Category Archives: Thrills & Chills

True crime and criminals

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.

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Damn Yankee Gone South (and a new release)

I’m really looking forward to reading Stacy Green’s new installment in her Delta Crossroads mysteries, Skeleton’s Key. Not only is Stacy a great author who can write a thrilling mystery, but this book has another, more personal appeal for me.

You see I’m a Northerner who’s moved to the South, and I discovered when I did so that I needed to let go of quite a few stereotypes of Southerners. And I’m sure my exuberant personality and grinning face challenged some of their ‘cold, unfriendly Northerners’ stereotypes as well.

The two main characters in Skeleton’s Key, one a Southerner and one a Yankee, are apparently also challenged by said stereotypes as they butt heads on a regular basis. This theme in the story, along with Stacy’s brilliant ability to keep one on the edge of one’s seat, should make for a great read.

And this has got me thinking that I should do some research and write a more extensive blog post about today’s Northerners and Southerners, how they’re different and how they’re the same. Hmm. *scratches chin* …stay tuned for that, folks!

In the meantime, here’s Stacy to tell you a bit more about this book and share a snippet of a very exciting scene!

photo of Stacy Green, auithor

Welcome to the release of SKELETON’S KEY, the second book in the Delta Crossroads Series. Set in fictional Roselea, Mississippi, the book follows Cage Foster, a popular character from TIN GOD (Delta Crossroads #1) and Yankee newcomer Dani Evans as they investigate a grisly double homicide.

But this isn’t your standard double murder. Cage is the caretaker of Ironwood Plantation, a historic antebellum in desperate need of tender love and care. Dani is the restoration expert from Indiana who purchased the house and plans to restore it along with her own life. Cage and Dani are the north and south, immediately at odds and yet intensely drawn to one another, and their relationship is the backbone of the book.

Back to the murder. See, the bodies are found buried in Ironwood’s cellar. The crime scene is somewhere inside the house–you’ll have to read to find out the location–and Cage is the prime suspect.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is Dani’s first night, when she discovers the bodies. I love writing suspense, because it’s so challenging. I want the reader to be on the edge of their seat, hooked into the story so that even though they may be afraid to find out what’s on the next page, they are compelled to read on.

I’m excited to share that scene with you today. SKELETON’S KEY is available in print and all digital formats.

Somewhere on the edge of deep sleep, a spatter of noise pulled Dani back to consciousness. She groaned and closed her eyes again. Likely the house settling.

She rolled over and started to drift off again when the noise came again, louder. She sat up and looked around, listening.

The house is locked. You have lights on.

You’re a woman staying alone in a house with no landline. Someone could be creeping.

You have your cell phone. Cage is two hundred feet away.

A hollow thumping drifted from somewhere near the kitchen. Gooseflesh erupted over Dani’s arms, and then she laughed. She’d encountered her fair share of squatting animals in her career, including a particularly vicious raccoon that had left her with a scar and a rabies scare.

“Critters hanging out in the basement of an old house,” she spoke into the quiet. “Biggest cause of haunted houses.”

As if in answer, a low grumbling filled her ears. Then, a sharp hiss and what sounded like an angry growl.

Damn. Whatever was living in the basement made a lot of noise when it scavenged for food.

“The bones.” Her bare feet smacked the wood floor as she jumped up. She slipped into her sandals and then rummaged through the black bag containing her work essentials. Naturally, her big flashlight was on the bottom.

The light cast a bright glow through the parlor just as another angry yowl came from the basement. Fear nipped at Dani. What would she have to fight off down there?

She glanced out the window, half-hoping to see the lights in the carriage house still on, but it was dark. She hated to wake Cage. And she didn’t want him thinking she was just another spoiled city woman who couldn’t handle a simple animal issue.

That settled it.

She padded into the kitchen, flicking on lights as she went. Cage kept cleaning supplies in the bare nook where a table should be, and Dani grabbed the dusty broom. A little heavy and harder to manage with the light, but she’d figure it out.

