Category Archives: Guests (posts by non-misterio authors)

An Unusual Occurrence at Usal Beach by Stuart Thornton

We have a special guest today–travel writer Stuart Thornton–as well as a an amazing giveaway with mysteries, cookies, travel books, and bookstore credit!

Now here’s Stuart to tell you the tale of one of his many adventures:

An Unusual Occurrence at Usal Beach

While researching my Moon Coastal California guidebook, I had an evening that played out more like a scene in a mystery novel than a night of notetaking. It all occurred at Usal Beach, which is located on a remote stretch of California coastline within Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
The expanse of dark sand and the rustic campground behind it was everything a Northern California beach should be: wild, powerful, and mysterious.

My friend Shane and I pitched a tent away from a herd of Roosevelt elk with antlers as large as chandeliers. We watched the sunset fall into the ocean like a giant ember and then cooked up a fine campfire meal while listening to a North Coast pirate radio station on my small camp radio. After a couple of beers, we each retired to our own tent for the evening.
Fzzzow. Fzzzooooow. Ffffzzooooooowwwww. I woke up to the sound of gunshots near our campsite. Outside the full moon seemed to shine down on my tent like a spotlight.

I reached for my cell phone. “3:03 A.M.,” it glared at me ominously.

In the distance, I could hear Shane snoring in his tent. Then ffffzzzzzzoooooooowwww. I grew up around hunting and guns, but this shot sounded cold, metallic, evil. It also sounded like the shooter was coming closer. I sat up in my tent, and I felt as alone as I’d ever felt in my life.

Fffffffffzzzzzzooooooowwwww. Shane suddenly stopped snoring. “Did you hear that?” I whispered to him.

“Yeah, I heard that,” he said. “It’s not good.”

We both lay still in our tents. I began thinking about why someone would be firing a gun this late. It could be drunken locals, but there was no boisterous shouts or loud music. Maybe the shooter was trying to scare off a bear or an elk?  But only a shot or two would probably be needed to do that. My next thought: What if it’s a murderer?

Ffffzzzoooooowww. Another shot. I started thinking of survival. In the tent, I felt as helpless as a fish caught in a net. Someone could just walk up and blast the tent with bullets and that would be it.

“Want to meet outside?” Shane called out.

“Yes,” I said softly.

I scrambled outside my tent and soon Shane and I were standing out in the moonlight. Though we were in the open, it felt good to have someone around.

“What if it is someone walking around popping campers?” Shane said, echoing what I was thinking.

I shivered uncontrollably. It was not because of the cold outside.

“I did bring this for bears,” Shane said and slid the handle of a pistol out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. It was somewhat reassuring, but it didn’t vanquish all of my fear.

We got into his car. Shane sat in the driver’s seat with his hand fingering the butt of the gun like it was a lucky coin. I sat in the passenger seat and tried to look outside the rapidly fogging windows.

Around 50 feet away in the woods, a light appeared. Ffffzzzoooooowww. The light was gone right as the shot rang out. It was like it had been blasted out of existence. Farther away, a car alarm went off.

“We need to get out of here,” he said.

Shane and I made it out, up and over the steep, mountainous road to the highway. We scanned the local newspapers the next morning expecting to read about a multiple homicide at Usal Beach, but there was nothing. I later talked to a park ranger about the incident, but he just called the park “The Wild West.”

While travelers may, understandably, not be comfortable with the sound of gunshots while sleeping, Usal Beach did make it into Moon Coastal California as one of the best beaches for wildlife in the state. I warn about the firearms for other prospective campers, but whatever happened in the hours after midnight at that remote California beach is still a mystery to me.

Stuart Thornton Bio

Stuart Thornton fell in love with the California coast while working at the Big Sur Ranger Station after college. At work, he provided visitors with all sorts of information about the region, from the best places to camp to the best meal in the area. On his days off, he took his own advice and regularly sought out the best spots for hiking, backpacking, surfing, and snorkeling along that striking coastal region.

