Category Archives: Just for Fun

6 Reasons Why a Little Free Library is a Wonderful Idea

by Kassandra Lamb

a little free library in my neighborhood

Have you heard of the little free library movement? Here’s the one that sprang up in my neighborhood recently. The idea is that anyone can take a book or leave a book.

The first Little Free Library was built by Todd H. Bol in honor of his mother, a schoolteacher who loved books. Todd then went on to establish a not-for-profit organization to spread these little libraries everywhere.

So here are 6 reasons why having one in your neighborhood is a great idea.

1st little free library

First Little Free Library (photo by Lisa Colon DeLay CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

1.  Free Books: The most obvious reason is people get free books. This is particularly important for kids in poorer households. Two out of three of them have no books in their home, according to the little free library website.

But for all of us, what a treat! Take the family for an evening walk and get the kiddos each a new(ish) book (and one or two for yourself). You get to watch their little faces light up and you don’t have to spend a dime.

Then read those stories, take them back, and get some more.

2.  Community: In addition to “inspiring reading,” one of the goals listed on the little free library website is to “build community.”

That has certainly worked with the one my neighbor set up. I’d never really paid much attention to who lived in that house, even though I’d often admired the house itself. It’s a beautiful example of a Florida “Cracker” house.

But now I wave every time I walk by. And they smile and wave back, especially if I stop and check out what new books have appeared in their library. Indeed, whenever you pass someone in that particular stretch of sidewalk, they’re likely to have a friendly smile on their face and give you an extra enthusiastic nod as you go by.

little free library with dogs painted on it

Little Free Library in Bennett Park, Manhattan (photo by Beyond My Ken CC-BY-SA 4.0 International)

How could one look at that cute little library and NOT smile?

3.  Creativity: Another goal listed on the site is “sparking creativity.” Some people stick to a rather plain library.

But others get quite creative, expressing their particular passions and/or decorating their library to express the place it is located.

There are even quite a few themed libraries such as those honoring Harry Potter.

4.  A Place to Take Used Books: There was a time when you could put a box of books out at a yard sale, with a sign: “Paperbacks–25 cents; Hardcover–50 cents,” and the box would be mostly empty by the end of the day.

Now many avid readers prefer ebooks, and not even my church’s youth group will take “tree” books anymore for their annual fundraiser.

little free library in Albuquerque

Here’s one in Albuquerque NM (photo by Anthony Inswasty CC-BY-SA 4.0 International)

If you are a true book lover, this creates a very real dilemma. One simply cannot just throw out a book!  I also read mostly ebooks, but now the occasional paperback that I buy or is given to me has a place to go once I’ve read it.

5. Exposure for Local Authors: Of course, I put a copy of my To Kill A Labrador in there, with the cute pic of the Black Lab star of the book showing. It was gone in a day. I’m thinking I’ll put the next book in the series in there soon. And maybe the first book in my other series…

6. LittleFreeLibrary.org makes it easy: They have detailed instructions on their user-friendly site that cover everything from choosing the right spot, building your little library, and installing it. They tell you exactly how to erect the pole and platform for it, but you can also put it on a table or a wall…

On a wall in London

On a wall in London (photo by Philafrenzy CC-BY-SA 4.0 International)

Or they even suggest “planting” it in big flower pot with stones or dirt and flowers around it. That way, it is “portable” (I put this in quotes because I think you’d need at least two burly neighbors to help you move it.)

And a bonus reason…have you noticed that these are all over the world? If you set up your own little free library (or even if you just have one nearby), you get to feel like you are part of a global community!

Have you spotted a Little Free Library near you? Have you ever considered setting one up?

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

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

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“Off” Week Treat: What’s Your Favorite 1st Line of a Novel?

by Kassandra Lamb

One of my favorite blogs for writers is Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris. Their post (by Ruth) last Sunday was particularly fun. It talks about first sentences in novels, and gives a lot of awesome examples.

Some are quite simple, and yet they inspire curiosity and encourage the reader to read on.

Now, if you’re not a writer, you might want to skip on down to the examples in her post, after reading the opening, which is itself an excellent example of how to hook someone’s interest.

The post got me thinking about my own favorite first lines, and what your favorites might be. (It also has me rethinking the first line of the novel I’m currently writing.)

