, the metaphor is falling apart on me, so I’ll stop):

etiquette-manual-5a

Ouch. So, what is the remedy?

Chaperones. Yeah, even back then no one was crazy about the idea. Mrs. John Sherwood acknowledges the tedious nature of a young lady having to be chaperoned constantly. Apparently, American girls were particularly resistant:

etiquette-manual-9a

Besides having a chaperone, what else can a young lady do to protect herself? Mrs. Sherwood was a big fan of a girl “playing hard to get.” According to the author, “Men, as they look back on their own varied experience, are apt to remember with great respect the women who were cold and distant….

etiquette-manual-6a

Brrr, it’s getting chilly in here.

And the restrictions weren’t over once a formal engagement was announced…no, no.

etiquette-manual-2a

You can imagine my vexation, as an author, in not being able to get my engaged couple alone for some crucial plot points without the risk of vulgarity…but wait! Dear Mrs. Sherwood notes two exceptions to the rules of chaperonage, both of which apply to Concordia:

etiquette-manual12a

Check. Concordia is twenty-nine (was she ever a “giddy girl”?). On to exception #2:

etiquette-manual10a

Concordia is a literature professor at Hartford Women’s College…double check! Mrs. John Sherwood, I could kiss you. …okay, never mind.

What do you think of the courtship conventions of the 1890s? Are there any we should keep? Or are you relieved to be living in the 21st century? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – Check out my new release, Beloved and Unseemly!

belovedandunseemlyebook

A stolen blueprint, a dead body, and wedding bells….
Change is in the air at Hartford Women’s College in the fall of 1898. Renowned inventor Peter Sanbourne—working on Project Blue Arrow for the Navy—heads the school’s new engineering program, and literature professor Concordia Wells prepares to leave to marry David Bradley.

The new routine soon goes awry when a bludgeoned body—clutching a torn scrap of the only blueprint for Blue Arrow—is discovered on the property Concordia and David were planning to call home.

To unravel the mystery that stands between them and their new life together, Concordia must navigate deadly pranks, dark secrets, and long-simmering grudges that threaten to tear apart her beloved school and leave behind an unseemly trail of bodies.

Now available at your favorite online bookseller (buttons are clickable):

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 6 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

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. 🙂 )

Tips for Photographing Your Pets

by Shannon Esposito

Today is the official release day of FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Mystery no. 4)!

Because the victim in this mystery is a wedding photographer–who also takes photos of shelter animals to help them get adopted–I thought I’d celebrate the book’s release by sharing some basic tips on how to get great shots of your own pets.  

1)      Background: Be aware of your background. Is there something behind your pet that’s distracting? If you want your pet to be the sole focus, you can use a neutral background like a plain wall, grass or window. 

Tip: Use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field (like the example above). To do this, set your camera on “aperture priority” and set the aperture to the lowest f-stop number (ex: 1.4 or 2.8) This will blur the stuff in the background, so your pet will still be the focus of the shot with minimal noise. Just make sure your camera is focused on your pet’s eyes.

2)    Perspective: Get down on your pet’s level. Shooting from a standing position aiming down doesn’t make as nice a photo as shooting them at eye level. Don’t be afraid to lay on the floor with them, get in their world and get a more intimate shot.

3)   Lighting: This one is more complicated. The easiest way to have great lighting is to utilize natural light. Shoot outdoors in either early morning or late evening sun. (Midday sunlight is too harsh.) If you’re shooting indoors, use the natural light coming through a window and have your back to the window.

 If you must use a flash, never use the on-camera flash pointed directly at your pet, as it will cause ugly shadows and harsh lighting. Fill-flash is fine. It’s just a little burst of flash that will fill in the shadows and give your pet’s a little “catch light” gleam in their eye. (Example above)

4)      Shutter speed: Pets can be hard to photograph if they’re active. The best way to combat this is with a fast shutter speed. You can set your camera to “shutter priority” mode. Keep in mind that the faster the shutter speed, the more light you will need. Or if your camera has a “sports mode” this will also automatically set a high shutter speed for you. I also recommend shooting in continuous focus mode instead of single shot.

That’s the basics. Have any other tips or tricks to share?

FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 4):

A picture perfect wedding in paradise…what could possibly go wrong?

