Category Archives: Announcements, New Releases, Giveaways & Contests

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. 🙂 )

6 Tips for Coping When Change Is In the Air

by Kassandra Lamb

In addition to the crispness of fall and the hint of wood smoke on cooler evenings, change is in the air at misterio press. We have a lot of new releases coming up, and new series being started by some of our authors.

Change can be both good and bad. And even good changes are stressful.

Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, authors of the very first psychological stress test, knew that. “Marriage” is #7 on their inventory with 50 adjustment points attached to it (“death of a spouse” is first with 100 pts). “Retirement” is #12 and “outstanding personal achievement” is #25 with 28 points.

Holmes and Rahe contended that anything that requires adjustment adds to our stress level, even going on vacation (#41, 13 points) which is mostly about de-stressing.

moving truck outside house

(photo by William Grimes, English Wikimedia, public domain)

The biggest adjustments of course are the life-transition ones—getting married, changing careers, moving, etc. Here are some tips for reducing the stress of such transitions:

1.  Remember that even positive events can still have their down moments. If one approaches life transitions with a black and white attitude, the first thing that goes even a little bit wrong can be devastating, and can then influence your emotional view of later developments.

It’s a natural tendency when we are excited about something to be thrown for a loop if there’s a glitch. The more intense the positive emotion of anticipation, the more intense the disappointment can be if something doesn’t go just right. At such moments, we need to step back and look at the big picture. More on this in a moment.

2.  Research what to expect, good and bad, and see yourself dealing with it. If it’s a big move or a new job/career, find out as much as you can about that locale or vocation. If it’s a new level of relationship commitment, do a lot of talking with your partner about how this change will affect both of you.

Why is it important to be so well informed? Because stressors that take us by surprise are a lot more stressful than those we see coming.

Then visualize yourself in the new situation; this is a form of emotional practice.

basketball game

Practice makes us better, at sports and at life. (2004 Army-Navy game~public domain)

Like the athlete who practices jump shots or the back stroke, if we practice dealing with a situation in our mind’s eye, we will be better prepared for it when it becomes reality.

Imagining the challenges, payoffs and problems of the new situation will also allow us to develop some strategies ahead of time for dealing with them. One time, I took a new job that was an hour from home. It was a good opportunity, better pay, but as I contemplated the downside of that long commute, I felt my excitement eroding. I imagined myself listening to the radio. That helped some.

Then a better answer hit me. Audio books! The commute ended up being the best part of my day.

3.  Realize there may still be unforeseen developments. Don’t let all this researching and imagining and advance problem-solving lull you into believing that you are ready for anything. There may still be some things you don’t foresee, good and bad, but if you are prepared for most aspects of the transition, you can focus more of your coping skills and emotional energy on the things you didn’t anticipate.

4.  Be prepared to grieve, at least a little, for how things used to be. Very little is gained in this life without having to give something up. Realize that missing the freedom of single life doesn’t mean you don’t want to be married, or occasionally remembering a simpler time with nostalgia doesn’t mean you don’t want this new, more challenging job.

Life, and emotions, are more complicated than that. There are trade-offs and nothing is all good or all bad.

Brillant red leaves

We don’t get these vibrant colors in Florida; the deciduous trees turn a sickly yellow or just go straight to brown.  (photo by Mckelvcm CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

When we moved from my home state of Maryland to Florida, I found I missed the strangest things, not always the things I’d liked all that much when we lived up north. I missed the crispness of the air in the fall (humid Florida air is never crisp!) But I’d hated autumn when we lived in Maryland because the dreaded winter was right behind it.

After a couple of years of adjustment, autumn is now my second favorite season.

5.  If your life transition involves another person (or persons), maintain a “we’re in this together” mentality. It’s easy to get snippy with each other if things aren’t going perfectly (again, emotions are running high). But a strategy of “we’re over here together and this thing we’re dealing with is over there” will help keep the stress of adjustment from coming between you. And it will strengthen everyone’s ability to cope.

6.  Nurture your sense of adventure. If you can view life transitions as an exciting new opportunity, you’ll be in a more upbeat place to handle the transition. Being anxious tends to make us view change with suspicion and negativity.

If you can balance a realistic, “This may not go completely as planned,” with “This is gonna be great,” this new phase of your life will indeed be more great than not!

At my wedding rehearsal, Murphy’s Law was in full swing. Everything went wrong, and I ended up having a meltdown.

h5a3-my-wedding-going-in

Mom and I intent on keeping me cool on my wedding day!