Here’s one of my faves below. Feel free to share yours in the comments. And hop on over to enjoy the post, whether you’re a writer or reader (or both).

audio book of classic Frency short stories

If you’re interested, here’s an audio book of short stories that includes The Guest, on amazon.com.

From Camus’s The Guest (actually L’Hote in French which can mean either guest or host):

The schoolmaster was watching the two men climb toward him.

One of those simple ones, but leaves you wondering about so much. Who are the men? Why are they coming toward him? Why is a schoolteacher so interested in these two men?

And here’s Ruth’s post:

How to Write a Great First Sentence—with 22 Inspiring Examples

by Ruth Harris

No matter what genre you write, your first sentence is a seduction. It can be in the form of an invitation. A declaration. A tease. A promise. A jolt. A shockREAD MORE

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

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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 (+ 2 Bonus) Tips for a Fun and Fit Dog Walk

by Kassandra Lamb

For our “off” week this week, I thought I’d share a post I put up on my own blog…

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, as I’ve observed that my style of dog-walking is a bit different from most people’s. Too often the dog walks I see are really dog “strolls” with frequent dog “stops.”

I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer developing what we authors not so lovingly call “writer’s butt.” So I’m always looking for fun ways to get more exercise.

dog sniffing grass

Watson NOT going in a straight line!

One of my favorites is taking my dog Watson for long walks—partly because he loves it, and it gets me outside in the fresh air.

The main goal, however, is to get some aerobic exercise for both of us. Therefore, I need to keep moving at a steady pace, and I need to keep my dog moving too (although he may not always do so in a straight line).

So here are my tips for getting the most out of your dog walks… READ MORE

Stop back next week for a great post from Shannon Esposito!

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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 Ides of March: more than the Shakespeare play you read in school

I first heard the phrase “the ides of March” in ninth grade, when we were assigned Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It’s a great play for your average teen, full of intrigue, deceit, betrayal, prophecy, political power, and murder. The soothsayer’s prognostication in the play is now legendary:

Beware the ides of March.

That’s it: short and sweet. Ever notice that most soothsayers in these stories are cryptic old men? A little more information would have been handy for Julius, who was assassinated on the ides of March in 44 B.C.

Death of Caesar, by Karl Theodor von Piloty, 1865. Image via wikimedia commons.

Death of Caesar, by Karl Theodor von Piloty, 1865. Image via wikimedia commons.

How did the old man know? Shakespeare doesn’t say. There were all sorts of divination techniques back then, from ooh to eww. Check out this wikipedia article for the complete list. I like to think it was owl entrails. Just call me old-fashioned. *wink*

Even though we don’t examine entrails (known as extispicy) or watch the peckings of roosters (known as alectromancy) anymore, we continue to look for patterns to make sense of our world. Pattern recognition is hard-wired into us by evolution and has saved us many times in our early survival days. But it’s also tricky. Some patterns are significant, and some are purely coincidental.

I doubt I would have given the ides of March another thought in my lifetime if not for a klutzy mishap in eleventh grade. I broke my ankle on March 15th of that year, slipping on the wet floor in the pool locker room. Even then I didn’t get it, until my mom pointed it out and wrote Beware the Ides of March on my cast. Everyone got a chuckle out of that. I got off easy compared to Caesar, right?

Me and my prom date, 3 months later. I was glad to be out of a cast!

Me and my prom date, less than 3 months later. I was glad to be out of a cast!

In the decades since, I have managed to get through the ides of March unscathed, and those locker rooms got non-slip mats for the floor, so we’re all good.

A few interesting facts about the Ides of March (Idus Martii):

  • The term “ides” referred to the middle of the month, at the time of the full moon. Based on the Romans’ lunar calendar, the ides were on the 13th for most months of the year and on the 15th in March, May, July, and October.
  • The ides, no matter what the month, were considered a holy day dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter, and commemorated by animal sacrifices.
  • By the oldest Roman calendar, March was the first month of the year; therefore, the ides of March was the new year’s first full moon.
  • In Rome, the ides of March was when one settled debts. Kind of like an IRS tax deadline.

You can see that Caesar’s assassins picked a significant day to do the deed. Here we have the death of Caesar linked to sacrifice, the settling of a debt, starting a new year, and a celebration of the Romans’ most important god. Patterns yet again.