Stuart later moved to nearby Monterey to become a staff writer for the Monterey County Weekly, which he still contributes to. He is the proud author of Moon Coastal California, Moon Santa Barbara & The Central Coast, Moon Monterey & Carmel, and Moon California Road Trip. In addition, Stuart has contributed to National Geographic Education, Relix Magazine, and Ed Grant’s Piers of the California Coast, a coffee table book highlighting the Golden State’s piers and wharves.

He spends his time off searching for the next secluded beach, uncrowded wave, or mountain top vista. Learn more about his adventures and projects by visiting www.stuartthornton.com.

And now for that amazing giveaway I promised! Check it out–travel books, a full-set of my mysteries,  Santa Cruz Cookie Company cookies, and a $200 gift certificate at Bookshop Santa Cruz (or a bookstore of your choice). 

Enter here.

Now, what is your spookiest travel adventure?

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. 🙂 )

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. 🙂 )

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. 🙂 )

8 Tongue-in-Cheek Tips for Scoring Good Reviews ~ Guest Post by Barb Taub

I have a special treat for you all today–a guest post from one of the funniest people I know. I stumbled on Barb Taub’s blog a couple of years ago, and I haven’t stopped laughing at her antics since.

Barb Taub head shot

Her books are considered urban fantasy (a genre I never read, unless it’s her books), but her stories have more than enough adventure and mystery to keep me turning pages, and laughing my head off. (And her latest one–see below–has a hot romance, and a cute dog!)

So with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek, here is Barb’s advice on how to get good reviews…

My Top 8 Writer Tips for Scoring Positive Book Reviews
(and Making a Bunch of Money! 😀 )

by Barb Taub

Last week I did our monthly budget, an act which blurs the boundaries between blind faith and creative fiction. (Warning: I’m a professional writer so I make up sh*t for a living. Do NOT try this at home, boys and girls.)

At first, I wasn’t too upset because I thought that writers were supposed to live lives of abject poverty—garrets, obscurity, perhaps the odd chemical dependency.

But then I remembered reading an article a few years ago about Simon & Schuster’s offer of $920,000 for rights to a first novel, Just Killing Time by Derek V. Goodwin, that was submitted with endorsements from novelists John LeCarre and Joseph Wambaugh. The only problem: Wambaugh and LeCarre denied ever reading the book, so Simon & Schuster canceled the contract.

The real Howard Hughes

The real Howard Hughes. After seven top journalists interviewed Irving’s cohort who was claiming to be Hughes, they all agreed that he was a fake. 

Then there was the autobiography of the famously reclusive Howard Hughes, written with Clifford Irving. Publisher McGraw-Hill was so excited about their literary coup in signing the book that they offered Irving (and Hughes, they thought) a $765,000 advance. The only problem was that some other pesky guy who said his name was Howard Hughes kept claiming that he’d never even met Irving, much less co-authored his autobiography. Nonsense, proclaimed McGraw-Hill. They investigated and eventually had to sheepishly acknowledge that the fakes were Irving and his team. Irving ended up going to prison for seventeen months, and more importantly, he had to return the $765,000 advance.

Do you know what these stories mean to me as a writer?

Of course you do! It means that McGraw-Hill wasn’t out that $765K. And Simon & Schuster never coughed up the $920K.

So those dollars are probably lying around waiting for me to scoop them up, if I can just round up some good reviews, or—as we professional writers say—“blurbs”. (From the Latin word blurbus, the sound made by the Latin critic when the Latin writer holds him under the Latin water until he agrees to say something good about the Latin opus.)

Of course, I’ve learned a lesson from Irving’s and Goodwin’s little missteps. Here are the top eight things I’ll look for in my blurb-writers.

1. I’ll seek blurbs by writers who are unlikely to change their high opinion after actually reading my opus. John Welles understood this when he wrote: “Here are jeweled insights, lovingly crafted by a veritable Faberge amongst wordsmiths, hand-polished erections in the global village of contemporary sensibility, perceptions snatched from the Outer limits of human experience…” John Welles’ review of “Masterpieces”—a book written by John Welles.

