Tag Archives: Riga Hayworth

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.

Sign up for her newsletter to get free updates on her latest work.

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. 🙂 )

Are You More a Trickster or a Treatee? (and a new release!)

created on tagul.com

word cloud created on tagul.com

For Halloween this year, we asked our authors to share some childhood memories, specifically to answer this question:

Which did you prefer, playing tricks or getting treats? Here are their answers.

Kirsten Weiss:

I was too busy scavenging candy to play any Halloween pranks. Trick time = less treat gathering time, though the folks who gave out raisin boxes on Halloween definitely deserved some payback.

I mean, seriously? We’re going to be healthy tonight? I don’t think so.

Given my candy maximization focus, it’s weird that the treat that always delighted me most in my pillowcase full of loot was Smarties. I think they’re basically sugar + fruit acid, so I’m not sure why I find them so appealing. Plus, they’re super small. Purely from a mercenary perspective, I should have been going for the full-sized candy bars. But nope, it was always Smarties, followed by their tangier cousin, Sweet Tarts.

Smarties (R)

Smarties (R)

Kassandra Lamb:

When I was a kid, I loved trick-or-treating, but not so much for the candy. I was more into the costumes, and the excitement of being out after dark without adult supervision. This was back in the days when parents naively thought kids were safe in their own neighborhoods. I was allowed to go out with just my older brother to look out for me.

My mom made our costumes and they were pretty neat. Often she came up with some theme, like Lone Ranger and Tonto (I was younger so guess who was saying Kimesabe).

I'm the one in the middle with the dorky clown hat. And no, my mother didn't let us go out alone when we were this small; that was later when we were in elementary school.

I’m the one in the middle with the dorky clown hat; big brother’s to the right. (Don’t know who the kid hogging the limelight in front of me is. And no, my mother didn’t let us go out alone when we were this small; that was later, when we were in elementary school.)

When I was a teenager, and my brother was now beyond such juvenile pursuits as trick-or-treat, I went in more for tricks. My friends and I would come up with excuses to get out of the house (collecting for charities was my favorite, and I did collect money for them, but I did so after school before my parents got home so I could go wild that night). Looking back our “tricks” were pretty lame. Mostly we rang doorbells and then ran. Occasionally we toilet-papered the trees in people’s front yards. Again, the appeal was mostly about the forbidden fruit of being out after dark, footloose and fancy-free of adult supervision.

Vinnie Hansen:

My brothers pulled legendary Halloween pranks like moving an outhouse to the downtown hill. But I was a good kid, hustling to Mrs. Wampler’s house because she gave out full-sized Hershey’s bars. I also liked homemade treats such as candy apples.

photo by photogmateo CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

photo by photogmateo CC-BY 2.0

Mrs. McKay gave out popcorn balls. She may have been a teacher, but she didn’t get the concept of Halloween. When you rang her bell and said, “Trick or treat?” she said, “Trick,” and she expected you to do a trick to receive her treat.

I went into her carpeted living room and stood on my head. I guess she deemed that satisfactory because I received a popcorn ball wrapped all fancy in colored cellophane.

K.B. Owen:

I don’t have much memory of Halloween as a kid, because I was usually sick with asthma during that time of year (I remember one Halloween in the hospital, all us kids were given paper grocery bags, markers, and scissors to make masks). I carved my first pumpkin at age 22.

11700834_10207866511490704_3801784215681188918_oSo for me, the fun of Halloween really got going with my kids! And we’ve had a grand time: making a PVC skeleton we put out every year, concocting decadent goodies, and yes…carving pumpkins! Here’s one of my fave pics, of my now-14-year-old, getting in on our pumpkin-carving action by sampling the goods.

Shannon Esposito:

Trick-or-treating in rural Pennsylvania meant my parents had to drive us around in the car because the houses were miles apart. It was always freezing anyway, so the heater was welcomed. Needless to say, we didn’t get much candy, but we didn’t mind because one of the houses belonged to the Sarrises. They own Sarris Candies, which makes the best chocolate in the world (OK, maybe just in the US). Every year they gave out pure chocolate suckers shaped like pumpkins, cats, ghosts… whatever, it didn’t matter. They were all delicious.