The unluckiness of the ides of March doesn’t end with Caesar’s assassination. Here are some ominous things that have happened in history on March 15th:

  • 1889: cyclone in Samoa destroys six U.S. and German warships docked in the harbor at Apia, killing over 200 sailors.
  • 1917: Czar Nicholas II signs the papers to abdicate his throne, turning over his rule to the Bolsheviks. He and his family are imprisoned and executed.
  • 1939: the Nazis seize Czechoslavakia
  • 1952: record rainfall hits La Reunion (an island in the Indian Ocean), dumping over 73 inches in a 24-hour period.
  • 2003: the World Health Organization issues a world-wide health alert for the emerging SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus. Panicked populations across the globe don surgical masks and close schools.

For the rest of the list, check out this Smithsonian Magazine article.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that March 15th is more unlucky than any other day of the year. At least, I hope not. Crutches are a pain in the neck on the stairs.

Happy Ides,

Kathy

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen).

K.B. Owen signing books at Prospero’s Books (Manassas, VA)

K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.

A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unlike the fictional Miss Wells, K.B. did not have to conduct lectures in a bustle and full skirts. Thankfully. No doubt, many folks are grateful for that little fact.

There are now six books in the Concordia Wells mystery series thus far, with book 6 released a few months ago.

We blog here at misterio press twice a month (sometimes more often),  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. 🙂 )

Laugh Lines Make the Best Wrinkles #BOAW2018

by Kassandra Lamb

BOAW VII logoThis would normally be an “off” week for our blog, but I’m participating in the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest VII this week, as I’ve done each year since its inception (or maybe I jumped in at year 2; I can’t remember for sure). This wonderful celebration of women is sponsored by the beautiful-inside-and-out August McLaughlin.

So here’s a short and hopefully amusing post in honor of humorous women. Please hop over to the BOAW site when you’re finished reading and check out the excellent posts listed there. (And maybe win a great prize or two!!) The blogfest is from today through March 9th.

Forever Irma book cover

Not Barb’s book; it is below.

The late comedienne extraordinaire Erma Bombeck had a birthday a few of weeks ago (she would have been 91). Meanwhile, a very much alive friend of mine, Barb Taub, released a new humor book last month.

These two events got me to thinking about humor, aging and beauty.

In my review of Barb’s book I called her today’s version of Erma Bombeck. I hope that compliment will keep her from killing me for what I am about to say. Erma was no physical beauty, and Barb can best be described as a middle-aged plump person who smiles a lot.

pic of Barb Taub

Barb Taub ~ for some of her great humor, check out her latest blog post, My House Makes Me Sick

But I believe they are two of the most gorgeous souls ever to walk the earth, because they find humor in EVERYTHING. Everyone around them is smiling or downright laughing out loud. Talk about spreading sunshine in the world!

Erma was particularly good at poking fun at false standards of beauty or perfection around less-than-important things like housework. But she rebelled so hilariously that she got away with it, even in the 1970s and 80s, when feminism was still somewhat of a dirty word.

Erma on dieting:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

“It is my theory you can’t get rid of fat. All you can do is move it around, like furniture.”

“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”

Erma on the fashion industry:

“Sometimes I can’t figure designers out. It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.”

Erma on housework:

“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?”

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.”

And finally, on laughter:

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

“Laughter rises out of tragedy when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.”

And yet another quote, this one from a reviewer of one of Erma’s books:

“Erma liberated women from guilt of imperfection”
(by domestic diva, the title of her review on August 30, 2015)

book cover

Barb’s new book. Available on AMAZON US and AMAZON UK.

My life certainly hasn’t been one big laugh, but humor has always been one of the tools—a prominent one on my tool belt—that I’ve used to keep going. And perhaps more importantly, it has made the “keeping going” worth doing.

I can’t begin to imagine life without laughter.

I’ve been blessed with oily skin (although in younger years I considered it a curse). Oily skin doesn’t wrinkle very readily, so even though I’m 65, I don’t have wrinkles.

Or at least I believed that, until I happened to smile while looking in the mirror the other day. That’s when I realized I’m starting to develop laugh lines around my eyes.