She tucked the flashlight under her left arm and then reached for the door, the shop broom gripped tightly in her right hand. Sweat beaded across her scalp making it itch. Another menacing growl from the basement, long and drawn out as though the animal knew she was ready to attack. Ignoring the urge to drop everything and run for Cage, she listened hard.

It sounded like the creature was probably along the side of the basement, deeper below the house, and not on the steps waiting to ambush.

Good.

Deep breath, broom ready, bladder weak, she yanked open the door.

Skeleton's Key cover

Kass here again: Isn’t that a great scene?

Skeleton’s Key is now available on AMAZONNOOK,  and in paperback.

About the author
Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.

To check out more about Stacy and her books, visit her at her website, on her
Amazon Author Page, on Facebook or on Twitter @StacyGreen26.

Go check out the book, then come back and share your thoughts on the North and South and stereotypes. I love hearing from you!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. 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.)

Belle Grove Lives Again…Sort Of

a portion of Bell Gorve plantation house

Belle Grove Plantation (circa 1936; public domain)

There’s Something About Old Houses

I live in a newly developed area. The subdivisions are filled with thousands of homes based on maybe five exterior styles and maybe ten floor plans.  When I first moved down here, I drove up to the wrong house fairly regularly. They all looked exactly the same (and still do).

I’ve always loved old houses, but living here has given me a new appreciation for them. Old houses have character and presence newer homes just don’t have. One old house might have original stained glass windows. The next might have hand carved molding or unique tile work in the kitchen or bathroom.

Yes, the newer homes are more energy efficient and have fewer (expensive) age-related issues. But I still like old homes better. The uniqueness and the attention to detail simply can’t be matched. This might sound weird, but I sometimes think I can feel the history of a place speaking to me.

My Fascination with Belle Grove

The grandest of old homes are, of course, the plantation homes sprinkled throughout the South. I’ve toured quite a few in Louisiana. The juxtaposition of the plantation homes’ beauty and the horror of their role in history is both fascinating and repellant.

(Those who know me know I have a lurid interest in repellant things.)

One of the grandest plantation homes ever to exist was Belle Grove. Built in Iberville Parish, Louisiana between 1852-1857 for the cost of $80,000, it is said to be the largest mansion ever built in the South. Its seventy-five rooms were spread out over four floors.

front of Belle Grove

Even neglected and falling down, she’s impressive!

Belle Grove was abandoned in 1925 and burned in a mysterious fire in 1952. In its place now sits a neighborhood of modest homes, much like the one I currently live in (and sometimes mistake for other houses on other streets).

Belle Grove

( all pictures circa 1936, public domain)

Belle_Grove_Plantation_06 pub domain

 To learn more about the Belle Grove, check out its website or Facebook page. Click here to watch a really neat You Tube video featuring pictures of Belle Grove Plantation set to music.

The Connection to Black Opal

I first encountered Belle Grove in a book called Ghosts Along The MississippiLooking at the pictures awakened my imagination. That this beautiful place no longer existed made me sort of sad.

So, when I hired Kimberlee Ketterman Edgar to paint the cover of Black Opal, I asked her to include a plantation house based on Belle Grove. Here’s the cover art Kimberlee created:

 

BlackOpal_Ebook for BN
My series heroine, Peri Jean Mace, ends up stuck at the huge house on the cover after charging off to confront her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on her. She ends up getting into more trouble than she ever imagined possible and discovering secrets she never wanted to know. But that’s the norm for Peri Jean.

Download it today at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Interested in trying out my Peri Jean Mace stories but aren’t quite ready to purchase anything? Well, today is your lucky day.

Subscribers to my newsletter can read a brand new, exclusive 14-page Peri Jean Mace short story titled “Peckerwood Bocephus.” This story takes place twelve years before the events in Forever Road and is the story of how Peri Jean got the tattoo on her arm.

Click here to sign up.

After you sign up, look for instructions on downloading “Peckerwood Bocephus” in the Final Welcome Email.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Are there any fellow admirers of old houses out there? Which ones have you visited and which one was your favorite?