Shakespeare monument

It’s just a nasty rumor that my friend Bill is deceased.

2. I’ll find blurbs from writers who couldn’t possibly deny authoring a blurb. Not being (technically) alive helps here. For example, I will use a blurb from my dear friend and fellow writer, Bill Shakespeare. He just sent one which sayeth: “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes, shall outlive Barb’s powerful rhyme. But she shall shine more bright in these contents than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.”

(Hmm, I think Bill’s last line there refers to my housekeeping, so I’ll try to get the publisher to leave it off the book jacket.)

3. Then there are the blurbs which are both literary and literally incomprehensible. Hemingway’s blurb will read: “The afternoon sun shines on the woman who runs with a lot of bull.” And James Joyce will add: “Yes because I give it mindseye form in her novel children are her life running through the mystery world…”

4. And there will be blurbs from people who are so famous they don’t need actual opinions. My blurb from Kim Kardashian will be, “Kim! Kim, Kim, Kim!”

5. I’ll blurb myself a bio so incredible that the publishers fighting to be the first to sign me will look like the crowd at a sorority convention that just spotted the last Diet Coke. I’m thinking something along these lines:

mannequin by store doorway

The author worked odd jobs as an armless, shoeless mannequin to make ends meet.

After spending my childhood as an abused Bosnian orphan, I discovered that I was actually the secret love child of Elvis, Marilyn, and at least two Kennedys (those love quadrangles can be brutal). With only my dreams of a better life to sustain me, I managed to make it to Harvard on a full scholarship, only to recklessly squander that on a PhD in English Literature from Cambridge. With a six-latte/day caffeine monkey on my back, I was forced to prostitute myself as a technical editor just to support my twelve fatherless puppies and my barista. But I never gave up my dream of finding the truth about my parents, all of whose deaths had been faked in order for them to enter the witness protection program where, I eventually discovered, all four are running a waffle house in upstate Maine. Every reader who sheds a tear for my characters, laughs at my jokes, or takes the time to put in a better-than-three-star review on Amazon brings me one step closer to realizing my dream of reuniting with them. Oh, and I’m a flying vampire.

6. If all of the above fail, I can always get 5-Star reviews the old-fashioned way: buy them. (On fiverr.com, a search for “book reviews” came up with 569 hits offering “fantastic” book reviews, some even guaranteeing placement into Amazon’s “Top Sellers” lists.)

tea party

I wonder how many reviews I can buy for my new work, Fifty Shades of Earl Grey. (In their 5-star review, Upper West Middlesex Doglover’s Monthly calls it “Steaming hot!”)

7. If I’m really desperate, I can always go for a spot of trashing the opposition. With estimates of over 600,000 books to be published this year, clearly some writers are taking the “If you can’t beat them, troll them” approach. I noticed one day that two of my books got one-star ratings from a reviewer on Goodreads. Looking under the writer’s name, I saw that she lone-star ‘reviewed’ over fifty other books that day. Not only does she read at something approaching the speed of light, but she’s a glutton for punishment since she didn’t like a single one of those books.

8. Of course, if all else fails, I can do what Eva Hansen did for the erotic Swedish thriller, Red is the Color of Pain.

Described by reviewers as Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Swedish News (Svensk Nyheter) called it “The most impressive Swedish detective novel since Stieg Larsson!” Oppna TV Stockholm went on to say, “This Stockholm is a city of sin, feeling, and furious passions that Swedish literature has never before known.”

One reason that Stockholm hasn’t known it is that none of them—Eva Hansen, Swedish News, nor Oppna TV Stockholm—actually exist and the book has a Russian copyright.

So it looks like I should stick with writing my own books. Luckily, that’s pretty exciting right now. My new book, Round Trip Fare, is an urban fantasy with romance, suspense, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog.