Pet boutique owner and reluctant pet psychic, Darwin Winters, is looking forward to watching her best friend and business partner, Sylvia, say “I do” to the man of her dreams. But when their wedding photographer turns up dead on the big day—and Sylvia’s superstitious mother believes his heart attack is a sign their marriage will be cursed—Sylvia’s dream wedding quickly becomes a nightmare.

Darwin only has a week to help her detective boyfriend prove the photographer’s death was not from natural causes before Sylvia’s family jets back home to Portugal, and the wedding is off for good.

As more than a few suspects come into focus—including Peter’s model clients, a rival photographer and the director of an animal shelter being investigated for fraud—time is running out. With just one clue from the photographer’s orphaned Yorkie pup to go on, can Darwin help save Sylvia’s wedding and capture a killer? Or will both justice and Sylvia’s wedding cake go unserved?

Get your copy here!     AMAZON      BARNES & NOBLE      iBOOKS

Posted by Shannon Esposito. Shannon lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. She is the author of the Pet Psychic Mystery series set in St. Petersburg, Florida and the Paws & Pose Mysteries set on the ritzy, fictional island of Moon Key and featuring doga instructor Elle Pressley and her canine sidekick, Buddha.

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. 🙂 )

Stick-to-Your Ribs Weather

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

As the weather gets cooler (and yes, it’s even cooler down here in Florida now), one has the urge to eat something hot and filling, and then curl up with a good book by the fire. We’ve got the good books covered for you (see below 🙂 ), so for this month’s group post, we thought we’d share some of our fave cold-weather/Halloween recipes.

We even have drinks and dessert. First up, K.B. Owen with a cocktail (a nonalcoholic drink recipe is at the end).

candy corn traffic cones

(photo by Daniel Lobo CC-By 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

 

At Halloween, candy corn inspires a lot of things, from traffic cones to socks…

candy corn socks

(photo by Eli Christman, CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

 

But this is the first time I’ve heard of a candy corn drink.

Sounds yummy!

Kathy’s Candy Corn Shooters

Pour 1/3 oz Galliano liquer into a shot glass.
Carefully pour 1/3 oz orange curacao on top, so it floats.
Top off with 1/3 oz whipping cream.

Now for the main course (before we get too plastered)…

Kassandra’s Shrimp* Jambalaya

Like my protagonist, Kate Huntington, I’m not much of a cook, but even I can use a slow cooker. Here’s my favorite version of jambalaya, made with shrimp! (I looove shrimp.) Also I’m a lazy cook, so I have modified this a bit to make it easier.

*Can also be made with 2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces (or with both, in which case use 1½ lbs of chicken and 1 lb of shrimp).

shrimp jambalaya

(photo by Cliff Hutson CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Ingredients:
1 tbs canola or olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (fresh or frozen)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
1 cup chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
2 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp from a jar of pre-minced garlic)
1 14-oz pkg of turkey kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/4-in. slices
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cans (14½ oz) diced tomatoes with green peppers and onions, undrained
1 can (14 oz) fat-free chicken broth
1½ to 2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs chopped parsley
1 tbs hot sauce

Instructions:
Sauté onions, green peppers, celery and garlic in oil-coated pan, until tender. (I’ve been known to just throw them in the cooker un-sauteed; like I said, I’m lazy)
(If using chicken, brown 4 minutes on each side in pan, then put in cooker)
Put onion mixture and everything but the shrimp in the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours.
Taste, add additional hot sauce if you like it spicier.
Add shrimp, cover and cook on HIGH for additional 15 minutes or until shrimp are cooked (I use precooked shrimp, but still cook for 15 minutes to be sure heated through)
Serve over long-grain rice.

Serves 6-8 people. For hubs and I, we get 3-4 meals out of it. Freezes well!

Shannon’s Lentil Sweet Potato Chili

For the vegetarians in the crowd, here’s Shannon Esposito’s fave cold-weather dish.

sweet potato chili

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
2 28-oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried green lentils
2 tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
diced avocado for garnish, optional
fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish, optional

Instructions:
Add all ingredients (except garnishes) to slow cooker. Mix well.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.5 hours
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

And for dessert, we have a great cookie recipe from Kirsten Weiss… Yum!