And if you were lucky, there were enough costume-clad kids that you could sneak back around and snag another one. Often they would recognize you and give you a stern look, but it was worth the try.

They don’t know it, but they’re responsible for one of my favorite family traditions: On Easter and birthdays, our family members send each other Sarris chocolates. A piece of childhood wrapped in chocolate. Nothing sweeter.

photo by The Culinary Geek of Chicago, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

photo by The Culinary Geek of Chicago, CC-BY 2.0

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

How about you? Did you prefer tricking or treating as a kid?

Or do you still go trick-or-treating as an adult? (I know some people who do.)

 

Please check out Kirsten Weiss’s new release, the grand finale of the Riga Hayworth series. Her books are pretty spooky. They make great Halloween reads!!

Also, she’s having a Halloween blog party today. Check it out for more fun Halloween posts!!

THE HERMETIC DETECTIVE, A Riga Hayworth Mystery

A Monstrous Assassin. A Metaphysical Detective.

Housebound with five-month-old twins, Riga Hayworth just wants to get back in the metaphysical detecting game. But when she’s called to help an elderly woman, haunted and alone, a deadly threat follows Riga home. Can Riga prevent a tragedy and protect her family?

The Hermetic Detective is the seventh and final book in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels. Buy this book to finish the epic series today.

Amazon    Kobo    Nook

Kirsten Weiss worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of The Metaphysical Detective mystery series and the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang. 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. 🙂 )

It’s in the Aether

by Kirsten Weiss

In the wacky world of Victorian science fiction, aka steampunk, machines are typically powered by steam. But the fictional Victorians discovered an alternate power source: aether.

Because seriously, powering a ray gun with steam is just ridiculous. 😀

But what exactly is aether? It depends on who you ask.

~ Ask an ancient philosopher, and he’ll tell you the matter of the universe is divided into four elements (much like this post): earth, wind, air and fire. Everything in creation was composed of different combinations of these elements.

Plato (public domain)

Plato, from The School of Athens fresco by Raphael, in the Vatican (public domain)

The concept of the elements as building blocks for matter really got going in the 3rd century, when Plato proposed a fifth element: aether. He considered it the material filling the region of the further reaches of the cosmos.

Aether as an “in between” element was used to explain several natural phenomena, such as gravity and the movement of light.

~ Ask an alchemist, and they’ll tell you that aether is the substance which pervades all matter – sort of an animating spirit, the anima mundi. This fifth element is an incorruptible substance that activates the other four.

For example, the Philosopher’s stone, of Harry Potter fame, is a magical substance which can transform lead into gold and is composed of aether.

Mice and Mechanicals Square~ Ask a Victorian-era scientist, and he’ll theorize that aether is a hidden, dark energy in space. So empty space isn’t actually empty – there’s an energy within it that, according to the Victorians, can’t be detect yet.

~ Ask a modern physicist, and she’ll tell you that in the 20th century, scientists discovered the universe was expanding. This expansion must be driven by some sort of energy.

Could it be… aether?

We also know that atoms aren’t “solid” per se – there is space in between them. Is it aether?

Which of these theories about aether makes the most sense to you?

Aether plays a major role in my new pre-Steampunk novel of suspense, OF MICE AND MECHANICALS, now available for pre-order on Amazon and Kobo.

book cover Mechanicals, Mayhem, and Murder.

All Sensibility Grey wants is to tinker in her new laboratory in boomtown San Francisco. A stranger in a strange land, she is finally making a life for herself as a purveyor of mechanicals to eager miners. But a pair of government agents have other things in mind.

Loves and loyalties fracture, and mysterious forces threaten to destroy Sensibility and her clockwork secrets. Tangling with occultists, aether gone wrong, and a local vigilante group, Sensibility must decide where her allegiances lie, and whom she can trust.

OF MICE AND MECHANICALS is book two in the Sensibility Grey series of pre-steampunk, paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush.

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten has worked overseas, on the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. These experiences gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature and 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 paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem. Kirsten is the author of the pre-Steampunk novels, Steam and Sensibility and Of Mice and Mechanicals, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries/urban fantasy.