I was still crabby at the rehearsal dinner, until my mother took me aside. “You’re about to embark on the biggest adventure of your life,” she said. “Do you really want to start it in such a foul mood? Just remember no matter what might go wrong tomorrow, at the end of the day you will be married, and that’s what counts.”

Her pep talk worked as she got me to step back and look at the big picture. Several things did go wrong the next day, starting with my father tripping over my train and letting out a loud “Oops.” But instead of being embarrassed, I laughed along with everybody else!

Two of our authors have new releases that fit this theme of life transitions. And since they are murder mysteries, of course the unexpected happens early on.

Here they are, now available for preorder. I think you’ll love them; I do!

book cover

BELOVED AND UNSEEMLY, Book 5 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, by K.B. Owen

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.

Available for preorder on  AMAZON    APPLE    NOOK    KOBO

Or get it NOW in paperback on Amazon!

FOR PETE’S SAKE, A Pet Psychic Mystery (#4), by Shannon Esposito

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?

Available for preorder on  AMAZON    APPLE

~~~~~~~~

How about you? How well do you cope with life transitions, and change in general?

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. 🙂 )

First Impressions & Second Chances

by Vinnie Hansen

You never have a second chance to make a first impression.

weirdtalesv36n1pg002_dandruff-public-domain

This advertising slogan for dandruff shampoo wormed its way into our consciousness. Because it’s a catchy way to state a truth. In life there are no do-overs.

My good friend Christine recalls when she first met me. She was a teacher visiting my classroom to see if she wanted to make the shift to a high-school setting. She thought I was unfriendly.

This sounds awful, but I completely understand her first impression. I’m an introvert, so I don’t project the bubbly exterior many might dub friendly. I also grew up in the Midwest, so I tend to be private, which many might interpret as aloof, or unfriendly. Finally, she was visiting my class before lunch and I had to be brusque in order to meet other colleagues for our lunchtime walk.

Me, Christine and our colleague Georgene, dressed as flappers (many moons ago)

Me, Christine and our colleague Georgene, dressed as flappers for Halloween (many moons ago)

Over time, Christine learned that I may not be overtly friendly, but I’m an excellent friend—loyal, thoughtful, and encouraging. She once said I was the kindest person she knew. And when she became my lunchtime walking partner, she learned firsthand that one could not dally and still fit a walk into the lunch period.

The problem with the well-known aphorism above is that it supports the tyranny of the first impression. And first impressions are sometimes wrong. Or maybe not wrong so much as superficial. The aphorism reinforces the notion that nothing will ever be different. If we blow it, the damage is done! You show up with dandruff–game over.

Fortunately, like other tyrants, first impressions can be toppled. Second chances are possible.

My friend came to appreciate not my friendliness, but my friendship. And knowing that she found me unfriendly, improved my self-awareness. I practiced the painful art of extending myself to strangers, creating a new first impression for future acquaintances. The truth is, every moment, really, we offer a new self for impressions. And anyone stuck on a first impression is making a mistake.

Which brings me to my books. When I started writing the Carol Sabala mystery series, I was working full-time as an English teacher. I did not have a lot of free time to pursue my long-abiding love of creative writing. Nonetheless, my first mystery, Murder, Honey, caught the interest of an agent. Only in retrospect do I appreciate what a milestone that was, even though the agent did not successfully market the book.

At the time, I did not know that the next step should have been to write the second book for the series. I later learned that many series writers don’t sell their first, or even their second book, but may sell their third, creating the opportunity then to publish the first and second.

deathwdessert-old-cover

One of my original covers

But back then in my naiveté, I decided to self-publish. Digital print, companies such as iUniverse, were in their infancy. With little guidance, (I wasn’t even a member of Sisters in Crime yet!), I still did many things right. The book had passed through a writing group and other readers. As an English teacher, I proofread the book until my eyeballs were hanging out.

I employed a professional photographer to create cover art. Still I had no idea how much more really needed to be done to create a polished product.

Over time, I improved. By my third book, I was working with a small, local publisher who expertly formatted the mysteries and steered me to reputable printers. The problem was, to make this viable, I had to order hundreds of copies of my books—and I didn’t know much about marketing.

The new version!

The new version!

It wasn’t until I both retired from teaching and found a home at misterio press that I really learned what it takes to produce a first-rate product. The last book in my series was published directly from misterio, but I’ve also had the good fortune to go back and re-release the first six books under the misterio imprint.

I can’t change the fact that some readers encountered Murder, Honey in its first edition. Fortunately, some people liked it warts and all.

No matter what others’ first impressions of my writing are or have been, it does not change the fact that I am evolving, becoming a better writer. Having the expertise of the ladies at misterio press, using a professional cover designer, and gaining a better sense of the market, I now have the chance to make new first impressions with new readers.