I’m so happy that they, in particular, are my first wrinkles.

And I’ll leave you with one last quote, most often attributed to Oscar Wilde:

“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

How about you? Do you have laugh lines yet? How do you feel about them?

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the other BOAW blog posts (and maybe win a prize!)

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

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

Doggie Doings Over Christmas Break

by Kassandra Lamb

Our blog is officially on hiatus over the holidays, but I thought I’d divert you to a fun post on my site about a dog’s view of the world. Plus below are some YouTube renditions of some of my fave Christmas songs, to keep you humming your way through the holiday season!

A Dog’s Dictionary to Describe the World

I took my dog for a walk the other day. And as I was dragging him away from his fascination with a crumpled leaf in the road, I thought about how the world must seem to our dogs.

As we walked around the neighborhood, this “dictionary” of doggie views of the world came to me.

1.  Those brown, crunchie things all over the ground (dried leaves) – definition: something that might taste good.

2.  Those tall green thingies (bushes) – definition: my favorite place to pee.

3.  Those gray clumps of stringy thingies (Spanish moss that has fallen from trees) – definition: my second favorite place to pee.

4.  That delicious-smelling pile of gooey stuff that makes Mom yell “leave it!” (three-day-old roadkill) – definition: something that definitely will taste good… READ MORE

 

And those promised Christmas carols (some for fun, some more serious) …

 

Yes, I LOVE a cappella!

And my all-time favorite!

We are on hiatus until 1/2/2018!!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

‘Tis the Season: 19th century Shoplifters

by K.B. Owen

As “Black Friday” rapidly approaches, the official opening of the holiday shopping season in the U.S., we thought it would be fun/interesting to look at a related activity, past and present.

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, retailers lose $13 billion (that’s a 13 with nine zeroes after it!) in merchandise each year.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is prime-time for such thefts, when professional and amateur alike hit the crowded stores.

Such was the case in the 19th century, too. According to a December 12, 1897 article in The Sun: 

As soon as the shops become crowded with throngs who go to investigate, admire, and buy their Christmas offerings, shoplifters also turn out en masse. Experience soon teaches them that they can do their most profitable work this season.

from 1886 Professional Criminals of America, by Thomas Byrnes. Don't you love the nicknames some of these gals have?

from 1886 Professional Criminals of America, by Thomas Byrnes. Don’t you love the nicknames of some of these gals?

For now, let’s set aside discussion of the amateur shoplifters of the 19th century — wealthy and middle class women, mostly, who often had their charges dropped by the store because they came from a prominent family and/or they were diagnosed with kleptomania (by some accounts brought on by something “menstrual”). Our focus today is on the professionals, also known as “hoisters,” or “h’isters.” There were two kinds of hoisters: the clouters and the pennyweighters. To quote one of the policemen in the article: “These people have more ways of stealing than they have fingers and toes.”

Shoplifters such as Flossie Maitland and May Murray (couldn’t find their pics, sorry), worked together as clouters, with one to distract the clerk and the other to wear the apparatus under her skirt. The clouting apparatus consisted of a hidden band around the waist, to which strong elastic bands are attached. The item to be stolen would be dropped on the floor, and the clouter would stand over it (covering it with her skirt), then stoop down as if she was picking up a hairpin, reaching under her skirts to secure the item beneath the criss-crossed elastic.

Artist: James D. McCabe, Jr, 1872, via www.librarycompany.org

Artist: James D. McCabe, Jr, 1872, via www.librarycompany.org

The Sun article describes May Murray as “‘Big May,’ the most notorious shoplifter in the country.” Policemen in every city had heard of her. When she was caught in New York (after being followed in and out of several stores by police in a nearby cab), they found a 42-inch sealskin coat hidden under her skirt, and two other fur coats beneath the cab seat from the stop at the previous store.

Pennyweighters (both male and female) were thieves who would steal an item and replace it with a cheap copy so its disappearance wasn’t quickly noticed. Jewelry was a typical target. The thieves would scope out the jewelry on display ahead of time and create something close in appearance that could be quickly swapped out.

So, without security cameras or metal detectors, what was a Victorian department store owner to do? The common solution was to hire a detective to keep watch, although some stores, such as Lord & Taylor, denied that they even had a problem with shoplifters.