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of Forever Road and Black Opal, of the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

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.)

When Life (i.e., True Crime) Imitates Art

We’re starting a new feature here at misterio press in which we bring you some real-life examples of mysteries. Today, Stacy Green is dusting off a true-crime tale from her Thriller Thursday archives, a real life Bluebeard.

line drawing of Bluebeard

Barbe bleue by Gustave Doré (public domain)

In The Legend of Bluebeard (in Tales of Mother Goose, Charles Perrault, 1697), a hideous man with a strange blue beard and a wealthy estate, has had several wives who disappeared. His new wife is soon left alone on the estate, after he hands her a set of keys and tells her she may open any room she wishes, except the small closet at the end of the basement. Naturally, as soon as he is gone, she rushes to the basement closet, only to find the seven previous wives, their throats slashed from ear to ear. Bluebeard discovers her treachery and vows to put her to death, but her brothers arrive to save her and they kill Bluebeard. The wife inherits his fortune, and she and her family live happily ever after.

A children’s fairy tale, meant to teach heaven knows what, but in the early 1900’s in France, a real-life lonely-hearts predator earned the chilling nickname of Bluebeard.

Short and bald, with bushy eyebrows to match his equally overgrown beard, Henri Landru wasn’t exactly an Adonis. He wasn’t the type of man you’d expect to woo hundreds of women, let alone bilk them out of their life savings. And yet he did. A second-hand furniture dealer and automobile mechanic, something about Landru lured women to him.
headshot of Henri Landru

He killed at least ten of them.

Born in 1869 to an average French family, Landru’s childhood is reported to have been uneventful. He attended Catholic school and was drafted into the French Army at age 18. He married in 1891, quit the military, and began working as a clerk.

Unfortunately, his employer swindled Landru out of a large sum of money. Landru was furious and turned to a life of crime and revenge. He began swindling lonely widows he met through his legitimate furniture business.

Between 1900 and 1908, Landru served several stints in prison for fraud. He was released in 1908 with the understanding he would re-enlist in the French Army. Instead, he honed his skills and continued to prey on vulnerable women.

His first known murder victim is Madame Cuchet, a 39-year-old widow. Cuchet’s brother was suspicious of Landru, but she ignored his warning. She and Landru moved to a villa in Vernouillet with her son. Mother and son were last seen alive in 1915.

Landru later gave Cuchet’s watch to his wife as a present.

Next was an Argentine widow, Madame Laborde-Line. She told friends she was marrying an engineer from Brazil, but the two moved in together. Laborde-Line was last seen in July 1915.

Then came Madame Guillen, a 51-year-old widow, followed by Madame Heon. Both visited Landru’s villa in Vernouillet and disappeared. Andree Babelay, a servant girl, also disappeared. No one knows why Landru chose to kill her–she certainly had no money to offer.

Landru eventually left Vernouillet for a new home in Gambais, where he had a large cast-iron oven installed.

drawing of oven in Landru's kitchen

Landru’s own drawing of the special oven he had installed in his kitchen (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

His first known Gambais victim was Madam Buisson. It took Landru almost a year to estrange the wealthy widow from her family. She was last seen in 1917.

Madame Louise Leopoldine Jaume disappeared in September 1917.  Annette Pascal vanished in the spring of 1918. Marie Therese Marchadier disappeared in late 1918 after visiting Landru in Gambais.

For years, Landru wasn’t suspected in these women’s disappearances. He worked hard to separate his victims from their families, then worked even harder to make the families believe their loved ones were alive long after he’d killed them. He sent postcards, forged letters, pretended to be an attorney, etc.

Then the sister of Madame Buisson, the first Gambias victim, began searching for her. She wrote to the mayor of Gambais, telling him that her sister’s intention had been to run away with a man named Guilett (Landru’s alias). The mayor suggested she meet with the family of Madame Collumb, who had also vanished under similar circumstances in 1917.