Have you ever been given an important second chance? Have you ever made a bad first impression that haunted you?

And here is the last one to be re-released under the misterio press imprint, Book #3 in the series — Rotten Dates.

RottenDatesNewly divorced and vulnerable, baker/sleuth Carol Sabala resists her friend’s pressure to use a personal ad to enter the dating scene.

Two weeks later a woman’s body is found strangled on a riverbank in Santa Cruz. Did the killer use the ads to lure his victim?

Hired to investigate by the deceased’s cousin, Carol sees the amateur photographer who discovered the body as a likely suspect. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely on the prowl. Is it for a date with Carol or for his next victim?

As she digs deeper into the case, she uncovers one dangerous-but-appealing man after another. Longing for companionship and adventure in her own life, Carol learns the hard way that combining the two can be a risky business.

Now available on:    AMAZON    SMASHWORDS

The paperback version should be ready by the end of the week!

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 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. 🙂 )

4 More Things To Do (or Learn) by the Time You’re 64

by Kassandra Lamb

Sunday I turned 64 — the age that the Beatles made famous… “Will you still need me, will you still…”

Two years ago, I posted about 15 Things We Should Do (Or Learn) by the Time We’re 62. I re-ran that post recently. Now I am adding four more things to that list.

1. Learn to make life easier by letting others help.

I’m a cussedly independent person, but at the same time, nothing makes me feel better than helping out a friend. That dichotomy in my personality always reminds me of one of my grandmother’s sayings (I’m pretty sure she coined it because of me):

Tis more blessed to give than to receive, but it’s dang hard to give when no one is willing to receive.

If people volunteer to help make your life easier, make them happy. Let them!

2. Make a bucket list of places you want to see and check off at least two of them a year (more if you’re able).

One of the saddest things about my mother’s death was that she never saw Alaska. Not because Alaska is the be all and end all of travel destinations (although it is very interesting and absolutely gorgeous).

What made it so sad was that she really wanted to see it, and never did.

Great Wall of China (public domain)

Great Wall of China (public domain)

After she died, my stepfather started traveling like crazy (he and my mom traveled; it’s just they didn’t realize there was an expiration date).

For a few years there, he went on at least four or five trips a year. Short trips and long ones. He’s seen the Great Wall of China and the penguins on Antarctica. (Seriously, he has.)

There will come a day when travel is too hard, and therefore not fun anymore. So don’t put off that bucket list!

3. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, or at least tolerate well, and then do it regularly.

For me this is Zumba and brisk dog walks. Nothing does more for our health than exercise. And it energizes us.

Come on, Mom, let's pick up that pace!

Come on, Mom. What are you waiting for?

Insomnia is a common problem as we age, and on days when I didn’t sleep well the night before, I’m very tempted to skip exercising. Instead, I tell myself I will “go easy on it.”

This helps convince me to put in the Zumba DVD or get out the dog’s leash. Sometimes I do “go easy,” but other times I get into the rhythm of dancing or walking and forget I’m supposed to be going slower.

Afterwards, I almost always feel better (not to mention self-righteous 😉 )

4. Embrace aging.

You might as well, because fighting it does no good. If you try to fight it, you will just spend your last few decades on this planet fluctuating between denial and frustration.

Aging sucks. The list of things we can still readily do is shrinking and the list of things that are a distant memory grows longer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy life and squeeze every ounce of delight out of the days, weeks, months, years we have left.

One great thing about getting older — everyday is Saturday. You get to choose what you want to do on any given day…

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately. I wrote another Marcia Banks and Buddy book. 😀  And today is it’s official release day!!  Woot!

How about you?  What’s on your bucket list?

Last day at $1.99 ~ ARSENIC and YOUNG LACY, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book #2

book cover

Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.

Available on: AMAZON US   AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS

APPLE    KOBO     NOOK

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. 🙂 )

COPS AND WRITERS

by Kassandra Lamb

Two weeks ago, I attended the most amazing conference of my life, The Writer’s Police Academy. And that’s saying something since I’ve been to a lot of conferences through the years.

Mock "unknown assailant on campus" scenario

Mock “unknown assailant on campus” scenario

Real cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, lawyers and private investigators taught us how to Write it Right in our mysteries and thrillers. Sister mp author, Vinnie Hansen, also attended and she told us about her favorite takeaways last week.

Today, I’d like to share some of the many surprises I discovered during this eye-opening conference.

 

FIRE 101: Did you know that smoke burns? I didn’t.

It is full of particles of unburned fuel, which then will ignite when the fire gets hot enough. But even the vapors in it are solid fuel converted to gas, and they also burn. Burning smoke on the ceiling is called “rollover.”