Surprisingly, some of the private detectives were women. Why? According to a female detective interviewed for The Sun article, “they (store managers) found that men were clumsy at following and arresting women shoplifters.”

Here’s a bit more about this particular lady detective, from the reporter’s point of view (he’s referring to himself in the third person):

shoplifters2

“Things not being what they seem” certainly makes writing mysteries fun!

Have you ever seen someone shoplift an item? Should we bring back store detectives, as opposed to those metal detectors that go off for no good reason when you’re trying to leave the store? I’d love to hear from you.

~Kathy

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen).

K.B. Owen signing books at Prospero’s Books (Manassas, VA)

K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.

A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unlike the fictional Miss Wells, K.B. did not have to conduct lectures in a bustle and full skirts. Thankfully. No doubt, many folks are grateful for that little fact.

There are five books in the Concordia Wells mystery series thus far, with book 6 due out in December.

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

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

Halloween Hauntings: True Ghost Stories

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole group)

For once, we’re not letting our imaginations write the stories. These are “true” ghost stories we have heard that have happened to real people whose judgement, for the most part, is usually sound.

I’ll let our newest author, Gilian Baker, go first, with a story from her daughter’s college…

UO dormitory buildings

The Ridges dormitories at Ohio University

When our daughter announced she wanted to go to Ohio University, we didn’t realize we were sending her off to one of the most haunted campuses in the world! OU is located in Athens, Ohio, and there are many stories of hauntings in the small college town. But the one I’m going to share occurred (or should I say occurs) right on campus—in one of the dorm buildings.

The story goes that, in the 1970s, a girl living in Wilson Hall, room 428, died violently after practicing various forms of the occult, including attempting to contact the dead. Those who knew her said she tapped into the energy of the room to practice astral projection and that she was enthralled by sorcery.

Wilson Hall Dormitory. Don’t let them assign your son or daughter to Room 428!

The college continued to assign students to room 428 in Wilson Hall after her death, but they were forced to declare it “uninhabitable” after a series of them complained of hearing strange noises and footsteps, not to mention seeing objects move by themselves and fly across the room to smash against the wall. To this day, the room is the only one on campus that is sealed off and goes unused, even for storage. Students and residents of the town continue to witness sightings of a girl standing at the window of room 428.

Asylum's admin building

The Asylum’s administration building, 1905

The building is located in an auspicious location. It’s in the dead center (pun intended) of a huge pentagram that is made up of five cemeteries situated throughout the town. You can see the pentagram for yourself on maps of the area. If that weren’t enough, it was built on top of an early cemetery of the Athens Lunatic Asylum, itself haunted.

“Let’s build a dorm on top of a cemetery,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Next up is Kirsten Weiss, our resident expert on all things occult, with a story from her sister…

My sister Alice, who doesn’t believe in ghosts, seems to constantly attract them. One took a nap with her last August, and she lived in a college apartment which was stuffed with spooks.

Human-shaped shadows were often spotted climbing the stairs. And once, while she was alone in the apartment and about to take a shower, a white, child-sized hand holding a purple mirror reached under the bathroom door. She spent the next thirty minutes perched like a Notre Dame gargoyle atop the toilet seat, waiting for one of her roommate to return. No hand – child-sized or otherwise – could have fit between the door and the floor.

One Halloween, she and a friend sat around a table, a pumpkin centerpiece between them. A shadow flitted across the pumpkin, and the pumpkin rolled over.

“That didn’t just happen,” her non-believer friend said.

“But did you see—”

“It didn’t happen!”

3 or us in parking lot

Vinnie, Kass and Kirsten in the Moss Beach Distillery parking lot. It was a tad windy that day.

In 2015, I visited California and was able to meet up with Kirsten and Vinnie Hansen for lunch at the Moss Beach Distillery. Turns out they have a resident ghost. Sadly, we didn’t catch sight of her but here’s her story…

In the 1940’s, a young married woman fell in love with a handsome ladies’ man (some versions of the story say that he was a piano player in the bar). Always dressed in blue, she came to the restaurant many times to meet her lover. One day, while walking with her lover on the beach below, they were assaulted. He was injured but survived; she was killed.