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 Danakil Depression

by Kirsten Weiss (with intro by Kass Lamb, who will also be replying to comments)

Kirsten, in her day job, sometimes ends up traveling to some pretty exotic places. When I put out a plea for some blog posts for February, this is what she sent in from Ethiopia (feels almost like she is our foreign correspondent 😉 )

Kirsten Weiss

 

Drop the words “Danakil Depression” at a cocktail party, and most people will think you’ve got an exotic mental ailment. But the Danakil isn’t a state of mind, it’s a place. One of the harshest environments in the world, it lies in Ethiopia, near the Eritrean border.

I wasn’t supposed to go there.

There are bandits. Eritreans (the Ethiopians are in a hot/cold war with them). And like Death Valley, it’s below sea level and hot enough to kill.

But it also has some of the most fantastic geology on the planet. Sulfur fields blazing orange and green and yellow. Salt mountains striped purple and white. A boiling lava lake. Salt flats.

I traveled there as part of a tour, because this is one place where do-it-yourself won’t cut it. It’s too hot. Too dangerous. And you need special permission to trek to certain places.

When I read the tour itinerary, I thought the salt flats would be the least interesting part of the adventure. Blah, blah, get me to the boiling lava lake! But the salt flats were the most memorable. Camel caravans laden with salt swayed across their sparkling whiteness. We reached the salt lake at sunset. One-inch deep, my fellow travelers appeared to be walking on water, the sun turning the world into a shimmering blue and pink haze.

But this is one of those times when words won’t cut it. So enter the Danakil Depression photo essay:

Danakil Collage

No, I probably won’t be writing a mystery novel set there, although my martial arts instructor is convinced I need a fight scene on camelback. However, since I write paranormal mysteries, some of these otherworldly aspects might make it into a book, somewhere. You never know where you’ll find inspiration.

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

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

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

The Most Haunted House in New Orleans

by Kirsten Weiss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click here for: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

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

Halloween Haiku, Just for You

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

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

photo of pumpkins

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

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

 

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

Brillant red leaves

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

And another from the poetic Vinnie:

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

And if you prefer spooky…

painting of moon in the trees

19th century painting by Stanisław Masłowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from the crew at misterio press!!

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

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

10 Inspiring Pinterest Boards for Mystery Writers (and fans of all things creepy and mysterious)

by Kirsten Weiss

Pinterest is a visual way for people to document their likes and dislikes, post what inspires them, or just hoard recipes for squash casseroles. For writers, who spend a lot of time in the world of words, it can be a refreshing change from other social media sites.

Lately, I’ve been turning more and more to Pinterest – both for inspiration and for world building. These Pinterest boards were chosen based on quality (admittedly subjective) and quantity, but here are my top 10 mystery writing faves, in no particular order.

1)  Faerytaleish: For fae-lovers and mystery writers whose mysteries take a paranormal bent? (Check out the steampunk cat!)

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

2) Crime History: Real crimes. Real criminals. Real creepy.

3)  Neo Noir: Tough girls, odd girls, surreal girls. If you’re looking for inspiration for a noir heroine, this might be the spot.

4)  Noir: Haunting, mostly black and white images.

5)  For My Inspiration: Edgy and imaginative, these images and quotes provoke laughter and intrigue.

6)  Gothic: A board for mystery writers (and other Gothic fans) who favor the creepy classics.

7)  Writers and Writing: A wheel of emotions, inspiration from successful writers, and other writerly goodies.

8)  Writing: A board of writing prompts, tips, and inspiration.

9)  Writing Prompts: Just the prompts, ma’am.

10)  Writing Quotes and Inspiration: Because sometimes, we need a pithy quote to get us writing again!

Kirsten Weiss is the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. She uses Pinterest for research and world building.

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. 🙂 )

Researching Murder and Mayhem

posted by Kassandra Lamb~on behalf of the whole gang

We mystery writers often wonder why the police or the FBI haven’t come knocking on our doors. If they were monitoring our research on the worldwide web, they certainly would be.