building on fire

See the fire coming out of the TOP of the front window. That’s rollover from smoke burning near the ceiling. (Photo by Eric Hensley, CC-BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

Which burns faster, older buildings or newer, tighter buildings?

The answer is newer buildings. Older buildings (the instructor called them ”legacy” buildings), while draftier, were built of more solid materials. And older furniture was made of wood, cotton and wool.

Today, some construction materials and many components of furniture are plastic, i.e., petroleum products, i.e., OIL. They ignite sooner, burn faster and give off more toxic fumes.

A fire in a modern house will be “fully developed” in about 10 minutes. In a legacy house, it may take 20-25 minutes.

SHOOT, DON’T SHOOT: This involved video scenarios where participants (with fake guns) got to play cops (us) and bad guys (in the videos).

A police officer has to determine whether to use potential lethal force (they are shooting to “stop the threat,” not to kill, but their gun is a lethal weapon) based on 3 criteria:

● Does the suspect have a weapon?
● Do they have the means to deliver harm with that weapon?
● Do they intend to use that weapon?

The officer often has to make that assessment in less than a second.

Example 1: The person pulls a knife but they are fifty feet away. The officer has time to try to defuse the situation: “Police! Don’t move! Drop your weapon! Sir, put the knife down.”

But if the person is 20 feet away and running toward the officer (or someone else) with a knife in their hand, they are an immediate threat and the officer needs to shoot.

Example 2: The person has a gun, pointed down. “Police! Put your weapon on the ground!” But if they start to raise the gun, the officer doesn’t need to wait until it’s aimed at him/her. By then, it will be too late.

I came away from that workshop with a whole new respect for how stressful and dangerous police work is.

It is now lunch time of the first day and I already feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth!

After lunch, I started with retired police detective/now writer Robin Burcell’s workshop…

THE WAY WE WALK, THE WAY WE TALK:  “Perp” is East Coast; on the West Coast, they’re called “suspects.” And the FBI uses “subject,” or “unsub” if they don’t know the suspect’s identity.

Unlike on TV and in movies, female detectives do not wear skirts and high heels! (Except maybe in court.) And cops don’t point their guns toward the ceiling (not unless there’s a bad guy up there) nor do they rack a bullet into the chamber just before engaging.

They carry their guns “locked and loaded” (already racked and safety off) at all times, and when they pull them out, the finger is beside the trigger until time to fire. And they point them straight ahead, in the direction they will most likely need to shoot.

10 COMMON MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE ABOUT THE LAW:  Leslie Budewitz, lawyer and author, shared many interesting tidbits about how the law really works, including the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence, but my fave takeaway was that Miranda rights are not automatically read to someone when they are arrested.

Two things have to be in place for Miranda to be necessary — the person must be in custody AND interrogation must be happening. So if a “perp” (I’m East Coast 🙂 ) is arrested (in custody) and is on the way to the station, and s/he makes a spontaneous, incriminating statement (NOT during interrogation), it can be used even if no Miranda warning has been given yet. Likewise, if someone is questioned and they haven’t been arrested yet, no Miranda is needed to use whatever they say.

participants wearing service belts and weilding pistols

Pistol-packin’ Mamas ~ #2016WPA

End of Day 1, we thought…

We went back to the hotel, exhausted but happy, but that evening we were treated to more demos in the parking lot after dinner. And several volunteers got to wear real (and very heavy) police belts and learned how to wield a baton, and when to use it vs. your pistol.

Day 2…

PTSD: I almost didn’t go to this one because I am an expert myself on PTSD, but this workshop was about what it looks like in police officers.

It was awesome!! The presenter was a former police officer, who developed PTSD, and is now a therapist working with officers with this disorder.

And he has a service dog for his PTSD! (The man made the mistake of giving me his card; I am so going to pick his brain via email.)

I came away from that workshop with a great story idea for Book 10 in my Kate Huntington series!

FORCE ON FORCE ROOM CLEARING:

This one wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but it was still quite awesome. It involved more scenarios, and we got to shoot guns loaded with tiny paint pellets. Again, a whole new respect for how hard it is to judge how much force to use and when to use it.

But the biggest takeaway from this workshop was the presenter Randy Clifton’s comments about the recent controversial police shootings. He said he didn’t blame the officers (unless there seemed to be blatant racism involved). He blames the departments for insufficient training with real-life scenarios that replicate the stress levels of on-the-street confrontations.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me. #2016WPA

He made the excellent point that when the adrenaline is flowing, the rational brain shuts down, and one reverts to old learned patterns (this is psychologically sound). If those old learned patterns aren’t superceded by deeply ingrained new patterns during training, the officer is likely to make the wrong decision.