Landru’s aliases were soon discovered, but his known residence at Gambais was empty. Buisson’s sister refused to give up. She remembered what her sister’s lover looked like, and in 1919, spotted Landru strolling out of a shop. She lost him in the crowd, but the owner of the shop told her the man’s name was Guilett, and he lived on the Rue de Rochechouart with his mistress. Landru was soon arrested.

Landru's mug shot

Landru’s mug shot

They didn’t have much to hold him on. Police searched the homes and gardens in Gambais and Vernouillet but only found a memo book where Landru had recorded his finances. Authorities spent two years investigating, eventually discovering that he had met all the women mentioned in his notebook through marriage advertisements, and they had all disappeared. He’d also recorded one-way trips from Paris for each victim, but round-trips for himself.

Still, no bodies. The break came when neighbors at Gambais mentioned noxious fumes coming from the kitchen. Police searched the iron stove and found bones, as well as women’s fasteners. Landru was charged with 11 counts of murder.

In 1919, there was no term like “serial killer.” Only Jack the Ripper was widely known to have killed multiple people, and a murderer like Landru was a shocking affront to the French people. His trial lasted a month. He believed that without a body, he could stonewall the court and kept virtually silent during trial. A jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death.

In February, 1922, Landru faced the guillotine. He showed little remorse for his actions, although he did express embarrassment that his wife would discover the affair he was having at the time of his arrest.

Some argue that because Landru killed for financial gain rather than sexual motives, he can’t be classified as a serial killer. Rather, he’s more of a Black Widow killer, killing his mate for gain, with no remorse.

What do you think? Do you think Landru is a true serial killer? Should he have been convicted, with no actual bodies?

Posted by Stacy Green. Stacy has a bunch of impressive writing credentials, including a degree in journalism, but she considers her greatest achievement to be her daughter, Grace. She is the author of the stand-alone thriller, Into the Dark, and Tin God, the first book in the Delta Crossroads mystery series.

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.)

You Know You’re a Mystery Fan If…

Hi, everyone! It’s Kathy, bringing you a Just for Fun post today.

I’m assuming you’re over here at misterio press because you love mystery stories, right?  Me too!  But have you ever wondered exactly what separates us mystery fans from “normal” folks?  Here are a few items to consider, under the heading of:

You Know You’re a Mystery Fan If…
1.  You know the 10 Rules of Golden Age Detective fiction.
2.  You know that Hercule Poirot was Belgian, not French.
3.  Should you ever meet a butler, you would be on your guard.  (Because “the butler did it” is such a cliche that it could now work in reverse, right?)
4.  You’ve played so many games of Clue that you have to erase old character/weapon/ room grids because you’ve run out of them (but first you relive your brilliant victories)

Clue game

Hasbros’ Clue, Classic Edition, sold by Winning Moves on Amazon.com

5.  You endlessly watched episodes of Scooby Doo when you were a kid. Like, groovy, man.
6.  You now make your children watch re-runs of Scooby Doo on Cartoon Network.
7.  If you could ever do a police ride-along, it would be with Lieutenant Columbo.
8.  You bring the complete Sherlock Holmes collection of stories with you to college.
9.  (from the Facebook crowd):

comments from my FB friends

…sometimes I worry about these folks.

10.  You avoid:  large, gloomy mansions in the midst of thunderstorms; invitations to remote islands by an unknown benefactor; and having sex with your boyfriend after the kids you’re babysitting have gone to sleep (oops, sorry, that’s the one in horror movies).
11.  You celebrate your 10-year wedding anniversary by going on a murder mystery weekend (hey, hubby had fun, too!)
12.  And finally, you know you’re a mystery fan if you own one (or more) of the following:

 

 

 

You like to snuggle up under your crime scene throw to watch NCIS or Criminal Minds.

 

 

 

target alarm clock

Lock n Load Alarm Clock (sold by Loveseason on Amazon.com)

 

You literally shoot your alarm clock every morning to get it to shut up.