Kirsten’s Halloween Spice Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

pumpkin cookie

Possible decorating option! (photo by Pacian commonswiki, CC-BY-SA 3.0 unported, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Icing Ingredients:
2 egg whites
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
Food coloring: black, yellow, green, and pink or red

Instructions:
You’ll need cookie cutters for these, preferably Halloween-themed cats and moons and bats. But you can also just cut them into circles and go wild with the decorating.

Whisk the flour, allspice, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Set it aside.
In another, bigger bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until the ingredients are light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and egg and beat them into the butter mixture.
Set the mixing speed to low and add the flour mixture. Beat until the ingredients come together as a dough.
On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and divide it in half. Press each half into a thick disk, wrap them separately in plastic wrap, and put them into the refrigerator for about an hour, until they’re firm.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
With parchment paper, line two cookie sheets.
Roll out one of your dough disks on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 1/8” thick. Cut out cookies with your cutters and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with the other disk.
Bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned.
Remove the cookies and set them on cooling racks.
When they are room temperature, make the icing.
With an electric mixer on high, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Keep beating the mixture until it is shiny and thick.
Add more sugar or water to get the right consistency for the icing to spread easily.
Divide the icing between small bowls and add food coloring.

Decorate your cookies!

And now the nonalcoholic liquid libation, again from Kathy…

gummi worms

(photo by Tiia Monto CC-BY-SA 3.0 unported, Wikimedia Commons)

Magic Potion

Ingredients:
Creepy Crawler Ice Ring (instructions below)
1 cup boiling water
2 sm packages lime-flavored gelatin
3 cups cold water
1½ liters (48 ounces) lemon-lime soda, chilled
½ cup superfine sugar (this kind dissolves better, but you can use regular sugar)
Gummy worms, for garnishing cups

Instructions:
Prepare Creepy Crawler Ice Ring one day before serving:
1 cup gummy worms
1 quart lemon-lime drink, such as Gatorade®  (the brighter green, the better)
Lay gummy worms along the bottom of a 5-cup ring mold, then fill with lemon-lime drink.
Freeze for 8 hours/overnight, until solid.

Now prepare punch:
Pour boiling water over gelatin in heat-proof punch bowl; stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in cold water.
Add lemon-lime soda and sugar; stir well.
Before serving, dip bottom of ice mold in hot water to unmold ice ring. Float in punch bowl.
Serve cups of punch garnished with gummy worms, if desired.

Makes 10 servings

Sounds awesome! I’m wondering if you could make ice cubes instead of the ice ring, if you weren’t going to serve it in a punch bowl. Maybe one gummy worm in the bottom of each section of the ice cube tray…. Hmm, that would be a cool way to serve to guests. *makes grocery list with gummy worms and Gatorade®*

What’s your favorite cold-weather recipe?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Shannon has a brand new cover for her spooky thriller, The Monarch.

the-monach-kobo

Fate seems to have mistaken Anne Serafini, a forensic photographer, for superwoman and she’s not amused. After being stabbed, witnessing a friend’s murder and shooting a man in self-defense, Anne realizes she’s been Fate’s puppet all along.

Now she’s chosen Anna Maria Island to try and take back control of her life. Unfortunately—when a murdered girl washes up on the beach—Anne understands, once again, Fate has chosen this place for her.

When Anne’s two eccentric aunts decide it’s time to let her in on the family secret, they tell Anne she is the latest fourth-generation woman in her brown-eyed family to be born with green eyes and a paranormal gift.

Anne’s gift is being in the wrong place at the right time. The gift of serendipity. But, the gift is also a curse. Each green-eyed woman has died before her twenty-eighth birthday.

Anne will turn twenty-eight in three weeks.

Can she embrace her gift and help stop this budding serial killer? Or is he the tool Fate will use to fulfill the family curse?

Click here for buy links.

And for Halloween, I have re-published my standalone ghost story/mystery novelette, Echoes

book cover of Echoes, A Story of Suspense

James Fitzgerald is looking forward to a weekend getaway with friends at the country house that once belonged to his parents. Instead he walks in on a bloodbath. And a cryptic message on a shower curtain points to him as the killer.

The small town sheriff is smarter than he looks. He knows he doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest… yet.

Virtually under house arrest, James tries to distract himself from his grief and worry by investigating his parents’ backgrounds. Maybe he can find an explanation for the strange fainting spells he’s been having. Soon he is wondering if it’s sometimes better to let sleeping ghosts lie.

Click here for buy links.

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. 🙂 )