He demonstrated this via a scenario in which police have raided a house where a known felon is staying. The police have cleared the rest of the house, while yelling repeatedly that they are the police. The guy comes out of his bedroom with his hands in the air, but a gun in one hand. The young police recruit Randy used in this scenario yelled, “Sir, put the gun down. Sir, drop your weapon.”

Randy stopped the scenario and asked us how many of us would shoot. Only 2 out of 12 responded yes (I was a no). Then he demonstrated how quickly someone can lower a gun from that “hands up” position and shoot the officer, while said officer is so politely telling him to drop the gun.

His point: our old patterns tell us that hands up means the guy is surrendering, but why then does he have a gun in his hand? He knows the cops are all over his house. If he was truly surrendering, he would have left the gun in the bedroom.

After this little lecture, all 12 of us voted unanimously to shoot.

Two last takeaways from the last two workshops:
DEFENSE TACTICS: Did you know that if you splay your fingers out at the end of your arm, it is almost impossible for someone to force you to bend your arm? Try it!

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION: OR HOW TO BE A DICK FOR FUN AND PROFIT: Do you know who the most accurate TV/movie private investigator is? (I’ll answer below in the comments section after some of you have made your best guess.)

Now, you may be thinking that I’ve “gone over to the side of the cops” regarding unnecessary police shootings.

Some of our amazing faculty!

Some of our amazing and very generous faculty!

No way! First, I don’t think it’s them against us. Another takeaway from this conference was how generous many police officers are. Every presenter gave out his/her email address and encouraged us to inundate them with questions. I believe the vast majority of officers are truly trying to “protect and serve.”

But many of them need better training, and PTSD needs to be identified and treated much more quickly in officers, because this disorder undetected can lead to more confrontations with the public, and bad decision-making due to lack of sleep (because of nightmares) and higher stress levels.

I still am pursuing investigating and improving these things in my own community, but I am so glad I went to this conference before my scheduled meetings with my sheriff and police chief. I now have a much better understanding of what their departments are up against!

Also, if you are planning to do the same in your own community, I found out that the place to start is with your local police department’s Public Information Officer.

Back to WPA. I’ve decided I will have to go again next year, since I never got to the Ballistics or Blood Spatter classes. 😀

So who do you think is the most accurate TV/movie P.I.? Have you gone to any professional conferences that were as good as this one?

By the way, one of the stories I was able to make more accurate, thanks to this conference, is now available for preorder. (I’ll bet you can figure out what I used when you read the story.)

$1.99 thru its release date of 9/5/16

ARSENIC and YOUNG LACY, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book #2

book cover

Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.

Available on:   AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    AMAZON AUS

APPLE    KOBO    NOOK

And Book #1, TO KILL A LABRADOR, is ON SALE for just $0.99 thru 9/3/16!!

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. 🙂 )

Creativity and the Baby Boom Woman

by Kassandra Lamb

I recently became more active in an online writers group for women of a “certain age.” I’m noticing some interesting psychological trends there.

If you read the bios of the members, your mouth will hang open in awe. These are very accomplished women! I’m honored to be a part of their group.

And yet as our lives have often changed due to divorce, death of a spouse, and just plain aging, there’s a tendency to slide back into the insecurities we thought we had left behind.

Creativity, by definition, requires thinking outside the box – being innovative, taking risks and trying new things. But our generation of women was taught to conform, to listen to authority, to make nice-nice. Conformity and creativity make strange bedfellows. Indeed, they don’t get along very well at all.

(Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers, "Leave It to Beaver" -- public domain) On Air: Thursdays, 9-9:30 PM, EDT. "Beaver" Trio Barbara Billingsley, who stars as Mrs. Cleaver, poses with television sons Tony Dow (Wally) left, and Jerry Mathers (Beaver) on the set of ABC-TV's "Leave It to Beaver" Thursdays, 9-9:30 PM, EDT.

(Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers, “Leave It to Beaver” — public domain)

Our role models were Donna Reed and June Cleaver — who woke in the morning without a hair out of place, vacuumed her house in pearls and pumps and always knew just the right thing to say or do to make her boys feel better (unless of course discipline was involved, and then her husband Ward took over).

These lessons of childhood, many of us are finding, haven’t die; they just went underground.

So when we are faced with tragedy, a crossroads, or just feel ourselves burning out, while our innate feminine resilience usually kicks in, so do those old messages. We get up and brush ourselves off, but we’re much more vulnerable in those moments to the old recordings in our heads.

Be self-effacing.
“Nobody likes a stuck-up woman,” echoes in our brains. Except the definition of “stuck-up” as it relates to females – taught to us in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s – is not true arrogance. It’s being confident that what we produce is good, and that we are good people, with sound judgement.

In other words, good self-esteem equals being uppity.

Please others.