Round-Trip Fare book cover

ROUND-TRIP FARE (Null City #4)

Now that the century-long secret Nonwars between Gifts and Haven are over and the Accords Treaty is signed, an uneasy peace is policed by Wardens under the command of the Accords Agency. Warden Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one. It just would have been nice if someone told her the angels were all on the other side.

Available for Pre-Order Now on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Although the story is a standalone, the award-winning release is part of the Null City series, which reviewers (actual living humans, I swear!) have called “An amazing story of fantasy, time and dimension travel, and strong heroines with superpowers”—Between The Lines Book Reviews

Hmm, I wonder if my letters from Simon & Schuster and/or McGraw-Hill were misdelivered? After all, I’m still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts.

Posted by Barb Taub, author of the Null City series. In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humour column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled Aussie Dog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them travelling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

Kass Lamb’s Review of Round-Trip Fare

Barb’s wonderful sense of humor shines through in her characters, and most especially in Carey Parker, young Accords Warden and all around hell-raiser. I absolutely love this character. And her friends, including her four-legged companion, are almost as delightful.

The plot is convoluted at times but fascinating throughout, with plenty of adventure and suspense to keep this mystery lover satisfied. And then there’s the sexy mystery man… Yum!

Five enthusiastic stars!

~~~

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. 🙂 )

5 Empowering Questions to Ask Yourself Daily for a Groovier, More Impactful Life

(Re-blogged from August McLaughlin’s blog, Savor the Storm. Excellent ideas for making the coming year a great one. Enjoy! Kass)

by August McLaughlin

Happy New Year, beauties! I hope you all had wonderful, soul-nourishing holidays. I had a blast visiting family, chilling out and looking back and forward—as we tend to do around New Year’s.

To start the year, I thought I’d share a handful of practices I’m committed to leading my life by. Rather than keep a to-do list, I check in with myself routinely, posing the below questions.

Sure, there are days I skimp on one and max out on another—but the goal isn’t “perfection.” By aiming to live well and fiercely, we can all be and do more without going bonkers. We’ll even have a blast doing it.

Read more…

A Mystery Writer’s Revenge (on Second Thought…)

by Shannon Esposito and Guest Blogger, Sheila Webster Boneham

I first met Sheila when I found the Facebook group called Writers and Other Animals. First of all, the name cracked me up. Then I joined and found it a great little group for writers and readers who love animals. (Here’s the link if you want to check out the group.)

Boneham_portrait_AussieKiss_600wAlong with supporting her fellow mystery writers with this group and her personal blog, Sheila writes nonfiction books about dogs and cats and has three books out in her mystery series: Animals in Focus Mysteries. Busy lady!

Luckily for us, she found the time to stop by our place. Here are her thoughts on the mystery writer’s favorite form of revenge.

 ~~~~~~~~

Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my book is a popular saying among writers. Mystery writers often add “and kill you” to the end. After all, revenge, served hot or cold, is a powerful motive for murder and mayhem, in life and in fiction.

Taking revenge on the meanies in our lives can certainly be tempting, and more than one writer has done it. I have. At least I started to take revenge in writing, and in the process I learned a few things, or perhaps I remembered things I already knew.

mug with author's revenge saying on itLet me back up to my first mystery, Drop Dead on Recall, which begins at a canine obedience trial. When I started the book, I had just emerged from a very dark pit of online harassment by a nasty little group of people whose agenda still mystifies me. In retrospect, it was a tiny bump in life’s road, but at the time it was all-consuming. In the first draft of my book, a couple of the characters were remarkably similar to the harassers. I even had one of them kill the other one. Ha! Gotcha!

Then came the first revision, after a several-month hiatus from mysteries while I wrote a nonfiction book about dogs. It was good that I had a break from Drop Dead on Recall. When I came back to it, I found that the revenge impulse had weakened considerably. In fact, the characters were no longer very interesting to me, in real “online” life or in my book. So I merged them into a single character known only to me (and my husband, but he’ll never tell). I changed the nature of that character, and by doing so, I changed the book and, I think, myself.