Moss Beach Distillery

Moss Beach Distillery (photo by Lupislune CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons) Wikimedia Commons

She has haunted the restaurant ever since, looking for her lover. Although most actual sightings have been by children (their filters are so much less critical), she is mostly known for her pranks, such as levitating checkbooks off the table, locking empty rooms from the inside, and stealing one earring each from female patrons and then they all show up in one place a week or so later. (I did lose an earring that day, but I’m not sure it was at the restaurant.)

The Blue Lady has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries and Ghost Hunters.

Which brings us to our greatest ghost story enthusiast, Shannon Esposito, who loves shows like Ghost Hunters. Her story comes from her mother…

room of castle where ghost was spotted

Note the mirror on the wall

This photo was taken at the Nemacolin Castle in Brownsville, Pa. by my mom, Carol. They only let eight people go through the tour at one time, so there were only a few people in the room with her when she snapped this shot.

ghost image

Close up of ghost’s image

When Carol looked at her photos later and spotted the man in the mirror in this one, she didn’t believe what she was seeing. She called the castle and asked if they had a mannequin in a period costume in that room. They said they didn’t and asked her to bring her camera in to see the photo for themselves.

After viewing the photo, they did a recreation and had Carol stand in the spot she was when she took that particular shot. She was standing in the doorway of the room at that time. The weirdest part was the team tried to take photos from that spot and their batteries drained twice before they could get a photo.

Finally, they were able to take several photos with people of different heights to determine how tall he was. Their conclusion was, by the angle and reflection of the  man, he had to have been standing in the doorway next to Carol… and looking right at her.

And last but not least, I have a ghost story of my own.

My grandmother died when I was sixteen. She was very loving to both of us, but my older brother was her favorite. I knew this and was not particularly jealous since I adored him as well (still great friends today).

Shortly after she died, my brother and his first wife broke up. He moved into my grandmother’s house, which was sitting vacant. A year later, he let his girlfriend move into the house with him.

I was not that fond of Sally (not her real name) partly because she was a bit of a flake. But I believed this story when she told it because she herself didn’t even realize the significance of it at the time.

slippers

(photo by TH.Korr CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

A little background info:  My grandmother grew up in an era when women did not admit they were sexually attracted to any man, not even their husbands. But she had a huge crush on Clark Gable. Whenever she would see him in a movie, she would sigh and say, “That man can put his slippers under my bed any day of the week.” This was quite a risque statement for her.

So Sally moves into Grandma’s house, and a few weeks afterward she says to my brother, “Why do you keep moving my slippers across the room at night?”

“What do you mean?” he said. “I haven’t touched them.”

“You must have. I put my slippers under the edge of the bed every night, and every morning they are over by the door.”

There were a few other odd things reported while Sally lived there, and she said she actually saw my grandmother in the attic one day.

portrait of grandmother

My grandmother as a young woman.

We weren’t sure we believed that, but there was no denying that Grandma was showing her disapproval by moving Sally’s slippers.

Sally moved out, and a year after that, my brother married someone else. They lived in my grandmother’s house for a few years, but we never “heard” from Grandma again. We assumed she was pleased with her new granddaughter-in-law and was able to move on.

How about you? Do you know any “true” ghost stories? Please share!

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.

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Job Description of a Mother

by Kassandra Lamb

Motherhood is probably the most difficult job any woman ever attempts. And yet most of us take on the job with little foreknowledge of what we’re getting into. So I thought I’d come up with a job description, for those who are considering applying.

woman being interviewed circa 1940s

I don’t recall being interviewed for the job (public domain, Wikimedia)

General Description of Duties:
Applicant will be charged with the care, guidance and training of small creatures who have no means of communication, no control over their bodily fluids, and no initial understanding of danger, morality nor the needs of others.

Applicant will be on duty 24/7, year in and year out. (If applicant has a partner helping with the job, occasional short vacations may be possible.)

Additional Duties:
Worrier—Applicant will be required to ruminate frequently about whether or not her charges are safe and are receiving optimal care. This may involve lost sleep.

Nurse—On occasion, applicant will be required to stay up at night and/or stay home from other activities (no matter how important) to tend to sick charges. This may also include cleaning services when bodily fluids become involved. Treatment of minor injuries may also be required.