Other people’s approval of what we do is more important than our own. We will stay in jobs that “eat our souls” because others think we should. We will not follow our dreams because others think they are silly or unreachable.

We will allow editors or agents or publishers to dictate how our stories will be changed, even though we know in our hearts that the story was fine to begin with, maybe even great!

Another role model -- Lucille Ball, who was constantly doing dumb things either to please or impress her husband, so he would let her pursue her dream of performing in his club. (public domain)

Another role model — Lucille Ball, who was constantly doing dumb things either to please or impress her husband, so he would let her pursue her dream of performing in his club. (public domain)

Others’ needs are more important than our own.
I was about eleven when the first bra was burned, and I’ve considered myself a liberated female ever since. So when a student interviewed me for an assignment in her Gender Studies class and asked me if I had ever sacrificed my career for my husband or family, I immediately said no. Then I stopped and thought about that.

I found my first true vocational passion (and my second career) a bit late, after I was married with a small child and a large mortgage. When I was looking at educational options to get the credentials I needed to become a psychotherapist, I discovered that to get a PhD in psychology I would have to go to school full-time and might have to move elsewhere in the country to get into a program. “Well, that won’t work,” I thought. I couldn’t uproot my family, ask my husband to give up his good-paying job, etc. So I settled for a masters degree I could get locally and part-time, while still working full-time to help pay the mortgage.

I can’t say that I’ve regretted that choice. I had a good career, even though I didn’t make as much money as I would have with the classier credentials. But one thing blew my mind as I recalled all this when that student was interviewing me.

I had never seriously discussed the “move to another state so I can get my PhD” option with my husband. I never gave him the opportunity to sacrifice for me (and for the ultimate greater well-being of the whole family if I ended up making more money). I just assumed it was my job to make the sacrifice.

Not only was June rarely without her pearls but Ward was rarely without his tie. Not even all that realistic for the times, much less today. (public domain)

Not only was June rarely without her pearls, but Ward was rarely without his tie. Not even all that realistic for the times, much less today. (public domain)

The day of that student’s interview was the first time I realized how subtle the lessons of our youth still are for women of my generation. We can think we’re being all liberated and modern, while our knees are jerking away, following the old patterns without our conscious awareness or approval.

When I first joined this writers group for middle-aged and beyond women, I wasn’t all that active. I was already a member of an online writers group that is awesome in its level of support and encouragement.

But now I’m realizing that these women of a “certain age” can offer a different and more specific support – the recognition of these old patterns and the kick-in-the-butt/cheering section needed to break out of them.

Something women writers of my generation may very well need, again and again, in order to remain creative, and sane.

Your thoughts? Are you a woman (or man) of a certain age, still fighting those old messages?

And now I’m totally not going to act my age as I give you all a sneak peak of the cover for my next Marcia Banks and Buddy mystery. Squueeee!! (In case you hadn’t figured it out, I love this cover!)

ArsenicAndYoungLacy FINAL

COMING SOON!!

And this is the last week to get 75% off of Vinnie Hansen’s book, Black Beans & Venom, during the Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale.

This is a fabulous story. Hop on over and get yourself a copy.

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. 🙂 )

Things that Go Bump in the Night in The Carolina Hills

by Kassandra Lamb

Marcia Meara headshot

I am delighted today to introduce you all to a guest blogger, a writer of mysteries and romantic suspense whom I recently stumbled upon.

Please welcome the delightful Marcia Meara…

Appalachian Legends and Myths

Right up front, let me say that I am absolutely besotted with the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Smokies, in particular. Part of the Appalachian chain—the oldest mountains on the planet—they are stunning in their ancient, mystical beauty.

mountains

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

And vast. It’s rather amazing how many, many miles of wilderness they encompass, along with the mountain towns and villages like Asheville, Lake Lure, and Bat Cave.

Highway sign for Bat Cave, NC

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

(Yes, there is actually a small town named Bat Cave. You can’t make stuff like that up.)

I also love the legends, folk lore, and outright myths that have sprung up over time throughout these hills.

Some tales arrived in the area via settlers from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and have a solid basis in Celtic mythology. Others apparently have been made up out of whole cloth—unless, of course, they aren’t legends at all, but strange truths that our modern minds refuse to accept. (Is that the theme from The Twilight Zone I hear playing in the background?)

Here are some examples of stories passed around in “them thar hills.” Some might make you grin, others might give you a shiver, but all are part of the overall body of strange tales you run across in these mountains.

The Moon-Eyed People