By the final revision of the first book, even I barely remembered the original inspiration for the character in question. In The Money Bird, that character has made a few changes for the better, and as I wrote that second book, I understood that allowing a character I disliked at first to become less loathsome was useful not only to the series, but to me as a person. That character has continued to evolve in Catwalk and in my fourth book-in-progress.

Sheila's Aussie Jay jumping a high jump.

Jay would much rather play than seek revenge.

And I guess along the way my “get even” character has taught me a lesson, too (because our characters become very real as we write them). I’ve realized that letting go of the revenge-by-literary-murder impulse has served me well. Revenge takes time and energy, and icky people just don’t deserve that much of our lives. I still have the urge at times, of course. Who doesn’t? But I’m working it.

Now when I see a t-shirt or mug with that “be nice to me” quote, I mentally attach a different ending. The best revenge, I think, is to forget those who harm us, but that’s never easy and may be impossible. Still, I rather like the ring of, “Be nice to me or I won’t put you in my book.” Or, with the character in my series in mind, maybe I’ll rewrite the saying to, “Be nice to me or I’ll change you in my book and make people like you—but they’ll never know it’s you!”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject of revenge. (And no, I won’t tell you which character it is! You’ll have to read the books to figure it out.)

cover of CatwalkSheila’s newest book, Catwalk, is now available for preorder (due out 10/8/14 from Midnight Ink)

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail is training for her cat Leo’s first feline agility trial when she gets a frantic call about a “cat-napping.” When Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay set out to track down the missing kitty, they quickly find themselves drawn into the volatile politics of feral cat colonies, endangered wetlands, and a belligerent big-shot land developer

Janet is crazy busy trying to keep up with her mom’s nursing-home romance, her own relationship with Tom and his Labrador Retriever Drake, and the upcoming agility trials with Jay and Leo. But when a body is discovered on the canine competition course, it stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.

Posted by Sheila Webster Boneham. Sheila writes and plays with her animals at her home in North Carolina. She is the author of the Animals in Focus mysteries. Please visit her website’s Mysteries Page, and/or join her on Facebook or Twitter. Sheila also runs the Writers and Other Animals blog and Facebook group – for readers, writers, and animals of all kinds!

Autographed copies of Drop Dead on Recall, The Money Bird, and Sheila’s nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters, are available from Pomegranate Books. Also available from your favorite bookseller (think Indie!) and online: Paperback and Kindle editions HERE and Audible editions HERE

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

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Blurry Line between Imagination and Reality

headshot of Susan Reissby Kassandra Lamb with guest blogger, Susan Reiss

I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest blogger, Susan Reiss. Susan writes mysteries set in St. Michaels, Maryland, an Eastern Shore harbor town near where my husband and I stay when we summer in Maryland. Her stories also feature antique silver pieces… but I’ll let her tell you about that. Take it away, Susan!

Resized stairway Susans post

 

“The vault is down the basement steps on the right.”

First line of a mystery novel?  No, it was the beginning of my adventure at the Talbot County Historical Society, where I discovered that the products of our imagination are sometimes more real than we imagined.

I love sterling silver pieces so much that they are the theme of my cozy mystery series set in St. Michaels in Talbot County, Maryland.

While doing research, I discovered that a London silversmith came to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1655 and bought an island that still carries his name. Instead of making silver pieces, Thomas Bruff became a real estate mogul, buying and selling land until he became a gentleman. In the local historical records, there was a whiff of a rumor that he made some silver pieces while here. His male heirs—nine of them—worked as silversmiths but only some of their pieces survive today.

For my new book, I “created” a silver spoon made by the original Bruff and placed it at the center of the mystery.

Imagine my surprise when the invitation arrived from the Talbot County Historical Society to visit their vault and see silver spoons made by the Bruff family, including one from the hand of Thomas Bruff, the patriarch of the family.