When you write about murder and mayhem, you end up googling some very strange things at times. We thought it would be fun to share some of our researching exploits with you all.

First up is our newest edition to the misterio press family, Vinnie Hansen, whose Art, Wine and Bullets was recently re-released under our imprint. Take it away, Vinnie:

I knew from the outset that the victim in Art, Wine & Bullets would be throttled. This sent me out to research garrotes.

Did you know there are two types? Yup, cutting and choking. Cutting sounded too messy even for my black sensibilities.

A person can fashion a garrote with any number of handy items: wire, fishing line, computer cables, or piano wire.

I opened my piano and gave the strings a fresh look.

Guitar strings peaked my interest. I play my keyboard with a couple of ukulele groups. I tried to broach the topic with my ukulele friends without scaring them, but that led to puzzlement. Did I play an ukulele? Did I want strings for a soprano, tenor or baritone ukulele?

Vinnie playing her keyboard with ukulele band.

Vinnie rockin’ it with her ukulele posse (All in Good Time Orchestra, with guest appearance by Tammi Brown)

 Finally, at a music store, I got down to it, “Which string would be best for killing someone?”

I ended up purchasing a black nylon guitar G-string. I played with it around my neck, wondering how a person warmed up to autoerotic asphyxia.

Art, Wine & Bullets also, of course, includes bullets–.38’s to be exact. That research required shooting a Smith and Wesson. But that’s another topic.
~~~~~~~~~~
Paranormal mystery writer Kirsten Weiss is certainly no stranger to strangeness. Here’s one of her recent research experiences as she was writing book 6 in her series, The Hoodoo Detective, set in New Orleans (to be released soon).

Sometimes, research has an intuitive, luck-driven feel, with the right facts turning up at the right moments.

Last month, an acquaintance gifted me a skeleton key. I showed it to another friend, and she told me the keys were often used in magical rituals.

As a paranormal mystery writer, that was the sort of lead I felt compelled to follow. I’m always seeking magical inspiration for my Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels.

A quick spin on the interwebs informed me the skeleton key is associated with Hecate, a Greek goddess with a connection to my heroine. Even better, it’s also used in hoodoo, the subject of my next Riga Hayworth mystery. Eureka!

Magically, the skeleton key represents unlocking opportunities and removing obstacles. The gift of the skeleton key unlocked my work in progress, simply because I bothered to do a little research.

~~~~~~~~~~
K.B. Owen is our resident history buff. She writes historical cozies set at a women’s college in the late nineteenth century (Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits). It’s a good thing she loves research because she sure has to do a lot of it.

In the course of my early research into what life was like at women’s colleges of the 1890s, I found out that the game of basketball was quite popular with the young ladies.

Wow…really? You know I had to learn more (and use it in my series)! Here’s a quick overview:

Dr. Naismith, holding a ball and a farm basket.

Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball (photo from Wikimedia CC licensed)

Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Massachusetts.

In 1892, Senda Berenson Abbott started the first women’s basketball program at Smith College, making modifications to the rules for women’s play.

Women’s rules divided the court into zones, with two players from each team limited to each zone.

Dribbling more than three times was forbidden, as was blocking, stealing the ball from another player, or holding the ball for more than three seconds.

The women’s rules created a game that was slower-moving and more stationary, and therefore would not tax a woman’s “delicate system.” However, the nature of the activity still necessitated shortened skirts, bloomers and stockings, which was considered rather scandalous. In fact, male spectators were barred at Smith.

Smith College Class of 1902 basketball team (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Smith College Class of 1902 basketball team (photo from Wikimedia CC licensed)

By 1895, the game had spread to colleges across the country, including Wellesley, Vassar, and Bryn Mawr. The first women’s intercollegiate game was played on April 4, 1896, Stanford vs. Berkeley. Stanford won.

Even as women avidly embraced the sport, a backlash was growing against it. The biggest problem was that the inherently aggressive nature of competition clashed with notions of “ladylike” behavior. If a lady lost her self-control in the heat of competition, what would be the unseemly result?