A race of small, bearded men, with pure white skin, who were called moon-eyed because they were unable to see in daylight, the moon-eyed people eventually became totally nocturnal. So the story says.

historical plaque re: moon-eyed people

(photo by TranceMist, CC-BY Generic, Wikimedia Commons)

The Cherokee believed them to be responsible for ancient stone structures that line many mountain ridges from North Carolina down through Georgia and Alabama. The most famous is Fort Mountain in Georgia, which gets its name from an 850 foot long stone wall that varies in height from two to six feet and stretches along the top of the ridge. This wall is thought to have been constructed around 400-500 C.E.

Were the moon-eyed people early European explorers? Legends refer to them as a race of small, pale people, rather than mystical beings unrelated to humans, but so far, no one has come up with any information on who they might have been, or if they were real at all.

Boojum and Annie
The Boojum is reported to have been an 8’ tall creature, not quite a man, and not quite an animal, covered in shaggy fur. (Does the name “Bigfoot” ring a bell?) He is said to have had two very human habits, though. He liked to collect gems, and hoarded them in discarded liquor jugs, which he buried in secret caves. (I do have to wonder how they know this, if the caves are so secret.)

He also was a bit of a Peeping Boojum, as he apparently liked to watch women, particularly when they were bathing in mountain streams. Bad, bad Boojum! But when a young woman named Annie spotted the hairy creature watching her, instead of screaming in fright, she fell in love with his sad eyes, and—wait for it—ran away with her hirsute admirer, presumably to settle down in a cozy little cave somewhere, and raise a whole passel of little Boojums.

There’s more to the tale, but this is a G-rated blog.

The Brown Mountain Lights
The Brown Mountains are home to a genuine and puzzling phenomenon. In the autumn, on crisp and cool nights, ghostly blue orbs are seen floating a few feet above the ground. They have been documented repeatedly by a large number of reputable witnesses. So far, there is no scientific proof as to what the lights are. Swamp gas and other known possibilities have all been ruled out. So when the nights get cool, people (presumably people with too much time on their hands) head to the Brown Mountains to observe and wonder for themselves.

The Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain and the Chimney Rock Apparitions
Both of these are full on ghost stories, one a little shivery, and one just downright bizarre.

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

According to the first, there is an old man who has been hiking the trails on Grandfather Mountain for generations, passing by groups of modern day hikers without a word, and disappearing into the distance, never looking back. He’s dressed in clothing not appropriate to today, and appears and disappears before anyone knows he’s coming.

And he never answers when spoken to. Indeed, he never even seems to see other hikers.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock State Park, overlooking Lake Lure (public domain)

Now, the apparitions at Chimney Rock occurred long ago, though it’s said that many people witnessed them for several days, and they were widely publicized in the newspapers of the day. In the first tale, ghostly white figures gathered in the air over the chimney formation itself, circling it for some time, before several larger figures rose above the rest and guided them all straight into the heavens above. A sort of airborne revival meeting, without the sermon in the tent.

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one of my favorite places to visit, there are still more tales about military men on horseback, who fought an epic battle in the skies over the chimney for several days, before just up and disappearing. This, also, was witnessed by many people over a period of time, and reported on in all the best papers.

old photo of still

Official inspects moonshine (tough job, hunh?)

 

Moonshine — more than just an afternoon refresher.

(Okay, I’m being a bit skeptical here, but can you blame me? Pity there were no cell phones on hand at the time. The cavalry would never get away with a stunt like that today!)

 

Ol’ Shuck
Tall tales for every taste abound in the Appalachians, but of all of them, my personal favorite is the legend of the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as they call him. This one is based on truly ancient Celtic legends of a huge, hellhound of a dog who is thought to be a harbinger of death, and many variations appear throughout literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loosely based his famous book, Hound of the Baskervilles, on one version.

But beware! When you see Ol’ Shuck, someone you know (maybe you!) is going to die. Obviously, you don’t want to wake up one day, and find him sitting on your doorstep. And you’ll know it’s him if you do. We aren’t talking your everyday black Labrador retriever, here. Oh, no. An impossibly large dog with gleaming red eyes, sent straight from the devil himself to escort you to . . . wherever you’re going next. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

As the theme for my latest book makes clear: You can run, but you can’t hide.

Harbinger book cover

HARBINGER: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Three years later, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go!

Marcia has written six books so far: the Riverbend series, the Wake-Robin Ridge series, and a book of poetry. She’s a very social being. You can find her hanging out on Twitter (@marciameara),  FacebookPinterest and at her two blogs, The Write Stuff and Bookin’ It (for book reviews). You can sign up for her newsletter to get news and giveaways at either site, or just give her a shout via email at mmeara@cfl.rr.com.