The society’s museum is under renovation so it was down the steps to the vault on the right… the vault that was the size of several huge living rooms! On a desk lay five small packages of white tissue and brown felt. After putting on clean cotton gloves supplied by the collections manager, the adventure of unwrapping the treasures began.

There was a large spoon made by a very busy Bruff descendant who ran an inn, operated a ferry and made silver pieces. It dates back to the early 18th Century and was an excellent example of a British desert spoon, about the size of our oval soup spoon. Maybe they didn’t want to miss a morsel!

picture of silver soup ladle

Soup ladle made in the Bruff family tradition

The manager found another package in a stray box and we unwrapped a gorgeous silver punch ladle, also a product of the Bruff tradition.

Another spoon was made by the rogue of the family. His trail of silver pieces goes from one Eastern Shore town to another, then across the Bay to Baltimore, then New York and finally to Nova Scotia, always one step ahead of the law.

The last package on the desk, smaller than the others, held the treasure I’d come to see–the spoon made of coin silver and attributed to the original Thomas Bruff. I thought the manager was going to faint when I mentioned the value was probably four to five figures because there are so few in existence.

silver spoon

English teaspoon made by Thomas Bruff in the 1600’s.

Why so valuable? Because coin silver was a similar grade to that used in British money and the pieces were often melted down for their monetary value at the expense of the craftsmanship. The same thing is happening today with the price of silver so high.

The society’s inventory labeled the piece a teaspoon, but the conservator mused that it must be a tiny serving spoon, for jelly perhaps. Gently, I disagreed.

delicate china teacupThe English always preferred to drink their tea from a cup.  The spoon was meant to rest on the saucer after stirring. If you’ve ever tried to place a teaspoon by a cup, you know it’s hard to get it to stay put. That’s because our American teaspoons are large and clunky in comparison to the original English design that nestles nicely in the space on the saucer.

As I held the spoon, I thought back to the time I sat at my desk and “made up” the story about a spoon made by Thomas Bruff. Not a product of my imagination, it was real. This was a spoon made by a man who braved the Atlantic Ocean and established his family just a couple miles from where I wrote my story. The spoon had escaped the great-melt-down-for-cash and survived more than 340 years of use and storage to come to rest in a dusty basement vault … and in a mystery book.

Have you every made something up, only to discover it was real? Has your family silver survived, or did it get melted down somewhere along the way by ancestors desperate for cash?

Posted by Susan Reiss. Trained as a concert pianist, Susan spent many years as a television writer/producer.  She now lives in St. Michaels with her black Lab, Cody who is remarkably like Simon, the puppy in her series. The Bruff silver is at the center of her latest book, Painted Silver. The other books in the series, Tarnished Silver and Sacred Silver are also available on Amazon. Check out her website for more more about silver and Susan.

Painted Silver book cover

 

Painted Silver, by Susan Reiss:

Accidental sleuth Abby Strickland goes to the Plein Air Art Festival where gifted artists compete for big prizes and fame, and elite art collectors eagerly search for their next acquisitions.  Tension between rivals runs high as all are drawn into a web of creative envy, greed… and murder.  And, for Abby, love is in the air.  It’s a charming summer event… until somebody screams!

 

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. 🙂 )

Walking the Paths of the Past

by Kassandra Lamb and guest blogger, Jennifer Jensen

I love living history parks. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts are among my favorites. I love to learn about history by walking their dusty streets and watching folks in era-appropriate garb go about the tasks of life in times past.

So when children’s author, Jennifer Jensen, asked if she could guest post on our blog and tell us about Connor Prairie, I was thrilled.  Jen’s new release, Through the Shimmer of Time, is a time-travel adventure. Granted it’s aimed at 9-12 year olds, not our usual readership, but the story is chock full of mysteries: how did Jim get zapped back in time, who is behind the random thefts in the village, and how can Jim and Hannah prove that a suicide was really murder?