We seem to have survived it. 😉
~~~~~~~~~~
As for me, I’ve researched my share of oddities while writing the Kate Huntington series, but the oddest yet was a recent search I conducted for my work in progress, Fatal Forty-eight (due out this fall).

For this novel, I needed to know how one goes about building a secret room in one’s house–one sufficiently hidden that even a search by trained law enforcement officers wouldn’t find it.

A secret corridor leading to a hidden room

A secret corridor leading to a hidden room (photo by Kecko from Switzerland CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia)

Several sources suggested that it was easiest to build a secret room off of a bedroom. This fit perfectly with my story since the kidnapped inhabitant of the room would need a bed, and a bathroom.

Walk-in closets make great secret rooms, I discovered, but that would be too small for my purposes. Building a wall to divide the master bedroom (with the master bath on the secret side) would work, however.

Now how to hide the entrance to the room? I discovered on WikiHow that the do-it-yourselfer could build a bookshelf door in six easy steps.

But another article indicated that a mechanical engineer should be consulted to build a hidden room properly. Since my bad guy wouldn’t want to have any witnesses to where his hidden door is nor how it works, I decided he would just have to be an engineer himself.

I was expecting the reality of secret rooms to be different than in the movies, but as it turns out, Hollywood got this one right.

If you have the budget for it, a custom secret entryway can be created specifically for your secret room…The door is actually a high-tech machine that can be controlled by a wireless transmitter hidden inside a book, sculpture or other object that opens the door when tilted or moved, just like you would see in a movie. The entryway is shipped to the location in its own frame that is designed to fit precisely in the space for which it was created. ~ from How to Put Secret Rooms in Bedrooms, by Michelle Radcliff, Demand Media

The hidden doors are often triggered by moving an object. Excellent! That worked perfectly for my story.

How about you? What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever plugged into that Google search box?

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. 🙂 )

In Houston? Missing This Museum Would Be a Fatal Error

by Kirsten Weiss

The hearse is a work of art.

Its high, wooden sides gleam, hand-carved into the shape of folded drapes. But it’s an automobile, and not of the Victorian period I’m looking for as I research my next steampunk suspense novel. So I continue past the rows and rows of hearses and end up in front of a replica of an Egyptian mummy. Ah yes, the museum’s embalming section. [Tweet this!]

IMG_1192 early 20th century hearse

An early 20th century hearse (photo by Kirsten Weiss).

The National Museum of Funeral History may not be a Houston, TX institution, but it’s certainly one of its more unusual tourist attractions. Founded in 1992, it holds over 35,500 square feet of exhibition space, and is connected to a mortuary school.

As for the embalming exhibit, I learn that embalming fell into disuse after the ancient Egyptians and didn’t really get going again until Victorian days. Who knew? In America, the Civil War brought the embalming process to the masses. And in an early case of crony capitalism, an embalmer “persuaded” Congress to make his company the sole embalmer to Union Troops (predictably, the price of his embalming soon rose).

Relieved to have landed in my Victorian research period, I snap photos of mourning wear and mourning art, then circle back to the hearse room. And finally, I find hearse carriages from my research period, and even a horse-drawn sleigh.

IMG_1195 18th century hearses

Hearses from the Victorian era. Men were drawn in black carriages, women and children in white carriages.

But I’m soon distracted by the electronic “guess the epitaph” game in the celebrity funeral section, aptly named the “Thanks For the Memories” exhibit. I’m terrible at guessing the epitaphs of movie stars. Weirdly, I ace the TV star epitaph quiz.

Planning to be in Houston,Texas anytime soon? Then check out the National Museum of Funeral History. Their trademarked tagline is one to live by: “Any day above ground is a good one.” (TM)

What’s your favorite oddball tourist attraction?

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten is the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense set in Victorian-era America, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries.

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

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Tag, Kirsten’s It!

by Kassandra Lamb

We’re playing a game of tag, blog tour-style here at misterio this week. I was tagged by the wonderful Barb Taub, and I posted about my writing process on Tuesday.

Kirsten Weiss

I tagged fellow misterio author, Kirsten Weiss, and she
already has her post up on her blog.

She’s fast!!

Check it out…