 

 

 

 

 

You then take a shower with the help of this heart-thumping bathroom decor:

 

 

 

 

bloody footprints bath mat

bath mat (sold by Spinning Hat on Amazon.com)

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve equipped your kitchen with the brass knuckle meat tenderizer and…

time bomb kitchen timer

(sold on Amazon.com)

 

 

 

 

….the time bomb kitchen timer!

And you send your kids to school with sandwiches wrapped in these:

 crime scene sandwich bags

(sold by Accoutrements on Amazon.com)

 So, how do you show your love of mysteries?  Tell us about it!  We’d love to hear about the demented fun things you do for your passion.

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature, and the author of Dangerous and Unseemly, A Concordia Wells mystery. She is currently raising three boys and working on Books 2 and 3 in the Concordia Wells mystery series.

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.)

Can Psychopaths Be Cured?

I’ve written a couple guest posts for my friend and colleague, Stacy Green, over at Get Twisted on the topic of psychopaths. In those posts, I talked about how they develop and how they are different from narcissists.

Another question people often ask is how treatable psychopaths are. Can they be cured?

The short answer is ‘No.’  But have you all ever known me to settle for a short answer. 🙂

The official diagnosis given to a psychopath is antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Personality disorders in general are hard to treat for two reasons. One, they are so ingrained in the person’s make-up. The person has grown up in an environment (and in the case of ASPD, with a genetic predisposition) that has shaped their personality in a warped way. So when treating personality disorders, one is truly trying to change the leopard’s spots!

leopard

Go ahead, try to change my spots. I dare you!

Two, with many personality disorders the person with the disorder thinks they are okay and the rest of the world is crazy or stupid. To their thinking, being extremely rigid or paranoid or emotionally reactive or egocentric (these are the hallmark symptoms of four different personality disorders) is normal. Or they view their personalities as an acceptable alternative to normal; they just march to a different drummer.  They don’t get it that their behaviors and ways of thinking are maladaptive.

With the other personality disorders, there is some hope, however. If you can show the person how their behavior is causing problems in their lives and/or hurting the people they care about, you may be able to get them motivated to try to change. It will still be an uphill battle because the symptoms are so ingrained, but it’s worth a try.

For ASPD, the hallmark symptoms are egocentrism, thrill-seeking, lack of remorse, lack of empathy for others and lack of fear of consequences for their behavior.

The three “lack of’s” are a major problem when trying to get a psychopath to change. They have no motivation to do so. If you feel no guilt for your behavior, don’t really care how you’re hurting others, and don’t care what negative consequences you may suffer for your behavior, well, why would you want to change?

bungee jumper

photo by Ellywa from nl (CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported Wikimedia Commons)

Fighting the thrill-seeking is equivalent to fighting a hard-core addiction. They are addicted to the adrenaline rush. And again, they have no motivation to give it up since they experience little or no fear of consequences (see The Making of a Psychopath for an explanation of why they are thrill-seeking and feel so little fear).

Usually the only way to make any inroads toward change in psychopaths is to play on their ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. The therapeutic approach with them is tough love, minus the love. You get in their faces and show them what a dumbf**k they are for doing what they’re doing.

Don’t try this at home! This approach is used mainly when they are in jail, i.e. when they are locked up in a cage and cannot follow you home and kill you for dissing them.

IF you can show them that it is in their own self-interest to change, then they MIGHT be motivated to do so. But you’re still up against that deeply ingrained issue.

Two caveats here. First, ASPD, like all psychological disorders, exists on a continuum. People with milder cases are easier to reach than those in the middle or toward the more hard-core end of that continuum.

Second, kids with Oppositional Deviant Disorder and/or Conduct Disorder (the childhood precursors to ASPD) can possibly be reached if the intervention is early enough and the right kind of approach (see The Making of A Psychopath for an example of this).

But once an adult is showing blatant signs of full-blown ASPD, don’t hold your breath that they are ever likely to change all that much.

Have you ever known anyone that you suspect may be a psychopath? Did you see any motivation in them to change? In the case of criminals with this disorder, do you think this diagnosis should play into sentencing and parole decisions?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press on Tuesdays, sometimes about serious topics, and sometimes just for 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.)