And I’ll tell you all a secret – I read this book and loved it!

Jen Jensen headshotSo here’s Jen to tell us about the park that inspired her fictional setting of the book, and provided her with a fun place to do her research.

Take it away, Jen!

First, thank you to the misterio press authors for inviting me here.  As the first guest blogger, I feel very privileged!

Conner Prairie is a fabulous living history park in Central Indiana, and my kids and I were frequent visitors.   When we started going, the 1836 Prairietown was the only area, but the park has expanded to include a Lenape Indian camp, Morgan’s Raid during the Civil War and baseball in the 1880s.

Connor House

(photo by Derek Jensen, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia)

woman in costume making pottery

Woman making pottery (Photo by Derek Jensen, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

With so much history being acted out in front of us, what better place to ask “what if?”  What if you could really travel back in time instead of just talking to actors in costume?  What if a boy went exploring where he shouldn’t? What if he got accused of a crime when he arrived?  What if there was a ghost who wanted her name cleared?

When you don’t actually have a time travel machine, a living history museum can be the next best thing for research. Conner Prairie’s “1836” cabins are all historic buildings, moved onto the site from around the Midwest.  When you step onto those hand-planed boards, you know what it felt like in olden days.  The doors really were short, the stairs to an upstairs room really were narrow, and the mud really does crumble out of the chinking.

costumed woman by fireplace

(photo by Paul J. Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

storekeeper

the storekeeper (photo by Paul J Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

At Conner Prairie, the staff aren’t just in costume – they stay in character.  They have background information about their character’s personal life, his/her business and chores, and even where they moved from.  It’s fiction, but it’s all historically accurate.  If Mr. Whitaker talks about receiving goods for his store from Cincinnati, you can bet that central Indiana shops in 1836 got their stock there.

I helped make biscuits at the inn, and watched the blacksmith work the forge.  I could ask questions about a housewife’s herb garden, what she grew and how she kept pests away, but she would look blank if I asked what the modern name of something was.  I got good tips on what plants were used for which ailments, but once I had that clue I went back to modern research for details.

blacksmith's anvil

(photo by Paul J. Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

There were a few places where staff members did not have to stay in character.  One particular area, where kids could do some activities and ask questions, kept me from making a fool of myself.

In my book, Jim sleeps in the loft with the other children.  I had pictured a Little House on the Prairie loft from the television show, without thinking that Little House was set 50 years later.  But here I was, standing in an authentic cabin from the right time period.  And it turns out that to get to the loft, the kids would climb a straight-up ladder and go through a square cut in the ceiling.  The only real light in the loft was from the fireplace downstairs.  No happy children looking down on parents here!

Another tidbit: in the summer, families would remove the chinking between the logs in the loft to let some air flow through, and then re-chink when the seasons turned cooler.  Bunches of herbs were often hung to dry in the loft, and both of these tidbits made Jim’s reactions a bit richer – those shadowy shapes can be spooky!

log cabin

(photo by Paul J. Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

I still relied on historical records and books to verify and expand on the details, from food and medicine to journalistic style, but it was the hands-on research at Conner Prairie that let me capture the atmosphere for my fictional Granger Village.

If you could travel back in time, to “when” would you go?  Have you found a living history park that brings that favorite time period to life, and what sorts of mysteries can you imagine happening there?

Through the Shimmer of Time book coverThrough the Shimmer of Time

A mysterious pottery shard . . .
A haunted cabin . . .
A shadowy stranger . . .
And no way home
Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home or is he marooned in the past?
1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.
Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time.  It will take all their courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.

Jennifer Jensen is an award-winning writer who wouldn’t be without her computer or smart phone, but still dreams of living in the olden days. Until someone invents a working time machine, she lives in Indiana and makes do with plenty of imagination, loads of books and as much Dr. Who as the BBC will produce.

Through the Shimmer of Time is her first novel. Connect with her at her blog, through Facebook or on Twitter (@jenjensen2).

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. 🙂 )