Dietician/chef—Applicant will be required to plan and prepare nutritious meals and snacks throughout each day, 365 days per year (except during those brief vacations if her partner is willing and able to take over this duty; otherwise, meals may need to be pre-planned).

Chauffeur—Applicant will be required to provide or arrange for all transportation of her charges to multiple locations, including but not limited to: school, athletic and social activities, medical appointments, and the emergency room.

mother with daughter's dolls, having a tea party

One of those other duties: playmate (which may require acting skills to pretend dolls are alive)

Counselor—Applicant will be required to provide guidance and emotional support to her charges, although they will often be oblivious to her emotional needs.

Any other duties that may arise (which may be substantial).

Skills/Talents Required:
At least a basic understanding of childhood diseases, first aid, nutrition, child development, psychology, and conflict mediation (if there is more than one charge).

Unlimited patience and the ability to function on minimal sleep.

Infinite quantities of unconditional love.

Compensation and Benefits:
Applicant will receive room and board (which she may have to help pay for).

No sick leave is allowed. Full retirement is not possible; semi-retirement occurs whenever the last of applicant’s charges leaves the domicile. Many daily duties will no longer be required, but worrying will continue until applicant’s death. Also, applicant may feel obligated to lend or give money to her grown charges at times.

homemade Mother's Day card

No monetary compensation is given; however, applicant will receive weird little homemade presents and cards and lots of love from her charges. She may possibly someday be rewarded with grandchildren.

And by having her grown charge admit to her: “This parenting thing is really hard, Mom! How’d you do it?”*

(*My son’s exact words when his first child was three months old. 🙂 )

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY from all of us at misterio press!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, 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. 🙂 )

A Peek Behind the Curtain: How We Come Up with Book Covers

by Kirsten Weiss

While cover design is certainly not the most stressful part of the book publishing process, it has its quirks. A good cover doesn’t tell the story, but it does need to do three things:

  • Grab the reader’s attention and make them curious about the story

    Bound cover

    Thumbnail size on Amazon

  • Tell the reader what type of story they’re buying – funny mystery, spooky suspense, lighthearted romance.
  • This information needs to be easy to identify when the reader is looking at a thumbnail sized image.

That said, I’ve made my share of cover mistakes.

Exhibit A: What Type of Story is This?

The image on the left, below, is the original cover for the first book in my steampunk series, Steam and Sensibility. I was pleased with it. Corset. Gears. Fog. It’s San Francisco steampunk! I thought the font was a little too much, but that was what the cover designer came up with, so I went for it, thinking all was well.steampunk covers

Except when I attended a steampunk convention, a lot of people asked me if the novel was erotica. Ooops!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against erotica. But that definitely wasn’t what the book was about. So I switched to the cover on the right – also clearly steampunk, but with a magical flare.

Exhibit B: Contrast Issues and Originality

Another miss, but for a different reason, was the first cover (below left) for The Metaphysical Detective, the first book in my Riga Hayworth series of supernatural mystery.Riga covers

The contrast is low (which is not such a good thing when people are squinting at a tiny icon on Amazon), but it looks suitably gloomy and mysterious.

Except…

Since there are seven books in this series, I wanted original artwork that had more of a “series” feeling. Hence the new cover on the right. It’s got slightly higher contrast, and it’s original art. I’m not entirely satisfied with it, but I haven’t gotten around to changing it.

Exhibit C: Try, try, again…

hoodoo detective coversEven when you’ve got a great cover designer, there are typically several iterations before the cover is just right. In fairness, cover designers don’t know what’s in the author’s head. You have to provide them with samples of what you want, and even then, things can get tricky.

And for The Hoodoo Detective (book 6 in the Riga Hayworth series), above is proof that my cover designer has the patience of a saint.

(I ended up with the cover on the bottom right).

Exhibit D: Just right!

And then, sometimes, the cover designer nails it right away…

At Wit's End coverThe cover to the right is for a cozy mystery coming out in June, 2017.

What does this cover say to you? And what do you think makes a great book cover?

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten worked overseas for nearly twenty years in the fringes of the former USSR, Africa, and South-east Asia.  Her experiences abroad sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes genre-blending steampunk suspense, urban fantasy, and mystery, mixing her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

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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. 🙂 )