BLACK-BEANS-&-VENOM w BRAG medallion

NOTE: Vinnie Hansen is participating in Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale. Her awesome novel, Black Beans and Venom is 75% off for the entire month of July!!

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. 🙂 )

4 Reasons Why I Love Being an American*

by Kassandra Lamb

(*Note: by American, I mean resident of the U.S. Please don’t take offense, my Canadian and Central/South American friends, but “resident of the United States” is just too big a mouthful to say again and again.)

This year, as I contemplated what to write for yet another patriotic post for Independence Day, I was tempted to go light again, as we have sometimes done in the past for Memorial Day or the 4th of July, with recipes and nostalgia about childhood cookouts and fireworks. With all the ranting and ravings by politicians right now, it’s easy to think, “No, no, no, I don’t want to get involved in any of that heavy stuff.”

And I don’t, but I think that I do want to remind myself and others of just how great this country is. In many ways, it’s one of the best in the world.

So here are my 4 top reasons why I love being an American:

1. This country was founded by some pretty smart people.

We humans have a tendency toward short memories. And thus history repeats itself again and again, because we forget the lessons of the past, and sometimes even the recent past.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

But our founding fathers got that this was a great hazard for our fledgling country. They wove into the very fabric of its foundation — in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — clauses that were designed to keep this new country they were forming from making the same mistakes the European monarchies had recently made.

Instead of designing a government that would stifle the populace in order to maintain control, they guaranteed certain “inalienable rights” to everyone in this country. That was a profound and rather novel concept at the time.

It might have taken a few generations for Americans to get it that everyone truly meant everyone (women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, LGBT folks, etc.), but when these groups got up the gumption to speak up against their exclusion from those inalienable rights, we had to admit (grudgingly sometimes) that they had a point.

2. This country was founded on good moral values.

While the Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of religion and separation of church and state, the founding fathers were God-fearing men. They strove to shape a society that was based on Judeo-Christian values, such as tolerance and compassion.

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: "...designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. " -- Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: “…designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. ” — Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Again, we may have taken a couple of centuries to get anywhere close to fulfilling that vision, and we have a ways to go yet in certain areas, but we do strive toward these goals. Not all nations do, and not all societies even see tolerance as desirable.

3. Americans are survivors.

We come from gritty pioneer stock. Our ancestors braved the perils of a hostile ocean and an unknown land to start a new life. They had a variety of reasons for coming here, from escaping religious persecution to seeking a better life to being shipped here against their will as prisoners or slaves. But they survived a lot of hardship and struggled to carve out a life for themselves and their descendants.

That’s the genetic pool from which we’ve sprung.

So when something knocks us down, we get up, brush ourselves off and keep trucking. And when others are knocked down, we rally around with help and encouragement. I was never prouder to be an American than these past few weeks as this country supported the LGBT community after the horror in Orlando. Even most of those Americans who might not approve wholeheartedly of their lifestyle got it that it wasn’t okay for 49 people to go from happy dancing to dead in a matter of minutes. The whole country is still mourning their loss and praying for the fifty-some folks who were injured and the families of all of the above.

4. America grows over time.

We may do it in fits and starts and sometimes fight it tooth and nail, but we grow. We adjust. We move on. As I watch the evening news each night, I see a society that is struggling with letting go of the past, or what we perceive the past to have been, and at the same time, is struggling to keep up with a rapidly-changing world.

I’ve lived long enough to have experienced some of the good old days. Some of them were indeed good, and some not so much. Those are best left behind.

By the same token, we should not be too quick to toss out the old just because it is old (says the woman who recently gave up her flip phone and got her first smart phone). To paraphrase the saying from the 12-step programs, we should “keep what works and leave the rest.”

Our history as a country (and I’ve seen this personally for the last 6 decades) has been one of pendulum swings on a variety of issues – to the right, to the left, back and forth – and eventually we find the balance on each issue, often somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I have faith that the United States of America will continue to eventually find the balance. Because we are a great country!

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Birthday, America!!

(Please, no political rants in the comments.)

Note: Today’s the last day for Vinnie Hansen’s giveaway of 3 copies of her new release, Squeezed and Juiced, over on Goodreads! Check it out!!

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. 🙂 )